Author | Lisa Dumond
COLD AS HADES
Hades is a spherical, artificial satellite on the frontier of space. The interior of the Station, as most people refer to it, is built of nesting spheres cut by decks into many levels. Only the very wealthy can afford to live in the outermost shell, the only area to command a view of space. Neighbourhoods vary, but, in general, the closer one gets to the center of the Station , the lower the standard of living. The law is upheld by Hades’ Security, a large force culled from the military and law enforcement ranks of Earth. Government on the Station consists of a Board of Representatives, elected biannually, who follow a charter agreement with Earth. The Station was built as a commercial venture by a group of speculators who then sold controlling interest to a group known as The Darker Society.
The Darker Society (Darkers) originated on Earth as it became fashionable to take on the characteristics of creatures from literature and folklore. Humans allowed themselves to be infected wih the viral curses which would turn them into vampires and werewolves. As these altered beings demanded their place in society, tension developed between the living and the undead. New laws made it illegal to discriminate against anyone falling into one of the undead categories or any of the other categories which came into the open – witches and ghouls. A new class of workers was created when voluntary reanimation legalized the zombie trade.
But the new laws could only control surface conditions; suspicion still existed between the old society and the new. Tolerance for many did not equate with acceptance. Even within the Darker ranks there was mistrust directed at the grave-robbing ghouls and the mind-dead zombies who sign their corpses over for cash in advance. Earth became a divided planet dealing with a new era of political correctness. As tensions on Earth mounted, the Darkers decided to pool their considerable financial holdings and invest in the satellite as a new homeland. It’s a haven for the undead and the cursed, but even the living are welcome. Only ghouls are excluded, based on strict adherence to the body recycling laws in force in space.
Philip Lew is an ex-cop who left Earth because of a minor but embarrassing incident. He settles on Hades, hoping to lose himself in the strangeness of the new world, among creatures he despises. He makes a living now by installing private security systems. Just when Gina, a new lover, comes into his life and things are looking up, his only friend Percy begins to dig into a possible series of missing persons. Philip laughs his theory off until some harmless computer exploration lands Percy in Security lock-up.
Philip goes to work, digging for anything that might prove his friend’s innocence and halt the plans to deport him to Earth. When nothing incriminating turns up on Percy’s computer, Philip and Lester, Percy’s attorney, find the investigation at a virtual standstill.
The relationship with Gina heats up, but threatens to cool when she asks him to help a friend who believes her fiance is missing. As with the other possible cases, little evidence supports the missing person theory, but Philip stumbles onto a voyeur who witnessed an attack in the alley facing the building. The description of the victim matches the missing man.
As Security pushes for Percy’s deportation, Philip and Lester work on stalling tactics and try to uncover the reason for the department’s urgency. Suspicions and paranoia increase exponentially as they learn they are under electronic surveillance. Lester becomes the only link between Philip and the prisoner for passing information, not that Percy has any to give. Of everyone involved Percy is the most confused by the turn of events.
During a visit to the high-rent district of the station, Philip is attacked but escapes with minor injuries and a good look at his attacker. He turns to Security to report the incident and give a description. He is passed from one level to another for some time before he realizes he has made a mistake by contacting Security. With the use of some service codes he opens an interrogation room door and eventually makes his way to the street.
With no way to return to his place and nowhere else to go, Philip reluctantly squeezes into Gina’s tiny cell in a hive apartment complex and rapidly develops cabin fever. Gina acts as his agent until she returns to tell Philip of another disappearance and finds the same attacker waiting outside her building. Before she has time to call Security, officers arrive in disguise and spread throughout the building. Philip and Gina flee seconds ahead of the raid, but with little or no tangible resources.
A brief contact with Lester confirms that the two are being hunted down, but not through offical channels. He warns them to avoid the underbelly of the Station as the forces concentrate on running them to ground.
Because they cannot go down, Philip and Gina go up, to the breathtakingly expensive real estate on the outermost shell of the station. From a base camp in an unoccupied apartment, they make forays to the interior to track down the missing people and the person they now suspect as being a serial killer.
The investigation turns up more missing than they had been aware of, but not a single body surfaces. Talk on the street implicates Security in the disappearances. The two manage to crack a Security computer file, but the face they expect to find is not among the officers, but listed under known felons, with a list of assault charges following him from Earth. They begin to realize the man is being protected by Security and decide to bypass them and try to convince the Board of Representatives.
As an added precaution, Philip and Gina sneak into the Representatives Centre. A wrong turn and a grisly collection of parts answer the question of the missing remains. Even in a society as permissive as Hades’, ghouls are not tolerated and the Representatives will gladly add two more bodies to the stash to keep their secret.
Philip and Gina fight the living and the undead to escape from the ghoul’s lair. With another avenue closing off, they make a last desperate run for a departing ship that carries a high-ranking Earth official who holds the fate of Hades’ charter in her hands. They race against time and the forces who want to silence them, with no guarantee that this official will listen. They fear the conspiracy may spread across the stars.
The Earth Official halts a private security team as they are about to immobilize Philip and Gina and consents to listen to their story. Although the Official’s background is questionable, she believes their accusations and enforces the laws of the charter. The Representatives will be expelled and prosecuted for protecting the serial killer who provided them with fresh bodies. Before the killer can be tracked down, his body turns up in an area conveniently out of sight of the nearest Security post. Security pleads innocence and protests that they were acting under orders.
Percy is released from lock-up and discovers his new status of martyr to be more than enough to keep him on Hades. Gina agrees to return with Philip to Earth for a visit, but makes it clear she will not remain there, whatever he decides to do.