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, camera, and old-fashioned notebooks, pens and pencils bumped his hip as he jogged toward gate twelve. Winded, he reached the gate‟s passenger lounge. Except for a service drone hovering behind the bar, the lounge was empty. He caught his breath and slumped down into one of many empty leather chairs placed around squat black coffee tables for guests‟ comfort and convenience as they waited in the lounge for their departing flights. He groaned. His first chance to cover a story off world—off Coryvant, at least—and he had missed the preflight press briefing. His heart sank at the prospect of hearing from his editor Tracy Gordon and having to tell him he missed the briefing. Gordon might just pull him off the assignment. The service drone skittered up next to him. “May I get you something, Sir?” it said with a powdery feminine voice. All the service drones at the spaceport had a powdery feminine voice. “A complimentary drink?” A band of white lights flashed across the silvery floating orb like a

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 2 smile. Someone had fitted the orb with an actual black bowtie to give it a more servile look. It waited pleasantly for an answer. Jonah sighed. He glanced at his bare wrist, an odd habit, given he never wore watches. Might as well have a drink to fortify himself for the lashing he was sure to get sooner or later. “Gin and tonic, please.” “Thank you, Sir,” the drone said. “May I see your boarding pass? Only to confirm you are on this flight. Otherwise I‟ll have to charge you for your drink.” He shrugged and fed his pass into the narrow slit that had opened below the bowtie. “Thank you, Sir,” the drone said. “Your order will be right up.” He closed his eyes and sighed again, before feeling around in his bag for his datapad. He could uplink Gordon here by vidcom transmission, take the tongue-lashing he guessed he deserved and see what happened after that. Resting the pad on his knees, he lifted up the thin vidcom monitor, selected the number pad app on the touch screen, and was about to key in Gordon‟s comm number when he felt a tiny, prickling tap on his shoulder. “Mr. Parker?” Startled by the scratchy voice above him, Jonah peered up. His gaze followed the white downy, spindly serpentine neck to a pair of brown eyes set into a purple-black feathery crest. “Jonah Parker, yes.” His heart jumped. There stood his urvogel contact, who he thought he had missed. “I‟m so glad I found you, Mr. Parker,” the urvogel said. “I‟ve been trying to reach you for almost an hour now.” His face flushed. “Oh no, I‟m so sorry. I‟ve had my comm shut off since I passed it through security. You know how those detectors can scramble the drive.”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 3 The female urvogel slightly parted its beak and nodded its head. From where Jonah sat it looked as if the rounded gray beak was smiling. He got up to greet the bird, extending his hand as he stood. “Sorry I‟m late. Hope I didn‟t miss anything important.” “You‟re fine, Mr. Parker.” The urvogel extended a featherless forewing. “Quillip„akta„ur, public relations liaison for our honorable science team. And you haven‟t missed anything. In fact, we‟ve rescheduled the meeting until we‟ve boarded our flight. I‟m afraid it‟s the Terran News Service crew who‟s late.” He rolled his eyes at the mention of those pompous asses. Overpaid, well-funded, and quick to steal the spotlight from local media, the TNS broadcast throughout the Federation and had even launched bureaus in the Urvogel Commonwealth. He was sure they would hog as much air time with the science team as possible. “That‟s too bad, Quillip‟akta‟ur,” he said. From behind him the service drone beeped, alerting him that his drink was being served. “Quillip is fine, Mr. Parker.” She waved the orb over to her. “Another tea, Madame?” the orb said. “Please, yes.” The orb scooted off. Quillip returned her attention to Jonah. “Let‟s sit. I could fill you in on what I‟m going to say at the briefing. Just in case your editor needs an update.” “That would be great.” He took a seat, opened his datapad and set it to record mode while he listened to Quillip run down the basic itinerary for the week ahead. Their flight would arrive at Ghi orbital sometime early this evening. Following their arrival, and before a dinner reception, Quillip would conduct a brief press conference with the urvogel science team. “Don‟t forget to put „honorable‟ in there,” she said. Jonah cringed at the

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 4 editorializing, but kept recording and keying-in notes. The urvogel was downright bubbly about the science team‟s visit, as bubbly as urvogel allow themselves to get. She chirped and squawked in what passed for laughter several times for Jonah‟s benefit, and emphasized how delighted their team was to visit the research station. Jonah nodded, paused in his note taking and sipped his drink. All of this information had been in their release. The urvogel were as common as any spacefaring species traveling in the Federation, but they were unlikely to have good cause to be this far from the main trade routes, so their visit to Coryvant was unusual. They also were well-advanced technologically, much more so than most humans this side of the Rim; they had achieved FTL several centuries before Terra, and thought Terran science and technology primitive. Considering that view, it seemed crazy to Jonah that an urvogel science team would want to visit an orbital research station as remote as Ghi. Even if, as Quillip kept insisting, the team was honored to meet the station‟s chief researcher, Dr. Gore Alcubierre, the last of the family genetically related to Miguel Alcubierre, the Terran physicist whose mathematical models led to the development of FTL and Terra‟s entrance into the interstellar community. Jonah tapped his pad and keyed more notes. “Can I ask you a question?” he said. He stopped typing. “Off the record, if that will help.” He stuttered some as he thought through the question. The urvogel waited, patient and smiling. “What‟s really the deal with this visit?” Quillip‟s purple crest bristled and she clutched the small bag she had shouldered over one wing. “I‟m afraid I can‟t answer that, Mr. Parker.” “Why?” “Over here.” Quillip had ignored him and was waving to three figures in blue flight suits, the regular uniform of a TNS news crew.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 5 Clearly his interview was over. He shut his datapad, put it in his bag, and slipped away from the lounge without anyone noticing. As he walked by himself toward the boarding ramp, he heard Quillip‟s delighted chirps as she chattered with the TNS boys. It rankled him they got all the attention. They would probably get her to talk, give her the real reason behind her people‟s visit to the station. Alcubierre‟s minor celebrity and even the advanced genetics research at the station couldn‟t be that big a draw to the urvogel, as she kept insisting. At the end of the ramp he swiped his pass through the keypad above the airlock iris valve. The valve dilated. He ducked into the airlock where he was greeted by an orange flight-suited steward who checked his pass. His annoyance with Quillip settled when the steward led him through a second valve. This was it. He was in the launch. His first off world assignment was going to happen. The launch was small, a privately-chartered craft, with six passenger couches, three on either side of a narrow aisle. The steward let him choose his seat and as he settled in to send Gordon an update that the man would probably not like, it became clear to him that he, the urvogel and the TNS boys were the only passengers. There was room only for the steward, who took the remaining seat when everyone had boarded. Quillip didn‟t bother with an update when she boarded. She seemed irritated. The TNS boys must have gotten to her. Her crest remained angrily spiked until the pilot from the cockpit intercom welcomed all aboard flight D20, and the craft‟s thrusters pushed it off the launch pad. # From space the station looked like a slowly spinning blue top. Two narrow shafts fitted into an oblong beet-shaped orb. Up close the station wasn‟t a solid orb; it was layered like two three-tiered wedding cakes butted into each other. The shaft extending from the bottommost tier

