Change or die: the only options available on the Durallium Company-owned planet GP. The planet's deadly virus had killed most of the original colonists -- and changed the rest irrevocably. Centuries after the colony had lost touch with the rest of humanity, the Company returned to exploit GP, and its forces found themselves fighting for their lives. Afraid of spreading the virus, the Company had left its remaining employees in place, afraid and isolated from the natives. Then anthropologist Marghe Taishan arrived on GP, sent to test a new vaccine against the virus. As she risked death to uncover the natives' biological secret, she found that she, too, was changing, and realized that not only had she found a home on GP -- she herself carried the seeds of its destruction . . .WINNER OF THE LAMBDA AND TIPTREE AWARDS
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Ammonite by Nicola Griffith
Marghe s suit was still open at neck and wrist, and the helmet rested in the crook of her left arm. An ID flash was sealed to her shoulder: Marguerite Angelica Taishan, SEC. The suit was wrinkled and smelled of just-unrolled plastic, and she felt heavy and awkward, even in the two-thirds gravity of orbital station Estrade.
She stood by the airlock at the inside end of A Section. The door was already open. Waiting. She rested the fingertips of her right hand on the smooth ceramic of the raised hatch frame; it was cool, shocking after two days of the close human heat of A Section.
The sill of the airlock reached her knees; easy enough to step over. No great barrier. The lock chamber itself was two strides across. The far door was still closed, sealed to another sill, like this one. Four steps from here to B Section. Four steps. She had recontracted with SEC, endured six months of retraining on Earth, traveled eighteen months aboard the Terragin, and spent the last two days on the Estrade bumping elbows with the three-member crew, all to take those four steps.
Well, Nyo and Sigrid say good luck, but they ll be out there for hours yet, fixing the satellite. Sara Hiam unclipped her headset. The slight, small woman with the atrophied muscles and club-cut dark blond hair was matter-of-fact, using her doctor persona. In the two days since she had come aboard Estrade, Marghe had learned that Hiam had several distinct facets to her personality, facets she rotated to face any given situation. It was a survival tactic, one way Hiam and Sigrid and Nyo had managed to spend five years up here without going mad. Marghe knew there was a great deal of the doctor she had not seen; she wondered what the real Sara Hiam was like.
Life support is up and running in Section D, Hiam said. Are you ready
Adrenaline, faster than conscious thought, flooded through Marghe and she had to discipline her breathing, decreasing her pulse and respiration rate, slowing blood flow and reducing the sudden over-oxygenation of her long muscles. Her face pinked as the capillaries under her skin reopened; her muscles stopped fluttering. It was a routine learned long ago.
I m ready.
Very well. Hiam s voice was suddenly more measured, formal. I m obliged to remind you that the vaccine FN-17 now offered is still considered experimental. I also remind you that once you have taken it and once you step beyond this airlock, you will under no circumstances be allowed back into Section A: nor, whether or not you proceed as planned to Grenchstom s Planet, will you be allowed to enter any other uncontaminated Company installation until you have undergone extensive decontamination procedures. She sounded as though she was reading from a screen prompt. These procedures consist of
I know what they consist of, Marghe said. She pulled on gauntlets, closed her wrist seals. Was it her imagination or did the air coming from the lock smell different
This is a taped record, Marghe. Let me finish. These procedures consist of: isolation; the removal of all subject s blood, marrow, lymph and intestinal flora and fauna and its replacement with normal healthy tissues; reimmunization of subject with all bacterial and viral agents commonly found in Earth-normal human population; prior to return to home planet, further isolation at a location to be decided upon to determine the efficacy of said reimmunization. Do you understand these procedures