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Chapter 1 Up the escalator from baggage check, Jonah Parker hurried through the terminal‟s concourse. He was late. The messenger bag carrying his datapad, com, and old-fashioned notebooks, pens and pencils bumped his hip. At gate twelve passengers were already boarding the shuttle. Winded from his jog, he caught his breath, and fed his boarding pass and ID to the remote drone at the gate‟s check-in. His first chance to cover a story offworld—off Bergstrom, at least—and he was almost bumped from the flight because port authority thought his pencils were bombs. It was the first time since he had gone to work for the Chronicle that he had appreciated his boss‟s temper. Tracy Gordon‟s globular bald head had materialized on the flat screen of Jonah‟s datapad, and a low grumble emitted from that screen had called the security officer an ill-educated dolt for not recognizing a pencil. Shamed, the security guard let Jonah pass with no further arguments. The drone spat back Jonah‟s pass and ID, and with a soft feminine voice said, “Welcome passenger 241 to flight D20 leaving for orbital research station Ghi at 1500 hours. Scheduled
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 2 arrival Ghi orbital 1600 hours. You may board at any time. Final call is 1430 hours. It is now 1420 hours.” From behind Jonah the aroma of brewing gourmet coffee poured into his nostrils. Oddly he thought a cup of coffee might calm him before the flight. He had been off world twice before, once to Terra to visit his father, and once to Obusy in the Tau Ceti system to see his old J-school buddy Gray Hjortsberg, so interstellar travel wasn‟t such a big deal. This trip, though, wasn‟t going beyond the Eradani system, so there were no pre-hyperspace jitters. This trip would barely reach beyond Bergstrom itself to the research station circling Bergstrom‟s moon. But, this trip could escalate his career—at least at the Chronicle—give him a better chance to get more offworld stories, maybe eventually enough for a book deal. It was also his first trip in which he would have significant contact with urvogellians, speaking of which, at the kiosk he had queued up behind a purple-crested urvogel—a female by the looks of it. Beyond the starport you didn‟t see many urvogel on a backwater like Bergstrom—a few in the settlements south of Sacramento. Most disliked Bergstrom‟s moderate temperatures, believing the planet too cold for their tastes. A prolonged stay—though not on the planet‟s surface—made his assignment newsworthy, at least for the Chronicle. It held some interest to the Terran media, and maybe the Federation too, because the science corps delegation making a stop at the research station had not said why they were coming. With a slender forewing, the urvogel accepted its watery orange tactdyl tea from the kiosk‟s barrista. It turned, snaked a condescending marble-brown eye at Jonah, then headed toward gate twelve. Jonah placed an order for a tall house blend, and hoped he might get a chance to talk to the urvogel once on board. Coffee in hand, Jonah headed down the ramp and into the shuttle.
