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That night, the team gathered in the mess hall to celebrate the end of the mission. Kira was in no mood for festivities, but tradition was tradition. Whether or not it went well, finishing an expedition was an occasion worth marking. She’d put on a dress—green, with gold trim—and spent an hour fixing her hair into a pile of curls high on her head. It wasn’t much, but she knew Alan would appreciate the effort.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book by Christopher Paolini
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|No of Pages||932|
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He always did. She was right. The moment he saw her in the corridor outside her cabin, his face lit up, and he swept her into his arms. She buried her forehead into the front of his shirt and said, “You know, we don’t have to go.” “I know,” he said, “but we should put in an appearance.” And he kissed her on the forehead. She forced a smile. “Fine, you win.” “That’s my girl.”
He smiled back and tucked a stray curl behind her left ear. Kira did the same with one of his locks. It never ceased to amaze her how bright his hair was against his pale skin. Unlike the rest of them, Alan never seemed to tan, no matter how long he spent outside or under a spaceship’s full-spectrum lights. “Alright,” she said in a low voice. “Let’s do this.” The mess hall was full when they arrived.
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The other eight members of the survey team were crammed in around the narrow tables, some of Yugo’s beloved scramrock was blasting over the speakers, Marie-Élise was handing out cups filled with punch from the large plastic bowl on the counter, and Jenan was dancing as if he’d had a liter of rotgut. Maybe he had. Kira tightened her arm around Alan’s waist and did her best to put on a cheery expression.
Now wasn’t the time to dwell on depressing thoughts. It wasn’t … but she couldn’t help it. Seppo headed straight for them. The botanist had pulled back his hair into a topknot for the night’s event, which only accentuated the angles of his thin-boned face. “Four hours,” he said, coming close. The drink slopped out of his cup as he gestured. “Four hours! That’s how long it took me to dig my crawler free.”
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“Sorry, Seppo,” said Alan, sounding amused. “I told you, we couldn’t get to you before then.” “Bah. I had sand in my skinsuit. Do you know how uncomfortable that was? I’m rubbed raw in half a dozen places. Look!” He pulled up the fringe of his ratty shirt to show a red line of skin across his belly where the lower seam of his skinsuit had chafed. Kira said, “Tell you what, I’ll buy you a drink on Vyyborg to make up for it.
How about that?” That Kira understood. Minds were human (barely), but they were so much bigger than ordinary brains, they needed stimulation in order to keep from going completely insane. For a mind to be trapped by itself for five years … She wondered how safe she really was on the Wallfish. Trig stopped by a set of large pressure doors, one on each side of the corridor.
“Wait here.” He opened the leftmost door and slipped inside. Kira briefly saw a large cargo hold with racks of equipment and a short, blondhaired woman wrapping padding around large sections of consoles that looked suspiciously like the ones from the Valkyrie. Next to her, on the deck, was a pile of UMC blasters.… Kira frowned. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book
Had the crew of the Wallfish stripped the shuttle? Somehow she doubted that was entirely legal. “None of my business,” she murmured. Trig returned carrying a blanket, a set of gecko pads, and a shrinkwrapped ration pack. “Here,” he said, handing them over. “Control and engineering are off-limits ’less one of us is with you or the captain gives you permission.”
He jerked his thumb toward the room he’d just exited. “Same for the port hold. You’re in the starboard. Chemical toilets are at the back. Find a spot wherever you can. Think you can handle yourself from here?” “I think so.” “’K. I gotta get back up to Control. If there’s a problem, just ask Gregorovich and he’ll let us know.” Then the kid hurried off back the way they’d come.
Kira took a breath and then pulled open the door to the starboard cargo hold. Kira’s stomach lurched, and she vomited into the suit’s flexible mask. The vomit had nowhere to go. It filled her mouth—hot, bitter, burning— and then poured back down her throat. She gagged and out of sheer, misplaced instinct, tried to take a breath and inhaled what felt like a liter of searing liquid. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book
Kira panicked then: blind, unreasoning panic. She thrashed and flailed and tore at the mask. In her frenzy, she only dimly noticed the fibers of the suit parting beneath her clawing. Cold air struck her face, and she finally was able to spew the vomit from her mouth. She coughed with painful force while her stomach clenched in pulsing waves.
The air smelled of brine and bile, and if the Soft Blade hadn’t still covered her nose, Kira thought she might have passed out from the alien atmosphere. She tried to regain control of herself, but her body refused to cooperate. Coughing bent her double, and all Kira saw was the mottled orange flesh wrapped around her and suckers the size of dinner plates.
The rubbery limb began to tighten. It was as thick as her legs and far stronger. She hardened the suit in defense (or perhaps it hardened itself), but regardless, she could feel the pressure building as the Jelly tried to crush her. [[Cfar here: Die, two-form! Die.]] Kira couldn’t stop coughing, and every time she exhaled, the tentacle tightened further, making it increasingly difficult to breathe. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book Download
She twisted in a frantic attempt to free herself but to no avail. A terrible conviction filled her then. She was going to die. She knew it. The Jelly was going to kill her and take the Soft Blade back to its own kind, and that would be the end of her. The realization was terrifying. Crimson sparks filled her vision, and Kira felt herself teetering on the edge of unconsciousness.
