The Cassandra Complex [NOOK Book]

Overview


This is a science fiction novel of enormous scope, filled with wonders. Set earlier in the same "future history" as Inherit the Earth, Architects of Emortality, and The Fountains of Youth, The Cassandra Complex is the independent story of events crucial to the creation of the universe in which the others take place. It is the twenty-first century, a world of rapid change and biotech threats and promises. World War Three, the biotech war, is on the horizon and the world as we know it is going to end. The fateful ...
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The Cassandra Complex

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Overview


This is a science fiction novel of enormous scope, filled with wonders. Set earlier in the same "future history" as Inherit the Earth, Architects of Emortality, and The Fountains of Youth, The Cassandra Complex is the independent story of events crucial to the creation of the universe in which the others take place. It is the twenty-first century, a world of rapid change and biotech threats and promises. World War Three, the biotech war, is on the horizon and the world as we know it is going to end. The fateful question is, who is going to choose the kind of future that will follow, and who gets to live in this new world to come?

Lisa Frieman, a forensic researcher working for the police, is attacked in her apartment. Jordan Miller, a distinguished scientist with whom Lisa once worked, has disappeared with a secret discovery. But what has he discovered that everyone wants? And why do the thieves, and their remote masters, think that Lisa has any knowledge of the secret Miller guards?

Profound scientific extrapolation combined with riveting suspense make this at once a futuristic thriller and a cutting-edge SF novel. The Cassandra Complex expands the scope of Brian Stableford's growing future history and adds another major accomplishment to his long list of triumphant creations.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Veteran British author Stableford's Emortality series of future history novels (Inherit the Earth, Architects of Emortality and Fountains of Youth, which start in the 22nd century and end in the 26th) receives a near-future underpinning in this mid-21st-century puzzle of maneuvers in the face of impending doom. Police forensic scientist Lisa Friemann wakes one night to armed intruders in her highly secure dwelling. Nothing in all the information storage media the thieves steal seems important, or even work related. Events are hardly clarified by the news that prominent geneticist Morgan Miller, her graduate supervisor and longtime colleague, is missing. Does someone think Miller made a discovery that, contrary to usual practice, he had shared with no one in his field? And why would anyone want to bomb Mouseworld, the half-million-strong genetic library of rodent strains? Lisa's cityplex police and university colleagues enter the story one by one, followed by a confusing (to all concerned) array of other agencies and factions. Could there be a secret that will avert or postpone the expected world catastrophe, or at least give some people advantages over others? Stableford's background in biological and social sciences makes for convincing behavior and dialogue among the scientists, while long practice in the novelist's trade ensures a smooth and involving read. This series should remain more visible in the U.S. than his large stable of unjustly neglected past work. (Mar. 13) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
The world in 2041 is on the threshold of World War III. Everyone knows that science will determine the course of the coming war, which will not be fought by guns and bombs but by plagues and biotechnology. Lisa Friemann, a police forensic researcher close to retirement, must navigate a dangerous path between political factions, government operatives, and megacorporations when Morgan Miller, her former teacher and lover, is kidnapped. What secret has Dr. Miller kept from her all these years and how will it shape the future of the world's population? Stableford's latest novel is a prequel to the events in Inherit the Earth (Tor, 1998), Architects of Emortality (1999/VOYA June 2000), and The Fountains of Youth (2000). Although advertised as an independent story, the novel is too light to stand fully on its own. At its heart, the book wants to be a detective story, but it reads like a scientific treatise on population control. The text is a quick read, with all the action taking place within a handful of days, but it lacks any real tension to make it move along. The mystery is wrapped up too quickly and characters reach conclusions that are not explained fully. Strong language and adult situations are kept to a minimum, but the scientific terms and discussions can be confusing to the nonscientific. This book is recommended only for libraries with avid fans of Stableford and his series. VOYA CODES:2Q 2P S A/YA (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q;For the YA with a special interest in the subject;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12;Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Tor, 320p, $23.95. Ages 15 to Adult. Reviewer:Snow Wildsmith—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24,No. 5)
Library Journal
As the world hovers on the brink of a biotech war and social breakdown, an attack on forensic researcher Lisa Frieman, along with the disappearance of scientist Jordan Miller, leads to a search for a dangerous secret that could determine humanity's future. The author of Architects of Emortality and The Fountains of Youth continues to explore his vision of the future with this latest tale of technology gone awry and the efforts of ordinary heroes to put things right. Stableford balances issue-oriented sf with suspense-filled action to create a story that belongs in most sf collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another entry in Stableford's developing future history (The Fountains of Youth, 2000, etc.) exploring the possibilities of "emortality": what if humans, barring accident, could live for as long as they wanted? Forty years from now, in England, forensic scientist Lisa Friemann awakes to find armed intruders in her apartment, rifling her computer records; they assume (wrongly) that Lisa knows what they're looking for and why. Simultaneously, co-conspirators firebomb the famous and long-running experiment in rodent population dynamics, Mouseworld, set up by Lisa's boss, Morgan Miller-and abduct Miller himself. Before leaving, the intruders scrawl "Traitor" on Lisa's door. Clearly, Miller knows a big secret (concerning longevity research) but has kept it so quiet that he's never even told Lisa. Soon, Ministry of Defense investigator Peter Grimmett Smith co-opts Lisa onto the case. The conspiracy, larger than at first seemed possible, has its roots in various militant feminist movements of years past. Why, however, would Real Women and suchlike concern themselves with destroying colonies of mice? And what is it that Miller has known for more than 40 years, but hasn't told anyone else? Here, Stableford sidesteps his usual difficulties, relegating the exposition that too often congeals his work to stand-alone flashback chapters, while the narrative advances smoothly as a straightforward police procedural. The upshot, still strong on ideas and puzzles, should please and satisfy nearly everyone.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429981026
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 3/7/2001
  • Series: Emortality , #4
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


