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.
No one had ever seen Tatter D’MaLeon’s face. Even those who thought she was just a legend agreed that she was always masked. That was about all anyone agreed upon. Although the female pronoun was usually applied to “her,” even Tatter’s sex was in doubt, as was her humanity, her age, and whether or not she existed. But believe or not, there was scarce a one who didn’t love the stories. Anthropologists had tried to pin down exactly when the first Tatter D’MaLeon stories had been told.
It was just a luckychance that I had been defrosted when I was—the very year that farprobe 992573-aa4 reported back that it had found a goodstar with a shattered crystalsphere. I was one of only twelve deepspacers alivewarm at the time, so naturally I got to take part in the adventure. At first I knew nothing about it. When the flivver came, I was climbing the flanks of the Sicilian plateau, in the great valley a recent ice age had made of the Mediterranean Sea I had once known.
Tomorrow is Easter, and I will have to welcome into my home the woman who is going to murder my son. I need to prepare side dishes in advance. Take a heaping bowl of injustice, mash it to a pulp, season with tears of rage, bake, and serve in a dish speckled with four-leaf clovers. The question is, should I put the rat poison in hers alone, or would it be better for all of us to go together?