The Long List Anthology 2 by Aliette de Bodard

The Long List Anthology 2 by Aliette de Bodard

Author:Aliette de Bodard [Bodard, Aliette de]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

• • • •

The next day they found a small stream. The Sovereign lay down and put her face in the water, drank for a good few minutes, and then filled the bottle and brought it to Ashiban. They followed the stream’s wandering east-now-south-now-east-again course for another three days as it broadened into something almost approaching a river.

At the end of the third day, they came to a small, gently arched bridge, mottled gray and brown and beige, thick plastic spun from whatever scraps had been thrown into the hopper of the fabricator, with a jagged five- or six-centimeter jog around the middle, where the fabricator must have gotten hung up and then been kicked back into action.

On the far side of the bridge, on the other bank of the stream, a house and outbuildings, the same mottled gray and brown as the bridge. An old, dusty groundcar. A garden, a young boy pulling weeds, three or four chickens hunting for bugs among the vegetables.

As Ashiban and the Sovereign came over the bridge, the boy looked up from his work in the garden, made a silent O with his mouth, turned and ran into the house. “Raksamat,” said Ashiban, but of course the Sovereign must have realized as soon as they set eyes on those fabricated buildings.

A woman came out of the house, in shirt and trousers and stocking feet, gray-shot hair in braids tied behind her back. A hunting gun in her hand. Not aimed at Ashiban or the Sovereign. Just very conspicuously there.

The sight of that gun made Ashiban’s heart pound. But she would almost be glad to let this woman shoot her so long as she let Ashiban eat something besides grubs first. And let her sit in a chair. Still, she wasn’t desperate enough to speak first. She was old enough to be this woman’s mother.

“Elder,” said the woman with the gun. “To what do we owe the honor?”

It struck Ashiban that these people—probably on the planet illegally, one of those Raksamat settler families that had so angered the Gidanta recently—were unlikely to have any desire to encourage a war that would leave them alone and vulnerable here on the planet surface. “Our flier crashed, child, and we’ve been walking for days. We are in sore need of some hospitality.” Some asperity crept into her voice, and she couldn’t muster up the energy to feel apologetic about it.

The woman with the gun stared at Ashiban, and her gaze shifted over Ashiban’s shoulder, presumably to the Sovereign of Iss, who had dropped back when they’d crossed the bridge. “You’re Ashiban Xidyla,” said the woman with the gun. “And this is the Sovereign of Iss.”

Ashiban turned to look at the Sovereign. Who had turned her face away, held her hands up as though to shield herself.

“Someone tried to kill us,” Ashiban said, turning back to the woman with the gun. “Someone shot down our flier.”

“Did they now,” said the woman with the gun. “They just found the flier last night.


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