Read Song of the Navigator Online

Authors: Astrid Amara

Tags: #space;navigation;interstellar trade;lgbt;romance;gay;Carida;Dadelus-Kaku Station;Tover Duke;Cruz Arcadio;el Pulmon Verde;Harmony Corporation;futuristic;orbifolds

Song of the Navigator

Worst Possible Birthday: Being sold into slavery by none other than your lover.

Tover Duke's rare ability to move anything instantly across light-years of space makes him a powerful, valuable asset to the Harmony Corporation, and a rock star among the people of the colonies. His life is luxurious. Safe. Routine.

He has his pick of casual hookups passing through Dadelus-Kaku Station. His one brush with danger of any kind—the only bright spot in his otherwise boring life—is Cruz Arcadio, a dark-haired, hard-bodied engineer whose physical prowess hints he's something much more.

When a terrorist abducts Tover, hurling him into a world of torture, exploitation and betrayal, it's with shattering disbelief that he realizes his kidnapper is none other than Cruz. As Tover struggles to find the courage to escape his bondage, he begins to understand the only way to free his body, his mind—and his heart—is to trust the one man who showed him that everything about his once-perfect life was a lie.

Warning: This story contains descriptions of extreme violence and assault. It also contains graphic sexual depictions. It also has a lot of birds. And pirate movies from the future. And romance.

Song of the Navigator

Astrid Amara

Dedication

To Ruth, for her unconditional love and support.

Chapter One

The helmet was pulled over Tover Duke's head, and the visor transformed his view, muting the cargo control deck into sepia-toned shadows. A long metal pipe swiveled from the helmet and was gently pushed down Tover's throat. He fought his gag reflex and concentrated on not clenching his teeth. His throat shuddered around the invasion.

“Navigator plugged in,” said Gull, Tover's assistant. Tover used to refer to those in the position as his “navboys” until she was hired and proved to be his most favored assistant.

Gull squeezed Tover's shoulder and stepped away from the navport. Tover saw her movement only in shadow. His visor illuminated a colorful display of blinking facts that, honestly, he didn't give a shit about.

Because numbers meant nothing to navigating. It wasn't about what he saw or what he learned from the cargo manifests. He navigated by sensation. The pipe in his mouth was short, and Tover had to lean into it to complete the circuit between the vibrating implants in his throat and the massive speaker system installed on the port arm of Dadelus-Kaku Station.

The navport chair limited Tover's range of movement. Only the helmet which descended from the ceiling above had flexibility on its cable. Tover's hands were clamped down to the control com, sensors reading his pulse and vitals from his wrists to assure the cargo chief he wasn't about to keel over. Tover didn't know why this was necessary. As long as he siphoned energy for the jump from the port system, no physical danger threatened him. He suspected the entire navport had been designed by someone who had never navigated.

“Set for jump,” Cargo Chief Kulshan called.

Tover glanced at the readouts on his visor to confirm the location. He was moving 450,000 TEUS of mining equipment to a remote operation on Kepler 7-b.

He breathed out and felt Kepler 7-b, the unique tremulous signature of its location in the universe as clear as the touch of the fabric against his chest. He then sensed the location of his cargo, awaiting shipment on buoy pallets in the port dock below Tover's chair.

And then he opened his mouth and sang.

Not singing, really, but the metaphor better explained how he created controlled vibrations to recalibrate sub-atomic strings to make enclosed orbifolds, which traveled through the subdimensions of space and appeared somewhere else.

That in itself seemed magical to most folks, and so he didn't bother with the scientific explanations and instead claimed to be the demigod they all envisioned. If there was one thing Tover appreciated, it was praise.

Only here, on the cargo control deck, did anyone truly understand vibration manipulation and how his implants allowed him to sense the subatomic strings and create an echo of his resonance in the form of an orbifold.

Implanted navigational cords lay alongside his vocal cords to resonate at the required frequency. The cilia implants in his ears allowed him to better pick up vibrations across great distances, and the occasionally burdensome brain implants gave him the ability to process all the divergent information flowing into his senses.

But the station itself amplified his signal, gave him the strength he needed. Alone, he could go anywhere, but to move the kind of mass that passed through DK Station daily, he needed to create a massive orbifold, and that's what the amplification system allowed. He could move any quantity, nearly anywhere, almost instantly.

Naturally there were limitations, but not his. He sensed it all—the far reaches of the Thereon Galaxy, parts of space so remote it could barely be detected, let alone visited. But he could move things only as far as the amplification system could transmit his vibration.

