There's a civil war in space and the unincorporated woman is enlisted! The epic continues.The award-winning saga of a revolutionary future takes a new turn. Justin Cord, the unincorporated man, is dead, betrayed, and his legacy of rebellion and individual freedom is in danger. General Black is the great hope of the military, but she cannot wage war from behind the President's desk. So there must be a new president, anointed by Black, to hold the desk job, and who better than the only woman resurrected from Justin Cord's past era, the scientist who created his resurrection device, the only born unincorporated woman. The perfect figurehead. Except that she has ideas of her own, and secrets of her own, and the talent to run the government her way. She is a force that no one anticipated, and no one can control.The first novel in this thought-provoking series, The Unincorporated Man, won the 2009 Prometheus Award for best novel. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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August 01, 2011
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Excerpt from The Unincorporated Woman by Dani Kollin
1 Days of Ash
One of the most difficult things I've had to explain to the generations that came after us is the Days of Ash--unquestionably the worst moments of the war. Not in terms of death and suffering. No, those opportunistic twins were birthed in due time, and sadly what the human race would come to inflict on itself can still, to this day, scarcely be believed or forgiven. But as horrible as the war itself was, despite all the slaughter and misery that came after, those first few weeks were easily the most difficult. For during the Days of Ash, there dawned on the Outer Alliance a terrifying realization: With a raging storm moving swiftly over the horizon, our ship was rudderless.
The War, Volume IV: The Bloody Climax
University of Ceres Press
Days of Ash: Day Four
Fleet Admiral J. D. Black, commander of the Outer Alliance Navy, unofficial leader of the Astral Awakening and hated adversary of the United Human Federation, barged into Justin Cord's office, gave a perfunctory salute and let loose with a hail of pent-up fury.
"You son of a bitch." She seethed, lips curled back into a half-scarred face feared equally by enemy and ally alike. "It isn't enough I've had to lead your damned excuse for a navy to more victories than anyone had a right to expect?" J.D. held up her hand, not bothering to wait for an answer. "Or," she added as short, measured bursts of air escaped through her flared nostrils, "that I took a fleet of mine haulers and pleasure yachts and turned it into a feared and effective military force? Defeated enemies who outnumber us in every single battle not once but time and time again?" J.D. shook her head in disgust at the lack of response. The tempest she felt burning within leapt from her dark, penetrating eyes as if daggers flung from an assassin. "Do you have any idea," she hissed, "how volatile the religious situation has become? How easy it would be for me to let them all slip right back into their violent and monolithic past?" She paused, waiting, but again there was nothing. "I haven't let that happen, Justin ... I won't let that happen. But is that good enough for you, Mr. One Free Man? Obviously not--otherwise you wouldn't have done this. Why," she pleaded, "did you even have to? Don't you see, Justin? I was never meant to be here. I'm just a corporate lawyer, for God's sake. This supposed gift I have ... leading spacers into battle. Dumb luck ... dumb..." The words languished in her mouth like the last few drops of a stream succumbing to a winter's frost. "But, guess what?" she rejoined. "Lightning doesn't strike twice. I've found the thing I'm good at," she scoffed, "but does that even matter to you? Did it ever matter to you?" She let out a deep breath, shook her head wearily, then let it drop between her shoulders. "They need me to lead them, Justin. They need me to lead them all. What am I supposed to do now?" she pleaded, slumping backwards into the closest available seat. A moment later, J.D. lifted her head and with eyes as deep and vacant as space, stared across at the untouched desk and empty chair of the assassinated President, waiting for an answer she knew would never come.
Seventy-two hours earlier
Admiral Black's command shuttle approached the landing bay of the AWS Dolphin. Omad's ship, noted J.D. as she stared out a port window, had been none the worse for its wear. Recently restocked at Altamont and updated at the Gedretar Shipyards in Ceres, the Dolphin was thankfully spaceworthy. It will need to be, she thought, returning to her work. The admiral's normally taciturn qualities had become positively glacial. She'd recently been caught off guard, and it was eating her alive. Worse, her stupidity might very well have cost everyone the war. The lines in her maimed brow, normally pronounced in a sort of twisted arc when roused, seemed frozen in place, as if sculpted by some macabre surgical procedure.
