Table of Contents
“BETRAYAL . . .”
Barac watched Rael add the word to the facts she had just obtained from his mind. He saw reluctant conviction settle small lines around the edges of her mouth. “Yes. You’re right, of course,” Rael said slowly. “How else could such attacks be timed? But who? The Council may use pawns like Kurr or Dorsen, you or I. But not Sira. I can’t believe they’d risk her in any way.”
“You know what they’re capable of, Rael,” Barac argued. “What would they do if she was escaping them?”
Rael drew in a startled breath. “What do you see that I don’t? What do you think has happened to Sira?”
A THOUSAND WORDS FOR STRANGER
“Ms. Czerneda proves herself a born storyteller with the happy knack of making readers’ eyes leap from one page to the next.” —
“A wonderfully entertaining SF adventure with fascinating, well-developed characters. A must read!”
—Josepha Sherman, author of
The Shattered Oath
“Julie Czerneda has resurrected the classic SF themes of Norton, Heinlein, and Moore—the young amnesiac protagonist searching for her identity in a universe of space-ships, exotic alien races and high adventure—with a distinctly modern sensibility.”
—S. M. Stirling, coauthor of
Ship Who Fought
“A wonderful new voice in science fiction—sure to be one of the fastest-rising stars of the new millennium.”
—Robert J. Sawyer, author of
The Finest in DAW Science Fiction
from JULIE E. CZERNEDA:
The Trade Pact Universe:
A THOUSAND WORDS FOR STRANGER (#1) TIES OF POWER (#2) TO TRADE THE STARS (#3)
REAP THE WILD WIND
IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS
BEHOLDER’S EYE (#1)
CHANGING VISION (#2)
HIDDEN IN SIGHT (#3)
Copyright © 1997 by Julie E. Czerneda.
New material for this edition copyright © 2007 by Julie E. Czerneda.
“Brothers Bound” copyright © 2004 by Julie E. Czerneda. First appeared in
Sirius: the Dog Star
edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Alexander Potter, copyright © 2004 by Tekno Books and Alexander Potter; published by DAW Books, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
DAW Books Collectors No. 1070.
DAW Books are distributed by the Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
All resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
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HECHO EN U.S.A.
For Joy Starink
Well, Mom, this is what happens when you give a kid who complains about the ending of a book a handful of blank paper and that challenging raised eyebrow of yours. I only wish you and Stan could have stayed around to read this one. Thanks again, with all my love.
Can’t do it. I’ve been given so much support in birthing my first book that there isn’t room to name you all. I humbly hope you’ll know who you are and that you know I really do thank you for your help, whether it came as critical comment or a bottle of dragon wine.
Here goes the list I can fit: Thank you, Linda Heier, for being the first to read and believe. Thank you, Trudy Rising, for making me pull this manuscript out of its home in my drawer. Thanks also to Roxanne Hubbard and Jonathan Bocknek, for your support and wonderful editing. Thank you, Jan and Steve Stirling, for being both mentors and incredible friends. And thank you, Josepha Sherman, for taking me under your falcon’s wing every time it looked like doomsday!
My thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for its kind support during the early stages of this new venture.
Thank you, Sheila Gilbert, for your insightful comments that helped me pull the last loose pieces together. (And for letting me have as many pages as I wanted!)
Thank you, Jennifer and Scott, for your patience and encouragement. Well, kids, now you can find out what Mom’s been doing after supper! Hope you like it.
Last, but first as well, thank you, Roger. It just wouldn’t have happened without you. Maybe that’s because I’ve never had to look very far for a hero.
Happy Birthday, Sira and Morgan!
Oh, characters and stories can have birthdays too. Trust me. Ten years ago, I walked into a store—SciFi World in Toronto, Ontario, to be exact—and saw my first copy of
A Thousand Words for Stranger
on its shelf. Plus stacks on a table. Ten years ago, that day, I autographed my first copy for Peter Halasz, a gentleman who has since become not only a dear friend, but a collector of my work. (He collects many other people’s work, too, but I retain bragging rights—I’d never imagined, ten years ago, being collected at all!)
Today, what I find most remarkable is that for all of these past ten years, the story of Sira and Morgan has been available to anyone interested in reading it, and many have. Thank you! My characters. Who knew? What had been a daydream . . . a fantasy . . . a speculation . . . given solid form, beautifully published by DAW Books, with a stunning cover by Luis Royo and edited by Sheila Gilbert. Okay, what’s even more remarkable is imagining my life without Sheila in it. These past ten years of friendship and working together have been a joy I’d never imagined during all those hours typing in the basement.
Probably just as well. Writers are a curious species; the writing life even more so. We tell ourselves stories, not the way regular people do, but with word-by-word effort.Dreams become insufficient. We’re compelled to lock them down, polish them, hoard them on hard drives and paper. We dare to compare them to the work of others. Worst of all, after months and years of labor, we hand our most treasured fantasies to strangers. And wait.
Fortunately, I didn’t realize any of this when I wrote
A Thousand Words for Stranger.
At that time, it was simply Story X, one of twenty-three ongoing meanders into science fiction that interested me. I really was in a basement, studying the evolution of reproductive behavior in
(the fathead minnow), and writing was two things to me: a pleasant habit and a way to explore Big Ideas. You know, the sort of ideas a young biologist can’t ever test, since playing with the entire human species is beyond the budget and probably reprehensible on all moral levels.
But I could imagine to my heart’s content.
I could imagine an intelligent species with a reproductive trait tied, as many are, to a physiological cost. For example, if having more hair makes you sexier, how much hair could you have on your body before it tripped you? Which isn’t safe or sexy. My male minnows, in case you wonder, expend a great deal of energy producing a pad on their heads in order to spread mucus for a nest, then tend the eggs laid there. They are, on the other hand, quite sensible and do this for only a brief time, once a year.
I could imagine this intelligent species, call them the Clan, having something about themselves that would make it worth pushing this costly trait to an unacceptable limit. I gave them an ability most certainly worth the effort—the Power to move through space. Then I tied that ability to their reproduction. If Power affected who could safely mate, well, you see the problem. If the Clan chooses to breed to increase individual Power every generation, it will be at the cost of fewer individuals able to breed. The future would not be bright.
If you knew that . . . would you stop?
If you knew that . . . who would be the character most affected?
Sira di Sarc sprang out at me then, almost complete as she appears in the book. Everything else in the story fell in place after that. Captain Jason Morgan—who doesn’t love a space trader with a past? I wanted an array of intelligent species and faster-than-light travel, to provide Sira with options—and I love that future. The story became Sira and Morgan to me then. A story that began and ended in
A Thousand Words for Stranger.
Or did it?
People ask me all the time . . . how do you decide if your story will have sequels? (The other question is . . . did your publisher make you?) The answer is quite simple. A story either fits into one book, or it doesn’t. When I finished
I’d finished the story of Sira and Morgan. I was happy about that. Until I realized I hadn’t finished the story of the Clan at all. I’d hardly begun to tell it. As for my publisher? Sheila’s always encouraged me to write what I want. She’s a firm believer that passion in a writer produces the best books. In the case of
and what became the Trade Pact, she was also a voice for readers, assuring me there really was interest in the bigger story. While in the basement, you see, I hadn’t imagined getting fan mail. To know those weird twists and odd characters I’d put in for my own fun were so enjoyed? It was like being freed. To be weird and odd, in a good way.