A ticking-clock, on-the-run, survival story set in the Clan Chronicles universe, Natalie Reinelt’s (debut!) short story “Will of the Nebokan Fates” does a lot in a short span of time. Like all the tales in The Clan Chronicles: Tales from Plexis, it takes place at least in part in the interstellar supermarket of the same name, but the story itself is focused very specifically thanks to the biology Reinelt spins into her Nebokan alien character: he and his mate are expecting, and right now he has the child in his pouch, and it needs to be transferred to her pouch, and soon. Except she’s been taken.
Soh’im is not a courageous sort (you get the impression as a reader that Nebokans aren’t really known for their bravery, but rather their survival instincts and ability to hide/outlast danger). Instead, Soh’im has to draw on resources that feel uncertain, even considering the danger he’s in and what he’s already survived prior to the story’s beginning. We follow him as he tries to figure out where his mate could have been taken—stubbornly refusing to consider other options—and doing what he can to get to her.
Ultimately, the story has a little turn at the end, and it’s both sweet amusing. More, the quick glimpses we have of an alien race where gender, biology, and procreation aren’t locked into any sort of real binary was kind of refreshing as a queer reader, frankly. And the seedier, darker side of Plexis was well placed in this tale, along with those who use the supermarket to terrible results. All in all, I look forward to more from Reinelt.