Angel Martinez has a new queer space opera comedy out, book seven in her Brimstone series: "A Fine Mess." And there's a giveaway!
Beware the demon prince who's sick and tired of running.
Federico Duomo is dead, to begin with. But this is only the first bit of Shax's problems resolved.
Powerful crime lords and an obscenely wealthy oligarch are still determined to destroy him and his crew, and Fluffy's original owner may be coming after the Brimstone now, too. It would be splendid to be able to take on one thing at a time.
Adding to the external conflicts, life on board the Brimstone has only grown increasingly stranger. Shax has no idea what to do with the seven partly human children that Heckle rescued from slavers. Heckle himself has grown short-tempered, even with Mac. Someone from Julian's past catches up to them on Barbary. It's enough to put a demon off his cinnamon buns.
Shax isn't panicking, though. In fact he's had it up to his handsome royal nose with the people he loves having to live in constant fear. The fox has turned at bay and the Brimstone's enemies are in for a shock. The demon prince of thieves is coming for them.
About the Series:
Due to circumstances completely within his control, Shax, the Demon Prince of Thieves, has fled, er, emigrated from Earth to seek his fortunes out in the galaxy. Who said Science Fiction always has to be serious?
Angel is giving away a $25 Mischief Corner Books Gift Card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:
Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47134/?
"Captain Cream Puff, Glkix is on the line for you." Ms. Ivana kept her voice to a throaty purr, probably in deference to the early hour.
While Shax had been expecting the call, he would've preferred at least one more cup of coffee beforehand. "Thank you, my dear. Put her through to my comm, please."
He arranged himself in his desk chair to appear calm and unaffected, coffee mug in one hand for any necessary sardonic or thoughtful sipping. A brief flicker through the relays, and Glkix's image hovered above the holo plate on his desk. Her blue-black hair swept up and pinned with obsidian, her gray-green face smooth and serene, his mother's personal assistant was as elegant as ever. Few people would have picked up the tightness around her eyes, and only if they'd known her as long as Shax had. Not good news, then.
"Good morning, highness. Your royal mother sends greetings."
"Thank you, Glkix. Please convey my filial greetings in return." Shax's nerves got the better of him. He sipped. "You have something for me?"
Incomprehensible data flowed across the screen as Glkix typed. "We were able to track her genetic material through registered bloodlines and make discreet inquiries regarding missing stock. Her lineage is well-documented and highly prized among certain demon lords, highness."
Is this flattery or an explanation of methodology? Sometimes it's so hard to tell. "Yes? Do you have an answer, or is this just an update on progress?"
Glkix cleared her throat, eyes glued to the data stream. "An answer, highness. Your hellcat belongs to Baphomet, Lord of Beasts."
Hell's shiny, pointy gates. Inside, Shax ran in little circles screaming. Outwardly, he sipped. "I see. Does he know I have her?"
"Abject apologies, highness. I've little data on that." Glkix ducked in a strange sort of seated bow. "We know that Lord Baphomet was visiting a forested moon near Opal when the hellcat in question—"
Though he knew she'd never approved of his names for his pets, he persisted. "My hellcat's name is Fluffy."
Glkix cringed. "Er. Yes. When Fluffy was stolen from her pride."
"Do we know by whom?"
"No, highness. Not yet."
Shax drummed his fingers on his mug and forced himself not to sip. Control. Control. "And m'lord of beasts? Where is he now?"
"Hunting, highness. In his ship, Cornuta." Glkix shook her head. "We are trying to redirect wherever possible, Prince Shax."
"Understood." All too well. "Thank you for the information. Mother can't possibly be paying you enough."
"I live to serve, highness." She executed her seated bow again, and Shax cut the connection.
Carefully, he placed his mug on the desk. Pushed back his chair. Bent over his knees and screamed into his hands for a solid forty-five seconds.
Of course, he should have known better. Boots pounded down the corridor almost before he'd stopped, and his door whooshed open. Through his fingers, he spotted Ness in the doorway with his wings mantled in a fierce defensive position and his plasma pistol drawn. Julian, knives out, slid in under Ness's wing and dove behind the trunk Shax had pulled from the closet earlier.