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 3 # That night at the station, the reception for the delegates was pleasant enough, though few would remember it. For dinner: crusty seeded bread—an urvogel favorite—spread with tapenade as an hors d‟oeuvres, the entrée, a local fish blackened and spicy and cocktails from a generously stocked bar, all set up in a converted meeting room on the station‟s upper lab deck. The station‟s staff and crew, it was clear, wasn‟t used to formal events, but they had done their best laying out white-clothed buffet tables with sterling silver service trays, and hiring stewards and chefs from Conroy‟s, a surprisingly good high-end restaurant in one of the former settlements now incorporated into Sacramento. Jonah had been to the restaurant, covering his publisher Julia Kidder receiving a media award. Before dinner there had been the grip and grin press conference with the delegates orchestrated by an urvogellian PR flak, the purple-crested female—Quillip‟akta‟ur—from Jonah‟s shuttle. The scientists were draped in shimmering blue robes, signifying their caste, their crests bristling uncomfortably as the flak deflected questions about the delegation‟s mission; the only information given: the mission had to do with the station‟s research into genetics. The answers were too simple, nothing to warrant a week‟s stay here, but it was all he was going to get that day. After the press conference, he lowered his embarrassingly outdated handheld video camera, and entered quotes in his datapad. By reception‟s end, Jonah had time to transfer his all his notes to his datapad, write the story, edit a brief video stream, and file the whole thing from the station‟s satellite link-up in time for it to get a mention on the morning news show. As he uploaded the story, he imagined the pitted face and black-dyed, blown-dry hair of channel
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 4 XXXN-65‟s morning news anchor reading the story—unattributed—as twenty seconds of video flashed across tri-dee screens. Time for a refresh of his drink. Later, as the reception wound down and his story filed, he dropped his datapad and camera in his room, returned to the lab deck before the bar closed, and bought a gin and tonic. The stewards were clearing down the serving tables, but almost everyone, human and urvogel alike, was milling about. The station‟s staff seemed genuinely honored to have the urvogel aboard. The urvogel generally thought human science outdated, and Jonah could only imagine a backwater station like Ghi must‟ve seemed primitive. Their condescension toward human science and tech only made this visit more mysterious. But that mystery could be uncovered later this week. Jonah left the reception room, drink in hand, and headed toward the elevator, wanting to see from the observation deck his home planet vanishing into the void as the station moved to the moon‟s dark side. . . . had drinks with a freelancer working for one of the major news outlets on Terra. From the station‟s observation deck they stood behind curved windows looking into a black void, the station now behind the moon, Bergstrom well out of sight. For some time the urvogel Quillip‟akta‟ur stood near them, watching as the planet disappeared into the void. At her side, one of the blue-crested delegates. The two had chattered in their native language, clicking as if agreeing on something, or laughing about the humans getting drunk in the dark. Then the urvogel were gone, too, vanished like the planet they‟d been watching, only the hiss of a sliding door revealing their exit. The two journalists finished their gin and tonics in silence. # Initial security reports from the station said the station‟s cooling system had broken down. Media from outlets all over Bergstrom—in Sacramento and in its settlements— reported
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 5 that ammonia-fed pumps in the cooling system shut down, causing the station‟s electronic equipment to overheat. General alarms went off. A minor problem repairable in a few hours with a short spacewalk. Everyone aboard, reports said, was safe. Jonah was about to learn why the alarms really went off. Slightly drunk from downing the drink so quickly, Jonah set his glass on the coffee table in front of the viewing window, and sunk down into one of the thick-cushioned maroon chair that made a half-circle near the window.
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 6
The slidewalk dropped him at the edge of an octagonal court. Fast food joints lined the octagon‟s rims. Travelers clumped at tables and booths, eating breakfast. Somewhere from one of the kiosks at the edge of the court, He switched on his vidcom and linked to his credcard balance. He could buy coffee and breakfast and still have enough left over for anything else he might need. His com chirped as he made his way toward the coffee kiosk. He clicked Talk. “Parker.” “Cass here.” “What‟s up?” He stopped, turned around after passing the coffee kiosk. “Wanted to see if you could do something for me.” At the kiosk, he “What? No „Parker, I‟m glad you‟re alive?‟” “Right, right . . . Glad you‟re alive, Parker.” “Thanks.” “Wanted to give you a heads up . . . an urvogel delegation is arriving Sacramento downport in about an hour. You‟re there. So . . .” “Can I snap some vid, get a few quotes?” “I knew you wouldn‟t disappoint, Parker.” “No prob.” He clicked the vidcom off. Lucky for him the urvogel was still waiting for the barrista to froth the watery orange tactdyl tea they loved. He could find out from her at which port the delegation was arriving. “They seem a little slow today don‟t they, Honorable One?” He had assumed the purple crest placed her in the diplomatic corps and addressed her properly.
