LoneFire chapter one (sample)

Yuen, H. F., Baxter, H., Liu, X. J. et al: ‘Control of Gene Expression In Foetal Development.’

Journal of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, 123, 2987-3020 (2317).

These guys were working on putting some of the theory into practice, switching genes, rapid growth acceleration, trying to keep everything together by dosing them up with whatever came to hand, that kind of shit. Medical ethics being what they are in the Rim, they got away with a lot. Also tried their potions on normal foetuses, trying to produce a creature with characteristics and growth rates of their choosing. Fair’s fair, most of the work was done on animals. Most.

One – Guns in the Sky

Life can be a real bitch. People say that, don’t they? Life’s a bitch and then you marry one. Ha fucking ha, have another glass of sherry and then do please amuse me by choking on it. Life’s a bitch and then you die. Well, go on then, do us all the favour you nihilistic twat. Life’s a bitch and then you wake up? Still waiting.


It’s a while before I figure out I’m in a shuttle and longer before I remember why. Head’s stuffed full of cotton wool with an attitude problem. Mouth tastes like someone pissed in my face. Could be that they did. Out through the bubblediamond window I see stars. Lots of them. Yeah, yeah, go on, revel in it: billions and billions of twinkly little stars. The Milky Way, delicate as a lacewing, diamonds strung across the sky like dawn dew. Wow! Space! Yeah… Christ, change your fucking glasses and see it for what it really is, a badly wiped-off cum-stain smeared across the face of the universe. Pretty as a pig in shit.

The sun here is bluer than I expected. There’s no gravity. I fucking hate no gravity. The too-blue sun dims for an instant. Whatever put me out, still messing with my head. The shuttle spins. A planet slides into my vision, filling it. White flecked with green. Proven is supposed to be red. Like Mars used to be, back when there was a Mars.

Guess this place isn’t Proven after all.

‘Shit,’ says Mr Cray.

Cray’s not quite the short-arse he looks, it’s just the way he slumps when he’s not had one too many espressos and ends up acting like a spider on speed. I push up into the cockpit. Jester lies slumped in the pilot seat, snoring. Jester comes from an orbital in the Dust Sector, Tybalt, the one the Stars forgot to hurl a rock at that hangs over what’s left of Earth like a too-young calf still nosing its dead mother after the corpse has long gone rotten with flies. Jester considers himself a true native, a class above us colonials. That’s about as much as he’ll say. Whatever the rest of his story is, it’s left him with a chip on his shoulder the size of Io. He’s mostly made of … fuck, I don’t know. Not squishy stuff like the rest of us.

Numbers appear before my eyes, tiny green flashes tattooed on the back of Mr. Cray’s head. More than twenty-four hours have passed since we left Cestus and I don’t have the first idea what happened for most of them. A turd of dread slops about in my gut. This is not good.

‘Fuck!’ says Mr Cray again. Mr Cray says ‘fuck’ the way other people breathe. Could mean we’re all about to die, could just mean he’s lost a game of Megafighter XIV that he’s been playing on the sly.

We’re not dead, so that’s something. And we seem to have found one of those rare interstices of space-time where there isn’t someone shooting. I take a moment, put Mr Cray on mute and look about the cockpit. Not that there’s much to see. Sparse. Minimalist, the new chic in spaceship interiors. About time. Can’t abide that exposed piping and gaudy flashing lights vibe the fashionistas are so fond of, that old man’s-first-art-deco-dreams-of-space-travel wank. On the other hand, minimalist doesn’t offer much. Us. Some seats. A socket with a wire coming out, currently plugged into Jester’s head, the manual override that took us exactly seventy-eight seconds to find, all three of us searching every surface. Seventy-eight gut-fucking seconds when we were all sure we were going to die.

‘So where are we? Cestus low orbit?’ I try to make out like I’m calm. The planet’s about the right colour for Cestus; well, sort of, but if it is then I’m buggered if I know how come we haven’t been turned into a cloud of super-heated space-dust.

‘Yeah, yeah, right, and I’m the Metatron, Angel of the Voice of God. This is New Amazonia, dickwad. Socket pig-sty balls, balls, balls!’

‘Well, that can’t be right.’ Can’t be.

Mr Cray flips me a finger. ‘Oh, yeah, right. How fucking stupid of me to think that any of the fucking flight instruments are fucking working!’

‘So what? We’ve got some magical fairy shuttle made by unicorns and pixies that can hoppity-skip through time and space fuelled by magic fucking mushrooms?’ Shit. I should know better than to lose my rag but we’re in a shuttle, a thing that goes from one planet to the next like every other fucking shuttle in the whole of time and space. We both know nothing this size can spin a warp.

‘I said we should have stolen some old rust heap, but you had to go for some fucking top-class executive palace. If we’re still in Cestus then how come the sun’s gone blue? Magic fucking star paint?’ He’s quivering. Fear and fury crushed together.

I take a tiny hit of endorphins and try to find my happy place, which I discover to be a gloomy attic, empty except for a sofa assembled from pieces of Mr Cray’s violently dismembered corpse. Step by step. Break it down . . .

The story continues here…

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