Authors: John F. Carr & Camden Benares
RAINBOW RUN is a novel of the far future, detailing a world where the normal rules have been turned over, and upside down. When one of its denizens awakens from a stupor, he discovers he’s in the Rainbow Room, a triangular room filled with pitfalls where the first misstep will be the last. He quickly discovers that his memory has been stripped away, and he’s left with no knowledge of himself or the world he finds himself inhabiting.
With the help of Errox, a mysterious and malevolent stranger, who names him Rathe, he manages to escape the Color Wheel, only to discover that the danger outside in the urbodes is omnipresent and difficult to evade. Everywhere Rathe turns, everyone he meets is only interested in using him for their own advancement in the war of shades. In a world where the color of your wristlock determines your fate, Rathe is a lost soul desperately trying to learn the rules of a game that has no rules.
Meanwhile, Rathe is on a quest to find out his true identity and why he was brain-wiped. The answers are everywhere and nowhere. Most of the people he meets are so busy playing the Color Game they have little or awareness of the larger world they inhabit. In this world, only those wearing the rainbow wristlocks have universal access and immortality. Not only does he have to figure out who he is, but how to survive in the midst of growing chaos….
A Pequod Press Speculative Fiction Novel
All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2012 by John F. Carr
Original Cover Art—Copyright © 2012 by Alan Gutierrez
This book may not be reproduced or transmitted in whole or in part, in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, scanning, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Printing 2012
V 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
On the cover: Alan Gutierrez, Rainbow Run
P.O. Box 80
Boalsburg, PA 16827
Rainbow Run (with Camden Benares)
Space Viking’s Throne (with Mike Robertson)
The Last Space Viking (with Mike Robertson)
Time Crime (with H. Beam Piper)
The Fireseed Wars
War World: The Battle of Sauron (with Don Hawthorne)
Siege of Tarr-Hostigos
Great Kings’ War (with Roland Green)
Carnifex Mardi Gras
The Ophidian Conspiracy
To the memory of my best friend and brother-in-spirit, Camden Benares. R.I.P.
"Wake up or die!"
Those words hammered inside my skull, bounced back and forth, destroyed a fuzzy oblivion, and brought a reluctant return to consciousness.
Awareness came with a rush of pain—pounding head, burning stomach, aching muscles and stiff joints. I wasn’t ready to open my eyes yet; all my energy was focused on holding still in an effort to minimize pain. I made an anguished attempt to recall what had happened to make me feel as if I were dying. I couldn’t remember anything, not where I was—not even my name.
"Wake up or die!"
The shout hurt my ears. I opened my eyes. I was lying face down on a ledge that was higher than the tiled floor before me. I felt movement behind me—so slow and steady that I hadn't noticed it before. The wall behind me was moving, pushing me slowly toward the tiled floor. My left hand was hanging over the edge of the ledge, resting on one of the floor tiles.
Abruptly that tile dropped as if it had been held in place by an electronic magnet that lost power. My hand fell into the hole where the tile had been. I felt a pain in my palm as it touched the edge of a tile next to the hole. I yanked back my hand and saw a thin line of blood. The tile edges were razor sharp. I looked across the tiled floor and saw a lot of holes, all potential sources of dangerous cuts.
The only other person around was a woman, dressed like me in a brown tunic and sandals in the middle of the room, who was jumping from tile to tile to avoid the holes.
I cried out, "Thanks for the warning."
She glanced at me. Her face was unfamiliar.
She yelled, "Don’t talk! Watch the tiles. Find the pattern. Get the rhythm. Get to that door and jump through it when it opens. It’s the only way out. I’ll see you in the winner’s circle."
I looked at the door she had pointed to. Next to it was a display like an electronic scoreboard that showed a rainbow with some numbers beneath it:
The numbers glowed. The door opened. The violet and orange tiles disappeared. By the time I'd taken several long, deep breaths the door had closed, the numbers on the display had changed, the missing tiles snapped back into position, and two more colors of tiles disappeared.
I could feel the wall behind me as it kept up its slow forward movement that was going to push me off the ledge and onto the tiles. I followed the woman’s advice. I watched the tiles and looked for patterns. I looked at the numbers on the display. The three numbers in the first row hadn’t changed but the two pairs of numbers in the other two rows were now different.
There were seven numbers. I counted the number of different colors among the tiles. There were seven: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet—the colors of the rainbow. Could there be one number for each color? Was that the significance of the numbers?
There was a pattern to what was happening. Momentarily all the tiles would be in place and the door would open. Right after that, the numbers on the display would change and all the tiles of two colors would drop away. Within a short period of time the door would close and the tiles would reappear. Then the process would repeat.
I watched the woman hop forward, getting closer to the door. She put her right foot on a blue tile. The tile collapsed. Her leg disappeared into the hole, all the way up to her thigh. Before she could scramble out, the tiles closed again. Her leg was amputated; blood was spurting from the stump with every beat of her heart. She had severed her femoral artery and was bleeding to death.
I yelled, "Press down on your thigh! Stop the blood flow!"
I don’t know if she heard me. She moaned as she crawled toward the door, bleeding profusely over the tiles.
All the tiles were back in place now. I wanted to help her. She had warned me, possibly saved my life. I didn’t know if there would be time for me to get to her before the next two colors of tiles collapsed. I called out, "Use your hands to stop the blood flow."
I moved forward, but stopped suddenly when six tiles in front of me collapsed creating a hole the size of a grave. There was no way I could advance without falling in.
The moaning stopped. The woman was no longer crawling. She lay flat on the tiles that were as bloody as her tunic. No blood pulsed from her leg now; her heart had stopped. I couldn’t save her now—no one could. It was too late.
I cautiously made my way back to the safety of the ledge. The wall was still moving forward, shrinking the size of the ledge. Soon there wouldn't be enough room to stand and I'd be forced back onto the dangerous tiles. I had to find the relationship between the numbers on the display and the disappearing tiles. If I didn’t, I'd die here in this nightmare room. I looked at the display:
The top three numbers hadn’t changed. The other two pairs of numbers must identify what two colors of tiles that would collapse next. I added each of the pairs together, hoping the sums would identify the colors of the collapsing tiles. When that didn't work, I tried adding them in different combinations that led me nowhere. I tried subtraction. When I had subtracted and added every possible combination of both pairs and the three constant numbers in the display, I turned to multiplication and division but I found no meaningful results.
The numbers could represent an equation. The top three numbers were always constant. If they were the equation—probably a degree two equation with one number constant and the other two coefficients—then the lower pairs would be the variables. If I could determine the right equation and if each tile color was represented by only one number, I could solve the equation twice—once for each pair of numbers—and determine which two tile colors would drop out next. Then I could move toward the door and escape.
I studied the display:
There had to be a clue somewhere. I read aloud the first row of unchanging numbers: one, two, seven. One to seven! That could be the clue; each color was represented by a number from one through seven. But how could I determine those numbers? The rainbow on the display gave me a possible answer. Seven colors and seven numbers in order from the red on the outside curve of the rainbow to violet on the inside curve. If I was right, then red equaled one, orange equaled two, yellow equaled three, green equaled four, blue equaled five, indigo equaled six, and violet equaled seven.