Embracing Refuge, third in A Place of Refuge, launches today!
Is it too late for a cynical super soldier to right the wrongs in her past?
Enhanced soldier Faigin Balfour defected from a fascist military to the revolution. Once the deadliest of warriors, now she fights to settle into a peaceful life on the utopian planet Refuge. Her two closest friends, Talia and Miki, are there to help, and have invited Faigin to join their loving bond for a peace they can all share. Faigin’s not a romantic, but she still craves the intimacy they offer. That’s something she’s willing to work on. For her, though, love is not enough. She needs to contribute something of herself to the planet that saved all their lives, to pay back some good for the harm she caused. She needs a mission.
Refuge has no need for killers, so how can she find value, now, in the technological augmentations that changed her body and shaped her life? She’ll need to confront her past as child soldier and lethal guerilla, and ponder what actions she can take in the present to uphold life instead of death.
Can a killer become worthy of utopia?
Not your usual space opera, A Place of Refuge features badass lesbians in space, the kindness of strangers, banter, close-knit friends, found family, trauma recovery, and lots of delicious food.
Faigin Balfour did not talk about her feelings, she did not think about her feelings, she didn’t even feel her feelings.
She snickered to herself and twisted in her chair, rubbing one gloved hand through her short, spiky hair. She stared balefully at the therapeutic worklist displayed on a virtual screen in front of her. It wasn’t true she didn’t have emotions, it was a million parsecs from true. It was more that she didn’t like to deal with her emotions, if didn’t like had more violent connotations. It had always been easier to just ignore painful thoughts and get on with the thing that had to be done next, because what was the point? The thing still had to be done, and someone had to do it, and that person might as well be Captain Balfour. Doing the thing at least gave a sense of accomplishment, while wallowing in unpleasant emotions did not.
Right now, the thing in front of her was this bloody worklist. Doing the thing meant reflecting upon her feelings. She blew out her breath and slid her finger along the various emotional scales in the display, as quickly as she could. Weeks in, she still hated this drill. When she’d finished it, the three freeform questions glowed an intentionally-soothing, annoying blue at her, requiring answers. About how she was dealing with her feelings.
She did talk about things with her most intimate friends, Miki Boudreaux and Talia Avi, but that was because they had known each other for over a decade. They’d spent most of that time fighting against overpowering odds with Jon Churchill’s dissenters, in rebellion against the oppressive Federated Colonies.
The threat of death, near escapes from death, and the occasional occasion of a comrade’s death tended to lead to more intimate conversations, but that wasn’t a workable strategy for day-to-day sharing. She was still thinking about the recent evening she and Miki and Talia had spent remembering and grieving Jon’s death.
Jon had left them, over a year before, on a mission that ended in his death. Then they’d thought Talia had been killed. Then, she and Miki had been captured by the FC.
After all that, they’d learned Talia was not dead. By then, the rebellion was quashed, the surviving dissenters had scattered to the stars, Faigin and Miki were hurled with extreme prejudice into a top security Federated cell…but Talia was alive. That had been a good day.
Talia had been imprisoned by the FC for thirteen months. The Supreme Commander of the FC military, Olawale, used her life as a bargaining chip, and for her sake, Miki and Faigin had agreed to make one last sensational appearance, flee the FC forever, and be declared dead, the rebellion with them. But they fled with Talia. All three of them together.
Now, they lived on the planet Refuge, a place Faigin had never even heard of until Miki, after much slinking around in data collections where she wasn’t allowed, had suggested it might be a place where the three of them could be safe. So far, she’d been correct.
Talia and Miki seemed committed to staying on Refuge indefinitely. Faigin would have liked to be committed. But after a month of private accommodations, excellent medical care, and copious quantities of delicious food, Faigin still couldn’t help but feel that everything they’d found here might be ripped away at any moment.
Gritting her teeth, she tapped the empty space following the first question, which wanted to know the healthy coping strategies she’d utilized this week. Exercise was acceptable. She exercised every day. Not only was it one of the few reliable mood-lifters she knew, but if she didn’t exercise, the interfaces installed in her body by the Federated military registered complaints with her muscles and nervous system.
Digging in the frozen dirt was really another sort of exercise, but according to the list she’d been given, gardening was a separate category from exercise, so she could enter that as well, and that activity had included meeting with some of their neighbors here in Port Liminal, so it counted double. Only one more and she could move on to the second question, which was unfortunately worse…oh, yes. She had eaten something new, in fact several new things, because Talia and Miki had brought back an assortment of pastries from their tour of bakeries in Port Liminal.
The medic Kaliska Dass sat nearby, her tall stout form curled snugly into a round red chair. She looked up from a scan of Faigin’s innards and commented, “I’m not going to mark your answers right or wrong, you know.”
“I’m not worried about that.”
“Faigin. My worklists aren’t going to bite your face off, either.”
“Are you sure?” Faigin enjoyed Kaliska’s deadpan humor, though she hadn’t told her as much.
Kaliska’s solemn expression didn’t waver. “They’ll only bite off your toes, to start.”
Faigin snorted a laugh. “This second question is confusing. The line between healthy and unhealthy activities can be very thin.”
“Can it?” Kaliska had a deep voice; on these words it dropped even lower, and her gaze grew steely.
“You said getting drunk was not a healthy activity. Sometimes that’s the only coping mechanism available.”
Kaliska’s expression, and her voice, eased again. “Have you been drinking a lot?”
“No…not what I would consider a lot.” Faigin looked Kaliska defiantly in the eye. “I am going to list drinking with Miki, while we all talked about Jon being dead, as a healthy activity since our last meeting.”
“What do you mean, all right?”
“The worklist is for you, not for me. Fill it out however you want. Just fill it out.”
“Why does it always ask for three of everything?”
“I can change it to four of everything.”