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 6 was fitted with two horseshoe wings. The horseshoes served as docking bays for the larger freighters from out of the system that brought supplies to the station. Smaller passenger craft nested airlock to airlock on the wings of the widest tier, the main lab deck. Their craft made its docking approach, slowing considerably, maneuver thrusters audibly hissing as the pilot matched orbits with the station. Jonah peered through his window into the silver-flecked blackness surrounding the station. Something yellow hung near the blue horseshoe. No. No. That‟s not right. Not him. He rubbed his eyes. What he thought he saw had to have been an illusion, some strange light play of stars against the station‟s blue metallic surface. It just had to. He looked away from the station and stared at the back of the seat in front of him. # It was him. The man stood out among the staff and crew gathered in the docking bay to welcome visitors. A salted mane of black dreadlocks fell past his shoulders. He was dressed in a black formal suit, already prepared for tonight‟s reception, and he was smiling, but looking past Jonah, who had come out of the airlock before the others. Jonah tried to skirt past him, hoping he could somehow avoid talking to him until he absolutely had to. He couldn‟t quite place why he felt threatened by Foster Harrigan. The man wasn‟t physically menacing: he was average in most respects, except for the dreadlocks; he had never made any sort of threat of violence in Jonah‟s frequent dealings with him. But the rogue journalist, who at the moment worked for a rival network in a settlement outside of Coryvant‟s main city of Hecate, had a presence. He could be felt in any room, and often drew attention, wanted and unwanted, to himself.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 7 “Don‟t think you can walk past me without saying hello, Parker.” Harrigan extended a coffee-brown hand. “I‟m surprised to see you here, though. Expected to see someone else from your organization. Someone a little less of a farmboy. Maybe Kidder herself.” Jonah was rattled by the slight insult against his level of sophistication, but shook the man‟s hand anyway. His line of sight drifted to their clasped hands. Harrigan‟s grip was firm, confident. “Welcome aboard, Farmboy.” He let go of Harrigan‟s hand, looked up and finally met his eyes. “Thanks.You too.” He watched for a steward to come show him his room. A young woman with gray hair greeted him. The hair wasn‟t dyed, just a genetic quirk common to all K‟ians, young and old alike. The K‟ian helped him with his bags. It was unusual to see K‟ians working service jobs. A warrior culture originally from Tau Ceti‟s largest planet, usually they served in mercenary units fighting in backwater brushfire wars. There had been a company on Coryvant about ten years ago assisting local marines with stamping out an uprising led by a well-armed messianic cult in one of the settlements outside of Hecate. Jonah followed the K‟ian down a short corridor to the station‟s main shaft, which was ringed with several elevators. As they waited for an elevator to descend, he saw Harrigan still in the docking bay, chatting with Quillip. # Before dinner Quillip orchestrated the grip and grin press conference with the three female urvogel scientists, draped in shimmering blue robes, signifying their caste, all biophysicists. Jonah was surprised to see the scientists were female. Male and female urvogel

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 8 looked alike when mating season ended and the male‟s tail plumage dropped, but urvogel society was rigidly structured by caste and gender and almost all in the science caste were male. Maybe they were adapting, though, forced to restructure their society because so many males were dying at the Rim. The urvogel scientists shook hands with Dr. Alcubierre and his staff and crew. They greeted the TNS crew, Jonah and Harrigan. Jonah recorded what he could with his embarrassingly outdated handheld video camera, until the blue-suited TNS cameraman elbowed him aside to get an ideal shot, aiming the rifle-like holocam at the reporter interviewing Truax‟akta‟ur, head of the urvogel mission. Jonah melted into the crowd at the buffet table, spreading tapenade on the crusty seeded bread that was an urvogel favorite, and washing it down with complimentary chardonnay. He accepted a chilled glass of the almost clear wine, and thought it might help numb his anxiety over filing his first story with Gordon. Gordon already thought he wasn‟t aggressive enough as a reporter to cover an event like this, and now the best video he would have to show Gordon—it was barely more than a rehashing of the press release. He quaffed almost half his drink and looked over to see the TNS interview wrapping up. At least he got a good chuckle watching Harrigan wedge himself between the TNS reporter and Truax, causing the TNS guy to bridle. Pinched between Harrigan‟s thumb and forefinger was a glowing cube about twice the size of a gaming dice, a holocube, an urvogel technology that could hold three times as much data as a datapad. They cost about three times as much, too. But, Harrigan, despite TNS‟s protests, would have no problem getting the story either.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 9 Except there wasn‟t that much of a story to get. Jonah could overhear what Truax was saying. Quillip had coached the mission head to reveal nothing more than what was said earlier. Jonah sighed, relieved a little that no one else had gotten anything better than him. But, if this was all they were going to get, he thought, it was going to be a long week up here. # The dinner reception that followed was pleasant enough, though few would remember it: the crusty seeded bread spread with tapenade as an hors d‟oeuvre, the entrée, a local fish blackened and spicy, the complimentary chardonnay, and cocktails from a generously stocked cash bar, all set up in the station‟s main commissary. 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 Hecate. Jonah had been to the restaurant, covering network CEO Julia Kidder receiving a media award. What the dinner guests would remember would be the ancient Terran jazz piping through the station‟s intercom system, and staff and crew dancing. And the urvogel, somewhat stifflegged trying to sway to the frenzied music, but never quite getting the steps down, even with assistance from the humans who knew how to dance. The urvogel gabbled with delight just the same. Then came the moment, as the two species danced together, when the music halted, the soft lighting went dark, a general alarm sounded, and the men and women who had served them dinner and drinks had suddenly produced pistols. The dinner guests would then remember two urvogel falling, dead perhaps. They would remember the panic: people caught in the crush for cover, for exits. They would remember the distinct whine of caseless rounds zipping everywhere through the crowd and people slumping to the floor. They would remember the room dampening

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 10 to red, and black-helmeted and armored security guards pushing into them and the thunderous wild blasts of their shotguns. Someone would remember a hulking-maned, wild-eyed creature jamming an elbow into a security guard‟s throat, would recall seeing this thing wrestle for a weapon before rampaging through an open doorway with two urvogel hostages. Most of the guests would remember this. Jonah would not. He had left the party moments after the dance had begun; he was as awkward of a dancer as the urvogel. He had left preoccupied by thoughts of Blue, the woman he had met a week ago; images of her flashed through his mind, triggered when he saw Harrigan chatting up a shapely but somewhat plain woman, a geneticist, who wore antique eyeglasses as did Blue. As everyone else danced, he made his way, datapad and camera still in hand, to the main shaft, to the ring of elevators. He ascended to the station‟s top deck and entered the observation bubble, a small chamber designed by Alcubierre as a private observatory, opened this week to the station‟s guests. Jonah thought Blue might enjoy some tri-dee vid of their home planet vanishing into the void as the station moved to the moon‟s dark side. Blue was a Gaian, a practitioner of an ancient Terran nature religion, a pagan his parents would call her. Or perhaps worse: a witch. Not that that mattered much anymore. He had abandoned his parents‟ faith, any faith for that matter, at university. Blue‟s faith, though, had led her to dye her skin and hair various shades of blue to honor the sky and the sea, and the image of that blue washing over him, of the contrasts between his somewhat pale skin and her vibrant almost shimmering flesh, flashed into his mind. Several minutes passed as he stood alone staring through a clear, curved plasteel window at the shimmering azure rim of his home planet, camera running, as the station ducked behind Coryvant‟s nearest satellite. Then momentarily everything was pitch, silent; a dizzying surge of

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 11 blood rushed to his brain, before lambent amber light filled the room. His eyes glazed somewhat, and still dizzy, he lowered himself into one of the soft maroon chairs arranged in a semicircle before the window. Comfortable now, he closed his eyes and listened to the melodic music— some ancient unknown composer—filling the room. It was a simple spectacle, something that might amuse schoolchildren visiting a planetarium or relax a weary biophysicist—the silence, the dark, the flash of light, the music, the thrum of an alarm. # Initial security reports from the station said the station‟s cooling system had broken down. Media from outlets all over Coryvant—in Hecate and in its settlements—reported 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. # The alarm screamed through the chamber, echoing against curved walls. Jonah bolted from his chair, collapsed to his knees, and clasped his ears. His ears thumped in time to the alarm‟s screech. “What the hell!” He barely heard the sound of his voice. He was bathed in red light now. He squirmed, tried to find comfort from the throb splitting his skull. He buried his face into the chair‟s cushion. As abruptly as it started, the alarm stopped. The observatory was still dampened in red. He peered up from the chair. A residual drumming ring drifted through his skull. He raised himself from his knees. He stood, wobbled coltishly, his legs quaking too much to walk. He braced himself against the wall, peered down the short tubular corridor that led from the egg-shaped chamber into the main station. The iris was closed, but he wasn‟t sure whether it

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 12 was locked. He thought it might be, if whatever had caused the alarm to sound was dangerous. He was safe. Maybe. Unless whatever or whoever caused this found him. He watched the door, wishing he had some kind of weapon.

