Release Blitz, Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway: Allure of Dartheca by James Siewert


Title: Allure of Oartheca

Series: Book One of the Oarthecan Star Saga

Author: James Siewert

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 30, 2021

Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 368

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Space Opera, First Contact, Alien Romance, Action/Adventure

Add to Goodreads


A space-heist gone wrong. An unexpected romance. A galactic catastrophe in the making. In the furthest reaches of space, a cyber-thief with a heart of gold meets a ex-navy captain who refuses to be beaten. Though they’re from opposite ends of the galaxy, fate slams these two men together in desperate bid to stop a race of elitist cannibals from destroying all these men hold dear. But their foe is not the only danger our two heroes face – an Allure that whispers promises of rapture, and destruction. If our heroes give in, they lose, if they give up, they lose … and the fate of the galaxy rests in the balance. In the spirit of high-space adventure, with a touch of charming romance, Allure of Oartheca is a love song to the science fiction genre, placing two men who love men at the forefront of a battle of their past, their present, and – if they’re brave enough, if they’re bold enough – their future. Come share an adventure full of authentic, one-of-a-kind characters, fantastic new worlds, rich imagination and genuine hope in the face of heart-pounding action. Join the adventure in Allure of Oartheca, and discover how hatred and war are not the only ways to destruction.


Chapter 1 Rowland 


Just a little more. Just a little more …

‘Captain, are you jacked yet?’ an impatient voice asks, bristling gruffness buzzing over my suit’s comm system.

Ivan Vasilyev. Ship’s cook, according to my official register. Unofficially, my team’s heavy gun, demo-expert and general pain in the ass, when he isn’t kicking ass. I love him and all, he’s part of my ship’s family, but sometimes his input is about as welcome as finding a skid-mark in your jockeys. Awful at chess, but has this stubborn patience that keeps him coming back to learn, and fun to play against—he’s not a sore loser, to his credit.

‘Well,’ I begin nicely, though my voice doesn’t quite hide my exasperation. Both our tones are due to nerves. He’s safely on board, watching me float out here in free space, my right hand holding the latch to a derelict spacecraft we’re trying to break into, my left, palm open, pressed up against a seared-off access port, gently petting at it as though it were a giant metal kitty. ‘You see the hatch unlock yet?’

There’s a pause before he returns a sour-sounding ‘No.’

‘That means I’m not jacked. Wanna give me a moment while I try and get that done?’

A sound of scuffling comes over the comms, and then Ivan’s pained ‘Oww!’ in the background.

‘Sorry Captain,’ the annoyed voice of Bethany ‘Betts’ Ortez replies. First officer and chief pilot, officially. Smuggler and grand larcenist, off-record. Two years Coalition of Allied Planetary Systems Navy (CAPS-N) officer, but now formerly goody-two-shoes Lt. Ortez is wanted by said Navy and four other non-allied star systems. Pssh, amateur: I’m wanted by nine, currently. She is my best friend though, my big sister by another mister. ‘Turned my back for a moment,’ she adds, and I can hear what I imagine is her elbow whumping Ivan again.

‘Be nice, he means well,’ I reply, but then I’m distracted by a kiss of electricity in my brain, as the wireless interface jack in my palm finally latches on to the access port’s interface jack. The cybernetic display unit behind my left eye starts streaming a series of connection protocols to my vision, as my biologically integrated computer system starts saying its first hellos to the derelict’s systems.

The faint tingling of my biocomp, which is about the size of a grain of rice and installed between my C4 and C5 vertebrae, is a remarkably comforting feeling, and I remember to feel lucky that I’m one of less than half a percent of humans who experience such mild side effects from their cybernetics. Most who try what I’m attempting would feel their interface-arm go dead the instant they jacked in, followed by a sensation of either burning, freezing, or in rare but still far too many cases, intense formication that ultimately renders the whole idea of them hacking a system pointless. For me? It’s a feathery touch, like brushing the tips of your fingers along the hairs of your neck.

‘Found it,’ I advise my crew, all five of them listening in, and then to the derelict, I murmur ‘Good morning, sweetheart. Open up, open up, let me in ...’

