Authors: G. S. Jennsen
G. S. Jennsen
Copyright © 2014 by G. S. Jennsen.
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Starshine / G. S. Jennsen.—1st ed.
without whom this would have forever remained
only a whisper in my dreams
I am very thankful for the support and encouragement of a great many people: Linda, Sunny, Claire, Jeff, Cheryl, Jim, Bill, Antonela, Ezri, Sarah, Lakatos, Rita, Brialyn and Monica, to name but a few.
A special thanks for editorial assistance, ideas, opinions and critiques to Sandy, Jules, Anne, Carole and Aleksander.
Above all, thank you to my husband (best friend, business partner, co-conspirator, soulmate), for all of the above and so much more.
Colonized Milky Way
HE END OF THE WORLD
began with a library query.
…or perhaps it was the space probe. The alien was being vexingly reticent on the matter, the man thought as he straightened his dinner jacket in the mirror.
“She is hardly the first person to express an interest in that region of space. Why are you so worried about her when the others didn’t concern you?”
The others did concern us, but they were deflected with little difficulty. This woman, however, has exhibited a notable talent for discovering what others cannot. As such, we would prefer she never look.
The man smoothed out a crease in one of the sleeves then fastened the antique pearl cufflinks, an heirloom passed down to him from a grandfather that never was. “Do you want me to have her killed?”
Not unless alternative methods are unsuccessful. Her death could cause the opposite effect of drawing further unwanted attention.
The man nodded cursorily and stepped out of the washroom, crossing his spacious office to the windows lining the far wall. “Very well. I’ll work to ensure she’s distracted from this pursuit. What about the Senecans?”
They are a more troublesome problem as they have already discovered an anomaly exists. They will send others to investigate.
From the top floor of the Earth Alliance Headquarters building the man could see guests beginning to arrive in the gardens below. Another ten minutes and it would be appropriate for him to join them. He frowned, brushing a piece of lint off his lapel before he turned from the windows to face where the alien might have stood, were he actually here. “You know there’s little I can do about them for the moment.”
You needn’t concern yourself with the matter. Other resources are at our disposal.
“I’m sure. And remember, you only need stall them for a short while. Soon
will be distracted, and humanity will be focused inward for quite some time.”
Go forward with your plan. We hope you accomplish your objectives. Nonetheless, events are converging rapidly and they are not all within your control. Escalation may be unavoidable.
The man pulsed his wife to let her know he would meet her in the lobby shortly. “At least give me the opportunity to alter our course before you act. It won’t be long now.”
Certainly. Know, however, that the precipice is upon you; it may already have been crossed.
Preparations have begun.
“There are two kinds of light –
the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.”
— James Thurber
when you are.”
“One more second…okay, Charlie, go ahead.” The muffled response came from within the hull.
The young mechanic wove the crystalline fiber of a conduit into the power control grid. It took only seconds. He squinted into the magnification overlay to confirm the contact points. “All set.”
“Here goes nothing.”
Colonel Richard Navick watched from the entry of the hangar bay as a shimmer passed over the smooth, midnight black exterior of the ship.
Even marred by the docking clamps, the
was sleek and graceful, with sweeping curves that converged on acute edges. Technical instruments and sensors were tucked discreetly under the wing-like midsection while the sLume drive was an elusive shadow beneath the tapered tail. The elegant lines disguised its size. Fully forty-two meters from bow to stern, it was enormous—at least for a personal scout ship.
He cleared his throat to announce his presence and stepped into the bay. “Alex, are you in there somewhere?”
A head dropped out of the belly of the ship. It was upside down and encircled by the orbiting screens of a holographic interface. “Richard, is that you?”
“Guilty as charged.”
A pair of long legs appeared next as she swung out of the exposed engineering well and dropped a meter to land nimbly on the floor of the bay. The interface winked out of existence.
He was struck—as he always was after he hadn’t seen her for some time—by how much she looked like her father. Tall and slender, with high, distinctive cheekbones and bright silver-gray eyes, she cut almost as dramatic a figure as David Solovy once had. In fact, the sole feature of note she had inherited from her mother was the thick, dark mane of hair. Whereas David’s had been dusky blond, hers was the color of fine aged Bordeaux.
It was also currently twisted up in a messy knot, flyaway strands escaping to soften her features. She wiped streaks of a viscous gel off her hands and onto snug black workpants as she jogged over.
When she reached him she embraced him in a quick hug born of years of familiarity. “It’s been too long, Richard.”
“If you would stay in this sector for longer than a week at a time, I might actually get to see you once in a while.”
Her eyes rolled a little as she settled onto her back leg. “Ah, no can do, I’m afraid. All the fun’s out there.” A corner of her mouth quirked up in a tease of a grin. He believed her.
“So I hear. All the money too, apparently.” He jerked his head toward the gleaming hull.
Her face instantly lit up; it often did when she was talking about her ship. “I just painted on a new f-graphene alloy lattice. It will reduce drag by another twelve percent, which will mean faster travel using less fuel.”
“Nice….” The reduction from pico- to femto-scale alloys had only become commercially available nine months earlier; he shuddered to think of the credits she must have forked over for the new lattice. “We should have the budget to roll those out to the fleet in a decade or so.”
She shrugged as if to say ‘your loss’ and met his gaze. For most people it would have been an uncomfortable experience. “So is this a social call? As glad as I am to see you—and I really am—I’m kind of in the middle of installing a stealth system upgrade. We could maybe have dinner this evening if you’d like?”
He mentally braced himself for the reaction he knew would be coming. “You caught me. It’s not
a social call. Your mother wants you to come by the office if you have any free time this afternoon.”
Her pupils constricted, the tiny flash of an ocular implant a hint she was checking her comms. They quickly focused back on him, bearing more than a little less warmth. “I don’t have a message from her.”