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The Mandroid Murders

by Robin C.M. Duncan

The Mandroid Murders - Robin C.M. Duncan
Part of the Quirk & Moth series:
Editions:Paperback - First Edition: $ 16.95
ISBN: 9781735076867
Size: 9.00 x 6.00 in
Pages: 344
ePub - First Edition: $ 4.99
ISBN: 9781735076867
Pages: 501

They say, “Never work with androids or children.”
Quirk had one job to do, deliver papers to a Milan mafia boss, before leaving Earth for his home in the asteroids. But that was before being tailed, poisoned—oh, yes—and hijacked into raising foulmouthed fourteen-year-old convent girl Angelika Moratti, aka Moth, who'd rather see him asphyxiate in space.

Fleeing assassins, Quirk, Moth and her syRen® android S-0778 ride the space elevator to the Moon, where Quirk hires on to hunt an ex-terra-former who somehow used an android to murder his doctor. But which android of the two hundred under Lunaville’s dome? The trail of bodies grows, time is running out; the only way they can save the dome and the two thousand souls beneath it is to solve The Mandroid Murders.

Genres: Science Fiction / Thriller / Mystery / Adventure / LGBT and Non Binary

Market: Adult

Publisher: Space Wizard Science Fantasy
Cover Artists:
Tropes: AI Uprising, Asteroid Miner, Bad Robot, Body Modifications, Conspiracy, Dying World, Dystopian Governments, Evil Megacorporation, Found Family, Good Robots, Interstellar Travel, Oxygen Leak, Person in Distress, Uploaded Consciousness
Word Count: 100000
Setting: Earth, future
Languages Available: English
Tropes: AI Uprising, Asteroid Miner, Bad Robot, Body Modifications, Conspiracy, Dying World, Dystopian Governments, Evil Megacorporation, Found Family, Good Robots, Interstellar Travel, Oxygen Leak, Person in Distress, Uploaded Consciousness
Word Count: 100000
Setting: Earth, future
Languages Available: English



Departure+20 ESD (Earth Standard Days)

91,000,000 kilometres from Earth



Long-haul travel was a bitch. The security checks, the datawork, then twenty-three days in a pressurised tube. Even the drinking became tiresome after a hundred million kilometres. And all the smiling. It made his face ache. Smiling at flight crew presented no hardship, but smiling at the androids went beyond the pale. Then again, an android syRen® might read a scowl as a sign of discontent, undesirable on a 690-million-kilometre flight from Hygeia to Mother Earth, during which discontent should be mitigated. So the Laws and Tenets of Robotics directed humanity’s android helpers. Thus, Quirk smiled at the syRen® steward as it served him the latest in a long line of gin and tonics. This smile—compact and efficient—he entitled Please Don’t Taser Me, I’m Just a Harmless Detective. A clunky label, but it might just spare him the embarrassment of ending up sprawled, twitching, on the carpet with drool on his chin. A syRen® would not intervene for such a small thing, of course, but a scowl may attract attention he did not want. So, Quirk sipped Vienna Woods Botanical Eleven gin—refreshing tonic bubbling through plaper straw—and watched the slow shifting of the stars.

Earth. What constituted ambient temperature in Hell these days? This may be a milk run, but the job still meant Earth, Milan, the Rigel Corporation. The Family—as the archaic euphemism went—La Cosa Nostra, the Honoured Society, albeit wrapped up under the corporate respectability (as far as that ever went) of the Rigel logo. He sipped again. Just a dead drop for Toni di Fantano, legal, apparently, easy money, and one in the eye for his former employer and father-in-law. Not that The Old Man likely thought of him much anymore despite Quirk working for the old bastard for five years, but Quirk did. Even now he thought plenty about what TOM and his C Corp corporate behemoth had done to him, and to Jennifer, although she’d begged for it. Progeny delivered to your door. Skip that nasty nappy stage, sidestep the sleepless nights, here’s a five-year-old son, go straight to grade school do not pass “Go.” Yet TOM had overridden him, disregarded Jennifer’s mental state, just did what the hell TOM wanted, because that’s what TOM did, and everyone else be damned.

The plaper straw rasped empty again. He fished out his cLife handset, thumbed up last order and hit ‘repeat’ then looked out of the window. After this he’d take a break, put his feet up somewhere out of the way. The stars moved sideways, enveloped in darkness, emptiness. He hoped Jennifer still resided in the tender care of the Gramercy Refuge. She deserved better than life had meted out to her in the last five years, not least from him. And there it was, analysis confirmed. Walking out on Jennifer and the son…Nick, still the best thing he’d ever done for them, and for himself.

Enter the syRen® with his next G&T.

Quirk raised the glass to the android. “Thank you, my man.”

Did it just roll those violet eyes? Nothing would surprise him now.


