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Monday, October 28, 2013

Excerpt & #Giveaway: These Convergent Stars by Janine A. Southard!!

Title: These Convergent Stars  
Author:  Janine A. Southard
Published:  October 2013
Word Count:  25,000
Genre: Science Fantasy / Science Fiction
300 years ago, Earth was destroyed, but the Terrans aren’t giving up. Maya Qaitra is a special type of Terran, created to sniff out biologically compatible species. But Maya’s talent comes with a hefty cosmetic price: half the time, she looks like a mountain lion.

On a space station over the planet Elsajh, she’s mistaken for a local shapeshifter and goes with the flow. After all, how better to observe a new species and culture? While impersonating her alien look-alike, Maya stops an invasion and becomes a populist hero. Sure, that seems great, but her mistaken identity stirs trouble for her and her doppelganger. If she’s not careful, she could get her whole species banned from Elsajh forever.

Our transport rattled me around in my zero-g harness as we attempted to dock with the E-Tee space station. We might have standard-sized Terran docking gear, but that means nothing these days. Terran made goods are a scarce resource in low demand. If we hadn’t been Terrans ourselves—of various flavors—you can bet we’d use something else.
Now, think about this for a minute. I was floating in zero-g, sleeping untethered by gravity. I’d chosen a light harness for my sleepbox, enough to keep me from flying off into the lurking bulkheads. After a few hours of bumping around when the ship went one way and inertia took me another, I wasn’t going to notice one more bump against the harness.
But when we docked with that station I got more than a gentle nudge. Not because of the pilot, don’t get me wrong. No, the problem came from the way I’d managed twist my safety belt so hard it tried to choke me. Sadly, I’d managed to turn myself around like this more than once before.
I transformed into my leonine form immediately, hands squaring into paws and arm muscles lengthening. My breasts flattened against my rib cage, my throat curved into a C. I poised claws over the harness belt closest to my face. Except... I was already in deep with the Quartermaster. Last time I’d cut myself out, he’d vowed finality. Actually, it went like this:

Me (Mahdan 1st Class Maya Qaitra): (sheepishly) Um.
Quartermaster: (not happy) What’ve you done now, slitty?
—Note: I let him get away with calling me slitty because he was justifiably mad. But I still narrowed my unmistakable, slitted cat eyes at the slur.—
Me: You know how two weeks ago, shiptime, I got all tangled up in my sleeping harness and used my claws to get out?
Quartermaster: (exceedingly not happy) You did it again, didn’t you? This makes number five. Y’know, our last Mahdan didn’t cause problems like that.
—Note: Their last Mahdan was the most boring old lady ever. She’d been in the service long enough to make S-class, but that was pure seniority. If she’d found ten viable worlds to seed in her entire life, I’d eat my zero-g harness. The one I’m still stuck in, and that would be really irreparable.—
Me: I’m really sorry.
Quartermaster: Fine. I’ll send my kids up with a new one, but this is the absolute last time!

Much as I’d prefer to avoid trouble with the Quartermaster, this harness was a fluffin’ Gordian Knot, and good old Alexander created a precedent for that. And I, like Alexander, had better things to do. Like get breakfast before we finished docking.
A few quick slashes through the
fraying mesh weave—I keep these babies sharp—and I was free. I could talk to the Quartermaster after our rest stop. Hopefully he’d be too hung over to remember that he’d sworn to leave me in permanent free fall if I ever destroyed his precious resources again. Trouble successfully deferred.
I shifted back out of my leonine form before I got to the doorway of my sleeping cell. Transforming in zero-g is the best. No gravity to pull your spine out of alignment when you go from four legs to two. Nope, you can just articulate through the vertebrae, like a comfortable stretch. Now hominid, I splayed my fingers all the way out and fisted them again. Fingers take some getting used to after you’ve been leonine.
Sure, I could’ve stayed in my fingerless form a while longer. I spent so much time in it those days that it felt more normal than my hominid form. Plus, a tail and a feline center of balance do help a lady maneuver through zero-g hallways... but they also lead to one’s tail being pulled by prankster shipmates. There is nothing funny about pulling a cat’s tail. Nothing.
“White stars and black space!” I caroled to my fellows on third watch when I entered the restaurant. They used to call it the mess, but when I first got assigned to this ship, I couldn’t resist. You can’t call a place a mess and then not make one! Food flying everywhere, tables overturned, chefs with storage bins on their heads. My company commander learned right quick about calling things by proper names.
“Green grass and cool water,” Simpson replied. At least someone had learned that planets were more my thing than ships and stations. Simpson was an apprentice pilot, and everyone knows pilots are crazy. Crazy enough to befriend the only creepy shapeshifter on the ship.
I grabbed a cereal sphere and filled it with kibble. Trust me, the dry cat food is the most edible thing at the restaurant. Sometimes my shipmates tried to steal it, and the cook had been known to mash it up for side dishes. I was just the only one who doesn’t have to sneak it.
I glided to join Simpson and resisted the urge to toss kibble at him. After all, the restaurant wasn’t a mess anymore. Before I could convince myself that swatting my breakfast made me a benevolent Mahdan—one who shared her breakfast with those unfortunates forced to eat scrambled protein and cardboard carbohydrates—Commander Asti’s voice came over the PA.
“All right, everybody. We’re safely docked and I want you all to take some off-ship rest. We’ll be here for a week. Work out among yerselves who’s gonna stay with the ship to watch our cargo.” Crackling silence. “Except Mahdan Qaitra. You go out and meet people, figure out where we’re goin’ next. I don’t wanna hear from you till it’s time to bounce.” Momentary pause. “Well? What’re you waitin’ for? Hop to it!” Muttered, but clearly heard: “Disgraces to the service.”
Simpson grinned at me. “Off you stalk then. Scat, little kitten.”
I transformed, professionally quick, and flicked a blond paw at his breakfast. His grin broadened as he pulled it out of my reach, and I retaliated with a hiss and a leap—careful to keep my claws sheathed and my rotation slow—that flipped the pair of us over and over through the air in mock-wrestle.
As we rolled toward the door, I positioned myself to sail out of the restaurant, saucy tail shake in my wake. Third watch laughed behind me, amusement flowing more freely now that I was gone.

Janine A. Southard writes speculative fiction and videogame dialogue from her home in Seattle, WA. She sings with a Celtic band and is working on the next book in the Hive Queen universe. She's also been known to read aloud to her cat.

The cat appreciates all of these things. Maybe.

There is an international tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
·        One eBook copy of These Convergent Stars

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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