by Samantha Henderson
Joey Straphos, Papa Joe, told me once that Chandra’s Game is a bitch of a city, fickle but generous when the mood strikes her. But Papa Joe was a romantic.
Chandra’s Game roots in the side of a barren asteroid moon like a tick. Over the years we’ve burrowed deeper into rock and ice until poor Chandra is mostly Game. We loop the twin wormholes, Gehenna and Tartarus, roundabout in a figure eight, ready to catch the freighters as they escape from hell’s dark maw. We strip them of goods and drink their heat, load them up and send them into another hell. It’s a profitable game, Chandra’s.
My mother smuggled me into Chandra’s Game without patronage and compounded her error by dying without permission; I was Terra-born unless she was lying, which was likely enough. I joined the other unregistereds down in the Warrens: ferals that lived off the Mayor’s Dole and by odd-jobs when that wasn’t enough. Papa Joe fed us, and sometimes the tunnels were glorious with the smell of meat, and if you were smart or hungry enough you didn’t ask from what. Where there’s humanity there are rats, and Joey wasn’t a rich man, not then. But food is food, and he’d bunk you if he could, and if all he asked in return for the latest Warren scuttlebutt or a few sticks of ephedrine off a freighter’s load, what of it? Saints are few and far between in Chandra’s Game.
Papa Joe always liked me: I stayed a bit feral, tomboy—nothing like his daughters. He had them late in life, when he got rich, and they were elegant, lux level creatures. Not like Joey, not like Mrs. Joe. She was quiet and kind, and if she knew a nano of Joey’s business she never let on. When Gregor Straphos died I died a little. But Mrs. Joe died all the way.
I’d been legit for years. I still snooped, but in an upright way. Helped the Company Men find bits of their loads that went astray between Gehenna and Tartarus, passed on Warren talk to the prefects when some smart kid got out of hand, pointed the way to speedwell labs that weren’t circumspect about what went into their product. Nothing that would disturb the delicate balance between the business of the Family, the Companies and the Mayor.