As soon as Sophie Hansa returned to our world, she is anxious to once again go back to Stormwrack. Unable to discuss the wondrous sights she has seen, and unable to tell anyone what happened to her in her time away, Sophie is in a holding pattern, focused entirely on her eventual chance to return.
With the sudden arrival of Garland Parrish, Sophie is once again gone. This time, she has been called back to Stormwrack in order to spend time with her father, a Duelist-Adjudicator, who is an unrivaled combatant and fearsome negotiator. But is he driven by his commitment to seeing justice prevail, or is he a sociopath? Soon, she discovers something repellent about him that makes her reject him, and everything he is offering.
Adrift again, she discovers that her time spent with her father is not without advantages, however, for Sophie has discovered there is nothing to stop her from setting up a forensic institute in Stormwrack, investigating cases that have been bogged down in the courts, sometimes for years. Her fresh look into a long-standing case between two of the islands turns up new information that could get her, and her friends, pulled into something bold and daring, which changes the entire way she approaches this strange new world. . . .
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
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A Daughter of No Nation
By A. M. Dellamonica
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 A. M. Dellamonica
All rights reserved.
The blond woman had chapped fingertips with ragged, oft-gnawed nails, and she was half her attacker's size. His hand around her throat obscured it entirely. The padded glove bulged like a crash collar, wedged between her chin and shoulders.
He was making to drag her away when she let out a half-strangled shriek and stomped his left foot. It wasn't much of a blow, but he staggered ... and, better, hesitated. She jabbed an elbow into his rib cage, then wriggled free of his grip, mostly by virtue of falling at his feet.
She scrambled away at a run, screaming at the top of her lungs, "No, no, no!"
Once she reached the far end of the dojo, she spun, improvising a victory dance.
The rest of the self-defense class bellowed approval from the sidelines. The foam-swaddled attacker, whose name was Marc, put up a hand, acknowledging defeat.
"Sophie, you're next."
Sophie Hansa stretched, exchanged high fives with the blonde, and took her place on the mat.
The class was meant to help women who might otherwise freeze in a fight, to get them past any retrograde ladylike sense of hesitation over hitting someone. The idea was to make wrestling and punch-throwing more familiar and comfortable, to simulate the mock — and not so mock — fighting that little boys allegedly got into throughout childhood.
"Okay," their instructor, Diane, said. "You're not expecting trouble. Where are you?"
Sophie fought an interior sigh as a handful of improbable answers occurred: on a climb in Nepal or in a yellow submarine. Aboard the great Verdanii sailing ship Breadbasket, in a world these earnest women would never hear of. But six sessions in this fluorescent-lit room, with its smell of feet and tension, had given her plenty of time to come to grips with the group's expectations.
"Coming out of a bar."
"Where's your car?"
"Parked in a well-lit —"
Diane's role was to ask questions until Sophie at least half-forgot Marc was back there, but this time he went for surprise by jumping in right away. The flat of his hand struck the small of her back. Sophie all but face-planted into the mat.
"Roll!" someone shouted.
It was too late to somersault back to her feet like some kind of cartoon warrior. She flung herself sideways instead, wheezing. He'd winded her.
Marc was already pouncing, dragging her by her shoulder and a handful of her hair.
Sophie turned her head sharply. It was enough to pull her curls out of the glove as she grabbed for his eyes with her free hand. She got a grip on the mesh mask, remembered she was supposed to be screaming, let out one breathless "No!" and went for the knee to the groin ...
... and, briefly, remembered trying a similar move on a bona-fide monster, its hot, rotten breath and the slick of blood on the floor ...
Then she flashed on the sound of her aunt's neck, snapping.
Her knee came up, right on target, and it was a good hit, hard contact.
Mark let her go but didn't pretend to collapse.
"We're over the line," he said gently.
It was true. He'd yanked her over the white chalk smear, the imaginary boundary between life and death.
