Excerpt from "Star Reacher"

It was Trudi who made Bastian aware that what he was doing was, in fact, art, and just what the word really meant. His notebooks full of sketches, the drawings he taped to the walls of the flat, the strange creations he wired or welded together—the making of these things was not optional. It was as essential as food or water or oxygen, Trudi insisted. “And don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not!”

By “anyone,” she meant Jochim. The two of them loathed each other.

Jochim had thrown a fit when he learned Bastian and Trudi were engaged. “Don’t do it, Bastian! She’s bad news. You’re going to find that out, and I’m going to be there to say I told you so!” Once they were married, he barely spoke to Bastian at all, except to complain that Trudi was filling Bastian’s head with nonsense, trying to turn him from a regular person into some fancy art school egghead.

Trudi countered that Jochim was the worst kind of person there was: the kind with no imagination. And she wasn’t about to let him squelch Bastian’s potential.

Several months after they were married, a pencil drawing of a multi- legged geometric object caught her eye. “What’s this?”

He gave a self-conscious shrug. “Idea for a sculpture,” he said. “Made out of sheet metal.”

“Well? Are you going to build it?”

“Nah. It’d be too big. Don’t have the space for it.”

“You could make it smaller.”

Something made him shake his head. “It’s got to be big.”

“Of course it does,” she said, with a roguish grin.

Trudi had friends in the art department at Newcity University. She talked to them—actually she bugged them and badgered them, Bastian found out later. He was mortified, but it was too late. They had already spoken to the head art professor, showed her some of Bastian’s drawings, and convinced her to let him into the annual NU art exhibition even though he wasn’t a student. He would have three hundred square feet of space to work with. The catch: the exhibition would open in three days.

“Three days? That’s not enough time,” he protested. “It’s just a sketch on paper right now.”

“You could build it in three days. I know you could.”

“Trudi, I have to work.”

“So call in,” she said, in that breezy way of hers, as if things were really that simple.

“Trudi. We’re in the middle of a complete rebuild on one of our biggest trucks. It’s a six-man job. I can’t just call in. Nixon would flip.”

“Then you’ll just have to build the sculpture during your off hours. I’ll do whatever I can to help you.”


Trudi seized hold of his hands and gave him that magnetic gaze of hers. He couldn’t look away. “Bastian, this is really, really important,” she said. “People are going to walk through the door of the NU art department and they’re going to see your work. It’s going to be big, it’s going to be bold, it’s going to be like nothing they’ve ever seen before, and it’ll impress the hell out of them. That’s why you have to do this!”

She was right. Another opportunity like this might never come. Her intensity got into his blood like an infection. And the next three days were a whirlwind.

He ordered a roll of sheet metal from a supplier in Hematite and had it delivered to NU. After a full day’s work at the Stellar Mine, he and Trudi set up camp in the art department’s metal shop, where they spent all night working on the piece. He used a CAD program to draw the shapes, then light-projected them onto the sheet metal at the desired sizes, traced them and cut them out with heavy duty shears. He bent the cut metal shapes with a press brake, welded them together using a plasma torch, and the sculpture began to take shape. When late night turned into early morning, he took the tram back to Stellar, caught an hour’s worth of sleep on a chair in the lunch room, got up, pounded some coffee, and punched in for his work shift.

After the first night, he didn’t feel like he needed sleep. He felt sharp and bright, fueled by coffee and cigarettes and manic energy. Everything made of metal looked beautiful: hand tools, the curved corners of a comm-pod, Trudi’s hoop earrings. The familiar lines of the heavy equipment he worked on every day took on a new elegance. His sculpture started to look almost alive, a shiny animal made entirely of right angles and standing nine feet tall on its many legs, its welded seams burnished and lustrous. It was going to be magnificent. And he knew Trudi was right. Building this thing was every bit as important as breathing.