by E.M. Hamill
Genre: Science Fiction, space opera, LGBTQ
Publisher: Nine Star Press
Date of Publication: August 7, 2017
Number of pages: 313
Word Count: 85K
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Dalí Tamareia had everything—a young family, and a promising career as an Ambassador in the Sol Fed Diplomatic Corps. Dalí’s path as a peacemaker seems clear, but when their loved ones are killed in a terrorist attack, grief sends the gender-fluid changeling into a spiral of self-destruction.
Fragile Sol Fed balances on the brink of war with a plundering alien race. Their skills with galactic relations are desperately needed to broker a protective alliance, but mourning Dalí no longer cares, seeking oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, in the arms of a faceless lover, or at the end of a knife.
The New Puritan Movement is rising to power within the government, preaching strict genetic counseling and galactic isolation to ensure survival of the endangered human race. Third-gender citizens like Dalí don’t fit the mold of this perfect plan, and the NPM will stop at nothing to make their vision reality. When Dalí stumbles into a plot threatening changelings like them, a shadow organization called the Penumbra recruits them for a rescue mission full of danger, sex, and intrigue, and gives Dalí purpose again.
Risky liaisons with a charismatic pirate lord could be Dalí’s undoing—and the only way to prevent another deadly act of domestic terrorism.
I had to pass the terminal’s arrival gate to reach my assigned quarters in the lodgings district—nothing but a tiny room with a bunk and a desk. More than I needed. I hunched my shoulders and pulled the collar of my coat up. It wasn’t enough to evade electronic eyes.
Goddamned media bots. The week after the bombing, they descended upon me every time I stepped outside my door, wanting tears, statements, something juicy to regale the holo viewers at home. Charges of destruction of the networks’ property got dropped after I was diagnosed with PTSD. But no one else could verify what I’d seen the media bot do in Luna Terminal. They were all dead.
Six months later, the things still recognized me whether I leaned toward male or female, but followed me at a safer distance. This one hovered outside the gate to spy for any late celebrities who might sneak in after the championship game began. It buzzed and floated in my wake.
“Ambassador Tamareia? Would you care to make a statement on the latest developments in the Senate regarding the Remoliad negotiations?”
“No. I’m on bereavement leave.” I didn’t turn around.
“How about a statement regarding Sol Fed’s stance on third-gender reproductive rights?”
This was a human voice and made me pause. I turned slowly. “Kiran Singh. Waiting for the next big human tragedy?”
His answering smile was brilliant and manufactured for holo audiences, white teeth blinding against dark-brown skin. Tall and slender, Singh’s features shared the same androgyny as mine, the kind of facial structure that earned a double take. His plum-colored kurta glittered with embroidery, the tips of shiny black boots visible beneath its folds. I hadn’t seen Singh since the memorial service on Luna, but I’d been barely cognizant of anything in those first days of mourning. Except when I punched Singh in the face. I remember that.
“Yours?” I jabbed a thumb at the patient, hovering bot.
“It’s my network’s.”
“Make it go away or it’s scrap.”
“Stand down, Geraldo.” The globular bot obeyed and floated back to the gate.
Singh stood in front of me. The smile faded. “You look like sh*t.”
“Thanks. Good to see you too.” I wanted nothing more but to go back to my room and surround myself with a cloud of illegal vaping chems. I turned away.
“Seriously, Dalí. What the hell?”
“What do you want, Kiran?” I kept walking.
“Stop and talk to me. We used to be friends at university.”
“We were never friends. Is this off the record?”
“Give me a statement against the New Puritan Movement. The NPM’s stance on our reproductive rights is nothing less than selective genocide under the guise of recovering our species. Your opinion still matters to Luna. You can help us make a difference.”
“I don’t agree with your form of journalism or your tactics. Gresh’s opinions were the ones that mattered.”
“Gresh was the judicial heart of the equal rights movement, but he wasn’t a third. You were the voice. You still could be.”
“Not for you and the Third Front.” Kiran and his activist friends played along the borders of extremism, where Gresh and I had preferred reason and legislation.
“Dalí. Listen to me.” Singh grabbed my arm. I wrenched it away but stopped walking. He moved closer. “I know the bastards got you ousted from your appointment to the Remoliad. The NPM is poison, and it’s gaining momentum in the Senate. Do you even watch the news?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“So you’ve given up.”
“What do you want from me?”
“You do know that isolationist prick Hyatt won the nomination, don’t you?”
“To be Head of the Senate, Dalí! Where have you been?”
“Okay.” Singh’s voice quieted. “I understand. But you need to wake up. Our rights to be treated as the equal of every other Sol Fed citizen are being threatened. Europa introduced new bills into Senate deliberation. With Hyatt’s election, they’re going to pass and make parthenogenesis mandatory for our reproduction. Guess whose research they’re using to fuel the hysteria?”
“Dr. Atassi’s, I presume.”
“The witch has been busy. They’re going to use the law to eliminate the entire third gender.”
I blinked at Singh with disbelief, even in my still-numbed state. “That isn’t legal under galactic statutes. It’ll never pass.”
“Wake up! Sol Fed isn’t Remoliad yet, and if the NPM gets its way, we never will be.” Kiran stepped closer to me. “Changelings are disappearing from the Colonies, and nobody is investigating. They’re ignoring hate crimes. In our government’s eyes, we don’t serve any greater good to further the human race if we can’t reproduce.”
“Maybe they just wanted to disappear.”
Singh’s expression grew ugly, and his disgust pricked my empathic senses with needle-sharp derision. “You never did get it. You think more like a galactic than a human being. You were never one of us.”
“We’ve had this argument before.”
“The more things change, the more they stay the same. It still doesn’t touch you. You’re a cold bastard, Tamareia.”
I turned my back, but Singh called out, “What if I told you I could connect the NPM to the terminal bombing?”
I stopped and wheeled on him. Two steps brought me within arm’s length. I grabbed the front of his jacket and pulled him in, snarling. “If that’s true, why didn’t you tell the authorities?”
“Take it easy!” He slapped my hands away and licked his lips, his eyes darting away from mine as he straightened his kurta. “Word has it that Batterson Robotics is expanding into illegal weapons technology. I heard rumors the NPM formed its own little militia, funded by Batterson himself.”
“Rumors.” I gave a bleak laugh. “Prove who killed my family, and I’ll show you what a cold bastard I can be. Until then, stay the f*ck away from me, Kiran.”
About the Author
E.M. (Elisabeth) Hamill writes adult science fiction and fantasy somewhere in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas. A nurse by day, wordsmith by night, she is happy to give her geeky imagination free reign and has sworn never to grow up and get boring.
Frequently under the influence of caffeinated beverages, she also writes as Elisabeth Hamill for young adult readers in fantasy with the award-winning Songmaker series.
She lives in eastern Kansas with her family, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.