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Skyfall

Skyfall

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Skyfall

valoraciones:
3/5 (2 valoraciones)
Longitud:
530 página
7 horas
Publicado:
Sep 1, 2015
ISBN:
9780702242618
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

When you live in the sky, the only way out is down ... Larinan Mann is an outsider, a social oddity. Born in contravention of the rules of his society, into a cold and powerful family, Lari's life seems to have no purpose. But then his only friend draws him unwittingly into the murky terror of the underworld that dwells below his feet, his father unexpectedly inducts him into the inner circle of history's most terrible secret, and Lari's world - and everything he thought he knew about it - is shattered forever. Then he meets Saria, a girl with destiny looking over her shoulder, and together the two of them must walk into an unknown greater than anything humanity has ever faced ...
Publicado:
Sep 1, 2015
ISBN:
9780702242618
Formato:
Libro

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Vista previa del libro

Skyfall - Anthony Eaton

Adams

Sunrise glittered and sparkled across the domes and spires of Port City. Lari loved this time of day. Below him, the minor domes floated from the darkness. Here and there a flyer dashed out of the night, rushing for cover before full daylight covered the city.

In the growing light, the bluish autotint that shielded the citizens of Port in their enormous domes from the worst of the solar radiation began to activate, morphing the colour of the city through light to dark blue until finally the domes would become almost completely opaque, only vague hints of shape and movement visible within the smooth curves of clearcrete.

From this high up, the city was beautiful, almost peaceful. Even the air was still, only the vaguest hint of a breeze drifting around the curved outer wall and brushing against his cheeks. It was hard to imagine that somewhere down there, below the graceful, shimmering curves of the domes, was the underworld. Gripping the low railing of the balcony, Lari leaned out as far as he could, peering down into the gloom.

He could just make out the vague forms of the old city. Its squat, boxy, crumbling towers huddled close to each other in perpetual twilight. Here and there dull flickers rushed along dark, formless gullies as someone – something – darted from one place to another. From those gullies the stems rose, countless thousands of slender columns soaring up into the sky, far above the highest of the old towers, each fanning out into three long support arms, holding aloft the domes of Port City. Here and there, a stray beam of sunlight penetrated the forest of stalks, walkways and maglift shafts, and glinted grey off ancient concrete.

The underworld. The sight sent a shiver through Lari. He’d never been down there, of course. His whole life had been spent in the bright, glittering air of the upper towers, but like most Port children Lari had grown up hearing the fairy tales, and had his fair share of childhood nightmares about that dark, dangerous world which lurked in the shadows below, populated by shifties and clans and who-knew-what-else. Even now, at thirteen, when he knew he should be too old for such silly fears, it was hard to suppress the coldness that slid down his spine whenever he stared into that dark abyss. His father would laugh at him if he knew. ‘Irrational’, he’d call it.

The band around his left wrist emitted a soft chime and Lari sighed. Not even full sunlight and he was already approaching critical. Still, he didn’t move inside, not yet. Instead he took a few steps further into the shade of the bluing dome behind him, hoping for just a little longer in the outside air.

He wondered, not for the first time, what Janil would say if he knew that Lari came out here, risking exposure for a few minutes in the sunrise. Most likely he’d shake his head in disgust that someone related to him could be so stupid. So reckless. His brother was like that; everything by the book.

But Lari liked it out here. He liked the slightly dusty taste of the air, the coolness that raised gooseflesh along his exposed arms. He even liked the feel of the sun for those few brief moments. Most of all, he liked the memories.

Out towards the east, several kilometres away and perhaps two hundred metres below, the massive form of Port North Central loomed out of the dawn, more egg-shaped than the accom and rec domes which filled most of the sky. Lari watched the sunlight dance through the communications antennas that festooned the enormous expanse of the egg. Its six supporting arms branched upwards out of the darkness, only just visible in the shadow of their enormous load; holding aloft literally thousands of lives, homes, commercial centres, processing and recyc plants, hydro nurseries, ionic air filters … the thousands of individual people and parts that kept this part of the city functioning. And, of course, DGAP. Lari knew that somewhere over in that massive dome his future was waiting for him, whether he wanted it or not.

