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Spin State

Spin State

4.2 19
by Chris Moriarty

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From a stunning new voice in hard science fiction comes the thrilling story of one woman’s quest to wrest truth from chaos, love from violence, and reality from illusion in a post-human universe of emergent AIs, genetic constructs, and illegal wetware...


UN Peacekeeper Major Catherine Li has made thirty-seven faster-than-light jumps in


From a stunning new voice in hard science fiction comes the thrilling story of one woman’s quest to wrest truth from chaos, love from violence, and reality from illusion in a post-human universe of emergent AIs, genetic constructs, and illegal wetware...


UN Peacekeeper Major Catherine Li has made thirty-seven faster-than-light jumps in her lifetime—and has probably forgotten more than most people remember. But that’s what backup hard drives are for. And Li should know; she’s been hacking her memory for fifteen years in order to pass as human. But no memory upgrade can prepare Li for what she finds on Compson’s World: a mining colony she once called home and to which she is sent after a botched raid puts her on the bad side of the powers that be. A dead physicist who just happens to be her cloned twin. A missing dataset that could change the interstellar balance of power and turn a cold war hot. And a mining “accident” that is starting to look more and more like murder...

Suddenly Li is chasing a killer in an alien world miles underground where everyone has a secret. And one wrong turn in streamspace, one misstep in the dark alleys of blackmarket tech and interstellar espionage, one risky hookup with an AI could literally blow her mind.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite incorporating nearly every well-worn SF theme, Moriarty still manages fresh insights into humanity-and posthumanity-in this highly atmospheric debut, a hefty far-future exploration of AI, human cloning, class conflict and plain old-fashioned murder. Major Catherine Li and her fellow UN Peacekeepers battle hive-minded Syndicate genetic constructs for domination of planets settled through FTL (faster than light) migrations enabled by mysterious crystals, quantum-level anomalies of unimagined substance mined only on Compson's World. Resembling the Victorian British empire, the UN's vast interstellar commercial empire runs on the blood and sweat of a few thousand pitifully exploited miners like Li's father, who died so she could remake herself and escape the miners' fate. Now wired into "streamspace" with an AI lover who interacts with her through both male and female hosts, Li is tapped to investigate the murder of physicist Hannah Sharifi, her cloned twin who hoped to share the crystals' power. Based on the short, dangerous life of miners as well as the heady scientific stuff of quantum physics, the book can be heavy slogging for the uninitiated. Moriarty effectively postulates the Faustian price of enhancing humanity with silicon, of playing God through genetic manipulation. Beneath this complex tale ominously simmers Orwell's question: If all animals are to be equal, what can prevent some from making themselves more equal than the others? (Oct. 7) Forecast: With a blurb from Stephen Baxter, electronic promotion that includes a special e-newsletter campaign and an author whose background includes stints as a horse trainer, ranch hand and environmental lawyer, this should attract more than usual attention for a first novel. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When a prominent theoretical physicist perishes in a mine fire on Compson's World, the UN Peacekeepers dispatch Maj. Catherine Li to retrieve a set of missing data critical to the next step in interstellar travel. In a universe populated by artificial intelligences, genetic constructs, clones, and other forms of enhanced intelligent life, Li has spent most of her time passing for the human she once was-after numerous upgrades to her mind erased much of her early life. Now she must confront her past in a world of black-market technology and interstellar intrigue. Moriarty's debut novel combines a vivid future world of high technology and low politics with sharply drawn characters and a taut storyline. A solid addition to most collections, especially where hard sf is popular. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Vivid, sexy, and sharply written...a nonstop, white-knuckle tour of quantum physics, artificial intelligence, and the human heart."—Nicola Griffith

"A spiky, detailed, convincing, compelling page-turner, and the science is good too. Chris Moriarty is a dangerous talent."—Stephen Baxter

"Action, mystery and drama, set against some of the most plausible speculative physics I’ve seen."—David Brin

"Highly atmospheric ... a hefty far-future exploration of AI, human cloning, class conflict and plain old-fashioned murder."—Publishers Weekly

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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt


Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the Old One. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not play at dice.

