Luna: Wolf Moon continues Ian McDonald's saga of the Five Dragons.
A Dragon is dead.
Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed.
The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward--virtually a hostage--of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon.
Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and more to the pointthat he is still a major player in the game. After all, Lucas always was the Schemer, and even in death, he would go to any lengths to take back everything and build a new Corta Helio, more powerful than before. But Corta Helio needs allies, and to find them, the fleeing son undertakes an audacious, impossible journey--to Earth.
In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war erupts.
1. Luna: New Moon
2. Luna: Wolf Moon
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By Ian McDonald
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2017 Ian McDonald
All rights reserved.
The boy falls from the top of the city.
He is lean and lithe as a power line. His skin is the colour of copper, spangled with dark freckles. His eyes are green, his lips are lush and full. His hair is a shock of rust-coloured dreads frustrated inside a lime-green headband. Two stripes of white gloss highlight each cheekbone, a vertical runs down the centre of his lips. He wears tangerine sports tights, cut low, and a white over-sized T-shirt. FRANKIE SAYS ... declares the T-shirt.
It is three kilometres from the roof down to the floor of the great lava chamber in which Queen of the South stands.
The kids were running the top of the city; free-styling the old, automated industrial levels, swinging through the rigging of the world with breathtaking grace and skill; springing from rails and stanchions, bounding from wall to wall to wall, leaping, flipping, tumbling, flying across abysses, up and up as if weight were a fuel they burned to turn gravity back on itself.
The boy is the youngest of the team. He's thirteen; brave, agile, audacious, drawn to the high places. He limbers up with his fellow traceurs down on Queen of the South's forested floor, but his eyes are drawn towards the great towers, up to where they join the sunline. Stretch muscles, pull grip-gloves on to hands and feet. Practice jumps to loosen up, step up on to a bench and in a thought he is ten metres up. A hundred metres. A thousand metres; dancing along parapets and bounding up elevator gantries in five-metre bounds. To the top of the city. The top of the city.
All it takes is an infinitesimal mistake; a fraction of a second slow in reaction, a millimetre short in the reach, a finger light in the grip. His hand slips on the cable and he falls into empty air. No cry, only a small, amazed gasp.
Falling boy. Back first, hands and feet clutching at the gloved hands reaching down from the tangle of pipes and conduits along the roof of Queen. There is an instant of shock when the traceurs realise what has happened, then they explode from their perches, racing across the roof to the nearest tower. They'll never be fast enough to beat gravity.
There are rules of falling. Before he ever jumped, climbed, vaulted, the boy learned how to fall.
Rule one: You must turn. If you can't see what's beneath you, you are at best hurt badly, worst dead. He turns his head, looks down into the vast spaces between Queen's hundred towers. He twists his upper body; cries out as he wrenches an ab turning the rest of his body face down. Beneath him is a deadly lattice of crossing bridges, cable ways, catwalks and fibre-runs woven between the skyscrapers of Queen. He must navigate those.
Rule two: Maximise air resistance. He spreads arms and legs. Atmospheric pressure in a lunar habitat is 1060 kilopascals. Acceleration under gravity on the surface of moon is 1.625 metres per second squared. Terminal velocity for a falling object in atmosphere is sixty kilometres per hour. Impact the floor of Queen of the South at sixty kilometres per hour and there is an eighty per cent chance he will die. Impact at fifty kilometres per hour and there is eighty per cent chance he will live. His fashion T-shirt flaps in the gale. And FRANKIE SAYS: This is how you live.
Rule three: Get help. 'Joker,' he says. The boy's familiar rezzes up on the lens in his right eye, the implant in his left ear. True traceurs run without AI assistance. It's too easy for a familiar to map out the best route, locate hidden hand holds, advise on micro climate conditions. Parkour is about authenticity in a totally artificial world. Joker analyses the situation. You are in extreme danger. I have alerted rescue and medical services.
Rule four: Time is your friend. 'Joker, how long?'
The boy now has everything he needs to survive.
