FeatherPenClipArtThis novelette was published in Analog, 09-2014.

Uranus’ moon Ariel hosts a settlement of exiled “Snakes,” aliens who have fought with humans over a starship but been defeated. B’tok is a strategy game. A series of accidents damages both Snake and human mining ships and facilities. Carl Rowland, the administrator in charge of dealing with the Snakes, becomes suspicious that some ploy is afoot. He is returned to Earth after a failed attempt to identify possible alien “interveners” interested in restricting both Snake and human technology. Meanwhile, the Snakes have been working to create a robotic army. Once Rowland is out of the way, Snake leader Glithwah sets out to recapture a starship.

This story has a fairly complex set up and ends very abruptly without resolution. This gives me the idea it might be part of a novel in work. It skips from viewpoint to viewpoint, but I don’t get much of a feel for any of the characters. There’s no description of the settlements or facilities. If they’re using grip strips for shoes to deal with low gravity, then how can someone eat salad out of a bowl? If you’re going to write hard SF, please be accurate. One star.