The Machinery of Light

By Clifford Hamilton,2014-11-04 18:46
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The Machinery of Light

Praise for David J. Williams

    “David J. Williams writes on the finest edge of science fiction. The Autumn Rain novels aredriving and relentless, full of rock ’em sock ’em cyber warfare, space commandos, cutthroatpolitics and one stunning reversal after another. Strap yourself in. These books start fast andnever let up.”

    —JEFF CARLSON, author of Plague War


    “Williams’s first novel delivers a powerful, rapid-fire SF adventure/intrigue story withechoes of cyberpunk. This stellar hard SF debut with hopes of sequels belongs in most SFcollections.”

    —Library Journal

    “Slam-bang action and realpolitik speculations.”

    Sci Fi Weekly

    “A crackling cyberthriller. This is Tom Clancy interfacing Bruce Sterling. David Williams hashacked into the future.”

    —STEPHEN BAXTER, author of the Manifold series

    “The Mirrored Heavens is a complex view of global politics in time of crisis. Williamsunderstands that future wars will be fought as much on-line as off. It’s also rousingadventure with breathless, non-stop action—Tom Clancy on speed. And you will not be able to

    guess the ending.”

    —NANCY KRESS, author of the Probability trilogy

    “Explodes out the gate like a sonic boom and never stops. Adrenaline bleeds from Williams’sfingers with every word he hammers into the keyboard. The razors of The Mirrored Heavens would

    eat cyberpunk’s old-guard hackers and cowboys as a light snack.”

    —PETER WATTS, Hugo-nominated author of Blindsight

    “The Mirrored Heavens presents an action-jammed and audacious look at a terrifyingly plausiblefuture.”

    —L. E. MODESITT Jr., author of the Saga of Recluse series

    “The Mirrored Heavens is a twenty-first-century Neuromancer set in a dark, dystopian future

    where nothing and no one can be trusted, the razors who rule cyberspace are predators and prey,and ordinary human life is cheap. It starts out at full throttle and accelerates all the way tothe end.”

    —JACK CAMPBELL, author of the Lost Fleet series

    “The Mirrored Heavens has almost non-stop action. … [It] seems the verbal equivalent of afirst-person shooter video game. The action is hard-hitting, as well as highly destructive andwidely fatal. … The work … evokes some of the best of cyberpunk.”

    —Blogcritics Magazine

    “David J. Williams’s The Mirrored Heavens is a definite frontrunner for my ‘Unexpected

    Surprise of the Year’ Award. If Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and William Gibson had ever teamedup to write a book, this is the sort of thing they would have come up with.”

    —Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist

    “Calling to mind Clint Eastwood and Dirty Harry … Mirrored Heavens’s action is wild and

    relentless. … Mirrored Heavens cleaves closely enough to the cyberpunk canon to be clearlyidentified with it, while departing from it sharply enough to refresh and renew its source.”

—Seattle Times


    Praise for


    “[Williams] is standing toe to toe with Richard Morgan at his best.”

    —Rescued By Nerds

    “I loved it! … The Burning Skies is a great blend of military science fiction andcyberthriller that should appeal to fans of Richard Morgan.”

    —Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, 8 out of 10

    “About as perfect of a middle book as you could ask for. … [The] perfect mix of physics,technology, and action.”


    “If any Hollywood producer is reading this please do take up this series and think of it as across between The Matrix, Star Wars and The Spy Game. David J. Williams is a terrific writerand his vision is definitely one which is vastly different from what is being currently offered

    on the SF market scene. His books are the kinds which are truly made for the big screen … andwith the dramatic ending in The Burning Skies … you’ll be shaking with anticipation for thethird book to see how it all ends.”

