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"Yeah. That's what I need to do," she said as she came up against the ship, climbing into the exhaust bell of one of its dormant rockets and tearing aside a sealing ring in order to slip into the interior hull s.p.a.ce. "Save some lives, make a difference ... have wild thank-you s.e.x with every cute guy I rescue."

The pegasus snorted. "I see. So much for your newfound readiness to love."

"Hey, if love happens, I won't push it away anymore," she said as she reached the rear bulkhead of the habitat section, took out a tube of cutting paste, and squeezed out a circular outline. "But I guess I don't need it right now. Funny," she said, shaking her head. "Before, I was always looking for a surrogate father and trying to push him away at the same time. I guess you were right about that Oedipus complex after all, buddy."

"In this case, the proper Freudian term would be 'Electra complex.'"

She stuck a remote igniter into the paste and spread an airlock-gel membrane over it. "Really? I thought those were the guys who picked the presidents in America."

"Well, Freud has been largely discredited," Zephyr replied without missing a beat.

Pulling back, she ignited the paste. The escaping air inflated the membrane into a dome, but it held. "But seriously-I've got you, got my job, my friends, a hot body ... what more does a gal need?" Slowly, Emry squeezed her way through the permeable gel layer into the habitat section of the ship. Once it sealed behind her, she removed her helmet and torso unit and made her way forward to where a band of murderous s.p.a.ce pirates lay in wait. 'Plus I get to travel and meet interesting people,' she added silently.

'True,' Zephyr replied in kind. 'But I'm wondering one more thing.'

'What's that?'

'Who do you think they'll get to play you in the movie this time?'

If Zephyr wanted to get Emry riled up, it worked. And just in time too. An alarm sounded as the ship finally realized it had been breached. Three burly pirates carrying even burlier guns barreled through the hatch from the forward compartment, looking for the intruder. But Emry had already secreted herself in the corner by the hatch, and once they were past, she swung out and kicked the rearmost one in the ass, sending them all colliding into each other and scrambling to turn around in the tight s.p.a.ce. "Looking for trouble, boys?" As they tried to bring their guns to bear on her, the Green Blaze gave them a saucy grin. "You just found her."




anti-radiation gene therapy: Treatment providing human cells with radiation-resistant DNA repair proteins from the extremophile bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans, enabling the repair of even severe genetic damage. Essential for long-term human survival in s.p.a.ce.

antispinward: In the direction opposite which a habitat or other body is rotating. Sometimes called "west."

asteroid family: Main Belt asteroids (stroids) that share common orbital characteristics, usually fragments of the same original body. Travel and shipping among stroids in the same orbital family demands relatively little energy.

AU: Astronomical unit, the mean orbital radius of Earth, equal to 149.6 million kilometers or 499 light-seconds.

Bernal sphere: s.p.a.ce habitat whose main component is a large residential sphere, with most habitation in the lower latitudes where the rotational gravity is higher. Other components include agricultural rings, nonrotating industrial sectors, heat radiators, docking hubs, and a detached external mirror to focus sunlight. To facilitate precession, the sphere and agricultural rings may rotate in opposite directions, or two counterrotating Bernal spheres may be linked to cancel their angular momentum. A habitat may be expanded by adding additional spheres, usually in counterrotating pairs.

bioprinter: Device using microjet nozzles to deposit living cells into a desired three-dimensional pattern one layer at a time, replicating plant or animal tissues. Bioprinters are the main source of meat for Striders, given the limited land and resources available for livestock agriculture in s.p.a.ce. Medical-grade bioprinters can manufacture replacement organs from a patient's own stem cell cultures.

Bolasat: Momentum-exchange satellite using long rotating carbon nanotube tethers to modify the trajectory and velocity of s.p.a.cecraft. Weblike docking cradles travel along these tethers and intercept ships, shuttling them in or out until they reach their desired trajectories and are released, given a momentum boost by the tether's rotation and the cradle's speed. The Bolasat network allows faster and more direct intrasystem travel than orbital trajectories would allow. (Named for the ball-and-cord weapon known as bolas. The term bolo is sometimes incorrectly applied.) CHON: Acronym for carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, the elements most essential for life as well as for Molecular-Age technology.

cislunar: Within the orbit of Earth's Moon. Also used by convention to include the Earth-Luna L2 and L3 points, which are technically translunar.

Coriolis (Cori) effect: Fictitious force creating a deflection of a moving object from the perspective of an observer in a rotating frame of reference. Something thrown perpendicular to the direction of rotation will seem to curve to antispinward as the observer is moved in the other direction by the habitat's spin. Also, since angular velocity increases with radius, an ascending body will enter a lower-velocity region, overtaking its surroundings and appearing to be pushed spinward, while a descending body will be outpaced by its surroundings and appear to be pushed antispinward.

