When life and death incarnate collide,
can they unite to rebuild humanity and save the universe?
Sometime in the far off future, a Wraith is tasked with the recovery of top-secret military cargo from a stranded space freighter. The cargo turns out to be an entity-- an entity that the Wraith refuses to return to his military superiors. When life and death, incarnate, collide, can they unite to rebuild humanity and save the universe?
Aboard the Military Spaceship Achille Lauro, Master Shade, Major Candelario Q. P. Aliento, sat alone in a dark booth in the back of the club as he did every night. The irony of being stationed on the namesake of an ancient, twenty-four ton seafaring vessel whose blighted history bore a crash with a sister ship, a hijacking, and a fire that ultimately sank her, was rich beyond reason. He supposed he should be thankful he wasn’t on the namesake of the Exxon Valdez.
Disgusted with his miserable subsistence, he licked salt from between thumb and forefinger, slugged back another shot of sunflower Patron, chewed on a lime wedge, and took a swig of the piss-water they called pale ale. At the youthful age of twenty-eight centuries, he was already fading. If he didn’t take care of his needs soon, he’d be nothing more than a shadow by morning. It would take a dozen shots to get him drunk enough to screw one of the ugly-ass aliens grinding away on the dance floor. The heavy beat of techno coming from the millions of nano-speakers floating in the stale, sweat-laden air was rapidly giving him a headache. He cursed his wretched existence again and pounded back another shot.
Michaela’s small, cerulean blue, seven-fingered hand reached over the back of the booth and gently squeezed his shoulder. “Hey, Candy, you’re looking a little pale tonight.”
He didn’t say anything, didn’t even acknowledge the extremely tall, lithe Jupitarian as she came around the side of the booth to survey the dance floor with him. The sweet entertainment manager was the only one who he allowed to call him Candy and live to tell about it.
She sighed. “They’re all tops or straight tonight.”
He squinted, eyeing the variegated crowd with distaste. “No humans.” When he drank, his baritone words bore the ancient Castilian accent of his heritage.
“Or fey,” she agreed. “I’ll introduce you to a new half human, half fey PFC, but he isn’t for sale.”
“What’s he want?” he grumbled.
“My guess, a friend. You interested, Don Juan?”
He grunted. He didn’t give good friend.
“I knew you’d be interested,” she said with feigned sincerity.
He caught her hand in his before she walked away. “Full disclosure, Michaela.”
She brushed the three long gem-studded braids that hung loosely down the left side of his face behind his ear to reveal his markings. The indelible “birth marks” appeared when you were resurrected as a shade. The markings spread from his inner ear forward, curling in fantastic cursive around his eye and over his cheek to end in fine, curled points before the slope of nose. Someone may as well have tattooed “will work for sex” on his forehead.
Fingering one of the beautiful braids, Michaela asked, “Sapphires?”
“Got them to match your skin, señorita.”
She laughed a low, sultry chuckle. “Somebody call somebody.”
He watched the tall blue alien swing her narrow, gilled hips as she walked away, her elegant translucent veils streaming behind her. His life would be easier if he liked women.
A hand the size of a dinner plate gripped the edge of the booth and a big, swarthy human male swung into it across from him, and slammed his glass on the table. A dirty hand, fingernails black with grease, gripped the glass and amber liquid splashed the table. The human stank of grease and worse things. He waited for the asshole to give him an excuse to pound his head into the table. It took only moments.
“You’re one o’ them sex slaves, right?” the drunk slurred.
“I’m a shade,” he said politely.
“Yeah, one o’ them who has to be fucked to survive. To get your life energy, right?”
He said nothing.
“I got it for you right here, pretty boy.” The hideous man rubbed his crotch.
He remained silent for another pregnant moment.
“What’sa matter with you? You need to get laid right?”
He continued to remain silent.
“Ah, fuck it.” The drunk stood and grabbed his wrist, spilling his tequila, and attempted to pull him from the booth.