    —Fantasy Book Critic





To the MusesFor carrying me through


    The Earth-Moon System on the Eve of World War Three

    Sketches of the After

    Flash Priority: Control to Senior Handlers

    Part I: Incandesce

    Part II: Apogee

Part III: Lodestone’s Vigil

    Part IV: Eternity’s Ashes

    Part V: Autumn Rain



    How then to do justice to such sketches? Start by saying that they were imperfectrepresentations of imperfect things. They were flesh that wants to live reduced to ink orkeystrokes—or just to memory ground beneath the mill of time. Yet those images, they mightsurvive that flesh … that memory may yet evade the oblivion of eons, become instead thefoundation for the tales that flow from old to young to ancient in endless migration across thechains of generation all the way to when the arks of the third planet scatter before theravaging sun, when the descendants of apes watch the very concept of the years melt in flamebehind them. Phrase the words just so, write them just right, and maybe they’ll make it thatfar. Maybe they’ll do justice to what really went down: the two twenty-second-centurysuperpowers that watched each other across endless steppes and ocean—that feared and hatedeach other, that built arsenals that spanned the globe and more, looking down upon our planetfrom on high in space. Space. For even as the radio signals from the first Cold War echoed onthe fringes of the Milky Way and sped toward the galaxy’s heart—even as the transmissionsfrom Sputnik and Soyuz raced out into the endless parsecs to join forever with those of Geminiand Apollo … the spark of conflict that set those vessels in motion flared anew in an hourwhen our race’s promise and our race’s tragedy surged together in a collision that shatteredacross the shards of time, leaving in its wake only this poor substitute for the real thing,babbled by a madman long gone on the sheerest midnight, riding astride that which mightcomprise the story of Autumn Rain, tales of pandemonium and glory, sketches of the after to endall others, liquid words flung down from the sky, absorbing all tears, frozen in the ground for

    all of winter, yet pregnant with the possibility of coming forth one day someday into eternalspring …


    22:05 GMT 10.01.2110










    While we have every confidence that the integrity of our zone/net infrastructure will bemaintained intact during the destruction of the Coalition’s military capability, each of youmust be prepared to operate in isolation should the eventuality arise. It is thereforenecessary to familiarize you with the overall contours of our calculations. Three factors areparamount.

    The Eurasian Coalition: We anticipate that our DE/KE strikes will combine with our superiorzone capabilities to deliver rapid and overwhelming advantage against the East. Establishingcontrol of the Moon early will be critical, along with all libration points. In addition, theCoalition itself is just that: a coalition, and this can be turned to our advantage, assubstantial fault lines exist between the Russian and Chinese nets, along with much mutualsuspicion.

    SpaceCom: The partnership between InfoCom and SpaceCom has been instrumental in Montrose’ssecuring of the presidency/the zone’s executive node. That said, we must regard this allianceas temporary at best. All SpaceCom agents within your respective purviews should be monitoredin anticipation of eventual termination; orders for this could come at any time, possiblybefore the cessation of combat with the Eurasians.

    Autumn Rain: As of a few hours ago, the core of this commando group was intact; while theirindividual situations vary (see attached ANNEX), all should be regarded as highly dangerous.They should be used if possible, but ultimately they must be disposed of. Information on anymember of the Rain should immediately be reported to me, pursuant to further instructions. TheRain’s spymaster/creator, Matthew Sinclair, remains imprisoned at L5, and our agents are

    currently taking custody of him. However, it is believed that various documents of Sinclair’sremain at large; regaining such files is a task of utmost urgency.



    Carson, Strom (RAZOR-MECH): Now working directly for President Montrose and responsible forrecovering the rogue supercomputer Manilishi, which has escaped into the Congreve sub-basements

    beneath the lunar farside. Members of Montrose’s own bodyguard corps are accompanying Carson,and if necessary will ensure his liquidation subsequent to the Manilishi’s recapture. (Itshould be noted that Carson was one of the Manilishi’s trainers ten years ago, and as such,undoubtedly maintains considerable emotional sway over her.)

     to terminate fugitive U.S.Lyle SpencerSarmax, Leo (MECH): Partnered with InfoCom razor

    handler and then investigate a Eurasian black-ops base beneath the Himalayas.Alek Jarvin

    Nothing has been heard from either Sarmax or Spencer since crossing into Eurasian territorysome hours ago. Though Carson is the ostensible “leader” of the Carson-Sarmax-Lynx triad,Sarmax held that role in the years after the unit’s initial formulation (SEE FILE LG-340038AZ)

    , when all three men held senior ranks in Praetorian intelligence. Sarmax retired soon afterthe non-prototype triads went rogue, when his lover—Rain agent —joined theIndigo Velasquez

    rebel Rain units. (We have reports that Velasquez was executed by Sarmax himself, which mightexplain the isolation/retirement from which he has only now emerged.)