Something caught his attention. Far below, a flyer raced through the dying shadows of night, coming in fast from the east, its flickering red beacon highlighting it against the gloom.

‘He’s cutting it close,’ Lari muttered, knowing that the pilot would get blasted by his father for risking such a late return. ‘Hope it’s Janil.’

It wouldn’t be, though. If there was one thing his brother never messed with, it was exposure protocols. As Lari watched, the flyer rose up sharply, clinging to the protection of the shadows before vanishing into the round maw of the docking port on the underside of Port North Central. Immediately the opening closed behind it.

His wristband chimed again, louder now, and a brief warning tingle shivered up his arm. With a last lingering glance out across the rounded, floating skyline of Port, he turned and re-entered the dome.

The door was an access way for maintenance crews, a carryover from the past when occasionally someone needed to physically attend to one of the dome’s com arrays. Lari ducked through and the square hatch glided into place behind him without a sound. The warning light set into the wall above switched from green to red and Lari fancied he could hear the faint click of the locking mechanism sealing him and all the other occupants of Dome 3327 North in for the day.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, we hope you’ve enjoyed this little flirtation with terminal exposure and a horrible death. Now, please relax and enjoy the rest of your day in the greatest city on earth.’

His voice echoed around the dimly lit maintenance level, and Lari grinned at his own cleverness.

He stood a moment, waiting for his eyes to adapt to the darkness, a marked contrast to the bright morning light outside. The lower level of the dome was a round, gloomy, low-ceilinged space about three hundred metres in diameter and crammed with the machinery that kept Dome 3327 North alive. Down here, automated air and water filters hummed through days and nights in eerie half-light. Walls of processors crowded almost on top of one another, each flickering thousands of green LED lights as they monitored the flow of communications between the millions of systems and connections that made the dome habitable. The ceiling was festooned with hanging pipes and cables, all colour-coded against the remote possibility that one day someone would need to actually repair something. Lari knew he’d find the same room in every other of the tens of thousands of skydomes that made up Port city.

He eased through the narrow gaps between the equipment racks, occasionally having to turn sideways and breathe in to fit through, but knowing the way instinctively. The first time he’d come here, with his mother, he’d been frightened, scared of the electric hum and the faint smell of ozone that tickled his nose and left his stomach unsettled. The way the machinery loomed out of the darkness, the faint chattering of the processor switches and their flickering green lights, and the occasional groan of a pipe under pressure had all conspired to make him grip his mother’s hand tightly.

She’d just smiled and squeezed back, gently.

‘There’s nothing to be afraid of down here, darling. It’s just machines. All this stuff keeps the world ticking over, all right?’

And Lari had nodded, not really understanding but wanting to be brave. A couple of moments later she’d led him along the narrow passageway and showed him how to use his wristband to scan open the hatch to the balcony.

‘But only ever with me, and only ever when the light is green, okay?’

Four-year-old Lari snorted. Everyone knew the rule about green. And his mother smiled again.

‘My little man.’

Then she’d taken him outside, into the early dawn.

Unlike that first trip, Lari now slipped confidently through the dark maze of machinery, not worried about being caught. Nobody would ever come down here.

In the very centre of the level the maglift shaft rose through the floor up into the ceiling, contained within the central stem that anchored their dome to the Earth. Lari didn’t like to think too much about the fact that their home was linked so completely to the Underworld, despite being one of the highest in the city, and the shaft never failed to stir in him a vague feeling of disquiet. Placing a hand on the plascrete wall, Lari could feel a slight tremor as a maglift hummed through the system somewhere below.