Brian Stableford lives in Reading, England.

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Read an Excerpt


ONE


When Lisa first heard the noise, she wasn't sure whether it was real or not. She didn't think she'd been asleep, but she couldn't be certain. Sometimes, like all confirmed insomniacs, she fell asleep without realizing she had done so--and sometimes she dreamed without actually falling properly asleep.
If the sound had been one of breaking glass or splintering wood, she would have sat up immediately to reach for the phone, but what she had heard--or thought she had heard--was the noise of the front door opening without any force applied to it. That should have been impossible. Both locks had combination triggers as well as swipe slots, and they were supposed to be unhackable. Lisa lived alone, and was not inclined to trust the combinations to anyone else. A member of the police force had to take such precautions very seriously, even if she was a lab-bound forensic scientist who ought to count herself lucky to be clinging on to limited duties now that she was past the official retirement date.
Because it seemed so unlikely that she had heard what she thought she did, Lisa remained quite still, straining her ears for further evidence. She let four or five seconds pass before she even opened her eyes to take a sideways glance at the luminous display on the screen beside her bed. The timer told her it was five minutes to four: the darkest and quietest period of the cold October night.
Then a second noise drew her eyes to the door of her bedroom. There was a certain amount of light filtering through the closed curtains, but she lived on the third floor, too far above the level of the streetlights to obtain much benefit from their yellow glow. The door was shadowed, and she couldn't tell for sure whether it was opening until she saw the pencil-thin beam of light sneaking through the widening crack--the beam that was guiding the person whose quiet hand was pushing the door open.
Lisa immediately pulled her bare right arm out from beneath the duvet, reaching for the handset suspended beside the screen. She thought she was moving fairly swiftly, but the intruder's beam had already caught the movement of her arm. Even as her hand made contact, she saw the silhouette of the gun barrel that had been raised to catch the light.
"Don't touch it!" The voice that spoke was filtered through some kind of distorter that made it sound robotic.
Lisa snatched her hand back, and immediately felt ashamed of her obedience.
"Shit," said a second voice, sounding from the hallway.
"Shh!" said the first intruder, who was now well into the room, holding the gun no more than a meter from Lisa's face. "Get on with it. She won't make any trouble."
Lisa had been in the police force for more than forty years, but she had never had a gun pointed at her. She didn't know how she was supposed to feel, but she was fairly certain that she wasn't afraid--puzzled and annoyed, but not afraid.
I ought to be able to identify the weapon, she thought. It was absurdly irritating that the only thing she could see in the beam of the light was an unrecognizable gun. It looked heavy and old--not exactly an antique, but not the sort of dart gun that had recently become fashionable among the young. It could easily have dated back to the turn of the century, maybe even to the period before the handgun ban that had preceded her recruitment to the police force. She knew that she would have to give Mike Grundy an exact account of what was happening, and that Judith Kenna would read her statement with utter contempt if there were nothing she could say for sure except that she had been threatened with a gun whose make she could not name.
As the other intruder moved inquisitively around the room, a second slender guide light briefly picked out the head of the one who was threatening Lisa, outlining an almost-featureless oval helmet. Lisa knew that the two must be dressed in matte black, probably in one-piece smartsuits whose unbreakable tissue-repellent fibers would leave no clues for forensic analysis. In order to be a successful burglar in the age of scientific detection, you had to be extremely careful to leave no traces. That wasn't the purpose of smart textiles, but it was a happy side effect as far as the criminal classes were concerned.
"What are you looking for?" Lisa asked. Because it was such a cliché, the question seemed far more foolish than it was. She had nothing worth stealing--nothing, at any rate, that justified the kind of risk the burglars were taking or the kind of expertise they must have employed to hack her unhackable locks.
