Book 2 of Chrysalis Corporation
The Titan. The largest battleship to exist and the place where fighter pilot Damion was sure he’d die beside his lover, Requiem, a human-AI hybrid. Their ship is set to explode in seconds—but when the countdown ends, they find themselves at the mercy of the rebel leader, Athena. She offers help, but Damion knows it won’t come for free.
What is he willing to do to ensure Requiem’s survival and liberate him from the Corporation that holds his fate in their hands? In the belly of the Titan, Damion faces the worst parts of himself and must finally decide what to do about his feelings for Requiem. If he accepts the resistance leader’s offer, his path could lead him places he never expected—or to a bloody end.
Cover Artist: Tiferet Design
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: DSP Publications
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Forbidden Love, Gay for You / Straight to Gay, Hurt / Comfort, In Uniform, Slow Burning Love
Setting: In future space, on a battleship called The Titan
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Saturday October 22, 455 MC
Zodiac Hermes, 1001 GMT
Juni Mathis yawned as he circled the Hermes back toward the Zeus, letting the Ares take point on leading the Olympus toward its security ships. He rested his head back and took in the vessel they all lived within. The Zeus was the largest battleship in the Chrysalis Corporation military fleet. The Corporation controlled everything from Earthside—research satellites, Pluto—and the Zeus was the flagship and symbol of their complete power. It also housed more than one thousand people, military employees and their families.
“Hermes?” Qyuin called over the comm. Along with being a fellow Alpha, Qyuin was a friend, although not as close a friend as Damion.
“We have twelve hours until our next Sims.”
Juni chuckled, having a good idea where Qyuin was going with this line of conversation.
“Oh, whatever shall we do with all that down time?” he drawled, tossing a look over his shoulder to his Core. The dark-skinned man had his eyes closed and looked damn near dead, but Juni knew better. 108 was lost in the miasma of information known as the system. He would love to have some alone time with 108, but he couldn’t voice that particular thought out loud.
Except for Damion and his Core, 47, aka Requiem, no one knew that Juni and 108 were in a sexual relationship beyond what a Fighter should have with a Core. The Corporation didn’t care if you used your Core for sexual release; that was one of a Core’s many purposes. However, to have feelings for the human beings that some viewed as nothing more than a screwdriver could get you in trouble. It could even lead to a court martial. Tampering with a Core’s primary programming was not allowed, because the temptation to take them off their supplements and encourage freedom and emotions was dangerous. Juni had done some reading. Research showed that in the rare cases when a Core had been taken off their supplements and then put back on them, sociopathic tendencies had resulted.
Within the Corporation, hurting a Core incurred a slap on the wrist compared to the punishment you could receive for allowing a Core to feel. So they kept their secrets, and 108 and 47 could only be their true selves behind the doors of their quarters.
“I’m thinking we meet up in my quarters with Shamey and Rogers,” Qyuin said, shaking Juni out of his thoughts and back to reality.
“Give me two hours to catch a nap and I’ll bring the bottle my dad just sent me.” Juni’s father was a high-ranking businessman for the Corporation, stationed out of Juni’s home, Lunar. The alcohol there was high-end—as was everything Father sent, for that matter.
“I’ll try not to take all your money.” Qyuin’s laugh came through the comm. “Actually, it’s usually Damion.”
“He’ll be back soon and take all our money, unless we get him really drunk first.”
Juni heard the comm click off and chuckled as the Jupiter buzzed close by them. Patrol was pointless since the Betas were always eager to get out. But Juni knew it was an excuse for the Alphas to put their personal Zodiacs through their paces and have a bit of fun. Alphas were the only pilots chosen by a Core. The choice was rumored to be made on strictly performance and scores, not personality. Cores and pilots had to work in sync to be able to pilot one of the ships built for them—elite killing machines when the right pilot and Core were paired. Juni had helped Damion rescue 108, and then in a day, he was chosen to be an Alpha.
Juni hadn’t expected to hit Alpha status for years after arriving on the Zeus, but when 108 fell into his lap—almost literally—he was immediately promoted. Only Alphas flew with Cores. The Betas had Cores that were stationed on the bridge of the Zeus and only communicated through relays.
“Hey, 108.” Juni turned again to look at his Core. His flight chair was back-to-back with 108’s control chair, so he could really only see the top of 108’s head, but he’d take what he could get. “We’re supposed to be docking here damn soon. Anything you want to run through?”
“Negative. I have no experiments to commence at this time.” 108’s voice was soft, barely audible, and husky as if he rarely used it. And he pretty much never did. He always spoke with as few words as possible to relay information.
