18+ Taciturn Gwen Pierson and super-geek Basil Grey are Specialists for the Institute--an organization set up to help alien integration into our societies. They take in Kalp, a widower who escaped his dying world with nothing but his own life and the unfinished toy he was making for a child that will never be born.
IN THE NEAR FUTURE, humankind has mastered the arts of peace, tolerance, and acceptance. At least, that's what we claim.
But then they arrive. Aliens--the last of a dead race. Suffering culture shock of the worst kind, they must take refuge on a world they cannot understand; one which cannot comprehend the scope of their loss.
Taciturn Gwen Pierson and super-geek Basil Grey are Specialists for the Institute--an organization set up to help alien integration into our societies. They take in Kalp, a widower who escaped his dying world with nothing but his own life and the unfinished toy he was making for a child that will never be born.
But on the aliens' world, family units come in threes, and when Kalp turns to them for comfort, they unintentionally, but happily, find themselves Kalp's lovers.
And then, aliens--and the Specialists who have been most accepting of them--start dying, picked off by assassins. The people of Earth, it seems, are not quite as tolerant as they proclaim.
A body collapsing with no muscular control onto plush carpeting makes a kind of muffled thudding, all raw meat and cut strings. Doctor Basil Grey had heard other, more terrifying sounds in his thirty-three years. He'd heard screams more gorge-raising, had felt more threatened by the piercing shriek of experimental components as their structural integrity began to fail in close proximity to, well, his very valuable self. He'd heard the grating whines of undergrads, the sobs of grad students over the latest drafts of their theses, and the heated yelling matches between colleagues with differing grasps of a theory.
They were all horrendous sounds, and he had ranked them, once, by order of how much they made his teeth ache. But now he quickly reevaluated his internal top-ten list.
This particular sound was above and beyond the worst he'd ever heard in his life.
Something in his gut burned, like a punch had landed solidly to his solar plexus, and Basil doubled over, breath forced from his lungs.
For a ridiculous, dissonant second, he thought he was the one who had been shot.
"No," he moaned, and only realized after the fact that it was he who'd made the soft, wounded animal sound. It was unnaturally loud in the aftermath of the flat, empty crack of a bullet leaving a barrel.
Already partway down, he let gravity pull him the rest of the way to the floor. He reached out before he could stop himself, scrabbing, shaking, and forced his hand into Kalp's, laid a palm across Kalp's cheek. His throat closed up and he struggled to fight against the revulsion from the limpness of the fingers wrapped around his hand; from the already waxy feel of the skin under the bristles on Kalp’s jaw.
Kalp blinked, just once, and turned his head towards Basil. And then, somehow, he was gone. There was no death rattle, no dramatic final breath, just…life in his eyes, and then…none.
Kalp was dead.
Kalp was dead on the living room floor.
About the author:
J.M. is an actor, voice actor, and SF/F author, fanthropologist and professional geek. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. She also has an addiction to scarves, Doctor Who, and tea, which may or may not all be related. Her life’s ambitions are to have stepped foot on every continent (only 3 left!), and to perform a duet with John Barrowman.
Her debut novel TRIPTYCH was nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards, won the San Francisco Book Festival award for SF/F, was nominated for a 2011 CBC Bookie, was named one of The Advocate’s Best Overlooked Books of 2011, and garnered both a starred review and a place among the Best Books of 2011 from Publishers Weekly.
Her sophomore novel, an epic-length feminist meta-fantasy titled The Untold Tale, (book one of the Accidental Turn Series), debuts December 2015, followed by two more in 2016. The Skylark’s Song, book one of The Skylark’s Saga, a steampunk action novel about a girl vigilante and her mysterious rocketpack, will be published in summer 2017.
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