In her mind, she pleaded with the Soft Blade, hoping it could do something, anything to help. Come on! But her thoughts seemed to have no effect, and all the while, the sense of strain increased, rising until Kira felt her bones would snap and the alien would reduce her to a bloody pulp. She groaned as the tentacle squeezed the last bit of air from her lungs.
The fireworks in her eyes faded, and with them, any sense of urgency or desperation. Warmth suffused her, comforting warmth, and the things she’d been concerned with no longer seemed important. What had she been so worried about after all? In the background, Kira heard Falconi arguing with someone over the radio. She didn’t listen, lost as she was in her examination of the map. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book Download
Starting from an overhead view of the galaxy, she zoomed in on the area containing Sol and then slowly started to work her way counter-spinward (as the Jellies had mentioned). At first, it seemed like a hopeless task, but twice among the array of stars Kira felt a sense of familiarity from the Soft Blade, and it gave her hope.
She paused her study of the constellations when Vishal appeared framed in the doorway of the control room. He looked drained, and his face was still red from washing. “Well?” Falconi said. The doctor sighed and dropped into one of the chairs. “I’ve done all I can. The pole shredded half her organs. Her liver will heal, but her spleen, kidneys, and parts of her intestines, those need to be replaced.
It will take a day or two for new parts to print. Sparrow is sleeping now, recovering. Hwa-jung is with her.” “Would it be better to put Sparrow in cryo?” Nielsen asked. Vishal hesitated. “Her body is weak. Better for her to regain her strength.” “What if we don’t have a choice?” Falconi asked. The doctor spread his hands, fingers splayed. “It could be done, but it would not be my first choice.” To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book Download
Falconi returned to arguing over the comms (something about the Jelly ship, civilian permissions, and docking at Malpert Station), and Kira again concentrated on her overlays. She could tell she was getting close. As she flew among the simulated stars, spinning and rotating and searching for shapes she recognized, she kept feeling tantalizing snatches of recognition.
They drew her coreward, where the stars were packed closer together.… “Dammit,” said Falconi and banged his fist against the console. “They’re refusing to let us dock at Malpert.” Distracted, Kira looked over at him. “Why?” A humorless smile passed across his face. “Why do you think? Because we’ve got every Jelly in the system hot on our tail.
Not sure what Malpert expects us to do, though. We don’t have anywhere else to go.” Nielsen zoomed out in the holo, and for the first time, Kira could see what was happening throughout Sol. In addition to the nightmares by Orsted, and the fourteen by Saturn, dozens of other nightmares had entered the system. Some were on a hard burn toward Mars. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book Free
Others were out by Neptune, harassing the planet’s defense network. Still more were heading toward Earth and Venus. A bright line flashed across the holo, from a satellite near Jupiter over to one of the nightmares’ vessels. The ship vanished in a flare of light. The bright line stabbed outward again and again, and each time, another of the intruders exploded.
“What’s that?” Kira asked. “I’m … not sure,” said Sparrow, frowning as she studied her own overlays. Gregorovich chuckled. “I can explain. Yes, I can. The League has built a solar laser. Energy farms by Mercury collect sunlight and then beam it to receivers throughout the system. Most of the time the energy is just used for power production.
But in the event of an exogenic intrusion, well, you can see for yourself. Pump the energy through a giant-ass laser, and you have yourself a proper death ray. Yes you do.” She studied the muscles on his back and shoulders. At rest, they appeared soft, but she could still see traces of the lines and hollows that separated them. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book Free
And she remembered how they’d bunched and knotted and stood out in hard relief as he’d moved against her. She slid a hand over her lower belly. Was it possible for her to get pregnant? It seemed unlikely the Soft Blade would tolerate the growth of a child inside her. But she wondered. She leaned her head against the wall. A long breath escaped her. Despite her worries, she felt content.
Not happy—circumstances were too dire for that—but not sad either. Only a handful of hours remained before they arrived at the Battered Hierophant. She kept herself awake until, halfway through their flight, the free-fall warning sounded, and then she used the Soft Blade to hold Falconi and herself in place while the Wallfish flipped end for end before resuming thrust.
Falconi mumbled something incoherent as thrust resumed, but like a true spacer, he stayed asleep through the whole procedure. The shooting hadn’t been going on for long, but three of the UMC cruisers were already out of commission: one destroyed, two incapacitated and drifting helplessly. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars PDF Book Free
A cluster of Jellies were attempting to board the pair, but Admiral Klein’s forces were working to keep the aliens tied up, away from the crippled vessels. As for the Jellies, hard numbers were difficult to find, but it looked to Kira as if the UMC had destroyed at least four of them and damaged quite a few more. Not enough to put a serious dent in the Jelly fleet, but enough to slow the first wave.
Even as Kira watched, projectiles slammed into two of the UMC ships, both in the engine area. Their rockets sputtered and died, and the cruisers tumbled away, powerless. Near the leading edge of the Seventh Fleet, a Jelly jinked at speeds and angles that would have flattened any human. A half dozen of the Seventh’s capital ships fired their main lasers at the vessel, impaling it with crimson threads. The lights on the Jelly ship went out, and it tumbled end over end, spraying boiling water in an ever-expanding spiral.