QSFer David Bridger has a new lesbian sci fi/paranormal book out:
A Christmas ghost story in space starring two brave young women engineers who happen to be in love, this previously published title is now rewritten as an adult novella and released to celebrate PRIDE.
“Damage Control is action, love and loyalty all wrapped around an intriguing Science Fiction puzzle.” USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR KIM KNOX
Kath Preston and Jen Stenberg are damage control engineers in the generation starship Romeo, 582 years into its 800-year journey from frozen Earth to humanity’s hopeful future on planet Nirvana. When they were schoolgirl best friends, Romeo’s population was doubled to 10,000 by taking on survivors from its stricken sister ship Juliet in the disaster that claimed the life of Kath’s hero father Peter.
On Christmas Eve seventeen years later, in the space of a single 24-hour duty while the people of Romeo are preparing to enjoy the holiday, can Kath and Jen step into Peter’s hero shoes when the actions of a murderous rogue crewman and the lurking ghost of the Juliet conspire to threaten Romeo’s safety and the lives of those they love?
Outside, the temperature had dropped. Heavy clouds were sliding into their midday positions and obscuring the tube’s steady white glow.
Jen shivered. “Environmental’s getting ready to make it snow.” She looked up and down Broadway. “Where do you want to eat? A celebration lunch before we go on watch. My treat. Mexican? Thai?”
Kath’s eyes were still shining. “Let’s have lunch when we get to the station. I don’t want to eat now. I want to fight.” Her grin was fierce.
“Woh ho! Feeling lucky, are we?” Jen raised an amused eyebrow as she flipped her com open and called the dojo. “Mister Yamada? Jen Stenberg. Do you have a mat room free from eleven to eleven thirty this morning? I’ll take it. Thanks.”
She took off without warning and sprinted down the hill. “Come on!”
Kath caught up easily and then drew ahead smoothly, as she always did in a foot race. They hit the harbor walk inside two minutes and pounded past pretty boats bobbing on dark wavelets, to the lot where lines of empty elevator cars and coaches sat waiting to fly people home from the theater.
Kath was already pulling down her shoulder brace in the nearest two-seater when Jen got there. She flopped into her bucket seat as Kath swiped her ID and pressed the com button.
“Traffic control.”A tinny male voice came from the speaker.
“Lichen Forest,” Kath requested. “Yamada Dojo.”
Jen swiped her ID through the slot on her armrest.
Jen got her breathing under control and gripped her shoulder brace. The nearest edge of Lichen Forest dipped to the bay only a thousand feet away across the water. She could see the dojo’s saffron colored roof through bare trees halfway up the hill.
“Take off in three, two, one, now.”
The rapid ascent pushed Jen back into her cushioned seat for ten seconds before the car reached the apex of its flight over the bay and then dropped like a stone towards the forest. It pressed her into her seat again when it decelerated to land gently on the forecourt air cushion.
Kath pressed the button. “Thank you. Please reserve this car for a duty flight from this location to DC Station 6 at eleven-forty-five this morning.”
Jen slid out and headed for the dojo entrance with its beautifully hand-carved black timber beams. Happy anticipation squeezed a tight knot in her stomach. “Come on, golden girl,” she called back over her shoulder. “You want a fight? I’ll give you a fight.”
They swapped their boots for lightweight training shoes, and their uniforms for the freshly laundered sparring suits and padded combat armor hanging in their lockers. Leather thigh and shin guards went on first, followed by knee and elbow pads, then leather torso gloves and layered shoulder guards. Finally, they clipped on helmets with full-face grills and pulled on their heavily padded gloves.
Jen’s suit was black. She’d earned it at the age of ten, and had continued to climb the levels through school and the academy. At the top of her game, there had been only four people on Romeo who were good enough to offer her a reasonable challenge. She’d eased up on her training once she joined the crew. These days it was all about fitness and pleasure. But she loved that she was still a force to be reckoned with.
Kath’s suit was burgundy. She enjoyed sparring and had learned a lot over the years, both face-to-face on the mat and from being Jen’s cheerleader in hundreds of combat competitions, but Jen knew she’d never been dedicated or even interested enough to aim for the higher levels herself.
Mister Yamada had allocated them the big training room. He’d rolled back the outer screen and set a warm air barrier across it, giving them an open view of slender silver-barked trees and letting in sweet birdsong while keeping the chill air out.
Jen set the room timer to sound at five-minute intervals, and they got to work. As always, they started separately with five minutes of independent stretches before coming together for five minutes of structured set pieces in which, as always, Kath followed Jen’s lead. Jen felt the energy fizzing and popping in Kath so she paced the formalized sequence of movements deliberately, letting tension build throughout the routine and hiding her amusement behind an expression of single-minded concentration.
When the second muted bong sounded, they drew apart and bowed formally. Kath sprang up from the bow like a cat, fingers splayed, weaving from side to side on the balls of her feet and backing away watchfully.
Jen had a pretty good idea what was coming. She mirrored Kath’s movements until they faced each other across the full sixty-foot expanse of white mat.
Kath took off at a hard sprint, elbows pumping to gain maximum speed over the short distance, and Jen responded a split second later. They ran directly at each other and leaped into the air at the same time.
Jen could have taken Kath out of the game right there on that first move, but today wasn’t about heavy contact. She knew Kath needed the exhilaration of extreme physical activity to burn off all that nervous energy from the theater presentation. She twisted in midair and hit the mat in a neat roll, facing up again in a defensive tiger blade stance before her ramshackle opponent landed heavily and spun into the same position.
They stood quarter side-on, each with her front knee bent slightly, ready to kick or spring, and her back leg straight behind with the foot turned out for balance. Their leading forearms and hand edges mirrored each other like horizontal knives at throat height, and their other clenched fists were tucked in beside their rib cages.
They laughed at the automatic synchronicity, and flew at each other again.
The next ten minutes sped by in fast and furious sparring, with flurry after flurry of foolhardy attacks and confident defenses. Jen’s job was to let Kath vent as much pressure as she needed to while protecting her from her own recklessness.
At the fourth bong they disengaged, hyper on flooding endorphins, and threw off their helmets to cool down with long stretches. When the fifth sounded, they sat cross-legged on the mat and stared out at the soft light shining on silver trees. The midday rain hour was Jen’s favorite time to sit and meditate, and the Christmas Eve snowfall always brought a beautiful breath-holding silence to the forest, but today they had the afternoon watch to keep.
In the showers, Kath spent a long time rinsing her hair, standing under the jet with her face in her hands, and after a while Jen saw her shoulders shaking.
“Kath?” She touched her arm.
Kath turned without a word and buried her tear-crumpled face in the hollow of Jen’s neck.
Jen hugged her close and felt her silent sobs, smoothing her hair under the hot water and murmuring noises of comfort.
“I miss him so much.” Kath’s words vibrated against Jen’s collarbone.
“I know you do, love.”
“He felt close when I was on that stage. So close.”
“I know.” Jen hugged hard. “He was right there with you, and he was the proudest dad in the universe.”
That brought a fresh wave of tears, noisy sniffling ones with a couple of shaky laughs among them that suggested Kath was getting through it. Eventually she raised her face and smiled bravely. “He was, wasn’t he?”
Jen blinked away her own tears and nodded.
They stayed under the hot jets with their foreheads resting together for a minute, then turned the showers to air-dry and got dressed quickly.