Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for July, 2011

25 First Chapters

Friday, July 29th, 2011

The pro writers at have produced a FREE ebook sampler containing 25 first chapters from recent novels, covering the science fiction/fantasy spectrum.


7th Sigma by Steven Gould
Bone Shop by T.A. Pratt
Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
The Brahms Deception by Louise Marley
Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee
The Cloud Road by Martha Wells
Dangerous Water by Juliet E. McKenna
The Dread Hammer by Trey Shiels
Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman
Fright Court by Mindy Klasky
The Heretic by Joseph Nassise
House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan
Indigo Springs by A.M. Dellamonica
Jade Tiger by Jenn Reese
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
Medium Dead by Chris Dolley
Midnight at Spanish Gardens by Alma Alexander
Play Dead by John Levitt
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
The Snow Queen’s Shadow by Jim C. Hines
Spellcast by Barbara Ashford
The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg
TruthSeeker by C.E. Murphy
Up Against It by M.J. Locke
With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan

Book View Café–New Release

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

The Adventure of the Field Theorems
A Sherlock Holmes Scientific Romance
by Vonda N. McIntyre

Science Fiction/Novella
July 26, 2011
ISBN: 978 1 61138 086 6

In which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hires Mr Sherlock Holmes to investigate crop circles, and Dr Watson demonstrates to Holmes that astronomy does have a useful function in Holmes’ universe.

Back Cover Book Descriptions

Monday, July 25th, 2011

It sometimes feels like writing the back cover book description is harder than writing the book. Over the past months I’ve written at least three versions for my novel Deception Well–Book 2 of the Nanotech Succession. Today I wrote two more. I need to get it right this time, because I’m about to send in the files for the print version. If you’ve got a minute to read the following, I’d appreciate feedback. If you haven’t read the book, all the better. But even if you have, I’d still appreciate hearing your opinion.


In a war of belief, faith is a virus, and it’s spreading fast.

Remnants of an alien nanotechnology infest the surface of the planet, Deception Well, giving rise to deadly plagues that make the Well uninhabitable—or so most believe. Jupiter Apolinario saw it differently. He believed the planet was host to an ancient, alien mechanism of transformation meant to embrace all life forms in an ecstatic communion. Jupiter disappeared on the planet along with a handful of followers, though whether they were taken by death or transcendence, no one could say.

Ten years later, Jupiter’s son, Lot, stands at the center of conflict. Like his father, Lot has a seductive presence, and a charismatic nature that seems more-than-human. People are helplessly drawn to him. Their faith in him is strong and their numbers are growing, but Lot is beset with doubts about his father’s teachings. So he sets out to learn the truth about Jupiter, about his own powerful calling as a prophet, and about the real nature of Deception Well, where a razor-thin line divides bliss from damnation.


In a war of belief, faith is a virus, and it’s spreading fast.

Lot has a seductive presence and a charismatic nature that he inherited from his father, a prophet who preached that transformation and an ecstatic communion could be found among the alien plagues that infest the wilderness planet known as Deception Well.

Lot’s father disappeared on the planet ten years ago, but whether he was taken by death or by transcendence no one can say.

Conflict ignites around Lot as he sets out to learn the truth about his father’s fate, about his own disturbing calling as a charismatic prophet, and about the real nature of Deception Well, where a razor-thin line divides bliss from damnation.


In a war of belief, faith is a virus, and it’s spreading fast.

Deception Well is an isolated planet on the frontier of human settlement. A massive space elevator links ground to orbit, but the elevator cars were disabled long ago to prevent the spread of alien plagues that infest the wilderness of the planet’s surface. The only settlement is the sky city of Silk, perched on the elevator column.

Silk exists in a fragile balance that’s shattered by the arrival of Jupiter Apolinario, a charismatic prophet who preaches that the alien plagues of the Well do not lead to death, but instead to transformation and an ecstatic communion of human and alien life forms. When Jupiter defies the people of Silk and attempts to lead his fanatic followers to the planet’s surface, battle ensues. Thousands are killed, Jupiter disappears, and the people of Silk must learn to live with the despised survivors, who still dream of redemption in the Well.

Ten years later, as the city’s resources are stretched thin, tensions multiply, and eighteen-year-old Lot, Jupiter’s son, is drawn into a struggle over faith and the city’s future that he’s been desperate to avoid. Like his father, Lot has a seductive presence, and a charismatic nature. People are drawn to him. Their faith is strong and their numbers are growing, but Lot is plagued with doubt.