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 7 The urvogel snaked an eye toward Jonah. “Your kind always seems so,” the bird clicked in perfect Anglic, for which Jonah was glad; his translator, along with everything else, was awaiting pick up. He clicked a greeting in Urvogellian, though with a thick-tongued, awkward accent. The diplomat ignored him. No matter. He continued his formal greeting, clasping his hands together as if about to pray, and bowed at the bird. With grace she accepted her cup of tea, paid the barrista, and looked at Jonah again, this time with a little less contempt. She returned the bow. “No need to be so formal. Your kind, always trying to impress.” She shook her head, her crest bristling quizzically. “You‟re with the delegation, right?” he asked. “Why would you say that?” She seemed angered, offended. “Y-your crest . . .” Damn it. He hated when his voice cracked like that. “Anyway, no matter . . . I just thought you might . . .” “Because of the crest?” “I didn‟t mean to offend.” Shouldered over her forewing was a large vidcom bag. Shit, she was media, too. What a dumb ass! Urvogellians had to rank at least purple-crest to serve offworld. “Lighten up,” she said. “Quillip‟akta‟ur.” She extended her forewing to shake hands. “Yes, I am part of the diplomatic corp. Lower level. Public relations. Covering the delegation for the corp.” “Jonah Parker.” He shook the delicate forewing. “Parker? The writer?”
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 8 “Yes.” His face flushed. Four years in the business and he still felt awkward when someone recognized his work. “They have you covering the delegation?” Her crest flattened, then rose again. “I thought you were still on Ukiah.” “Guess you missed my last report.” He smiled. “But, yeah, my editor . . . she was supposed to pick me up half an hour ago . . .” “You don‟t have to say anything more.” Editors were editors no matter the culture. Reporters were their servants. Jonah peered at the time on his com. “The delegation, they should be here soon. Where are they docking?” Quillip‟akta‟ur eyed the hand-sized device Jonah held. “You‟re shooting with that?” “Guess I‟ll have to.” He shrugged. “My stuff‟s in baggage claim. And your people are always on time.” The urvogel‟s beak parted, a gesture indicating a smile. “We have enough time to get you better equipment. I have extra coms at our bureau.” # The vidcom Jonah‟s new friend lent him was made for thinner fingers, so it was clumsy in his hands, but it would produce better shots than his personal com. He stood alongside Quillip‟akta‟ur in the throng of reporters and remote drones covering the delegation‟s arrival. He hated this impersonal approach. Every story from the delegation‟s appearance, including his, would sound the same. A change-up in the lead. A slightly different camera angle. But the same story. Even the major outlets would have the same sound bites. If he hadn‟t been available for this event, Cass would have sent a remote drone. He was available, and cheaper than the drone.
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 9 A silvery dot flickered above the docking port. Two smaller dots appeared on either side of the larger one. A crackling boom came across the sky. The narrow river of media pushed closer to the velvet rope barrier keeping them away from the landing zone where the shuttle would arrive. Jonah shoved aside an out of shape disheveled slug to let Quill into the front row. It was the least he could do. She clicked her thanks as the dots in the sky took shape. The shuttle was elegant, an urvogellian design: sleek and slender in the front, a bulb in the back, small wings to the side, a shape much like the species that created it. Upturned thrusters allowed the craft to hover while landing skids were lowered. Jonah turned his vidcom away from the shuttle to the swiftly departing fighter escort. Another reminder of the war on Ukiah. The war—probably the reason an urvogellian delegation was coming to Bergstrom. The urvogellians wanted to withdraw more than 5,000 personnel from Ukiah, which placed the war more and more into Bergstromian, and therefore Terran, hands. Jonah couldn‟t blame the urvogellians. Seven years of fighting and the alliance was nowhere near stanching Ukiahan terrorism in the republic. Several thousand urvogellian males had lost their lives in the fighting. # His story uploaded and filed, Jonah left the urvogellian bureau after a cup of tactyl tea with Quill. With his claim stub expiring in ten minutes, he rushed to baggage claim, making his way through several labyrinthine concourses, passing gate after gate until he found a bank of elevators. He took an elevator to the port‟s lowest level. An expired stub would mean loss of every vidcom and notepad, every pen and pencil he had taken with him to Ukiah—at least for two months while port authority and planetary security riffled through it, making sure he wasn‟t Ukiahian intelligence or that his pencils weren‟t bombs. If he didn‟t make it to the claim desk, it
