Today I am so pleased to welcome Lilian Zenzi to Joyfully Jay. Lilian has come to talk to us about her latest release, Spark & Tether. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
He noticed first the confident, relaxed bearing of an operations rep wearing a precisely tailored iron gray vest and close-fitting black pants. One lithe arm was draped over the back of the chair beside them, the casual self-assurance of it made all the more magnetic by the perfect calm of their aura. Dancer, or artist; they carried a sense of graceful motion about them, of placidity and steadiness, even as they sat as still as a portrait. Their ink dark hair was waxed back in a gentle wave, balancing the severity of the lines of their face. They said something to the team lead at the front of the room, but Sacheri was mesmerized by the generous curve of their lips with their dark blush against silk smooth cream skin, and he missed the words entirely. They swung piercing brown eyes his way.
I am lost, Sacheri thought, tipping his head in greeting. His synplants, ever curious, spun in cheerful anticipation. He grinned.
The brown eyes turned away, ignoring him completely.
His synplants shivered, seeking some other response; he settled them and shook off the twinge of rejection as he greeted the team lead at the front of the room. She was taller than he was, with ivory skin and a mass of gray-streaked blond waves pulled back tight at her nape and wrapped with metallic ribbons in a chain—a style he’d not seen since he lived on Bolis, where it had been favored among certain traditional scholars on the ground.
She acknowledged him with a quick nod and pointed him to a seat near the ops rep. He glanced at them again as he leaned back into his chair and crossed his legs. He did not get so much as a glance in response.
“I’ll keep this brief. I am your lead for this run. Call me Adda.” She leaned against the long, narrow counter behind her as she relaxed into her introductory spiel. “Reclamations wants a planet cleaned up on the far side of Bolis space. It should take no longer than a half-cycle, and it’s as standard as it gets.”
Sacheri had skimmed the run packet. The moon was too insignificant to have been named; the terraforming engines were recalled, likely for parts up-cycling into replacements elsewhere. It had been abandoned not long after the Storms, when the Outer Ring had lost reliable contact with Terra and its neighbors, and its livability readings in the century since had been inconsistent. It had never had humans on it for more than a day or two at a time, and there were no records of fai, but there wouldn’t be—the project pre-dated fai citizenship in the Outer Ring.
“It’s a small team. Six humans, three drones, and a ship fai who will join us at boarding,” Adda said. “We have a synchronist— that’s Sacheri, here.” She gestured to him with a wide smile and open hand. The two younger techs sitting against the far wall looked at him with open curiosity, while their bio-modded supervisor gave him a wave. He read no resentment from any of them, which was a pleasant surprise.
“My second on this run is Jin, who comes to us from Archives to keep us up to standards.” She gave them the same welcoming expression she’d given Sacheri, but he sensed something tense under it and noted a possible future concern as Jin answered with a slight bow of their head. Sacheri tried a friendly but reserved smile. They did not so much as glance at him.
“We follow COR monitoring and documentation protocols without exceptions. I will not entertain alternatives. Ask questions if you have them. I would be happy to teach you.” Jin’s tone was even and amiable. They paused, verified they had the techs’ attention, and said, “If there’d been proper records kept before the Storms, we would have been prepared for and might even have avoided them. All these little dead worlds might have lived.”
“Remember that every time they make you report in,” Umair teased.
“We will follow all standard procedures regarding reporting and records,” Jin said. “And I will recover any remaining in the moon’s systems.”
Sacheri had plenty of questions, if that was how one could keep Jin talking. They had a mild, melodious voice, the kind one heard on audio immersions and info dramas—somehow reassuring and authoritative and arousing, all at once. You couldn’t help but listen. Sacheri assumed that Jin was accustomed to using that voice to keep teams paying attention: most staff found Ops protocols deadly boring and would have preferred to risk whatever damage lay before them than listen to procedures and record-keeping. He could hear their devotion to the work woven through every word. Weird…but he liked it.
Working odd jobs across the Outer Ring gets a little lonely sometimes—not everyone loves having a synchronist with supraliminal perception around. But all Sacheri wants, he tells himself, is to wander the stars.
Then he takes a salvage run to an abandoned moon where he meets the wry, reserved, strictly-by-the-rules archivist Jin. Mesmerized by their confidence and charm, Sacheri can’t resist showing off his abilities–and instead of the damaged ai he was tracking, he stumbles onto a signal left by a synchronist who went missing decades earlier.
Sacheri knows from previous experience that pursuing the truth—never mind justice—could destroy everything he loves. He would defy his employers, the institution responsible for the myconeural networks that make him a synchronist, and the leadership of several worlds.
And it would complicate his new, passionate, and impossibly sweet relationship with Jin. They might be the best thing that’s ever happened to him, but they work for the very entities that ended Sacheri’s last investigation.
He knows better than to risk it.
But he’s never been able to turn away from someone in need, and there’s a voice in the void calling for aid…
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Lilian Zenzi writes science fiction and fantasy, sometimes with romance and usually in queer normative worlds. Genre agnostic as a writer and a reader, she likes to keep space for comfort, hope, and joy along with the kissing, conflict, and big ideas. She resents having to write a bio and would rather be in the garden or making art.
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