Slan Hunter

Slan Hunter

by A. E. van Vogt, Kevin J. Anderson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765323507
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 05/26/2009
Series: Slan , #2
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 843,526
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

A. E. van Vogt was a SFWA Grand Master. He lived in Los Angeles, California, and died in 2000.

Kevin J. Anderson has written dozens of national bestsellers and has been a finalist for the Nebula Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the SFX Reader's Choice Award. He lives in Monument, Colorado.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The world was already falling apart when her first contractions hit.

“Perfect timing—” Anthea Stewart clenched her teeth to stop a hiss of pain, holding her rounded abdomen.

Beside her, driving recklessly, her husband Davis said, “Don’t worry, Anth. I’ll get you there in time.” He took a hard right so that the wide whitewalled tires squealed on the asphalt. “Plenty of time. Don’t you worry about a thing.” The hospital was just ahead. He accelerated.

“Why are you telling me not to worry? Because you’re doing all the work?”

“I’m doing every bit as much as I can.” He flashed her a grin so full of love that she forgot the pain. Then Anthea gripped the handrest as she concentrated on the spasms, the clenching of her muscles, and the restless baby inside her.

She felt a strange, bittersweet anticipation. Soon, the healthy infant she had carried for nine months would emerge into the world. He would no longer be an integral part of her, and their lives would be permanently changed. But Anthea looked forward to it with anticipation as well as trepidation. She would stop being a “pregnant woman” and become a “mother”; they would stop being a “married couple” and become a “family.” The thought brought a smile to her lips. So many changes ahead!

The AM radio blared, laced with occasional threads of static, as the edgy-sounding announcer talked about the current crisis. Davis had turned on the car radio as he drove, hoping for some soothing music for his wife, but the emergency broadcasts were not comforting. “Slan attack imminent. Radar images show the possibility of numerous enemy ships approaching.”

Anthea wiped sweat from her forehead and turned to look at him. Davis was alarmingly pale, disturbed by the tense news as well as having the jitters of an expectant father. He turned the knob again, trying a different station.

“—President Kier Gray arrested. The world has been rocked to learn that their leader was secretly a slan in disguise. The noted slan hunter John Petty, chief of the secret police, has assumed provisional control of the government after making the arrest himself. Several of the President’s cabinet members, also shown to be slans, were killed in the altercation. Gray’s arrest raises the uncomfortable question of how many more of the telepathic mutants might be living among us, completely unnoticed.”

Davis snapped off the radio in disgust. “I guess we’ll just have to hum if we want music.” A slow-moving car driven by an old man hunched over the steering wheel swerved out of the way as Davis rushed past.

“How could Kier Gray be a slan?” Anthea said, trying to distract herself. “I thought they all had tendrils coming out the back of their heads. He couldn’t possibly have hidden what he was.”

“Don’t underestimate how devious they can be. They use makeup, prosthetics, hairpieces to cover up their tendrils. It really is a conspiracy.” He stared intently ahead as he drove. “I wish we’d just wiped them all out during the Slan Wars.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to sound conversational despite the spasms, but she failed miserably. “It’s not . . . as if . . . we didn’t try.”

The telepathic humans were physically superior, with great strength and improved healing abilities; they considered themselves a master race. Long ago, the mutant slans had tried to dominate and enslave the rest of humanity. Centuries of warfare ensued as brave humans fought slans, defeated them, and drove the few survivors into hiding.

Though the media was rife with rumors about an expansive underground slan organization and numerous concealed bases, only a few loners were ever caught. Sinister slan ships occasionally flew over the great cities on Earth, sometimes dropping off messages, other times just gathering reconnaissance. Obviously, the slans were building their numbers, gearing up for some sort of concerted attack. No wonder humanity was terrified.

Somehow, though, being with Davis made her feel safe, no matter what the radio news said. Her husband had brown eyes in contrast with her blue ones, dark curly hair as opposed to her straight, strawberry-blond. But Anthea and Davis Stewart were not opposites: They had been soul mates since their first meeting. Some romantics called it “love at first sight”; others talked about chemistry and matching personalities. From the moment she had met Davis, it seemed their very heartbeats had synchronized. They had known they were meant for each other. Now with the coming baby, their love, their family, would be stronger than ever before.

