"I've found that cultures often clash for the same reasons that people do. It's not because we're so different from each other... but because we're all so godammned alike" - Hazel
We begin with the kids and their various drawings. Hazel has drawn a "giant foot man with very bad gas". Which amuses the rest of the class. Noreen, their insect-like teacher says she wanted Hazel to draw something that made her feel sad, Hazel that does make her sad much to the continued merriment of the other kids.
|Hazel and Noreen.|
The ship they jump into space with is crippled though as the power unit was taken away in the previous book. But they jump right into the path of the Robot Kingdom ship that was hunting Prince Robot IV who was off tracking down his son. There is an altercation on the terrorist ship, one of them (a Wreathian who becomes like an auntie figure to Hazel in jail) tells her to look away as Hazel's enraged grandmother, Klara, crushes the head of the other terrorist aboard. Then they make up a story to tell the Robots that they were female slave labour.
This convinced the Robots who handed them over to Landfall detainee centre. They are led to get checked up medically but a pig shaped alien doctor stops them, saying they can't be stripped just like that and treated badly since they have been "comfort women". The Landfall guard leaves him to check them over and he turns into Izabel, the spirit girl bound to Hazel who can only come out at night.
|Izabel gets them out of a jam.|
Then we're back in the present, and Noreen gives Hazel a cake to celebrate her fourth birthday. She tells Hazel if she doesn't end up part of a prisoner exchange she is welcome back into her programme as an "explorer". This excites Hazel who rushes off to tell Klara.
|Petrichor, a new character.|
Hazel: "Despite the persistent sense of loss, united by a shared obssession my parents once again brought about the very best in each other."
They hadn't even kissed since they were reunited, they would never again perform the act that created Hazel until they had her safely back, or so they vowd.
They get further inside and make their way to the records room. Marko uses his magic to create a key to get inside. Alana makes him promise not to teach Hazel magic, but Marko hopes Klara has already taught her the basics. They root through the paper records until Alana finds a sheet that tells of a wrecked ship of the type they are looking for and three females found aboard. Including a senior citizen and her grandaughter.
|Marko and Alana find out Hazel is alive.|
They try to arrest Alana and Marko but Alana tells them they have fired a missile at the planet and look out of the window. This panics the security guards as Alana says she is "destroying the red tape that holds this unjust world together!" But actually it's their wooden rocket home coming down for them. As the security guards scarper, Alana breaks the window and jumps out using her wings to hover.
She can't hold Marko for long because unlike Hazel, her wings have been clipped as is tradition for female Landfallians, but he jumps out and grabs her and the two of them land together in the rocketship. They tumble in each other's arms, then kiss passionately. Then have a bout of sex because really this was wonderful news. As Hazel tells us, "until they found that scroll, my parents had each been secretly convinced I was long dead."
|Vows are made to be broken.|
We then check in with Upsher and Doff, the homosexual couple who are a newsteam. Upsher the writer, Doff the photographer. Upsher is elated because he's received news that The Brand (who belonged to an organisation of all-purpose enforcers) died sometime ago. And this means they can revisit the story she warned them away from which was the existence of Hazel.
They start travelling to check out leads, the first one is that Alana worked on "the Circuit" which is a theatrical broadcasting entertainment system. Doff says the Circuit people won't talk, but Upsher says he has a "secret weapon" in the form of Ginny. She left a classified ad that said:
Advert: "To my brave warrior from Wreath, this is your favourite dance instructor from Gardinia, hoping for good news about your beautiful daughter? You have my number. Please call..."
So it looks like Private First Class Alana and her lover spent some time on this planet. Doff seems unsure about carrying on with this story. Maybe they are just two people who like to screw and others think they are gross and immoral.
|Upsher and Doff are back on the story.|
They arrive at Ginny's house, who now has a husband. She talks to them privately about Marko who came to collect her grandfather's sword and shield. She wants an alias because they were good friends but she doesn't want her husband getting the wrong idea. She tells them she saw a Robot with a colour screen in the vicinity of the Circuit and Upsher asks if she thinks a member of the Robot royal family abducted a child?
