A Sunday Grab-bag and the opening to Darkship Renegades.

I’d like to do a more comprehensive post, but we’re dealing with a mini-crisis, which, unlike mini-galt is no fun at all.  (Though at this point mini-galt – spending as little as we need, might be the only option at least until this is solved.  So far the vet-bill hasn’t been too bad, but the cat is scheduled for an EKG and I don’t even know how much that costs for a cat.)

Miranda cat, our – as of yesterday – 12 year old Cornish Rex has been wheezing and stuffy for the last several months, and it seemed to be getting worse.  So we took her in.  The diagnosis is heart disease, plus she was apparently very constipated (likely due to her having eaten “something stupid” TM something she’s only second to Havelock in.  She now has heart meds – in the expensive gel form, since trying to give a pill to Miranda only gets you caught in what Terry Pratchett described as “A heroic statue worthy of Rodin, man gives cat a pill.”

None of this has impaired her hobby of beating up on the boy cats and terrorizing the household, but some of us would prefer to keep the little terror around longer.

More scattered stuff – on the indie front this month was very good.  I’d like to know if it was my price change or the approach of Christmas, or yes.

I’m going to try to finish/compile holiday stories in the shifter world and put up a mini-collection.  (5 to 6 stories.)

I finally feel like I’m not dead, but I’ll have to finish cleaning the house, which has grown 90% cat hair before I know for sure.  (I am badly allergic to both cats and household dust, something that saves the family from being buried in cat hair and dust.)  I haven’t cleaned in two weeks…

So…  I’m going to finish cleaning and start the washer, and then I’ll return and see if my brain is back on line yet, and I can do one or two of the blogtour posts that are so grossly overdue.

Meanwhile, below, is the beginning of Darkship Renegades which you totally can preorder:

Darkship Renegades

 

 

Sarah A. Hoyt

 

Welcome To Eden

Out of the Frying Pan

 

I was a princess from Earth and he was a rogue spaceman from a mythical world.  He saved my life three times.  I rescued him from a fate worse than death. We fell madly in love.

We married and lived happily ever after.

Ever after comes with an expiration date these days.  We’d been married less than year when Kit got shot in the head.

It started with our return from Earth.  No.  Wait, what it really started with was my meeting Kit, in the powertrees which are biological solar collectors in Earth orbit.  They were put up way back when bio-engineered rulers governed the Earth.  And ever since the turmoils sent the bio-engineered rulers – you probably know them as Mules so called because, of course, they couldn’t reproduce – fleeing the Earth in a ship called Je Reviens, the powertrees have been haunted by legends of darkship thieves.

Which is all anyone ever thought the darkship thieves were.  After all, even if the mules really had left in an interstellar ship, and of course, there are doubts that the ship ever existed, why would they come back to harvest powerpods from the powertrees – the biological solar energy collectors in Earth orbit?  And why would no one else see them but powerpod collectors?

I found out the legend was less legendary than advertised when a mutiny aboard Daddy Dearest’s space cruiser sent me fleeing in a lifeboat into the powertrees.  Where I met Kit who rescued me and took me to his homeworld, Eden.

Eden is where all the bioed servants of the mules stayed behind, instead of going to the stars with their masters.  They had perhaps had enough of being ruled by Mules, which considering what the mules did to the Earth I couldn’t really blame them for, but they also couldn’t live on Earth, since this was the time of the turmoils and anyone with even a hint of bio-improvement would get killed in a horrible way.

So, they’d stayed behind in Eden, which is an asteroid they hollowed inside.  Its naturally erratic orbit hides it from Earth detection.  But it still needs power.  And for its power it depends on darkships, which are ships built to be non reflective and pretty much undetectable, provided they harvest while the powertrees are in Earth shadow.

Each of the darkships is piloted by a Cat – no, they are wholly human, but they are bioengineered so their eyes resemble those of cats, and also so that they had very fast reflexes – and a Navigator whose memory, mechanical skill and sense of direction were bio-enhanced to make him or her ideal to help steer darkships which cannot have any of its data in a form Earth might capture if it captures a darkship.

Which until recently was very much an unfounded fear.  No darkship had ever been captured…  Until the Good Men of Earth realized that I must have been taken up by a darkship and started an all out search for me.

