Diving into the Wreckby Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she’s an active historian. She wants to know about the past—to experience it firsthand. Once she’s dived the ship, she’ll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can
Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she’s an active historian. She wants to know about the past—to experience it firsthand. Once she’s dived the ship, she’ll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can bring tourists to dive it as well. It’s a good life for a tough loner, with more interest in artifacts than people.
Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It’s impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have journeyed this far from Earth. It shouldn’t be here. It can’t be here. And yet, it is. Boss’s curiosity is up, and she’s determined to investigate. She hires a group of divers to explore the wreck with her, the best team she can assemble. But some secrets are best kept hidden, and the past won’t give up its treasures without exacting a price in blood.
- Prometheus Books
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DIVING INTO THE WRECK
By KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2009 Kristine Kathryn Rusch
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI hurtle through the darkness of space, snug and secure in my single ship. I've just come back from a salvage operation run by a friend, a salvage operation that held no real interest for me except as a way to pick up some extra cash.
That, and my friend promised me I could have the tourist dive site if the wreck was one I could use. By use, we meant that I could bring inexperienced divers to the wreck and give them the pretend adventure their money has paid for. Since this wreck is suited for tourist dives, I'm planning to file a postsalvage claim when I get back to Hector Prime.
My single ship is small, little more than a cockpit (which fits only one) with a bedroom/galley behind. I never sleep on the single ship. It has automatic controls, but I shut them off as I travel.
If I can't take the ship from a port to a station or a station to a hub in thirty hours (which is the longest I can go safely without sleep), then I travel in my full-sized ship, Nobody's Business.
But the salvage is an easy week from Hector Prime and there are a lot of space stations along the way, so I take the single ship. It's inconspicuous, and I like that-not just as a woman alone in the vastness of space, but also as a wreck diver.
Too often, the Business has attracted thieves and claim jumpers, people who would just as soon kill you as give up the ship you've discovered.
No one has ever followed my single ship. To my knowledge, no one has ever tried.
On the way back, in the only stretch of space that made me nervous as I planned the trip, my sensors blip.
Most pilots ignore a blip like that. Most ships' automatic circuits actually filter such blips out. That's why I fly the single ship manually.
Small sensor blips mean that a faint energy signature is somewhere nearby-although "nearby" is relative in space-and faint energy signatures often point to abandoned and distressed ships.
I specialize in abandoned ships. I dive them, sometimes for salvage, sometimes for curiosity, sometimes to locate a good tourist wreck.
The work pays well enough that I can indulge my true love-diving ancient wrecks for the history value. I collect ship types the way some people collect glassware. I want to be able to say I dove a previously undiscovered Generation C-Class or an abandoned first-issue space yacht or a commandeered merchant ship from the Colonnade Wars.
After I dive the ships and map them, I often turn them over to museums or historical societies. Sometimes I leave them in place for tourist dives, and sometimes I don't report them at all, leaving them in their floating grave for some other enterprising diver to discover.
I've explored more than a thousand ships, and still a blip on my sensors sends my heart pounding.
As quick as I can, I drop out of faster-than-light. Then I press the screen in front of me, replaying the readout to make sure I haven't misread the blip.
I haven't. It existed for only a fraction of a second, but it existed.
I memorize the coordinates-which are a long way from me now-and I work my way back.
It takes two jumps and a half day of searching before I find the blip again and match its speed and direction.
I'm already fifteen hours alone in the single ship. I should find a place to get a meal and a good night's sleep, but I'm too far from anything. An energy signature this far out belongs to a ship that's lost.
My stomach clenches. I never know what I'm going to encounter when I find a lost ship.
Five separate times, I've found ships in distress. One still had its beacon going decades after everyone on board had died. Two other ships had dying crew members on board, crew members I was too late to save.
I had to help the last two ships jury-rig some kind of fail-safe, and then leave, promising that I would send help-which I always did. Leaving is the hardest part. The people on board, no matter how professional they are, have panicked. They're near the end, and they always believe that a single pilot will never send anyone back for them.
They're convinced I'll never tell anyone about them when they hear that I'm a professional wreck diver. They think I'm going to wait until they die so I can come back and loot the ship.