Candelario stood, towering over the sloppy drunk. Gripping the sparse hair at the back of the putrid man’s head, he slammed him face first into the table. Satisfied upon hearing the crunch of the man’s nose he let go, and the disgusting sot slid to the floor, a wet spot spreading in the crotch of his ecosuit. The man had urinated himself. Filthy piece of shit.
Michaela’s quiet, startled “oh” made him turn. She stood behind him, her arm locked casually through a frail looking young man’s arm. The pretty young man didn’t look old enough to shave.
Candelario slid back into the booth wordlessly.
Michaela snapped her fingers and two bright purple goons with too many arms and suction cups to count appeared and hauled the drunk away as an eight finned, dull brown waiter quickly wiped the table down and set two fresh shot glasses in the center of it.
“Major Candelario Aliento, Private First Class Rory MacLean,” Michaela introduced as she led the young MacLean to sit in the booth where the drunk had sat only moments ago.
Candelario tapped the side of the tequila bottle and a tray offering another bottle, a fresh bowl of lime wedges, and two glasses of pale ale floated down from the ceiling. He used his telekinesis to surreptitiously press a hundred terrestrial dollar chip into Michaela’s palm. She gave him a barely discernible nod before sauntering away.
He turned his attention to the young man. He was pretty, not beautiful. Clean, young, lithe, and horny. That was all he cared to verify with his extraordinary senses. “You understand?”
“The orders or the personal shit, sir?”
“All of it.”
“You’re a major and the only shade on the ship. In fact, the only one in the galaxy. I need to let you draw life energy from me when we have sex, everything we do is top secret because you’re clandestine ops, and you’re not to be fucked with, sir.”
“Master Shade. The rest of it?”
“Ah, well, you lost your rider—sorry, your symbiote, in your last op, you’re on leave, you only top, and you like it rough. You’re selective. So much so you’ll allow yourself to fade before you’ll screw something you don’t like. You’re gorgeous, more than well-endowed, a prick bastard from hell with no personality, and you don’t like conversation. As far as I can tell, the only thing you’re missing is an ego to match the size of your dick, sir.”
“Rider” was the less-than-polite term for a symbiotic catamite. They faded into you, became a part of you, serviced you, and you treated them like a beloved mistress because they were all that stood between you and permanent death. Every shade had one. Except him. During his last op seven months ago, Sapphire had left his body in a futile attempt to protect him from a Mercurian Thunder Dragon. It was all that he could do to use his telekinesis to collect the boiling, sand-ridden atmosphere with what remained of him, and bring him home in a hermetically sealed body tube. His beloved Sapphire was no longer. “Drink?” He shoved the tequila bottle the kid’s way.
“No, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“Have a drink.” He poured a shot of tequila and slid the tray with the ale and limes toward the kid. “Ever been with a shade?”
He wondered if the kid would stand up and salute when he came. “Why now?”
The young man straightened his shoulders and downed the shot of tequila with a grimace. “I’ve been here six months and I need to get laid. Everything I see on this ship is filthy, and I know shades are clean, sir.”
“Dispense with the sir. We can also be addictive.”
The young man all but scoffed. “Look, I just want to get laid. If it’s gonna be a hassle, forget it, s—”
Brazen little shit. “The holosluts not good enough for you?”
The young man frowned, irritated. “I’m half Leanan-Sidhe.”
The Sidhe were the closest thing the fey had to a vampire faerie. “Ah, the incubus in you bothering you?”
“No, s—.” The kid inhaled deeply then exhaled slowly before answering. “I’m half human and I don’t carry Desire or blood lust. I need…. The holograms don’t provide the tactile…. The touch of another. The skin hunger bothers me.”
The fey always hungered for touch, and he empathized with the young man but didn’t have the patience for the long, slow sex they preferred. And he sure as hell didn’t want him spending the night. “I can’t help you."
The young man’s face crumbled in disappointment.
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