Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 434, September 9, 2007

"A standing government is a bad idea."

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Sneak Peek
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

AUTHOR'S NOTE: what follows is a brief excerpt from my so-far unpublished novel, Ceres. The book tells the story of two teenagers, a brother and a sister, the great grandchildren of Emerson Ngu, whom you may remember as the viewpoint character in my novel Pallas (Tor, 1993).

The boy, Wilson Ngu, wants to be one of the Solar System's many asteroid hunters, who seek and capture (or at least divert) rocks hurtling through space, in order to harvest their mineral wealth and prevent them from causing catastrophes like the one that killed the dinosaurs.

The girl, Llyra Ngu, born and raised like her brother on the terraformed asteroid Pallas, dreams of someday ice skating competitively on Earth, in twenty times the gravity of her native world. To do this, she spends a number of years travelling with her young Chechen coach, Jasmeen Khalidov, from one point to another in the System, always into heavier and heavier gravity where she can train.

In this scene, the girls are leaving the Moon, where they've been for the past two years in one-sixth gravity, headed for Mars—Jasmeen's homeworld—where Llyra can train at a third gravity for a while.

While individuals who live on all of the other settled worlds are free, politically, a small handful of totalitarian regimes survive on Earth. Unfortunately, at this particular point in history, the only regularly-scheduled transportation between the Moon and Mars is aboard the fusion-powered liners of a corporation wholly owned and operated by the East American government, all that remains of the former United States ...


"Step over here for security inspection!" The woman's voice was sharp.

Not sure exactly what she'd heard, Llyra asked, "What did you say, ma'am?"

"Be quick about it, and save your sexist remarks!" the woman ordered. "We have a schedule to keep!"

Llyra made a point of looking behind her. They were early, and there was nobody in line with her but her coach. Llyra had never seen a balding woman before. This specimen had greasy, thinning, gray hair through which the girl could see more shiny scalp than she cared to. The woman was repulsively fat in a way few Pallatians ever were. She also had a better moustache than her brother Wilson would likely ever grow.

The brim of the military-style cap the woman wore unmilitarily on the back of her head was covered with smudgy fingerprints and gold decorations her grandmother had once told her real soldiers called "scrambled eggs". The woman's medium blue uniform shirt had epaulets, with braided gold and navy blue cords hanging from them almost to her waist. And although the shift had just begun—Llyra and Jasmeen had watched the "changing of the guard" as the earlier crew clocked out and the new one clocked in—the armpits of her shirt were already salt- and sweat-stained from the previous day's work, and she smelled sour.

As the girls complied, they passed between a pair of chromed metal contrivances of about Llyra's height, a head taller than Jasmeen. An alarm sounded. The security woman and the slight, anemic-looking man who shared her shift, rushed around the rostrum they had been waiting behind.

"Drop your baggage," the woman screamed at them, spraying droplets of saliva at them. "Hold your arms out at shoulder height—do it now!"

She ran an electronic object down Llyra's body until it beeped loudly. "What's this?" she demanded, reaching for the edge of the light coat the girl had decided to travel in. Llyra backed up half a step.

She dropped her arms and turned to face the woman squarely. "Not that you have any right to ask me, but that's my personal defense weapon."

"Come here, Missy, you're going to be adding to our collection!" The woman reached for her again. Llyra noticed she had garlic and alcohol on her breath. The girl backed up another step. Before the woman could advance, Jasmeen, smaller than either one, stood between them.

"Let her alone, cow!" Jasmeen told her.

The woman turned on her heel, faster than Llyra would have expected. "I guess that qualifies you for some special attention, too, dearie!"

She laid a fat hand on Jasmeen's shoulder. Llyra just had time to notice that her fingernails were dirty. Then there was an explosion of motion, and when it was over, in less than a second, the woman lay on the floor, her huge breasts squashed out sideways by her weight. One arm was on the floor, the other stretched straight upward behind her, being twisted about half a turn farther than Llyra would have thought possible.

Jasmeen's foot was on her neck and the side of her head.

Llyra bent nearly double to look the woman in the face. "Jasmeen, I think you're right. She does look just like a cow." The woman's eyes were bulging with surprise and terror, as if she were about to be branded.

"You shouldn't have touched her, you know," Llyra said to the woman."She's Martian. They like being touched even less than they like being yelled at and ordered around. They probably like being disarmed less."

Llyra looked up. It appeared they were surrounded by the entire East American garrison in the Moon, guns drawn, shock rods held high. Most of them wore spacelines livery in as shabby condition as the woman's.

One of them was brandishing a clipboard.

"Go ahead, stupids, do what you have to do," said Jasmeen grimly, shifting the foot on the woman's neck a little and pulling harder on her arm. Something popped. Something else crackled faintly. The woman groaned and whimpered. "Your colleague will be dead before I hit floor."

"And maybe three or four of you," Llyra added, drawing the ten millimeter pistol she hadn't wanted to show them, "will be joining her."

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at, or at


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