"I think you know exactly what we want, Dr. Friemann," the distorted voice replied. The bedroom walls had neither eyes nor ears, but the other room was fully fitted and the bedroom door was still open. The speaker obviously didn't care about the possibility that the pickups in the other room would record the voice for analysis by Lisa's colleagues in Sight & Sound. Presumably, therefore, the voice distorter was no mere frequency modulator.
Do I know what they want? Lisa wondered. If they're professionals, it must be work, but I don't bring work home, Anyway, I don't have anything to do with AV Defence, or even with industrial espionage. Even if there is a war on, I'm a noncombatant. Her eyes tracked the movements of the second intruder, whose attention was now concentrated on the desk fitted into the corner to the left of the window. That was her main homestation. Her flat had only two rooms, apart from the kitchenette and the bathroom, and contemporary fashion dictated that if there wasn't an already allocated space, the best site for the main homestation was in the bedroom, not the "reception room." Having been brought up before the turn of the millennium, Lisa--who had little need for a room in which to receive visitors--always thought of her other room as the "living room," although the siting of the homestation ensured that the spent far more time in the bedroom.
The second intruder was already pulling wafers and sequins off the unit's shelves, sweeping them into a plastic sack without making any attempt to discriminate between them. A few old-fashioned DVD's went with them. Most of the stored information was entertainment, and most of the text and software was public-domain material that Lisa had downloaded for convenience in the days when downloading had been convenient. It was all replaceable, given time and effort, but some of it was personal, and much of that was private enough not to be stored in the unit's web-connected well or duplicated in Backup City. It wasn't the sort of stuff for which people kept remote backups--not even people who were far more conscientious about such things than Lisa was.
When the shelves had been swept clean, the searcher started poking in the cubbyholes and emptying the drawers.
"None of it's worth anything," Lisa said. The comment was as much discovery as complaint, because she realized as she watched the hidden corners of her life history disappearing into the sack that there was very little whose loss she had much cause to regret. She had never been the kind of person to attach sentimental value to digital images or documents.
"Be good, now," said the robotic voice, contriving to sound bitter and angry in spite of its manifest artificiality. "Stay quiet and stay alive. Play up and you might not."
"Why?" Lisa asked softly. She was genuinely puzzled. Even as an agent of the state, Lisa had rarely roused anyone to bitterness or anger; only one person had ever threatened to kill her, although her testimony in court had convicted more than a dozen murderers and more than a score of rapists. Save for that one exception, the convicted and condemned had always recognized that she was only reporting what the evidence revealed. Hardly anyone nowadays blamed messengers for the news they brought, although it was conceivable that the national paranoia that was increasing day by day while the Containment Commission dithered might yet bring back the bad old days.
"You'll work it out," her adversary informed her. "If we don't have what we need, we'll be back, and next time--"
Lisa never got to hear what would happen next time if the burglars didn't have what they needed, because the speaker was abruptly cut off by the telephone bell. It wasn't a particularly strident bell--Lisa never needed much waking up--but the tension of the situation made it sound louder than it was.
Lisa's eyes were immediately drawn to the screen, where the caller's number was displayed in red above and to the left of the time. She recognized the number immediately--and so did the person on the other end of the gun.
"It's Grundy's mobile," the robotic voice reported to the busy searcher. "Probably headed for the university."
"If I don't answer it," Lisa pointed out, "he'll know that something's wrong."
"He already knows," the distorted voice told her. "Fifteen minutes more and he'll know exactly how much is wrong. Believe me, Dr. Friemann, when I tell you that you won't be very high on his list of priorities."
That's what you think! Lisa retorted silently.
The telephone continued ringing.
"Finished," the searcher reported. "If it's here, I've got it."
Lisa didn't make any conscious decision to be brave. If she'd made a conscious decision at all, she'd have taken into account what the gun wielder had already told her about the possibility that playing up might put her life at risk. It was something deeper, something more reflexively desperate, that made her lunge for the handset and snatch it from its cradle.
"Help me, Mike!" she yelled. "Intruders on premises. Now, Mike, now!"
"Shit," said the searcher again.
"He's at least four miles away," said the burglar with the gun. The artificial voice still sounded bitter, but there was more contempt in it than anger. "The first three miles of that are in the blackout. The routine patrols have all been diverted. No help can reach you in time, Dr. Friemann."
Lisa was still holding the handset to her mouth. Mike Grundy was saying something, but he must have been holding his own handset too far away for a decent pickup, perhaps because he needed both hands to drive. He seemed to be cursing, but the word "blackout" leaped out of the incoherent stream like a weird echo.
"I need help, Mike," Lisa repeated, speaking more calmly now that it seemed she wasn't about to be shot. "Alert the station. The burglars are armed. They must have a vehicle downstairs, but for the moment, they're still here, taking time out to sneer."
Some movement of the weapon or a slight change of the dark figure's attitude must have spoken directly to Lisa's subconscious mind, because she jerked her face back, away from the handset, a full second before the gun went off.
The bullet hit the earpiece.
The impact plucked the handset from her loosening grip without breaking any of her fingers, but Lisa felt plastic shards scoring the flap of flesh between her thumb and forefinger and drawing jagged slits along her inner forearm. She saw the blood spurting even before she felt the shock. The pain must have been intense, if only for a moment, but she was far more aware of the fact of pain than of any actual feeling, and the fact seemed trivial by comparison with frank wonder that she had turned her head out of the way in time.
She had no time to curse before the gun fired again.
The screen beside the headboard shattered. Then the weapon fired twice more, its wielder having swiveled through a hundred and forty degrees. The entire homestation seemed to explode--but Lisa was still conscious, still very much alive.
"Nobody cares about you, you stupid bitch!" the distorted voice hissed in her ear. "Miller never cared, and no matter what he promised you, you'll be dead soon enough. I wouldn't do you the favor of shooting you. Let's go."
The final remark, Lisa knew, was addressed to the companion who had emptied her shelves and cubbyholes; it was unnecessary, because the second burglar was already exiting the room as fast as was humanly possible. The gunshots must have awakened the Charlestons, whose bedroom was directly below Lisa's, and maybe the Hammonds below them. The burglars wouldn't necessarily have a clear run down the three flights of stairs--but the inhabitants of Number 39 were a law-abiding lot. The two young tearaways on the ground floor were the kind who'd have a dart gun stashed behind a radiator, and John Charleston had always given the impression of being a man of hidden depths, but no one would impede the escape for more than the time it took for wise discretion to get the better of foolish valor.
"Morgan Miller never made anyone a promise he didn't intend to keep," Lisa remarked as the burglar with the gun disappeared into the darkness of the living room. "Not his style at all." The last words, at least, were too quietly spoken to be audible as the two intruders raced through the door that had the supposedly unhackable locks. They must have come up the stairs almost silently, but they went down like thunder, even in their muffled shoes.
Lisa leaped out of bed and ran to the window, not caring that she was naked as she snatched the curtains open. She hoped to catch a glimpse of whatever vehicle the thieves had arrived in, but they hadn't left it parked in the road outside the block of flats. She lingered for a couple of minutes, but she didn't see the fleeing burglars make their exit. If they'd come in by the front door, they'd obviously made provision to use a different exit.
The shooter had told the truth about the blackout. If Mike had started out from his own house in response to an alarm call, he'd have driven straight into total darkness, because all the lights on the farther side of Oldfield Park were out, at least as far to the north as Sion Hill. There had been a major power failure--or major sabotage. The town center was out, although the glow on the far side of Lyn-combe Hill suggested that Widcombe still had power.
