Mid Week Tease: Two to Tango #MWTease #MidWeekTease
Happy Hump Day! Let’s celebrate it with another wonderful Mid Week Tease, courtesy of the lovely and talented Sandra Bunino. This week, I’ll be sharing a teaser from my current WIP, a M/M SF erotic caper story titled Two to Tango. I’m also doing something a little different this week, in that this isn’t an explicitly erotic tease — you actually get to see Rory in action, and how he met Dmitri.
Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
Rory MacLellan, aka the Highlander, is one of the most successful interstellar art thieves out there. He’s careful, professional, and plans his heists down to the microsecond. So when he runs into a suicidal museum worker during his latest job, he has no choice but to stun the man and rescue him from certain death, because he’ll be damned if he gets blamed for the man’s murder.
Dmitri Grigoryev was an up-and-coming exoarchaeologist until a disastrous dig left his career in tatters. Hungry, broke, and about to be laid off from the only job he’s been able to find in the last three years, he never expected a dashing thief to come along and ruin his suicide by saving his life.
With interstellar police on their tail, Rory and Dmitri reluctantly join forces for a major heist. But will their simmering attraction get in the way, or pull them even closer?
Rory MacLellan loved this part of a heist.
Grinning, he slipped down the darkened access hallway towards the target. The worn industrial carpet deadened the sound of his footsteps, not that there was anyone around to hear them tonight.
Not unless they really wanted to die.
He checked his heads up display, noting the time. Less than twenty minutes before airtight bulkhead doors would slam down throughout the Novy Vladivostok Museum of Art and History. The atmosphere would then be sucked out of the entire building, replaced with a sterilizing gas designed to kill vermin and artifact-destroying bacteria. The fact that the gas would also kill any humans still in the building guaranteed that the museum would be empty.
As far as he was concerned, the museum higher-ups couldn’t have picked a better time to do their yearly sterilization sweep. Their new exhibit Other Worlds, Other Gods was scheduled to go on display tomorrow, and its star attraction, a fist-sized chunk of pure opal known as the Eye of the Mother, was tonight’s prize.
He’d already done the tricky part; bribing underpaid planetary border agents for access, parking his cloaked skimship on the roof of the museum, and using a worm app to open a hole in museum security. The actual break-in activities were much simpler. A mimetic bodysuit and helmet took on the pattern of whatever was behind him and diverted body heat to sinks in the boot soles, rendering him effectively invisible to both standard and infrared cameras. His faceplate, doubling as a heads up display, turned the shadowy hallway into a brightly lit corridor. All the tools he’d need for safecracking and related activities were securely stored in a mimetic bag on his hip.
Now he just had to get to the museum’s workroom, pick its electronic lock, break into the safe there, retrieve the Eye of the Mother, and get out before sterilization commenced. Easy.
Still grinning, he reached the workroom door and pulled out a small black cylinder with a rubbery grey end from his bag. Pushing the rubbery bit against the lock, he waited until the smartgel sussed out the electronic code. A loud click sounded and he eased open the door, sliding through the gap into the workroom. A sudden flash of light made him wince. His faceplate cut in, compensating for the unexpected glow from a workstation lamp.
Rory tsked. Wasting energy was just sloppy. “Molly, room schematic,” he sub-vocalized.
“Coming up, sir.” The HUD now showed a graphic overlay of the workroom, and a glowing red outline in the far left corner indicated the safe. “May I remind you that you have eighteen minutes to complete your retrieval before sterilization commences.”
“Yup, I know.” The countdown in the lower left corner of the HUD was impossible to ignore.
“Your bodysuit will protect you from the gas, but all exits will automatically seal and I will not be able to re-open the roof hatch.”
“You’ll be a sitting duck when museum security returns in the morn—“
“Molly. Stop telling me what can go wrong.”
A beat of blessed silence. “Sorry, sir.”
Rory rolled his eyes. His ship AI was the finest in the business and the closest thing he had to a best friend, but sometimes she really chapped his nads. “Moving to the safe now.”
Dr. Dmitri Grigoryev sat at his workstation, ignoring his headache and the painful growl in his midsection. He’d hoped that some of his coworkers had left some food in the employee lounge. Even a sealie of chips or a stale sandwich would have been nice. But they’d cleared everything out in advance of the sterilization.
So he would die hungry. At least it’ll only be for a little while longer. After that, it’s up to God. Assuming that whatever deity there was, if there was one, took pity on someone like him.
He went over the workstation again, tidying the tools, putting everything in its place. There wasn’t much to do, really, but he was a stickler about keeping his personal spaces neat. He’d already cleaned out his locker, and his suicide note was logged in the system to be delivered to the museum director at six AM, long after the sterilizing gas had done its job.
There would be an investigation into how he’d gotten into the building, of course. Security had already done their pre-sterilization sweep, and the place was supposed to be locked down tight to guard against any accidental deaths. Fortunately for him, one of the friendlier security guards had showed him how to get around the entry codes a few months after he’d started. “Tired of having to come rescue you folks when you lock yourselves out,” he’d said, giving Dmitri the bypass instructions.
Of course, he’d wanted a little something in return. And ignoring the roiling self-disgust in his belly, Dmitri had gone along with it. Compared to three years ago, a quick fuck in the loading dock was nothing. At least the guard had fed him, too. He sometimes thought it was a shame the guard had gotten married soon afterwards and left the museum. If nothing else, he could have used the free food.
Absently, he wondered if anyone else should be notified about his death. His family … no. And he had no real friends. He toyed with the idea of sending a copy of his note to Joss and Helene, but finally decided against it. If they still remembered him after three years, they’d probably feel relieved that he was dead. And the last thing he wanted them to feel was relief.
Something wet trickled down his face. It took him a moment to realize he was crying. He felt numb inside, so why would he be crying? It didn’t make sense. He swiped a sleeve across his eyes, the cheap fabric of his coveralls smearing the water more than absorbing it. His stomach rumbled again painfully, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten since the day before. What was it? A biscuit? It didn’t matter. A few more minutes, and he wouldn’t have to worry about anything anymore.
He took a deep breath, trying to imagine what it would feel like when the searing gas entered his lungs. Would it feel like drowning, or breathing fire? And how long would it take for him to die? He was so wrapped up in his oncoming death, he almost ignored the soft noise behind him.
Then he heard a second sound, a metallic ka-clink.
Turning in his chair, he stared at the cheap room dividers that separated the workstations from the larger cleaning zones and the workroom vault, a sizable walk-in space located in the far corner. Normally the vault was used to store rare items that were undergoing restoration or pieces that were being prepared for display.
Wasn’t something going on display tomorrow? The Eye of something? He’d caught a glimpse of it over the shoulder of his manager that very morning, a fist-sized chunk of carved black opal from some planet on the outer Rim.
Frowning, he stood and went over to the room dividers, peering around the edge. The cleaning zones were fairly dim, and his night vision was nonexistent thanks to the lamp on his workstation. But he could still see the vault door. It was closed.
Idiot. He’d been imagining things, illusions most likely brought on by hunger and lightheadedness. He turned to go back to his workstation.
Then turned back. There, against the far wall, something moved. A vague outline, almost like a heat haze on a hot day.
A man-shaped outline.
A burst of anger-fueled adrenaline surged through him. He remembered the security lectures from his first days there, how modern art thieves used mimetic technology to break into buildings and remove artifacts. Of course a thief would pick the time right before sterilization to steal something.
You greedy bastard. You couldn’t just let me die in peace, could you? A giddy sense of outrage joined the adrenaline, and he clenched his fists. Fine.
If he was going to die in that miserable place, at least he could take a thieving honor guard with him.
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