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 10 would certainly mean loss of his last story detailing the allied retreat from the ruins of Mont DeLillo. He stared at the fading claim code on the poker-chip sized plastic card. Three minutes. He pushed his way out of the elevator with one minute left and thrust the wafer at a counter clerk. The clerk eyed the stub indifferently, took Jonah‟s ID and press pass, told Jonah he‟d have to wait for clearance because the stub had expired, and disappeared into an office. As Jonah waited, Cass rang him up. “Great story,” she said. “A couple of questions, though . . .” “OK?” He rolled his eyes. A couple of questions from Cass could take hours. Then again, he probably had hours since he had to wait for his bags. “The delegates really were science corps?” “Yes. They were blue-crested. And I confirmed it with Quill . . . uh, the urvogellian who lent me her equipment.” “And all female?” “As far as I could tell. You know how hard it is to tell with them before mating season when the tail plumage comes out.” He shifted in his chair. “And I confirmed that with Quill, too.” “Odd. Very odd.” “What?” “I would have thought it was diplomatic. Not scientific.” “It‟s true. Apparently they‟re scheduled to go to Ghi in a few days. Don‟t know what for. Couldn‟t get much during the grip and grin. Even Quill wasn‟t sure.” “Hmmm. We‟ll have to keep an eye on that. Anyway . . . you think you could grab a taxi? My car‟s being worked on. We‟ll reimburse you when you get to the office.”
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 11 “Um . . . as long as you can reimburse me today.” “I‟ll see what I can do.” She clicked off before he could say anything else. # “Only one bag?” Eugenides asked his mark . . . um . . . fare. His fare nodded warily and slid into the tear-shaped, puke-green car. Eugenides loved the downport fares. They rarely said crap about his prices. They just wanted to get to their hotel or meeting, or whatever brought them to Bergstrom. This guy, though—well, some extra customer service skills might help. Security must‟ve harassed him. No doubt set off by the week‟s beard growth, the dingy t-shirt, the blue doo rag hanging sweatily against his head. Maybe a scammer like himself. Perhaps someone caught at his scam and kicked from the port by security. Eugenides swiveled to look at the guy slumped in the back seat. Or maybe he just needed coffee. “Where to?” The guy gave him an address. The Sacramento Free Press and Journal. An unusual destination. It wasn‟t ideal, not a block away from the downtown cop shop. Eugenides shrugged. A fare‟s a fare. He set the route on the GPS, turned on the meter, and the car hummed into motion. As the car neared downtown, Eugenides rerouted the GPS to bypass the cop shop. The car hopped into a new lane, passed the monorail station and hovered in an empty spot in the Journal‟s employee parking lot. His fare unbuckled his seat belt and thanked Eugenides for the ride. Before hopping into traffic Eugenides was surprised to see the man walk into the Journal‟s editorial office. If the guy really was a reporter, that could be bad for business.
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 12 He hovered at a traffic light, a little angry with himself. Perhaps he had pushed his scam too long. The light flickered green. He shrugged. On to something else, then. The green tear drop disappeared into the early rush hour traffic. # The office was at an unusual lull, a com chirping here and there, a handful of people gazing at monitors, snickering at the latest viral video. Cass was either fiddling with a column of text or answering e-mail, Jonah couldn‟t tell. “Hey Cass.” Jonah was at her desk before she saw him. “You get that cabbie‟s operator‟s number?” She turned, glanced at him. “Parker. You‟re back.” “No thanks to you.” “You should feel lucky that I was able to get your reimbursement today,” she said. She minimized the apps she had up. “You have your credcard?” He handed her the card. “And yeah,” she said, “that cab was stolen. Reported stolen by Ray‟s about a month ago.” She stuck a slender data disk into the card‟s port. “So you got taken.” “Thought so.” He‟d been scammed. A stolen taxi. Wonder how long that guy had been running fares at three times going rate? The credcard beeped. “Uh oh,” Cass said. “You have an alert on your account. It won‟t let me upload the money.” “Son of a bitch.”
