by Sara Bond
Stuck smuggling plans for a gravity bomb, starship pilot Lena needs help from the father who disowned her. Pass the whiskey. #A #SF #PitProm
Dear Royal Advisors and esteemed Counsel,
When her father threw her out on her ass, sacrificing his only living daughter for the good of his shipping conglomerate, Lena Lomasky swore she could make it on her own. But now she’s broke and desperate, and pride won’t put fuel in her spaceship. She’s willing to take any transport job—so long as it pays. This job is simple: carry a datastick of state secrets to her home planet. To her father. The same man who cut her off without a cent. Whatever. She can do this. Pass the whiskey.
When her crew is blamed for the assassination of a beloved royal, an awkward family reunion is the least of her worries. The assassination ignites a long-simmering local conflict, and it’s all Lena can do to get her ship and crew away safely. As the royal navy closes in, Lena discovers she’s carrying something even more dangerous than state secrets. She’s smuggling the only existing plans for her father’s greatest invention: a gravity bomb that can vaporize entire cities. And the navy knows she has it.
Lena’s only hope is to smuggle the valuable data out of this star system and hope that her father can use the plans to design a defense against the bomb. But those plans could be the only leverage she has to keep her crew from capture and certain execution. With everyone she loves facing arrest and execution, Lena must decide whether to return home, a path that offers personal redemption, or cut and run, saving those who truly matter to her.
GRAVITY'S HEIR is a 99,000-word adult space opera with series potential. Its fast pace and relationship dynamics will resonate with fans of Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax GRIMSPACE series or Joss Whedon's FIREFLY.
Attached are my first ten pages.
Thank you for your consideration.
First Ten Pages:
It was so small. Too small to be this important.
Lena set down her wine glass, picked up the thumb-sized datastick, and turned it over a few times. As if touching it would tell her anything. What sort of state secrets were hidden away in there? Blackmail? Corruption? Boring policy papers? The dull metal rectangle weighed almost nothing.
This was too easy.
She leaned against the unforgiving wood back of the booth and squinted in the darkness of the hotel lobby bar. "And all you want us to do is bring this datastick to Rien?" She hadn't been back to her home planet in seven years, but for the money he was offering, she'd be willing to make the long trip.
Pierce Mason smiled and took another long sip of his amber-colored whiskey. "Just bring it to Rien. My contacts will take it from there. No need to get you involved with the whole sordid mess of details." He hadn’t changed a bit: still smug as he’d been as a teenager. Though with his money, he could afford to be.
"Sounds easy enough." Gael said beside her. Her ship mate shifted to get out of the booth, but Lena subtly shook her head as she lifted her glass to her lips again. She could hear the crowds amassing outside, the sounds of celebration already underway, and she knew how anxious he was to get to the Independence Day parade. It didn’t matter. Gael didn’t know Mason like she did. There was more here.
"Easy?" Mason's eyes darted around the bar, scanning the empty booths and shadows. "My contact spent months working in Pyrrhen labs getting this data. If they even knew we had it, they wouldn't hesitate to take out the entire city to erase its existence.” He swallowed hard, put a hand to his chin, and popped his neck loudly. Lena nearly rolled her eyes. Mason always had been dramatic.
“Never mind,” he continued. “The less you know, the better. You don't even have to access the data. Better if you don't. Just cryptographic nonsense. Won't even make sense without the rest of it.” He sipped his drink again. “But yes. Hard part's done. It's easy from here. Just transport it. I trust the pay is enough for such a job."
"Sure,” Lena said evenly. “Small but risky." She took a sip of her own drink and darted a glance at Gael seated next to her. It was dim in the secluded nook of the bar, and Mason had chosen a high-walled booth far from the hotel’s reception desks. They had the place to themselves, with everyone else from this part of the moon making their way to the Aegean Independence Day Festival downtown. The dark oak and minimal lighting made the place feel oppressively secretive, which was suitable, given their circumstances.
Lena waggled her eyebrows at Gael and gave him a grin. This “easy job” had complications written all over it. Which meant they could demand even more money than the small fortune he’d promised. Gael immediately sat up straighter and mouthed “No.” She smiled wider. Gael might out-rank her on the ship, but this was her deal to make. She ignored him and snapped her head back to Mason.
"We want double what you promised."
Gael sighed loudly. Mason was already offering them enough cash to fuel the Aspasia, feed their entire crew of five for a full year, and keep them in wine and whiskey for at least a few months.
But Lena knew what she was doing. Nevermind that she hadn't seen Mason since she left home. She knew the kind of money he came into when his parents passed away. Combine that with the salary he received as Rien’s ambassador to Aegea, and he had cash to burn. Plus, if he was bragging about the difficulty of getting this datastick and its contents? That made it pretty damn valuable.