By then I was Kit’s Navigator, and married to him, a combination that’s not mandatory but has grown to be expected.  His cat-like eyes, his reflexes, had ceased to seem alien.  And when I was radiation burned in an attempt to capture me, he chose to surrender to Earth to save me, instead of following procedure and killing both of us, and destroying the ship, leaving Earth nothing but a burned out hull.

It had paid off for us, we’d come back out of Earth alive and I’d been healed of the radiation burn.

The problem was the return to Eden.  I had no idea how Eden would react to news that not only had we failed to self-destruct, but we’d chosen to land on Earth and seek treatment.  It was probably useless to try to get forgiveness for this by explaining we’d left a good portion of the Earth in flames behind us, and probably a revolution brewing.

Eden had been colonized by refugees of a persecuted people, by people who never, ever ever again would trust any authority.  I’m not saying that Eden was paranoid, because worlds can’t be paranoid.  But if Eden had been an individual, he’d live in a compound with motion-sensor-triggered burners at every entrance and would fingerprint his own children twice a day to make sure no one had slipped ringers in on him.

So, three months after we left Earth, we hailed Eden on approach.

Kit has said you could land on the surface of the asteroid that contained Eden and never guess that there was a thriving civilization inside.  I don’t know if that’s true.  Never tried it. I don’t like to take his word for it.  He could be wrong.  But I did know we could not land IN Eden unless they let us.  Well, not intact.  Kit had once threatened to ram his ship into the asteroid, and from the reaction, this was possible even if it would kill us.  It was impossible to get into the landing tunnels – whose covers didn’t even show to radar – without someone inside letting us in.  Whoever said knock and it shall be opened had Eden in mind.

We called on the link.  Kit reached for my hand and squeezed it, hard, while his other hand pressed the com link button. “Cat Christopher Bartolomeu Sinistra and Nav Athena Hera Sinistra, piloting the  Cathouse on behalf of the Energy Board.  I request permission to land.”

 

My heart beat somewhere between my esophagus and my mouth.  And don’t tell me that’s a physiological impossibility.  I know what I felt.  Given just a little more nervousness, my heart would have jumped out of my mouth and flopped around the instrument panel like a landed fish.

There was a silence from the other side, long enough for my heart to almost stop. I took a deep breath, two and told myself that if Eden didn’t want us, we’d go back to Earth, or perhaps to Ultima or Proxima Thule, Eden’s two water-mining colonies.

Not only was I bluffing, I knew I was bluffing.  To make it elsewhere we’d need food and fuel and a world that rejected us wouldn’t be likely to hand over rations and powerpods.  All that kept me from shaking was the impression of Kit’s mind, warm and amused.

We could mind-talk, an ability bio engineered into pilot and navigator couples in his world and engineered into me for a completely different purpose.  Most often it was much like talking in voice, only we could do it privately or over a great distance.  In extreme circumstances, we could connect at a deep deep level, but that wasn’t sustainable.  It didn’t help preserve sanity not knowing which body went with your mind.  But sometimes, like now, there was just the impression of feelings.  And the feelings Kit was giving off were reassurance and amusement.  Which meant he was lying.

But it would be a pity to waste his effort, so I managed a half smile in his general direction, as the voice of Eden’s Dock Control crackled over the link: “The  Cathouse is more than six weeks late.  It has been entered in the roll of losses.  Cat Christopher Sinistra and Nav Athena Sinistra are dead.”

I registered the little shock I always felt at hearing Kit called by my surname.  It was Eden’s custom, though not mandatory, to have the husband take the wife’s name.

“Not really,” I cut in.  I felt almost boneless with relief.  I hate bureaucracy as much as anyone else, but not nearly as much as I hate exploding.  That they were talking instead of burning us out of the sky was a very good sign.  “Only late.”

“You cannot be late.  You only had fuel for a four month trip.  Three weeks later you’d be out of reserves and dead.  You–”

“We were down on Earth,” I said .

The silence didn’t last long, but it gave the impression of being a very large silence.  The type of silence that could envelop and swallow a whole fleet of darkships.  Then the answer came, sounding like a clap of thunder announcing the beginning of a storm.  “What?” the Controller asked.  “You were where?”

