Perihelion_cover_final

Tami Veldura writes queer science fiction and fantasy under multiple pen names. Her work has been nominated for Best Of The Year and Reader's Choice awards. Perihelion is her first space opera, but it won't be her last. As S.T. Lynn she published bestseller Cinder Ella, a trans, black, lesbian retelling of the classic fairy tale.

Perihelion by Tami Veldura

An artificial generation-ship awakens in Perihelion, a tense science fiction adventure that questions humanity's role as future-gods.

"I am fully functional and self-aware. My name is Selvans."

In a family-dominated spacefaring future, Queenships are the definition of power. All military, economic, and political maneuvers occur with these pinnacles of technology. Secrecy is the currency of the realm.

But in a world where Queenships are born, not built, keeping secrets is tricky business.

In a distant system, one family is determined to re-discover what awakened the original Queenship, while in another, a newly born Queenship selects a pilot with ties to two opposing families. They'll do anything to keep their secrets from each other, and win the ship to their side.

But the only way for three to keep a secret, is if two of them are dead.

 

REVIEWS

  • "The opening scene was freaking amazing. I was instantly reminded of Dune! I'm absolutely jealous that [Tami has] harnessed the feel of the most influential work of my life, but also inspired to keep working on my writing until I'm able to do the same... I know it'll suck me in hard."

    – E. Cooper
  • "This is a riveting book. I love the technology, the world she has created, and the melding of people with ships and each other."

    – Bookworm Grandma
  • "The story immediately grabs you and takes off on a fantastic journey!"

    – Silverswan
  • "In scope the book reminds me of Dune, an excellent space opera with terrific leads, wonderful descriptions of action and a sweet romance."

    – Sally for Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews
  • "It's been many years since I've read a sci-fi story that I could really sink my teeth into. The author has built a complex, diverse, and totally believable universe with unique, original concepts, and characters."

    – Patricia Nelson
  • "This book is intriguing, intense, and instantly engaging. From the beginning, the reader is swept up into this fast-paced whirlwind that turns everything on its head and inside out."

    – Elisa, The Rainbow Awards
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Kato: Queenship Selvans

Kato fingered the overstarched cuff of his dress blues. The pins on his left breast glinted under the light, and he twitched his shoulders back. Ceren flicked his elbow from her place behind him, and he corrected his hands. Down at his hips, thumbs in line with the seam. He inched his right boot further into the tie-down keeping him in place. He took a deep breath. The women in line to either side of him did the same.

"Relax," Ceren whispered.

Kato shifted to one side and shot her a brief, narrow eye roll. "Easy for—"

First Commander Reza Ahmadi floated onto the bridge— her boots tapped like a countdown on the composite floor as she slid them into tie-downs. Everyone in the room stiffened to attention. Kato bit his tongue. The first commander said nothing. She faced the assembled lines of soldiers but stared past them at the generated images and display screens of the bridge. Kato resisted the urge to look behind him.

Ceren flicked his elbow again, and he tried to do as she bid. He unclenched his jaw and let his breath out in a slow stream. He couldn't imagine how she managed to be so cavalier. She was on the shortlist for pilot, but he was the one in knots over a possible bridge assistant position. If his record was strong enough. If his grandmother's name held enough sway. If his mother's name didn't tarnish his entire reputation.

The first commander held her hands behind her back and turned her attention from one screen to another. "Final egress check?"

From behind Kato, a woman seated and strapped at a terminal said, "In progress. Personnel are counted. All outer doors are sealed and locked." A pause. Then, "Communication with Lempo remains clear. We are ready for egress on your mark, First Commander."

The first commander spent another moment assessing information on the screens, and her delay crawled up Kato's spine. In seconds their ship would push off into free space and Lempo's daughter would come to life. He heard Ceren take a quick breath and hold it. And he guessed at her reaction— the looming possibility of finally attaining a pilot's mantle perhaps setting her nerves on fire. He knew the feeling.

"Undock and burn rear thrusters at ten percent for five seconds," the first commander said.

Located at the ship's fore, Kato was too distant to hear the coupling disengage. The ship's mass was so great that the powerful thruster burn was reduced to a mild hum. Behind Kato the woman said, "All personnel, prepare for queenship awakening." Her voice spread through the room and every corridor on the ship.

Then the bridge went black. Kato jumped. Soldiers around him stifled their surprise and maintained formation. The hum of ventilation fans wound to a stop.