She knew he’d pay whatever she asked.
And Mason knew it, too. He smiled as he dropped his gaze and shook his head. "You never change." He brushed a lock of wavy black hair away from his face and turned to Gael. "You ever hear the story of Lena and, what was her name? Violet? Daisy?"
"Poppy." Lena sighed. Mason was stalling, changing the subject. Again. It was why their one-hour meeting had turned into a two-hour lunch, followed by drinks and small talk at a dark and nearly empty hotel bar. It had taken this long just to get to the details of the actual job, and now he was dithering on, bringing up the past she was still trying to forget.
"Poppy! That's it. What an insipid little girl.” He settled back into the booth with his whiskey, all too ready to reminisce. “We all went to school together. Us and the Mezner boys. All of us too rich society kids, we thought we were everything. The world revolved around us.” He jutted his chin out and eyed down his nose at Lena. “Well, worlds really did revolve around some of us, eh LeeLee?"
"Don't call me that," Lena snapped. This was exactly what she’d been worried about taking a job from him. Mason knew her too well. At least, he knew the old her. And if he was going to be bringing up things from their school days? It was only a matter of time before he started in on the reason she left. She was not ready to deal with that. "The datastick—" she tried again.
Mason waved a hand dismissively at her. "Yes, yes. I'm getting to it." Mason turned his attention to Gael. "So Poppy, little blonde bit of fluff, but she was the bossiest thing you ever did meet. Butted heads with our girl here all the time.” He gestured with his whiskey, sloshing the drink at Lena. “Didn't you date her once, too? Before Evan came into the picture, of course."
And there it was. Evan. Lena knew where this conversation was headed, and she wasn’t going to have it.
She looked pleadingly at Gael. Before the meeting started, Lena had begged him to help keep things on task, to get their business done with and get them out to the Independence Day Festival. Cedo, their mechanic, was there already, and Lena had been looking forward to catching up with his family before they left again.
Gael just shrugged and offered an upright palm. He was right. She had insisted that she was in charge. She had to save herself from death by nostalgia.
"Enough." She reached over, took the whiskey out of Mason’s hand, and slammed it down beside the bottle of wine and two other whiskeys, almost all of which Mason had consumed by himself. "We're only on this forsaken moon for another few hours, I want to take in the festivities, and you're stalling.” She lifted a hand before he could interject. “We'll take the job. I just have to know who I'm bringing this data to. If you try to waste our time any more, I'm walking out that door and you'll have to find someone else crazy enough to transport state secrets across the galaxy."
Mason sobered up as much as he could. He closed his green eyes, nodded a few times as if steeling himself. He looked at her levelly. "Lena, please believe me when I say I wouldn't ask you to do this if I had any other choice. Trust me, I would rather give it to anyone else."
"Just listen to me." He reached for a glass. Water, this time. "I trust you. I can't say that about many people. I know it's been years since... since everything happened.” He sipped. “But I know you. You haven't changed. When it all comes down to it, you don't let people down."
Lena snorted. "I do my job. And this? It's just a simple drop job. Just tell me where to take it, and we'll get it there."
"I hoped you'd say that. You're bringing it to Lomasky Corp."
Gael stiffened beside her, but it took Lena a few seconds to process what he said. "Lomasky Corp? My Lomasky Corp?" She couldn't help it. She started laughing.
"They're the ones footing the bill," Mason admitted. He let out a deep breath. "This is such a great opportunity for you. You can redeem yourself. Win your way back into society." A wide grin returned to his artfully tanned face as he lifted his glass once again. "I'm glad you're taking this so well. I didn't think you would take the job if you knew who—"
"Oh, I'm not," Lena said, standing. "Thank you for lunch and for the drinks. But you can tell my father he can choke on his money." She reached across the table, took Mason's glass, and tipped it into her mouth, finishing off the whiskey. "And fuck you for wasting my time."
With that, Lena Lomasky slammed the glass down hard enough that she was surprised it didn't shatter all over the polished oak of the table. She turned on her heel, and stalked out of the dark hotel bar.
Right into the afternoon sunlight, magnified by the hotel lobby's million panes of glass. It blinded her, and she reeled, blinking, cursing, and lamenting that she had just ruined her perfect storm-out. As she let her eyes adjust, she took in the almost abandoned space. Thick leather couches, cut stone tables and ledges with warm wood tops, marble floors, windows and skylights everywhere, and not a person to be seen. Everyone on this damn moon was out at the festival. Even the hotel staff. It was just her, blinking in the too bright space and giving Gael enough time to catch her before she hit the front door.