So he sets out to learn the truth about his father’s fate, about his own disturbing calling as a charismatic prophet, and about the real nature of Deception Well, where a razor-thin line divides bliss from damnation.

Writers’ Bash: Benefit for Author
L.A. Banks

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

This announcement is via Gregory Frost and the Philadelphia Liars Club and is re-posted here to help spread the word. Up and coming writers should take special note of the manuscript critiques offered by professional editors.

Writers’ Bash: Benefit for Author L.A. Banks
Saturday, August 6
7:00pm – 11:30pm
Smokey Joe’s Bar
208 S. 40th Street (University City)
Philadelphia, PA

Join the Liars Club and tons of authors, editors and creative folk at Smokey Joe’s bar in University City on the University of Pennsylvania Campus at this Writers’ Bash, a networking party filled with fun, chances to win raffles and to bid on red-hot stuff like top literary agent critiques!

Cost: $20, $10 for students with college I.D.

Proceeds go toward the expenses of ill author and Liars Club member Leslie Esdaile Banks (L.A. Banks), who is battling a rare cancer.

*Can’t come but still want to donate to Leslie’s medical needs? Go to /?p=1958 and scroll to the donation button*

At the Writers’ Bash, enjoy music and munchies, discounted drinks ($2 beers and $3 wines), and for the adventurous, the bar will be selling a special drink called “The Vamp,” dedicated to Banks and her popular Vampire Huntress novels.

You can also participate in a 50/50, in inexpensive basket raffles, and in our impressive silent auction. This will definitely be one red-hot meetup.

*for most current list, visit /?page_id=1947

2 premium tickets to Jersey Boys on Broadway, plus a backstage tour and poster signed by the cast.

Manuscript critiques by the following agents:
– Jennifer DeChiara of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency: full ms. read, plus critique given by phone
– Rebecca Strauss, McIntosh and Otis Literary Agency: 45 page ms. critique
– Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency
– Celeste Fine, Folio
– Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger

Manuscript critiques by the following editors:
– Rose Hilliard, Editor, St. Martin’s Press
– Jennifer Heddle, Senior Editor, Pocket Books
– Ginjer Buchanan, Editor in Chief, Ace/ROC

Signed books by the following authors:
– New York Times bestseller Charlaine Harris
– New York Times bestseller Heather Graham
– New York Times bestseller Sherrilyn Kenyon

Writer’s Conference Scholarships:
– Push to Publish Conference, offered by Philadelphia Stories, Rosemont College, October 15th

Self-publishing Services:
– Convert your manuscript to ebook for Kindle, Nook and Smashwords, and design your Print on Demand interior text, offered by 52 Novels ($650 value)
– Manuscript layout for the internal book for someone who wants to do Print on Demand through Createspace, offered by Cheryl Perez ($200 value)

…and much, much more. So spread the word, bring your friends, and join the Liars Club to hoist a cold one for Leslie. It’ll be a blast. Honest!

Update: L.A. Banks passed away on August 2, 2011. See the article in Locus Online.

Eighty Days. . .

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

…and I’m calling this a completed draft.

Specifically, a completed first draft of Hepen the Watcher, the sequel to The Dread Hammer, which I started writing on May 1st.

Right now the draft is an untidy, 74,000-word mess, but it’s a story, with a beginning, a tumultuous middle, and a pretty decent end. There’s a lot to do in round 2, but not tonight.

What’s in a Name?

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

I wrote the original version of the following post last winter and then decided not to publish it because, frankly, I don’t like to deal with questions surrounding the issue of women writing science fiction. Then, a couple months ago, a sudden, viral, Internet conversation started on this subject. A lot of writers in the hard science fiction field have since commented. So, emulating the group, I guess I’ll add my experiences to the conversation before the subject dies away entirely. This is an updated version of last winter’s post, describing the trajectory of my career as a woman writing hard science fiction in the nineties and early 2000s.

I haven’t done a lot of interviews in my career, but the question I least like to answer goes something like this: Do you feel it’s hurt your career being a woman writing hard science fiction?

I’m sure I get this deer-in-the-headlights expression before breaking eye contact and muttering something self-contradictory. Because really, how does one answer a question like that?

To say, “Yes, I think it has hurt my career” sounds like whining and finger pointing without any evidence to back it up, and risks offending the men who are the core readers of the genre.