Chapter 2 The tear-drop shaped car listed as Bradbury Eugenides leveled it in front of the hotel‟s entrance and he apologized to his fare for the bump. She was polite enough, waving him off with a weary “no problem”—much better than the fat, sweating local he had picked up less than an hour ago who had whined endlessly about the route he was taking. At least she didn‟t complain about his prices like that last slob. A hundred and fifty credits was a bargain to get to a hotel less crowded than the ones at the port. He ran the woman‟s credcard through the meter. After helping with her bags, he slid into the car, switched the Out of Service sign on, and lowered the roof. He fastened his goggles and pulled back the controls. The car lifted away from the hotel lot and veered into traffic. It was lunchtime and Wormy‟s was just three blocks away.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 13 He steered the car through the heavy noon rush, counting the haul in his head. One hundred and fifty credits in the meter, another forty in cash: the woman was polite, and a generous tipper. This was much better than his last job—a simple B and E in the historic district, or one that should have been simple, if Julia had told him Mrs. Hornby had hired a thick -fisted, baton-happy security guard to watch her stuff while she was on vacation. That little sin of omission netted him thirty days in lockup, cracked ribs, and twenty credits, after he had managed to fence the one cheap necklace the old woman had left on the kitchen table. # Inside Wormy‟s it appeared to be a slow day. All the booths were full—graduate lit students most of them, come across the river from the university to slum with working people. But usually noon rush crammed the already cramped joint with suits out to eat the best, or at least greasiest, old-fashioned burgers in town. That crowd, lately, spent their time eating palmsized medallions of blackened spicy fish and sipping thirty-credit-a-glass chilled vodka, the lunch special at Conroy‟s. To hell with them, Eugenides thought. He strode past the empty tables to the small L-shaped bar at the back of the house. There Wormy served him a pint of dark, bubbling home-brewed bock beer, and grumbled something to the cook in back to make Eugenides‟ usual—medium-well, grill the onions, no tomatoes. “Make that two,” Eugenides said. Wormy wiped down the bar in front of him. “Pulling in good business, eh?” He turned back to the kitchen. “Two it is then for Mr. Eugenides.” “Um, yeah.” Eugenides looked past the meaty bartender to the tri-dee screen above the bar. The IGBA Channel was replaying a preseason grav ball game: two unfamiliar Tau Ceti teams, one of which—the Tau Ceti Clash—god knew why was trying to move its franchise here.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 14 “I thought the Blasters played last night? These guys never replay local stuff, at least not at any times you can see them. Not that the Blasters are worth watching.” “You‟re lucky Ray‟s took you on after that little incident last month,” Wormy said. He peered back at the game. “That‟s what recorders are for, friend. Then you don‟t miss a game, no matter your hours.” “Good advice, Wormy.” Eugenides sipped his beer. “Your data stations working today? I need to check something.” “Otto cleaned them yesterday. So they should be up.” To the right of the bar were four public data stations. Eugenides left his beer at the bar and went into one of the cramped, dank cubicles. “And no porn,” Wormy said. “That‟s what screwed them up yesterday. Perverts.” Eugenides logged in under the alias Luke Luster. He kept several accounts, none in the same bank. It was a tough job to keep banks from tracing his transactions and starring his accounts. And there was only so much Julia could do to keep him from being locked up permanently. He opened the Luster account last week, a few days before he jacked the taxi from Ray‟s lot. He had made only a handful of deposits. But anything over 3,000 credits would alert the bank, especially transfers from local accounts. Thus, he tried to keep local fares to a minimum. Offworld transfers could take weeks, even months. A list of numbered deposits flashed on screen. With the last fare, he was at 2,500 credits. Another 3,000 and he could get his XT400 back from the bank before they auctioned it off. Bloody bastards! Oh, he understood why they had taken the all-terrain skimmer—thirty days in lock-up had put him two months behind on

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 15 payments—but that tattooed thug they sent out to get it . . .knocking on his landlord‟s door first so she could see what a deadbeat he was, waving a shotgun in his face while he protested, “I‟ve made arrangements! I‟ve made arrangements! I talked with your fucking bank just this morning!” He had actually teared-up when that thug hauled the XT onto the tow platform of his truck. Eugenides kicked the wall in the data station. “Fuckers!” “Hey! Hey! Lighten up in there Eugenides!” Wormy‟s baritone grumble came from behind him. Eugenides raised his hands in mock surrender. “Look , chief, I don‟t make enough selling burgers to replace those machines.” Eugenides eyed the farm-muscled restaurateur. “A little privacy.” “Besides, it‟s only pictures.” The grumble had softened. “And your order‟s up.” The barkeep backed away from the station. Eugenides noted the balance on the account and logged off. He would have to be careful with what he took in the rest of the day. And tonight, he reminded himself, set up a new account. His burgers were in a red plastic basket on the bar, along with a fresh glass of beer. As he ate, he watched the last quarter of the gravball replay. It was a pretty good game for preseason. The Clash were up by a goal when one of the other guys‟ power wings recovered a loose ball, bounded from the ceiling, dove toward an undefended goal, and launched the ball about a meter out, cleanly sinking it. The Clash‟s goalkeeper had been knocked out of action by one of the other team‟s drivers. Thus the open goal. A clean, legal hit. But the guy was floating limply over the court, and trainers from both sides were tending to him.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 16 Eugenides crumpled the wrapper of his second burger, and tensed watching the guy get carted from the court. Before play resumed on the screen, an infocrawler interrupted the broadcast. A report from Ghi space station. Eugenides tried to pay attention to the action on the court. Broken ammonia pumps up there weren‟t news enough to care about missing the rest of the game. Julia‟s people got excited about bandersnatch farts, if Julia wanted them to, he mused. He looked at the screen again after a sip of beer. The infocrawler was gone. A live broadcaster had taken its place. “. . . received this holocube transmission just minutes ago.” The screen split, broadcaster and still photo of the space station. An urgent voice, followed by words jumping printing across the screen, “Mayday! Mayday! We are under attack. I repeat. We are under attack.” Another voice, a woman‟s: “Gil, sorry to interrupt . . .” The broadcaster tapped his earpiece. In the background behind him, the spaceport. “. . . but we have Governor Tedesco about to make a statement regarding these horrific events,” the disembodied woman‟s voice continued. The governor couldn‟t confirm who was responsible, or whether the attack on the station was isolated. He didn‟t deny it was terrorists, though someone in the crush of reporters and remote news drones suggested piracy. He assured the press the situation was being dealt with. Gil appeared again at the spaceport. XXXN-65‟s favorite morning anchor was clearly out of place reporting live, Eugenides thought. Gil‟s perfect coif was windblown, his voice whiny and choked with fake emotion as he fumbled to pin a mike on a Coryvant Navy spokesman who eventually said several fighters and a platoon of marines had been scrambled and were on there way to the station now.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 17 Shortly afterward, the gravball replay resumed. Further updates about the attack, an infocrawler said, could be found on Channel 65. “Imagine that,” Wormy said. “A real news story for once. Goddamn, I wish I was aboard that dropship right about now.” He flexed a flagging bicep, distending crossed assault rifles over a bloated globe, and an even more bloated “Semper Fi” in script. “We‟d have those fuckers splattered over the station walls in no time. Hoo-aah!” “You‟ve been playing too much Battlefield Terra on tri-dee,” Eugenides said. He smirked at his friend‟s machismo. Wormy had seen action once in his twelve years as a marine, a minor skirmish in the settlements, a three-day shootout with disgruntled apocalyptic-minded farmers who had formed a doomsday militia to wait out their messiah. If there really were Vlandi insurgents up there on station, somebody wasn‟t doing their job to keep the war at the Rim confined to the Rim. Despite Governor Tedesco‟s protests, Eugenides suspected pirates out trying to make a living like anyone else. Speaking of which, it was well past time for him to make a living himself. “The best burgers in the system,” he said to the barkeep. He belched. “They taste great even after you‟ve eaten them.” Wormy faced the tri-dee screen, entranced by the latest on the outrage thousands of clicks above them. “See you later, Wormy,” Eugenides left a pile of bills on the bar to cover lunch, and headed out the door into the scorching summer sunlight.


