Fallout

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9780451413413: Fallout

Overpopulation, disease, and ecological disaster were edging humanity toward extinction. Hope arrived in the haan, an alien race that promised us a future.
And what they wanted in exchange seemed so harmless...
 
Sam Shao has found out too much about the haan, by accident. All humans have to get along with them—we owe them our lives—and Sam even counts a haan among her best friends. But the more she learns, the less she trusts them
                                                           
It doesn’t help that the building of new haan colonies seems to be coinciding with a rash of missing persons cases. Sam and her hacker friends are determined to reveal the truth about the haan, before it’s too late. The aliens are still promising salvation, and they seem set to deliver, but with things already spinning out of control Sam is confronted with a possibility no one wants to admit—that what salvation means to humankind and what it means to the haan may be two horribly different things.  

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

James K. Decker grew up in New England and lives in Massachussetts. He is the author of The Burn Zone.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Alexei, you ready? I sent over the 3i chat. His little heart icon beat in the tray that floated just in front of my eyes.

Almost. U here?

We’re here. Start packing up.

Vamp and I headed down the hallway of the Jianwei apartment high-rise’s top floor, and I could feel him watching me from the corner of his eye. When his look lingered, I pulled one strap of my tank top down to flash him a tattooed shoulder and he laughed.

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I said, cocking a bony hip at him. “I guess I am pretty irresistible.”

He let it lie at the joke, but I’d stalled his advances for months. I’d have to get serious about it sooner or later, one way or the other.

But not tonight.

Outside the hallway’s windows Hangfei sprawled as far as the eye could see, a sea of liquid neon color and blazing white. Streams of aircars flowed past, layers crisscrossing over one another as they zipped between buildings and the congested streets below. I slowed as we passed by, and then stopped for a minute to look. I’d seen the city and the haan ship that had crashed inside it all a thousand times before, but these days it all looked different somehow. Through the window I could make out the arc of faint blue from the haan force-field dome, which glowed around their massive ship. Above it, the defense shield they’d constructed for us made a dark pocket of shadow in the sky near where the star of Fangwenzhe, the size of a large coin, shined. The clusters of hexagonal panels hung suspended high in the air, each part of a roughly spherical array. The filaments that connected them looked hair thin from the ground but I knew each panel was the size of a building’s footprint and the tethers were as thick around as railcars. Channels on the surface of the shield panels flickered with soft orange light, making it look like an angry, flaming eye that stared out toward the sea as if daring the foreigners’ forces to try to approach.

“You okay?” Vamp asked.

I nodded. “It went up so fast,” I said.

“They say the haan have made more progress in Hangfei in the last six months than they did in the ten years before that.”

Six months. The six months since they attempted to destroy the Pan-Slav Emirates to the north, and failed. Six months since their shell got peeled back almost, but not quite, far enough to let everyone see that they had a lot they weren’t telling. They’d used that time to shower us with tech, pull back on their calorie demands, and get very close to the city’s new governess. Pubic opinion had always leaned in their favor, but now more and more of their detractors had begun shifting their positions.

“They think they’re running out of time,” I said.

“Are they?”

I’d always believed the haan were our friends, that they were gentle, fragile, intelligent, and kind. I learned the hard way that while they were certainly intelligent, and that they could be gentle, they were very powerful and not always kind. They could be brutal, and while their previous female, Sillith, had failed to wipe out the Pan-Slavs and earn much-wanted space for her people, before she died she’d released something into our world that even now festered in the streets below.

“They think they are,” I said. “That’s all that matters.”

Vamp looked down at the streets below, his breath fogging the window.

“You think it could really be true, what the haan told you?” he asked.

“Who knows?” I said, but the truth was that I believed it. Maybe that’s why the city looked different to me now. It was different. Everything was.

“Our dimensions overlapped, and then merged, collapsing your universe. . . . After the collapse the field surrounding our world broke down, and in your universe’s last moments, your instance was pulled through to replace ours. It began at the opposite side of the planet, and circled the globe in hours. In our last minutes we managed to reestablish a field around the facility, to stop the collapse there, but by then it was too late. All that was left is what you call Shiliuyuán, the facility where the experiment took place. . . . Your universe is gone. It died with my world.”

The haan ship hadn’t crashed here. It had never moved. The world around it had been overwritten by ours until they stopped it and a quarter million of our people were displaced out of existence by Shiliuyuán, and as crazy as it sounded, I believed it. We now lived in the universe the haan had lived in, though almost no one knew it. The haan, with the help of our government, had managed to keep it a secret in spite of the fact that the harder you looked, the more obvious it became. The generations who might have known certain stars and planets hadn’t existed before the haan arrived had begun to die off. All contact with the world outside our borders had been cut off, lies were streamed over the wire, and anyone who tried to tell the truth disappeared.

“How do you think the haan will react when the truth gets out?” Vamp asked, stopping to look out at the ship with me. The black specks of scaleflies swarmed past the light of the dome.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Knowing them, they probably won’t. They’ll offer us something even newer and shinier, something to distract us. It’s security that will react.”

“And how do you think they’ll react?”

“Badly.”

Alexei’s chat popped back up.

