As I mentioned in my last post, I have finished the first draft of Qilin, the sequel to The Emissary. I set it aside to marinate while I wrote a novella that explores what life was like for ordinary people at the end of the world. That novella, The Last Ark, took longer than I expected (duh!) but is now in the hands of my beta readers.

While I wait for them to do their thing, I am turning my attention back to Qilin, which tells the story of the first human colonization of an alien world. This is how the story begins:


Holly stared at the image of the planet’s surface with a sinking feeling. She sat at the center of a web of glowing fiber optic cables that linked her mind to Gabriel, the artificial intelligence that was the mind of her starship Gabriel’s Fire. When she was plugged in, the starship became her eyes and ears. She saw what it saw and heard what it heard, which was far more than any human could see or hear, even an enhanced human like herself. What she saw on the surface of the planet below was a city, and that was a problem.

It wasn’t an especially large city—maybe twenty thousand inhabitants—but it shouldn’t have been there at all. This planet wasn’t supposed to have anything more evolved than basic flora and fauna; certainly not an advanced species capable of building cities. It was situated near a river that snaked through a broad flood plain. Around it were fields bounded by low walls of stone; some with crops, others enclosing animals.  

She had mixed feelings about this discovery. On the one hand, she could hardly contain her excitement at having encountering a sentient alien species. This was totally unexpected. According to the Fragment, humans were the only developed species in the neighborhood. 

On the other hand, this threw a massive spanner in the works. The sleeper ark Astraea had already arrived in the system after traveling 237 light years to reach this world, a world that its 20,000 sleepers were supposed to colonize. It had been something of a shock to discover that the planet was experiencing an ice age. That would make building a colony difficult but still possible. The presence of an emerging indigenous civilization, however, introduced profound ethical questions. 

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