--Albert Einstein

God may not play at dice, but She certainly knows how to count cards.

--Hannah Sharifi

They cold-shipped her out, flash-frozen, body still bruised from last-minute upgrades.

Later she remembered only pieces of the raid. The touch of a hand. The crack of rifle fire. A face flashing bright as a fish's rise in dark water. And what she did remember she couldn't talk about, or the psychtechs would know she'd been hacking her own memory.

But that was later. After the court-martial. After jump fade and the rehab tanks had stolen it from her. Before that the memory was still crisp and clear and unedited. Still hers.

After all, she'd been there.

Li knew Metz was going to be big as soon as she met the liaison officer TechComm sent out to brief her squad. Twenty minutes after Captain C. Xavier Soza, UNSC, hit planet surface he'd gone into anaphylactic shock, and she was signing him into the on-base ER and querying her oracle for his next-of-kin list.

Allergies went with the uniform, of course. Terraforming was just a benign form of biological warfare; anyone who had to eat, breathe, or move in the Trusteeships got caught in the crossfire sometime. Still, no normal posthuman was that fragile. This time TechComm had sent out a genuine unadapted Ring-bred human. And clever young humans didn't get cold-shipped to the Periphery, didn't risk decoherence and respiratory failure unless they'd been sent out to do something that counted. Something the brass wouldn't trust to the AIs and colonials.

Soza spent thirty hours in the tanks before he recovered enough to give them their briefing. He seemed alert when he finally showed up, but he was still short of breath, and he had the worst case of hives Li had ever seen.

"Major," he said. "Sorry you had to deal with that little crisis. Not how I imagined my first meeting with the hero of Gilead."

Li flinched. Was she never going to enter a room without her reputation walking two steps in front of her?

"Forget it," she said. "Happens to the best of us."

"Not to you."

She searched Soza's handsome, unmistakably human face for an insult. She found none; in fact his eyes dropped so quickly under her stare that she suspected he'd let the words slip out without thinking how they sounded. She glanced at her squad, settling into chairs proportioned for humans, behind desks designed for humans, and she felt the usual twist of relief, shame, envy. It was pure accident, after all, that her ancestors had boarded a corporate ship and paid for their passage with blood and tissue instead of credit. Pure accident that had subjected her geneset to anything more than the chance mutations of radiation exposure and terraforming fallout. Pure accident that made her an outsider even among posthumans.

"No," she told Soza finally. "Not to me."

Slip of the tongue or no, Soza was all smooth, cultured confidence when he stood up to give the briefing. His uniform hung the way only real wool could, and he spoke in smooth diplomatic Spanish that even the two newest enlisted men could follow without accessing hard memory. The very picture of a proper UN Peacekeeper.

"The target is located below a beet-processing plant," he told them, "hiding in its heat signature." He subvocalized, and a streamspace schematic of the target folded into realspace like a spiny asymmetrical flower. "There are five underground labs, each one of them a small-run virufacture facility. The system is deadwalled. No spinstream ports, no VR grid, not even dial-in access. The only way to break it is to shunt the cracker in on a human operative."

Soza nodded toward Kolodny, who straightened out of her habitual slouch and grinned wolfishly. There was a new scar along the rake of Kolodny's cheekbone. Fresh, but not so fresh that Li shouldn't remember it. She searched her active files, came up empty. Ran a parity check. Nothing. Christ, she thought, feeling queasy, how much is missing this time?

She was going to have to get someone to put a patch on her start-up files. Someone who could keep a secret. Before she forgot more than she could afford to forget.

"The rest of you will get the cracking team past the deadwall," Soza was saying, "and collect biosamples while the AI goes fishing. We're after whatever you can get on this raid. Source code, hardware, wetware. Especially wetware. Once the AI has the target code on cube, he wipes his tracks, and you withdraw. Hopefully without being detected."

"Which AI are we using?" Li asked.

But before Soza could answer, Cohen walked in.

