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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Excerpt: The Making War (Fremont’s Children Book 4) by Brenda Cooper

by Brenda Cooper
October 7, 2020
Publisher: WordFire Press
476 pages 
When humans can create new species, what rights do they have over the beings they create?

The Making War is the long-awaited final book in the award-winning series that began with The Silver Ship and the Sea. Six genetically engineered children fought to survive in a small town where everyone hated what they were, on a difficult planet full of out-sized predators with long teeth and sharp claws. Because they were stronger than the colonists, they found a way to live, and eventually a way to leave. But when they returned to their home planet, Silver’s Home, they were weaker and untrained. Powerful humans there could create microclimates and new species. They could—and had—created whole worlds. But while most of the six were no longer particularly powerful, Joseph discovered he had a uniquely strong version of the genetic traits that allow some people to travel the threads of data that define civilization. This also allowed him to pilot starships. Which he is doing as The Making War begins, leaving the peaceful geoengineered moon Lopali to join a vast space battle.

Only five of the original six remain. The strongman, Bryan, was killed by winged humans. In spite of that, Alicia the risk-taker has abandoned the others to try the dangerous transformation that might give her wings on the planet Lopali. If she survives, she will be owned. She will lose her rights as a human. Even though she abandoned him, her best hope for freedom rests in Joseph. But he will be one young man in the fight between two powerful fleets with hundreds of warships on each side.

For help, Joseph has his pacifist sister, Chelo, and her two partners in marriage, Liam and Kayleen. They are headed to war to fight for the rights of the winged and others.
Joseph knows it is his destiny. He’s seen himself flying beautiful and deadly spaceships in battle. But the last time he fought, he killed people after he defeated them. The nagging fear he could again lose control and murder in blind rage weakens him. Kayleen, who has a little of the same power, has been driven to the edge of insanity even though she is nowhere near as strong as Joseph. Can he find his own strength and center, stay sane, keep Kayleen sane, avoid his enemies, and fight for Alicia all at once? 

12th Year 222, Fremont Standard, as brought to the Academy of New World Historians … 

I’ve come to the part of the story that tells of the price we paid. This will be the hardest to hear, and the most difficult for me to talk about. 
We were born in war, we grew up as spoils of war, and now we were flying fast across vast reaches of space to join a war. 
We left the terraformed moon Lopali grieving the murder our brother-of-the-heart, Bryan, our strongman and protector. He died at the hands of fliers. Fliers. I know—hard to believe. The gentle ‘saviors’ of mankind drove Bryan from the sky, forcing him into the ground so hard and fast it killed him. Joseph lost his lover, Alicia, who stayed behind on Lopali, hoping to become a flier. As usual, her selfishness made him feel guilty. I didn’t mind that she stayed behind. Not much. 
You need to know how things stood when we joined the Making War, sometimes also called the War of the Five Worlds. Before the first clash of fleets, before the meetings, before the undoing and the doing. 
Our history is complex, but for this story, the most important part is that our blood parents came from Silver’s Home, and while we were not born there, we were of there. Joseph and his mentor, Marcus, were the two most powerful independent Makers, and even though they entered the war to fight for Silver’s Home, they hated its way of life. 
I guess that’s not comprehensible. Let me explain. Silver’s Home depended on the genetic modification of life. Its powerful affinity groups sold enhanced humans, predators, and crops. They made a million things. Eyes and arms and strength and the ability to read data from the air, which both my brother and his teacher had. This story, of course, pivots around the fliers, a made race of beautiful slaves. As the war began, the Court of All Worlds debated their rights. Silver’s Home took pride in its creativity, its power, and the beauty of its made things, and perhaps also in its dark side. Marcus battled the dark side of Silver’s Home, and he taught my brother to fight it, but he still loved his planet. So when we left Lopali, we were dissidents defending a power we hated. One man had much of that power: The Port Authority’s Fleet Leader Andrel Mott had sworn to destroy every Islan ship. 
So who did we fight? 
The Islan Trifecta Leadership wanted to break the economic back of Silver’s Home. Islas’ own economy was as big as ours, but controlled rather than chaotic and quick. The Islan government allowed only limited mods, all in service to the Islan government. They claimed a unity of purpose tied to a Higher Power that almost no one believed in, but it made for a convenient fiction. Islans lived under myriad rules and laws. 
As the ability of Silver’s Home to create powerful mods grew, Islas chose to declare war. I already told you the story of how they tricked us into the first battle, so I won’t recount it here. We nearly died. Joseph saved us but damaged himself doing it. 
Silver’s Home and Islas made up most of the two opposing fleets, most of the power, most of the opposition. But each had a partner as well. 
Joy Heaven was a satellite of Islas. While Silver’s Home had the threads of its dark side woven into its light like bad blood in arteries, Joy Heaven was an open wound where Islans visited to openly act out their desires. I have seen people from there on Lopali. They dazzle. The terraformed moon is said to be full of pleasures, kind and unkind, and to be so beholden to Islas they were drawn into the war like water falling downhill. Dark humor stories suggested that they brought pleasure ships to provide surcease for the fighters of Islas. 
Paradise supported Silver’s Home, which had helped them terraform their moon, sold them a working network of cities and transportation. 

