The creature she’d had them make cost her the last piece of forest outside Siena. The one with the little medieval chapel in it, the tall umbrella pines shading a forest floor no tourist had ever walked upon. It cost her the two rocky islands just south of Elba, and the lead mines at Piombino, which she had never cared about, and the villa on Lake Garda, which she had, because, so small and intimate, it had been one of her father’s favorites.
Don’t sell her. The thought rises like a tide in the back of Jeri’s mind, where she’s spent three Nikutan launch cycles struggling to contain it. It leaves her breathless, drowning in guilt, and trying to hide it from the krosuta-whitened stare of the Henza abbess. This is Cleo, not a load of ore. This will break her. And how could it not break her? She’s a lumbering old Juno-class cargo beast, poor Cleo, one of the earliest models.
Yuna searched the colonization vids for a world Oliver would find appealing. Of the half dozen people she was dating, he was her favorite, and the only one she’d really want to bring with her for the centuries-long trip to the colonies. There were seven destination planets to choose from. “What do you think of this one?” Oliver shrugged. “They’re all too expensive. Honestly, I think we’re better off staying here.
Hello, there! If you have received this telepathic mailing, you are a member of the species currently self-designated Homo sapiens, as evolved on the planet locally known as Earth, orbiting the sun locally known, for some reason that escapes us, as Sol. Most of your kind is already aware of the legal proceedings just completed in Session 3,975,216.7b of the Exalted High Tribunal of the Interstellar Commission on the Minimum Standards for Worthiness of Indigenous Cultures.
Constable Kershaw has not uttered any overrides, nor issued a warrant to access her memory logs, but Celia understands nonetheless that she is expected to stay, to sit and answer his questions like a suspect. It surprises her, this treatment. Like she’s human. “Are you chilly, Constable? Shall I light the fire?” “Yeah, all right,” he says, removing his hat and settling into the armchair her employer always favours. Favoured.
Maduabuchi St. Macaria had never before traveled with an all-Howard crew. Mostly his kind kept to themselves, even under the empty skies of a planet. Those who did take ship almost always did so in a mixed or all-baseline human crew. Not here, not aboard the threadneedle starship Inclined Plane. Seven crew including him, captained by a very strange woman who called herself Peridot Smith.
Blue Six and the rest of the grunts power up to battle-ready at T-minus fourteen hours. They don’t need much lead time before action; even if the squad’s fully shut down, it takes them less than ten minutes to get operational. No, the extra time isn’t for the grunts, it’s for the officer. Captain Yamada’s in the fridge. He’s been in there since the space freighter left the last neutral station at L5, a hundred days ago.
Your guidebook says: Do not ask which ships the lighthouse guides. It’s the same old joke everyone makes when they come, and the sisters who care for their prophetess Quvenle will not laugh. The other pilgrims will not laugh. You will not feel any less uncomfortable, and you’ll feel silly for selling your house and all the memories left inside to buy your passage. To reach the edge of known space, you have shed it all.
The alien came to play ball. Or so I thought. It didn’t say so outright. Not exactly. Couldn’t speak English far as we could tell. But every day that summer, it would meet us there at the sandlot. The thing would come and stand behind the dugout, which was a rusty old hope chest Willie stole from his big sister. It would stand out there, the alien, not moving or nothing. Just observing, if that’s even the right word.
In the Principality there rule the Seven Suns. Armored gods, they marched through the universe eons ago, wreathed in subjected angels, and left footprints of conquest on galaxies. They dragged beneath them the corpse-heat from a billion burning worlds. The sixth Sun, the Gray Sun, is a god of silence. There is no voice, no mercy, no music within the Gray Sun.
Beneath the Gray Sun there is only emptiness.