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Title: Off World
Author: Jonah Bergan
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Cover Artist: Michelle Fairbanks
Length: 240 Pages
Release Date: August 22, 2015
Blurb: What really brought Taine to that backwater little world? Taine’s a hunter. He’s a red-skinned, black-eyed Lowman by nature, and a hunter by trade. Some hunters work in flesh, others in secrets, and some few work to set right what’s been set wrong. It’s a big galaxy and there’s always plenty of work for a hunter like Taine, so you got to wonder, what with all that at his feet, what really brought Taine to that backwater little world?
Off-World is a M/M science fiction action/adventure set in F/M dominated space. The story takes place in an arm of the galaxy where slavery (sexual and otherwise) is legal and commonplace. Strictly speaking, it is not a BDSM novel in that consent is not a matter of concern for the characters, but those with an interest in BDSM should enjoy the story. Due to explicit content, Off-World is not recommended to readers under eighteen years of age.
From Chapter Eleven: Moving Along
Set-up: It had been a rough journey so far. Taine and his slave had been attacked by a couple of bumpkins—rubes from the slave’s hometown. Tanner, Taine’s new apprentice, shot and killed the men, saving Taine and his boy. Emotions are running high, and while the boys eat, Taine has walked off to sort things out in his own mind. Now he’s returning to the clearing where they are waiting for him.
As he walked, he vaguely remembered something Harris had said once. It was an old Nephalese saying… something about leading horses to water. Taine couldn’t quite remember what it was, but it was supposed to tell a story, a true story. He remembered thinking at the time that such true stories were as close as the Nephalese humans—as any humans came to Lowman training, hunter or mystic, owner or slave. Poor things, the Nephalese, Taine thought. They’d been abandoned and left alone too long, before being found again. Taine shook his head. He couldn’t remember what that story about horses and water was—not precisely, and it probably didn’t matter all that much. Harris had said it to Shilandra, not to him. The two of them had been cuddling and laughing and giggling together, and they probably didn’t even know he was there. He slipped out of the apartment and went for a walk. No need to interrupt whatever it was between them. It didn’t occur to Taine that Harris had been talking about him, until he was well along into his walk. “Humans, humans,” he muttered, shaking his head and smiling warmly. “They think they know more than they do.”
When he entered the clearing, he found that Sunshine had dozed off in the grass. The remains of the back part of a rabbit lay in his open palm. Tanner was sitting up, and was just now wiping his face. A pile of rabbit bones was on the ground before him. He’d stored the fish he caught, and shared some of the rabbit he’d saved from breakfast. The horse was there, pulling up grasses and occasionally pawing the ground with his hoof. Taine felt a pang of resentment. There before him were all his animals, every one of them just as fed and warm and as happy as sand crabs at the beach for the day. Still, he had his purpose and he had his discipline, so Taine walked over and roused Sunshine by gathering his wrists together. With the boy’s eyes still blinking Taine bound up his wrists with his leash, and mounted up, and made ready to move along.
“We’ll be in sight of others soon,” Taine said. “So I need to make a few things plain. First, Tanner, you’ll call me Sir,” Taine said. “That’s plenty respectful for an apprentice, and won’t confuse the issue. Someday, when you’ve earned it, you’ll call me by name, but that day is not today. For now, you can see that as a sign of distinction and status here among us.”
“Sunshine, you’ll call me Master, not because you’re my slave, but because I own you. If you understand the distinction there, you’ll do fine. If not, you’ll learn. It means that you are as much mine as my own hand, and that’s not something I’ll lose without a fight. Any ideas you got to the contrary, you best leave ’em right here in the grass with them bones.”
“Now I got another day, maybe two, before my hunger starts getting the better of me,” Taine said. “You boys have to be clear on the fact that if I’m a bit harder on you than you’re ready for, it’ll be that behind it. Get that through your heads now, before all the rest of the hardships we’ll be facing start taking their toll. I never expected to be on this rock so long, and now we’re forced to take the long road home, making this a harder journey for us all.”
“So, I’ll want to make some good time today. I don’t want hurt feelings and pointless worry weighing us down. Once we make it back to the starport, I can have us at a Lowman outpost in a matter of hours. I’ll get fed, and then we can get started. Tanner, I’ll get us some work to start your training, and you’ll see your first pay in no time at all. Sunshine, we’ll get you registered and shipped off to the Temple, so you can learn to be as useful to me as I know you can be. We clear on everything?”
Sunshine popped up right away with a “Yes, Master,” even though he probably didn’t have an inkling of what all that was about, and Tanner followed suit with a “Yes, Sir,” but Taine wasn’t convinced he’d done much more than define some of the problems that were clearly brewing among them, and he sure didn’t feel as though he’d solved them. You can lead a horse to water, Taine thought. But then something…
He looked down at Sunshine. The boy was looking up at him, his wide blue eyes were sparkling and he was smiling. Maybe he understands more than I think. Taine thought. You can lead a horse to water, and it’ll drink if it’s thirsty. That’s not it, but close enough.
Jonah Bergan is a freelance writer living in New England. His publishing credits include a ten part serial, multiple short stories, and a collection of anecdotal humor. He has also published MMORPG game reviews and content, hypnosis scripts, online user manuals, and advertising texts. Please visit jonahbergan.com to learn more about him.
Winner’s Prize: A Paperback copy of “Off-World”.
Runner-up’s Prize: An e-copy of “Off-World”.