from “Scorched Supper on New Niger”


Bob W. Netchkay wanted my ship and I was damned if I was going to let him have it.

It was the last of the Steinway space fleet that my sister Nita and I had inherited from our aunt Juno. Aunt Juno had been a great, tough lady of the old days and one hell of an administrator, far better alone than both of us Steinway sisters together. I was young when she died, but smart enough to know that I was a damn good pilot; so I hired an administrator to run the line for Nita and me.

Bob Netchkay administrated himself a large chunk of our income, made a bunch of deliberately bad deals, and secretly bought up all my outstanding notes after a disastrous trading season. I threw him out, but he took six of my ships with him. I lost nine more on my own.

Then my sister Nita married the bastard, and with her went all that remained of our fleet but one ship: my ship, the Sealyham Eggbeater. And now, for the first time, I’d mortgaged the ship to raise money for a high-risk, high-profit cargo in hopes of making a killing and getting out of debt.

from “Cargo”

They smuggled Mara across the border at dawn. She carried only the clothes on her back and a suitcase full of someone else’s life. It grew heavier with each step as she hurried behind the gene smugglers toward the razor wire fence and the wall beyond.

In the translucent light, she could barely see the deadly impediment, even as the men crouched at it with wire cutters. One of the men called himself Samuel. Watching, she waited while they worked efficiently. They were offworld experts and had done this before. She hoped she could trust them.

As the sun slowly brightened the horizon over the dusky red hills, she looked back toward the distant city of Alos, the capital city of Harner. The seat of the overarching planetary government, Alos had been her lifelong home; the city no longer had a place for her. In contrast, determinedly free, the spaceport would provide them refuge, but it would take time and effort for them to get there. She knew the price of gene smuggling and she knew the price of failure.