So far this week has been taken up with getting to grips with Word 2010’s formatting tools and with the newest version of The GIMP, in order to make title page images for Maker’s Mask and Hawkwood War. I’ve also found a bit of time to work on Heavy Ice, and here’s an excerpt.
Herakleion sidereal date 17 Goethe 4881 : adjusted standardised date (ASD) 08.11.4881: New Canberra, Herakleion
Quintana Roo Boccamera was out past his bedtime and he hadn’t had any supper. Normally he would have been exhilarated about one of those situations and distressed about the other, but as it was, the exhilaration and the distress were curdling together in his belly and making him feel sick.
He sneaked a look at his elder sister Claudio to see whether she was feeling similarly. Her face looked as fierce as always, so it was hard to tell.
Their mother Katharine Boccamera XVII swore softly under her breath as she jinked the aircar sharply sideways to avoid a rogue garbage-pallet bouncing its unattended way down Vendawall Boulevard. Quint looked at Claudio again. He was wondering whether he should tell their mother that what they were doing was morally wrong.
Since Quint and Claudio were old enough to access educational programming on their mother’s tridesco, they’d piously danced and chanted along with the happy cartoon figures: don’t go by ground, don’t go by air, go monorail – it’s fun to share! Flying one’s own aircar where there was public transport available was bad behaviour in any citizen, and even worse in a public representative like Quint’s mother. Quint wasn’t wholly sure why it was worse, but perhaps it was because both of them had public in their names so they belonged together.
Katharine swerved the aircar abruptly round to avoid an overwhelming blatting noise that Quint couldn’t see the source of, and began to manoeuvre expertly through a maze of buildings. Some of the buildings had lights in the windows.
Quint was glad that they were off Vendawall Boulevard where someone might see them, but he was worried about the lights. They were too yellow and too flickery. Maybe those people had a power shortage, and in that case it was even more selfish not to stop and offer to help them.
Quint looked at Claudio, hoping she would talk to their mother so he didn’t have to. Her mouth was set in a flat little line and she wasn’t looking at him. Quint nudged against Claudio and pointed at the lights. He shoved her harder than he meant to, mostly because he wanted the comfort of Claudio hugging him but he didn’t want to hug her first.
Claudio looked round and glared at him. “What was that for?”
“The lights in the windows, they’re weird.”
“They’re candle-lanterns, you muffin, because the KinHarzin knocked out the electricity generators.”
“The KinHarzin live far away, they don’t come here.”
Claudio looked as if she would have liked to shove him all the way out of the aircar. “You are such a baby! You’re more of a baby than the twins!”
Quint opened his eyes wide, shocked at her unprovoked assault. They passed a building that had no roof at all, only a ragged ending of twisted metal struts poking up into the sky. The lights inside those windows were smoky red. Their mother piloted the car onward, her mouth set in a grim line just like Claudio’s, and Quint suddenly understood that those weren’t candle-lanterns.
The aircar veered suddenly upwards. The three-year-old twins woke up. Chayton clambered into Claudio’s lap and sucked his thumb: Kayati Devi knelt up to look out of the window. “Fireworks!” she said, pointing at an irregular shower of light in the sky.
Quint opened his mouth to say that it wasn’t fireworks. Claudio glared sharply at him, and he didn’t say it.
The gate to the Kumar-Vierbrugge Spaceport reared up in front of them. Quint had been here before, a proud, self-conscious, civic-minded little traveller, keeping to the appointed path that lighted up in front of him to show his way to the Tsiolkovsky terminal, answering the security questions politely. This wasn’t like any of those other times.
There were no comforting lights inside the station. No monorails slid cheerfully into their second-floor terminal like something out of one of the twins’ picture-books, and no bustle of pedestrians passed through the arch. The monorail tracks were sheared off two streets away and bent upwards in a blackened tangle, and Quint wasn’t sure if they’d ever run again.
As for the station arch, it was blocked off with a tatty barricade made of corrugated plaz and wood and what looked like an advertising hoarding. Its light-cells still flickered in hexagonal nonsense-shapes, occasionally forming into an image of a letter or a tomato or half a woman’s breast.
Quint looked worriedly around, not sure what they were going to do. He couldn’t see the signs telling them where they ought to go. “Mama, is it a diversion?”
“Oh, it’s a walk in the park, Quint-love,” said his mother, in that famous voice of hers that could excoriate the opposition across the floor of the Senate Dome or upstage any actress unfortunate enough to be presenting her with a bunch of flowers. “Hold tight.”
She rammed the aircar straight into the barricade.
Copyright © 2010 Ankaret Wells.
And as for how the Boccamera in this relate to the Boccamera in Maker’s Mask and Hawkwood War… the short answer is it’s complicated. 🙂