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Fast Forward 2

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Fast Forward 2

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Author: Lou Anders
Publisher: Pyr, 2008
Series: Fast Forward: Book 2

1. Fast Forward 1
2. Fast Forward 2

Book Type: Anthology
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Hard SF
Soft SF
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When Fast Forward 1 debuted in February 2007, it marked the first major all- original, all-SF anthology series to appear in some time – and it was met with a huge outpouring of excitement and approbation from the science fiction community. No less than seven stories from Fast Forward 1 were chosen to be reprinted a total of nine times in the four major "Best of the Year" retrospective anthologies, a wonderful testament to the quality of contributions in our inaugural book. What’s more, Fast Forward 1 was hailed repeatedly as leading the charge in a return of original, unthemed anthologies series (several more have since appeared in our wake). Now the critically-acclaimed, groundbreaking series continues, featuring all new stories.

Table of Contents


"Catherine Drewe"

Paul Cornell

Hamilton could hear, from the noises outside the window, that the hunters had caught up with their prey. There was a particular noise that Derbyshire Man Hounds made seconds before impact. A catch in their cries that told of their excitement, the shift in breathing as they prepared to leap at the neck of the quarry the riders had run in for them. He appreciated that sound.

He looked back to where Turpin was sitting in a wing chair, the volume of Butriss he'd taken from Sanderton's library in the early stages of the hunt still open on his lap. The skin on Turpin's face was a patchwork of different shades, from fair new freckles that would have put an Irishman to shame to the richer tones of a mulatto. This was common in the higher ranks of the military, a sign that parts of Turpin's body had been regrown and grafted back on many different occasions. Hamilton saw it as an affectation, though he would never have said so. He had asked for his own new right arm to match the rest of his body completely. He'd expected Turpin, or one of the other ranking officers who occasionally requested his services, to ask about it, but they never had.

The noise from outside reached a crescendo of cries and horns and the sudden high howl of one dog claiming the prey and then being denied more than a rip at it. Turpin opened his eyes. "Damn," he said. He managed a slight smile. "Still, five hours. They got their exercise."

Hamilton reflected the smile back at him, shifting his posture so that he mirrored Turpin's nonchalant air more exactly. "Yes, sir."

Turpin closed the book. "I thought they had me an hour ago, which is why I sent for you. How's your weekend been? Has Sanderton been keeping you in the style to which you're accustomed?" Turpin had arrived unannounced and unexpected, as he often did, late last night, sitting down at the end of the dinner table as the gentlemen were about to adjourn and talking only about the forthcoming day's hunting, including asking his host for Hamilton to be excepted from it.

"It's been a most enjoyable house party, sir. Dinner was excellent."

"I heard you bagged your share of poultry."

Hamilton inclined his head. He was waiting for Turpin to get to the point, but it wouldn't be for a while yet. Indeed, Turpin spent the next twenty minutes and thirty-three seconds asking after Hamilton's family, and going into some of the details of his genealogy. This happened a lot, Hamilton found. Every now and then it occurred to him that it was because he was Irish. The thought registered again now, but did not trouble him. He had considerable love for the man who had ordered him to return home from Constantinople when it became clear the only good he could do there was to remind the Kaiser that every disturbance to the peace of Europe had consequences, that every action was paid for in blood. Hamilton would have done it, obviously, but it was one fewer weight to drag up the hill when he woke each morning.

"So." Turpin got up and replaced the book on the library shelf. "We've seen you're fit, and attended to your conversation, which rang like a bell with the white pudding crowd. We have a job for you, Major. Out of uniform."

Hamilton took that to be the royal we. He found that a healthy smile had split his lips. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

Turpin touched his finger to the surface of the table, where the imprint glowed with bacterial phosphorescence. Hamilton leaned over and made the same gesture, connecting the receptors in his skin with the package.

"Nobody else knows about this," said Turpin.

The information rolled into Hamilton. It exhilarated him. He felt his nostrils flare at the smells and pictures of a land he'd never been to. New territory. Low white newly grown wood buildings, less than a day old by the look of them, with the banners of imperial Russia fluttering gallant. That is, fluttering not entirely through the progression of an atmosphere past them. Near darkness. Was it dawn? Not unpleasant.

And there was the woman. She stood on a bluff, looking down into a dark grey canyon, looking at a prize. He couldn't see what she was looking at; the emotion came with the package, and Hamilton reacted to it, making himself hate her and her prize for a moment, so if anything like this moment came in the world, he would be in charge of it.

She wore her hair green, but bundled in the knots that suggested she rarely had to unfurl it and take the benefit. Her neck was bare in the manner that said she was ready for the guillotine, the black collar of her dress emphasising her defiance. Hamilton let himself admire that bravery, as he did the martial qualities of all those he met in his work. Her gown was something that had been put together in the narrow hell of the foundry streets of Kiev, tiny blue veins of enforcement and supply across Imperial white, with the most intricate parchment wrinkles. It looked like she was wearing a map.

Her hands were clasped before her, and she was breathing hard, controlling her posture through an immense effort of will. She wanted to exult, to raise herself in triumph.

Hamilton found himself wishing she would turn around.

But the information froze there, and the rare data tumbled into his mind. He sent most of it into various compartments, for later examination, keeping only the index in the front of his attention.

"Catherine Drewe," said Turpin. "Ever meet her?"

Just because they were both Irish? Hamilton killed the thought. "No."

"Good. We got that emotional broadcast image by accident. From someone standing behind her--a bodyguard, we think. One of our satellites happened to be passing over the Valles Marineris at the right moment, three days ago."

Hamilton had already realised. "The Russians are on Mars."

Turpin nodded. "Terrifying, isn't it?"

"Is her army--?"

"Down there with her, because if so, we're acting with a criminal disregard for the safety of our allies in the Savoy court?"

Hamilton acknowledged Turpin's smile. "Thought you might be ahead of me, sir."

Copyright © 2008 by Lou Anders


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