Cohen wasn't his real name, of course. Still, he'd been calling himself that for so long that few people even remembered his Toffoli number. Today's interface wasn't one Li had seen before, but she knew it was Cohen on shunt before he closed the door behind him. He wore a silk suit the color of fall leaves--real silk, not tank-grown stuff--and he moved with the smooth, spare grace of a multiplanetary network shunting through cutting-edge wetware. And there was the ironic smile, the hint of laughter behind the shunt's long-lashed eyes, the faint but ever-present suggestion that whatever he was talking to you about couldn't possibly be as important as the countless other pies he had his fingers in.

As usual, he'd appeared at exactly the right moment, but with no apparent idea what he was doing there. "Hallo?" he said, blinking vaguely. "Oh. Right. The briefing. Did I miss anything?"

"Not yet," Soza answered. "Glad you could make it." He spoke French to Cohen, and Li glanced between the two men, wondering how they knew each other--and how well they knew each other--in the privileged world Ring-siders called normal life.

Cohen caught her looking at him, smiled, took a half step toward the empty place next to her. She turned away. He took a seat in the back. He leaned over and whispered something in Kolodny's ear as he sat down, and she smothered a laugh.

"We interfering with your social life, Cohen?" Li asked. "Like us to take the briefing elsewhere?"

"Sorry," Kolodny muttered.

Cohen just raised an eyebrow. As he did, a thin, dark-haired schoolboy trotted into Li's frontbrain, dribbling a soccer ball. He pantomimed an elaborate apology, then bounced the ball off the toe of one cleated foot, tucked it under his arm, and loped off toward a point behind her right ear. The cleats tickled; she had to resist the urge to reach up and rub her forehead.

<Stuff it,> she told Cohen.

Metz's Bose-Einstein relay was sulking today. A rapid-fire barrage of status messages flashed across Li's peripheral vision telling her that the relay station was establishing entanglement, acquiring a spinfoam channel, spincasting, matching spinbits to e-bits, running a Sharifi transform, correcting nontrivial spin deviations and dispatching the replicated datastream to whatever distant segments of Cohen's network were monitoring this briefing.

Before the first Bose-Einstein strike on Compson's World--before the first primitive entanglement banks and relay stations, before Hannah Sharifi and Coherence Theory--a message from Metz to Earth would have taken almost three days in transit along a narrow and noisy noninteractive channel. Now Bose-Einstein arrays sent entangled data shooting through the spinfoam's short-lived quantum mechanical wormholes quickly enough to link the whole of UN space into the vivid, evolving, emergent universe of the spinstream.

Except today, apparently.

<Can't you get a better channel?> Li asked.

<I already have,> Cohen answered before she'd finished the thought. <And if you cared about me, you'd laugh at my jokes. Or at least pretend to laugh.>

<Pay attention, Cohen. Kolodny's skin's on the line tomorrow, even if yours isn't.>

Soza had turned back to the VR display and was explaining the logistics of the raid. If things went as planned, Cohen would shunt through Kolodny and retrieve the target code. The rest of Li's squad had only two jobs: get the AI in and out and collect biosamples while he cracked on-line security. It sounded little different than the two dozen other tech raids Li had commanded, and she thought impatiently that Soza could have briefed them more efficiently by dumping the data into the squad's shared hard memory. She sat through about five more minutes before interrupting him with the obvious but still-unanswered question.

"So what are we looking for?"

"Ma'am," Soza said. He hesitated, and Li saw a flicker of self-doubt behind his eyes. She thought back to her first command, remembered the panic of wondering if she could give orders to seasoned combat veterans and make them stick. She'd been different, though. She'd led Peacekeepers in combat against Syndicate ground troops long before her first official command. Hell, she'd held a wartime field commission for three years before her CO would recommend a quarter-bred genetic for officers' candidate school. "Our reports--" Soza cleared his throat and continued. "Our reports indicate that the facility is producing products on the Controlled Technology List."

Someone--Dalloway, Li thought--snickered.

"That's not too helpful," Li said. "Last time I saw the CTL it ran to a few thousand pages. We go in with that, we're going to be confiscating wristwatches and toenail clippers."

"We also have strong evidence the parent corporation is Syndicate-friendly."

"That's it?" Li asked incredulously.

