A Deleted Scene from ‘Leopold’
By M.D. Grimm
Good day folks!
Thanks for joining me to celebrate my newest release, Leopold (Saga of the Bold People 1). It is an m/m romance sci-fi epic, and it’s the first book of a 6-book saga. I am super excited to finally release this bad boy that’s taken me around eight years to revise and edit.
The book started out over 200k (!) and during my last edits/revision I finally managed to mercilessly slash and burn a decent chunk of it and it now hovers around 170k. Still too big for smaller ebook publishers to take a chance on, so I decided to go the self-publishing route.
Just for fun, I thought I’d include one of those deleted scenes that I was loathe to remove but it slowed the pacing too much. Many of the scenes I ended up cutting were long explanations and/or examples of the broader sci-fi world/universe I created. Once I realized I was going to write 6 books, it was easier to cut and spread out the explanations between books.
This scene was originally the first time Leopold got an inkling that there was a bounty on his head.
My ship beeped. I frowned and walked over to look at the maintenance screen.
“Shit.” I needed fuel. I calculated the closest planet from where I could purchase it and cringed when my ship gave me the location. “Ah, void.”
It was the desert planet of Mimby, the location of a major fuel manufacturing plant. Nothing grew there except fuel, and the creatures inhabiting it were vicious little pests. It was the only other planet they owned besides their home planet. Three suns made it a perpetual desert that never allowed the surface to darken, which also meant the gravity was heavy. The landscape didn’t offer much in the way of a view and because of the lack of growth the oxygen was thin, so I would have to use my mask. It was the closest fuel station available. I had no choice.
I often traveled known interstellar routes, making it likely I would find a fuel station within easy distance. It was when I diverted from such routes, for whatever reason, that I took a chance of running out of supplies and dying. I’d rather not take the chance unless absolutely necessary.
The DV could hold a lot fuel, so I didn’t have to stock up often. That used to be Zed’s job when he was still alive, and I’d yet to manage to pick up his slack. Just one more reason to be angry with him for dying on me. Idiot.
Steering the DV to the red planet, I calculated what it would cost to replace all my used fuel cells. I winced at the figure. Those little assholes really gouged those who came to them for fuel. They were the main exporter of fuel on this side of the solar system, and they milked it for all it was worth. I pulled out several credit chips from my case and added a tip. If I paid them enough they’d leave me alone. Aliens that didn’t know that often left with injuries or items missing from their ships. I avoided electronically transferring funds to them as they could easily use that information to hack into my account. I had several accounts under varying names, on varying planets, but that didn’t mean I wanted some little parasites to steal from me.
I entered the planet’s atmosphere and sand blew everywhere as I carefully steered to the ground. The flat landscape offered no mountains or hills or even valleys to break up the monotony. Only a few anemic clouds dotted the sky, providing zero relief. As far as I knew the entire planet looked like this—nothing but sandy land and salty, poisonous seas that hid multi-tentacled beasts with maws big enough to swallow me whole. A large, square building of glossy black sat in front of me, reflecting the searing light of the suns. The mimis lived underground in a dark network of tunnels that zig-zagged underneath my feet. Mimis were little, squat creatures in hooded brown robes, and they came out of the building, waddling toward me, large rejlfei in their hands. The rejlfei were about the same size they were.
I changed out of my skinsuit into simple trousers, a long-sleeve shirt, and my favorite sleeveless jacket with its many useful pockets. The clothes would breathe in the heat that baked Mimby. I checked the weapons before slinging my laser rejlfe across my back. I attached the oxygen mask over my mouth and nose, looping the straps around my ears. The small oval tube that generated the oxygen hung under my chin. The great thing about the mask was that it allowed me to talk, though my voice was slightly muffled. I lowered the ramp and didn’t bother with a helmet, since mimis could care less about my species. All they wanted was my money. I could respect that.
I walked carefully down the ramp, instantly hit by searing heat and hot wind. Sand blew into my face, and I covered my eyes with the goggles that hung around my neck. The goggles also dimmed the light of the suns that scorched the landscape. I stifled a groan under the harsh effect of the gravity and my legs shook, unaccustomed to the pressure. I bent my knees slightly, trying to stand tall and straight. Showing weakness meant death.
Three mimis approached and stood in my way. Other mimis were stationed around and on top of the glossy building that stored the fuel cells. One mimi stepped forward and garbled in heavily accented Veruvian. Since Veruvian was a manufactured spoken and written language of the IG Community, it was rather bland and polite without any personality. That meant those who used it were free to create their own slang, and to use their own native swear words. That meant I could swear in about fifty languages. Different dialects were created and survival depended on understanding those dialects. Thankfully, I was always good with languages.
He asked how many cells I needed. I told him. He held out his clawed hand and told me the amount. I wasn’t far off in my calculations. I pulled out my chips and handed them over. Then I took out another chip, worth fifty credits, and held it out. The mimi took it and garbled happily to his friends. The other mimis looked at it and garbled happily as well, going so far as to bow graciously. As I said, they liked money.
