As with so many, knowledge of Jim Wolfe’s childhood and background is sketchy. We’re pretty sure he was born (splice assisted? Who knows?) around AV403, but his early life is a closed book. We understand however his interest in the V-Cities began in childhood. His first known writing (from around AV421) was titled ‘A V-City adventure’, the first sentence of which is ‘The prior morning mist spiralled hopefully around the vibrating spheres. James glanced scornfully down.’
It is surely good these early works have been lost.
He comes into more prominence in his late twenties, with his first historical novel ‘The age of the builder.’ This was followed a few years later by the 3 volume set (‘When the floods came,’ ‘The time of the street gangs’ and ‘The age of anarchy’) all of which were well received.
The ‘comic interlude’ (as he described it) of ‘Unicorns United’ was a failure and this propelled him back to the V-Cities, where his next set about the V-CityC war (‘The rise of the Space Army’, ‘The Flawed Empire’ and ‘When all is dark.’) Went global.
And now he is engaged in producing what many think will be his finest work. For with ‘The making of Heroes’ Jim is finally writing about his favorite heroine: Abigail Eastwind, pulling her out from the past and giving her a weight and reality so often missing from these narratives. Jim’s dome is ‘somewhere near the escarpment.’ He has four VFs, a DocBot called Harvey and is rumoured to have at least one son and possibly one daughter. (Splice assisted? Who knows?)
When planets align, some are good, some are bad. Mixed blessings.
The V-City streets coil like stacked metallic boa constrictors around the central structure. Mile after curving mile, one on top of each other, linked by stairways at regular, defined intervals. And this is where, like rats, the street dwellers live during the day, retreating inwards at night. And – like rats – they have punished and pummelled the V-Cities, with fresh holes and tunnels appearing as if the massive structures were no more than a giant cheese.
But try as they will, the street dwellers are in decline. If there were a census – not that there has been a census for many, many decades – it would show a steady reduction in babies born and a steady increase in early deaths. Even to those existing in the streets, this history is evident: big communities have shrunk and small ones fail; the distances between them lengthen; the packs of feral dogs become more hungry and traverse further in search of food; the Space Army still entices the young and fit to join them; the jungle offers a place of short freedoms and the E-Spiders – Spides – are rumoured to take a nightly toll of the unwary. And they do not – cannot – dare not – approach the Upsiders in the top fifty floors.
Spiker Gomez was not aware the planets in his particular solar system were moving implacably into conjunction. He was padding along at the steady trot that eats up the miles. Ahead, the street curved gently, restricting vision to about a hundred yards. To one side a corpse had been placed for disposal, the arms crossed on the chest, the legs straight. Overnight the dogs would tear and chew and carry away; in under a week there would be just a stain on the rusting metallic plates; within a month all evidence would have evaporated like smoke. One more street life lived and forgotten.
Soon, Spiker would be home, locking and barring the door behind him. Hera would be on the bike, furiously accumulating the charge so they could cook whatever it was he had. This day he had done well: a pair of rabbits had run into his snares and he’d found them before the dogs. Now they bounced in the plastic bag in the sack on his back. Hera might even smile when she saw them. But probably not.
The planets clicked into place.
In front of Spiker appeared a man. A street tough. The tattooed chameleon – neatly done in blue and gold – on his forehead marked him as a Clansman. Well muscled and hard he wore a leather jerkin with chainmail links. Spiker slowed. In his hand appeared the spike that gave him his name. On seeing him, the Clansman braced and drew his sword.
It is said the street dwellers that survive gain an extra sense. Or perhaps they survive because they have this extra sense.
Spiker swung round, fast. Behind him, as quiet as a grave, and too far away for any sudden assault, another street tough. Another Clansman. Large and as hard as granite, with restless, shifting eyes.
Spiker backed over to the wall. The inner wall. He needed a rat hole. But they had chosen well. There were no holes. No hidden exits.
The one from behind – obviously the one in charge – put up his hand. “Yo Spiker.”
The traditional street greeting. It meant ‘I am not a threat.’
But then they would say that, wouldn’t they?
Cautiously, eyes darting from one to the other, Spiker put up his hand. “Yo.” The smaller of the two, to his right, had three missing chainmail links, high, near the right shoulder. A vulnerable spot but not immediately fatal. Pity. Spiker waited.
Eventually the leader spoke again. “Kzar wants to see you.”
Spiker nearly said ‘Kzar? But he never sees anyone.’ but he didn’t. Instead he folded his arms. “What does he want?”
“I said, to see you. He has a proposition.” He extended his arm, palm down, wrist exposed. “He told me jolt you this.”
Spiker felt his own arm tingle. A jolt of fifty creds. That would be useful. Might even gain them a mating pair of rabbits. But then where would they get the fodder? But fifty creds was fifty creds, and Spiker found himself relaxing. “OK,” he said. “Tomorrow.”
And the reply was – as Spiker knew it would be – “Not tomorrow. Now. Guest rights.”
Spiker considered. Guest rights. A courtesy with no real meaning unless offered by the right person, in person. And Kzar – the right person – was not here. But the proposition was probably real, else why the fifty creds? And if it wasn’t, Kzar would have sent more men and they would have already attacked.
And Spiker was curious: the reclusive street boss – who had been in power for longer than anyone could remember – very very seldom granted an audience.
Spiker shrugged and went with them. Guest rights should give him a safe haven through the night. If not, well … he’d probably become just another body to be disposed of.