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Authors: Cherie Priest

Ganymede

BOOK: Ganymede
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Ganymede is dedicated to everyone who didn’t make it into the history books …

… but
should
have.

Like all my Clockwork Century books, this is a work of fiction. Its facts are contrived and improbable, its finer points are forcibly bent to serve my narrative purposes, and I am led to understand that its zombies are
highly
unscientific. But if you’re okay with zombies shambling around New Orleans in the nineteenth century … then I’d like to think you can forgive some finessing of politics and geography.

So thanks for reading! And please don’t send me letters about how wrong I’ve gotten this whole “history” thing. I assure you, my history is at
least
as accurate as my portrayal of the living dead.

Acknowledgments

 

This book would have never come together without the patience, assistance, and all-around awesomeness of the following (in no particular order): Liz Gorinsky—editor, diplomat, and advocate of the highest caliber; my husband, Aric, who keeps the home fires bright; Jennifer Jackson—agent and sounding board, who is worth her weight in diamonds; Bill Schafer, a friend and boss, who invited me on board with love, and saw me off with encouragement; and webmaster Greg Wild-Smith, for preventing personal Internet meltdowns by the score.… A thousand grateful kudos to all of you, for putting up with this Tiny Godzilla.

Thanks also to the community of writers who keep me company as I work from home. The Team Seattle crew of Mark Henry, Caitlin Kittredge (still a member in honorary standing, though she’s moved), Richelle Mead, and Kat Richardson; my convention peeps Scalzi, Mary Robinette, Tobias, Scott, Justine, and many others, who keep this from being such a lonely gig. See also Wil and Warren, Ariana (the gatekeeper), and everyone else in the secret clubhouse that serves the world: I couldn’t do it without you. Likewise, love to the Home Team of Ellen and Suezie, keepers of cats and purveyors of brunches and baked goods.

Mad props also to all the indie bookstores and chains alike across the country. You’ve been so extraordinarily helpful and supportive, and I can’t thank you enough. Particular gratitude goes to the Seattle-area folks who deal with me the most: Duane Wilkins over at the University Book Store, Steve and Vlad over at Third Place Books, and the crew at the Northgate B&N.

And finally, excessive, effusive thanks must go out to all the readers who have embraced this weird little franchise. Thank you steampunks, dieselpunks, clockpunks, steamgoths, and everyone else in the retro-futurist niche of your choosing. Thank you for reading these books, and for sharing them, and for giving them a place on your shelves and in your hearts.

You
have made these books happen.

 

 

Nor must Uncle Sam’s web feet be forgotten. At all the watery margins they have been present. Not only on the deep sea, the broad bay, and the rapid river, but also up the narrow, muddy bayou, and wherever the ground was a little damp, they have been, and made their tracks.

 

—ABRAHAM LINCOLN

(From a letter to John Conkling, August 26, 1863)

Contents

 

Title Page

Dedication

Disclaimer

Acknowledgments

Map

Epigraph

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

 

Author’s Note

Tor Books by Cherie Priest

Copyright

  
One

 

“Croggon Hainey sends his regards, but he isn’t up for hire,” Josephine Early declared grimly as she crumpled the telegram in her fist. She flicked the wad of paper into the tiny round wastebin beside her desk and took a deep breath that came out in a hard sigh. “So we’ll have to find another pilot, goddammit.”

“Ma’am, the airyard’s full of pilots,” her assistant, Marylin Quantrill, replied.

She leaned back in her seat and tapped her fingers on the chair’s armrest. “Not pilots like
him
.”

“Hainey … he’s a colored fellow, isn’t he? One of the Macon Madmen?”

“Yes, and he’s the best flier I know. But I can’t blame him for turning us down. It’s asking a lot, for him to come so far south while he’s still wanted—and we don’t have the money to pay him what he’s worth, much less compensate him for the extra danger.”

Marylin nodded, disappointed but understanding. “It didn’t hurt to ask.”