“Anything you want to do before the guys steal all my money?” Juni knew he treated his Core with a bit more appreciation than most Alphas did, and the change was because of how Damion treated 47, how he was beginning to see a bit more human behind 108’s eyes. Damion had a dangerous protective streak when it came to 47. Hell, Damion had even named the Core, because he thought calling his lover by his designation number was too impersonal.
Juni had pulled back 108’s supplemental meals, and so far, this had escaped notice of the other Alphas and Creators. Creators were the curators and monitors of the Cores. The Cores were fed meals meant to keep them emotionally stagnant. The idea was that the less the Cores felt, the more they could integrate, control, and manipulate the systems within the Zodiacs and other computers. Technology was cold and analytical; therefore Cores had to be as well. Juni didn’t understand how it worked—hell, no one really did. Nor did they question it. All Juni knew was that in his experience with 108, having emotions hadn’t affected his Core’s relationship with the system in the least.
108 was silent for a few minutes, concentrating on the scans and all the intricate systems in the Hermes as they made their way back to the Zeus. “As I will not be accompanying you to Fighter Qyuin’s quarters, I am planning to… take a shower and go over a few simulations that 47 has assigned to me.”
While 108 had come a long way since he bonded with Juni, he was still very shy, especially when it came to intimacy between them. It was as if he was constantly waiting for the floor in the Zodiac to fall out from below him, expelling him into the cold vacuum of space. Of course, so was Juni. The sudden sexual relationship between them had come as just as much of a surprise to Juni as it had to 108. And while he had developed feelings for the Core, it only made things even more confusing. So as with most things that Juni didn’t understand, he ignored it and simply enjoyed whatever it was they had at the moment.
“Unless you have other orders, of course,” 108 carefully added.
“You in the mood for some food?” Juni asked as they looped around to the open docking door. “We clear to pull in?”
“We are authorized to dock in slot thirty-six,” 108 reported, and then added softly, “and yes, I should consume sustenance.”
Juni ducked under another Zodiac and then dropped down to access their docking slip. “Want to finish off those sweet-and-sour treats Mom sent?”
A twitch of a smile flickered over 108’s lips. It was easier for him to accept emotion than 47, for some unknown reason, but there was still a learning curve. “While the confections cannot be perceived as sustenance, they would be agreeable.”
Juni remained quiet as the Hermes completed the docking process and his Core finished the sequences for shutdown. He pulled his helmet off and placed it on the control panel before running his fingers through his blond hair, pushing the sweat-dampened strands out of his blue eyes. When the ship’s canopy opened, he reached out to begin his short climb up to the walkway via the ladder within the Zodiac. As his gloved hand touched metal, he pulled himself onto the platform. “Hurry up in there,” he called to 108, stretching to relieve himself of the kinks in his body that came from sitting too long. “You would sleep in the damned ship if I let you.”
“It would be sufficient,” the Core replied as he appeared at the top hatch of the Hermes, soon joining Juni on the catwalk. He looked at Juni out of the corner of his slate-gray eyes, the smile twitching at his lips again. “But not as warm.”
“I’m not sure what they do to make you guys like the computers so much, and I don’t think I want to know.” Juni waved a hand, motioning for them to start moving.
108 followed with his head bowed. “I believe you already have the answer to that particular question.”
Juni only nodded in reply as they started the long walk out of the docks and toward their room. He remembered Damion talking about how Requiem was bred in the tanks. His friend even mentioned kids being taken from pleasure colonies at infancy to be made into Cores. Cores were apparently the Corporation’s solution to poverty and maintaining population control. Instead of an overabundance of people, there were now less people and more slaves. Although the Cores weren’t outright called such, that was how the general population thought of them. Slaves was actually one of the kinder terms used.
Juni’s stomach knotted up tight as his thoughts wandered. He had grown up in the best area of Lunar, in the heart of the Corporation world, and had only seen the good. The Corporation gave them all structure. It kept balance.
It also made humans into Cores. Living machines. Emotionless, perfect slaves.
He let out a weary sigh as he walked into their room, wondering when he’d changed from an oblivious rich boy to a man who hated the very system that had given his family all that wealth he used to take for granted.
108 didn’t speak until the door was closed. “You are thinking of something serious.”
Their quarters were identical to Damion and 47’s. One full-size bed with a bookshelf embedded in the wall at the head of it, a two-sided closet, bathroom, small two-seater table, a couch, vid wall, and of course, 108’s capsule. But their room was much messier than Damion’s. 108 attempted to pick up after Juni, but that had proven early on to be a fairly useless endeavor. Juni was used to having a maid who did nothing but clean, and despite his years in the military, that part of him hadn’t changed. 108 had other duties to attend to and couldn’t devote as much time to cleaning as the space really needed. Despite the futility, 108 attempted to tidy up now anyway, removing a few items of clothing thrown haphazardly on the small couch and taking them to the laundry chute.
