I am so happy to tell you that my novella, “Spider” will be coming out this summer in The Way of the Laser, a future crimes anthology from Vernacular Books. I’m so excited to be part of this anthology.

“Spider” is a prequel to my short story, “Murder on the Hohmann,” which appeared in Futuristica Vol I, for those of you who would like to see what I do with a “Murder on the Orient Express” inspired mystery. I had so much fun with that one, I decided to go back to the characters and see what got them on that ship in the first place. The answer, of course, is shenanigans. But “Spider” went deeper than that — my cop, Shane Harris, is dealing with her own demons.

Shane is the most autobiographical character I’ve ever created while at the same time being nothing like me at all. Here’s a snippet of Shane, and what she’s going through:

Station security police Shane Harris pushed herself through the Bifrost Main Concourse on her way to the Security Station on Alpha Arm, orienting herself “up” toward the station central complex by making a mental shift in her perspective. She was shaky and frazzled, a knot of anxiety in her stomach. It had been a bad night. When Shane first came to Bifrost a year before, her hind-brain had panicked at the approach to the spider-like structure. It took powerful anti-anxiety drugs, biofeedback techniques, and station-made vodka to prevent her from waking up screaming every night. If anything, the obsessive thoughts had gotten worse, and Shane fretted that the governor on her brain wouldn’t hold much longer.


Shane pulled herself inside Security HQ. Ray was already at his post with a bulb of coffee. Ray was Shane’s foil — blond where she was dark, short and stout where she was thin and stringy. Calm and balanced where she was an explosive mess of nerves and energy.


Ray nodded at her and pointed at the screens that showed a steady stream of everything happening on the station in all the public areas. Black squares showed where workers had turned off the cameras in their quarters. It was a constant game, fixing cameras and hiding them, resourceful workers finding cameras and breaking them, and so on and so forth.


Shane didn’t like the cameras, but the station was run by a registered Corporate Citizen Entity, and employees were told up front that their right to privacy was forfeit when they signed up.


She strapped in. “What am I looking at?”


“You know how I queried the AI to identify who blanked their cameras with a cross-reference of everyone they were in contact with on the station?” She nodded. “Last night Meredith Hawkes entered Evangeline Martinez’s quarters with Asa Delacort. We couldn’t see what they did, but they weren’t online, according to computer records.” He tapped the screen and slid the image sideways. “And look at this.”


Shane leaned in closer. There were in quick succession still images of Hawkes, Martinez, Delacort, and the brother miners Carter and Rose Goucher. Carter and Rose sitting next to Hawkes at the bar. Carter and Asa Delacort in mining tech, where Asa worked. Evangeline and Rose in the infirmary waiting room. Evangeline sagged in her chair; Rose sat on the other side, his hand wrapped in a cloth. He had been fighting again. The Goucher twins were always starting fights, always in trouble. Ever since Shane had arrived on the station, the twins ran roughshod and always got away with it. She had asked Ray about it once, but he was evasive and Shane was the rookie, so she didn’t push.


All of it could have been coincidence. Shane knew that you could take any of Ray’s interactions and find patterns, but if you put the data back in with all of the background noise, these interactions wouldn’t rise to the level that pinged any alarms. Nevertheless, Shane felt a tingle raise the hair at the nape of her neck. Hawkes was a prickly loner. She did her job, but she didn’t go out of her way to be friends with anyone. Shane looked at Ray. “How did you get the computer to come up with these interactions?”


He looked smug. “Once you train the AI to identify patterns it starts to come up with them on its own. I gave it Hawkes, and it fed me Evangeline; I gave it Evangeline, and it opened up the rest. Here.” He swung the screen toward her and she saw the interconnected lines showing relationships between all the characters. “I hadn’t even realized that Evangeline knew Rose.”


Shane looked closer at the infirmary image. Evangeline wasn’t looking at Rose, but the way their bodies were angled, it was as if they had just stopped talking to each other.


Shane sat back, calculating. “What could it be?” She was more thinking out loud than anything, but Ray answered anyway.


“Doesn’t matter what it is. They’re up to something. And before you tell me that’s not enough to base an investigation on, you know it’s true. Everybody’s hiding something, Shane. That’s true back on Earth and Mars, and it’s true here. Especially here.”


It’s the only reason anyone came to Bifrost. He didn’t have to say it out loud. They both knew it. Her stomach clenched, and reflexively she tapped at her wrist, releasing a dose of meds. If Ray noticed, he didn’t give a sign.


“Just talk to them. Use your cop instincts,” he said, with a reassuring smile.


“Okay,” she said. “Okay.”

Shane’s got a lot going on — she’s a cop on a mining station out near Jupiter, where she’s supposed to keep the peace, but some of the residents have other ideas. And the station itself has been keeping its own secrets…

I love when I think I’m writing one story but my subconscious has other ideas.


4 Comments

david y chang · May 26, 2020 at 12:51 am

Sounds like a fun read…!

LO · June 24, 2020 at 3:05 pm

Dang, you have a way of writing that just sucks me right in. I want to know more!

Patrice Sarath · June 25, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Why thank you! I am so glad you like it. I loved writing this story. It’s got everything I love — a heist, space, a mysterious AI, and a mentally unstable cop. Physics and psychology for the win!

Patrice Sarath · June 25, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Thanks!

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