The Belt had been cracked, and Christina--her darling, tenacious Christina--was trapped at Altamont. The enemy's siege would succeed and the critical fortress would fall, in weeks at the earliest, a month at the latest. The Alliance had lost more than thirty ships and hundreds of thousands of miners. One more month, thought J.D., teeth clenched, hand slowly working its way over the now familiar distorted grooves and ridges of her pockmarked face. One more month. That's all I needed. In another month, they would have had the Via, a high-acceleration spaceway, to Altamont. Then she could have crushed Trang or, at the very least, broken through the siege long enough for all to evacuate. But Trang had either gotten lucky or outsmarted her. She'd wished it were the former but in her gut she suspected the latter, which galled her even more. And now they were really in it.
Still, all the recent losses could at least be framed within the context of military snafus. Even Christina, whom she'd loved as a friend and military wunderkind, held more value to her as a defensive tactician than as a close confidante. J.D. could force herself to be objective about any and all of it ... all of them. That objectivity was what made her so good at what she did. She moved on. Found weaknesses where none were thought to exist. Exploited opportunities at every instance. Cold was good. Dead was good. And she'd almost stayed in that invulnerable space between the two but for the one person who'd somehow managed to find and then crawl into the small hole she'd inadvertently left uncovered. Fawa Sulnat Hamdi may have been the birthmother of the Astral Awakening but to J.D. the woman was also the only mother she'd ever really known. And the fact that she was gone now--murdered--was killing her. Because Fawa's only "daughter," the supposed greatest admiral in human history, had failed to see it coming.
Her first impulse had been to hunt down and destroy every UHF squadron in the region. It might not have been the most rational thing to do, but it sure would have felt good. Plus it could have been done with impunity, as Trang was still in the midst of his murderous rampage on the far side of the Belt, some 933 million kilometers away.
But then the other shoe dropped: Justin Cord, leader of the free worlds and hope to untold billions still languishing under the yoke of the incorporated movement, had been assassinated near the moon of Nerid. His body had been eviscerated by ravenous nanite attackers and left as a pile of dust orbiting that now ignominious rock. Both the timing and nature of the attacks carried with them the imprimatur of Hektor Sambianco. No doubts about that. The UHF's President had once again shown why those foolish enough to underestimate him paid a high price indeed.
J.D. shortly came to realize one other salient fact: Hektor had murdered the old Chairman. Until now she'd always discounted the rumors, preferring to believe the old man died at the hands of an action wing terrorist or quite possibly the result of Justin Cord's machinations. She'd never completely bought into Justin's too-good-to-be-true persona. Who the hell is that good, anyways? She rubbed the folds of her forehead as an involuntarily twitch moved her upper lip. He was.
Janet Delgado Black would have her revenge, but not just yet. She'd be patient, lick her wounds. And because she knew that the Alliance would not be broken, that they'd fight even if all they had left were the rocks grasped in the palms of their bloodied hands, she'd have time. She swore then and there that whatever it took, she'd hunt down those who'd destroyed her life. They'd pay for their unholy act of terror, and she'd bear witness.
Her shuttle swept into the bay, was grabbed by the Dolphin's override system, and soon came to a slow, measured stop on the landing pad. J.D. didn't bother getting up from the desk she'd spent the last few hours brooding behind. Captain Marilynn Nitelowsen would do the formal greetings if there were any to be done. J.D. had grown impatient with formality, as much as it seemed to soothe the fighting class. She heard Marilynn walk down the gangway toward the hatch. The familiar hiss of air transference was immediately trumped by the garrulous sound of a man barking orders. A few seconds later, Marilynn entered the stateroom and gave her boss a knowing grin. A second after that, Admiral Omad Hassan strode in without bothering to salute.
"What in the name of Damsah is going on, Janet?" he barked.
"The fleet," she replied, placing both hands atop the knee of her crossed legs, "has been ordered back to Ceres." She indicated to Marilynn that she and Omad be left alone. The captain made a quick exit, closing the hatch behind her.