And Lopali … 
Lopali was the most beautiful prison in the Five Worlds, its fliers the most beautiful prisoners. Seekers came from all four other worlds to worship at the fliers' feet, or perhaps more accurately, at their wingtips. Rumors told how a single feather would grant luck for years, a seat at the Morning Flight would grant peace for decades, and a week in its gardens would change a devil into a saint. 
They promised to come with us, to fight for Silver’s Home, but at the last minute they betrayed us and refused, declaring Lopali neutral in the Making War. 
We went to stop the war if we could, and if we couldn’t, to at least make sure we won. The legends about us obscure who we were. Young. Only in our twenties. Three Wind Readers: Kayleen, Joseph, and Kayleen and Liam’s daughter, Caro. Three planners: me, Liam, and little Jherrel. We lost physical strength when Bryan died, and the courage for extraordinary risks when Alicia abandoned Joseph to stay on Lopali. 
As we sped toward the war, our ship carried representatives of both major powers and the neutral party. It carried family and friends bound by history and blood. We grieved, exhausted, and I, for one, wished we were going anyplace else. 

Chapter One 
Running behind an invisible woman exercises the senses. Every once in a while, Induan’s mod reacted a beat too slowly and a smear of red petals appeared in a field of yellow flowers or a bit of forest showed at shoulder-height where there should only be sky. Her breathing was an audible tell to her location. Sometimes the salty tang of her sweat hung in the air. 
Induan and I ran folded in fields of invisibility, forces that projected our surroundings onto a 360-degree image-bubble that encased us. They worked perfectly when we stood still, and well when we moved. 
We passed Keepers harvesting apples and golden-berries, sweet nacks and potatoes. Twice, we dodged wagons pulled by squat four-legged animals with thick necks. 
Induan’s voice floated from ahead of me in a soft hiss. “Alicia!” 
I slowed, reluctant. “Yes.” 
“You need to eat.” 
“Nag.” But this was her way of telling me she was hungry. We had been running for two hours with no break and needed fuel. I left my mod on. She did too, panting softly as she led me to a nearby bench. My thighs ached and the bottoms of my feet stung. The precisely monitored air temperature cooled my skin while the utter perfection of the gardens crawled up my spine like a thousand ants of irritation. 
As soon as we sat down, Induan reminded me how well she could read my mind. “When will you stop running?” 
“Are you tired yet?” 
“Of course not.” 
She lied. I was tired, so she was tired. We’d been running for three days. 
But it felt damned good, and I wasn’t sure I could stop. 
A pile of nuts appeared on the bench between us as Induan laid them out and withdrew her hand. “Bryan is going to stay dead no matter how long you run.” 
“And Joseph will still be on his way to join a war,” I finished for her. She was the practical one, the caretaker, the planner, the queen of politics and logistics. I was the risk-taker. These things were decided for us, built into our genetic makeup. Every emotion Induan felt, I felt harder. If she cursed under her breath, I did it so loudly people turned heads. 
“Which you can’t stop,” she said in her reasonable voice. 
I wasn’t ready to be calm and logical yet. “Maybe a day or two more.” 
“We’ll run out of food.” 
“We can always harvest a field.” 
She snorted. “Don’t the Keepers of the Whatever and Everything on Lopali knew where every damned apple is?” 
“It might be fun to watch the Keepers search for invisible fairies plucking their riches.” I drank. My flask was half-empty. We’d need to find water as well as food soon. “They won’t care. We’re fucking heroes. They’ll let us have whatever we want.” 
“I suspect they won’t forgive stealing. It’s not perfection.” 
I reached for my share of the remaining nuts and sucked the salt from them. We could run a few more hours, but then we needed to rest and eat a whole meal. I pulled out my slate. “We can beat the sunset into Charmed for the night or get into So Bright with just half an hour of running in the dark.” 
“Let’s go to Charmed.” 
I finished the nuts. “I knew you’d say that.” 
