Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 22

“Someone attracted the flame wasps to the crew with pheromones? How did someone get a queen’s scent?”

Aparoe shook their head, studying the screen in their hand. “This isn’t an attractant. The scent isn’t even flame wasp pheromones; they’re twisps.”

“What are twisps?”

“Stick-like figures that migrate in swarms. They consume organic material then move on, leaving behind barren paths behind them. Nothing can stand against them because they don’t seem to have any higher functions. They just… consume. They don’t even leave waste behind; anything they consume is emitted through vents on their backs. That is carried on the wind, warning animals in their path to flee. But the wasps live in trees they’ve tunneled out. Instead of leaving, they attack the twisp swarm.

“Flame wasps are predatory. They kill much larger creatures and harvest the meat, taking it back to the colonies. If they can kill enough of the swarm in one area facing their colonies, the twisp swarm will turn, following the pheromones of the creatures who are still living.”

Aparoe stood, holding out the scanner toward them. “Stand still. Let me scan you.” I froze and waited for her to finish. She moved from me to Lakshou. Captain was staring at me.

I looked down. My clothes were clinging to my body and had barely started to dry in the warm air. “What?” I asked.

“What made you go into the water?”

“Most things that fly don’t swim. And Lakshou said they didn’t like water.”

Aparoe looked up from the numbers scrolling across her screen. “That’s what saved you. Holldu’s pheromones are strong enough to blanket the entire hold. I’m guessing he was injected on the ship because the scans my medics are doing show traces of the threat pheromone on everyone, but it’s weak enough that it wouldn’t call down swarms of fire wasps even without the smoke deterrent.”

“You’re saying someone did this on purpose?” Lakshou asked.

“I am.” Captain scanned the treeline behind us. “Kohen overheard a conversation where it seemed like two crew members were planning to do something. I think this was it. All the rescued victims from the last space station were here. This could’ve killed everyone here.”

“Couldn’t it just have been a plot to kill Holldu?”

“Maybe. But there’s more going on here than I think we know. This isn’t like other times we’ve raided Brox locations and rescued people.”

Deke glanced over his shoulder. “This rescue order came from higher up. They made us take this ship and the larger crew. I don’t trust all of these people. Never have.”

Lakshou stepped forward. “I have to agree. There has been a low level of hostility from some crew members. I know I’ve worried about my sense of hostility coming from Kemit and some others, but I thought it was about the way I commune with my clients.”

“So…” Captain tapped his hand against his thigh. “We know someone is conspiring against us. Kemit—you recognized his voice, right, Kohen?”

I nodded. “But not who he was with.”

“Still, it gives us an angle to investigate. Lack of communication with the shuttles would explain the rescue, so no one knows that we know about their plan for the pheromones. We keep this close to our chest—original crew only. We’re going to figure out whose working against us and why.”

Deke grinned darkly. “Count me in.”

“My official reports will reflect the flame wasp venom was the cause of death. I’ve removed the pheromone results.” Aparoe began tapping at their tablet. “There, an encrypted file with the original results has been sent to your personal account, Captain.”

“Good.” He stared at me, then glanced at Lakshou. “We’re going to have to get someone closer to the other survivors.”

I didn’t have a good feeling about the way he was looking at me. He didn’t look happy, and I didn’t know why, but I knew I wasn’t going to like it.

“Kohen, you’ve kept your distance, especially since I segregated you on the crew deck and not with the others—”

“Because I’m dangerous,” I pointed out.

“Dangerous to those who want to hurt others. That is not why we put you on the crew deck. Look at what you’ve done so far. You’ve saved people, not hurt them. You’re a protector.” He pierced me with a look in his eyes that I couldn’t get away from, and I couldn’t argue with him either, no matter how much I wanted to.

“And we’re going to need your help again. I know you’re not comfortable with a lot of people, but we need you to start spending time with the others we rescued. It’s known that Lakshou is counseling you, so he can go with you. That will allow him to help assess the others without them being aware of it.”

I folded my arms, gripping my biceps. “But what about working with Luca?”

“You can still do that. We need your help, Kohen. I refuse to let someone sabotage my mission. If someone on this ship is working with the Brox Consortium, or worse, is working for someone in the government working with those sadistic power-hungry monsters, then I’m going to stop them. What they do is horrific. No one should have to suffer the things you and the others have, and I will do whatever it takes to stop them.”

