Upgrade to a better browser, please.

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books

Maximum Ice

Added By: Administrator
Last Updated:

Maximum Ice

Purchase this book through Purchase this book from Purchase this book from
Author: Kay Kenyon
Publisher: Bantam UK, 2002

This book does not appear to be part of a series. If this is incorrect, and you know the name of the series to which it belongs, please let us know.

Submit Series Details

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Generation Ship
Avg Member Rating:
(3 reads / 2 ratings)


Lee P


Zoya Kundara has lived on the space vessel Star Road for two hundred fifty years. As its Ship Mother, kept alive in a state of pseudoimmortality, she has provided wisdom and counsel to succeeding generations of its crew, self-exiled survivors of earth’s great plague.

But now, to escape the ravages of space radiation, the giant starship has returned to earth, only to discover a world on the verge of extinction, its barren surface blanketed in a crystalline substance that resembles ice and that is slowly, inexorably encapsulating the planet. Zoya is chosen as emissary to this strange new earth, and now she must approach its denizens and find a suitable home for her desperate crew among the shrinking lands.

But what she finds shakes Zoya to her core: groups of humans huddled like moles in underground techno-warrens called preserves, and a pseudospiritual order known as the Ice Nuns, who seek control of the physics-defying crystals and enslave their disciples in their crazed quest for truth. For on this once green land, Ice and the science behind it are now the only God–and mastering this grand ecology of information the only higher calling. Allies are few and far between, but somehow Zoya must uncover the secrets of Ice and halt its expansion.


Chapter 1

Zoya lay on her bunk in the shuttle cabin, listening for sounds of earth. But there was nothing, not even wind. The earth was a silent place, at least here, in this wide valley.

The shuttle had set down in northwest Canada, between the continent and Vancouver Island. The names meant nothing now, especially the political names. Among the few relevant geographical names were the mountains. As they had descended yesterday, they had glimpsed the range of the Olympics jutting up through the planet's new firmament.

Their landing site had once been the Strait of Georgia. Now it was a broad, flat valley between low hills of crystalline landforms. The shuttle crew was calling it crystal. After they had landed, people crowded around the view screens, seeing the facets, the gem-shapes protruding from the ground like distorted images of the vanished trees. There had been a profound silence as the crew stared out. The sun was setting, putting a glare on the landscape--a little disturbing and overbright, like a good song turned up too loud.

Zoya sat up. By her wrist lex, it was almost dawn at this latitude and in this season, late autumn.

She touched the diamond studs in her ear. Their solidity reassured her that she was awake, in the real world. Ah, but what was real? The suspended land of quasi-sleep, or the consensual realm of waking? Both lands had their claim on her. Sleep could brag of the centuries--but waking always got her immediate attention. There was coffee, for one thing. Good gossip. Winning at cards. Actually, it was a long list, and she recited it every time she awoke--the reasons why life was good, even amid disasters.

Throwing off the covers, she called for lights and abandoned her bunk. Sleep was hopeless, and a sunrise beckoned. Now she would see all the sunrises, in sequence. The role of Ship Mother could fade, since her people were finished with the long star road. Ship Mother had been the tether to home, conceived as a tradition to preserve tradition.

But, truly, she was ready to stop parceling out her days.

In moments she had dressed and was heading down the corridor. Her impulse was to get moving, do something, talk to people--go outside. Only the science crew had been outside so far. You can go out in the morning, Lieutenant Bertak had told her. Easy enough for him to put it off, he hadn't been waiting 250 years.

She almost collided with Fyodor Mirga, just emerging from the science station.

He was dressed for the cold.

"Going outside, then, Fyodor?" she asked, thinking she might slip out with him.

Fyodor looked eager. "I couldn't sleep. Might as well get an early start." He was supervising the boring in the research tent outside, where a drill had been working through the night to provide a sample core. "The drill is jammed," he added.

"Need some help?"

"Sorry, Ship Mother. Lieutenant Bertak says..."

He didn't like to turn her down; only Lieutenant Bertak enjoyed that. They had not hit it off well, she and the first mate.

Fumbling in his pocket, Fyodor brought out a translucent rock, a piece of crystal formed into a tiny, perfect obelisk. He pressed it into her hand. "A piece of the earth," he said.

She felt her throat swelling shut. Before she could embarrass herself with tears, Fyodor turned down the corridor, waving good-bye, as two crewmen joined him. They were fully armed, and looked sour to be awakened so early.

