Welcome back to The Temporal Void reread, part the fifth! This week we’ll be reading Justine Year 3 and Chapter Five. After the long re-read in part four this one is a little shorter, but you’ll have to wait until part six before we return to events in Makkathran…
Justine Year 3
A person couldn’t dream in suspension. Everyone knew that. And yet…
And here we are re-joining Justine as she sleeps away time while the Silverbird travels to the closest star system. Her dreams are filled with Kazimir McFoster, the young Guardian of Selfhood she met over a thousand years ago on Far Away, just as the Starflyer War is starting. As she awakens from suspension a Skylord approaches the ship, and they enter the usual unhelpful conversation that is a trademark of the Skylords. Justine asks it to take her to the nucleus:
“This cannot be done; it is against what is. I mourn your loss. Once you reach fulfilment, I will guide you.”
Frustrating as honious! And it doesn’t get any better, with talk of fulfilment taking her in circles.
“You are sorrowful,” the Skylord said. “When you are ready to be guided, I will guide you. Know this and hope.”
And with that the Skylord departs, vanishing within seconds.
Justine mulls over what to do, with the star system still a light year distant, accretion disc and all: no planets awaiting her. But there is little else she can do, and nowhere else for her to go.
Silverbird began accelerating back up to point seven lightspeed as the medical chamber's lid flowed shut above her.
Paula visits Donald Chatfield, the commander of the mission to Dyson Alpha which Troblum was on, to ask more about him.
“That doesn't sound good.”
He tells her that despite performing valuable work, Troblum’s social skills were somewhat lacking. As the captain of that mission it was his judgement call to let him on board, but he wouldn’t have him on his ship again. Paula tells him:
“I believe he was carrying out his own agenda, possibly on behalf of an ANA faction.”
“That's why I'm here, to see what you can tell me.”
Paula comes away without finding out much more information other than what is known: that they were there on a scientific mission. However, when she calls ANA she tells it that Chatfield is an Accelerator based on what he said. Looking into it ANA discovers that Chatfield was also probably in the Navy under the name of Evanston, with DNA modification so records weren’t identical. His file tells Paula that, as Evanston, he was part of the development restriction station on Elan, a planet where the Primes still live after surrendering to the Commonwealth. This leads them to conclude that he was part of the plot that allied the Primes with the Ocisens. Paula tells ANA that she’ll assign Digby, one of her descendants, to keep an eye on Chatfield, while ANA will put him under surveillance too.
Marius observes Paula leave Chatfield’s house and realises that some connections he wanted hidden have started to be put together. Chatfield tells him that they know Troblum was at Dyson Alpha, but that she doesn’t know why he was there. He then tells Chatfield to go to Ellezelin ready to be a member of the pilgrimage, moving plans forward a little sooner than expected.
Kazimir is preparing to tell the Senate Executive Security Commission about the Prime allying with the Ocisen fleet.
It was looking like the deterrent fleet would have to be used, a prospect that both thrilled and horrified him in equal amounts.
Paula contacts him to tell him about the Accelerator involvement with the Navy, and that it may be compromised due to this.
“This cannot stand,” he said. “The Accelerators have committed treason.”
“Circumstantial evidence,” ANA: Governance replied. “We don't know for sure.”
Kazimir, Paula, and ANA Governance discuss the situation and the apparent manipulation that the Accelerators have been doing, engineering a conflict, and aiming for so-called fusion. Talk turns to the deterrence fleet;
“They want to know what it is,” ANA: Governance said.
“Why?” Paula asked. “What does knowing that get them? Is it a bluff?”
“No,” Kazimir said. “It is not a bluff.”
They can only assume that the Accelerators want to know what the fleet is capable of.
“Let's examine the extremes,” Paula said. “Can the deterrence fleet weapons knock out the Void?”
“But you're confident it can ward off just about everything else in the galaxy?” “Yes.”