I looked at him, Deke, Aparoe, and Lakshou. They were his crew. “Why? Why do you trust me? I could be part of the people working against you.”

Captain stepped up, invading my personal space, the spicy scent of his skin I’d smelled so few times before, swamped me. I sway, only just keeping myself from reaching out to him, to touch and feel him touch me. “Because I have seen the strength inside you, Kohen. No matter what was done to you, you are a good person.” He tapped his chest. “I can feel it in here.”


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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 21

“How are we going to get out of here?” I asked. The wasps were still close by, cycling through their mesmerizing patterns as the swarm rose and fell. Several people had to be snapped out of it when they started watching again.
“The ship keeps in touch with crew periodically when we’re on planet. When they don’t get a response, they’ll send another shuttle.”
“Which will be just as vulnerable.”
Lakshou shook his head. “They’ll send the captain’s personal shuttle. It’s equipped with weapons and advanced scanning. They’ll figure it out.”
“So we wait.” I should be good at that, but I wasn’t. I looked at the crowd of people in the water. The humans would be fine, but… “What about the aliens here? Is the water going to harm them?”
He hesitated. “I don’t think so. The planet has a lot of moisture, so I can’t imagine any of the species who don’t handle it well would be assigned to a ground mission.”
I closed my eyes. The water was moving, all the bodies pushing it around. I’d missed water. Using the cleaner on the ship was easy, but it was unsatisfying. I focused on the water and on staying away in the crowd of people. I was on the edge. I paddled with my feet and swirled my arms. I glanced at the swarm from the corner of my eyes when I wanted to check on them… and we waited.
Being in the water was strangely like meditating with Lakshou. My breathing slowed, and I was able to block out the panic and questions everyone was shouting at each other.
The swoosh overhead of a shuttle passing far above us proved Lakshou right. This one was huge, and I’d never seen it before. Maybe there was another hold on the ship? I glanced at Lakshou.
He looked calm, so it had to be from our ship. The conversation I’d overheard, the death from an attack that had never happened before with animals behaving in an unusual pattern… even in the warm water, a chill ran up my spine.
The shuttle hovered in the middle of the swarms.  It rotated slowly, smoke venting out of several tubes that extruded from small holes all along the sides. The swarm scattered. Waves of the creatures enveloped in the smoke fell to the ground.
Once the sky was clear, the shuttle turned and slowly sank down behind the trees. The water splashed against the shore as people started moving toward the shallower water. “Stay in the water!” someone shouted. “We don’t know if it’s safe.”
I hadn’t moved. Those creatures had killed someone; I wasn’t going to be their next victim. Lakshou and I waited.
The movement of the trees as the first indication that there was something coming toward us. A line of crew in suits that covered every inch of their bodies marched out of the brush and down the rocky beach. One tapped a button on his shoulder, and the helmet over his head retracted. “You can come out of the water now. The swarm has been neutralized.”
My swimming skills weren’t strong enough for the mass of people moving around, and I was swamped, going under again. Lakshou pulled me up. I coughed and wiped my face, annoyed that I’d gotten another mouthful of the water. We might restock the ship’s supplies from the planet’s resources, but they had to purify the water. It had a metallic tang that curled my tongue.
“All right?”
I nodded, still sputtering. We were the last two out of the water. The crew in suits were checking everyone who came out of the water, separating them into groups.
Lakshou and I were stopped before we reached the other groups. “Were either of you stung?”
“No,” Lakshou said as I shook my head.
“Good. We need you to come with us.” The crew member did an about face and marched back toward the trees. The rest of the group who’d originally come down to the planet were left on the beach. My clothes clung to my skin, warm and wet and heavy. Walking was a chore, but the soldiers ahead of us powered through the brush and didn’t even look back to make sure we were following them.
“Why did they separate us?” I asked Lakshou under my breath.
“I don’t know.”
A tree limb smacked me right before we entered the meadow. I rubbed my arm, wincing at the pink stripe. I’d gotten used to not being in pain, and it felt worse than I remembered the pain from the suit feeling.
How quickly I’d forgotten what years of my life had been like. The thought struck me and then was swept away almost immediately.
“Captain?” Captain was standing over the body on the ground, Aparoe beside him. Deke, the soldier who’d found me in my cell, stood at his back facing away from him. He was holding a weapon, scanning the surroundings.
What was going on? This couldn’t be about the bugs.
“Kohen, Lakshou.” Captain stared at me. “You’re okay?”
His shoulders dropped, and he nodded sharply, once. “Good, good.” He took a deep breath and drew himself up. “Kohen, I got the vid message you left in the system, but not until after you left. We need to remember to get someone to teach you how to send them to a crew member. After the communication failed here, we came right away.”
Aparoe grimaced.
“Are you okay, Doc?” Lakshou asked.
“You know I hate that.” They glared at Lakshou. “And, no, I’m not okay. Someone died here today, and it wasn’t an accident.”
“What do you mean by that?” Captain turned, giving them his full attention.
“Someone injected a manufactured pheromone just under the skin here and here.” They indicated spots on either side of the being’s legs. “Since Holldu’s glands emit strong pheromones, it would have been like a giant beacon for the flame wasps.”

