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  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 2010-02-23
  • Publisher: Spectra
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The award-winning author of "Dust" delivers the second volume in her groundbreaking space opera trilogy. A remarkable SF writer who's leaving many of her contemporaries in the dust.--SF Reviews.Net. Original.

Author Biography

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same say as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with her childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, has led inevitably to penury, intransigence, and the writing of speculative fiction. Her hobbies include incompetent archery, practicing guitar, and reading biographies of Elizabethan playmenders.

She is the recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for best New Writer and the author of over a dozen published or forthcoming novels, including the Locus Award-winning Jenny Casey trilogy and the Phillip K. Dick Award-nominated Carnival. A native New Englander, she spent seven years near Las Vegas, but now lives in Connecticut with a presumptuous cat.


Chapter One

halfway to standing

When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But . . . that is not what great ships are built for.


"Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times"

The first hint of returning consciousness was the icy tickle of fluid dropping across his lids, lashes, nostrils. Pain followed, the tidal roll of hurt through his body too severe for his symbiont to heal or silence.

Tristen Conn opened his eyes within his acceleration tank. As the hyperbaric fluid drained from around his chest, his diaphragm spasmed. Shattered ribs ground in his flesh. The tank spilled him on the slotted deck, festooned like a newborn with blood-stringed goo.

He pushed against the deck, but pulped arms could not lift his face from the puddle of oxygenated fluid. He heaved. Slime roped from his nose and mouth, tinged blue with blood, bringing with it bright pieces of tooth and lung.

He could not raise his head. He thought, Then there were none, and wished he could give himself up for dying.

But here he was. And if he was hurt, he was living. Beside his shattered cheek, cobalt tendrils groped across the deck, met and merged like pooling mercury, then sent questing distributaries crawling out until they found Tristen's skin. As his symbiont repatriated its estranged fringes, pain increased. Crushed bones shifted in rent meat, his body and its symbiont struggling to heal.

He might have whimpered, but the whistle of compressed breath was his loudest sound.

As the fluid dripped between his shoulders and down his neck, he lay slumped, staring along the seemingly infinite curve of acceleration pods lining the holde. The weight of all that empty space pressed him to the deck as surely as did the world's artificial gravity. In this position, Tristen had time to think.

One of the things he thought was, Isn't it peculiar that mine is the only opened tank?

He lay there until the fluid on his body had dried to yellowish crusts and cold air raised his skin in plucked bumps. The grinding of bone fragments lessened as his symbiont forced his skeleton into shape. Once the bones began to knit, torn flesh and bruised organs healing, the symbiont had sufficient capacity for managing his pain. He got a full breath without screaming, felt his ribs expand and his diaphragm flex, and pressed a palm flat to the corrugated decking.

The hand expanded as his weight bore down. Within the envelope of his skin, flesh and bone held. He straightened the elbow, lifted the shoulder. Dragged the second numb arm out from under his body. Braced it as well, pushed. Locked out both elbows, and let his head hang.

On your knees was halfway to standing.

Tristen gritted half-rebuilt teeth and finished the job.

For seconds it was all he could do to remain upright. He hadn't even the strength to put out a hand and steady himself on the skinned, gray-membraned interior of the open tank door. But if he fell, he did not know how long it would be before he rose again, if he had the courage to try it at all.

Sticky feet slurping the deck, Tristen turned and walked a step. Now he stroked fingertips lightly along the surface of the pods, finding his balance. Deep breaths, slow until he could no longer taste the blood on each, pushed oxygen into his blood. At least the atmosphere was holding.

Examining the warped bulge of the sky, he amended: at least here the atmosphere was holding.

Staring up at the sky helped keep his eyes off the horizon. It took ten dragging steps and forty-seven seconds to shuffle to the readout panel of the acceleration tank two places to the left. This tank remained sealed. Condensation brushed from the readout revealed as many orange and yellow status lights as blue, but even when he squinted to focus blurring vision there were no red ones.

Excerpted from Chill by Elizabeth Bear
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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