Chapter 3 The iris dilated. They had wasted little time in finding him, Jonah thought. He closed his eyes, took a breath and waited. Sweat beaded on his forehead and his face was hot like he had eaten peppers. Something filled the open iris. Jonah‟s heart hammered. He tried to melt into the wall.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 19 What he had seen wasn‟t human. It was a frenzy-maned, two-headed thing like he blasted in tri-dee games. Those sorts of monsters existed in the universe. He had heard the stories. He never thought he would see one up close, less than a meter away. His prayer, mumbled to himself, was one of desperation. The prayer of an atheist, as the old axiom went, in a foxhole. The monster huffed out a ragged breath. “She‟ll be safe here.” The thing grunted as if unburdening himself of something. The voice Jonah heard sounded human, the voice of someone breathing heavily as if it had been running. He heard another sound, something like claws scratching the floor. “Yes, yes, safe.” Another familiar voice. The squawk of an urvogel. He sighed. “Or not,” the other voice said. Jonah stepped from behind the wall. His nostrils filled with the scent of burned gunpowder. His bladder emptied. # “Shit, Farmboy, do you want to die?” Foster Harrigan lowered the gun barrel away from Jonah‟s face. He tried to say something, but his throat had constricted. “Farmboy?” He tried to mouth an answer. A warm palm flattened against his bicep, jiggled it. “Farmboy? You not hurt are you? The last thing I need right now is someone else hurt in this shit. Please tell me you‟re not hurt. Farmboy?”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 20 Jonah managed to shake his head. “I-I‟m fine,” he squeaked out. He cleared his throat. “I‟m fine” He inhaled, let it out. “Good, then. You can help us out.” “Yes, yes, please help,” Quillip said from behind Harrigan. Slumped in her forewings was the mission leader Truax. “What the hell?” Jonah swept his bangs away from his eyes. “She dead?” Harrigan stepped aside to give Jonah a better view. “Knocked out.” “Yes, yes, asleep,” Quillip said. “And very heavy.” She wobbled. “How did she . . .” Jonah wasn‟t allowed to complete his thought. “Never mind that right now,” Harrigan said. “Just help me get her over to one of those chairs.” He shouldered the gun and bent to relieve Quillip of the other urvogel. “What?” Jonah stood for a moment, trying to assess what was happening. “Oh.” He bent to lift the spindly leathery legs of Quillip‟s companion. “Thank you, thank you.” Quillip sighed and leaned against the corridor‟s gray bulkhead. They carried Truax to a chair and lay her small body comfortably against the cushions. Jonah looked at Harrigan. “Now can you tell me just what the hell‟s going on?” Harrigan unslung the shotgun. “An attack. They‟re after the birds.” “They?” Jonah stepped away from the chair, keeping his eye on Harrigan. “Who‟s attacking?” “Terrorists. Pirates. Hell, I don‟t know.” Harrigan shrugged. He waved a hand above the nostril slits in the urvogel‟s beak. “Good, good.” “Vlandi?” Jonah paced from one side of the chair to the other. “That can‟t be. Not this far from the Rim.”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 21 Harrigan looked up from the urvogel. “Like I said, Farmboy, I don‟t know. What I do know is some shooting erupted in the commissary and two of the birds went down and they took them. We were lucky to get out.” He nodded at Quillip, who still rested in the corridor. “Had to carry this one”—he nodded at Truax—“on my back.” “But who‟s they? Who started it?” Jonah‟s voice cracked like a teenage boy‟s. “The chefs, the servers. Whipped out pistols. Started aiming for our feathered friends here.” Jonah glared at Harrigan in disbelief. “The chefs?” “Maybe someone didn‟t tip enough.” Quillip had wandered up to them. She clutched the bag Jonah had seen her with at the spaceport. “We need to go.” Jonah, still puzzled, stared at her. “Go?” “Not you,” she said. “You have to stay. Help my sister. Yes, yes, help the sister.” He was completely confused now. “You‟re leaving me alone in here while this place is under attack?” “It‟s the safest place we could think of to bring her,” Harrigan said. “Didn‟t expect to meet you in here.” He held the shotgun out to Jonah. “Here, you may need this.” Jonah tried to resist taking the gun, but Harrigan was insistent. He nervously examined the weapon. The short-barreled shotgun was fitted with a pistol grip, folding shoulder stock, and a sling. It was clearly something one of the station‟s security squad had carried, a gun designed for combat, not hunting. It was heavier than any gun Jonah had ever held, even his father‟s double-barreled hunting shotgun, which Jonah had used to pluck cans and bottles from fence rails.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 22 “You can use one of those, right, Farmboy?” Harrigan had come from around the chair and was heading toward Quillip. “Um . . .” Harrigan stopped, shook his head. “Just think of it like the one you used to shoot up supper back home. It‟s got a bigger kick than that, but you can handle it. Just be its friend. And protect that bird from any strangers.” Jonah nodded. He was too confused and scared to say anything. He felt his throat constricting again. “Almost forgot. One more favor.” Harrigan fumbled around in his own equipment bag. “Take this and this.” He handed Jonah a datapad and the holocube. “There‟s an attachment on the pad for the cube. Download everything on that cube.” Jonah cleared his throat and managed to say, “What for?” “It‟s a Mayday. Plus holo of these bastards attacked us. We got to get some help up here.” Harrigan turned away from him. “Wait. When are you coming back? How will I know it‟s you and not them?” Harrigan thought up some ridiculous code words. “Now, we got to vamonos. You just take care of that bird.” The iris dilated and Harrigan and Quillip stepped out of Jonah‟s sight. He was alone again. Not technically, but Truax would be no help for some time. At least he had a weapon. # He made a barricade with two of the chairs and crouched behind them. Not that a soft chair would protect him from bullets or lasers or whatever these so-called attackers might use on him. Of course, he might not be safe no matter who found him. He wasn‟t so sure he would be

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 23 safe if Harrigan and Quillip got here first. He wasn‟t so sure they weren‟t in on this attack. It was just the kind of thing the rogue journalist might do: try to overtake a space station for some noble cause, or even for a few thousand credits. Jonah fingered the gun‟s trigger. Truthfully he was a little scared of Harrigan. The man had a bad reputation for getting closely involved in other people‟s fights. This kind of stuff had taken Harrigan off the front line beat at the Rim and landed him on Coryvant covering dog and pony shows for less than half the pay he made freelancing for majors like TNS. He was sweating even worse now than before as he waited for whatever might come through the door. Part of it was nerves, but he had noticed the chamber was warmer, had become humid, the air thinner. The station‟s environmental regulator must‟ve been shut down, either as a security measure, or by the “terrorists” to flush out any stragglers like him who would eventually grow too uncomfortable to stay put. At least that‟s what he would do in a tri-dee game—had done playing Swashbuckler, when he led a crew of pirates in a boarding action to plunder a freighter. He leaned his forehead head against the chair‟s cushion for a moment, wishing he was in his apartment now, controller in hand, instead of a very real shotgun. Then again, his last crew had been gunned down pretty quickly. That freighter crew had put up a hell of a fight and won. At his feet the datapad downloaded the information from the holocube. Whatever was on that cube, even with a compatible attachment, was straining the pad‟s drive. Jonah thought he heard the pad groan. The cubes were as close to being alive as a machine could get, though they weren‟t, as Jonah understood, AI. They worked like viruses, exponentially replicating information instead of DNA or RNA. Very few unmodified datapads, unless of urvogel design,

