Welcome to the third entry in our re-read of The Evolutionary Void! This week we're tackling Chapter Three, so let us see what's happening in the Commonwealth...
The starship the Delivery Man is on drops out into space around Gralmond. He's received all the updates from the Conservative faction regarding events in ANA and around Earth, and he calls his wife - to hell with protocol.
“Lizzie, just hang on! I will be there, I promise you. Tell the girls Daddy is going to be home any minute.”
His connection drops out, with his u-shadow telling him that all connections to Earth have been physically closed. He doesn't know what to do, with panic quickly rising within him. He decides to call Marius, though the discussion only reveals the truth of what has happened to Sol - that it's encased in a barrier similar to the Dyson Pair. He asks Marius if they will release Sol after they done what they want with the Void:
“I expect so. It is an irrelevance, then, after all.”
“If you don’t, I will find you, whatever form you take. And that is a threat.”
And the link ends. He decides to try and get access to some of the caches that the Conservative faction leave around, though he doesn't know what it will accomplish. As he decides this he receives a call from the faction, though he doesn't quite believe it due to Earth's enclosure.
“This is a … portion of what you know as the Conservative Faction; think of me as the executive.”
He tells the Delivery Man that it's down to them now, and that the Accelerators have been smart in their schemes. After discussion the Delivery Man is told to go back to collect the starship he left at Purlap, which he sets out to do by commandeering a privately owned starship in the spaceport...
Paula is in shock, and Pentagon II informs her that there is no way into the swarm components: they can't turn it off. The President comes on the line to inform Paula of what they believe, that the Accelerators want to achieve fusion with the Void, and that now only one aspect remains undetermined: Araminta. She tells the President she will go to Chobamba to pick up Araminta, to which she is told to take her into custody, no pussyfooting around anymore. He also confirms that the ship carrying the Inversion Core uses Dark Fortress technology, and that it is unlikely that any Commonwealth ship has weapons that can get past its defences.
Paula starts to analyse the Araminta situation, coming to the conclusion that she isn't being helped by any faction. But how did she get to Chobamba? She digs deeper still, looking into Araminta's ancestry, and that is where the answer is: Mellanie Rescorai, a Silfen friend. Araminta walked the Silfen paths! She opens up one of her most secure memory cubes and finds the program that will give her the chance to warn Araminta that Living Dream is on to her...
Araminta returns to the real world after dreaming Inigo's dreams of Edeard's life, and realises now just why Living Dream want to enter the Void so badly, and just how much devastation it will cause for the galaxy if they succeed and reset the Void every time they wish. She logs on to the network and sees the news of Earth's imprisonment, and she calls Laril. Glad that she is okay, he asks if she has decided what to do. When she tells him she won’t be helping Living Dream, he gives her her options; ask the Navy for help, ask Oscar for help, or side with a faction opposed to the Accelerators. They talk and she decides to contact Oscar, with Laril offering to make the call to him for her. She agrees, but before she can give him Oscar's code a shotgun message enters Chobamba's cybersphere: Paula delivers the news that Living Dream is on to her, and she should leave. Now. A plan forms, and before long she's got the delivery boy, Ranto, outside her door and an offer made for his bike. He sells it to her, gives her a quick lesson in how to use it, and she's off.
As she nears the Silfen path she can feel it, but there is action behind her in Miledeep Water, craft in the skies. In a panic she rides on to the path, and before long the bike breaks down, leaving her on foot, but not on Chobamba anymore. She walks onwards, and after a while she can feel that the Silfen are close by.
Like a birdsong, she thought, a flock of birds singing a hymn.
Before long the Silfen appear around her riding their beasts, and she is offered a hand by one of them to ride with them. They continue to a campsite, with thousands of them present there where they welcome her, giving her food and drink and she is lost amid all the bodies around her. When she needs to rest she tells them so, and they help her relax. That's when she hears one of them speak to her: Clouddancer, and with him is another Silfen calling himself Bradley Johansson.
“Uh,” she said again, then: “Bradley Johansson is a human name.”
“Yes, I used to be. Some time ago now.”
She realises he was in the Starflyer War, and saved humanity during the events of that time.
“Oh, brother,” Clouddancer grumbled. “Thank you, Friend’s daughter. He’ll be insufferable for a decade now.” “I played my part,” Bradley Johansson said modestly. His tail tip performed a lively flick.
The talk to her, revealing that the party is for her, that they wanted to meet her, and that they are talking to her now about the Void. They also reveal that the Silfen Motherholme occasionally senses thoughts from the Void.
“Why doesn’t the Motherholme ask the Void to stop expanding?
