Silver shark, p.1

Silver Shark, page 1

 part  #2 of  Kinsmen Series

 

Silver Shark


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Silver Shark
Page 1

 

  Prologue

  In the course of space colonization, there arose a need for humans with enhanced abilities - men and women who could survive harsh conditions, who were superb warriors, gifted hunters, and brilliant scientists.

  Some enhancements were technological in nature: an array of implants with various functions. Their effect ended with the death of the person who carried them.

  Other improvements were biological and these enhanced capabilities persisted, lingering in the bloodline, changing and mutating into new abilities in the offspring of the original carrier. It was quickly realized that the advantage of these biological enhancements lay in their exclusivity.

  Thus, the biologically enhanced united and shut down all further biological modification.

  Collectively known as kinsmen , these exceptional beings gave rise to several dozen families, which now form the financial elite of the colonized planets. The kinsmen strictly control their numbers and their loyalty to their families is absolute. Like the Sicilian mafia families and feuding Corsican clans of the old planet, the kinsmen exist in constant competition with each other. It is this competition that rules the economy, begins and ends wars, and drags human civilization to greater technological and scientific progress.

  Kinsmen with the ability to telepathically attack the minds of others are called psychers.

  Chapter One

  Claire awoke early. Her grey ceiling hung like a bleak shroud above. She looked at it, trying to gather enough will power to leave the bed.

  A digital screen flared into life on the wal , presenting her with a digital clock. A female voice with a flat, computer-generated intonation announced, "Good morning. You have thirty minutes until scheduled departure to work, Captain Shannon. "

  She stared at the ceiling.

  "Twenty-nine minutes. You are now one minute behind schedule. "

  "Twenty-eight minutes. You are now two. . . "

  "Dismissed," Claire said.

  The screen died. She sat up and pushed off the bed.

  Around her, the apartment offered a dreary monochromatic palette: grey wal s, dark floor, paler ceiling. No splash of color interrupted the drabness.

  She walked to the window. The shutter's photosensor detected her presence, and the thick panels of grey plastic slid aside. She was on the fortieth floor. Buildings rose around her, half-a-kilometer-tal rectangular boxes, separated by deep grim canyons of narrow streets. Above the city, the smog-smothered sky sifted chemical rain. The rainwater wet the sides of the uniform skyscrapers, bleaching long drip-trails in the concrete.

  Her quarters were in the barracks of Intel igence Building 214. The apartment where she grew up with her mother was located ten blocks east. Looking out of her window, she could tel no difference between her the view from her current rooms and that apartment. Even the bleach patterns seemed the same.

  If she were to leave the city, which was practical y impossible, she would find a barren rocky plain. The planet of Uley had only two relatively smal land masses, neither of them inviting. The Eastern Continent was colonized three hundred and twenty seven years ago by the Melko Corporation. Three years later the Brodwyn Mining Consortium landed on the Western Continent. Melko voiced their claim to the entire planet and demanded that all Brodwyn colonization efforts cease immediately.

  Brodwyn declined to comply.

  Both conglomerates began rapid exploitation of natural resources in an effort to achieve industrial and military superiority. Every industry on either continent was designed to serve the arms race. Forty years before she was born, the hostilities exploded into an open conflict: Melko against Brodwyn, Native against Invader.

  She was a Brodwyn retainer, an "evil invader," if the propaganda of the Melko group was to be believed. She could've just as well have been born a "greedy native" on the opposite side of the planet. It would have made absolutely no difference to her life. The war had dragged on for so long, with both sides claiming they were winning and trying to demoralize the other, that whatever personal victories she had achieved seemed completely meaningless.

  Claire stared down to the hazy street below. If she opened the window and jumped, she would fal for about ten seconds before splattering on the pavement.

  If she jumped.

  To end one's own life was the most unnatural urge, but standing there by the window, she couldn't real y muster any anxiety about it. She simply didn't care one way or the other.

  "You have fifteen minutes until scheduled departure. . . "

  "Dismissed. "

  Claire stripped and stepped into the shower. The lukewarm water washed over her. She pushed the knob all the way to HOT, but the water remained mildly warm. Heat, like all other resources, had to be conserved. They were at war.

  They had been at war for the last sixty-eight years. War everlasting.

  She stepped out of the shower, toweled off her hair, and put on her undergarments and her grey Intel igence uniform with black captain stripes on the left shoulder.

