Ten years ago the world's governments collapsed, and now the corporations are in control. Houston's Pulsystems has sent an expedition to the lost Martian colony of Frontera to search for survivors. Reese, aging hero of the US space program, knows better. The colonists are not only alive, they have discovered a secret so devastating that the new rulers of Earth will stop at nothing to own it. Reese is equally desperate to use it for his own very personal agenda. But none of them have reckoned with Kane, tortured veteran of the corporate wars, whose hallucinatory voices are urging him to complete an ancient cycle of heroism and alter the destiny of the human race.
Finalist 1984 Nebula Award for Best Novel.
Finalist 1984 Philip K. Dick Award for Best Paperback Original.
With less than five minutes left, Kane tugged nervously at his shoulder harness and tried to remember gravity. The feel of his arms dragging by his sides, the blood pooling in his legs, his head jerk-ing forward in fatigue—it all seemed distant, clumsy, irrelevant.
“You’ve gone soft, Kane,” Lena whispered, but her eyes were afraid of him. She locked her cleats into the gridded floor, peeled the plastic sheath from a hypo, and pushed 15 milligrams of Valium into his left arm.
“You look like hell. You’re about nine-tenths crazy and you haven’t got any muscle tone at all. I don’t think you’re going to make it.”
“Four minutes,” Takahashi said.
“I’ll make it,” Kane said.
Not just gravity, he thought, but eight Gs, wrenching, crushing, suffocating him while the ship threw off 10,000 feet per second of velocity by diving into the thin atmosphere of Mars. The ship’s computer would sail them through a narrow, invisible corridor, balancing air drag against the strength of their reinforced carbon-carbon aeroshell, slowing them just enough to put them into a high, elliptical orbit around the planet and not send them crashing into the frozen Martian wastes.
All because the corporation didn’t have the booster stages to slow them down any other way.
He knew Lena had put him off, not caring if she had time to give him the shot, not caring if his muscles had the elasticity to ride out the re-entry. Reese had been first, of course: the senior astronaut, the father figure. Then she’d taken care of Takahashi and after that her-self, floating where Kane could see her, easing the needle into the soft flesh of her thigh.
In the first weeks of the mission, she and Kane had struggled through a brief, sweaty affair; it ended when Lena, fingers stiffening in ******, drew blood from Kane’s chest and triggered his defensive reflexes.
Also by Lewis Shiner: Black & White; Deserted Cities of the Heart; Glimpses;
Dark Tangos; Say Goodbye; SLAM