"Nice try, Sophie, but he got you," Diane affirmed as Sophie sucked air past the shards of glass in her lungs. "Elke, you're up."
Yeah, Sophie thought, I'm quite the action hero.
After everyone had had a turn, they practiced clobbering inanimate foam targets as hard as they could, yelling "Commit, commit, commit!" with every blow. Then they stretched and debriefed on everyone's success in fighting off — or, in her case, not fighting off — Marc.
"Go home and be safe," Diane said finally, a benediction and a dismissal all in one.
The class was held in a San Francisco community center, a low-slung brick building painted with kids' murals.
"No ride today?" a classmate asked as they stepped out into the parking lot. Sophie suspected her classmate had a bit of a crush on her brother. She'd told the woman Bram was gay, but her enthusiasm for him hadn't dimmed.
Scanning the lot for her brother's car, Sophie shook her head. "It's cool. I'll catch BART as far as —"
A honk interrupted her.
Her heart sank as she recognized her mother.
Ambushed! She checked her phone, but there was no text from Bram.
Regina Hansa was already cracking the passenger door.
"How did it go?" she asked, as though they did this every week. Her mother had always favored car rides for parent-child heart-to-hearts. No escape that way.
Sophie pressed herself inside, through the thick air. "I got a few good shots in."
They sat for a minute in silence, her mom not going anywhere, not saying anything. It was a good tactic — Sophie never could let a silence stretch.
"How'd you find me?"
"Bram's got that creepy stalker app installed on his phone. It shows your GPS location."
"You stole Bram's phone?"
"Borrowed." Her mother held it up.
Sophie managed to retrieve the phone without snatching it. "I don't know what you're thinking, but —"
"I'm thinking that when your father and I came home from Sicily you were limping and mopey."
"I don't mope!"
"You finally defended your thesis, and then you turned down the job interview at the Scripps Institute. Then there's all the training. I'd just about convinced myself you wanted to apply to the space program. Instead I find you taking" — her mother's voice rose — "self-defense classes."
"Mom! Nobody's attacked me."
Her mother unknotted slightly.
She decided I'd been raped just as soon as she realized what I was doing here, Sophie thought.
"I'm sorry," she said. "You weren't meant to worry."
"I wasn't meant to know about this at all, was I?" Regina started the car and pulled out into the light fog.
Where to begin? "I'm taking the class because ... I'm filling time. I already told you, I'm waiting to hear about a sailing gig."
"The one you can't tell us about."
"It's not the space program. I thought the self-defense class would be —"
This was the point where she should say yes, but Sophie was a rotten liar. Instead, she let out her breath in a whuff.
"Useful? Like the extra math drills and the knot-tying and the triathlon training and all the time you spend just looking at pictures of, I don't know, sea snails and apparently trying to memorize every single species in the ocean?"
"A little training can never hurt, can it?"
"Training for what? If it's not NASA, and you haven't been attacked ... are you expecting to be?" That was getting uncomfortably close to the truth. "Mom, watch the road."
"I found the pepper spray on your key ring."
"It's not like that." Or it was, but hopefully that was a onetime outlier of a horrible experience.
"It's not enough that you jump out of airplanes and risk the bends and shark bites every time you go off to pursue your so-called videography career...."
"Mom, please. More people are killed by cows every year than sharks."
"So you keep saying, but you're not a farmer, are you? If it's just a diving job, why the secrecy?"
"Talking about the secrecy is still talking about it."
"If you'd joined the DEA or some other government agency, you wouldn't be taking community center anti-rape classes. You'd be at Quantico, learning to defend yourself properly. With an enormous gun."
"Federal Agent Sophie, that's me." It wasn't a bad idea. Didn't Quantico have programs for civilians?
"It's not funny."
Her mother was trying to wind her up. Get her babbling — play Twenty Questions. Then she could start mining out the truth as Sophie slipped and dropped clues. It was a good strategy. They both knew she was something of a motormouth.
