Captain Tabitha Jute is past the point of no return. Stripped of her command and her dignity, she has lost control of the huge alien starship called Plenty, and forefeited the devotion of the myriad lifeforms traveling with her in its dingy caverns and labyrinthine corridors. Now they all lie captive beneath the glowering red twin stars of Capella, awaiting the pleasure of the parasitic Guardinas.
For the Guardians, who once gave Plenty to humanity, are now scheming with high-tech tyrants called the Seraphim. And Captain Jute and her followers are caught in the middle of a terrifying experiment in which the human race is the raw material. Her only option is to risk it all on one last headlong flight into the heart of a dying star system in a desperate attempt to uncover the final secrets of the Capellans.
And as the Guardians will soon learn, Tabitha Jute doesnt want mauch . . .she only wants Plenty.
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About the Author
Born in Dover, Kent, Colin Greenland is an award-wining science fiction author. His first book, The Entropy Exhibition, was a critical look at the New Wave movement, based on his PHD thesis. Best known among his acclaimed Fantasy and SF works is the 'Tabitha Jute' space opera sequence, the first of which, Take Back Plenty, won the BSFA and Arthur C. Clarke Awards and was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. Colin Greenland lives in Cambridge with his partner, writer Susanna Clarke.
For more information see www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/greenland_colin
Read an Excerpt
The twins are old, and red, and fat.
They are old by any measurement of time, objective or subjective, atomic or sidereal. They are red with repletion, with rage and decay. They are fat with everything they have eaten, which was everything in sight.
The red twins circle each other like dinosaurs preparing for a fight. They are locked together, glaring at each other. They have been circling for a thousand million years.
So conjoined are the red twins that they have but one name between them.
They are Capella.
They are the old, red, fat Capella twins. To speak of one of them is to speak of both.
The red twins continue to surround themselves with a mantle of black flux, a vast slow blizzard of degenerate matter. Dyspeptically, they belch up clots of carbon thousands of kilometers across, cosmic smuts that swirl, coagulating, in hyperbolic disintegrating orbits, plunging eternally from destruction into destruction.
It is no wonder that the inhabitants of the Capella System took long, long ago to the high seas of interstellar space, and scattered themselves abroad.
The wonder is that any of them remained.
On the outer edge of the slow and filthy tide there drifted a lump. There was nothing to distinguish it from any other lump in the stellar vicinity; though to a human or posthuman observer, the shape of it might perhaps have suggested, from certain angles, the shell of a tortoise; or the bun of a hamburger; or else a human brain. It had, at one time or another, been compared with all those things.
In fact, it was a starship. It was a ship which had come, through years of torment and nightmare, all the way from Sol.
She was the ship called Plenty.
Her story wascomplicated. Complicated and bizarre.
Plenty had been built by the attenuated aliens known as the Frasque, spun out of a particulate froth extruded from their own twiggy bodies, high above the bustling Earth. Before they could use their creation for whatever obscure purpose they intended, they were pounced upon by their enemies, the Capellans. Deploying a small batallion of enlisted human fighters, the Capellans, alien brain parasites and overlords of everywhere, burned the Frasque out of the corridors of Plenty and eradicated them from the Sol System.
Plenty lingered on, abused by entrepreneurs and opportunists, orbiting inert and dumb, until one day, more by luck than judgment, an ambitious bargee called Tabitha Jute seized upon her, plugged in the artificial persona from her old barge the Alice Liddell, and roused the stardrive that slept unsuspected within her somber depths.
Delighted with her accomplishment, Captain Jute filled the caverns of her new starship with a highly heterogeneous population and took her off for a jaunt to Proxima Centauri.
The history of humankind has been marked perhaps by worse ideas, but not many.
The trip went astray at once. The passengers and crew of Plenty sailed on for ten years longer and forty light-years farther than they had intended. That gave them time, plenty of time, to inflict upon each other and upon themselves all the follies that their imaginations, warped by the inhospitable environment, could conceive.
Some of them survived. Among them, just about, was Tabitha Jute.
Others of the survivors were Captain Jute's old shipmate Dodger Gillespie; her lover, a sulky datapunk called Jone; and the maverick Cherub known as Xtasca. They were the ones who made the arduous descent into the bowels of the ship and discovered that it had been hijacked, by Tabitha's own sister, a tool of the secretive Temple of Abraxas.
The Temple's motives, as usual, were known to them selves alone. Obviously if there was a starship going begging, the Temple, that decadent cabal of posthuman supremacists, would like to have it. But having somehow got their agent aboard, why in all the worlds had they promptly sent it winging off to Capella?
The Capellans, presumably, were behind it all. On board Plenty, a vermiform Capellan now sat coiled inside the skull of each of ten hapless quislings, newly promoted "Guardians."
The Guardians occupied the bridge, the nerve centers of the alien vessel. They sailed through the residential districts, dispensing homilies and toffees, and smiling, smiling, smiling.
Battered and warped by her passage through the probability fault popularly known as hyperspace, the great dun ship rode ponderously in the ocean of ash. Her colossal flanks were cloaked in sooty dust, stained with the red light of the angry twins.
Perhaps she did still resemble the shell of a tortoise: the most horribly mutated tortoise ever born.
Her interior was damaged too. The entire Starboard Inferior Frontal had disappeared. Apartments, businesses, road and foot tunnels, together with their inhabitants, transients, pets, pests, traffic, miarolitic encrustations and coagulating garbageall had vanished at a stroke, as if excised by some titanic surgical operation. Aft, several Limbic shafts now bore no relation to the docks beneath but ran down into what appeared to be a little leftover piece of the discontinuum: a bit of hyperspace itself. It shimmered faintly, like fractal porridge.
Copyright ) 1998 by Colin Greenland