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Yamila Abraham Cover by Himitsu Studio Copyright © 2011 Yaoi Press. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. * * * * * Malstrum stood and let the solar slide off his shoulder. He shook his head and tsked. “You look like you’ve had as rough a time as I have.” He opened his arms. Demetri felt he should have at least hesitated, but he didn’t. He walked into Malstrum’s hold and clung to him. It took all his will not break into tears. The embrace had a glorious, comforting warmth. For several moments all Demetri could sense was his heart beat and Malstrum’s strong arms. He was more than at ease. He never wanted to let go. Malstrum spoke without breaking from him. “What happened, kid?” “Couldn’t get a solar out here. Some crazy rogue attacked us. Cut off the arm of one of my guys.” Malstrum pulled back from him to look into his eyes. His face registered shock and disgust. The expression was such a relief to Demetri he almost felt happy. Malstrum’s reaction proved things really were as bad as he thought. “He cut off his arm? What the hell kind of freak you tangling with?” Demetri snuffled. He tried to erase all signs of his crying on his sleeve. “A fucking cannibal.” They separated. Malstrum sat on his stool. Demetri moved to sit next to him. Unlike his first time in the saloon a worker came to them from behind the bar. Malstrum put a thick square coin on the counter. Demetri’s brow rose. “Two Shraffs.” The bartender, a thin older bald man, made a sound of consent Brainbox didn’t translate and took the coin. “I heard about your trouble,” Demetri said. “It’s bullshit.”
“Yeah. Believe me. I’m trying my hardest not to be bitter. Carrying hate now won’t hurt anyone but myself. But, damn, did they ever fuck me over.” “It sounded like you were trying to do something right. That will always piss off the government.” The bartender served them two tall drinks in metal glasses veiled by cold mist. Malstrum took a long swig, sighed, and said, “I’ll tell yah, Demetri. I went for broke and I lost everything. Started out, I got me 500 men. I told the trading post, ‘Import in some decent cots! We can’t sleep on this shit.’ The outpost clerk sent my demand to the territory Councilor. She wrote me a letter directly. ‘Better cots will mean better sleep, making your miners more productive.’ What do you know? I got the fucking cots. Went up to 800 men just like that. Just on the basis of better cots. So I wrote direct to the Councilor. Mana stew. It exists. We want it. She wrote back, ‘Better nutrition will provide more energy, which will make your miners more productive.’ And, holy shit! We got the stew. It got us so damn productive it became standard all over the planet. It was just mana bark all the time before that. I got 1,200 men, 1,600. Every outpost wanted to be under me. I wrote to her, ‘Medicine. Doctors. A hospital where we can take guys from cave‐ins and explosions.’ She writes, ‘Better medical care will lead to fewer deaths and less sick time, which will make you more productive.’ Boom! A group from planet New Sky came to train men to be doctors. My central outpost got turned into a hospital. We got hover lifts that could transport the sick in less than an hour, no matter how far out they were. I was a one man fucking revolution, Demetri.” He nodded, amazed. ‘Why didn’t you tell me all this?’ ‘I meant to during your first encounter—BUT YOU UNPLUGGED ME!’ “So then I pushed it. Vacation. I heard about it from other worlds. I want it here. I want a man to have two cycles a year where he can just sit on his ass, recharge, and still be housed and fed.” Malstrum shook his head. “I broke her rule, Demetri. She couldn’t see how letting a man take a rest would lead to more beads in Secren’s pocket. I didn’t hear back, so fuck it. I did it on my own. I figured out how many extra beads a cycle each man had to mine in order to get two off. It ain’t much when you space it out over the year. I got a system where everyone was doing a little extra so that they could each have a chance at a break.” Demetri sipped his drink. The fluid tasted like beef broth with vinegar, but the aftertaste was crisp and cool. ‘Why are you drinking that? I have no idea what it is. Not every Secren drink is going to be compatible with—‘ “That’s when I got dragged to court. I mean literally dragged. A government spaceship just exploded into our claim and troopers poured in by the hundreds to find me. No, ‘Hi how you doing?’ Just five gals dragging me out at gunpoint and putting me in their ship.”
“Jeez.” The single swig gave him a buzz equivalent to two shots of whiskey. He sipped again. “And I thought I won! I was amazing on trail. I made this great case of how much more productive my miners were, and how we always made quota early. It was just me against the whole Council of Secren, but they were impressed! They had nothing but praise for me. I walked out of there thinking it was over and everything was cool.” Demetri grit his teeth as bad memories flowed over him. “That’s the government all right. Full of nothing but praise and gratitude for all your service, but then still punishing you like a criminal.” Malstrum looked at him. “Yeah, you’ve been there, huh?” “Earth government, Secren government, same bullshit. They’re focused on numbers and procedures, not on people. If they fuck someone up, fuck the world up, what do they care? They never feel any consequences from their ivory towers.” Malstrum shook his head. “The troopers came for me again, this time to say I was sentenced to death.” Demetri’s lips parted. “It was bullshit. They just wanted to scare my miners into line. Some bureaucrat took over and told them to carry on like normal, except no more saving up for vacations. Everyone works the whole year through. That one councilor I dealt with said she couldn’t kill me after how much more productive I made the miners. She said I could go to the prison moon, or take a worker’s brand and go east.” Demetri nodded. He was about to speak. “They knew I had Lightning with you,” Malstrum continued. “I guess they figured marriage would mellow me out.” ‘Delightful!’ Demetri ignored the idiotic voice in his head. “How…how would they know about the Lightning?” “Change of body chemistry. Found it when they checked my blood for woozoo. Trying to tack on another charge.” Demetri faced forward. He spoke with difficulty. “This is probably not the time or place to go into this. I just want things clear between us, straight off.” Malstrum put his hand on his shoulder making Demetri turn towards him. The taller man had a placid expression.
“Chill. Bigger fish, right? Just tell me I can join your crew and everything else will work out.” Demetri’s eyes widened. “Of course you can join my crew. Please!” He swallowed to calm himself. “I know it’s going to suck for you. I’ve got nothing to offer except a miserable outpost, backbreaking work, and harassment from psychos. On my side of it though, it’s like you’ve been sent to me straight from heaven.” Malstrum smiled and sipped his drink. “What you’ve got to offer is you. And you’ll be surprised how content that makes me.” Demetri pursed his lips. He finished his drink just to have something to do during the silence. “Hey, Brainbox,” Malstrum said. Demetri’s speaker answered. “Yes? How do you do, Malstrum? I’m very pleased to have you with us. Demetri is quite ecstatic also, if I may say so.” “Hey, now, don’t start telling me shit he doesn’t want me to hear.” “Oh, well. I only—“ “Go look up Lightning’s Pull, and explain it to Demetri.” “Oh! I will certainly do that. It sounds very inter‐rinter‐esting.” Malstrum rose and started picking up his gear. Demetri slid off his stool to help him. Once on his feet he realized he was wonderfully blitzed. He bent down slowly to grab one of Malstrum’s bags. Malstrum leaned close to him. Please support us by purchasing the whole thing! http://yaoiprose.com Sign up for our newsletter to find out when part 4 is available: http://www.ya‐yaoi.com/tinc?key=xnOeN1MC&RegistrationFormID=76014 Everything we have on Kindle is Listed and Linked to here: http://yaoipress.com/kindle.htm Free shipping and 35% off yaoi manga here: http://everythingyaoi.com
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