I inclined my head to them even as one of the mimis pulled out his communicator and barked out an order in his native tongue. I leaned back against the side of the DV under her protective wing. I was already sweating profusely and made sure I didn’t show any discomfort. Mimis might be vicious little beasts but they knew how to box their fuel cells and, trust me, when one’s fuel was radioactive and potentially explosive, one tended to be finicky on how it was packaged. The mimis had a spotless record which meant they could—and did—gouge their customers. And since I liked living, I didn’t bother to haggle.
I didn’t wait long. I watched one mimi waddle out of the building with a cart holding ten cells. The cart hovered over the sand, and he controlled it with the remote in his hand. I straightened and waited for the cart to settle near my ship. Then I began the arduous task of replacing cells and securely storing the rest for future use. The mimis didn’t offer assistance and I didn’t ask. As I worked, the three mimis I paid talked to each other excitedly as they passed around the chips, and I had to smile at their happiness. They were like weird pudgy children with their short legs, arms, big heads, and middles. But they weren’t harmless, they were one of the most vicious alien species in the known galaxies, and that was saying something.
The fuel cells glowed blue and were warm to the touch. I methodically took out the empty cells from the side compartment located near the rear of DV, and set them on the sand, leaning them gently against her. Using the control panel inside the compartment, I rotated the cell holder, making sure I removed all the empties. Then I filled the vacant slots, grunting slightly under the weight of the cells. I forgot how heavy they were when full.
Once I filled the empty compartments, I tapped a few buttons on the panel before sliding the door shut. Even as the new fuel calibrated, I opened a second compartment near the first and carefully filled it with the extra cells. By now I was sweating horribly and my legs began to chafe and tremble. I gritted my teeth and pushed past the discomfort. I made a mental note to check the reports on recent events on other planets, since it was extremely wise to know what was going on beyond my small world. I suspected there would be a miniscule report of the death of the spinecur. I wanted to check to see if I left anything behind. I never had before but there was always a first time for everything.
Despite the focus on my task, I was still aware of my surroundings and looked over when I heard raised voices. I watched as one mimi pushed another mimi down. They began to fight viciously, and their weapons were forgotten as they chose to use their claws and teeth. Their hoods fell back, their ugly, bald black heads with sharp yellow teeth revealed. Their ears were pointed and thin, fuzzy white hair growing out of them, while their eyes were squinty and a shiny black.
I watched with amusement as they tumbled over the sand. I heard the slight beep from my ship to indicate the fuel had successfully calibrated. I loaded up the last of the spare fuel cells, still glancing at the fight, thoroughly entertained. The mimis tore and pulled at each other’s robes, exposing more dull black skin. Other mimis cheered them on and laughed at their antics. The scuffle didn’t last long before a larger mimi, slightly taller than those that greeted me, came waddling out of the building. He strode purposefully toward his fighting comrades and when the other mimis noticed him, they backed away. He pulled out his rejlfe and aimed it at the fighting mimis. They didn’t notice him. He fired.
Sand sprayed up as the exploding projectile hit right between the fighters. They both jumped back, gasping for breath. Silence fell. The two fighting mimis gazed with fear at the taller mimi. He lowered his weapon and spat out a quiet, growly order. The two leapt up from the sand and ran back to the building. The others scattered, except for three who were left behind to watch me. I felt the tall mimi’s stare, and I didn’t avoid his gaze. I could barely see his shiny eyes from the inside of his heavy hood. He looked at me for a long moment before turning, his robe fluttering around his squat legs, and stomping back to the building. I watched him go and wondered what had gone through his mind.
I finished with the spare fuel cells and slid the door closed, locking it. Then I easily stacked the empty cells on the cart for the mimis to take away and dispose. As I finished my task, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I continued stacking and lifted my head, scanning the area. Nothing was out of the ordinary, yet my instincts said danger was on the way. The three mimis crowded around a small personal communicator, looking at something that obviously intrigued them. As one they all looked up at me, then down at the comm, then up at me again.
Time to go.
I strode confidently around my ship, never once running or showing fear, but they followed me. Moving with effort, I grabbed the aeunn at my thigh and flicked it on before I gently pulled it out of the holster. I casually moved my arm up to grip the strap of my rejlfe, ready to swing it around to the front in an instant. They spoke to each other behind me, but I couldn’t hear what they said. I was a few seconds from reaching the ramp when they aimed their weapons and fired. Dodging to one side, I dropped to one knee. Swinging around, I let the power surge up from my chest and spread to my limbs. My skin tingled and my movements suddenly became faster than theirs despite the gravity.
My power was created from the energy inside me, and I used it to be faster than my enemies. I learned the ability from the mysterious myxn. Zed had known them. As a result I became one of the few outsiders who could claim friendship with them.
