LEATHER: A Runaway Girl Across Three Worlds
Everything was going her way—for a while.
The only child in a loving family on a freshly colonized earthlike planet. But when she was eleven, her mother sickened, passed into a coma, and died. Her father—her only remaining source of comfort and strength—took the loss as hard as she did. Drained of life, he withdrew into himself.
She did too. She stopped caring about friends, hobbies, or school. With no interests, she watched TV and movies, not passively, but as a fantasy life. She lived only through their stories. Their characters became her only friends.
A few years later, her father remarried. At first, she was leery of this new woman, but as Ruthie began to show her true nature—harsh, cruel, abusive—she grew to hate the woman.
The story begins a few weeks after she beat the living crap out of Ruthie, ran away from home, and changed her name to Leather in the hope it would help her become tough, like the friends of her fantasies. But Leather has a long rough ride ahead of her.
She falls for a traveling conman who lavishes her with gifts, carries her from her home world, and introduces her to his criminal friends, most of which are alien. Through these "friends," she becomes an accessory to the mass-murder of forty scientists who had just discovered the ruins of a dead alien civilization. Participating in the quest for priceless alien artifacts, she is secretly lusted after by the most vile of these miscreants. A man whose desires will not be denied. When priceless artifacts are actually found, the vile man plots to kill everyone except Leather, so he can take all the spoils—and her—for himself.
Stephen Euin Cobb