Slowly, his hand trailing against the cool plascrete, Lari squeezed around the circumference of the stem until he reached a black cabinet set up hard against the shaft. Unlike the other machinery racks and arrays that filled the maintenance level, this piece of equipment was largely featureless. Only a single red lamp, unblinking, set into the middle of the facia gave any indication of something going on within those gleaming black panels.

The governor. The heart of the dome. As was his habit, Lari rested his hand briefly against the cool outer casing. Every processor, every conduit, every piece of equipment in this tight, dark space, fed into and out of this sleek cabinet. Every nanobyte of information that streamed into and out of Dome 3327 North came through here. Every protein ration, every recyc protocol and every com message was funnelled, most for less that a millionth of a second – an electronic blink of the eye – through the governor.

It was the discovery of plascrete that had allowed the domes to be built in the first place, but it was the invention of the governors that made them work – made them viable.

Somewhere in there thick umbilicals – bundles of fibreoptic cabling and superconducting micro-shafts – ran down the main domestem, connecting this governor to all the others, linking the city together, joining every citizen of Port to every other, each individual no more than a cell in the enormous, impersonal lifeform that was a skycity, carrying the data, the waste, the recyces – the bloodstream of the city.

The governor had no controls, no access panels, just that single red lamp, throwing a dim, bloody circle over Lari as he stood there.

Then he turned and squeezed once more between two long equipment racks, making his way outwards again, away from the central stem until he stepped through a plain, grey steel door and into a stairwell, a narrow tunnel of steel lit by dull, shielded globes mounted on the walls. The stairs curved steeply up towards base level.

The upper door was exactly like the lower one and for a moment Lari held his palm against it, feeling the cold tingle against his skin. There was no way of knowing if someone was outside, and if he was spotted there’d be questions that even he, the son of the great Doctor Mann, would be expected to answer. And with things the way they were in the city nowdays, it wouldn’t be a good idea to get caught by security in an unauthorised area.

For a long while he listened until, not hearing any voices or footsteps outside, he hauled the door open and slipped quickly through.

Base level was quiet, as he’d hoped it would be. Sunrise came early at this altitude, and most of the residents of the higher domes tended to sleep though dawn, rising only when the sun was well above the horizon. Lari followed a narrow passageway towards the centre of the dome and emerged into the common.

On the far side from him a couple of early-risers, a man and a woman, were jogging the circular path that ran around the perimeter of the common – the large, open atrium that filled the centre of every res dome. At this time of the morning, with the sun still below base level, little light penetrated the clearcrete, and the sky above, seen through the autotinted dome, was a heavy, dull blue. Around the edges of the common rose the four residential buildings of the skydome, each curved tower taking up almost one-quarter of the cylindrical interior. Out towards the maglift hub, two shifties – a cleanup crew – were finishing their morning’s work, watering with a nutrient solution the dozen or so hydro trees that punctuated the space between the buildings.

Glancing about, Lari crossed the common, detouring around the maglift hub in the centre and avoiding the curious glances of the shiftie crew, and wandered towards his own building, the eastern tower. It was still an hour or so until changeover from fourth to first shift, and then the common would be thronging with both inbound and outbound commuters.

Most of the residents of 3327 were DGAP families – heavy on the scientists and upper-level types. And, of course, most of their kids were headed the same way.

‘Concentration of aptitude’, they called it in the official history.

Mind you, Lari had to admit that generally speaking the system worked the way it was supposed to. Living in the domes meant that talent was nurtured young and advanced fast. Upper-level kids didn’t hang around consuming resources like those from lower down. The earlier you got into your family field, the better it reflected on both you and your family, so most kids sweated their first placement and then, once they got it, spent their first couple of years climbing the ladder as fast as they could, without caring who got lost along the way. Just like Janil: only eighteen but already one of the highest-graded science engineers in DGAP. Lari didn’t like to think how many shattered careers his older brother must have left in his wake.

And now it was Lari’s turn – at least in theory: thirteen years old, finished school, and just waiting for placement so he could start leading a nicely productive life for the city, working within his family’s ‘field of expertise’.