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 24 could handle the information transfer. At the very least the datapad needed attachments like the one currently on Harrigan‟s machine. The download stopped. A dialog box came up: “Transmit information now?” Harrigan hadn‟t told him what to do after the download. He wiped his brow with his forearm and selected OK. He would just have to face Harrigan‟s wrath if this wasn‟t the right decision. He started at the soft chuff the iris made dilating. He leveled the shotgun over the chair, cleared his throat. “Octopus,” he said. He waited, hoping to hear Harrigan‟s voice answer “Garden”. Nothing. He trembled, fingering the trigger, and peered over the top of the chair. A figure, a woman in a hip-length white blouse, a chef‟s jacket stepped through the iris. She carried a bulky-looking pistol with a long clip extending from the butt. He bolted up, raised the gun. The woman flinched. He had a moment of surprise, but he couldn‟t squeeze the trigger. In real life he had never shot anything other than the chupaahools that flitted in to latch on and bleed his father‟s cattle. He had been raised to shoot such predators, not people. The idea of shooting this woman caused his instinct for self-preservation to lapse. In that moment of hesitation, she fired. He heard the distinct whine of a caseless round being fired. He felt a cold, wasp-like sting in his right shoulder. It was much less pain than he expected from a bullet. His head swam, his vision blurred. He tried to focus on the woman. He then tried to run, but only staggered sideways, kicking the chair. The focus in his eyes gave way to blackness. # He woke with his head throbbing. “Good to have you back to the living, Farmboy.”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 25 He recognized the voice but could only make out a shape. Everything seemed covered by a brown haze. His shoulder tingled and his throat was raw, parched as if he had swallowed a burning match. It seemed he was laying on long passenger couch, and as his eyes adjusted he could tell he was in a dimly lit, narrow room. He tried to say something, but his throat hurt too much to let out more than a whisper. He touched his throat. “Thirsty?”


Chapter 4 Off world fares liked to chatter about the spaceport‟s unique architecture. At first glance, hovering at bird‟s eye level, Eugenides guessed they were right. It did look like two sterling silver spoons jammed together by their handles, a teaspoon and tablespoon. The teaspoon, known locally as West Egg, was where he did most of his business. It was the port‟s main passenger hub. The port was too small for any of the huge passenger vessels or bulk freighters that passed occasionally through the system on their way to other, better places— the bigger ships orbited the planet—but those ships‟ shuttles, launches and pinnaces nested perfectly in the egg-shaped landing pad to drop off weary crews needing R and R, and those passengers who sought Coryvant‟s remoteness from more law-abiding systems. West Egg, however, was at the moment in chaos. Everywhere below him, he could see pinpricks of flashing red and blue, and occasionally a black sheriff‟s prowler circling the egg‟s perimeter. A convoy of military vehicles headed up the highway entrance usually reserved for groundcar traffic into and out of the port. He followed the news chatter on his car‟s tri-dee. Governor Tedesco had ordered West Egg shut down until the terrorist situation at Ghi could be resolved. All traffic and passengers

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 27 were to be rerouted to East Egg, the larger of the port‟s two spoons, its trading center, which could handle the overload and still receive at least some of the smaller interstellar freighters that traded there. Eugenides dipped his car through a cloud bank and zipped alongside the monorail tube that connected the two eggs. He could see the crowded rail cars, people squeezed close and miserable. None of them were his fare. His fare pickup—the call he had received—before leaving Wormy‟s was already at East Egg. When he had worked at East Egg for Tyler Raynal, he had never seen a taxi pick up anyone, not even ship‟s crew on leave. They either took the monorail and shot over to West Egg to get transport into Hecate, or they had their own vehicles. Some stayed in the egg: they found suitable amusement in abundant bars and brothels. So this pick up was unusual, even given the current situation. # He hadn‟t been to East Egg in four years. It was a risk coming back, but at double fare, and a promise of cash payment, it was worth the risk. Like its smaller counterpart, East Egg was designed in a series of concentric ovals, the outer of which was almost a city—Aukxun—separate from Hecate itself with its own ordinances and quasi-law enforcement in the guise of port authority. From the air it appeared to be a series of tangled roads and alleys crammed with shops, bars, brothels and shop owners‟ residences. Eugenides lifted away from the monorail, which would spew its tired passengers into the egg‟s main concourse, hopped over the train and skated down a narrow two-lane roadway that exited onto Aukxun‟s main street. He eased the controls forward to slow the taxi: he needed no

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 28 run-ins with the law here, whether breaking traffic laws or getting in an accident, not this close to Raynal‟s shop. # Eugenides was forty-two now and had worked nine years for Raynal, who ran a shop that dealt solely in brokering alien artifacts, unusual objects recovered either from some of the remoter systems that fell out of the Federation‟s reach, or more often from the wealthier merchants who brought them into the system to decorate their homes and offices. It was debatable whether Raynal‟s business transactions were wholly legal, but no local authority bothered questioning him. Eugenides had been one of Raynal‟s recovery agents, and Raynal had taught him everything he knew about recovery. Raynal‟s chief rival in this business was Julia Kidder. Julia collected these artifacts, and like Raynal hired people to recover them. Eugenides saw an opportunity to make a lot of money from Kidder, enough to get him back to Terra and live comfortably for several years. He stole from Raynal and Raynal somehow discovered it. Then Raynal made sure Eugenides would never work again with any legal employer in Aukxun or Hecate and was exiled from East Egg. If it hadn‟t been for Julia‟s side business, he would have no other means of support, except scams like the one he was running now. Her legitimate business kept him supplied with aliases—drawn from off world obits—and her influence reduced his sentences in Hecate‟s jails, when the charges weren‟t too severe. # He was downtown now, in the crush of Aukxun‟s morning traffic: the roadway was clogged with pedestrians balancing stacks of baskets on their heads or pulling mules equally burdened with everything from pots of water to tri-dee sets; the pedestrians dodged bicycles, also

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 29 loaded with bundles of this and that; the bicyclists dodged hoverbikes shushing down streets and over sidewalks, the hoverbikes piloted by shop owners rushing to open their shops. Aukxun was its own world, almost oblivious to what was happening thirteen clicks away in West Egg, or three hundred thousand clicks above them. For Aukxun‟s residents, the river of people exiting the monorail about now was just a host of new customers that would need their services. Eugenides hovered and waited for openings in the scrum. A fine misty gray rain had begun falling. He closed the top of his pod. Nothing seemed to deter the traffic and his car was too large to push through without injuring anyone. When the traffic finally lightened a quarter of an hour later, he was only a block away from Raynal‟s. With the rain falling, and his top up, he would not see the tiny double-rotor swarmbot following his car, and his car‟s sensors would not pick it up as it crept in stealth mode. Eugenides would not know until later that the bot‟s sensors were hacking into his meter, tracing transactions to and from Luke Luster‟s account. The bot disappeared into the gray blotch of sky when Eugenides pulled behind Sofia‟s, a coffee shop favored by wealthier merchants, as it opened well before their shops. He and Raynal had met here for coffee before opening up shop every morning Eugenides was in system. It was early enough Raynal might still be holding court in the restaurant. The car‟s wings fluttered open and Eugenides stepped cautiously into the rain, his face covered by the hood of a poncho and his driving goggles. Not much of a disguise, but he hoped he wouldn‟t need it for long. He made his way down the alley behind the coffee shop. Usually there was a enclave of street kids that hung out in the alley waiting outside an actual printing press for bundles of print copies—newspapers—of Channel 65‟s news round up. The kids delivered the papers throughout

