Read Children of Scarabaeus Online

Authors: Sara Creasy

Tags: #Science Fiction, #General, #Fiction

Children of Scarabaeus

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Children of Scarabaeus

 

Sara Creasy

 

 

For MCP,
who saw me through

 

 

Contents

 

Chapter 1

Edie Sha’nim was dying.

Chapter 2

“Jezus…” Edie instinctively ducked her head.

Chapter 3

Her warmed blood felt like fire as it pumped through…

Chapter 4

Edie sat on the edge of the bunk and waited…

Chapter 5

Finn dropped to his knees, clutching his head, and toppled…

Chapter 6

One bay in the infirmary was the subject of a…

Chapter 7

They found Mr Kensee’s supply room on Deck E. He was an…

Chapter 8

The mess at breakfast time was noisy, crowded chaos. Edie…

Chapter 9

“Edie!”

Chapter 10

Edie found herself outside the infirmary before she’d consciously made…

Chapter 11

Edie’s console beeped for her attention.

Chapter 12

As Edie made her way to the classroom, she gave…

Chapter 13

Edie set the biocyph module on Aila’s desk. “I’m curious…

Chapter 14

Edie sat with Finn at a tiny table in the…

Chapter 15

Edie rolled over, exhausted and heavy-limbed, as her alarm beeped.

Chapter 16

“I’m doing an excellent job,” Galeon announced when he opened…

Chapter 17

The garden was open access for all crew. Finn’s crew…

Chapter 18

Edie had once made a promise to Finn—that she’d wear…

Chapter 19

Edie snuck out a side door and returned to her…

Chapter 20

“I wanted to find out what you did to Finn,”…

Chapter 21

The skiff plummeted through the atmosphere and hit the storms.

Chapter 22

The way Finn kept looking at Winnie, Edie could tell…

Chapter 23

A rescue raft that returned to the site the next…

Chapter 24

From the compact observation deck on the Molly Mei, Edie…

Chapter 25

“No…” Edie wrapped her arms around her ribs as if…

Chapter 26

Edie slipped away. She wasn’t about to let Finn die,…

Chapter 27

The lifepods weren’t sophisticated vessels—they were supposed to float around…

Chapter 28

The slaters had no eyes, but they had sensed the…

Chapter 29

Edie climbed onto the mossy petals to reach the access…

Chapter 30

Edie stared at the creature on her pillow. Spindly legs,…

Chapter 31

It seemed like hours later that she was distracted by…

Chapter 32

Natesa strode into the cavern, exuding confidence and purpose. She…

Chapter 33

Finn was coming around slowly. Too slowly. As Edie was…

Chapter 34

Finn’s voice pulled her back again, and Edie held on…

Chapter 35

“Finn really did almost kill me.” Cat cut an indignant…

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Praise

Other Books by Sara Creasy

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

CHAPTER 1

 

Edie Sha’nim was dying.

Surrounded by the hubbub of a busy border station, she huddled her knees to her chest and concentrated on remaining conscious. The pressure of sensory overload jangled her brain as the too-bright lights and too-loud shouts of travelers assaulted her from every angle. The molded plaz chair pressed into her spine like a row of knifepoints. As if frozen in blocks of ice, her fingers and toes pulsed with fire each time her heart struggled to squeeze one more measure of blood through her arteries.

Resting her cheek on her knee, she stared across the concourse to the large windows overlooking the jump node. She’d counted four incoming vessels in the hour or so she’d been sitting here. Counting was about all she was up for now—neuroshock had taken over her system, mincing up her brain, stripping her nerves, leaving every nerve ending screaming.

At any moment, the jump node would light up again and the ship that came through would be the one looking for her.

Her eyes flicked to the side—she was too exhausted to move her head—focusing as best as they could on Finn standing thirty meters away in the waiting area of the
security checkpoint, talking to someone. He’d positioned himself so he could watch Edie while he talked. His gaze roved around the concourse every few seconds, then back to her and occasionally to the woman with him. She was, Edie presumed, a ship’s captain—and with luck, their ticket off Barossa Station.

The concourse stretched out between Finn and Edie to opposite bulkheads, and was bulging at the seams with traders, spacers, and station crew. Some moved with purpose, others milled around the makeshift market stalls or chatted and argued in small groups.

At last, Finn walked back to her. He was speaking on his commlink, but she couldn’t pick out the conversation over the background noise and he was done by the time he reached her. He looked grim—but no more so than he had for the past week. Considering her slow slide into catatonia, he didn’t ask how she felt. He’d stopped asking four days ago—days that she’d spent disoriented and curled up in pain on a bunk. Flashes of light danced around his short dark hair like a broken halo. Her optic nerves could not be trusted.

“Cat’s on her way with her trader pal,” Finn told her.

