By Rob Boffard

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ebook (Digital original)


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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 15, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Rob Boffard’s Outer Earth series thrilled readers with its no-holds-barred action and adrenaline, as it follows the story of Riley Hale’s attempts to save both humanity’s last refuge — and humanity itself. Yet Riley has friends helping her in her efforts, and their backstories are every bit as messy and intricate as her own.

This new collection, comprising four action-packed short stories, reveals the secret histories of Riley’s closest friends and allies, as they try to make their way in the dangerous, vibrant world of Outer Earth.



The problem with writing a trilogy is that it’s never quite big enough.

It doesn’t matter how many story strands there are, how vast the scope is, how many characters live and die. There are always going to be stories that go untold. There will always be dark little corners, strange detours, flickering lights and distant screams, things you want to investigate but can’t because the story you’re telling doesn’t allow you to.

That’s not a bad thing, by the way. Far from it. The story I told in Tracer and Zero-G, which is concluded in Impact, demanded a special type of focus. When you’re Riley Hale, the fastest tracer on Outer Earth—a city-sized space station orbiting our ruined planet—you don’t stand still. There’s always another package to deliver. There’s always another run, another fight. Riley’s impossible quest to save the station and come to terms with her own past was an outrageously fun story to tell, but it left little time for dawdling.

After I finished working on Zero-G, I realised that I wanted to spend more time on the station I’d come to love, but I didn’t want to jump right back into Riley’s story. Maybe, I thought, I could hang out with some of her friends. If you’re familiar with the world of Outer Earth, then you’ll know who I’m talking about.

It wasn’t easy. These folks might be the good guys—more or less—but they don’t trust wimpy, desk-bound writers like me. I had to work at it, but eventually, Riley’s tracer crew opened up to me. Amira told me the story of her grandmother. Carver had a little tale about the time he invented a grappling hook—knowing him, I’m not sure how much of it is true, but it’s a good yarn. And the Twins? What I wanted to know, more than anything, was how two very different people came to be so close. With a little help from Prakesh, they eventually told me.

Sam Royo took a lot longer. Being a cop on Outer Earth is a tough job, and he doesn’t like talking to outsiders. But eventually he let me into his life, telling me about a case early in his career. Royo sees things in black and white, but this case was an unsettling shade of grey. I’m not going to lie—that one scared me. In a good way.

A note of thanks to James Long, Anna Jackson and the crew at Orbit Books for wanting to hear these stories as much as I did, and to Ed Wilson, as always, for his excellent agenting and good humour. And thank you, for wanting to spend some time in this weird, dangerous new world, floating above the ruins of the old one. If you’re all warmed up, it’s time to strap your pack on, make sure you have enough water and protein bars, and investigate some of those dark corners with me. Come on. I’ll race you.


Sam Royo

The following takes place five years before the events of Tracer.

The rookie won’t shut up.

We’re standing on either side of the door to the hab. The whole way over here, he’s been bullshitting about some book he got in the market last night. “This guy didn’t even know what it was,” he’s saying now. “He gave it up for, like, six tomatoes and a butane lighter.”

“Uh-huh,” I say, raising my hand to knock. I’m only vaguely aware of my other hand, resting lightly on the holster of my stinger.

“Illiterate fucks,” he says as I knock on the door. “I’m telling you, Royo, it’s better off with me.”

“James Carmine, this is Station Protection,” I say loudly. “Open the door please.”

“Condition’s pretty good, too. Not mint, sure, not even close, but it’s only missing a couple end pages, you know? Where the glue came away from the spine. You see that sometimes.”

“We’ve had reports of a domestic disturbance. Respond now.”

I look over my shoulder quickly, more on instinct than anything else. People are peering out of their habs or standing around in the corridor, feigning disinterest. One of them is staring right at me: a neatly turned out kid of about twenty with a black jacket zipped to his neck.

I’ve got a special Look for these kind of situations. I take a second to return the stare, and the boy drops his head. Underneath me, a piece of metal creaks: Outer Earth’s hull, slowly warping, twisted by thousands of orbits around the planet. One of these days, it’ll warp too far, snap in two, spill everybody into space. The big metal ring that a million people call home will become just another piece of space debris, orbiting a destroyed Earth.

I hammer on the door again, harder. The lock clicks and it creaks open. Just a little.

“The hell?” the rook says, and before I can do anything he’s pushing open the door, his stinger out. “Station Protection! Get on the ground, now.”

“Rook, don’t. . .” I say, but then we get a look at what’s in the room, and he turns and upchucks all over the floor.

The kid’s been dead for a while.

I mean kid literally. He can’t be more than nine or ten. He’s still wearing a blue T-shirt, rucked up under his arms, but otherwise he hasn’t got a stitch on him. He’s facing the door, sprawled across a dirty mattress at the back of the room. The only light comes from the single working bar in the ceiling. There’s nothing else in the room. No furniture, no pictures on the wall. Nothing but the kid and a mattress.

