After submitting to mandatory conscription, two young men begin Basic Training, or, "Vacay in Hay."
Xaxall Dwyer Knightly saunters onto base without a care in the worlds, filled to the brim with sass. He has the strength of five warriors and earns the distinction of being the only trainee to throw someone through a supporting wall.
Vivoxx Nathan Tirowen, son of a prominent general, carries himself with a naturally-commanding presence. Possessing an uncanny talent with weaponry, his drill sergeant is convinced Vivoxx could "trim the pits of a rodent without nicking the skin."
When the two recruits meet, one smiles warmly while the other speaks gibberish. Little do they know the bond they feel will lead them to become the venerable military pairing known as
About the author
Cait (pronounced like 'cat') Gordon is a Canadian disability advocate who writes speculative fiction that celebrates the reality of diversity. Originally from Verdun, Québec, Cait worked for over two decades as a technical writer, then channelled her love for words into storytelling.
Her short stories appear in Alice Unbound Beyond Wonderland (Ed. Colleen Anderson), We Shall Be Monsters (Ed. Derek Newman-Stille), and Stargazers: Microtales from the Cosmos (Eds. Jarvey and MacNab). The Hilltop Gathering from We Shall Be Monsters features a disabled protagonist and was discussed at a symposium about Frankenstein at Carleton University.
In 2016, Cait founded the Spoonie Authors Network to connect with writers in the disability community. Her desire to find better disabled and autistic representation in fiction prompted Cait to co-edit Nothing Without Us with Talia C. Johnson. The multi-genre anthology features authors and protagonists who are disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, and/or who manage mental illness.
Nothing Without Us was included in the syllabus of a disability studies course at Trent University and earned a 2020 Prix Aurora Award nomination.
Even though her own works deal with issues about identity and human/alien/monster rights, Cait has always felt humour is an important part of world-building. "Without humour, it doesn't feel realistic."
Cait is also a musician and singer who has been living in Ottawa with her guitarist husband, author Bruce Gordon, since 1998. She's friendly, somewhat feisty, and really loves cake.
Excerpt: Stealth Lovers, The (by (author) Cait Gordon)
Deep into the Dexthra quadrant orbited a triad of planets, each with a reputation known throughout the galaxy. The smallest of the three was Zodra, a world inhabited by mystical, spiritual beings called the Dwa. Their leadership were the Sisters of Peace, governed by the head monks, commonly addressed as The Mothers. While the majority of the two-headed Dwa contained both female and male entities encased in a singular body, the Sisters of Peace were entirely comprised of women living harmoniously as one.
The two larger planets were Gradyl and Dragal, notorious for wars that endured for decades, centuries, or even millennia. While Gradyl--whose people appeared to be carved from stone--warred for self-interest and domination, Dragal fought to defend others and had become fiercely loyal to the Dwa of Zodra. The reptilian Draga warriors had been regarded as fearful in form but benevolent in heart. At least that's what the people from other planets who'd been rescued by Dragal's military had felt. Gradyl's unquenchable thirst for occupation of new worlds meant that the majority of the citizens of Dragal, who were fit for duty, must be ready for battle at a moment's notice. Mandatory service had been in practice since time immemorial.
So, out of obligation rather than heartfelt duty, a certain young man had arrived on base. He was 19 and automatically conscripted, like the others who had alighted their transports. Because being here aligned with Dragal Law, no one even thought to protest their situation. Although, he could have tried. Arguing was sort of his thing, and he revelled in it.
He stood with bare arms folded across his broad chest, coral and olive scales glistening in the early afternoon. This would be the only time--in forever--that a day on base would begin later than dawn. Even though reluctant and clueless of what he could contribute, he stood confident in his stocky frame, wearing a crisply starched tunic. He sneered for a brief moment, revealing his fangs before rolling his eyes so they could almost see inside his brain.
"Oh, what rapture," whined Private Knightly, gazing at the odd collection of new recruits. "I'm so looking forward to this extended twelve-week orgasm. Holy stars."
"Xaxall! Watch what you say around your little sister," scolded his mother, wagging a digit wrapped in periwinkle and green scales. "And don't blaspheme."
Four-year-old Celia, who had the same colouring as her mama, stuck out her tongue at her older brother, then burst into giggles.
"Yes, Mother," he groaned.
"Now, let me take a picture of my dashing son. Your father so regrets he can't be with you, and I want to send him something to remember you by."
"Remember me by? Why? Am I going to kick the bucket on kitchen duty? Damn those veggies! I always knew they'd been plotting to strangle me with their own vines. Murderous lot!"
"Xaxall Knightly, don't be cheeky."
"But I'm so good at it."
Lucinda Dwyer gave her son "the look." Xaxall struck a pose. She knew she'd have to be content with the boy mimicking a statue of the great war heroes of old. She hated to admit it, but his imitation was spot on, down to the imaginary steed he supposedly rode. If only Xaxall could actually apply himself to The Service, Lucinda mused. She had expressed to her Xaquiris that their boy might not be cut out to be a warrior. A stage actor, most likely, with his flair for the dramatic. Still, there had been no choice. Perhaps the next two years of this tour of duty would go quickly, then he could settle down to an occupation he'd enjoy better. Xaquiris wouldn't be pleased, as he hoped the boy would follow in his footsteps, but what could parents really do with an adult child? His life was his choice.
She snapped a few more pictures, and this time Celia also pretended she was a warrior. Lucinda smiled proudly. She could definitely imagine Celia as a general.
"Is that it, Mother?" asked Xaxall. "Or should we take a few more for my portfolio? Who needs a fashion runway when we're standing on an actual runway!"
"Xaxall dear, if you don't round up your tongue, your drill sergeant is going to cut it from your mouth. I beg you to reign it in. Don't embarrass your father."
The private bent down and kissed her cheek. "Don't you worry, Mother. I promise to only use my tongue for good and not evil. Rowwwr!"
She sighed, slumping her shoulders. "And do try not to be such a flirt, dear. Let the men be."
"Okay, see, now that's just silly talk."
Despite herself, she giggled and embraced her son. "What's a mother to do with such a boy?"
"Just love me." He squeezed back.
"Well, I do, and so does your father. And of course, so does our Celia."
Celia pulled a face. "Yuck, no I don't!"
Xaxall pushed her hat over her eyes. She punched his leg.
"Please be careful and come back to us?" pleaded Lucinda.
Xaxall gave his mother one more squish and let go.
"Bah, I'm quite indestructible, Mother." He marched with an exaggerated gait, twirled back, and bowed flamboyantly. Then he waved and blew them kisses.
Lucinda waved back, willing the tears not to fall as she watched her only son greet his fellow recruits.
"The fiercest, most formidable warrior-lovers in the 'Cosm are back. And the battle has never been so fabulous!" --Stephen Graham King, author of A Congress of Ships
"Cait Gordon sent us on a ride full of pew-pew physics and one of the absolute best traits of people: our humour." --Nathan Burgoine, Lambda Literary finalist and author of Light
"HOLY STARS, I loved everything about this novel!!!" --Jamieson Wolf, author of Little Yellow Magnet