For Katie Kishida, the nanotechnology revolution begins with an act of love. Katie is a young mother with a successful career and a loving marriage, when her perfect life is shattered by the sudden death of her husband, Tom. Putting her faith in a science that hasn't been invented yet, Katie has Tom's body placed in cryonic suspension—frozen in liquid nitrogen against a time when advances in nanotechnology might heal his injuries and restore his life. Katie never suspects the consequences that will follow. Tom's death and his costly entombment spark immediate political controversy. It's a debate that only grows more passionate as the years pass. Katie's life is taken over by the need to defend her husband's future and to shepherd into existence the controversial technologies that might let him live again . . . even as she's haunted by the question: Does Tom really want to come back?
Tech-Heaven is a compelling story of devotion and unyielding determination set amid the tumultuous politics of our time, in a world that is teetering on the cusp of a technological revolution like no other in history.
Nagata always yields a great read, and I am very pleased to introduce new readers to this Locus and Nebula award-winning writer. This is part of her Nanopunk series, The Nanotech Succession. – Cat Rambo
"In the midst of fast-paced action, Nagata creates characters to worry about, cheer for, sympathize with and despise. The time spent getting to know them and their world is well worth it."– Publishers Weekly
"Nagata's theme is both ambitious and important: the attempted political regulation of new technologies, especially as they relate to human rights [...] a serious and thoughtful book."– Gary K. Wolfe, Locus
"The elements which make Linda Nagata a master of her art are not simply the depth of her understanding in nano and cryotech, but the depth of the plot and her three-dimensional characters."– Rob Sullivan, NanoTechnology Magazine
"...a fast-paced thriller."– Fred Clever, The Denver Post
Chapter 1—To Live Forever
Katie Kishida rode into the little Andean village of La Cruz on the back of a bony black steel mannequin. Through her VR suit she directed each crunching step along the mineral soil of the village's lone street. A freezing wind whistled through the mannequin's external joints and soughed past the rim of her VR helmet. She clung to the mannequin's back, studying the helmet's video display, anxiously searching the village for signs of life. But there was nothing—not a wisp of smoke or a scrounging bird, or even a cat slinking through the cluster of worn, wood‑frame buildings.
She commanded the remotely controlled unit to stop. The village made a neat frame for an imposing line of white peaks supporting a heavy ceiling of storm clouds. Bass thunder rumbled there, arriving almost below the range of hearing, a deep vibration that set Katie's slight, sixty-four-year-old body trembling, and snapped the brittle tethers she'd placed upon her fear.
The Voice cops had forgotten her.
She didn't want to believe it. Certainly in Panama they'd tried to stop her. Failing that, they'd seized her holding company, Kishida‑Hunt. They'd confiscated her assets, declared her a criminal, and then . . . nothing. She'd journeyed south for weeks with no sign of pursuit, and that worried her most of all, because the Voice cops wouldn't give up unless they thought she was dead . . . or disarmed. Maybe they knew about her bootleg copy of the Cure. Maybe they'd seized it before it could be shipped to La Cruz. Or maybe the life-extension schedule was a fraud, and there had been no pursuit since Panama because there was no Cure—and no way to restore life to the cryonic suspension patients hidden in a clandestine mausoleum in the mountains above La Cruz.
Fear had become her default emotion.
She shut down the remote, then slid from her perch on its back to stand on her own stiff legs. Her lean muscles ached and her ass was forever sore. She lifted the video helmet off her head. The wind streamed past her cheeks, its bitter touch oddly familiar. She thought she could feel Tom's presence in the mountains' unremitting cold. Tom had been dead thirty years. Or maybe he'd just become a crystalline life-form when his heart had stopped, his body and their marriage both immersed in liquid nitrogen, –196 C, a cold that had haunted her life.
A child's laughter broke her reverie. Katie looked up. Motion drew her gaze up the street to a single‑story building slightly larger than all the others, with a hand‑lettered sign by the door declaring Provisiones. Katie remembered. This was the same store where she'd bought a cup of hot coffee fifteen years ago. Back then, the building had been painted a shade of blue that matched the sky. But time had bleached and chipped away the paint until now there was only a hint of color left between the cracks. The walls were further abused with rusty staples, a few still clenching the tattered corners of handbills that had long since blown away. A little girl was peering past the partly opened door, bouncing up and down in excitement as she exclaimed in lilting Spanish over the skeletal aspect of the remote.
In her eagerness, Katie dropped the helmet in the street, forgetting it before it hit the ground. She hobbled toward the battered building, fighting muscle cramps in her legs. If the Cure had been successfully shipped from Vancouver, then it would be here, in the village store. She could claim her package and push on, higher still into the mountains, to the hidden mausoleum where Tom waited. If she could get to that quiet place, with the Cure in hand and no cops on her trail, then perhaps she could finally confront the ghost that had haunted her for thirty years.
The little girl smiled at her. From inside the store, a woman shouted. The girl glanced over her shoulder, then turned back to Katie with a grin. She opened the door wider. "Hola, Señora. Entre usted, por favor."
