HEHE. The main character has my first name. Ohhhh. Now I remember why I signed up for it, silly girl.
GROND: The Raven High
Publication date: February 28th 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
In the year 2086, Earth is exhausted. The seas have been emptied, the bedrock and soil stripped of their resources, and the superheated atmosphere churns with terrible storms. Those who can afford to do so live in the limbo of virtual reality, and the billions who suffer in poverty have no work, no clean water, and no security from the chaos.
The only hope for those trapped on a dying Earth are the Changed—the seven bioengineered post-humans who work in their separate manufacturing facilities orbiting high above the planet. Raised from birth for their work and fully matured at ten years old, their genius provides the nanomaterials that have begun to cleanse Earth of the pollutants that have wiped out almost the entire ecosphere.
But for Olga Voronov, youngest of the Changed, the isolation and endless toil are not the greatest of her challenges. Down on Earth there are those who resent and fear her talents—and would prefer that humanity not be given the second chance that only she could make possible …
CHAPTER NINE: ROCK ’N ROLL
…The stage under Olga’s feet disappeared. Now she was balancing on thin steel rope stretched between the two skyscrapers. The girl kept her balance, clasping the guitar. Somewhere not far her rivals balanced on similar ropes, but she didn’t think about them.
She fully concentrated on the music. It was an old and familiar standard—Jimi Hendrix’s cover of “All Along the Watchtower.” Olga struck the first chords and trotted over the rope toward the roof of the far skyscraper.
Thousands of eyes in the auditorium watched the contestants swaying on their tightropes with guitars in their hands. The audience commented on the proceedings, made bets, and enjoyed themselves. However, Olga didn’t see or hear that. The all-important thing for her now was to move forward, step by step, and to play with the proper cadence and precision.
Hendrix was followed by Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” And that was when a drawn-out howl broke loose. The Mohawk had bungled a chord, received several strong electric shocks, and fallen screaming from the tightrope.
Olga had made it halfway across her tightrope when Metallica was replaced by ZZ-Top. She missed a note at the beginning of “Concrete and Steel” and the pain very nearly sent her down. Bending backward at her waist to shift her center of gravity and regain her,
Olga cursed herself. How could she mess up such a simple riff?
In five minutes she reached the end of the rope and stood on the roof of the skyscraper. The black man in the military uniform and the cyborg with a striped torso were waiting for her there. The last to come across was the Japanese girl. On the final portion of the rope she came close to falling as she butchered the guitar solo from the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
After a second’s pause, the skyscraper disappeared. Now they stood on an emerald green lawn dotted with purple wildflowers. In the distance a large stop road sign with a finish inscription stuck up from the grass. What was the catch? Olga’s eyes magnified by tenfold. Ah, there it was! Thin steel wires stretched here and there fifteen centimeters above the grass.
Olga advanced across the grass, now playing Pink Floyd’s “Сomfortably Numb.” She spotted small clumps of raised turf here and there. Obviously the grass had been dug up with a spade and put back again, though not very neatly. More mines. Olga clenched her teeth and walked on. Her intense search for mines partially distracted her from Gilmore’s solo and cost her several shocks, but she continued her progress.
The Japanese girl in front of her vanished in a flash and clouds of gray smoke. The shockwave tore at Olga’s internal organs; she lost her balance and fell to the grass. Electric shocks pierced her body, but she didn’t hurry to recover her guitar. It was vital not to trip a wire—the shock of the exploding mine could kill her in real life as well as the Matrix.
The electric shops intensified, but she stoically withstood them. The guitar’s neck was entangled in a wire. Olga kneeled and with utter caution lowered the guitar just a little to free the neck out. The striped cyborg stood at the finish line, hoping to see another blast.
“You won’t get it from me!” Olga said through her teeth.
But her rival got her wish when a mine erupted on her left. Olga didn’t look back. Slowly and cautiously, stepping over suspicious places, she advanced until her hand touched the finish sign, the mined meadow disappeared, and she was again in the club arena. Olga and the striped girl sized up each other with incinerating stares.
“The two strongest remain!” the master of ceremonies said. “Now our beautiful winners are ready for the final round!”…
CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE END OF CHILDHOOD
…The orbital cannon, flying five hundred kilometers over the High House, readily obeyed the code introduced by Petrov, coming under his command in manual mode. He didn’t have to switch on the long-range radars since the House’s path was fixed and the curator only needed to introduce the station’s coordinates. Then he watched as the thirty-meter barrel turned on its electric drives.
He switched on the precise guidance telescope. What was left now was to aim at the ship moored to the axis. The cannon’s guidance system would independently calculate the required lead. Now the thin red lines were coming together on the Swan’s bow, where Petrov hoped the control post was. He didn’t want to hit the reactor compartment.
The cannon accumulators fully charged; the fragmentary round was in the barrel. The target was attached to the High House and therefore couldn’t evade, and it wasn’t protected by jamming. Everything promised an ideal shot.
“Well, dear citizens engaged in alcoholism, hooliganism, and parasitism!” Petrov announced with unconcealed relish. “Time for the fate you so richly deserve!”
A space artillery gun is an inconspicuous thing. It fires without a bright flash or deafening sound of a shot. But the shell, boosted by the pulse-driven electrode accelerator, rushed to the target at a speed of eighty kilometers per second.
“Ensign Voronov is calling Electra Donovan. Over.” Olga’s voice was even as usual, showing no emotions.
“Wha-a-a-t? You’re still alive?”
Olga smiled wryly and looked out the porthole.
“Alive, my friend. And now I’ll show you my funny trick!”
“Beautiful!” Olga exclaimed, watching with admiration as bow of the Black Swan shattered to hundreds of glittering fragments. The shell that hit the yacht exploded inside it, producing thousands of splinters in the shape of curved saber. They cut through everything on their way—partitions, equipment, spacesuits, human bodies … The maneuvering engines and oxygen tanks exploded. The controls inside the ship threw off showers of sparks. The dazzling flame flared up and died out. The metal and ceramite bulged outward, then came apart in a donut-shaped ring of shrapnel. Only the reactor compartment, protected by armor, survived. The High House’s docking unit was damaged, but it was of no significance now.
With the destruction of the generator, the pain vanished like a nightmare. Olga regained control of the station and immediately introduced new security codes that would make any further hacking impossible. Simultaneously an SOS signal and an encoded short message detailing the attack on the station left for Earth…