"Shax? Everything all right?" Ness ventured after a stunned and puzzled silence.
Julian vaulted the trunk to sit on its lid. "We thought something was murdering you."
"No murders." Shax sat up and forced himself to draw in a slow breath. "Not yet, at any rate."
Instead of acknowledging him, Ness turned to Julian. "I don't think it was an angry scream."
"Right." Julian nodded. "No prince-in-a-snit smoke. I'd say frustration, except there was definitely a squeaky note to it."
"You're both vastly entertaining and should consider taking this on the road." Shax scowled at each in turn. "But this is serious."
Ness flipped and reflipped his wings as he folded them before sitting on the bunk. "Perhaps you could enlighten us, love."
"Fluffy…" Shax paused as the hellcat in question trotted through the open door to butt her head against him almost hard enough to knock him from his chair. "Yes, you’re a good girl. Who's the best Fluffums? Ahem. Fluffy was stolen from Baphomet."
"I'm gathering that's not good." Ness let her waving tail run through his hand, careful of the sickle blade on the end, his expression unreadable.
"ISE lists Lord Baphomet as a class IV demon lord. Not of the highest rank, so he's able to leave Sol system," Julian offered softly. "Unpredictable, motivations unclear; do not, under any circumstances, engage."
"While Enforcement and I disagree on many things, that's a frighteningly apt assessment." Mug back in hand, Shax took a fortifying sip. "He may be hunting us and, I'll be honest, this is definitely cause for alarm. Mum and Glkix have apparently been sending him off in various directions, but he will find us at some point."
The crinkle in Ness's forehead showed the first sign of real concern. "Is he family? Do you know him well?"
Shax waved a hand at the universe. "All demon lords are family in a sense. I don't believe we're directly related, mind you. And Mum would never allow association with the more, ah, nature-oriented demons. Mud and dust and sticks in your hair…"
"That's a no, then," Julian drawled. "This may sound absurd to you, our lovely prince, but could you contact him? Let him know what happened?"
A cold iron weight lodged in Shax's stomach and the backs of his eyes burned as he choked out, "But he'll want Fluffy back."
Everyone lunged toward him with huffs and other distressed sounds, and he found himself surrounded by arms and wings, with a huge hellcat head in his lap.
"Shax. I'm so sorry," Julian whispered. "Please don't cry."
"I most certainly am not." Of course, a hot teardrop chose that moment to splash onto Julian's hand.
Ness stroked his hair. "We know you love her. But she had a pride once, didn't she? Maybe a family?"
"Of course." Shax shook himself and swiped at his eyes. Part of him wanted to collapse against them and howl like a six-year-old demon, but he was the captain, and there was such a thing as dignity. "Of course. And better to inform him than to have him come after us in a rage. I'll… send the message."
I've promised readers a couple of ficlets during this blog tour. This one is from Fluffy's POV, Captain Shax's hellcat.
Location: the planet Elistrus, in the city of Thinis
Time: shortly after the end of The Hunt for Red Fluffy
Fluffy was supposed to stay with Small Hunter. She knew that. But they had tracked the human to a place where humans went to drink terrible smelling things and now they simply watched from outside. She was bored and a sound had caught her attention.
Small Hunter made an exasperated noise when she got up and padded off, but he stayed in place. That was all right. She wasn't going far and could follow his scent if he did move. Small Hunter probably didn't scold because he knew that, too. They worked well together. He was almost as good as a cat.
At the back of the alley where they watched, the walls turned into a smaller alley. From within this narrow space came the tiny, sad sound.
Her right ear flicked toward the peep, one that meant small fuzzy things that needed protection, even if it was much smaller than it should be. She shouldered her way into the narrow alley and peered behind a metal container. Yes. As expected.
The cub was tiny, no bigger than an adult rat, with baby-down gray-striped fur and tiny pink toes. Fluffy sniffed first at her, then around her, trying to determine whether the mother had been nearby. The only feline scent, new or old, was the cub.
Mrrrrrrr, Fluffy said to the cub. Where is your mother?
