Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beyond Duty
In The Edge of Desperation
by James Buchanan
E-book and Print available through MLR Press
Buy Link: e-Book


Over what can love and lust win? Can they win over betrayal? Espionage? Instability? Overthrowing a monarchy? James Buchanan and Jason Edding bring us two stories spanning the universe. Jason continues the Dark Robe Society's story; Jack and Edge return and bring each other and us to the edge again while Toren and Tees share more than a common goal. James introduces us to Alad and Hirah, both out searching for something when they meet, are they the end of searching for each other? All the heroes are on an edge, but is it The Edge of Desperation?


Nealgalt, Xuyi Sector
Quad Cycle 4, Pay Cycle 6, Patrol 4, Day 36
18:65hours army-standard

Gray mist undulated around him and Alad hunkered into his greatcoat, cursing the government, the military, the enemy, religion and pretty much anyone else he could blame for stranding him on this rock in the skanky armpit of the far side of the universe. He'd beg for sun, but none existed here, at least not in this season. Perpetual overcast served up with sides of absolute darkness and intermittent twilight haunted his days. He'd be so stoked when he found a ride off this shit-pit.

Alad stepped from slick twisted root to twisted root, a winding, treacherous and living shortcut from one ramshackle walkway to another. Things slithered through the oily water below. Tumbledown bars, whorehouses and low rent lodgings twisted off in dizzying directions, their location due more to where infrequent patches of solid land could be found than actual planning. All of it castoff MDU and MTO prefabs destined for the scrap heap, salvaged and pressed into service to make up the eyesore known as Desperation Alley—the no-man's land between base and the up-rank civilian settlements. Missing panels patched by biopolymer sheets added off-color dissonance to the grays and muted blue buildings. Shadows flitted behind window openings covered with NatuResin tarps. Here and there, outmoded and damaged shipping containers served as pod barracks: racks of one-bod and two-bod bunks bracketed floor to ceiling for those too drunk or burning to stumble back to base.

Above him, a canopy of steel blue foliage almost three stadion deep hid the makers of all the various scurrying sounds. Large trunks, bleached white by the salts sucked up through the water, supported networks of vines and explosions of flora in colors the human eye couldn't even register. The whole planet washed out into a charcoal rendering of actual living things. Rotting organic material tainted the air with an ever present miasma of decay. Yesterday was spent searching for companies that would have him and his men. The standard hours akin to daylight today dwindled away in the same futile quest and Alad figured tomorrow would dawn on him humping his ass to various commands. Not even a hint of a future appointment graced his horizon. If he didn't land something soon, well he'd have no choice but to tell his men to split up, try to find a rack on their own with some squad down a couple of grunts. Trying to place an entire patrol… hard didn't begin to encompass the problem. Xosh, at this point if some other sergeant expressed interest in his boys, Alad would have gladly let them go on without him.

He'd traded half a month's pay off the bar-code scan in his forearm for a third of a month's pay in local trade chits on the black-market. Alad needed them to buy off information brokers in the cumshaw data pool. Really, if he hadn't needed any lead possible, there was no way he'd step into Desperation Alley right now. All the good tips though, they came out of the scuttlebutt haze floating through taprooms, dice dens and sex parlors.

Alad stepped onto the plank walkway that comprised the misnamed Mandera Blossom Highway and huffed. Various beings, each more disreputable than the next, passed him. Alad debated whether to start the search first or fortify himself with the local version of rot-gut to file the edge off the eventual disappointment. Shoving his hands into the pocket of his greatcoat, he stepped into the flow of traffic and let it sweep him towards the quasi-legal establishments.

Heading toward him and away from Desperation Alley, Alad caught sight of another human. Not that humans were uncommon in this area—pisk, they made up sixty percent of the military troops in the region—but by now most were stationed on bar stools or slop shop benches and planning the night's entertainment.

This guy seemed different. Tall, whip crack lean, his shoulders rolled in a resigned, but still defiant, manner. Black hair shorn in military fashion, longish on top, but buzzed so short it barely rated as fuzz in a halo from above his ears to his neck line, marked him as infantry—what they called the collar cut so that neck armor wouldn't rub. It set off features so sharp a man could cut himself on his chin. His eyes damn near glowed blue-white like eons old ice flows. All the more striking when contrasted with the cinnamon tones of his skin. A cold and reserved air blew off the man… must have been what kept his pupils from melting.

Alad hadn't seen anything that enticing in six patrols.

Waffling, unsure, he paused. He couldn't let his troops down, but xosh, it'd been almost a cycle since Alad allowed himself any real R&R. A little booze-up followed by a little naked bust-up, Alad got hard just working the possibility. The man approached, completely absorbed in whatever drove him from the Alley. Three steps. Two steps. If Alad didn't act soon opportunity would pass him up. As the man started to walk by, Alad decided; he jerked to the side and bumped the man's shoulder. The man stumbled on the slick planks, running up onto the roots of one of the many Handoatoa trees.

"Sorry," Alad mumbled, even though he wasn't a bit remorseful, and offered a hand.

The indignation boiling through those ice blue eyes radiated such frost it burned. After glaring for a moment, the man took the proffered grip and allowed Alad to help him back onto the walkway. Everything from about mid-thigh down dripped water. Shudo! Alad had forgotten that Handoatoa tended to act like sponges and purged sucked up swamp at the slightest bruise.

"You need to watch where you walk," the man spat, "subin!"

No telling who this man was. His bearing, even under insufferable circumstances of being knocked into morass of vomited up swamp water, spoke to rank. Nobody however, except the greenest of the green, wore their confetti into Desperation Alley. Too much of a chance someone would roll you for the decorations. Unwritten protocol dictated that no one asked who was who, either. The most anyone traded over was a first name.

"Yeah, I'm clumsy." He grimaced in mock apology. "Alad," offering up his name as greeting equaled the first tentative step. "Let me buy you a drink to apologize for the damp boots," made up the second.

A hard once over ran up and down Alad's body, those ice colored eyes somehow burning into his gut. "A drink?" This time the words sounded more incredulous than antagonistic. The guy's nostrils flared as if taking in Alad's scent. As the air moved, a slight fluttering of the skin on the right side of the man's nose caught his attention. Xosh, a notch had been cut out of the nasal fold. Alad shivered despite the greatcoat.

Still, the black haired soldier—Alad knew he was a soldier—reeked sex… or maybe fight-lust. Both equaled about the same to Alad. "Yeah, a drink." Pretending indifference, Alad turned his eyes away. He drew in a deep breath, touched his index finger to his left cheek and slowly brushed it toward his ear. "To apologize for being… clumsy." The thumb up the bridge of your nose meant you were indiscriminate about your choice of partners. Pinky on your right eye and you wanted the opposite sex. Alad had indicated he wouldn't be opposed to a hookup with this man, in a way that let everyone pretend nobody suggested anything about sex. Nobody cared about your choice in partners. Saving face in the event of a refusal though, everybody cared about that.

Buy Link: e-Book


sylvan said...

awww maaan!
i got so caught up in the flow i forgot it was only a teaser!

now my brain is twisted because i must hear the whole story.
you are evil.
and i like it!

Sarah said...

It sounds very, very cool! So great to see MLP doing ebooks via their site too. Makes it a little more accessible for bods like me. :)

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