After the death of trees on Earth, humanity is scattered across the cosmos, survived by mega-corporations with the power to write laws in deep space, where mobility is life itself. Evil Tech Support alone can unlock features on your ship for your survival. But they charge handsomely and prefer the business of criminals.
Meet the cast through passages from the book...
Bixby and Leandra:
Bixby’s latest project was decoupling the cerebral and visual interfaces from the implant and fitting them into a ship control unit—so ships could be flown by direct commands from the brain. From the sounds of it, things weren’t going well—Bixby usually retaliated instantly in verbal jousts. He was taking an unusual pause.
Leandra dumped her helmet on the workbench to get his attention. She said, “We’re going to need a new ship too. I don’t think the GROK will survive another raid.” She got in his face and said, "That thing is going to croak before we agree on a name for it."
Bixby’s hands slipped. He flung a small metal part across the room. It landed with a ping. “Damn,” he said calmly. “I think you’ve upset me.”
Leandra halted Bixby and went looking for the part. They took a moment. Then she said, “Did you hear from your mole?” from across the lab.
“He’s not a mole. He’s just trading—everyone trades.”
“If we ever get caught trading with him, we’ll be treated to free transportation into the nearest sun.” Neither Laramy nor Smeiser tolerated betrayal—which Leandra, Bixby and the mole had committed in spades. Out here, stealing from the corporations could be a higher crime than murder, depending on the circumstances. The law had provisions protecting shareholders from deep space theft. Those with shares also wrote laws—and had them enforced.
Tanner and Kip:
Tanner said, “Some time ago, we discovered something in one of the rocks at Alpha Scepter. The crew thought it was a mistake, something wrong with the instrumentation. But we just confirmed the authenticity of the sample they found.”
Kip was completely confused, chewing away at a third piece of dried fish. He was feeling a bit strange, and reaching for another when he said, mouth full, “Sir, you’ll have to forgive me. I feel behind. What sample?”
Tanner leaned back into his giant chair and sighed again. He was sweating. Something else was on his mind. ”They found the fragment inside one of the asteroids deep in the field. The miners don’t usually go that far in because the asteroids are smaller, more cluttered—more dangerous because you can crash into them there. But now they have to go further.”
Then Tanner poured a cold coffee for himself, and one for Kip. He never did that for anyone. “We think it’s a fragment of a ship.”
Rockwell, Cragley and Finster:
Cragley could maneuver through the thickest, most dangerous rock fields with more precision than any pilot he’d ever come across or heard of. She could have made a fortune as a mercenary or a pirate. He didn’t give her any ideas, and he made sure Finster never tried to touch her.
Finster, a young hooligan turned rock-cutter, rounded out Rockwell’s dig crew. He was born on Earth’s moon, a descendant of the original settlers, but showed no interest in living on land. With him, gravity was the enemy.
Rockwell overlooked Finster’s bad habits most of the time. The guy smoked greenabis almost constantly when off duty. Considering the crew’s job was to sample, core and ready asteroids for mining, Finster was essential despite his faults. Rockwell made his money back on Finster and then some.