Starlight City

Starlight City

by Radford Lee

ISBN: 9781478375043

Publisher CreateSpace

Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy/Science Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Literature & Fiction/General, Literature & Fiction/Genre Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

When Black and his team are sent to investigate a foreign ship orbiting near the Harmonica spaceport, they're killed onboard by a humanoid weapon built in the image of a beautiful woman. Several years later, Black is reborn through a miracle of science on an unfamiliar planet called Neon. He's mysteriously set free and flees to Starlight City.

Though Black has no memory of his escape, and the memories of his previous life on Earth are blurred moments at best, he crosses paths with several misfits like himself, with their own stories to tell.

Sample Chapter

Someone’s hand shook me awake.

“This your stop?”

Instinctively, I slapped the arm and tried to grab the sleeve, forgetting I didn’t have a hand to grab with, just a growing bulge, like a plant illusively unfolding. The woman looked sorry she’d disturbed me. Her smooth skin and soft features said early to mid- twenties in Earth cycles, but her eyes held the wisdom of age.

“My lapse, miss,” I said. “Bad dream.”

“No worries.” She seemed relieved. “You should have that worked on.” She nodded at the missing hand. “I know an amazing specialist.”

“This?” I said. “Don’t worry. I’ll get along.” The woman smiled understandingly.

“Still.” She handed me a clear, flimsy card. Images appeared at my fingertips – an alluring virtual woman posed with bared breasts. A naked man posed beside her, his muscles shapely, as if carved from bronze. Shiny letters above them said “Neuron Prosthetics.”

“A fairly simple procedure, to get a hand made,” she said. “Dr. Merlo’s the name.”

“Thanks.” I slid the card into my wallet, hoping it would please her enough, and stepped off.

The Auto left me at the curb of an empty street. There was no transit interval there. I hadn’t known the wall district could only be reached via SkyTram. Someone could fly an air cart up there, I supposed, but only famous faces owned them, and no famous face would be caught dead in the wall district.

Most residents on the wall were alleged criminals who’d survived citizen justice, or people like Lead Eye, mechanically altered with too many parts that weren’t human. Only wall residents who weren’t “diseased” or “accidentally mutated” had clearance to even ride the trams. Hodge said some mutations were from being too close to the Ether Shield that wraps Starlight City in a sterilized bubble.

The rain had stopped. To my right, cloudscrapers lined the city limits. Clean white pavement extended on my left and stretched to steel beams of the Diamond, a steel wall that encircled Starlight City. It was a fourth the height of the cloudscrapers near it. About half a mile down where the wall vanished behind other tall buildings was a big "419" painted in black.

Beads of water trickled down the gray steel beams, reflecting LED screens on buildings behind me. I slid my hands across the wet surface, looking up. A silver SkyTram coasted along a track above me.

It was quite a climb.

I was out of breath as I reached the top, the microfibers in my palms and fingertips loosing clinginess. Grabbing the high fence along the edge, I felt a surge of strength, wedged my shoe through a gap and climbed over. A dark-skinned, skinny little girl in purple leggings stood beside a mammoth canine to my right. Each stared toward the cloudscrapers, watching ads flash on the screens. The girl’s pink hat had a fluffy ball on the end; her rainbow-colored hair was spread across her coat collar. A C-shaped ‘Link device with blue lights was clipped to her ear.

The wolf’s furry ear flipped toward me as I leaned on the fence to catch my breath.

“You climbed way up here?” the girl asked. The wolf looked curious too, cocking its head.

“Sure,” I breathed, finding a cigar in my pocket.

“Can you teach Augie to do that? He don’t listen to me. I tried teaching him to fly like Zero from the holo show, but alls he did was lick stuff.” Augie approached as she said this, sniffed my shoe and licked it.

“Sorry,” I said with the cigar in my teeth. I took off my shades to wipe them with my sleeve. The girl wasn’t shocked at my yellow eyes, clearly visible in the flashing lights. I was surprised when the lights hit hers. The irises were multicolored prisms.

“I’m looking for a friend,” I said.

“The wizard?” she asked. Augie thumped his thick tail against the weathered concrete.

“Huh? No, just a woman.” I walked along the fence, noting a sign that read “high voltage.” They walked alongside me. Augie was nearly my height on all fours.

“What kind of woman is she?” asked the girl. “A tin woman?” I shook my head. “A brown woman?”

“She is a brown woman, actually.”

“What’s she look like?”

I paused. How to describe her? “Blue-streaked hair, usually wears a ThinkCap.” Not much for the kid to go on. City walkers wore their hair in lots of colors, and wore all sorts of StarMack accessories and ‘Link attachments. “Never mind. I think she’s hiding.”

“Bet she’s in the secret club.”

I asked what she meant.

“My pop goes to this secret club every night,” she said. “Augie and me are gonna find it. We’re on a mission.”

“Really?” I looked at her. “Is he there tonight?” She nodded. “Maybe my friend’s there,” I said. “But you don’t know where this club meets.”

“It’s a secret,” she grinned with tiny, perfect teeth.

“Of course.” I walked on, moving toward a “West 419” signboard near the SkyTram platform. They followed.

“I think Augie knows,” she said.

“Yeah?” I stopped again.

“Show him, Augie.” She stood in front of Augie, ruffling his huge ears and touching her nose to his. “Can you find Pop? Come on, let’s find Pop, Augie.” The wolf barked, sniffed the ground and scampered off with the girl skipping behind him. Reluctantly, I trailed them.

The SkyTram platform was usually deserted, except twice a day when the West-17 made routine stops. Other trams had to be programmed manually to stop here. I did spot a drunk in a windbreaker jacket staggering near the platform, gritting his teeth each time he took a sip from his flask. He stopped to squint at a paper comic the wind had blown against the fence.

The prism-eyed girl trailed Augie between vendors’ crates containing packaged foo, thrift clothing, discarded talismans or other random trinkets. Two older men with red faces casually browsed through clothes piled in a crate under a plastic awning.

Not wanting to lose my lead, I sped up the pace.

Brick housing units sat along the inner and outer walls of the Diamond surface. Space heaters rested between every few units; their fans blew heat into the damp night. Aluminum pipes branched from each furnace, poking through unit walls so families could get heat. Some units were big enough for several families. Iron chimneys emitted smoke from rooftops. A savory smell hung on the air, salt and lemon – fish singed in a kettle maybe.

Augie stopped near a weathered unit with boarded windows, sniffing patches of grass growing through cracks in the cement. Along the outer wall at a gap between units, the surface was cracked and shattered. The top of the steel beam was warped in one small section.

“What happened to the wall here?” I wondered.

“Pop says a missile smashed it.”

“A missile from where?” I asked.

“Hey, he found something. What is it, Augie?” Augie circled restlessly near the warped edge.

“Down there?” She pointed. The rain began pouring once more. She looked beyond the city toward a black horizon as lightning streaked above endless Forests far off.

“Whoa boy. Pop said not to get my shoes soaked, Augie. Let’s get back.” She promptly turned and ran, skipping around puddles; Augie barreled ahead of her.

“Bye, mister.”

They faded in the downpour.


Excerpted from "Starlight City" by Radford Lee. Copyright © 2012 by Radford Lee. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Radford Lee

Radford Lee

Radford Lee is a college writing instructor and freelance writer/editor. His creative work fits into the classic Sci-Fi mold, though his history as an avid gamer gives his ideas a fresh, cyberpunk flavor.

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