Lari’s parents were the perfect example of the system in action. They’d lived in the same dome as kids, grown up alongside one another, and both came from scientific families. And as long as they followed the correct genetic protocols to prevent inbreeding, they were free to reproduce themselves – one male, one female. It was a common story.

Lari was the uncommon part.

In the lobby of the east tower, Lari waited a couple of seconds for the lift, then as the doors slid aside he stepped into its bright interior.

‘Mann, level ten.’

The lift whispered upwards.

All four res towers were built directly onto the clearcrete outer wall of the dome, the blue-filtered expanse forming a curved floor-to-ceiling window along one entire side of the apartment, looking east to where Port North Central filled the skyline below. It was the best apartment in one of the best domes in the city, but Lari barely ever noticed the view. Somehow, after the living, glittering, dusty vista outside, the light within the dome was never quite right. Always too blue, too clean, too artificial. Even at night, when the autotint went completely clear and the domes and stalks were lit out to the horizon – one of the more spectacular sights on the planet, his father always said – even then, Lari found little or no fascination looking at the world through thirty centimetres of clearcrete. His mother had been exactly the same.

‘Look at it, Lari,’ she’d told him on that first morning she’d taken him outside for sunrise. ‘Look at how clear it is, how … real. Can you taste the air? That’s real air. Outside air.’ She’d breathed in deeply and Lari, imitating, did the same.

‘You remember this, okay, Lari? Remember this place, remember this morning. Promise me you’ll remember.’

‘I will.’

‘Good boy. Because things are happening out there – out here, I should say, that are so big and exciting we can’t even begin to imagine what a different place this world is going to be.’

‘What things?’

She smiled down at him.

‘Impossible things. You’ll see one day soon, I promise. And you’re going to be such an important part of them, too.’

She fell silent then and for a long time they’d stood, mother and son, watching together the gradual creep of daylight across the skycity, until finally her wristband began to chime.

‘We have to go in now, Lari.’

‘Okay.’

Taking his hand again, she’d led him back to the hatchway, then crouched to his level.

‘Lari, darling?’

‘Yes, Mum?’

‘This has to be our special place, okay? Just for you and me. You can’t tell your father or brother about it, because then it won’t be just for us, all right?’

Lari nodded.

Eyna Mann leaned forward and kissed her son’s forehead.

Lari stood before the enormous window wall of the main room of their apartment, staring out at the city, and traced his fingertips lightly across his forehead. Even now, after all these years, if he closed his eyes and concentrated he could still feel the faint, dry imprint of that kiss. That morning his mother had marked him as hers and even after she’d vanished, just a year or so later, that claim still lingered. It was why he kept returning to that balcony, time after time.

Shaking his head, Lari turned away and went into the kitchen.

His father wasn’t up yet. Strange. His protein allowance still sat in the dispenser beside Lari’s and his caf cup hadn’t been touched. Lari looked at the time: just a few minutes to first shift. His father should have been on his way in to DGAP by now.

‘Weird.’

Lari grabbed his own allowance and tore the wrapper from it, dropping it into the reclaimer as he made his way back out into the living area.

‘Dad?’

His voice echoed off the hard surfaces of the apartment.

‘Dad? You awake?’

Dernan Mann’s bedroom door slid aside and Lari stared in. Apart from the rectangle of light thrown in through the open door, the room was dark, the light block still engaged. Lari pressed his finger to the pad beside the door and clean, filtered light flooded inside.

The room was empty, bedclothes flung aside and his father’s sleeping robe spilled in a crumpled heap where it had been dropped. The untidiness was almost as out of character as his father’s unexplained absence.

‘Weird.’

His father’s white DGAP coat was missing from the wardrobe. He’d gone in to work, then. Early. And without caf.

Lari left the room. Dernan Mann’s behaviour, or anything else to do with DGAP, for that matter, had long ago ceased to interest him.

