The trip around MyRyDyn was not as big a success as Durban had hoped it might be, although it did have its moments. Avilon was distant, seeming preoccupied a lot of the time and Raine alternated between enthusiastic child and sulky teen, which made the outing a trying challenge even to Durban with his natural buoyancy and good humour. They visited an outlying pod which housed a fitness suite, including a swimming pool, then spent a while flying around and getting some spectacular views before Raine got bored and restless.
“Why can’t we go to the main hub?” she demanded. “It looks like the only place on this prison-planet that might have someone under the age of ninety.”
“It’s also the only place on the planet where they have any kind of half-way decent surveillance,” Durban explained.
“And what’s with that? You criminals?”
Her disconcertingly direct stare held something more. An edge of what could even be fear. Durban had to remind himself that this was a child who had been ripped from the only life she really knew and hurled into a maelstrom of confusing messages and expectations. Avilon looked away and out of the window. She clearly felt it was not in her remit to deal with such things.
“No,” he said firmly. “Criminals are people who break the law to profit from the misery of others.” It wasn’t going to help anyone if he went into detailed explanations about how in the past they had indeed been criminals by any measure of the word and were still seen as such by the authorities.
“Then what’s with all the secrecy?”
The small vehicle they were in wove at speed through the pillars and stanchions that supported the habitation pods. Below, the eternal green and grey mist concealed whatever the surface might have to offer, whilst above the sky was a clear unclouded turquoise.
“If you look over there,” Durban pointed. “You can see the observation platform. That’s where we’ll have lunch. It has an impressive collection of artefacts that were found on the planet from early attempts to colonise. There were even a couple of domed settlements here once.”
Avilon gave a brief laugh.
“I’m sure Raine will love that.”
Raine herself looked sharply at Avilon then pushed out her lower lip, shoulders hardening.
“What would I want with some old shit like that? And you didn’t answer my question”
Durban pushed a smile onto his face.
“Well, that’s because it’s not something I can talk about at the moment. And you might even like the artefact collection as they have some early settlement weaponry there.”
He was spared a riposte by a sudden drop in height as their vehicle dipped sharply to manoeuvre under the main hub and avoid the cluster of traffic there. For a few moments they were in the green-grey mist and the eerie lighting effect took Raine’s attention. By the time they were lifting out of it again they were getting alerts for landing and the small flyer was being sprayed with decontaminants as it passed through a docking tunnel on the observation platform. The spray of jets created a dramatic effect with droplets cascading over the windows and the lighting added a prismatic effect, splitting into rainbow colours. Raine was grinning when they finally got out.
“That was well weird,” she said, and Durban had to smile at the sudden childlike enthusiasm in her voice as she went on. “You see those freaky clouds? And when we went vroop…” she moved her whole body into an imitation of the plunging vehicle, “…that was top madica.”
It was good to see her being her age, even if for only a few moments.
“Top madica,” he agreed, guessing the usage of the words from their context.
Raine’s mood shifted in an instant and she frowned at him.
“Like you’d have any idea what that means.”
He gave a small shrug and lifted both hands.
“You have me there. Why don’t you tell me?”
“The catch-phrase of the main protagonist in Outbound and Starwards. A science-fiction series aimed at teens and young adults about exploring other galaxies and meeting aliens,” Avilon provided unexpectedly, having most likely pulled the information from link as they’d been talking, but that was not how Raine saw it.
The girl’s eyes widened and Durban realised the early stage hero worship had just notched up another level.
“You link-stream the OAS?”
Avilon inclined her head.
“I’ve seen the odd episode.”
“That’s just… Like just…”
“Top madica?” Durban suggested gently.
Which for some reason made Raine furious.
“What do you know about anything? You’re just weird and creepy.”
Durban drew a steadying breath.
“The docking bay of the Observation Platform is probably not the best place for having a row. So tell you what, you and Avilon go eat lunch and see what they have by way of weaponry in the collection here and I’ll head home.”
A Bite of… E.M Swift-Hook
Q1. Do you see writing as an escape from the sorrows of existence, an exercise in futility, or an excuse to tell lies and get paid for it? Or is there another option…
For me writing is the chance to tell a story. I find that writing is – and for me has always been – the ultimate escapism, in much the same way as reading. The difference is that writing is a lot more proactive and you have to keep one foot fully unimmersed so you can put it all into words.
Q2. You are going to meet your literary hero and you are told to bring a gift. What do you take?
A bunch of flowers for her grave. Dorothy Dunnett will always be she to whom I can only aspire. My new project, a series of six books set in the opening months of the first English Civil War, is by way of a tribute to her and the inspiration she has given me as a writer.
Q3. Who was the first musician/singer to make an impact on your life? And can you remember the song? Similarly can you recall the first book that grabbed you by the gonads and shook your world?
The first muscician was a group – Queen. My bother had a copy of Queen II and I was entranced and sold on prog. rock ever since.
Book is harder. I can’t recall ever not being utterly captivated by them. But the first major book of note would have to be Lord of the Rings. I was nine years old, off sick from school and out of reading material so a friend of my mother’s lent me her hardback Fellowship of the Ring and then the rest in short order.
E.M Swift-Hook is the author of the Fortune’s Fools dark space opera series, co-author of the alternate history whodunits the Dai and Julia Mysteries and presently working on a historical fiction series set at the start of the First English Civil War.
In the words that Robert Heinlein put into the mouth of Lazarus Long: ‘Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.’
Having tried a number of different careers, before settling in the North-East of England with family, three dogs, cats and a small flock of rescued chickens, she now spends a lot of time in private and has very clean hands.
You can find her Twitter, Goodreads and, of course, here on the Working Title Blog.