C-type or carbonaceous asteroid: Asteroid rich in CHON. Most habitats...o...b..t C-type stroids and mine them for resources.

cyber: Artificial intelligence, especially a sapient one.

drive beam: A beam of ionized particles used to accelerate or decelerate a magnetic sail. Sufficiently powerful beams can impart very high accelerations, making them the fastest mode of intrasystem travel.

g-clip: Small, strapless triangular covering for the female pubic area, held on by nanofibers using van der Waals adhesion (the force that allows geckos to cling to walls).

Kirkwood gaps: Zones within the Main Asteroid Belt kept largely clear of debris by Jupiter's gravitational resonance, named for their orbital ratios with Jupiter (for instance, a body in the 3:1 gap would complete three orbits for every one of Jupiter's). The Belt is mostly empty s.p.a.ce, with an average of six million kilometers between adjacent stroids, but uncounted micrometeoroids and dust grains pose a potential hazard to solar mirrors, delicate equipment, or s.p.a.cewalkers. Many habitats thus choose the extra safety of the Kirkwood gaps over the advantages of residence around the major stroids. They capture small asteroids for resources and use thrusters to compensate for Jupiter's long-term effects on their orbital stability.

Kuiper Belt: Sol System's outer and larger belt of minor bodies, located beyond Neptune's...o...b..t and containing millions of cometary bodies and dwarf planets. Visited by only a few crewed expeditions as of 2107.

Lagrange Points: The five points of a two-body system where gravitational forces balance, allowing stable or semistable orbits around them. For instance, in the Sun-Earth system, the L1 point is between Earth and the Sun, L2 on the far side of Earth from the Sun, L3 just beyond the point directly opposite Earth in its...o...b..t, and L4 and L5 respectively 60 degrees ahead and behind the Earth in its...o...b..t. The first three points are stable only in a plane perpendicular to the line connecting them, so attitude-control thrusters are necessary to maintain orbit there. L4 and L5 are stable and can be orbited indefinitely.

light armor: A close-fitting, flexible fabric woven from carbon nanotubes and synthetic silk, with a layer of synthetic-diamond scales, nanoactuators, computer circuitry, piezoelectric power fibers, and nanotube capacitors throughout its material. It enhances the wearer's strength and becomes stiff in response to impact or pressure; it also provides resistance to weapons fire and extreme heat, cold, or radiation, and provides dynamic support to the muscles and joints. In case of injury, it can apply medical assistance, compressing to splint a broken bone or even to apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Lissajous...o...b..t: A quasi-periodic orbit around a semistable Lagrange Point, following a path that changes from orbit to orbit but remains within a specific set of limits. The simplest Lissajous curve is essentially a figure eight.

magnetic sail, magsail: Propulsion system which generates a magnetic field around a s.p.a.ceship, allowing it to be accelerated by the solar wind or a drive beam or to maneuver in a planetary magnetic field. Typically either a coil of superconducting wire or a magnetically confined loop of plasma, though the latter is too fragile to withstand a powerful propulsion beam. The magnetic field can also shield against particle radiation and solar flares.

Main Asteroid Belt: Sol System's inner belt of minor bodies, located between Mars and Jupiter. Smaller than the Kuiper Belt, but by convention the term "asteroid" is not used for bodies beyond Jupiter's...o...b..t. Some 75% of its 100,000-plus members are C-type or similar, though the Inner Belt is dominated by rocky S-type stroids with little CHON and is thus less populated by humans. Asteroid colonization began in the 2030s in pursuit of CHON to support cislunar habitats, since C, H, and N are rare on Luna. Near-Earth asteroids were the first to be mined, but scientific curiosity and the desire for independence, as well as the abundant resources of Ceres, Vesta, and other stroids, soon drew explorers and prospectors to the Main Belt. By 2100, it is home to hundreds of habitats and hundreds of millions of people.

metamaterial: Nanoengineered material with a negative refractive index, making an object encased in it effectively invisible to selected frequencies of electromagnetic radiation.

mod: Human genetically, bionically, or surgically modified with enhanced abilities or unusual cosmetic attributes. As a verb, to modify a human in this way. In Strider usage, if not Terran, this term implicitly excludes the basic enhancements ubiquitous among s.p.a.ce dwellers, such as anti-radiation gene therapy and stem cell augmentation.

Molecular Revolution: Twenty-first Century period when nanotechnology, smart matter, and molecular engineering revolutionized society and the economy, causing social collapse and a search for new values and solutions. Many new philosophies and subcultures sprang up in its wake.

