I deleted so many scenes… pretty much an entire book of them.

Back in 2016, Architects of Memory had a different title, a different premise, and a far different execution than the version that landed with Tor. The planet Tribulation was only supposed to be the first stop on what was intended to be a galaxy-spanning adventure. In the second chapter, ship’s doctor Reva Sharma mentions that the crew should go to Europa Station to deliver the weapon to Auroran R&D. In 2016’s version, Captain Keller actually listens to her.

This is a scene from Europa Station, where we originally learn more about Ash’s predicament. I hope you like the peek at the wider universe…

(Also, I wrote this in 2016. Be gentle.)

Some long-defunct company had started building Europa Station over a century ago, and since then, the original cylindrical construction—and original owner—had long since been subsumed by better, more modern construction catering to the needs and wants of its corporate citizenry.

Aurora had a hub here, as did her former employer, Wellspring Industries, but it was water purifying giant Agua Europa that basically ran the place these days, placing new construction snaking around the old, cutting off the competition’s airlocks and buying off their inspectors. Europa wasn’t the biggest of the home-system stations, but in recent years, Agua Europa had made it the most important.

Everyone on Europa had some sort of investment in the water-supply industry, sucking up the moisture from the moon’s vast oceans, processing it for human consumption and delivering it to the strong, boxy supply ships that made regular deliveries to colonies and outlying stations that hadn’t yet been able to cut the cord, but Agua Europa had turned it into a science. They supplied smaller outfits that couldn’t afford their own facilities—tiny, five-person independent nations, colony crews, and immigrant deserters. And ever since they’d started doing it faster and better than anyone else, they’d made a lot of enemies.

Each time Ash disembarked, something was different. This time, Agua Europa owned the metrocar system, and had taken over sponsorship of the central market, so Jackson and Natalie chose the tight but well-lit Auroran access corridors rather than pay the passing toll.

“Christ, what a crowd,” Natalie groused. She hoisted the bag on her shoulder, pushing aside a sweat-stained engineer who seemed as eager as she was to be elsewhere.

“Gets bigger every year,” Ash said, feeling dizzy, setting her jaw and moving on. “I can’t believe you’ve never been here.”

Natalie flashed her middle finger at someone who cut her off. “We never made it this close to home during the war.”

“Even for Auroran standards, it’s a little cramped.”

“As long as there’s a bar,” Natalie said.

Ash didn’t relax until she was back in the Auroran sector, surrounded by familiar blue walls. The sector hadn’t changed that much—same overpriced stores, same tiny corridors, same manual access hatches that fed the power grid. Feeling terribly ill, Ash left Natalie at the indenture capsule dorm and went to find the medical hostel Schenke recommended. She discovered it tucked down in a quiet section she’d seen before but had never been allowed to access—and still couldn’t, without Schenke’s special codes.

She tried not to think about how much it was going to cost her.

It happens to everyone, she reminded herself. Resources are resources, consumption is consumption, and the stars are not kind.

Author: Karen Osborne

KAREN OSBORNE is a writer, visual storyteller and violinist. Her short fiction appears in Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny and Fireside. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding. Her debut novel, Architects of Memory, is forthcoming in 2020 from Tor Books.