There’s only 8 days until the publication of Walkaway (stil time to pre-order signed hardcovers: US, UK), and Tor.com has just published a sneak peek at chapter 3: “Takeoff.”
I’m getting ready to hit the road and tour with the book: 20+ cities in the US and Canada are announced, with more to come in the UK!
Chapter 3 starts with a visit to the bombed out remains of Walkaway U, a guerrilla scientific research facility that’s been taken out by Hellfire missiles.
The ashes of Walkaway U were around Iceweasel. It was an unsettled climate-ish day, when cloudbursts swung up out of nowhere, drenched everything, and disappeared, leaving blazing sun and the rising note of mosquitoes. The ashes were soaked and now baked into a brick-like slag of nanofiber insulation and heat sinks, structural cardboard doped with long-chain molecules that off-gassed something alarmingly, and undifferentiated black soot of things that had gotten so hot in the blaze that you could no longer tell what they’d been.
There were people in that slag. The sensor network at WU had survived long enough to get alarmed about passed-out humans dotted around, trapped by blazes or gases. There was charred bone in the stuff that crept around her mask and left a burnt toast taste on her tongue. She’d have gagged if it hadn’t been for the Meta she’d printed before she hit the road.
The Banana and Bongo was bigger than the Belt and Braces had ever been— seven stories, three workshops, and real stables for a variety of vehicles from A.T.V. trikes to mecha-walkers to zepp bumblers, which consumed Etcetera for more than two years, as he flitted through the sky, couch-surfing at walkaway camps and settlements across the continent. She’d thought about taking a mecha to the uni, because it was amazing to eat the countryside in one, the suit’s wayfinders and lidar finding just the right place to plant each of its mighty feet, gyros and ballast dancing with gravity to keep it upright over the kilometers.
But mechas had no cargo space, so she’d taken a trike with balloon tires as big as tractor wheels, tugging a train of all-terrain cargo pods of emergency gear. It took four hours to reach the university, by which time, the survivors had scattered. She lofted network-node bumblers on a coverage pattern, looking for survivors’ radio emissions. The bumblers self-inflated, but it was still sweaty work getting them out of their pod and into the air, and even though she worked quickly—precise Meta-quick, like a marine assembling a rifle blindfolded—everything was smeared with blowing soot by the time they were in the sky.
“Fuck this,” she said into her breather, and turned the A.T.V. and its cargotrain around in a rumbling donut. The survivors would be nearby, upwind of the ash plume, and out of range of the heat that must have risen as the campus burned. She’d seen a demo of a heat-sunk building going up before. It had been terrifying. In theory, graphene-doped walls wicked away the heat, bringing it to the surface in a shimmer, keeping the area around the fire below its flash point. The heat sink was itself less flammable than everything else they used for building materials, so if the fire went on too long, the heat sinks heated up to the flash point of the walls, and the entire building went up in a near-simultaneous whoom. In theory, you couldn’t get to those temperatures unless eight countermeasures all failed, strictly state-actor-level arson stuff.
Walkaway: “Takeoff” [Cory Doctorow/Tor.com]