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Check out Lander by J. Scott Coatsworth!

How awesome is this cover?! Today I'm thrilled to showcase J. Scott Coatsworth's newest release, Lander! 


J. Scott Coatsworth has a new MM Sci Fi book out:

Sometimes the world needs saving twice.

In the sequel to the Rainbow-Award-winning Skythane, Xander and Jameson thought they’d fulfilled their destiny when they brought the worlds of Oberon and Titania back together, but their short-lived moment of triumph is over.

Reunification has thrown the world into chaos. A great storm ravaged Xander's kingdom of Gaelan, leaving the winged skythane people struggling to survive. Their old enemy, Obercorp, is biding its time, waiting to strike. And to the north, a dangerous new adversary gathers strength, while an unexpected ally awaits them.

In the midst of it all, Xander’s ex Alix returns, and Xander and Jameson discover that their love for each other may have been drug-induced.

Are they truly destined for each other, or is what they feel concocted? And can they face an even greater challenge when their world needs them most?

The Oberon Cycle: Book Two

About the Oberon Cycle:

Xander is a skythane man whose wings have always been a liability on the lander-dominated half world of Oberon.

Jameson is a lander who has been sent to Oberon to find out why the supply of the psycho-amoratic drug pith has dropped off.

What neither knows is that they have a shared destiny that will change the two of them - and all of Oberon - forever.

Dreamspinner - eBook | Dreamspinner - Paperback


Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate and three copies of his queer sci fi eBook "The Stark Divide."

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Lander banner

Xander stared at the torrent of water pouring over the cavern entrance. Somewhere out there, Quince and the others were lost in the storm.

“What happened to everyone else?” Jameson shouted, putting his hand on Xander’s shoulder.

“I don’t know. Last I saw them was before the lightning strike.” How had things changed so quickly?

Jameson started toward the exit. “We have to look for them!”

Xander pulled him back.

Jameson’s eyes were wild.

He squeezed Jameson’s hands, trying to reassure him. “Hey, calm down. There’s nothing we can do right now.”

“We already lost Morgan.” Jameson’s eyes pleaded with him. “I can’t lose the rest of them.”

Xander shook his head. “It’s no use. We’ll never find them in this tempest. They’re seasoned veterans. They can take care of themselves. We’ll go looking after the storm passes.” The loss of Morgan weighed on him too, though he was less and less certain that Morgan had been a human boy at all.

Jameson looked doubtful.

Xander felt it too, but there really was nothing they could do. “Hey, it’s gonna be all right.” He pulled Jameson to him, enfolding the two of them with his wings. Jameson was soaked, but Xander didn’t care.

Jameson nodded against his chest. “You’re right. Gods, I know you’re right. I’m sorry. I thought we were done with all this.”

Xander held him out at arm’s length. “Gods, huh? We’re doing the plural thing now?”

Jameson gave him a half smile. “Trying it out? When in Rome….”

“How’s your hearing?”

Jameson cocked his head. “It’s better. But everything sounds muffled.”

Xander nodded. “I can tell.”

Jameson blushed. “Am I talking too loud?”

“Just a little.”

Jameson smiled sheepishly. “It’s weird. It feels like my ears are full of water.”

Xander kissed him gently. “It’ll pass.” He looked around the cavern at last, his eyes gradually adjusting to the dim blue light.