Luckily, on Dadelus-Kaku Station, the Harmony Corporation had invested in the latest technology to create the Navamp 3000 generation, an amplification system capable of moving tremendous orbifolds to the very limits of named space.

A jump to something as local as Kepler 7-b was a joke with this system.

Tover closed his eyes and pushed air from his lungs out into the navigational cords. The patterns changed, space itself shifted, and in the blink of an eye, the entire buoy pallet disappeared. He knew it had arrived safely at dock on Kepler 7-b but still waited for the official call from Don Pryor, the dock communicator.

“Shipment arrived intact,” Pryor said, and the room burst into applause.

It was an old tradition, one Tover tuned out after the first week working as the station's Improvisational Navigator. His presence made the port function, and here he was as valued and as famous as actors from the Arland Guild.

“Need water?” Gull asked. She appeared at his side, her wispy form a darkened shadow in his visor.

He tapped his foot once. With the pipe in his mouth he couldn't speak, but Gull knew the signal and called for the next shipment to be towed into the dock.

This time it was a transport, 140 passengers aboard a luxury cruise liner owned by a subsidiary of Harmony Corporation. Tover thought the point of a cruise was to take one's time in getting to a destination, but this ship was about speed and variety as it darted the wealthiest of the Colonial Trade and Security Alliance inhabitants from one luxury hotel to the next.

“Navigator plugged in,” Gull repeated, stepping away. The visor informed Tover that the CTASA tourists headed to the spectacular views of the Aremdar Nebula as seen from the Brixton Science Satellite. Tover concentrated, opened his mouth, created the orbifold and jumped it.

Applause. Glass of water. Small break. Then do it again.

The routine was mundane, but the work required all of his concentration so he didn't lose focus. Anytime his throat ached, he thought of the new penthouse apartment the company leased for him on the roof of the grand Oasis Hotel, and he soldiered on.

By the time Gull freed Tover's hands from the wrist monitors, his arms were cramped and his throat parched. He stood as the control room offered a final round of applause. Tover flashed them his winning smile.

“It was an honor to work with you,” one staff member said, approaching to shake Tover's hand. Tover didn't recognize him, so the man had to be one of another string of interns. Tover looked him over but didn't find him attractive enough to pursue, and let his hand go quickly.

“Thank you,” he croaked. He turned away to hide his flush. It was Tover's only insecurity, his voice. No matter how attractive he fashioned himself, nothing could hide the ugliness in his scarred voice. Tover had made his publicist swear he would never have to give any speeches sober.

The intern lingered, apparently too enraptured with meeting Tover to notice the hoarseness of Tover's voice. Which wasn't surprising. After all, in a human population soaring over 36 billion, only one child in 70,000 tested positive for vibration sensitivity, and of those, a mere one percent tolerated the disruptive mind implants needed to process the quantity of information that subatomic sensitivity arrayed.

An even smaller number of potential navigators were capable of manipulating space, meaning there were less than three thousand navigators in the known universe. And most navigated set routes, going from familiar port to familiar port. Fewer than two percent of them were capable of improvisational movement like Tover. He was one of an elite group of men and women, forty-two so far, and it was up to this crew to move goods and people deep into unexplored regions of this galaxy and beyond.

Tover had never shied from the praise given to him, for he deserved it. Becoming a navigator had been difficult. His family had given him up as a five-year-old boy to fulfill the dreams of the united colonies. He'd dedicated his life to the intense training and control needed to manipulate subatomic space. He made cities rise and fall with the expedited transport of goods, services and people, and certain industries were completely dependent on him alone for supplies before they all died of old age waiting for a pulse transport or, worse, combustion-engine freighters.

Tover walked the congested hallway connecting the cargo control deck in the port offices to the long central atrium of Dadelus-Kaku. A clear dome encased the grand open space and offered views of surrounding stars and the nearby colony of Port Mathius. The atrium was lush with palm and ferns, and fragrant with blooming wisteria, carefully manicured to wrap the air-duct systems running parallel with the corridor. The median bustled with people, personal transports and the station tramline.

The atrium connected the eight separate wings of the station. The port, owned and operated by Harmony, was across from the wing housing corporate offices of trading companies and the regional stock market. The next set of wings comprised the arrival-and-departures terminal for travelers and the hospitality wing with its brightly lit foyers among hotels, casinos, gyms, shopping districts and restaurants.

