The Final Fiblet.

For a while, anyway.  I handed Echopraxia in to my editor this week. It is out of my hands now; even were I seized by sudden insecurity and tried to race down to New York to snatch it physically from her hands, I wouldn’t get past the border.

Now I must do other things (including catching up on a huge e-mail backlog).  But this is a pretty good place to leave it, if I do say so myself:

 

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”

—Revelation 3:20

A sun grown huge. A shadow on its face. A fleck, then a freckle: a dot, a disk, a hole. Smaller than a sunspot — darker, more symmetrical — and then larger. It grew like a perfect tumor, a black planetary disk where no planet could be, swelling across the photosphere like a ravenous singularity. A sun that covered half the void: a void that covered half the sun. Some critical, razor-thin instant passed and foreground and background had switched places, the sun no longer a disk but a brilliant golden iris receding around a great dilating pupil. Now it was less than that, a fiery hoop around a perfect starless hole; now a circular thread, writhing, incandescent, impossibly fine.

Gone.

A million stars winked back into the firmament, cold dimensionless pinpricks strewn in bands and random handfuls across half the sky. But the other half remained without form and void — and now the tumor that had swallowed the sun was gnawing outward at the stars as well. Brüks looked away from that great maw and saw a black finger lancing through the starfield directly to port: a dark spire, two thousand kilometers long, buried deep in the shade. Brüks downshifted his personal spectrum a few Angstroms and it glowed red as an ember, an infrared blackbody rising from the exact center of the disk ahead. Heat radiator. A hairsbreadth from the center of the solar system, it never saw the sun.

He tugged nervously at the webbing holding him to the mirrorball. Sengupta was strapped into her usual couch on his left, Leona to his right, Moore to hers. The old warrior had barely said a word to him since Brüks had broached the subject of his son. Some lines were invisible until crossed, apparently.

Or maybe they were perfectly visible, to anyone who wasn’t an insensitive dolt. Empiricists always kept their minds open to alternative hypotheses.

He sought refuge in the view outside, dark to naked eyes but alive on tactical. Icons, momentum vectors, parabolic trajectories. A thin hoop of pale emerald shrank across the forward view, drawing tight around the Crown‘s nose: the rim of her reflective parasol — erased from ConSensus in deference to an uninterrupted view — redundant now, spooling tight into stowage. The habs had already been folded back and tied down for docking. Beyond the overlays the Crown fell silently past massive structures visible only in their absence: shadows against the sky, the starless silhouettes of gantries and droplet-conveyers, endless invisible antennae belied by the intermittent winking of pilot lights strung along their lengths.

The Crown bucked. Thrusters flared like the sparks of arc-welders in the darkness ahead. Down returned, dead forward. Brüks fell gently from the couch into the elastic embrace of his harness, hung there while the Crown‘s incandescent brakes gave dim form to the face of a distant cliff: girders, the cold dead cones of dormant thrusters, great stratified slabs of depleted uranium. Then the sparks died, and down with them. All that distant topography vanished again. The Crown of Thorns continued to fall, gently as thistledown.

“Looks normal so far,” Moore remarked to no one in particular.

“Wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of standing guard?” Brüks wondered. There’d been an announcement, anyway, in the weeks after Firefall. While we have seen no evidence of ill will on the part of blah blah blah prudent to be cautious yammer yammer cannot afford to leave such a vital source of energy undefended in the current climate of uncertainty yammer blah.

Moore said nothing. After a moment Leona took up the slack: “The place is almost impossible to see in the glare unless you know where to look. And there’s nothing like a bunch of big obvious heatprints going back and forth for telling the other guys where to look.”

More sparks, tweaking the night in split-second bursts. Wireframes crawled all over tactical now, highlighting structures the naked eye could barely discern even as shadows. Constellations ignited on the cliff ahead, lights triggered by the presence of approaching mass, dim and elegant as the photophores of deep-sea fish. Candles in the window to guide travelers home. They rippled and flowed and converged on some monstrous gray lamprey uncoiling from the landscape beneath. Its great round mouth pulsed and puckered and closed off the port bow.

One final burst of counterthrust. The lamprey flinched, recoiled a meter or two, resumed its approach. The Crown was barely moving now. Other serpentine things, slender as reeds and flat as eelgrass, rose from the landscape to draw the broken ship down to a berth of struts and scaffolding. The lamprey closed on the port flank and attached itself to the docking hatch.

“We are down to fumes felching Bicams better know what they’re doing because even our chemical just ran dry,” Sengupta reported. “You want this ship to go anywhere now you gotta get out and push.”