Omad's eyes could not hide the panoply of emotions he was feeling. "But we have to make the bastards pay!" he blurted. "Alhambra cannot go unavenged!"
"And it will, friend," she said, motioning him to take a seat. "Just not now."
The admiral refused the gesture, preferring to work himself up into a state.
"We can't," cut in J.D. "because we're needed at Ceres."
A tense silence filled the air.
"However," she reassured, "we are going to make some of those bastards pay."
Omad grunted his reluctant acceptance and deigned to sit down, eyebrow raised in anticipation.
"You're to take fifteen of our fastest ships," she ordered, "and hunt down whatever's left of the squadron that destroyed Alhambra."
Omad's mouth formed a cruel grin. "Done." He sprang up from the seat and headed toward the door.
"Omad," called J.D. The unusual disquiet in her voice stopped the admiral cold. "There's more." She gestured to the chair and this time Omad didn't argue.
"What is it?"
Omad took a deep breath. "How bad?" he asked.
J.D. called up a holo-tank display on her desk. The image rendered a perfect three-dimensional slice of a large section of the asteroid belt. "Trang's here," she said, pointing to an area in the middle of the Belt, roughly eleven million kilometers from Altamont. "I give him two, maybe three days at most until he gets within siege range. Once he's set up, nothing gets in or out."
"No resistance, eh?" asked Omad without conviction. Both he and J.D. knew that Trang had forever changed the calculus of the war. The persistant admiral had started out taking one rock at a time, crag by pitiful crag. Now he'd apparently changed his tactics. He was creating a path of destruction hundreds of thousands of kilometers wide. If rocks offered too much resistance, he simply went around them. If he could take them out, he would do so without remorse. In fact few, if any, prisoners were being taken into custody, such was the path Trang had already left in his bloody wake. Which wasn't to say that his fleet hadn't taken a beating. They'd lost hundreds of ships and tens of thousands of lives in their admiral's desperate gamble to cut the Belt in half. The difference was that Trang had the bodies and ships to lose--the Alliance didn't.
"Anyhow, with our main fleet here," J.D. pointed to another spot within the display, "we can't get to them in time."
"Let me guess," offered Omad. "Christina refused to leave."
Omad smiled thinly. "Would you?"
"No," admitted J.D., "but that may be why we lose the war. I need her almost as much as I need Altamont." She switched off the display, leaving an empty space between the two battle-hardened friends. Standing behind her desk, she stared coolly at Omad, almost blaming him with her tight-jawed glare. "Now there's nothing any of us can do."
"That's bullshit!" snapped Omad, getting up from the chair. "I can get forty ships there in two weeks."
J.D. met his determined stance with her own, "Which means that in two weeks I'd lose both my best admirals instead of just one." She then backed away from the desk and stiffened her shoulders. "I can't allow that."
"We don't have to fight them for control of the 180, J.D.," insisted Omad, palms open, "just open up an escape route."
"You don't think I've worked out every conceivable scenario in my head, Omad? Explored every cockamamy scheme?"
Omad stood mute, brooding.
"If I thought any one of those plans had a chance," exclaimed J.D., "I'd have led it myself. But you and I both know that Trang'll see you coming a week before you get there. And when you do, you'll be outnumbered ten to one by an admiral who's proved himself a worthy adversary--even for the likes of you."
Omad, she saw, was no longer arguing.
"What does Justin say?"
J.D. didn't answer, seemingly struck dumb by the question.
"Well?" asked Omad, worry now evident in his normally gruff tone.
"I..." J.D. struggled with the words, breaking eye contact momentarily with Omad. She then forced herself back into his fixed gaze. She saw not her subordinate officer but the late President's best friend standing helplessly across from her. "Justin is dead," she said, exhaling deeply. "I'm sorry."
Omad's mouth hung open, slack jawed. He moved slowly backwards and fell into the seat, blindly clawing at the arms of the chair for support. He stared blankly into J.D.'s eyes, which somehow managed to convey both comfort and promise but absolutely no mercy.