In his own room, Lari flicked his terminal into life and chewed his protein bar as he waited for the machine to read his wristband and authenticate his logon. The hard paste tasted even worse than usual.

‘They must have lowered the production standard again,’ he muttered, grimacing.

The newswebs were full of the usual city stuff. Scrolling quickly through the major pages, a story on one of the sidebars caught his eye:

Mann Dismisses Rumours of DGAP End-Date

as ‘Terrorist Propaganda’

Port City, Central

Speculation continues in the middle and upper levels of the city as to the possibility of a final shutdown date for the Darklands Genetic Adaptation Program. While sources close to the City Prelate deny that increasing pressure is being brought to bear to bring to a close one of the longest scientific experiments in recorded history, rumours continue to circulate among middle-level management that DGAP is indeed being slowly ‘wound up’.

‘There’s no denying it,’ said one source, a DGAP field agent who wishes to remain anonymous. ‘Over the last few years, there’s been a gradual scaling down of everything in the organisation – budgets, new investigations, reallocation of personnel away from field duties and into administration. It makes sense, when you think about it. The Subjects are all but extinct, and therefore so is the danger of the evolutionary pollution that they present. Without the subjects, there’s really no point in the city continuing to fund such a massive, unwieldy bureaucracy as DGAP’

The head of DGAP’s Research and Investigative Science Division, Doctor Dernan Mann, dismissed the continuing talk of an end-date for the experiment as ‘preposterous’.

‘DGAP continues to amass and analyse data relating to the ongoing genetic stability of the human race,’ he recently told a conference at the DGAP headquarters in Port North Central. ‘The Darklands program has always had the dual functions of containment as well as social and biological study, and these will remain vital areas of scientific interest long after the population of actual field subjects has atrophied beyond statistical significance. To say otherwise is simply to give voice to propaganda circulated by underworld shifties whose ignorance is rivalled only by their stupidity.

‘I would suggest, in fact, that in many ways the role of DGAP has never been more critical. We should remember that of the twelve global darklands Zones created over a thousand years ago in the aftermath of the Pacific Circle disaster, the Antipodean Darklands, of which we are the custodians, is the sole remaining inhabited one. This puts DGAP in the unique position of measuring and assessing the very rate and change of evolution itself. No other scientific body in history has ever had such an opportunity, to say nothing of the vital knowledge that even the few remaining subjects might reveal about the human genome, about which we are still making new discoveries.’

DGAP was formed in the mid twenty-first century in the aftermath of the Pacific Circle disaster as a response to the increasing concerns about …

Lari punched a couple of keys and his terminal flickered back into standby mode. Leaning back in his chair, he sighed. Pity. He’d hoped the reporter might have known something more than the usual pile of accusations and denials that got flung around whenever DGAP was allowed to be publicly discussed. But there was nothing in that article Lari couldn’t have written himself.

Perhaps I should try and get a placement in newswebbing. The thought brought a smile to his face. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d listened to his father and Janil bemoaning the increasing sterility and apathy of the subjects and the futility of the whole project. Between his father and his brother, Lari probably had enough inside information on DGAP to have the whole organisation shut down completely. Public opinion was always fairly heated where DGAP was concerned, especially lately.

But it wouldn’t do any good. He knew that too. No point having a story to tell if there wasn’t any way to get it out there, and the Prelature wouldn’t be allowing any exposes on DGAP to reach the nets in the near future.

And it’s not like Dad’ll let me, anyway. Lari knew he was already a large enough stain on the family’s reputation, and even though Dernan Mann hadn’t exactly been rushing to get Lari into DGAP, he knew there was no way his father would add to the gossip by placing his youngest son outside the family field.

The com buzzed and his terminal flickered back into life.

‘Kes! What’s up?’

On the display, his friend shrugged. ‘You know, the usual.’

‘You get a placement?’

‘Nope. What about you?’

‘I’m considering newswebbing.’