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 30 Aukxun for a handful of credits. The kids were good scouts, too. They knew the community better than any GPS. They had provided him some of the best reconnaissance he could have asked for when he went on recovery missions in Aukxun. Several were packing bundles of newspapers on bicycles. He approached a boy leaning against a generator of some kind, haggled with him, and handed him a ten-credit note. “Very kind of you sir,” the boy said. Grimy hands held up the note to the sky for a moment. The boy was already a professional at detecting counterfeits, Eugenides thought. He took the boy‟s place against the side of the generator; the machine vibrated warmly against his back, taking the chill out the steady rain, as it must‟ve done for the boy. The boy jogged down the alley and ducked through Sofia‟s back door. Eugenides‟s wait wasn‟t long. The boy came back after a few minutes to tell Eugenides no one matching Raynal‟s description was inside. “You‟re sure?” The boy nodded rapidly. “OK, then.” Eugenides stepped from the generator‟s warmth. He listened to the kids as they rolled off on their bikes, the tires spritzing against the alley‟s pavement. Inside Sofia‟s, he slipped off his hood and flipped his goggles over his forehead. He surveyed the small shop. A couple of stragglers lingering over cold coffees. The gurgle and hiss of cappuccino machines. He strode to a table that looked out onto the street. His fare was supposed to be here. No one approached him. He keyed an order into the tabletop‟s glowing menu. #

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 31 He was alone in the coffee shop, watching the awnings outside drip clear of the rain that had let up momentarily. He had lingered over several cups of coffee into the early afternoon. Stiffed. He had been stiffed. His thoughts jumped to the possibility he was being set up. Maybe by Raynal himself. Maybe the kid had lied. Maybe Raynal had been here after all, paid the kid twenty credits to lie. Arrest was probably imminent. And Julia couldn‟t help him here. “Luke Luster?” The mechanical rasp of a breath mask hissed behind him. He didn‟t immediately look in the direction of the voice. He knew four years ago he had messed Raynal up pretty badly the day Raynal had fired him. Had heard rumors the last blow with the stunstick had crushed Raynal‟s larynx so badly the man almost died. That the man had required cybersurgery. And the best the surgeon could do was to attach a breathing apparatus. Should‟ve paid me more, Eugenides thought coldly. He turned to face the voice. It wasn‟t Raynal. But the figure before him was wearing a black breathing mask. The man—he was human—was clad in all black. Where there was exposed flesh— sunken cheeks and a hairless head—that flesh was pale to the point of albinism. A jagged scar ran up one cheek and stretched like a forking lightning bolt along the length of the skull. The electronically altered voice rumbled, “You‟re the driver?” Eugenides nodded. The rasp, the black getup seemed sinister. Eugenides was unnerved, but a fare was a fare. # Cold rain hissed off the man‟s mask as they stepped into the lot.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 32 “Only the one bag?” Eugenides asked. While unlatching the pod‟s trunk, he peered at the bulky attaché the man carried clutched close to his hip. His fare nodded warily, the mask rasping in rhythm to the motion of his plasteel encased chin. “No need to open the trunk.” Eugenides nodded and latched the trunk closed. It was clear his fare wanted to seem menacing and had modulated the voice synthesizer to emit its baritone rumble. Most were tinny and robotic without any of the personality of their users. Still guarding the attaché, the man slid into the tear-shaped, puke-green car. Eugenides swiveled to look at the black-suited figure; the suit was clearly a uniform, but none Eugenides recognized, which made his passenger seem even more menacing. “Where to?” An all-too familiar address was hissed out—Channel 65‟s offices. Eugenides tried to keep away from there at Julia‟s insistence, that and they were about block away from the downtown cop shop. Eugenides shrugged. Three hundred credit cash was three hundred credits cash. 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 and he took manual control. He hopped the car into a new lane, passed the city‟s monorail station, which took commuters to and from their jobs in town to their homes in the settlements, and came to a hover in an empty spot outside the familiar low, flat-roofed yellow brick building. For all of Julia‟s millions, and her concern for her media empire‟s reputation, she spent remarkably little it seemed on her business. The building had been built long before Julia‟s late husband had wrangled a spaceport some seventy years ago, when Coryvant was a pre-stellar ag colony, its self-sufficient residents happily buffered from the influence the Federation‟s sophisticated spacefaring society.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 33 The rain had stopped almost as soon as Eugenides had pulled into the lot. His passenger unbuckled his seat belt and thanked Eugenides for the ride and strode toward the tinted glass entrance. Afterward, Eugenides hopped into traffic, thinking another beer or two at Wormy‟s might shake off the claustrophobic feeling of uncertainty and fear that the passenger seemed to have left behind. That feeling only added to his usual anxiety of where his next job might come from. 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, taking another familiar route. # Eugenides cut the car‟s engine outside of a convenience store several clicks south of Hecate. In the seventy or so years since the spaceport 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 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 old-fashioned 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

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 34 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 roadwork. There was an old groundcar highway twelve clicks southeast of here, and just beyond the highway a bridge. 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. 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.


Chapter 5 Jonah sucked a mouthful of ice chips from the cup Harrigan had handed him. Harrigan was still in the room with him, talking with someone else, though, a woman wearing a sky-blue surgeon‟s smock. They were about a meter away and standing near a fluorescent-lit counter. Harrigan was questioning the woman;she was nodding and fiddling with instruments arranged in a tray on the countertop. “He‟ll be fine, then?” Harrigan nodded in Jonah‟s direction to the cushioned exam table where Jonah lay. “You worry too much, Captain,” the woman said. Her voice was as soothing as the chips wetting Jonah‟s scorched throat. She was short, slightly overweight, with a feathery froth of auburn hair. “Got a lot of shit to worry about, Neela,” Harrigan said. “And the urvogel?”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 36 “She‟s fine, too,” this Neela said. “Just a little groggy, like him.” She looked at Jonah. “They‟re both gonna be fine, now that the tranqs have worn off.” “They‟d better be.” Harrigan shook his head. The thick mane of dreads was tied back away from his face, but still followed the motion of the shaking head. Neela came over to where Jonah lay, Harrigan following her. “How are you?” she asked. “Talk yet?” Jonah first felt the shoulder he was sure the bullet had smashed before saying anything. No bandages, no stitches. Nothing other than a raised red bump under the clavicle. “You‟re a lucky bastard, Farmboy,” Harrigan said. “Lucky those K‟ians wanted hostages and just used tranqs.” “Tranqs?” His voice squawked like a teenager. “Where am I? How‟d I get here?” “He can talk,” Harrigan said. He reached out, touched Jonah‟s shoulder. “Nothing to worry about, Farmboy. You‟re safe. Isn‟t that right, Neela?” Harrigan nodded toward the woman. Neela touched Jonah‟s wrist. Her hand was cool. “Absolutely,” she said. “As for where you are,” Harrigan said, “You‟re. . .we‟re about eight parsecs away from where we need to be.”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 37 “What do you mean, eight parsecs?” Jonah said. He mouthed another ice chip. “You‟re in it with them. You‟ve kidnapped me. I‟m you‟re hostage.” Harrigan laughed. “Please. Farmboy, get a-hold of yourself. You‟re not worth the paper the ransom note would be printed on.” Jonah lay back into the exam couch‟s cushion. “Son, I rescued your sorry ass.” Harrigan was smiling. “Now calm down, „cause there‟s nothing to worry about. No need to go off half-cocked. You‟re aboard my ship. In Dr. Fermata‟s medical bay. And we‟re safe for now.” “For now? What do you mean, for now?” Jonah scowled. “Until we can find some place to get our hyperdrive fixed.” Jonah‟s cheeks tingled, and his gorge surged. “You all right there, boy?” Harrigan said. Jonah shook his head. “I think I‟m going to be sick.” Harrigan glared at Neela. “Thought you said he was going to be fine?” “He is,” she said. “It‟s a normal reaction to the tranq. It‟s just like coming off anesthetic. He just needs to lie back,quit asking questions, breathe deeply and he‟ll be fine in a few minutes.” “See,” Harrigan said to Jonah, “you‟ll be fine. Like I said.” #