The overstretched abs hurt like hell and something tears in his left shoulder as he pulls the T-shirt off. For a few seconds he breaks his spread-eagle position and accelerates alarmingly. Wind tears at the T-shirt in his hands. If he loses grip, if he loses the shirt, he dies. He needs to tie three knots while falling at terminal velocity. Knots are life. And the 77th cross bridge is there: there! He goes into spread, applies his teaching: tilts his upper body forwards, his arms, shifts his centre of gravity above his centre of hang. Tracking position. He slides forward and misses the bridge by metres. Faces look up at him. Look again: they've seen fliers. This boy is not a flier. He is a faller.
He knots neck and sleeves into a loose bag.
Two minutes. I estimate you will impact at ...
'Shut up Joker.'
He gathers two fistfuls of T-shirt. This is about timing. Too high and he'll have limited manoeuvrability to clear the crosswalks and conduits webbed between the towers. Too low and his improvised parachute will not have brought him down to survive-speed. And he wants to land very much slower than fifty kilometres per hour.
'Let me know at one minute, Joker.'
The deceleration will be savage. It might rip the T-shirt from his grip.
Then he dies.
He can't imagine that.
He can imagine being hurt. He can imagine everyone looking down at him dead and crying at the tragedy. He likes that thought, but that's not death. Death is nothing. Not even not nothing.
He tucks his arms again to drift under the 23rd level cable-way.
He thrusts his arms forward. The T-shirt rattles and flaps in the gale. He ducks his head through the space between his elbows, thrusts his arms up. The knotted T-shirt balloons out. The sudden braking is brutal. He cries out as his strained shoulder is wrenched in its socket. Hold on hold on hold. Gods gods gods the ground is so close. The parachute leaps and tugs like someone fighting him, someone who wants to kill him. The strain in his arms, his wrists is agony. If he lets go now, he will hit hard and wrong: feet first, his hips and thighs shattered and driven up into his organs. Hold on, hold on. He cries, he gasps in effort and frustration.
'Joker,' he gasps. 'How fast ...'
I can only estimate from ...
Forty-eight kilometres per hour.
That's still too fast. He can see where he will hit, it's only seconds away. A clear space between the trees, a park. People are running along the axial paths, some away, some towards the place where they estimate he will impact.
Medical bots have been dispatched, Joker announces. That bright thing, kind of big and bulky, what is it? Surfaces. Things poking out. A pavilion. Maybe for music or sherbet or something. It's fabric. That might minus the last few kilometres per hour he needs. It's also poky things; struts and stays. If he hits one at this speed it will go through him like a spear. If he hits at this speed, he might die anyway. He has to time this right. He tugs one side of the T-shirt parachute, trying to spill lift, trying to slide himself towards the pavilion. This is so hard so hard so hard. He cries out as he twists his agonised shoulder, trying to gain a last little lateral movement. The ground rushes up.
At the last second he lets go of the T-shirt and tries to tilt forward into spread to maximise his surface area. Too late too low. He hits the roof of the pavilion. It's hard, so hard. A split second of stunned pain, then he punches through it. His drift carries him clear of whatever is inside the pavilion. He throws his arms up in front of his face and impacts the ground.
Nothing has ever hit so hard. A swinging fist the size of the moon smashes every breath, sense, thought from him. Black. Then he is back, trying to gasp, unable to move. Circles. Machines, faces, in the middle distance his fellow traceurs racing towards him.
He inhales. It hurts. Every rib grates, every muscle groans. He rolls on to his side. Medical bots lift and flutter on ducted fans. He tries to push himself up from the ground.
'No kid, don't,' a voice calls from the circle of faces but no hand reaches to stop or aid him. He is a broken wonder. With a cry he gets to his knees, forces himself to stand. He can stand. Nothing is broken. He takes a step forward, a skinny waif in tangerine tights.
'Joker,' he whispers, 'what was my final speed?'
Thirty-eight kilometres per hour.
He clenches a fist in victory, then his legs fail and he stumbles forward. Hands and bots surge to catch him: Robson Mackenzie, the kid who fell from the top of the world.
* * *
'So, how does it feel to be famous?'
