by Keith Stevenson
Thirty-four light years from Earth, the explorer ship Magellan is nearing its objective – the Iota Persei system. But when ship commander Cait Dyson wakes from deepsleep, she finds her co-pilot dead and the ship’s AI unresponsive. Cait works with the rest of her multinational crew to regain control of the ship, until they learn that Earth is facing total environmental collapse and their mission must change if humanity is to survive.
As tensions rise and personal and political agendas play out in the ship’s cramped confines, the crew finally reach the planet Horizon, where everything they know will be challenged.
“Crackling science fiction with gorgeous trans-human and cybernetic trimmings. Keith Stevenson’s debut novel soars.” – Marianne De Pierres, award-winning authors of the Parrish Plessis, Sentients of Orion and Peacemaker series
Cait was waiting for Lex when he crossed back to his harness from the showers. Bren was with Harris at the core, and Nadira was still off somewhere, so she had a little time to herself. Her own shower had done nothing to relax her, and her neck felt stiff.
What Bren had told Cait about the package presented a whole raft of new worries. But right now it was Bren that was causing her the most anxiety. There had been a lot of hidden bigotry towards her before lift-off, from the top ranks of Space Admin down, and Cait had pushed hard to get her on the mission. Not just because she was a remarkable talent in the field of systems interfacing, but because Cait knew first hand how hard it was to escape the post-deluge Florida Ghettos. Cait was seven when her father had won the employment lottery and they’d moved to the space-tech conurb in Sub-California, old enough to remember the squalor and hopelessness of the place.
There’d been a bond between the two women; Cait had felt they really trusted one another. Now she wasn’t so sure. She’d put Bren’s behaviour in med lab down to the effects of prolonged deepsleep, but the systems specialist had shown no signs of residual disorientation once she’d gone online to recover the package. She’d been lucid and precise in explaining to Cait what she’d found inside. But when Cait brought up Sharpe’s death, her responses had become vague and hesitant again. To Cait it felt as if she was trying hard not to remember something rather than she just couldn’t.
Lex was still towelling himself dry as he loped towards the harness. He tossed the towel at the webbing and shook his head, droplets of water cascading lazily away in the low-g. ‘What’s up?’ he said.
Cait folded her arms and leaned against the ring wall, looking away as he grabbed at the harness straps to steady himself and bent to open his floor locker.
‘I’ve been thinking about Bren’s link. Did you notice when it came online?’
He shrugged, standing as he pulled on the one-piece and pressed the adhesion surfaces together. ‘I didn’t see any kind of change at all.’
‘What about when you hooked up to her fault-finder?’
‘There was no change,’ he said, eyes narrowing. ‘What are you getting at?’
‘Well, if you didn’t observe a change in her responses, we can’t be sure the link wasn’t functioning before Bren woke up in med lab.’
‘Apart from the fact she said it wasn’t.’ He leaned against the harness and sized Cait up. ‘Has Harris been planting ideas in your head? You know what he’s like about enhanced humans.’
‘I haven’t spoken to anyone else about Bren.’
‘So what’s your motivation for doubting her word? I thought Bren was your friend, or does “things being different” extend to her too?’
Cait straightened. ‘Why are you insisting on making this personal? We had some fun together; it was nice. Now it’s over. But I’m still your commanding officer, and our situation is serious. As medical officer you oversaw Bren’s treatment in med lab. You were monitoring her EEG. You said she was in a coma. How do you explain her suddenly waking if there wasn’t any change in the readings?’
‘I suggest you ask Bren about that — she’s the expert.’
‘I’m asking you.’
‘I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Cait. Maybe I never really knew you at all.’ He picked up the wet towel and balled it in his fists. ‘I’m telling you what I saw. If you think something’s going on, you work it out.’
Cait pursed her lips for an instant. ‘Okay. I will.’ She pushed off the wall. ‘I’ll see you at the meeting.’
She sailed over to the central walkway, twisting in mid-air to rebound and put some distance between her and Lex. She hadn’t thought he’d be the type to act like a jilted lover. Childish and self-centred — there it was again. She should never have become involved. And she certainly didn’t have the mental space to deal with any fallout now. If he was moping over her, he’d have to work that one out on his own.
Keith Stevenson is a speculative fiction writer, editor, reviewer, publisher and podcaster. He was editor of Aurealis Magazine – Australian Fantasy and Science Fiction from 2001 to the end of 2004 and formed the multi-award winning independent press coeur de lion publishing in 2005. In 2014 he launched Dimension6 magazine and became a speculative fiction reviewer for the Newtown Review of Books. He blogs about the ideas and issues behind Horizon at http://www.horizonbooks.com.au and you can learn more about his work at http://www.keithstevenson.com.
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