The stream of connection protocols, a pleasant cyan in colour, dances down the side of my vision as I begin my introductions to the derelict, but I barely finish my first ‘So where are you from?’ before that stream begins to pulse and switch to a warning shade of orange. Oooh, she’s not falling for my tricks, not that easily.

The derelict’s systems are not flat-out refusing my connection, but it doesn’t recognize my protocols, and is alerting me that unauthorized access will result in the authorities being contacted and possible countermeasures being deployed. Darling, you’ve been lost for twenty years, stuck in an asteroid field just past the far edge of CAPS space. The giant floating boulders out here contain large quantities of kelmisite, which are gonna fuck your long-range comm signals into gobbledygook. No-one will hear you. Your countermeasures, though? Those I do need to worry about; you’ll either dive Under to God knows where, or release a thermal pulse from your propulsion drive that fries me to a crisp.

‘No, it’s all good. I’m just a lowly maintenance worker, see? I’m here to reset your sensors, you’ve got a glitch is all,’ I promise the derelict. I do think my assurances help, if not the derelict then certainly myself.

I begin to transmit my first hacking algorithm, one of a million stored in my biocomp’s memory, electrically caressing the interface, whispering sweet nothings into a nervous lover’s ear, trying to find the right words to win her over. One, two, five, twenty, eighty, two hundred ...

The derelict is stubborn; she is refusing my best attempts but at least she’s still listening, but that’s only because I’m careful enough to craft each algorithm to appear as the first attempt. She is at least buying that part of my wooing, but I doubt she will for much longer; she’s got adaptive learning capabilities and it’s just a matter of time before she catches on.

The derelict’s reluctance was anticipated, of course: she’s a high-class vessel, even if she’s twenty years behind the times, and her onboard security systems are no joke. In her prime, the derelict was a top-of-the-line automated security transport vessel, long-haul range. The CAPS Trade Union’s (CAPS-T) best-of-the-best, she shipped high-value, potentially dangerous cargo from stellar point A to B, across vast distances, all by herself. She has her own Under-drive, as well as over a quarter of light speed propulsion for those trickier intra-system journeys, plus heuristic enemy-avoidance systems, and the sparkling crown atop her most beautiful head: her own Variable Energy Intensive Lightwave & Electromagnetic Distortion Device — her VEILEDD, or simply, her veil.

That’s what I’m here for—the veil. I’ve claimed it as my share of what the derelict is carrying, which, if our research is correct, includes a credit-press with a million unused credit IDs on it, all just wanting to be issued. Split five ways, my crew is looking at a two-hundred thousand perfectly legitimate, fresh-off-the-press payday, each—it’s the prize of a lifetime, a prize that can change a lifetime.

But that veil is mine.

It’s worth a fortune on its own; twenty years later and the tech behind it has basically remained the same, and there isn’t a species in or outside the CAPS that’s found a way to consistently beat it. Understandably, the veil’s usage is strictly regulated, limited to only a handful of species under a smaller handful of circumstances, and any unauthorized usage carries, oh, how to put this, ‘disproportionally severe penalties’. Tekethy in origin, and those shadow-loving spymasters know a thing or two about staying sneaky, but human ingenuity perfected it. All praise the mighty CAPS and its lucrative tech-sharing agreements.

But whatever the veil’s best black-market value is, it’ll be worth a thousand times that once my engineer, Mia, instals it into my ship. Long-range sensor-muting, short-range light-wave disruption, energy output dispersion—and just the right size for my little vessel to become entirely invisible, even to the naked eye, for a solid hour, if not more. The possibilities that a fully operational veil brings to mind make me salivate, even as I continue with my hack of the main access-hatch.

‘Captain Hale, forgive the interruption,’ Corculhoran says politely. From the crispness of his tone, one would think the voice belonged to a bookish, meek man, and of course, the opposite is the case with Cor. He is Harculcorian (roughly translated as ‘they who are biters’), a reptilian race known for breeding fierce and relentless warriors, and their heavy, massive frames and crocodilian appearance go a long way to perpetuate the human-centric stereotype that they’re all mindless brutes.