Juni sank into the empty space 108 had cleared and began to remove his boots, shaking his head. “The more I think about all this damn drama with 47 and Damion, the more I hate myself.”
“I do not understand. Why would you be displeased with yourself?” 108 questioned, walking back to the couch.
“It all felt normal. Seeing Cores pick Fighters, but the Fighters are the ones who call the shots. I grew up thinking everything was done to help. I never questioned where Cores came from or what you had to go through to be created. I was told at one point that Cores were people who had volunteered to become what you are. Another time I was told that it was a type of punishment chosen by criminals to avoid the death penalty or being shipped off to a penal colony.” Juni paused and reached for his Core’s wrist. “I didn’t know what you had to go through.”
The more Juni thought about the abuse the majority of Cores had to live with, the worse he felt. His father had believed Cores were soulless bodies with no emotions or desires of their own. He’d said they should be treated as the empty vessels they were, and not to think any further on the matter. Juni had done just that, and his dreams of flying had come true. But it had taken Damion saving 108 from a physically and sexually abusive sadist and then dropping him into Juni’s lap for Juni to get what he’d wanted.
Juni had only needed to be the right friend at the right time, and now he was an Alpha.
“Sit next to me,” he asked his Core softly, tugging gently at 108’s wrist.
108 kept his gaze directly on the floor as he slowly lowered himself onto the couch to comply. “My previous… history was not any fault of your own. Additionally, it has been proven that an offspring’s views are affected by his upbringing and the influence of his guardians.”
“Don’t say that around my dad. He thinks I’m too soft.” Juni chuckled as he moved his hand from 108’s wrist to the top of the Core’s thigh. “I just wanted to say thanks.”
108 raised his eyes to meet his Fighter’s before placing his hand on top of Juni’s. “What is your gratitude for?”
His previous dark thoughts dissipated. “I’m not sure. Surviving? Giving me the Hermes? Fuck if I know.”
He was still confused about what was going on with him and 108. He had gotten plastered and slept with the dark-skinned Core one time. But then it happened again a few days after that, and now it was a semiregular occurrence. Juni came from a nice upper-class Corporation-loyal family. A proper spouse and kids were just expected. He had grown up thinking about grabbing that perfect girl and showing her off to his stuck-up cousins.
Now here he was, sitting in a Fighter’s uniform instead of a tux and leaning forward to kiss 108 without even hesitating. He might still be confused about the nature of their relationship, but it wasn’t going to keep Juni or 108 from enjoying it.
108’s fingers twitched on top of Juni’s as he leaned into the kiss, his body immediately relaxing against his Fighter’s. In the beginning, on Lunar, he had been pliable to Juni’s inebriated, fumbling hands because it had been what was expected of him. But then Juni, even in his drunken stupor, had informed him if he didn’t wish to be touched, he could go free and Juni would never touch 108 again. It was the first decision, besides picking his own Fighter, he had ever been given the opportunity to make on his own. He had a choice, and giving in to Juni was a huge step that had not only gotten them to where they were now, but had started a positive change within him that benefited Juni as well.
And 108 had come a long way from that first night. He now knew without a shadow of a doubt that Juni would never harm him, would never abuse him, and never, ever rape him. Additionally, Juni would not make him do anything he did not want to do. He listened to what 108 had to say and made his own suggestions and observations. However, that’s all they were, suggestions. 108 was his own person now, a odd yet familiar concept to him.
And he knew 108 cared for him too, as much as a Core could care while still on a small dose of the supplements the Creators had made to suppress Cores’ emotions.
108 let out a long sigh as their lips parted, tongues sliding along each other’s in a slow dance. Juni slowly stood up, pulling 108 against him for a full-body caress. The bed was only a few paces away, and they had enough time before he was supposed to meet the others for poker.
“Alphas, report to your ships immediately. Code 258. Repeat: Code 258!”
The loud announcement boomed through the room, rattling Juni’s bones and making him jump straight up in the air like a startled cat before releasing a slew of curses. “What the hell is that?”
“The Olympus is under attack. Code 258 stands for Presidential Distress.” 108 turned to Juni, a tightening around his eyes the only sign of his own worry. “The Ares is accompanying the Olympus to its security ships. It is the only Alpha Zodiac to do so, per the president’s orders.”