Talk turns to the Primes, and we discover that the threat the pose has been downgraded twice since the Starflyer War. This leads Paula to speculate that although they are Prime bodies, they could well be animated by human thought routines. They decide that capturing a Prime motile is the only way to prove this, and plan accordingly.
“Very well.” Kazimir finally got his collar straight. “I'll ask the Senate Commission for permission to deploy the deterrent fleet, but only after we make one final attempt to warn them off.”
“Do let me know how Ilanthe responds to that,” Paula told him.
Aaron rescues Inigo and Corrie-Lyn from Hanko, and they leave the planet’s atmosphere behind. Corrie-Lyn and Inigo recognise that they’re now on board a Navy ship, though they don’t see the crew and ask Aaron where they are:
“They stepped out for a moment.” Aaron paused, thinking. “They might be some time.”
Corrie-Lyn is horrified, but Aaron tells them he has a job to do and nothing will stop him from completing it, but when asked by Inigo he can’t tell them exactly what that job is. They attend to Corrie-Lyn’s injuries and, back to her normal self, she isn’t a happy bunny. Aaron reminds them that he saved them, despite the efforts of others involved. With the ship not in the best condition Aaron tells them that once it’s back to flight readiness he’ll know what to do. Until then, they simply wait, with Hanko going critical as they watch. They talk again about Aaron’s mental state, Inigo even offering to help uncover the truth about him, but to no avail. After much discussion and examining options, Aaron comes to a decision:
“I'm taking you to the Spike.”
“The alien macrohabitat? That's seven thousand light-years away. It'll take weeks. What in Honious is there?”
Aaron wrinkled his brow as if listening to some distant voice. Even he seemed surprised by what it was saying: “Ozzie. Ozzie lives in the Spike.”
Paula is thinking about the situation, guessing that the Ocisen attack is a diversion tactic to draw away the deterrence fleet. However, she knows she is missing something, she just doesn’t know what that something is. Gore calls Paula and they talk, realising that time inside the Void operates at a completely different and much quicker speed. He tells her that Marius visited Chatfield, and that he also has some information about what Troblum was up to:
“Consider this my olive branch. We were scared by what Troblum was doing.”
“Building an FTL drive big enough to move a planet.”
“Jesus! You're kidding.”
“Wish I was. The good news is that he wasn't doing it for the Accelerators, at least not as far as we can determine. This seems to be some mad personal obsession.”
Gore tells her that finding Troblum must be a priority considering he’s now alone and not working with the Accelerators.
“Pleasure doing business with you, Paula. As always.”
The call ended. Paula sat back on the couch. After a while she began to grin.
Araminta is keeping track of events in Colwyn City and the violent snatches of random women from the streets. She recognises the connection: they all look similar to her. Short of surrendering to stop the snatches there is nothing she can do, but that isn’t even an option for her. In the taxi that Laril told her about she lives through Inigo’s first dreams, finding Makkathran a delight. Knowing that it is her connection to the Silfen Motherholme that allows her to use the gaiafield, and sense the emotions of others, she finally communicates with the Motherholme, asking if it can help her. Despite the confidence it shows in her there is nothing she gains from it, and decides once again to contact the Skylord.
“If I came to your universe, would you guide me to the nucleus?”
“Once you have reached fulfillment.”
Talk goes in circles, and she knows that there is nothing to stop the pilgrimage, but it leaves her with some big decisions to make. She makes her way to the crowd around the apartment block, with the situation escalating and violence inevitable. The crowd finally break through the cordon and set fire to the apartment block, it all going up in smoke. As she becomes distressed she is contacted:
“Araminta. They know you're there in the park. Your distress triggered an emotional resonance indicator in the gaiafield. Get out. Get out now.”
And then everything hits the fan. As the Ellezelin forces find her she is rescued by a woman attacking them, and helped up by Oscar:
“Get out of here,” the man said urgently. “My team will hold them off. We're killing every sensor in a five-kilometer radius. Living Dream won't be able to follow you. Go!”
He tells her who he is and that they want to help her, but she must go, escape the situation.
