QSFer Brent D. Seth has a new queer space opera out, Short Fuse Book 2: “Loose Cannon.”
Jason Miller, former grocery store clerk and alien abduction victim, started the largest war ever witnessed in our galaxy. Millions died. Carnage and devastation spread across a hundred parsecs. The war lasted three hours.
The resulting power vacuum has opened the door for smugglers, raiders, and bounty hunters. Remnants of the Ullinarian Empire are on the rise, and will do anything to possess the man who took them down. Everyone wants a piece of the action, and a piece of Jason’s scalp.
Dodging mercenaries is not Jason’s only concern. His small band of allies is beginning to fracture: Oola Oola embarks on a mission to save her home world. Fido still wants to clean the galaxy. Tony gives himself an upgrade—and loses his mind. And Leo, Jason’s best friend and housecat, steals their ship.
How can one man save an entire planet, end tyranny, and find some alone time with his new guy?
Behind every Short Fuse, there’s a Loose Cannon…
Oola plotted a course for the Ullinarian landing port. “What are you doing?” I cried and jumped back into the universe of wires and circuits. I wrested control away from my astonished friend and veered us away from the strip.
“You said ‘land,’ so I was going to land. Did I misunderstand?”
Not only are the Olemsi terminally naïve, they also have great talent for understatement. “May I remind you that we’re in a stolen ship in potentially hostile territory—hostile from the same people we stole this ship from, after killing most of them? I think a little discretion may be in order.”
“The ship is still invisible.”
Merged with the ship, I was unable to give her a sour look. “Yes, but we won’t be as soon as we step outside.”
“Oh yes,” she agreed. “I hadn’t considered that. Please proceed.”
My current position also prevented me from doing a face palm.
I turned the ship towards the countryside surrounding the city. Like any metropolitan enclave, a substantial nest of suburban towns orbited the central hub. Further out, the suburbs gave way to smaller towns and farms. Naturally, this is where I was going. I’ve seen the X-Files; I know aliens never land in populated locations. If I’m going to be a little green man, dammit, I’m going to be a good one and plop my ship down in the most deserted location I can find. And the approach does seem to have some actual merit since aliens abducted me in the middle of nowhere. Precedent. Take it seriously. Always.
Dawn crept in fast as I set the ship down in what could have passed for a horse pasture—without the horses. Or deer ticks. Or even qweellie beetles, which, as I’m told, taste like chicken.
I ran a check of the outside conditions and reported. “Looks like a nice day. Temperature is seventy-three degrees with a light breeze.” I felt like a flight attendant. I wonder if anyone needs direction to baggage claim. Nevertheless, I continued. “Seventeen percent oxygen—a bit low, but I think we’ll be okay; nitrogen, argon, neon and a smattering of CO2. Pressure and gravity are a little higher than what I’m used to, but again, I don’t see any great risk.”
“Really?” Tony barked. “You don’t see ‘any great risk’? Have you forgotten the several billion aliens who live here?”
“My people are not violent by nature.”
I believed Oola’s assessment to be true based on what I’d experienced from her, and from the few others of her species I’d encountered. However, even a non-violent individual is likely to react strongly when confronted with a perceived threat. And as far threats go, our little band would probably appear quite threatening. Imagine the Kardashians meeting…well, poor people. Same thing.
“We’ll try to keep out of sight,” I said, trying to assuage Tony’s state of alert. “This is just a quick recon mission. Oola will make contact with a local, see if she can learn anything, and then we can reassess afterwards. Do we all agree?”
“Then she should go by herself.”
That suggestion had already occurred to me. Oola was certainly the most inconspicuous member of our extremely conspicuous party. However, we also considered she had been absent from her home world for a very long time; there was no knowing how customs, behavior and even speech may have changed in the potential centuries since she last spoke to a relative or neighbor. Fold into the mix the fact this planet is under alien occupation, either currently or at least recently, and the possibility for paranoia from the natives grows. One mistake and Oola could suddenly seem as foreign to her people as I would.
“No,” I said, fearing Tony’s reprisal. “We should go with her. We can watch from a distance. If it makes you feel better, we can bring guns.”
Tony brightened at that suggestion, which scared me even more than his rage. Offering weapons is probably not the best way to deal with someone on the verge of manic overload. He was already trotting towards the hold to retrieve his little friends.
Leo, immersed in typical feline indifference, looked up from his nap briefly, and settled back after I told him to remain. He was the one thing I cared about the most, even more than soothing my own guilty conscience. I considered bringing him with me. At least I could keep a direct eye on him, and know for certain he was safe. The moment Tony returned, carrying two massive Ullinarian riffles, I dismissed that idea.
“Are we ready?” he asked, passing one of the guns to me. It felt even heavier than it looked. I had managed to survive this new reality so far without ever having fired a single weapon—actually in my entire life. I’m probably not even capable of shooting straight, especially with an object that weighs more than my old sofa. Its only purpose I could see was getting Tony to cooperate.
With my apprehension growing, we exited the airlock. At this point, Oola concerned me the most. She looked absolutely petrified, which was an accomplishment in itself. Her tiny orange face and even tinier black eyes rarely showed any expression, but now her lips pressed together so firmly I thought she might be at risk of swallowing her own jaw. I guess I could understand her feelings. To her, this homecoming would be comparable to me returning to Earth and finding flying cars, jetpacks and robotic maids. She was about to step onto ground nearly as alien to her as it was to me.
Brent D. Seth is an independent Author in the realm of science fiction and comedy. His first novel, Short Fuse released in 2015, followed by a collection of short stories, and most recently Loose Cannon, a sequel to Short Fuse, in 2020.
When he isn’t busy tapping the keyboard, Brent spends his time dusting the cello in his office, indulging in extreme (and sometimes vindictive) gardening, massing even more LEGO bricks to an already insanely large collection, and wishing he knew how to play the cello.
In his adult life, he has worked in retail, construction, and even a brief stint as a professional gardener. Although his sarcastic mouth often caused trouble for him in the workplace, it adds a certain distinction to his writing. He insists that anything can be funny from the right point of view.
Born in Bloomington, Illinois, Mr. Seth now lives in the Metro Detroit area with his husband and a mess of spoiled cats.