“Not a problem,” Moore said. “We’re sitting on the biggest charger in the solar system.”

The whole ship shuddered as a dozen great restraining straps cinched tight. Leona looked at Brüks and tried to smile.

“Welcome to Icarus.”

 

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday June 27 2013at 12:06 pm , filed under fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

22 Responses to “The Final Fiblet.”

  1. Want!!

  2. Drool drool!

    (salivating in anticipation)

  3. Yup, I’m ready to read this right now.

  4. But, you said when Echopraxia, started in 2014?

  5. Yay! \o/

  6. CAN’T WAIT !!

  7. Woohoo! Congrats Peter!

  8. What a future, when people get tired of playing the same old, same old game of “the human condition” and finally get to do something new and interesting. Peter is amazingly optimistic.

  9. I should have spear-phished the Squid when I had the chance.

    I could have been halfway through the book by now.

  10. Excellent, Peter! Loved “Blindsight,” and this fiblet definitely grabbed me by the brain. And the throat, I suppose, too. Can’t wait to read the whole story.

  11. A tribute to the movie “Sunshine”?

  12. Those who can’t wait are about to discover that they really can–because they must. If, at any rate, Stross has things straight (and there is no reason to doubt him) at:
    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/02/cmap-2-how-books-are-made.html

    This book is at Step 1–”The author writes a manuscript.” And bear the privisos of Step 5 in mind. This is so very much not about an author who submits “one MS per twelve months, like clockwork, because their production line is geared to turn manuscripts into published books in twelve months.”

    So we might possibly expect to see the novel about this time next year; it may take longer. A pleasant surprise would be nice. But in the absence of any further information, I *hope* to see this novel in July, 2014, as I expect it to be vastly entertaining.

    I’m not counting on it; that concept doesn’t apply to a work produced for entertainment.

  13. So the MS has gone. That must be a wonderfully liberating feeling, possibly along the lines of “whoops, too late now!”

    I recommend some downtime, a con, and beer.


  14. A tribute to the movie “Sunshine”?

    Hopefully not.

    The movie ‘Sunshine(2007)’ (not to be confused with the other movie called Sunshine(1999), which is actually good I heard) ..is so stupid it hurts. Some good music though. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq57uK-JYWo)

    More likely, it’s called that due to the fact it’s close to the sun..

  15. What’s this about UPGRADED, a cyborg short story?

    (In what might nearly be a “That mare had a foal?” moment).

  16. Sunshine – the movie where they try to hotwire the sun and the captain of one of the ships involved becomes an insano sun cultist ?

    Anyway, awesome fiblet.

  17. Naming things that fly, especially sun-grazing spaceships, after the man who died when he flew too close to the sun has been tradition since around the time humanity invented irony.

    And I have to disagree; I found ‘Sunshine’ to be a very interesting (and not stupid) movie; the conflicts were interesting and realistic, the spaceship design was neat, and no part of my brain can deny the absolute brilliance of irony that comes in naming a ship “Icarus 2″ after “Icarus 1″ becomes lost too close to the sun.

    Otherwise, I must simply delight in the knowledge that it is probably less than year until I can have ‘Echopraxia’ in my hands. ‘Blindsight’ is one of the most genuinely /well-written/ sci-fi books I’ve read (and it was thematically interesting and appealed to my love of technohorror), so I’m eagerly looking forward to a sequel set in the opposite extreme of the solar system. :D

  18. Eukie,

    I loved Sunshine, for all its flaws. It could be in large part to my love of Cillian Murphy. I’m in the slow process of watching all of his movies. Breakfast on Pluto was pretty fantastic.

  19. Docbrain:
    But, you said when Echopraxia, started in 2014?

    Echopraxia is out in 2014. It’s set in the 2090s.

    Alexey: Peter is amazingly optimistic.

    I keep telling people that. They never believe me.

    Unless you’re being sarcastic. People keep doing that too.

  20. Fuck. 2014?
    Bloody snail editors. I may not even live that long.

    Pity I’m so honest, really.


    the conflicts were interesting and realistic, the spaceship design was neat,

    The idea that a bomb the size of Manhattan, or whatever, could, in any substantial way affect a star comprising 99+% of mass of this solar system is so mind-mindbogglingly stupid that it literally made me wince upon hearing of it…

  21. Peter Watts: Echopraxia is out in 2014. It’s set in the 2090s.

    But, you said when get Echopraxia to edition

  22. Docbrain: But, you said when get Echopraxia to edition

    Figured I’d let the man answer, but I think, yeah, the most recent estimate was August 2014.

    You know how our host loves to tease, make us wait. :)