One of the challenges I enjoy most about writing a long running series is keeping things fresh and always bringing new wrinkles to the situation for the readers. Fortunately I set up the series in the beginning with a number of hooks to use for adding new twists and turns, one of which was the existence of the Tzibir variation of the Badari Warriors. The Tzibir were created using the same Badari humanoid stock but with alien reptilian predator DNA instead of feline or canid. The Alpha of this pack refused to swear allegiance to Aydarr and Jill and in fact entered into a loose alliance with the same hated Khagrish scientists the other Badari packs are battling.
Enter Tratus, the deeply conflicted senior enforcer of the Tzibir pack. He first appeared in CAMRON and at that time I already knew he was so intriguing to me that I would be giving him his own book eventually, when it fit into the overall series arc. Tratus wants to follow the commandments of the Great Mother, their goddess and he is repulsed to be in any kind of arrangement with the Khagrish. After 800 years of the scientists enslaving, abusing, torturing and executing his kind, Tratus wants to be truly free and to join the rebels in fighting them.
But his Alpha is the absolute ruler of the pack by Badari law and so Tratus does his best to mediate between the dangerous bully Briator, the Tzibir Alpha who’s addicted to a human feelgood, and what’s best for the pack. He keeps things running on a daily basis in the Tzibir settlement in the desert and quietly despairs. Every day is a crisis of conscience for Tratus.
And then he meets the human woman who could be his mate in a more perfect world – Katrin Rodgerr, Third Officer of a free trader ship, abducted like so many other humans to become fodder for the Khagrish labs and their grisly ‘experiments’. She’s in the crowd of women who his Alpha is going to choose from, for breeders to live with the pack as captives and help create the next generation. Tratus digs in and demands to be given Katrin, determined to protect her.
And all the events in the book spiral from there.
I had many things to research for this book, never having written Badari with reptilian aspects. It’s not my trope to write ‘alien’ aliens but Tratus has scales and other much less obvious characteristics which Katrin learns about along the way, shall we discreetly say. I’ve had the TRATUS cover from Fiona Jayde for a long time, waiting for me to write the book, so it’s pure coincidence his book is releasing at a time when ‘alien’ aliens are the hot trope. He’s a bit more alien than my other Badari!
One of the most unusual pieces of research I did for this novel was to watch actual footage of two Komodo dragons in a fight for supremacy. I always research my fight scenes to try to make the action realistic but in this case I figured the Komodo, which are the world’s largest living lizards, would be the closest thing I would find to what the alien predator DNA in Tratus’s and Briator’s bodies might have come from. The biggest one ever recorded was over 10’ long and weighed nearly 400 pounds so I figured the size was about right (Badari men are 7’ and 300 pounds but Briator is a bit bigger, as the Alpha).
I’ve seen Komodo dragons at the Los Angeles zoo, not fighting but still with the ever present air of danger.
Not to give away all my research secrets but one thing I was intrigued by after watching and re-watching the filmed fight (which occurred in the wild – no one staged it) was how the two huge males battled for position, versus going in for a quick kill. They each clearly were searching for just the right moment to…do what a Komodo dragon or a Badari Tzibir Alpha would do.
A word about Katrin – she’s a cool headed, ex-Space Navy veteran from the Sectors and I enjoyed the challenge of writing her believably, from where she started as Tratus’s hostile prisoner to where she ends up, as his loving, claimed, fated mate. She’s not at all on board with any of the what’s going on when the book starts, needless to say.
An excerpt, after Tratus has chosen Katrin: Katrin watched the two large men standing together and savoring a private joke. She was thoroughly confused but she appreciated whatever her protector had said to the guards to get them moved into the shade. Surprised at herself, she drew a shaky breath and tried to find a more comfortable position, which was difficult with her arms held behind her back by the force cuffs. Was he a protector? He’d been gentle with her, which impressed her even more after she saw the huge brown talons and the deadly fangs he deployed when he and the one who was in charge argued about her. And he was getting her out of the Khagrish lab, which was no small thing, given the horrors she knew awaited their experimental subjects. It was nothing but a matter of time until each human ended up being selected for the next experiment. So far she’d been chosen for a few but one had been relatively minor as far as the pain and in the other two she’d been a control subject, observed but not forced to undergo the actual experiment in full.
But she had few illusions about what these handsome aliens wanted women for, or why the Khagrish were giving them ten females. For some reason she couldn’t define, she had a hard time imagining the man who’d chosen her forcing himself on her. The boss—yeah. Not only was he apparently drunk, he seemed cruel and careless. The other soldier—maybe. The person who’d plucked her from the line? He made her feel safe, which was of course ridiculous.
Still, she was free of the black bracelet and the pain it could confer at the touch of a button from any bored Khagrish guard. And the indications were the group would be were leaving the lab for another destination. She’d take her chances and see what happened. Stay alert, stay frosty, seize any chance to escape and take the other women with her if she could.
Cinnthea scooted closer to her. “What did he say? What did he tell you?” she asked in an intense whisper.
“Not much, just a few words of Basic. He said everything would be all right.” Rolling her eyes, Katrin added, “I’m not so sure.”
“But what are they going to do with us? Where are we going?”
“He didn’t say anything about that. I can guess what they have in mind, can’t you?”
The woman shot a scornful glare at the two large men. “Yeah, unfortunately I can. This planet is a hellhole, isn’t it?”
“While there’s life, there’s hope,” Katrin said. “And at least we’ll be out of the labs. There’s no future there at all but pain and death.”
Katrin Rodgerr, ex-Space Navy, was perfectly happy as Third Officer on a tramp freighter in the Outer Sectors, until the day she and everyone on board the ship were kidnapped by alien scientists to become subjects of gruesome experiments. Far away from home or help, Katrin does her best to bolster the other prisoners’ morale and look for a way to escape.
Until one day she’s chosen for an experiment of another sort – given to a pack of alien supersoldiers as a prospective breeder.
Tratus, senior enforcer of the Tzibir pack, never expected to find his mate, much less to meet her among the human prison population of the labs. But there she is and there’s no denying the instincts. Despite his Alpha’s objections, Tratus manages to convince the alien scientists to give Katrin to him and he vows to protect her. Deeply unhappy with the way his leader runs the pack as he disobeys all their goddess’s commandments and refuses to ally with other Badari packs to fight the scientists who created them, Tratus plots a revolt.
Despite herself Katrin is drawn to the giant humanoid warrior with alien predator DNA who treats her so respectfully. His scales and other differences from human males only make him more attractive in his own way. But the Alpha distrusts her and Tratus, and time is running out for them both…Can Tratus defeat the Alpha leading his pack to inevitable doom? Can he and Katrin survive the consequences and find their way to claiming each other as true mates or must he let her go?