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Authors: Stephen Baxter

Resplendent

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Table of Contents Title PageCopyright PageAcknowledgementsDedication PART ONE - RESURGENCECADRE SIBLINGS - AD 5301CONURBATION 2473 - AD 5407REALITY DUST - AD 5408ALL IN A BLAZE - AD 5478 PART TWO - THE WAR WITH THE GHOSTSSILVER GHOST - AD 5499THE COLD SINK - AD 5802ON THE ORION LINE - AD 6454GHOST WARS - AD 7004THE GHOST PIT - AD 7524 PART THREE - ASSIMILATIONLAKES OF LIGHT - AD 10,102BREEDING GROUND - AD 10,537THE DREAMING MOULD - AD 12,478THE GREAT GAME - AD 12,659 PART FOUR - RESPLENDENTTHE CHOP LINE - AD 20,424IN THE UN-BLACK - AD 22,254RIDING THE ROCK - AD 23,479 PART FIVE - THE SHADOW OF EMPIREMAYFLOWER II - AD 5420-24,974BETWEEN WORLDS - AD 27,152 PART SIX - THE FALL OF MANKINDTHE SIEGE OF EARTH - c. AD 1,000,000 TIMELINEAlso by STEPHEN BAXTERfrom Gollancz:Non-FictionDeep FutureFictionMammothLongtuskIcebonesBehemothReality DustEvolutionThe WebGulliverzoneWebcrashDestiny’s ChildrenCoalescentExultantTranscendentResplendentA Time Odyssey (with Arthur C. Clarke)Time’s EyeSunstormTime’s TapestryEmperorConquerorIn Weidenfeld & NicolsonNon-fictionRevolutions in the Earth    Resplendent  STEPHEN BAXTER  Orionwww.orionbooks.co.ukA Gollancz ebookCopyright © Stephen Baxter 2006All rights reservedThe right of Stephen Baxter to be identified as the authorof this work has been asserted by him in accordance withthe Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.First published in Great Britain in 2006by GollanczAn imprint of the Orion Publishing GroupOrion House, 5 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9EAThis edition published in Great Britain in 2007 by Gollancz1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2A CIP catalogue record for this book is availablefrom the British Library.eISBN : 978 0 5750 9526 7www.orionbooks.co.ukThis ebook produced by Jouve, FranceACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF PREVIOUS PUBLICATIONSOne‘Cadre Siblings’, first published inInterzone153, 2000.‘Conurbation 2473’, first published in Live without a Net, ed. Lou Anders, Tor Books, August 2003.‘Reality Dust’, first published by PS Publishing, 2000.‘All in a Blaze’, first published in Stars: Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian, ed. Mike Resnick and Janis Ian, Daw Books, 2003. Two‘Silver Ghost’, first published in Asimov’s, September 2000.‘The Cold Sink’, first published in Asimov’s, August 2001.‘On the Orion Line’, first published in Asimov’s, October 2000.‘Ghost Wars’, first published in Asimov’s, January 2006.‘The Ghost Pit’, first published in Asimov’s, July 2001. Three‘Lakes of Light’, first published in Constellations, ed. Peter Crowther, Tekno Books, 2005.‘Breeding Ground’, first published in Asimov’s, February 2003.‘The Dreaming Mould’, first published in Interzone 179, 2002.‘The Great Game’, first published in Asimov’s, March 2003. Four‘The Chop Line’, first published in Asimov’s, December 2003.‘In the Un-Black’, first published in Redshift, ed. Al Sarrantonio, Penguin Putnam, 2001.‘Riding the Rock’, first published by PS Publishing, November 2002.Five‘Mayflower II’, first published by PS Publishing, August 2004.‘Between Worlds’, first published in Between Worlds, ed. Robert Silverberg, SF Book Club, September 2004. Six‘The Siege of Earth’, previously unpublished. All material revised for this volume.For my grandfathers,Private Frederick William Richmond,20th Battalion the King’s Regiment (the Liverpool Pals),1914-1917,and Company Sergeant-Major William Henry Baxter,King’s Own Shropshire Light Infantry, 1903-1919.My name is Luru Parz.I was born in the year AD 5279, as humans once counted time. NowI have lived so long that such dates have no meaning. We have lost the years, lost them in orders of magnitude.Nevertheless, I am still here.I was born on Earth. But Earth was not human then.It belonged to our conquerors, the Qax.PART ONERESURGENCECADRE SIBLINGSAD 5301Before she was called into Gemo Cana’s office for her awkward new assignment, Luru Parz had never thought of her work as destructive.Cana stood before the window, a portal whose natural light betrayed her high status in the Extirpation Directorate. Red-gold sunset light glimmered from the data slates fixed to the walls of the office. Beyond the pharaoh’s round shoulders Luru could see the glistening blown-silicate domes of the Conurbation’s residential areas, laced by the blue-green of canals.And on the misty horizon a Qax ship, a Spline, cruised above occupied Earth, swivelling like a vast eyeball. Where it passed there rose a churning wave of soil and grass and splintered trees.