Zoya turned the crystal over in her hand. Fyodor didn't hesitate to call it a piece of the earth. There was something sweet and bold about the statement. Looked at strictly scientifically, the average atomic composition of the substance was silicon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, calcium, and other elements, in the precise ratio of the old earth's crust. But the crystalline material was no known mineral. This notion frightened most of the crew; but Fyodor had the look of a boy in a bicycle shop.

Once in the shuttle galley, she activated a cup of coffee and keyed up the view screen. The shuttle's outside lights showed the near vicinity: the research tent, and surrounding it, a flat basin strewn with erratic, faceted slabs, like jumbled ice flows. Wind blew eddies of clear sand, glittering in the floodlights. It drifted into piles. However long earth had worn its coat, it had been long enough to erode slightly, producing small grains of crystal.

The view didn't crush down on her as it did the crew. Never an ardent Catholic, Zoya still saw wisdom in the injunction against despair. To her, this was a fresh start, a place swept clean of old dangers and ancient sins.

Somehow, the land was inhabited. From her work so far on the content of radio transmissions, the local language was related to English. With her linguist's ear, she was already picking out phonological similarities to Star Road's dialect. The lexical and syntactic changes from Ship's English were not as profound as she would have guessed from the long time period involved. Given the harsh global conditions and difficulty of travel, there may have been few outside influences to propel changes in syntactical rules and vocabulary.

Additionally, from hundreds of points around the globe came transmissions, in many other languages. So people had survived. It was well to remember these miracles amid all their sorrows.

For the ship had returned without children. Star Road's crew were as fruitless as the crystalline fields outside. The youngest of her people was nineteen.

Earth was--or so they had presumed--the haven where they would renew themselves, the warm and green cradle of life. There might well be other such worlds, but Star Road hadn't found them. And now the ship was out of time. This might be the last generation of Star Road, with its women unable to bear children to term, the consequence of 250 years of interstellar radiation that not even the vaunted microceramic shielding of the great vessel could successfully halt.

She was startled at a movement in the corridor.

Janos Bertak, the ship's first mate, stood in the doorway. "What are you doing?"

"Looking outside."

"We heard noises in here."

She laughed. "Well, Janos, it was only me. I hope I'm not breaking curfew."

Her attempt at lightheartedness was met with a grimace.

Janos Bertak had a full mustache that failed to make up for a seriously receding hairline. When he frowned it involved his whole forehead and bald pate.

He was a nervous man. For one thing, they had brought the small shuttle down with only fourteen crew. Anatolly had judged that the number one shuttle, with its prodigious armament, would send the wrong message to the local inhabitants, so he sent the small one. Another of the first mate's worries was his wife. Janos Bertak was middle-aged and Tereza was young. She was a great beauty, with classic features, and that creamy skin and red hair that graced generations of women and men in her family. Zoya remembered Tereza's great-great-grandfather Halvor--now there was a man who knew how to please a woman.

Janos turned to leave, but she stopped him. "Fyodor went outside," she said. "Could I join him, just to watch?"

"I have enough to worry about without you going outside."

She couldn't suppress a smile. "Janos. Nothing would stop you from worrying." It was the wrong thing to say. He left the galley without comment, moving on to the next worry.

Zoya took out the piece of crystal and rubbed her finger along its smooth side. Leaning into the comm node, she hailed Fyodor, whose shadow she could see moving in the bright tent. "By the way, Fyodor, thank you for the gift."

She placed the crystal on the table in front of her. In the semidark galley, it lay torpid, bleached of color.

"Fyodor?" She shouldn't disturb his work. But since she already had, he should answer. "Fyodor?"

No response. Again she punched in the code for the remote unit, hailing him.

On-screen, the predawn had turned the world ghostly gray. The tent, vivid yellow, sat in a puddle of light like melted butter. Fyodor was moving inside the tent. There were two people in the tent. The other guard would be outside. Still...

She punched in the cockpit. "Margit?"

When the copilot answered, Zoya said, "This is Zoya. Just checking, but from this node I can't hail the research tent."

"Stand by." A click, and Zoya was on hold. She rose, gazing at the view screen. Now there was only one person in the tent, hunkered over. The drill was giving Fyodor a bad time.

More clicks. Margit would take the comm problem seriously. From a long space tradition, any mechanical problem, no matter how small, got immediate attention.

Zoya heard a noise down the corridor. Someone running.

She strode to the door, seeing Janos hurrying down the corridor toward the cockpit. In the next instant, a braying alarm kicked in, bringing crew into the corridor, some armed, all rushing to stations.

A movement on-screen caught her attention. Swirling to face the view screen, Zoya saw someone standing outside. It wasn't Fyodor. Whoever it was, he--she thought it a he--was covered in blood. Crimson rags hung from him like torn flesh. And he was screaming. She could hear nothing, but the strain in the neck and gape of the mouth spoke loudly enough. The figure stood directly facing the shuttle, arms slightly raised, his face contorted in a monstrous howl that seemed to be aimed directly at her.

