In a city overrun by a virus that attacks both man and machine, an agent pursues a lowlife postmortal-and uncovers a centuries-old atrocity that history would rather forget…
"Deep, complex...a new world of wonder." -Denver Post -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 27, 2003
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Excerpt from Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
Darkness was falling as Dieterling and I arrived at the base of the bridge.
"There's one thing you need to know about Red Hand Vasquez," Dieterling said. "Don't ever call him that to his face."
"Because it pisses him off."
"And that's a problem?" I brought our wheeler to near-halt, then parked it amongst a motley row of vehicles lining one side of the street. I dropped the stabilisers, the overheated turbine smelling like a hot gun barrel. "It's not like we usually worry about the feelings of low-lives," I said.
"No, but this time it might be best to err on the side of caution. Vasquez may not be the brightest star in the criminal firmament, but he's got friends and a nice little line in extreme sadism. So be on your best behaviour."
"I'll give it my best shot."
"Yeah -- and do your best not to leave too much blood on the floor in the process, will you?"
We got out of the wheeler, both of us craning our necks to take in the bridge. I'd never seen it before today -- this was my first time in the Demilitarised Zone, let alone Nueva Valparaiso -- and it had looked absurdly large even when we'd been fifteen or twenty kilometres out of town. Swan had been sinking towards the horizon, bloated and red except for the hot glint near its heart, but there'd still been enough light to catch the bridge's thread and occasionally pick out the tiny ascending and descending beads of elevators riding it to and from space. Even then I'd wondered if we were too late -- if Reivich had already made it aboard one of the elevators -- but Vasquez had assured us that the man we were hunting was still in town, simplifying his web of assets on Sky's Edge and moving funds into long-term accounts.
Dieterling strolled round to the back of our wheeler -- with its overlapping armour segments the mono-wheeled car looked like a rolled-up armadillo -- and popped open a tiny luggage compartment.
"Shit. Almost forgot the coats, bro."
"Actually, I was sort of hoping you would."
He threw me one. "Put it on and stop complaining."
I slipped on the coat, easing it over the layers of clothing I already wore. The coat hems skimmed the street's puddles of muddy rainwater, but that was the way aristocrats liked to wear them, as if daring others to tread on their coat-tails. Dieterling shrugged on his own coat and began tapping through the patterning options embossed around the sleeve, frowning in distaste at each sartorial offering. "No. No . . . No. Christ no. No again. And this won't do either."
I reached over and thumbed one of the tabs. "There. You look stunning. Now shut up and pass me the gun."
I'd already selected a shade of pearl for my own coat, a colour which I hoped would provide a low-contrast background for the gun. Dieterling retrieved the little weapon from a jacket pocket and offered it to me, just as if he were passing me a packet of cigarettes.
The gun was tiny and semi-translucent, a haze of tiny components visible beneath its smooth, lucite surfaces.
It was a clockwork gun. It was made completely out of carbon -- diamond, mostly -- but with some fullerenes for lubrication and energy-storage. There were no metals or explosives in it; no circuitry. Only intricate levers and ratches, greased by fullerene spheres. It fired spin-stabilised diamond flechettes, drawing its power from the relaxation of fullerene springs coiled almost to breaking point. You wound it up with a key, like a clockwork mouse. There were no aiming devices, stabilising systems or target acquisition aids.