Upsher asks when was the last time he heard from Marko. He phoned a year ago from a planet called Outcome. He said he was on Hazel's trail and hopefully would be able to return her grandfather's gear soon. The two journalists leave to travel to Outcome and their new lead.
|Sexy pillow talk (!)|
Doff: "It's not just the story Up. There's a little kid out there who might need us."
Upsher frowns and asks if his biological clock is ticking? Doff says no, but if there are going to be words about her, he wants them from someone like Upsher who cares.
Later they are flying in the ice belt as Doff scans it with his camera. He picks up footprints on a nearby planet and they land to go check it out. They find the crashed skull ship, and flowers called "violents" which only grow where there is bloodshed. They follow the tracks and are suddenly faced with bounty hunter-cum-enforcer, The Will. He was brother of The Brand and has her companion, the dog Sweet Boy now. He elongates his sword and spears Doff through the shoulder.
|The Will and Sweet Boy.|
Back with Hazel, she is still standing, wings out over the unconcious body of Noreen when the hermaphrodite woman who is called Petrichor finds them. She tells Hazel to quickly cover up, while Hazel explains what happened. Petrichor helps her and says her father must have been a Wing who forced himself on her Wreathian mother. Hazel wants to correct her but had learned thus far when it's a good idea, "to shut your fucking mouth".
On the planet where Robot IV, Squire and Ghüs are, Marko and Alana have arrived. Robot IV welcomes them by aiming an arrow at them and telling them to get lost. They ignore him and warmly greet Ghüs, Squire and Friendo. Robot IV gives up and asks them what they want. They tell him they want to break Hazel out of a Landfall prison.
|Robt IV, Squire, Ghus and Friendo|
On Landfall, with the help of Izabel's ability to disguise herself, Hazel has got inside the infirmary where Noreen is. Noreen is concious and amazed that Hazel is also soul-bound to an astral shifter. "Child how? How the hell did you come to be?" she asks. So Hazel tells her graphically that her parents had sex and she was the result and Klara really is her grandmother. She'd be mad if she knew Hazel had told Noreen about her wings.
Noreen asks why did she tell her? Hazel says it's because she doesn't talk to her like she's a baby. Noreen tells her in essence she's what she's been employed here to do, educate a Wreathian child who doesn't hate Landfall. But if the Landfallians found out she existed... but she won't tell anyone she promises Hazel.
Hazel then brings her a book by D.Ozwald Heist, the one that her parents bonded over. Klara loves it as well. She says it has a few too many grown-up parts for her. Noreen thanks her for her kindness. Hazel asks if she thinks he's the best writer ever. Noreen says writers shouldn't be ranked like racehorses:
Noreen: "And no offence to the rest of your family... but anyone who thinks one book has all the answers, hasn't read enough books."
Hazel reminisces that of all the things her teacher taught her, "that's the one that stuck."
|The Will hallucinates The Stalk.|
Suddenly a huge snake bursts through the ice and attacks The Will. Upsher and Doff pray it kills him, but he grabs it's open mouth and breaks its jaw. Upsher then decides to rebel saying he'd "rather die a member of the free press than live another minute as this fat fuck's employee". But before The Will can kill him, Doff blurts out that he knows a way to find out where ex-Prince Robot IV lives. So The Will keeps them alive for now.
In the Landfall jail, Klara and Auntie Lexie are reading stories to the other inmates and they are all having a laugh. Petrichor thinks Klara is "friend up us with all the no-horns" and this could be bad news. Then Noreen appears and calls Hazel away saying she is very worried about her, Hazel says she will keep her secret won't she? Noreen says "actually, I'm going to help you escape."