Sam?

Yeah, yeah. Hold on.

“Alexei’s asking where you are,” Vamp said.

I laughed a little and stepped away from the window, and Vamp joined me as I continued on.

“He loves that chat,” I said.

“So, how are things going with him?” Vamp asked.

“He’s doing better.”

“Yeah?”

“You’ll see. He’s getting there. He’s been through a lot, you know?”

It felt like kind of an understatement. His father had been killed near the Pan-Slav border zone, and then Alexei got rounded up in a refugee camp and handed over to the haan. He’d seen his mother die in front of him when she and Dragan, my adoptive father, rescued him but he saw even worse, I think, down in the ruins underneath the haan ship. He’d been eight years old then. After Dragan had saved me from the brink of death at the hands of Hangfei meat farmers, he’d taken me in, just like he’d taken in Alexei. I’d given him years of grief in return, years of lashing out before we became as tight as we were. Alexei had decided to give me a run for my money, spending months almost catatonic before he began to crack at the seams.

“How’s Dragan holding up?”

“He’s holding up.”

“Did he get assigned to secure the protest in Xinzhongzi?”

“No, we shouldn’t run into him there.”

I felt a tickle through the surrogate mite cluster before I ever even saw the haan. I turned the corner and saw a young woman up ahead, walking in our direction while cradling a squirming bundle against her chest. From the cocoon of blankets, I saw the glasslike, spindly little haan fingers pawing at the air. Then it peeked its head up. It had detected me, too, and its eyes, like orange embers, found me. My stomach growled, then, as the connection formed. The little haan hadn’t eaten, and his hunger was contagious.

The stray signal sent an empty pang through my chest, but even so, I found myself savoring it. He saw me see him as we got closer and he reached toward me, groping with his delicate little hands. I disabled the junk filter, and let him in for just a second. Right away, a chat window popped up in the air in front of me.

hi

I gave him a little wave and felt a surge from him. Excitement and a rush of happiness that made my throat burn even as I smiled. I missed it. I really missed it. In spite of what I knew about them, nothing quite compared to that connection and when I quit the program it had left a void behind I hadn’t been able to fill.

His surrogate saw me looking and smiled back at me, bouncing him a little in her arms. I put a block on him before he messaged me to death, and we both slowed down as Vamp continued on.

“You’re a surrogate,” the woman who held the little haan said. She had dark circles under her eyes.

“Was.”

She didn’t ask what happened. Most people who left the program were booted out because of a failed imprint. She saw the look on my face, though, and nodded toward the kid.

“You want to hold him a minute?”

I nodded. She handed him over and I held him to my chest. He felt cool, and I thought his next feeding must be soon. He put his little arms around my neck, and as his stream of happiness and contentment flowed into my mind, I felt my eyes start to get wet.

“He’s cute,” I told her.

“Yeah.”

I wanted to hold him longer, to feel that connection longer, but I made myself hand him back, giving his bald head a stroke before letting go. The connection dwindled, and then he cut away to reconnect with his real surrogate.

“Looks like he’s keeping you pretty busy,” I said.

“Sorry?”

“You look tired.”

“Oh,” she said, looking down at the floor a little embarrassed. “No, I’m just . . . I’m having trouble sleeping.”

“I remember.”

She looked me in the eye, and her expression changed. She kind of looked back and forth a little and then lowered her head toward me to whisper in a conspiratorial voice.

“Did you hear the message, too?”

The question surprised me so much that I just stared back at her. After a moment, her lips quivered like she might cry. She swallowed and then forced a smile back onto her lips.

“Sorry,” she said. “Never mind.”

“The foreigner,” I said, and it was her turn to stare. She shook her head, backpedaling. Any contact with the foreigners at our borders would land you in prison, but I could see it on her face. She’d heard them trying to reach us through the mite cluster, in our dreams.

“Sam?” Vamp called from down the hall.

“Keep your pants on, would you?” I called back, but when I turned back to the woman, she’d moved on. She hurried around the corner, and before I could even try to go after her, she’d gone.

I hustled to catch up with Vamp as he reached Dao-Ming’s apartment and punched him in the arm. When I knocked on the door, Dao-Ming answered. Behind her I saw Jin sitting at the tea table.

“Hello,” she said. “Alexei is just getting his bag, please come in.”

The first time I’d ever seen Dao-Ming and Jin had been in the scrapcake plant where the former Hangfei governor, Hwong, had sent us to be turned into black market street meat. After we managed to escape, we’d been on our way out and I handed off some supplies we’d found to Jin, who had taken charge of getting the other prisoners back to Hangfei. Dao-Ming had been with him, standing near him and shaking in spite of the heat. Her long hair had been plastered to her neck and shoulders, and as I approached them she’d stared through the tangles like some kind of wild animal. When she realized I’d freed her, though, she’d crossed her arms over my back and pulled me close, pressing her lips to the side of my neck and trembling. She’d looked so scared, back then, almost like a child, mute, as she chewed on her thumbnail.