  "You have one minute until scheduled departure. . . "

  She stepped into the hal way. The door hissed closed behind her. She took the elevator to the seventh floor, to the mess hal . It was half ful , as always, and she scanned it with her mind out of habit. People moved aside for her, an automatic privilege of rank afforded to her captain stripes painted in black. Most had inert minds. A few with a painted in black. Most had inert minds. A few with a predisposition to psycher activity had thoughts that luminesced slightly, and to the right, at the usual table, four soldiers of her unit glowed. She shut down the mind vision, picked up her tray with a mound of nutrient paste on it, took her vitamin-enriched water, and went to join them.

  The psychers stood at attention at her approach.

  "At ease. "

  They sat, as she took her usual spot. Nobody smiled.

  They were at war, after all , and extreme expression of emotion was frowned on, just as bright color, loud noise, and leisure. If they did smile, someone would come up and ask, "Why are you smiling? Don't you know we're at war?"

  She didn't examine their minds out of courtesy but she'd learned to read their faces, and she noted the smal signs of relaxation: the softening of Nicholas' lips; the way Masha held her spoon, picking at the paste; Dwight's easy pose; Liz's nails, sheathed in transparent coating. . .

  manicured nails. Something new.

  "Good morning, Captain," Liz murmured. Slight, with thin blond hair cut short, she seemed washed out, her skin nearly transparent, her hair almost colorless.

  Claire envied her. Of the five of them, Liz was the youngest, barely seventeen. She stil had some impulse, some spark of life. She'd joined the unit last year, and since then keeping her alive during the missions proved to be a ful -time job. It was a job the rest of them shared, but Claire shouldered the lion's share of it.

  Liz's brain activity spiked, her thought tentatively brushing against Claire's mind. Claire accepted the communication, opening the link between them.

  "I was wondering if I could get a plant," Liz said. "For my room. I was wondering if you knew where I could get one. "

  "It will be confiscated," Claire responded.

  "Why?"

  "Because a plant requires nutrients, light, and water.

  It will be tagged as inappropriate expenditure of resources. "

  The younger woman recoiled.

  "I'm sorry," Claire told her aloud.

  Liz ducked her head. "Thank you, Captain. "

  A vague feeling of alarm tugged on Claire. The other psychers sensed it as well and the five of them turned in unison toward the incoming threat.

  Major Courtney Rome was ma
king his way through the mess hal toward them. His psych-blocker implant was on, smudging his mind. Smudging but not obscuring. No psych blocker could lock out a psycher of her level completely.

  Her team's minds dimmed around her, as her soldiers snapped their mental shields in place. Courtney couldn't read their minds: they simply reacted to a perceived threat on instinct.

  Courtney halted a few feet from them. She liked cal ing him by his first name in her mind. If he ever found it, he would take it as an insult, which it was. Trim and middle-aged, Courtney wore a flat expression. She looked past the blocker into his brain and saw anxiety churning. He came to deliver unpleasant news. He never brought any other kind.

  She rose and the rest of her team stood up.

  "Captain Shannon, join me for a private consultation. "

  She fol owed him to one of the booths lining the wal .

  They sat. A transparent disruptor wal slid from the slit in the wal , sealing the booth from the rest of the dining hal with a sound-proof translucent barrier.

  "Your latest psychological evaluation showed abnormalities. " Courtney said. "We are no longer confident that you are giving your all to the war effort. "

  "Has my performance been lacking?" she asked.

  "No. Your performance is exemplary. That's why we're having this conversation. "

  Claire saw it in his mind: Courtney believed she should be decommissioned, but she was too valuable. Kinsmen like her, with psychic power, came along about one in every six mil ion, and the decision to keep her breathing was made above his pay grade. She could crush his mind like a bug, psych blocker or no.

  Claire leaned back, putting one leg over another.

  "When we're done here," she said, not sure what possessed her to continue speaking, "you will return to your office where you will read reports and push pseudo paper.

  It's your job. I will go to my job, where I'll have to murder people. "

  Courtney studied her. "They are the enemy. "

  "These people I kil , they have children, loved ones, parents. Each of them exists within a network of human emotion. They love, they are loved, they worry. When I sear their minds, all of that ends. They have no choice about engaging in a fight with me, just as I have no choice in being here. For doing this, I am praised and rewarded. "

  "Your point?"

  "There is something wrong with a system that glorifies a person for the kil ing of other human beings. "

  "They will kil you if you don't kil them first. They won't hesitate. "
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