    Lynx, Stefan (RAZOR): Led ex-SpaceCom mech Seb Linehan in an attempted assassination run on

    SpaceCom commander Jharek Szilard at the orders of the now-deceased President Harrison. SinceSzilard remains alive, Lynx and Linehan must be presumed dead. The SpaceCom flagship Montana is

    still in lockdown, and no further reports have been received. Whether Szilard is still usingthat ship as his actual base remains unclear, and we are working to ascertain his exactlocation.


    Subsequent to the surgically altered prototype triad, at least ten more triads were developedvia genetic acceleration. A significant portion of the Rain perished during their attemptedinsurrection. The remainder went underground and only recently resurfaced, destroying thePhoenix Elevator and setting in motion the current crisis. It is believed that all remainingmembers of all remaining triads are now deceased, subsequent to their defeat at the EuropaPlatform (SEE FILE LG-340489AZ), but we have yet to confirm this.


    Haskell, Claire (RAZOR): Supercomputer/cyborg capable of running superluminal hacks (SEE FILE

    . Haskell was originally handled/run by Sinclair’s handler Morat, and maintained aLG-340527AZ)

    romantic liaison with Rain agent Jason Marlowe. Both Morat and Marlowe are believed to be

    deceased at the hands of Haskell herself, and this history could be exploited when we takecustody of the Manilishi. Acquiring control of her is our top priority.




    A woman listens to the world burn.

    It’s hard to miss. It’s on every channel. Reports rendered in toneless staccato, attacksequences confirmed by unseen machines, horrified civilian newscasts that suddenly go silent …

    the woman’s jaw hangs loose while her mind surfs the signals reaching the room in which she’sriding out the storm, as far away from this craft’s hull as possible. Vibrations pound throughthe walls as energy smashes into the ship from the vacuum beyond. The woman hears shouts as thesoldiers in the corridors around her react to the blast-barriers starting to slide shut. She

    boom of each one closing, growing ever closer, the succession of wallshears the muffled

    parading past her and echoing in the distance.

    She’s locked into one of the modular sections now, along with ten other guards—and theprisoner in the high-security cell they’re guarding. She looks just like the rest of thosesentinels, though really she’s nothing of the kind. She’s not sealed in either; she may beconfined behind these doors, but she’s still in touch on zone, her razor awareness reaching

     sits at the heart of the L5out to the rest of the ship. Nearly half a klick long, the Lincoln

    fleet’s defenses, on the libration point itself. The whole fleet turns around it. Beyond thatis a sight like nothing ever seen …

    World War Three began ten seconds ago, with a sudden U.S. attack on the Eurasian Coalition’sforces across the Earth-Moon system. A cacophony of light hit the East—and within a second theEast hit back with everything it had left. A myriad of guns keep on flaring like there’s notomorrow. For many millions, there won’t be. The war to end all wars is underway in style. Waybehind the speed-of-light weapons come the kinetics: hundreds of thousands of hypersonicmissiles, projectiles, railgun-flung rocks—all of it swimming through space and streakingthrough atmosphere. And right now most of it’s way too slow in the face of massed particlebeams and lasers: directed-energy batteries that flail against incoming targets even as theytriangulate on one another. On the screens, the woman can see the Earth glowing as portions ofthe outer atmosphere reach temperatures they really shouldn’t. Chunks are coming off theMoon’s surface. The room in which she’s sitting starts to shake even harder. She hears one ofthe guards praying—his words audible only inside his helmet, but she’s hacked into thathelmet, getting off on every fucking word—and every word is just one among so many … becausenow she’s honing in on Earth, sifting through the traffic that’s getting through the swatheof energy that’s bathing the planet. It’s so bad she has to take one of the mainline routesin; riding on the command frequencies, she plunges through air that’s shimmering with heat,drops deep beneath the Rocky Mountains and into the command bunker within which America’splanetside generals are monitoring events.