Kes shook her head. ‘Like your father’s gonna allow that. I can’t believe he hasn’t pulled you into DGAP yet.’

‘He says there’s nothing for me to do there, and there’s no point placing me until there’s a position.’

‘And you’re happy with that?’

‘Not much I can do about it. You know how it is. Besides, I’m not unhappy with the way things are.’

‘I bet. You know you’ll have to get yourself placed soon, don’t you. The city won’t let you just hang around being unproductive forever.’

‘I guess. But nobody seems worried at the moment. Anyway, what about you?’

‘What about me?’

‘You’ve been waiting as long as I have.’

‘That’s different, and you know it.’

‘I don’t see why.’

"Cause unlike you, my family field is clearly well below my potential. The city’s not going to put me into reclamation like Mum and Dad, but they don’t want a mixed-use kid like me getting under the noses of all you upper-level types either. What if I scrambled like your brother and got promoted above kids like you? I’ve gotta wait until they find somewhere suitable for me. You, on the other hand, have a well-established family field, and the brains to work in it, so you’ve got no excuse.’

‘Except laziness.’ Lari grinned at her.

‘Except that,’ Kes agreed. ‘Speaking of newswebbing, have you checked out this morning’s item?’

‘You mean the DGAP story?’

‘Yeah. What’s the deal?’

‘Kes.’ Lari sighed. ‘You read the piece. You know it’s just the same old stuff they churn out every few weeks.’

‘On the nets, yeah, but what does your dad really say?’

‘Why do you get so hung up on this? Every time DGAP is mentioned on the nets, you quiz me on whether there’s some kind of conspiracy going on.’

‘Well? Is there?’

‘Don’t be an idiot.’

Kes changed the subject, like she always did when Lari irritated her.

‘Are you up for a bit of fun?’

‘That depends on what exactly you mean by fun. The last time you suggested fun I ended up getting barred from the rec dome for a month.’

‘That was an accident. Anyway, I got barred too.’

‘You’re a nightmare.’ Lari shook his head. ‘What have you got in mind?’

‘I can’t tell you over the com, you’ll have to see for yourself. Wanna meet up?’

‘Your dome or mine?’

‘You come here. It’s a pain visiting you.’

‘You hate it, don’t you?’

‘I hate that you can walk into my dome any time you feel like it, but I need clearance to visit yours. Doesn’t mean I hate you, though.’

‘It’s just a security measure, Kes. A lot of important people live in 3327, and with the underworld …’

‘Let’s not get into this again, Lari. Just get over here and meet me in the ref.’

She cut the com without giving him a chance to respond.

Lari changed into his city clothes. Kes was his best friend – his only friend if it came to that – but she got awfully hung up on stuff and sometimes it was just too easy to stir her up. Still, she was fun to hang out with, especially at the moment when he had nothing better to do. Lari knew it was just a matter of time until the city lost patience with him and he was finally forced into DGAP with his father and brother, but he was determined to put that moment off for as long as possible.

There had to be some compensations for being Dernan Mann’s copygen, after all.

Falling.

In her dreams, she is falling into a cold, white world.

Again and again she reaches out desperately, searching.

Nothing.

Only the cold and the blue. The searing clear blue of the sky, just like the desert, but dead, no life anywhere.

Dariand!

Wanji!

Nobody answers. No earthwarmth tingles through her in response. No hint of ground or fire or smoke or dirt.

Just the sky.

The cold, distant sky.

And she falls again …

He was out over the field. The thrum of the resonators a lullaby as he soared through the vast, empty sky. Then the nightmare began with an urgent, warning screech from the main interface …

‘Shi!’ Janil cursed, but before he’d finished spitting out the word his flyer started shuddering, pitching violently. His fingers flew across the main panel as he struggled to regain control, but nothing he did made any difference and the flyer was falling … screaming … plummeting from the sky towards the desert that loomed below, an empty wasteland of death. And over the top of all the noise came the chiming …

‘Shi!’ Janil struggled into consciousness, slick with sweat, his breathing heavy.

