QSFer Valerie J. Mikles has a new queer YA space opera out (ace): Nebula’s Edge.
She wanted to meet aliens…
… she wasn’t expecting to die for them.
Life on Unity space station is tough but so is Kayla. When Kayla learns that her half-human friend Salfera is being treated as a slave, Kayla jumps to her defense.
But, Kayla doesn’t understand the consequences of her activism.
A genetically-engineered hybrid, Salfera has spent her life as a science experiment. She knows Kayla needs to end her crusade before she gets hurt . . . or worse.
When Kayla starts hearing voices, it’s too late. She is part of the experiment now.
Join Kayla’s fight to save her friend and avoid dissection.
The door closed, and Kayla tried not to cry. There wasn’t enough counter space for her terrarium, so she set it on the floor, and then sat next to it. The room had a tiny table with two chairs, not three. The couch was also for two. Her parents had the bedroom, and Kayla had a tiny alcove barely big enough for a bed. She’d been told having any privacy at all was a luxury, but she didn’t care about the tiny room. She wanted a third chair at the table.
Wiping the tears from her face, she pulled out her Personal Network Utility Tool (PNUT) and debated telling her dad that her mom was a no-show. A little butterfly icon called to her. With the touch of a button, she brought her cybernetically-enhanced moth to the top of the tank. Kayla wasn’t going to sit here and mope. Her mom brought her out here to see aliens and that was what she intended to do.
“Come on Lucy. Let’s fly.”
Kayla had never really liked bugs until she started mixing them with electronics. What started as a school science fair project had become a passion for her. Her moth Lucy was by far the prettiest of her collection, and Kayla loved watching her fly down the hall. Something seemed to be interfering with Kayla’s controller, though, because Lucy kept flying into the blue ceiling lights.
Frustrated, she summoned the moth onto her sleeve. She was used to wearing Lucy as a brooch, and had more than one hole in her shirts to show for it. When they got to the cafeteria, Kayla’s smile got so wide that her face hurt.
There were Mansurans everywhere! Their colors ranged from yellow green to forest green. What shocked her most was how much skin (scales?) she saw. The Mansurans wore ribbons wrapped around their torsos in different patterns that would barely meet the standards of human modesty. The security chief had worn a standard uniform with long pants and sleeves, but these? When they weren’t in uniform, they weren’t in much of anything.
“Lucy, I might be overdressed,” Kayla laughed, scanning the tables, trying to decide where to dive in. She figured introducing herself to a mixed group of humans and aliens would be easier, but there were none.
She picked a table with five Mansurans, some with spiny ridges crowning their heads, others without. She’d read that Mansurans had at least four distinct physical sexes, and a litany of gender identities. She wondered if they had quirky names for their gender identities. Did non-binary become non-quaternary?
“Hello,” she said, smiling as adrenaline rushed through her veins. A husky Mansuran with dark green scales turned to look at her. Their expression seemed neutral, but curious. Then all five of the Mansurans leaned in. Air passed their lips, but Kayla didn’t hear a sound, because they didn’t speak at human frequencies. All their striking, snake-like eyes were on her.
“I’m Kayla Powell. She/her. I’m new. I’m an intern with the Loft Academy,” Kayla said. “What are you eating?”
She saw two cups filled with dead beetles, and realized she didn’t want to know. Their stares made her uncomfortable.
“It was nice meeting you,” she stammered, backing away. She bumped into another Mansuran, one of the tall kind—over seven feet tall.
“Did you have a question for them? I can translate,” the new one asked, their English almost melodic in delivery. Their skin looked like brown opal with flecks of emerald, and they didn’t have scales or ridges.
“No. I think I’ll just… get something to eat,” Kayla murmured, rushing for the nearest human-looking vendor. Making friends with humans was never as easy as walking up and saying hi. There was no reason alien friendships would be simpler. She could feel the eyes of the Mansurans still watching her as she rushed through a buffet line, threw together a salad, and then fled up a flight of stairs.
I’m a scientist by day, writer by night, and in between I dance, play music, and do community theater.
I am aromantic, asexual, and agender, and I was writing books long before I figured any of that out. I’m the author of The New Dawn science fiction series, so named because every new dawn is a new chance to make things right. While developing my novels, I wrote and produced a series of comedic films about asexuals surviving the hypersexual world, inspired by my own journey. My newest novel is a stand-alone featuring an asexual, aromantic astronomer (and a weather satellite for good measure). My motto in life is that I can be everything I want, just not all at the same time.