‘Never,’ Cana murmured. ‘You never thought of it that way, as destructive. Really? But we are destroying data here, Luru. That is what “Extirpation” means. Obliteration. Eradication. A rooting out. Have you never thought about that?’Luru, impatient to get back to work, didn’t know how to reply. If this was some new method of assessment it was obscure, Cana’s strategy non-obvious. In fact she resented having to endure this obscure philosophising from Cana, who most people regarded as a musty relic cluttering up the smooth running of the Directorate. Among Luru’s friends and pushy rivals, even to report to a pharaoh was seen as a career impediment. ‘I’m not sure what you’re getting at.’‘Then consider the library you are working on, beneath Solled Laik City. It is said that the library contains an ancestral tree for every man, woman and child on the planet, right up to the moment of the Occupation. You or I could trace our personal history back thousands of years. Think of that. And your job is to destroy it. Doesn’t that make you feel at least’ - Cana’s small hands opened, expressive - ‘ambiguous, morally?’Cana was short, stocky, her scalp covered by silver-white fuzz. Luru, her own head shaven, knew nobody else with hair, a side-effect of AntiSenescence treatment, of course. Cana had once told Luru she was so old she remembered a time before the Occupation itself, two centuries back. To Luru, aged twenty-two, it was a chilling idea.She thought over what Cana had said. ‘I don’t even know where “Solled LaikCity” is - or was. What does it matter? Data is just data. Work is just work.’Cana barked laughter. ‘With a moral void like that you’ll go far, Luru Parz. But not everybody is as - flexible - in their outlook as you. Not everybody is a fan of the Extirpation. Outside the Conurbation you will encounter hostility. You see a satisfying intellectual exercise in the cleansing; they see only destruction. They call us jasofts, you know. I remember an older term. Quislings.’Luru was baffled. Why was she talking about outside? Outside was a place for ragamuffins and bandits. ‘Who calls us jasofts?’Cana smiled. ‘Poor little Luru, such a sheltered life. You don’t even remember the Rebellion, do you? The Friends of Wigner—’‘The Rebellion was defeated five years before I was born. What has it to do with me?’‘I have a new assignment for you,’ Cana said briskly. ‘Do you know Symat Suvan?’Luru frowned. ‘We were cadre siblings, a couple of dissolutions ago.’ And, briefly, lovers.Cana eyed her; Luru sensed she knew everything about her relationship. ‘Suvan left the Conurbation a year ago.’‘He became a ragamuffin?’ Luru wasn’t particularly shocked; Symat, for all his charm, had always been petulant, difficult, incompliant.‘I want you to go and talk to him, about his research into superheavy elements … No, not that. None of that matters. I want you to talk to him about minimising pain, and death, for himself and others. He has got himself in the way, you see.’Luru said stiffly, ‘I don’t think this assignment is appropriate for me. My relationship with Symat is in the past.’Cana smiled. ‘A past you’d rather forget, a little Extirpation of your own? But because of that past he might listen to you. Don’t worry; this will not damage your glittering career. And I know that bonds between cadre siblings are not strong. They are not intended to be. But you might persuade this boy to save his life.‘I know you judge me harshly, Luru, me and the other pharaohs. Just remember that our goal is always to minimise distress. That is the reason I work in this place. It is my job, and yours, to mediate the regime of the Qax. Humanity’s relations with its conquerors deteriorated after the Friends’ Rebellion. Without us things would be much worse still. Which is why,’ she said slowly, ‘I regret asking this of you - especially you, Luru.’‘I don’t understand.’Cana sighed. ‘Of course you don’t. Child, Jasoft Parz, the exemplar after whom our traitorous class is named, was your grandfather.’ Luru sat in the flitter’s small cabin, nervous, irritated, as the land peeled away beneath her.From the air the spread of buildings, bubbles blown from scraped-bare bedrock, was glistening, almost organic. She could see the starbreaker-cut canals, arteries that imported desalinated water and food from the huge offshore algae farms and exported waste to the sink of the ocean. Down one canal bodies drifted in an orderly procession, glinting in plastic wrap; they were the night’s dead, expended carcases returning to the sea.Conurbation 5204 had been constructed when Luru was ten years old. She remembered the day well; the construction had taken just minutes, a spectacular sight for a little girl. There was talk now that the Extirpation Directorate might soon be moved to a new location in the continental interior, in which case Conurbation 5204 would be razed flat in even less time, leaving no trace. That was how the Qax did things: deliberate, fast, brutal, clean, allowing not the slightest space for human sentiment.It was a relatively short flitter hop to Symat Suvan’s research facility - short, but nevertheless longer than any journey Luru had taken before. And she was going to have to spend more time outside than she ever had before.She didn’t want to do this at all.Luru’s brief career, at the Extirpation Directorate in Conurbation 5204, had been pleasingly successful. She was working on a tailored data-cleanse package. The cleanser was to be sent into huge genealogical libraries recently discovered in a hardened shelter under the site known as Solled Laik City, evidently a pre-Occupation human city. The cleanser was a combination of intelligent interpretive agents, targeted virus packages and focused electromagnetic-pulse bursts, capable of eradication of the ancient data banks at the physical, logical and philosophical levels. The cleanser itself was of conventional design; the project’s challenge was in the scale, complexity and encryption of the millennia-old data to be deleted.The work was stretching, competitive, deeply satisfying to Luru, and a major progression along her career path within the Extirpation Directorate. In fact she had been promoted to cadre leader for this new project, at twenty-two her first taste of real responsibility. And she resented being dragged away from her work like this, flung halfway across the continent, all for the benefit of a misfit like Symat Suvan.She tried to distract herself with her notes on superheavy elements, Symat’s apparent obsession.There was a natural limit to the size of the nucleus of an atom, it seemed. A nucleus was a cluster of protons whose positive electrical charges tended to drive them apart. The protons were held together by a comforting swarm of neutrons - neutral particles. Larger nuclei needed many neutrons to hold them together; lead-208, for example, contained eighty-two protons and a hundred and twenty-six neutrons.The gluing abilities of the neutrons were limited. It was once believed that no nucleus could exist with more than a hundred or so protons. But some theorists had predicted that there could be much larger nuclear configurations, with certain special geometries - and these were eventually discovered. The lightest of the superheavy nuclei had a hundred and fourteen protons and a hundred and eighty-four neutrons; the most common appeared to be an isotope called marsdenium- 440, with a hundred and eighty-four protons and a crowd of two hundred and fifty-six neutrons. But there were much heavier nuclei still, with many hundreds of protons and neutrons. These strange nuclei were deformed, squashed into ellipsoids or even hollowed out …She put down her data slate. She found it hard to concentrate on such useless abstractions as this corner of physics - and she didn’t understand how this could have absorbed Symat so much. She did wonder absently why ‘marsdenium’ had that particular name: perhaps ‘Marsden’ or ‘Marsdeni’ was the name of its discoverer. Such historical details were long lost, of course.As the flitter neared the top of its suborbital hop the curving Earth opened up around her, a rust-red land that glimmered with glassy scars - said to be the marks of humanity’s last war against the Qax, but perhaps they were merely the sites of deleted Conurbations. A Spline craft toiled far beneath her, a great blister of flesh and metal ploughing open a swathe of land, making its own patient, devastating contribution to the Extirpation. Her flitter drifted to the ground, a few hundred metres from Symat Suvan’s exotic matter plant. She emerged, blinking, beneath a tall sky. Far from the rounded chambers of the Conurbation, she felt small, frail, exposed.This was a place called Mell Born. It had been spared the starbreaker ploughs so far, but even so nothing remained of the land’s pre-Occupation human usage save a faint rectangular gridwork of foundations and rubble. The place was dominated by a single structure, a giant blue-glowing torus: a facility built and abandoned by the Qax. Now it was occupied by a handful of ragamuffins who called themselves scientists - there were no scientists in the Conurbations. The humans had even built themselves a shanty town, an odd encrustation around the huge Qax facility.Symat Suvan was here to meet her. He was tall, gaunt, looming, agitated, his eyes hollow; his bare scalp was tanned a pale pink by the unfiltered sun. ‘Lethe,’ he snapped. ‘You.’She was dismayed by his hostility. ‘Symat, I’m here to help you.’He eyed her mockingly. ‘You’re here to destroy me. I always knew you would finish up like this. You actually liked running the mazes the Qax built for us - the tests, the meaningless career paths, the competitions between the cadres. Even the Extirpation is just another pleasing intellectual puzzle to you, isn’t it, in a lifetime of puzzles? Oh, the Qax are smart rulers; they are exploiting your talents very effectively. But you don’t have any idea what your work means, do you? … Come with me.’ He grabbed her hand, and pulled her towards the curved electric blue wall of the facility.She shivered at the remembered warmth of his touch. But he was no longer her cadre brother; he had become a ragamuffin, one of the dwindling tribes of humans who refused to remain in the Qax Conurbations, and his face was a mask of set planes and pursed lips, and his determined anger was intimidating.To get to the Qax facility they had to walk through the shanty community. It was a pit of rough, improvised dwellings, some little more than heaps of sheeting and rubble. But it was a functioning town, she realised slowly, with a food dispensing plant and a clinic and a water supply, even what looked like a rudimentary sewage system. She saw a small, dishevelled chapel, devoted to some no-doubt illegal religion, whose gods would one day free humanity from the rule of the Qax. All of this was laid over a mighty grid of rubble. There were still fragments of the old buildings, bits of wall and pipe poking like bones from the general wash of debris, some scarred by fire. Where vegetation had broken through the concrete, the remnant walls had become low hummocks coated with thick green blankets.There was a stink of smoke and sour humanity, and the air was full of dust which clung to her skin and clothes. It was hard to believe that any cadre sibling of hers would choose to live here. Yet here he was.Symat was talking rapidly about superheavy elements. ‘It used to be thought that marsdenium and its more exotic sisters could only exist as technological artefacts, manufactured in giant facilities like this Qax factory. But now we know that such elements can be born out of the great pressures of a supernova, the explosive death of a giant star.’She tried to focus. ‘An exploding star? Then why are you looking for heavy elements here on Earth?’He smiled. ‘Because the Earth coalesced from a cloud of primordial gas and dust, a cloud whose collapse was triggered by the shock wave from a nearby supernova. You see? The primordial supernova laced the young Earth with superheavy matter. So the heavy elements have deep significance, for Earth and all that live on it or in it.’On a heap of shattered stones a small child was sitting on the lap of an older girl, playing with a bit of melted glass. The girl was the infant’s cadre sister, Luru supposed. They both had hair, thick dark thatches of it. The little one looked up, coughing, as they passed.‘This isn’t a healthy place,’ Luru observed.‘What did you expect? But I keep forgetting. You expect nothing; you know nothing. Luru, people die young in places like this. How else do you think I became so senior here so quickly? And yet they still come. I came.’‘Perhaps you were seduced by the closeness of the cadres here.’ A healthy dissolution might restore the social balance here, she thought.He stared at her. ‘There are no cadres here. The cadres, dissolved every couple of years, are another Qax social invention, imposed on humans after the Rebellion for the purposes of control. Didn’t you even know that? Luru, these are families.’He had to explain what that meant. And that the girl who nursed the child was not the little one’s cadre sibling, but her mother.They reached a door that had been crudely cut in the wall of the Qax facility. They passed through into an immense curving chamber where vast engines crouched. Hovering light globes cast long, complex shadows, and human technicians talked softly, dwarfed to insignificance. There was a smell of burned lubricant, of ozone.Luru was overwhelmed.Symat said, ‘This place was thrown up by the Qax after the Rebellion. It was one of hundreds around the planet. We think it was a factory for making exotic matter - that is, matter with a negative energy density. They abandoned the place; we don’t know why. Since it was built with human wealth and labour I suppose it means nothing to them. We refurbished the machinery, rebuilt much of it. Now we use it to make our own superheavy nuclei, by bombarding lumps of plutonium with high-energy calcium ions.’That puzzled her. He’d said his goal was the detection of superheavy elements in Earth’s crust. So why was he manufacturing them?