Beside his bed, the terminal read 0303. Fourth shift still. The com-chiming grew louder, more insistent. It had to be his father. Nobody else would call at this time of day. Still groggy, Janil stabbed a finger at the interface pad beside his bed.

‘What?’

‘Janil.’ Dernan Mann’s voice was the same as always. Authoritative. Unapologetic. ‘Get into DGAP. I’ll see you there.’

The line went dead. That was his father. No apology for calling at this hour, no explanation. Just crisp, ordered, scientific necessity.

Janil sighed. There was no point arguing. His father wouldn’t have called him in without a logical, valid reason, and even if he did object, Dernan Mann would be genuinely surprised. In Dernan Mann’s world, science and logic ruled over all else.

‘And I’m getting the same way,’ he muttered as he rolled sluggishly out of his bed. It was a sobering thought. Only eighteen years old and already he felt … burnt out. Empty inside. It was the price of brilliance, he knew.

It took only minutes to throw on his work clothes and bolt down a protein bar. As he chewed on the paste, he stood and looked out the clearcrete window of his apartment, across the city. The view from here wasn’t as good as from his father’s dome. Janil had pulled every string he could to get a space allocation for one person and this was where he’d ended up – in a mixed-use dome with a recyc plant downstairs and decidedly shi water. This little two-roomer had one major thing going for it, though; down here he didn’t have to look at his brother every waking minute.

The com chimed again.

‘Yeah?’

‘Why aren’t you on your way?’

‘Father, what’s—’

‘Later, Janil. Not over the com. Now, hurry.’

The line went dead again, and Janil’s brow furrowed. The winds were certainly getting at his father this morning. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Dernan Mann so agitated.

His apartment was on the top level and as he stepped out of the lift foyer into the common, he was aware of the faint metallic tang from the recyc plant in the building behind.

From the towers a few lit windows indicated other early-risers, and from a couple of apartments he could hear the faint bustle of people getting started for the day. Steam mains in the walls hissed and shuddered as food units were brought online. Over near the hub a couple of shifties were listlessly running a cleaner across the ground. As he passed, they both stared at him.

‘Morning.’ He nodded and was rewarded with blank stares. At least these two weren’t so badly messed as some. Their faces seemed almost normal; one had just the faintest ridging of scar tissue rippling across his neck and right cheek, and the other a series of small, discoloured tumours dotted across his bare scalp. They both watched him pass with indolent indifference before returning their attention to their cleaner, which had moved on without them. Janil flicked his wristband across the allocation plate.

‘Mann. Port North Central. DGAP hub.’

The reader chimed and within a couple of minutes his maglift arrived, his name flashing on the display above the door. Once he was aboard, with a firm grip on the safety hold, the doors closed, the couplings disengaged, and with a magnetic hum the lift dropped into the system.

The newspanel on the ceiling cluttered the silence with babble from one of the citywebs.

‘Controller, engage user interface, Authorisation Mann, password, entropy.’

‘User interface engaged!

The user interface program used the same woman’s voice as the lift controller: measured, easy on the ear and perfect in both tone and pitch. Janil had always liked it. He knew the voice was synthesised, most probably designed by programmers a thousand years ago to be clear and emotionless, but all the same he liked to imagine that somewhere in Port City lived a real woman with this voice. He wondered what she’d be like.

‘Controller, mute newspanel for duration of this allocation. End user interface.’

Obligingly, the newspanel faded into silence and Janil was left with only the hum of the resonators outside and his thoughts for company. Yet another advantage of being a Mann, he reflected. Most citizens had no idea that the user interface even existed, let alone access to it.

He wondered what could possibly have gotten his father so worked up. Janil was old enough to remember a time when mornings like this weren’t so unusual in the Mann household. Once, his father used to rush into DGAP during the small hours of fourth shift three or four times a week.

