QSFer J.V. Speyer has a new MM sci fi book out:
Can a rebel and a smuggler find a way to come together, when an entire universe conspires to keep them apart?
When rebel pilot Sahak escapes from a primitive holding cell on a distant mining colony, he doesn’t expect to rescue an alien smuggler. He can’t leave the man behind, either.
Azat has seen many things from humans, and none of them were kindness. He has no choice but to throw his lot in with the handsome rebel who bursts into his cell — he can escape with Sahak, or he can wait for his own execution.
Neither of them is looking for love. When they find it, will it be enough to keep them together?
Sahak pushed himself to his feet and fought against the chemical haze that tried to drag him back to the ground. The walls of his cell were stone, less built than carved out of the gray bedrock itself. The bed was made from the same material, jutting out from the rough-hewn wall like someone had just gotten tired and stopped chiseling. Sahak didn’t like to think about that. He didn’t like to focus on the dark stains on the rock shelf either, so old and ancient they couldn’t be bleached out. The musty smell with its iron tang sent electric jolts of alarm right up his spine.
Sahak couldn’t stay here.
He could be certain he wasn’t meant to stay here for very long. His captors wouldn’t take long to identify him, if they hadn’t already. They wouldn’t trust a low-tech cell with rock walls and a metal door to hold him, either. He’d escaped better. He wasn’t exactly a high-value target, but he’d definitely made a name for himself with the Federated Armies, and not in the way his mother had intended all those years ago. The Feds wouldn’t be content to leave him on this rock.
The people he’d been with, though, were another matter. He couldn’t leave his comrades, not if he had any chance of finding them. The consequences to Khajag and to Siran, if they’d been taken, would be so much worse than they would be for Sahak.
He paced the tiny cell for a few minutes, trying to evaluate his options with a calm mind. He’d been here for a few hours and no one had come with food or water. He didn’t know how long he’d been unconscious after the ship had been captured, but docking would have taken at least an hour.
He had no way of gauging the time of day down here; the artificial lights never changed from their ghastly mocking glare. He recognized the tactic. It was mean to soften them up before the real questioning began. He’d guess, based on his thirst and his hunger, that he’d been here for at least eight hours. That didn’t bode well for his captors’ intentions. If he was lucky, he’d face summary execution in about half that time. He’d never been more than nodding acquaintances with luck.
Sahak had no plans to make it that easy for them. He could, in theory, sit and wait to be questioned, assuming they tried. He could trust the Federated System’s laws against torture would protect him from harm or ill treatment. He still had scars from the first time he’d trusted in the rule of law to protect him from zealous enforcers, enough of them to ensure it would be the last time he made that mistake.
Sahak hadn’t survived the Rebellion for as long as he had by sitting back and waiting for rescue, either. He’d always believed if he wanted something to happen, he had to make it happen for himself. This little cage was no different. If he wanted out of here, he was going to have to do it under his own power.
He considered his physical status. He had a few bumps and bruises from when his ship had been attacked, but they were minor irritants. He could fight with them. His clothes had been left intact, for which he was grateful. He hadn’t been that fortunate every time he’d been in captivity. His captors had searched him thoroughly, though, taking everything with them that he could have used to aid in his escape. They’d even taken his metal jewelry, most likely to keep him from using it to pick locks or disrupt electrical systems.
That invasion, seemingly so minor, made his skin crawl.
They’d replaced the jewelry with bioplast, which was even more invasive but it gave him something to work with. It gave him some clue as to their plans for him. They didn’t plan to kill him, not right away. Either they didn’t know who he was, or they’d decided enslavement would be a better result than execution. Neither one was a great option in Sahak’s humble opinion. He’d been down the slavery road once before and it had been terrible, but at least he’d gotten away.
Execution would probably be a little harder to overcome, but Sahak was a resourceful guy.
In an ideal world, he’d be able to get away without having to try his hand at going back into slavery or looking at the firing squad. That meant getting out of this cell. A quick examination of the door confirmed the technology was primitive, but he would need more than a uniform-tunic and trousers to make it open. That meant he would have to get aggressive.
He grinned. He wasn’t usually a violent guy, but he figured that could be excused if he wanted to take out his frustrations on a day like today. Anticipation chased the drugs out of his system.
The door didn’t have a window or view screen. His cell didn’t have any cameras. There was no place to hide. There was only the shelf and the door. Everything else was bare, damp rock. All Sahak could do was sit on the bare shelf-bed and wait.
He had to wait for an hour or so; he couldn’t be more precise than that. He couldn’t hear anything from the rest of the prison, just the dripping of water from above and the harshness of his own breath in the cool air. He had to try to combat his own mind while he prepared. He wasn’t afraid, not exactly. He’d faced down death a hundred times before, and if it came he’d deal with it then. There were worse fates, after all.
He might not be scared, but he was anxious. His anxiety wasn’t for his own skin, but that of his companions. He’d been part of a crew of five, and nothing bothered him more than not knowing their fates. Siran, another fighter and more or less a constant companion for years, had been at the workstation beside him and would have taken as much of the blast as Sahak had. They had saved one another’s lives a thousand times over, ever since they’d joined the insurgency as teenagers. If she hadn’t been taken captive, it could only have been because she was dead. What about his captain, Khajag? Or the medical staff they’d had on board? What had become of them?
He had to struggle against his concerns for them and try to keep himself from giving in to despair. He could worry when he got out and got the lay of the land. For all he knew, the cell was at the bottom of a hole, with no way out.
J. V. Speyer is an author of romance and speculative fiction. She lives outside of Boston in a house with more animals than humans.