GROND: The Raven High
by Yuri Hamaganov
Genre: YA Scifi
Release Date: April 2017
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 …
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“Do you feel you’re losing weight?” the nanny asked.
“Yes. It’s just like on the simulator!”
“Observe the sinker on the chain. It will hang soon in front of you, indicating the weightlessness. We’re very nearly there.”
The lift rose still higher over the column body. Gravity weakened with every meter, and in the mast area, it disappeared completely.
“Here we are. The terminus.”
The lift stopped with a soft jolt. Arina Rodionovna hitched her strap to the spring hook on the rail. The axis forked off here, skirting around a seven meter–thick mast that the main body of the structure rotated around. Olga sensed how the lightest of movements would separate her body from the platform and send her into free flight.
“So this is what weightlessness like!” the girl exclaims. Petrov grunted approvingly, admiring the child’s response.
“Now just jump up,” Arina instructed, releasing the strap.
Olga sprang from the lift, her body slowly drifted into the emptiness. The girl doubled up and turned over several times in flight. Her wide eyes filled with childish delight.
“I could do that all my life! Wow, how wonderful!”
“Raven, stop spinning around! Check the suit engines. Don’t forget that you’re training here!”
“Yes, Uncle Misha! Arina, what power should I set the engine to?”
“Only ten? Am I a snail? Let’s make it at least twenty-five, eh?”
“Exactly ten and not a percent more. If can’t obey we’ll go straight home!”
“All right. Where shall I go?”
“To that part of the axial mast to your left,” Arina said. “Thrust your engines smoothly, without any jerks.”
Olga accelerated too abruptly and was hurled forward like a rubber ball rapped by a paddle.
“Don’t wave your arms like wings,” Arina said. “There’s no air here, so you’ll have nothing to push against. The engines control your flight.”
The nanny continued Olga’s first training session in space, observing with pleasure how the girl nimbly stopped the chaotic rotation with a brief adjustment with the engines. She drifted toward the mast at a much slower rate. A second flash of the engines and Olga froze in the emptiness, hanging a meter from the mast. She reached out and touched the beam with her hand, first with her fingertips and then her palms, gripping harder with the thimbles.
“Now return to the initial position. Try to move in a straight line. Don’t hurry. And watch the fuel consumption.”
Olga disengaged herself from the mast. This time her movements were smoother, more graceful jerks. She stopped and started to perform a series of test maneuvers, rotating from side to side, accelerating and slowing down.
“I must admit, you make a favorable impression,” Petrov said. “The millions spent on your training have not spent in vain. Another five minutes and then come back.”
“Uncle Misha, shall we go to the plant today?” Olga asked the curator.
“No, Olga,” Arina said. “We’ve had enough for today. I’ll take you to the factory the day after tomorrow. But before we go back to the House, I’ll show you something. Just wait two and a half minutes.”
“Arina Rodionovna, what are you up to?” Petrov asked.
“You’ll see too,” Arina replied as she switched off her searchlight.
The High House continued its orbit over the dark disk of Earth, and then the planet’s edge flared with a rim of golden light. Olga floated, delighting in the bright crescent dividing day from night.
“Mind the light filter, Olga,” Arina said, as usual just on time.
The sun appeared suddenly on the horizon, scorching the mass of the station with its fire. Olga narrowed her eyes, watching the colossal golden coin rising over the world. A new day had come.