Crossing the Line (novel)

Crossing the Line (novel)
Crossing the Line  
Crossing the Line
Author(s) Karen Traviss
Country England
Language English
Series Wess'Har Series
Genre(s) Science fiction novel
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date November 2004
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 384 pp
ISBN 9780060541705
OCLC Number 56896726
LC Classification CPB Box no. 2303 vol. 10
Preceded by City of Pearl
Followed by The World Before

Crossing the Line is a novel written by Karen Traviss in November 2004. It is the second book of the Wess'Har Series. Its prequel was called City of Pearl, published in February of the same year. Some of the main characters include Shan Frankland, hardened copper now infected with c'naatat; Aras, the lonely Wess'har, outcast by his horrible disease; Eddie Michallat, journalist who finds himself in a position to affect history; and Lindsay Neville, the Marines Commander trying to deal with the loss of her newborn son David, and bent on revenge against Shan.

Plot summary

The year is now 2376. Shan Frankland is trying to cope with the new changes that seem to appear every day in her body almost everyday. She turns herself into the Wess'har authorities after they discover she is infected by monitoring the human communications. Aras has already been taken into custody. Shan is taken to Wess'ej, to the city of F'nar, where she seeks out Chayyas, the head Matriarch, to ensure Aras' safety. In the confrontation, Shan uses a gun to try and intimidate Chayyas to release Aras to Shan. When this didn't work, Shan resorted to threatening with directional-blast grenade. This caused Chayyas to back down and release Aras into Shan's custody. In deferring to Shan, Chayyas lost her dominance and this made Shan the dominant Matriarch of F'nar. Shan, upon learning the significance of her actions, refuses the position and cedes her rights as head Matriarch to Mestin, even though hormonally Shan still retains that position.

Lindsay Neville, meanwhile, is still being torn apart inside from her son's passing. She blames Shan and is determined to get revenge. She knows she must keep this fact secret or the commander of Actaeon will not let her anywhere near their target, Shan. After discovering that Mohan Rayat is on board Actaeon and not on Thetis heading for home, she knows something is up. She goes to Actaeon's commander and learns that the whole Thetis crew was kept back just in case any of them were infected with the much coveted biotech. Lindsay also gets put in charge of being the negotiator (even though no negotiations really take place) to the Wess'har by Malcolm Okurt, commander of Actaeon. Lindsay then meets up with Adrian Bennett in one of the ship's bars, and discovers that Earth, in its desperation to get a hold of the biotech, is endeavoring to initiate a back-door mission down to Constantine to exhume the remains of her son, to see if he was contaminated. Fortunately, this never comes to pass and David's body remains left alone. Lindsay comes to realize why Shan would not give up the biotech and even starts to sympathize with her, but she is even more determined to kill Frankland.

Shan and Aras are sharing each others past memories from when they exchanged genetic material when Aras infected Shan. They learn more about each other's past, about Aras' time as a Isenj POW and about Shan's time as a copper and the things she saw and did. These seem to make them grow closer and strengthen their bond. Something else that is growing stronger, because of their personal bond and their physical attraction, is their desire to copulate. Shan is having a more difficult time mentally coping with these desires. She struggles with the fact that despite what her body is telling her, her mind alternates between seeing Aras as a man and alien. She eventually chooses to accept that she herself is no longer human and gives herself to Aras. There are difficulties at first but the c'naatat sort that out eventually.

Eddie Michallat is finding it difficult, impossible even, to stay an objective journalist. He learns that another ship, the Hereward has been sent to Cavanaugh's Star, with the possibility of more to come. He has an idea on how the Wess'har will react to learning this and frankly, he agrees with them. He manages to secure permission to travel to F'nar and visit the Wess'har and also Shan, though this was only possible with both Shan and Lindsay using their influence as well. Eddie is given a brief tour of F'nar and Shan and Aras' home. Eddie tells Shan about the Hereward, despite depriving himself of a story and objectivity. This prompts Shan to have a meeting with the head Matriarchs from some of the other cities of Wess'ej; Imeklit from Iussan, Hachis from Cekul'dnar, Mestin from F'nar, and Bur from Pajatis. Also in attendance were Vijissi and Bisatilissi of the Ussissi and Chayyas. The meeting was confrontational between Shan and Bisatilissi, but Shan unconsciously exerted her dominance and took control. This meeting is also the first time Shan acknowledges Aras as her jurej (male).