"That's it," Soza said.

He was lying, of course. She could see it in his eyes, which met her own gaze with unblinking, unnatural steadiness.

Her mind flashed back to her first meeting with Helen Nguyen--Christ, how many years ago had it been? She'd been younger than Soza then, but she'd already survived Gilead. And she'd known, standing in the discreet office of the woman whispered to be the UN's most ruthless and successful spymaster, that Nguyen's support could help her survive peacetime.

Bad liars always think they can make a lie stick with eye contact, Nguyen had murmured, an unnerving smile playing across her lips. But they're wrong, of course. There's no trick to lying well except practice. So go practice. That is, if you want to work for me.

Li stood up and flicked a thumb toward the door. "Can we speak privately, Captain?"

Squad members caught their breath, muttered, shifted on their benches. Fine, Li thought; it wouldn't hurt morale if they knew she was willing to go to bat for them. But that didn't mean she was going to dress down a TechComm liaison officer in front of them.

She followed Soza toward the door. In the back of the room, Cohen stood, stretched casually, and slipped out after them without even asking if he was wanted.

"Come on," Li said as soon as the three of them were out in the empty corridor. "Let's hear the real story."

"That is the real story," Soza said, still standing by his lie and putting his faith in eye contact. "That's what Intel gave us."

"No, it's not. Even Intel isn't that stupid. This your first trip to the Periphery, Soza?"

He didn't answer.

"Right. Well, let me tell you what they didn't tell you in your official briefing. Half the population of this planet are registered genetic constructs. The other half don't know what the hell they are and couldn't qualify for a clean passport even if they had the money to pay for a genetic assay. The only human in-system besides you is the governor. His air's shipped in, his food and water's shipped in, his official car has a full-blown life-support system, and he might as well be on Earth itself for all he has to do with anything. I could put you in a cab and drive you to places where people have never seen a human, where they'd look at you like you'd look at a mastodon. The Syndicates, on the other hand, are practically neighbors. We're eight months sublight from KnowlesSyndicate, fifteen from MotaiSyndicate. You can catch a ride to Syndicate space on half the freighters in-system as long as you're willing to pay cash, keep your mouth shut, and forget you ever met your fellow passengers."

Soza started to speak, but Li put up a hand impatiently. "I'm not being disloyal. Just realistic. We put riot troops on-surface here during the incursions. That's not the kind of thing people get over, whichever side of the gun they're on. And the Secretariat knows it. That's why they tread so lightly in the Trusteeships these days. And why they wouldn't in a million years call down a tech raid just because some local company is a little too friendly with the Syndicates. No. There's a reason for this raid. And the right thing for you to do is play straight with me about it."

"I can't," Soza said. He glanced at Cohen for support, but the AI just shrugged.

Li waited.

Soza laughed awkwardly. "General Nguyen warned me about your, uh, persuasiveness, Major. Look, I really admire you. You should have made colonel in your last go-round. Everyone who doesn't have his head stuck in a hole knows it. You're a credit to . . . well, all colonials. But you know that kind of politically sensitive information isn't cleared for release to line troops."

"It's cleared for release to you, though."

"Well . . . of course."

"And you'll be dropping with us tomorrow?" She asked the question in a carefully neutral voice. She didn't want to humiliate him--but she sure as hell wasn't going to sugarcoat it.

"No," Soza said. At least he had the grace to blush.

"So when the shooting starts, we'll have no one on the ground who knows enough to tell us when it's time to cut our losses and leave. I'm not willing to send my people into action under those conditions."

That hit Soza where he lived.

"They're not your people, Major. They're UN Peacekeepers. And they're under TechComm command for the duration of this mission."

"TechComm doesn't have to visit their parents when we send them home in boxes," Li said.

She stood toe-to-toe with Soza and looked straight into his eyes so he could see the green status light blink off behind her left pupil as she shut down her black box. "Look. Feed's off. This is soft memory only. It'll wipe as soon as we jump out-system." Well, not quite. But hopefully Soza was too young to know all the ways you could kink Peacekeeper datafiles.

"You're not authorized for that information," Soza said stiffly. This time he didn't call her Major.

