QSFer Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus has a new queer sci-fantasy book out (bi, gay) in the Virsana Empire: Sir Braden series: The Shang Zhou Shuffle.
The Emperor cares for each and every one of his subjects, be they bartender or prince.
Prince Ishikawa of Shang Zhou has embarked on a risky undercover adventure all on his own, and Yaden and Ivan are sent after him to make sure he comes out alive.
Working as the crew of a local pub, the three of them try to figure out why the local military is training Vox Populi terrorists. But this is a Lotus Knight mission, and when Ivan’s sister finally decides to ‘rescue’ her brother, things escalate rapidly…
Written by award-winning authors Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, ‘The Shang Zhou Shuffle’ is a colourful space opera adventure and the fifth book of the ‘Sir Yaden’ series.
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As usual, success lurked in the most unexpected place. On his way back to their apartment, Ivan decided to make a quick detour and check where the garbage containers were located so he wouldn’t have to go searching for them with a rubbish bag in hand.
By now, it was mid-morning, so he was surprised to find five young people loitering in the nook behind the containers, smoking. Two late teen girls and three guys, either in their late teens as well or at most in their early twenties. One of the girls and two guys were wearing grey overalls, the other girl’s was light blue and the other boy’s brown. Now what did the colours stand for? Sylvia had explained it at great length during mission prep, she would have his head if she could see him fumbling right now. Grey were factory workers, that much he remembered, and he was pretty sure brown meant miner, but the light blue one? Maybe a trainee for the service sector and she would be upgraded to the kind of blue he was wearing?
Though judging by their overalls, they all had jobs. Didn’t they have somewhere productive to be, like all good Shang Zhou citizens? Maybe they weren’t good citizens. And if they weren’t, they were exactly the kind of troublemakers he should be looking for. Excellent recruits for Vox Populi. He adopted a more pronounced slouch, shoved his hands into his pockets and put on a mix of a frown and a pout to show how unhappy he was with life in general and would fit in with them. When he got closer, he spotted another promising sign – they all had scabs and bruises on their knuckles and one sported a spectacular shiner. Definitely good at getting in trouble.
They watched his approach warily.
He squeezed past the garbage container to join them and leaned against it, trying to remember the exact cool position he had assumed during his brief stint as gang leader on Yaiciz. It had come so naturally back then. Now, he constantly wanted to straighten his spine and stand up like the proud Lotus Squire he was. How weird. He was proud of his job, and only a little bit feeling like an impostor.
“Hey,” he greeted them, making sure he sounded bored and grumpy, “can a new guy scrounge a cigarette?”
The looks they exchanged were an easy-to-read conversation on whether he could be trusted and what to do about him. Apparently, the conclusion was in his favour.
“Yeah,” the brown-overalled guy said, pulled a slightly mangled packet from his chest pocket and offered it to Ivan.
He pulled out one, put it in his mouth and belatedly realised that he didn’t have a lighter on him anymore. He was so used to lighting any fire he needed with his psionics. Which wasn’t an option right now. He could easily imagine their faces if he snapped out his thumb and lit it and his cigarette. “Fire?” he asked.
“Hn.” Not a guy of many words, that brown overall. But he held out his lighter for Ivan and gave him fire.
Ivan took a first drag on the cigarette, the smoke unpleasantly tickling the back of his throat. Bora Bora had put a forceful stop to his smoking and he had not picked that bad habit up again. But it was a good addition to his cover personality, so he suppressed the urge to cough and gave brown overall a hint of a smile.
They smoked in silence, but Ivan could see them exchange more glances. He guessed that normally they would have chatted, but weren’t sure how to proceed with him around. He remained silent to let them come to him. It worked nicely. The girl in the light blue overall broke first.
“Where you from?”
“Yunshao” Time to come up with some tempting bit of background cover story. “Got transferred after a bit of trouble at my job in the factory canteen.” It worked like a charm.
“Oh? What did you do?” One of the grey-overalled boys asked.
“Got into a fight with the supervisor.” Should he come up with an elaborate reason? Or keep it simple? They didn’t look like particularly complex kids. “He’s a dick.”
It seemed to be the right choice as all five of them nodded understandingly. “Hope you got in a good punch,” the other grey-overalled boy said.
“Yeah, it was okay.” Ivan pulled on his cigarette, smirking. “He sure looked worse than I did.”
There were approving chuckles.
“He didn’t want me around after that. So they took all my social points and transferred me out here,” Ivan continued his only slightly modified cover story, “But the jokes on them, cause I got a much better job now. Only evening and night shifts and at the Auspicious Hearth over at the mall. Got the kitchen all to myself.”
“Sweet,” the light blue overalled girl smiled at him with what he easily recognised as the beginnings of hero worship.
“Yeah.” Ivan preened a little. “So if you guys ever need a quick bite, I’m sure I can sneak out something for you through the back door, eh?” No, that was too generous. “As long as you keep the cigarettes coming, that is.”
“Sounds fair,” the brown-overalled guy agreed.
Ivan was getting the feeling that he was the leader of the group. Maybe not officially, but that didn’t matter. He was the one to impress, if Ivan wanted in. “So what do you guys do out here to have some fun?”
The questioning glances at brown overall told him that his assessment was right, they wouldn’t tell him anything without his permission.
“This and that,” brown guy answered with a vague gesture, “but if you like a good fight, you may wanna join us in our combat club. None of the official meditative arm waving bullshit, of course. Good honest fist work.” He smirked. “No social points in it, though.”
We are Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, a couple currently living our happily ever after in the very heart of Germany, under the stern but loving surveillance of our cat.
Both of us are voracious but picky readers, we love telling stories and drinking tea, good food and the occasional violent movie. Together, we write novels of adventure and romance, hoping to share a little of our happiness with our readers.
An artist by heart, Beryll was writing stories even before she knew what letters were. As easily inspired as she is frustrated, her own work is never good enough (in her eyes). A perfectionist in the best and worst sense of the word at the same time and the driving creative force of our duo.
An entertainer and craftsman in his approach to writing, Osiris is the down-to-earth, practical part of our duo. Broadly interested in almost every subject and skill, with a sunny mood and caring personality, he strives to bring the human nature into focus of each of his stories.