“Shit.” Juni’s heart leaped into his throat at the realization. “Shit!”
He slipped his boots back on with practiced speed before grabbing 108’s hand. He ran toward the lift as fast as his legs could carry him, with 108 easily keeping pace. Five of the ten remaining male Alphas on the Zeus were already in the lift, each with his own Core. It was a tight fit, but Juni pressed 108 to his chest as the doors closed in front of them.
“Who the fuck would attack the president’s ship?” Qyuin sounded annoyed, and his own Core was pushed into a back corner, keeping quiet.
“Don’t know, but we’re a good twenty minutes away from their location, and even if we push it, ya know it’ll take at least fucking fifteen to reach them,” said Juni after quickly doing the math.
“Even at maximum output on all thrusters, it will take seventeen minutes and fourteen seconds,” Alan’s Core informed the group in a low tone. He obviously did not want to upset the Fighter by correcting him, but knew the information was important enough to be announced.
Alan snorted, even as he patted his meek Core on the shoulder to let him know the update was appreciated. “What the fuck are we going to do?”
108 remained silent, his back plastered to Juni’s front in the cramped lift, eyes directed toward the floor. “Rebels,” he finally whispered. “47 stated that they have seen traces of an anomaly on the outside of their sensor range for several days now.”
Juni’s hands tightened on 108’s biceps for a moment before the doors opened. He didn’t even have to push; 108 was out and running, Juni running alongside him toward the large hangar bay. If the other Alpha Fighters were doing the same, he wasn’t aware, nor did he care. “Damion and 47 wouldn’t go down without a fight,” he commented as they raced for the Hermes.
“If there is a danger to the Olympus, it is large. The Olympus has fairly substantial weaponry. To attack it would mean a carefully planned assault utilizing a much larger vessel. I agree that they will not go down without a fight, however….” 108 didn’t have to complete the sentence as he led the way up the Hermes ladder to the top hatch, his fingers flying as he input the unlock code.
“47 installed that Impulse thing into the Ares.” Juni followed 108 into their ship. He slammed on his helmet and zipped up his flight suit, locking the air seal from suit to helmet with practiced ease. “108, that seventeen minutes was with all the safeties on the thrusters, right? Take them off. Get us there without getting spaced, but get us there quick.”
“Removing the safeties from the thrusters will result in an overload of the engines. We would risk an imminent shutdown of the thrusters.”
“I trust you to figure it out.” Juni flipped on all the comms. “Are we ready to take off?”
“Affirmative. Thrusters are unlocked.”
Juni reported to Control. “Alpha Hermes undocking and heading out to Olympus’s last coordinates.” He navigated his Zodiac away from the metal dock and then pulled up and raced through the shield toward open space. He flipped his thumbs over the speed controls, and the craft made a hard pull back before launching ahead at maximum burn, jerking the occupants with a whiplash whirl. “What’s gonna be our ETA?”
“Approximately 9.8 minutes,” 108 intoned as they pulled out into open space, thruster wake burning bright as a comet behind them. “We will be leaving the rest of the Fighters behind. This is not advisable.”
“What? No faith in my awesome skills?” Juni could hear how flat his joke sounded, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t willing to wait for the other Alphas or his Beta team. “They’d do the same for us. Just tell the Commander it was my idea.”
“There are numerous transmissions coming in from the other Alphas, in addition to an order from Control to pull back into formation. Should I terminate transmissions?”
“No. When we get there, I want to be able to report everything that we see quickly. Let them bitch. Have your scanners fully open.”
“Acknowledged. Scanners on.” 108 went silent for a few minutes as they sped through space, leaving their compatriots far behind them. Saving Damion and Requiem was worth any possible reprimand from the Zeus. “There was just a burst from the supposed battle site. I hypothesize it is from the Impulse Barrier.”
“Next fucking seven minutes are going to feel like eternity.” Juni’s hands clenched tighter around the controls. He knew they couldn’t move any faster, but tried to make it happen through pure force of will. “Will our thrusters be okay for evasive maneuvers, at least, when we get there?”
“I would not advise it. It would only increase the chance of a burnout.” 108 continued to monitor everything around them from his deep dive into the Hermes system. From there, he was connected to all of the alerts and sensors that made the Zodiacs, and the Core and Fighter bond, an efficient and deadly combination. “There has been another burst….”
“Two? So close?” Juni frowned as he tried to think of the implications of two emissions of the Ares’s Impulse Barrier, one after the other. “Can you pick up how many enemies are out there yet?”