"Well," Cohen said on-line. "That wasn't exactly a smashing success."

Li ignored him.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Chris Moriarty was born in 1968 and has lived in the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America. A resident of Utah since 1994, Chris has trained horses for cattle ranches and hunting operations, and worked as a ranch hand, backcountry guide, freelance editor and environmental lawyer.

From the Paperback edition.

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Spin State 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Every time Major Catherine Li does a faster than light space leap she loses memory. So far she has been able to hide her loss, but knows that soon she will have to trust someone to provide her with a special memory chip. Catherine is not human, but is an illegal clone working as a Home Sapiens UN Peacekeeper.

Her latest assignment takes her to the planet Metz where Catherine and a team of experts are to penetrate to an illegal cloning lab. When they reach their destination with poor information from their mission leader, Li finds a dead clone of herself. She realizes that she must find the killer in case she is the intended target though she might leave herself open to exposure as an illegal being.

SPIN STATE is an exciting science fiction tale that hooks the reader from the moment Li realizes that she and the team are being handicapped on the Metz assignment. The story line moves forward at a rapid pace, not slowing down until the final moment. The focus of the story is on Li, a great lead character sort of a cross between a cloned Logan (Logan¿s Run) and Blade Runner. Fans of action-packed futuristic thrillers with a human rights message will appreciate light jumping with Chris Moriarty.

