Angelmass [NOOK Book]

Overview


Angelmass, a black hole deep in space, emits "angels," small particles that render humans calm, reasonable, and virtually incapable of lying. The Empyrean, human colonies in the far reaches of the galaxy, has discovered the angels and the power they wield. All members of Empyrean government must carry an angel.

The Earth-based Empire, the Pax, view the angels as an alien plot to subvert humanity. They dispatch Jereko Kosta, an innocent ...
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Angelmass

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Overview


Angelmass, a black hole deep in space, emits "angels," small particles that render humans calm, reasonable, and virtually incapable of lying. The Empyrean, human colonies in the far reaches of the galaxy, has discovered the angels and the power they wield. All members of Empyrean government must carry an angel.

The Earth-based Empire, the Pax, view the angels as an alien plot to subvert humanity. They dispatch Jereko Kosta, an innocent academic, to spy on the Empyrean and find out the truth about angels. With Chandris, a grifter who dogs his steps, he enlists on an "angel-hunting" ship. Close up, Kostas learns the angels may be more dangerous than the Pax fear.

Before he can react, the Pax dispatches their most powerful warship to confront the Empyrean. Now, Kosta and Chandris, among the few who know the truth about the angels, stand between the Empyrean, the Pax, and war.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hugo winner Zahn (Conquerors' Legacy and numerous Star Wars novels) offers a satisfyingly complicated story of an alien force, Angelmass, that has for decades been spewing off particles called Angels, which have power over human behavior. Angelmass has become a significant part of the governing structure of one interplanetary system, the Empyrean, and a source of concern for its legendary enemy, the Pax Comitus. A series of marginalized characters contends with its social effects and other properties: Jereko Kosta, an academic researcher into atomic physics trained as a Pax spy; Chandris Lalasha, a highly skilled thief who is escaping a dangerous lover and hoping for a big score; High Senator of the Empyrean, Arkin Forsythe; and Forsythe's aide, Ronyon. Forsythe is ostracized because he doesn't like the Angels that all senators are supposed to use, Ronyon because he is mute and of low intelligence. Predictably, these individuals become the heroes of the story, willing to pursue unpopular scientific theories (Kosta opposes Pax and discovers important information about Angelmass), to sacrifice their goals for others (Lalasha learns to help her friends, personal and intergalactic) and to question official scientific and governmental opinions. Through in-depth characterization, as well as toothsome scientific and political mysteries, Zahn unfolds an intricate tale of adventure sure to please his many fans. (Oct. 29) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A newly trained spy for the Pax Comitas against the rebellious colonies of the Empyrean, Jereko Kostas arrives on the planet Seraph to investigate the mysterious "angel" particles emanating from the black hole known as Angelmass. When his path crosses that of Chandris Lalasha, a thief on the run from a murderous colleague, Kostas becomes involved in a daring scheme that calls into question his true loyalties and leads to a decision that can change the balance of power in the universe. The latest novel by the award-winning author of the first published Star Wars trilogy, this combines fast-paced action with believable characters to produce a first-rate sf space adventure that belongs in most libraries. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A serious SF novel sneakily posing as an enormous golden-age thrill ride."—Locus

". . . immensely appealing."—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429954907
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 9/28/2001
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 477,783
  • File size: 517 KB

Meet the Author

Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn is the Hugo Award-winning author of more than a dozen original science fiction novels and the bestselling Star Wars trilogy Heir to the Empire, among other works. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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Read an Excerpt