"What are you doing?" He grabbed her shoulders and reeled her around. "We need this job!"
"The hell we do!" She wheeled on him so fast he actually flinched. That hurt look in his soft brown eyes caused her to hesitate, but her anger forced her to barrel forward.
He was only the first mate on their ship, not captain, and he could not order her around. Not that she was too happy with Captain Sebastian Raines at the moment either. She threw her hands in the air. "I don't know what I was thinking. How could I let Raines talk me into this? He knows how I feel about people like Pierce fucking Mason.” People from back home, she added silently. She jabbed a finger into Gael’s chest. “You’re the sensible one. You should know better than to agree to a job like this." She pushed past him, trying to locate the door amongst the labyrinth of leather couches, glass walls, and unidentifiable metals.
"Ms. Lomasky, Ms. Lomasky!" a voice bellowed from the direction of the bar.
"Don't use that name," Lena snarled at the young man who came running up to her.
Gael moved to intercept. "She goes by Loman, these days," he soothed. "Aaron, right? Mason's secretary?" He reached out to shake the man’s hand.
"Yes. How kind of you to remember." The young man smiled, revealing a deep dimple in his chin as he gave Gael a thorough once over. He was older for a mere assistant, in his late twenties at least. His blond hair was shorter than was the fashion, and he was much fairer than most natives to Banika, but his accent placed him firmly as a Banikan. Probably born and raised here, part of the mining community, then schooled off-world.
After he'd given Gael enough coy looks, he finally turned back to Lena. "Ms. Loman." He didn't even hesitate on the new name. "You forgot your datastick."
"You can tell Pierce—"
Gael snatched the datastick from Aaron's hand as he stepped in front of Lena. "Please tell Mr. Mason that we are thankful for the opportunity, and we will be happy to deliver his data as requested. So long as he can match the price Ms. Loman requested.” He looked over at Lena, his eyebrows raised, daring her to challenge him.
Lena merely pursed her lips and crossed her arms in front of her.
Gael continued, “You can wire the funds to Aspasia at the Aegean Meridian Docks. Prime Station. Port 472, I believe. We're registered with the Prime dock center."
"Half now. Half when it's delivered." Aaron grasped Gael's hand closely as he shook it, lingering an extra few seconds. "Thank you, Mr. Renard. We appreciate your efforts for our small moon. I'll see about arranging an additional bonus if you manage the trip in good time." He retreated back to the bar with no fewer than three backwards glances.
Lena grabbed Gael’s shoulder and spun him around. "What the hell was that?"
Gael offered a sheepish look and shrugged as he twisted a nub of hair at the back of his head. "I think he has a little crush on me. He's cute. You think I should ask him to the parade with us?"
It took three deep breaths to keep from losing it with him. "Give. Me. The datastick," she said slowly. Dangerously.
"And let you toss it? No." He slipped the stick into the pocket concealed along his waistband. "We need the money, Lena."
"We'll find another way." Any other way, she added silently to herself.
"No. We won't. We're out of fuel. We have nothing lined up but a load of some fish delicacy set for Myrto that Cat managed to get last minute. While I'm happy to take a job going home, it only pays enough fuel and food to get us there. Then we're back where we started. Lena, we're broke. Raines gave me one job on this trip: Seal the deal no matter what. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to let you get in the way of that."He stormed out of the hotel, and though she rushed after, he'd already slipped into the crowd. She was alone.
While the inside of the hotel had been as empty as the Levinese islands in hurricane season, the streets were bustling. Every Banikan and plenty of tourists from across Aegea had turned out for the festivities. Young and old, wealthy and poor, the deep bronze skin and bouncing black curls of city natives, and the sun-scorched faces and breaking dry hair of Northern Aegean transplants: they were all here.
Lena scanned the crowd briefly, looking for Gael's dark head, but there were just too many people. It didn't matter. She knew he was headed for the festival and the Nenads. Cedo would be somewhere off with his brothers by now, but Lena knew Mrs. Nenad would be waiting for them at the Courthouse as planned. She'd find Gael there.
Then she could kill him, steal the datastick, lose his body in the crowd, and be back on the Aspasia before anyone was the wiser.
But then Captain Raines would have her head, and she'd never hear the end of it from the ship’s business manager and her best friend Cat. And she wouldn't even have Gael to comfort her.
Lena sighed. Fine. He could live for now. But she was not sharing the whiskey she bought with her share of the commission.
Sparkling gold and blue garlands strung across the street lights, the iridescent fabric catching the rays as the system's sun peeked around the old downtown buildings. Twinkling lights decorated balconies, and temporary barricades diverted traffic straight to the downtown park where the Independence Day was in full swing.