Harriet Klausner

dealon More than 1 year ago
The characters in this book, both physical and AI, are believable and interesting. The situations are truthful even in todays world and current corporate outlook on the ways they would like to increase thier "Bottom Line". The science is up to date with a little strech of your imagination. When reading it I find that I always go a little further until I can put it down. I like the way it flows and the main character is one I would like to see in other books. I think that this Author will do well and expect I will read other works by her.
budmelius More than 1 year ago
Believable characters that you feel for. Sifi can overly rely on gee whiz tricks and forget that in the end its not the genre,but the writing and the people you meet as you read that brings you back. I've read the book three times and look forward to the next read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A cyberpunk, space opera, military scifi, noir thriller love story. Not surprisingly, lacking in focus as a result but not without charm. Good characters, dialogue, atmosphere. A totally incomprehensible plot, and the usual-for-scifi unsatisfactory ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Easily one of the 3 best sci-fi books I have ever read. As if William Gibson, Isaac Asimov, C.J. Cherryh, David Brin and Neil Stephenson collided with John Le Carre: simultaneously cyberpunk, hard SF and espionage/spy thriller ¿ amazing. The writing is as slick as Gibson and Stephenson; the feel and ¿look¿ is as sharp and rich as Bladerunner and The Matrix; the action as fast-paced and hard-driving as anything I¿ve seen; and the intrigue as complex and compelling as Le Carre. As for the characters¿ well, let me put it this way: Major Catherine Li is so tough and smart that she is undoubtedly the sexiest female sci-fi character I¿ve ever encountered, while her ally/adversary/suspect/lover (an A.I. by the name of Hyacinth Cohen) is even better: maybe the single best and most memorable sci-fi character ever written. In short: Wow! When do the movie and the sequel come out?
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're cruising for new cyberpunk to feed the addiction, stop here! This book is awesome. Great eyeball kicks, seamy corporate politics, and characters running for their lives in a universe that could only have been invented by someone who is (and I mean this in the best possible sense) truly a sick puppy! Remember Molly from Neuromancer? Well, Li is Molly and then some. She's an illegal clone who walked into a blackmarket chop shop and bought herself a dead girl's genes in order to pass as human so she could enlist in the UN Peacekeepers. It looks like her cover's about to be blown any minute as the book starts. And to make things worse she's been accused of having committed war crimes. She can't prove her innocence because the United Nations now has the technology to 'wash' soldiers memories 'for their own good.' ... But of course since this is cyberpunk (and twisted as hell, even for cyberpunk), it turns out that Li's not all that innocent after all. Like I said, Moriarty's one sick puppy. And then there are the AIs. They run the interstellar economy (which looks a lot like today's global market gone totally crazy and complete with the futuristic equivalents of Nike and Martha Stewart). The AIs also like to 'shunt' through human bodies .. partly because it turns out that, like organics, they're a lot less interested in playing chess than they are in drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll ... and money, of course! My one complaint about this book is that it seems like the author was trying too hard to appeal to straight hard sf readers, and there are more exposition chunks about quantum physics and artificial intelligence than I necessarily wanted. Still ... great characters, severely cool future universe. This is a must read anyone looking for mindblowing new cyberpunk!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don&rsquo;t let the quantum physics scare you away. Spin State by Chris Moriarty is so much more than a book grounded in high tech mechanics and artificial intelligence. I won&rsquo;t lie, I was intimidated by the material while reading the first 50 pages or so. As someone who has barely dabbled the world of science fiction, and whose mind is so far away from understanding scientific musings that it is almost shameful, after I delved into this book, I thought that it might be out of my league; over my head. And to continue my honesty streak, there are still elements about this book that I don&rsquo;t understand; technical elements within the world that are beyond the grasp of my intellect without further research. Yet I kept reading the book. Once I got 100 pages in, which took me a week, I finished the next roughly 350+ pages within three days.  So how does a book keep a reader hooked when the reader doesn&rsquo;t completely understand all the material the book is talking about? Two elements: characterization and writing style. I was able to read Spin State and thoroughly enjoy it because of the characters, particularly UN Peacekeeper Major Catherine (Katie) Li and AI Cohen. Strip away all of the classifications surrounding the novel &ndash; science fiction, futuristic, high-tech, &ldquo;white-knuckle tour of quantum physics&rdquo; &ndash; and this book covers a universal topic: trying to navigate the harsh highways of the human heart.  A woman deals with her emotions in less than healthy ways, trying to sort out her feelings for arguably the love of her life while also trying to ignore the past she escaped from, which becomes harder and harder to do, especially after she is forced to return to her hometown for the first time since she&rsquo;s escaped it. An AI who is cheeky, intelligent, in love and might be tired of waiting. Multiple players who have big stakes and even bigger secrets who complicate their lives. In a battle for power between the UN and the Syndicates, it&rsquo;s a whirlwind of a ride trying to figure out which side to choose and who to cheer for &ndash; and by the time you reach the end, you wonder if you made the right choice.  The characters, like any great piece of fiction, are the heart of this story, which makes it available for enjoyment even to the most ignorant readers, such as myself. And Moriarty&rsquo;s writing style keeps anyone who appreciates well-written literature hooked. Her tempo is perfect, her dialogue is witty and moves you, and, like Li, she doesn&rsquo;t waste time on unnecessary details, but instead keeps the action moving. As someone whose brain and studies don&rsquo;t align naturally to understanding the sciences, I would have appreciated a bit more explanation behind the world and how everything worked. But, despite that, I was still engrossed and invested in the characters and what happened to them. And I was definitely pissed at the ending, so I think it&rsquo;s safe to say the author did her job right, considering.  I would definitely recommend it, especially if you were well-versed in the universe of science fiction. But even if you aren&rsquo;t, why don&rsquo;t you take a risk and try it out? I think the risk proves worth it. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Somewhat confusing to follow for the uninitiated and non-techie minded and a difficult read for some without a doubt; a gripping read nonetheless. It makes you want to go find out the back- and future-story of the protagonist. A whimsical application of the Everett many-worlds hypothesis implying a subtle rebuttal of the Bohr/Copenhagen intransigency. And, just as Heinlein advised in his own works, if you're not interested in the technicalities, you can skim over those parts if you like, to enjoy a refreshing take on the issues of today in a non-dystopic but problematic and original world of tomorrow.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A strong story line and well written main character backs this fast paced, high tech cyberpunk mystery set on a remote mining colony. As Major Catherine Li is sent back to her home planet after a lifetime of peacekeeper service to investigate the accidental death of a well known physicist who is her cloned twin she is left with only more questions in an ever increasing circle of mystery and inter-stellar intrege that could upset the balance of power forever. But will finding the answers to the mystery expose her own hidden secrets.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago