Excerpt: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

Today I am so pleased to welcome J. Scott Coatsworth to Joyfully Jay. Scott has come to share an exclusive excerpt with us from his release, The Stark Divide. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!

Excerpt

The crew’s third and final member, Jackson Hammond, hung upside down in the ship’s hold, grunting as he refit one of the feed pipes that carried the ship’s electronics through the bowels of this weird animal-mechanical hybrid. Although “up” and “down” were slight on a ship where the centrifugal force created a “gravity” only a fraction of what it was on Earth.

As the ship’s engineer, Jackson was responsible for keeping the mechanics functioning—a challenge in a living organism like the Dressler.

With cold, hard metal, one dealt with the occasional metal fatigue, poor workmanship, and at times just ass-backward reality. But the parts didn’t regularly grow or shrink, and it wasn’t always necessary to rejigger the ones that had fit perfectly just the day before. Even after ten years in these things, he still found it a little creepy to be riding inside the belly of the beast. It was too Jonah and the Whale for his taste.

Jackson rubbed the sweat away from his eyes with the back of his arm. As he shaved down the end of a pipe to make it fit more snugly against the small orifice in the ship’s wall, he touched the little silver cross that hung around his neck. It had been a present from his priest, Father Vincenzo, at his son Aaron’s First Communion in the Reformed Catholic Evangelical Church.

The boy was seven years old now, with a shock of red hair and green eyes like his dad, and his mother’s beautiful skin. He’d spent months preparing for his Communion Day, and Jackson remembered fondly the moment when his son had taken the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time, surprise registering on his little face at the strange taste of the wine.

Aaron’s Communion Day had been a high point for Jackson, just a week before his current mission. He was so proud of his two boys. Miss you guys. I’ll be home soon.

Lately he hadn’t been sleeping well, his dreams filled with a dark-haired, blue-eyed vixen. He was happily married. He shouldn’t be having such dreams.

Jackson shook his head. Being locked up in a tin can in space did strange things to a person sometimes. I should be home with Glory and the boys.

One way or another, this mission would be his last.

He’d been recruited as a teen.

 

At thirteen, Jackson had learned the basics of engineering doing black-tech work for the gangs that ran what was left of the Big Apple after the Rise—a warren of interconnected skyrises, linked mostly by boats and ropes and makeshift bridges.

Everything north of Twenty-Third was controlled by the Hex, a black-tech co-op that specialized in bootlegged dreamcasts, including modified versions that catered to some of the more questionable tastes of the North American States. South of Twenty-Third belonged to the Red Badge, a lawless group of technophiles involved in domestic espionage and wetware arts.

Jackson had grown up in the drowned city, abandoned by his mother and forced to rely on his own intelligence and instincts to survive in a rapidly changing world.

He’d found his way to the Red Badge and discovered a talent for ecosystem work, taking over and soon expanding one of the rooftop farms that supplied the drowned city with a subsistence diet. An illegal wetware upgrade let him tap directly into the systems he worked on, seeing the circuits and pathways in his head.

He increased the Badge’s food production fivefold and branched out beyond the nearly tasteless molds and edible fungi that thrived in the warm, humid environment.

It was on one of his rooftop “gardens” that his life had changed one warm summer evening.

He was underneath one of the condenser units that pulled water from the air for irrigation. All of eighteen years old, he was responsible for the food production for the entire Red Badge.

He’d run through the unit’s diagnostics app to no avail. Damned piece of shit couldn’t find a thing wrong.

In the end, it had come down to something purely physical—tightening down a pipe bolt where the condenser interfaced with the irrigation system.

Satisfied with the work, he stood, wiping the sweat off his bare chest, and glared into the setting sun out over the East River. It was more an inland sea now, but the old names still stuck.

There was a faint whirring behind him, and he spun around. A bug drone hovered about a foot away, glistening in the sun. He stared at it for a moment, then reached out to swat it down. Probably from the Hex.

It evaded his grasp, and he felt a sharp pain in his neck.

He went limp, and everything turned black as he tumbled into one of his garden beds.

He awoke in Fargo, recruited by AmSplor to serve in the space agency’s Frontier Station, his life changed irrevocably.

 

A strange sensation brought him back to the present.

His right hand was wet. Startled, he looked down. It was covered with blood.

Dressler, we have a problem, he said through his private affinity-link with the ship-mind.


Blurb

The_Stark_Divide_Updated-2Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.
Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky


Bio

J. Scott CoatsworthScott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Comments

  1. This sounds quite intriguing! Thanks for the excerpt.

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