Setting[ edit ] The novel is set in various locations in the Milky Way. Artificial intelligence and automation is most directly affected, in that advanced hardware and software from the Beyond or the Transcend will work less and less well as a ship "descends" towards the Unthinking Depths. But even biological intelligence is affected to a lesser degree. The four zones are spoken of in terms of "low" to "high" as follows: The Unthinking Depths are the innermost zone, surrounding the galactic core.

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The coldsleep itself was dreamless. Three days ago they had been getting ready to leave, and now they were here. Now Johanna drifted between the racks of sleepers. Waste heat from the coolers made the darkness infernally hot. Scabby gray mold grew on the walls. The coldsleep boxes were tightly packed, with narrow float spaces every tenth row. There were places where only Jefri could reach.

Three hundred and nine children lay there, all the kids except herself and her brother Jefri. The sleep boxes were light-duty hospital models. Given proper ventilation and maintenance, they would have been good for a hundred years, but Like most of the ones on the inside rows, this was in bad shape. For twenty days it had kept the boy inside safely suspended, and would probably kill him if he stayed one day more.

Mother and Dad were not to blame, though Johanna suspected that they blamed themselves. The escape had been put together with the materials at hand, at the last minute, when the experiment turned wicked. The High Lab staff had done what they could to save theirchildren and protect against still greater disaster. And even so, things might have worked out if-- "Johanna! Tami and Giske and Magda Johanna pulled herself through the floatway, almost bumped into Jefri coming from the other direction.

He grabbed her hand and hung close as they drifted toward the hatch. Now his eyes were wide. Trader Arne Olsndot looked up at her and grinned. Have a seat.

Daddy looked as dashing as any adventure poster. The light from the display windows glittered off the seams of his pressure suit. He was just in from outside. Jefri pushed across the cabin, pulling Johanna behind him. He strapped into the webbing between her and their mother. You will learn something. Mom smiled. Dad had just detached their shell from the cargo carrier. They could never have landed the whole thing on one torch.

Dad did something with the hodgepodge of controls he had softwired to his dataset. Their bodies settled into the webbing. Around them the cargo shell creaked, and the girder support for the sleep boxes groaned and popped. Something rattled and banged as it "fell" the length of the shell. Johanna guessed they were pulling about one gravity. Johanna almost smiled; Jefri knew he was being diverted, and was trying to play along. See on the middle window? That camera is looking straight down.

Arne Olsndot was using the rocket glued to the back end of the cargo shell to kill all their orbital velocity. They had abandoned the cargo carrier, with its agrav and ultradrive. It had brought them far, but its control automation was failing. Some hundreds of kilometers behind them, it coasted dead along their orbit. All they had left was the cargo shell. No wings, no agrav, no aero shielding. The shell was a hundred-tonne carton of eggs balanced on one hot torch.

Somehow she had Jefri seeming to forget the danger. Sjana Olsndot had been a pop writer-archaeologist at Straumli Realm, before they moved to the High Lab. Dad cut the jet, and they were in free fall again. Johanna felt a wave of nausea; ordinarily she never got space sick, but this was different.

The image of land and sea in the downward window slowly grew. There were only a few scattered clouds. The coastline was an indefinite recursion of islands and straits and inlets. Dark green spread along the coast and up the valleys, shading to black and gray in the mountains. It was all so beautiful She heard metallic banging on the cargo shell as the trim jets tipped their craft around, aligning the main jet downwards.

The right-hand window showed the ground now. The torch lit again, at something like one gravity. The edge of the display darkened in a burnout halo. Sjana Olsndot was right; it was a novel way to descend from orbit, not a preferred method under any normal circumstances.

It was certainly not intended in the original escape plans. And of course, that rendezvous was to be in space, an easy transfer. But the frigate was gone now, and they were on their own. Her eyes turned unwillingly to the stretch of hull beyond her parents.

There was the familiar discoloration. It looked like gray fungus But Johanna had overheard them once, when they thought she and her brother were at the far end of the shell. We have the kids. I think this was the best we could hope for.

Somehow we are carrying the answer to all the evil we started. There had been strange things at the High Lab, and toward the end, some quietly scary things; even people who were not quite the same. Minutes passed. They were deep in the atmosphere now. The hull buzzed with the force of the air stream--or turbulence from the jet? But things were steady enough that Jefri was beginning to get restless.

Much of the downlooking view was burned out by airglow around the torch. The rest was clearer and more detailed than anything they had seen from orbit. Johanna wondered how often a new-visited world had been landed upon with less reconnaissance than this. They had no telescopic cameras, and no ferrets.

Physically, the planet was near the human ideal-- wonderful good luck after all the bad. It was heaven compared to the airless rocks of the system that had been the prime rendezvous. On the other hand, there was intelligent life here: From orbit, they could see roads and towns. But there was no evidence of technic civilization; there was no sign of aircraft or radio or intense power sources.

They were coming down in a thinly populated corner of the continent. With luck there would be no one to see their landing among the green valleys and the black and white peaks--and Arne Olsndot could fly the torch right to ground without fear of hurting much more than forest and grass.

Jefri shouted, pointing. It was gone now, but she had seen it too: on one of the islands an irregular polygon of walls and shadow. It reminded her of castles from the Age of Princesses on Nyjora.

She could see individual trees now, their shadows long in slanting sunlight. Where to, Love? They were in full hover now, maybe a thousand meters above the hilltops. The noise was painful, unending; further talk was impossible. They drifted slowly across the landscape, partly to reconnoiter, partly to stay out of the plume of superheated air that rose about them. The land was more rolling than craggy, and the "grass" looked mossy.

Still Arne Olsndot hesitated. The main torch was designed for velocity matching after interstellar jumps; they could hang like this for a good while.

If there was too much water in the soil, the backsplash would be a steam cannon, punching right through the shell. Landing in trees would have some dubious pluses, maybe giving them a little cushioning and a standoff from the splash. But now they were going for direct contact.


fire upon the deep, A - By Vernor Vinge

The coldsleep itself was dreamless. Three days ago they had been getting ready to leave, and now they were here. Now Johanna drifted between the racks of sleepers. Waste heat from the coolers made the darkness infernally hot. Scabby gray mold grew on the walls. The coldsleep boxes were tightly packed, with narrow float spaces every tenth row. There were places where only Jefri could reach.


Vernor Vinge



A Fire Upon the Deep




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