Seven thousand meters below the ocean’s surface, the crew of the BathyTech 3 mineral mining facility has found something remarkable: a rock-like sphere of unknown material and origin.
For Mo Rees, the discovery calls to his inner explorer and adds color to his dull miner’s life. Even better than the promise of new knowledge is the unexpected connection he forges with Dr. Armin Savage-Hall, leader of the team brought down to study the thing.
For Armin, the object is the find of a lifetime. It could prove his controversial theories and secure his scientific reputation. And Mo is a fascinating bonus.
Then crew members start behaving strangely. Worse, they start to change: their eyes glow purple, their teeth sharpen. Then the violence begins, the brutal deaths. As BathyTech descends deeper into chaos, the surviving crew works desperately to find the cause of the horrors around them. What they uncover could annihilate the human race. And they can’t stop it.
Mo thought he knew the dark. He’d sought it out all his life. Made himself intimate with it. Explored cellars and caves and forgotten places where the sun didn’t penetrate and dead things decayed in the corners.
Then he’d gone down, and learned what darkness really meant.
Nothing blotted out the light quite like seven thousand meters of ocean.
The unrelieved blackness with its nightmare creatures called to the explorer in him. The part that wanted to uncover long-lost secrets and learn what no one else knew.
Which was why, when the scientists upside had asked the thirty-person crew of the BathyTech 3 deep-sea mineral mining rig to help find out what was pinging their mapping scans down in Richards Deep, Mo had volunteered to guide the science team into the deepest part of the Peru–Chile Trench to look for it.
His boss, Jemima, scowled when he told her. “I don’t want any of my miners skipping off on some stupid geek mission. I need every one of you on the vents.”
“It’s one shift. You’ll hardly even miss me.” He answered her death glare with a grin. “C’mon, Jem, don’t be like that. Think of it as a political move.”
Jem rolled her eyes, and Mo stifled a snicker. Pod 3 was the first of the BathyTech mining rigs to incorporate scientific research into its operation. To say that the scientists and the miners didn’t always get along would be a gross understatement.
“Fine. But for the love of Pete, ask me before you volunteer for this shit next time.” Jem pushed herself out of her chair and crossed to the refrigerator on the other side of the miner’s lounge. She opened it and pulled out a pouch. “Beer?”
He held out his hands. “Lay it on me, Big Mama.”
That earned him a sour look. She couldn’t weigh more than forty-five kilos soaking wet, and the top of her head only reached Mo’s armpit. The nickname irritated the crap out of her. She tossed him the beer anyway, then dug another one out of the fridge for herself. Mo tore the tab off the top to activate the polymers, marveling for the umpteenth time at the transformation from a soft-sided pouch to a solid bottle that felt exactly like real glass. He always got a kick out of breaking the empty bottle and watching it change back into a flexible pocket. It reminded him of entropy, decay, and dissolution.
She plopped into the chair, tore open her pouch, and took a long swallow the second it solidified. “So when’s this geek crew comin’ down?”
“Tomorrow. Early.” Mo gulped beer, savoring the tingle of bubbles on his tongue. “They’re sending an outside team instead of BathyTech scientists.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “Yeah?”
“How come?” She scratched her chin. “In fact, how come our guys couldn’t go get whatever the hell this thing is?”
“They tried. I heard they sent Rover out, but it wouldn’t pick up the thing. Acted like it wasn’t even there.”
“Yep.” He took another swallow of his drink. Licked his lips. Did it again because he knew damn well she was dying for more details and he was having way too much fun not giving her any. “Mmm. Good beer.”
She shot him a tight smile. “You’re an asshole.”
“Yep.” He raised his bottle to her.
She flipped him off.
Chuckling, Mo slouched into his chair, nursed his beer, and drifted off into his thoughts while Jem turned on the TV. If he was honest with himself, the strangeness of the whole business was the main reason he’d jumped at the chance to lead the upside team in their walk. Dr. Poole, BathyTech 3’s head of science, had already shown him Rover’s vid. It was way more staticky than it ought to be, but Mo had caught glimpses of what looked like a rock. The problem was, rocks didn’t show up as empty space on mapping scans, and they couldn’t fool state-of-the-art unmanned retrievers into thinking they didn’t exist.
Something highly unusual—maybe even something completely new—waited in Richards Deep. Mo fully intended to be among the first to see it in person.
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Ally Blue is acknowledged by the world at large (or at least by her heroes, who tend to suffer a lot) as the Popess of Gay Angst. She has a great big suggestively-shaped hat and rides in a bullet-proof Plexiglas bubble in Christmas parades. Her harem of manwhores does double duty as bodyguards and inspirational entertainment. Her favorite band is Radiohead, her favorite color is lime green and her favorite way to waste a perfectly good Saturday is to watch all three extended version LOTR movies in a row. Her ultimate dream is to one day ditch the evil day job and support the family on manlove alone. She is not a hippie or a brain surgeon, no matter what her kids’ friends say.