With her home planet of Araldis under occupation by hostile forces, and the Orion League of Sentient Species unable—or unwilling—to help, Mira Fedor is forced to turn to the mercenary captain, Rast Randall, if she is to save her home. Having Rast on her side means she can thwart political constraints and enact her own game of ruthlessness. As hidden strategies of her allies and enemies alike are revealed, Mira wonders why the philosophers of Scolar have been targeted? And how far does the Extropist influence extend into Orion space? Is everyone set to achieve their separate goals, or has one devastating agenda been set in motion? Mira fears that these puzzling events are all leading toward a single and terrifying conclusion . . .
Marianne de Pierres' epic Sentients of Orion series has been called "a grand space opera" (The Times Literary Supplement) and "brilliant in all senses of the word" (Sean Williams). All four books were shortlisted for the prestigious Aurealis Award, with the final book winning for best novel.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Mirror Space: Sentients of Orion 3
By Marianne de Pierres
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2009 Marianne de Pierres
All rights reserved.
tyro tyro/work'm round
make'm mischief/what'm found
greedy greedy/let'm be
Falling in love was like being shot out into space wearing an EVA suit with five minutes' air supply left. At least that was the analogy Jo-Jo Rasterovich applied to it—having experienced both. The love thing was new; catastrophically, mind-screwingly new. The floating-in-space thing was old but would be forever fresh in his mind, as were the long, long moments of visceral fear he'd felt as he'd struggled for breath.
It was the visceral fear and barely breathing that Jo-Jo grappled with now. Not in the exact moment that he realised Baronessa Mira Fedor had been abducted, but right afterwards, when he knew he was prepared to give up his reason for living to find her.
If Jo-Jo had had a second for reflection he might have laughed long and hard at himself. The quintessential bachelor, fallen for his nemesis—a woman. At the very least he'd have got seriously stoned. But the biozoon that he'd travelled to Rho Junction on was, to use an obscure phrase, about to leave the station, chasing after Mira Fedor.
Rast Randall should have been watching her. Instead, the mercenary had been pursuing her own ends while Jo-Jo'd been running distraction for the idiot scholar Thales Berniere so he could act as a bio-courier for the illustrious Commander Farr. Not a situation Jo-Jo had wanted to be in, but one he'd chosen, on account of the falling-in-love thing.
Now, Jo-Jo's urge to strangle Randall was surpassed only by his desire to get back on board the biological ship ... so that he could strangle Randall.
He clawed at the 'zoon's egress scale from where he balanced on the edge of the docking tube, with all the dignity of a drowning man grabbing for a life jacket. 'Randall! Open up! Randall you prick-bender!'
The biozoon's skin vibrated under his touch. In another moment it'd pull away from the docking tube and he'd be suctioned out in the wash of the two hundred tons of space-capable creature that was distressed and in a hurry.
The 'zoon flexed; a ripple that ran through its huge body and sent the tube buckling.
Alarms squealed around him.
Jo-Jo hugged the barnacled outer flesh, scraping his face against it. 'Please! Please!'
A sob escaped.
Jo-Jo Rasterovich didn't sob! Or at least not unless he was floating in space with no air in his tank. Even then it was an angry sob. Not this pitiful, heartbroken whisper.
The emergency overrides on the docking tube kicked in and it began to retract. He stretched forward, refusing to let go of the 'zoon, until he lost his footing altogether.
He hung, like a drop of water about to fall.
Then the scale sagged inward and rough hands reached around and hauled him inside.
He fell against the mercenary, Rast Randall, who expelled a long, sour breath in his face. A panting breath like she'd been running.
'You—crazy—motherfucker,' she said. 'What—you—think—you're doing?'
Jo-Jo reefed her hands from his jacket and sent an internal message to his trembling legs to perform and hold him up. 'Changing my mind.'
Her scowl deepened to a point where he thought she might punch him, and then just as suddenly, a look of suspicion crossed her face. 'You've been blubbing.'
