Meet Henrietta, your new favorite preteen space Western thief. She’s all alone on a brand new planet, and she’s about to have a life-changing adventure. Rachael Acks weaves together a few genres in this rip-roaring tale, hopefully not the last we’ll see of this spunky young firebrand!
Fire in the Belly
by Rachael Acks
Henrietta squinted up at the rift ship Phoenix, a skyscraper of blinding metal and until recently the only home she’d ever known, as it lumbered into the sky. Choking clouds of dust turned the sun blood red, but she refused to duck her head or cover her eyes until the ship had become no more than a shining point of light. The wind died down, raining dust onto the landing field, but she kept her pointy chin high and blinked her blue-gray eyes against the sting.
“So this is what bein’ free tastes like,” she murmured, then wiped a swath of dust from her cheek and licked it from her finger. Taste the dirt and know the world, she’d heard the spacers say, and she focused on that instead of the shrill of fear waiting to become full-blown panic in the back of her head. She hadn’t had much of a choice about jumping ship, not if she wanted to keep her skin in one piece. The security boss on the Phoenix had made that abundantly clear with his fist. And so she stood here, wherever that was. “Don’t tell me what this place is called, though.”
Had to make the best of it. Had to keep moving.
A shadow fell over her as she bent to pick up the bundle of clothes at her feet, and someone kicked the back of her knee. She fell on her meager luggage, but came up swinging. “The hell was that for?”
The culprit was a man dressed in a blue suit, the special shade all TransRift employees wore, black tie pencil thin and tacked with a gold four-leaf clover. He wore sunglasses, but she felt him staring all the same, his lip curling up. That was her warning to grab her bundle and scoot. Half a second later, a glob of brown tobacco spit landed where she’d been. “Show some respect, trash muffin.”
She made a rude gesture, dodged another wad of spit. “Ain’t like you’re showin’ any. Got to give to get!”
The man sneered. “Fine words from a damn pocket picker.” He drew his jacket aside, reaching for the smooth black handle of a baton, spring-loaded to break bones. She swallowed back a whimper at the familiar sight. “Get off my landing field before you stink it up.”