Authors: Tobias S. Buckell
“Let me go and I’ll head for deep space and never return.”
“You are too full of guile and lies. I can’t afford to risk it. You almost wiped us out again. Amminapses, your actions have caught up to you. I’m your consequences, here to settle it all up.”
“You are no jury,” Amminapses screamed. “You need me to face what is out there in the greater universe.”
the greater universe out there.” As the drone staggered Pepper stepped forward and caught it. He slowly let it fall down and whispered, “I’m sorry, Claire.”
Amminapses couldn’t even get the drone to attack his face, it was useless, drained of energy. Dead.
Then Pepper said, “Good-bye, Amminapses,” and cut the last tendril.
Blind, it listened to Pepper thud closer, and felt the sword bite into its head, carving a long, jagged tear across its front.
“There were millions up there that died, and billions you threatened with your ploy, and I swore I’d find who was responsible and make them pay,” Pepper whispered into its earhole. It could only buck slightly, it was so weak. “Maybe you were right, maybe among the lurking threats out there in the universe you were the safest of them.”
The voice left the earhole, fading as it walked away, leaving the Satrap to die.
“But whatever else comes for us, we’ll be waiting, us and the other aliens, standing together. We’ll be stronger as our own people, rather than as subjects to you. Even if you were protecting us.
“And I’ll be there with them, just in case.”
The door to the den shut with a loud clang.
The Satrap struggled to breathe, sitting alone in the dark, dying. A sad end for one that had ruled all, it thought. Its final attempt to fix the human problem had failed.
Pepper was right. It could no longer help or protect the races it had once ruled. They had been born into the universe, and they would face it all on their own with their childish enthusiasm. It was no longer Amminapses’s burden, or that of any other Satrap.
That era, in the next few minutes as the Satrap slumped in its own oozing life fluids, a decorative sword jutting out of its side, was over.
The humans, and their alien allies, were on their own.
A couple of years ago I attended a fascinating lecture about Venus by NASA scientist, author, and good friend, Geoff Landis. He began by saying, “Except for the crushing pressure, acid rain, and melting heat, Venus may well be the next most habitable planet in the solar system, because at 100,000 feet over the ground a lot of this changes completely. The temperature is bearable, the pressure is normal, and you can get above the cloud layers.” I listened as Geoff went on to mention that air in a Venus-like atmosphere also provided lift, which meant if you filled a large enough object with normal breathable air it would float.
There was a scientific rationale for a cloud city! But in a very noxious and dangerous setting. This, of course, sparked my imagination. Within ten minutes of Geoff’s presentation I had sketched out the outline for
After the presentation, I approached Geoff and asked if I could use this setting idea in a novel, and Geoff said “of course.” He also burned me a disc of all his research on the matter. So, anything well-thought-through is thanks to him; I bear responsibility for all the mistakes.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to the writers at the 2007 Blue Heaven workshop. My thanks go out to Charles Coleman Finlay, Sandra McDonald, Greg Van Eekhout, Heather Shaw, Ian Tregillis, Paul Melko, Holly McDowell, Rae Carson, Sarah Prineas, William Shunn, and Paolo Bacigalupi for reading portions of the manuscript. Extra special thanks go to Charles Coleman Finlay and Paolo Bacigalupi for reading extended parts of the manuscript and the outline.
I also want to thank my wife, Emily. She patiently deals with my mentally disappearing for long weeks at a time, when the last stretch of writing the novel infects my mind and turns me into something rather resembling a zombie.
Thanks, also, to John Scalzi and Glenn Reynolds. Your links to my work and Web site have gained me a much larger audience than I ever expected with my first novels. Thanks, also, to everyone else who’s taken the time to link and spread the word. I’m amazed and always humbled by your charity.
The United States has an amazing library system and such dedicated librarians; my thanks to the libraries and librarians that purchase my books for communities and schools. I’m always pleased when I encounter younger readers who’ve discovered me in the stacks.
And lastly, my thanks to my readers for continuing to buy my books. You all make it possible. You all rock.