This isn’t a shitty mom or dad, drugged up to the eyeballs and forgetting that they ever had a child. This isn’t an exile brat, starved to death in a hidey-hole somewhere. This one’s different. I can tell from the marks on the inside of his legs, the expression on his face.

And then, of course, there’s the stab wounds on the chest, ringed with congealed blood.

Some of the neighbours are creeping closer, wanting to find out why the rookie is leaning against the far wall, shivering. I have to bark at them to back off. It’s good that I do. It means I don’t have to look at the room any more.

The rook is on his feet again, wiping his mouth. I don’t waste time consoling him. “Call Big 6. Tell ’em we got a bad one. I want forensics, and a coroner crew.”

The rookie nods, takes two steps, then throws up again, bathing the wall of the corridor in a thin gruel.

Without thinking, I look back into the hab. I can see the kid’s legs, his tiny feet. It seems important not to look away this time.

The rookie returns with forensics and the coroner, and he’s got some of his colour back. He’s even swaggering a little—my guess is he’s been telling ’em that he was first on the scene, that it’s his case, that he’s going to get the son of a bitch. I watch him approach, feet booming on the metal floor, growling at the onlookers to stay back.

He points to the hab. “Nobody’s been in there but us, so I want the place swept clean. Blood work, fingerprints, all of it.”

The forensic techs all wear masks over their mouths and noses, but one has a pierced eyebrow: a big ring, gleaming in the lights. Jaz. The rookie doesn’t see the look she gives him. But to her credit, she goes right in, telling her two deputies to start walking the grid. They’ll go over the room piece by piece, dividing it into squares, checking it for the tiniest bit of evidence.

She pauses for a moment, looking at the kid. “Gods, Sam.”

“I know.”

“This is. . .”

“I know.”

She takes a deep breath and follows her deputies.

The rook isn’t done. He’s standing, hands on hips, facing the growing crowd. “I said, get back,” he spits at them. Before they can respond, he flashes me a wide grin. “What you think, Royo? Orphan?”

I grunt, keeping an eye on the crowd.

“Yeah, I’m guessing orphan. Carmine must’ve picked him up in the market. Usually goes that way. I tell you, man, if only the kid’s parents had stuck around, this kind of shit wouldn’t happen, you know what I mean? It makes me sick when people don’t take care of their kids.”

I try to tune him out. I’m already thinking of what I need to do next. Identify the kid, talk to the neighbours, find the parents. See if anyone in the other sectors caught one like this. They might have done some legwork for us already. We can put the pieces together, figure out where to go next.

“Because if I find this guy, I’m gonna kill him. I swear to Shiva, Royo, I’m gonna end him before he even gets near a trial.”

I keep thinking of those tiny feet, the toes curled inward. I screw my eyes shut, giving myself a second to let it pass. It doesn’t.

“Kid should’ve been more careful. All I’m saying. You go with strangers, you find yourself in a room with some asshole coming down on—well, coming down on your asshole, know what I’m saying?”

I don’t realise I’ve pushed the rook up against the wall until my stinger is in his mouth, until his lips are wrapped around the barrel and the tears are leaking out of his terrified eyes and Jaz and the other forensic techs are pulling me off him.

They keep the rook well away from me until backup arrives. Smart.

Santos is there, along with Gupta. I’m surprised to see them, puzzled that they’ve been pulled from regular duty. But they hold the line, keeping the crowd away with their own version of the Look. Santos is big, but Gupta is just downright scary. She’s five-nothing, with a bud-shaped mouth and spiky black hair, but you only have to look in her eyes once to know that you don’t even think about messing with her.


  • "Tracer is the literary equivalent of a base jump: fast, exhilarating and unforgettable, and once you start it you can't stop. I loved it."—Sarah Lotz, author of The Three, on Tracer
  • "Ludicrously fast-paced, with a brilliant sci-fi setting, Tracer is an absolute blast of a read."—David Owen on Tracer
  • "Reading Tracer is like being on a rocket-propelled roller coaster and trapped in a supersonic pinball machine at one and the same time. The action flies by in a blur and leaves you as breathless and reeling as the protagonists. Riley Hale battles to save the last remnants of humanity from a homicidal maniac and a secretive suicide cult in the claustrophobic, brilliantly evoked world of a crumbling space station where danger lies around every corner. A stunning debut by Rob Boffard that never lets up, from the nerve-jangling beginning to the explosive end."—James Douglas on Tracer
  • "Readers who prize the rush of an action-packed plot will have fun with this."—Publisher's Weekly on Tracer
  • "Ambitious and intriguing."—Kirkus
  • "Boffard's story moves lightning fast."—Publisher's Weekly on Zero-G

On Sale
Nov 15, 2016
Page Count
112 pages

Rob Boffard

About the Author

Rob Boffard is a South African author who splits his time between London, Vancouver and Johannesburg. He has worked as a journalist for over a decade, and has written articles for publications in more than a dozen countries, including the Guardian and Wired in the UK.

Learn more about this author