Caleuche by Jonathan Ward,
Cover by Kieran Walsh
Jericho has fallen.
The world lies in ruins: overrun by an endless tide of self-replicating killing machines known as the Bugs. Only a fraction of its population managed to flee the planet aboard whatever ship would carry them, heading for jump points that would take them to new solar systems and, hopefully, to safety.
The last ship to escape from orbit is the passenger vessel Caleuche: populated by a band of traumatised refugees, piloted by the mind of a murder victim. They face a desperate struggle for survival in the pitiless void of space, as fear and mistrust threaten to doom them all.
Yet they may not be alone, out there in the darkness.
‘Programmable Construction Drones (PCD), or Bugs as they are more commonly known, are poised to forever change life as we know it. Equipped with cutting-edge nanotechnology, they can carry out almost any task, and are even able to build the tools they need to accomplish their objective.’
‘It is, however, my recommendation that the JCCO retains full control of all PCD-related technology. Although the potential of the Bugs is almost limitless, the extreme care required in their programming coupled with the dangers unfettered nanotech poses means that the oversight of a central authority is required. If Bug technology were to fall into the wrong hands, the possible consequences could be horrific beyond all measure.’
– Excerpts from report submitted to
the Jericho Colonial Control Office, August 23rd, 2145
For an unknowable length of time, Sophia drifted, enveloped by slow, placid dreams of gentle ocean waves and the heat of the sun beating down on a tropical shore. She was filled by a sense of peace so overwhelming that she could feel little else, and didn’t care to: no fears or concerns could break through the tranquillity and intrude into her thoughts. Indeed, she could imagine nothing other than an eternity of relaxation.