‘Why were the Qax making exotic matter?’‘None of us knows for sure,’ he said. ‘There is a rumour that the Qax were trying to build a tunnel to the future. It’s even said that the Qax Governor itself is an immigrant from the future, where humanity is triumphant. And that is why the Qax work so hard to control us. Because they are frightened of us.’‘That’s just a legend.’‘Is it? Perhaps with time all history becomes legend.’‘This is nonsense, Symat!’‘How do you know, Luru?’‘There are witnesses to the past. The pharaohs.’‘Like Gemo Cana?’ Symat laughed. ‘Luru, there are no survivors from before the Occupation. The Qax withdrew AntiSenescence treatment for two centuries after the Occupation. All the old pharaohs died, before the Qax began to provide their own longevity treatments. These modern undead, like Gemo Cana, have been bought by the Qax, bought by the promise of long life.’ He leaned towards her. ‘As they are buying you, Luru Parz.’They emerged from the clean blue calm of the facility, back into the grimy mire of the town.Disturbed, disoriented, she said evenly, ‘Symat, the starbreaker beams are coming here. Once the Qax tolerated activities like this, indigenous cultural and scientific endeavours. Not any more, not since the Friends of Wigner betrayed the Qax’s cultural generosity towards indigenous ambitions.’ The Friends had used a cultural site to mask seditious activities. ‘If you don’t move out you will be killed.’He clambered on a low wall and spread his arms, his long robe flapping in the thin dusty breeze. ‘Ah. Indigenous. I love that word.’‘Symat, come home. There’s nothing here. The data cleansers were sent through this place long ago.’‘Nothing? Look around you, Luru. Look at the scale of these old foundations. Once there was a host of immense buildings here, taller than the sky. And this roadway, where now we mine the old sewers for water, must have swarmed with traffic. Millions of people must have lived and worked here. It was a great city. And it was human, Luru. The data might have gone; we might never even know the true name of this place. But as long as these ruins are here we can imagine how it must once have been. If these last traces are destroyed the past can never be retrieved. And that’s what the Qax intend.‘The Extirpation isn’t always a matter of clinical data deletion, you know. Sometimes the jasofts come here with their robots, and they simply burn and smash: books, paintings, artefacts. Perhaps if you saw that, you would understand. The Qax want to sever our roots - to obliterate our identity.’She felt angry, threatened; she tried to strike back at him. ‘And is that what you’re seeking here? An identity from unravelling this piece of obscure physics?’‘Oh, there is much more here than physics.’ He said softly, ‘Have you ever heard of Michael Poole? He was one of the first explorers of Sol system - long before the Occupation. And he found life, everywhere he looked.’‘Life?’‘Luru, that primordial supernova did more than spray superheavy atoms through the crust of the young Earth. There were complex structures in there, exotic chemistries. Life. Some of us believe they may be survivors of a planet of the primordial supernova - or perhaps they were born in the cauldron of the supernova itself, their substance fizzing out of that torrent of energy. Perhaps they breed that way, seeds flung from supernova to supernova, bugs projected by the mighty sneezes of stars!‘There is much we don’t understand: their biochemistry, the deeper ecology that supports them, their lifecycle - even what they look like. And yet we know there is a forest down there, Luru, a chthonic forest locked into the substance of the ground, inhabited by creatures as old as the Earth itself. You see, even in these unimaginably difficult times, we are finding new life - just like Michael Poole.’Wonder flooded her, unwelcome. Bombarded by strangeness, she felt as if some internal barrier were breaking down, as if Symat’s bizarre superheavy creatures were swimming through her mind.He peered into her eyes, seeking understanding. ‘Now do you see why I’m prepared to fight for this place? Humans aren’t meant to be drones, for the Qax or anybody else. This is what we live for. Exploration, and beauty, and truth.’ She returned to Conurbation 5204, without Symat. She filed a report for Gemo Cana. Her duty fulfilled, she tried to get back to work, to immerse herself once more. As always, there was much to do.But the work was oddly unsatisfying.
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