Cor is actually one of the sweetest men I know: keenly intelligent, brilliantly poetic, and nearly as good a hacker as I am. Though he is roughly the size and shape of a weapons locker, and has heavily scaled skin that’s a natural form of battle-armour, I’ve never seen him perform an act of violence in all the time I have known him. Officially, he’s our comms officer and quartermaster, but behind the scenes, he’s the brains behind our most lucrative schemes, our shifty accountant and probably among the foremost embezzlers I’ve had the pleasure to meet. It was Cor who had snatched up the whisper of the abandoned derelict, after all.

‘Go ahead, Cor,’ I offer. I’m one of only a handful of people he permits to use the short form of his name. The Cor part of his name means ‘biter’, which depending on the person saying it, can either be a term of endearment, or a patronizing insult.

‘Thank you, Captain Hale,’ he replies. His formality is non-negotiable, though we have all insisted he needs to start feeling relaxed around us, what with this being his fifth year on our crew. ‘I am noticing the derelict is powering up its intra-stellar propulsion unit; are you in jeopardy?’

His calmness can sometimes be more disturbing than his panic, which I have only witnessed twice: the first time being when we resurfaced from an Under dive too close to an undiscovered black hole, the second time when I appeared brain-dead for a full minute after a nearly botched deep-jack.

I scan the still-orange warning protocols, then see the execution command for the automated propulsion unit to start up. My algorithms are becoming suspect; the derelict is catching on faster than anticipated. If that engine engages while I’m still holding onto its access hatch, losing out on our prize will be the least of my concerns; my atoms will be spread from here to wherever the derelict decides to stop running.

‘Captain,’ Betts cuts in before I can answer Cor. ‘Derelict’s comm unit coming online!’

Her urgency is matched by another bold orange command line flashed before my eyes. ‘Jamming it just in case but I’m seeing additional systems ...’

‘Mia, you there?’ I ask desperately, interrupting my first officer.

‘Yes, go ahead,’ the voice of my talented engineer, so young, responds enthusiastically.

‘We need to fake Lucky’s  energy output signature; make us look bigger than we are.’ Lucky is the pet name for our ship, the Luck of the Draw. She’s my heart’s desire, my beautiful Lucky: I ‘won’ her after having hacked the system controlling a lottery scam being run by a shifty terraforming company, which used her as bait to draw the punters in to moving to a newly habitable planet. My first genuine hack on such a grand scale, and she’s named along the lines of how the best luck is the luck you make for yourself.

‘What size are we talking here? Corvette, cruiser, warmonger?’ she asks, letting me know that whatever I ask for, I will get. Mia is my baby ship-sister, and my newest crew member, but likely also the most talented.

‘Corvette,’ and after her quick ‘On it!’ confirmation, I make a plea to my quartermaster:

‘Cor, can you hack together a hail to the derelict, pretend like we’re a CAPS-T authority?’

‘Yes, I can do this. A simple authentication request, yes?’ he asks, out of courtesy. Though our two species started far apart on the evolutionary path, Cor and I are more alike than almost any two humans I’ve known. The man often knows my thoughts before I even think them.

‘Affirmative. Initiate when ready.’ I catch the wording of my orders, and frown. I hate it when I slip into my CAPS-N speak. Their training is hard to shake.

Yes, I used to be in the CAPS-N: graduated from the academy with a solid set of distinctions and honours, but just past a year of service, I dropped out, with the official reason given as ‘disenfranchisement’, which is a polite way to say I was no longer interested in the bullshit actual service in the CAPS-N entailed. And although I am a drop-out (well, dropped-out before kicked out), I am now a captain, which is five ranks higher than my CAPS-N rank ever amounted to. It’s an honorary title, of course, since I’m both the owner and the pilot of my ship: humanity still holds to our Terran naval traditions, even half a millennium or so after we took to the stars.

Speaking of Terrans—I am one—which these days means a human born on Earth, rather than say on one of our exo-planetary colonies, which we’ve got spread out over multiple star systems: Martians, Ganymedians, Oberonians, plus Nexians, Cygnians and Centaurians (not Centaurs, they’ll have you know) — we’re all humans. There’s about thirty billion of us, which forms a not-too-shabby sixteen percent of the total sapients comprising the CAPS.

I’m on the tall side, just under two metres, and thanks to the combination of lucky genetics (cheers, Dad), a CAPS-N-approved regimented exercise program and a healthy dose of masculine pride, it’d be more than fair to consider me as a solid slice of beefcake. Not like Ivan or Cor are though—they’re mountains of muscle on two legs—but I could hold my own against them, if I needed to.