CHAPTER 1


There were two of them waiting as Jereko Kosta climbed awkwardly up the ladder through the shuttle hatch: a young ensign and an equally young crewer second class, both clothed in shiny black and silver Pax military uniforms, the glistening red and blue threads of the Komitadji's insignia pattern swirling with arrogant pride across collarbone and shoulder. "Mr. Kosta," the ensign said, his hand twitching halfway into an automatic salute before he seemed to remember the man facing him was a civilian. "Welcome aboard the Komitadji. Commodore Lleshi's compliments; he'd like to see you on the command deck immediately."
Kosta nodded, fighting against a strange fog of unreality as he looked around the docking bay's spotless gray walls and ceilings. The Komitadji. He was actually aboard the Komitadji. "Understood," he said, trying to match the ensign's neutral tone and not entirely succeeding. "I have just the two bags…?'
"They'll be stowed aboard your ship," the ensign assured him as the crewer brushed smoothly past Kosta and disappeared down the ladder into the shuttle. "If you'll follow me, please?"
The slidecar door was in a protected alcove in the docking bay's rear wall. The ensign ushered him in and keyed a switch, and they started up toward the center of the ship.
Toward the center of the Komitadji.
It was, Kosta thought, like being aboard a living legend. Not even the crystal-walled towers of academia had insulated him from the stories of the huge ship's military victories; and even if they had, the eight weeks of intensive training he'd just finished would have quickly remedied any such omission. Practically every one of Kosta's military trainers had had his or her favorite story to tell about the Komitadji, stories that were invariably told with a sort of grim glee. For the military, as well as most ordinary Pax citizens, the Komitadji was a symbol of pride and glory and power. A symbol of the protection and strength that was the Pax.
To be traveling the corridors of a legend would have been impressive enough. To be traveling the corridors of a ship that had achieved such legendary status in barely five years of active service was truly awe-inspiring.
The trip to the command deck seemed to take an inordinately long time, even for a ship the Komitadji's size, and to be unreasonably complicated besides. It added an extra tinge of nervousness to Kosta's already mixed feelings about his place in this mission; and it was only as they switched slide-cars for the third time that it finally occurred to him that the inefficiency was probably deliberate. On a warship, it didn't pay to make critical control areas too easy to get to.
The command deck, once they finally arrived, was just as Kosta had pictured it: a long room filled with consoles and black/silver-suited men and women working busily at them. He looked around, hoping to spot the captain--
"Kosta?" a voice boomed down from above him.
Kosta craned his neck. At one end of the room a small balcony-like ledge jutted out over the command deck. An older, silver-haired man stood at the railing, gazing down at him. "Yes, sir?" Kosta called back.
The other jerked his head fractionally and turned away. Wordlessly, Kosta's escort led the way to a lift platform beneath the rear of the balcony. The memory-metal cage wrapped around the platform, and a moment later it opened again on the balcony.
The older man was waiting for him. "Kosta," he nodded gravely in greeting, his eyes flicking up and down in quick evaluation. "I'm Commodore Vars Lleshi. Welcome aboard the Komitadji."
"Thank you, sir," Kosta said. "I'm--well, it's…" He broke off, feeling suddenly like an idiot.
Lleshi's mouth twitched in a faint smile. "Yes; it is big, isn't it? Did you get your final briefing below?"
"Yes, sir," Kosta nodded, trying to shake the feeling of being the new kid at school. "As much briefing as they thought I should have, anyway."
Lleshi eyed him. "They were a little short on details?"
"Well…" Kosta said hesitantly as it occurred to him that sour-mouthing a military prep unit to a officer of that same military might not be a smart thing to do. "They kept it a bit on the light side," he said, toning his comments down to something tactful. "I get the feeling I'm supposed to play a lot of this by ear."
"You were expecting a script?" another voice put in scornfully.
Kosta turned, his throat tightening reflexively, to see a thin-faced man in a painfully neat, totally unadorned gray civilian suit striding toward him from one of the command boards at the balcony's side edge. "I--ah--I'm sorry?" he asked, floundering for words.
"I asked if you thought you'd be getting a script for this," the other repeated. "You've just undergone the finest intensive-training course money can buy. I'd have thought the absolute first thing they would have beaten into you is that spies play nearly everything by ear."
Kosta took a careful breath, fighting against the old automatic submission urge. This man wasn't his adviser, or his dean, or his department chairman. "I'm sure they taught me as best as they could in eight weeks," he said. "Perhaps I'm just not good spy material."
"Very few people are naturally that way," Lleshi cut in, throwing a brief glance at the other man. "But on the other hand, this isn't your average spy mission, either. As Mr. Telthorst has a tendency to forget. For secret information, you send a spy. For secret academic information, you send an academic." He favored Kosta with a tight but reassuring smile. "And for twenty years' worth of secret academic information, you send an academic with a knack for digging nuggets out of froth."
"That person being you, we all hope," Telthorst said sourly. "Otherwise this whole thing will be nothing more than a colossal waste of money."
Kosta gazed at him, again fighting against the urge to apologize. But at least now he finally had the man pegged. "I take it, Mr. Telthorst, that you're the Komitadji's Adjutor Corps representative."
There was a faint sound from Lleshi that in a lesser man might have been a snicker. Slowly, Telthorst turned his head to look at the commodore; just as slowly he turned back to face Kosta. "I am not," he said, quietly and distinctly, "a representative of any kind. I am a fully qualified Adjutor, authorized to sit at Supreme Council meetings and to advise the government on any and all matters dealing with the financial and economic well-being of the Pax, or of any group, subgroup, world, nationia, district, or sub-district within it"
His glare turned colder. "Including such totally inconsequential matters as the academic debts incurred by tridoctorum students from small towns on minor worlds of backwater planetary groups. Your debts, Kosta, and whether they will be canceled or not."
"I'm sorry," Kosta managed, wishing he'd kept his mouth shut. The veiled power lurking beneath that icy disdain was every bit as intimidating as the Komitadji itself. "I didn't mean any disrespect."
"I trust not," Telthorst said. He looked again at Lleshi. "And I, in turn," he added grudgingly, "didn't mean to imply you were unprepared for your mission. You understand mat liberating the people of this so-called Empyrean from their alien domination and bringing them under Pax enlightenment is going to be a very expensive proposition. My job is the same as that of every Adjutor: to make sure the Pax gets its money's worth."
"I understand," Kosta said, his reflexive fear fading into a rather annoyed nervousness. He was about to risk his life in enemy territory, and all Telthorst could think about was how much money it was costing. "I'll do my best not to waste the Pax's investment in me."
Telthorst's forehead creased, just a bit--"I'm sure you'll do fine, Kosta," Lleshi put in before Telthorst could speak. "But enough talk. Your ship is in the Number Six cargo hold--you'll be taken there directly from here. You know how to handle it?"
"Yes, sir," Kosta said. He did, too, after a fashion, though almost everything the ship would need to do should already have been pre-programmed into it.
"Good," the commodore said. "Remember that you're not to leave the cocoon for a minimum of twelve hours after you've been dropped. That's a minimum--if Empyreal ships are still poking around you'll obviously need to sit tight longer. Just take your time and don't panic. You should be totally undetectable inside the cocoon, and if we do our job properly they'll never even notice you leaving the Komitadji. We should also be getting a data pulse from the automated sleeper drop on Lorelei as soon as we arrive, provided we're grabbed by the proper net and our tuning is on mark. If there's time, I'll dump a copy to you before you're dropped. Once you're down, go to the coordinates programmed into your ship's computer and pick up the final current-conditions compilation, the false identity papers that should be waiting for you, and the access information for your credit line."
"A very limited credit line," Telthorst put in. "Keep that in mind, and try to find ways to be economical."
"Yes, sir, I will," Kosta said, trying not to grimace. Money again. With Adjutors, it was always money. "If that's all, Commodore," he added, "I'll get down to my ship."
Lleshi nodded. "Go ahead. And good luck on your little trip to heaven."
"Thank you." Kosta looked the commodore square in the eye. "I won't fail, sir."
* * *
"Scintara Catapult Control, Commodore," the man at the communications board called up to the balcony. "We have signal green."
"Acknowledged." Lleshi gave his status board a leisurely scan. Ship's rotation was at zero, energy weapons charged and ready, missiles loaded into their tubes and stand-by armed. Everything in place for a little jaunt into enemy territory. "SeTO?"
"All green, Commodore," Senior Tactical Officer Campbell reported from his console. "Alpha and Beta both. Ship and crew at full battle stations."
Peripherally, Lleshi saw Telthorst swivel around from his observer's console at one side of the balcony. "Beta?" he asked, a suspicious overtone in his voice. "What's Beta?"
"It's a simulation run," Lleshi told him. "Fighters at station; that sort of thing. We do intend an eventual invasion of these systems." He eyed the Adjutor, noting the other's tight-lipped expression. "Your last chance to get off here if you'd rather," he offered.
Telthorst returned his gaze without blinking. "Your last chance, Commodore, to not risk this ship."
Lleshi looked back at his board, fighting back a flash of very unprofessional anger. Zero hour was not the time to reopen old arguments. They had no choice but to use the Komitadji on this, for reasons Telthorst already knew. "Helmsman: Move us into position."
"Yes, sir."
A visual representation of the focal point of Scintara's hyperspace catapult sat directly in front of the Komitadji on the helm display: a hazy red ellipsoid hanging in space, undulating slowly as its three axes rhythmically fed from and into each other. In the early days of catapult travel--and it was a thought that always intruded into Lleshi's mind at this point--a ship that didn't fit entirely within that focal area risked leaving pieces of itself behind while the rest was thrown across the light-years. Without the discovery of paraconducting metal, a ship the size of the Komitadji would never have been possible.
Such a wonderful thing, progress.
The proximity alarm trilled: the Komitadji's bow had touched the focal ellipsoid. "Stand by," Lleshi ordered. "Scintara Catapult, you have the timer. Launch at T-zero."
Scintara acknowledged. Thirty-eight seconds later, with a metallic stutter of stress from the paraconducting underskin, the stars abruptly disappeared from the viewscreens.
Lleshi took a careful breath, mind and body slipping automatically into full combat mode. It was nearly three hundred light-years from Scintara to the Empyreal world of Lorelei: just under six seconds of hyperspace travel. "Stand by," he murmured, more from habit than any expectation that his crew wasn't ready. He settled himself…and, as abruptly as they'd disappeared, the stars were back.
"Location check," he ordered. The nav display had sprouted multicolored relative-V arrows now: many of the "stars" on the visual were, in fact, asteroids. But that didn't necessarily put them in the right net--all the nets around Lorelei seemed to be deep in the system's extensive asteroid belts. "If we're in the right net, key for data retrieval."
"Focused pulse transmissions from the planet, Commodore," the comm officer reported. "We're in the right net. Copying now."
"Campbell?"
"Tactical coming up now, sir," the SeTO said. "Defenses as expected."
Lleshi nodded, his eyes on the tac display…and it was indeed as expected. Arrayed in a rough triangular pyramid two hundred kilometers on an edge around the Komitadji were four small ships. Each of them carried the pole of a hyperspace catapult; together, they guarded the center of the net field that had--somehow--snatched the Komitadji from its original hyperspace vector and deflected it to this precise point. Any three of those ships, acting together, could throw the Komitadji right back out of the system, in any direction they chose.
And if they did so immediately, young Kosta might as well not have bothered coming aboard.
"Message, Commodore," the comm officer announced. "They remind us the Empyrean has closed its borders to ships of the Pax, and request that we state our business here."
Lleshi smiled tightly. So the first part of the gamble had succeeded: the Komitadji's sheer size had caught the Empyreals off guard. Even now they were scrambling to recalibrate their catapult as they tried to make the invaders waste time with useless conversation. He threw a glance in Telthorst's direction, saw only the back of the Adjutor's head. "No return message," he said quietly. "Attack pattern Alpha."