The place was a faeryland, filled with rows of golden stalactites and stalagmites, like the bulwarks of an eldritch castle. Each one was a miracle of minute detail, like candle wax dripped from above. The whole cavern was lit by a turquoise-blue glow.

Xander looked around for the source. It came from pools of water on either side of the cavern. The scintillating light shimmered along the walls, creating complex, ever-changing patterns.

“Look, Jameson… it’s beautiful.” They were both a muddy mess. “We’re stuck here until the storm blows itself out. Why don’t we get cleaned up and try to rest? Then we can figure out what to do next. We have a long flight to Gaelan.” He was still shivering from the rain.

“A bath sounds like heaven.” Jameson let Xander lead him to one of the glowing ponds.

“Do you think it’s safe to go in?” Xander asked, pulling off his boots and testing the water with his toes. It was warm.

Jameson looked queasy, but then he smiled. “They called them faery ponds. There’s a microscopic organism that makes the light. It’s harmless, but beautiful.” He grinned. “Romantic, even.”

Ah, that’s how you knew this place. “You’ve been here before, haven’t you?” he said, slowly and clearly, gesturing to indicate Jameson and the cavern. His own generational memories were still fleeting, occasional things.

Jameson’s smile fled. He shrugged. “Not me personally….”

“Shhh. I know.” If he closed his eyes and focused, he could see this place too, but he seemed to be able to block them out when they were inconvenient. “Too many memories.” Xander pointed at his head.

Jameson nodded. He looked relieved. He reached out and pulled Xander close, his hands warm on Xander’s waist.

Xander slipped his arms around Jameson and kissed him once, twice. He wrinkled his nose. “You’re filthy and you stink! So do I.” He held up his shirt as proof. It was covered in mud stains.

Jameson laughed. “We can fix that.”

He helped Jameson unlace the sides of his shirt, pulling it off to reveal the naked skin underneath. Jameson returned the favor, his hands lingering for a moment before withdrawing to pull down his own pants.

They shucked their wet and dirty clothes and descended into the water. It was surprisingly warm, silky and smooth around Xander’s waist.

The pool was about three meters across and sloped down to about a meter deep at the far end. There was a warm, gentle current drifting past Xander’s legs, and the stone beneath his feet had been worn smooth by water and time.

Xander washed the grime off his skin, and it drifted off into the water around him.

Jameson pulled him in deeper and gestured for him to lower his head.

Xander lay in Jameson’s arms, and warm water washed over him, carrying the mud and dirt out of his hair. Jameson massaged his scalp, pulling away the twigs and bits of gunk he’d accumulated on the mad run through the forest in the storm.

Xander’s desire threatened to overwhelm him at Jameson’s gentle touch. He dipped his face into the water and rinsed off. It was so fucking good to get clean.

He shook his head, splashing Jameson, who shot him an aggrieved look.

The look turned into a wicked grin, and Jameson splashed him back. Then they were going after each other and laughing, a fine mist of water flying through the air.

Damn, it’s good to hear you laugh again. Xander grabbed Jameson and kissed him, harder this time, and Jameson’s body responded. They fell back into the water, and Jameson was hard against him, his own need naked before Xander’s desire.

After all that had happened, Xander needed to feel human and alive again. He tugged Jameson back to the shallow part of the pool and pulled his skythane down on top of him, Jameson’s skin warm against his own.

He kissed Jameson’s neck and nibbled on his ear, eliciting a low moan.

Jameson wanted this as much as he did. He could tell.

For a long, slow, ecstatic hour, Xander forgot all about the storm.

Author Bio

ScottScott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own reality.

Author Website:

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 20

Two large, dark clouds buzzed over the trees. The sun shone on the bodies and the flashes of red looked like fire. Fire in the sky. They spread out and then balled up in wild flight patterns. It was oddly hypnotic. “What is that?”

“Durginae—Flame Wasps. But they don’t swarm like that.” Lakshou’s voice was slow, soft. “Wow, they look amazing.”

A crew member in a one-piece uniform cried out on the far side of the small valley we’d landed in, not far from the swarms. He took several running steps toward the water and then collapsed with a choked off wail. All four of his legs drummed into the ground, the vines writhing away, but then he went still.

Way too still.

