GREYSON’S DOOM (The Endurance Series: Book 1)
A Science Fiction Romance
“From the moment I started to read this book I was hooked. I am not usually a sci-fi fan but this book just kept me coming back for more.”
EXCERPT FROM GREYSON’S DOOM
COPYRIGHT © TRACY COOPER-POSEY 2016
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Endurance Year 210
In the three months Grey had been captain of the Endurance, he had never seen Yuli genuinely upset, until now.
His chief of staff sat carefully in the empty seat next to Grey, moving like he’d taken a blow between the legs. It pulled Grey’s attention away from the game. The Dream Hawks were losing three-zero, anyway.
A scream went up, the siren blew and people pummeled on the side of the tank in ferocious delight.
Make that four-zero.
Grey looked at Yuli expectantly. The older man would spit it out sooner or later.
Yuli took his time. He stared at Grey, his gaze flickering over him as if he was measuring him up. It had been a while since Yuli had given him that assessing glance.
“What is it?” Grey asked. He kept his voice down. Everyone in the chairs around them were Bridge people—yet something that made Yuli look like he did was probably best kept between the two of them.
Yuli shook his head. “I…there was a message. From the head of Accouchement.”
Grey was delighted. “You’ve been assigned a child?” he asked. “But that’s wonderful!” At the same time, he was puzzled, too. Why did Yuli look as though this was a death sentence? He was only eighty. He had at least another forty years of active life. That was plenty of time to rear a child to Emergence.
Yuli shook his head. “The Vocation division.”
“You’ve been asked to mentor someone? It’s still good news,” Greyson pointed out.
“Not me, Captain,” Yuli said, his voice low. “You.”
Grey had wagered with Paulie Duke, his chief aide, on the outcome of the game and now the Hawks were being thrashed by the Bullets, the three bottles of classic Palatine cabernet he’d wagered were at sharp risk. Despite that, the outcome of the game and the game itself lost all its allure, between one heartbeat and the next.
Grey stared at Yuli. “Me?” he repeated. “But…that’s…impossible.”
Yuli shook his head, a small movement designed not to draw the attention of anyone around them. “I checked. That’s why the Accouchement Master spoke to me directly. He confirmed it. You’ve been assigned to mentor your replacement.”
Grey’s heart started to hammer. “There has to be a mistake,” he said, trying to keep his voice down. “I’ve had the job for three months.” He looked around. Everyone was still watching the game. “There’s only one captain on the Endurance, Yuli. If I’ve been assigned a child to mentor, it means the AI—the algorithms—think I’m going to need a replacement somewhere within six to ten years.”
“I’ve been through all this with the Master,” Yuli said quietly.
“No, you don’t get it!” Grey hissed furiously. “If you are asked to mentor a child, it merely means there is a replacement needed for personnel on the Bridge. It could be anyone. But there’s only one of me. If I have to train a replacement, it means I’m going to die in the next decade!”
Yuli nodded. There was a calmness about his lined features and faded blue eyes that said he had already accepted this.
But Grey wasn’t ready to accept it at all. “I’m twenty-two years old, Yuli! You’re telling me I’m going to die before I’m thirty-two?”
“You know how it works, sir,” Yuli said gently. “It’s based on sociology and statistics. Mistakes can be made.”
“When was the last time you remember a mistake like that being made? When was the last time a profession was overstaffed?”
Grey could feel sweat prickling his back and his neck yet he was icy cold and his fingers were chilled. “Who is it?” he made himself ask. “Who is to be my doom-bringer?”
Yuli sighed. “Emmaline Victore.”
Grey searched through all the children he knew of about the right age. “Odd. I don’t know which child she is. I thought I had met all of them at least once.”
“You have,” Yuli said dryly. “She is the daughter of Anat Vicario and Jakub Emmetore. They’re both engineers.”
It still didn’t provide a memory of the girl. “Capitol district?” he asked, trying to narrow it down.
“Esquiline, actually,” Yuli replied. “Anat Vicario is a master.”
Grey shrugged. “There are dozens of masters in Engineering.”
“There are over a thousand engineers,” Yuli pointed out. “But Anat Vicario is one of the better ones, apparently. Anyway, I can have files pulled up, a profile of the girl—”
“Wait.” The mention of the Esquilino district had stirred a memory, an older one from when he had been a child himself. “Dark brown hair. Blue eyes. Skinny. She wears her hair in pigtails most of the time.” Grey had seen the child in the Aventine, her hand in her father’s as they shopped. Her father was a very big man, both in width and height. Grey recalled a pair of very large, dark blue eyes in a fragile face, eyes wide with fear, before she had ducked behind her father for shelter.
“That does sound like her,” Yuli said in agreement.
“She is to be our next captain?” Grey said, astonished. He wanted to protest once more that a mistake had been made. The child he remembered was so shy she couldn’t meet the eyes of another child. She was to be the supreme leader of the Endurance?