He didn't grace something so ridiculous with a reply.
A look of comprehension changed her expression entirely and she burst out laughing. 'Love's a bitch. Ain't she?'
She turned around and walked away.CHAPTER 3
In those seconds of mind-sorting before true consciousness, Mira Fedor thought that she was on the Tourmaline Islands with Trinder Pellegrini. It was so tangible: the flavour of salt and sea and the faint, unpleasant scrape of wet sand on her skin; her heartbeat quick with excitement and trepidation. Unchaperoned with the young, handsome Principe. The way he watched her ...
She rolled onto her back, luxuriating in the warm water. But the movement brought a wave of distortion and then clarity.
Her link with the biozoon had dwindled to the faintest of whispers. Why so distant?
Insignia, where are you? Where am I?
She opened her eyes and blinked painfully into a hard light. There was water—she could hear it—but the light obliterated everything else.
'Close your eyes,' instructed a voice.
Mira gladly obeyed it, shutting out the pain of the glare. Something insubstantial like gauze or silk settled on her face. It moulded to the contours of her mouth and nose and then dissolved into the warmth of her skin.
She reached to touch it but something batted her hand away.
'Do not. It is harmless but will allow you to manage the luminosity. Now open your ocular vessels.'
Ocular vessels? Mira blinked again, taking a second to wonder what kind of humanesque referred to eyes as 'ocular vessels'.
Then a cascade of recent memories and probabilities flooded over her. She'd been with Bethany at the markets on Rho Junction. Rast had left them. Siphonophores, Beth had called them. Floating globular creatures with transparent bodies and feet suckers. No—not just transparent. They'd surrounded her and—
Mira sat up quickly, wildly, clutching her abdomen. Baby.
'Please desist. You may injure Wanton-poda. Or yourself.'
Suddenly her surroundings came into sharp focus. She made little sense of the wider space beyond the quivering, transparent wall that encased her, save for what appeared to be sheets of undulating tissue swaying like they were caught in a breeze.
She did, however, comprehend that she was in—not a room exactly, but an amorphous space with no specific lines. A creature hovered in the air to one side of her, a curious bell-shaped thing, a little larger than her head and shoulders combined, with two sharp, earlike protrusions above large black eyes. Flaps moved constantly around the skirt of the bell, which Mira presumed kept it afloat.
She wetted her lips and let her hands fall to her side.
'This is Wanton-poda,' it said. 'Wanton is the "I" and "poda" is the cephalopod.'
Mira digested that for a moment. The creature seemed innocuous and polite. 'You are using a cephalopod's body.'
'For the moment. Naturally there have been some modifications. Wanton-poda does not require a water environment.' It floated closer to her. 'It is normal etiquette for the other party in a conversation to identify themselves.'
'P-pardon m-my manners. My name is Mira Fedor.'
'Yes, yes, Nascent humanesque.'
'You an Extropist?'
Wanton-poda's skirt fluttered, sending it higher into the air. '"Extropist" is a term used only by Nascents. We do acknowledge the term "Post-Species", but of course that only describes a small section of our community.'
Mira swung her legs off the spongy platform she was sitting on. Her breath came too quickly, leaving her dizzy. 'I have been taken against my will, Wantonpoda. I must return to my friends and my ship. Where are they?'
The cephalopod's ear flaps flattened and it spun in circles, making little squealing noises.
Mira put her hands over her ears. 'Stop! Please! What is wrong? Have I offended you?'
But the creature took no notice, spinning faster and squealing louder.
Pressure built behind the bridge of Mira's nose. Before she realised what was happening, unwanted tears brimmed and began to fall down her cheeks.
Wanton-poda suddenly stopped and floated closer again. 'You are expressing sadness.'
Mira nodded and pressed her fingers to her eyes.
She took several slow breaths to calm herself. 'Distress. Please, tell me where I am.'
