Tag Archives: Running Out of Space

Jezell Campo from Running Out of Space – to be released Summer 2015

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My pal Sara Letourneau had blogged these answers for her character and mentioned they were part of the Beautiful People section of the Further Up and Further In blog, designed to help writers get to know their characters better. This is the July crop of answers and given that Jezell is going to see the light of day sometime this summer, I figured I’d give it a whirl… Thanks to Sky and Cait for taking the trouble to draft these monthly questions.

beautiful-people-11. What’s their favourite ice cream flavour?
Jezell likes the red wine and blueberry flavour as the alcoholic content helps to mask the blueberry, as she isn’t all that fond of fruit. Not that she often gets to taste this particular ice cream flavour at home – anything remotely tasting of wine disappears down her mother’s throat well before she gets so much as a sniff at it. So now she’s away on her father’s spaceship, she makes a point of ordering it. Because she can.

2. Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where are they going? What are they wearing? Who will they be with?
She’ll be out with her amigas – Donice, Alita and Efra. Left to herself, she’d probably set off wearing ship’s overalls, but the chicas won’t let that happen. They’ll take her in hand – she and Donice are more or less the same size, although Donice is more generously proportioned, so she’ll borrow one of Donice’s off the shoulder blouses and flared skirts. She will also wear a wig to hide her shaved head, part of ship’s regs for all serving crew. Wherever the ship docks, she and her amigas will end up at a bar or dancing venue previously approved by the shipboard chaperones and fiercely protected by the hombres from the ship.

3. Look at your character’s feet. Describe what you see there. Do they wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Are they in socks that are ratty and full of holes? What do they consider comfortable and what do they consider agony?
When on duty, Jezell has to wear military grade boots. The Captain, who is her father, used to serve in a mercenary force and has a penchant for all things military, especially as surplus gear can be bought for a generous discount – something that appeals to his merchanting, cred-hugging instincts. When she is off duty she would wander around  barefoot if she could get away with it, but it’s against ship’s regs, so she wears non-slips. They are often odd colours as she tends to lose one of a pair, which has Alita rolling her eyes over her untidiness.

4. Do they have any birthmark or scars? Where are they and how did they get them?
She has a small mark on the pad of her left palm and a small star-shaped scar behind her ear which she only got to know about when undergoing the extensive physical before joining the merchanting space ship, Estrella Fugaz some 9 months earlier. She doesn’t know it, but both scars were inflicted by her brother Duardo when he was an 18-month-old infant, a long time ago, now. These days, any wounds going to be inflicted, it’ll be Jezell doing the deed, that’s for sure – especially where Duardo’s concerned…

5. What kind of music do they listen to? Does it change depending on their mood or is it always consistent? (Feel free to share samples!)
She loves music, particularly the Old World stuff from pre-Diasporan times. The modern multi-tonal bot-compositions leave her cold – apart from anything else, they are next to impossible to sing unless you have your voice artificially aug’d and she’s no intention of letting some bot-brain tinker with her voice, muchas gracias for asking…

6. Do they have any musical talent? Play an instrument? How’s their singing voice?
She sings a lot. Often at the end of an evening, when the wine is flowing and people want to hear the old songs from Homespace, she is asked to sing, which she enjoys doing. Although she gets very fed up when fast-talking hem-huggers overpraise her performance, just to get on her shiny side because she is The Cap’s daughter.

7. What kind of book would you catch them reading?
Ha! As if she’d ever be given any slack time to prone around with a book. Back home, she was always pressed into service to help out with her baby brothers, particularly when Mamá retreated to her room in a drink-sodden haze. And now on the ship, she is vaguely aware of the library but is more interested in delving into the musical archive.

8. How would they spend their summers (or their holidays)?
The Cap generally books them a hotel suite at his favourite tourist resort in the whole of Sector Two, Costa del Iberia, where there are sandy beaches and warm seas for a couple of weeks. Not that Jezell gets a whole lot of time to laze around on the sand – she’s too busy keeping tabs on her baby brothers. Though the last time, baby Orly was only a couple of months old, so she stayed at home with Mamá, who was still recovering from her confinement and helped with the night feeds, while The Cap took the boys away. It wasn’t a success. They came home early with The Cap tight-lipped and a face darker than a black hole, muttering about having to do something about the boy’s discipline – so Jezell figured it was probably Duardo messing things up. Again.

