Virasana Empire: Dr. Laurent 1
As a history scholar and courier for the secretive Circle of Thales, Rene Laurent is a man of many talents - none of them lending themselves much to a life of adventure.
But when a chance meeting with a young, idealistic Belligra priest drags him into a wild quest to keep a dangerous mutagen off the streets of Floor, his curiosity gets the better of him. Between monsters both human and man-made, he realises that maybe fieldwork is more of his game than he had ever thought possible...
Written by Rainbow-Award-winning authors Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, 'The PV-3 Mutagen' is a colourful non-romance sci-fi adventure set in the wildly diverse 'Virasana Empire', and the first novel of the 'Doctor Laurent' series.
Release Date: Thursday, October 15 2020
Cover Artist: Anna Tiferet Sikorska
Genres: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera, Hopepunk, Coming of Age
LGBTQ+ Identities: Gay, Pan
Tropes: Fish out of Water, Odd Couple, Nerd vs Jock
Keywords/Categories: Psions, Priests, Corporate Greed, Poverty, Quest, Sewer Crawl, Science Fiction, sci fi, sci-fi, Adventure, Space Opera, Hopepunk, Coming of Age, gay, pan, pansexual, fish out of water, odd couple, nerd, jock
Warnings: Not a romance. Harsh setting, but hopeful.
Guest post – Character Development Rene
The development process of our stories almost always begins with a character. Sometimes it's the idea of a background, or a certain skill or trait, but most often a fully formed character will walk into my head and say “Hi, here I am, tell my story!” If they are nice, they will start spilling their story on their own. If they are not, they will sit there in mysterious brooding silence and only give cryptic answers while I have to painstakingly coax their story out of them.
Rene Laurent is a bit of a special case in that regard.
He started out as a side character in a WWII alternative history setting where mutants were employed to fight. Back then, his callsign was 'Painbringer', and he hardly ever used his talents to heal, but to torment and disable his enemies. After toying with the idea for a while, we discarded that setting like so many others.
But while I can't remember a single other character from that setting, Rene remained in my head, patiently sitting there, sipping his tea and waiting. Because he had a story to tell. About growing up deep underneath the surface of Floor in this super-secret sect of historians.
While we were constructing and consolidating the entire 'Virasana Empire' setting in broad strokes, one of the steps was to have a look at the people making up the Psions Guild. So we searched for characters who we could imagine as Vertexes, that is, as planetary heads of the guild and main players on the board. Of course, my mind came back to Painbringer and we cast him as Vertex of Serin, the Quetzal homeworld. We imagined him as having been 'rescued' and 'trained' by the guild, using his powers to keep Serin's noble populace in check.
But Rene wasn't happy with that.
He kept nagging in the back of my mind, politely but incessantly insisting that THAT was not his story. The outset was right, with him growing up on Floor, but the path onward from there needed a major adjustment.
So we took him back to the drawing board, and the position of Serin Vertex is currently still vacant.
We had a unique, interesting character who wanted to tell their story. We had a background, but how to figure out what happened next? What was the one big variable we had overlooked so far?
We have had some spectacular successes in the past by trying to recast what was essentially an 'evil' character as one of the good guys. Would this work with Rene as well? So what had turned him so jaded and cruel? What would have made a difference? What if the Psions Guild had never learned about him? What if he grew to adulthood surrounded by his weird and happy family? He would be quite unique, no doubt about that, but where was the excitement in that story making it worth being told? How would he get embroiled into an adventure worth telling?
And that was when Brother Riccardo stepped onto the stage in all his natural flamboyancy. Together with the idealistic, fearless priest, Rene had a reason to get out of his lair and into trouble. He would have a reason to grow from a nerdy bookworm to an investigative historian, figuring out stuff and helping people.
Suddenly we had a story. And a good one.
Because for quite some time, we had been looking for another series to balance the 'Sir Yaden' stories, to explore other settings and give a different perspective to this universe.
Sir Yaden is a noble and his story arc is focused on the current big events in the Empire, telling a grand tale of action and adventure. With Dr Rene Laurent, we would get a chance to explore a commoner's perspective, to look at the lives of the ordinary people living in the empire. We would get a chance to explore the empire's history and culture much more in-depth than the 'Sir Yaden' series could possibly have room for.
Having two series would also give us a chance to showcase how differently these two uniquely talented characters deal with their psionic abilities, their particular strengths and weaknesses and how their different upbringing had shaped them, all while keeping our general themes of family and friendship intact.
The major, obvious difference between the two series is the genre. Sir Yaden Book #1 is a sweet gay romance, while Dr Laurent Book #1 is clearly labeled as non-romance. While both of these main characters are queer (yep, Rene does ogle Riccardo now and then) the partnership between Rene and Riccardo is one of friendship. Will these two ever get together in later books? No, they will not. Will there be romance in later books of the Dr. Laurent series? Yes.
But Rene, especially in tandem with Brother Riccardo, seemed a perfect counterweight to Yaden and his family. With two series in the same universe, exploring its nooks and crannies from two very different perspectives, we would be able to bring the full diversity and all the bizarre culture clashes to the page that makes this setting so much fun for us to write, and if we read our reader reactions correctly, also so much fun to read.
So inventing the character of Dr. Rene Laurent helped us shape the structure of our future Virasana Empire novels. With two series that will see at least one new volume each year, plus a scattering of standalone novels every now and then inbetween, we have enough stories for you and enough variety for us that we can all but guarantee a constant flow of new stories for many years to come. I hope you'll be along for the ride, and hope you'll enjoy reading those stories at least as much as we enjoy writing them!
