Quarantine

by Greg Egan

Quarantine

Synopsis

Only the most paranoid clients phone me in my sleep.

No dreams; I simply wake, knowing:

Laura Andrews is thirty-two years old, one hundred and fifty-six centimetres tall, and weighs forty-five kilograms. Short, straight brown hair; pale blue eyes; a long, thin nose. Anglo-Irish features and deep black skin; like most Australians, born with insufficient UV protection, she’s been retrofitted with genes for boosted melanin production and a thicker epidermis.

Laura Andrews has severe congenital brain damage; she can walk and eat, clumsily, but she can’t communicate in any fashion, and the experts say that she understands the world little better than a six-month-old child. Since the age of five, she’s been an inpatient at the local Hilgemann Institute.

Four weeks ago, when an orderly unlocked her room to serve breakfast, she was gone. After a search of the building and grounds, the police were called in. They repeated and extended the search, and conducted a doorknock of the surrounding area, to no avail. Laura’s room bore no signs of forced entry, and recordings from security cameras proved unenlightening. The police interviewed the staff at length, but nobody broke down and owned up to spiriting the woman away.

In 2034, the stars went out. An unknown agency surrounded the solar system with an impenetrable barrier, concealing the universe from humanity’s gaze.

In 2067, Nick Stavrianos is hired to investigate the disappearance of a mentally disabled woman, Laura Andrews, from the institution where she was being cared for. Aided by a skull full of neural modifications, he follows her trail to the Republic of New Hong Kong, where an organisation known as the Ensemble has uncovered Laura’s extraordinary secret: an ability that could transform the world.


Publication history


Information and illustrations



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