Red Silk

/ November 7, 2016/ Begin, Character Sketches, Stories

Natalya was confused as she left the house, that day. Her father had just informed her that he had found a husband for her to marry, one with a good family and guanxi. She would be leaving within the month. This was good news. At last, she would be free of the shackles of a father who did not make it a secret that he wished she had been a boy.

But at the same time, what would she be going into? What of this husband she had never met? And she would not just be marrying this man. She would be entering his house to live with his family. She had only heard of the Mas; had never met them. But she knew who they were. And she was going to marry the eldest son, Maksym. Was he kind? Good-looking? Or was he ugly, and grateful to be married to someone as handsome as Natalya, even though she came from a far lower-ranking family than his own? Read More

Mr Li, the Odd-job Man

/ October 10, 2016/ Begin, Character Sketches, Stories

On the First Cropship of the White Crane, there were problems at the Waste Recycling Plant. This was not unusual. Today it was a dodgy output manifold, but there was always something leaking, clogged or broken; always something that needed fixing. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but Mr Li had no complaints. As far as he was concerned, there was never a dull moment. Mr Li liked fixing things. He could fix anything.

Here on the Long Yu, water was supremely precious, and what there was had to be collected, cleaned and purified so it could be used again and again – not only by the populace, but by the Emperor himself. The Waste Recycling Plant, overseen by Sergei Ma Gao Lei, the good Lady Ma’s eldest, was there to ensure that no water was ever wasted. But nothing is ever perfect, and over time the losses were significant. Read More

Reenie as a Young Woman

/ July 22, 2016/ Begin, Character Sketches, Stories

Everyone knew Irina Lan Mei. A local beauty on the Fifth Cropship of the Black Rhinoceros, she turned heads wherever she went. She was the object of affection for many a young man, but she had so far turned down every one of them. It was not that she did not want to get married, or that she wasn’t interested. She was simply biding her time. She was young. She would give herself room to be a girl before committing to becoming a woman.

This was a constant source of worry for her family. Society dictated that she simply must get married, and she was now almost twenty-three. If she left it much longer, people would start to gossip. Why hadn’t she married? Did she not like men? Did she *gasp* prefer women?! The Wheels of Rumour span, but Irina was deaf to them. Other people’s opinions had never held much sway, and so she went about her life as she wanted to, with a spring in her step and a smile on her face.

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Mr Ong the Noodle Seller

/ June 13, 2016/ Begin, Character Sketches, Stories

Mr Ong awoke as the cropship entered its daytime phase and the lighting systems powered up. In the back of his rickshaw, he sat up and drew the blanket around him. He had always been an early riser; he enjoyed that sense of being the only one present, the sole witness to events. He enjoyed the silence. But once the light grew brighter and the air began to warm, the silence faded as the first traders arrived and began to set up. Soon the docks would come alive; it was time for Mr Ong to go to work.

He’d taken a bit of a chance yesterday, but the girl’s offer had been too good to refuse. Forty kuai, she’d paid him! Forty kuai for a few dried noodles and a bit of protein concentrate! Plus a couple of mouldy cabbages, he remembered. And an onion.

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