QSFer M.A. Church has a new MM sci fi book out:
Two very different civilizations—one bathed in bright sunlight and the other veiled in shadow.
Bad decisions, declining resources, and a king on the brink of madness force Prince Varo Kutchif, third son of the royal family and a starship captain, to attempt the impossible: barter for Black Phospolrock, an energy source the mysterious Helkan Kingdom has in abundance. Varo opens a line of communication with Adlar, an intriguing Helkan who seems to reciprocate Varo’s interest. He hopes so, because if negotiations collapse, Varo has orders to attack.
The Helkans preside over a planet shrouded in perpetual darkness. Several species have tried to exploit its natural resources through trade with them, but all have failed. Adlar Mondur is the older brother to the Helkan ruler. An assassin of the highest order, he’ll do anything to protect his king and his people—including tracking down the Yesri prince who crash-lands on their planet, leaving an ugly scar across its untouched beauty.
Thus begins a journey where two men from disparate civilizations grow from enemies to lovers.
Snarling, Varo paced in his private bridge office. Jerking his luxurious cowlarium-hide desk chair around, he flopped down. Long white-blond hair fell over his shoulder. Irritated, he shoved it out of the way. He should’ve braided it this morning, but he’d gotten up late.
He rested his chin on his knuckles and stared out the port window into the unrelieved darkness that was space, scowling. Planet Helkan was his focus—with its permanent, swirling cloud cover that more times than not denied their in-depth scans.
Its classification was that of a Darkrealm planet. Thanks to the cloud cover playing peekaboo, only filtered light got through. As such, its ecosystem either didn’t require much sunlight to live, or its flora photosynthesized nonvisible light. No one knew much about the planet’s race since they didn’t travel off-planet much. The ones who did were said to be reserved, unfriendly, and uncommunicative. Cold, even.
Varo picked up a report from his desk and scanned it once more. The description of the inhabitants as cold seemed appropriate. His reports said they were a tall, pale-skinned people with long black hair, pointed ears, slit-pupil eyes, and excellent night vision.
Many of their cities were believed to either be located underground or built into cliff faces. Even though their technology was superior, that didn’t mean they weren’t barbaric and ruthless. Animals, really.
There were also rumors others had attacked the planet at one point long ago. It was believed to be for the Black Phospolrock crystals. That prompted the Helkans to protect themselves in the form of a planetary grid.
The Satellite Surveillance Network, or SSN, was a system of closely linked satellites that circled the planet. They formed a grid around Helkan. Beams of energy linked the satellites together. They incorporated their own shields so asteroids wouldn’t destroy them, but neither could a starship’s weapons system.
Others had tried in the past. When ships encountered the grid, the main computers shorted out, leaving the crippled vessels to crash-land on the planet. No one had any idea what became of the survivors.
When ambassadors from other planets tried to open talks about prisoners, the Helkans made it painfully clear they didn’t release hostages. Questions arose. Were they being treated humanely? Being taken care of? Were they given basic necessities like food, water, and shelter? Were they being tortured? Enslaved? If so, what did that slavery entail?
More disturbing was the gossip Helkans had fangs and drank blood. As a race they had a terrible reputation, but they were reputed to be gorgeous monsters. Common sense said to avoid them since they were dangerous and existed solely on the fringe of society, but common sense often failed when greed was factored in.
The whispered rumors they took prisoners and used them as a food source only increased other societies’ repulsion and curiosity. Varo shivered. Who knew what was true? Many reviled—and feared—the Helkans even as they tried to bargain with them. The fact they didn’t leave their planet often didn’t help the gossip about them either.
When certain leaderships, like his father’s, became aggressive in their tactics, the Helkans closed their planet borders and refused outsiders the right to enter their space. How his father thought he could broker anything with a species as uncivilized as this one was beyond him. He’d been set up to fail, but failure was not an option. It did not pay to have His Royal Majesty discontented. The blood-soaked floors of his dungeons proved that.
But that wasn’t what was most disconcerting. His orders—straight from the king himself—were to attack if no agreement could be reached. His targets were King Omori Mondur and his brother, Adlar Mondur.
The very idea turned his stomach. While he was willing to die in the line of duty, murder was something completely different. If he attacked it would be considered an act of war. Lives would be lost—possibly his own. And over what? A stupid rock.
But what could he do? His father made it perfectly clear he considered him dispensable. If he didn’t follow orders, His Royal Highness had been clear: his crew would suffer for his disobedience.
He had a choice: murdering beings based on nothing more than their unwillingness to share their riches—and in the process, possibly forfeiting his own life along with his crew’s—or facing the insanity that masqueraded as his father’s rule.
His Royal Highness’s plan was to disrupt the planetary government of Helkan with the murders of the king and his brother… then the Yesri would invade. The few advisors brave enough to point out the various flaws in the plan had been relieved of their duties—permanently. His father brooked no disagreement. Varo was doomed. If the Helkans didn’t kill him, then his father most assuredly would. After all, his father had an heir and a spare; he didn’t need Varo.
He checked his comm. After making a pest of himself, he’d managed to attract the Helkans’ attention. He’d sent numerous hails requesting an audience with the king. Finally he received a message back informing him he would be granted an opportunity to speak.
He took a deep breath to steady his nerves. This was it. One way or the other. Releasing the breath, he composed his demeanor, sat at his desk, and had the incoming message transferred to the on-screen viewer. The blurred images jumped and hissed across the screen and then cleared.
And every thought he had flew out of his head.
M.A. Church is a true Southern belle who spent many years in the elementary education sector. Now she spends her days lost in fantasy worlds, arguing with hardheaded aliens on far-off planets, herding her numerous shifters, or trying to tempt her country boys away from their fishing poles. It’s a fulltime job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it! When not writing, she’s exploring the latest M/M novel to hit the market, watching her beloved Steelers, or glued to HGTV. That’s if she’s not on the back porch tending to the demanding wildlife around the pond in the backyard. The ducks are very outspoken. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and they have two grown children. She was a finalist in the Rainbow awards for 2013and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Rainbow Romance Writers, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
Decadent Delights: http://machurch00.blogspot.com/