Kato saw lights blink back on down the hall connecting the bridge to the rest of the ship. The main spine. The lights shimmered forward, a wave of power that engulfed the bridge and rippled down the body of the ship. Kato swore the entire thing shuddered. Then, an androgynous voice came from every direction at once.

I am Selvans.

The first commander smiled. "Good morning, Selvans. I am First Commander Reza Ahmadi. Please perform a full self-diagnostic."

Lights blinked in sequence, and a man behind Kato spoke quietly at a terminal.

The ship said: I am fully functional and self-aware.

The woman behind Kato said, "Confirmed, First Commander. Lempo has given us a green light."

"Very good. Selvans, are you prepared to select your pilot?"

Selvans replied: Yes, First Commander.

Kato heard Ceren let out all her breath. He tucked his right hand behind his thigh and crossed his fingers, knowing she'd see it.

"Do so now."

A sense of black space bloomed in the back of Kato's mind. He imagined Ceren feeling the ship, and he knew her breath was coming in short, anticipatory bursts. He felt her chest flutter. The fluid-like gas they all breathed circled around the bridge, around the entire ship— a space-traveling ocean of life-forms. A complete biome.

Kato sensed Selvans drifting away from Lempo. With distance, the mother queenship resolved into a massive sphere. Drones swarmed the surface, shuttling people and supplies down to Earth or beyond. His sense of scale abruptly shifted. Kato struggled to grasp an understanding of the entire interstellar neighborhood made up of a dozen or so of their closest stars.

His mind tried to stretch further, and he cried out. He squeezed his eyes shut and dug his fingers into his curly hair. He felt a hand grab a loop on his belt and tug him down. Then hands on his shoulders, fingers grabbing his.

Kato's mind zipped down to local space and then snapped back into his own head. He opened his eyes with a gasp of relief. His arms fell slack. Ceren's cool thumbs stroked the top of his brow, and Kato realized she was speaking. Her voice sounded far away for a moment. Then that snapped back into place, too.

"—ust breathe Kato. You're going to be fine. Relax, and let her in. She's not going to hurt you."

Kato coughed. "Fuck me…"

Ceren barked a laugh and held his head between her palms. "You back with us?"

"Yeah…" Except the lingering understanding of space wouldn't leave the edges of his awareness. "Yeah, I'm OK."

"Pilot Kato Ozark," the first commander said. "Welcome aboard."

Kato reached for a tie-down overhead, and Ceren helped turn him around. The first commander held a transparent slate that glowed with text. His entire file, no doubt. He monkeyed forward until he could float in front of her, aware that drifting into her would not make a good impression.

"Says here your grandmother pilots Queen Lempo."

"Yes, sir." Kato tried to stay at attention. Some sense of knowing teased him, tempted him to look around the ship without even moving.

"I also see your mother—"

"Sir, I have no affiliation with my mother. They wouldn't have ever let me on the ship."

The first commander lowered her slate and pursed her lips. "Quite." She offered her hand. "Then let me be the first to congratulate you."

Kato pushed himself down another few inches to grasp her hand. He fell into the first commander's head. Forty-seven, six foot even, cancer survivor, genetic risk for high blood pressure— he tried to wrench his hand out of her grip and failed— previous service record aboard Lempo not without its blemishes but generally positive. However her assignment here was a case of failing upward— a fact she wasn't proud of in the slightest. Kato sensed an immense respect and loyalty for Pilot Farai. Kato. He couldn't stop the flow of information. Kato dove into Reza Ahmadi's years aboard Lempo. In moments, he relived every success and failure; he retained those memories as if they were his. He knew her struggle with— KATO!

He jerked back into himself. His left hand drifted off the ceiling. His right hand still clasped Reza's. He met her golden eyes, flecked like amber, and licked his lips. What did he do now? He'd never understood anyone at such an intimate level, closer than twins. It was an invasion he knew Reza would give almost anything to take back.

"I'm s—" He swallowed his words at the slight tightening of her mouth. Her eyes hardened a fraction further. Details he wouldn't have noticed without knowing her as he just did. He straightened his shoulders. "Thank you." For the congratulations. For the gift of her history, even though it wasn't her choice. "I'll do my best."

"I know."

And Kato wondered if the knowing hadn't gone both ways. How much of him had Reza seen while he drowned in her head?

