Walter Robinson has a new queer sci-fi book out (gay, lesbian), SVF book one: The Northern Route.
In the distant star cluster Messier 4, the vast and stagnant civilization of the Apeilous sits on the verge of its next great expansion. Several massive corporations have merged to start the Endeavor, the most far-reaching economic and humanitarian effort in history.
Vesta Amore leads a small team of private security specializing in the protection of whistleblowers and corporate defectors. She has no interest in the Endeavor until she is swept off her feet by the suave leader of the Fortuna Corp, an equal partner in the Endeavor. Balancing her altruism with the realities of power, Vesta joins the Fortuna as they work to establish a supply route along the contested northern border.
Cal Sunn is a career detective looking forward to retirement. When the Maressellya Corp backs out of joining the Endeavor, they hear rumors of a defector in their ranks and put Cal on the case. What starts as a simple assignment becomes a fight for survival as he works to untangle a shadowy conspiracy that threatens the Apeilous. With the Fortuna’s backing, he and his crew rush to uncover the plot.
Warnings: Combat violence, “off-screen” sexual assault, large scale loss of life
About the Series:
In the distant star cluster M4, the vast civilization of the Apeilous barrels through a geopolitically tumultuous era. The independent northern state of Tressel is upset by territory grabs orchestrated by the largest corporations of the Apeilous through a humanitarian operation known as the Endeavor.
Vesta Fortuna, once a lowly private security contractor, rose to power to lead the largest and most controversial state of the Apeilous: The State of Vesta Fortuna. The SVF series explores the rise and fall of Vesta as a state-maker, a wife, a mother, and ultimately an authoritarian leader. Shorter companion novels detail the origins of the people who rise to support or oppose Vesta:
Aelia, a refugee turned warrior turned politician who will stop at nothing to bring down SVF.
Kiton, a bright young detective keen to support SVF by rooting out corruption in its ranks.
Valentia, Vesta’s daughter and heir to the Fortuna family.
Augustus, Vesta’s son and the unlikely heart and soul of SVF.
Main character Vesta and her best friend Jak spend Act 3 forging ties between the Fortuna Corporation and the leadership of the independent planet Atayuma. Keen to make connections outside of the autocratic government, Vesta and Jak engage in a bit of old-fashioned diplomacy with group of mid-level army and navy personnel at the most popular bar in town. By this point in the story, Vesta and Jak have already made friends of several revolution-sympathizers in the armed forces.
Fun fact, the song in this excerpt was adapted with permission from the artist, Jason Webley!
Excerpt from Chapter 29, God Save the King:
Capital City, Atayuma (ISY-AT)
Three musicians sat in the corner of the room belting out drinking songs on a tuba, a drum set, and an accordion. The accordionist sang loudly, yet his voice barely rose over the short beats of the instruments and the din of the bar.
Vesta and Jak sat at a table for six, joined by three captains from the Royal Navy. The sixth member of their gathering was Captain Ernesto of the army division Aline had selected for the coming monsoon. While Vesta had spent the fore of the evening chatting and getting to know them, her efforts were stymied by a raucous sing-along song about storms and angels. Then the music struck a somber tone.
The singer had his bandmates restart the intro, seemingly to get the crowd’s full attention. He sang the first verse softly.
“To the old, cracked screen,
Of my mother’s voice,
I still cry when I hear her sing.
The clock struck twelve,
The voice I love so well,
Was eaten up by the machine,
It was eaten up by the machine!”
Vesta wondered what exactly he meant by the machine. Maybe he’s talking about the mines. Every voice in the bar joined in the second verse.
“When the glass is full,
Drink up! Drink up!
This maybe the last time
We see this cup.
If angels wanted us sober,
They’d knock the glass over,
So while it is full, we drink up!”
Just as Vesta started to tap her toes to the beat, the drum and tuba quieted, and the individual taps on the accordion’s keyboard became clear. The singer glanced at her with a kind smile and sang softly, twisting the next verse into something unknown to the crowd.
“A toast to our guests,
A girl from the stars,
I hear the king courts her,
But all of this cheer,
And maybe the beer,
Has brought her back here,
So let’s help her drink the place dry,
Yes, let’s drink the damn place dry!”
The crowd cheered, and many raised their glasses toward Vesta before downing them. Jak slapped her on the shoulder with a little too much force, and the singer repeated the verse. A few people joined in. Then the rest shouted along for the last three lines. The standard verses followed, and the discordant singing continued. Vesta could only sit and sway to the beat. Jak had other ideas, rising to his feet to join a line of people dancing forward and backward with their arms on the shoulders of those next to them. Ernesto joined too, shouting with the dance line that now snaked clear across the length of the bar.
The music crescendoed upward, and the singing grew louder for the last verse.
“…knock the glass over.”
“So while it is full drink up!” the crowd screamed. People clapped, some tossed coins and banknotes at the band members, and others spilled their drinks as they tried to toast with their neighbors at the bar. The joyous frenetic atmosphere remained past the end of the music, but there was a clear shift in tone and a color shift for Vesta’s deeper vision. A calm contentment filled the minds of the patrons closing out their tabs and shuffling out the front door. Many said goodbye to their friends for the night, clasping each other’s hands in front of their chests with a tense shake. Eager to return to the palace, Vesta cut off Jak’s animated conversation with one of the navy captains, handed the bartender enough money to cover the table, and started toward the door.
A crowd of eager-eyed Atayumans stood outside Rau’s. They all bubbled with joy as Vesta stepped onto the street. She took Jak’s hand, smiled, and moved through them, trying not to flinch as every person attempted to touch her shoulders. Countless glowing Atayuman eyes met hers before they reached the edge of the gathering.
A raindrop landed on her hand. She reached up and felt that the top of her headscarf was damp. She pulled her hood up and activated her wrist computer, nearly blinding herself with its white light. Navigating to the archaic weather app that the Atayumans operated, she looked at the radar map of the incoming weather formation. It was predicted to be light and move past the city shortly after sunrise.
“God damn, I love diplomacy,” Jak said, words soft despite their volume. “If only the [Vesta’s ethnicity] weren’t so uptight, we could’ve been doing this on [Vesta’s home planet]!”
“Jak, please,” she said sharply. With a bit of tugging and pushing, she guided him up the sweeping main road toward the palace gates. Some distance from the royal guards, Vesta tensed her jaw and held her breath to redden her face.
“Are you doing that thing?” Jak asked, taking a series of tiny steps to steady himself.
“Yes,” she huffed, shooting him a sideways look.
“Why don’t you just think about those photos you had me take—”
“Jak!” she said loudly, playfully pushing him, then grabbing his shirt to keep him from falling over.
“You know, the ones for Piata—”
“Yes, I know!” she said, feeling her cheeks burn. Embarrassed, she channeled her shy charisma and played a nervous flirty drunk. The four guards at the gate seemed none-the-wiser and cleared the way for them.
Walter Robinson is a speculative fiction author based in Western PA.
A classically trained engineer with experience in product development and advanced materials manufacturing, he has a passion for telling the human stories that are fundamental to the built world. When he isn’t writing or drawing, Walter spends his time designing and fabricating.
Author Website: https://svf-state.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/walter.robinson.12
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestateofvestafortuna
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/163169298-walter-robinson