I'm sure some of my colleagues might do that, but I never would. I do business as ethically as a wreck diver can. I file the proper documentation (after I've dived, however), and I try to keep my group dives injury free. Every wreck diver has lost a team member at one point or another, and I'm no exception, but as dive companies go, mine is pretty accident free.
I pride myself on that, just like I pride myself on helping people who need it.
But I don't like helping. It's fraught with emotion of all kinds, and I do my best to stay out of emotional situations. I'm as pure a loner as someone can be. Space suits me. I can go weeks without speaking to anyone, and I don't miss the company.
So going from my single ship to a situation potentially filled with needy, dying people always makes me nervous.
I ease the single ship forward quietly, lights and communications array off. Once I happened upon a group of marauders who used a distress signal to lure in unsuspecting do-gooders. I managed to get away before they could harm me, but I've heard of several other pilots who've suffered the loss of their ships and worse.
I'm being as cautious as I can.
My sensors are on full, but I'm not recording with them. Instead, I'm using a link I've built into the single ship that attaches to a small computer I wear on my wrist.
The additional link was simple enough to build: single ships are designed to monitor the pilot's eyes, heart rate, and respiration rate. Should my heart slow, my breathing even, or my eyes close for longer than a minute, the automatic controls take over the entire ship. Unconsciousness isn't as much of a danger as it would be if the ship were completely manual, but consciousness isn't a danger either. No one can monitor my movements simply by tapping the ship's computer.
The additional link that I've set up only feeds information in one direction-into my personal computer. The coordinates of the blip, the readings I've taken as I've approached, and everything about the blip itself are stored on my system, not the single ship's.
All someone probing my ship from a distance will learn is that I've come to an unusual region of space for a reason they can't entirely determine.
But I know. The faint energy signature has led me to a black lump against the blackness of space.
A ship, just like I'd hoped and feared.
My breath catches. I scan for distress signals, for signs of life. But my sensors tell me that the ship has no environment and no active power systems. The energy signature I've found remains weak-one final system that refuses to turn off or, perhaps, a sort of stardrive that I don't entirely recognize. One that's built on some form of energy with a half-life that'll give off readings for generations.
The wreck is huge-five times the size of the Business-and it has a configuration I don't recognize. My single ship's computer hypothesizes that the ship is Old Earth make, at least five thousand years old, but I ignore that hypothesis since it has to be wrong.
Ships that old could never have made it this far from Earth, not in five thousand years. Maybe not even in ten.
This ship is something else, something my not-so-sophisticated single ship computer system doesn't recognize. The system doesn't guess per se-computers still lack the ability to do that-but it sends me information with confidence, picking the closest ship from the array it has in its database.
What I can tell for certain is this: The wreck has been alone and abandoned for a long time. The giant hull is pitted and space-scored, with some kind of corrosion on the outside.
As I circle the thing, moving slowly and keeping my distance, I notice some holes as well, where debris has hit the hull over time.
The holes mean there are no working shields and no way for someone to still be alive on that thing. I suspect, with something as old as this ship appears to be, that scavengers have already looted its interior.
The ship is derelict, abandoned and worthless.
To everyone but me.
* * *
I leave the ship as I've found it, drifting. I make no mention of it in the mandatory reports that I have to send to the next space base. I tell no one what I've seen.
I just make note, and I keep my own computer files on my personal system. I never let that system out of my sight.
It takes me three full travel days (with stops along the way) to get to Hector Prime. I keep an apartment there, although I don't call that home.
Home, to me, is Nobody's Business, which I have modified for my every need. But I keep two "real" residences-the apartment on Hector Prime and a berth at Longbow Station.
The berth at Longbow gives me privileges at the station. The apartment on Hector Prime allows me to store my stuff somewhere relatively safe.
I like Hector Prime. It's at the very edge of the Enterran Empire, so far away from the Empire's center that the government actually seems lax here. I'm not antigovernment; I just don't think about it much. Because if I do, I worry.
The Empire started the Colonnade Wars all those years ago. It wanted more territory, and it succeeded in getting that territory. If things had gone differently, Hector Prime would have been part of what the Empire calls Rebel Space. The rest of us call it the Nine Planets Alliance, and we travel back and forth between the Alliance and the Empire.
Technically, the Empire holds my citizenship, but in reality, the Alliance touches my heart. That's probably because the Alliance doesn't want my heart-and the Empire does.
