Shift (Omnibus)

Hugh Howey spent eight years living on boats and working as a yacht captain for the rich and famous. It wasn’t until the love of his life carried him away from these vagabond ways that he began to pursue literary adventures, rather than literal ones.

Hugh wrote and self-published his first adult novel, Wool, which won rave reviews and praise from readers. Shift is its prequel.

Hugh lives in Jupiter, Florida with his wife Amber and their dog Bella.

Shift

Hugh Howey

For all those who find themselves well and truly alone.

IN 2007, THE Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platforms that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs and even self-propagate.

That same year, CBS re-aired a programme about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event.

At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened.

FIRST SHIFT – LEGACY

Prologue

2110

Beneath the hills of Fulton County, Georgia

TROY RETURNED TO the living and found himself inside a tomb. He awoke to a world of confinement, a thick sheet of frosted glass pressed near to his face.

Dark shapes stirred on the other side of the icy murk. He tried to lift his arms, to beat on the glass, but his muscles were too weak. He attempted to scream – but could only cough. The taste in his mouth was foul. His ears rang with the clank of heavy locks opening, the hiss of air, the squeak of hinges long dormant.

The lights overhead were bright, the hands on him warm. They helped him sit while he continued to cough, his breath clouding the chill air. Someone had water. Pills to take. The water was cool, the pills bitter. Troy fought down a few gulps. He was unable to hold the glass without help. His hands trembled as memories flooded back, scenes from long nightmares. The feeling of deep time and yesterdays mingled. He shivered.

A paper gown. The sting of tape removed. A tug on his arm, a tube pulled from his groin. Two men dressed in white helped him out of the coffin. Steam rose all around him, air condensing and dispersing.

Sitting up and blinking against the glare, exercising lids long shut, Troy looked down the rows of coffins full of the living that stretched towards the distant and curved walls. The ceiling felt low; the suffocating press of dirt stacked high above. And the years. So many had passed. Anyone he cared about would be gone.

Everything was gone.

The pills stung his throat. He tried to swallow. Memories faded like dreams upon waking, and he felt his grip loosen on everything he’d known.

He collapsed backwards – but the men in the white overalls saw this coming. They caught him and lowered him to the ground, a paper gown rustling on shivering skin.

Images returned; recollections rained down like bombs and then were gone.

The pills would only do so much. It would take time to destroy the past.

Troy began to sob into his palms, a sympathetic hand resting on his head. The two men in white allowed him this moment. They didn’t rush the process. Here was a courtesy passed from one waking soul to the next, something all the men sleeping in their coffins would one day rise to discover.

And eventually . . . forget.

1

2049

Washington, DC

THE TALL GLASS trophy cabinets had once served as bookshelves. There were hints. Hardware on the shelves dated back