In the second of a vivid new series, Mark Kreighbaum returns to the alluring, terrifying future world he and bestselling author Katharine Kerr created in Palace.
On a planet wreathed in perpetual mist and scarred by a bloody uprising, the fragile peace between the arrogant humans and the oppressed Leps hangs upon a few key survivors. Vida, now a power in Palace's ruling family, tries to bridge the gap between the species, only to find her brilliant destiny threatened by a devastating secret. Her lover Rico, powered by cyberdrugs, races against time on the back roads of the virtual Mapspace to trap the Lep terrorist Riva. Meanwhile, in the city catacombs, Dukayn, Government House's security chief, steps up his sadistic interrogations, fueling the fire...until suddenly the threat of civil war is all too real.
Now, as Riva plots to unleash the most dangerous Lep of all time, Vida and Rico find themselves locked in a perilous battle to recover a lost biotech that holds monstrous death . . . or the very keys to life itself.
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Rico woke late, still groggy and vaguely unsettled from bad dreams. His wristclock told him that it was already the elevens and he jerked out of bed. Damn. He'd missed the morning briefing. Hi would be angry. A glance at the counter on his vidscreen showed that twelve messages were waiting. Somehow, he'd slept through all of them. Well, he was in no shape to deal with anything more complicated than a shower. Rico rubbed his face, feeling the rasp of stubble against his hand, and was disturbed at how fragile he felt. Perhaps a depilatory, as well. A headache made him squint his eyes and leave the lights on dim. He rooted through his medlocker for a few minutes until he found a half-empty vial of trialkonise. He emptied the contents into his skin pump. In seconds, the headache faded away and he felt alert and awake, although his eyes still burned. He had to keep blinking rapidly to moisten them.
A moment later, however, his phone rang and the screen showed Hi. Rico had seldom seen such a look of irritation on his uncle's face.
"Where the hell have you been, Rico?"
"Asleep, Uncle Hi." Thank God for the trialkonise. He could talk to Hi without revealing his hangover. "I was up late last night working on that meta for Mo-- For our friend." The lie came awfully easy to him. Hi immediately looked contrite. Any mention of Ri Tal Molos and the way they circumvented the laws to help the Lep always got to Hi's conscience.
"Sorry, Rico. I should have known you'd have a good reason for missing a briefing. Can you have the meta for me by the thirteens?"
"Sure." He was going to have to burn to back up his lie. "Meet you at your office?"
"Fine. Get some more sleep. You look like hell."
Rico switched off and took a look at himself in a mirror. His deep-set eyes were holes in his face and there were bags under them that looked like bruises.
So, he had two hours to finish a complex meta for Ri Tal Molos, one of the most accomplished cybes in the Pinch, who would detect sloppy work instantly. He'd better get going right away. Rico hesitated at the Mapstation. He really shouldn't mix cyberdrugs and certainly not so soon after his marathon session yesterday, but Hi and Molos were counting on him. He pawed through his medlocker until he found, in the back, an unopened vial of beta-galactosidase. When had he picked that up? Well, no matter, he was glad to have it. He hesitated, then added vials of alpha-glucosidase, arylsulfatase, and some tailored esterases and phospholipids, all suspended in smartdrugs that would manage his enzyme system while he worked on the Map. In seconds, a feeling like swimming above a tide of kindness rushed through him. A thousand ideas occurred to him. He had enough energy to build a Map from scratch.
Moments later, he'd stepped through the transition routine and entered the Hernanes y Jons workspace. His mailbox was overflowing with messages, most of them with red flags and priority ticks. No time to waste answering them, though. Rico passed into the Mapspace where metas could be activated.
"Rico delta-dev-one. Password: Sugar-238."
The meta flashed him to what he'd called the White Room since his earliest days on the Map. Here, metas could be developed that could interact with isolated portions of the Map without endangering the Map itself. Rico took a moment to look the meta over and recall where he'd stopped work. The meta spread out before him like the petals of a strange flower, curved into a fanciful shape. Each radiating petal was actually a visual representation, an icon, of its code. There were twelve petals, a dauntingly large mass of code. Such an unwieldy set of icons was guaranteed to be problematic. The Map, which consisted of a quantum level conductor, blueglass, and painstakingly developed iconic structures, was frighteningly reactive to metas. If even one of the icon-petals failed to integrate with the meta-structure, the Map would still activate it simultaneous with the others and one of two things could happen. Either the meta would simply disintegrate, causing some level of feedback to the user--perhaps even death--or it might begin a cascade that could, theoretically, crash the entire Map. In reality, the Map had an astonishing number of safeguards and redundancies to prevent such an event. Still, executing or even writing a cascade meta was a capital offense. Cybes had been hung for it, even when it was an obvious accident.
