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Authors: Nancy Kress

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BOOK: Probability Space
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“Not if I go first to whatever part of the government is truly working to end the experiments. Surely you aren’t saying the
government is doing this…thing.”

“Of course not. But do you know for certain which Sections, and which officials in those Sections, wish for war with the Terrans, and which do not?
can’t be sure. How can you?”

Frablit Pek Brimmidin is innocent, I think. But the thought is useless. Pek Brimmidin is innocent, but powerless.

It tears my soul to think that the two might be the same thing.

Pek Brifjis rubs at the damp carpet with the toe of his boot. He puts the rags in a lidded jar and washes his hands at the washstand. A faint stench still hangs in the air. He comes to stand beside my bed.

“Is that what you want, Uli Pek Bengarin? That I let you leave this house, not knowing what you will do, whom you will inform on? That I endanger everything we have done in order to convince you of its truth?”

“Or you can kill me and let me rejoin my ancestors. Which is what you think I will choose, isn’t it? That choice would let you keep faith with the reality you have decided is true, and still keep yourself secret from the criminals. Killing me would be easiest for you. But only if I consent to my murder. Otherwise, you will violate even the reality you have decided to perceive.”

He stares down at me, a muscular man with beautiful purple eyes. A healer who would kill. A patriot defying his government to prevent a violent war. A sinner who does all he can to minimize his sin and keep it from denying him the chance to rejoin his own ancestors. A believer in shared reality who is trying to bend the reality without breaking the belief.

I keep quiet. The silence stretches on. Finally it is Pek Brifjis that breaks it. “I wish Carryl Walters had never sent you to me.”

“But he did. And I choose to return to my village. Will you let me go, or keep me prisoner here, or murder me without my consent?”

“Damn you,” he says, and I recognize the word as one Carryl Walters used, about the unreal souls in Aulit Prison.

“Exactly,” I say. “What will you do, Pek? Which of your supposed multiple realities will you choose now?”

It is a hot night, and I cannot sleep.

I lie in my tent on the wide empty plain and listen to the night noises. Rude laughter from the pel tent, where a group of miners drinks far too late at night for men who must bore into hard rock at dawn. Snoring from the tent to my right. Muffled lovemaking from a tent farther down the row, I’m not sure whose. The woman giggles, high and sweet.

I have been a miner for half a year now. After I left the northern village of Gofkit Ramloe, Ori’s village, I just kept heading north. Here on the equator, where World harvests its tin and diamonds and pel berries and salt, life is both simpler and less organized. Papers are not necessary. Many of the miners are young, evading their government service for one reason or another. Reasons that must seem valid to them. Here government sections rule weakly, compared to the rule of the mining and farming companies. There are no messengers on Terran bicycles. There is no Terran science. There are no Terrans.

There are shrines, of course, and rituals and processions, and tributes to one’s ancestors. But these things actually receive less attention than in the cities, because they are more taken for granted. Do you pay attention to air?

The woman giggles again, and this time I recognize the sound. Awi Pek Crafmal, the young runaway from another island. She is a pretty thing, and a hard worker. Sometimes she reminds me of Ano.

I asked a great many questions in Gofkit Ramloe.
Ori Malfisit,
Pek Brifjis said her name was.
An old and established family.
But I asked and asked, and no such family had ever lived in Gofkit Ramloe. Wherever Ori came from, and however she had been made into that unreal and empty vessel shitting on a rich carpet, she had not started her poor little life in Gofkit Ramloe.

Did Maldon Brifjis know I would discover that, when he released me from the rich widow’s house overlooking the sea? He must have. Or maybe, despite knowing I was an informer, he didn’t understand that I would actually go to Gofkit Ramloe and check. You can’t understand everything.

Sometimes, in the darkest part of the night, I wish I had taken Pek Brifjis’s offer to return me to my ancestors.

I work on the rock piles of the mine during the day, among miners who lift sledges and shatter solid stone. They talk, and curse, and revile the Terrans, although few miners have as much as seen one. After work the miners sit in camp and drink pel, lifting huge mugs with dirty hands, and laugh at obscene jokes. They all share the same reality, and it binds them together, in simple and happy strength.

I have strength, too. I have the strength to swing my sledge with the other women, many of whom have the same rough plain looks as I, and who are happy to accept me as one of them. I had the strength to shatter Ano’s coffin, and to bury her even when I thought the price to me was perpetual death. I had the strength to follow Carryl Walters’s words about the brain experiments and seek Maldon Brifjis. I had the strength to twist Pek Brifjis’s divided mind to make him let me go.