Edie nodded her head once, which made her feel woozy. Her thready heartbeat stuttered with hope and fear.
Cat’s on her way
—which meant the deal had gone well: the trader had accepted the payment they’d offered. The only question now was whether he’d stolen the correct drug for her. If he’d made a mistake, Edie was dead.

And the moment she died, the leash that bound Finn to her would break, killing him, too.

Taking the seat next to hers, Finn sat motionless and watched the crowd. The tension written on his face had become a familiar sight during the past week, the leash filling his head with a staticky echo of her desperation and disintegration. She had promised to fix the interference but was in no state to try now.

Through the blurred confusion of holoviz screens and
billboards, Cat Lancer’s approach was unmistakable—the elegant slender figure, the dark skin and flashing eyes, the gold flight suit. She walked with a barely noticeable limp, still recovering from a bullet wound. Formerly the navpilot of the rover vessel
Hoi Polloi
, Cat was now helping them. Yasuo trailed behind her—the
Hoi
’s young engineer, as eager as the rest of them to evade their client Stichting Corp. A few weeks earlier, Stichting had organized the forcible recruitment of Edie and Finn by the
Hoi
’s crew, and sent them on a deadly mission. Six of them had survived, but only four remained together. Gia the cook, a freed serf, they’d already shipped home, and Corky, senior engineer, had been cut loose as soon as they arrived at Barossa Station. Having convinced him that Captain Rackham had betrayed the crew, they trusted him not to turn them in—but no further than that. As far as they knew, he was drinking himself into a stupor at one of Barossa’s many bars.

Captain Rackham was dead, shot by the least likely member of his crew to wield a gun. It was a fitting end for a man who’d tried to preserve his false war record by murdering his crew.

The
Hoi Polloi
was already on its way to the junkyard, and its scrap price would pay for their ride off Barossa. Even without the Crib plasma bolt that had blown out the ship’s rear end, they would have had to dump the vessel anyway. The Crib would be looking for it, as would Stichting Corp, which believed as strongly as the Crib did that it owned Edie.

Beside Cat was a burly man in a smart jacket—the trader-thief Cat had hired to do their dirty work. If he’d done his job, done what Cat had recruited him to do, Edie’s lifeline was only meters, seconds away. Anticipation made her limbs tremble.

Finn stood. Edie didn’t trust her body to keep her upright, so she stayed put.

Cat introduced the trader as Beagle. “He’s seen the goods and he’s happy.”

Beagle stared at Edie, not acknowledging Cat’s statement. “You got the shakes, love?” He looked her over with a measure of disgust, like she was a drug addict in need of a fix.

Finn held out his hand, palm up. “Show me.”

From his inside jacket pocket, Beagle whipped out a small box bearing the distinctive insignia of the Crib, a circle cradled by two arcs. He opened it, delicately removed a bright sliver of plaz the size of a grain of rice, and dropped it into Finn’s palm.

“Only one?” Finn eyed him suspiciously.

One was enough—
for now.
Six months of life.

Beagle grinned. “It wasn’t easy. The only way into that lab was through the front door. Bought myself an expensive ident and posed as a Crib doctor. Got a fascinating tour of the place.” He turned the box around to show the contents. “Stole the stuff from under their noses…”

Edie wasn’t listening. She stared into the box in disbelief—at row upon row of implants, neatly aligned.
Years
of life.

It was impossible. Neuroxin had to be distilled from the native vegetation on her homeworld of Talas, and the drug degraded after a few years. Edie was the only person who used these implants, so the lab manufactured only a few at a time. Why would they make so many at once?

Her heart sank as she realized what it meant. They
looked
right, but…

“Too many…You made a mistake,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around her ribs as a wave of neuroshock ripped through her body. If she hadn’t been sitting, she’d have fallen over by now.

“I don’t make mistakes.” Beagle sounded indignant. “You weren’t expecting such a bounty, huh? Maybe we need to reconsider the price.” He glanced behind, at Cat and Yasuo, both of whom had none-too-subtly boxed him in.

Finn already had an injector out and slotted in the implant. He turned on the built-in holo and tipped the readout toward Edie so she could read the micro-inscription. The magni
fied text swam in her vision.
Neuroxin, batch #13-AA3. Crai Institute Research Labs, Talas.
This was genuine. It made no sense.

Her relief lasted only a second, crushed by doubts. What if it
was
counterfeit? What if it was outdated and ineffective? What if the Crib had switched the drug for something else? But what was left of her rational mind knew that couldn’t be the case. The Crib—specifically, her boss, Liv Natesa—didn’t want her dead. They just wanted her back.

Cat’s commlink beeped and she glanced at the message.

“We’ve got three Crib battlecruisers headed this way.”

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