Heh, that sound’s kinda dirty—Bryce is the one I hold my own against, or rather, used to; it’s been a while since we last knocked boots, and it’s looking more and more likely we’ll not be doing that again.

I currently have my original hair colour, which is either a light brown or very dark blond (think a darker shade of ‘sandalwood’ if that helps), that I keep short and neatly trimmed, and my current eye shade is the one that I was born with: a robust hazel-green that I also got from Dad, in addition to his muscles. Mum gave me my hair colour though, and what Bryce says, er, used to say, are my ‘rugged good looks, when you stop being such an ass about them’.

None of the above matters though: given the CAPS Federation of Medical Practitioners’ (CAPS-F) advances, humans are no longer bound by most constraints when determining how we want to physically manifest ourselves: pigmentation, sex, morphology, age appearance—it is all negotiable these days, if you’ve got the credits. Ivan was born physically female and aligned his external self to his internal self immediately after his first big pay-out with us, and Mia enjoys a blue tone to her skin, for a reason I’ve not figured out, but it suits her entirely.

I’ve myself gone under the genetic recombinator on a couple of occasions for a job, mostly just cosmetic stuff for disguises, but I always revert to my base-identity afterwards. It’s something to do with my parents’ death—yes, I’m a poor orphan boy, have been for a while—something about how much I look like the right combination of my Mum and Dad that always brings me back to my original self. That so long as I’m here, looking like the best parts of them got together and made me, then maybe they’re not lost to the universe, just yet.

A few more moments pass as my hack of the derelict continues, and, becoming impatient, I increase the transmission speed of my algorithms, the electronic signals firing from my biocomp rapidly over my reinforced nervous system and through the interface device permanently installed into my left palm.  The derelict continues to refuse me, and that’s becoming annoying.

I pass the half-million mark of transmitted algorithms and the first waves of frustration crash into my confidence; you might think that the halfway point meant halfway home, but that’s never the case. You always start with your big guns—the algorithms most likely to succeed in cracking the hard exterior security protocols and getting to the ooey-gooey sweet access commands underneath—and then work your way down to smaller ammunition if your opening volley fails. Passing the halfway mark usually means you went into the battle under-gunned, and you’re left having to throw progressively smaller pebbles in the hopes of scoring a lucky shot.

I’ve never succeeded in a hack past the eight hundred thousand mark; no-one does. Well, that is, unless you’re more than fifty percent cybernetic and have onboard adaptive algorithm generation capabilities. Outside of my biocomp, its paired optic interface and my left palm, I’m one hundred percent human, only about three percent robot. The saying ‘too much tech makes your mind a wreck’ is a truism I don’t want to test on myself, because I’ve seen the proof of it first-hand in others. But if I’m clocking past a half million algorithms, and more and more frequently I’ve noticed I have been, it may mean it’s upgrade time. The symbol representing interstellar currency—CAPS-T credits—flutters in my imagination on tiny golden wings.

‘Authentication request completed. Transmitting,’ Cor advises, though he need not have. A bright green stream of symbols appears in the upper right-hand corner of my vision and begins to run with an urgency the derelict’s system cannot refuse. Authentication of its identity by its owner’s is one of the derelict’s highest priorities, and as it begins to stream its credentials, the system resources it’s allocating to prevent my access are redirected to complete this priority task.

I see it then, in that stream of orange symbols: the derelict’s identification key, hidden as an innocuous spitting of characters in a lengthy line of commands and processing confirmations. From system to system, the values for these keys always differ, and consisting of fifty-five characters, it would take more time than is left in our universe to guess it. But that’s its fatal flaw: the ID key is always exactly fifty-five characters, and always in the same configuration, meaning its uniform length and structure quickly snitches it out for what it is.

Back in the day, when this transport was first roaming the galaxy, this little security flaw hadn’t been discovered yet, and while it’s since been patched, this derelict is a couple of dozen star-systems away from the nearest server for that required update.  Even then, the ID flaw is only exploitable if you know to look for it, and I just so happen to be one of the few people who know to look.