9. It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. Ex. If they’re eating breakfast, what’s on the menu? Are they hiking, shopping, lazing around?
Now she’s on the ship, it majorly depends on which watch she’s on, given Estrella works a three-section dogged watch system. Being on Shift Segundo, she’s either still on the changeover and very much looking forward to brunch in the mess with her amigas in another hour, or standing by to take over. Or if she’s off-duty, she’ll have spent a morning lazing in her cribicle – if Donice will let her – and then have a big meal before getting ready to go on duty. If on shore leave, it’s all a question of when the chaperones feel inclined to escort the chicas to the approved shopping or trading areas.

10. Is there anything your character wants to be free of?
She is exasperated by the constant chaperoning because she is a fertile señorita. She wishes that she was one of the infertile chicas on board the ship who have a whole lot more freedom to spend time with whom they want. Apart from anything else, there are a bunch of hombres on the ship who have decided that paying court to her would be a zesting career move, so she is always having to flick away unwanted attention. Which gets to be sooo boring…

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FICTION FRIDAY – Extract from Running Out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded trilogy

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Abia got straight to the point after ordering drinks. “If you were to join us, what could you offer the Quixote?”
“I’m training in Procurement,” I offered, grateful all over again to Lnard.
Abia shook his head. “We have an experienced family that ably handles that side for us. What else?”
I opened my mouth and shut it again. I’d been about to mention that I was fertile; but given that I was docking with a non-Iberian, that was no longer relevant. Besides, producing bambinos was way down my piclist, anyhow.
Other than that, I haven’t any talents. Except for annoying mi padre – and a whole bunch of folk are equally gifted in that department.
I shrugged, feeling stupid. “Nada, as it happens. That’s why I wanted to train as an officer.”
Abia didn’t exactly grimace, but his expression prompted Alita to speak up for me, “She works hard, querido. A willing pair of hands is always useful.”
He didn’t look convinced. “Oh, .”
I hunched in my seat, feeling like ship-soiled goods.
“There’s her singing.” Wynn turned to me. “I can’t believe that you haven’t holo’d your stuff. People’d pay for that. Majorly.”
I rolled my eyes, but said nothing as our drinks arrived. Abia was the only one drinking wine, while the rest of us had fruit juice. After taking a large mouthful of the house red, he asked, “Would you agree to produce a holo of your singing?”
“So long as I wasn’t liable for the production costs when you make a loss on such a wet-brained venture.”
Alita shook her head as she and Abia grinned at each other.
Abia turned to Wynn. “And you?”
“There’s my sculptures. They generally fetch a good price.” Wynn took a deep breath before leaning towards me. “Thing is, cooped inside a tin can doesn’t do it for me. I’m a dirtsider. Born and bred.” His grip on my hand tightened. “I can work my passage, or whatever. But don’t know how you space camels keep your heads straight, living like this – and that’s a fact.”
I winced at Wynn’s use of the term ‘space camel’, but Abia’s face cleared.
“Well, that’s a whole lot easier.” He raised his glass, relief pouring off him that we didn’t want to permanently clutter up the Quixote. “Can’t see El Capitán having a problem giving the pair of you a lift. For the right price. So where d’you want to go?”
I gulped half my fruit juice in one huge swallow, wondering if this was some whacked-out dream.
Wynn looked at me pleadingly as he answered, “I was heading to Ceres. Their economy was still functioning, last I heard. That smooth with you?”
I shook my head. “It’s part of Estrella’s regular trade run back to Nuevo Madrid, so the Cap has contacts-”
“Wouldn’t worry about him too much longer, chica.” Alita knocked back her drink.
“He’s got a very long reach.” I looked at Wynn. “We’d be safer elsewhere.”
Alita leaned closer. “It’s smooth, Jez. He won’t be promming around the Bridgedeck much longer.”
What! “You told Capitán Diaz the truth ‘bout Donice, Alita?”
She flushed. “’Course not. He made me swear that I wouldn’t. What d’you take me for?” She lowered her voice, “Didn’t have to. The Cap’s lost the support of the abuelas on Estrella.”
“What’ve they said, then?”
She tossed her hair like it was head-grown. “That’s not how it works. It’s what they haven’t said. They haven’t told us chicas that’ll we’re headed hellwards for stranding poor Donice. They haven’t wordslimed you once – not even with you being DeepSpaced.”
“Doesn’t help that Estrella has a putrid rep with the other ships,” Abia added, tossing this info-nuke at me as if it was the weather. “They reckon your Capitán would flush every one of them away sooner than spit, if it came down to them ‘gainst his beloved Military.”
Yeah well, they’re probably right.