“Don’t think it hasn’t been tried.” The tip of Bradley Johansson’s tail dipped in disappointment. “Ten million years of openness and congeniality gets you precisely nowhere with the Void. We can’t connect to the nucleus. Or maybe it just doesn’t want to listen. Even we didn’t know for sure what was in there until Edeard shared his life with Inigo.”
They talk further about the Void, with some interesting speculation, and Araminta tells them of Oscar's offer to help. Bradley tells her:
“I know Oscar. I fought with him in the Starflyer War. He is a good man. Trust him. Find him, though your path will not be easy after this.”
They also tell her that they have sensed the Inversion Core, that it is evil, and that it wants to meddle with the destiny of the galaxy. It must be stopped. She doesn't know what to do, she wants to hide while all this happens, and asks if she can stay with them. They say yes, but she knows that no matter how long she is there, no time will pass in the universe until she returns to events. She asks for a meal and some rest, and then she'll be on her way.
Yes, I’ll do what I can.
Marius is watching the newsfeeds covering Araminta's escape from Miledeep Water along the Silfen Paths. Ilanthe had contacted him to keep an eye on the Delivery Man, and he saw that a secure call had been made to him, and he follows along to monitor the situation, seeing him gain access to the ultradrive left on Purlap.
The Delivery Man calls his contact once inside the ship. They talk, and then a set of coordinates at the Leo Twins is given to him to go and pick his contact up. After some discussion he knows that this option is the best to save his wife and children, so off he goes.
Digby has followed the starship to Darklake City on Oaktier, an old Commonwealth world. As he contacts Paula to tell her of the Accelerator activity she informs him of their objectives:
“We have objectives?”
“Yes. One. And it’s very simple: No one else must acquire Araminta. No one. No matter what the cost.”
The reason they are on Oaktier becomes clear - this is currently where Laril is staying on his inwards migration. He sees that the Accelerator agent is Valean, and though he asks whether he should simply target her Paula tells him to track her instead, to see who the other agents on planet are.
Troblum has finally installed the ultradrive in the Mellanie's Redemption and has it working nicely. As he opens his TD link to see what is happening the SI takes over Catriona's solido to talk to him, telling him that Sol is now imprisoned. They talk about his motivations and his hand in creating the swarm, and the idea that the Accelerators will raise everyone to post-physical status regardless of whether or not it is what they want. The SI talks to Troblum about helping the Commonwealth figure out how to get through the barrier, though he is rather resistant to the idea, but not for the wrong reasons. Before withdrawing the SI tells Troblum where Oscar is, and it turns out that that is exactly where the Mellanie's Redemption is headed.
The Delivery Man arrives at the Leo Twins and makes a call to his contact, who tells him that he isn't alone: someone has followed him.
“Don’t worry about it. Hang on. I’m going to bring you in.”
A T-sphere expanded out from the strange asteroid. It teleported the starship inside.
As he leaves the ship he sees that he's inside a hollowed out asteroid, and that his contact is none other than:
“Gore Burnelli,” the Delivery Man said. “I should have worked that one out. I didn’t expect you to be physical, though.”
Gore shrugged. “If people could predict my behaviour, we’d all be in deep shit.”
They talk and the Delivery Man realises that it is Gore who is dreaming of Justine: family connection. He also informs the Delivery Man that there is no committee to the Conservative Faction - Gore is in charge, and they do as he says. Gore tells him that his plan is perhaps the best option the species has for survival, and the Delivery Man puts his lot in with Gore.
Marius contacts Ilanthe to tell her where he is, and they figure that the asteroid must belong to Nigel or Ozzie, and that it's Gore who is current residence there. As they're talking a wormhole appears at various sections in the asteroids orbit, pulling items in, and then the t-sphere activates and the ultradrive ship is back in space.
“Follow it,” Ilanthe ordered. “Find out what he’s doing.”
Gore and the Delivery Man now know it is Marius who has followed him here, and that he won't do anything: Ilanthe will want to know Gore's plans before attacking them. He tells the Delivery Man that they are going to offer the Void an alternative:
“An alternative to what?”
“Its current existence, to being itself.”
“How?” He was trying not to shout.
“It’s stalled. Whatever it was originally meant to do hasn’t worked. It hasn’t progressed for millions, possibly billions, of years. It just sits there absorbing minds and matter; it’s become pointless and very dangerous. We need to kick-start its evolutionary process again, whether it likes that or not.”
Gore tells the Delivery Man that Ilanthe is not doing what she is simply to go post-physical, but for much more selfish and evil reasons, and it's down to them to stop her.
“So where are we going?”
“The Anomine homeworld.”
“Because they successfully went postphysical, and they left their elevation mechanism behind.”
That's us done again for this week. Join me here next time where we'll go through Inigo's 21st Dream and Chapter Four.
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: