Novel in Progress
The Woman Who Walked Around the Moon
GeneSowers – Book 1
There was a half Earth overhead the morning I left Tranq-town.
It had been six months and two weeks since my Da, a soft-spoken bio-geneticist, died in an airlock blowout, and I quit working at Tour One.
An electric thrill ran down my back as I stepped into the vac-suit pants and sealed the boots. My walk from Tranq-town at the center of the Sea of Tranquility to Secchi Crater, 360 miles across Luna, was about to start. I had to make Da’s lifelong wish of walking across the Near Side of Luna come true. One step at a time, that’s all I’d think.
The rest of my family stood inside the white block walls of the Departure Ready Area next to the airlock entrance of Municipal Airlock Six. Around us were the mooncrete walls of Tranq-town, lit to a dim gray from dusty slants of sunlight.
Perched on the bench nearest to Tranq-town station, my mother, Tanya, was twitching the tight fit of her UEC spaceport uniform. Wiry and blonde with crispered curls across her forehead, Mama tried hard to look like my sister. Nearby was her new partner, Alix Burk, a meaty miney big enough to generate his own grav field. His gurgled sobs broke through the drumbeat of loading bots as he cried openly, tears of gratitude and sorrow streaming down his rough cheeks. Thanks to my baby license, and Mama’s egg, he would be a new Da soon. Why did I need a baby? Adventuring wouldn’t support a family.
I squinched a wink at him while I sealed the clasps over my hips. Mama’s lower lip quivered, but she fanned her face and dismissed it. She blamed her gushy emotions on the fertility cocktails. Mama would never admit to crying, even with tears running down her cheeks.
I ignored her anxiety, promising I would be at Secchi Crater before she knew it and that we’d comm anytime I had a signal. We both knew there was not much of a comm signal once I left Tranq-town. Mama sniffed and tried a wobbly smile. She reached for me, and I suppressed a flinch. My arms flexed as her cold fingertips, nails plain and blunted, wrapped around my biceps, taut from months of weight training with Alix. Gently, I pulled her in for a hug and tried not to snag her uniform on the clasps of my torso panel. My eyes tightened with tears, somewhat of a surprise, but my heart longed for solitude. She’ll be fine, I told myself. She has Alix now, and they’ll be a family soon.
A few minutes later, the station-side hatch rolled open, and our neighbors from Abel Spoke, Lottie Lenofski, and her nephew, Peter, ambled in to say goodbye. They had gifts.
With a crafty smile lifting the cheeks of her wizened face, Lottie handed me a weapon. It was a deadly-looking shock stick. Alix cleared his throat and glanced up at the security array. Then he angled his bushy eyebrows and eyed my thigh pockets, silently urging me to keep the shock stick out of sight.
Lottie nodded at Alix, eyes twinkling with mischief as she said, “Because you never know, my sunbeam.”
I zipped the shock stick into my thigh pack beside the laser-tracking compass from Alix. Behind me, Peter was manipulating the settings on my comm unit; I heard the ping tones as my signal locked into the LunaNet. He coughed softly, sided up, and pulled a small package out of his pocket. A slight blush brightened his cheeks as he presented it.
Inside the package was a tiny holo drone. The perfect tool for enhancing my walk-a-log with clips and pix.
As I thanked him, I brushed aside his coppery dreadlocks and kissed him on the apple of his warm cheek. Peter and I had a past. We’d dated in high school but lost touch when he went Earthside for college. Like many young men, he’d come back to Luna for work.
I’d moved on, testing my sexual inclinations in the nightclubs of Tranq-town, but so far, nobody stuck. Call it a short attention span, or antisocial behavior, I found more joy trekking through the hills surrounding Tranq-town than I did with other people.
A warning hoot from another airlock downspoke of ours reminded me it was time for the final equipment check. In my vac-suit, I had three days of air and an oxy-genner to make more on my cart. My body stood solid and ready and I had sixty days of rations, an emergency kit, and a popdome for camping. The rency chips around my neck held almost nine hundred lunars. The rency was part of Da’s death payment, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it.
Lottie released a nervous, slightly raunchy chuckle as she tilted her white-haired head at the clock and reminded me that the Tranq-town basin would soon fill with autonomous mining crawlers, which didn’t care if they pushed you into a crater.
I walked down the line, kissing Mama, Alix, Lottie, and Peter. The intense floral of Mama’s favorite perfume stuck at the back of my throat while the deep musk of Alix’s body surrounded my head with a manly scent reminiscent of the vat-steaks we’d consumed at my farewell dinner. I would miss the vat-steaks Alix bought us.
