Dark Space

Lisa Henry

Brady Garrett needs to go home. He’s a conscripted recruit on Defender Three, one of a network of stations designed to protect the Earth from alien attack. He's also angry, homesick, and afraid. If he doesn’t get home he’ll ...
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Brady Garrett needs to go home. He’s a conscripted recruit on Defender Three, one of a network of stations designed to protect the Earth from alien attack. He's also angry, homesick, and afraid. If he doesn’t get home he’ll lose his family, but there’s no way back except in a body bag.

Cameron Rushton needs a heartbeat. Four years ago Cam was taken by the Faceless — the alien race that almost destroyed Earth. Now he’s back, and when the doctors make a mess of getting him out of stasis, Brady becomes his temporary human pacemaker. Except they’re sharing more than a heartbeat: they’re sharing thoughts, memories, and some very vivid dreams.

Not that Brady’s got time to worry about his growing attraction to another guy, especially the one guy in the universe who can read his mind. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just biochemistry and electrical impulses. It doesn’t change the truth: Brady’s alone in the universe.

Now the Faceless are coming and there’s nothing anyone can do. You can’t stop your nightmares. Cam says everyone will live, but Cam’s probably a traitor and a liar like the military thinks. But that’s okay. Guys like Brady don’t expect happy endings.

  • Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: reference to past rape, violence.
I missed physical training, but nobody even noticed because by the time the last bell went the whole station knew that Cameron Rushton was back. It was all anyone could talk about back in my barracks.

“He’s not what people remember,” Moore said, coming out of the head with a towel wrapped around his waist. “That’s why Commander Leonski won’t announce it.”

“What do you mean he’s not what people remember?” Micallef asked. Micallef was new, a skinny sixteen-year-old with buckteeth and a homesick pallor.

Normally Moore would have ignored a newbie like Micallef, but he was just itching to tell the story. And maybe itching to scare the shit out of Micallef. “The Faceless ruined him,” he said, leaning close to Micallef and lowering his voice. “They wrote in his skin, newbie! They carved him up all over!”

Moore worked in the docking bay, so maybe he’d seen it.

Micallef went pale, and he wasn’t the only one who suddenly felt how very, very far from home we all were, spinning alone in the big black like a silver lure on a line.

“Leave him alone, Moore,” Cesari said, and he wasn’t just looking out for the newbie. Everyone was thinking the same thing: the Faceless were back.

When I got the message to go to the medical bay, the guys in the barracks all looked at me, half-afraid and half-envious, and my heart thumped.

I headed up to the med bay, hurrying along one of the station’s arms that led from the barracks in the Inner Ring to the Core. The Inner Ring was living quarters, barracks, rec rooms, refectory, and training rooms. The Core was main operations for Defender Three. It had the Dome, operations, the medical bay, administration, and underneath all that, engineering and the reactor core. Almost everyone you ran into in the Core was an officer. My arm was sore from saluting by the time I finally arrived at the medical bay.

I wondered the whole time why Doc had asked for me.

Doc had always liked me. His name was Major Layton, really, but I called him Doc. He only let a few of his students do that, and I was probably the youngest. He’d told me after my first introductory class that he’d make a decent medic out of me, and for three years he’d been making good on that threat. He said I was smart enough to be a doctor like him, but he didn’t push it. He knew I didn’t want to stay in the military any longer than I had to, and if I graduated as an officer, that would mean another five-year commitment at least. I’d rather stay on the lowest pay grade and get the hell out at the first opportunity, thanks.

When he called me to the med bay, I figured it was probably to check out some idiot who’d fallen off the climbing wall and busted his ankle. That happened at least once a month. It couldn’t be anything to do with Cameron Rushton, because Doc had at least another five doctors working under him, plus a bunch of officer cadets he was training up as doctors. I wasn’t important enough for anything big.

The doors to the med bay opened. For a moment I thought the place was deserted; then Doc appeared from one of the quarantine rooms. He was a big man. His belly pushed at the buttons of his uniform tunic. Doc was also grumpy as shit, and he frowned a lot. You wouldn’t think he’d have much of a bedside manner, and most of the military doctors didn’t, but Doc was a good guy underneath all his bluster. He’d joined late in life, after his wife died, and he didn’t hold much with all that rank bullshit. It was why I liked him so much.

