From the author: This month's extract is a very rough draft - from the first of what I hope will become a series of science fiction/detective novellas.
My footsteps echo on the metal platforms as I run in time with the music among half-constructed homes out above the shallow waters. This new area of town is being developed to handle the anticipated sudden population growth when the generation ship TS Aurora finally makes it to Ceto. For now, though, it is empty and silent, and the sun is just beginning to rise sending a soft pink across the sea beyond. The playlist I've set on my phone to sync with my hearing aids matches my pace perfectly - these playlists are another thing I rely on my sister for, and if she's got it right I'll arrive at her house just as the last song ends. The music is a mix, from Ceto and from Terra and from the long long voyage in between, played on guitars or by a full orchestra or synthesised electronically, and yet it all merges together perfectly.
I keep up my pace, sweat forming on my brow as twilight turns into day and long beaked birds begin to gather on the edges of roofs, hungry for their next meal. Investigation is not a career that lends itself to routines, and even though I love almost everything else about it, the unpredictability has been hard, just as it was when I worked in emergency response. This morning run, alone, same time, same route, is what keeps me going.
My next turn takes me back towards land, waves curling under me and then running their way up the beach. This tiny volcanic archipelago, which we've named Thoösa, comprises almost half the land on this ocean planet, which is why we're building out into the sea. In every other respect, though, Ceto is one of those relatively rare planets that is perfect for human habitation; more than sufficient oxygen, livable temperature on most of its surface, and definitely plenty of liquid water. We're building a good life here.
Back on the sandy soil, I change my positioning slightly, the softer ground beneath me easier on my knees. I turn away from the main build-up area of the island and head inland, through long grass, keeping my pace though beginning to tire.
At the door to the tiny prefabricated cottage, Keri is waiting for me, her long hair loose around her shoulders. In one hand is her tablet and in the other is a lidded mug of coffee. She hands it to me just as the last bar of the song plays, and we both smile in satisfaction. As different as the life paths we've taken are, we both find pleasure in that sort of precision.
We sit on the bench outside, each drinking our coffee and looking out at the sea, glinting in the brightness of the sun. The rest of the island is waking as well; I can hear their growing murmur, a sound I can cope with now although it's still unpleasant. It would take truly unpleasant weather for me to go inside Keri's cottage. It's not that it's dirty - far from it - but there must only be a couple of hundred paper books on Ceto and Keri's somehow managed to acquire guardianship of most of them. Between those are the fishing nets she repairs for a living, expertly weaving old thread to new. Every time I go in there I get overwhelmed, claustrophobic, desperately wanting to break down the walls and let some space in. But Keri always liked small spaces, even when we were young.