See, that’s my job. Officially, I am our ship’s captain, co-pilot and I guess our tactical officer, though any time we enter a firefight I figure I’ve not done one of my other two jobs correctly: Lucky is a lover, not a fighter, and she has many aliases. Depending on where we are and what we’re up to, my ship’s registry can be either The Fortune’s Favourite, CAPS-T Harrogate, or the CAPS-N Blazing Talon, which is one of my favourites, but it’s dangerous to use; the CAPS-N gets its best frown on about pretending you’re one of their fleet.

Bonus Exclusive Excerpt:

CHAPTER 17 - Toar

It takes me a few moments flying straight into inky darkness before I’m able to come down from the terror I’ve been experiencing, and I’m so numb right now I’m not aware that I’ve stopped breathing. I do hear ragged breathing though, and have enough sense in me to pull back on the engines, and establish a standard orbit. I turn now to see Rowland, his left hand off the console, and vice-gripped on my leg instead. I’m not even aware that he’s done that, but his hand is shaking, and his grip is getting uncomfortable.

His eyes follow mine to his hand, and his grip lessens. ‘You’re amazing,’ he mumbles, and then looks at me deeply. ‘You’re truly amazing.’

I laugh, nervous and giddy, coming down from my high. The truth of the matter is that I’m feeling more alive than I have in years—yes, I’ve missed the danger, the excitement that can only come from exploring the vastness of the universe in a starship. I never considered myself as the type who enjoys trouble, but I can’t deny that the past few hours of my life have been full of a thing that I apparently crave, and have been starved of. Not much to do on a mining station other than whittle away the hours in idle chat and writing reports that, at best, will get a half-arsed once-over before being filed away and forgotten. I’ve lived more in the short time since I met Rowland than I have in years. 

I’ve got to check on our tactical systems, to see if our breach has been detected and there’s a Pryok’tel vessel en route to ruin our day, and when I turn back to advise my co-pilot that all looks clear, I catch him gazing out our main viewing window, a wistful light in his eyes and a small smile on his face. I turn to share in what he’s looking at, and when I see it, I too am struck silent.

Derresion Two is a vibrant, nearly electric blue in colour, with bands of cerulean clouds constantly swirling and streaking across its surface. Now from this distance, the bright ruby red of its bromine ring, set against the massive blazing blue background, is a marvel for the senses—the contrast between the two colours makes them both throb with intensity and the entire picture is truly breath-taking to look upon. I’ve missed this too, awfully—the indescribable thrill of discovering new planets and other astral bodies, seeing them up close with my own eyes, marvelling at the infinitely complex beauty of every corner of the galaxy. Or, sometimes, right beside you.

‘It’s incredible,’ Rowland whispers in awe. His eyes dart back and forth between the details he sees, but he lets them rest for a moment, and his lovely smile returns in full.

‘Aye,’ I say, my eyes turning to him. ‘Not the most beautiful sight I’ve seen today, but still.’

He looks over at me with a darling expression of embarrassment and appreciation at my little flirtation. I’ve scored a bigger hit than I thought though, because only another moment goes by before he leans over towards me—and my heart jumps now, ‘cause I’m fairly sure from the look on his lovely face and his half-closed eyes, that he wants to kiss me. It takes all that’s in me not to leap from my seat and sweep him up—in my mind, that’s how our first kiss starts and all—but I mirror his actions instead, showing as much restraint and civility as I can, so as not to spook him. I’m still much quicker when I lean over, however.

A nasty bit of nerves bites me when he hesitates, just before our heads are close enough together, and I think he’s going to change his mind—and I have an awful moment where I think he’s backing out, and that I’m just too different for him, that I’m too much of a brute where he is just that beautiful …

And then his lips touch mine and …

… (bliss) …

Our Review (click on graphic)


Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Author

James and his husband live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Part-time office drone, part-time storyteller, full time science-fiction and fantasy aficionado, James couldn't find enough stories involving characters who are like him and his husband: big men with big hearts! Taking matters into his own hands, James hopes to share stories where brawny blokes with hearts of gold take centre stage. Join him in his worlds and discover authentic characters, gripping scenes, lush imagination, a touch of the mushy stuff and one-of-a-kind heroes in truly daring adventures!

Goodreads | eMail | BookBub


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Button 2