Authors: Weston Ochse
Tags: #Science Fiction
The Kalanui Family
An Abaddon Books
First published in 2012 by Abaddon Books
, Rebellion Intellectual Property Limited, Riverside House, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0ES, UK.
Editor-in Chief: Jonathan Oliver
Desk Editor: David Moore
Cover Art: Luke Preece
Design: Simon Parr & Luke Preece
Marketing and PR: Keith Richardson
Creative Director and CEO: Jason Kingsley
Chief Technical Officer: Chris Kingsley
Copyright © 2011 Rebellion. All rights reserved.
The Afterblight Chronicles
, Abaddon Books and Abaddon Books logo are trademarks owned or used exclusively by Rebellion Intellectual Property Limited. The trademarks have been registered or protection sought in all member states of the European Union and other countries around the world. All right reserved.
ISBN (ePUB): 978-1-84997-319-9
ISBN (MOBI): 978-1-84997-320-5
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Legerski for his first read and to Faeri and Kimo Kalanui for their lessons in the history and culture of Hawaii and its peoples. Thanks also goes out to Robert Heinlein and Edgar Rice Burroughs for showing me how action yarns are meant to be made. Double-handed shakas go out to Luke Preece, David Moore and Jonathan Oliver for letting me play in the Afterblight sandbox. You made me feel welcome. And Mahalo Nui Loa to my wife, Yvonne, for putting up with long hours of my Pali Boy shenanigans as I acted out many of the scenes before I wrote them. Aloha Au Ia‘oe.
In the first decade of the new millennium, a devastating plague, known as The Cull, swept the planet, killing all but those with the blood group ‘O-negative.’ Cities crumbled, countries ceased to exist, and entire populations lay dead and rotting. Civilization as we knew it ceased to exist, and in its place arose a world ruled by petty tyrants, sadistic fiends and religious zealots. Small, disparate communities of survivors sprung up, trying desperately to survive and maybe build a brave new world, fighting against all odds to survive.
This is the tale of such a group. This is the tale of
hid in the shadows beneath the piping on the main deck of the old fishing boat. He’d been waiting until the fire guard passed before moving on. Nothing worse than fire aboard a ship, especially a floating city made of ships. In reality, the chances of a fire were so slim as to be non-existent, but the possible consequences of such a conflagration were so terrible that the tradition was maintained. So a fire guard dressed in all white and carrying a Cousteau tube to light his way made his rounds, then moved onto the next ship. Probably earning an extra ration of fish cakes for his family.
The Pali Boy could just make out the red-painted, flaking letters of the words
All Day Rental
. According to old Donnie Wu, who was a walking, talking encyclopedia of the time before, the boat had once taken tourists into the ocean to catch fish as a form of entertainment. When Akamu had asked what a tourist was, Wu had explained, ‘It’s like a refugee who only wants to have fun.’ The concept was beyond Akamu’s understanding, but he acknowledged that there had been such a thing when the world was different, before the plague, before everything changed and their life was lived on the water.
Now the former tourist fishing boat was home to a menagerie of Chinese, Filipinos and Indonesians. Like all of the other ships in the floating city, all were descendants of those who had worked aboard the boats, deciding a life on the water was far safer than one on land, where predators of all types, especially those of the two-legged variety, roamed freely. Also, on land, the ability to feed such a population would have been a challenge. On the ocean, it wasn’t so hard.
Still, in order to eat, Akamu had to worry about how to either bypass the Water Dogs so he could get a free line in the water, or find enough to pay them so that he could feed his family. Although the Corpers aboard the Freedom Ship provided weekly fish cakes produced from fish cultivated and stored in their bins, most of it couldn’t be trusted not to have mercury poisoning or disease, so the Water Dogs, who controlled everything below the waterline, were the only option.
But they cost, which was why he was skulking across the decks of the city rather than swinging through the rigging like he’d normally do. Although he could move easier if he traveled the way of a Pali Boy, the last thing he wanted was for Kaja and the others to find out what he was doing. Not that he was doing anything illegal—it was just frowned upon, and there would be no end to the crap they’d heap on him if they found out.
“Who goes there?”
Akamu halted. His left hand automatically went to the pouch on his side. He had to keep it safe. So who was challenging him? Nautical sunrise was just beginning. The sky was a lighter gray than the water, but barely provided any illumination. Try as he might, he couldn’t see who was making the challenge. He dragged his foot heavily across the wooden deck to see if he could get the person to talk once more and determine where the voice was coming from.