'Of course, Mira-fedor. You are in a cultivation chamber on Hue in Interim territory.'
Her panic of a few moments before turned to anger. 'In Extropy space? How far am I from Rho Junction? Who has brought me here?'
Wanton-poda began to spin.
'Why are you doing that?'
The spinning increased again and it started to wail.
Mira's head pounded. 'Stop!' she said. 'Tell me what I'm doing to upset you.'
The spinning lessened and Wanton-poda's ear flap shot up. 'Nascent Mira-fedor should not express itself to Wanton-poda in such an impolite manner.'
Mira tried to quell her rising anger. Was the creature simply obtuse or was it being cagey? She had always imagined Extropists to be highly intellectually developed. Wasn't that the point of their practices? 'My questions seem to offend you.'
'It is not the content that is offensive but the manner,' it explained. 'Interrogatives are offensive to Wanton-poda.'
Squelching noises emanated from under Wanton- poda's skirt, followed by an unpleasant odour. Mira bit her lip, not sure whether to enquire if the creature was all right. She decided to remain quiet and hold her breath until the odour dissipated.
'Better, better,' said Wanton-poda after a while, as if relieved of discomfort. 'My clarification is this. I am Highness Most Capable of Cultivation: Tissue. You—Nascent humanesque—have been brought to my chamber by Highness Most Capable of Security: Off-Hue-World. It was believed this would be a relevant location for you to take respite.'
Mira checked her desire to ask a direct question. Instead she responded with her own story. 'I was visiting the markets in the Arrivals Bell on Rho Junction in the Saiph system. It is supposed to be neutral territory. My ... my escort left me for a short time and Post- Species Siphonophores surrounded me. I thought it merely an accident at first. They were transparent but then their bodies darkened. I remember being lifted up off my feet. And that is all. Now you tell me that I have been brought to Post-Species space against my will. That is abduction.'
'Wanton-poda laments your circumstance, but Highness Most Capable of Security: Off-Hue-World is most respected. It is simply my task to receive you and tend you until you are relocated, based on available information of your needs: food and liquid.'
Mira slid onto the floor and stood carefully, smoothing out her fellala. She wore the new one that Insignia had fabricated for her. The crispness had already gone from the folds, and stains showed along the hemline. At least she had the dignity and protection of her robe. The ambient temperature in the cultivation chamber was uncomfortably warm and moist.
As if tripped by that thought, she suddenly craved water and food. On the floor beside her she noticed a table stand holding containers of fruits and fluids.
'These should be suitable,' said the Extro, descending closer to the table stand, 'according to specifications.'
Mira sank to the floor and reached for two of the containers. The fruits weren't familiar but they smelt appealing enough. She sipped the water first, a tiny amount. It tasted so much like Araldis water that she wanted to cry again. The high calcium content had even begun to leave a white ring around the inside of the beaker. She swallowed the rest in one long, gulping draught.
'Evidence indicates the liquid is accurately reconstituted.' Wanton-poda hovered at shoulder height, its skirt frill trembling delicately. Perhaps she imagined it, but the creature seemed satisfied.
She wanted to ask how it had learned the perfect balance of mineral content but she settled for a simple compliment.
'The water is beautiful. I have so missed the taste of it.'
Wanton-poda's frill quivered and it bobbed. 'Wanton- poda is gratified. Most gratified.'
'Wanton-poda is most talented,' said Mira cautiously. If the Extro did not like direct questions, how would it react to flattery?
'Wanton-poda is happy to use its skill for an intelligent and appreciative Nascent.'
Mira felt her cheeks warm with colour. She stared at the creature suspiciously. Was it attempting to flatter her back?
Despite everything she felt a desire to smile. She converted it to humility. 'If I was an intelligent Nascent I would be able to understand why I was here and for how long. I must be too primitive.'
Wanton-poda rose and fell like a graceful jellyfish caught in a sea swell. 'It has been decided by the Highness Most Capable: Evolution that Wanton-poda will observe and monitor the Nascent until she is cleared of contaminations, and then she and her foetus will be further examined.'
