This was a fun read and a highlight for me this issue. I read it in one sitting because I didn’t want to put it down. It’s like a solid episode of a sci-fi TV show you didn’t know you wanted to be watching.
The crew of the Aizsargs are in charge of closing off a Sector Base no longer in use by the Fleet – a giant flotilla of ships traversing space together (“always forward”). The Fleet takes 500 years to pass over any given point from start to finish, so they often occupy or associate with bases for a long time before shutting them down. Mid-closure, however, a strange ship – the Renegat – appears out of foldspace in distress. It looks to be over a hundred years old with questionable signs of life on board and the crew of the Aizsargs sets up a rescue mission, despite not knowing where or when the Renegat came from, who’s on board, or even how to conduct the rescue mission on a ship that old.
This novella is set in Rusch’s established Diving Universe, but even for someone not familiar with it Rusch sets up a world that feels full and established despite the short word length.
Despite the simple premise of the story, the pacing is fast and Rusch manages to give it a lot of character and emotional depth. There were multiple perspective characters throughout and each one, despite some of them only getting two or so scenes, had an arc and a place in the story. The cast felt full, with histories and futures that extended beyond the edges of the story told here. Fantastic stuff.