Chapter 1 – Info Brokers
There were five of them. At least, five that Rene was aware of.
He had spotted the three following him when he took the escalator to the bottom floor of the mall. He had originally planned to take the tube train to Cherry Hills, but instead he turned into the access tunnel that led up to the street, trying to shake them off. Judging by the two who were now cutting him off just ahead, that had been a bad idea. The tunnel they were in was sufficiently removed from the cheap glitz of the mall to be only dimly lit, and the only other person here was a woman pushing a shopping cart, purposefully hurrying away from the developing confrontation.
A quick look around showed Rene there weren't any convenient emergency doors he could slip through, either. He was in trouble.
At least, they didn't seem to be professional mercenaries, just some gangers, though they moved with too much purpose to be out simply to mug him. And no ganger deserving of their colours would mug a scruffy street rat like him, anyway. To them, he had to look like he didn't have anything worth the trouble, as much a carefully crafted facade as laziness – he liked his comfortable rags a lot, thank you very much. So what did these particular thugs want from him?
And more importantly, how to get rid of them?
He was well aware that he didn't stand a chance against them in a fight. Combat skills were at the bottom of the list of things he was interested in. Also, the mall was too cheap to have any sort of camera surveillance. It didn't even have security guards though Rene doubted any would have come running if they had existed. He wasn't a valued customer, and as long as the gangers didn't make too much of a mess, no one would care.
The best course of action seemed to be to play the helpless victim and let them rough him up a little. It wasn't like they would manage to inflict any lasting damage, anyway.
He had come to that conclusion when one of the thugs, whom Rene mentally labelled their 'leader', shoved him against the wall.
Rene turned to face them, clutching the stack of folders he was carrying to his chest protectively, trying to present a credible picture of being scared. The other thugs had formed a semicircle around him and their boss. Judging by the nasty grins of his ambushers, it wasn't very hard to fool them.
“Gimme that,” the leader snarled and grabbed the folders.
They held the weekly update on the topside situation in this sector of Floor. Nothing too important, and certainly not irreplaceable. Rene had picked them up a few minutes ago at the office of the info broker the Circle of Thales was currently employing. He congratulated himself on not yet having picked up the datacrystal with the off-planet reports from the Beetle Shack under Cherry Hills. He had planned to do that on the way back down before having a lunch of lava beetle while he was there.
He let go of the folders with a strangled whine and cowered.
“Hank's Beehive is off-limits,” the leader sneered, “didn't you get the memo? He is about to shut down.”
So that was what this was all about. The info broker Rene had just visited had been in a turf war with another info broker two malls down the street for a while, but apparently, things were heating up. Not something he cared to get involved in even though Hank was a decent guy. Well, make that a decent guy for Floor.
“Can't have that idiot handing out charity, can we? Not the Floorian thing to do, eh?” The leader clearly wasn't expecting an answer as he rammed his fist into Rene's stomach.
The punch drove the air out of his lungs and hurt like a bitch. Or rather, it hurt for the few seconds it took his body to repair the damage. Rene crumpled to the ground in a heap. If he looked sufficiently hurt, they would hopefully leave him alone quickly. And not search him. If they tried to take his phone, he would have to do something, though he admittedly had no idea what.
“You understand me, little shit? You stay away from now on!”
“Hey! Stop that!”
A voice ringing out loud and clear in the narrow tunnel rudely interrupted the leader's little speech.
Rene glanced up through his long hair hanging in his face and did a double-take. The tunnel leading back towards the mall was almost filled out by a tall figure in heavy, plate armour, wielding both a broadsword and a fucking tower shield so large he could completely hide behind it. The symbol on his surcoat and shield was unmistakable – Temple Belligra, the Fist of the Church. It was about the last faction Rene wanted to have get involved in this minor scuffle.
Priests were infamous for poking their noses where they didn't belong. Luckily, they were rare on Floor. Yes, they had a few Verata, but they mostly remained inside their Fort Phosphoros Monastery. The occasional Jansahar only paid attention to the local flock who worshipped at the small shrines they kept all over the planet. Both groups were easy enough to evade for someone who didn't need supernaturally talented people scanning them and finding out they were an unregistered psion.
But seriously, a Belligra? There were no faithful in need of protection here on Floor, mostly because there were no faithful here. Floor prided itself with being the most secular planet of the empire, and it was a reputation hard-won.
But apparently, this particular Belligra was set on rescuing him.
Virasana Empire: Sir Yaden Series
The Demon of Hagermarch, The WIndmines of Bora Bora, The Renegade Psion
The Pet and His Duke
We are Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, a couple currently living our happily ever after in the very heart of Germany, under the stern but loving surveillance of our cat.
Both of us are voracious but picky readers, we love telling stories and drinking tea, good food and the occasional violent movie. Together, we write novels of adventure and romance, hoping to share a little of our happiness with our readers.
An artist by heart, Beryll was writing stories even before she knew what letters were. As easily inspired as she is frustrated, her own work is never good enough (in her eyes). A perfectionist in the best and worst sense of the word at the same time and the driving creative force of our duo.
An entertainer and craftsman in his approach to writing, Osiris is the down-to-earth, practical part of our duo. Broadly interested in almost every subject and skill, with a sunny mood and caring personality, he strives to bring the human nature into focus of each of his stories.
Author Website: http://www.brackhaus.com/
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