He was smoking as well, even though he always threatened to kick my ass for the same thing.

“Garrett,” he said, and I knew without looking around that there were other officers nearby. Otherwise Doc just called me Brady.

“Major,” I said and gave him my best salute. Which was shit.

His eyes crinkled with a smile, but his voice was gruff. “Garrett, follow me.”

He turned and headed back into the first quarantine room.

I hated those places, and not because of the quarantine rules. In three years on Defender Three I’d only ever seen them used for one thing, and it wasn’t for disease: they were where Doc put the patients he couldn’t leave in the open ward, the ones who needed somewhere quiet to die. They were burn victims, mostly, like after the fire in the reactor. Two engineers and one recruit had died that day, or had begun to die that day. The recruit was called Smith. He’d been in some of my classes. It took him three days to die even after all his skin burned off. I sat with him for a lot of it, because his friends had been too freaked out to do it. It was after Smith died that Doc had told my career supervisor to put me into the medical stream.

I followed Doc inside, and the doors slid closed behind me with a hiss. Another air lock. I stood there with Doc while the air lock cycled through, and then we were inside the quarantine room.

There were six officers inside, including Commander Leonski who was in charge of the station. I was fairly sure he wouldn’t have known my name if it hadn’t been stitched on my uniform. There were over six hundred guys on the station, after all. I wondered what the hell I was doing in this company.

That was when I saw it. Branski had said Cameron Rushton was in stasis, and I guess I’d thought of some sort of plastic pod, all sleek and smooth and rounded, like a throwback to those old sci-fi movies. But this was nothing like that.

This was black, the same oily black as the Faceless battle armor, and it wasn’t sleek. It was bulky and misshapen. It reminded me of a beetle’s carapace. Back home in Kopa we used to get those big hissing rhinoceros beetles, with sharp mandibles and articulated legs. The stasis unit could have passed for one of those, except it was about ten feet long, lying on its back with its legs clamped around an opaque sac of fluid with veins through it. It was fucking terrifying.

Just looking at it, I could feel the blood draining from my face.

There was a body floating inside the milky fluid, and I didn’t have to ask: Cameron Rushton. It looked like he was being consumed by a giant insect, or hatched by one.

I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was grotesque. Why the hell had Doc asked me to be here for this? Whatever this was. I fought the urge to shove my shaking hands inside my pockets. I tried to remember to breathe. If I hadn’t been surrounded by a bunch of officers, I would have cut and run. No fucking question.

“Is this Garrett?” one of the officers asked. He had the stripes of a lieutenant commander on his sleeve, but his arms were crossed over the chest of his plain gray fatigues, and I couldn’t read his name.

In my experience it was never a good thing when a ranking officer asked someone to confirm your name. That was normally the first step to spending a while in the brig. I’d got there twice before in three years, both times for fighting. Six hundred guys, no girls, locked in a tin can in space: everyone spent time in the brig.

“In the flesh,” Doc drawled and clapped me on the shoulder.

“You’re a medic?” the lieutenant commander asked me, drawing his brows together keenly.

I don’t know where I found my voice, or how I tore my gaze away from the Faceless unit.

“Not yet, sir,” I told the lieutenant commander, straightening my shoulders. “I still have three months before I complete my training.”

He waved it away like it didn’t matter, and I wondered again why the hell I was there. Why did they want a medic anyway? I could strap an ankle, I could treat blisters and cuts, and I could, in theory, plug a sucking chest wound well enough to evac a guy back to a medical bay, but what the hell was I doing in a quarantine room looking at some sorry bastard in a Faceless stasis unit? It was way above my level of training. Hell, it was probably way above Doc’s as well.

But nobody told me.

“Take a look, Garrett,” Doc said and pushed me forward.

Shit no.

My stomach clenched and churned.

My skin crawled. I didn’t want to be in the same room with the unit, let alone close enough to touch. I didn’t want to get closer. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to be in my barracks. I wanted to be a million miles away, with the sun at my back and my feet in the dirt. Not here. Not in the black, in the cold, with a nightmare right in front of me.

