QSFer V.J. Mikles has a new queer sci-fi book out (ace, non-binary, poly): Ship Whisperer.
When Tabitha first whispered to the ship, she never expected it to answer.
A pilot yearning for adventure, Tabitha proudly flies missions scavenging supplies for her space-borne city. But when the Navicorp sends her to scavenge a derelict ship, it triggers a psychic link to the ship and the alien enemy that drove her people from their home planet. The unexpected connection puts Tabitha and her people in the crosshairs of the telepathic invaders who are determined to exterminate the human race.
Her rapidly evolving ability to communicate with the alien ship unlocks a chain of secrets about her past that shakes her identity. The Captain’s eagerness to push her into danger challenges her loyalty. Can she use her new ability to save them? Will they turn on her and leave her at the mercy of the aliens?
If you love technopaths, psychics, AI friends, and thrilling heroics, you’ll love this military sci-fi adventure. Pick up this page-turner today.
Seventy years ago, aliens invaded Earth-2. The human race has been running ever since.
The hum of the space-borne city filled Lieutenant Tabitha Chiu’s ears, and the air vent overhead shot a constant breeze that tickled her skin. Her feet sank into the half-inch blue and gray mats on the floor that rumbled underfoot as the surviving colony jetted through the outer solar system. Although the survivors had evaded war for decades, the Navicorp dutifully trained for a battle they hoped would never come.
Tabitha clicked her tongue to the rhythm of a song that played in her head, staying light on her feet as she sparred with her lifelong friend, Commander Ryo Takumi. She could tell Ryo was going for a jab, and she arched back. The jab didn’t come as quickly as she’d expected. Rather than dodging, she was forced to take a step.
“Tabs, Tabs. You’re anticipating,” Ryo teased, a glint in his eye and a gravelly rasp in his tenor voice. His nagging reminder was just part of the choreography.
“It’s hard not to when your tells are so transparent,” Tabitha said, dodging again, brushing against the striped, blue mats padding the walls. After a decade of training together, very little surprised her in hand-to-hand combat drills. She could have taken Ryo down minutes ago, but she liked the game. “If you want to stop—”
Ryo dropped, sweeping his foot out, swiping at Tabitha’s prosthetic leg. She hopped out of the way, kicking the back of his knee.
“You think I need two legs to take you down?” Tabitha jeered. “Next session I go one leg and you tie your ankles together.”
“Yammer, yammer,” Ryo panted, attacking again. “Stop chattering and focus.”
“It’s easier to focus when we get a banter going,” Tabitha said, side-stepping, pulling him off balance and throwing him to the mat.
“I’m not giving you the satisfaction,” Ryo huffed as he rolled to his feet. “Not after you yawned at me.”
“Sorry, Ryo, but your kid’s first trip to the library is a yawn-worthy story,” Tabitha said. The song in her head changed from a happy tune to a sad one, and she felt guilty for dismissing his family life. “Tell it again. I might get drowsy enough for you to get the upper hand.”
“You’re trying to distract me.”
“Just giving you a chance to breathe, oh wise one. You’re the youngest executive officer the Nav has had in half a century, but I swear the last two months have aged you twenty years,” she said.
“Burden of command. Too many meetings. Too many secrets.” His eyes and shoulders dropped, and for a moment, she could see the pain he was holding in. He didn’t mention the stress of parenthood or his recent divorce. She’d eye-rolled and yawned enough that he’d stopped sharing, and now she felt bad that she’d silenced him. It wasn’t the kind of banter she wanted when they sparred, but this was the only time they had together anymore.
As a romantic asexual, his love life had come with certain challenges, but he claimed it was the promotion that had been the final stressor that broke his marriage. Watching him go through the ups and downs of a long-term relationship only highlighted how non-existent her own love life had been.
“At least the captain still lets us train together,” she said.
“There’s no one else who would put up with you,” he said, putting his hands on his knees to catch his breath.
“It’s the Nav, Ryo. You’re XO now. You assign someone to put up with me,” she said, leaning forward and putting a hand under his chin. A lot of qualified candidates with more years of service had been passed over for him to get his position, and he was convinced some were trying to sabotage him. “I’m not that antagonistic, am I?”
Ryo chuckled and pushed her fingers off his chin, giving them a squeeze before letting go. “You really want me to answer that?”
“If you’re that stressed for time, let’s call this session early. You can go see your kids,” she offered, bouncing on her heels, hating the thought of losing what little time she had with him.
“You surrender?” he asked, throwing a weak left hook.
“Never,” Tabitha said, rolling under the hook, bumping his torso with her shoulder to let him know he’d left himself open. “But seriously, Ryo. We’re on an island in the middle of nowhere. The Nav hasn’t seen live combat in a century. When are we ever going to use—”
The song in Tabitha’s head stopped, and she heard a click over the whir of the door opening. Sensing danger, she plowed into Ryo, knocking him out of harm’s way. Ryo grunted as they slammed into the equipment table, sending gloves and equipment clattering to the ground. He swore as a bullet whizzed over their heads.
Her conscious mind caught up with her instinct, and her heart rate skyrocketed. Someone had come in shooting.
V. J. Mikles is a PhD astronomer who defected from academia to pursue her dream of being an out of work actor in L.A. She is active in community theater as an actor, choreographer, costumer, and stage manager. She frequents sci-fi conventions as a science/author guest and a fan/cosplayer. She currently lives in Maryland with her three cats and works on weather satellites for NOAA.