Pet Trade Teaser #2
Pet Trade is a standalone novella that originally appeared in the USA TODAY bestselling anthology, Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2. In the timeline for my Central Galactic Concordance series, Pet Trade takes place between Pico's Crush and Jumper's Hope, but it's not part of the big damn story arc that's going on. Instead, it's a chance for me to explore one of the background elements in my universe, the shady, ethically challenged pet trade industry. In the first excerpt, I introduced you to Bethnee Bakonin, a veterinarian on the frontier planet of Del'Arche. Today's excerpt introduces ex-Jumper (military elite forces) Axur Tragon, and some of his pets. This is Pet Trade teaser #2:
Axur looked up when the clinic’s outside doors opened to admit a tall, willowy woman with shoulder-length, deep blue-black hair and Asian features. She carried several bags and a box, and walked with a pronounced limp. She glanced at him, startled. “Does Nuñez know…” She trailed off as her attention riveted on Kivo.
After a long moment, Axur answered her unfinished question. “Nuñez asked me to wait here.”
She darted a look to his face and awkwardly backed up several steps, dropping one of the bags. “Oh.”
He started to stand and reach out to help her, but froze in mid-rise when her eyes widened in unmistakable fear. Her hand visibly trembled as she awkwardly scooped up the bag, then fled through the doors to the back.
He sat down again with a sigh. It never paid to play the shoulda-coulda-woulda game, but starting a year ago, it was hard not to wish for a different star lane for his life. He’d never been nova-hot beautiful like some in his squad, but he’d never lacked for companionship and bed partners for his twelve years in the CPS Jumper Corps. Then, unbeknownst to him, he’d been secretly selected for a CPS “special project” that changed him forever, including adding valuable experimental tech to his cybernetics.
Now he was an ugly mass of biometal and hardware that made him a walking, talking satellite uplink. Only the heavy poncho he’d kludged together from salvaged supplies kept him from constantly broadcasting his unique comm signature to the frontier planet’s various satellites, and from there to the Central Galactic Concordance’s intergalactic communications network. If he uncloaked, his days of freedom remaining would be measured by how fast a CPS ship could get to Del’Arche to hunt him down.
Kivo whined. Axur stuck his fingers into the cage again and tried to shake off his melancholy. He’d lived, and so had Kivo and the others, and life was hope.
Ten minutes later, Nuñez strode back into the lobby, looking harried. “Thanks for waiting.” She put her fists on her hips. “I have an emergency, so I’ll cut to the chase. I can’t treat your pets, but Bethnee Bakonin can. She’s the woman who just came in. She’s already seen you, and that’s usually a deal-killer for her, but if you keep your distance and don’t make sudden movements, she’ll look at your animals.”
Her chin jutted out pugnaciously. “She’s a pet-trade expert, but she’s also a pan-phyla animal-affinity talent, so if you dislike minders, you can jet right now, ‘cause I’m one, too.”
Axur put his hands flat on his thighs. “Minders are just people. I don’t care if she uses dark energy magic, if she can help Kivo and the birds.” He pointed a thumb toward the front doors. “I could wait outside.”
Nuñez shook her head. “No, she’ll need information from you. Just move your chair away and stay seated.” She glanced at his stained pants and worn combat boots. “I’ll assume you’re not offering hard credit. What are you trading?”
It's a deadly adventure—with pets—in the fringes of space. Grab your copy of Pet Trade today!