With the advent of hyperdrives in the 2300s, Humanity poured out to the stars in a great diaspora. The original terraformer families, paving the way for later waves of settlements, became Aristocracies of sorts on the plethora of new worlds. For eight hundred years civilization spreads, flowering into dozens of cultures. Then came the war, and the long dark age of Pandora.
3893,Pleiades, Caldris: A Princess Scholar-Archaeologist, brilliant, beautiful, and beloved of the world's people, is missing. The Royal Detectives, headed by a grisly old ex Royal Space Navy Special Forces Ranger, Officer Hammerstien, sets out to examine a thousand year old Fighter bomber the princess had discovered. There are numerous and powerful forces who want the technology on the ancient ship, and others who merely wish its story to remain lost in the well of time. Yet there is something else-something ancient, and alien, the boy senses.It is not long before the small group of investigators draws fire. The Transhuman Imperials, numerous galactic corporations, and underworld space syndicates all are suspect in an adventure that spans the civilized portion of the galaxy...
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The Cat's Paw Nebula, Scorpius.Harry Stark could smell the Cat's Paw Nebula long before he actually glided the Riptide out of hyper, easing back into normal space, and it was like a field of flowers. Of course, since everything one experiences in MERGE is a virtual construct, the gasses of the nebula could have been made to smell like…
"So what is it detective? What is it about the wormhole attack that you don't want to face?'
He chortled a grumbling laugh that bordered on a burp, and looked at me with a bitter sweet half smile. "No hiding anything from you, aye?" His eyes darkened and I felt a rush of emotion he'd walled up for decades suddenly opening up, and its impact was palpable to me.
His sense of self from that long ago decade was profoundly different-he had been young, a handful of years older than I. His self image from that time impacted me like a strange reflection of the man in front of me-leaner, with swift hair, a reckless step, and an unquenchable awe and thirst for adventure. Youth. Caldris had been in a territorial dispute with the Paramon Republic near the Pleiades.
Paramon was always disputing some silly rock, and this time it was one of our Kingdom's trade stations near Baal One, a horrid seared rock of soullessness-but our trade station orbited it and operated important business with Chrysalis Isla, deep in the Pleiades Confederation.
Hammerstein's memories came at me-the flight deck of his first assignment, glorying in the sight of the Kingdom's ships of the line at the ready. Anticipation, joy, a thrill of imminent combat-and then the impossible, the unheard of-a wormhole deep in the gravity well of Baal One sweeping at at them like a cobra, hard and fast and the young Hammerstein watched as the ships of the line-and all of his friends were on those ships-disintegrated in the irresistible shock wave.
He was nineteen and alone. The only real family he had ever known had been those fellows on the other ships. He had been transferred from one of those very ships that morning.
There was an awkward moment as the face of the young Hammerstein morphed into the older iron man in front of me, more muscled, more scarred, more resolute. Suddenly, I knew, he was still carrying his nineteen year old self around, standing forever on that flight deck watching his friends die, and an indescribable loneliness taking their place for the rest of his life.
"Paramon and wormhole shock waves." I said, breaching the subject like pulling a patch from a wound-quickly so as not to drag out the inevitable.
Most people would have barely perceived the slightest flicker in his eye. For me, however, it was as if the line of ships once again ruptured in violent sequence across his soul.
He smiled, and I realized the old iron Detective had been forcing that smile for a very long, painful time.