Shan Frankland forever abandoned the world she knew to come to the rescue of a lost colony on a distant and dangerous planet -- a hostile world coveted by two alien races and fiercely protected by a third. But in the course of her mission, she overstepped a boundary and stumbled into forbidden lands. And she can never go back -- to being neutral, to being safe.
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October 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Crossing the Line by Karen Traviss
There are countless constellations, suns, and planets: we see only the suns because they give light; the planets remain invisible, for they are small and dark. There are also numberless earths circling around their suns, no worse and no less than this globe of ours.
Dominican monk and philosopher,
burned at the stake by the Inquisition
in February 1600
"Is it true?"
Eddie Michallat concentrated on the features of the duty news editor twenty-five light-years away, courtesy of CSV Actaeon's comms center. The man was real and it was happening now, in every sense of the word.
For nearly a year he had been beyond BBChan's reach on Bezer'ej. But the glorious isolation was over. Isenj instantaneous communications technology meant there was now no escape from the scrutiny of News Desk. In the way of journalists, they had already given it an acronym, as noun, verb and adjective -- ITX.
"Poodle-in-the-microwave job," Eddie said dismissively. "Urban myth. People talk the most incredible crap when they're under stress."
He waited a few seconds for the reply. The borrowed isenj communications relay was half a million miles from Earth, and that meant the last leg in the link was at light speed, the best human technology could manage. The problem with the delay was that it gave Eddie more time to stoke his irritation.
"That never stopped you filing a story before."
How the hell would he know? This man -- this boy, for that was all he appeared to be -- had probably been born fifty years after Thetis had first left Earth. Eddie enjoyed mounting the occasional high horse. He saddled up.
"BBChan used to be the responsible face of netbroadcast," he said. "You know -- stand up a story properly before you run it? But maybe that's out of fashion these days."
One, two, three, four, five. The boy-editor persisted with the blind focus of a missile. "Look, you're sitting on a completely fucking shit-hot twenty-four carat story. Biotech, lost tribes, mutiny, murder, aliens. Is there anything I've left out?"
"There wasn't a mutiny and Shan Frankland didn't murder anyone." She's just a good copper, Eddie wanted to say, but it was hardly the time. "And the biotech is pure speculation." My speculation. Me and my big mouth. "We don't know what it is. We don't know if it makes you invulnerable. But you got the aliens about right. That's something."
"The Thetis crew was saying that Frankland's carrying this biotech and that she's pretty well invulnerable to injury and disease, and -- "
Eddie maintained his dismissive expression with some diffi- culty, a child again, cowering at the sound of a grown-ups' row: it's all my fault. He always worried that it was. "Oh God, don't give me the undead routine, will you? I don't do infotainment."
"And I don't do the word ýno.' Stand up that story."
The kid was actually trying to get tough with him. It wasn't easy having a row with someone when you had time to count to five each time. But Eddie was more afraid of the consequences of this rumor than the wrath of a stranger, even one who employed him.
"Son, listen to me," he said. "You're twenty-five years away as the very, very fast crow flies, so I don't think you're in any position to tell me to do sod all." He leaned forward, arms folded on the console, and hoped the cam was picking up a shot that gave him the appearance of looming over the kid. "I'm the only journalist in 150 trillion miles of nothing. Anything I file is exclusive. And I decide what I file. Now run along and finish your homework."