October 17, 2017 by Anne Tenino
GayRomLit is happening in Denver this week, and it’s the week I decided to rerelease the second Task Force Iota novel, Turning Tricks. I did that on purpose, of course. I haven’t released many books in the last two years, so it makes sense to release right before a big genre-specific event so as to maximize PR (since I’m unlikely to do lots of marketing under my own impetus . . .).
Not surprisingly, that greatly increased my stress level. I’m an organizationally-challenged author self-publishing a book at the same time that I’m trying to get everything ready for GRL. It’s not pretty. My office looks like a war zone (more than usual, even).
On top of all that I decided I needed to make a “gunslinger’s corset” for a wild west party at GRL, so that’s half finished, as you can see from the picture. I might actually get it done, even. We’ll see. If I ever show up at a GRL event with a completed costume, it’ll be a miracle.
Last, but very much not least, my eldest child went off to college this fall. He’s two hours away. I really wasn’t prepared for how much it sucks. All those toddler years where I desperately wished they’d grow up? I’m paying for all of that now. The second one still has about three years at home, but it goes sooooo fast . . . Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, or some crap like that.
What book am I working on now, you ask? I’m still working on One Queer Iota. I can’t satisfactorily explain why it’s so difficult for me. I’ve kind of stopped trying. It’ll be done when it’s done, and I’m hopeful that will be this year. I’ll try to get it out as fast as possible, but it’s contracted to Riptide, so there might be a bit of a wait (I’ll do what I can to shorten that).
For everyone who’s been patiently waiting, I’m going to include a little tidbit, Laslo (one of the heroes of One Queer Iota) waking up in the hospital after a laser satellite weapons misfire that lands him with a skull fracture. The incident happens in Turning Tricks—James and Matt live through it in their own scenes—but it’s a pivotal point for Laslo’s entire life.
This scene is not going to be in the final book (I think . . .)
“Are you awake?” The voice swam into Laslo’s awareness at about the same time he lost hold of whatever his unconscious mind had been doing.
Sleeping. Of course that om-fucking-niscient corner of his brain knew.
Where am I?
Hah. His all-knowing minder didn’t know that one. He’d have to figure it out by sensory clues.
The hairdo bobbing in the far left corner of his vision could only be his aunt Gabi’s. Light brown and unaccountably neat for someone with her balls-to-the-wall approach to life. Around them, the room was soothingly dimmed, but the smell of chlorhexidine was at odds with the restful lighting. That, the hum of equipment, and the gray-blue curtain hanging from the fiberpaste ceiling tiles made it obvious. Definitely military hospital, although it could be any army med center in the Blue States.
Except his aunt Gabi wouldn’t be here unless it was Portland or Tacoma. He didn’t think. The other times he’d woken up in med centers with weird blanks in his memory, she hadn’t been there.
For a second, Laslo had a moment of deja vu so strong his vision swam.
Ouch. Swallowing burned like hell. He’d either gotten very drunk and let every guy at Ho’s throat fuck him, or he’d been intubated. Since the former had never happened, and the latter had a few too many times—plus the waking up in a hospital—he’d go with the obvious. They’d already taken the tube out, though, which must mean this wasn’t the first time he’d been conscious. Between that and his general disorientation . . . “Head injury?” he croaked.
“Yes,” Gabi responded matter-of-factly, not sounding at all surprised that he was awake. “You got caught in a laser satellite ‘misfire’ which destroyed most of the southwest corner of the Weimer detainment center.”
A misfire that struck the air base? That had to be a one-in-a-million accident, or not an accident at all. Later. Details of his op may or may not come back to him—for now he’d rather know what his current situation was. “How long?”
“Twenty-seven hours ago. You first woke up yesterday, and you’ve been conscious once more since, but you were confused as hell.” Her fingers were suddenly touching his hand so naturally he didn’t think twice about grabbing at them and holding on. “Do you remember anything?”
He squinted, trying to recall the last memory his brain had filed away . . . breakfast. With Gil in the officer’s mess at Weimer Air Base. Reconstituted hash browns. “We were planning for Blau.” That’s why he’d been in the detainment center. Had the prisoner meeting even happened?
He couldn’t recall anything more, so he shook his head—or tried to. He couldn’t move much above his neck, other than his eyelids. All his muscles had set solid, like mixcrete. Either from medically-induced paralysis or some instinct of his body.
“There’s something you need to know, Laz.” She had an ideal interrogator’s mien. Her pitch and intonation were perfectly middle-of-the-road. Innocuous to the point that one could forget it was another person speaking. Back in her day, she probably got her prisoners to tell their secrets simply because they thought it was their inner voice asking the questions. “McNeel Blau is dead.”
