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NEW RELEASE: Ardulum: The Battle for Pruitcu – J.S. Fields

Ardulum: The Battle for Pruitcu

QSFer J. S. Fields has a new queer sci fi book out (ace, bi, lesbian, non-binary), the start of a new trilogy in their Ardulum series: Ardulum: The Battle for Pruitcu.

Fifteen years ago, Guard Four stood by and watched her friend, Atalant, be jettisoned into space for questioning their planet’s religion.

Atalant should have died. Instead, she disappeared.

Consumed by guilt, Guard Four trawls space, hopping from spaceport to spaceport, hoping to find and bring Atalant home with exonerating evidence that Ardulum, the traveling planet her people worship, is no mystic deity.

At the edges of the known galaxy, Guard Four finds the shattered remains of a murdered world – a world of her genetic cousins who could have provided the evidence she desperately seeks. Ardulum, it seems, is no fairy tale but rather a bogeyman, set on destroying anyone who gets between it and its biological imperative to reproduce. And in its seat of governance rules Atalant – god to a planet she swore did not, could not, exist.

Guard Four must unravel Ardulan fact from myth to save her friend and the billions of other beings threatened by the Void – a tear in space created from Ardulum’s most recent birthing event. But how does one bring a god of a killer planet home? And how is Guard Four supposed to stop the Void without giving it the only thing it wants – the destruction of Ardulum?

If you’re looking for adventure and a touch of romance across time and space, filled with diverse alien species, deep emotions, and science fact and fiction, don’t miss the next book in J.S. Field’s Ardulum Series!

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Excerpt

“I want to go home,” Neek whispered.

“I know, kid. I know.” Yorden’s heavy, hairy hand fell on her shoulder, as if the very act could cement her to the Pledge’s floor. He tapped the commands to open the hatch. “I’d rather have you in one piece, and out of Neek prison though.”

“I…” she fumbled over Common words, then her native tongue, but no phrases felt big enough to contain her emptiness. She switched the viewer back to the frigate and watched as an ancient, long robotic arm extended across the sky of N’lln, its pinchers cradling a cardboard box of four andal saplings.

Yorden squeezed her shoulder. “Hey, we have work to do. You can rehash old wounds later. I’ll buy. Maybe find out who our friend is, if you can. We can send them a janu fruit basket or balloons. Four is better than none, eh?”

Silently, Neek stood and left the cockpit. The frigate pilot…she let the screen text scroll through her head, let it mix with the crimson and gold of the frigate, the four saplings. It all felt deliberate, a skirting of a line between irritant and exile.

Neek knew that line. She’d walked it for years. She was the niece of the High Priest of Neek, but even she would never have been allowed a racing stripe in that color, even on a private ship. An actual Ardulan could have pulled it off, or someone with incredible status. But no one had status that rivaled the Ardulans save the president, and her uncle and the Heaven Guard, and none of them would ever put their life and livelihood in jeopardy with this.

She entered the cargo hold as the arm placed the box inside as skillfully as a toddler pouring milk into a glass. The saplings tipped out, spilling soil and shedding thin roots. She ran to them, against the bitter wind that howled through the open bay door, scooped them up, and placed two each into the weird biometal balls.

The arm retracted. Neek held onto the biometal, waiting for Yorden to send down the gel that would block the doorway until the actual door was latched shut. Instead, the settee-frigate pivoted and edged closer, its cockpit door opening, revealing a woman standing right on the edge between biometal and freefall.

She was petite. Her hair held the pinks and oranges of a storm-laden sunrise, her skin a dusty olive that looked weather-worn. She wore a black jumpsuit and as the frigate inched ever closer, Neek saw tattoos across her cheeks—one a lateral green stripe that ran from nose to ear, the other a gold that spanned across her eye and down to her jawline.

Neek didn’t need the gold and green robes to recognize Guard Four of the Heaven Guard. Didn’t need to see the golden face tattoo only bestowed upon the Guard’s leader. She knew the woman’s smirk, and the self-assured way she stood, both from their single flight together, and from the posters that had covered Neek’s bedroom walls.

“Why?” Neek screamed into the howling wind. Her words whipped back toward her ears, deformed by a world that had rejected her completely.

Guard Four didn’t try to answer. There were dozens of things Neek wanted to hear, hundreds of questions she wanted answered, thousands of things she wanted to say. The woman, and the ship, had tinted every dream, every hope, every desire, from her Name Day ceremony onward.

She dug sticky fingers into the biometal balls and yelled again, desperate to be heard. “Why!?”

Guard Four shook her head. She waved, the thin stuk on her hand peeling away in the wind. She mouthed the word ‘Atalant,’ smiled, and then tapped an interface panel, closing the bay door. The settee-frigate pivoted and flew into the horizon, spraying a gold and green exhaust trail directly over the president’s skiff.

Atalant. Her child-name. A name that no one had uttered in over a decade, a name that belonged to no one, not even her anymore. A name that should have brought only pain but here, out of Guard Four’s mouth, held the promise of a future.

The gel came down over the opening, closely followed by the door. Yorden’s footsteps sounded a moment later, shaking the capsules in her arms. “Neek? Andal okay?”

Neek stared at the saplings. Tears swelled in her eyes.

“Neek?”

She moved her attention to the containers. Let the pain in her chest distract her from the itch on the back of her neck.

“We need to go. Now.”

“Neek?”

“I’m fine. Go. Now!”

Yorden eyed her for a long moment. He knew she was lying, but theirs was a friendship comfortable with secrets. Finally he shrugged and left. She gathered the sapling balls and refused to cry even as her stuk dripped, bitterly, from her fingertips.

Yes, Guard Four had hand-delivered her andal saplings. Yes, she had flaunted protocol and law and their entire religion to keep Neek out of the president’s hands. Guard Four had her own, sacrilegiously-painted settee and Guard Four said she looked good in gold—the gold of a Heaven Guard pilot’s robe that Neek had almost, almost worn.

Maybe the rebellion hadn’t died. That was all great. But for the first time since her exile, Neek let herself accept what she had known, subconsciously, for a long time.

She was never going to step foot on her homeworld again.


Author Bio

J.S. Fields (@galactoglucoman) is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. They enjoy roller derby, woodturning, making chainmail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Always up for a Twitter chat.

Author Websitehttp://www.jsfieldsbooks.com
Author Twitterhttps://twitter.com/Galactoglucoman
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