- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Feb 2017
From the cover
This part of Taris is a wasteland, and Mercurial Swift moves through it like a rat slipping through bolt-holes. The bounty hunter clambers through the wreckage of an old habitation building, its apartments long shattered, the walls torn open to expose the mess of collapsed urban sprawl.
Through the broken world, life tries to grow: creeping three-fingered vines and twisting spirals of slime-slick fungus. And though the ruination conceals it, people live here: They dwell, huddled up together in shipping containers and through crumbling hall- ways, hidden under the fractured streets and atop buildings so weakened they sway like sleepy drunks in even the softest wind.
His prey is here. Somewhere.
Vazeen Mordraw, a wilder girl who stole a caseload of ID cards from the Gindar Gang—cards that were themselves stolen from New Republic dignitaries. Cards that would allow anyone easy passage through the known worlds without triggering a closer look. The Gindar want the cards back. And as a special bonus, they want the girl, too.
Preferably alive. Dead if necessary.
Mercurial plans on the former. If only because it'll be a lot easier to extract someone who can move around on her own two feet—carting a corpse over the wreckage of Taris sounds like a damn fine way to snap an ankle. And that would make this job unnecessarily harder.
There. Up ahead. Some scum-farmer kid stands in the shadow of a shattered wall, scraping sponge-moss off the stone, maybe to feed his family, maybe to sell. The boy—head shaved, dirt on his cheeks, his lower lip split as a scarmark indicating that he is an owned boy— startles and turns to run. But Swift calls after.
"Hey! Slow down, kid." He shakes a small satchel at him. Credits tink as they jostle together. "I'm looking for someone."
The kid doesn't say anything, but he stops running, at least. Wary, he arches an eyebrow, and Mercurial takes that as a sign of interest. The bounty hunter taps the gauntlet at his wrist, and a hologram glimmers suddenly in the air above his arm. It's an image of the girl, Vazeen.
"Seen her?" "Maybe."
"Don't be cagey." Again he shakes the credit bag. "Yes or no." The boy hesitates. "Yes."
Yes. Mercurial knew she had to be here. The old Ithorian at the spaceport crawled out of his spice-sodden haze long enough to con- firm that he knew the girl and that she would go to ground near her family. Her uncle lives here in the remains of the old Talinn district. (Swift is suddenly glad she doesn't have family on the far side of the planet—there the wealthy live in massive towers, hypersecure, guarded by armies of private security.)
The boy's eyes flit left and right. Like he's not sure how to answer.
Which leads Mercurial to suspect that the boy actually knows her.
"I . . ."
"Kid. I'm going to either give you these credits, or I'm going to throw you out the hole in that wall over there. You can leave here with some extra currency in your pocket, or with two broken legs. Maybe even two broken arms." Mercurial flashes his teeth in a sharp grin. "It's a long way down."
And still the boy hesitates. He's chewing over his options. A heady, swamp-stink wind whips and whistles through the shattered hallway. "I'm not going to hurt her," Mercurial assures him. It's mostly true.
In his experience, people want to be selfish, but they need to feel like they're being selfless while doing it. They want an excuse. He's happy to help the boy feel good about doing bad if...