FICTION FRIDAY – Extract from Running Out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded trilogy

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I felt cold as I leaned towards Wynn, trying to screen him from the monitors. “You haven’t said anything about what really happened in Basement Level, have you?”
Ricco barged between us, bristling with outraged machismo.
“And what d’you think you’re doing, Rubio?” He spoiled his attitude of pent aggression by tipping a plateful of food down himself, then scraped at his smeared tunic, making the stain a whole lot worse, cursing steadily as he did so.
“You better wash that mouth out before you kiss your Mamá with it!” I snapped, as pieces of paella showered down on me. “Quit staling our air, Ricco.”
Giving up on his uniform, Ricco didn’t even look in my direction, too busy trying to eye-slice Wynn into submission. Who leaned back in his chair with his hands laced behind his head, grinning. I felt a wave of affection for him.
One of our hombres would feel honour-bound to square up to Ricco, by now.
“Step away from my intended, sobra!” Ricco hissed.
What!
“This true?” Wynn turned to me, his face now stone cold.
“’Course it isn’t! What d’you take me for?” my furious voice soared over the polite mutter susurrating around the cargohold. I jumped up and turned on Ricco. “What holo-scam you pulling now, hombre?”
Sudden hush dropped like a blanket around us.
What I should have done was slam my mouth shut. Or just head for the door. Preferably both. What I actually did was shout at the top of my very loud voice, “I’m not your intended! Never have been and never will be, Ricco Solana, and you know it!”
Fully fired up, he also lost any sense of propriety. “Don’t you give me that, you holo-hoaxing deceiver!”
“Deceiver!” I spluttered, “What deceit, you wet-head? Have we ever exchanged any promises? No. Any ring? No. Have we even kissed? No.”
“But you knew,” he howled, his face blotched and furious. “It was understood that we’d marry! We grew up together-”
I wasn’t letting him get away with that fuse-brained reasoning. “Sí, you’re right. So we did. I also grew up with five brothers and a pet rabbit. I’m not marrying them, either!”
“But your padre and me – we have spoken of this. He has given his permission!”
I might’ve known it. Papá! You’re the deceiving holo-hoaxer, here, aren’t you?
I saw Ricco’s contorted face through a red haze as my fury nocked up to giddy recklessness. “Oh, fine. Marry him, then. I don’t want you in that way, and I never have!”

FICTION FRIDAY – Extract from Running Out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded trilogy

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This is an extract from Chapter 4 of Running Out of Space, which I’m planning to publish in the summer, along with Dying for Space and Breathing Space. Jezell is being carpeted by her father, the Iberian merchant space captain when a situation flares involving the ship…