The unit hummed like a living thing, and I couldn’t shake the idea that if I got too close, it would suddenly attack. One of those mandibles would detach from the sac in a split second and stab me right through the guts. It would be like every horror movie I’d ever seen. Maybe that’s why all those officers wanted me there. I was their test bunny.

I looked back at Doc.

Please. Please don’t make me.

He waved me forward.

I moved closer to the unit, the soles of my boots squeaking on the floor. The unit was inky black. I could see my reflection in it, more or less: a pale face with big, scared eyes and a bad haircut.

Keep it together, Garrett.

I reached out and touched the bug. It was warm underneath my trembling fingers. It was smooth. It even felt like a carapace. I couldn’t see a power source, but I could feel power humming through it, below the seamless outer casing. I ran my palms over it, just to be sure it wouldn’t move. Then I raised myself up onto the toes of my boots and took a look inside at Cameron Rushton.

A pallid face lay close to the surface of the opaque fluid.

It was the most famous face of my generation’s war, a face I’d seen a hundred times on posters and TV. Immersed in that milky fluid, Cameron Rushton’s face was pale, paler than mine, and thin and angular as though the skin was stretched too tight across the bones of his skull. His eyes were closed; dark lashes lay against his cheeks. There was a tiny bubble caught between the lashes of his left eye. I found myself reaching out to wipe it away. I stopped myself before I touched the sac. Shit. My heart raced. What the hell was I thinking?

Cameron Rushton was naked. He looked like a corpse. Were they sure he was alive? How could they be sure?

I turned around, and all the officers were staring at me.

“What do you think, Garrett?” Doc asked me.

“Is he dead, Major?” I asked, my voice wavering. I thought I could see his body moving slightly, rippling almost, but maybe that was the power thrumming through the unit. What the fuck did I know about Faceless technology?

Doc came and stood beside me. “Touch it.”

You fucking touch it.

Doc winked at me. The gesture was so out of place, so fucking absurd when we were standing beside a piece of humming Faceless technology that could be anything, that could mean we were already dead, that I almost laughed. I caught the laugh before it broke free, smothered it into a cough, and then remembered that this was terrifying.

“Go on,” Doc murmured. “It’s okay, Brady.”

How the hell could he know that? I made a face at him that the other officers couldn’t see and reached out to touch the sac. It was warm. It bowed under my fingertips like a bladder of water, and I pulled back like I’d been stung.

“What is it?” I asked, keeping my voice low. “Is it like, um, amniotic fluid?”

Doc breathed smoke in my face and shrugged. “I’ve got no fucking idea, Brady. Never seen anything like this before.”

I pretended to look at the carapace again and squeezed my eyes shut instead. “Why am I here, Doc?”

“Touch it again,” Doc said. “Put your palm on it.”

Three years in the military had taught me you never get a straight answer.

I pressed my palm against the sac. It pulsed slightly, like it really was amniotic fluid, like there really was a heartbeat echoing through it. And then Cameron Rushton moved.

His hand came up, palm upward, and pressed against mine. Right against it, like he knew it was there even though he hadn’t opened his eyes. The weird rubbery skin of the sac slid between our palms.

“Jesus!” I jumped back again, my heart racing and my throat dry. My guts felt like a pan of water. I wanted to vomit. That was it: that was my horror movie moment.

Doc grabbed my arm. “Watch.”

And holy crap, Moore hadn’t been lying. He glowed. Cameron Rushton glowed. Writing appeared on his torso, a line of alien characters that went from his ribs down to his hip like they’d been carved deep into his flesh. They glowed silver against his pale skin. Like starlight.

“What is it?” I asked as the characters faded away into nothing.

Doc shrugged. “No idea.”

“Shit, Doc,” I whispered, “why am I here?”

Doc smiled at me grimly. “Because it’s time to wake Sleeping Beauty.”

You never get a straight answer.