But he was bound by his own logic. The AIs that controlled quickening, accouchement and vocational assignments had not made a major mistake as far back as Grey could remember, which was only twenty-two years. Although even Yuli could not remember an error in assignments and he was considerably older.
It meant Emmaline Victore was to be the next captain and Grey’s own captaincy would become one of the shortest in the history of the Endurance.
Grey turned back to face the tank and pretended to watch the dismal game, his mind circling around the unpalatable fact of an early death, trying to adjust to it and failing miserably.
* * * * *
Emmie didn’t hear her parents’ suddenly loud voices at first. She was putting the final touches to a recipe for a different sort of silk, a softer kind. She was impatient to get it done and printed so she could see how it felt against her fingers. Already, her mind was conjuring up garment ideas that would work better with a softer silk. Shirts. Underwear…it was the most intriguing possibility even though it wasn’t something she could discuss even with her father. A scarf for her hair, perhaps. If the color was just right her mother could use it on the few occasions when she wore something other than her work clothes.
Her father’s hand on Emmie’s shoulder was unexpected and made her jump. She looked up, her heart racing.
“You didn’t even hear us, did you, Emmie-hun?” Jakub’s smile said he wasn’t upset about it, just amused.
She frowned, thinking back. “Sort of,” she confessed. “I was busy, sorry.”
“Take a break for a moment, Emm. Come on. We have news.”
“And chocolate,” her mother called out from the main room.
“I guess,” Emmie said with a small sigh.
“What were you doing, anyway?” Jakub asked curiously, dropping his voice so her mother wouldn’t hear. He didn’t look at the screen, even though she had it in privacy mode. It didn’t even occur to her he would try to look. He never had.
Because he had never tried to look, Emmie told him the truth. “A pattern variation on silk. I think it might actually work, this time.”
He glanced over his shoulder toward the door. He was a big man—big in size, height and also in heart. Despite that, her mother had him completely under her thumb. Emmie knew it as thoroughly as he did.
“As far as your mother gets to know, you’ve been working on the trigonometry problems due tomorrow, okay?” he told her softly.
“Which you’re going to do first thing tomorrow morning, okay?”
She grinned. “Okay,” she repeated. Both of them knew she could finish them before breakfast if she really wanted to. She just didn’t really want to, most times. It was boring.
“Come on. Your mother is bursting to tell you.” He held out his hand.
Emmie let him pull her out of the chair and take her out to the main room.
She had always lived here, ever since she could remember. It was one of the bigger apartments in the better section of the Esquiline district. Her mother had explained that because of her job as a master engineer and because they had her, Emmie, they had been assigned bigger living quarters. Also because they had Emmie, the bigger quarters didn’t stir the resentment of others who lived in more cramped conditions. Emmie avoided mentioning the number of rooms they had when such conversations arose, which wasn’t often. There were only three other children around her age in the Esquiline and she didn’t get to meet them very often. Besides, they probably lived in bigger quarters, too.
The room was comfortable, with soft couches and muted, warm colors on the walls and fascia. The only bright light was over the counter where her mother was stirring mugs of hot chocolate. She looked up and smiled at Emmie and pushed two of the cups toward them.
Anat Vicario was a tall woman, slender and with red hair that Emmie had noticed had lost its burnished sheen in the last few years. There were wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, too. But her eyes were sharp with intelligence and had never changed.
Emmie sipped. Chocolate was a very rare treat. “What’s the occasion?” she asked.
Her mother glanced at Jakub, a soft smile just lifting the corners of her mouth. “Do you want to tell her?”
Emmie turned to look at him.
He was smiling, too. “You’ve been assigned a mentor, Emm.”
“Really? Already?” She put her cup down, barely noticing where she placed it. She had been waiting for this moment for nearly a year now, wondering what profession would be hers. All her research had told her professions were assigned according to skills and talents and inclinations, which had left her confused. She was good at everything she tried. All her assignments and projects had been less than challenging, unlike Yosef Reuter, one of the other children in the district, who struggled with everything. He was destined to be a basic engineer. Everyone could see it without the AI assignment to confirm it.
But when it came to her, Emmie couldn’t predict where she would end up. It wasn’t as though she was good with numbers and terrible at text, which would narrow the field.
Too, everything she had read about profession assignments emphasized that aptitude and temperament also affected the assignment.
It was where she usually gave up trying to predict what her assignment would be, because her inclination was toward something that wasn’t a profession. So how would the AI resolve that? Was it smart enough to know what was in her mind and heart? Sometimes it seemed that way. It had been smart enough to give her Jakub and Anat as parents. She couldn’t imagine growing up with anyone else.
Emmie had gotten to the point where she refused to think about it anymore. The Second Assessment phase was six months away and assignments were usually made after the assessment, so she had deliberately put the subject aside whenever it rose in her thoughts.
Now the assignment had been made and earlier than expected.
“I thought assignments didn’t happen until the end of my fourteenth year, after the Second Assessments are done,” she said.