* * *


05:54, 4 August 2099, Geostation One,

58,000 kilometres above Cayambe, Ecuador, Earth


Once again, the three-week trip from Hygeia to Geostation One—dangling forlorn from Earth’s west space elevator—resembled passing through a whale’s colon: tight and hot without hope of a happier place at the end. None of the shuttle’s eight passengers looked on their best form—grey jumpsuits rumpled, clumping down the pastel pink link tunnel to the transit hub, grippy magboots lending their strides that familiar straight-legged awkwardness. At least Quirk’s pinstriped Merrion suit lay safely folded in its bespoke case. An affectation in places like this, but it remained important, sartorially and symbolically. And it would serve him well in Geo One’s sole cocktail bar this evening, or whatever current Earth hour it was plus a shower and a shave.

He sorely wished not to be returning to the concourse tomorrow to start the tedious trip down in the space elevator, followed by a flight to his ultimate destination. He scanned his cLife at the security station then followed the device’s directions to his pre-booked podroom, strolling in the wake of the other passengers, who dispersed through the low-ceilinged concourse like debris from the epicentre of a lazy explosion.

In this space, pastel green light illuminated the plastec surfaces. He passed a young father wrangling a pair of kids. The family’s male model syRen® held their bags, looking on with impassive violet eyes at the young man’s agitation. The universe really was taking the piss now, wasn’t it? He wondered for the Nth time—where N was a variable proportional to the number of G&T’s he’d consumed in the last three weeks—about visiting Jennifer after the Milan drop was done. But how could he face his ex-wife when he only barely managed to look at his own reflection in the morning? Bad idea, and no chance reminder of the trappings of familial bliss would change that. Anyway, news of a visit would reach The Old Man, who no doubt would relish turning away from his interstellar corporate empire long enough to divert a healthy dose of misery Quirk’s way, even without TOM learning he’d done a favour for TOM’s rival, the capo di tutti capi of The Rigel Corporation.

This place really was a hole. A claustrophobic carbuncle on the glistening oblate spheroid of Earth, but Geostation One did have a saving grace, its bioshowers. Once his luggage arrived and the android departed, Quirk commenced soaking under the rainforest deluge setting—water optimised to his skin type, body temperature, etcetera; nature sounds tuned to his brainwaves—for a full half hour. Unspooling relaxation gave his thoughts freedom to roam, time to stroll down memory lane, beyond the ache of what he still considered Jennifer’s betrayal of him, and TOM’s betrayal of her. The job at C Corp started like a dream and, true to form, remained all sweetness and light until it didn’t. Go to Bogota. All you need to do is fly the plane. Shanghai? Just collect the package: you don’t need to know what’s in it. Customs? You’ll be taking a different route. How long had he sought the disconnect, the window he could leap from to disentangle himself from C Corp, The Old Man, even Jennifer? Too long. Long enough for a deadly showdown between CC and the Rigel Corporation to happen along. Long enough for Quirk to step into the middle of it up to his ankles, to have his life saved by a gangster, and to end up owing Toni di Fantano a favour. He only hoped this would work out better than his bright idea at C Corp: marrying the boss’s daughter. At least he’d maintained his independence these past five years. Toni clearly valued that. Organisational flexibility he called it. Whatever the label, this time Quirk was done. No more favours.

Soaked, soaped, air-blown dry and thoroughly refreshed, Quirk opted for the hypoallergenic antiperspirant topcoat, which also imparted a slight darkening to his skin. It wouldn’t do to pitch up all pasty-faced in Milan. Far better to blend in as best he could when on business for Rigel. But just because he had a dubious job to do, there was no law against looking good doing it.

Stepping from the bioshower, yet another screen caught his eye. A postage stamp advert playing in the corner of the room’s mirro_screen. A happy family went about buying some new possession. He scowled, looked away, waved a hand to dismiss the intrusion. “I get the message: families are nice, go get one today.”

He drew a deep breath, seeking calm, then opened his case.

Pants, socks, shirt, tie, the suit trousers and buckling of his black leather belt, then his slightly too narrow Lingwood shoes. He took a full minute before the mirro_screen then picked up the pinstriped indigo jacket, brushed lightly at imaginary lint, and swung it around his shoulders. His hands slipped through the cream-coloured silk lining, still cool from the airless hold. The mirror image was pleasing. He nodded. Jennifer, you absolute bitch. As if nothing had happened those five years ago in San Francisco, nor in Milan in the five years since. He was alone.

He was complete.


About the Author

Robin C.M. Duncan is a Scot born and living in Glasgow. A Civil Engineer by profession, he has been writing for decades, but seriously only for the last ten years. Robin has completed various novels, numerous short stories, novellas, novelettes, and poems, with copious other projects in different stages of incompletion.

Robin’s short story The NEU Oblivion was long-listed for the 2019 James White Award. His first published works, the novellas Dew Diligence and The Bibliothek Betrayal, appear in the Distant Gardens anthology of 2021, available in pb/eb/audio from Space Wizard Science Fantasy.

Robin belongs to the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers’ Circle, the Reading Excuses critique group, the British Fantasy Society, and the British Science Fiction Association. Robin likes LEGO, gardening, heavy metal, football (soccer), and long walks on the beach. Robin does not own a cat, but is slightly acquainted with one.