“I can hear you,” the voice warned.
Akamu finally made out a darker shadow near the rail, about a dozen feet down the walkway and close to the deck.
“It’s a Pali Boy.” He took two steps closer.
“Can’t be. Pali Boys are like the birds.” The shadow put his thumbs together and waggled his fingers above his head. “They live in the air.”
“Not this Pali Boy. I’m on an errand.” Akamu took another step and was finally able to see the speaker’s features. He was an elderly Chinese man, his eyes sewn shut. Probably lost to Minamata disease.
“You’re not to rob us,” the Chinese man warned. “My daughter has a gun on you.”
Akamu glanced around but couldn’t see her. It was probably an empty threat. He didn’t have to worry about it anyway. He was just trying to make his way across the city to the Mga Taos for delivery. The longer he held the package, the heavier it became. He’d be glad to get rid of it.
“Don’t worry, old man. I’m not here to rob anyone. I just need to pass.”
The old man nodded. “Just so you know.”
Akamu stepped carefully past him. “I know. I know,” he said, then crossed onto another ship using a gang plank.
could have transported their own drugs, but they’d have to pay. No captain or ship’s mate allowed anyone else to transport commerce across their ships without getting a piece of the action. And when
moved, it was automatically believed that they were transporting drugs, which made Akamu a perfect alternative. They’d never question a Pali Boy. After all, Pali Boys were empty-headed, muscle-bound thrill-seekers, not drug runners.
He was carrying Waffle Dust. He’d watched Lopez-Larou weigh out three hundred grams of white powder, slide it into a paper bag, then fold it into a pouch. She’d tied the package in a special way which he couldn’t replicate, then warned him against trying the product. She shouldn’t have worried. Using the drug was the farthest thing from Akamu’s mind.
“It’s a mixture of MDMA and amphetamines. What they used to call X and Speed. Everyone wants life to be just a little better. This will make it better for awhile.”
Then she gave him directions and made him repeat them back to her three times, and he went on his way. Once the delivery was made, he’d return for his fee. If it was as promised, it would be enough to keep his mother and little brother in Water Dog-supplied fish for a week. They could use the protein, and the nutrients.
The next ship was much like the one he’d left—some sort of fishing trawler. He’d never been on it, but had swung above it before. He remembered that there had been nothing to set it apart from any of the others.
A breeze stirred the air as the sky lightened, and Akamu wrinkled his nose. The stench of rotting plankton and raw sewage came from somewhere nearby, and he could smell a sharp chemical tinge which he recognized as decomposing jellyfish. The captain and mates of this ship should be keel-hauled for keeping it in such a state. He hurried across, eager to get to the next ship and away from the smell.
In the end it was his hurrying that got him killed.
The wind picked up and began to spin the turbines high above the bird nets and the rigging. They whined as they began to move. As on all the ships, the wind turbines powered cells in the holds that provided power for much of the day-to-day operations. Gone were the engines or any need for combustion. Refined fuel was as rare as an albino narwhal. Wind power was all they had now, augmented by the occasional biological solution, like the Cousteau tube lights, containing bioluminescent arrow worms harvested by the Water Dogs from the ocean depths.
He rushed past the old wheelhouse, which had been converted into a kitchen. A light was on, illuminating an ancient Filipina just beginning to boil water for tea. He made eye contact and smiled, and she stared at him with something just short of malice. This wasn’t his ship and he wasn’t welcome.
Chased by the stench and the hatred in the woman’s eyes, Akamu didn’t notice the trip line until he was falling face first onto the deck. He was barely able to bring his hands up to cushion his fall. When he hit, he rolled over and jerked his legs over the line.
Three members of the Fists of Righteous Harmony—known as Boxers—hovered over him, long-braided hair queues falling from the backs of their otherwise shaven heads. They wore black on black. Even their faces and foreheads were painted black.
“Sorry,” he said, pushing himself to a sitting position. “Didn’t know you had this territory marked. I must have missed it in the dark.” He gave them his best
please don’t fuck with me
“Your loss,” the one in the middle said. He held a metal briefcase in his left hand. The thumb of his right hand was hooked in his belt.
Akamu wondered what was in the briefcase.