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Robert Roth

Steal the Demon

A Science-Fiction Novella

First published by Jetspace Studio 2021

Copyright © 2021 by Robert Roth

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmittedin any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise withoutwritten permission from the publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or distributeit by any other means without permission.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it arethe work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localitiesis entirely coincidental.

Robert Roth has no responsibility for the persistenceor accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet Websites referred to in this publication and does notguarantee that any content on such Websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

First edition

If you don’t enter the tiger’s cave, you won’t catch its cub.

-Japanese Proverb



1. A Hacker Walks Into A Bar

2. Practical Utility

3. Duck When All The Shooting Starts

4. You Are Advised To Hurry

5. That’s Quite The Welcoming Committee


About the Author

Also by Robert Roth


I couldn’t have produced this work without the gracious and generous assistance of several fine people, including my partner José, who helped me refine, tighten, and polish my prose–especially the action scenes, and my friend Eric, whose continuing willingness to dive into my unfinished work is always appreciated. Thanks as well to Galahad for such a thoughtful critique, and to Henry for not only providing excellent feedback and editing skills, but also helping with one of the hardest parts of believable worldbuilding: future slang.


A Hacker Walks Into A Bar

Kimiko sat at a tiny table tucked into a corner far from the massive viewport, trying not to fidget while she ignored the breathtaking, panoramic view of 511 Davida, the giant rock that Davida Station orbited. Of course, she’d seen it when she walked in. It was impossible to miss. A sea of twinkling lights shimmered on the dark surface of Davida like the nighttime windows of far-off highrises, a distant city just over the curve of an impossible horizon. But the only civilization to be found there was in orbit. The lights on the surface were merely the glowing marks of heavy industry. Like so many others in the Belt, the rock was a rich source of Ceresium, along with numerous other valuable elements and metals, and the pinpricks of light in the viewport were mining facilities.

But she hadn’t seen city lights, or mining facilities, when she caught a glimpse of the station’s craggy neighbor. Instead, they reminded Kimiko of racing beacons, much like the ones she’d seen during her years in the Belt racing circuit. Back then, she’d flung her young body and dangerously overpowered ship into improbably high-g turns around rock after rock in what would seem like careless abandon to a casual observer, but was instead the result of precise calculations and intense training. She sometimes pined for those days from her carefree youth, but not as much as she missed being in the pilot’s seat at all.

An unexpected news report about her father showing on the viewscreens above the bar had made short work of any reminiscing about racing out in the cold and black. Kimiko was surprised to see it, since it was already old news. At least she wasn’t in it. Something like that could’ve easily blown her cover, if any of the joes sitting at the bar happened to spot her after seeing her face shining down on them. She’d otherwise made peace with the annoyance of being the daughter of someone notoriously newsworthy.

Kimiko considered it to be part of her giri, an ancient concept, culturally unique to the Downwell Earth islands her ancestors had once called home. She had a vague understanding of it–enough to have an idea of what it meant, but not enough to accurately describe it out loud.

In one sense, giri alluded to responsibility or duty. Her father, Ichiko Hitomi, the (former) head of Hitomi Shipping, (formerly) one of the largest indie shipping and supply companies in the Belt, had once been duty-bound to ensure the well-being of the employees under his care. That was his giri. While it could be argued that he still had that duty, it also could’ve fallen on her, as his daughter, after he’d been picked up by the Confederation Security Group. But her father’s absence left him unable to fulfill his duties to his former staff and left her affairs in a perilously unstable orbit. After his arrest by the CSG on smuggling charges, Confederation Compliance convicted him and sent him off to the Jovian system’s Callisto mines. They’d also seized all of his and his company’s assets, leaving Kimiko with no resources and barely enough possessions to fill the tiny compartment in Motherlode that she could hardly even afford.

Giri also suggested owing favors or being in someone’s debt. For instance, Kimiko had earned her reputation as one of the System’s best pilots, thanks to her father’s resources and her Uncle Shinzo’s tutelage. The giri she owed from that pushed her to put those skills to use for Hitomi Shipping, where she’d also made a reasonably lucrative living as a pilot and smuggler. But, following her father’s downfall, the Hitomi name had suddenly and irreparably redshifted from an asset into a liability. Kimiko submitted employment inquiries under that name for all of the pilot listings she’d seen on the Motherlode job boards. That was how she discovered that the weight of her father’s disgrace overshadowed her own reputation to such a degree that she received only a polite no from the few companies that even bothered to respond. Mostly, her inquiries were met with silence.

What she was left with was her personal giri, or her duty to

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