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 13 “You‟ve had a pretty crappy welcome home, huh? You‟re bags impounded, you‟re account hacked.” Cass smirked. “At least you were able to get that story for me.” “Yeah. You know me. Always glad to serve.” # At his desk, he called Bridget. He shook his head as he waited for her to pick up. Why hadn‟t he called her instead of getting in the taxi? The best answer: the familiar green tearshaped car had drifted in front of him almost as if he willed it. The true answer: he didn‟t think this woman he‟d known for less than a week before he got the assignment on Ukiah would still be around. The call went to voicemail. Her class began at six. It was five-thirty. She was probably nowhere near a com. Instead she was probably checking equipment, testing the old-fashioned wire hook ups on the epees and foils. Most had at one time shorted during bouts, causing the judges to naked-eye hits, causing long arguments over who hit whom. Some of her class could be real divas. They complained about everything, including the shoddy equipment. They were also the ones with enough money they could‟ve donated equipment to the piste. Jonah wasn‟t a diva. Couldn‟t have cared less whether his epee was plugged to frayed wires or scored points with a laser system. He just thought it was unique someone had opened a piste a block from the Journal. Outside of movies or martial arts competitions, fencing was almost unheard of. Well maybe on some backwater system on the Rim, they fought with swords. But no need in civilized space. Not when you could make pink mist of someone‟s head from 1,000 meters away. He skimmed his story, checking Cass‟s edits. The video was shaky, as he‟d expected, but the story was perfect. As perfect as a grip and grin story could be. Just enough information to get
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 14 the conspiracy theorists riled up, at least from what he could tell of the comments. All of them had their ideas about why the urvogellians had sent a scientific delegation. All of them saw a government cover up, something to hide about the war. “You‟re still here?” He peered up from his screen. “Just approving your edits.” “Perfect as always.” “Of course.” It was now twenty after six. Twenty minutes after his shift was over. He thumbed his com, wondering if he‟d somehow missed Bridget‟s call back. “Didn‟t I tell you to go home an hour ago?” He shrugged. “Still don‟t have a ride.” “Then you have a couple of minutes?” “Sure.” Down the hallway, reporter and editor headed into the dingy break room and a wall of stale, burnt coffee. A low irritating hum emanated from the snack and drink machines. This was a bland, gray-walled place, the last sort of place anyone would want to go to take a break from work. If anything, you wanted to lose your change to the vending machines and get back to the mustard-yellow editorial office as soon as possible. Cass bought a soda and joined Jonah at a corner table. Fading sunlight squeezed through blinds and dappled their table. “You always sit here, in the sun,” Cass said. Her drink sighed pleasantly as she popped the can open. Jonah said nothing, as usual. Sometimes he had no idea what to say. He just waited to hear what others talked about, and spoke up if he thought of something.
