Title: Falling Free
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Publish Date: 1988
Publisher: Baen Books
Genre: Science Fiction
Sub-Genre: Wormholes, Spaceships, Space Travel, Alien Worlds, Advanced Technology, Advanced Medical, Advanced Weapons, Genetic Engineering, Space Stations, Genocide, Romance, Corporate Strategies, Morality, Welding, Quality Control, Hydrophonics, Bio-Engineering, Mutants
Leo Graf is an excellent engineering and quality control instructor. His new assignment takes him to an orbital habitat around the planet Rodeo. The habitat is wholly owned by the GalacTech Corporation and they have leased the inhospitable planet for 99 years – with a self-govern and self-policing order built into it. The GalacTech people and possessions on the habitat are under no jurisdiction of any government or agency except for their own for the duration of the lease.
Leo finds out the reasoning behind those rules when he arrives at his new assignment and meets Tony. Tony is the result of genetic modifications and has arms where legs would normally be on regular humans, called ‘downsiders’. Leo soon learns that Tony is one of a thousand ‘quaddies’ that live on the habitat and are now being bred to increase their numbers by GalacTech.
The habitat itself is run by Bruce Van Atta, a thoroughly self-absorbed man with only his own best interests at heart. When a new technology is discovered, the usefulness of the quaddies runs out. Van Atta decides to sterilize the quaddies and strand them on Rodeo’s surface to die a slow death as they grow older and their supplies run out.
Leo becomes trapped in the middle as he becomes aware that the quaddies are mere children in mind and spirit, if not in actual age for most of them.
Then there’s Silver. A self-styled female quaddie that decides Leo is someone that may be able to help them. Leo must now decide whether his job or the quaddies are more important to him. Perhaps Silver will be able to help him decide.
GalacTech is attempting to create the perfect worker for projects based in low or no-gravity environments. The bio-engineering program is being developed and controlled at their Rodeo orbital facility named the ‘Cay Project’. It is responsible for the approximately 1,000 genetically engineered humans known as ‘quaddies’. With enhanced biological systems to help protect them during prolonged low gravity assignments and another set of arms instead of legs, these quaddies are the perfect workforce.
Leo Graf has been brought to the Rodeo habitat by his former student Bruce Van Atta, to train the quaddies in advanced welding and quality control techniques in order to prepare them for their first space deployment. Once he arrives, Leo soon discovers that the quaddies are no more than children in knowledge and maturity, taught only the necessary skills and knowledge to make them efficient in their duties from a young age.
Leo finds that he enjoys the company of the quaddies and begins to feel like their mentor and protector.