Not anymore. Now her hair and clothes were always perfect, and neither her faint wrinkles nor the thin, white scar that ran across her neck did much to detract from her good looks. She always had this glint in her eye like she might lash out and cut you or something, and she made both Jin and Vamp nervous sometimes, but I’d spent time in chains too, waiting to die, and I got Dao-Ming. I liked her, and Alexei loved her.

Jin, next to Dao-Ming’s beauty, came off a bit homely with a gaunt face and bushy eyebrows. His thinning hair was a little tousled, as usual, maybe because the only time I’d ever seen him comb it was with his fingers, and his face was shadowed by his perpetual stubble.

Jin told me once that Dao-Ming had never been the same, after her time in the scrapcake plant. Because the people shunted over from Hwong’s prisons had them so backed up, Jin and Dao-Ming had both been stuck inside those cages for months. They’d been given the barest minimum to keep them alive before butchering and never let out not even once. She’d been positioned so that the butchering blocks were in plain view, something I understood all too well. I’d endured weeks, not months, and it still haunted me.

Vamp and I stepped into the apartment, and Jin waved us over to him. He reached into his jacket pocket and removed a flash drive, which he held out to me with two fingers.

“It’s all set?” I asked, taking it.

“The completed video is five minutes and thirty-four seconds long,” he said. “Once the broadcast begins at the Xinzhongzi protest I don’t think even Vamp will be able to keep control of the signal any longer than that, but it should suffice. It doesn’t include everything we know, but it covers what is most important. The people will know the truth about the haan.”

“And you’re sure I can’t be recognized?” I asked.

“Your face can’t be made out,” he said. “And I’ve altered your voice to the point where no identification can be made. With your hair so short, they may have trouble even determining sex.”

I couldn’t say that sounded like any kind of compliment, but the last thing I wanted was for anyone to recognize me, since airing an illegal broadcast would pretty much land you in prison and this one would be about as illegal as they came.

Alexei came from around the corner, his thick Pan-Slav hair bushy around a pale face. He’d turned nine a few months ago, but he seemed little even for his age. When he saw me, he waved.

Hi, Sam, he sent over the 3i chat.

“Out loud,” I told him.

“Hi, Sam.” His Mandarin was getting better, but that accent . . .

“Hi, Alexei.”

“Lex, you ready to roll?” Vamp asked.

Alexei nodded, putting his little backpack over one shoulder. I could see the cuff of the gonzo robe peeking out from under the flap as he passed by to go see Vamp, and I gritted my teeth.

“Don’t worry,” Dao-Ming said.

“I don’t like it.”

“Nor do I,” Dao-Ming said. “Don’t worry. One way or the other, this will end.”

“I just don’t get it. I mean, his mother was killed by a haan. He should hate them, not worship them.”

“Maybe it’s a way to come to terms with it. It will be better if he disassociates himself with them of his own accord. If he doesn’t, Dragan will take care of it.”

I hoped that would be true, but I wondered. In reality, Dragan had ended up butting heads with gonzo church members and even their leader, Gohan Sòng, himself over this, with the only result being getting into trouble and pushing Alexei even farther away. His status as a security officer took him only so far. Gohan had connections that went way over his head.

“Dragan doesn’t need any more bullshit.”

“Then I take it he still doesn’t know of our plan, then?” she asked.

“No.”

“Are you going to tell him?”

“No. Better he can tell security he didn’t know, if he has to.”

“Then we meet tomorrow night at the protest site?”

“Tomorrow night.”

“Good-bye, Alexei,” Jin called. Alexei, still at Vamp’s side, waved back.

“Alexei, say thank-you to Dao-Ming and Jin,” I told him.

“Thanks Dao-Ming,” he said. “Thanks Jin.”

“You ar...

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Overpopulation, disease, and ecological disaster were edging humanity toward extinction. Hope arrived in the haan, an alien race that promised us a future. And what they wanted in exchange seemed so harmless. Sam Shao has found out too much about the haan, by accident. All humans have to get along with them--we owe them our lives--and Sam even counts a haan among her best friends. But the more she learns, the less she trusts them It doesn t help that the building of new haan colonies seems to be coinciding with a rash of missing persons cases. Sam and her hacker friends are determined to reveal the truth about the haan, before it s too late. The aliens are still promising salvation, and they seem set to deliver, but with things already spinning out of control Sam is confronted with a possibility no one wants to admit--that what salvation means to humankind and what it means to the haan may be two horribly different things. Nº de ref. de la librería BZV9780451413413

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Overpopulation, disease, and ecological disaster were edging humanity toward extinction. Hope arrived in the haan, an alien race that promised us a future. And what they wanted in exchange seemed so harmless. Sam Shao has found out too much about the haan, by accident. All humans have to get along with them--we owe them our lives--and Sam even counts a haan among her best friends. But the more she learns, the less she trusts them It doesn t help that the building of new haan colonies seems to be coinciding with a rash of missing persons cases. Sam and her hacker friends are determined to reveal the truth about the haan, before it s too late. The aliens are still promising salvation, and they seem set to deliver, but with things already spinning out of control Sam is confronted with a possibility no one wants to admit--that what salvation means to humankind and what it means to the haan may be two horribly different things. Nº de ref. de la librería BTE9780451413413

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