I have to get away. No matter what.
She turned to the cab's node and keyed in the drive program. “Francola district,” she told it.
Paula visits Kerensk, an old Big15 planet that still holds a Commonwealth Navy reserve base. It was here that the cat was trained prior to the infiltration missions during the Starflyer War, and it holds a memory backup from that time.
“I was right,” she said. “Somebody made a copy.”
“Oh, dear,” ANA: Governance said.
Paula knows that she must concentrate on Chatfield, the only link between the Accelerators and the Primes, but not before one last thing:
“This isn't going to end well,” she told it, and let go. The little memorycell hit the ancient enzyme-bonded concrete floor and skittered a few centimeters before coming to a halt.
Paula stomped down hard, enjoying the crunch it made under her heel as it burst into minute fragments. Guilty enjoyment, admittedly, but: “Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing in order to do what's right,” she told the dead vault.
Leaving the secure store and remembering that time when she finally tracked down and apprehended the Cat. She contacts Digby who tells her that he’s heading for an unregistered system just within the Commonwealth boundary.
“I'm on my way.”
Marius is on Viotia and gets slight advanced warning that Araminta has been found in Bodant Park. He is amazed at the various agents going head to head to stop Araminta being caught, with only one of his team surviving to report back to him: she’s gone. After this conversation he contacts the Cat to talk to her and let her know that a team of Knight’s Guardians, along with Oscar, helped Araminta escape.
“Please remember our prime concern is to deliver Araminta to Living Dream.”
“Was that a pun?”
“I'm on my way.”
Troblum is busy finishing off the install of the ultradrive on the Melanie’s Redemption, and very nearly done. He settles down and connects to the unisphere to see if his u-shadow has had luck tracking down Paula Myo, but to not luck. Despite his paranoia about connecting to a compromised unisphere, he’s certain that he can’t be tracked. That is until Trisha, one of the solido girls, becomes contaminated by an incoming signal. As it’s not trying to take anything over Troblum allows the link to stay active, and communication starts:
“I know you,” he said.
“Congratulations,” the eternity pattern said. “You really do know your history.”
“The Sentient Intelligence; you abandoned us a long time ago.”
“I didn't leave. I was declared persona non grata by ANA.”
The SI asks why he is trying to find Paula Myo, and tells him that it will establish a link to her. Troblum doesn’t want this, instead he wants to meet her in person to give her information that may weaken the Accelerators plans. The SI then asks about Oscar:
“Very well. What about Oscar Monroe?”
“What about him?”
“You tried to contact him on Orakum.”
“Yes, I trust Oscar.”
“Smart choice. He is on Viotia, in Colwyn City.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
“Now that you know, will you seek him out?”
“I'll think about it.”
Digby is following Chatfield in his ultradrive ship to the unregistered system, still a little galled that Paula doesn’t trust him enough. He deploys sensor drones around the gas giant’s moon that Chatfield visits and then contacts Paula as Chatfield leaves. Paula tells him to follow Chatfield while she comes to check out the base.
Paula arrives and the Alexis Denken stealths to take her in, while she declines navy support from the ANA as this is just a reconnaissance trip. As the teleports in using the t-sphere on board the Alexis Denken she discovers various sarcophagi holding, each of them holding a clone of the Cat. And then they open:
“Ah,” the Cat said, and grinned hungrily. “C'est la vie.”
They attack, with Paula teleporting out and leaving the combatbots to take care of the situation. The Cats never stood a chance, but then the bases defences come online and Paula must fight her way out. With m-sinks deployed it’s a close call, until a quatumbuster is fired at the moon by the defences, planning on wiping it out rather than let it be searched. Managing to get away she contacts ANA to tell it of events, angry at herself for letting this happen. But ANA has a few words for her:
“Paula, you are letting self-anger dominate. This aspect of your investigation has one link remaining: Chatfield.”
“Damn it.” She wanted to kick herself. Her u-shadow opened a link to Digby.
