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Expedition 63 Book 2: Dark (MM)

Expedition 63

JMS Books LLC

Heat Rating: SIZZLING
Word Count: 36,633
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Sequel to Dusk

As the stranded inhabitants of the Space Station mark the opening of their second year since the world ended, Saito Naotatsu is determined to shake off some part of the grief infecting their temporary home. Maybe find a little happiness, too, with his best friend and communications specialist, Turlach Quinn.

The situation explodes when Turlach finds his attraction to Saito confusing and relentless. At every turn, it seems Saito is there to break his control. With the Station falling apart around their ears and the crew breathing down his neck, Turlach finally has enough.

Problems keep piling up. The crew is weary and waiting. Earth is a dark shadow of what it once was. Will they ever get home? Is there even anything left to go home to?

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Excerpt

"John!" Turlach leaned back and shouted down the corridor, toward recreation area, where his commander and Jason had meandered off to not an hour before.

"What?" The voice that floated back to him was Jason's, muffled and gruff in a way it wasn't under normal conditions. 'Lach has a sneaking suspicion he'd interrupted them.

"We have a problem," he called back. "A really big fucking problem."

It seemed the whole crew heard him, because they streamed in from all directions and clustered around his console like barnacles to a hull. Yakecen was first, coming from the Kibo. Next was Saito, his friend -- or lover? or hook up? -- slumped with fatigue. Not that Turlach noticed. The ruffled, rosy look of his ranking officers told Turlach better than any words he was right about John and Jason. Eli was the last to take his place.

Once they had all quieted down, 'Lach laid a finger on the screen in front of him. "There's something amiss with the SSU for the port truss solar panels."

"Shit," John hissed. The expletive was about as succinct a word as Turlach could find to sum up the problem. "We don't have any replacement parts for that."

Jason sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "We were supposed to start bringing up the new truss segments for solar panels with the next rotation. Part of that were the units and the cooling radiators."

A pregnant silence fell over them all. It was thick as molasses, fearful looks exchanged between them all. For just one moment, Turlach found the courage to meet Saito's mesmerizing black eyes, long enough to show the regret 'Lach didn't mean to reveal. He had no idea what was going on with him, but he was devastated Saito had been dragged into it.

"We need to know what we're working with. Guessing won't help at all." Eli came right up to Turlach's back and reached around him, hands already flying across the keyboard.

'Lach drifted down, out of the circle of Eli's arms to give him more space. After he was out of the way, Eli moved in close to the workstation and went to town on the system. While it was part of Turlach's duties to monitor all parts of the Station, they all knew the basics, with their resident biologist knowing almost as much as Turlach himself because of his college days. So long as they figured it out, he didn't care how it was done.

Eli let loose a frustrated growl in less than a minute. "I can tell you it's a mechanical failure, but not much else. The cameras observing the port side panels aren't transmitting."

"We'll have to go out and look at it." A sour pinch settled in at the corners of John's mouth. "I really don't want Jason going out, though."

"I will go," Saito murmured behind him.

Turlach clenched his eyes shut. Spacewalks were dangerous under normal circumstances, they all knew this. It was part of the reason all of them had signed up. Since Jason's near lethal run in with that fact, none of the crew had been out for longer than thirty minutes and never farther than their tether line latched to the airlock. The shunting unit was way out there, spread like a bird's wing in a glide, with only the truss for safe harbor. It took almost an hour to reach it.

"I need another volunteer," John said. "We go out in pairs, or not at all, remember?"

His arm shot up before his brain registered the thought.

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