Inside the store the air was warm with electric heat and light. Katie began to perspire under her many layers of clothing, even before the door had closed behind her. She felt disoriented as she pulled off her gloves and stuffed them in a pocket. The physical comfort of the store's interior seemed alien, bold and fragile at once. Outside, the frigid wind gusted hard past the roofline. The building seemed to inflate, and then it shuddered. It was only a matter of time, Katie thought. The wind would penetrate this bubble of warmth, cool it, slow it, stretch it out in time, arresting the process while preserving the structure.
There wasn't much left in the store beyond structure anyway. Most of the shelves and ceiling hooks were bare, as if the owners had already finished their going-out-of-business-sale. Near the back though, Katie discovered a couple of beautiful woven blankets, and some food and modern camping supplies. Behind a yellowed linoleum counter an old woman, dressed in native woolens, watched with stern eyes.
Katie browsed self‑consciously through the meager selection, gathering a supply of food—beans and rice and aseptic juice cartons. A blanket. A pair of heavy woolen socks. Her heart raced; her pulse felt thready. Was the package here? Was it? She piled the items on the counter, then produced a false ID.
Her jaw worked for a few seconds as she tried to introduce saliva into the terribly dry cavity of her mouth. If the package wasn't here then it was over. All over. And she could climb up into the mountains or wander down to the sea and it wouldn't matter. Tom would remain on ice. And she would have to endure his ghost every time she closed her eyes.
She passed the old woman an ID card bearing the fictitious name of Theresa Myers. Then she asked, in Spanish, as if it were something of small importance, "Do you have a package for me?"
The woman squinted at the ID. Then her eyebrows shot up. She looked at Katie with a kind of awe. "Theresa Myers? Theresa Myers? Ah, you have come. At last, at last." And she ducked down under the counter and pulled out a cardboard box that was no larger than a briefcase. "All the other villagers have gone to Arica or even beyond. But I swore to remain until you came. My granddaughter and I. Now we can follow." She took Katie's ID and entered it on her phone while Katie cautiously touched the box. The woman handed her back the card. "I'm a wealthy woman now, Señora. I'll buy a home in Arica. This village has always been my home, but now the mountains are at war with the sun and people are no longer welcome here. . . ."
Katie nodded, only half listening as she used a knife to open the package. Inside was an unlocked ceramic case whose top slid back, curving, to disappear into the liner. Nested in the padded interior was a collection of nearly two hundred sealed ampules and a cyberbook.
She ran trembling fingers across the ampules; touched the buttons on the cyberbook, scarcely breathing. This was supposed to be a general rejuvenation therapy, developed in her own European labs. It hardly seemed possible.
Be young again. Raise the dead. Neat and easy.
The market value of this kit would be incalculable . . . if it worked.
Where were the Voice cops?
She wondered again if she'd gambled away her life and fortune on a fraud.
Then her lips set in a stubborn line. Silently, she chastised herself. She'd come so far, given up so much. She was not going to succumb to pessimism now. The Voice cops were not omniscient. It was still possible to move beneath their gaze without being seen.
She closed the case, then pulled on her gloves. Nodding her thanks to the old woman, she tucked the case under one arm, grabbed the sack of groceries with the other, and went outside.
The wind had grown in strength. It tugged angrily at the hood of her parka, and as she watched, it unbalanced the remote, sending it toppling to the unpaved street, where it lay humped around the supply pack strapped to its chest.
"Shit." Not an auspicious sign.
She tramped over to it, and set her booty on the ground.
The bipedal remote unit had been designed to function as a full-body prosthesis. Its legs and arms were slender and well‑braced at the joints, like reconstructed bones. Its torso was narrow, sitting in a swivel joint on the pelvic girdle. Its head was a smooth model of a human skull, with glass lenses where the eyes should have been and a blank surface instead of a mouth and nose. It was controlled through the VR, giving its user a physical presence in remote locations. But it required constant guidance.
Picking up the helmet, Katie dusted it off and set it back on her head, pulling it down over her hood. She flicked it on. A video image appeared on a screen just inches before her eyes. She frowned, then realized the remote was looking straight up into a roiling ceiling of heavy gray clouds. Well. At least the satellite eyes of the Voice cops wouldn't be witnessing this scene.
A finger‑width plug dangled from the helmet. She grabbed it, then felt beneath her collar for the socket. Close to the skin, beneath her many layers of clothing, she wore a wired suit. Sensors in the suit's fabric picked up every flexion, every muscle twitch of her body. Processors, working from experience, weighed the validity of the motion, culling the random stretches, the cramps, the sighs, the farts, while sending the purposeful signals on to the steel body of the remote unit. In the process, the scale of motion was amplified. A tiny twitch in Katie's thigh and calf translated into a four-foot stride for the mannequin. A slight shift of her weight caused it to turn.
Now she guided it carefully to a standing position, feet set wide and torso leaning slightly into the wind. As always, its metal hands were locked behind its hips, palms spread flat to create her seat.
She felt a lull in the wind and switched out of the remote's sensorium. Grabbing the case that contained the Cure, she stuffed that and her groceries into the pack on the remote's chest. Then she hurried around to its back and climbed on. She could feel it rocking under her as a gust of wind shot down the village street. Quickly, she switched back into the remote, and suddenly she felt balanced, strong. She lifted her head; looked with glass eyes toward the peaks. Lightning played there. Thunder grumbled. A wholly appropriate setting for bringing the dead back to life. She grinned, and started the remote unit running up the road.