Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Double-Cross (In Love and War, Book 8) by Cora Buhlert

Release date: March 28, 2018
Subgenre: Science fiction romance, Space opera

About Double-Cross:


Once, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

When they are hired to retrieve a shipment of bootleg medical nanobots, it seems like a routine job at first. But it quickly turns out that they are not the only ones who are after the nanobots. And their client has an agenda of her own.

This is a story of 5100 words or approx. 20 print pages in the "In Love and War" series, but may be read as a standalone. 




The independent rim world of Kyusu was infamous for its pervasive cloud cover and its constant, never-ending rain.
Landing on Kyusu was dangerous because of the low visibility. Yet its spaceport was one of the biggest on the rim. For Kyusu was also a major hub for both legal and illegal trade along the galactic rim.
The capital Shusaku was a neon-drenched maze of skyscrapers and open air markets offering literally any legal good in the galaxy and most of the illegal ones, too, provided you knew where to look.
A man and a woman strode side by side through the neon labyrinth that was Shukasu, their movements perfectly synched, indicating close companionship.
The man was tall with pale skin, striking blue eyes and long black hair that he wore tied back in a ponytail that was now dripping wet. He was clad in a long back synth-leather coat, the collar of which he’d pulled up against the rain. This was Captain Mikhail Alexeievich Grikov, formerly of the Republican Special Commando Forces, now wanted as a deserter and traitor.
The woman by his side was a good head shorter, with brown skin, sparkling dark eyes and black hair tied into a straggled braid. She was clad in utility pants and an electric blue tunic, topped by a poncho of transparent plastic as protection against the steady downpour. This was Lieutenant Anjali Patel, formerly of the Imperial Shakyri Expeditionary Corps, now wanted as a deserter and traitor.
They’d met on the battlefield of the eighty-eight year war between the Republic of United Planets and the Empire of Worlds, fallen in love and decided to go on the run together. Their flight had brought them to the independent worlds on the galactic rim, the only place in the galaxy where they could live in relative safety, far from the forces of the Empire and the Republic both that pursued them, determined to bring them to heel.
And now their flight had brought them to Kyusu, while their work as mercenaries had brought them to the rain-drenched markets of Shukasu.
Anjali looked up. Before her loomed two towers of stacked up freight containers, covered over and over in neon ads, many of them rendered in the boxy characters of the old script of Shukasu. A makeshift bridge stretched between the two towers, also covered in ads.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” she asked Mikhail, “Because I’m cold and soaking wet and not really keen on trudging through the rain for another couple of hours.”
“The pharmacist we interrogated said ‘the Open Market’. So unless you’re losing your touch…”
“I’m not,” Anjali replied.
The guy had practically peed himself as soon as he saw the dagger with the Shakyri crest at her wait. And afterwards he’d been only too eager to talk. He’d talked like the proverbial waterfall, confessing to every single substance of dubious legality he’d ever sold in his shop. No intimidation necessary, the problem was getting him to stop talking.
“…this should be the place.”
Anjali was still doubtful. “There are dozens, probably hundreds of markets all over the city. How can we be sure that this is the right one?”
In response, Mikhail pointed upwards at the makeshift bridge that stretched between the two towers. It was emblazoned with the words “Open Market” in Standard or rather what the Republicans insisted on calling Standard in their infinite arrogance.
“I’d say that’s a pretty big hint.”
Anjali still wasn’t convinced. “And how do we know that this is the Open Market the guy at the pharmacy was talking about? After all, the place where we found the pharmacist was also called Open Market.”
“Public Market,” Mikhail corrected.
“Same difference.”
“Not if you’re Kyusan, apparently.” Mikhail flashed her a quick smile. The rain pasted a few stray hairs to his forehead. “What’s the matter? I thought you liked markets and shopping.”
“I do,” Anjali said, “But not for days on end and not in constant rain.”
She tried to look dignified in spite of the downpour, but instead she only managed to look like a drowned kitten.
“And besides, we still haven’t found a decent Rajipuri spice merchant in this swamp. Let alone a clothing, jewellery or weapons merchant.”
To Anjali, the quality of a market was directly proportional to the number of Rajipuri merchants to be found there. And the many markets of Kyusu really sucked in that regard. Though she should probably grateful there was no jewellery merchant, cause that would only encourage Mikhail to buy her things they couldn’t afford and that weren’t appropriate for a mere peasant like her anyway.
“We did find a shop that sold bootlegs of Rajipuri vid dramas,” Mikhail reminded her, “You liked those.”
“I just want to know whether they’ll hang Roshani for that murder she didn’t commit or whether she’ll be saved at the last possible minute.”
“She’ll be saved, of course,” Mikhail said, “And then there’ll be a big song and dance number. Isn’t that how those stories always go?”
“Not always,” Anjali said. She’d tried to introduce Mikhail to the joys of Rajipuri vid dramas, but so far he failed to get it, “When I was a kid, we watched a vid drama where the heroine Chandara was actually hanged for a murder her husband committed. Okay, so maybe the fact that the drama was called Trial and Execution should have tipped us off, but it was still a shock. My sister Lalita was in tears for days.”
Mikhail flashed her a quick smile. “What about you?”
“I fantasised about breaking Chandara out of prison and making sure that bastard husband of hers was hanged instead.”
Mikhail winked at her. “You would have pulled it off, too. If Chandra…”
“…had been real. But now let’s get on with the mission, so we can go somewhere warm and dry and watch some of your new bootleg vids.”
“Maybe we could first stop at one of those noodle bars that are everywhere,” Anjali said, “Cause a bowl of hot noodles sounds heavenly just now.”
Mikhail nodded. “Sounds good. First mission, then noodles, then home.”


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About the In Love and War series:


About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. 
Cora has been writing, since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. She is the author of the Silencer series of pulp style thrillers, the Shattered Empire space opera series, the In Love and War science fiction romance series, the Helen Shepherd Mysteries and plenty of standalone stories in multiple genres. When Cora is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.


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