Shan and Chayyas then meet with Eddie and Shan lets him know about The World Before; the original homeworld of the Wess'har. Those on Wess'ej are basically the tree-huggers of the World Before. Eddie is given a tour of the underground facilities where F'nar keeps their aircraft and other weapons. He is free to take as much footage as he wants and also talks to Aras about different issues off the record including c'naatat, the Bezer'ej situation and Aras' relationship to Shan.

Shan holds a surprisingly quick council of war with all the head matriarchs of the different Wess'har cities and the consensus is given that they will use bioweapons designed to kill gethes (humans) on the planet Bezer'ej to keep humans off world. This causes a minor complication because of the Constantine colony already living there. It is agreed that they will be relocated to a contained environment on Wess'ej where they can rebuild. Aras has mixed feelings when he learns of the decision and finds that he is having difficulty sorting his feelings concerning human society and about Shan herself. Shan is enjoying her newfound power with c'naatat. She is learning to control some of her changes, such as giving off scent and manipulating the bioluminescence in her skin. Knowing that almost whatever she goes up against can't hurt her for long and will only strengthen her resilience by bio-modifications from her c'naatat.

On Actaeon, Lindsay has come up with a plan to eliminate Shan Frankland. She has coordinated with Mohan Rayat, who it turns out is not only a pharmacologist but is also working for Earth's government and has orders to destroy c'naatat because of the threat it poses to human society, to drop down to the surface of Bezer'ej with nukes and most of the Royal Marines to destroy Christopher Island. This is supposed to be the only place where c'naatat is found in nature. Rayat also plans to get a tissue sample from Shan by any means necessary to take back to the government to be put into safe keeping but Lindsay has her other plans. She plans on destroying Shan without getting a sample. It is unclear whether or not she also plans to destroy Aras at this time.

Shan tells Eddie about the bioweapons that are to be employed on Bezer'ej against humans and that they want to use them against the Isenj on Bezer'ej as well. The only requirement is they need some whole Isenj DNA. Eddie agrees to see what he can do and in a subsequent visit to Jejeno, the capital city of the Ebj landmass, he visits Ual, an Isenj leader, and manages to get some material handed to him (without Ual knowing what it would be used for). Shan and Aras have returned to Constantine to advise them of the need to relocate. They stay and personally oversee the moving process. Shan visits the Bezeri to let them know of the plan to use the bioweapons.

Rayat and Lindsay and her Royal Marines, Barencoin, Qureshi, Chahal, and Bennett, drop to the surface of Bezer'ej in Once-Only suits. Suits that wrap around the individual and their gear with a firm, foam mold. It acts as a heatshield through the atmosphere and then a parachute opens to soften the landing. Upon landing, the team comes into some trouble when Lindsay finds herself still trapped in the remains of her Once-Only suit looking down the barrel of a very upset Josh Garrod. Lindsay tells him why she is there and Josh agrees that the c'naatat must be destroyed. He agrees to help her and her team to take the bombs to Christopher and leave her to her own means of finding Shan. He then takes Lindsay and Rayat to Christopher where they set 5 of the 6 bombs they brought on timers to blow up the island. Lindsay sees the beauty of the island and begins to doubt her reasoning for the destruction but not the destruction itself.

Shan, in the Temporary City, received a call from Okurt offering assistance in the transfer of the Constantine colonists. Shan detects in conversation that he has another reason for calling and correctly deduces that someone made the descent to the planet. When they are not able to find Josh, Shan confronts his son and through coercion finds out who has come and what Josh has done. They find that some other colonists have captured Qureshi and Chahal. Shan learns of the bombs and has Chahal communicate with Lindsay that they will meet at Constantine. Aras goes with Qureshi to try and stop the bombs before its too late. En route, they see the bombs go off and Aras realizes, to his horror, that the fallout of the nuclear explosion will poison the water and effect the Bezeri.

