Robert Reed dazzled readers with his first big-concept SF novel Marrow a few years ago. A story that spans millions of years, Sister Alice is about the genetically engineered Thousand Families who save humankind from self-destruction. Alice is one of their greatest members, a master of terraforming worlds, and part of a group that committed a crime which destroyed countless worlds. Trying to restore the ravaged worlds is the task of Alice's clone brother, whose odyssey shows Robert Reed at his mind-expanding best. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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October 13, 2003
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Excerpt from Sister Alice by Robert Reed
"I found myself daydreaming, remembering my childhood as a wonderful time clothed in simple fun and sweet easy victories... I was reveling in how perfectly carefree my first taste of life had been... and that was the moment when my instincts first warned me, whispering in my countless ears that our work had gone seriously, tragically wrong..."
-- Alice's testimony
XO TOLD THEIR squad this was a lousy place to build and their fort was sick with flaws, and the Blues were sure to crush them, and, of course, every disaster would be Ravleen's fault. He said it with his best whiny voice, making it impossible to ignore his grousing. She had no choice but to come over, interrupting their drills to tell Xo to quit. But he wouldn't quit. He laughed in her face, and said, "You're no general." Ord heard him plainly. Everyone heard him. Ravleen had no choice but to knock him off his feet and give him a good sharp kick. Xo was a Gold, and she was their Sanchex, the Gold's eternal general. She had every right to punish him, aiming for his belly and ribs. But Xo refused to cooperate. He started cursing, bright poisonous words hanging in the air. "You're not Sanchex," he grunted. "You're just a Sanchex face stuffed full of shit, and I'm not scared of you." Ravleen moved to his face, breaking his nose and cheekbones, the skin splitting and blood spattering on the new snow. Everyone watched. Ord stood nearby, watching their snow melt into the blood, each diluting the other. He saw Xo's face become a gooey mess, and he heard the boy's voice finally fall away into a sloppy wet laugh.
Tule stepped up, saying, "If you hurt him too much, he won't be able to hurt anyone else."
Ravleen paused, panting from her hard work. Tule was right. Their general dropped her foot and pushed her long black hair out of her eyes, grinning now, making sure everyone could see her confidence. Then she knelt, making a ball out of the bloody snow, asking, "Who wants to help this shit home "
Tule was closest, but she despised Xo. She didn't approve of disobedience; it was her endless duty to keep their clan working smoothly, bowing to every one of Ravleen's demands.
On the other hand, Ord was passingly sympathetic. Xo wasn't his best friend, but he was a reliable companion. Besides, for the time being they belonged to the same squad. A soldier had a duty to his squad, and that's why Ord stepped up, saying, "I'll take him."
"Then come straight back," Ravleen added.
He gave a nod, and asked Xo, "Can you stand "