“Apparently those are just guidelines,” her mother said. “I asked them about that, too. The AI can assign mentors at any time and it sometimes happens a bit early if the child is a clear fit.”
“I’m a clear fit for something?” Emmie asked, astonished. “Who is my mentor?”
Anat’s smile lit up her face. She glanced at Jakub again, glowing with some emotion Emmie couldn’t quite identify. It was as if a whole slew of feelings were welling up inside her mother, all of them showing on her face, which was unusual enough to make Emmie’s heart squeeze in surprise.
“You’ve been assigned to Captain Durant,” her mother said softly.
Emmie stared at her, trying to understand. “The Captain?” She repeated it blankly. Had she misheard? Maybe she didn’t understand exactly what it meant. Maybe it worked differently if the captain of the ship was the mentor. Maybe it didn’t mean what it seemed to, because that was impossible, that meant—
“You’re going to be captain of the ship one day, Emm,” Jakub said, behind her. His voice was thick with feeling. Emmie had no problem identifying that one. Pride. She didn’t even have to look at him to make sure.
She strung her fingers together and squeezed them. “Captain…” she repeated, tasting it. “It doesn’t make sense,” she added slowly.
“Of course it does!” Anat replied firmly. “You’re smarter than us. You skip through your lessons—don’t think I don’t know you dash them off at the last possible moment because you’re busy doing other things. You see big patterns, Emmie. You see the shape of something that isn’t there yet, like you did with the jacket you made for me, the one all my friends were asking about. You think just anyone could have done that?”
Emmie stared at her, surprised at her fierceness. “But…being Captain…that means talking to people. Telling them what to do.”
“It’s just a tiny part of the job, honey,” Jakub said quickly. “Your mother is right. It’s a systems thing. You can see the whole shape of things in your head, as if you were floating up near the roof and looking down.”
“So can Ma,” Emmie said shortly. “She’s not the captain, though.”
“For good reason,” Anat said shortly. “I’m only good with electronics and circuits.”
“You make furniture,” Emmie pointed out. “That’s patterns.”
“It’s making something from a pattern someone else has thought up,” Anat said gently. “It’s not the same thing. You see the shape of anything, especially people.”
Emmie shrank into herself. “I don’t,” she said quickly. “I can’t talk to them the way Da does.”
“Honey, don’t you understand? This is the best news ever,” Jakub said. “You’re going to be the captain. You couldn’t ask for a better job.”
Emmie swallowed and looked at her mother. “Can I ask for a different one?”
Anat laughed. “There’s only one captain, Emmie.”
“I don’t want to be the captain.” As soon as she said it, it all came together in her mind, laid out clearly. Perhaps this was even what her mother meant about seeing everything. She didn’t know about that. This, though, she understood. The captain spent his time directing the whole ship. Deciding on policy and future direction. Resolving major issues that divided the Endurance—like the issue over how many tankball teams were too many, which the previous captain, Romilda Kermode, had considered and then agreed one more team would be allowed on a trial basis. That issue had been causing fights to break out on the ship until Captain Kermode had made her decision and announced it in front of everyone at the arena in the Aventine, while people screamed and argued with each other.
Once she had made her announcement, peace had returned almost at once.
Emmie tried to imagine standing in front of a hostile crowd like that, with the peace of the ship hinging on what she said, aloud and for others to obey….
Her mind blanked out.
“I won’t do it,” she said softly.
“Emm, I don’t think you understand—” Jakub began.
“No! I don’t want to be captain!” Emmie wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly chilled. “Tell them to get someone else.” She hurried away, heading for her room, before either of them tried to talk her out of it, because this time, they couldn’t.
She would not do it. She couldn’t. It was that simple.
“Emmaline!” Anat called out, with the iron in her voice that told Emmie she’d better listen.
She stopped at the door and half-turned to show she was paying attention.
“Think about it for a few days,” Anat said gently. “Let yourself get used to the idea. You’re supposed to meet with Captain Durant next week, so you can get to know each other. After, we can talk.”
Emmie gripped the edge of the door, digging her fingers in. “He’ll hate me,” she said heavily.
“You’re being dramatic,” Jakub chided her.
She looked at him, surprised. “No, I’m not,” she said slowly. “Captain Durant just got the job a few months ago, when Captain Kermode died. She was nearly a hundred and twenty when she died and everyone knew her time was coming. Captain Durant is not much older than me and now he’s been assigned to train his replacement. You really think he’s going to like training someone when it means he’ll be dead in a few years’ time?”
Both of them looked surprised, as if they were considering this for the first time.
Emmie went back to her room and pulled up the screen once more. Silk was a safe subject to think about. She even had a color in mind. The dark blue the same as the painting her father had finished yesterday. The blue of a sky no one on the Endurance had ever seen. She could even design a garment and print it, if it wasn’t very big. Perhaps she would wear it when she met Captain Durant next week.
…and realized she was back to thinking about the captain, anyway.
What was going to happen to him? Did he know, already? Was it hovering over him like a black cloud?
Oh, how he would resent her!