QSFer J. Warren has a new MM ssci-fi book out: The Consort.
James “Jamie” Van Ryan is the greatest porn star who has ever lived. The objectively perfect body with the objectively perfect face. Everyone wants him, everyone wants to be him, and the powerful want to own him. When one of the richest royals in all the galaxy wants to marry him, Van Ryan finds himself on the farthest edge of known space, embroiled in political intrigue, and falling in love with a revolutionary and his cause. Which side will he choose?
The submarine bucked wildly for another ten minutes until we ex- ited the jet current. Once outside I relax. My hands had turned white. I flex my fingers to try to get some blood back into them and flick a few switches to get a view behind us.
“ They have given up pursuit,” Sylas says. “At least for now.” “What do we do?” I ask, trying to get control of my breathing.
“That is a very good question,” he says.“I think perhaps we should take refuge on the sea floor for a bit.”
“Can this little thing go that deep?” I ask.
“No,” he says.“That is what we should do, but circumstances pre- vent that from being a viable alternative. Therefore,” he says, flicks a few switches, and the lights go out around us.
“What are you doing?!”
“The next best thing to hiding in a cave…turning off anything that would allow them to find us using satellites,” Sylas says. “It shouldn’t take more than say thirty minutes for them to give up on us. In that time, we shouldn’t drift more than a few hundred feet down. We’re no- where near our crush depth, so we should be safe for the time being. The only real problem we have is the cold,” he says, reaching behind us into a small compartment and pulling out two blankets. He hands one to me saying,“and if a large animal should consider taking a bite of us.”
I start scanning the ocean around us intently. He laughs. “What?” I ask.
“The chances of something large enough to consider us a safe bet for dinner being up at this depth are very slim.” He snuggles down into his blanket. Outside the window, just at the edge of my vision, some- thing bulky swims past us. Despite what he has said, I cannot stop scanning the water. I look over and see that his eyes are closed.
“What if they don’t give up?” I ask.
“The heat we are giving off right now is so little that they would likely misread us as a turtle or something unless they were close enough to see us with a naked eye. And if the universe has conspired to make that happen, for them to be that close, then I think we can infer that our entire enterprise is doomed,” he says without opening his eyes.“You should try to get some rest.”
My body is still coursing with adrenaline. I can feel my heart, still. “How can you possibly be able to rest right now? I’m filled with adrena- line.”
He turns slightly in his seat so that we can see one another. With- out opening his eyes, he asks, “the first time you had to…perform… were you not nervous?”
“I was geeked out of my mind. I barely remember it,” I say.
He nods.“How did you get through that moment?”
“During the training, they told me that it would probably be like
that, so they told me to…oh, I see,” I said. They’d told me to try to ride on top of the energy like a wave—to not get caught up in it, but to skim along the surface of it. To use it. I started doing the breathing exercises they’d taught me so long ago.
“ That’s better,” he says.
Slowly, the shaking stops, and it gets more and more difficult to hear my heart. He hasn’t said anything in a while and I think he’s asleep but as soon as I stop the breathing exercises and switch back over to just regular breathing, he says, “good.”
Outside the bubble, always just at the edge of my vision, things swim by. I can never make out what they are, but just from the impres- sion of their sizes I can tell that we must be near some major route that lots of animals use. Like a highway. I’m sure someone with a degree in whatever would be able to dig up the right word, but for me, this is a new idea.
“So you never did answer the question,” I say.
“Which question is that?”
“Whether or not you think it’s a mistake to have brought me in,” I
Sylas thinks for a moment.“Ultimately, the problem is what we do after we have control.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Before it was decided that I would, you had asked me if I would
be President after we take power,” Sylas says. “I said no, and you asked me why. Getting people to agree that there must be change is never hard. No matter how good things are for anyone, they will always feel things could be better,” he says. “So all someone who has a vision ever truly has to do is start a conversation and press a point about something universal. ‘Don’t you feel that taxes are too high?’ or ‘wouldn’t you like it if more people felt the way you do about’ and then insert whatever the latest social issue is. It isn’t difficult to gain followers,” Sylas says. I thought about all the times I’d seen politicians say those exact same things. “ The problem is what do you do once the revolution is over. The type of personality that will say ‘there must be change’ is not the type of personality that is cut out for establishing rule. They tend to be at odds with one another.”
“So what are you going to do?” I ask. Without realizing it, I’d snug- gled down into my blanket and turned myself to face him. On some level, from an outside point of view, we must look like boys at their first sleepover, chatting into the night.
“What any sane person would do—I’ve set up two different teams. I think this is where many of the revolutions have failed in the past— the incoming power group tried to then become the ruling group.”
“Do the groups know about one another?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says,“but they don’t like one another very much. I fear for what may happen once it becomes time for the hand off.”
The cabin is quiet for a bit.
“What will happen to me?” I ask.“Which group am I in?”
“That entirely depends upon you,” Sylas says. I notice it didn’t take
him long to answer—he’s thought about this, already.
“What if I want to leave?”
“Nothing will stop you if that is your choice,” he says.“You have my
word on that.” It’s hard not to hear the disappointment in his voice.“Do you love him?”
“Who, Olver?” I ask. He nods. “You’re asking the wrong person. I don’t know that I know what love even is.”
“Do you care about what happens to him?” Sylas asks.
“I…some part of me does,” I say.
“Then why do you help us?”
“I don’t know,” I say, and turn over to face away from him.“I’m not
“Some what?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I say.
“No, you do. What were you about to say?”
“I. Don’t. Know,” I say, turning to face him.
After a while he exhales loudly. “ Terrorist?” he asks.
I don’t say anything.
“It seems to me that word all depends on what side one is on,” he
We both listen to the sounds of the water all around us. “Revolution always comes from strange places. Places you wouldn’t
expect,” he says.“I read that, back on Earth, centuries ago, there was a man who became one of the most successful leaders of a group that people called terrorists. Before he had been swept up into the move- ment, though, he was a novelist.”
“Was he any good?” I ask.
Sylas laughs.“He certainly was at being a revolutionary…the nov- els, not so much,” he says with a grin. I laugh.
J. Warren has a PhD from Illinois State University and lives in Wyoming where he teaches English.