But do I have the strength to go where all of that leads me? Do I have the strength to look at Frablit Brimmidin’s reality, and Carryl Walters’s reality, and Ano’s, and Maldon Brifjis’s, and Ori’s—and try to find the places that match and the places that don’t? Do I have the strength to live on, never knowing if I killed my sister, or if I did not? Do I have the strength to doubt everything, and live with doubt, and sort through the millions of separate realities on World, searching for the true pieces of each—assuming that I can even recognize them?

Should anyone have to live like that? In uncertainty, in doubt, in loneliness. Alone in one’s mind, in an isolated and unshared reality.

I would like to return to the days when Ano was alive. Or even to the days when I was an informer. To the days when I shared in World’s reality, and knew it to be solid beneath me, like the ground itself. To the days when I knew what to think, and so did not have to.

To the days before I became—unwillingly—as terrifyingly real as I am now.




Prince of Morning Bells

The White Pipes

The Golden Grove

An Alien Light


Beggars in Spain

Beggars and Choosers

Oaths and Miracles

Beggars Ride

Maximum Light



Probability Moon

Probability Sun

Probability Space




Trinity and Other Stories

The Aliens of Earth

Beaker’s Dozen


Praise for

“Kress is so deft in supplying background information that I had no trouble in understanding the characters and the desperate situation they find themselves in.”

—Gerald Jonas,
The New York Times Book Review

“Kress proves her comprehensive mastery of the hard-science tale of interstellar war and intrigue. Kress sustains the pace and the suspense at the hightest levels, and if the body count mounts largely off-stage, its emotional impact on the well-drawn characters is nevertheless crystal-clear.”


“This is the third book of a trilogy, but Kress provides all the information needed for it to stand on its own … it works perfectly as space opera.”

The Denver Post

“The action-filled final volume in Kress’ Probability Trilogy spectacularly resolves the human-Faller stalemate … followers of the trilogy will find much to enjoy here.”

Publishers Weekly

“With a surprising and satisfying resolution, Kress offers an action-filled, thought-provoking story of space travel, political intrigue, and hard science that belongs in most sf collections.”

Library Journal


Praise for

*“Kress’s always excellent characters wrestle with a splendid array of puzzles and problems, human, alien, and scientific: another resounding success for this talented sure-footed writer.”

Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“The author grounds her morally complex plot in the physics of probability. As usual with Kress, her eccentric characters add depth. Readers will start this novel because of Kress’s reputation, will read it for the adventure and will like it for the characters and the science.”

Publishers Weekly

“The immediate sequel to
Probability Moon
(2000). The questions that permeate the tightly paced story are whether scientists and the military can cooperate to learn the nature of the artifact—scientific storehouse or doomsday machine—and whether either of those parties will procure the cooperation of the captive Faller, whose perception of reality is unfathomably different from that of any of the humans. Displaying a typically strong synthesis of Kress’ many gifts, the novel leaves the door wide open for at least one successor.”


“Kress has blended such a nice set of surprises and inevitabilities that you should learn and read and enjoy them for yourself. You don’t have to read
Probability Moon
to have a good time, but you’ll probably search it out anyway.”

San Diego Union-Tribune


Praise for

“The author also weaves a fascinating tale exploring the norms of each society. The mystery slowly unravels as the two cultures interact. Each member of the large cast of characters has an individual struggle and quest, creating an intriguing plot. This book has something for everyone.”


trilogy proved that she was a serious writer, worthy of considered attention.
Probability Moon
only emphasizes that.”


“Kress’ characterizations are as sound as ever, but many will be agreeably surprised at her proficiency with military hardware and action scenes. Very impressive.”


*“Twisty and compelling, brimful of ideas, with Kress’s usual life-sized characters; top-notch work from a major talent.”

Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“… Naturally all of this is moving toward an explosive ending that Kress resolves handily in this volume while leaving plenty of intriguing questions for a future novel or two. Her characters and the planetary setting are well developed and the story moves at a brisk, suspenseful pace.”

Portsmouth Herald

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.


Copyright © 2002 by Nancy Kress

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

Edited by James Minz

A Tor Book

Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

175 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10010

is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

ISBN: 0-765-34514-5

eISBN: 9781466825253

First eBook edition: July 2012

Flowers of Aulit Prison
copyright © 1996 by Nancy Kress, first appeared in
Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
, October/November 1996

BOOK: Probability Space
3.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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