Or maybe I just like misfits, since I consider myself one.
Still, my official address is on Hector Prime. I keep an apartment in one of the more expensive sections of the city. I like the area's security-the way it'll notify the Business if someone is breaking into apartments in the area, not to mention if someone were to break into mine.
Most of my possessions, while valuable, mean little to me. But the computer system that I store there is almost as valuable as the one I have hardwired into my quarters on the Business. On my apartment system, I keep coded records, logs, and other information.
I doubt anyone can break the codes, but I want to be informed if someone tries.
For buried within all that information-a lot of flotsam and jetsam of galaxy history, favorite reading materials, downloaded holoplays, and fake genealogy charts for the family I've long ago abandoned-are the locations of my favorite wrecks. Not the ones the tourists dive, but the ones that hold a special place in my heart.
The ones filled with history. The ones that matter more to me than anything.
I don't record the new ship's presence in any of those logs. I won't record it until after I've dived it. But I do make a hand-scrawled note and paste it to my kitchen wall. All the note has are numbers: the date I discovered the wreck followed by the identification number of my single ship intermingled with the wreck's coordinates. The code is simple, and a determined someone could break it, I suppose, but no one has yet.
And it's a nice security feature in case someone steals my systems-all of them.
Right now, I don't care about much of the information on them.
All I care about is the new wreck.
* * *
My apartment is almost as spare as the single ship. I have a kitchen, a bedroom, and a living room. I sleep in the living room and use the bedroom as a workspace. It's littered with computer parts, old and new. It would take a burglar a while to figure out which system is the current one.
Sometimes I change from a modern machine to an old one. Sometimes I add components that don't really fit just to throw people off.
While I have been robbed on the Business-by a former colleague, no less-I haven't been robbed in the apartment.
But a diver can't be too careful.
It's a competitive business, and what a diver has, besides her diving skills, are the locations of her favorite and upcoming wrecks. No matter how much money a diver has, no matter how much loot she finds, she learns that those things don't matter.
All that matters are the wrecks.
I switch the systems around again before I begin research on the new wreck. First I download the ship's shape and the specs I could gather by flying around it.
Then I let the database work, seeing if my extensive collection of historical ships has any record of something of this shape.
I'm loath to work on the public networks. Sometimes an inquiry is enough to notify a claim jumper. I prefer to use the databases I've developed.
Even using mine, it takes a full day of nonstop work before it locates a match.
The system shows me the match holographically, creating models of the ship I saw and the ship in the database. The holographic ships cover the carpeted floor. I can walk around them. I can put one image on top of the other. I can enlarge or reduce them.
I do all of these things. My computer believes these ships are the same, and my eyes tell me that they are as well.
But I don't like what I'm seeing.
Because that means my single ship computer was right: this wreck is five thousand years old.
Worse, it's Earthmade.
And even worse than that, it's a Dignity Vessel.
Dignity Vessels, while legendary, have never traveled more than fifty light-years from Earth.
Dignity Vessels weren't designed to travel huge distances, at least by current standards, and they weren't manufactured outside of Earth's solar system. Even drifting at the speed it's currently moving, it couldn't have arrived at its present location in five thousand years, or even fifty thousand.
Yet it's there.
Drifting. Filled with mystery.
Filled with time.
Waiting for someone like me to figure it out.