Unbearable affection seeped through the concern on his face like fresh rain washing away a stain. “It won’t be long now, Anth. Just hang on.”

After riding through another contraction, she gave him a strange smile. “No, Davis . . . no, it won’t. But I don’t think I can concentrate on politics anymore . . . okay?”

Davis raced toward the tall, brown-brick Centropolis General Hospital, turning into the marked driveway for the emergency-room entrance. He wasn’t going to let even a planet-sized war get in the way of the medical attention his wife needed. He pulled up to the curb in front of the double doors, then jammed the shift lever into park and opened his door all in one gesture. “Just wait here. I’ll get somebody.”

Anthea was tempted to walk by herself into the emergency room, but then another contraction hit, harder than the previous ones. “All right,” she gasped. “I’ll just wait here.”

Running into the hospital with his hair mussed, awkwardly waving his arms, Davis looked utterly adorable. She knew she would never forget that sight.

Anthea closed her eyes and counted, trying to time the contractions, though it was merely a trick to occupy her mind. She had always been able to shunt aside pain, to concentrate on her body. Did all mothers feel so connected to their babies? It wanted to come out—he wanted to be born, and she experienced an inexplicable confidence that the delivery would be smooth. She had nothing to worry about.

Davis returned in less than a minute, pushing a wheelchair. A gangly orderly jogged along beside her husband, scolding him and trying to wrest the wheelchair from him, but Davis wanted to do this himself. The two men quickly helped Anthea out of the car and into the emergency-room waiting area. The orderly shouted for a nurse, who in turn shouted for a doctor, and they all rushed toward the delivery room.

Anthea looked up just long enough to see several policemen milling about in the emergency room. A grim-looking, dark-suited man wore an armband with the insignia of the secret police, a scarlet hammer across a web. A slan hunter here in the hospital? Her thoughts were fuzzy, but she realized that if the slans were going to attack Centropolis, many casualties would be pouring into this medical center. Slan terrorists probably thought the hospital would be a good place to sabotage. What if one of them took her baby? She had heard of the terrible things slans did to babies. . . .

The man with the armband was scolding a plump woman behind the reception desk. “I must insist, ma’am. The secret police have the legal authority to inspect all of your admissions records. I want your carbon copies.”

While halfheartedly clacking away on her manual typewriter, she popped her pink gum with a sound like the shot from a toy gun. “Sir, don’t you think that if we found a slan in our treatment rooms we would report it?”

“I need to look at blood tests and any X-rays. Their internal organs are different from ours, you know. President Gray was a slan in disguise—we can’t trust anyone. We have evidence that there may be a new breed of slans, ones that don’t have tendrils.”

The receptionist continued typing as she talked. “Surgically removed so that they can infiltrate our society better? I assure you, we would notice such scars.”

The man from the secret police scowled. “That is not for you to decide, ma’am. These new mutations may even be born without the tendrils. In fact, some of them might not even know they’re slans.”

The receptionist chuckled nervously. “Oh, come now! How can they not know?”

With a grim expression, the man simply held out his hand. The plump receptionist heaved a put-upon sigh and turned in her swivel chair. She opened a gray metal filing cabinet and pulled out the curling carbon-copy records of all recent admissions. Her expression made it perfectly clear that she thought the secret policeman was wasting her precious time.

The gangly orderly ran back out into the waiting area. “Delivery Room Four is ready.” In a rush, he and Davis wheeled Anthea down the hall. A nurse opened the swinging door, but then she put out a stern hand. “Mr. Stewart, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait out here.”

“I want to be with my wife.” Davis craned his neck to look after her.

“Sorry, sir. Men aren’t allowed inside the delivery room. Go wait with the other nervous fathers. Hand out cigars to each other.”

Anthea saw his deeply disappointed frown. “Don’t worry, Davis. I’ll be fine. I’ll be here.”