Not for years, though. Not since Mum.

Janil himself had been in the program for five years now, and even in that short time it was impossible to escape the fact that things were winding up. The subjects were dropping like flies and their DNA was a mess, nowadays. A millennium of deprivation and radiation will do that to you, Janil thought.

If it hadn’t been for the entropy scenario, Janil would have quit and looked for reallocation long ago. That and the fact that it wouldn’t have done for the son of the head of research not to follow his father into the family field.

The eldest son, anyway.

Just the thought made Janil’s eyes narrow slightly, but he tried to push the anger back down inside himself.

‘Stay cold. Stay clinical. Unharnessed emotion makes you unscientific.’

His father’s words, coming from his mouth.

But still, he’d be willing to bet that, while he was magging across to DGAP, his little copygen brother was still tucked up fast asleep in bed, all worn out from another day of doing nothing.

Janil shook his head slightly. He’d never understood his brother. Sky, he’d never even really been told why his brother existed in the first place, just that his mother wanted another boy for some reason, and so when the other boys in his class talked about their sisters, all Janil could do was sit silently and hope nobody found out.

They did, of course. Kids always do.

Janil’s got a brother! Janil’s got a brother …

He could still hear them. Even now those childhood taunts came back. Luckily, he hadn’t been in school all that long, so he’d only had to endure it for a few short years.

Port North Central. DGAP hub.

The lift surged upwards for a couple of seconds and then slowed. The foyer of the great scientific co-op was darkened and deserted at this time of the morning, the only light coming from the enormous, red-backlit sign which stretched across the grey plascrete wall behind the reception area:

DARKLANDS GENETIC ADAPTATION PROGRAM

Janil sighed, and his footsteps echoed around the empty space with its hard surfaces. The moment he stepped from the lift, his wristband chimed. There was a terminal behind reception and Janil logged

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Lo que piensa la gente sobre Skyfall

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  • (3/5)
    I questioned why the first book in this series was in the YA section. It had a young protagonist but in all other respects it was worthy of being in the adult section. This second installment is a lot more YA oriented.

    The first clue was the increase in the level of whining. Then there was the unexplained sibling rivalry, the barely-teenage kids getting caught up in adult schemes, the same kids with adult levels of intelligence, and there was the increase in whining (I know I said that already).

    I am definetly enjoying this series, it has some really great aspects. This book is a bit more prescriptive then the first in the series. It follows the rather standard YA dystopian pattern. All the bad guys are adults, all the good guys are teenagers.

    Even Saria, the wonderfully written protagonist from the first book, becomes a shadow of herself. She is the cardboard girl rarely conscious. She doesn't speak, her thoughts are poetic but lack substance, and she is going through the exact same emotional experience as she did in the first book... [spoiler] She uses the earth warmth to accidently kill someone, and then swears she will never use it again [/spoiler].

    This book is where I expected to see the relationship set up. The boy and the girl should connect, either in a negative or a positive way, leaving the relationship to be resolved in the final book. It didnt happen though. I am left with no clue about how the relationships will end. Odd given that the first book made it clear that fertility was non-existent. Someone has to have a baby soon. I think a few people need to have babies soon.

    [spoiler]I had a real issue with some things in this book. The plot is essentially that the dark landers are infertile (except for one long-dead woman) and the infrastructure that the sky people live in is breaking down. So we need to cross-breed the darklanders ability to live outside with the sky people's ability to breed. Some big things are overlooked. The last fertile darklander is dead. Everyone assume her offspring will be fertile. What is that assumption based on? Every infertile person has a fertile mother... The logic is flawed. There are entire clans of people existing outside. The authorities seem to ignore them, but surely given that the government is looking for ways to survive then these people would be worth a closer look. [/spoiler]

    So this book is an interesting second book. It hasn't left me jumping on the lounge going "wow" like I did with the first book, it was definetly more geared to the YA audience, but I did enjoy it all the same. Off to track down the third book.