To say, “No, I’m sure that’s not it” would be untruthful and would imply that my books didn’t sell because they were bad. My hard SF books may not be for everyone, but I don’t believe they’re bad.

So in my own mind I mostly ignored the question. Some writers succeed, others don’t. That’s just the way it is.

But of course the only true answer is that I can’t know. I can’t go back and change my name to Greg or David or Alastair and re-publish the books and see how things go.

But oh my how I wish I could.

Here’s the thing:

I had a lot of good breaks. (I had a lot of really bad breaks too, but we won’t go there.) I had cover quotes and great support from Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, and David Brin. I had some really great reviews. For the early books, I had great covers. I won awards. My books were offered by the Science Fiction Book Club. Some were on the Locus Recommended list. I had fantastic support from people like Charles N. Brown. Wil McCarthy was my good buddy.

Men in the hard SF field were friendly and open to my work, to the point I can say that I never met a hard SF writer who was not supportive of me, a woman, writing what I wrote. Other women will claim a different experience. I only give you mine.

And outside the pro circle? I would guess that 80+ percent of the fan mail I’ve ever received has been from men. More men read hard SF than women, so I guess it’s only natural.

What I’m trying to say is that in my personal, face-to-face (or nearly so) experiences, it didn’t feel like being a woman was any sort of disadvantage. If anything, it made me a bit more unique and interesting.

But then comes the dissonance.

“The dissonance” is my personal term for the difference between what other writers and some avid fans will say about my work (really nice things) and the value the market (and agents, publishers, and editors) have placed on my work. It’s a pretty extreme difference.

Despite all the advantages listed above, my books never sold in numbers anywhere close to what could support a writing career, and the Bantam books went out of print with impressive speed. Honestly, there didn’t seem to be much point to it all. I mean, the Nanotech Succession books together, all four volumes, brought in a total of $27,500 in advance money. I recall The Bohr Maker brought in a couple tiny royalty checks thereafter, in the hundred dollar range, and that was it. The other three books never earned out.

Meanwhile, if my memory serves me, Locus was reporting eye-popping advances for, well, other newish hard SF writers who were not me.

So why was I doing this writing thing again? Why was I knocking myself out to create another book that just a few people would read? As much as I appreciated the fans that I had, there was a mortgage to be paid!

So around 2000 I packed my metaphorical bags and moved out of the writing world—this despite that one of my best books, Memory, was still pending from Tor. I already knew it was doomed and I was right. Four years after publication it had sold only a bit more than 10,000 copies.

Did I crash and burn because I was a woman? Or was it just bad luck, a failure of nerve, giving up too soon, not appearing in enough venues, living on a remote island isolated from the writing community? Who knows? Not me.

Now I’ve gotten back into the writing game. Since November, I’ve republished all the SF novels as ebooks. They’re selling slowly. I check sales figures often, so it’s easy for me to tell when a fan from the old days discovers the books, because they’ll buy one each of the Nanotech Succession, and sometimes all six novels in a single shot. (And may I say, thank you! I want you to know how truly gratifying and encouraging that is.)

That said, seven months after they came out as ebooks, my novels are not selling anywhere near the scale enjoyed by other, well, you know, male writers whose backlist is similarly priced. To be fair, I’ve been out of the field for a long time, and these other writers haven’t. So there are no hard conclusions to be found here. The one fact I do have is the knowledge that now, in 2011, women writing original hard science fiction are choosing to use gender-obscuring pen names.

Anyone reading this blog isn’t going to care if my name is Linda or Larry. But the question remains: Does Linda or Larry matter out there in the scary real world where buyers peruse long lines of titles at Amazon, and employ an unknowable process of elimination to narrow down their selections?

I have no way to know.

But if I had it to do over again, then yes, I would change my name.

Binge Writing

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Writing binges–twelve or thirteen hours in a row of working on a manuscript–are rare for me. I don’t usually have that level of endurance and, well, people in your family expect you to, you know, pay attention to them.

But I had one of those days yesterday. The husband was in Honolulu and the son brought home Subway sandwiches, so I was able to work from maybe 1pm to 1:30am on the novel-in-progress. (Of course, I’m in that lucky situation where I don’t have to get up early for a job or to take care of small kids.) Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and I’m much, much closer to the end of this draft.

Speaking of which, I’d better get back to work on it.