He gave her hand a squeeze. “I love you.”

“You can prove it by changing more than your share of diapers,” she joked. Then the contractions hit again, and she knew the baby was close.

The rest happened in a blur. She was on the delivery table, her feet up in stirrups. The doctor, an older man with owlish eyes behind round spectacles, muttered reassuringly, but the words sounded as if he had memorized them from a script, praises and encouragement that he used many times a week.

The nurses seemed concerned. Even the doctor was tense, no doubt because of the news on the radio. One of the nurses said in a quiet voice as if expecting that Anthea couldn’t hear her, “I don’t know what kind of world that poor baby’s going to be born into. If the slans take over and enslave us all—”

“Enough of that, Nurse! We have our jobs to do. There are no slans here, only this woman and her baby, and I’m determined to see that it’s born healthy—healthy enough to fight for the human race, if it comes to that.” He patted Anthea on the shoulder. “Now don’t you worry, young lady. Just push. I’m going to coach you through this.”

She closed her eyes. She and Davis were both fit and strong. She couldn’t remember the last time either of them had even been sick. Yes, the baby would be just fine.

“Now, push again,” the doctor said.

The nurse leaned closer, encouraging. “Push, honey—as hard as you can.”

Anthea did as she was told. It was what her body wanted to do.

The doctor leaned over. “That’s perfect. Easy, now. I can see the top of the head. You’re almost there.”

Anthea felt a compulsion to press harder, not to let up. The rush of increased pain didn’t matter. She wished Davis could be there holding her hand, but she reassured herself with the knowledge that he was just outside the delivery-room door. She pushed and pushed again, and then she knew the baby was coming. Tears streamed through her shut eyes. With a rush of release, she felt it flow out—her son, a new life, a child emerging into the open air.

“That’s it. Here it comes. I have him.” The doctor held up a slick, red infant. She heard the baby start to cry as it gasped its first breath.

“Mrs. Stewart, you have a fine little boy—” The doctor halted in midsentence. “Good Lord!”

The nurse began to scream.

“How can this be?” The doctor still held up the baby, but now his face bore a look of disgust. “How can this happen?”

Anthea struggled to sit upright. She felt utterly exhausted and drained; her strawberry-blond hair was plastered with sweat to her head. “What is it? I want my baby.”

The doctor looked at her with an expression of horror, his mouth open. Anthea glanced up to see the newborn baby.

He had tiny twisting tendrils coming out the back of his head.

Copyright © 2007 by Lydia van Vogt, Executrix for the Estate of A. E. van Vogt, and Wordfire, Inc. All rights reserved,

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Slan Hunter 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Davis and Anthea Stewart go to the hospital to have their first child, but instead of joy they are shocked to learn that the offspring has the tendrils of a slan. Neither of the parents were considered Slans before the birthing slans are killed on sight by the secret police as humans hate this telepathic, stronger and fast healing race. As Anthea seeks a safe place to hide, President Kier Grey is arrested because the chief of the secret police has found out that he is a hidden in plain sight slan. Also incarcerated are his daughter Katherine and slan rebel Jommy Cross. ---- The president tries to convince his human jailers that the earth is in danger from Mars because that is where the tendrilless slans have built a superior civilization so that they can use it as a springboard to conquer the planet. The tendril-less driven spaceships encounter little resistance as they invade. The president, his daughter and Jommy escape and try to negotiate a peace with the Slans of Mars, but fails as one of the leaders wants to rule earth, but needs to ethnically cleanse the earth of the normals and the slans. ---- Kevin Anderson using the late A.E. Van Vogt¿s notes for a sequel to the classic SLAN completes the project with an exciting science fiction thriller that reads as if the grandmaster wrote the tale. The story line is fast-paced with the strong social message updated from Holocaust genocide to ethnic cleansing genocide. Feeling like a Golden Age thriller, fans will enjoy the return to the world of Van Vogt as Mr. Anderson finishes SLAN HUNTER an exciting action-packed war of the worlds with a social commentary thriller. ---- Harriet Klausner