Excerpted from DIVING INTO THE WRECK by KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH Copyright © 2009 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an award-winning mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy writer. She has written many novels under various names, including Kristine Grayson for romance, and Kris Nelscott for mystery. Her novels have made the bestseller lists–even in London–and have been published in fourteen countries and thirteen different languages. Her awards range from the Ellery Queen Readers Choice Award to the John W. Campbell Award. She is the only person in the history of the science fiction field to have won a Hugo award for editing and a Hugo award for fiction. Her short work has been reprinted in sixteen Year’s Best collections. She is the former editor of prestigious The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Before that, she and Dean Wesley Smith, started and ran Pulphouse Publishing, a science fiction and mystery press in Eugene. She lives and works on the Oregon Coast. Visit her online at http://kriswrites.com
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[CAUTION CONTAINS SPOILERS] I've never read anything from this author before, however, the premise of this book really appealed to me. I found the mystique of diving into an ancient earth space vessel that leads to another dimension very intriguing. Especially since said vessel's technology dates backs before a time for its own potential to exist. Unfortunately, this story didn't intrigued me as I had hoped. I was very disappointed with how the discovery of another dimension was handled. It was so blasé. They find a doorway to another dimension and instead of exploring it, they blow it up? What is the point? Nothing really became of the story. There was lack of a sense of adventure you expect to find with stories that concentrate on exploration of the unknown. There wasn't much action and the heroine spent most of her time thinking, researching books and databases, instead of exploring the final frontier. I did manage to read this entire book, however, I do admit to skipping through the long-winded parts [which were many]. I gave this book one-star because it wasn't entirely all bad [and because B&N doesn't allow you to rate a book ZERO stars]. There were a couple of dives that piqued my curiosity but like the rest of the story they all seem to fall flat. I honestly don't feel like I'm missing out if I banish this series from my reading list. Basically I found this book a waste of my time and I will not be reading book 2 in this series. In addition, this book is way over priced; thank goodness I checked this book out from the library instead of buying it. What a waste of a potentially brilliant storyline.
Boss prefers to work alone when diving into a wreck though she works salvage operations with others. She feels she is more ethical than most of her rivals in their search for historical vessels as she always helps those in dire need in outer space though she prefers not to. Some of her unsavory colleagues would wait for a trapped crew to die so they can salvage like scavengers. For her current quest the recluse uses her single crew ship rather than her larger Nobody's Business vessel, but what awaits her is a shocker. Her computer claims the derelict is somewhat between 5,000 and 10,000 years old and from old earth; an impossible scenario as that time frame and locale did not have the technology for the faster than light speed to float this far. She searches for historical data as she is curious about this enigmatic anachronism, but fears what she will learn as the misunderstood ancient sciences might prove deadly. Bringing together a special crew of loner divers, Boss and company explore the vessel while she considers following her mom who left her to vanish inside the mysterious Room of Souls. DIVING INTO THE WRECK is an exhilarating fast-paced yet cerebral science fiction thriller. Filled with action and adventure but purposely with two dimensional characters including Boss who is a bit more philosophical. Kristine Kathryn Rusch uses outer space to have her audience consider ethics and morality re the scientific-government complex and how society looks back at ancient civilizations through a modern day lens while failing to provide a historiographic disclaimer about the background of the anthropologist or archeologist leading the glimpse through time. Harriet Klausner
I am so glad I started reading this series. Start with the short story - Becalmed. Stick with it. I thought it started slow, but grows on you very quickly
This appears to be the first of a series of books about a long-lost technology called "stealth tech." It has an unsatisfying ending with loose ends. Although the characters are believable, the story is slow moving.
This is a dismal outing all around. Readers of Rusch's other SF works will know that the science part of her science fiction is sketchy at best, and it hits a new low in this novel. The plot and characters fare no better. Despite its far future setting, where humans have prowled the depths of space for many thousands of years, spacesuits are fragile things that can be easily damaged, and apparently can only carry enough air for a couple of hours. Our current astronauts can manage better than that (apparently re-breather technology has been lost in the misty past along with the "stealth tech" that forms a focal point of the story.) In most places where technology is mentioned, it is glossed over as quickly and opaquely as possible. Part of the joy of science fiction is in imagining the technology of the far future. Rusch instead tries to mumble her way through it and hope that no one notices. This lack of technical acumen is tolerable in the Retrieval Man series, where the characters are stronger and more interesting, but here it guts the already weak story. The main character is a mess of contradictions: a renowned wreck diver, she is not a very good spaceship pilot or explorer; sometimes she's timid to the point of exasperation, other times she is reckless. She shares the paranoia of another Rusch protagonist, the able Miles Flint of the Recovery Man series, and after seeing some of the same character traits recycled here, one begins to think that Rusch's bag of tricks is quite small indeed. In passages where "The Boss", as the main character is known, interacts with her crew, she seems completely inept. She keeps having insights about other characters' facial expressions, then fails to make any sort of lucid comment that plays on that character's divined mental state. Well before I got within spitting distance of the conclusion, I no longer cared what happened, because I no longer believed in the characters or the setting. I've read plenty of books that were just blah, but this one is so aggressively bad that it actually reached out and killed my suspension of disbelief. A huge disappointment, and best avoided.