I have a soft spot for stories about people who are trying to live normal lives while the wealthy and well positioned go about rewriting the rules in their favor. Vulnerable is a short work set in the world of the Red Dog Conspiracy that does exactly that. The conspiracy novels are told from a position of wealth and security, even though it comes with its own problems and isn’t as secure as it might seem. Vulnerable, in contrast, talks about the price a good man paid to right just one of the many wrongs in this society and the consequences springing from that decision.
Eleonora faces impossible choices after she discovers her husband has killed himself because of being faced with a debt he’ll never be able to repay. This debt, incurred to free her from the life of a whore and save her children from the dangers of The Bridges, comes with an impossible interest rate. The catastrophe that destroyed Earth apparently did not do away with loan sharks.
Sure, she uses trickery and deceit, which might not make her likable in most situations, but she does so to protect her family when wits are all she has left. Help comes from unlikely quarters, though, and she admits the truth even knowing the price of her honesty could doom her whole family.
Luckily, her hero is a good man, and accepts her history rather than condemning her for it. He sees the injustice and his own part in it well enough to want to make a difference.
The story’s ending might feel a little convenient at first, but the pieces are laid much earlier. Vulnerable is, as the title implies, a statement against those who take advantage of people who lack wealth of their own. It also serves as a welcome reminder that good people may appear from any station even when you’ve lost hope.
I have been enjoying the Red Dog Conspiracy, and this story helps flesh out the bigger picture of what it means to live in such a place. Since I read the first three novels before this story, it served to remind me of characters I have met in the novels and offers insight into their greater experiences.