(The following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Grown Men, released by Riptide Publishing)
Runt had almost turned toward the habitat when the huge bundle jerked and curled like a monstrous metallic worm.
Runt’s shout sent a few surviving moths fluttering from the bluish palm trees. He fell to the ground and scrabbled back on his ass toward the heavy-duty submachete still planted nearby. Noisy, but the only accessible weapon.
The resurfacing tarp moved again, a wriggle all along its length, something packed alongside the fabric.
Something alive stuffed inside the sack.
What the hell could be that big?
Hogs, dogs, humans . . .
His recruiter had warned him that, if he didn’t meet their terraform schedule, forcible termination was likely. Fuck. His numbers were shit and he was behind schedule.
I’m a dead man.
After a scant eighteen months, they’d finally sent his retirement plan in a corporate Trojan Horse, the cracked container packed with terraformer nibbles, and he’d fallen for it like a hungry idiot.
HardCell means business.
Runt realized HardCell had sent a new pair of terraformers stashed in foam to retire and replace him. Duh. Runt was undersized and had been trapped working solo.
All that’s theirfood.
Legs braced to pounce, Runt gripped the whirring submachete and circled the enormous squirming life-support duffel. He could see big angled bumps like limbs inside straining hard at the closure.
The reflective packaging moved again and one of its occupants gave a bass groan. Transport anesthesia wearing off. With a tearing sound, the flex-wrap split, and one gigantic hairy arm clawed at the sand a moment as Runt’s assassin struggled free from the life-support sack and the silvered fabric.
A man, large enough to be two people, but no mate.
Because he’s too oversized to share a stasis sleeve.
Huge. Naked. Drugged. Alone.
Runt goggled in confusion as the superhuman body squirmed out of the shiny canvas like a colossal larva to flop on the sand and gulp the briny air.
I sat on him. I ate a mealpak sitting on my executioner.
Runt circled nearer, submachete by his side with the safety off. He took a step. He took another one.
Still shivering from the drugs and the bruising impact, the strapping stranger didn’t react. He twitched and curled on the hot ground, heaving.
Fuck, he’s huge. Runt took another wary step. He’s a fucking mutant.
The stranger unfolded his limbs and rolled onto his side. His bulging arms were longer than Runt’s legs. His broad back was a shifting wall of muscle over a high, square ass. His flaccid penis hung like some kind of blunt trunk.
Runt knew he had about a thirty-second window as the transport tranquilizers wore off. If he was going to kill his replacement, this was the only moment. The submachete whirred softly in Runt’s calloused hand a few centimeters above the ground as he crept.
Closer . . . closer.
Runt’s mouth hardened into a scowl under his salt-stiff mustache. If he slaughtered this circus clone now, he could claim the goon had died on entry like his long-lost wife.
The groggy giant gasped and spat, then rolled onto all fours, his head hanging. He shuddered, and drool ran from his mouth. He had close-cropped tawny hair, bronzed skin, and a stubbled face that looked like it had seen plenty of fights.
He’s a killer.
Brawny slabs of military-grade synthetic muscle covered his frame. Maybe not a full clone, but growth hormones out the wazoo, obviously. The broad paw spread on the ground had a palm bigger than Runt’s entire face.
Don’t look at him.
Runt’s eyes scanned for the sweet spots: throat, kidney, groin. He raised the humming submachete, his hand sweaty on the gel grip. He glanced up at the habitat, his crop terraces, the little kingdom he’d built by himself for eighteen months a millimeter at a time.
Retire him now.
Suddenly, the troll turned his head and looked right into Runt’s eyes and simply smiled in relief . . . as if greeting an old friend. A small smile . . . no triumph, no cruelty, a faint hopeful curve of childlike pleasure which dampened Runt’s murderous thoughts. As if the big dumb freak was happy to be naked and puking on the sand at the ass-end of the universe.
A human smile after so long.
Released 30 October 2011 by Riptide Publishing
Copyright 2011. Damon Suede. All Rights Reserved.
Damon Suede gives us vivid, descriptive images and a uniquely fascinating new world in Grown Men.
Dark Diva Reviews
rown Men, Mr. Suede has built an unique and fascinating world where corporate greed is number one and people are second. Add in Runt’s distinctive way with words and I was hooked from beginning to end.
The Reader's Roundtable
I became an instant Damon Suede fan with his first m/m novel, Hot Head. He has followed that spectacular debut with something completely different, a Sci-fi novella Grown Men with elements of Robinson Crusoe, GLBT romance, and Survivor all rolled into one. I happen to be a fan of Sci-fi so that is what initially attracted me to this book, but there is so much more to it than an outer space adventure or a futuristic escapade.
Runt has had a hard life. He grew up on the streets, and now as an employee of Hard Cell, he's been dumped on a desolate planet to assist in terraforming efforts. His clone wife died, so he's all alone. He's struggling to survive when Ox shows up amidst a cargo drop. Terrifyingly huge, mute, and emitting pheromones that confuse Runt, is Ox here to kill him or save him?
Grown Men is certainly different! The setting is intriguing and well-developed for a short story. You can't help but empathize with poor Runt. He's never gotten a break. He's undersized, orphaned, and in debt to Hard Cell. He just wants citizenship and a stake in the planet he's helping terraform. But everything seems to go wrong as he's doing the work of two people all alone. Somehow he still keeps a hopeful, optimistic attitude. When Ox arrives, though, everything changes. Ox is huge and cannot speak. He is an enigma, and as events unfold Runt gets even more confused. They're an unlikely pair, but you'll be rooting for them before long.
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