A spray of sand obscured the viewing lens for an instant. When it cleared, the figure was gone.

Keeping close to the wall so as to be out of the way of hurrying crew, Zoya made her way to the cockpit. She no more than put her head inside the door when Janos snapped, "Stay out of the way."

"I saw someone out there, a stranger..."

Janos was bent over the controls, punching in the feed from additional external cameras. "We all saw him. What do you think the alarm was about?" At the control panel, four views of the tent from ship's cameras showed a silent scene: tent swollen with light, gray snow turning pink in the sunrise--but all silent, unmoving. No sign of the man in rags. Behind her, several crew had formed up, all guns and boots and wild eyes.

Janos barked at the pilot, "Tomos, hail the captain, and keep a wide surveillance, this could be just the first wave." He turned to the armed unit. "You, you, and you, take the main hatchway, the rest go out the emergency hatch." The surveillance systems showed nothing, but Janos was taking no chances.

The forward hatch opened just long enough for five crew to dart out, then clanged shut, leaving behind a patch of cold air. The second unit rushed aft. Amid the flurry of deployment, Zoya retreated to the galley, where she opened the comm node to hear what was transpiring in the cockpit. The view screen showed crew moving up on the tent--no sign of the man in rags.

Then, as the sun crested the hills, Zoya could just make out a figure approaching, but still some one hundred meters away. Someone was gliding over the ground toward the ship--moving fast enough that he might be flying or skating. Meanwhile, the crew were spreading out, surrounding the tent.

On comm, she heard Margit say, "Someone approaching from the west, sir."

"Lay down perimeter fire," Janos said.

"Yes, sir."

"No," Zoya hissed into the comm node.

Ship's guns clattered, barely muffled by the hull.

Leaning into the node, she said, "Janos, it's just one person." But no one was listening. She tore into the corridor and ran to the outside hatch, guarded by a wan youngster who looked to be all of twenty years old.

"Open it," she barked. He started to protest, but in the end he was no match for her. Then she was on the access ramp, running into a stew of dust and screams. Piquant air rushed to her nostrils, and the sky loomed above her in monstrous blessing. The fray had kicked up a flurry of dust that the morning sun infused with blind light.

As the dust settled over the scene, Zoya saw that the new arrival was standing on a sled, and was raising a huge weapon that looked like a harpoon gun, aiming it at the tent.

Crew members were turning in every direction, watching for attack. Several fired at the man in the sled, but they had to face into the blinding dawn, and missed.

In the next instant, the tent collapsed, leaving one person standing inside, a swaying human tent post. The newcomer fired his gun and sent a spear full into the body of the tent-draped figure. Then he lowered his weapon and stared at what he had done.

"No one shoot," Zoya shouted as she ran up to the sled. The crew hesitated for a moment, with Ship Mother in the line of fire. But the stranger had lowered his weapon; he was giving up--or he had accomplished what he set out to do.

Nevertheless, several crew moved in and dragged the sled man from his perch, wrestling him to the ground and seizing his harpoon. Other crew were still keeping watch, squinting at the territory, watching for movement. But far into the distance, there was nothing but flat, white desert.

Now Janos was approaching from the shuttle, all outrage.

She thought he might grab her forcibly. She used her most calming voice: "Let us talk first. You can always shoot him later."

From the look on Janos's face, it was Zoya he'd like to shoot. "Get inside, Ship Mother. Now." He turned his attention to the collapsed tent, striding over to the wreckage.

Two crew members were trying to pull the tent away from the impaled man, but the spear effectively pinned it in place. They managed the task far enough to see that the victim was none of theirs. It was the rag man, lying immobile. As they pushed back the loose tent fabric, they uncovered a dreadful scene. Three other bodies lay in blood-drenched sand. Crew members were crouched down, taking their vital signs.

Oh my children, Zoya thought. Oh, Fyodor.

The sled man, held firmly between two of the biggest crewmen, said something to her that she couldn't catch. She looked at him closely for the first time, seeing a burly, bearded man, dressed in furs. He jutted his chin at the tent.

In a fury, Janos advanced on him and struck him a blow across the face.

Zoya inserted herself between Janos and the sled man. "He's alone, for God's sakes," she spat at him.

Copyright © 2002 by Kay Kenyon


There are currently no reviews for this novel. Be the first to submit one! You must be logged in to submit a review in the BookTrackr section above.


No alternate cover images currently exist for this novel.