“No. And if it were me, I wouldn’t take the job either.” Josephine ceased her tapping and shifted her weight, further wedging her voluminous blue dress into the narrow confines of the worn mahogany chair’s rigid arms. “But I sure was hoping he’d say yes. He’s perfect for the job, and perfect doesn’t come along every day. We won’t find anyone half so perfect hanging about the airyard, I can tell you that much. We need a man with excellent flying skills
and
absolutely no loyalty to the Republic or the Confederacy. And that, my dear, will be the trouble.”

“Is there anyone else we could ask, anyone farther afield?”

“No one springs to mind,” Josephine murmured.

Marylin pressed on. “It might not matter, anyway. It could be Rucker Little is right, and a pilot won’t have any better luck than a seaman.”

“It’d be hard for anyone, anywhere, to fail so spectacularly as that last batch of sailors.”

“Not
all
of them drowned.”

“Four out of five isn’t anything to crow about.”

“I suppose not, ma’am.” Marylin lowered her eyes and fiddled with her gloves. She didn’t often wear gloves, given the heat and damp of the delta, but the elbow-length silk pair with tiny pearl buttons had been a gift from a customer, and he’d requested specifically that she wear them tonight. Her hair was done up in a twisted set of plaits and set with an ostrich feather. The yellow dress she wore cost only half what the gloves did, but they complemented each other all the same.

Josephine vowed, “I’ll find someone else, and I’ll show Mr. Mumler that I’m right. They’re going about that machine all wrong, I just know it. All I need is a pilot to prove it.”

“But you have to admit,” the younger woman carefully ventured, “it sounds strange, wanting an airman for a … for whatever it is, there in the lake.”

“Sometimes a strangely shaped problem requires a strangely shaped solution, dear. So here’s what we’ll do for now: Tomorrow afternoon, you take one of the other girls—Hazel or Ruthie, maybe—and you go down to the airyard and keep your eyes open.”

“Open for what?”

“Anyone who isn’t Southern or Texian. Look for foreigners who stand out from the usual crowd—ignore the English and the islanders, we don’t want them. We want people who don’t care about the war, and who aren’t taking sides. Tradesmen, merchants, or pirates.”

“I don’t know about pirates, ma’am. They scare me, I don’t mind saying.”

Josephine said, “Hainey’s a pirate, and I’d trust him enough to employ him. Pirates come in different sorts like everybody else, and I’ll settle for one if I have to. But don’t worry. I wouldn’t ask you to go down to the bay or barter with the Lafittes. If our situation turns out to call for a pirate, I’ll go get one myself.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Let’s consider Barataria a last resort. We aren’t up to needing last resorts. Not yet. The craft is barely in working order, and Chester says it’ll be a few days before it’s dried out enough to try again. When it works, and when we have someone who can consistently operate it without drowning everyone inside it, then we’ll move it. We have to get it to the Gulf, and we’ll have to do it right the first time. We won’t get a second chance.”

“No, ma’am, I don’t expect we will,” Marylin agreed. Then she changed the subject. “Begging your pardon, ma’am—but do you have the time?”

“The time? Oh, yes.” Josephine reached into her front left pocket and retrieved a watch. It was an engineer’s design with a glass cutout in the cover, allowing her to see the hour at a glance. “It’s ten till eight. Don’t worry, your meeting with Mr. Spring has not been compromised—though, knowing him, he’s already waiting downstairs.”

“I think he rather likes me, ma’am.”

“I expect he does. And with that in mind, be careful, Marylin.”

“I’m always careful.”

“You know what I mean.”

She rose from her seat and asked, “Is there anything else?”

“No, darling.”

Therefore, with a quick check of her hair in the mirror by the door, Marylin Quantrill exited the office on the fourth floor of the building known officially as the Garden Court Boarding House for Ladies, and unofficially as “Miss Early’s Place,” home of “Miss Early’s Girlies.”

BOOK: Ganymede
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