“There are two large ships, one approximately similar in mass to the Zeus and the other matching the specs of the Olympus. Although the larger battle cruiser seems to be absorbing the Olympus. As for smaller ships… because of the space over which they are expanding, I cannot make an accurate count at this time.”
Juni looked at the screens in front of him, stars blurring as they raced to his best friend. His heart was beating so hard he could hear it thumping like a war drum in his ears, and he knew adrenaline was taking over.
“Five more minutes, guys. Just hold on,” he whispered into empty space, praying the Gods carried his words. Their Zodiac was the Hermes—the fastest of the Gods, the Messenger. Hopefully the ship would live up to its name.
“Juni… the Impulse Barrier….”
“Yeah, what about it?” Juni turned in his seat. 108 sounded worried. His Core sounding worried scared the piss out of him.
108 continued. “There was another Pulse. Even with the modifications that 47 implemented within the Ares’s power boosters….”
“Fuck.” Juni turned back around and leaned forward until his helmet hit the navigation screen. “They’ll hold on. We’re almost there.”
“I hypothesize that 47 took the risk of using the Impulse Barrier beyond what it was specified for to give Fighter Hawk an avenue of escape. While 47 is an exceptional Core, even Cores have limits. We are, after all, only human,” 108 pointed out, though it sounded difficult for him to admit this. His businesslike manner quickly returned. “We are approaching the outer edge of the battle zone. Visual should be coming online.”
Juni squinted into the darkness. “I don’t see anything.” He frowned, checking the buttons he pushed. “Dammit, 108! Shit. Motherfuckers, all I see is space! Why haven’t we heard any communications from them? Open me up to the Jupiter.”
“I believe all players have left the field of battle. Communications to the Jupiter Zodiac have been opened.”
Qyuin’s voice suddenly boomed through the speaker. “Juni, you stupid fuck, what the hell!”
“Shut up!” Juni yelled, not having time to explain himself. “I don’t see anything! I need you to double-check the scan area.”
“Your own Core too fucking busy, or what?” Qyuin asked.
“108 needs to adjust my thrusters and look for 47’s ping. 108, patch me to the Commander.”
Qyuin growled over the comm. “Who fucking died and made you head of the Alphas?”
Juni pulled his Zodiac into a tight loop as they entered the area where the president and Damion should have been. “My best friend, jackass.”
For a few minutes, there was nothing to see, but then they bumped into several pieces of debris. Debris that had the Corporation’s logo on it and half of Damion’s Zodiac’s name—Ares. But all the debris was not enough to be an entire Zodiac.
“Patch complete. Commander Sandrite is online,” 108 informed.
“Commander. The Ares is gone. The Olympus is also gone. No hostiles in the area.” Juni took a deep breath. “Request permission to continue to look further?”
“Request denied. Get your ass back here, Fighter Mathias! You’re lucky you’re not going to be thrown in the brig for going off all half-assed like you did. You endangered your Zodiac, your Core, and yourself. The Zeus as a whole will continue to look for the Olympus, with help from the Presidential Security Team. Fighter Damion Hawk and Core 47 are MIA. And good fucking riddance.” The last sentence was mumbled right before Sandrite clicked off.
Juni slammed his fists into his controls, and the hot sting behind his eyelids made him grow even angrier. “Damn him!”
Qyuin sighed over the comm, his Zodiac flying next to Juni’s now. “Juni. There is nothing out there.”
“Never thought Damion and his fucking weird Core would go out like that,” Alan said through the Alpha channel.
“Just shut the fuck up, man,” Rogers cut in as he pulled his Zodiac on the other side of the Hermes.
The comm went quiet as the nine Fighters stayed there to await the Zeus’s arrival.
“108,” Juni called out, only loud enough for his Core to hear. “Anything?”
“Negative” was the soft reply. “Juni… 47 would not have survived activating the Impulse Barrier three times. As we have not found any significant wreckage from the Ares, I would hypothesize that Fighter Hawk was captured by whoever took control of the Olympus. More than likely, rebels are responsible.”
Juni’s hands rose, but stopped halfway to the controls. Instead he pulled off his helmet, finding it suddenly hard to breathe and needing to rub his eyes clear. Then he turned off all outgoing comms. “Dammit.” He tugged at his hair with both hands. “We need to get to their quarters before the Creators do, just in case. Get me his mom’s location. I’m not going to let her get a piss-poor sorry wave from the Commander and nothing else.”
“Affirmative. Once we dock on the Zeus, I will start all sequences to initiate your orders.” 108’s voice was smaller than usual. “I am sorry.”
“Thanks.” Juni managed a half smile, but he kept his eyes focused ahead on empty space. What was life going to be like without Damion and 47?COLLAPSE