A man on the fringes of society, Victor Stromboli, possesses a singular talent: the ability to recall every detail of an event. Transient City's Security Bureau exploits Victor as a crime scene "Witness".
Recent murders in Transient, a mobile mining complex carving a path across the planet Lodan, are escalating in violence and frequency. A missing person case Victor is assigned may hold the solution to the maniacal serial killings. Related or not, the missing person is the husband of a woman Victor loved and lost years before. Now Victor's gift is being pushed to his limit of mental stability.
Victor must redefine his abilities to solve the murders and expose the sinister plan behind them before his mind shatters.
When I moved from Yellowknife to Calgary in 1991, I joined the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, of which Al was one of the founding members. He had already published a number of stories and he was one of my early writing mentors. We also became good friends outside of writing and enjoyed many pleasant evenings of dining and conversation. My approach to publishing is always focused on the work (just ask my Aurora Award-winning wife about the stories of hers I've rejected), so Al had to go through the slush pile like everyone else. Apparently, he did okay – I'll be publishing his fourth book this spring. – Hayden Trenholm
"Author Al Onia successfully blends mid-century noir with dystopian-science fiction in this exciting new mystery novel. Downtrodden, broke and friendless, Victor Stromboli is the memory man in Transient City, an increasingly decrepit, crime-ridden city owned by the Agamemnon corporation on the planet Lodan. Like every city on the planet, Transient City moves from one mineral deposit to the next on huge treads. Above the treads, the city's dark and maze-like streets are breeding grounds for murder and thievery."– Amazon Review
"Transient City, a 2016 novel by Al Onia, is something akin to Frank Miller's work with plenty of SF noir elements and abundant hard SF themes, but with a fun, graphic flair."– Goodreads Review
"Transient City is a tightly-written detective story set in a science fiction landscape. It might be in a galaxy far far away, but the broader setting plays second fiddle to the gritty atmosphere of the world of the city."– Goodreads Review
"As the plot progresses, author Al Onia does a wonderful job at weaving yet more elements into the mystery and just when i thought I had it worked out, he threw the whole story on its head with a twist I did not see coming."– Two Nerds Talking
by Al Onia
Victor Stromboli lay on his cot, half awake. Memories of the day wouldn't shut up. The city's vibrations thrummed against the nearer sounds and pulses of his fellow fringe inhabitants moving within the tarp nest of his home, Puzzlerat Mews. The recognizable thrum of couples making love two layers above his outside shell pinged more memories. It'd been a while, he reflected, since female companionship had filled his cube.
A different vibe entered his awareness. A body moving outside. He knew each sound and thump. Someone scaled their way down scaffolds, across anchor cables and past other tarps. He sat up, his butt sagging the center of his cot. He listened and touched one of his cables. The intruder hurried but with nary a wasted move. An outsider. His fellow fringers rarely were so precise this late in the night. The visitor had a target. Nothing in Puzzlerat worth stealing but you never knew who you might've crossed in the struggle to eke out survival in Transient City. Fully awake, he unhooked a corner of the wall and peered up.
Small figure, he noted. And known to him. A tele-runner and one-time apprentice of Victor's. She'd introduced herself as 'Shoes' the first time they'd met and he never got a second name. A fringer herself, though by choice rather than circumstance. She clambered toward his cot. A message for him from Security? Just what he didn't need, more brutal memories. He could use the money and he liked the odd-mannered girl. Hard-ups like Victor were unlinked by electronic communication; when you had to be contacted by one of the three Bureaus overseeing Transient, a tele-runner delivered the summons.
He admired her athletic prowess. She grappled along a rope and stopped, hanging above the planked lane a dozen meters below. "Strom. Glad you're 'wake. Saves time. Message f'you."
"Shoes. A welcome face even if the hour is nasty. What brings you to Puzzlerat?" He peeled the corner of the side tarp all the way down. His reading lamp highlighted her dark green lip gloss and eye shadow against her suntanned face. Her black bodysuit seemed to absorb the night. "Coming in?"
Her spiked hair jiggled. "No time, got another summons to deliver down under. Security wants you. Fabricant Lane. Mick-Gee's there, needs a witnessing. Messy one, Strom. This...service you provide is going to mess you up eventual."
Victor rubbed his chin, making a scratching noise. "I couldn't give up all this."
"Laughing with you. Serious, you shouldn't carry all that misery in your head. Blow up one day."
"Not much choice, I'm afraid. Thanks for the summons."
"Anytime. Gotta scoot, Strom. Take care of yourself." She peered down for a moment. "BTW, avoid Halftown on your way. Rumble fracas."
Victor nodded. "Getting too close to year-end. It's always crazy. You should move; Honeycomb's too close to trouble."
"We feel safe. Check it out sometime. Tonight's a few citizens slumming to blow off."
"Idiots spending bonuses before they get them." Another problem he didn't have, excess funds to spend on drink, drugs and diversions.
"Not our problem, is it Strom?"
"No. Money corrupts, they say. Never had the opportunity to test it. Thanks for the warning."
"Don't forget ya owe me a visit." She moved away from Victor's aerie at a forty-five degree angle towards the upper cable anchors, apparently mindless of the disturbance to the inhabitants behind the jointed patchwork of rope and fabric.
Victor watched Shoes' wiry frame monkey up out of sight. He shrank back inside his tube to struggle into his overcoat. He knotted his worn boots, running a hand over the rubber tread. Grip enough for another month or two if he took it easy. Maybe Security would throw him extra scrip at year-end to re-sole. Victor oozed out, snapped the wall into place and traced the tele-runner's ascent. Thirty-five year-old muscles and bone felt twice as old in the cool night.