This week’s prose fiction excerpt is unusual in that it’s not by me or Andrew. What you’ll find below is an excerpt from the science-fiction novel Nantais, written by our friend Verity Reynolds and published just a couple of months ago.
Andrew and I both had the honor of being involved in the production of Nantais – I did the proofreading and Andrew did the typesetting. But that’s not why we’re sharing this excerpt here and enthusiastically encouraging Weird Luck fans to read the whole book.
What’s really got us excited about Nantais is that it’s the first published work that’s official Weird Luck Saga canon written by someone other than me and/or Andrew.
Admittedly, its connection to the Weird Luck Saga might not obvious when you read Nantais. You won’t find characters or settings from Weird Luck in this book. But Nantais is just the first book of Verity’s Non-Compliant Space series – and over time, as Verity’s body of work grows and the Weird Luck Saga grows, the connections will begin to emerge – including characters crossing over.
Later this year, in fact, the first official crossover piece will be published – Verity’s short story “Kill Your Darlings,” which will appear in the 2018 volume of the Spoon Knife anthology, Spoon Knife 3: Incursions.
(By the way, Spoon Knife 3: Incursions will also include new Weird Luck fiction by me and Andrew – and for this volume, Andrew and I are also the co-editors.)
And without further ado, here’s our excerpt…
See you next Wednesday,
Molloy at the Spaceport
An excerpt from Nantais
© 2017 by Verity Reynolds
The spaceport was as she remembered it: rocky, crowded, and nowhere near warm enough for her tastes. Molloy shivered inside her jacket as she followed Jiya down the narrow passageway, Hayek bringing up the rear.
It had not been a good day.
Jiya’s first contact had been out of the system, on one of the long runs. The second, out of business. The third, a Devori with a leer that made Molloy’s hackles rise, had suggested a series of explicit and degrading sexual favors from Jiya in exchange for the parts they needed. Jiya put his head through the countertop, which Molloy found deeply satisfying. A search of his shop, however, revealed that he didn’t even have the cores they needed, which Molloy found deeply unsatisfying.
Now, they were headed back to the Reefer. Cordry had it right, Jiya explained: everyone walked through that bar sooner or later, which meant that finding what they needed there was only a matter of time. Molloy did not like the sound of that “time” – but what choice did she have? No ship, no colony. No colony, no David.
Jiya headed for the bar. Molloy and Hayek followed.
“Win,” Jiya said. “We need your help.”
The bartender straightened. He was human, Molloy realized with a start: as tall as Hayek, with the same broad shoulders, but darker than either of them, as dark-skinned as her grandfather had been. She liked him at once. An Earthsider. She’d bet her ship on it.
For the first time since she’d seen David’s face on the Terminus, Molloy felt something akin to relief. Here, at least, was someone she could talk to.
“Captain,” Jiya said, “meet Winston. He’s our best hope.”
Winston reached across the bar as Molloy extended a hand. “Resa Molloy,” she said. “This is my first officer, Richard Hayek. Last name or first?”
Winston smiled. “Last. You don’t want to hear my first.”
Molloy returned his smile as Winston shook hands with Hayek. “Fair.”
“What do you need?” Winston asked, motioning the three of them onto barstools. “You’re a long way from home.”
“So are you,” Molloy said, taking the seat Winston had offered. “I need a couple binary analycores compatible with an Interstellar Science R1-series research scout.”
Winston raised an eyebrow. “R1? Not to get personal, captain, but you don’t look that old.” The curve of his lips told her this was a joke. “How long you been out here?”
“Sure. And the ship’s been out for forty.”
Winston nodded, smiling again, and turned to Jiya. “Who have you seen so far?”
“Keocel. Atavax. Both missing.”
“Keocel won’t be back for another six months,” Winston said. “Atavax is dead, if the rumors are true. Few months of shortchanging his suppliers caught up with him. Rukar?”
“I broke him,” Jiya said.
Winston snorted. “Didn’t approve of his payment terms?”
“I did not.”
Molloy recalled the cold efficiency with which Jiya had put the Devori on the ground. She wondered idly why Jiya had never bothered to teach her daughter to fight like that.
Winston shook his head. “You’re running me out of ideas,” he said. “I’ve got one lead, though, if it’s IS parts you’re looking for. New guy. Just showed up last week. But you’re not going to like him.”
“Viidan,” Jiya said.
“Worse.” The glance he gave Molloy made her sit straighter. “He’s an Offsider.”
• • •
“Explain these Offsiders,” Jiya said as they left the Reefer and headed for the repair wing.
Molloy glanced at Hayek. Hayek raised an eyebrow and shook his head. She was on her own.
“You grew up at New Barrow, right?”
“There’s a fair number of them on Mars and its moons, although most of them are tolerable. The real assholes mostly live in the Kuiper Belt.”
“Explain,” Jiya said again.
