Starfish (Rifters Trilogy)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Civilization rests on the backs of its outcasts.
So when civilization needs someone to run generating stations three kilometers below the surface of the Pacific, it seeks out a special sort of person for its Rifters program. It recruits those whose histories have preadapted them to dangerous environments, people so used to broken bodies and chronic stress that life on the edge of an undersea volcano would actually be a step up. Nobody worries too much about job satisfaction; if you haven't spent a lifetime learning the futility of fighting back, you wouldn't be a rifter in the first place. It's a small price to keep the lights going, back on shore.
But there are things among the cliffs and trenches of the Juan de Fuca Ridge that no one expected to find, and enough pressure can forge the most obedient career-victim into something made of iron. At first, not even the rifters know what they have in them―and by the time anyone else finds out, the outcast and the downtrodden have their hands on a kill switch for the whole damn planet...
board. Even that seems excessive; climate control and indive entertainment take up a good half of the panel. Bored, he picks one of the headset feeds at random and taps in, sending the signal to a window on his main display. An eighteenth-century woodcut of a Kraken comes to life through the miracle of modern animation. Crudely-rendered tentacles wrap around the masts of a galleon, pull it beneath chunky carved waves. A female voice, designed to maximize attention from both sexes: "We have always
time." Brander turns on his heel — "I'll go get our stuff together." — and steps out of sight. Beebe's hatches do not lock, for safety reasons. Still, Clarke hesitates. She knows how she'd feel if someone just walked into her private space without being invited. But she said she was up for another shift. And I did knock... She spins the wheel in the center of the hatch. The mimetic seal around the rim softens and retracts. Clarke pulls the hatch open, peers inside. STARFISH 85 PETER W ATTS
ATTS Pain floods across Fischer's face. It's not too bad. Familiar, even. His eyelids feel scratchy, and his tongue is dry. He tries blinking; it works. He closes his mouth, rubs his tongue against swollen cheeks. Better. "I don't suppose you want to come back up?" Dr. Troyka asks, hundreds of kilometers away. "You know these injuries are bad enough to warrant a recall." Fischer shakes his head. "That's okay. I can stay here." "Uh huh." The mantis doesn't sound surprised. "I've been hearing that
is just outside," Nakata says. "Why?" "I'm with him next shift; got to set up a time. His rhythm's been a bit wonky the past couple of days." "How far out is he?" Clarke asks suddenly. Nakata shrugs. "Maybe ten meters, when I last checked." He's in range. There are limits to fine-tuning. You can't feel someone in Beebe from as far as the Throat, for example. But ten meters, easy. "He's usually further out, isn't he?" Clarke speaks softly, as if afraid of being overheard. "Almost off the scope,
within seconds. A myriad ephemeral currents tug at them as they watch. "Why the light show?" Clarke calls back. "I don't know!" Ballard answers. "Bioluminescence, I guess! Heat-sensitive bacteria!" Without warning, the tumult dies. The ocean empties of sound. Phosphorescent spiderwebs wriggle dimly on the metal and vanish. In the distance, the tornado sighs and fragments into a few transient dust devils. A gentle rain of black soot begins to fall in the copper light. "Smoker," Ballard says into