The swarms rose up again and then started to swirl back and forth, but this time I didn’t watch. I tracked their movements out of the corner of my eye. “Lakshou! The wasps, do they sting people?”

“Not on purpose.” He rocked, his bare feet digging into the ground.

But that meant they could. And that man was dead. Could we make it back into the shuttles? The swarms were closer to the shuttles now, and I didn’t want to run toward them. Maybe…. Water! “Lakshou? Do they like water?”

“No…. they avoid it. They’re mostly found in the drier side of the plateaus in stone caves. That’s why they glow red like that.” He was swaying even more now, his whole body into the movement. I shoved him, making him stumble to his knees. It helped break the trance he was stuck in. “What was that for?”

“The flame wasps killed someone.” I pointed to the crew member, his body prone on the ground. “We need to get everyone into the water. Now!” I pointed to some crew members standing just like Lakshou had been. “I think the wasps are mesmerizing them. You have to make them stop watching. Don’t look at the patterns.”

I rushed toward a pair of crew members I’d never met before. They were both aliens, their three eyes on stalks above their heads, weaving with the same circular patterns as the wasps. I shook them both roughly, one hand on each of their thin shoulder’s. “Wake up!” I shouted.

Their eyes retracted immediately, and the one on the right hissed, thick fangs dropping between its lips. “The wasps are dangerous. Help us get people to get to the water where they’ll be safe.”

They blinked, and the one hissing stopped. This was taking too long. “Do you want to die?” I pointed at the man on the ground again. “Go!”

The buzz from the wasps faded as they flew even higher, but that had happened before, and then they came closer. Our eyes had been closed as we meditated, so I didn’t know if they’d been visible the first time we heard them.

 I could sense time running out.

Every crew member I broke out of their trance was one more to help get the others. A few took off running as soon as they came out of it, but at that point, it didn’t matter. We’d gotten everyone, I hoped. “Go to the water!”

As I ran myself, I desperately hoped that Lakshou’s information about the wasps was correct, especially since they were behaving in a way he didn’t expect. My strength would do no good against a giant cloud of tiny creatures, and clearly the protectant hadn’t helped the other human. The silver water appeared between the trees, getting closer.

“Go as deep as you can,” Lakshou shouted. I ran out of the woods and headed straight for him, the rounded stones of the rocks along the water’s edge bruising the bottoms of my feet. I splashed into the water, running in slow motion as it dragged at my knees and then up my thighs.

The water was warm, kind of like the baths I vaguely remembered having once upon a time. It was over my shoulders and my feet left the bottom. My head dipped under the water. Lakshou reached out and grabbed me, hauling me up next to his body.

“Thanks,” I sputtered.

“Thank you for breaking me out of it.” He used the same trick I did, watching the swarm out of the corner of his eyes. They were sinking in a slow spiral, heading for the shuttles and trees between us and them.

All around us crew members were helping each other. “I think we got everyone,” Lakshou said.

“Except the first guy they got. I thought you said this was a safe place.”

“It is! Those bugs live on the plateau, in dry caves. They hate rain, which it does a lot here, and won’t go near water.” Sure enough, there was a hard edge to the spiral, like a line they wouldn’t cross between the trees and the water. It made little sense, since they could fly over the water and never touch it, but I wasn’t about to be ungrateful for what was keeping us safe. “There’s no reason for them to be in this region.”

Lakshou began scanning the crowd of people in the water. His shoulders drooped. “Oh hell. That wasn’t a crew member who died. It was one of the people we rescued. The captain is going to be upset.”

“He wouldn’t be upset if one of his crew died?” Was that why had he been so angry when I stopped the shuttle from flattening Luca?

“Of course he would. But the crew signed up for their jobs, and that’s to keep the ship running and support the missions to rescue people being held captive by the Brox Consortium. He promised to keep you guys safe, all of you, and he’s going to think he failed.”

“There’s no way to keep people safe in this universe. If he thinks he can, then he was always going to fail.”

Lakshou stared at me sadly. “That’s so cynical.”

“But true.”


