It’s nowhere near the actual year’s end. But it’s beginning to look a lot like for-your-consideration season, and since I only have two things this year for your consideration and don’t anticipate having more, I will just go ahead and round up all both of them right now.
It could not be said that Captain Jack Valiant objected to illicit custom; what she did object to, strenuously, was being entered into such an arrangement without her foreknowledge and consent.
“It is my most ardent desire,” the Captain said sotto voce to the great blond bear of a man at her shoulder, “that the portmaster should fling himself into the God-damned sea.”
“He would have to go some way,” her Chief Mate observed. “Better to desire he fling himself into the river, no?”
“Desire knows neither reason nor geography, Mr. Kuznetsov.” The Captain stepped forward to address the trio waiting amongst their baggage on the gangway. “I am sorry; you could have the sigil of Black Bess herself and I’d still tell you to sod off. The Blackbird is a cargo vessel, neither obliged nor licensed to ferry passengers anywhere, much less to the bloody Sebiran border. As Mr. Hewlett damned well knows.”
Salvage is the only long-term game in the universe.
No tyrant of the star-nets or titan of trade ever admired a salvage crew; we’re the crows on their trash-heaps, the rats in their walls. But I don’t think any of them’s ever considered, either, that when their names have long gone airless and their works are rust and shadow, it’s junkers who write their elegies.
Every empire ever raised eventually falls. And sooner or later, the crows always come for the corpses.
Neither of these stories is currently available free online, but if you are a SFWA or current WorldCon member and have any interest in considering either one for a nomination, drop me a line and I can send you PDFs of either or both.