Lena let the crowd sweep her into its current as she looked around. It had been only two years since she’d last been here, but so much had changed. The scars of the Independence War had been painted over, built around, nearly erased. The pockmarks of bullets and mortar shells had been covered over with new bricks. Lena could see the exact points where decades-old, weathered bricks met the newer, stronger Haran bricks, sourced locally at the insistence of the community.
The street-level building facades were scrubbed clean, but above, there were still stains of smoke from the bombs. Old stained-glass and Hachold stone ornamentals along the top floors of the buildings had been replaced by sleek glass fronts and modern, angled-edge finishes.
Still, the bustling city held on to her identity. Glass prisms hung from nearly every window, capturing the bright light of Sinope, their sun, and reflecting it onto the other buildings and the pressing crowds below. Vines and flowers crept out from the crevices between the restaurants and shops, and the office and apartment balconies above featured gardens of natural flora that had been cultivated especially for their brilliant blooms. Everywhere life and color thrived. She tilted her head up and watched the blooms falling down the sides of the buildings like still-life waterfalls. Purples, pinks, blues, and reds faded into one another like rain on an oil painting.
The people, too, seemed in high spirits. Lena nearly had to dive to one side as a group of a half dozen young men ran whooping down the street. “Banika sloboda! Aegea sloboda! Sloboda!”
What so many lives had been lost for: freedom from Phyrren rule, from what many Aegean’s insisted was economic slavery. The moon had fought to be free of her oppressive planet, and five years ago she’d won. Today was Aegea’s day for independence, and Lena was glad to be here in the moon’s capital to be a part of it.
The stately five and six-story classic Percehete buildings that lined the streets seemed to fall away as Lena emerged at the end of the street and stepped onto the grass of the Park. Everywhere, there was open space and people. Hundreds. Thousands.
Voices and music swelled around Lena. Families had spread blankets and set up chairs and tents to claim spots early for the fireworks that would come that night. The crowds were thickest here along the edges of the square, as people jostled and squeezed into spots for the parade. There was still time to get into position, but soon, only those who got their early enough would see the full spectacle.
So much had changed. Five years ago, before the fighting, the Park hadn’t even existed. This whole downtown area had been filled with buildings. It was where the occupying colonists from Pyrrhos had made their city center. Built up to the edge of the Caspic Sea, the Pyrrhen buildings had been the pride of the occupying forces. Grand and stately, built of red river stone shipped all the way up from the Hachold River in Pyrrhos's capital.
Administrative buildings and legislative chambers preened over the prime real estate on the edge of the water, while a huge courthouse anchored the district with ostentatious columns and overstated staircases on all four sides.
The grandiose buildings had been the first thing visitors saw as they arrived in through the harbors. Even the transport lines from the airports east of the city were forced on an inefficient loop up the coast so that everyone arriving would see the Pyrrhen dominance over the sprawling city.
Those were the first buildings Aegean separatists destroyed. Bombs along the foundations had leveled all but the husks of those grand buildings as Banikan independents announced to the seven worlds that they were not going to tolerate foreign rule any longer.
"We have never been free," declared the great Banikan orator Sergei Fanon. "Pyrrhens have long lurked in every crack of our society, every crevice, looking for anything they can scavenge from our hard work, our industry. They are cockroaches, feasting on our captive carcasses. We will not be free until every last one of them is ripped from our mines and sent back to pollute their own filthy planet. They are not us. They are the other that seeks to conquer us. To survive, to thrive, we must expel them. We must become us again."
Needless to say, the war had been heavily ideological, rooted in ethnic identity, in nationalism, things Lena would rather not get involved in. Her home planet of Rien was a veritable melting pot of people. Hell, she was as much a mix as anyone else. Her father had immigrated from Levin, giving her straight black hair and small, almond eyes, while her mother's grandfather, the great Loren Lomasky had come from Pyrrhos and passed along her hard jaw line and too prominent nose. If she had been as hung up on ethnicity and cultural identity as the people celebrating today, she’d probably have come down on the losing side with the would-be Pyrrhic empire.
But it didn't matter, she kept telling herself. She could enjoy Aegea’s Independence without getting involved with its politics.
So why exactly was she the one ferrying state secrets from the Rienen ambassador?
Her anger flared again. Gael was a fool. It didn't matter how much the job paid; they didn't belong in the middle of any conflict between Aegea and Pyrrhos. If Mason was right about how dangerous the information on the datastick was, then they'd be in a lot of trouble if they got caught with it.
She just had to get the 'stick from Gael, get rid of it, find another gig to keep them in the air, and they'd be fine. Easy.
She needed another drink.
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