Further examined? Mira's sense of humour disappeared instantly. She struggled to think of an indirect way to find out more. 'My foetus is not due to be born for some time. I am surprised you were aware that the child existed. There is not much to see.'
'Indeed,' said Wanton-poda. 'With the technology available on your home planet that is an accurate summation, but of course you are in a vastly different place.'
'Of course,' she acknowledged.
She thought for a moment, chewing her fruit slowly. If the Extros knew her home planet then presumably they had not kidnapped her in error. Perhaps Wantonpoda would reveal more if she simply remained quiet.
'Preliminary investigation reveals that your foetus shows some interesting anomalies' it volunteered.
Mira could barely swallow the mouthful she had chewed. She sipped the water, hoping it would lubricate her nervous, dry throat.
'It has inherited your telepathic bonding ability—' Wanton-poda stopped and spun around, hastening over to the transparent wall. It hovered in front of it, uttering soft yelping noises.
Siphonophores appeared in the outer space, weaving through the sheets of shifting tissue and bubble- incubators as they proceeded directly towards them.
They didn't halt at the transparent wall but passed straight through it. Wanton-poda shot across in between Mira and them, expelling more gusts of foul odour from underneath its frill.
An exchange of animated noises told Mira that a discussion was going on. She concentrated hard, trying to decipher something—anything—but she couldn't recognise any speech patterns or syllabic references.
She interrupted them in frustration. 'Why have you brought me here?'
But the Siphonophores didn't even seem to hear her. They turned in accord, leaving as quickly and silently as they'd arrived.
Mira attempted to follow them but the wall became solid as if she'd run into a sheet of rubber. She clawed at it in anger. The texture immediately hardened.
She took a couple of steps backward and then ran forward, trying to use momentum to break through. The wall repelled her with equal force, and she fell down.
Wanton-poda squealed. 'Please desist, Mira-fedor. You'll injure yourself and the pantomath.'
Mira climbed to her feet, clutching her hip and abdomen. She felt shaken and enraged, and fearful that she had hurt her baby. 'You can't keep me a prisoner!' she cried. 'And for Cruxsakes, what is a pantomath? Why did you call my baby that?' Suddenly she didn't care that her questions were direct and offensive.
Wanton-poda ascended to shoulder height and excreted a light spray from under its frill. Almost instantly Mira became tired; so tired that instinct sent her stumbling over to the bed where she could lie down before—CHAPTER 4
Trin sat on the beach under Semantic's glow, and stared out at the dark mass of water. Murmurs drifted down to him from the camp higher up along the tide line. The voices held optimism for the first time.
Many had perished in their flight from the Saqr to safety; some in the Pablo tunnels, but most had fallen to the nightwinds as they trekked to the southern islands.
Since then they had crept from island to island on stolen flat-yachts, sleeping by day and putting their lives in the hands of a young half-Mioloaquan girl.
Now Djeserit had found them an island upon which they might be able to stay, and put an end to this exhausting flight from the Saqr who'd invaded their world and devastated their towns.
Djeserit had their trust. With her unique hybrid biology she was able to fish effectively and provide them with the food they'd need for the two-day journey across the Galgos Strait. Djeserit was their hero and neither he, the new Principe of Araldis, nor Cass Mulravey, the women's advocate, had been able to give their people as much hope.
Trin wrestled with this realisation, unsure whether it pleased or displeased him.
'Trinder, darling, you've barely spoken to me.'
The voice belonged to his mother. Djeserit had rescued her from the palazzo on the Tourmaline Islands; another courageous feat that chafed at Trinder's frayed emotions.
'I have many things to contemplate, madre. They do not include entertaining you with conversation,' he said flatly.
Excerpted from Mirror Space: Sentients of Orion 3 by Marianne de Pierres. Copyright © 2009 Marianne de Pierres. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.