I aimed my aeunn and shot the trigger hands of each mimi in quick succession. Zwerp. Zwerp. Zwerp.
The mimis howled in pain as acid spilled from the exploded capsules, eating away at their skin. I jumped to my feet and jammed the aeunn in my holster before swinging my rejlfe around. I aimed it at the little beasts.
I flicked on the rejlfe. “Why do you shoot?”
They howled for reinforcements. I knew no amount of money would save me this time. I took off swiftly and shots rained down around my feet. It occurred to me, vaguely, that they weren’t trying to kill me, only stop me. The three must have thought they had a chance to take me down because they launched themselves at my back. They tackled me and I pumped more power into my body. They tried to bite me, but I was too swift for them. I punched one in the face, kicked one in the crotch, and jumped to my feet. The third tried to tackle me again, but I gave him a roundhouse kick that connected with his face. I heard the snap of bone. Several projectiles grazed my legs, and I ducked and dove into the DV. I closed the ramp and rushed to the pilot’s seat. Shots ricocheted off the ship, and I snapped out a command for the engine to start. I tapped the monitor, activating the side cameras and saw dozens of mimis pour out of the building, all with laser rejlfei. That wasn’t good―those could do some serious damage if shot at my space shield.
Doomed Voyager jerked as she came to life. I rolled her across the sand, trying to get lift. I upped the thrusters. I tapped the monitor screen and brought up the camera view to my rear. I was leaving the mimis in the dust. Grinning fiercely, my muscles aching from the motion, I aimed into the air and shot toward the sky. Most ships would have been pierced by their projectiles and lasers but not old Doomed Voyager. Her armor was solid and well-built. Only the space shield and the hidden door to the oxygen tanks and fuel cells were the vulnerable sections.
I stripped off mask and goggles as I shot away from the planet, trying to comprehend what just happened. What had been on their comm? Why did they attack me so suddenly? I gave them enough money to ensure my safety. Why did they become so violent? I pulled out my communicator and checked it frantically. I searched through reports, finding nothing that gave me a buzz. It was as if they recognized me. But how? How had my image been captured? I was so careful to stay below the radar, and I had resources that others didn’t. Even if I was digitally captured, such an image should have been deleted. Was there a bounty on my head? But how could that be? I paid JuJu, a recluse hacker, enough money to erase any evidence of my true identity in the InterGalactic database. I shook my head. Well, technically, there were two bounties I knew of on two different, smaller planets, ones from my younger years. The bounties had grainy images attached, but those were planet-specific bounties, places I never visited anymore. Why would they suddenly go intergalactic? After I met my client’s runner I would find JuJu. He could find the bounty if, indeed, that was the cause for the attack.
I suffered through one more jump before I arrived in the solar system where Chung-Ze orbited.
“Approaching destination, planet Chung-Ze. Permission to land?”
“I’ll do the landing, baby.” I would never let the autopilot land me. Zed let it land once and it nearly killed us―it took six months to fully repair the DV.
I guided my baby down gently. I hadn’t been the most respectful human when I ditched Lex and snuck aboard a trading ship, bound for somewhere that wasn’t the gloomy planet. I landed on some alien watch lists, all planet-based though, so it was easy enough to jump planet again and go someplace new. But JuJu said he erased all the intergalactic information on me, the major things that could expose me. We didn’t concern ourselves with the planet bound shit.
My stomach twisted. I focused on the green orb of Chung-Ze as I flew closer to the planet. After the initial shock faded, I began to pick through the problem like I would pick through a security system I intended to hack. With security I would find a hole, a gap, an error in the system, and then hack into it. Once compromised, I could let myself in and finish the mission. But I didn’t have any framework this time. I couldn’t even find the damn report the mimis must have looked at.
My fingers tapped on the steering prongs, my mind circling the problem. Then it hit on a potential source and my stomach pitched. I sucked in a breath and shook my head.
“No fucking way. Not him,” I told myself in Terran, ignoring my jittery hands. “No, no way. Way out of orbit there, Leo. Way out, not even in the same galaxy.”
Having shoved that potential source of the problem firmly out of my mind, I refocused on the routine of landing on a planet. I gripped the steering prongs and passed the asteroid defense stations attached to the planet by long, thick cords. My ship jostled slightly as I entered the planet’s thick atmosphere, then I easily landed on the docking platform. The Doomed Voyager purred to a stop, and I locked her into place with a dull thud.
It hurt to cut this scene but it was for the best. However, I’m glad I still get to share it and hopefully get some of you interested!
I am currently working on four series simultaneously (because I am a glutton for punishment, apparently) and several stand-alones with plans for a couple of trilogies.
I have three stories contracted with Dreamspinner Press for 2019: a vampire story, the latest shifter book (#13), and the prequel to “On Wings of Thunder.”
Until next time,
May dragons guard your dreams,