O'Neill Cylinder: s.p.a.ce habitat design capable of housing up to several million. The interior surface is generally divided into six rectangular sectors, with inhabited "valleys" alternating with sun windows admitting light reflected from large external mirrors. The hemispherical end caps are generally terraformed to resemble mountainous terrain. Industrial and docking sectors are at the free-fall hub, and agriculture is generally practiced in smaller outboard facilities. Cylinders generally come in tethered counterrotating pairs to facilitate precession.

plasma drive: A high-acceleration drive using small amounts of antimatter to heat hydrogen to plasma and employing magnetic nozzles to increase the velocity and specific impulse of the plasma exhaust. Modulating the exhaust and antiparticle injection rate enables thrust up to several g for limited periods and lower thrust for longer periods.

plasma gun: Variable-lethality weapon using a high-powered laser to create a small globe of atmospheric plasma at the target site and induce a supersonic shock wave within it, resulting in a forceful, lightninglike discharge of light, heat, and pressure. Can be calibrated to disorient, stun, or kill depending on power, or to create a protective "wall" of plasma discharges.

precession: Gradual reorientation of a s.p.a.ce habitat's axis to keep its solar cells, mirrors, and radiators properly oriented toward the Sun as it orbits. The rotation of a habitat creates a gyroscope effect that resists precession. Different habitat types employ different means of addressing this problem (see Bernal sphere, O'Neill Cylinder, Stanford Torus).

regolith: A layer of loose surface material such as dust, pebbles, dirt, etc.

selfone: Personal communication/data device; primary means of identification and financial transactions. From "cell phone" seen as an extension of the self.

shock laser: Reduced-lethality weapon using an ultraviolet laser to ionize the air, creating a path for an electric discharge calibrated to induce loss of muscle control and neural disorientation. Can also short out electrical systems.

smart matter: Also known as programmable matter or wellstone. Through quantum confinement of its electrons, smart matter can be programmed to simulate the chemical, optical, and thermal properties of any element or compound, including ones not found in nature. It is useful for energy collection, storage, and projection, and is used in sensory devices, video displays, thermal clothing, soligrams, and many other technologies.

soligram: Informal term (solid + hologram) for a display/simulation mechanism using a shape-changing smart matter gel that can simulate the appearance, texture, and density of virtually any substance. Often used in place of virtual reality due to the eyestrain and nearsightedness that extended use of VR visors or contacts can cause.

spinward: In the direction toward which a habitat or body is rotating. Sometimes called "east."

Stanford Torus: s.p.a.ce habitat design, generally a small toroidal ring. Can be expanded by adding parallel rings. Main docking and industrial facilities are at the hub, generally nonrotating, and are accessed by spokelike radial shafts. Usually aligned with the axis perpendicular to the orbital plane, with a mirror at a 45-degree angle reflecting sunlight into a ring of secondary mirrors that direct it into the habitat ring or rings. This way, only the mirror needs to undergo precession.

Strider: Inhabitant of the Main Belt or Trojan Asteroids. Corruption of earlier "stroider."

stroid: Asteroid.

symbot: Former brand name, now generic, for performance-enhancing robotic exoskeletons. Available in various models for construction, combat, sports, medical support, etc. Lightweight models are compact and close-fitting, but heavy-duty models are armored and provide full life support.

therianthrope, therian: Human modified with animal attributes. Literally "beast-man."

Trojan Asteroids: Asteroid clusters occupying the L4 and L5 points of Jupiter's...o...b..t. Roughly as numerous as the Main Belt asteroids, though not as heavily settled to date.


Different cultures and eras have different profanities, depending on their different values, taboos, and fears. For instance, in Elizabethan times, "golly" was a serious obscenity because it was short for "God's body," a reference considered blasphemous.

Strider profanity relates mainly to the dangers and discomforts facing s.p.a.ce-dwellers. Scatological terms retain their impact and literal "dirtiness." s.e.xual terms are less common as profanities, since Striders typically have a fairly open attitude toward s.e.x. The word "f.u.c.k" has long since lost its shock value through overuse; among Striders it is simply an informal term for s.e.x rather than a general-purpose obscenity. Some Strider curses retain a secondary s.e.xual element, however.

aiya: Chinese, "d.a.m.n it!"

bu: Chinese, "No."

Chinglish: Chinese-English pidgin common on Mars and the Cislunar States.

dong: Chinglish, "to understand." From dong ma, "do you understand?"

flare: Expletive. As in a solar flare or coronal mass ejection. Used as a noun, verb, or (as "flaring") adjective.

free: 2090s teen slang. Literally free-falling. Used to mean happy, not weighted down by concerns.

furo: Traditional j.a.panese bath.

gasmic: 2090s teen slang. Short for "o.r.g.a.s.mic," meaning wonderful, excellent, cool.

hijab: Arabic, "veil." Refers to the general practice of covering the head, body, and limbs for modesty.

hose-clog: Expletive. An obstruction of a s.p.a.ce suit's oxygen hose or urine catheter. Personal epithet implying that the subject is an unwelcome menace or obstruction, most likely consisting of some unpleasant and worthless substance.

lao-tian: Chinese, "My God!"

leak: Expletive. Refers to an atmosphere leak, as well as urination. Often an adjective as "leaking."

