the smuggler’s bible


Perriol won’t take it, won’t even touch the sleek black box on his desk after she explains what happened. It’s blank, except for an array of blue lights winking near one edge, and cold to the touch.

“Oh, dear,” he says. “You have complicated an old man’s life.”

“This was the job.” Eiko senses bitter trouble gathering and being compressed into too small a space. A hissing valve. A needle quivering in the red. “They’ll pay to have it back, that’s the whole fucking point.”

Perriol sighs. “You’ve stepped off the path this time. Things like that don’t matter anymore.”


Zahr Station’s lower corridors are dimly lit, accounting for residents’ biocycles and shift work. But in Alhambra Perriol’s back office, well, that lamp never goes out.

“It’s genuine. You can spend all night checking for yourself, but you’ll only be running the same ground. And wasting time.”

“I appreciate that you brought this to me, but I must act responsibly.” Perriol sits back in his great chair. “Time should be in no short supply. Unless,” he says, “there was something?”

Eiko shrugs, then winces and adjusts the arm sling across her shoulder. “A small number of, let us say, relevancies.”


Eiko cuts the engines well outside the boundary so there won’t be any evidence of motive power as she coasts into the debris field, just in case there are any old targeting systems lying about somewhere. Navigation from then on is strictly by magnetics.

She lets the computer run a general survey, tightening up for specifics only after finding a cluster of ships all of a certain vintage. Then it’s serial numbers, some heavily extrapolated where the transponders have failed and hull scarring is too dense.

At the heart of things, floating like a swan, she finds the Stark Contrast.