The distressed response, Miwmiwmiwmiw—I don't know, I don't know, was all she could make out in the cub's crying. She crouched on her haunches, rumbling a thinking growl, then prowled up and down the alley, searching for any likely scent. Her nose found nothing but human refuse and the stink of a dog who had passed through several days before. Stupid dogs.
She chuffed in frustration and came to a decision. Carefully, mindful of her fangs, she picked the cub up by the scruff of her neck and trotted back to Small Hunter.
"There you are," Small Hunter murmured when she returned. He didn't need to move or look her way. He knew she was there. "I was afraid I'd have to tell Shax I lost you."
Fluffy gave him a soft growl in response and dropped the kitten onto his lap.
"What in—?" Small Hunter sighed. "Worse than your demon dad, Fluff. Picking up strays. We can't keep her, you know."
Mmmreh? Why not?
"She's so tiny. Without her mum, she'll need special kitten milk. Formula. Something like that. We don't have that on the ship."
She considered this, her tail slashing the air behind her. They could get things on ship. Fluffy knew this because Keeper of Things had gotten a crate of treats for her. But as she understood it, getting things wasn't like hunting. It took time and she didn't know how long the tiny cub had been without her mother. The cub could die before the food came.
"I don't know." Small Hunter shook his head. "I'm well-versed in death. Not so good with life. I don't know if there's anything we can do."
She let out a thinking growl, Mmrrrrrr. He was right. This was beyond a hunting pair. A memory floated up, though, one of a human in this city. One who had petted her instead of cowering away and had called her a pretty kitty.
She plucked the kitten up again and trotted off.
"Hey!" Small Hunter whisper-called after her, but his footsteps soon came alongside. "Fine. Our prey's drunk out of his mind, anyway. He's not leading us to any gem stash tonight. You understood about the ship, though, yes?"
She huffed at him in annoyance. How could she answer him while she was scruffing a cub? Not that she needed to. He'd see soon enough.
Scents in a city could be tricky—multilayered, some similar enough to become confused, and so many of them. Many many many. But the scents she wanted were a grouping, unmistakable, and she was certain they were close. Yeast, cinnamon, fruits, nuts, grain, sugar… There. She had it and she picked up her pace.
Small Hunter stopped outside the shop and checked the squiggles about the door. "Cleo's Bakery? I do love her almond tarts, but I don't think Ms. Cleo can help us. Maybe we should—"
Fluffy shouldered the door open instead of listening to any more. A chime sounded as she crossed the threshold and the nice human she'd been thinking of hurried out from a back room.
"Can I he— Oh. Hello, beautiful kitty. What have you—" Nice Human cut herself off again when Small Hunter entered the shop. "Oh."
"Please don't be alarmed." Small Hunter clasped his hands together, hunching his shoulders. Fluffy supposed he might be alarming with all of his killing sticks and metal long-teeth in their cases. "My companion here seems to think it's appropriate to bring you a kitten."
"A kitten?" Nice Human stooped in front of Fluffy. "I see. Mom wasn't anywhere you could find?"
Mrrreh. Fluffy said as best she could holding the cub.
"All right. Give her to me, then." Nice Human took the cub and cradled her close. "Thank you for being such a civic minded kitty. I'll take care of the little one. And thank you, Mr. ah, Mercenary?"
"Julian, Ms. Cleo." Small Hunter gave her a little bow. "I've been in your shop before. Just not in my…work clothes. Fluffy insisted."
Mrrrrrrah. Mrep. He wasn't listening to me.
"You did the right thing." Nice Human scritched behind Fluffy's ears. "Now scoot. I have to close up. Come by any time during the day if you want to see her."
Fluffy allowed Small Hunter to walk close with his hand buried in her fur on their way back to the ship.
Small Hunter sighed. "I know. You were right. I'll defer to you on kittens next time."
She butted her head against him and purred. He really was a smart human and quite trainable.
Angel Martinez is the pen name of a writer of several genres who writes both kinds of queer fiction – Science Fiction and Fantasy. (What? There are others?) Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author's head) Angel has one husband, one son, at least one cat at any given time, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.
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