We’re excited to share an excerpt from Unity, a philosophical science fiction thriller from author Elly Bangs—arriving April 21st from Tachyon Publications.
Danae is not only herself. She is concealing a connection to a grieving collective inside of her body. But while she labors as a tech servant in the dangerous underwater enclave of Bloom City, her fractured self cannot mend. In a desperate escape, Danae and her lover Naoto hire the enigmatic ex-mercenary Alexei to guide them out of the imploding city.
But for Danae to reunify, the three new fugitives will have to flee across the otherworldly beauty of the postapocalyptic Southwest. Meanwhile, Danae’s warlord enemy, the Duke, and a strange new foe, the Borrower, already seek them at any price.
I remember the calm on that last night in Bloom City. We had no warning of the bloodshed to come. Fifty thousand refinery workers and plankton farmers and Medusan soldiers danced and drank themselves to exhaustion, then crawled into the darkest and driest corridors in sight and faded out one by one. By four a.m. the chatter in the habitat level had died down, and then there was only the ceaseless and ever-present thrum of the refineries, gulping down seawater and letting out a slow but steady flow of deuterium: that liquid gold that made the great oceanic city-states so rich, providing an endless supply of ammunition to the wars that had ravaged dry land for a hundred years.
That night found Alexei Standard staring up at the ceiling of his room in the love hotel. His host lay motionless next to him, her closed eyelids dusted with dim pink light, but he had no doubt she was awake and keeping up her vigil. His electromagnetic armor and coat hung on the wall, but he’d set his wave rifle in arm’s reach and pointed it pre-emptively at the door: an old habit that clung to life harder than he did himself. Tomorrow he would leave this place and head for the strife-ridden hinterland—and in that thought, for the first time in three solid days, he felt the promise of sleep begin to tug at the edges of his mind.
On a deeper tier of the city, Danae stared over the ridgeline of Naoto’s body at the mural he had begun to paint on her wall, letting it sink in that she’d never see it finished—that tomorrow she would either die, or live to stand under the real sky again. She wanted to believe in the latter, to hold that image in her mind and cherish it, but in the long hours of that night there was nowhere left to hide from the deeper fear: there was no home for her to go back to. Not really. Even if she made it out of this prison city and all the way back to Redhill—even if she found the rest of herself again—she would still be condemned to the isolation of a single, fragile body. She would still never be forgiven. She would still be a murderer.
At that moment, a pale man with a blue corporate tattoo on his cheek crept alone among the habitat level’s shuttered fronts and sleeping bodies and passed, again, the elevators down to the Medusan barracks module. Without thinking he gritted his teeth, so hard he could hear a molar begin to crack. It had taken him more than sixty years to find Danae—to stand here and know the two of them were separated now by only a single elevator and a few sealed doors—but he’d spent weeks trying and failing to cross that last distance, and he had no more patience. There was no privacy in this place. He could never get anyone alone long enough to put on their flesh, and without that he couldn’t become anyone who the Medusas would ever allow into their protected keep. The only solution he could imagine was to flush his target out into the open, where he might reach her. So he took a deep breath and braced himself for what was coming. He considered the heavy briefcase in his hand—not the one he had become so accustomed to carrying for seventy-two years now, but this new one he so loathed, packed with far cruder devices. He took his shard from his pocket and typed a message to the other two of himself: Stand by. Will detonate in ten minutes.
Something else was awake in Bloom City that night. In a chamber made up to look like an ordinary storage tank, set apart from the habitat sections, there was a machine that never slept: Medusa Clan’s prized molecular assembler, a throbbing mass of solid-state machinery in a reinforced vacuum chamber. Its end product was pumped invisibly through a nanoscopic tubule and injected into a hollow sphere the size of a human heart. When the sphere was full, a robotic arm gently transferred it into the next warhead on the line, there to wait for its fateful commands. Anyone looking inside the nanoweapon core would only have seen what looked like oil, black and viscous, with a dull metallic luster; unidentifiable by sight as a mass of a billion tiny mechanisms, each the size of a blood cell. They were simple machines, identical, and with a single function: to make copies of themselves out of any matter they touched. Even the people who operated the assemblers, who walked among the rows of loaded warheads and took inventory, couldn’t fathom what they themselves had made—because it’s one thing to know in factual terms, and something else to truly understand: to hold such an object in your hands and grasp that it encloses a hunger deep enough to eat the whole world.
Excerpted from Unity, copyright © 2021 by Elly Bangs