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Clouds of ejected star matter billowed luminously into space like the breath of a mythical god. The ghostly ball at their center was all that remained of the once-mighty sun, Betelgeuse. Three years before, the supergiant had blazed forth in a vast supernova explosion, transforming itself from a living star into a funeral pyre that had briefly outshone the Milky Way. Its ghostly appearance now betrayed the unusual nature of its death. No ordinary supernova--even one ending, as this had, in a black hole--would have contracted and darkened in quite this way. Its smoky translucence spoke eloquently of the invisible forces that had bound it into an oddity of cosmic proportion, an object of Promethean power and mystery.
Its outer layers blazed in the viewscreen as the starship sped inward through the remnant clouds. The display changed every few seconds, highlighting various aspects of its structure. Many on the bridge found their glances drawn repeatedly to the image on the viewscreen. Starship Elijah was diving toward the stellar remnant through the shifting reality of K-space, and tremendous computing power was at work creating that image out of the streams of data pouring into the ship.
Most of the crew were busy at their consoles. But one person, seated at the rear of the bridge, ignored all else but that irresistible vision of the star's ghost. She faced it with her eyes half closed, focusing on its presence with her memory, her imagination, her inner vision. Tamika Jones cared not at all about the astrophysical data streaming acrossthe consoles. She was searching for just one thing, and that was the touch of a mind--a mind that she hoped still lived out there in the remnant of a once-living star. It was a mind she had not felt in three years, not since the moment of the star's death.
In that moment, she had felt him die, too--had mourned his death. But in the midst of her grief she had hoped, prayed, felt that the man without whose genius this strange, unprecedented thing would not exist, had somehow passed through the shadow of death, through the heat and fury of a supernova, and lived. And that was why she was here now, to search for this man who had perhaps survived death. She was here to find Willard Ruskin.
She felt the stirring and muttering of her shipmates' minds around her, like memory-voices chattering and distracting her. That was the effect of the continuous altering of the K-space that carried the ship inward toward the unknown. Transitions through K-space boundaries produced an involuntary cross-linking of neighboring minds--which could be alarming when unexpected--but they were counting upon it now to join them with Willard, or his companions, or whatever might remain of them. She hardly knew what the mind she was seeking might feel like--reaching to her across the gulf of space that separated them from the star, and from whatever lay in the twisted continuum beyond it.
She hardly knew, really, what she was hoping to find.
What her shipmates hoped to find deep within the supernova remnant, close to the black hole inhabiting its core, was the opening to a new interstellar gateway--a structure that would whisk Elijah and untold ships to follow at some unimaginable speed toward the galactic center. It was for that gateway that the majestic Betelgeuse had died at the hands of Project Breakstar. It was for that gateway that a fantastically stretched loop of flawed space had been caught and anchored to the resulting black hole. It was for that gateway that a man named Willard Ruskin, and his best friend Max, had died.
Elijah was flying headlong toward a singularity where known space-time ended and something else began. No one knew precisely where the passage into the gateway lay. Eight robot probes had failed to find it, or to return. At a nearby console, astrophysicist Thalia Sharaane was studying the data streams with ferocious concentration. Possibly she would find clues to the gateway's opening on those consoles, but her friend Tamika had no such hope. And yet Tamika knew that if she could just reach out to the mind of Willard Ruskin ... if she could locate and touch once more the man she had loved ... she might, just might learn from him the way to enter the gateway.
She squinted at the changing image of the sun, growing visibly larger by the second, and searched outward with her thoughts, desperately trying to ignore the jabber and clamor of human intelligence around her.
A movement by the captain made her aware of an announcement. "Sixty seconds from go-around point. Let me know, people, if you're getting anything." He queried the individual bridge officers, then Tamika. "Ms. Jones?" Not answering, Tamika strained to reach out ... beyond the prison of her own skull and her own mind ... to reach beyond the bounds of this ship with its clamoring crew...
The captain's voice became urgent. They dared not venture too close to the black hole, not even in K-space. "Thirty seconds, Ms. Jones. If you don't have anything, we've got to get out of here."
She drew a deep breath and exhaled with exquisite slowness, listening to the meaningless jabber around her, and was about to tell him, No, nothing, do what you have to do--
And then she saw it.
Saw the face of Willard Ruskin, peering at them out of the viewscreen. She pointed, unable to draw a breath, unable to speak. The captain turned, opened his mouth. "What--" And when he checked the time again, his face tightened with indecision.
Was that her imagination, or had she actually heard--
That was not her imagination. Thalia had risen at the sound of her name. And then she seemed drawn back to her console. And Tamika heard, and felt, Thalia tell the captain, "Keep going! Turn the nav-control over to me. I think I can get us through!" And Tamika heard, "You think--" and saw the captain gazing fiercely at Thalia, with only seconds to decide.
And then she was aware only of the mind that was welling up out of space and merging with her own...
Tamika was suddenly aware of a flood of thought and knowledge pouring into Thalia, through Thalia ... was aware of Thalia's connection to the cogitative console, and the knowledge streaming through her, the mapping of the gateway entrance passing through her and into the nav-control.
And Tamika was aware of the K-space fields changing dramatically, and the ship altering course, shifting through the tricky matrices of unknown space, diving perilously toward the core of what had once been a star and was now an opening in space-time itself...
She was aware of space slipping and altering its very nature around her ... and she felt Willard Ruskin's presence, and his love, or something very much like his love, now with staggering power and clarity. But it was much more, he was not just Willard now; he was different, astonishingly different, there were others present with him, or were they part of him ...?
She heard the exclamation "N-space!" and felt the ship passing through a turbulence, and then into a smoothly flowing something--and she had the distinct feeling that they were speeding down a fast-moving channel, and she heard cries of amazement and fear. And when she opened her eyes she actually saw in the viewscreen an ethereal channel opening like a tunnel to receive them, its banks stretching backward past them, and all around them the blurry shapes of what looked like star clusters and clouds.
As she saw all of this, her mind was filled with greetings and joy and surprise, and she felt the presence not only of what-had-been-Willard, but also a Logothian named Ali'Maksam, and an assassin named Ganz, and the mind of a sun named *Bright*. And all of her pent-up hopes and fears and joys fell away like spilling tears, and she felt herself opening to receive memories and feelings that she could not have dreamed of...
And she knew, dimly, through the choir of voices and thoughts, that they had succeeded. Their starship had passed into the gateway and was speeding inward now into the galaxy ... inward toward what, they could scarcely imagine ... speeding down a fabulous, glowing river of stars....
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although it is a sequel, if you didn't know that, it would not be obvious. I personally long for the days of a solid, well written novel by someone not afflicted with Robert Jordan syndrome. Jeffrey Carver has written a satsfying novel in lieu of an encyclopedia. I enjoyed the characters development, plot and moral debate without moralizing. I have several of his novels and will add to the collection. Read it y'all!
Pads in and laps up some water. The stream gurgles gently. "Hmm... Beautiful."
simple story, not really interesting
goes back to camp.
Pineshade reached out with her mind, feeling for the fishes' souls. She could feel many of them, and she drew them toward her. A swarm of fish jumped out of the water, and Pineshade nimbly killed them all. Her eyes turned gold, and she opened her mouth, drawing the fishes' souls into her. Streams of black flew out of the fish and into Pineshade's mouth.