“Fuck.” The obscenity shot out of him like a piece of cheese clearing his trachea. A verbal Heimlich maneuver.
“There’s nothing you could have done.” Her grip on his hand tightened, though her tone didn’t change.
Nothing he could have done? He was in charge of the prisoner’s safety. All security plans for public enemy number one’s big confession had gone through him. He’d orchestrated every fucking step of Blau’s from the second the bastard had stepped off the orbiter until . . .
Until he disintegrated, apparently.
This gonna settle things for Matt and James, then? The words floated across his mind, almost luminous. Gil had asked that this morning—yesterday morning in between shoveling bites of some mysterious substance labeled “scrambled eggs” into his mouth.
Laslo couldn’t remember what his answer had been to that. Probably because he’d been so sure it would settle things.
Now, swallowing first to ease the way, he asked Gabi, “How’s Matt?” In other words, how was Matt taking it that the one guy who could give them answers about his boyfriend’s biocybernetic brain implant had been permanently silenced?
Which made Gabi’s answer a shock. “Minor concussion—barely a concussion at all—and some damage to his shoulder. Nothing that won’t heal. James is taking care of him.”
Matt had been injured? Why was she here then? She should be with her son. God knew she normally played the tigress when it came to protecting her cubs.
But she was here, which meant . . .
He was still grappling with the implications of that when Gabi said, “Anais, Lance and Sid should be back any minute to brief you on what they’ve found out about the ‘accident.’”
They’d already been here, then. “‘Kay,” he rasped. Grampa Sid didn’t usually weigh in on business matters—and this was definitely Queer Extraction Services Association business—but he was also a worrywart. Maybe he thought Laslo needed special attention.
Special attention other than Gabi?
“Niall came in earlier. The first time you woke up you talked to him a little. He had to get back to the office, so I promised him I’d stay.”
Laslo shrugged with his eyebrows. “I don’t remember coming to before.”
“Don’t tell Niall that.” Her voice held a smirky tone. She knew how he felt about his stepfather.
Laslo liked Niall, but he wasn’t as close to his stepfather as his stepfather wanted them to be. Niall hadn’t even entered Laslo’s life until Laz was 10, and ever since he’d been trying to “connect” with him. It was admirable, Laslo cold see that objectively and even appreciate it, but by the time Niall had come along he’d had highly developed, secure “connections” with his aunt and his grandparents—the people who’d been there for him since birth. He didn’t need to also be parented by his mother’s new husband.
That didn’t stop Niall from trying to make up for his wife’s lack of maternal instincts, even after he had his own kids to mother to death. Right now he was probably sitting at the news agency, not getting anything done while guilt ate at him over not being at his stepson’s bedside.
“Fleur’s on her way from Malaysia,” Gabi added way too matter-of-factly.
All the parts of Laslo’s body that were capable of it flinched, uncovering his toes and making the IV vial in his arm sting for a half-second. His mother was on her way? Shit had to be serious. “Tell me how bad it is,” he rasped.
Her hesitation was barely noticeable. Wouldn’t have been discernible to anyone who didn’t know her so well. “You have a third-degree skull fracture. It’s not good, honey, but there’s no discernible brain damage.”
Laslo fell back on the only physical reactions he could control: he closed his eyes and let his fingers go slack in hers. He wanted to jump up and punch a wall while cursing like the SpecForce trooper he was, but his suddenly aching head and the immobility of his upper body wouldn’t allow it. Plus the closest “wall” was that curtain, which wouldn’t be a satisfying victim.
Fuckity fuck. Between poking the hornet’s nest when he’d crossed the Oregon-Idaho border and a head injury of this magnitude? He’d be lucky if the military gave him an office with circulating air. He may have bitched about his promotions over the last ten years, but he’d been gunning for a demotion, not a get out of the military free card.
“How’s it knitting?” They would have injected nanomenders directly into the bone, right?
“Shockingly fast, of course.”
Yeah, his hyper immune system had always reflected his metabolism.
No one had ever figured it out, in spite of trying, but his grandfather—the other one, the Chinese martial arts master—was the same way.
Gabi was still going on about his injury. “—fracture relieved some pressure on your brain, so the concussion wasn’t as bad as it could have been. They wanted to give you some new, semi-experimental, neuroregenerative drug but Anais had a fit. She insisted they wait until you regained consciousness for consent or Fleur showed up and overruled her.”
His fingers jerked in her hand, gripping her tighter for a second. “Mom’s really coming, huh?”
Gabi’s sigh was more an absence of noise than an exhalation. “She should have been here already.”