She released his hand, and Kato's attention immediately shifted down the hall. No one was there, but he was drawn to it, regardless. He tried to redirect his attention to the first commander and found himself struggling.

"Go. No doubt Selvans has much to show you."

"…What?"

Ceren laughed. Kato grabbed a handhold to turn around. The hand-selected thirty stared back at him. "You nerd," Ceren teased with a smile. "She chose you. You're the damn pilot."

And the obviousness of it struck him like a blow to the face. He couldn't get enough air. He wanted to grab Ceren. Maybe hug her. He needed something to stabilize him. He yearned across the gap. I'm not prepared for this; I'm supposed to be a bridge assistant.

Ceren laughed again as if she'd heard him. Then the need to move pressed in on him, and Kato swung up to the ceiling. He pulled himself into the hall by the tie-downs, Selvans' desires guiding him.

Mas'ud: Queenship Selvans

Mas'ud Tavana scrolled through a new design on the wall slate. He zoomed out and rotated the image of the queenship to frown at the back end. Angled sprouts of crystal-like structure tapered down to the single massive engine. The design was functional but he couldn't say it was effective. Not if they were going into contested space. "How many drones do we have on board?"

He didn't have rebuild authority, but as first engineer it was his duty to provide improvement suggestions to the pilot.

Whoever that would be. If they were flying out to the fringe of the spiral arm they needed to deploy their fighters faster than anyone else. Faster than Dhar.

"Close to seven thousand," Amala said. She pressed the edge of her slate against his wall screen and swiped a box of numbers over. Her headscarf drifted around her shoulders. "About a hundred of them are collection-class."

Mas'ud sucked his teeth. Amala grabbed a tie-down on the wall to stay in place. "You don't like it."

"I do like it. That's the problem." Mas'ud spun the design. "But there isn't enough surface area to release seven thousand drones and— How many kings? Doesn't matter. It'll take us five minutes to deploy everyone."

His second turned down one side of her mouth. "You really think we're headed into the front lines? Pru is at the edge of the arm. I'm not even sure it's Ozark-controlled."

A new engineer said, "We've undocked."

Mas'ud shrank the design and, with a gesture, threw it off his screen. "I think that Pilot Farai wouldn't send her brand-new queen into the farthest reach of her territory for a checkup on some maybe-loyal colony. So I'm—"

The intercom said: All personnel— Prepare for queenship awakening.

"Everyone grab a tie-down," Mas'ud said. He reached for one overhead.

The power cut out. Engineering went black, and someone whispered oh, shit. Mas'ud tried not to think about their relatively small boat floating in the vast nothing without any defense or ability to correct course. Then the lights surged back on, and everyone let out a tense breath.

I am Selvans.

"All right, folks. The bridge is going to be occupied all day with getting our new pilot sorted out, so here's what I want: Scrap the current model. Draw up something from scratch or take inspiration from something bizarre—"

"Like what?"

"Don't care. Shark teeth if that makes you warm and fuzzy. Hey" —Mas'ud pointed to the new engineer— "what's your name?"

"Ismet Deniz, sir."

Mas'ud waved at the title. "Find us some peppy music. Orchestral. I want everyone trying this out. Prioritize getting every drone and king into open space in as little time as possible. Ignore every functional restriction. Uncheck all the boxes and play with the design. We can make it work later."

Amala pushed away from the wall. "You, too, Zola."

A woman with a dark complexion and bright pale eyes looked up. "Really?"

"You're on a co-op, here? You know the program?" Mas'ud asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Good, you won't have any bad habits. Give me something I've never seen before."

She grinned at him. "Yes, sir!"

Mas'ud rolled his eyes at the title, but Amala caught the look, and he didn't say anything. She was still trying to convince him he deserved it. The position, he craved— but the title could vent with their flotsam for all he cared.

Mas'ud slid his hand on the ceiling to turn himself and felt a shock of longing/connection/incompleteness. He whipped his head around in the direction of the bridge— specifically, to the exact location he somehow knew the pilot's cockpit to be. From here all he could see was the upper corner of Engineering, but he felt the hollow space like an ache in his head. He was at an utter loss to explain it.

"Mas'ud?" Amala sounded like that wasn't the first time she'd called his name.