As the Cap and Josian continued playing tunes on the emergency console, a rumbling shudder started somewhere beneath our feet.
That’s the engines. Is this a mega-bluff or is the Cap really going to take on the whole station?
SS Hawking was one of the planetoid class of space stations. Trader Level was sited around the equator, with the docking bays fanning out from reinforced spokes known as pontoons. The Cap was threatening to blast the pontoon connecting Bright Nova to Hawking.
Not that he’ll do it. There’s three other merchanters docked in the same bay… he won’t, will he? Because if he does and those three ships find themselves adrift, they could crash into the air membrane, or each other. Hundreds could die…
Screens dotting the console reflected rainbow colours across their faces, while the Cap and El Segundo watched the firefight on the docks, in between dealing with the coms-traf stacking up.
Watching all this unfold in front of me – so like a holovid – felt unreal. Seesawing between terror and excitement, I held my breath, hoping the Cap would continue to ignore my presence till the emergency was over.
A series of percussive bangs boomed sullenly from outside the ship.
That’s the tethers blown. The Stationmaster won’t like that one little bit.
He didn’t.
“Stationmaster is demanding alpha priority comlink, señor.
The Cap’s grin pimpled my skin. “Is he, now? Make him wait two more minutes, then patch him through. Jonte – you there, amigo?”
Jonte Prado, Chief Engineer, was one of the Cap’s primero compadres when he was Military. And it showed. He reckoned not to have favourites, but he did. Generally, they were all his old army pals.
I zoned out the stab of jealousy.
“…train those guns onto the pontoon on my mark. Un, dos, tres… Now!” His face was lit up, his eyes sparkling. It came to me that this emergency was bread and air to Papá.
“Capitán, I have the Stationmaster on a priority hail for you.” The careful formality told me that the Stationmaster could hear all this.
Capitán Campo at your service-”
A spluttering roar cut off the Cap’s greeting. “He’s done what? The piratical fuse-brain! Estrella Fugaz why are your armaments deployed? And you’ve blown the tethers at your docking station. Explain yourself, sir! You’re going the right way to be blacklisted from all Sector Two stations!”
“We are under attack, señor. Station security is doing nothing to help. Our assumption is that you are in alliance with the forces assaulting our crew,” the Cap’s voice was measured, but an underlying vibrato raised the hairs on my neck. He was furious. If I were the Stationmaster I’d be choosing my words with care, just now.
The Stationmaster did nothing of the sort. Chiefly because he was also enraged. “What wet-headed piece of reasoning brought you to that conclusion, sir? From where I’m sitting, a petty squabble ‘tween two Merchanter ships has gotten out of hand-”
The Cap’s voice coshed across the Stationmaster’s blustering like a durasteel bar, “Entirely due to the negligence of your own security in not restraining the crew of Bright Nova when they started attacking my crew, señor!”

FICTION FRIDAY – An extract from Running Out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded trilogy

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This is an extract from Chapter 2 of Running Out of Space, which I’m planning to self publish this August, along with the other two books in the trilogy, Dying for Space and Breathing Space.

“Right,” said Wynn, in a strained whisper. “We got another couple of intersections to go and a vent shaft before arriving at the ladders leading down to Service Level and the lifts. We’re definitely being followed. If they’re planning on making some kind’ve move, I reckon they’ll be waiting for us somewhere before we reach the shaft – Milla’s lot don’t like using them.”
Donice clearly wasn’t convinced. “Thought you said that the lifts was wired, compadre.”
“They are. On Basement Level. We’re going to be using the lifts on Service Level, where Station Security is far too interested to let the likes of Norby get creative.”
“How come you know so much about these tunnel rats, hombre?”
“They let me snag here for a while. In return for a cut of my earnings,” Wynn’s voice was even and if he was angered at Donice’s attitude, he didn’t show it.
“And you’re gonna walk away. Just like that?” She wasn’t cutting him any slack.
Wynn shrugged. “You heard Milla. Norby’s out for my blood, anyhow. I was already figuring to move on sometime soon. Before he zilched me.”
“Says you.” Donice rolled her eyes. “Unlike some around here – I’m not-ˮ
I heard the slight scuffle in the same instant that Wynn moved. He yanked Donice behind him. Just a nanosec before a thin, long-handled knife sprouted from his shoulder. As he stared at it, blinking in shock, I shoved him out of the way, fumbling in my pocket. My hand closed around the smooth metal cylinder, pulling it out. As I aimed it, arming the thing, my fingers felt like sausages.
Please – let it activate first time… I won’t get a second chance.
Someone, somewhere, heard my desperate plea. Not a minute too soon. The air between us shimmered. And the next knife bounced off the mobile force field and crashed onto the floor.
Tow-Headed Teener appeared from one of the intersections and ran at us, swinging a heavy chain, evidently heading for Wynn.
“Don’t!” The word fell out of my mouth, as I realised what was going to happen.
But he wasn’t listening – and apparently hadn’t understood what the force field would do. The chain hit first, before ricocheting in a snaking arc just as the boy thudded into it so fast that to this day, I couldn’t tell you if it was the chain or the force field that caused the damage. But he crashed to the floor, cursing and thrashing in evident agony, his left leg twisted at an impossible angle with a red puddle pooling under it.
I was about to flick the force field off to help him, when Wynn gasped, “No! Leave it. That’s Kester – so Norby won’t be far away.”
As if on cue, Norby appeared. He scowled at the boy lying on the ground, who called out, “Uncle… please! I’m bleedin’ somethin’ fierce. It’s my knee…”
Norby kicked him. Hard. “You always was a useless pile of piss an’ offal! Now look what you done to yerself!” He drew a Pacifier and shot the boy at point blank range.
Efra screamed, while Donice cursed. As for me – I said nada. Too busy staring in disbelief at what was going down right in front of me. This isn’t happening! It’s some nightmare. And I’ll wake up, soon. Please…
“Look what you girlies went an’ done! Killed poor ol’ Kester while he was lyin’ on his back with a busted leg,” Norby yelled. “The others ain’t gonna stand for that. You’ll get Basement Level justice for sure. An’ all cos yer wouldn’t let me take you’s back up to your daddies.” He flashed his rotten-toothed grin, adding, “Be seeing yer.”
And with that he dodged back into the side corridor.

