QSFer Kelly Jensen has a new MM sci fi book out: To See the Sun.
Survival is hard enough in the outer colonies—what chance does love have?
Life can be harsh and lonely in the outer colonies, but miner-turned-farmer Abraham Bauer is living his dream, cultivating crops that will one day turn the unforgiving world of Alkirak into paradise. He wants more, though. A companion—someone quiet like him. Someone to share his days, his bed, and his heart.
Gael Sonnen has never seen the sky, let alone the sun. He’s spent his whole life locked in the undercity beneath Zhemosen, running from one desperate situation to another. For a chance to get out, he’ll do just about anything—even travel to the far end of the galaxy as a mail-order husband. But no plan of Gael’s has ever gone smoothly, and his new start on Alkirak is no exception. Things go wrong from the moment he steps off the shuttle.
Although Gael arrives with unexpected complications, Abraham is prepared to make their relationship work—until Gael’s past catches up with them, threatening Abraham’s livelihood, the freedom Gael gave everything for, and the love neither man ever hoped to find.
Kelly is giving away a reader’s choice of one eBook from her back catalog, which can be viewed here: Kelly Jensen’s Amazon page.
They’d be docking with Alkirak Orbital in one hour. Gael had slept through the trans-in and trans-out.
After cleaning himself up—he hoped water was plentiful on Alkirak because he was so done with having the dirt blasted from his skin by charged air—Gael packed his single bag and headed to the observation deck for a first look at his new home.
From space, the planet was disappointing. A large dark ball striped with thin clouds at the poles. He was viewing the night side, but still. Gael gripped the rail set in front of the view screens. This was it. His new home.
Slowly, excitement caught him. This wouldn’t be the same as the jobs he’d failed at before. No killing, for one. No intimidation. He’d probably have to practice smiling. He’d be expected to smile. And if Abraham expected more than simple companionship from the outset, he could offer that too—and try to enjoy it, because he could be a new Gael here. One as bright as his new surname.
Docking, disembarking, and documentation all passed smoothly, the knots in Gael’s gut loosening as his ID chip scanned with no warning, no arrest, no Trass enforcer popping out from behind a screen to drag him back to Zhemosen. The differences between Alkirak Orbital and Zhemosen Orbital began to filter through slowly, as he stopped waiting for trouble and started trying to convince himself that he was nearly there. Price had been right about the lack of tech. The station was utilitarian. No wide view ports, entertainment alcoves, and little to no commerce. No advertising holos and the only eatery looked like a commissary. Nor were the people decorated with temple disks, holo tattoos, feedback jewelry, and all manner of enhanced gloves.
Gael followed a group of contract miners to his assigned shuttle and slotted himself into a seat by one of the tiny windows.
“Not going to be much to see on the way down,” said his seatmate, a bulky figure dressed in a Muedini Corporation coverall.
Gael sorted through possible responses before settling on one that he felt fit his new persona. He smiled. “So long as I can see the sky, I don’t mind.”
“Hopping from one hole to another, eh?”
“You’re from . . . let me guess. Cappadocia. Small as you are. Lived your whole life underground, right?”
“Something like that.”
A small jolt moved through the shuttle as they fell away from the orbital station. Gael pressed his nose to the window.
“If you wanted to see the sky, you should have tried for one of the Betas. Clouds the color of polished amethyst and forests so old, they’re still counting the rings on their trees.”
Rings on trees? What was he talking about?
“Of course, getting a contract out that way is like winning the lottery. What are you here for, anyway?”
Turning back to his neighbor, Gael sorted through possible responses again. “I, er, um, hospitality.”
“Huh. They must be thinking of improving the town. Glad to hear it.”
“You’re here to mine?”
“Part of the dregs crew. There’ll be a steady run of iron for years to come. Enough to hold the company’s interest while terraforming goes ahead.”
“The farms.” Gael nodded with some excitement. He’d read about the effect the farms had on the atmosphere. “I’ve seen pictures. It’s beautiful. So green.”
The miner snorted softly. “You really must be from a deep hole if you think the terraces are any kind of green. But to each his own.”
Uncertainty warred with Gael’s desire to be excited about his new home. His new life. He leaned toward the window again and looked out. “Will we be landing on the dark side?”
“Unless you want to be served up as barbeque, yeah.”
The miner pointed a stubby finger toward the window. “See that glow over there? That’s the sun getting ready to spread her light. We’ll pass by close enough for you to see the cracks.”
His companion laughed, slapping his hands on his thighs, and turned to speak across the aisle. “This kid! He thinks he’s dropping into paradise.”
Gael watched as the glow expanded, heralding the approach of day. The distant ground remained nearly as dark as night, the charcoal-covered surface streaked with bands of burnt umber—except for the cracks. He wouldn’t have known what they were without that word nestled in his frontal lobe. Long fissures, appearing as deep lines of shadow, split the surface, all running in the same direction, north to south, as far as the eye could see. And not a single mote of green.
Where were the farms?
Swallowing, Gael sat back and rubbed his eyes.
“Know what Alkirak means?” the miner asked.
Gael shook his head. “No.”
The squat finger pointed toward the window again. “Crack.”
“They called the planet crack?”
“Funny, ain’t it?”
No. “Where are the farms? The terraces. Where do people live?”
“Where do you think?”
Dawning horror threatened to pull Gael through his seat, through the floor, and out into the nothingness of space. “In the cr-crevasses?”
“Told ya. Holes in the ground.”
And just like that, Gael’s shiny new life followed the drag of his limbs, falling away from him with an almost audible thump. He really had jumped from one hole to another.
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
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