Copyright © Lisa Henry


Customer Reviews

Original story and great writing Review by Elena
The writing in this book is great, the story is original and the MCs and their relationship are complex and interesting enough that I kept turning page after page just to see how it would all turn out.
I liked that, despite sharing a telepathic connection, there was still space for doubts and misunderstanding between them. Just because they could read each other’s minds, it didn’t mean that it was all out in the open and easy.
The story is told in Brady’s POV and at times it made for a depressing mood, but it also made it more worth it when something finally went well.
Apart for some minor things, I really enjoyed this one and I wish it was longer. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
(Posted on 6/22/2016)
This was a stunning story—I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Review by BJ
Lovely sci-fi story. Intriguing premise, wonderful writing that dragged me right into the action and didn’t let me go. Awesome world-building. But overall it was the characters that blew me away. Such nuance! The telepathy between the two main characters was handled beautifully. Cam’s face and reputation had drilled into Brady’s mind. But everyone had given him up for dead. Now he’s not only back among the living, but connected to Brady. In his head. Heart beats synced. But really… imagine having to share your head with a sexy, poster boy soldier emerging from a traumatic experience that you yourself could never have endured.

For me, this story showed so clearly how two people often react so completely differently to the same experience. How they handle it and deal with it in ways that the other may even find hard to understand. While one person may come through an event mostly unscathed and may even look back and see the positives that came from it, another may come away severely damaged. Cam came through the traumatic events with Kai-Ren and the faceless, but Brady clearly would not have been able to do the same.

Despite the dark elements of this story (prior non-con for both main characters, scary, no terrifying, aliens, and even the death of secondary character) and the dismal dystopian world in which it’s set, the relationship that develops between these two MCs is amazingly sweet and their sex nurturing as well as sizzling hot. The angst was handled perfectly.

For those who don’t believe in gay-for-you, give this one a try. It might change your mind. That element was excellently handled. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Brady didn’t have any lengthy self-hating, but analyzed and accepted what he was feeling. Heck, every element was excellently handled. This was a stunning story—I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
(Posted on 12/24/2015)
4 stars = I REALLY liked this book! Review by asgoodrich
Dark Space is the second book I have read by Ms. Henry and I enjoyed it immensely. Although it didn’t affect me as strongly as Bliss did, I’m actually quite relieved by that fact because the plausibility of that book freaked me out. As I find it much easier to dismiss the idea of aliens (and by dismiss I mean pretend they don’t exist, not deny their existence), I was able to immerse myself within the world she created for Brady and Cam and experience it right along with them.

I really liked Brady and that he was a survivor. No matter what was thrown at him, he kept moving forward regardless of his fear and there was a LOT for him to be afraid of. Although there were times his fear of a situation was nearly crippling, he did what he had to do and, despite his low opinion of himself, he was quite adept at letting his instincts lead him when they should. Were it not for Brady’s instincts, Cam would not have survived his return from their alien enemy. That Brady’s instincts not only saved Cam’s life but also forged a telepathic connection between the two men made for a really interesting twist to the story. Brady had a front row seat to some of Cam’s best and worst memories and their being forced to live together to insure Cam’s continued survival meant they learned a lot about themselves and one another. We quickly learn that Cam is gay and Brady finds Cam’s memories both disconcerting and arousing. Until Cam, Brady had never been attracted to a man and he was at a loss as to whether the attraction was real or a by-product of their connection. Fortunately Brady did not ponder that fact for long and the reader is treated to some hot man-on-man action.

Because Brady had a very fatalistic attitude when it came to the Faceless (the alients) and their impending arrival, he considered any relationship between him and Cam as temporary. This mindset enabled him to give all of himself to Cam – after all, you can’t suffer a broken heart if you’ll be dead soon. His attitude and their shared connection caused Brady to fall for Cam quickly, even though he knew Cam was hiding something from him. And when the secret Cam was keeping was revealed, I was just as surprised as Brady was, but not nearly as surprised as I was by what Brady endured after that. If anyone had a right to feel like the universe’s toilet, Brady did. The best part of Dark Space is that while the book had a satisfying conclusion, it is only the conclusion for this chapter of Brady and Cam’s lives. Ms. Henry left the story open for the next book without leaving readers dangling from a cliff. I, for one, cannot wait until the next book in the Dark Space series is released so I can find out what happens next to them.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Reviewed by Angela at Crystal's Many Reviewers!
(Posted on 3/17/2015)
Incredible Review by Christy
"I sat there on the flooded floor of the isolation room, with my arms wrapped around a slimy war hero wearing nothing but a blanket, wondering if I was a dead man or not."

