Jakob Faraday is exploring Jupiter when his small craft is suddenly jarred by contact with a living creature. Faraday realizes he has blundered into a herd of enormous manta/dolphin-like animals, the Qanska, which live in Jovian space. To learn more about the Qanska, Faraday challenges Matt Rainey, a recently crippled quadraplegic, to bond with a Qanska by being placed within the womb of a mother Qanska. Rainey accepts, becoming a unique hybrid, still human in personality, but physically a Qanska.Then a rumor spreads on Earth: the Qanska have a secret stardrive which could take Earth vessels to the far reaches of space. Faraday is removed from control of the Jupiter operations and replaced by Arbiter Liadof, who tries to coerce the Qanska into sharing their secret. Rainey knows there is no drive. Worse yet, the Qanska environment is inexplicably failing, as has happened before in previous herd locations. Rainey might be able to save the Qanska if he can prevent the destruction of their environment. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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August 17, 2003
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Excerpt from Manta's Gift by Timothy Zahn
The doctors had been and gone, the neurologists had been and gone, and the biotron people had been and gone. For the first time in days, it seemed, Matthew Raimey was alone.
He lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling. That was about all he could do, really, lie there and stare at the ceiling. The clean, soothing, pastel blue-colored damned hospital ceiling.
Like the ceilings he would now be staring at for the rest of his life.
It was quiet at this end of the hospital. The kind of quiet that made it easy to think. To think, and to remember.
Mostly, he found himself remembering the accident.
It replayed itself over and over against the pastel blue background, in exquisite and painful detail. The little squeaks and crunches of his skis as they slid lightly over the packed snow. The icy wind whipping at his ears and forehead and freezing the edges of his nostrils. The sharp aroma of the pine trees, mixed with a hint of drifting smoke from the lodge below. The familiar tension in his bent knees as he rode the crests and smoothed out the bumps of the mountain. Brianna's clear soprano voice behind him as she laughed and chattered and threatened to zoom past him. The tiny mound of snow that had caught the tip of his left ski and spun him a few degrees off course.
The giant Douglas fir that had loomed suddenly in his path.
He'd tried very hard to dodge that tree. Used every bit of his skill and the precious quarter-second of time he had to make sure he didn't slam into it. And to his rather smug satisfaction at the time, he had succeeded.
He shouldn't have tried. He wished desperately now that he hadn't. He should have just hit the tree, accepted whatever broken ribs it would have cost him, and been done with it.