    Those generals are exclusively InfoCom and SpaceCom. All the other ranking officers have beenpurged, or have sworn to obey the new order. The death of the president has been announced tothe armed forces, along with the order to take revenge upon the Eurasian foe whose assassinsstruck him down in his hour of triumph. There’s a new president now, and everyone’s gettingin line fast. They’re too busy dealing with the blizzard of death blazing through the sky todo anything else. But so far the cities in both East and West are being left untargeted.Neither side can afford to bother with them. Both sides are bringing every resource they can tobear upon the challenge of breaking down the def-grids of the other, def-grids largelyconsisting of DE cannon arrayed in strategic perimeters, shooting at the waves of projectilesheading in toward them. It looks to be the mother of all free-for-alls.

    It’s anything but. The woman can detect an initial pattern already. The American preemptivestrike has drawn blood. The Eurasians are reeling. She’s studying the planetside portion ofthe Eurasian zone now, watching the webwork of nodes that stretch from Romania to Vladivostok,from the wastes of Siberia to the Indian Ocean. She takes in the Eastern def-grids as theystruggle to adjust to the onslaught. She’s looking for an opening, following the routes she’sbeen instructed to take. Moving beneath the American firewall and through a back door into theneutral territories—into a data warehouse in London, from there to Finland and across theArctic Circle and through long-lost phone lines beneath the tundra, straight into the Easternzone … straight into Russia. She’s never worked the zone like this before. She’s runningcodes that make her virtually unstoppable, swooping in across the steppes, closing upon atarget.

    The target’s a man. He’s sitting in the sixth car of a Russian train, several hundred klickseast of the Caspian Sea, going at several thousand klicks an hour: full-out supersonic maglev,heading southeast. The train just went below the surface, and there’s palpable relief aboardat getting underground before the rail got pulverized. It looks to be a normal transittrain—the last ten cars of the train are packed with equipment, the first ten cars withspecialists and staff officers, bound for various bases and various locales. There’s nothingaboard that’s even remotely atypical.

    Except for the man the woman’s tracking.

    He’s one of the staff officers, sitting in a compartment all his own, staring at the wallthat’s rushing past the window. She can see him quite clearly on the train’s vid, but somehowshe can’t seem to get near him on zone. His codes are too good. She can trace the routethey’ve taken, though. Doesn’t surprise her in the slightest that he’s come from the verycenter of Moscow, from cellars deep beneath the Kremlin itself.

    And yet he’s undercover. No one else aboard this train has the slightest clue he’s anythingbut what his ID says he is: a medium-range gunnery officer, attached to somebody’s staff inBurma. But the woman has been told this man is key—has been told she has to watch him closely.She expects she’ll find out what that’s all about soon enough. In the meantime, she’stracing some signals he’s sending—riding alongside them as they flick out ahead of the train,along the rails and through a maze of tunnels, heading beneath the Himalayas, diving downtoward the root of the mountains—

    D own here there’s nothing to see. Nothing to hear. Nothing going on at all. It’s just thetwo of them now, waiting in this room. The lights of zone went off fifteen minutes ago.

    “Too long,” says Sarmax.

    As he speaks, the mech triggers a light in his helmet. His face is two-day stubble and half acentury’s worth of lines. The only warmth his grey eyes hold is some kind of distantamusement.

    “I don’t think so,” says Spencer.

    “Who cares what you think? It’s already begun.”



    “So why haven’t they switched this thing on?”

    “I presume,” says Sarmax, “that they’re waiting for their moment.”

    Spencer nods. He figures that moment will come soon enough. The two men are deep insidesomething that was separated from the exterior zone to begin with, machinery that’s situatedin a mammoth cave beneath several klicks of rock, cut off from the rest of this black base,with all systems shut off as an additional precaution. Because you can never be too careful.