'Dark Space' is my first experience with a science-fiction book by Lisa Henry. It's a genre that is near and dear to my heart, as I started reading it at a very young age. So, to combine that love with an author I've come to admire, respect, and adore, almost had me needing a paper bag a few times while reading. Seriously. I got so excited, I practically hyperventilated. Luckily for y'all, I managed to keep my cool so I could write my review.

This is not an easy review to write, no matter how much I loved the book. There is a lot of information, although the author makes it appear seamless, and a huge potential for spoilers, which I'm reluctant to divulge. So, I'm going to start with the two main characters. Brady Garrett is three years into his ten year military term, which began at sixteen when he was conscripted, and stationed on Defender Three. Can you imagine being a scared, sixteen-year-old kid, suddenly stationed out in space, where you can't see the sun, all you can see is black, and you feel as if there's practically nothing between you, and getting sucked out into the void. Cameron Rushton was twenty-two four years ago, a lieutenant, and a pilot for the military, when his transport was attacked by the Faceless, all members killed, and Cam taken hostage. Suddenly, Cam has been returned, in a strange Faceless technology pod, and no one knows what to do.

"Was it weird that I was starting to enjoy the little spikes of lust that thrilled through him when we touched? That thrilled through us? I liked the way he looked at me. I liked the way his touch made my heart beat a little faster. I liked the way he needed me. I liked the way I was important to him."

In the military officers’ infinite wisdom (cough, cough), they decide to cut into the pod to release Cam. They almost end up killing him. It is Brady who deduces that touching Cam synchronizes their electrical impulses, and, essentially, makes Brady a battery to run Cam's heart. So, Brady's new job is staying close to Cam, keeping him alive. Unfortunately, they're sharing thoughts, emotions, feelings, and dreams, or in Cam's case, nightmares about his time with the Faceless. When one man's body reacts to a thought or an emotion, the other's does too, eliminating all secrets. Now, these two men may have been born and raised in the same area, but Brady is the dirt poor side, while Cameron had a wealthier upbringing with more advantages. So basically, not a lot in common. It's incredible, then, to watch what they each bring to the other.

"You’re all this place has ever given me, LT. You mean more to me than you should, so why can’t I believe you when you tell me I’m not going to die? What are you keeping from me?"

It's cemented, now. Lisa Henry is one of my go-to authors for all things fantastic. This was such an exciting book in many ways, but, at least for me, due to the character study between these two men. The majority of the book involves their thoughts, feelings, growing relationship, as they, essentially, share one mind. Cam's knowledge of the Faceless, and his shame at how he acquired it, along with Cam's utter certainty that they want peace, but only if the humans cooperate and sign a treaty, is a constant lurking awareness for the both of them.

An incredible book! Thank you, Lisa, for this remarkable story, with the wowzer of an ending.

NOTE: This book was provided by Losse Id for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews.
(Posted on 12/12/2014)
5 times all the stars in the universe Review by Marte
Read this book!

That is all.

I was rendered speechless.



From my review on Goodreads. Click to see review with gifs and status updates from the book.
(Posted on 10/27/2014)
Erotic Sci-fi Layered with Awesome Review by fridge
There are very few novels that leave me as speechless as this one. It’s such a page-turner I had to read it twice just to find my critical voice, and even so, I’m still in love. You have brilliant writing, an immersive world, and a balanced dose of sexuality.

It’s sexy and dark and steeped in social commentary. Highly recommended for anyone looking for graphic science fiction that follows through on its premise.

Full review at: http://entropyalarmreviews.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/dark-space-by-lisa-henry/
(Posted on 9/29/2014)
Extremely Hot Sci-Fi Romance Review by gigi
For reasons I can't quite figure out, I'm not a big fan of M/M romance sci-fi. But this one really did it for me and didn't muck my brain up too badly with freakishly spelled "alien" words to throw me out of the story. The MCs were hot, even if MC Garrett was a bit on the young side, and angst was very genuine and actually teetered on too much, hence the 4 stars instead of 5, and the sex was mindbogglingly hot. I enjoyed the story line and the HEA was very satisfying.

Fans of M/M romance, angst and sci-fi, this one is definitely for you! Highly recommended
(Posted on 8/5/2014)

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