QSFer Mary E. Lowd has a new queer space opera out: “The Entropy Fountain.”
There is no rest for heroes. Clarity saved the universe once, but it already needs saving again.
Against reservations and amid arguments, Clarity rescues a pair of Doraspian diplomats on the run. The two sentient plants and their reptilian advisor are keeping a secret that could make their own government turn on them, and turn them into science-experiments waiting to be dissected.
In need of answers, Clarity and her crew head to Wespirtech, the foremost research institute in their corner of the galaxy, where scientists play with the principles of the universe like kids play with toys.
Clarity learns that when her crew sewed the universe back together, something got tangled in the thread, and she must race against a fleet of Doraspians to stop universes from colliding. Every member of her crew must decide: are they up for saving the universe again? Or will Clarity lose her new found family and have to face off against the Doraspians alone?
“So what’s involved in piloting this thing?” Teya asked suddenly.
Irohann said, “Why? You hoping to take your grandpop’s job?”
“That’s the idea,” Teya agreed.
“First off,” Clarity said. “Cassie’s not a thing.” In fact, she could have sworn that she saw the pink glow of Cassie’s bioluminescent patches dim slightly when Teya called her a ‘thing.’
Cassie loved bunnies. She would have instantly loved Teya as soon as she came aboard. And casual cruelty hurts the most from those you love.
Now Teya looked uncomfortable, and her body language was eerily similar to Roscoe’s. “Okay, fine. So, what’s involved in piloting this… uh… ship?”
“Her name’s Cassie, short for Cassiopeia,” Clarity said. “And you have to let her hook her brain up to yours with tentacles that latch onto your head.”
Teya stared at Clarity like she was joking.
Clarity was not joking.
“Your minds kind of blend together,” Clarity said.
“It’s damned disconcerting,” Irohann added.
“You’ve both done it?” Teya asked. “I thought Grandpop Roscoe was the pilot.”
“Crazy stuff happens when you’re saving the universe,” Irohann said.
Clarity couldn’t have said it better herself.
“So, if you can both pilot, uh, Cassie, then why do you even need Grandpop? I mean, I can tell he doesn’t really want to be here.”
It was Clarity’s turn to feel uncomfortable. She had abandoned Cassie and the rest of them during their last mission, swearing she was going to buy a new ship of her own and never see the rest of them again. It had not been her best moment. She didn’t want to share it with an idealistic and judgmental young lapine.
Irohann said, “He feels responsible for Cassie. She may be a spaceship, but she’s also very young.”
Teya rolled her eyes dramatically.
“Younger than you,” Clarity said.
“By quite a bit,” Irohann added. “And she’s dealing with a lot more—she didn’t ask to be a spaceship. She didn’t ask to be trained in ways that took her fondness for cute, fuzzy animal videos and exploited it, growing the fondness into an, um…” Irohann’s ears twisted around, showing he was keenly aware of the fact that Cassie could be listening to the conversation currently happening in her belly, “well, an intense, compulsive desire for a lapine pilot, just because you look a little like an animal from the human home world.”
“Wait…” Teya’s ears shot straight up, very, very tall. “Cassie is a spaceship that loves bunnies?”
Again, Clarity felt sure that she could see the pink light in the scullery dim. Teya had better not start laughing.
“Make fun of this powerful, graceful, and generous spaceship at your own peril,” Clarity said, teeth clenched. She felt suddenly very protective of Cassie. “She is keeping you alive, safe, warm and breathing. And she doesn’t have to. She could ditch us all and go frolic in a nebula. But she’s chosen to take care of us instead, because she’s really kind and good.”
And the pink light surged, glowing brighter than Clarity had seen it before. The surge was noticeable enough that even Teya froze, twitchy nose suddenly still.
Oksana looked up toward the ceiling of the scullery where the bioluminescent patches were thickest. “Cassie’s listening to us?”
“And you never know where some of Mazillion’s bodies might be perched,” Clarity added, “so this isn’t the best place for keeping secrets.”
Irohann caught her eye. The secret of his previous identity was safe, because Wisper would scrub it from any computer systems where it popped up, and the only people who knew it were completely loyal. But now there were new people aboard Cassie, and one of them wanted to become Cassie’s pilot, which meant mind-blending with her. Which meant learning Irohann’s secret.
“You’d need to really prove yourself,” Irohann said, “before you’d be ready to try piloting Cassie.”
Teya nodded, ears folding over at their tips. She seemed to be carefully considering Irohann and Clarity’s words, as well as Cassie’s visual addition to the conversation. “I can do that,” she said. “I can prove myself to Cassie.”
Irohann’s wolfy muzzle opened, but he closed it without saying anything. He had probably meant for Teya to prove herself to him, Clarity, and Roscoe. Maybe Mazillion. But Teya had seen right past all of them. And it was true: Cassie was the only one she really needed to prove herself to.
And if a young bunny decided to charm Cassie? Well, this troublemaker of a lapine could probably poach their spaceship right out from under their feet if they weren’t careful.
Mary E. Lowd is a prolific science-fiction and furry writer in Oregon. She’s had more than 180 short stories and a half dozen novels published, always with more on the way. Her work has won numerous awards, and she’s been nominated for the Ursa Major Awards more than any other individual. She is also the founder and editor of Zooscape. She lives in a crashed spaceship, disguised as a house and hidden behind a rose garden, with a large collection of animals, both real and imaginary, who collectively serve as her muse.