    “Failsafe after failsafe,” mutters Spencer.

    “Hostile razors could be inside already,” says Sarmax.

    “Imagine that.”

    “We’ll need to keep a close read on the politics when it all lights up.”

    And that’s putting it mildly. The Eurasian Coalition is like two bodies sewn together.There’s a reason its zone felt so jury-rigged—why it was so difficult to line up all theoperational hierarchies. Spencer’s wishing he had paid more attention to them on the way in,before they left the zone behind and reached this compartmentalized microzone deeper in theEarth than he’s ever been before. Parts of it were opaque to him even then—the inner

    enclaves, presumably, but now the entire thing’s been turned off, and he’s blind. He doesn’tlike it.

    Apparently Sarmax likes it even less. The mech’s blind by definition, and it wasn’t hard forSpencer to get him to agree to stay here until things clarify. So they’ve remained in thischamber for the last quarter-hour—just them and the unholy amount of nuclear warheads thatline the walls around them.

    “What do you think the total count is?” says Sarmax.

    “About fifty thousand.”

    “Gotta be more than that—”

    “I’m talking about the ones we’ve seen,” says Spencer.

    “I’m asking you to guess about the ones we haven’t.”

    “We’re more than a klick deep into this bitch,” says Spencer. “How the fuck am I supposedto guess—”

    But that’s when he feels something clutch at his mind—

    And retract. Sitting here at L5, she can’t reach that deep. She knows someone’s down there,though. Right now that’s all she needs to know. She hauls her mind back to the borders of thezone—lets herself slot through that zone, out of the Himalayas, out beneath China—and backinto the U.S. zone, back out into space. Earth is getting closed off to her now anyway. Thecarpet of directed energy has become too thick. It’s all interference now—all satellitesspitting light and plasma at one another in a web that’s starting to look almost solid.Earth’s upper atmosphere blooms incandescent. The lower orbits are a chaos of wreckage.

    It’s only slightly cleaner higher up. There’s more space, though, and so far both sides aremaintaining the integrity of their positions. The woman routes her signal through the Americanflagship Roosevelt, in the center of the perimeters at the American geosynchronous orbits. Fromtheir ramparts, she looks back upon the Earth … and either the air down near the surface isshimmering too, or else the oceans are starting to boil. Maybe both. But the overall picture inthe Roosevelt’s battle-management computers is clear: the terrestrial Eurasian grids can’twithstand much more of the battering they’re taking. The woman sets various codes to workaboard the Roosevelt; she shrinks the Earth in her purview, and collapses back upon the Lincoln

    and her own body in the room somewhere near its center, her mind taking in the duel that’sraging between the American fleet at L5 and the larger Eurasian one at L4. They’re going ateach other hammer and tongs, feeding in all reserve power, generators cranking and solar panelssucking in every drop of the Sun that washes across them so they can surge that much moreenergy into their guns. The shaking in the room the woman’s in has gotten so bad it’s likeshe’s in the throes of an earthquake. Her visor’s vibrating right in front of her. But she’snot worried. She won’t die. That’s what the prisoner told her. He explained to her thereasons why, and they were utterly persuasive. She’s staring at him now, on a screen thatlooks in on a room scarcely ten meters away, separated from her by still more locks. She’s thenearest human being to that room.

    Or she would be, were she human.

    She certainly looks it. Same way she looks like a guard. She’s more of a guardian, and she

    worships the man who’s not really a man and certainly not a prisoner—worships him with allher heart. Nor is her worship based on something so narrow as faith. It’s based on what he’stold her—on what he’s shown her. Before he was arrested as a traitor and taken to this placehe’s in now; before she even knew the full extent of where this was all going—back when hetold her that she’d come to a room someday and sit there and watch him take in the universe,both of them hiding in plain sight at the heart of all networks, observing everything unfold.The war’s almost a minute old, and it’s looking better by the second for the Americans—andalmost perfect for their positions arrayed around the Moon. The extreme flanks of the L2 fleetare starting to scramble from their positions behind that rock, commencing runs that are

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