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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 19

Who to tell about the conversation I overheard troubled me. What were they talking about? I really had no idea. Nothing specific had been said. I wanted to tell Captain, but we were leaving and he was busy. The only time I ever saw him was when he came to me and the occasional passing in the corridor when we were both near our quarters.
I didn’t even know where he was at when he was captaining the ship.
Maybe Lakshou would know. Or I could use the vid to message him. That was a good idea. I stopped and looked around. There was an open door to some sort of a storage area not far from the hold. There wasn’t much room in there, but I just wanted a quiet place to record my message to Captain.
The handheld device I’d tucked in the pocket of my pants worked just fine to set up a vid recording. I relayed what exactly I heard, glad I could remember it word for word. I racked my brain, but I wasn’t able to remember the human’s name, though. Captain probably knew it anyway, or he could ask Lakshou.
A rumble sent a vibration through the metal floor of the ship, and I gasped. Time to go. I tucked my vid back into my pocket and rushed to the hold. Red lights were flashing, and there were only a few beings moving around.
Lakshou stood in the hatch of one shuttle about halfway down the row of tethered vehicles. “Kohen, hurry up!” As soon as I passed him, a crew member closed the hatch. “Take a seat there.” He pointed to an empty spot at the end of one row with another seat beside it. It helped that he took the seat next to a wiry alien in a pale suit that covered most of its dark skin.
The lack of windows on the shuttle meant riding blind onto the planet Lakshou had mentioned. I wished we could see it; it had been so long since I’d been on some form of earth. Would I be able to handle it? An entire sky overhead was really different from cells, ships, and space stations.
We landed with a soft thump, the shuttle’s landing pads extending and locking into place with a quiet whirr I could hear through the hull. “Stay in your seat for a moment,” Lakshou said when I put my hand on my restraints. “The crew needs to run a few scans before they allow us off.”
Just then the hatch unsealed, and the first unfiltered air I could remember smelling moved through the shuttle. A breeze caressed the skin of my cheek in a motion completely unfamiliar. Air was cycled through the vents in space-going vessels, but it wasn’t the same.
And the smell.
Green things. Heat. Salt. A bitter, unfamiliar tang as well as a sweet hint of something flowery twined together. I closed my eyes and breathed deep, my hands clenched together. I was practically vibrating in my seat when Lakshou finally tapped me on the thigh.
“We can go out, but before you leave the shuttle, make sure you apply the protectant. You’ll need it since your skin has adapted to being in space away from UV rays. There are also some insects on this planet that find humans a tasty snack, and you definitely don’t want them to try and get their dinner out of you. It’ll keep them away.”
There was a crew member handing out cloths by the hatch. “What do I do with this?” I asked.
“Just wipe it across any exposed skin.”
“That’s it?”
Lakshou nodded. “That’s it.”
“You don’t need one?” I started with my face, and then got my ears and the back of my neck. My hands were last. The cloth disintegrated as I rub it through my fingers.
“Nope. I’m not on the menu, and my skin is mostly covered. Plus I get planetside quite often.” Lakshou turned. “Watch your step, the ground is very soft.”
He wasn’t joking. My feet sank in a few inches. I squinted. There was a body of water just beyond the second shuttle beside ours. The sun was bouncing off it like a mirror. There was so much all around us, the sight, the sounds, the smells. My breath came faster. “Is the ground… moving?”
“Yes, to get away from the shuttle. The vegetation is sensitive.”
“And we harvest it?” I was appalled.
“Not sentient. Sensitive.”
“Oh.” This was amazing. I took a few steps on my tiptoes, not sure if it was okay to actually to move around on the ground, no matter what Lakshou said. If it moved away, it must be because it hurt.
“Over here.” Lakshou was standing on bare ground, and I sighed in relief when I joined him.
“Should we be helping?”
“You’re doing enough work just acclimating to being outside. The crew has done this before.” Lakshou smiled at me. “Feel the sun on your skin, soak in the fresh air. You’re doing great.”
A high-pitched hum filled the air, swelling and then fading. “What’s that?”
Lakshou frowned. “Not sure. It doesn’t sound too close. If it’s something to worry about, the crew will let us know. How about a quick meditation?” He bent over and removed the coverings on his feet. “Join me.”
“You want me to stick my bare feet on the ground?” I wrinkled up my nose.
“It’ll be good for you. Commune with nature.” Lakshou simply stared at me, waiting.
Sighing, I did what he asked. He knew best, right? “Communing with nature, got it.”
We stood there breathing in concert. I focused on my other senses by closing my eyes. The hum that had faded swelled again, even louder this time.

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