FICTION FRIDAY Extract from Chapter One of Running Out of Space – Book 1 of The Sunblinded trilogy

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This is another short slice of the first book in the trilogy I am planning to publish in the summer…

My chicas closed up behind me.
“Rock steady, now,” I muttered, trying for friendly eye contact and receiving hard stares in return.
Someone shouted something I couldn’t catch. Whatever it was passed for wit down here. It was followed by an explosion of noisy laughter and a fusillade of crude comments from the rabble clustered around the graffiti-covered alcho bars that lined the plaza.
“Need to blue-shift our bods back up to Trader Level,” muttered Alita, treading on my heels.
“Easy…” I answered, trying to close down this conversation before my companions talked themselves into doing something stupid. Like being the least bit afraid.
These Dreggers will smell fear quicker than a miner probe can tag a seam.
“Makes you feel all warm’n fuzzy, does it? Handing out your pocket-change to our nippers?” snapped a pale-faced girl.
I raised my hands, palms out. “Hey, no harm meant, señorita.”
“For sure,” Donice added, solid at my side.
The Dreggers closing in looked even more sullen – if that were possible.
A man snaked his rank-smelling arm around my shoulders. “And where d’you call home, flower-face?”
Don’t stiffen. Remember to smile. He’s human, same as me. Even if he doesn’t smell it.
“Service Level,” I lied. “Reckon we’ve taken a couple of wrong turns.” I had to breathe through my mouth at the blasts of foul air he exhaled.
“I could put you right. For a price.” His grin looked like something out of a horrorvid.
“Gracias, but I’m sure we can find our own way back, señor.” I tried to ease away, but his arm stayed firmly across my shoulders.
“Nah. We can’t have you girlies wandering round here. Who knows what might happen?”
A tow-headed teenager welded to Bilge-Breath’s other side sniggered.
“We can take care of ourselves.” Donice didn’t bother to hide her irritation as she jostled my elbow, plunging her hand into her jacket pocket. Efra and Alita bunched up behind her, facing outwards, immediately defensive.
I tried to quell their twitchiness with a quick shake of my head.
The Cap will break orbit if he hears we drew our weaponry down here.
“You wouldn’t’ve come zoo-gazing down here in the first place if you an’ your up-swept friends weren’t so prodding stupid,” snapped Pale Girl.
An answering mutter of agreement rustled through the gang and the knot in my gut tightened.
We’re not zoo-gazing! Though I had the crawling notion it probably looked like it to this lot.
I kept trying to make eye contact with each Dregger blocking our path. “Please. Step away. We don’t want no trouble. Just let us go. We’re sorry for sullying your airspace.”
But no one moved, as they all stared back blank-faced.
Except Bilge-Breath, whose grin displayed a mouthful of blackened stumps as he finally released me. “Ain’t goin’ to happen, flower-face. We found you wandering all lost-like where you pretties got no business bein’.”
Tow-Headed Teener giggled loudly.
My stomach heaved as I caught a full faceful of Bilge-Breath’s halitosis.
He grinned wider, probably mistaking my nausea for hesitance. “An’ so we’ll take real good care’ve you, won’t we, Milla?”
“Hell, yeah. Your mamas and papas gonna be real glad to get you girlies back.” Milla finally cracked a grin.
Bilge-Breath was evidently fond of the sound of his own voice, “Bet they’ll be majorly generous, too. Where jer say you was from, again? I reckon-ˮ
“Pining for more brig-time, Norby?”
Bilge-Breath froze at the interruption. The rest of the Dreggers glanced back at the man who’d spoken. So did I.
And I was lost.

