November is almost here. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a widespread challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The original rule is to create and finish an entirely new story during that time. I, however, am a Rebel. I’m still working on the third book of my trilogy. Here’s an excerpt:

Jerrevis Rovilet had heard enough. His production master needed new filtration stands. The plantation master wanted to rotate crops in the west foothills. The mine supervisor said it was time to replace the lower conveyor. Well, do it! Didn’t any of these people have a gram of initiative? If he had to make every little decision, why did he need them?

None of the section masters had acted like that when his father was Cor Master. Father would have handed them their asses if they bothered him with every little detail. They’d regressed to the way they’d operated under Grandfather, and that was over fifteen years ago. Jerrevis blew up again and cut the meeting short.

Going straight from his office in Cor Rovilet’s ground level dome to the egress, he buckled on a shield-belt, exited through Seed Gate, and commandeered a skimmer off the landing pad. He barely gave the guards time to clear him through the outer perimeter.

These people were enough to drive a man insane. Maybe there was a reason his father went nuts. A reason besides his damned drugs.

Holdgrass waved madly in the skimmer’s path until he got past the remnants of Stonegarden’s old settlement. The above-ground buildings had been knocked flat and the cover crop had nearly overgrown the debris. Farther out, the white sun was blinding when it glanced off bare limestone outcroppings. Then he was off, racing across the karst, just clearing the hoodoos and zipping through broad ravines.

His com buzzed. In no mood for more stupid questions, he ignored it.

It buzzed again and kept buzzing.

He shunted the call to the skimmer’s system. Before he bellowed out what he was thinking, he saw the display. The call wasn’t from Cor Rovilet. It was from Sombres, his wife’s father. It was voice only, no cam.

“Master Sombres, what can I do for you?”

“Well, there Master Rovilet, this ain’t who you think it is, but you better be glad you finally answered your com.”

Some kid, playing games? The voice sounded older. Definitely uneducated.

“Don’t even think about ending the call, if you know what’s good for you and yours.”

“Who the hells is this?”

“You oughta be able to figure it out. Pretty sure it’ll come to you in a minute. Anyways, in spite of the way we was treated by your Council, I’m calling to do you a favor.”

Jerrevis itched to kill the call, but he refused to be the butt of anyone’s joke. When he found out who this was, they’d be sorry.

“What do you want?”

“I just want a fair trade. More than fair on our part, considerin’ what you domers done to us.”

The voice and the words clicked. A karster. Enrec Stonegarden. The Domaine Council had booted the karster and his people off their landhold. Enrec and his sister Hanit, Father’s damned karster secondwife, had been smuggling ore and Gentera. Jerrevis slowed the skimmer and triggered a signal seeker.

“What the hells do you have left to trade, Stonegarden?”

“Information. Ain’t that a big thing with you domers?”

“And what do you think you know that I would care about? Where to find the best scrap metal? How to dig a rabbit out of its hole? We’re not really interested in the same kind of thing.”

“You’d be surprised how much we know that would make you sit up and take notice.”

“Then quit jacking around and tell me.”

The tracker showed that the com was north and west of here, and moving. Jerrevis adjusted course and increased his speed.

“Well, the thing is, you see, your pa and your sister are senners.”

“What the hells do you think―”

“Yeah, my condolences and all that. Pretty stinkin’ bad luck, ain’t it?”

“You are insane. No one would believe that.”

“They would when they see the proof. We got vids. Plenty of vids. And eyewitnesses. Plenty of them, too.”

Jerrevis felt his gut clench. “Then the vids are faked. My father and two of my sisters are dead. And the other sister is with Outwatch. If she were a senner, everyone would know it.”

“Ain’t Linayd that’s a senner. It’s that little one. Fioni. That’s her name, ain’t it?”

“Fioni and my father are dead.” He was ready to shit or vomit, or maybe both. He gritted his teeth. “You’re lying and you’re banished. Who the hells would believe you?”

“They’d believe these vids and the witnesses. Don’t try to fool yourself. But I ain’t tryin’ to give you no heartburn. No one’s gotta see the evidence. No, sir. I’m just a poor karster tryin’ to make a livin’ out here in the nowhere.”

So, blackmail. “What’s your price?”

“There now, that’s better, ain’t it? Just business. No hard feelin’s.”

“How much?”

“One load of metal scrap and one load of supplies―and I mean decent food, enough for five families for a month. You deliver that every week, and I’ll keep my information to myself.”

That wouldn’t be the end of it. But these karsters wouldn’t be that hard to kill, either.

“All right,” Jerrevis said. “Where do we deliver it?”

“There’s an abandoned hold in the karst. Used to be called Dregs. I’ll send you the coordinates. You just lower the stuff nicely into the hidey-hole and we’ll take it from there.”


“One month from today. Oh, and not that you would do such a thing, bein’ an honest businessman and all, but if you forget to keep the bargain or somethin’ goes wrong, I’ll be sending a copy of the vids to your Council.”

“Look, whatever you think you’ve got, it’s a lie. But I don’t mind providing a little charity. That’s all this is.”

A croaking laugh came over the speaker. “Yeah, whatever. Nice doin’ business with you, Master Rovilet. I’ll be in touch.”

Jerrevis saved the tracker data and looked up the location for a place called Dregs. There was no record of it. That’s all right. He knew some people who’d be only too glad to do him a service, for a price. All they had to do was hide out, follow the karsters who picked up the supplies, and kill them all.

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