Farther along the atrium were the peacekeeper station, the station management, and at the very ends of Dadelus-Kaku, the port storage bays and employee housing. Gull and the other full-time port employees resided there, but Tover turned right and headed toward the hospitality wing where he lived.

Tover walked with an entourage, two security guards that Harmony assigned, and his publicist, Alexey Jade, who slid alongside him and helped form a defensive wall against the onslaught of tourists and locals who called out for a memento.

“Tonight's festivities start at twenty sharp, at the atrium dome, so don't be late, all right?” Jade sounded worried. Tover's timeliness had been an issue for him in the past.

“I'm not going to be late for my own birthday party,” Tover assured him.

Jade seemed relieved. He was a little man but had an enormous, gracious smile. His red-enhanced hair glimmered like copper under the powerful grow lights in the atrium.

“The media will be there,” Jade continued, “and two Harmony high execs have pulsed in from corporate headquarters specifically to wish you a happy birthday, so try and be polite.”

“I always am.”

“Last year you called the COO a baby fucker.”

“I was drunk.” Tover smiled at the memory.

“Well, keep your opinions to yourself,” Jade said, lowering his voice as another throng of tourists approached. They were young women, some college tour group no doubt, stuck on the station between pulses to their final destination. Other than the peacekeeping force, port employees and the hospitality staff, most of the people on the station were in transition. DK Station was the central hub for anyone traveling between CTASA colonies, and few faces lingered longer than a day.

As the group of women approached, Tover offered a grand smile and slowed his long stride to a halt.

“Can I have your autograph?” one of the women whispered, holding out her hand. Her almond-colored skin turned pink with a blush that ran down her neck.

“Of course. And you are…?” Tover reached for her hand.

“Amanda. Amanda Wu.” The woman's voice trembled as Tover kissed her hand.

“You and all your friends are welcome to my birthday party this evening,” Tover said, winking. “It will be here in the atrium.”

“Oh! It's your birthday? Happy birthday!” she nearly squealed. Tover raised his eyebrows at her, flashed a lascivious grin, and gave her an autograph by pressing his finger against her wristpad.

The others held out their wrists as well, and Tover made sure to sign them all, making brief eye contact with his publicist in-between flirtatious smiles. Jade looked, once again, relieved. It had been his idea to have Tover spend more time publicly flirting with women, in case anyone ever noticed Tover sneaking off with one of his male companions. Harmony corporate policy firmly disapproved of unconventional relationships, no matter what the laws were.

Tover's security team grew weary of the press of young bodies and forcefully cleared a path. Tover finished his walk through the flashing holographic displays advertising restaurants and entertainment centers and media rooms, and reached the gilded gold and refracted-light doors of the Oasis Hotel. Hotel staff helped usher the way to Tover's private elevator, and within minutes, he found himself in his penthouse, finally in silence and alone.

He turned on the news but only half-listened as he showered and shaved. It took longer than usual to style his blond hair in the careless, wind-swept fashion he preferred, and he made a note to stop at the stylist for a haircut the following day. He put color enhancement drops in his eyes and blinked, looking at himself in his wide mirror. His blue eyes shimmered, bright enough to appear backlit. His body was strong, well-toned muscles from hours of workouts, part of his daily regimen designed to distract people away from the hoarse ugliness of his voice.

He turned off the media channel and stepped out the double doors to the rooftop garden. The hotel was the tallest on the station, the roof only a hundred feet below the protective dome encasing the construct. Tover didn't linger to admire the view. He crossed the rooftop to the detached, well-lit glass building a few feet from his own suite. It was his three-story, personal greenhouse, built by the hotel specifically for him.

He saw movement inside and slowed his pace. He didn't want to talk to anyone. He opened the door and Jason McGory, the hotel's climate controller, turned around, startled.

“Oh!” Jason smiled. “Sorry, sir. I planned on being gone before you returned. The humidity controls needed adjusting. My sensors say you're not getting enough moisture.”

Tover closed the greenhouse door behind him. Instantly the lush smells of ripe fruit, black soil and mulch relaxed him, and he rejoiced as the bright, loud singing of two dozen birds filled the air, calling out to him and each other. Tover stilled, closing his eyes, taking in the aviary's orchestra. He spotted his pair of macaws and his hill myna, sharing a perch above his head. He had a separate enclosure for his owls, and was looking for a place to keep a great blue heron that had been bred on Great Arland.

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