Meet Gem ser'Edreth, a wizard with electronics — and a freelance thief. Deliberately solitary, unencumbered by family or friends, he immerses himself in his profession, rising to a pinnacle of skill so exalted that the planetary crime boss seeks him out with a commission to steal. Refusing the commission, of course, is his first mistake.
Gem's hidden past proves an unexpected liability and his plants to leave the planet go catastrophically awry. Suddenly embroiled in interplanetary politics, a potential interstellar war, and in possession of an ancient object of power an an unwanted cousin, Gem discovers that the mysterious Witness for the Telios may hold the key to his salvation — or his undoing.
Sharron Lee and Steve Miller write some of my very favorite stories. Simply put, they helped shape how I enjoy science fiction and I scurry to buy their latest work the moment it hits the shelves. Enjoyable seems to be such an understatement when I describe what joy their stories bring me but it's a good start. If you haven't read their work, I urge you to correct that oversight at once. – Terry Mixon
"Finished reading it in the small hours. . .and, to pun ungracefully, it's a Gem. All the lovely language they seem to specialise in as well as marvelous characters and a good plot. . .
It goes on my comfort shelf."– Anne McCaffrey
"This is no gentle comedy of manners but a hard-hitting look at a single man's ability to alter destiny by remaining independent and not succumbing to mob mentality, as well as how true love requires individuality. Well worth reading."– Jennifer Dunne, Science Fiction Romance
"Readers familiar with the Liaden novels will not be disappointed. Lee and Miller are consistently deft and smooth. The Tomorrow Log has momentum from the very first page (or screen) and never lets it lag."– Analog
HIS NAME WAS GEM and he was a thief.
With stealth and in utter silence, he slipped down the darkened hallway to the door he sought. Gently, he brought the specially etched glove from his shirt and laid it, palm-flat, against the lockplate.
The door sighed gustily as it opened, and Gem crouched, ears straining to catch the slightest hint of unrest from the household slumbering about him.
Silence in all parts of the house. The telltale on his wrist showed no surge of energy, as from the triggering of a remote alarm. The room itself was dark, slightly cool and smelling of must. Gem slid the infraglasses down over his eyes and stepped inside.
His information from here forward was nerve-wrackingly vague, so he went slowly, alert to the possibility of pressure-sensitive tiles, sending the tiny electronic spiders ahead of him, step by cautious step, until he was at the case itself, and never an alarm had been raised.
A less wary man, or a thief yet short of mastering the craft, might have grinned his triumph here, and laid his hands upon the case. Gem hunkered down before it, adjusted the lenses to maximize detail and began a painstaking study of the frame and the shatterproof crystal, while the little spiders perched on his shoulders and clung to his hair.
Close scrutiny revealed no trip-wires or alarm-grids; readout from his wrist was uncompromisingly flat. Gem frowned and sat back on his heels, mindful of the passing of time; mindful, too, of the value of the object within the case, which none but a moonling would allow to sit, all unguarded, except for the laughable outside intruder-net.
Mordra El Theman was no moonling, despite that Gem was even now well within her house, with neither her invitation nor her permission. He stared at the case and that which was within the case, felt the skittering of spider claws at his nape and frustration in his heart.
The case was not booby trapped, unless the trap was so sophisticated that the very advanced equipment he carried on his person detected no hint.
Gem stood up and lifted the lid, carefully locked it in the raised position and was still, barely breathing, ears strained to the ultimate, eyes on the telltale.
All was quiet in the house; the readout showed not even the tiniest spike of energy that might be a cry of warning to the police.
He bent his attention to the object of his desire, minutely, and found no webs of light or wire indicating that it was itself a trap. He sent a spider to perch on the rosette rim. It glided down the gilded, arching side to the floor of the case and discovered no pressure-plate there.
The same spider clambered back up to the lip of the urn and slipped down inside, suspended by a line of synthetic silk. Its tiny half-chip brain sent impressions to the telltale, which refined them for the man's understanding.
There was something within the urn, but not yet the alarm he had begun to hope for. Instead, his instruments showed something organic; unalive; uncontagious. Gem called the spider home, barely noticing as it climbed across his hand and took a firm grip on his sleeve.
No alarms. None. Unbelievable.
Unbelieving, Gem extended a plas-gloved hand and curled his fingers around the urn's neck.
Revulsion erupted within him; revulsion and a fear so consummate that his heartbeat spiked, sweat beading his face, sheathing his body; his bladder threatened to fail and he shook so hard that three of the spiders fell from their perches to the floor and scrambled to ascend his trousers.
Terror built, firing his imagination so that he heard the whole household roar awake and come running toward this room; and heard sirens in the front court; felt the irons already on his wrist—
Barely a sound at all, loud in his fevered ears, he bit his lip to keep another from escaping, jerked his hand away from the urn, brought the lid clumsily down and went across the room in a stumbling shamble. Instinct alone closed the door; sheer animal wiliness got him silently down the long, darkened hall and to the window he had breached; the stern discipline that made him a master craftsman closed that window and erased all signs of his entry.
He reached the street, heart still stuttering, shivering as the sweat dried and the dawn breezes found him; and he walked for a long time, rubbing the hand that had touched the thing down his thigh, over and over, as if the palm were burned.