Two asteroid miners on a long, cramped, profitless prospecting trip intercept signals from a tumbling, derelict ship. But the dead craft's young pilot is still alive ... and insane from trauma... and screaming clues to a mystery that the vast ASTEX mining monopoly doesn't want solved...
Bestselling SF great C.J. Cherryh returns to the Hugo Award-winning Merchanters' universe of Downbelow Station, Cyteen, and Rimrunners with a knife-edge tense suspense thriller of psychology and politics - as an explosive blend of human turmoil, corporate conspiracy, overwhelming ambition, and unbearable grief ignite in the isolation between worlds.
One half of the team that salvages Paul Dekker's cripped ship, Morris Bird is the "old man" of independent miners, an easygoing Terran who's worked decades in the Belt. He's been around long enough to see the strangling of camaraderie, opportunity, and freedom as "Mama" ASTEX's control over miners grows tyrannical, abetted by the Belt's need to fueld Earth's war against its star colonies. Bird's mercy, compassion for Dekker's tragic plight, and distrust of Mama's actions and motives are utterly incomprehensible to his partner.
Ben Pollard might be good-hearted, if he'd been raised with a sense of morals. But Pollard is an orphan of the Belt, a child of space. He's never read Shakespeare, or seen a sunrise, or heard of the Golden Rule. Ben knows the rules - the Rules that say he and Bird have salvage claim to take Dekker's ship and assets. What else matters? Particularly since raising questions might delay their reward!
Bird's and Ben's occasional lovers, Meg Kady and Sal Aboujib, also want Dekker's ship: Meg, as a chance to escape her shady past; Sal, as a pawn in the complex power politics of space.
And Paul Dekker, a kid with a dream, awakens into a nightmare. His ship is stolen, his future is destroyed, and his lover and partner is missing. He is accused of being negligent, crazy, a fool, even a cold-blooded murderer. Yet no one will help him find his lost memory, prove his innocence, or learn the truth. What did his lover discover in the darkness? How did she die - or could she, miraculously, be alive? And if they suffered from only a simple accident - then waht is Mama so desperate to hide?
They are all riveting clues to a dark secret that might change the fate of whole worlds...
C. J. Cherryh (born 1942) is the pen name of Carolyn Janice Cherry, a multiple-award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer. She currently resides in Spokane County, Washington.
Cherryh is pronounced ”Cherry”. The author appended a silent ”h” to her real name because her first editor felt that ”Cherry” sounded too much like a romance writer.
The asteroid 77185 Cherryh has been named in her honour.