* * *
Most of the newer settlements found in the community of belief had one habitable asteroid, and in rare circumstance, two. The ancient Jewish community of Aish Ha Torah, by virtue of its longevity, had five--all of which had been engineered into two-mile-long cylindrical amalgams of rock and fused metals. Aish, as it was commonly referred to among the Belters, was one of the oldest colonies in the community of belief and, in the span of over two hundred years, had grown in both size and industry. Its asteroids, rich in vital resources and carved out to create other facilities, soon began feeding the hungry maw of the Core Planets.
When the war broke out, Aish had been quick to side with Justin Cord not out of expedience but rather because the Unincorporated Man's dreams of personal responsibility and freedom perfectly aligned with theirs. In its present iteration, Aish owned a large orbit of several hundred thousand kilometers in volume, and its asteroids produced everything from homeopathic remedies grown in tropical rain forests to large manufacturing facilities that supplied the nuts, bolts, and widgets that pieced together a good deal of the Alliance's fleet.
Of the five asteroids, M'Araht Leubitz, named for the famous rabbi who'd first settled it, was the oldest and therefore most developed. The name M'araht meant "cave" in Hebrew, and the original designers of the asteroid's interior had purposely created an environment that harkened back to Judaism's ancient past. It was also a not-so-subtle reminder of what his people had fled: the radioactive waste of the Middle East and the death grip of atheism that unlimited prosperity and unfettered opportunity ushered in once the Alaskans had remade the world in Tim Damsah's image. And now, aided by nanotechnology, fueled by portable fusion, and gifted with greatly expanded life spans, the Jews of Aish Ha Torah, like their ancient Israelite cousins, were once again living in caves.
Sitting quietly on the ground with his back up against a wall near the entrance of one such cave sat a young man. He was five feet nine inches, about average for Belters, and appeared to be in his late twenties, though the hardened lines around his deep-set blue eyes seemed a testament to more. His jet-black hair was a cascade of loose curls that fell evenly onto his broad shoulders. He had a medium-length beard that his dirt-smudged, callous hand kept pulling downward in slow, rhythmic strokes. Though graphite stains on his hands and coveralls announced his trade as a mechanic, the swelling crowd gathered at the base of the path leading to his cave announced his position as a savior.
The truth was that like most clergymen, Gedalia Wildman had been a rabbi-slash. Which in his case meant rabbi/propulsion specialist. With around forty thousand practicing Jews, there were only so many full-time rabbis needed, and only the most intelligent and charismatic could support their learning without the necessity of added income. Such was not the fate of Gedalia Wildman. No one would argue that he wasn't a skilled Talmudist or that like those who'd studied the ancient analysis of the Bible's words and meanings, he couldn't extrapolate with the best of them. Likewise, they couldn't argue that he wasn't generous of spirit. But what they could argue, and brook no disagreement from the man himself, was that Rabbi Wildman was not pulpit material. The fact that so large a crowd was now gathering around his cave could mean only one thing, thought the rabbi. Something must have gone horribly wrong. He put both hands on the ground as if to reassure himself that the asteroid was still stable. It was. No underlying or abnormal vibrations, he thought. Well, at least there's that.
"Rabbi," said the group's apparent spokesman too reverentially for Gedalia's liking.
"Since when am I 'Rabbi' to you, Mordechai?" asked Gedalia, getting himself up and dusting off his trousers. Gedalia looked over the shoulder of his friend and was met with a crowd of forlorn faces.
Gedalia's longtime friend responded with stricken eyes. Moments later, Gedalia found out why. Alhambra, the greatest center of learning for all the communities of belief, was gone. The UHF had destroyed it utterly--no chance of survivors. Gedalia stood, looking toward but through the gathering crowd. Though he had no idea what he was going to do, he knew what must be done. He checked his DijAssist to see in which direction Jerusalem lay, then turned around to face it. The crowd mimicked his movements.
"Yisgadal, v'yisgadash..." he began. It was the prayer for the dead.
