Title: The Pull of Gravity
Entry Nickname: Black Holes
Word Count: 122,000
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Iari Lenerian wanted to help make the galaxy a better place. He was supposed to be a small cog in a big machine--an informant posing as a palace guard, that’s it. He didn’t mean to attract the Emperor’s attention, didn’t mean to gain his trust. And he didn’t mean to fall in love.
The rebellion is going forward as planned. Iari is the only person who can get close to the Emperor--and the only mindfighter strong enough to challenge him. Iari still wants to see his impoverished homeworld free of Imperial exploitation, but he’s not ready to kill the man he loves. Desperate, he takes the Emperor hostage aboard the insurgent fleet to keep him safe.
The planet below isn’t so fortunate when Iari’s new allies open fire in a last minute change of plans. If Iari wants the Empire to fall, he needs to trust this tenuous collaboration: a foreign Premier, the head of a monopoly, and a religious fanatic, each looking to further their own ends. Now, with the destruction of a planet on his conscience and the Emperor’s vengeful sister chasing them across space, he has to decide how much he’s willing to compromise his integrity for his ideals.
Iari drew a shaky breath and checked the time, dark digits that glowed against the frosted glass of the lounge window. 7:92. Eight minutes until he betrayed his best friend.
He peered up, searching the sky for ships, but it was impossible to make anything out through the blustery snow. They're out there, he reassured himself, though his heart pounded in his chest.
Dialing up the opacity on the windows, he arranged his face into some facsimile of composure and took a moment to gather courage. Emperor Alexander Furin rested on the lavender cushions by the fireplace, forehead in one hand as he scrolled through the reports scattered around him. On any other day, Iari would have picked up the Emperor’s mug and refilled the coffee. On any other day, he would have collected the discarded silk coat, checked their schedule for tomorrow, and found something unusual to order for breakfast. Not today.
The Emperor shifted, gaze flicking up. Iari's breath caught, but the other's eyes passed over him and dropped back to the report pad without focusing. He looked so ordinary there in the dim stillness of the lounge—the fingers in his light hair, the way he sat on one foot, the furrow between his eyes as he concentrated. Not an Emperor, just Alexander.
Iari steeled himself. The time for such feelings was past. Elise stood guard outside their chambers, planetary defenses were down, and ships from the Independent Alliance had entered orbit that morning under the pretense of border negotiations.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: Monsters of the Deep
Entry Nickname: Water Unicorns and Armadillos
Word count: 92K
Genre: Adult Sci-Fi
Sea monsters are real, and S.O.B. wants Tally Fisher to hunt them.
After four years crushing swim records at university in California, Tally can’t believe she’s back in her hometown—Podunk, North Dakota. That is until S.O.B. calls with a career opportunity.
Pressured by a mountain of student debt and North Dakota’s encroaching flatlands, which only look like water in the breeze of a cloudy day, Tally accepts the position. The job description is shady at best—patrol the ocean and resolve top-tier threats, but it’s as close to Coast Guard rescue swimmer as she can get. And the salary sweetens the deal—hello, debt free.
But then she discovers what S.O.B. stands for—Society of Buccaneers, a firm steeped in pirate history. And she learns what they really do—exterminate sea monsters and hide their existence from the public, including people like her father, a foreman on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tally is forced to choose between sitting safe on land with the secret of the monsters of the deep, or risking her life on a daily basis to keep others safe.
She could lose a limb. She could die. Or worse for her, she could never swim again.
Tally couldn't believe she had ended up back here. Again. Flatlands full of rapeseed stretched to meet the pale blue sky, curved like one of the giant chipped bowls in her mother's kitchen cabinet. Oil wells dotted the flat expanse in grimy interruptions, pumping back and forth, back and forth.
The wind whipped her blonde hair across her dry lips again, and she scraped it away. She downed the last of her coffee and pushed through the screen door.
"Oh, good dear, you're home." Tally's mother greeted her from the kitchen table, the drawn out North Dakota O's stretching her words. "How was work?"
"Fine." If fine meant three tables stiffing her and one complaining to the manager. Tally kicked off her shoes, then tossed her coffee cup.
Her mom eyed her over an open newspaper for a moment. "You know, I heard there's an opening at the feed store down on Main. Do you want me to give Danny a call?"
"No, that's fine. I just finished training at this job. I should give it some time." Tally could barely stomach living at home again, let alone facing her mother's friends every time she went to work. She picked up her bag and made her way toward the hall at the other end of the kitchen. If she could just get to the hallway... "Anyway, it's just temporary. Hopefully I can find a swim coaching job or something."
"Hold on there, Tally."
Damn. Her escape had been mere steps away.