Lindsay, Rayat, Bennett, and Barencoin make it to Constantine in their search of Shan. They are ambushed by Shan and Vijissi. Barencoin is wounded in the leg, Vijissi is shot and Bennett's nose is broken by a headbutt from Shan. It takes more than one clip to even slow her down but she is subdued and bound. Lindsay tells the rest of the group of her intention to kill Shan to prevent the spread of the symbiot c'naatat. Bennett forces Lindsay at gun-point to change her mind, for the time being.

Aras is seeing the devastation brought about by the nuclear fallout and is enraged. The Bezeri are very sensitive to changes in the water and are already starting to die. Even as he looks out at the ocean, the lights of the bezeri are flashing in a way that can only be interpreted as screaming.

Shan is taken in a shuttle up towards Wess'ej to throw off suspicion but then they turn to Actaeon. Shan knows that she must not fall into their hands and so she plans to take matters into her own. She covertly cooperates with Lindsay to be taken aft where Shan throws herself out an airlock into space. Vijissi tries to watch over her until the end and is expelled as well.

Aras goes back to Constantine where the Ussissi are waiting to collect Josh if he appears. Josh makes no effort to conceal his arrival and he is escorted to Aras. The other colonists gather around to await the outcome. Josh apologizes but Aras cannot put aside the betrayal and kills Josh, after which the colonists flee. Aras then learns of the shuttle that left and that they are trying to transfer to Actaeon with a prisoner. Aras knows it is Shan and his rage increases.

In space, Lindsay's shuttle is trying to connect to the Ussissi shuttle but they are denied when they are confronted but the Ussissi pilot. Lindsay is informed that the nukes used were salted weapons. She reveals that Shan and Vijissi are dead. Bennett asks the Ussissi pilot to allow him to board and be tried for their deaths.

Mestin's daughter Nevyan, when she learns of Shan's death, exerts her dominance and deposes her mother as head Martriarch. She declares that the gethes need to be punished for their crimes and the World Before needs to be contacted for assistance. They send a fighter out signal to Okurt that they are responsible for the destruction and are to be destroyed themselves. The single fighter destroys Actaeon with only 3 missiles.

Eddie had been on the Isenj homeworld, Umeh, in the preserve called Umeh Station that the Isenj had set aside for the humans, when Actaeon was destroyed. Actaeon was in orbit around Umeh and the pieces fell to the surface, killing thousands of Isenj. The Ussissi that were at Umeh were impressed with Eddie that he had faced them after the destruction of Christopher. They offered him transport to Wess'ej to avoid repercussions from the Isenj. He accepts their offer but knows that he needs to establish contact with Earth to let the public know that he was not on Actaeon when it blew. He needs to tell them what really happened and not let the bureaucrats make the public believe that humans did nothing wrong. Using the help of Minister Ual, he reaches the military on Earth but cannot speak to the public. He does get a message passed to his fellow reporters that clues them to the fact that the government isn't telling the right story. He then is evacuated to Wess'ej where he requests asylum and hands over the DNA sample he obtained from Ual. He is accepted to live in the Wess'har community with Aras. Also living with Aras is Ade Bennett. Bennett reveals that he was exposed to c'naatat After a few days, Aras tries to find some grenades that Shan had left behind, in order to blow himself up and end his misery. Eddie though, anticipated that this might happen and hid them from Aras. Eddie and Bennett manage to persuade Aras to go on living for Shan. Eddie also finally receives a response from Earth that he will have 1 hour on primetime to say his peace. He shows clips of the destruction on Bezer'ej, tells that it was Lindsay and Rayat who did it and even interviews Aras but doesn't even mention Shan or c'naatat.

Bennett gives to Nevyan the information stored in his biotech, of his locations while in space in an effort to allow Shan's and Vijissi's bodies to be recovered. Nevyan makes it her personal goal and project to do so. Nevyan also receives word from the World Before, also known as Eqbas Vorhi to its occupants, that they will support their fellow Wess'har in fighting the gethes.

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