* * *
A few minutes later, Gedalia headed for the yeshiva, an institution that for most of his life held answers to mysteries both within his universe and without. The crowd, he noticed, followed silently behind but held itself back when he approached the ancient school's grand entrance--a large cave mouth ten meters tall. He entered. Everything was as he'd last remembered. The old leather-bound texts filling up row after row of shelves carved neatly into the rock, the phylactery cases nestled in small bored-out coves, the haphazard piles of prayer books jutting out and precariously balanced at the edges of the already too full shelves. And of course, the tables of learning: small rectangular slabs that could accommodate at most four bodies. It was to these tables that students of every level would come to argue over mundane passages of the Bible and attempt to glean meanings from the nuance of every word. Everything, noted Gedalia, was where it should be. Everything except those who'd bequeathed it with life. He'd entered looking for answers but instead found ... ghosts. And it was then that he gave way to his grief. For an hour, he let the misery wash over him and to a certain extent cleanse him. In another realization of how his world had changed, he understood that his entire community was now dependent on him. Waiting for the answers, hope, guidance, and reassurance he was not at all sure he could give.
Gedalia Wildman had walked into the yeshiva as a rabbi/propulsion specialist, but after he emerged, he was to forever be known as the Rabbi.
* * *
Under the soft, dim glow of his command module and with the knowledge that no one would really notice, Admiral Omad Hassan took the opportunity to do something rather uncharacteristic--he prayed. It certainly wasn't out of belief. He was too old and too acerbic to entertain notions of higher spiritual planes and all such nonsense, but he'd also been around the block enough times to know there was no sense in counting things out that might take offense at not being counted. Plus it seemed to work well for his boss. And the deception he'd planned would have rightfully been labeled foolhardy. So much so that under normal circumstances, even he wouldn't have ordered anyone to do it. He recalled how the admiral had made it all sound so perfectly sensible.
And now his flotilla moved with abandon through a Cerean sector exquisitely mapped and cleared. There would be no ships lost to asteroid detritus or errant space junk. Though even that wouldn't have stopped him. Omad was now a man possessed, with a crew caught in his spell. All aboard knew what Justin Cord had meant to the Alliance, but they especially knew what Justin Cord had meant to their commanding officer. Omad had dug up the Unincorporated Man and by so doing had set in motion the revolution now sweeping through the system and beyond. But that wasn't what pushed him on, what made him stretch the limits of both ship and crew in his mad dash across the Belt. Justin Cord had been Omad's friend--his one true friend. And now the bastards who'd played a part in his death would pay.
Omad's face was placid. His eyes darted along the command panel, watching for any signs of trouble. Nothing. And he knew with certainty there wouldn't be, at least not until the trap was set. His orders had been explicit: exact revenge on the murderers of the righteous. But first he'd have to intercept them. The problem was they'd soon be finding shelter behind the orbital batteries of Mars, and that was a gauntlet even Omad had no desire to challenge. J.D.'s shellacking at the second Battle of the Martian Gates had taught them all a lesson no one was eager to repeat. He'd have to dissuade the UHF marauders from entering Mars's orbit without the benefit of actually being there, and he'd have to do it with just one ship.
AWS Otter - One day from Mars orbit
Captain Suchitra Kumari Gorakhpur entered the command sphere and stood silently. As with all new warships from frigates on up, the command sphere, which had replaced the traditional bridge, was located within the bowels of the ship and fortified by nanorealigned hull plating. The enemy could blow up almost any part of the Otter, and the command sphere would continue to function, continue to bark orders and lead even if crippled. But now, mused Suchitra, staring at her resigned crew, there are no other vessels to lead--just us. The sphere's amphitheater-like design meant that all eyes were on her. She tilted her head slightly in acknowledgment. Then, in slow, measured steps, circumnavigated the room and took a seat in the command chair directly opposite the entryway. The chair's placement afforded her a view of the surroundings. She sat slightly forward, elbows leaning on the console, fingers locked. She looked over to her number two.
"Situate us if you would, Commander Grayson."
A perfect three-dimensional image of the Otter appeared, floating serenely by itself in the command sphere's holo-tank. Moments later, it was facing a flotilla of fifty UHF warships. Though Suchitra's outward expression was one of reserved calm, it concealed the terror she was actually feeling within. It was now only a matter of time. She wasn't afraid to die and, along with her crew, had served the Alliance bravely in any number of battles, but this was different. She was about to face a powerful enemy. Worse, she'd be seriously outgunned, alone, and have no chance of escape.