The Exile Waiting
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The Exile Waiting

by Vonda N. McIntyre
Release date: 1975
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: science fiction

Centuries have passed since the Final War devastated Earth and turned its surface into an intolerable radioactive desert. To survive at all, the only place to live was Center – a huge city built of rock and steel in a vast underground cavern.

One of Center's most rebellious inhabitants was the mutant girl Mischa, who had chosen a life of crime in order to survive. She spent her days foraging in the city's forgotten areas, watching the ships that came from the stars. Mischa's one desire was that someday she'd be able to journey outward on one of those beautiful silver vessels and leave her living hell behind.

But for now she must keep her forbidden secret from the world. If the city's rulers ever discovered she was different, she'd be banished at once. Mischa recalled with horror what had happened to the others – those whose physical deformities had become too obvious. They had been beaten and driven from Center into deep underground tunnels, dark regions both feared and avoided by the city people.

Luckily for Mischa her mutation was not visible – she possessed a rare form of telepathy that enabled her to sense the feelings and emotions of the individuals around her. Unexpectedly, her talent was put to use with the arrival of a starship captained by a pair of pseudosibs... two laboratory-created twins scientifically linked togteher by corresponding brain waves. But their psychic connection was fading rapidly, and Mischa realized she might convince one to help her escape. But which twin? A wrong move now could leave her wide open for capture, punishment, even banishment. But she had to try!

Relying solely on her telepathic intuition, Mischa made contact with Twin Number Two, who took pity on the girl's plight and promised to bring her aboard when they left. But Twin Number One, a cunning and vicious man motivated only by greed and self-interest, discovered his brother's plan and insisted Mischa be hunted down and put to death.

Then the only place to run was to the dreaded mutant caves, from which no one had ever returned. What lurking horrors awaited Mischa on her perilous journey downward into the unexplored territory? How far had the mutations gone over the countless years? What unimaginable terrors might the beings there inflict on her? Mischa had already passed the point of no return and knew it wouldn't be long before she had all the answers!

(updated 2011-02-13)

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