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Raise the Stakes

by O.E. Tearmann

Raise the Stakes - O. E. Tearmann - Aces High Jokers Wild
ISBN: 1949693880
Pages: 272
Pages: 272

It starts when you're always afraid.
Seven Corporations run the former United States on the codes of conduct their founders set down. You're signed into a Corporate contract the day you're born. And the fear of dropping in the Citizen Standing Scores keeps people in line. What choice is there?
The Democratic State Force has fought for the return of democracy for decades, but they need the restless population of America to fight beside them if they're going to stand a chance. But when your Score goes down, so does your life.
It's time for a new strategy: take out the Citizen Standing Score system. And it's time for the unit with the highest mission success rate, the best coder, and the craziest ideas in the Force to head the attempt. Base 1407 just got the call.
Life's a bitch. She raises the stakes when you least expect it. Play your cards as best you can.


That night Aidan spent way too long in the shower, admiring the work that had been done on his body.  He looked so much more right this way. And they’d cut the three planned surgical dates down to two with all the specialists up at Regional, which was a bonus.

Things weren’t perfect, not yet. But the final bottom surgery was going to take some time to organize. Right now, that didn’t feel so bad: he and Kevin could use a prosthetic in bed for a while longer. Living in a body that was so much closer to right was good enough, for now.

Assuming Janice let him live after he’d spent more than fifteen damn minutes in the shower, wasting her water. “Crap,” he whispered when his eye caught the hygiene room clock above the thin slat of a stall door. He hastily shut the spigot down.


He toweled off and pulled his clothes from the wash-dry unit that had used the water he had been washing with to clean his clothes before it was sent into the water-recycling system. Even getting dressed was easier now. No more damn binder to make getting dressed a fight.

Stepping into the room that had been Kevin’s and was theirs now, he smiled broadly. “Hey.”
Kevin sat up from his reading slouch on the bed with a smile, the light from the holo on the wall catching in his hair. “Hey yourself. So, what’s the verdict from The Lord of Intimidation?”
“Well, I’m not allowed to run marathons.” Aidan laughed, shutting the door behind him. He crossed the room and leaned down to kiss Kevin.
He’d intended to jump right into a talk about the new mission. But the kiss decided him. They couldn’t do much work this late. All he’d manage to do was freak them both out.
He’d take one night to enjoy this. One night for some fun. Tomorrow he’d break the news.
“Who said anything about running?” Kevin asked with mischief in his voice when Aidan let him up for air, grey eyes dancing. “We can have a perfectly good marathon without leaving the bedroom.” Reaching up, he ran his hand through Aidan’s damp hair, trailing it down and across Aidan’s chest. “Speaking of that, let’s have this shirt off.”

Aidan’s breath caught at Kevin’s touch, nervous tension spiking through him. Would Kevin be okay with the way he looked?
It was a completely stupid question, and he knew it. Kevin had seen his chest immediately after surgery. Hell, the guy had seen him with breasts. Why would this be any different?

Forcing down the nerves, he kissed Kevin again before pulling away to grab the hem of his shirt. He half-expected to get caught in it, but it slid off smoothly. He stood awkwardly in front of his boyfriend, wishing he didn’t feel so unsure.

“Um. What do you think?”

Standing, Kevin looked him over with soft eyes. Then he stepped in and tipped his head down for a kiss.
“I think I love you.”

Aidan smiled, letting out a breath as the tension in his gut eased. “I love you, too.”

Kevin’s kisses were long and slow.
“Now that your shirt’s off,” Kevin whispered against his skin, making his pulse jump. But the brat finished the sentence with, “let’s see how your arm rotations are shaping up. And you need to stretch your pectorals.”
Aidan groaned. “You’re going to make me do PT now? Kev!”
Kevin tipped his head up, adopting his teasing-haughty expression. “Yes, yes I am. The surgeon told me that I was your PT coach, and I take my duties very seriously sir,” he agreed in his most sanctimonious tones. “It’s for your own good. Besides, God forbid I take advantage of the feeble and convalescing.” He crossed himself, lips twitching with a repressed smile.

Aidan crossed his arms, playing along with a glare. “I’m looking forward to healing enough that ‘fuck you’ is taken literally. Because fuck you, Kev.”
Kevin burst out laughing, tipping his head back. “Well fuck you too then.” he murmured, leaning in for another kiss.

Once the goddamned PT was over, it was going to be a good night.

Reviews:Lori Ann Halouta on A Licence To Quill wrote:

It's 2156. Corporations now control the people of what used to be the United States. And they've gone way too far.
But, there's a Resistance. The Democratic State Force has pushed back for decades. And they've come up with an incredible plan: To free the people from a system that literally runs their lives by knocking out the Citizen Standing Score. Now, all the force needs is just the right team with enough smarts and guts to pull it off. Being a little crazy wouldn't hurt, either.
It's a mission custom-made for Base 1407. Every team member is brilliant in their assigned duty - and not a one of them lives up to society's common expectations.
But even as the team puts in endless hours working on their game plan, they also strive to figure out who they are and what their lives mean--not only to themselves, but to others.
This is a 'Mission Impossible' style adventure caper, but it's also an unflinching (and often smart-ass) examination of life, love, acceptance, change and what truly makes a family. And just like the unorthodox team members of Base 1407, it's a story that's greater than the sum of its parts.
A caution: LBGTQ romantic themes are explored, often in graphic, loving detail. If this is not your cuppa, you may be put off by this aspect of the story. I was not. I felt this very real part of life was included in balance with the breathtaking action sequences, the absorbing tech details, the quirks of personalities, and the varied blessings and challenges of body and mind that the people of Base 1407 face every moment of their lives.

About the Author

O.E. Tearmann lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, in what may become the CO-WY Grid. They share the house with a brat in fur, a husband and a great many books. Their search engine history may garner them a call from the FBI one day. When they’re not living on base 1407 they advocate for a more equitable society and more sustainable agricultural practices, participate in sundry geekdom and do their best to walk their characters’ talk.