Maelstrom (Rifters Trilogy 2) by Peter Watts

By Peter Watts

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This was grass. Those were birds. Oh dear God, that was sunlight. It was a scabby little rock lost somewhere in the Pacific, all lichens and dry scrub and shit-hawks, and he'd never been anywhere so beautiful. He couldn't think of a better place to die. * * * He awoke under a clear blue sky, a thousand meters beneath the ocean's surface. Fifty klicks from Beebe Station, maybe fifty-five from ground zero. Too far for the blast light to penetrate. He didn't know what he was seeing in that instant: Cherenkov radiation, perhaps.

She ignored it. It crushed the bodies of her friends. She forgot them. It drank the light, blinding even her miraculous eyes. It dared her to give in, to use her headlamp like some crippled dryback. She kept going, in darkness. Eventually the sea floor tilted into a great escarpment, leading into light. The bottom changed. Mud disappeared under viscous clumps of half-digested petroleum: a century of oil spills, a great global rug to sweep them beneath. Generations of sunken barges and fishing trawlers haunted the bottom, each a corpse and crypt and epitaph unto itself.

Her eyes were completely white. They held no pupils at all. Jesus, Perreault thought. The woman had lurched to her feet as the botfly neared, staggered down the rocky incline. She'd seemed unused to the operation of her own body. Twice she'd fallen. Just short of the waterline she'd grabbed something on the beach—swim fins, Perreault saw—and pitched forward into the shallows. A broken wave had rolled uphill and engulfed her. When it receded the shore was empty. Less than a minute ago, according to the logs.

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