Molloy sighed. “They’re humans, but they don’t live on Earth. Most of them have never even been to Earth – their parents haven’t seen it in three, four generations. Some of them have been offworld for nearly three hundred years, ever since the private firms took over the national space programs and started colonizing the rest of Earth’s solar system.”
“And this is a problem,” Jiya said.
“Well, yeah,” Hayek interjected. “They’re racist as fuck.”
Molloy didn’t wait for Jiya to ask. “When the colonization programs started, Earth was falling apart. I guess it still is, only we’re more used to it now. Three hundred years ago the climate was in freefall, the polar ice caps – Earth had those, supposedly – were melting. Weather patterns went haywire, and so did our ability to grow food. People starved to death by the billions.”
“Billions,” Jiya repeated.
“Yes. By the mid-21st century, the planetary population was over 8 billion people.”
“As it turns out, yes. But it happened. At the same time, the few remaining pockets of wealth on the planet managed to develop superlight propulsion. But getting a place on those ships was expensive, and not everyone could afford it. Those that could were the ones with whom wealth had been concentrated for the previous several centuries, and they were overwhelmingly white.”
“White.” Jiya seemed genuinely confused by this statement. It took Molloy a second glance at the Niralan’s face to realize why.
“Pale-skinned,” she amended. No human got as “white” as a Niralan without the help of greasepaint. “Humans have a long history of oppression based on skin color. We could outrun ecological collapse, but we couldn’t outrun our own bigotry.”
“The pink ones, you mean,” Jiya said. Molloy heard Hayek smother a laugh. She swallowed one herself.
“Yes,” Molloy said. “And they still don’t think the rest of us have any business in their world. To hear them tell it, we’re the reason the Earth collapsed. That’s why the corporations keep promoting them there. Offsiders abandoned Earth, but they never let it go, and they refuse to trust those who stayed to run the place. They still think they own it, and the rest of us are just renting.”
“Which is how you get a whole lot of company towns with crumbling streets, undrinkable water, and no schools to speak of,” Hayek said.
“I grew up on Earth,” Molloy said. “Hayek did too. Offsiders tend to assume anyone with skin darker than theirs did. It’s not always true, but they don’t have to care.”
They paused in front of the doors to Repair Bay 4. Jiya was studying her, dark eyes curious, alert. Molloy suddenly felt awkward. “I don’t suppose any of this makes sense to you.”
“I understand,” Jiya said.
Molloy doubted she did, but neither did she feel any interest in pressing the matter. They had something more important to do.
“I’m looking for the captain,” she told the surly-looking Devori who met them at the door, raising her voice to be heard over the clang of metal and the hiss of machinery. The Devori jerked a thumb toward the ship sitting in the center of the bay, then shuffled off.
The ship was tiny. Not merely tiny in comparison to the repair bay, which might have held a hundred its size, the rocky ceiling lost in the darkness overhead. But tiny, big enough for perhaps four people. At first, Molloy could hardly make it out. Mechanics and equipment carts blocked her view. But as they got closer, she heard Hayek draw a sharp breath.
“That’s an IS shuttle,” he said.
It was. It was one of the smallcraft the larger ships carried, to facilitate close-range scanning and day trips to planetary surfaces: the sort of tool scouters like the Jemison were presumed not to need, and at any rate had no place to store. It was an old one, too, one of the R1 models.
Molloy’s heart leapt. Anyone who could get their hands on an R1 shuttle out here, even a non-working one, could certainly obtain a few compatible analycores. Perhaps there was even one in that shuttle. Perhaps one would be enough.
She had to wonder, though, where the shuttle’s owner had gotten it. R1 shuttles had no superlight capabilities: they would do 500,000 kph if pushed, but they did not like to be pushed. Molloy herself had once suffered severe radiation burns trying to run an R1 from Thalassa out to the Kuiper Belt at that speed. She’d needed to run.
“I’m looking for the captain,” she said again, this time to the woman who climbed out from under the port engine as they approached. She was human as well, about Molloy’s age, with colorless hair and the pale skin of an Offsider.
The woman smiled. It was not a nice smile.
“Sure,” she said. She jerked her head toward the shuttle. “He’s in there.”
Reminding herself sternly that this wasn’t anything but ordinary Offsider bullshit, Molloy walked up to the shuttle and poked her head inside. The craft was empty save for one man sitting at the controls, his back to the door. She’d seen his close-cropped silver hair on a dozen men like him before.
“You the captain?” she asked.
The man raised his head. The moment he spoke, Molloy knew exactly where she’d seen that hair before.
“Captain Molloy.” There was an unmistakable note of amusement in his tone, and like the woman’s, Molloy sensed it did not bode well for her. “I had a feeling we’d run into one another again. So nice of you to drop in and save me the trouble of hunting you down.”
The air rushed out of her chest. “Sonofabitch.”
The man turned in his chair and smiled at her.
“So tell me,” Rex Bush said. “What can I do for you?”