Kit cleared his throat.  I could see him reflected in the almost completely dark screens in front of him: his eyes bioengineered for piloting in total darkness looked like cat eyes, glimmering green and very wide open, in worry.  His calico-colored hair seemed vivid and garish against his suddenly colorless skin.  It was an accidental mutation caused by the same virus that had given him the cat-like eyes, super-human coordination and speed of movement.  Without the modifications to his eyes and hair, Kit would have been a redhead, so his skin was normally that shade of pale that can turn unhealthy-looking at the slightest disturbance.  Now he looked white and grey, like spoiled milk.  Even if he continued to lie at me with an amused and calm mind-projection and his voice sounded firm and clear, his face gave him away, “Nav Sinistra had radiation poisoning and we stopped on Earth for regen treatment.”

“You stopped on Earth for treatment?”

I swallowed hard, to prevent having to grope for my heart somewhere on the control board.     “Well, it wasn’t that simple, but yes,” Kit said.  “I’ll be glad to tell you the whole story after we land.”

“You’d better, Cat.”  He pronounced Kit’s professional title as an insult.  The term “pilot” had long since become “cat” in Eden. “ And you’d better make it convincing. This is most irregular.”

“Controller,” I said, thinking it was time to add another consideration to his decision.  “We must land.  Kit’s family is expecting us.”  Kit’s birth family, the DeNovos, were socially powerful in Eden.  His sister Kath would have been a force to be reckoned with in any size society.  It was a good thing she’d been born in Eden.  If she had been on Earth, she’d probably now be sole supreme ruler of the whole world, a feat slightly more difficult to achieve on Eden which had no rulers of any sort, much less supreme ones.

Another silence and the Dock Controller’s voice sounded dour as it came back,  “Navigator Sinistra, if you delayed your collection run for personal reasons, you have to know that the Energy Board will fine you for the delay in supply, and all the boards will want to interview you for potential breaches of security.  Also–”

“I know, Controller.  Now, could you give us a dock number, please?  Before I go crazy and just give my Cat instructions to dash at Eden in the area of the landing control station.  We earthworms are so temperamental”

Kit chuckled aloud, then stopped with an intake of breath.  His mental impression wavered a little allowing me to see some fear beneath the amusement.

“Dock fifty five, but I want you to know that I shall have armed hushers ready and that you will be examined for any evidence of undue influence and that–”

I flicked the comlink off.  A sleeve-like structure extruded from Eden and Kit piloted us into it, then leaned back as dock remote controls took over the navigation.  His foot skimmed along the floor next to him, flicking up the lever that turned off our artificial gravity now that we were covered by Eden’s.  Not that keeping it on would give us double the gs, but one could interfere with the other and cause some really interesting localized gravity effects.

It wasn’t until our ship settled into one of the landing bays, that Kit released the seatbelt that crisscrossed his chest, and, without letting go of my hand, got up and said, “You know, you really shouldn’t have taunted the controller.”

I got up in turn.  I knew.  One of the first rules I’d been taught was never to pick on people.  The second was probably to always be gracious.

I’d been born the only daughter Good Man Milton Alexander Sinistra, one of fifty men who controlled the near-endless land and resources of Earth.  My parents, my nannies, the heads of various boarding schools, the commanders of various military academies, and the psychological medtechs that ran several rest homes, sanatoriums and mental institutions upon which Daddy Dearest had wished me, had all told me I had an aggression problem and must control my impulses.

If I had followed their instructions I wouldn’t be alive now.  And neither would Kit.  Something Kit knew very well, which was why he put his arm around me and smiled as he shook his head.

We walked like that through two air locks, then waited while the last door cycled open, letting us see that we were in one of the cavernous, circular bays that admitted ships to Eden.  An out of use bay, because there were no power pod unloading machines nearby.  Instead, a large group of young men, all armed, stood in front of our ship’s door all aiming their burners directly at us.

To the left side and a little behind the young men stood two older men, a dark haired one and a blond one.

The dark haired one was the dock controller.  He wore the grey uniform of the position, and he had that harassed, frustrated look of someone who was sure he’d been born to better things, but who found himself confined to an inglorious desk job.

The blond was something else altogether different.  To begin with he didn’t wear any uniform, but a well cut black suit consisting of something much like an Elizabethan doublet and leg-outlining pants, tailored to make the wearer look good, whether he did so when naked or not.  The fabric shimmered with the dull shine of real silk and conveyed an unavoidable sense of wealth and sensuousness.  The face, above the suit, was sharp and vaguely threatening.  He looked like a young Julius Caesar or at least a Julius Caesar from a world where people didn’t lose their hair unless they chose to.