He dragged his eyes down to her but couldn't bring himself to pull his fingers from the ceiling. He noticed a deep crease of concern between her eyes. "I'm fine," he said too quickly. Her crease deepened, and she straightened up from the screen. Mas'ud yanked his fingertips from the ceiling— tearing/loss— and insisted, "It's nothing."

But a heavy impact of longing crashed between his eyes, and he pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead. "Wow."

Amala pushed herself to him and grabbed his arm. He fell into her emotions, swept up in her concern and the love of an old friend. It was warm. Like hot tea in front of a fire. He wanted to wrap himself up in it and never let go, so he did. He felt her surprise and dismissed it. He was safe here.

But Amala's intense confusion eventually drove him to reach out further. He touched Ismet's discomfort and Zola's hesitation. He could feel every one of his engineers. Mas'ud pushed his mind outward, and like an expanding bubble, he brushed the mind of each person in the ship. He drifted even further outward to greet Queen Lempo. Her pilot, Farai, maintained a wall between them, and the sudden blockage pushed Mas'ud back into awareness. She extended a mental handshake. Mas'ud clumsily met it. He couldn't drift and communicate at the same time, though, and his awareness pulled back, down to Engineering. Then to Amala.

Then he was alone in his head once more.

Amala stared at him, her eyes too-wide around the corners. She held the edges of her headscarf in one fist. While Mas'ud vibrated with new energy, Amala gripped his arm with fear. She whispered, "What the fuck was that?"

Mas'ud reached up to the ceiling again and lightly touched just his fingertips. Incomplete/yearning. The queenship had carried him along— Mas'ud had no doubt— and now she needed him for something. He wasn't about to refuse her. "I need to go."

"Like hell you do."

Mas'ud looked down at Amala and then around at Engineering and realized he was the center of attention. He cleared his throat and pulled his hand back down.

Zola picked up a small phone. "I'm going to call a doc—"

Even without the connection, Mas'ud felt Selvans calling to him. "Not necessary." Mas'ud grabbed Amala's shoulders and hated how she flinched. "Get started on the new design to deploy our soldiers faster. I'll be back." He pushed toward the doorway and caught himself at the threshold. "I want to see something from each of you before lunch. Get crazy."

He left Amala drifting in the center of the room, equal parts afraid and concerned. He could feel her tangle of emotion even as he launched himself down the narrow hall. He trailed his fingertips against the composite wall to feel Selvans' thoughts more clearly. She was thrilled he was on his way. Mas'ud couldn't imagine what she needed him for, but no one stopped him.

He knew every corridor of the queenship from models and prints, but actually moving toward the heart of the ship was an intense experience. The closer he got, the stronger Selvans' need grew, and Mas'ud kicked off a wall with both legs to gain speed. Decidedly not allowed under any Ozark regulation.

Mas'ud's heart raced. He clenched his fists to keep his fingers from shaking, so the instability moved to his arms and shoulders instead. He shot toward a wall, and at the last moment it irised open before him. He knew it would. Selvans needed him. The ship pulsed around him. Or maybe Mas'ud pulsed inside the ship. He felt people moving around him, going about the duties of preparing a new queenship for her

maiden voyage. He grabbed a tie-down and swung feet first around a corner, angling himself up close to the ceiling to avoid a woman he/Selvans knew was there.

A guard floated at the end of the hall. He yanked himself to the side in the face of Mas'ud's momentum. When the door didn't iris open, Mas'ud slammed against the wall and clung to a tie-down. He pressed his palms and cheek to the edge of the door where metal met crystal composite. Selvans' elation surged through him. "I'm here, I'm almost there. Hold on."

The guard stammered at Mas'ud, "Ma'am, I need you to back up."

Mas'ud twitched at the misgender, but Selvans' intensity overruled his discomfort. "Open the door, Selvans."

"Ma'am—" The guard tried to insist.

The door irised open. Mas'ud yanked a tie-down and the door snapped shut behind him, cutting off whatever the guard was going to say. He drifted through a short receiving space where metals gave way to entirely composite crystal. A membrane across the entry, like muscle, pulled back, and Mas'ud entered the cockpit itself. He was not alone.

The pilot was handsome— tall, with tightly curled black hair and a wide mouth. He was staring into nothing, and Mas'ud assumed Selvans' intense presence had taken hold. It gave Mas'ud a moment to admire the hard angles of military muscle under the man's deep black skin. The short sleeves of his dress blues exposed the strength in his arms.

Selvans urged Mas'ud closer.