But Sophie had promised, under threat of having her memory wiped, no less.
And the truth might hurt more than her silence. She could imagine her mother's face if she broke: I went looking for my birth parents.
Can of worms, or what?
The temptation to spill it all rose, as it always did. "It's an incredibly cool gig, Mom. And important, okay? But I can't talk about it."
"That would be talking about it, Mom."
"You used to tell us everything."
Her patience snapped. "Unlike you. What was it you'd say when I asked about the adoption? 'Confidentiality, in this case, is nonnegotiable.'" Regina stamped the brakes, too hard, at a red light. A driver behind them honked as they both snapped up against their seat belts.
"I would hate to think you've been waiting your entire life to say that."
"What if I was? Twenty-five years ago you do a closed adoption, and whatever I might want to know about it, it's just too bad. Isn't that right?"
Regina's voice was thready. "We made a promise."
"Yeah," Sophie said. "Gave your word, and too bad for me. Shoe's on the other foot now, Mom."
Her mother rocked in her seat, clutching the wheel. Sophie fought an urge to open the door while the car was stopped, to just run for it.
She'd never been at odds with her parents before. Her passion for climbing and diving made them anxious, but they'd worried quietly ... well, except for Dad hectoring her to finish her degree and do something worthwhile.
Worthwhile. Intellectual. Safe.
She stared at the dashboard, digging for something she could say that would help. But it wasn't just that she'd promised — hell, she'd signed nondisclosure agreements and gotten multiple, tiresome, finger-wagging lectures on the subject. There'd been threats of jail, of magically wiping her memories, even, if she blabbed.
Secrecy, secrecy, secrecy.
In a way, the promises were beside the point, because telling the truth would land her in a facility for the profoundly delusional. She'd found her parents, all right, and they weren't even from Earth.
"Now there's a supermodel on my damned porch."
The change of subject was so jarring that it took Sophie a second to make sense of her mother's words. "What?"
Captain Garland Parrish, of the private sailing vessel Nightjar, was sitting on their stoop.
This was going to make things with her parents even worse. All the same, Sophie found herself smiling.
If he was here, odds were good she was going back to Stormwrack.CHAPTER 2
Parrish was dressed in normal American clothes: pressed tan slacks, a mustard T-shirt that hung very nicely indeed on his well-constructed frame, and a Mackenzie Sam jacket that had never quite fit right on Bram. His hair was in serious need of a cut: black, lamb's-wool curls hung every which way.
It was a relief. Sophie wouldn't have put it past him to turn up in full captain's uniform: breeches, long coat, and a bicorne hat straight out of a Napoleonic-era biopic. Stormwrackers rarely gave strangers a second glance, no matter how they dressed, but Parrish had obviously let Bram convince him that things weren't the same here.
He had her mother's polydactyl cat in his lap and was examining the extra toes on its front paws with an expression of delighted absorption.
Sophie hit the ground running, jumping out, dashing to the porch, and throwing herself into a hug. "Try not to talk too much," she murmured in Fleet. He smelled, ever so faintly, of cedar and cloves. "And no bowing."
"Understood," he replied, sounding flustered.
"Mom, this is my friend Gar ... Gary Parrish. Gary, my mother, Regina Hansa."
"A pleasure, Mrs. Hansa." He didn't put a hand out. His accent was thicker than Sophie might have guessed.
"Doctor Hansa," Mom said, tone frosty.
"Gary's ... uh, Gary's a friend."
"You said that."
"I knocked, but ..." He indicated the house. Her father had probably been out back, contemplating his roses or listening to Chopin.
Crap, crap. Now what?
"What do you do, Mr. Parrish?"
"Oh," he said. "I came to get Sophie. I —"
Mom's eyes narrowed. "You're part of this sailing job she won't tell me about."
"I'm ..." He frowned, processing, then seemed to realize it was true. "Yes, that's right."