It was the blond man who spoke. His words had far more force than if they’d been spoken by a mere bureaucrat.  “Cat Christopher Bartolomeu Sinistra,” he said, each syllable dropped in place like an essential part of exacting machinery.  “You are under arrest for treason against Eden.”

It’s available on Amazon.    And the ebooks in every form are available from baen.com

 

16 responses to “A Sunday Grab-bag and the opening to Darkship Renegades.

  1. Preorder? I got my deadtreee copy two days ago. I’ve started it, and it’s sitting on my nightstand.

  2. I got some birthday money yesterday, and used it to buy Darkship Thieves, Darkship Renegades, and a bundle from Baen. I’m about 2/3 of the way through DST, and enjoying it thoroughly, though I don’t know if I’d really like to be in the same room with the protagonist. ;-)

  3. As I said in a different comment thread, I’ll be starting Darkship Renegades as soon as I’ve finished Kings’ Cross. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything that I want to read, as well as get the housework done, and go to my job, and sleep.

    I hope that Miranda doesn’t shred the medicine giver too badly.

  4. Best regards for Miranda.

    I had to give a friend’s cat pills for a few days when she left for a holiday they had scheduled and paid for long in advance and the damn cat managed to develop something just before they were supposed to leave. So, I promised, besides feeding him and changing the cat litter, also to give him those pills, once a day. Big pills. Big and bad tempered cat. Fun. I lost some blood. Cat hated me for nearly two years after that, but he seems to have starting to forgive, or forget, during the last year since he has finally started occasionally jumping on my lap again when I visit there.

    Cats can, by the way, sound surprisingly menacing when they are growling at you, in spite of their rather small sizes. Except that particular neutered tom is actually pretty big, for a cat, he weighs usually around 7 kg. That’s 15 and something in pounds. Pretty big. Especially when he is growling. Worse the couple of times he went from growling to that kind of hissing yodelling they do when they are truly pissed off and ready to go all out against the offending whoever, in this case me. But I did get all the pills in.Yay.

    And my friend brought me a fairly expensive big bottle of single malt Scotch since that trip was to Scotland. Nice enough, but I think I might have earned two of those. Although, in her defense, she actually could bring only one, due to customs regulations.

  5. Oh dear… Best wishes for Miranda. I sort of associate her with my beloved (passed) Queen of the Household.

  6. Huh — the occasions so far (…) we’ve had to give meds to our cats, they have all been in liquid form, administered via eyedropper (and taking advantage of the “lick” reflex).

    <- sends ear-rub in Senior Cat's direction

  7. You’ve my sympathies about the cat medicating. Please take care to protect your typing fingers.

    Two of our cats – mother & son – were diametrically opposite in their medication acceptance. Getting the pill in Momma generally required oper-length leather gloves and three strong people: one to hold the cat, one to hold her jaws apart, one to insert the pill.

    Her son, on the other hand, so trusted his deities that all he needed was a firm grip to tell him we were in earnest, and after taking his pill he was apologetic for causing us trouble.

    Then there was the cat whose kidneys failed, requiring nightly subcutaneously injections of a saline solution. It wasn’t long before he regained sufficient health to insist we let him die without undue torture.

    • Fortunately, our dog will eat anything that’s covered in peanut butter. Makes it easy to give him pills. :D

      • Ah. You are lucky then. You have a dog with no cheek pouches. Cheek pouches, you say? Cheek pouches. One of our cats, we’d hide the pill in a meatball. He’d eat the meatball. Mouth looked empty. then he’d go and CAREFULLY spit the pill out on my office chair…

        • When I had to give our old cat, Pookie, her allergy pill, I would hold her in my lap, pry her mouth open with my thumb and forefinger, toss the pill down her throat, and then put her down in front of a pile of tasty kitty treats. Luckily for me, by the time she ate the treats, she had forgotten about getting rid of the pill.

  8. Just went and bought the eBook from Baen. :)

  9. Robin Roberts

    Years ago, we had a cat that was dehydrated from a bout of some form of intestinal distress / illness that had him throwing up a lot, etc. Took him to the vet, who used an bag of saline and a hypodermic to load the cat up with water under his skin. Said that it was the fastest way to get water into the cat It was the funniest thing to take home a cat about half again as wide as he’d arrived … sloshing as he walked.

  10. My husband really likes the beginning of DSR. He’s been going around to various people we know, reading the three paragraphs or so, and saying, “Isn’t that a great way to start a book?”