Barnes & Noble Wins the Speed Race

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Late on Friday I logged in to Lightning Source, my print-on-demand publisher, and approved the proof of the new trade paperback edition of The Bohr Maker.

It hasn’t shown up at Amazon yet, but today, Wednesday, I discovered it live at Barnes & Noble. So once again, B&N wins the data processing speed race.

Generally, they are much faster at making things live than Amazon.

My Blog is a Trap for Unwary Googlers

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

It’s Sunday, so I get to amuse myself. What follows is a list of “search engine terms” that people used to get to my blog over the past week. If you had to guess my occupation from this list, what would your guess be?

Sample Sunday: Hooks, Nets, and Time

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Hooks, Nets, and Time is a near-future science fiction short story originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and now available in ebook format for 99¢. Here’s how the story opens:.


The ocean ran through his dreams. The panting breath of the wavelets as they rose and fell against the pylons became his own breath, a slow, deep rhythm in his lungs that forced him to run. His footfalls reverberated against the black plastic photovoltaic field that doubled as a deck: a square track five kilometers long, encompassing the perimeter of the shark pen. Starlight glinted off the water; glistened in the film of sweat that coated his pumping arms. The rubber soles of his running shoes beat out an ancient cursorial rhythm, a telling vibration transmitted through the deck to the perforated steel walls of the shark pen and then to the coral foundations of the station some twelve fathoms below. Crippled Tiburon would be lurking there near the bottom, listening, measuring the vibrations in his ancient, clever mind, waiting for the hour when his fins had fully regrown and his strength was at once new . . . and old.

A thin wail twisted through the humid night. Tiburon heard it in the depths and thrashed his powerful tail. The wail grew into a distant howl of terror.

A faint splash.

Zayder sat up abruptly. The dream peeled away like burned film, leaving him in another version of the night. He’d fallen asleep on a lounge chair again, in the open air, on the deck of the Ocean Hazards Collection Station that he managed alone. The blocky silhouette of the shed rose behind him. The structure seemed to be an ugly afterthought to the automated design of the UN mandated OHC Station. Still, it served him for housing, and storage for the shark farm: luxury quarters compared to the fishing boats he’d grown up on.

Out on the water, the distant lights of a freighter interrupted the blanket of starlight. In the pen, the swish and splash of a shark fin accented the peaceful wash of the ocean.

Zayder leaned forward, ignoring the dry moss of a hangover that clung to his tongue and the roof of his mouth. He listened, unsure if the howl had been part of his dream. His pulse still hammered in his ears. He’d heard howls like that before: once as a kid, when a man fell off the shark boats in the Sulu Sea. And again, one night when Mr. Ryan came to the station. Zayder had only feigned drinking the cordial that should have sent him into a drugged sleep. That night he’d watched surreptitiously as a bound man went screaming to the sharks.

He listened. He thought he could detect a distant, angry voice from the direction of the freighter, but that was all. And what if he heard more? What was he supposed to do if he discovered mayhem and murder on the high seas? Call Mr. Ryan and complain about the neighbors?

He chose to believe that it had been a dream.


Dawn came. Zayder woke, washed his face, put on his running shoes. Another day. He would spend the morning doing maintenance on the robotic garbage trawlers that had come into the station overnight from their long forays into the South China Sea. In the afternoon he would mutilate sharks, harvesting the regrown fins of the captive beasts for sale on the Chinese market—the prized ingredient in shark fin soup. So much to look forward to.

But first he would run.

He set off at an easy pace on the only route the station offered: a 5K lap around the photovoltaic decking built atop the steel mesh wall of the shark pen. At high tide the deck was a meter above the water, with the open sea on one side and the enclosed waters of the pen on the other.

Zayder had run this makeshift track twice every morning for almost a year. Boredom had been left behind long ago. Now, his mind automatically faded into a passive altered state before he finished the first hundred meters. Conversations rose from his past to fill his consciousness, insignificant exchanges: a joke offered to college acquaintances in a bar; polite questioning of a professor; a cautious response to the inquiries of a government personnel officer hiring biologists for the wildlife refuge at Moro Bay; and yet another personnel officer, hiring for the marine sanctuary in the Gulf of California, and another and another, until they all seemed to be different versions of the same bad news: I’m sorry. You have an excellent record and your thesis is impressive, but I’m afraid you’re not quite right for us.

