However, I do feel responsible to all of you, particularly with regard to my unfinished story "Transfixed." I can't just leave you with that cliffhanger. Fortunately, I outlined Book 2 before becoming unable to write, so I can give you a synopsis of the conclusion. Then I'll wait a week before removing Book 1 from Amazon and Smashwords, in case any of you still want to buy it.
But there's one other promise I made, which I want to fulfill: sharing that hot-as-hell vintage EMC story by C.L. Moore, the author who wrote the mind-blowing "Shambleau." This story is called "Yvala," and you can download the PDF directly by clicking this link (I've downloaded many other things from this site, and as far as I can tell, it's safe). I don't want to say too much about "Yvala," but it does feature beautiful, submissive seeming-clones who lure two space explorers into a trap. If you like it and want to read more C.L. Moore, you can follow this link to the website where I got the PDF and type "C.L. Moore" in the search box. You'll be able to find works by plenty of other vintage authors here too, but you won't find any current writers. You also won't find the text of "Shambleau," but there's a link to a YouTube reading of the story.
And now on to "Transfixed." Note: I really am about to spoil all of Book 2 for you, so you might not want to read this if you don't already have Book 1.
Where we left off: Captain Michiko Sato (of the ship Ajisashi) has been enslaved by a spiderish/scorpionish alien race that humans call the "ticks." If a tick lands on a victim's head and spears them with its scorpion-like tail, it can then control them. The larger the tick, the more important and more powerful it is.
The ticks have both wormhole technology and biotechnology that gives them the ability to spear one ship with another without causing air leaks, and to create armor for their slaves made out of a gel produced by tiny starfish-like creatures. Jason Ellis, an assessor aboard the Ajisashi, has a crush on Michiko and was torn between trying to escape the ticks and trying to save Michiko. In the end he could do neither.
Meanwhile, Michiko was tricked/seduced into submission by her lover, Capt. Alec Stone of the Myrddin, who was already under the ticks' control. They had been torturing him for months by enslaving him, freeing him, and enslaving him again to milk him of as much mental energy as possible (They use this energy for fuel). At the end of Book 1, he's enslaved again and given a tiny tick, indicating that he'll never have free will again. Michiko ends up in a similar state as a result of the ruse used by the ticks to enslave her quickly.
While on the run, Jason hid in a walk-in refrigerator, where he came across a half-crazed Swede wearing a Myrddin biosuit. The man wouldn't give Jason his name or let him follow him, but he did tell Jason how to kill the ticks by shooting them at just the right point along their bodies. Jason was later able to free Chief Engineer Rebekah Bol using this method. They hid in a disabled escape pod just before the ticks used the Ajisashi and Myrddin to ram a third ship.
Before Jason and the Swede parted ways, Jason told the Swede about a hiding place he'd used earlier: an alien globe with a secret opening, large enough to fit one person. Something in the globe had given Jason a severe allergic reaction, and he had passed out for several hours, but he recovered.
Where the story goes from here:
1. Nils: The half-crazed Swede is Nils Madsen. He is a highly trained soldier from a fascist planet. He became disillusioned with the system and deserted, hiding aboard the Myrddin in a secret compartment in a shipping container. None of the crew knew he was there, so the ticks don't know about him either.
When he leaves the refrigerator, Nils heads in the opposite direction from Jason. He takes off his biosuit because Jason pointed out that it made him too conspicuous, something Nils was too far gone to notice on his own. Nils ends up hiding in the same globe Jason used; and he too, has an allergic reaction that causes him to pass out. He wakes up when the Ajisashi and Myrddin spear the third ship. Eventually we'll learn that this ship is a medical vessel called the Edward Sayers, and that it was responding to a distress call from another planet being attacked by the ticks.
Nils goes to the point where the Ajisashi and the Sayers intersect, and he crosses into the Sayers, hoping to find an escape pod that hasn't been disabled or booby-trapped yet. He runs across a small group of tick-slaves and fights them off, but in the process one tick lands on his head and spears him with its tail. This should bring him under the tick's control, but instead the tick detaches and falls dead at Nils' feet. Then he feels another stab as a second tick lands on his head. This time he seems to feel its thoughts for a moment: it knows it's dying. It tries to detach, but Nils is in a rage and holds it against his head, hoping to make it suffer more. Instead, the tick becomes catatonic and Nils realizes he can access its mind in full, just as the ticks normally access their slaves' minds. He can understand tick language and control the "starfish" that create gel armor; and more importantly, he learns that the tick Queen is hiding in another shipping container aboard the Myrddin. She's hatching more eggs, including more queens, in preparation for conquering a new planet. Nils still doesn't know why he's immune to the ticks, but he doesn't care; he has a more important mission now.
His original plan was just to get away from all the fighting and settle down on a peaceful planet, but now he knows the ticks are planning to conquer all of human space; their attack on the Myrddin was the first move in what's meant to be an interplanetary war. That means Nils can't find a peaceful new home unless he destroys the ticks before they get any further. So he makes himself a suit of gel armor, using starfish from the suits of the slaves he's defeated and making sure the armor keeps the tick attached to his head. He then tranquilizes the ex-slaves and locks them in a closet because he doesn't trust anyone but himself. He can't afford to have them running around loose later on and being recaptured.
