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A Brand New Patch of Sky

M/M, Science Fiction, Romance
[20 Pages / 5,000 Words]


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Starship pilot Mitch Kato doesn't make a habit of pining for the impossible. He's always kept tight hold on the inconvenient feelings he harbors for his captain, Solomon Finn. But when a close scrape grounds Sol's ship and threatens to scatter the crew, Mitch finds himself making an unexpected promise. As he and Sol consider a different trajectory, Mitch wonders if their longstanding friendship might be the beginning of something more.


Excerpt

He found the saloon a crowded, noisy place, with dirty floorboards and low ceilings. There were just as many horses hitched out front as there were maglev bikes lining the side alley, and the clientele ranged from locals—ranch hands, dock workers, miners—to dusty travelers with tired faces. This far past the Carris Cluster even the folk just passing through were mostly human, though still easy to spot from the way they kept to themselves amid an otherwise boisterous throng.

Mitch Kato scanned the early evening crowd, threading his way between spirited saloon patrons. Though the crowd carried a jovial air, Mitch was glad for the gun holstered beneath his vest. His reed-thin frame was far from imposing, and he'd tripped over too many bar fights to ever feel comfortable unarmed in a place like this.

He was halfway across the room when he caught sight of Solomon Finn. Even from behind there was no mistaking the black hair clipped short, patches of silver spreading at the temples. Sol had taken a stool at the bar—not his usual preference, but considering the busy saloon it might have been his only option—and sat slouched forward, arms crossed on the bar top and dejection in every line of his posture.

Tired strain weighed down Sol's shoulders; his crew's recent close call was written all over him.

The fact no one had died wasn't apt to comfort a man like Solomon Finn. He wouldn't take credit for successfully protecting his twelve-man crew when he was busy blaming himself for the trap they'd fallen into in the first place. Their business—transporting corporate exports through newly settled sectors—carried plenty of risk, but bandits trying to steal the ship out from under them were a different caliber disaster. Sol would insist on his share of guilt over the crew's minor injuries no matter what anyone said. He would take personally the damage to his ship, and the fact they'd had to land her in a backwater port like Rifton.

Mitch moved more quickly now that his quarry was in sight, and he slid onto the tall stool immediately beside Sol.

The dark umber of Sol's skin looked even darker in the unreliable lighting from overhead panels, half of which looked to've blown out and gone ignored. A full shot of whiskey sat on the bar in front of Sol's crossed arms. The drink seemed to hold Sol's full attention, though he made no move to pick it up.

"Do I look like I'm in the mood for company?" Aside from the muttered words and the downward turn of his mouth, Sol gave no indication of noticing Mitch's arrival.

"Evening to you too." Mitch kept his voice deliberately light.

Peering at his friend and captain from this close, Mitch noticed a new hint of silver sneaking into Sol's closely trimmed beard. It gave him an even more somber aspect, though it did nothing to diminish his striking good looks.

Mitch did his best—as he always did—not to wonder if friendship was all he and Sol would ever share. He wasn't the sort for pining, and Sol had never given him grounds to hope for more.

Sol snorted with disapproval. "How'd you find me?"

"At the only saloon in walking distance from our lodgings? It's a mystery."

"Think you're goddamn clever," Sol retorted, but an undercurrent of fondness softened the rebuke. His voice fell quieter. "What are you doing here, Kato?"

Mitch settled more comfortably on his seat and braced his elbows on the bar. He took in Sol's profile with gauging eyes, searching out trouble in the handsome face. There was something heavier than simple guilt sulking beneath the weary expression, and it made him wonder just how long his captain had been sitting here.

Mitch nodded to indicate the glass of whiskey. "How many of those you had so far?"

There was a sullen edge to Sol's reply. "I'm not drunk."

"Of course not." Mitch made no effort to mask the skepticism in his voice.

He started in his seat when the barkeep, pouring a drink for a nearby patron, barked, "He ain't drunk. Been staring at that same damn shot for two hours." Irritation colored the observation, thickening to outright ire a moment later. "Either get him outta here or order something else. Don't care which, but stop wasting space at my bar."

Mitch glared at the barkeep on principle, but slipped to the ground as Sol threw a small handful of coins down on the bar. Not all out-border colonies accepted intergalactic credit, which meant local currency was a safer bet this far along the frontier. Once on his feet, Sol took the neglected glass in hand and downed the whiskey, then carelessly tossed the empty onto the counter.

"Waste not." Sol nudged Mitch with one elbow as he turned for the door.


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Book cover sun setting low from a blue green sky with gold text: A Brand New Patch of Sky
Cover design by Yolande Kleinn
ISBN 978-1-946316-12-7
 
 
 
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