He studied every word, searching for some point where—if only he’d phrased things differently—events would have taken a more positive path. An absurd exercise. He already knew the point when his career in marine biology had been lost. It had happened even before he knew what a career was, when he’d been arrested at seventeen for poaching.

It had meant nothing to him at the time. He’d been working for his Dad, hunting pelagic sharks for a dealer, who preserved the bodies and sold them as dramatic ornaments for coastal mansions. Zayder’s family had been deep water fishermen for generations. But as natural resources dwindled, what had been an honest occupation gradually became a crime, and an arrest for poaching just another risk of the business.

But the wealthy patrons who supported refuges and sanctuaries around the world didn’t see it in that practical light. No refuge manager would want his patron’s newsletter to ring with the headline: Former poacher hired as field biologist.

It had never mattered how well he did in school.

But he’d come too far in life to go back to the boats, so he’d taken a job with Mr. Ryan instead. Ryan did not believe in nonprofit enterprises. When a U.N. mandate required every corporate entity that generated potential ocean garbage to construct and maintain an Ocean Hazards Collection Station, Ryan had expanded on the design by adding the shark pen.

Shark fins were much in demand and now nearly unobtainable since the wild populations had been hunted almost to extinction. Tiburon’s fins alone would fetch twice Zayder’s yearly wages each time they could be regrown and harvested. Ryan’s select market held the great white shark in high esteem: no other great white had been reported in nearly five years. Speculation held the captive animal to be the last of its species.

But beyond the income from fins, the station was useful to Ryan in other ways. So Zayder finally found himself employed again, master of a remote world built on a reef in the South China Sea.


The deep blue sky lightened as he ran. The pink fair weather clouds that hugged the horizon gradually brightened until they were bathed in brilliant white. A moment later the rim of the sun appeared above the water. Zayder ducked his head, his thoughts blown back to the present by the sudden blast of daylight.

A hundred meters out on the sun burnished water a black torpedo armed with a spine of pentagonal fins scudded towards the station: one of the robotic garbage trawlers being driven home by a combination of the light breeze against its adjustable fins, and a solar powered engine. Its collecting tentacles trailed a hundred meters behind it: some on the surface, some searching out the depths below. Most of them were laden with a motley collection of old plastics, netting, glass, metal and organic debris bound for the station’s recycling bins.

Zayder slowed to watch the trawler come in. At the same moment a white noise explosion of water erupted from the pen, scarcely a body length away. Startled instinct slammed him backward as the geyser of white water lunged toward him. A solid shape appeared as the pearly water fell away. He recognized the massive, lead gray profile of a great white shark, its fins fully grown and its maw open, its upper jaw thrust forward to expose rows of triangular teeth. Tiburon!

Spray washed over Zayder as he threw himself back, a split second before the five meter shark slammed onto the deck. The whole structure shuddered. Fracture lines bloomed in the photovoltaic panels beneath Tiburon’s belly. The shark fixed him with its manic black eyes. It thrashed on the deck, jaws snapping in an effort to get at him. He felt the rush of air as the teeth closed within centimeters of his ankle.

“You bastard!” he screamed. He jumped back again. The shark thrust forward. Its torso was draped on the deck, but its great tail was still in the water, fanning the surface into a violent foam. “Back in, you fucker!” Zayder screamed.

The shark snapped twice more, then grew still. Its eyes still fixed on him, it slid silently back into the water.

Zayder stood on the deck, his shoulders heaving, a torrent of curses spilling from his mouth. Tiburon was the oldest, biggest monster in the pen. Zayder had harvested his fins five times, each time salving the wounds with a regenerative balm that forced the valuable fins to regrow. Five times he’d nursed Tiburon in the recovery channels, where pumps forced a steady torrent of water over the helpless shark as it writhed on the bottom of a narrow steel chute.

“I’ll take your fins again this afternoon,” Zayder growled. Cautiously, he stepped forward, to peer over the edge of the deck. Tiburon was a skulking shadow a fathom down.

Suddenly the shark turned, cruising slowly out about fifty meters toward the center of the pen until Zayder lost sight of it. A moment later Tiburon reappeared, still a fathom below the surface, his great tail flailing as he charged the wall of the shark pen. Zayder got ready to dodge a second lunge. But Tiburon had his own designs. He rammed the wall of the pen with his snout. The blow shook the structure. Zayder stumbled, swaying to keep his balance. He almost went down.