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 38 Jonah woke again after what seemed like a long nap. He was fine. He sat up from the exam table. The tingling in his face had stopped. The nausea had passed. He lowered his feet to the ground, steadied himself, stood, took a step and found he could walk. “Much better now?” Dr. Fermata was sitting on a stool near the table, peering up from a datapad. He shook his head. “Captain‟s in the commons with the others. Said for me to tell you to meet with him up there when you woke up.” “Um, OK.” “Down the corridor and to your right. Hatch in the floor will take you to a big open space,” she said. She smiled. “Can‟t miss it.” # So this was the famous Yellow Submarine. It didn‟t seem to be much of a ship. He headed out of the medical bay to the far end of the corridor, as Dr. Fermata had directed, and found a hatchway in the floor. He turned the wheel, lifted the door and climbed down the ladder. “Glad you could make it, Farmboy.” Jonah stepped from the bottom rung of the ladder. The urvogel and Harrigan sat on cushions around a squat black table. There was an empty cushion next to Harrigan.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 39 “Please join us,” Quillip said. She motioned her forewing toward the empty cushion. Jonah squatted. A steaming pot of tea and several cups with saucers were carefully arranged in the center of the table. Jonah caught a whiff of cinnamon and unfamiliar spices. Truax leaned in to pour a cup of orange liquid for him. “The doctor said you wanted to see me,” Jonah said to Harrigan, who sat in a lotus position sipping a cup. The man seemed entranced by the drink. Truax eyed Jonah. “Patience. Tea first, then talk. It‟s been a long day.” “Sorry . . .I . . .” Truax lifted a spindly clawed forefinger to her beak, then offered him the tea. He accepted quietly, feeling his cheeks flush, realizing he had breached the etiquette of a ceremony some urvogel considered sacred. He lifted the cup to his lips. He was right about the cinnamon; the aroma filtered to his nostrils, along with the scent of the unknown spices. “Breathe it in,” Truax whispered. The urvogel seemed genuinely pleased, although it was hard to tell with their beak‟s permanent grins. “Then drink,” Truax said.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 40 He did as she said. His mind seemed to relax, his anxieties eased. He sipped the tea. It was weak, somewhat watery but slightly sweet as well with a hint of orange that lingered on his tongue. He thought of the orange drink his mother used to make from a powder mix; it was loaded with potassium and electrolytes to keep him hydrated while he fed hay into the bailer. He followed the others: they would sip the tea, savor it, then set the cups on the table, breathe in (“Listen to your breath,” Truax instructed)and exhale several times before drinking again. More thoughts of his family‟s ranch drifted through his mind: the screech of chupaahools as they flitted away from shotgun blasts, the susurrations of waves lapping the sandy shoreline of the lake that bordered the property . . . “Captain.” The voice interrupted Jonah‟s reverie. He was the first to look in the direction of the sound. A brawny redheaded man stood in a hatchway that was fore of the semicircular commons. “Sorry to interrupt . . .” the man said. Harrigan looked up, scowled for a moment at the man, then said, “What‟s up, Amidon?” “We‟ve picked up some transmissions,” the man said. “They‟re faint because of the interference, but we‟re getting something.”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 41 Harrigan shifted his legs, then pushed himself from the cushion. He followed Amidon through the hatch. Jonah waited for a moment, until both men had disappeared, then got up from his cushion. Quillip eyed him suspiciously. “You‟re leaving us?” she said. He nodded. “Look, I have no idea what‟s going on here. And I think I have a right to know.” “I don‟t think Captain Harrigan will like that you‟re intruding on his bridge.” “I don‟t really care what the Captain thinks,” he said. He was still scared of the man, but finding out what was going on trumped the fear. He moved toward the hatch. The urvogel made no move to stop him. The corridor was short, ending with a thick wall of bulkhead. Overhead, though, was another hatch. This ship, he thought, must really be like some kind of boat. He hadn‟t seen a decent airlock yet. He climbed the metal rungs up to the hatch and opened it. When Jonah reached the bridge, Harrigan and the other man were staring at a screen. The bridge, on what would have been a sub‟s conning tower, was cramped with instruments and three crash couches. There wasn‟t much room for anyone else. Jonah squeezed in anyway, trying to stay unnoticed.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 42 Harrigan caught him. He glared fiercely at Jonah. “What the hell are you doing on my bridge?” Jonah tried to back away, but there wasn‟t anywhere to go except down the way he had come in. “I-I was trying to figure out what‟s going on here since it doesn‟t seem anyone wants to tell me.” “Because,” Harrigan said. “Because?” “If I‟m going to let you on my bridge, you‟re going to use proper grammar.” Jonah flushed. He hated making errors, and hated getting called out on it. He closed his eyes, furrowed his brow, running what he had said through his brain over and over. Harrigan laughed. “„Since‟ is sequential. “„Because‟denotes cause and effect. And I haven‟t told you anything because I don‟t know anything myself. That‟s what we‟re here to find out.” The screen squelched and flickered. Then Jonah picked up a voice. His own. His flat monotone. The Mayday. Followed by static. “What happened? Where‟d the picture go?” He crowded in between the two crash couches where the other men sat clustered. “The magnetic field,” said Amidon, “it‟s breaking up the transmission.” He tapped something into a keypad. “If I could just get the satellite to align.”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 43 “Magnetic field? What magnetic field?” He folded his arms over the top of the couch, leaning in to get a better view, and accidentally brushing the back of Amidon‟s collar. The collar was damp. Amidon stopped keying in numbers and eyed Jonah. “We‟re orbiting Smiley. The magnetic field its gases produce block almost any kind of transmissions. That‟s basic astronomy, or don‟t they teach . . .” Harrigan broke in: “Don‟t you have it recorded?” Amidon glanced at the Captain, shook his head. “Doesn‟t matter. The recording‟s still gonna be shaky, pixilated. And dead at the point it broke up.” “Smiley?” For a moment, Jonah imagined them drifting through the upturned smile formed by gases that gave the gas giant its name. His attention reformed on the screen. It was gray, snowing and hissing, before it suddenly went dead and black. “We‟re hiding? We‟re in some kind of trouble. I knew it.” Harrigan swiveled to face him. “Trouble?” He smiled. “Well maybe. If Ami can get that transmission to come back we‟ll just see how much trouble we‟re in.” “Great,” Jonah said, and pressed his forehead against the top of the couch. Harrigan clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Such pessimism in a little boy.”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 44 Bridled about being called a “boy,” Jonah lifted his head and scowled at Harrigan. “I‟m not that young.” “Boy, how old . . .” “Got it!” Amidon said. “We‟re back online.” The screen was still black, except for a blue square in the corner scrolling a series of white letters and numbers. “Searching for satellite,” the readout said. The screen went white. Then a blue bar etched itself through the center. “Downloading . . . 70% complete . . .” All three waited. “97% complete,” it read. Seconds later, a still picture flashed up. Dyed black hair perfectly coifed. Pitted face. Eyes nested deep in their sockets. Gil Jarret. Jonah stemmed a wave of anger at the sight of the network‟s morning anchor. He should have been down there—wherever there was—reporting what he could get about the action aboard the station. Not up here hiding out from . . . he shrugged, still confused about what was going on. The picture pixilated. Amidon keyed another set of numbers in, and the picture adjusted itself. Jarret‟s poncho-encased image was sheeted by wind-driven rain, but it was clear he was near the spaceport: a shadowy control tower shimmered behind him, illuminated by red and blue flashers.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 45 Below Jarret‟s image: LIVE HOSTAGE CRISIS: DAY TWO Jarret, poncho flapping, raised his arm to his ear, tapped a finger against his microphone. His mouth moved but there was no sound other than the crackle of static. “Shit!” Amidon said. He fingered a touchpad and tried to raise the volume. Still nothing but static. Jarret flogged the side of his head. As he struggled to get his microphone online, a figure in a camouflage poncho appeared next to Jarret like an apparition. More static. Then an infocrawler scrolled across the bottom of the screen: MARINES SEIZE CONTROL OF STATION. “Obviously we‟re having technical difficulties,” a disembodied woman‟s voice said. “We‟ll return live to our downtown studio for Sahron Hauser with breaking news.” A grim-mouthed, sparkling-eyed brunette shimmered onto the screen. Below her image: BREAKING NEWS. “Welcome back to the XXXN-65 studio,” the woman said, preening for the holocams. “We‟ll return you live to West Egg and Gilbert Jarret after this breaking news update.” As she began her report, a summary box filled in essential data: DEVELOPING STORY: STATION BOARDED: THREE DEAD; UNKNOWN NUMBER OF HOSTAGES TAKEN. Jonah listened to Hauser speak, reading, he was sure from some unattributed reporter‟s story.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 46 “Marines boarded and seized control of Ghi orbital research station early Saturday morning following Thursday‟s capture of the station by suspected Vlandi terrorists. “This incident marks the first time Coryvant Marines have taken action against Vlandi terrorists, and the first known Vlandi action beyond the Rim, said Lieutenant Oberan Root, a Coryvant Navy Spokesman. “The raid was initiated early Saturday morning after a Mayday was received from the station late Thursday night, he told Channel 65. The Mayday transmission was released to the press Friday. “Twenty-six Marines, a full platoon from West Egg Naval Command, boarded Ghi space station at 0500 hours Saturday. “The Marines met no resistance, Root said. No shots were fired. The Marines were greeted by several station security members who had attempted to fight off the suspected terrorists. “The terrorists were not on board when the Marines arrived, Root said. “Station security reported the terrorists escaped shortly after they captured the station, fleeing with several hostages, including two urvogel scientists invited on board by the station‟s chief researcher Dr. Gore Alcubierre. It was not known at this time how many hostages, other than the urvogel, had been taken.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 47 “Several people remain unaccounted and missing, including Dr. Alcubierre, several of the station‟s staff and crew, a TNS news team, and Channel 65‟s own Jonah Parker.” Jonah flinched at the sound of his name. It still stung he was making the news, not reporting it. “Station security reported the terrorists seized control of . . .” Another jolt of static broke the transmission. “Fuck!” Amidon said. “This goddamn magnetic field is too much for the receiver.” He keyed the pad frantically. The screen came up again saying it was searching for the satellite. “. . .Thank you Sahron,” Jarret‟s voice broke through the static. “We‟re live now again from outside West Egg on day two of this terrorism crisis,” the smug face said. “With me here Lieutenant Oberon Root, Coryvant Naval Public Affairs, who‟s been Channel 65‟s contact all during this crisis. Thank you, Lieutenant Root.” The lieutenant nodded. “Lieutenant can you fill our viewers in on the latest developments?” The lieutenant regurgitated Hauser‟s report about the raid on Ghi, adding only that recent transmissions received from the Marine transport now orbiting the station indicate a ship may have blasted into hyperspace a short time after reports of the attack were filed. Jarret interrupted, “Lieutenant, do we know who sent the Mayday?”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 48 The lieutenant shook his head. “It‟s still not clear at this time, Gil.” “Is it possible it was the terrorists themselves?” “Such possibilities are being investigated. But no further evidence is available at this time.” The screen began to pop with static. “Shit!” Amidon pounded the keypad with the heel of his palm, but the screen hissed and then went dead. “We lost it again. Sorry, Captain.” “No problem.” Harrigan leaned back, hands behind his head, in his couch. He rocked the chair. “I think we know enough.” Jonah straightened himself and asked, “Does that mean we‟re safe? And why are we on the run in the first place?” Harrigan scowled. “Boy, you ask too many questions. But yeah, we‟re safe. For now. The Marines will be too busy looking for the people that did this to care too much about us. They‟ll pass us off to local authorities . . .As for why we‟re on the run: we‟re not on the run. Not from the authorities.” “Then why don‟t we just go home. Reassure everybody we‟re alive,” Jonah said. He thought for a moment about Blue. He‟d like to see her again. Things had been left a little up in the air with her, and he wanted to straighten it out. “Tell them what we do know and be done with all this shit.” “We can‟t just go home,” Harrigan said. “I‟ve got a job to do.”

