Ella’s Story: Chapters 7 & 8 *FREE READ!*

This is a story about people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Ella’s Story

7.

Her feet were freezing. She wished she had Vighdi in the bed with her, to warm her up. Vighdi would let her put cold feet up against some part of her body. Might complain about it, but never pushed her away. She pulled the blanket over her shoulders and wedged a pillow lengthwise along her belly, curling up around it.

Once a soldier of the Syndicate, always a soldier of the Syndicate. That was the rule. Didn’t matter what happened to you, where you went, what you did, what you tried to do. When you swore your oath to a Band, you swore into the Syndicate. From that time forward, through eternity.

Assuming there was an eternity.

§

Dorin had never admitted to it – Syndicato, that is. But all the signs were there.

She knew he’d made his living back on Samdela as a burglar and a fence. Supported himself, a woman, and a couple of kids in the life. You couldn’t pull that off without a few connections. Not without knowing a guy. Or three.

He’d gotten caught inside some mark’s house. Red-handed, as they say. That was the end of a fine career. The jerk came home before the job was done. And Dorin went to the slave market.

Oh well. He couldn’t have been living like he did now when he was on Samdela, however much he stole…one big, grim, hazy urban slum, most of it: pole to equator to pole. The Syndicate would have taken care of his family. No doubt he missed them. But he didn’t have to worry about whether they went hungry.

Every now and again he would let something slip. Like knowing “a guy.”

Like the bottle of fine brandy, unaffordable to any slave who didn’t have some connections, that he kept locked inside his desk.

Like his expectation that if you worked for him, you would be loyal to him above all others. Even, she sometimes imagined, above the Kaïna. Not that it would come to that, because he was loyal to Rysha above all others.

Like his bottomless skill at organizing and planning. And his confidence that if something needed to get done, he could get it done – even if it meant beating the system.

Maybe especially if it meant beating the system.

8.

Such a man could mean trouble.

He was a good-looking man, that Lohkeh. She noticed him early on, sitting around the lounge where Bhotil first took her to show her how beautiful the universe was, where the sparkling bowl of the galaxic sky arched across a clear dome over the big room. She had never seen stars before.

“What are those lights?” she’d asked Bhotil, astounded.

“Those are other suns, other worlds, other moons. You can’t see them on Samdela because there’s so much dirt and light in the air.”

“What?”

“We call them stars. They’re a long, long way from here.”

“Worlds?”

“Uh huh. Some of them.”

“Is one of them Samdela?”

“Probably. It’s too tiny for us to see from here. We might be able to see your sun. If we knew where to look.”

She glanced away, nonplussed. Across the room she could see a part of Samdela: a man unmistakably Samdi. Unmistakably a capo, even, despite his shorn brown hair and the slave livery he wore. You couldn’t miss the style, the swagger, the eloquent self-confidence.

He didn’t notice her, though. Not then.

Not while she was working in her first job, wrestling sheets and towels in the lunar resort’s laundry room, scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets and showers.

He didn’t notice her when she moved up to running the housecleaning division, either. Even though she moved up with record speed.