WiP: Syndicate, Zendori – a new short story in progress

Part of the Bainbridge Island Coffee House Collection

WORK IN PROGRESS: Having fun tonight. Near the end of a writing month so have spent most of this week working on some small projects rather than digging out Oakfield or Sunder Gloom, two novels I put on ice back at the end of July. August was a no-writing month and September’s been mostly about the final edit for The Social Club (due for launch soon).

Skip back to 2002, I spent 3 days sitting on a stool inside the Bainbridge Island Coffee Company off the coast of Seattle. That was a seriously special few days. I “found” Bainbridge Island by pure random chance. And stumbled upon the cafe by accident – or through fate, if you like. Not sure if they still have their visitor book from March 2002 but my scrawl is in there. Visitor from England. I was mightily impressed and enchanted with the place.  For three days I caught the ferry from Seattle and hunkered down on that stool and scribbled down story idea after story idea – so much my hand ached with cramp but I just kept on scribbling. It was ecstasy.

Those ideas have sat in a folder for the past 11 years. So finally, this week I’ve found the moment to start digging into it. Couple days ago I finished Particle Storm. Last night I started Syndicate, Zendori.  If you’ve read my short story “SIM” then you’ll recognise the corporation. It’s also listed in the Primary Rulebook for Yellow Dawn RPG.  Here’s a sample:

Syndicate, Zendori

The vapour trails above the Martian surface turned to ice in seconds. Drifted down in cascading arcs of crystal particles, like so many disintegrating rainbows in the ambient daylight. The Sůnlance Rigs were top end sports models, fully customised to the technical specs dictated by team engineers; cutting edge dreams curtailed only by the budget constraints of any particular sponsor.

With one flex of her nervous system, Jenique Lynko tore open the throttle valves on the quad-booster rockets.  Thousands of kilograms of torque boomed in her ears.  The waypoint flashed past at nearly 3,000 miles per hour.

The hard acceleration and climb had the medicare module squawking shrill alerts about circulation pressure and her organic vitals; bio-sensor warnings were racing into the red.  Oxygen-starved, blood surging the wrong way, her brain start to free fall in the dizzy twist of semi-consciousness. Sparkles of light flashed across her retina. She was riding the edge of sanity and survivability. But this was how she ran. This was how she held onto the crown:  Zendori Syndicate Champion two years in a row.

Her hands felt like they belonged to somebody else, distant fuzzy objects in her failing vision. She yanked back on the stick.  Manual steering and basic controls were part of race rules; use of her neural interface was restricted to specific peripheral functions – like now, cutting the boosters.  Her vector swung round on a hard curve.  Away from the proscribed race lane.

“Lynko!” the voice of her Team Manager bellowed a microsecond later. “What the hell are you doing?”

Her dizziness faded.  Jenique pointed the nose of the stubby Sůnlance towards the matte black spec of orbiting machinery that slid around Mars 2,000 miles above the surface. So small and discreet you wouldn’t know it was there.  But she did…now.

“Lynko?”

The TM’s voice had down-scaled from blind rage towards concern. She ignored it.  The matte-black orbital was three-hundred miles from her current position; she estimated she’d reach it in six minutes.

“Lynko you’re way off marker. Is there a problem?”

They probably thought she was having another episode: visions of a ghost outside the FuGlass canopy of the rig. She’d talked about it. She’d reported seeing it…

…him.

A man with gritty tufts of thick black hair, explosive punk style combined with oil-streaked skin.

Rudi had looked into it.  Back then.  That first time. Told her what the tech’s had found a possible glitch in her Zendori-wetlink, the dedicated satellite connection that fed her race data back to the syndicate for verification of results. Some legal auditing bureaucracy.  But the tech’s suspected Zendori’s entertainment channels had bled into her data-feed – the guy with the punk hair was nothing but an artificial character in a sim-stim show. So they had said.

She’d lost that race. The shock of seeing that guy out there, riding alongside her, gazing back at her – like he’d known her. Quite a feat at x-thousand miles per hour skimming the undulating surface and plunging through ravines that hadn’t touched water for half a billion years.  Unnerving. Major distraction. Rudi had bitched about the points she’d lost. Her fall in rankings. The hungry new young pilots coming up the league behind her, eager to claw away her prestige.

Rudi…

When he hadn’t been managing her he’d been fucking her. A smile twitched her lips, briefly; but it faded with sadness. He’d been such a strange guy. Older. Wiser, and yet like a big kid at the same time.

He’d been really worried after that race – a throwaway remark about the gambling numbers.

Tears spilled down her cheeks. Wet arcs dragged across the hard planes of her cheekbones, pulled by acceleration into the soft padding of her helmet. Her gaze locked onto the console and the forward-scan showing the tiny black orbital.  God this was so weird! Knowing what was out there.  She laughed, a desperate sound between a snarl and wail.

How many sick fuckers were watching her now? Watching their bets burn.

“Lynko,” the TM spoke quickly but calmly, “Abort your run. Your race is over. Report to station. Goddammit girl you better have a good explanation for this.”

She did.

# # #

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