Medvyed: Russian, "bear."

mete: A meteoroid or micrometeoroid.

no guanshee: Chinglish, "no problem," "never mind." From Chinese mei guanxi, "It doesn't matter."

oyamah: j.a.panese, "Good heavens!"

peeghole: Chinglish, "asshole." From pigu, b.u.t.tocks.

punk: Expletive, generally a transitive verb. Short for "puncture," as of a hull or s.p.a.ce suit. Sometimes used as a vulgar synonym for "copulate." A punkhole is a micrometeoroid puncture, and can also mean a v.a.g.i.n.a.

rageous: 2090s teen slang. Short for "outrageous," but generally used in a positive sense.

Sensei: j.a.panese, "teacher."

Shashu: j.a.panese, "archer."

suck: Expletive. In addition to its traditional s.e.xual meaning, this refers to the vacuum sucking atmosphere out of a breached ship or suit. "Dirtsucker" is a common slur against Terrans.

tatakai no heiwa: j.a.panese, "peace of battle."

Tenshi: j.a.panese, "angel."

vack: Expletive. Short for vacuum, as in "vack-sucker" or "vackhead," or as a verb meaning to expel something into vacuum, as in "Go vack yourself." Largely interchangeable with suck, but more widely used due to its harsher sound.

zaogao: Chinese, "d.a.m.n!" (Literally "spoiled cake.") APPENDIX B.

Sol System Geography Bodies are ordered by mean distance from Sol (semimajor axis) in astronomical units (AU). Habitats mentioned in Only Superhuman are listed alongside the bodies or orbital regions they are associated with. This list is far from comprehensive.


This is a book that's been over two decades in the making, and it would be impossible to remember all the people who've influenced or advised me along the way. But I need to single out a few people for special thanks. Xuan Stanek (formerly Blair) was a major source of inspiration and a marvelous sounding board in the early years of the process, and I owe her for details ranging from hairstyling issues to the spiritual impact of a difficult childbirth. Thanks also to Angela Gaylor and Nikki Jenkins for inspiring Psyche's beauty and the sweeter side of her character.

Chester Edwards deserves credit for getting me into comic books. Back in college, he drew me into his ambitious (but ultimately unrealized) plans to start a comic-book company, and I had dreams of doing an Emerald Blair comic series to supplement the novels. Eventually I reworked my plans from scratch, and many of the best ideas I conceived for the comics ended up as parts of this novel. The preexisting comic-book heroes that Chester helped introduce me to have also been influences on this work.

My college astronomy professor, Dr. Michael Sitko, contributed a lot to my understanding of Sol System. More recently, Paul Woodmansee of JPL was a good source of ideas about s.p.a.cecraft propulsion, and Laura Woodmansee's book s.e.x in s.p.a.ce was most informative as well. I owe a great deal to Dr. Gerard O'Neill's seminal book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in s.p.a.ce, as well as to Winch.e.l.l Chung's "Atomic Rockets" website at My understanding of the Coriolis force and its effects owes greatly to John G. Cramer's "Artificial Gravity: Which Way is Up?" originally published in the February 1987 analog Science Fiction and Fact. "Orpheus" on the Ex Isle BBS provided much insight into the technical problems of reading or copying the human brain, as well as advice on asteroidal gems. And special thanks are due to Selden Ball and the person who posts as "bdm" on the Celestia Forum, both of whom were kind enough to create asteroid data files for the Celestia s.p.a.ce simulator upon my request. Those files have proven invaluable in helping me understand Emerald's world and plot her journeys through it.

Information on the major asteroids came from multiple sources, including Wikipedia; the site Ceres: The Dwarf Planet at; The Planetary Society site at; the article "Ceres, Pallas, and Vesta" in issue #24 of the Moon Miners' Manifesto at; and the newsletter of the Dawn s.p.a.ce probe at Information on pheromones came from James V. Kohl et al., "Human Pheromones: Integrating Neuroendocrinology and Ethology," Neuroendocrinology Letters Vol. 22 No. 5 (2001), 22:309-321, and from the "Smell and Attraction" website at

Thanks also go to Lucienne Diver for her valuable constructive criticism, and to Raymond Swanland for capturing Emry perfectly in his cover art. Finally, thanks to Greg c.o.x for believing in this book and letting me share Emerald Blair with the world at last.

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