This week I’ve been able to get some new words on the prequel to The Sands of Mime. In particular, I finished it up until the scene where they are about to board a space elevator in Ecuador. A snippet:
The vista out of the terminal’s plate glass windows was stunning, like a matte-plated backdrop painted for some fantastical movie about the future mashed with a nature vid. In the background Sy spotted a large bird—a condor?—circling upward on a thermal alongside jungle-covered tall mountains. In the foreground was the fully-modern spaceport that serviced the space elevator, the reason they were here.
His team was sitting in the departure lounge, covering their nervousness about the adventure they were all going on with light talk or with their noses shoved into readers. Ah, Marie had her portable chess board out, and was trying to talk Wilson into a game with her. Marie. His betrayer couldn’t be studious, elderly, meticulous Dr. Marie Covenant, could it? What could possibly be her motive?
He’d done thorough but surreptitious checking on all of them. None of his crew had gambling debts, nor bad habits that could have led to blackmail. None of them had become suddenly wealthy.
But they were the only ones with access to what had been stolen from them all. One of his colleagues had to have betrayed him, betrayed all the rest of them, somehow selling their nearly completed work to the big pharma company who’d passed it off as their own. That thieving company that had expertly accused him and his team, and gotten them incarcerated and unable to find work, blackballed. It had to have been an inside job. But who’d done it?
Could it have been Dr. Gasparelli? Emilio Gasparelli stood apart from the others with his luggage at the edge of the departure lounge. The habitual condescending expression on his face had not changed a whit at the prospect of interstellar travel. He was the only one of them still working. Gasparelli’s reputation was in serious trouble from his relationship with Sy, but was willing go if Sy could induce MedGalaxy to set up a facility on Helleaf, and he had. Gasparelli certainly has his share of medical arrogance but, as far as Sy could tell, not the greediness required.
Or how about Joriz Merma, the Filipino whiz kid who’d coordinated his patient trials? The kitchen table gene-splicing they’d done only required tissue samples, and consent, but Jor had been into everything else as their of jack-of-all-trades/gofer/administrative assistant and dogs body. Not that Jor understood a tenth of their work, but then none of the team could function without him. Jor was standing over there, with his wife and son, and very excited. They were dressed as if going on a holiday; Jor, in his Panama hat, claimed he’d always wanted to go into space.
Certainly not his dear friend Marie Covenant, the brilliant theoretical bio-molecular chemist, who lived only for her research. Her other loves were chess, tea and chocolate. She’d been vibrant but comfortably retired in Flagstaff, Arizona when he’d asked her to become a part of his team, and since she seemed to have not been able talk anyone into a game of chess, she sat there chatting brightly with Irina Petrov.
Sy had originally hesitated to include Mrs. Petrov in his list of suspects. But she had a slightly opaque past in the Ukraine; she got bumped up the list when Sy discovered she was the one person with access who’d had a sick relative… and who had gotten a mystery cure during a clinical trial. Dowdy Mrs. Petrov had been their cleaning lady/landlady and at their rental office in Brighton Beach. She recently lost everything when her husband died and she said wanted to emigrate to get fresh start.
Sy wanted to keep an eye on her, so he included her in his group.
Surely he did not need to keep an eye on his weak-eyed, mild mannered, intellectual friend Aubrey. Dr. Aubrey Dirkovic, biologist, was over-the-moon happy at the prospect of writing papers on a whole new ecosystem on a new planet. Wispy of hair and thoroughly professional, Sy had known Aubrey since they’d been roommates at MIT and they’d done post-doc work with Don Lawrence. But Aubrey was blacklisted, too, and needed the work.
And to be a Judas, you had to be trusted.
The same went for quirky, brilliant, aspie Don Lawrence…what possible motive could he have? He trusted Don because material things meant less than nothing to the man. He was so wealthy from his numerous bio-patents that he could do anything he wanted: money was no object for Don, not that you could tell from his slovenly appearance or vacant glance, for he viewed money as an inconvenience. It was just a way to support himself while he worked.
Don had no real family that Sy’d been able to discover; certainly, no romantic entanglements. He lived for his work. He’d chipped in substantially on the colonization costs, saying he wanted a fresh challenge in, as he put it, “a less densely populated place.”
Who had betrayed them? Jor? Gasparelli? Marie? Mrs. Petrov? Aubrey? Don? Wilson? He meant to find out. Someone on his research team had sold them out to the government, probably working on the side for the thieving company that now owned their bio patents.
Which of them was the thief that had stolen his reputation and his professional life? Which of them had caused him to go to jail on trumped up charges, killing his parents with grief?
He’d find out. He’d clear his name. And Sy would make that person pay.
Sy sat down next to Don Lawrence on one of the line of bright green plastic molded chairs that were secured against the stunning window, turning his back on the panorama. “Well, we’re nearly on our way, Don. Any last thoughts?”
Don swiveled to face him. “Eh?”
Oh, right, Don was usually in his own little theoretical world. You always had to get Don’s attention before speaking to him. “I said, we’re nearly on our way. Any final thoughts? Regrets?”
Don snorted. “Like, did I remember to pack my toothbrush?” Don shrugged. “Probably.” Then he leaned back in his chair, against the window, his expression serious. “So our blackballed biotech team is really going to set up shop off-planet. What a time to be alive.”
Sy grimaced. “It’s not like we have a choice. You saw the piles of rejection letters and cancellations of symposium opportunities-with their prestige and honorariums-that I had our teammates bring to the first meeting about this venture, right?”
Don waved that aside, as irrelevant. “We weren’t finished. There’s something about our project that bothered me. We gonna try to recreate it and finish on our own?”
“We’re going to have to, if we want to clear our names.” Sy replied.