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Master of None
By N. Lee Wood
Warner AspectCopyright © 2004 N. Lee Wood
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIT HAD SEEMED LIKE SUCH A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME. ALL HE HAD wanted was enough sketches and notes and field samples for a narrow but formative article on indigenous Vanar botany, enough to make his name within the narrow confines of academics at least. He'd thought it simple enough, choosing a spot as far away from human habitation and any contamination of native flora from terraformed fields as possible to be undetected. Looking back now, it had been utterly preposterous that he could have Lyris drop him in a pod from the Comptess Dovian down to the planet, run loose through the jungle undetected, grab up a bunch of plants, and dash back to the Dovian before it took off for another cargo flight.
He didn't even last thirty seconds after landfall. In the midst of the densest alien rain forest he'd ever imagined, he'd opened the pod to find an entire contingent of women in their quaint native dress waiting to greet him. He'd been disappointed, but not frightened. Surely the worst that could happen would be immediate deportation on the next ship out, with or without a stiff fine. And these ladies looked harmless enough, until he'd smiled and advanced toward them, hoping to talk his way out of trouble....
The next thing he remembered was waking up in a small cell. He had expected to be interrogated, but instead had been escorted through a series of different buildings and passed from hand to hand until he found himself undergoing a thorough medical examination. He had been stripped, prodded, poked, scraped, scanned, and bled, then abandoned to sit naked on an examining chair in a locked room.
All of the medical personnel had been women, none of whom spoke Hengeli, which was nearly as disconcerting as the brusque treatment. He had never been on any world where, no matter what the native language was, Hengeli hadn't been the most widely used vernacular. Insignificant as his home world might have become, her tongue was spoken on a hundred worlds throughout the star systems. All except, it seemed, on Vanar. The few memorized phrases Lyris had taught him achieved only blank looks and silence.
After several hours, he dozed off, jolted awake when the door hissed open. A lone woman stood in the doorway, studying him curiously. Her face was light bronze, dark eyes over high, sharp cheekbones. Her black hair was pulled back from her face and hung in a thick ornate braid over her shoulder. Her full lips and small delicate nose didn't soften her hard expression in the slightest.
He covered his groin with his hands, both embarrassed and vulnerable, but she didn't appear to notice his absurd gesture of modesty.
"My name is Vasant Subah," she said in accented if fluent Hengeli. She wore the simple blouse and loose-fitting pants he had seen Vanar women on Station wear, hers a luminous white with a deep burgundy border. Although she didn't appear sympathetic, she didn't seem hostile, either. "Who are you?"
"Thank God," he breathed. "My name is Nathan Crewe. I'm a Hengeli citizen. I request to see a lawyer, please."
The corners of her lips curled up sardonically. "A lawyer?" Alarm prickled the hair on his neck. "Or whatever the Vanar equivalent is. Under the human rights directives of the Convention, I am entitled to legal counsel."
Vasant Subah stared at him, and rubbed her forefinger across her chin as if to stifle a laugh. "What Convention? Vanar never signed any Convention; we were never part of your Territories. You are subject to Vanar laws now."
Now he was truly afraid. "Am I under arrest, then?" "You could call it that. As you've trespassed into Vanar illegally, you're suspected of being a saboteur or a terrorist."
"Terrorist!" he blurted in shock. "I'm no terrorist, I'm a botanist. All I wanted was to take some samples of Vanar flora for scientific examination. Ask Lyris Arjusana, the subcaptain of the Comptess Dovian. She'll tell you-"
"We've already spoken with Subcaptain dva Arjusana." Vasant Subah cut him off. "Her story seems a bit too far-fetched to believe." He swallowed, his anger tempered with fear. "But it's the truth. Don't I even get a trial? You people must have some sort of a justice system, don't you?"
"Of course we do. You've already had your trial. You've been found guilty of illegal entry." The woman's stiff formal attitude had softened, although he wasn't certain the contemptuous humor replacing it was much of an improvement.
"Fine, no problem, I admit it. I'll pay whatever the fine is. So deport me."
For some reason that made her smile even wider. "That almost convinces me," she said. "Who would send a terrorist into Vanar as ignorant as you are?" Her eyes glittered with malicious amusement. "But whatever happens to you isn't my concern. Others will have to decide what to do with you."
"So why are you here?"
Her smile faded as she stepped toward him. "To find the truth." He glanced down at her arms as she flexed strange muscles, ropy cords writhing under the skin. When she touched him, he understood.
Excerpted from Master of None by N. Lee Wood Copyright © 2004 by N. Lee Wood. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the distant future, mankind has colonized many planets, but it is the Nine Families of Vanar that control the worms, artifacts made and abandoned by an ancient race that enables female pilots to fly to three hundred systems reducing interstellar distances. The Vanar take other ships with them as they traverse the universe with their monopoly. On the planet itself the women citizens are the ruling class while the men are slaves needed to help produce the next generation females.............................. Ambitious botanist Nathan Crewe convinces a space pilot to take him to Vanar where he plans to pick specimens to prove his theory. The authorities catch him within an hour of landing and inform him he will never leave. Nathan is adopted by one of the powerful Nine Families and is forced to marry into one of the Nine Families. Although he is less than chattel, Nathan feels Vanar is home and begins a legal fight to make changes to the social caste system...................................... MASTER OF NONE is an in depth look at a society in which women hold all power while men need permission to simply leave the house, are unable to attend university, or hold a job beyond breeder. Nathan coming from the outside thinks initially the planet is backwoods, but begins to change his mind as he gets to know people. Could he be suffering from the Stockholm syndrome or just believe that Vanar is home? He wants to make change so that his gender has rights paralleling much of the civil rights movement. Women on Varna are not evil or deliberately cruel; instead they have been raised to believe they are superior. This is a masterful science fiction tale that cleverly spotlights social inequities................................... Harriet Klausner