Spacer’s Bet is the new sci-fi from Bonnie Milani. If you enjoy Anne Leckie’s Ancillary series, or Firefly, then you need to meet Iz and Kansas. Dive into this exciting prequel to the upcoming Aliya War series!
High in Shojai’s rear observation deck, Isfahan Hauler Shojai locked fists at her sides and stared out at her nightmare. The Shojai had dropped out of Jump space in the outskirts of RockPort’s star system. They were in real time now, while Shojai bled off Jump v in a long, slow deceleration. Here in real time the screens showed the glittering mist of the Milky Way edge on, an entire galaxy of stars stretching away into infinity. Nearer stars sheened the ship’s fat girth in silver.
The sight clenched Iz’s stomach. Terrible, horrible sight.
That wasn’t how she was supposed to feel, she told herself. She was Miner clan born and bred. She was supposed to appreciate stars. Her mind knew that. But the terror still ruled. It always had. Ever since Black Rock.
She rubbed her one sweaty palm dry on her coverall, tried to force her stomach to unknot. The fear was her enemy, she told herself, not the outside. She had no excuse for the terror. She couldn’t even blame Kansas, tempting as that was. Black Rock had been even more cruel to him than herself in some ways. No, the terror was her own weakness. Just as it was her own fault that she couldn’t focus on her nav exams. At the rate she was going, the only way she’d ever make it up the ranks was to buy a berth. And she’d have to win the Paradise Lottery to manage that one. She was simply going to have to—
A trio of blunt-nosed fighters flashed past the viewscreens, the wolf’s head logo on their bellies clear and unmistakable: Lupans.
But something was wrong there. Iz had a fractional second to wonder before the deck hiccuped. The sudden swell threw her to the floor.
The alarms screamed as she scrambled to her feet. The deck hiccupped again, harder this time.
Iz was already running for the emergency chute when she heard the human screams over comm. Somewhere far in Shojai’s depths, metal clanged as the ship’s emergency locks slammed shut. The screams ended abruptly.
Hull breach! Nothing else would trigger the emergency seals.
Iz ripped the emergency chute access panel open and cycled herself in. Dear gods, where was Kansas? She could only pray her hopeless, helpless brother hadn’t wandered directly into the line of fire.
She free fell the first fifty meters. Crew ER chutes maintained gravity at half ship normal. That was still enough to splatter her across the deck on impact. She grabbed the drop ladder every few meters to control her fall. The mech fingers of her right arm left a bright trail of sparks as it screamed down the metal. She jerked to a halt at M Deck. Maintenance was mid-ship. Iraq, her crew boss, was already on station, shoving, yanking, and swearing his crew into EV suits.
Iz grabbed her EV suit out of its hangar and started pulling it on. “Iraq!” she yelled as soon as she was suited up. “You seen Kansas?”
“Let the choom worry about himself for a change!” Iraq murphy-checked the helmet seals on a crewmate, sent the woman on her way with the jerk of a thumb. “We just lost everybody in Cargo Bay Two! We’re gonna lose Three in a minute – damn Dogs hit the emergency controls! Get down there – stat!”
“On it.” Iz locked her suit seals around her android arm. She changed her android hand’s settings with the twitch of a shoulder. The fingers locked together, then curled into a grasping claw. Iz slapped a hand across the access tube control, then locked her claw onto the transit line and launched herself into the vacuum of Shojai’s servo tube.
She cycled out of the servotube into what was left of the cargo bays corridor. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The bayside section of the hull was gone. At what had been cargo hold two the servotube hatch opened onto emptiness. The first blast had blown the cargo doors open. The second round had taken out the walls of the bay’s control room. The duty crew had been sucked out into vacuum. And none of them had been suited up.
Horrible, horrible death…
Spacer’s Bet is out now so you can snag your own copy or borrow through KU to keep reading!
A Bite of… Bonnie Milani
(1) Where is your jumping-off point when writing and how does it work for you?
There doesn’t seem to be any set starting point for a story. My first novel, Home World, started from a recurring dream that bothered me enough I had to work out how the situation in the dream could have happened. What I came up with grew into an entire future universe. Other stories, though, grew out of some vague character lurking in the back of my mind. That’s how ‘Cherry Pickers’ started: I didn’t know who Sam was, or where and I didn’t have any plot line in mind. I just had this huge, hairy, lovable tarantula hanging out in the shadows of my mind because he was on the lam from his wife. With a backstory like that, how could I not find him a story?
(2) If you could host a literary lunch, who would your three guests be (living or dead) and why?
Wow, that’s a tough one! Partly because sharing food, to me, is something of a sacred ritual. I’ve never been big on working lunches (except for the ones spent alone at my desk). Any get-together over food should be to share the pleasure of the group’s conversation as well as the food itself. So I’d look for a mix of garrulous writers from widely different times and perspectives:
Sir Terry Pratchett: to ensure we had someone who’d keep us chuckling at his unsurpassed wit and imagination
Charles Dickens: because this man could write and talk at the same time. He also, in his own way, shared Sir Terry’s sense of social justice albeit without the wry twist.
Enheduanna: the world’s first known author, for a bit of a woman’s historical perspective – she wrote in the 23rd century BC. And made sure she got her own byline, too! This lady – princess, high priestess, and poet – was likely the most powerful woman in her society. Her poetry helped cement the Akkadian empire, at least for a while. I figure she could hold her own in any conversation.
(3) Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Computer solitaire. I swear I lose more time to that game than I should ever admit.
After completing her MA in Journalism at Stanford, Bonnie Milani worked as a freelance feature writer before going on to teach writing at Learning Tree University. Her science fiction works have won multiple awards, including the Evvy Gold award and Readers Favorite. Follow her on Facebook!