Lisa didn't go to her own door, partly because she wanted to be certain there was nothing else to be seen in the flat--and no useful information to be gained there that might make her statement seem less ridiculous to Judith Kenna's censorious eye--and partly because she was still naked. As soon as she switched on the light in the living room, however, she saw the word that had been sprayed on the inswung door and knew it must have been put there before the two seeming professionals had hacked her supposedly unhackable locks.
The word was "Traitor."
It made no sense at all. Professional spies didn't pause in their work to spray insults on the walls of their victims. Even kids bent on pure vandalism rather than on profitable theft rarely used spray paint, because sprays were too promiscuous and carefully tagged; the contaminated clothing of the perpetrators would be ample evidence to secure conviction.
In any case, who on earth was she supposed to have betrayed? What awful secret did the burglars think she harbored, buried somewhere in her personal-data stores--and why did they think she had done them an injury by keeping it?
Lisa picked up the phone on the living-room table and was slightly surprised to find that it was still working, in spite of the comprehensive trashing of the bedroom systems. She punched out the number of Mike Grundy's mobile.
"I'm okay, Mike," she said as soon as he answered. "Four shots fired, but it's mostly property damage. I'm bleeding where shrapnel cut my hand and scraped my arm, but they didn't shoot to kill."
"I'll be there in two minutes," Mike told her. "I was already on my way to pick you up. You're not the only one to be targeted tonight--all hell is breaking loose. How bad's the bleeding?"
"Not bad," Lisa assured him, inspecting her hand while she said it. "It doesn't need gelling--not if the hospital's blacked out, at any rate. I'll wrap it up." She was still aware that it was hurting, as hand injuries always did, but it was still the fact of pain of which she was aware, coupled with a peculiar mental detachment. She told herself that it was hurting because of the density of the nerve endings, not because of the seriousness of the wound, and that it would heal easily enough. Then she told herself that she ought to be glad. If Judith Kenna had had her way, Lisa would have retired from the force without ever seeing action. Now she had been threatened and shot at, as well as embroiled in whatever kind of hell it was that was breaking out all over the western reaches of the cityplex.
"Do that," Mike said tersely. "I'll need you at the university. Firebomb in the labs. At least one person injured--one human, that is. Maybe half a million mice dead."
Lisa felt a shiver run through her body, but told herself it was delayed shock caused by the fact that she'd just had a gun pointed at her, not to mention that the gun had gone off--four times.
"Is it Morgan?" she asked querulously. "How bad is he?"
"I don't know yet," Mike told her. "Do you have any reason to think it might be Morgan?"
Lisa was all too keenly aware, even as she issued a reflexive denial, that the gun-wielding burglar must have mentioned Morgan Miller's name deliberately. Everything that had been said to her, in fact, must have been said for a reason, however perverse the reason might be. In a world whose walls were growing eyes and ears in ever-increasing quantities, only fools were incautious--and it was difficult to believe that anyone capable of opening her door could be a fool. They had painted TRAITOR on her door for a reason.
Lisa wanted time to think, but she didn't want to hang up the phone before she'd told Mike Grundy the most obviously interesting and most evidently sinister of all the things the person who'd shot at her had taken care to let her know. "The one who was holding the gun recognized the number of your mobile when you called," she said. "Whoever they are, they seem to know a hell of a lot more about us than we know about them."
It wasn't until after she'd said it that Lisa realized it might not be the cleverest thing for a person to put on the record when she'd just found the word TRAITOR sprayed on the door of her flat by someone who'd known the secret combinations of both its locks, especially when she desperately needed the goodwill of her superiors to be allowed to go on working.

Copyright © 2001 by Brian Stableford
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