Hoang Lam Hung leans against the door. Robson had not noticed him arrive. He was occupied stroking his sudden celebrity. The word had gone twice around the moon while Robson was being transferred to the med centre. The boy who fell to Earth. He didn't fall to Earth. This isn't Earth. He fell to the ground. But that didn't fill the mouth as well. And it wasn't a fall. There was a slip. The rest was managed descent. He walked away. Only a step, but he took that step. But even if it was wrong the whole moon was talking about him and he had Joker scan the network for stories and pictures about him. He soon realised that the bulk of the traffic was the same stories and pictures shared and reshared. Some of the pictures were very old, from when he was a kid, when he was a Corta.
'Gets boring after half an hour,' Robson says.
'Does it hurt?'
'Not a bit. They've got me full of stuff. But it did. Like fuck.'
Hoang raises an eyebrow. He disapproves of the low language Robson learns from his traceur mates.
When Robson was a kid of eleven and Hoang twenty-nine they had been married for a few days. Tia Ariel had dissolved it with her legal superpowers, but their one night together had been fun: Hoang had made food, which is always special, and taught Robson card tricks. Neither of them much wanted to be married. It had been a dynastic match, to bind a Corta into the heart of Clan Mackenzie. An honoured hostage. The Cortas are gone; scattered, vanquished, dead. Now Robson has a different family status, as one of Bryce Mackenzie's adoptees. That makes Hoang a brother, not an oko. Brother, uncle, guardian.
Robson is still a hostage.
'Well come on, then.'
Robson's face says a what?
'We're going to Crucible. Or had you forgotten?'
Robson has forgotten. His balls and perineum tighten in dread. Crucible. Hoang brought Robson to Queen of the South to put him beyond Bryce's appetites and Mackenzie family politics but Robson's great fear is the twitch on the thread that pulls him and Hoang back to the citadel of the Mackenzies.
'The party?' Hoang says.
Robson collapses back on to the bed. Robert Mackenzie's one hundred and fifth birthday. A gathering of House Mackenzie. Hoang and Joker posted ten, twenty, fifty reminders but Robson's eyes were on handholds and grip soles, traceur fashion and how to style himself on his first free run, maxing up his fitness and getting to his running weight.
'I've printed you up something to wear.'
Hoang slings a suit pack on to the bed. Robson unseals it. Perfume of print-fresh fabric. A Marco Carlotta suit in powder blue, a black v-neck T-shirt. Loafers. No socks.
'Eighties!' Robson says with delight. It's the new trend, after the 2010s, after the 1910s, after the 1950s. Hoang smiles coyly.
'Do you need a hand dressing?'
'No I'm fine.' Robson flings back the sheet and swivels out of the bed. Diagnostic bots retreat. Robson drops to the floor. Goes pale. Cries out. His knees give. Robson steadies himself on the edge of the bed. Hoang is at his side, supporting him. 'Maybe not.'
'You're purple from head to toe.'
Joker accesses a room camera and shows Robson his brown skin mottled black and yellow, a blossom of bruises spilling into each other. Robson winces as Hoang slips his arms into the jacket sleeves. Pain stabs as he pulls on the loafers. A final touch; at the bottom of the suit bag, the last treat, is a pair of Ray Ban Tortuga Aviator shades. 'Oh, glorious.' Robson slides them up his nose, adjusts the sit with a tap of forefinger between the lenses. 'Ow. Even they hurt.'
There is one final touch. Robson rolls the sleeves of his Marco Carlotta jacket up to the elbows.
* * *
A dazzling light burns on the horizon: the mirrors of Crucible focusing the sun on to the smelters of the ten-kilometre-long train. As a child, Robson loved that light, for Crucible could only be minutes away. He would rush to the railcar's observation bubble, press his hands to the glass, anticipating the moment he would pass into the shadow of Crucible and look up at the thousands of tons of habitats and smelters and loaders and processors above his head.
Robson loathes it now.
The air had been foul – thick with CO2 and water vapour – by the time the beams of the VTO rescue team came lancing through the frozen, empty dark of Boa Vista. The refuge was rated for twenty. Thirty-two souls were packed into it; shallow-breathing, conserving every movement. Cold condensation dripped from every edge, beaded every surface. Where's paizinho? he shouted as the VTO squad bundled him into the transfer pod. Where's paizinho? he asked Lucasinho in the moonship hold. Lucasinho looked across the crowded hold at Abena Asamoah, then took Robson to the head. These words must be private. Wagner is in hiding. Ariel is missing, Lucas has vanished, presumed dead. Carlinhos is hung by his heels from a São Sebastião Quadra crosswalk. Rafa is dead.