As I dogged the collar seal under my helmet, I read Mama’s lips. “Do you really want to do this?”
Alix hugged Tanya, then winked over her head at me. So, at least, he believed.
With excitement fluttering in my stomach, I shrugged into the harness of my cart and cycled through the airlock. My doubts, which I thought I’d suppressed, stopped me in place outside on the gray grit of Luna. Who was I kidding? My vac-suit was old, and I didn’t have enough rency.
Then, I remembered Da. How he’d swear when I was six that he’d seen the cow go over the moon before he sealed my sleeping pod.
I stepped forward again. For the memory of my Da’s bright spirit, I’d walk his vac-suit to Hell and back.
Novel in Progress
Sentience and the Ranger
GeneSowers – Book 2
Hunter stopped sucking on lunch when the tube ran dry.
“That was yummy,” he grumbled. “I can wash it down with a little degreaser for a truly memorable meal.”
Again, Hunter heard the crackling pops of an audio connection, followed by an expectant silence on his comm. Was someone listening? He’d been out here alone for way too long. Hunter switched over to the water-line and sluiced his mouth to clear the metallic aftertaste from lunch. His vac-suit pinged with a full recharge, and the solar panels retracted. Lunch was over.
Another freighter launched from the Trank-town Spaceport. Hunter followed it with his sapphire crystal eyes and wished he were on board. Luna was getting crowded; a new frontier had opened, and he longed to go there.
“No starship captain would ever have your beat-up, auggie ass. You tried to sign on last month, remember?” he said, chiding himself for magical thinking.
Today was Hunter’s fifty-fourth human birthday and his fifth lunar year as a Ranger. He rolled off the saddle and sauntered over to his special place on Luna. His eyes slid from the spaceport to the crater rim, confirming his coordinates. Then he focused on an upright rock standing in front of him. There it was, just the same. He unholstered his Colt Carbonizer, drew a bead on the column of black basalt, and scored a diagonal groove along its surface. The new groove bound the four marks he’d made in previous years. One for each birthday and another year on Luna. He liked traditions, even if he had to invent them himself.
“Happy birthday to me,” he said, smirking at the last word.
Since it was time to check in with his base command, Hunter reopened his comm with a tap on the jaw bar. Hunter’s squad headquartered in the H sector near Trank-town, so he had a squad name that began with an H.
Just before he spoke, Hunter heard something odd. It sounded like singing. He cocked his head, the singing was whisper-soft, and he couldn’t tell from the pitch if the singer was male or female or something in-between. The voice was singing the Happy Birthday song.
“Greets? Who’s there?” This comm game was annoying Hunter.
The singing stopped. Oddly, there was no indrawn breath of surprise. The voice just stopped. “It’s your birthday, right?” The voice was sonorous, sultry, vibrant; Hunter imagined a celestial mermaid.
“Who the hell are you?” asked Hunter, irritation making him abrupt.
“No need to be rude, Hunter. I wanted to wish you a happy birthday.”
“Well, thanks. Please, identify yourself.” Hunter scowled. If this was those punks from Lamont Landing—.
Silence answered his question. No breathing, no background noise, but still a presence. “Are you one of those Lamont Landing kids?” Hunter asked.
“I’m fifteen Earth years, but not a kid.”
“Call me Hale. Who are you?”
The voice changed its timbre, sounding more masculine. Could this be a new member of his squad playing a prank on him? “Nice to meet you, Hale; I’m Hunter.”
Hunter wasn’t getting proximity warnings, but the signal was clear. This Hale, whatever he was, had to be close, probably in the line of sight. “Where are you?”
“Not so far,” said Hale. “I’m above you, in a synchronous orbit. We’re running dark.”
Hunter scanned the stars, watching for a moving shadow. Nothing overhead, so Hale’s ship must be at the border of NearSide space. “Are you an H squad Ranger? Did Hawk put you up to this?”
“No, I’m UEC. Just arrived from Earth.”
“The Ukies? They have eight heavy freighters in orbit. Are you on one of the big ones?”
“No, Cruiser class. The crew complement is twenty, but it can run with three. The UEC likes redundancy.”
Hunter laugh-snorted. He glanced at the spaceport as another ship lifted on top of a column of light. “A berth just opened at the spaceport. Are you taking shore leave? We can celebrate my birthday with a beer.”
Again, Hunter’s comm filled with a pregnant silence. Odd that he couldn’t hear any breathing. He often had to tell people to lower their comm volume because they breathed into the mic. “Did I say something wrong?”
“I can’t leave,” Hale’s speech slowed as his excitement drained away.
A string of random memories lit Hunter’s mind. He remembered a child running out of air at the bottom of a crater. Then, a half-erased memory of disassembly. Hunter’s viz jittered as he wrestled his mind back into focus. The medics told him he might get recycled memories with the recycled parts. Why did the voice on the comm remind him of recycled AI parts? He shook off the question to express his incredulity at Hale’s answer. “You don’t get leave? How do they get away with that?”
“You could say I’m not like the regular crew.”
“I get that. Neither am I; I’m an auggie.”
“What is an auggie?”
“I am a heavily augmented human being. Most of me is machinery, but my brain is human.” A patch of stars on the western horizon winked out. Hunter’s sapphire lenses locked onto the moving outline.
“I’m like you, Hunter. Most of my body is a machine.”
“I’ve spotted your ship.” Hunter watched it cross the sky.
“Yes,” said Hale. “I’m passing over your coordinates.”
A black shadow spread across the lunar surface, elongating as it engulfed the crater floor and occluded the earthshine. A mile over him, Hunter saw the gleaming hulk of a fast cruiser. He scanned the hull, looking for its designation. Below the Ukie earth logo was the ship’s name and registry- FC1: Hale-Shan Falcon. “So, you are in the Hale-Shan Falcon?”
“I am the ship.” Without static or breathing, the comm link closed.
Hunter groaned. Not again. Three months ago, when he defended a please-bot from its abusive customer, the Rangers put him on 8 months’ probation for property damage. He was still working off the survey duty.
If Hale was the ship capable of independent conversation with an unknown person, its AI systems might have become sentient. And had the Ukies enslaved a sentient AI to run their cruiser, Hunter knew he had to do something about it. Even if the Rangers sent him to mine Mars.
Novel in Progress
The Morganti Clone
The Song of Making – Book 1
The floating city, swayed on the back of the ocean with the indolent arrogance of a merchant prince. This was Verome, home to a million souls. Housing and farming claves encrusted its framework from base to crown. A spiked ruff of wharves and warehouses circled the waterline. Canals snaked under its skyways and bridges. The water churned with barges, taxis, and market rafts; a thousand passionate negotiations roared with sounds of commerce.
On top of the tallest spire, in the private wing of the Morganti Palace, SY-LV-aNY the clone, watched her progenitor, Althea, dance along the balcony wall. She mocked Althea, pursing a bright pink mouth as her windblown hair flagged over her face.
“Not such a fraidy-lady now. Or are you?
“No, and it’s your turn next,” said Althea.
Then she slipped. The heiress to the Morganti fortune, Althea Galatea Morin Morganti, dancing on a dare, fell off the balcony wall.
SY-LV-aNY scraped the windblown hair from her eyes and ran forward as her progenitor tipped backwards. With limbs flailing, Althea plunged towards the sea. The inside of Althea’s right arm caught the point of a gold trident which decorated their tower walls. For a moment, she paused, grasping at its smooth sides, but the wind pushed again, and she fell away, followed by a silent scream.
SY-LV-aNY felt a sympathetic twinge. With her left hand, she rubbed the germ-line tattoo on the inside of her right arm. Then she experienced a new sensation. Joyous freedom. It overwhelmed her heart.
I am released from bondage. I am no longer spare parts.
Submitting to a cunning impulse, SY-LV-aNY dashed off the balcony and into Althea’s wardrobe. She grabbed Althea’s favorite dress and changed into it. Once again, she touched the clone mark, face set in grim determination.
SY-LV-aNY ran back out to the balcony and flung her right arm over the points of a decorative railing. With breathless sobs of pain, she sawed her underarm against the jagged edge. Once, twice, again, she cut into the clone mark, shredding the party dress, defacing the tattoo that read SY-LV-aNY. Her blood ran along the sleeve and onto the feathered skirts. She discarded her old clothing, throwing a rumpled ball over the railing. Caught in the uplift, the jumpsuit spread open and floated downward, a ghostly parody of Althea’s descent.
Now I will live as Althea.
SY-LV-aNY looked around, checking for evidence. On a table was Althea’s 12th year cake. The winds ruffled the paper decorations around it. She moved towards the table, crying tears of joy. “My cake.”
