QSFer Grant Edward Miller has a new MM sci-fi romance out: Life-Line: Origins.
Over a million years in the future, a desperate stowaway lies concealed in a space freighter’s cargo hold. Tam Amergan is bound for the prison world Corustloth, where his partner Brogan has been abducted. Ever since the Senate took over the planetary system decades earlier, gay men like Tam and Brogan—degens, as they are labeled under Senate rule—have been forced to live in secrecy. But Brogan is Tam’s life-line, bound to his soul in a ritual performed by a secret sisterhood of women with ancient, unknown designs. Tam has no choice but to follow Brogan wherever he goes. What Brogan sees, Tam sees; what Tam feels, Brogan feels. Neither can live without the other.
Thousands of lightyears away, an ancient brotherhood of mentalists works at uncovering the mystery of humanity’s long-forgotten origins. Their leader, Father, enlists the help of Bennett, who is able to connect with the mind of a space freighter stowaway on the other side of the galaxy. Is Bennett the key to humanity’s origins? Could Tam’s quest to find Brogan have a wider purpose?
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Tam wiped his forehead with his arm, looking across the garbage piles lying in the ditches between the rows of ramshackle huts that lined the streets of the internment camp. He placed his chin on top of his arms, which were crossed overtop the handle of his shovel, and with a sigh, surveyed his surroundings. Two similarly-clothed workers further down the alleyway were picking up trash and tossing it into almost-full carts. His cart was still half-empty.
Back to work, I suppose. He sighed again and bent over, continuing to shovel his trash pile into his cart. The sodbent he sensed earlier would have to wait. Right now would not be a good play time—he could not be caught doing something so degenerate. Focus on the job. No point losing your life over something so basic. Sex would have to wait, even though his loins told him otherwise. He curled the shovel to the left, deftly lifting a layer of garbage off the ground and into the cart.
The garbage stank. Tam’s sense of smell was nearly as powerful as his sense of sodbent-searching. Balancing his shovel against one arm, he reached into his satchel with the other and pulled out a small, round container. The oil was used to dampen out the smell. He applied a generous amount to his large concave nostrils and wrinkled his nose. It stung a bit—sometimes, to the point that his brown skin would lighten at the edge of his nose.
Majoris poked its light through the clouds above. As they cleared some more, Minoris added its weaker, reddish light to the mix. The binary stars never really competed much for his attention but when he felt the light streaming down, his mood changed somewhat. He paused again. Tam noticed his willpower start to waver and began searching anew for the man who had appeared in his mind earlier. He looked up and to the left. But he wasn’t really looking at anything; he was searching beyond his sight. He must be somewhere nearby; I can sense his thoughts and can see that his sodbent is strong. It was the same sodbent as before! The man’s actual desire was to be pushed over a bench and be penetrated from behind—anonymously, so as to not attract the police. Goddesses, if anyone were ever to discover this degenerate event, the police would haul both of us to prison. Death penalty, obviously. Was it worth it?
A stirring in Tam’s trousers distracted him from his worry about being discovered. He tossed his hesitation aside as instinct took over. Garbage can wait. There is always more to pick up. Tam looked up and down the row of huts and saw no supervisor in sight. He dropped his shovel mindlessly and it clattered noisily against a random piece of metal. He walked to his cart and reached for his clothes satchel, from which he pulled a bar of soap, a towel, and a change of clothing. Feeling a little nervous but rather aroused, Tam headed for the public baths to clean up. One can’t have sodbent with dirty hands or smelly privates! It was almost the end of his shift anyway; no one would notice his absence. He walked down the alley, turned the corner onto the dusty main street, and approached the baths.
Thankfully, they were mostly empty. As he entered the main door for males, which was open, he saw three collectors like himself casually pouring water over themselves and lathering themselves with soap. Tam understood the constant battle against the grime and horrid stench that enveloped each worker. The goal was to be almost free from the smell of trash when done.
Tam gathered two buckets of lukewarm water from the dispensing troughs by the door and approached an empty basin two down from the three men who were bathing. There was a silence that was only broken by the sound of water being poured by one of the men or an occasional cough. He stripped off his satchel and then his uniform, which he tossed on the floor, then untied his braided hair. Tam clambered into the basin and reached for the first bucket. He raised it over his head and allowed some of the water to trickle off it. The water streamed across his broad shoulders, down the front of his chest, through the clumps of coarse curly chest hairs.
Tam picked up the soap and began applying it to his arms. Reaching downward, he lathered up his genitals, then reached around to clean his ass and down his legs. He then stood up and applied the soap to his long, black hair, which trailed down over his shoulders. With his body fully lathered up, he reached for the first bucket and poured the remaining water over his head, allowing it to rinse the soap away down the drain of the basin. He watched the soap circle the drain, around and around, until it disappeared to Goddesses know where. Life seemed to go down the drain the same way sometimes. He sighed, picked up the second bucket, and completed the job at hand as the rest of the soap drained away.
Suddenly, a sodbent image spun into his head. The thought took shape and he rotated it to see it from several sides to best understand what the man’s intentions were. He wanted to receive sodbent! The signs were unmistakable. One of three men was definitely sodbent. The man must also have known that Tam was there.
Tam searched the minds of the two men closest to him. The one beside him, in the basin two spaces over, was empty. He was not sodbent. The one next to him, though, was the one. Tam felt a rush of adrenaline. The man knew that Tam desired sodbent, too. Tam gave him a quick glance and he flashed his interest—not only in his mind, but in a very discreet, physical look.
Grant has authored many unpublished short stories and plays since he was a young boy, when he first realized he was different from those around him. The realization of his gay identity, experiences of alienation and bullying led him to immerse himself in his writing and science fiction in all its forms. Later in his adult life, Grant became aware of the lack of representation for gay men in science fiction resulting in his writing a short story in 2009 about a gay man hiding on a spaceship. This short story sat untouched until 2017 when it blossomed into Life-Line: Origins. Grant hopes his book will reach LGBTQ+ readers keen to see themselves reflected in the literary world of science fiction. He is hard at work on the next two entries in the Life-Line series.
Grant lives in the small community of Fox Point, Nova Scotia, in “Otter Cottage” — named for the river animal with which he strongly identifies. A French immersion teacher by trade, he also loves to camp, hike, garden, cook, watch sci-fi, and spend time with his canine friend, Finn the Border Collie. You can contact him via his Facebook and Instagram Life-Line pages or via this website under the contact menu.