Oh, no. Time to go. "Yes. Mom, Gary's here because —"
"So you're a biologist? Or another crazed thrill seeker?"
"You can't quiz him," Sophie interrupted, before he could tell her he was a ship's captain or, worse, mention Nightjar. Mom would do a Web search for the ship's registration, fail, and get even more upset. And everything he said was coming out in that accent that wasn't South Asian, which would have matched his looks, or German, which was what it sounded closest to. "He can't talk about it either."
Mom simmered for a second and went into the house. "Cornell," she called. "Cornell!"
They wouldn't have long. Sophie whispered in Fleet, "What are you doing here?"
"Bram tried to contact you, but his telephone is missing."
"Mom snagged it," she said.
"He was afraid that if Verena came, your parents might see she resembled you and realize you'd found your ... your other family."
"Verena's at Bram's?"
He nodded, keeping one eye on the house.
"She's going to take us back to Stormwrack?"
"As soon as possible. We have ..." He glanced at the sky, a habit-driven attempt to tell the time from the stars, but between the fog and the light pollution, there wasn't much to see. "Perhaps an hour."
"Has something happened?" She dialed a cab. She'd had her bags packed and ready to go at Bram's for two months. She hadn't dared leave them in her room.
Parrish opened his mouth to answer and that was when both parents came back out onto the porch.
United front, Sophie thought.
Her father taught Romantic poetry and the birth of the novel at Stanford, where he was one of the world's authorities on Shelley. He was as acerbic as any British-born academic, and in the last few years he'd been making a name for himself by writing newspaper columns that railed against what he'd always called sloppy thinking.
"Your mother says you've been taking rape classes," he said.
Sophie stifled an inward groan.
Just get through the next five minutes with a bit of grace. "Gary and I are going sailing. This is the trip I've been planning, the one I've told you about —"
"The one you've not told us about, to be precise. The one you've turned down the Scripps Institute for —"
"I could be gone awhile," she interrupted.
"You'll certainly be gone awhile." Her father's acidic repetition was a criticism of the vagueness. "The question is, how long?"
"I don't know, Dad. I'll e-mail when I can. I've told you I'm going to be hard to reach."
"And in danger," Mom put in.
This was the point where a sensible person would say, No, no, it's just a sail, it's a sensitive research project. Blahdeeblah confidentiality, don't worry, it'll all be fine. Sophie could never pull that off. She could barely lie to strangers. Trying to deceive her parents would be hopeless. "I have to do this. I have to. I'd tell you more if I could, I swear."
"You're not federal." Dad was looking Garland up and down. "International Space Agency?"
"It's not space," Sophie said. "And he can't talk about it either."
"Let him speak for himself."
Parrish pulled himself up as if he were a soldier at attention. "If it is within my power to keep your daughter safe, I will. You have my word."
Dottar. Her father's lips moved, committing the sound of it to memory. Mai verd.
She was saved by the taxicab, which pulled up behind Mom's car.
"We gotta go," Sophie said, tone bright despite the crushing guilt. She gave her father a hug, which he barely returned, and tried not to register how pale his face had gone. "I'm sorry, Dad, I am. I'd tell you if I could."
Her mom clung. "I just want to understand." She was tearing up. "Sophie, please. Tell us something."
"Sorry, sorry," she whispered, disentangling herself as gently as possible. "I'll be in touch soon. Come on, Par — Gary."
She could still feel her mother's grip on her arm as she piled into the cab and pulled Parrish in after her. Regina tried to muster a wave.
I don't deserve them. She was gut-achingly achurn with guilt. What to say? Could she have done that better? Looking back, she saw their faces through the cab's back window, taut with two completely different expressions of devastation.
"Rape classes?" Parrish inquired, as she settled against the backseat, trying to banish the memory.
"Don't, okay?" With that, she burst into tears.
Excerpted from A Daughter of No Nation by A. M. Dellamonica. Copyright © 2015 A. M. Dellamonica. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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