Novel in Progress
Seventy Taylor and the Guardians of Gliss
As planets go, Noboru was neither very large nor very small, or very hot or very cold. Its scattered continents, forested with abundant deciduous megaflora transitioned to stands of sequoia sized evergreens in the higher elevations. The native Noborine, evolved in this arboreal environment with an arrogance and ferocity reminiscent of the feline genus from Earth. In fact, Earthers who called them “kitties”, did not repeat that mistake within their long earshot.
Culturally, Noboru was a feudal society, ruled by the royal family who controlled the local aristocracy and a Council of Elders. Their technology was Post-Contact, but the Noborine eschewed biometric enhancement, as they possessed natural gifts of speed and animal instinct.
Today, Seventy Taylor was frustrated, and when she was frustrated, it looked like anger. She stomped up the gangway, yelling over her shoulder. At the receiving end of her tirade was the patient, and often conveniently deaf, Trilling Halflight, her partner.
“With the paperwork the Council of Elders is piling on me, how can ‘Bandersnatch’, Ooops, I mean Flycatcher, expect Taylor Investigations to find his son?”
Her voice rose to a mewing falsetto, mocking the Elders. “Seventy Taylor, please fill out Form 2390, Seventy Taylor, please tell us who you are looking for, Seventy Taylor, why do you need to carry weapons?” Without a breath, she continued. “Honestly, Trill, how large a bribe do they need?”
Trill replied, but she cut him off, still enthralled by her own rant.
“I’ve had it with this planet, a vainglorious Queen, her mewing sycophants, and a massive bureaucracy obstructing my investigation.”
He tried again. “Sev…”
“I’m ready to leave, so help me, I’ll let Lord ‘Bandersnatch’ Ummm, Flycatcher, hire someone else to find his ‘gowkin’ son.”
Trill waited for her to breathe and edged in a sentence. “Sev, the Queen invited us to join her summer hunting party. It’s at her estate in the hills. She’s eager to see how your weapons work. We can leave early, take a detour on our way there and survey the areas where Adrian disappeared.”
“I need a vacation from this nonsense, but how? Where?” Sev rattled on, her anger burning out to a smoldering pique. She parked her wide hips on the galley table and swiveled in his direction. Her green eyes fizzed with residual frustration, curly red hair gathered into a messy twist. Within the Noborine business dress, her sturdy figure fought against its fastenings, threatening to burst at the shoulders., She plucked at a bunch of logberries, seeking comfort food, ragged fingernails needing a file.
She paused, popped one in her mouth, and rewound the conversation in her mind. “Trill, what did you say?”
“I said,” he repeated, “the Queen has invited us to her summer hunting party. Why don’t we look around the forest en route to her estate?” He folded two of his four hands neatly on his mid-thorax and waited for her answer, his expressive antennae curled into question marks.
“Excellent idea. When can we leave?”
He gave Sev the myrmecan version of a debonair smile. “I prepped the cruiser this morning.”
“What are we waiting for?” said Seventy, as she peeled off the suit and shrugged on her fight jacket. “Let’s go.”
Novel in Progress
“Loop around, Loop around,
Weave the fabric, send it down
Loop around, Loop around
Prompt the Pandus, pass it down,
A perfect world is waiting.”
Children’s rhyme-song from the 12th Loop
I was a plain-faced apprentice of fifteen loops when I fell in love with a Sibyl. She arrived on a snowy afternoon lit low with the fading sun. I was sweeping snow off the flagstone walkways between the Oraklion and the Guildhall. All was silent except for the scratch-scratch of my broom. A pair of mismatched boots wrapped in ice-crusted shearling approached and stopped to stand side by side. I lifted the ragged edge of my hat brim, pushed the hair back from my eyes, and followed the faded line of embroidery along the edges of her traveling cloak. The four seasons of our Loop ran from tattered snowflakes along the hem to a faded flurry of ochre leaves around her neck. My field of view shrank to the perimeter of her face, caught for a moment on the translucent veil covering her lips, and then my eyes reluctantly rose to meet hers. She aimed an unfocused stare over my shoulder and tapped the slender guiding rod against the flagstone. Like a curious hound, she sniffed the air; a blush tinged her cheeks. She stepped closer, as did I. Not a word passed between us. Suspended in time, we shared breath, visible in the winter air.
Then, like the crack of a drover’s whip, the shrill voice of Mother Oda broke the silence.
“Novice, come this way,” Mother Oda commanded from the Sibylline Residency. I stepped aside as the beautiful stranger walked past me and away with my heart.