What the hell was going on? Was the damn fish trying to knock him off the deck?

Tiburon took off again for the center of the pen. Zayder turned, ready to run for the shed and his tranquilizing harpoon, when a low moan reached his ears. “Help, man. Help me,” a tired voice croaked.

It came from the ocean side of the deck. Zayder glanced over his shoulder. Tiburon had turned. Quickly, Zayder dropped to his knees and leaned over the decking to spy a young man—probably no more than twenty—adrift in the light swell, a few meters outside the steel mesh. The sun shone full in his pale face as his bare feet tread the water in quick, frantic strokes. His dark hair floated like an ink cloud around his shoulders, blending imperceptibly with his black shirt. He sputtered, his eyes pleading with Zayder for help.

Looking at him, Zayder grinned in sudden relief. No wonder the shark had been pumped into a manic state. Tiburon had smelled game in the water. And just where had this stray fish come from? He could guess. The garbage trawlers had brought bodies in before—though never live ones. The trawler tentacles were designed to detect and avoid living organic structures. But Zayder knew that clothing could confuse them.

Just then, the shark rammed the wall of the pen again. The deck shuddered. “Not this time, you man eating bastard,” Zayder muttered.

He dropped to his belly and reached out a hand to the foundering stranger. The water was a meter and a half below. “Here,” he barked. “See if you can reach me. I’ll pull you up.”

The kid shook his head, his mouth twisting in pain. “Can’t,” he panted. “Hands are bound.”

Zayder scowled. And who had bound his hands and dropped him into the sea? Maybe it was better not to know. Zayder didn’t want to get sucked into the personal affairs of men like Ryan.

The stranger seemed to read his thoughts. He closed his eyes, leaned back farther in the water and stopped kicking, as if waiting for Zayder to decide whether he would live or die. Zayder cursed softly.

Men like Ryan might have a choice. But he wanted never to be a man like Ryan. Quickly stripping off his shoes, he slipped over the side of the deck and into the water.

The ocean’s cool and pleasant hand enfolded him, quenching his doubts. He stroked to the stranger, hooked an arm across his chest and dragged him along the pen wall, nearly sixty meters to a maintenance ladder. He tried not to see the huge shadow that cruised back and forth, back and forth, just a few meters away on the other side of the steel mesh. But he could feel the kid watching.

Zayder didn’t blame him. The mesh wasn’t designed to inspire confidence. It had a gauge wide enough to allow Zayder to wriggle through if he had to. The shark seemed appallingly near.

To distract the kid, he asked: “How’d you get the garbage trawler to let you go?”

The kid’s eyes squinched shut. Then in hoarse English, dignified with a slight British accent, he explained: “I was floating motionless in the water when the trawler took me. It grabbed me around the chest, and dragged me. It was moving so fast, I couldn’t fight it. I thought I was going to drown. Then it stopped here. I twisted and kicked until it let me go . . . why? Motion . . . characteristic of living organisms. The trawler’s . . . not supposed to be hazard to sea life . . . so I suspect motion . . . stimulated my release.”

Zayder began to regret asking the question. Who the hell was this kid?

He reached the ladder, then hooked an arm around the lowest rung, heaved the kid over his shoulder and climbed out. “I think I can walk,” the kid gasped. Zayder didn’t believe him. He laid him carefully on the deck, then checked for Tiburon. The fish was cruising out toward the center of the pen again, so Zayder took a moment to check the bindings that held the kid’s arms pinioned behind his back.

He discovered two ropes: one at the elbows, one at the wrists. The kid’s palms were pale and wrinkled from exposure to water. A lacy network of blood seeped across them from his finger tips. His finger tips? Zayder felt a chill across the back of his neck. This kid had no finger tips. His fingers were torn, bloody stubs, taken off at the first joint. “Holy mother,” he whispered. “Who did this to you?”

The kid blinked, an odd look of wonder on his face as he lay on the deck. “The shark,” he whispered in his cultured accent. “I was holding onto the mesh. My fingers were inside. I didn’t see it coming.” He turned his head, to look out across the pen. Zayder followed his gaze. Tiburon had turned. He was driving hard for the mesh again. “I never saw a shark before.” He smiled in a dizzy, distracted way. “I can’t believe how lucky I am to see one.”

Zayder scooped him up and ran for the shed as Tiburon hit the mesh one more time.


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