“We can visit Bryan’s grave. Maybe they finished his statue.” 
I wanted to spend another night outside, curled up on a bench or underneath a tree, but my stomach had other ideas. Being a risk taker was no excuse for complete stupidity. “Okay.” 
Her hand found mine again, just a touch this time. She whispered, “Look at me now,” and left. 
“I see you,” I whispered to her invisible back. A saying we shared. 
A sudden rush of warmth crept through me. Not sexual—we’d never chosen to be lovers. Maybe something more than that, though. Better even than family. She had remained here with me when Joseph and Marcus and Chelo and the others flew off to go get killed in the stupid Maker’s War. “I’m glad you stayed.” 
“If I hadn’t, you’d have run all the way around this damned moon.” 
Good idea. “We could.” 
I heard the slide of her foot on the path and noticed a slight ripple in the rows of ripening tomatoes behind her. “Catch me?” she called. 
Running felt like joy. I’d run in many kinds of gravity, and Lopali’s was the one I liked the most. Just far enough under normal to give my stride some bounce, but I still had weight to push off with. Practice had made us fast. 
Possibly she let me catch her. We ran side by side past fields of lettuce and kale and neat golden-berry vines. We passed through an arbor of empty perch trees with circles of neatly trimmed grass below them, the bottoms of their branches so low that a few brushed my hair. 
We turned a corner and Induan stopped so suddenly I ran into her arm. Or maybe she was trying to stop me. “Amalo,” she hissed. 
I blinked. Sure enough, the tall flier stood in the middle of the path ahead, arms crossed. He was taller than most humans, and thinner of course. All fliers were thin. His deep gray wings flapped slowly, poised. 
I spotted his partner, Marti, just to the left, tucked into the trees to hide her bright red plumage. I should have seen her. 
Stupid me. 
Amalo was rare; a flier modded to see infrared. Induan and I were as visible as anyone else to him. 
Induan and I both turned our mods off, springing into apparent being in a single second as the invisibility fields collapsed around us. 
Marti let out a small gasp as she stepped over to the path behind us, effectively blocking retreat. 
Amalo’s expression made me feel small and petty. 
I swallowed and crossed my arms, imitating his stance. “Hello Amalo, Marti. I’m pleased to see you.” 
“Are you?” he asked. 
I had begged him for wings. When he finally said yes, I walked away, frightened. It had been a snap decision to turn my back on a thing I’d begged for. 
Even risk takers get nervous of really big risks. 
Since the battle that took Bryan’s life happened moments after I walked away from his offer, I hoped he hadn’t noticed. I tried to look as proud as I could, as steady, as calm. “I’m ready. I had to get over Bryan first.” 
He raised an eyebrow. 
Induan poked me in the side, telling me to stop talking. 
I didn’t listen. “I did. I ran. I won’t be able to run any more. Not when I have wings. I needed to run out my pain.” 
His face softened, although only a little. “You should be rested and well fed before you begin.” 
I swallowed. 
Induan glared at me. 
Marti watched with what looked a little bit like amusement. 
A sharp fear of saying the wrong thing settled over me, finally, a sort of awareness of the cusp I stood on. I settled for simple facts. “We are on our way to Charmed.” 
“Someone will meet you there. At sunset. Run fast and enjoy your last run.” 
I swallowed, panic knocking my heart. No decision in my life had been this big, or this muddy. But I managed to nod slowly. “We’ll see you there.” 
He and Marti crouched, took a few small steps, and with massive beats of their wings that blew my hair sideways and stole the sweat from my skin, they rose into the air. 
Marti’s wings were compact, vibrant, beautiful, as if whoever designed them had been reaching for a work of art. Amalo looked plain beside her, but his larger wings carried him high more quickly than Marti could follow, and he looped in a lazy circle until she caught up. Once again paired, she took two wingbeats to every one of his. She looked like a butterfly while he looked like a raptor. 
I shivered, watching them. Longing? Love? Admiration? Abject fear? Were they all one? 

