Dr. Gina Delgado had a perfect life – friends, money and a great career – until it all came crashing down. Now, faced with the possibility of a billion dollar lawsuit or even jail time, she has no choice but to accept exile on the distant mining planet of Xuizo.
To make matters worse she has to work for her nemesis, Samuel Greigsen, the very man who wrecked her career, on a mysterious research project. But Griegsen has his own agenda and is willing to go to any lengths to carry it out. On a planet covered it toxic pollution and threatened by both plague and pirates, Griegsen's plot may pose the biggest peril of them all.
I met Jennifer the way most editors meet writers—through the submission process. When she sent me The Cyanide Process in 2015, I knew right away I wanted to publish it because of its driving plot, solid science and engaging characters. We worked together pretty closely on the edits but we didn't actually meet in person until the book was launched in August 2016. Since then, we stayed in touch, met up at few conventions and parties and, I'm pleased to say, Bundoran Press will be publishing her next SF novel, Dark Corridor, later this year. – Hayden Trenholm
"A well crafted adventure in which brains trumped brawn when the pinch came."– Edwin Downward on Goodreads
"Give it a read, can't go wrong with ninjas, vikings, and space pirates."– Srian Fernando on Amazon
"Solid science, solid characters, and twisted corporate politics. Jennifer Rahn delivers a richly detailed future complete with cyborgs and human experimentation."– Gerald Brant, author of the San Angeles series
Gina jerked awake as the ship's proximity alert sounded, her eyes snapping open to stare at the edge of the vinyl passenger seat she was curled into. The transport swung into entry position and the viewport at the front of the cabin opened, showing her the bright orb that was the Xuizo mining colony. She turned away from the reflected light, finding it blinding after days of the vacuous black of interplanetary space. Groaning as she pulled herself upright in the seat's foam embrace, she attempted to accept her new reality. Welcome to Exile.
Plunging into daylight, the vessel shuddered as the atmosphere of the planetoid caught at its hull, heating it perceptibly despite the environmental controls. Gina felt ill by the time the vessel had skidded through a water landing and juddered to a halt, bumping irritatingly against the dock. The intercom phased back into the audible range and she could hear the transport staff somewhere below the passenger cabin, taking their rosy time inputting the necessary security and sanitation documentation.
The nav system gave a pleasant ping and the door seals released with an ear-popping squelch. A tired-looking member of the transport staff came to help her stand and collect her jacket and purse from the secure compartments. Her exhaustion was overwhelming; her knees gave out as anguish hit her again. The steward caught her and muttered something about taking a moment to adjust as he pushed her back into a standing position.
Take a moment. Sure. As if something as simple as time would help her find a way out of this mess. Her life's work had imploded, along with a three billion dollar clinical trial for GeneDancer, and her employer was talking personal liability. She couldn't even quit.
Zen Ishihiru had become her new boss after the entire corporation was restructured in an attempt to satisfy angry investors. That was awkward, considering he'd been the geek she'd never really talked to in secondary school. He'd turned out to be far more ambitious and polished than she would ever have expected. Having mastered the art of politics and flashy power suits, he was far more successful than she'd ever be.
Take the position on Xuizo, he'd told her. The job was created by CEO Rolston himself, and it's all I can offer you. If you don't stay employed by ZerronTech, you won't be covered by corporate insurance, and there may be jail time if the patients' families win their suits. I'll get you back to Sphaira as soon as I can.
As far as she could tell, Project Xuizo was a ruse to keep her hidden and silent while the frenzy died down. Why else would they not just fire her and declare the problem solved? Obviously, they didn't want her talking and weren't done doling out retribution. The improbability of a biotech company having any interest in a mining colony was glaring, and she had no doubts their priority was to protect themselves rather than her.
The humiliation of having been escorted by security out of the ZerronTech labs and shoved onto a transport without even being given a chance to go home and pack still paralyzed her mind. However, she was on Xuizo now, and had to be at least functional enough to get off the shuttle. She sighed and straightened, wiping her nose with her hand since she hadn't even grabbed tissues before leaving Sphaira. At least here, at the edge of civilization, she'd be left alone and have a chance to think. Turning towards the exit, she found it blocked by a messy-looking guy with big blue eyes, dark hair, greasy coveralls, oversized boots and a sports cap. He stared at her wide-eyed for a brief moment, like he was horrified by her face, which must still be puffy from sulking, then for some reason, extended his hand.
"Dr. Delgado," he said. "I'm Xer Pall, Colony Coordinator. Welcome to Xuizo."
Surprised that anyone had bothered to come greet her, her sluggish brain took a few seconds to process that someone was being pleasant for the first time in what felt like forever. Her embarrassment grew in stages as she first hiccupped, then clumsily switched hands mid-handshake as she remembered her lack of nose-wiping implements. Xer Pall hid underneath the brim of his cap as he backed out of her way.
"Rough flight?" he asked, without looking up.
"Uh. Yeah. Past month was…bad." She shut up, unsure of how much the Colony Coordinator had already heard, and focused on making her legs stop shaking.
"It's this way." He gestured with his head, not taking his hands out of his pockets. She stumbled alongside him, clutching her things to her chest. The landing bay consisted of an immense submersed warehouse, with a pressurized dock stretching across half the plastisteel floor. Everything was drab silver and grey, with the odd splash of cautionary yellow. Water sloshed heavily over the gridded floor, filling her shoes. The fermented smell of biowaste wafted from several skids of compressed refuse lining one side of the dock. On the other side, incoming supplies were being sprayed with something that smelled just as bad. Sea spiders were chased away from them with bright, flashing lights. The humming of motors, clanging of metal skids and voices of the colonists working on the dock echoed off the grimy walls, making it hard to hear anything else.
"It's not that bad here," Xer yelled, apparently picking up on her discomfort. A hint of blue flashed from under the cap as he gave her a sidelong glance. "We're actually out past the sectors heavily hit by the pandemic, so you don't need to worry too much about that. We only have a few cases, and the Plague Runners don't even bother coming here. Mostly."
Gina was silent for several moments, trying to think of something to say in response. She'd forgotten about the sweeping pandemic causing the economic collapse in several sectors; it hadn't touched Sphaira over the last decade. Xer glanced at her again, his expression sympathetic. "I'm sorry, but your new boss hasn't arrived yet. He sends his apologies and said he had wanted to be here before you to get things set up."
"My boss?" Gina hadn't been aware that anyone else was being banished along with her.
"Yeah. Dr. Greigsen. He was supposed to be here last week."
Gina froze as her vision blacked out and her chest squeezed painfully. Samuel Greigsen had been the Operations Level clinician who had reported the major design flaws in GeneDancer, and oversaw the compilation of the data that had led to the clinical trial being shut down. He was number one on her never-want-to-see-again list.
"You all right?" She became aware of a light touch on her elbow and fought to suck in air.
"Yes. Yes, I'm fine." Her anger came back, bolstering her, as she remembered the faintly sleazy mannerisms Greigsen had used when presenting his surprisingly extensive analysis of all that had gone wrong over several months – months during which he had never once indicated to Gina that any sort of problems were arising – to the entire ZerronTech Board, his false sympathy directed towards her as he ripped her world apart. Why was he also coming here? Wasn't he part of the damage control dream team? Maybe I'll have a chance to murder him, she thought. I'm likely headed for incarceration anyway. At the very least she could smack the half-moon glasses he was always annoyingly peering over off his balding, grey-bearded head.