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 waited a moment then launched herself into the tube, reaching out as she moved along to acquire some spin. Nadira disappeared from sight, tumbling over the lip at the far end in one graceful move.
It had been obvious from the start that Nadira’s last-minute inclusion on the mission was going to be problematic. The nukes that took out targets in the Middle East and Asia, and prompted the Compact’s formation, had been followed by fifty years of bitter and protracted Pax-led sanctions. Nadira’s presence on board was meant to herald a new era of détente between the Compact and the Pax Americana. But while politicians made and broke alliances almost without thinking, the wounds history inflicted on individuals took longer to heal.
Cait swung herself over the lip of the tube, feeling her internal organs settle as she descended the ladder and stopped halfway. On the floor below it was easy to forget where you were, but from this vantage point the curvature of the drum was more obvious. The layout inside clustered the harnesses, med lab, gym, ship controls and so on against the fore and aft walls, leaving a broad walkway running around the midpoint. Lighting and colouring were muted and shadows minimal, giving an illusion of space, but it was still just the inside of a large can. An odd place to spend the best part of a century.
She took a breath, feeling oddly separated from the others below. She realised that up until now things had been easy, despite the bickering. Lex’s attentions too had been part of a game they’d played on the out-system leg. But now it was very different. Out here they could be sure their bodies would never be found if disaster struck. There would be no one to mourn them, no marker to show how far out they’d come. Sure, this had been the case when they were mere light days from Earth. But it felt more true out here, in the space between the stars. The hard, uncaring void, as Sharpe would say before pulling some stupid terror-stricken face and doubling up with laughter. She just wasn’t sure how far she should go in adapting herself to that difference. She couldn’t quieten the nagging feeling that she was pushing too hard just to keep up the illusion of moving towards a solution — forcing Lex to wake Bren early, ordering the reboot without a more considered study of the situation. Her head hurt too much, and she wanted to sleep. How could that be when she’d only just woken after forty-five years?
People reacted differently to emergency situations — herself included. Under the circumstances, perhaps Nadira’s continued aloofness was understandable. Cait wondered what reaction was the right one for her? She felt dizzy again and clung to the ladder, closing her eyes and breathing deeply. The drum servos hummed through the wall, maintaining the spin. Inside there was light, air, everything was quiet. It was hard to believe they were in the midst of an emergency, hard to keep focusing on that. But the emergency was real. And that was why she had to keep going.
Holding onto that thought, she finished her descent and made her way back to Lex. He looked up from his monitor as she came close and shook his head.
‘No change. The implant’s hooked up but I haven’t been able to influence it. I don’t even know if it’s functioning.’
‘Keep a close eye on her,’ Cait said. ‘We’re going to reboot the main computer.’
‘What difference will that make?’
Cait frowned. ‘I don’t know. Just watch her, okay?’
She glided over to the command port again. Her PAL was settled above the port, already linked to Harris’s.
‘I’m in position, Harris. Ready when you are.’
‘It’ll just take a moment,’ Harris said over the link.
Cait began setting up her screen to monitor the key systems simultaneously.
‘You have to stop her! Don’t let her do it!’
Cait turned at the noise. Bren was trying to get up; Lex was struggling against her. She turned to look at Cait, eyes wild as she forced Lex’s hands away.
‘Don’t reboot Phillips, Cait! You’ll kill us all!’
~Buy HORIZON on Amazon.
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 horizonbooks.com and you can learn more about his work at keithstevenson.com.
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Keith will be awarding an eCopy of Horizon to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour, and choice of 5 digital books from the Impulse line to a randomly drawn host.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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