False Dawn - Excerpt

by Maia Strong
Available from Torquere Press

 

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Galen tossed and turned in his bed. Usually it felt too small for two people but tonight, lacking Dayan's warm, solid presence beside him, it was like an ocean of space. He should be used to the absence. They worked opposing shifts often enough that it wasn't uncommon for each to spend a sleep period alone. Several, in fact. On nights like that, he would fall asleep safe in the knowledge that his husband was out doing his job and would come home at the end of his shift.

But not tonight. Tonight he didn't know where Dayan was. He didn't know when or how they would find him. Didn't know if they could.

No. They had to. Losing Dayan forever wasn't an option.

Damn it! They must be missing a clue.

Well, duh. He rolled over, disgusted with himself. Of course they were missing a clue. If they weren't, they'd have solved the case by now and he wouldn't be complaining about how the stupid little bed was too big without his husband to share it.

The afternoon's investigations had left them no further along than the morning's. No one had seen anything. No one knew anything they hadn't already disclosed. No one could explain how a full grown adult male could disappear in a corridor that had no doors, no interior ports, and no access hatches. And the ship's chief engineer assured him and Flint quite soundly that there was no experimental new technology that could teleport anyone or make them invisible or shift them between dimensions or any other "science-fiction nonsense" like that.

"Fuck this!" Giving up sleep for a lost cause, Galen threw off the covers and sat up. "Lights to half."

Dull gray light filled the bedroom, enhancing rather than dispelling its cramped dimensions. There wasn't even satisfactory room to pace. He briefly considered taking a mild sedative; there were some in the bathroom's medicine cabinet. What time was it? He looked at the clock in the wall over the bed.

Blue numbers glowed softly. 02:54.

Okay, so the tranq option was out. He had to be up too soon. He should have taken something hours ago if he was going to go that route. Damn.

He wanted a drink.

Galen made a noise of disgust and shook his head. "Not an option," he said aloud to the empty room. He had to get a grip. Getting wasted--again--wasn't going to do him or Dayan any good.

He padded barefoot into the small living room, the light level adjusting automatically as he went from one room to the next. "Play live video. News feed." He sat heavily on the sofa as the wall holograph of the early a.m. news report was projected. The farm report, which covered all hydroponics and livestock updates, was on. He almost smiled. Who needed a tranquilizer when they had the farm report?

Unfortunately, it was just wrapping up. And the next news at the top of the hour was coverage of Dayan's disappearance. Galen watched with growing anger as the news reader's report got increasingly hyperbolic and sensationalist. Barely veiled suggestions that Engineering was tinkering with secret teleportation technology and an experiment that had gone bad. The man went on to imply that Security was either complicit in the public deception or they were Engineering's unwitting victims. Either way, it made the force look bad. Incompetent at best, and, at worst, a bunch of conspiring liars.

"Video off!" ordered Galen more forcefully than necessary. The projection shimmered and vanished.

"This is bullshit." He needed to get back to work. Find the clue that eluded him. Find his husband.

Decision made, he rose from the sofa, grabbed a quick shower and shave, and dressed. His presence at the station at this hour would raise some eyebrows, but no one would challenge him. The security scuttlebutt network was almost as fast as the ship's computer core. By now it was a given that everyone in the department knew Galen's husband was missing.

He clipped the PG that Flint had requisitioned yesterday to his belt and headed out.

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