Title: Off World
Author: Jonah Bergan
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Cover Artist: Michelle Fairbanks
Length: 240 Pages
Release Date: August 22, 2015
Blurb: What really brought Taine to that backwater little world? Taine’s a hunter. He’s a red-skinned, black-eyed Lowman by nature, and a hunter by trade. Some hunters work in flesh, others in secrets, and some few work to set right what’s been set wrong. It’s a big galaxy and there’s always plenty of work for a hunter like Taine, so you got to wonder, what with all that at his feet, what really brought Taine to that backwater little world?
Off-World is a M/M science fiction action/adventure set in F/M dominated space. The story takes place in an arm of the galaxy where slavery (sexual and otherwise) is legal and commonplace. Strictly speaking, it is not a BDSM novel in that consent is not a matter of concern for the characters, but those with an interest in BDSM should enjoy the story. Due to explicit content, Off-World is not recommended to readers under eighteen years of age.
He scowled, and turned back toward Taine.
A gentle tug and the shirt came loose in front. The uncle slipped it over the boy’s shoulders and let it fall the floor.
He sampled the first scents of the boy’s essence. Sweet, Taine thought. Like honey must taste. It was a thick and golden flavor, and it made Taine smile. That’s all he needed to know to buy any boy—that there was something either savory or sweet in them that was still strong enough to reach the surface. The rest would be up to the trainers—the professionals back at the Temple on Taine’s home-world. But the boy’s dancing tongue sparked Taine’s curiosity, and he wanted to know more.
There were other ways to open a human. Most of those were forceful, and some were downright violent. The uncle and aunt might not understand, but for a Lowman, this was an act of kindness. It was the gentlest way to break through to the only thing a Lowman truly valued.
Taine found his way blocked. It was expected, a barrier—an obstacle to turn him back. It had a scent and a flavor—something akin to the bitterness of burned toast, but its aspect was like a sharp blade bearing a dark stain, it stabbed at him, threatening him and warning him to turn back. Taine instinctively flinched away from it, slipping around and behind it, evading it, and driving himself closer to the wellspring. He found and followed the predominant scents—that of seaweed, dark and rich, and the flavor of saltwater, and he found himself standing on hot sand, feeling the sensations of an empty beach, and the heat of a brilliant and golden sun. It was a rich and delicate feeling, and a smell, and a taste—the smell and taste of sunshine. Yes, Taine thought. That is who he is. Sunshine.
These people had no idea what they were doing, but that wasn’t a surprise either, was it?
From Chapter Two: Jenkins Creek
Set-up: Taine is standing on the front porch, speaking with Simone, a local woman. They are in front of her cabin, deep in the wilderness of a war-torn world and far from the starport where Taine’s ship waits for him. Something in the woman’s bearing and body language makes Taine suspicious, so he uses his alien senses …
Taine reached out with his awareness, scanning the clearing as well as he was able. It was hard to do, keeping his eyes open, and on the woman so as not to arouse her suspicions, while at the same time focusing himself out there beyond himself.
The life force of the plants and trees, and all the wildlife around the place was like a brilliant blinding glow. If it were a sound he was reaching for, all that vegetation would have been like a low constant static, punctuated by sharp bursts from the insects and fauna living and burrowing and flying... and then there it was, like something brilliant against a backdrop of brilliance. Taine sensed a distinct life-form amid the glow of the wilderness. It was a human, a male, crouching in the foliage. Taine touched upon it, gleaning from it what he could. He was Simone’s son—her eldest boy—sent to watch the strangers, and waiting to shoot and defend, nervously peering through the sights of what was very likely a blaster rifle.
"We hear a lot of things out here," Simone said. "We hear you treat ‘em right, but we also hear that you redders eat the boys."
Taine snapped back to himself. Her words had pulled him, but her eyes gave her away. If he hadn't sensed the presence of the boy out there, if he didn't already feel as though the blaster rifle was pressed right between his shoulder blades, her eyes, her spirit would have shown him the danger he’d found for himself. There in the deep woods of a backwater little world, all alone and so very far from civilization, and for the first time in a very long time, Taine felt like an alien.
"I say it's just talk," she said, "but there are some that say otherwise. So which is it? You made your word, now keep it."
Taine's sidearms were in his saddlebags. He’d left them there. He’d done it on purpose. They weren’t the right tools to open a door in these parts, or the right props to keep one open. So he’d stowed them, and now, with a blaster rifle in nervous hands behind him, and an accusation laid before him, he cursed himself for being a fool.
He didn’t need them—not for himself. He was fast, more than fast enough to get himself out of harm's way, but Sunshine was right there, sitting on the bedroll, his arms wrapped and tied. If they believed those rumors, and judged Taine guilty, maybe they'd even believe they were doing the boy a favor. Maybe they'd settle down to evening meal, thinking they'd done a good thing that day—murdering the boy to save him from a worse fate.
"We don't eat humans," Taine said.
"We heard you do," Simone said. "And I can smell a lie, redder or not. I got a bit-o-witchy about me like that. So you want to tell me again?
Jonah Bergan is a freelance writer living in New England. His publishing credits include a ten part serial, multiple short stories, and a collection of anecdotal humor. He has also published MMORPG game reviews and content, hypnosis scripts, online user manuals, and advertising texts. Please visit jonahbergan.com to learn more about him.
Winner’s Prize: A Paperback copy of “Off-World”.
Runner-up’s Prize: An e-copy of “Off-World”.