His father was dead.
The legal battles were furious and, for the moon, brief. Within a lune Robson was in a Mackenzie Metals railcar hurrying across the Oceanus Procellarum, Hoang Lam Hung in the seat opposite and a squad of blades deployed at a discreet distance, serving no other purpose than to embody the power of Mackenzie Metals. The Court of Clavius had ruled: Robson Corta was a Mackenzie now. At eleven-and-some Robson could not identify the look on Hoang's face. At thirteen he knows it as the face of a man who has been forced to betray the thing he loves. Then he saw the bright star on the horizon, the light of Crucible blazing in endless noon, and it changed from the star of welcome to the star of hell. Robson remembers the orixas of Boa Vista, their immense stone faces carved from raw rock a constant presence and reassurance that life resisted the cold brutality of the moon. Oxala, Yemanja, Xango, Oxum, Ogun, Oxossi, Ibeji the Twins, Omolu, Iansa, Nana. He can still name their counterparts among the Catholic saints and list their attributes. In the Cortas' private religion there was little divinity, less theology and no promise of heaven or hell. Endless return. It was natural, spirits recycled as the Zabbaleen recycled the carbon, water, minerals of the discarded body. Hell was pointless, cruel and unusual. Robson still cannot understand why a god would want to punish someone forever when there was no possibility that the punishment would achieve any good.
'Welcome back,' Robert Mackenzie said from the depths of the life-support system that kept him alive. The breathing tube in his throat pulsed. 'You're one of us now.' At his left shoulder, his familiar Red Dog. At his right, his wife Jade Sun, her familiar the customary Taiyang I-Ching hexagram: Shi Ke. Robert Mackenzie opened his arms, opened his hook-fingers. 'We'll look after you.' Robson turned his head away as the arms enfolded him. Dry lips brushed Robson's cheek.
Then Jade Sun. Perfect hair perfect skin perfect lips.
Then Bryce Mackenzie.
'Welcome back, son.'
Hoang has never spoken about the deals he made to relocate Robson from Crucible to the old family mansion of Kingscourt in Queen of the South but Robson is sure the price was heavy. In Queen he could run, in Queen he could be who he liked, hold the friendships he liked. In Queen he could forget that he would always be a hostage.
Now he comes again to Crucible. The glare of the great train's smelter mirrors swells until it blinds, even through the photo-chromic glass of the observation bubble. Robson lifts his hand to shade his eyes, then darkness. He blinks away after-images. On either side of him rise the bogies that carry Crucible above the Equatorial One mainline; a thousand of them stretching ahead of him, curving down over the close horizon. Traction motors, power cabling, service platforms and gantries, access ladders: a maintenance bot scurries up a support truss and Robson's eyes follow it. The stars of this sky are the lights of the overhead factories and accommodation modules.
A third generation moon kid, Robson doesn't understand claustrophobia – confined spaces are comfort, security – but today the windows and spotlights and warning beacons of Crucible press down like a hand and he cannot shake the knowledge that above those lesser lights is the white-hot focus of the smelter mirrors and crucibles of molten metal. The railcar slows. Grapples descend from the belly of Crucible. There is only the slightest tremor as the clamps lock and lift and slide the railcar towards the dock.
A touch on his shoulder: Hoang.
'Come on, Robson.'
Excerpted from Luna by Ian McDonald. Copyright © 2017 Ian McDonald. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Wolf Moon,
Map: Nearside of the Moon,
After the Fall: Aries 2103,
1: Virgo 2105,
2: Virgo – Libra 2105,
3: Aries 2103 – Gemini 2105,
4: Libra 2105,
5: Libra – Scorpio 2105,
6: Gemini 2105,
7: Libra – Scorpio 2105,
8: Scorpio 2015,
9: Leo – Virgo 2105,
10: Scorpio 2105,
11: Scorpio 2105,
Tor Books by Ian McDonald,
About the Author,