The emptiness where the fliers had been felt so cold I shivered. 
Induan turned toward me. “Wings are a horrible idea. They will limit you.” 
“For one thing, you’ll be trapped here. You hate this planet.” 
“This place. You hate it.” 
“Have you seen the statue of the first flier on Silver’s Home?” 
Could she have seen it and not been moved to tears? “I saw her the year before we came here, a few weeks after we landed on Silver’s Home. She stood in a park, poised for flight. I saw both pain and beauty carved deep into her face, and I knew deep inside that she was magnificent both in spite of and because if her pain. She looked so alive. I knew then that I needed wings. When Marcus brought us here—here of all the places on the Five Worlds—I knew I would get them.” 
She looked puzzled. 
“Don’t you see? That’s why I didn’t go with Joseph.” 
She frowned, and for a moment she made me feel the same way Amalo had. “Are you sure you didn’t stay because Joseph was too busy saving the world to spend time with you?” 
The sting of her words only struck me silent for a moment. “That, too. See? I can be honest. But no, I needed to stay. For wings.” I glanced up to emphasize my point. Amalo and Marti had been reduced to small dots of gray and red against a pale blue sky. 
She crossed her arms almost like Amalo had, her smaller body blocking me from moving forward. 
I could go around, piss her off, but I needed her to understand. “I can change the world here, I know it. I’m already important here, already famous.” 
“As part of the family that changed everything. Not as yourself.” 
Induan often said hard things, and I approved. But I did not want to hear this, so I said nothing. 
“And that’s an end in itself?” she prodded. “Fame?” 
Damn her. “I’m tired of being a shadow.” 
“You’ve never been anyone’s shadow.” 
“But I haven’t ever been anyone by myself, either.” She was beautiful, standing there, my mirror, blonde to my dark, her calm a deliberate balance to my love of danger. “Now it’s just me.” I hesitated. “And you. Now I won’t be in Joseph’s shadow, and Chelo won’t tell me what to do. So I’m going to fly. To fly.” 
She waited, patient. Sometimes she had an impishness to her, a love of pranking others with her invisibility mod, but right now she just stared at me, calm as hell. 
“I’m going to matter here. I don’t know how yet, though. How could I?” 
She snorted. “That’s a matter of politics, not wings. Not your strong suit.” 
Damn her. I shifted the subject. “Maybe we’ll get news of the fleets today.” 
“We chose to skip the war.” Induan shook her head. “We’d best get running, and you’d better love every step.” 
So she wasn’t going to try and stop me. “Is that why you think I’m running?” 
She nodded. “I think you know wings are not the answer to anything you need.” She turned away from me, clearly not expecting an answer. 
I looked up as we stepped out from under the trees. Fliers swooped and rolled through the air a field away from us. Not Tsawo—all of these wings were brightly colored like butterflies—two yellows, a pale blue, a set of orange wings with brown spots near the end, and a bright green pair. 
Induan’s voice whispered warm near my ear. “Turn on your mod.” 
I did, and its small spark ran along my skin. I started immediately, each stride just a little longer than the last one until I grew hot with speed. In my imagination, I outran the loss of my family, the loss of Bryan, the pain I caused Joseph when I didn’t show up on whatever ship they flew away from here. I hadn’t seen that pain, but I felt guilt for it anyway. 
I shouldn’t. I should revel in the fact that Joseph was surely happy to be flying away from me, locked up inside a silver ship and enveloped in its data streams. He had left me long before. He took on responsibilities which closed me out, but I never stopped loving him. Once, he loved me as much as I loved him. 
I tried to forget the shape of his face as I ran. 
Bryan, my friend. My protector. Bryan who fell from the sky and was buried in Charmed. 
I could not give Bryan life any more than I could give Joseph unconditional love. I could not obey Chelo, or help Kayleen. Liam considered me an idiot, or maybe a victim. Two things I wasn’t. 
I was better off without them. 
I focused on my stride. Lopali’s even surfaces fell behind me and the neat fields blurred. 
As we raced into Charmed, sweating and hot, we dodged a group of Keepers as they headed for the fields, walking and chattering amongst themselves. I saw no sign of Amalo or Marti. 
We slowed and stopped. “I’m starved,” Induan said. 
“Me too.” We had nothing to buy food with. I stepped behind a building and turned off my mod. So did Induan. We looked like two young women who could have been Seekers. 
The streets we walked through had been planned to the last detail. The edges of each garden were clipped, the houses clean and painted, the roofs perfectly maintained. Boring. Pretending perfection. I loved and hated Charmed and Lopali at the same time. It left me off-balance. Nothing was so simply good as Lopali pretended to be. There was always a dark side. 