He heads back to the Myrddin and finds the shipping container holding the Queen. It's full of slaves locked in orgiastic worship, and he has to get through them to reach the Queen and the eggs plastered to the wall behind her. He has a gun and a small blowtorch, but he has to leave them with guards at the door before he enters. Then he crawls through the crowd, pretending to be part of the orgy, until he reaches the Queen's dais. Quickly he rises up and, with one hand, chops the Queen's head from her neck. The slaves fall into disarray, and none of them try to stop him as he goes back for his blowtorch. He destroys all the eggs; then the Queen's body; and leaves. Suddenly he remembers that the Sayers was going to help another planet in distress, and he wonders what to do about that; but he just doesn't know.
2. Jason and Rebekah:
Like Nils, Jason and Rebekah realize their only hope for escape is to find a working escape pod on the new ship, but as they're walking toward the junction, they find a video screen playing Michiko's downfall over and over: it's an attempt to demoralize any remaining Ajisashi crew members. Jason is heartbroken but not entirely convinced that Michiko can't be saved.
They board the Sayers and head toward the escape pods, which seem to be in place and undamaged. But as soon as they open one, a tick that was hiding above the door drops down onto Jason's head. It stabs him but then dies and detaches. Jason and Rebekah examine it, trying to figure out why it died. Since it is dead, Jason has no access to its mind (and of course he knows nothing about Nils' experience). However, Rebekah retains a few memories from her time as a slave. She knows that whenever the ticks take over a planet, they destroy everything that might be toxic to them. From there, they deduce that Jason's bloodstream contains something toxic, and it must be unique to him since the rest of the Ajisashi has been enslaved. Eventually they think about the globe he hid in.
They go back to it and find traces of mold inside - then lots more mold on the currency that was extracted from it. They debate having Rebekah get into the globe so she can absorb the toxin too, but the process took several hours for Jason, and they can't afford to waste time. They know now that the ticks can be killed, and they want to save Michiko if they can, so they stuff two bags full of currency and hurry onward.
The most likely place to find Michiko is on the Myrddin's bridge; and they know, from looking out windows, that the three ships are joined in a rough I-shape. The Ajisashi has pierced the Sayers near its aft end, and the Myrddin is near its fore. That means they'll have to walk the length of the Sayers to reach the Myrddin. Their only chance at making the trip safely is to disguise themselves as slaves.
J&R ambush a small group of tick-slaves, sedating them and stealing their gel suits; but to their dismay, the suits won't stick to them (They don't know why, because they don't know Nils' story: it takes a living tick to command the starfish). Their solution is to use epoxy from a storage closet and glue gel and dead ticks to themselves. The epoxy's label says the stuff should be kept away from human skin, but Rebekah knows that it isn't deadly; it just causes slowly-building burns. The pain will be bearable, but they won't suffer lasting scars if they can remove the epoxy within a day or two. They do what they have to do.
Like Nils, they sedate the group they've ambushed and hide them in a closet; but unlike Nils, they don't lock the door. Then they move on toward the junction with the Myrddin. On the way they pass the Sayers' science department, where they find a scientist who's still free and tried unsuccessfully to hide from them. Her name is Dr. Faber. She examines Jason's blood, the currency, and the tick that died on him, and she confirms all their conclusions about the mold. Then she suggests trying to culture it and make an aerosol spray that can kill several ticks at once. The process will take a long time, so J&R leave her to her work and continue exploring.
They come to the hospital wing. It has large windows facing the corridor, and inside they can see several tick-slaves searching for people trying to hide from them. One of the tick-slaves is Alec Stone. He doesn't look as incapacitated as J&R expected, and the tick on his head is larger than the one they saw riding him in the videos. This suggests the ticks were tricking Michiko and her crew, making them think Alec wasn't as far gone as he seemed. They decide to rescue him in hopes that he can help them with Michiko.
Rebekah still has some memory of tick language, so she lures Alec outside, where Jason ambushes him and kills his tick. Alec is unresponsive. They take him to a nearby room, where they can lock the door, and spend a long time trying to wake him up. What finally does the trick is telling him that only he can save Michiko. He's still not at his best, but he can function well enough to help them, and he knows where she is. The ticks have stuck her to a wall on the bridge like a sort of trophy.
They go back to check on Dr. Faber's progress. The mold is growing fast and she gives them two aerosol canisters, but that's not enough to disable all the ticks on the bridge because it's a large space. Alec wants to attack right away anyway, to free Michiko, and Rebekah thinks of a way to disable the ticks while leaving the canisters behind. That way, Dr. Faber can make a stockpile for later use.
Rebekah's plan is to plant moldy currency at several strategic points in the air vents around the bridge, then turn on the ventilation full-blast. To do so, she and Jason and Alec have to split up, fake their way past several guards between the science department and the bridge, and crawl unnoticed through the air vents to the locations Rebekah described. They succeed, but not all the ticks on the bridge are killed; and when they open the doors onto the bridge, they have a brief firefight, which they win.
They pull Michiko down from the wall, and after a long time, Alec finally succeeds in waking her. Then the group begins planning how to free the joined ships and warn all human territories about the coming attack.