FICTION FRIDAY – Running Out of Space

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As I’m planning to release the first part of my space opera series, The Sunblinded trilogy this summer, I thought I’d post a short extract from the beginning of the first book, Running Out of Space

CHAPTER ONE

Yeah, I know – Basement Level – what were we thinking? But penned up on punishment duty with only the prospect of a single chaperoned shopping trip had driven us to it. Though the charms of Basement Level wore thin as soon as we set off from the lift. One light in four was working – and then only in Dim mode. The corridors were half the width of the upper levels; a big problem as I’ve seen sewage tanks more wholesome than those walls. You wouldn’t want to brush against them wearing anything other than throwaways, while keeping off the walls was harder than you’d think, because we were wading ankle-deep in… stuff.

Donice punched my arm. “Must be homely for you, Jezzy. Floor looks like your cribicle after you done tidying.”

Alita and Efra started sniggering.

“’Cept the smell isn’t as vile as your boots,” I replied.

Our laughter bounced around the filthy corridor, easing the mood for a couple of minutes but did nothing about the putrid smell. We struggled on a bit longer, until a grimy woman scuttled past, forcing us far too close to the walls. She didn’t even bother acknowledging our efforts to make room for her.

Efra and Alita stopped.

“Let’s turn round. Unblocking the heads is more fun than this.” Efra wrinkled her nose at the empty tunnel ahead. “Even the natives got sense enough to be someplace else.”

Alita began to mutter an agreement, but Donice silenced it with a scowl. “We’ve gone promming around for less than a nanosec. And you wanna run back ‘cos the scenery isn’t the same as on board?” Donice clicked her tongue in scorn. “Starting to sound like those old ship-abuelas.”

Efra flinched at the derision in her voice, but – being Efra – wouldn’t lock horns with Donice.

Breathing through my mouth, I straightened up. Donice is right. So what if this is a dank disappointment? We didn’t come down here for the view – we came to prove a point.

But Alita grabbed Donice’s arm. “Efra and me reckon this is a vile place. We vote to head back. Tramping through filth is a tragic waste of shore leave.”

All argument ceased when the floor crud rustled and heaved behind us. A cat-sized rat scuttered through the litter into the gloom beyond.

I shivered. “It’s gotta get better sometime, soon. We’re snagging the next lift we see, amigas.”

We continued trudging onwards for another ten minutes. Just as I was beginning to think the scuzzy corridor was leading into infinity, we turned a corner into a small plaza. With a blast of relief, I spotted the lift in the far corner and relaxed – now we were nearly out of here, we could do the tourist bit. Truth be told, the word ‘plaza’ probably gives the space more credit than it deserves. While the lighting was brighter and the floor litter had been trodden relatively flat, the buzz that normally goes with buying and selling wasn’t here. Under the stink of rotting rubbish was the sharper stench of desperation.

I passed a trader’s eye over the ratty stalls. Everything I could see on display would’ve gone straight into our ship’s recycler. The food canisters were crud-caked and filthy without the benefit of even the most basic steri-scrub. And the water on sale might have shown on the pacs’ Purity Scales, but the readings must have been blixed, because that cloudy stuff wasn’t fit to pass your lips. Even the powdered water looked like sweepings off a shower-stall floor.

If we hadn’t come down here, I’d never have known this place existed. How many on ‘Estrella’ know about it? This is what I joined the ship for… My heart was thudding with a mixture of fear and excitement. I felt alive. This was a hundred times better than trailing around the overpriced shops on Trader Level with a grumbling chaperone.

Though the people were a shock. There were no shades of yellow, brown, black, or white here; everyone’s skin was grime-grey. All wearing rags pockmarked with holes which only showed more scabby tatters, or dirt-scurfed flesh. I’d tried to blend us in; we were all in scut-gear – worn overalls and battered workboots. But we stuck out like a supernova on a dark night. Mostly because we were clean and well fed – everyone here was stick-thin. Even the niños

The Cap always says that we Iberians take care of our own better than anyone else. What if he’s right? Because I couldn’t recall seeing any children in this sorry state back in Nuevo Madrid.

Efra gave some creds to a pathetic, sunken-cheeked toddler sitting on the trash-covered floor – and in no time flat we were mobbed by a bunch of snot-nosed kids. None of us could resist their pleading, so we handed out all our shore-leave cash. Of course, one of us should’ve kept an eye out for trouble. But we didn’t. And when the niños started melting away, I looked up to see we were now ringed by another group. Far more grown-up and dangerous.