We passed Keepers in flowing uniforms, seekers and pilgrims and tradespeople in a multitude of clothes and body styles. Restaurants filled the air with scents of vegetable soups and mint tea and baking bread. 
Fliers glided down from the sunset sky, landing near bars and restaurants and houses. 
I expected Amalo and Marti any moment. 
Induan had less pride than me, or perhaps she was hungrier. She stopped a Keeper and a flier walking side by side down a street, the flier bent slightly forward to prevent the low sweep of his wings from dragging the ground. “Excuse me?” 
The flier turned bright green eyes that matched his wings toward us. 
Induan asked, “Please, can you tell us where to find Amalo and Marti?” 
I added, “Or Tsawo and Angeline?” They had been there when Amalo promised me my wings. 
“Tsawo shows up when and where he wants.” It didn’t seem like he approved. 
Induan refused to give up. “If you were looking for Amalo, where would you start?” 
He shrugged. 
“Is there anywhere we can get food now?” Induan asked. 
“Anywhere you like. Amalo said you two should be taken care of.” 
He could have said that to begin with. 
Our noses led us to a small cafe with baked nut crackers and fruit salads. The owner greeted us by name as if she had been waiting for us. We gorged ourselves. After that, we walked, watching. None of the primary fliers were anywhere. I recognized a few faces, and asked, but no one knew where they were. Eventually, I spotted Chance, the doctor who had helped Joseph and Marcus change the flier’s biology so they could bear children. I walked up behind him and touched his shoulder. 
When he turned, he looked stiff, but then he often looked a little stiff. A man with almost no sense of humor. A bland man, mousy and unremarkable in every way. A slight but friendly smile touched his lips. “Amalo asked me to watch for you.” 
I managed to return his smile and say, “Then it’s good we found you.” 
“He told me you plan to try for wings.” He didn’t sound happy about it. 
I felt my smile grow larger. “I want blue wings.” 
“You’d better want to live. If you manage that, then you can pick the color of your wings.” 
Induan looked as serious as usual. “What do we need to know about it?” 
He kept his gaze on me. “The change is not like any pain you’ve ever felt. People die of it.” 
I swallowed, stunned. “People die of pain alone?” 
“They do. Or they die of the change. They die from the hollowing out of their bones, or from the lengthening of their legs. Sometimes their organs fail as the changes wrench their insides into new shapes.” He seemed to be enjoying himself. “Or they just go stark raving crazy.” 
“I won’t go crazy and I won’t die.” 
“You don’t know that.” 
“Have you seen it?” Induan asked. “I mean, seen it happen?” 
He nodded. “I am the current Architect of the Change of Form.” 
Of course he was something with a silly name. “Really? I thought you hated the idea.” I remembered that from some previous conversation in the gold guest house outside of SoBright, not long after we first came to Lopali. 
“I hate the way it is forced on children. You are making your own choice. I don’t have much sympathy for you.” He didn’t sound sympathetic, either. Maybe amused. Maybe exasperated. 
Induan turned the conversation. “Will there be Makers helping? Like the work Joseph and Marcus did to help the fliers have babies?” 
“No. Makers helped create the template, but they don’t assist with each change.” He cleared his throat and looked up for a moment, then back at us. “Marti asked me to take you to Oshai. They were summoned early, so they couldn’t wait for you.” He looked at me hard, as if hoping I would back out. “Are you sure you want to do this?” 
“As sure as I want to breathe.” 
Induan sighed. “When will we go?” 
“Now. We’ll fly.” 
One last trip on stupid fake wings built for humans. “Let’s go.”

About the author: 
Brenda Cooper is the author of nine science fiction and fantasy books. She blogs frequently on 
environmental and futurist topics, and her non-fiction has appeared in Slate and Crosscut. 
She is the winner of the 2007 and 2016 Endeavor Awards for “a distinguished science fiction or fantasy book written by a Pacific Northwest author or authors.” Her work has also been nominated for the Phillip K. Dick and Canopus awards. 

A technology professional, Brenda is the Chief Information Officer for the City of Kirkland, which is a Seattle suburb. Brenda was educated at California State University, Fullerton, where she earned a BA in Management Information Systems. She is also pursuing an MFA at StoneCoast, a program of the University of Southern Maine. Brenda lives in Woodinville, Washington with her family and three dogs. 

WordFire Press is a mid-size new-model publisher founded by New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. You can find us at Tweet us @WordFirePress. Follow us on Facebook at

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