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 15 Cass slid the can midway across the table as if offering him a drink. “Sorry about your account. I‟m sure you‟ll be able to straighten that out. That kind of thing happens to me all the time. That‟s because God hates me.” “Probably, yeah.” He interlocked his fingers meditatively, and stared down at Cass‟s hands. The candy-red polish on her nails were chipped. “What I wanted to tell you was that Miss Kidder loved your broadcasts from Ukiah. She told me personally she was glad she sent you.” “Really? She actually talked?” Cass half-smirked, then brought her drink to her mouth. “There‟s talk of a book deal. If she‟s willing to let go of the rights. You‟ll have to talk to Tracy about that. I know he‟s talked to her about it. But you know what a pussy he can be around her.” His face flushed at the thought of a book deal. He didn‟t want to get his hopes up too much, though. For being such a fit-throwing hard ass in the newsroom, his managing editor often bowed to the publisher‟s wishes. “He does seem to obey, doesn‟t he?” “I think they‟re having an affair.” Cass guzzled the last of her soda. “Now for the bad news.” “Don‟t even get a reach around, huh?” he mumbled. # Bradbury Eugenides cut the car‟s engine outside of a convenience store several clicks south of Sacramento. In the twenty or so years since the downport was built, it was becoming harder for a thief to ditch a stolen car in the country. Suburban sprawl had jabbed its tendrils into the smallest of settlements, some of which had been incorporated into the city. Other settlements let the sprawl encroach, gaining bank branches, fast food joints, and strip malls, but never letting
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 16 the sprawl envelop and consume. Even here, though, in this blink of a town, Eugenides could see the pink haze of skylights that obscured the night sky, could hear the sonic-boom of oldfashioned reaction drives used by Navy escort fighters as they cracked the atmosphere. He had stopped for a recharge. It was a risk to stop in town given the car‟s distinct color and shape, but he wasn‟t sure how far he needed to go now to actually be in the country, and anyhow his cell was low. The clerk inside was indifferent, spent most of his time fidgeting with the black stones in his earlobes, while Eugenides prowled the shelves for bread, cheese and meat. Once he found a suitable spot to ditch the car, he‟d have to camp for the night somewhere nearby, and he wasn‟t going to starve out in the woods. If Julia returned his call, he wouldn‟t have to stay in the woods at all. He paid the clerk cash, which for a moment confused the poor kid because he had to count change, and went outside to charge the car for the last time. A few clicks out of town he pulled the car to the shoulder, hovered for a moment to check the GPS. He had uploaded fresh maps an hour ago, just in case the old ones had missed any new developments or linkwork. There was an old groundcar highway twelve clicks southeast of here, and just beyond the highway a bridge. Some farmers still used ground vehicles, cultivators in particular, so the ground transport department maintained a handful of paved highways for commerce sake. He could dump the car in the river the bridge spanned and shelter himself for the night under the bridge. Finding the highway was no problem. The map was correct. He veered onto it, followed it about a click, and as he neared the river, switched the car to all-terrain mode and hopped a drainage ditch. Dust and dirt swirled around his car like thick smoke as the car hovered a few meters above a plowed field. He skirted the field‟s edge, then banked right, angling for a tree line in the distance. A few meters behind him a second dust plume rose.
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 17 He checked the navigation screen. A smaller vehicle behind him, catching up swiftly. Shit, he thought. Red light glinted in the rearview. A siren whooped. He was caught. # Jonah left the Journal from the rear door, heading on foot to Bridget‟s gym, a knot of anger swelling in his stomach after learning his next trip to Ukiah was placed on indefinite hiatus. Allied officials were limiting war coverage to the major Terran media outlets, so independents were grounded. It was late. From across the street, the hiss of the monorail arriving or departing the station the only sound. Everyone was gone, except the night editors monitoring the wire, sending out instant updates and follow-ups in a stream of images and text to Journal subscribers. Down the street patrol cars exited the police station, and cars hummed along the road. A weeknight. Light traffic. No sign of a green pod taxi: he doubted he could will it into existence like he had at the downport—not that he believed he had any sort of powers like that—and he hoped the 150 credits the driver had managed to take had bought a nice bottle of wine, some cold beer for a night‟s work. It was his fault he got ripped off. He should‟ve been more alert, should‟ve thought of Bridget earlier. Before her class. After the class had ended, she had checked her voicemail and had returned his call, happy, it seemed, she had heard from him. “I honestly didn‟t think I‟d hear from you,” she said.
Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 18
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