Once again this year I’m delighted to be in the Pets in Space anthology – which appears in less than a week. It can be preordered now! There are thirteen stories by NYT and USA Today bestselling authors who have concocted wonderful stories about space and starships, romance and adventure, and helpful, companionable, mysterious and/or surprising pets.
The story I wrote is Winter’s Prince and here’s an excerpt from it:
Now the translator was going up. Kev visualized where they were: inside an artificial mountain, inside an amusement park, inside the interstellar city-state called Wendis. And Wendis was having its Winterfair, a celebration of ancient history on Earth. Or rather a gaudy, gauzy, gutsy misremembering of said history. Kev knew how much history Winterfair got wrong, and it tended to set his teeth on edge. That was why he stuck with the fighting games in the Zone called Warway. He stayed out of the heart of Winterfair—the Zone called the Fair Country.
Which was where they were heading now.
The translator slid to a stop. The cave spun again. The door opened. They stepped out into a woodland of dark green trees dusted with snow. A thin thread of a brook tumbled downhill. Birds sang.
Jerad looked around with amazement on his face.
“This a completely different Zone, with different ecology, climate, and games.” Kev removed his helmet, folding it in half and putting it into the pocket under his belt. Fresh air felt good on his face. “If you want to stick to the desert war rule set, maybe we died and went to Heaven.”
“An afterlife in paradise.” The Crusaders on Earth would have thought exactly that if they’d somehow found a short-cut out of their hot, bloody desert back to a place so like their Europan homeland—and so very unlike it. The broad mountain they stood on curled around the spin axis of Wendis. On the other side of the world, the sky was made of concave sea.
Kev and Jerad followed a path beside the tiny brook to a clear pool in a grassy glade. Kev knelt, rinsing his painful knuckles in the pool.
Jerad held back from the water’s edge.
Kev said, “This Zone of the Park recreates Earth, not Faxe. The water doesn’t have shockthreads.”
Jerad crouched down and gingerly touched the water.
Then Kev heard the sounds of someone or something approaching. He looked up sharply—combat adrenaline wasn’t left behind in a brief translator ride.
A slender, blonde young woman walked into the glade beside a slender, silver animal. The animal regarded Kev with large dark eyes then dipped its head to drink. A fluted horn gleamed on its forehead.
The Winterfair was full of holograms and props, but this wasn’t one of them. It was a real unicorn—a genetically engineered animal. Kev had heard about unicorns higher up on this mountain where there was less spingravity. This one wore a silver harness that closely fit its silver hide. That harness might just function like equine spingravity braces.
Jerad-Jon had eyes only for the girl. “Hi. I’m Jerad-Jon.”
“I’m Lin-Miri.” Her fingers were twined in the unicorn’s mane. She was another young upper-crust Faxen, Kev thought, probably a University student. She had flawless features and a gauzy lavender dress. She in turn saw a fair-haired and perfect-faced young knight. They looked at each other with equal amounts of amazement.
Jerad murmured to Kev, “You’re right about this being Heaven.”
The unicorn went alert. It lifted its head up with a sharp snort.
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