VS Note: From the Archives, to celebrate the fact I’ve now added 15K words to TALINN and issued it as a standalone since the anthology is no longer available.
When I had the opportunity to join the CLAIMED AMONG THE STARS anthology lineup, I knew the basic premise for all the stories was to be about a woman on an interstellar cruise ship who ends up on an alien planet and falls in love. Happy ever after ending of course! I thought it would be fun to write my third scifi romance gladiator novel and have that be my entry in the anthology. I’ve really enjoyed writing some Badari Warriors spinoffs, as a way to tell different stories about Badari, away from the central timeline of the main series, which involves them fighting for freedom and their human fated mates on their own planet.
And besides that I’ve always been fascinated by gladiators!
I knew many of the stories in the anthology would probably feature aliens as the male main characters and that led me to choose a Tzibir Badari, who were created using alien reptilian predator DNA. (Other Badari packs were created using alien feline and canine predator DNA.) This makes them my most ‘alien’ humanoids. I’d written one fairly recently in TRATUS so the concepts were fresh in my mind. “Handsome, not human” is my motto for the Tzibir.
I try really hard not to write cookie cutter series, where each succeeding book is the same plot, just plug in new names and proceed, so I turned the gladiator concept on its head a bit with the world where Talinn has ended up after he was smuggled out of the original lab and sold. He belongs to the leader of a wandering nomadic clan on a desert planet, where he fights as one of a team of aliens for the amusement (and betting) of the people on this planet. The battles occur at oases and in dusty venues almost like fairgrounds, rather than in elaborate arenas with all the pageantry. As someone observes at one point in the book, the teams of alien fighters are regarded as being somewhere between pets and children by their owners. I also made the dominant species on the planet bigger and stronger than even a Badari, which gave Talinn a new element to cope with. Badari are used to always being the strongest person in the mix.
Now here comes my very bewildered but determined heroine, Bailey, brought by a defective lifepod from the wreckage of her cruise ship in the stars to a planet outside the borders of civilization as she knows it. She’s literally dropped into the situation and has to cope, with Talinn’s help.
Of course there is crossover to the first two books in the Badari gladiator series although I tried hard to vary the manner in which Talinn discovers he might not be alone as a single Badari marooned in the stars. This book is a standalone though, so even if you haven’t read the other two (KYDEN and RENNYR), no worries. If you like Fated Mates, the one bed trope and some steamy ‘alien love’, then I think I’ve put it all together in TALINN!
The blurb for TALINN: Talinn was a genetically engineered senior soldier in his Badari Warrior pack until unscrupulous laboratory guards faked his death and sold him into slavery in the galaxy’s hinterlands. Purchased by a nomadic warlord and forced to fight in games for the amusement of the crowds, Talinn has endured through sheer strength of will. He sees no possibility of escape but a Badari never gives up until the goddess calls him to the afterlife.
Bailey Kingsmere was a talented and ambitious entertainer on an interstellar cruise liner when her ship was destroyed in an accident. She escaped in a defective cryonic lifepod, which eventually drifted out of the Sectors entirely and crashed on a primitive planet. Superstitious locals decide to place her in the arena as a prize for a lucky gladiator.
Talinn needs only one look to know Bailey is his fated mate. He’ll do whatever it takes to rescue her from the other fighters and claim her as his prize but how can he ensure her safety thereafter? Since he’s not human and has alien reptilian predator DNA which gives him extra capabilities, will Bailey accept him as a mate? And can they ever escape their desperate situation and find a way to freedom?
After a lot of loud cheering, which meant the city’s ruler had arrived with all his court and distinguished guests in tow, the gate was opened and the mass of fighters erupted into the arena. There were small stacks of prizes scattered around, for those men who didn’t care to risk themselves going for the true riches the kalishka laid out on the far side of the dangerous obstacle course. It was generally frowned upon to take the easy way out, although one year it was said the freedom token had been planted in the grab and go stacks. There were always men who opted for the simple, safe route, usually newcomers still uncomfortable with their status as fighters.
Talinn headed straight for the obstacle course, using his Badari strength to leap to the top of the first barrier, a wall which was supposed to be difficult to climb. Not for him. He always fought barefoot in order to use the powerful claws he could deploy on his feet and he clung to the barrier with these daggers firmly dug into the soft wood. At the top, ready to leap to the next challenge—ropes hanging over a pit filled with acid-tinged water and predatory fish with fangs as big as his—he hesitated as the mysterious scent overwhelmed him again. A flash of color caught his eye and he turned his head to see what lay at the other end of the obstacles.
A human woman, bound to a pole and looking ready to collapse.
And she was his mate.
Talinn nearly lost his grip on the top of the wall where he balanced as the overwhelming, unexpected and unwelcome realization flowed through him. Now, of all inopportune moments, the goddess gave him a mate? One who had to be savagely fought for and then protected in this harsh place? What sin did I commit to bring this upon myself? Why does this woman have to suffer?
The beast wrapped around his DNA didn’t hesitate and launched them into the air toward the vines, which Talinn grabbed from pure instinct, swinging across the churning, stinking water with ease, even as another man slipped and fell to his death beside him. Landing neatly on the far side, Talinn made it two steps toward his objective when he was challenged by a Jorvathian, who’d decided to be a spoiler today, or who had been paid off to eliminate certain elite fighters. Talinn didn’t care which—he was in an immediate fight for his life, as the alien got a grip on his shoulder with its savage pincers and tried to inject him with poison from the tentacles wriggling obscenely on its carapace. Yes his system could fight off and neutralize toxins but not if too many flooded his body at once. Jorvathians could deliver a massive dose of their poison.
Talinn’s claws had been genetically engineered to pierce and rend super hard metals and materials used by the Sectors military, so he had no problem cracking open the Jorvathian’s bony chest plate and sending the fighter reeling away in his death throes. Without a glance, Talinn pressed onward, running the obstacle course as required because there was no other way to reach the main prize dais, where the woman was bound. Although he’d had an excellent head start, his brief hesitation when he saw the woman and realized what she was to him and the delay caused by the need to defeat the Jorvathian had allowed others to make up time on him.
He judged three to be actual rivals for the woman. Any one of the fighters was a deadly opponent, none would have her. Sprinting ahead at times, pausing as required to fight men or aliens who got in his way, working through the fiendish obstacles, Talinn extricated himself from the last barrier, a quicksand like bog with clinging carnivorous plant life and rose to his feet, shaking off the sparkling sands and crushing one stubborn tendril like a bug.
The woman didn’t look well and was plainly terrified. He caught her eye and nodded, even as he was moving into combat stance against a four armed alien he’d fought and bested before. The fighter was deadly with the curved knives it preferred and Talinn forced himself to concentrate on parrying the opening blows, waiting for his opportunity.