India Terrano carries within her a Viseg—a creature that feeds on energy and can spit that energy out with tremendous destructive force. She wants desperately to be rid of it, but that seems impossible.
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"You must learn to communicate with him, to understand him," the Mother Superior of the Daughters of Mercy says of the thing that dwells inside India Terrano, the thing India regards as a demon. It is a Viseg, a creature that feeds on energy and can spit that energy out with tremendous destructive force. It has endangered India's family and blasted her fiancé's mind, leaving him a living corpse. It has made her a fugitive, hunted both by the Solarian Patrol, which intends to put her to death, and by representatives of an interplanetary corporation, which wants to experiment on her to learn to harness the Viseg's power. To India the Viseg is a hated thing, a curse. She cannot possibly follow Mother Lira's advice. Yet how else can she survive and safeguard those she loves? But the path to communication and understanding will be fraught with many dangers, will bring pain and grief to her family and friends, and will lead her far from the only home she's known.
Paolo sat up and shook off China’s caressing hand. “You mean, they’re spying on us? All the time?” His voice crackled with anger.
“I’d guess you’re under constant observation wherever you go. Damn it, I shouldn’t have left you. No matter what——” Jess broke off with a quick, nervous glance at India.
“I don’t understand any of this,” India's mother whimpered. “You keep saying ‘they.’ Who are they? What is it they expect to discover?”
“They, Nida, are the Interplanetary Patrol. And what they are looking for is evidence to prove that at least one of us is host to a Viseg.”
Nida stared wild-eyed at Jess. India’s pulse throbbed in her temples. Unable to look at Jess, she fixed her gaze on her mother’s terrified face.
Meri stammered, “But we’re not hosts, Jess. None of us.”
Nida found her voice. “That’s right,” she agreed too eagerly. “Riccard was the host. The Viseg died with him.”
“Visegs aren’t easy to destroy. They never seem to perish through their own actions.”
Tears flowed down Nida’s cheeks. “I thought we were free. All those years of hiding! I thought they only wanted to punish us for the destruction of the airvans when Riccard . . . when Riccard . . .” Her voice faltered.
Jess stroked her hair. “I know, Nida. I let you think that. But now you’re in too much danger. You have to face the truth.”
“Viseg. One of us!” Nida sobbed brokenly. “Jess, who?”
He did not answer.
“Not you, Jess?” China dared to ask. India sat stone still, but inside her the thing crawled, seeking light.
Jess shook his head. “It would be easier if I could blame my weakness on something beside myself. But, no. I’m a drunk, but I’m not a Viseg host.”
“Who, then?” Nida demanded again.
God, why didn’t they stop? India cowered against the wall, hiding from the glare of the lamp beside the couch.
Nida straightened. She lifted her face so the light shone full on it. “Paolo!” Her gaze swooped like a hawk to fasten on the boy’s thin face.
“No!” The sharp denial came from China.
Paolo said nothing; he looked ill.
“Nida, it’s better not to ask.” Jess stroked her hair. “Don’t wake it with your questions.”
Too late. The thing lashed around like a snake in a jar. India jumped from her chair and dashed from the room. She could not loose the thing on those she loved.
She tore through the narrow hall, took the steps two at a time, raced through the foyer, grappled with the door, pushed it open, and ran into the street.
Steps behind her told her someone had followed. Afraid to turn around, she hurled herself down a dark alley through piles of rotting garbage, into another street, where she outran the swirls of dust stirred by her passage. At last, lost in the darkness of a narrow alley, she leaned, gasping, against the side of a building.
Her guilty secret was out. But the demon hadn’t gotten loose. Yet. It lay coiled like a viper, waiting to strike.
Her limbs were trembling. She forced herself to move. They might be searching for her. She had to get farther away, had to keep them from finding her.
India is ripped from her joyful childhood when her father rescues young Paolo from a plague-ridden world. To evade authorities,her family hides in the dangerous slums of Velos, where India must fight against desperate friends and strangers, and against an unwelcome force within her.
Sabin creates exotic, fully-realized, believable settings for an adventure that spans worlds. Her characters learn and grow and change, and they carry us with them through every hard-won step of their journey. I can't wait to read the further adventures of India and her sister China. Surely we will see more of Paolo and KT, as well. This world and these characters are just too intriguing for us to say farewell now. This story is complete and satisfying in itself, but it must be addictive, because I want even more!
by J. Anne Levesque
Innovative world-building with an unusual SF approach to the theme of "demon" possession. The characters go through deeply emotional ordeals on the way to an ending that was not at all what I expected -- in a good way.
by Margaret L. Carter