Cleric Conservator Ethan is thinking about what life will be like in the Void once they arrive on Querencia. Phelan had contacted him earlier to inform him of events in Bodant Park, and the planet’s government had asked him to remove forces from the planet to ease the situation, not that he’d do such a thing. He also knows that someone is helping her, guessing that it’s one of ANA factions. His security run in as two ships fight it out in orbit, seemingly focused on each other, but they still want him safely secured. He tells them to contact the Navy to report the conflict, and ANA contacts him to discuss the situation. ANA tells him that an ANA agent is the survivor, while the loser was suspected of high treason. It also tells him of the Prime ships accompanying the Ocisen fleet, seeing as it’s heading for the pilgrimage ships. ANA tells him it believes there’s a connection between the ship that lost and the Primes, and asks him to quarantine the wreckage so a team can collect and examine it. Ethan does ask one thing:
“Can the navy stop the Ocisen invasion fleet?” he asked.
“Yes. It can and it will.”
However, the Accelerators tell Ethan that this is not acceptable and that an agent will be in touch so they can recover the wreckage before it’s traced back to them and Ethan.
If we just had the Second Dreamer, we'd be in a much stronger position. She's the key to success. We have to acquire her. We have to, no matter what the cost.
The ExoProtectorate Council are convened as the Capital-class ships intercept the Ocisen fleet.
“This habit is turning into a vulgar repetition,” Ilanthe said, her voice silky with disdain.
Kazimir tells them that they are not eliminating the Primes, but attempting to catch an immotile for intelligence. As they disable the Prime ship and get ready to send marines over, it explodes.
“I trust this charade is concluded to your satisfaction,” Ilanthe said. “Admiral, will you now be launching the deterrence fleet in compliance with the Senate Executive Security Commission resolution?”
“Yes,” Kazimir said. “I will order the launch of the deterrence fleet immediately.” And what have you put out there to snare it? What are you up to?
Ilanthe leaves the council meeting and reforms in an Accelerator section of ANA. She monitors the Ellezelin situation, telling her fellow Accelerators to round up the debris from Chatfield’s ship. They had also gained some of Araminta’s DNA from her apartment and had formulated her neural structure, trying to figure out what she’ll do, woefully inadequate as it is. But she figures out the Araminta will contact Laril, and tells them to find him. She then contacts Neskia and tells her to take the Swarm to Sol while she restricts Marius’ initiative freedoms. She tells her that Kazimir is deploying the deterrence fleet, and that she will meet Neskia outside Sol’s cemetery belt. She then moves through the Accelerators section within ANA:
Up ahead, the inversion core glimmered with suppressed power, ready for her. Ready to break free and carry human evolution to heights not even ANA could envisage, ready to change the nature of the universe forever.
Araminta is in the Francola district, away from the events in the city. She leaves the houses behind and enters the trees, careful to avoid the security perimeter and Ellezelin patrols.
Dear Ozzie, was it really only a week ago I was living a perfectly ordinary life? And I haven't called Bovey for days. He must be worried sick. Cressida will be worried, too, and cross that I haven't confirmed my ticket offplanet.
She continues through the forest, sensing the Silfen paths ahead of her, and finds herself walking through unfamiliar trees halfway up a steep valley wall:
Somewhere beyond the river, lurking among the spinneys and tracts of woodland, Araminta could sense the beginnings of another path. She set off down the mountain, laughing joyfully at her liberation.
That’s it for this week, and no more Commonwealth sections until The Evolutionary Void. Still, there’s plenty going to happen when we return in the new year for Inigo’s Twelfth Dream!
THE ABYSS BEYOND DREAMS, the first book in a new Commonwealth series, published on 9th October 2014, and you can read an extract here
NIGHT WITHOUT STARS, the gripping sequel to THE ABYSS BEYOND DREAMS, will be published on 22nd September 2016.
Whilst you're waiting, check out the cover reveal post!
You can also catch up on the whole Void Trilogy Reread: