Velocity Wrachant, owner and captain of the merchant starship Susan Calvin, is broke and stranded on a Drift station, when she is offered what seems like a simple job: to escort young Brontë Ikeda into Republic space and help her retrieve several bonded-labor children.
While Velocity is tempted by the fee Brontë offers – which is enough to clear her debts – she also knows that Ikeda House, a powerful Combine, just had a major coup; and both she and her crew suspect the story they're being told by the Combine child is not the whole story.
Velocity takes the gig, but it takes her into the heart of Combine territory, a place she fled almost twenty years earlier. What is the price she and her shipmates may end up paying for this job?
Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings is the first installment of the unfolding series Escape Velocity (the next in line, In the Deep, is coming out this fall). This full-throated space opera is Firefly meets GATTACA with a soupçon of Hunger Games. A debt-plagued free merchant starcaptain accepts what on the face of it looks like a simple job: accompany a child of a ruling family to a planet where she will retrieve several labor-bonded children who are legally her personal property. But in this universe, ruling families are powerful corporations who decide the fates of entire planets, grab power by coups and assassinations, and are not beyond illegal gengineering to gain advantage. And it soon becomes clear that the child hasn't told the captain whole story. – Athena Andreadis
"In this fun, intrigue-laden space opera, // Jennings gives an intriguing glimpse of a much larger setting. // Fans of found family will love the portrayal of Velocity and her crew of scrappy underdogs."– Publishers Weekly
"Kelly [Jennings] has been compared with C. J. Cherryh, and I think deservedly. Fault Lines isn't burdened with the awful angst of Cherryh's  Cyteen, but it has the same intensity and conviction."– Gwyneth Jones, author of the Aleutian trilogy, winner of the World Fantasy, Clarke, Dick, and Tiptree (now Otherwise) awards
"More political intrigue and gamesmanship than a standard space-battle story... // Solid world building, likable characters...nifty plot twists…"– Craig Clark, Booklist
"A sharp, character-rich space opera packed with angry, capable women and attractive, vulnerable men. Jennings builds a large, politically complex world // but expresses this through an intimate slice…"– Tansy Rayner Roberts, author of the Creature Court trilogy, winner of multiple Ditmar and WSFA Small Press awards
This second meeting with the Combine child was set for a teashop spinward in the stockholder's quat. Unlike Velocity's usual tank, the teashop was shiny clean, with bamboo deck covers and interesting art on the bulkheads. Brontë awaited them in a private booth, eating sherbet with ferocious concentration. On the bench next to her, the Security. Tall, with shorn hair, gray eyes, and thin pale lips, she wore a fancy Combine skinsuit, black on black, her muscles outlined crisp through its fabric. Brontë wore the same grimy swat she'd worn in the bistro.
Velocity got right to the point: "Dock and fuel fees up front, and half of the bonus. You provide that, we have a deal."
Sucking on her straw, Brontë squinted. "You expect the bonus upfront."
Velocity shrugged. "Good faith payment."
"I'll pay a third upfront."
This was more than Velocity had expected to get, frankly. "I'll also need data tags for everyone taking passage," she added, at which Brontë scowled. "It's a standard request."
"If our funds clear, that should be all the data you need."
"That might be true in the Core," Velocity said, though she knew better. "Not out here."
Disgruntled, Brontë scooped out a bit of glacé fruit and chewed on it. At length, her expression still discontented, she said, "Sabra, do you have our tags?"
"I'm afraid not," the Security said. "We can get them to you by next watch."
Velocity smiled. "Also, you'll bring no weapons aboard my ship." This time, the Security reacted, her chin lifting, her mouth flattening. "Will that be an issue?"
"I have weapons," Sabra said. "Yes."
"And you don't wish to leave them behind."
Sabra pulled an immense short rifle from her hip holster and laid it precisely on the table. "No," she said. "I do not."