Rico verified ten of the petals. The drugs in his system seemed to be creating a fantastic synergy. He had never been able to check, flash, and pseudo-call a meta so quickly and surely. The last two petals still needed to be written and Rico dove into the task with more than his usual enthusiasm. He felt as if he understood everything about this meta, down to the atomic level.
In the beginning, he hadn't truly understood what this meta was for, but now he saw, as if it were written in letters of fire, that this meta was meant to be a candle-tracker. Set loose on the Map, it would sniff out damage created by Riva's terrible metas and use a vast array of sig structures to backtrack the origins. It was, in essence, just a far more sophisticated version of the usual route-mark followers that were so ubiquitous on the Map. But this follower would not be so easily shaken by Riva.
The last two petals on the meta seemed to grow before Rico's eyes as he used a formidable array of code-builders to construct routines for reporting, logging, and disguise. It was fun. He was so confident that he even added a back door to the operating system of the meta, just so it could be upgraded in the future. Finally, when he was sure that the meta--which looked now like some majestic tree out of a myth--was finished, he added his sigmeta in a secret place. He and Arno always signed their work. It was a mark of pride.
It was done, but Rico found that his mind was still moving too rapidly to just quit.
Rico indulged himself in a little fantasy of catching Riva all by himself. He'd be worthy of being Hi's heir then. This made him think of Arno, and a mind-blurring sequence of ideas and memories of Arno and all they had done together that made him feel a bit like a meta himself. But another part of him made a connection to Jevon and that reminded him of the weird meta Jevon had run on the autodesk. Rico checked the time. A little after the twelves. He'd finished the Molos meta in less than an hour. He compressed it and piped it off to Hi's workspace on their private channel. Hi would be pleased. With that done, Rico had time to satisfy his curiosity about Jevon's meta.
Rico took a shortcut to the buffer zone in his wrist implant. Yes, good, he'd remembered to hook it up to the Mapstation. Using a set of metas that he'd sculpted into a pair of multipurpose forceps, Rico teased the little meta out of its locked area. Just a tiny thing with only a couple petals. Probably it was nothing more than an unsanctioned aid that Arno had written for her. Rico pinned it down and began to cut away the shell.
Suddenly the meta exploded, transformed into something huge, shadowy, and angry. Rico called up all his buffer metas, did an emergency shutdown of the workspace, and tried to locate the operating system on this immense blurring meta that shifted shape and function at will. Panic shivered through him as he realized that the defenses on this thing were beyond the capacity of his safety routines. Already, in fact, the meta's tendrils, shimmering and honey-colored, were peeling away the buffer, trying to escape onto the Map. The damn thing was a cascader, a Mapcrasher.
A thousand insect-sized metas swarmed the big creature, dissolving its tendrils, attacking the operating system, shifting through so many buffer variants that not even a candle could have followed them all. Rico activated wave after wave of attack metas. He even called in scrubbers that would permanently damage his own workspace. In the end, it was only Rico's habitual paranoia about buffering his private workspace that saved him. Jevon's meta gave up its attempt to reach the Map, threw up its own triple sphere of buffering agents, and committed the total self-destruction known to cybes as absolute suicide, leaving no trace of its existence except the horrendous damage it left behind.
Finally, Rico was left to stare at the ruin of his workspace. It would take weeks, if it was ever possible, to repair this area. Thank God that Molos's meta had already been sent off.
Rico subvocalized the automatic shutdown and logged off the Map. He detached himself from the Mapstation and slumped back against the datachair, still shivering and sweating. God, that had been close. What the hell was Jevon mixed up in? That little meta could only have been written by Riva. No cybe would have anything to do with a cascader. He would have to tell Hi, no other choice. But first, he wanted to talk to Jevon, give her a chance to explain. He owed Arno that.
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Book Description Spectra. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0553573748 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1153972
Book Description Spectra, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110553573748
Book Description Spectra, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0553573748
Book Description Spectra, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0553573748