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 49 “You‟re in this for a paycheck?” Jonah sneered. ”That figures.” “We‟re all in it for the paycheck, Boy,” Harrigan shot back. “Unless you‟re volunteering for Kidder on some noble cause for the goodness of science and all species. Some idealistic crusade?” He stood quietly for a moment, the fight knocked from him like air from a flattened groundcar tire. He hadn‟t become a writer for the money. Gaia knew he was never getting rich off Julia Kidder. There was a certain embarrassed satisfaction when someone said good things about his writing: “You‟re different from those other reporters,” they would say, “the way you word things.” Even Blue had said something. An image filled his mind: blue fingers keying his story up on her datapad the day they met at the skimmer recharge shop. She had specifically linked to his story. The satisfaction welling up of knowing someone was reading his story. He flushed. “I‟m not saying money isn‟t great,” he told Harrigan feebly. “It‟s just that . . .” Amidon‟s chair creaked as he swiveled toward them. Jonah was the first to see Amidon staring at he and Harrigan. The man was big with vibrant red hair and beard that clashed with a green shirt.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 50 “Sorry to interrupt this fine philosophical discussion,” he said, “but we‟re not going to earn those paychecks if we just keep floating out here and don‟t get those birds to where they‟re going.” “Without that hyperdrive fixed we‟re not going anywhere fast,” Harrigan said. “And we can‟t just waltz into West Egg without raising a stink.” Jonah ignored his urge to ask Harrigan just who the hell he was working for. He wanted to go home and had an idea of how to get there, and maybe, just maybe get out of this mess. “I have an idea.” Harrigan laughed. “You?” Jonah nodded. “You say you can‟t dock at West Egg, right?” “How are you going to help us, Boy?” It was clear Harrigan was too amused to listen. “C‟mon Captain, give the kid a break,” Amidon said. Jonah blushed, thanked Amidon for interjecting. “What about the settlements? Couldn‟t you find a place to bring her down undetected?” “I know those settlements are sparsely populated, but, Boy, don‟t you think someone might notice a giant yellow submarine floating down out of the sky?” “Not where I‟m thinking.” Jonah smiled.


Chapter 6 Wind-driven rain thrummed against the walls of Eugenides‟s cell. He couldn‟t see the rain, but had heard it through the night, and all morning, if it was indeed morning. Since his arrest, since the agonizingly slow push, along with the rest of the night‟s roundup, through fingerprinting and retinal scan, he had been in enclosed, windowless spaces, and had lost track of time. He suspected it was near lunchtime because a sweating plastic-covered tray of food had been dropped through the slot in the cell door. He heard the guard‟s footsteps pass outside. He heard nothing else, no sounds of other inmates, nothing but the rain and the wind. The food drop-off had been his only contact with anyone since he had been allowed his one phone call, a call answered by Julia‟s voicemail service.

Glasscock/GENERIA TRANSFER 52 He lay staring at the rectangular fluorescent light embedded in the ceiling above his bunk; it hummed continuously all the time he slept. He sat up, coughed and massaged his chest where the deputy, after she had cuffed him, had launched a breathtaking truncheon blow to the chest. He was alone, at least for now, waiting to hear from Julia.

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