Imprisoned on The Will's ship, Doff calls his source regarding Robot IV. The man says he was paid a boatlaod not to reveal it to "nosey pricks like you". Doff says he can double the money, but Zlotev says he's Ok for cash, what he wants is dirt and he has a way of knowing if he's being told the truth because he has Lying Cat, The Will's old animal companion.
|Lying Cat, yaaay!|
Robot IV is sitting in the wooden rocketship and being filled in on the plan to get access to Landfall. The planet is protected by a field that prevents Wreathian magic working through it. But the field inteferes with the Robots so when they arrive it has to be briefly dropped. Marko will then use a teleport sword and helmet to create a tear they can bring Hazel and Klara back through.
Prince Robot IV will pose as a lesser member of the aristocracy to ask for the field to be dropped. Robot IV is disusted by the inference that all Robots look alike to the rest of the coalition, nevertheless he goes along with it.
In the prison, Noreen is making plans to get Hazel out by carrying her out in a box. Then Lexie, Klara and Petrichor appear and demand to know what is going on. Hazel says Noreen knows the "true stuff" about her and she told her because she's a good person. Petrichor says it's unsafe for Hazel in the prison, especially with the unrest fomenting Klara is up to with the stories.
Klara says Petrichor might have been designated a woman, but she still "lectures like a man". Klara asks where Noreen would take her, Noreen says somewhere she could be cared for safely. Klara wants to know why she wants to help, she isn't Hazel's blood. "I .. I don't know exactly" says Noreen but it has to be now.
|Robot IV gets them access to Landfall.|
The mines are living organisms and Robot IV starts fighting them off as Marko gets ready to make the jump. He cuts the tear, he and Alana kiss and then he goes through. Robot IV grudgingly says he knows what they are going through, "and I wish your family success".
On the planet where Ghüs has been left looking after Squire, The Will suddenly appears and demands to know where Robot IV is. "You're not a friend" says Squire. The Will picks up Squire and tells him his father is a killer and The Stalk hallucination eggs him on to kill Squire. But then help appears:
Ghüs: "Hurt the boy... and Ghüs will chop you deep."
Marko arrives in the prison and Petrichor holds out a shiv and says, "where did you come from?" She sniffs him and realises he's Hazel's blood. She then wants to know how he fits in with Noreen's plan, which totally confuses him. Noreen has Hazel in a box and is cheerfully on her way out of the prison. Unfortunately she doesn't fool the guard who pulls a gun on her.
|Go, go Ghus!|
In the prison Noreen is refusing to allow the box to be searched. Then Lexie and Klara create a diversion by fighting which distracts the guard. Then Noreen knocks the guard out and looks horrified at what she has done. Then Petrichor and Marko arrive on the scene.
The Brand: "Murdering defenceless preschoolers. You've come a long way, baby brother".
She says The Stalk was a dumb obssession when what he really loved was her. The Will denies this, but The Brand says she's his "own brain you fucking dummy!"
Sadly, The Will confesses he misses her, he misses everyone. The Brand says offing a kid won't help matters, he needs to find the one person who will call him on his bullshit. Doff and Upsher have managed to escape The Will's ship. They watch him return to it, when he leaves they'll be stranded. But as Doff says "we're alive" and they kiss.
In the prison, Marko opens the return portal. Hazel jumps through saying thankyou to Noreen for everything as she disappears. Klara however isn't going to go with him. She doesn't want to be a burden to him and Alana and also she has a community with the other prisoners and a sense of purpose. She tells him how proud she is of him and then tells him to "go take care of your family".
However Petrichor decides to take advantage of the escape route and jumps through herself. On board the wooden rocket, the mines have been taken care of. Then Hazel appears. But before an emotional reunion with mum can take place, Petrichor arrives as well and attacks Alana. Marko comes through and defuses the situation by telling Petrichor that Robot IV is on their side.
Petrichor then drops a bombshell, she says she'd never fell a female who was expecting. "I can smell it from here. You're pregnant" she says to Alana. Marko looks stunned, Alana looks overjoyed and that brings this volume to an end.
|End of Book Six!|