The Komitadji's lights dimmed slightly as, on the tactical, four lines of blue light lanced out, one focused on each of the distant catapult ships. Behind the laser beams four yellow plasma jets boiled out; following right on their heels the red lines of a dozen Spearhawk missiles shot similarly outward. Lleshi was pushed back into his chair as the Komitadji's engines roared to life, driving the ship away from the center of the pyramid. The Empyreal ships moved to stay with them, the Spearhawk missiles shifting vectors in turn to match the movement. The Komitadji's computers refocused the lasers, launched new plasma clouds--
And a second later, almost in unison and at least thirty kilometers out from their targets, all twelve Spearhawks exploded.
"Premature detonation; all missiles " Campbell reported. "Plasma and lasers having no discernible effect; catapult ships still tracking us. Second Spearhawks away."
"Data pulse retrieval complete," the comm officer called as another set of twelve Spearhawks appeared on the tactical, arcing toward the defenders. "Copy dumped to cocoon."
Behind the four beleaguered catapult ships eight similar spacecraft had now appeared on the tactical, emerging from cover behind various asteroids. Back-ups, already starting to configure themselves into catapult arrangement. "Cocoon launch on my command," Lleshi ordered, frowning with concentration as he watched the second group of Spearhawks climb toward their targets. With the detonation codes already computed by the Empyreals, this set ought to go considerably closer to the Komitadji than the previous ones had--
In twelve simultaneous flashes, they did…and surrounded by light and fire and expanding clouds of debris, the Komitadji was momentarily hidden from enemy view. "Cocoon: launch!" he snapped.
The Komitadji didn't lurch--it was far too big for that--but Lleshi imagined he could feel the dull thud of the explosive springs as their cargo was blown clear of the Number Six hold. "Third Spearhawks away," Campbell called.
"Fire Harpies," Lleshi ordered. "Random minus one pattern."
"Acknowledged. First Harpies away."
On the tactical the twelve Spearhawk trails were abruptly joined by fifty more, bursting outward from the Komitadji like the time-lapse flowering of a strange and exotic plant. Almost lost among them was the tiny spot drifting with maddening leisure from the Komitadji's starboard side. "Hard aport," Lleshi ordered. "Draw the catapult focus away from the cocoon."
He was pushed into the side of his chair as the helmsman complied. With plasma and missile debris blocking their view it took a few seconds for the Empyreal ships to notice the maneuver and move to match it; simultaneously, the Harpy missiles began exploding. "They've found the Harpies' code," Campbell said. "Second Harpies ready."
"Focus forming," the helmsman called. "Five seconds: mark."
"Hold second Harpies," Lleshi ordered. If Kosta and the cocoon weren't in the clear now, wasting another batch of expensive missiles on what was little more than a fireworks display wasn't going to make the difference. "Stand ready for catapult."
And with the usual stuttering from the hull, the universe vanished.
Automatically, Lleshi started counting the seconds; but he'd barely begun when the stars returned. The stars, and a dull red sun barely visible to one side.
Carefully, he let out a quiet breath. That had been the final gamble of this phase of the operation, and now it too had come up clean. "Secure from battle stations," he ordered. "Location check, and scan for the cocoon."
"Location computed, Commodore," the navigator said briskly. "We're fifty-four point seven light-years from the Lorelei system; running a hundred thirty million klicks out from the local sun. I'll have an orbit profile in a moment."
"No trace of the cocoon within inner scan limit," the scanner chief added. "Shifting to midrange, but looks like a clean drop."
"Good. Get us some rotation, and have engineering start putting the kick pod catapult together."
The weight warning trilled through the command deck; and as the huge ship started almost imperceptibly to rotate, Lleshi turned to look at Telthorst. "You see now why we weren't all that worried about risking the Komitadji."
The Adjutor gazed back, his eyes hard. "Two hundred million kilometers further and you wouldn't be in a position to gloat," he said pointedly. "Our vector would have passed straight through that star out there and we'd all be very, very dead."
"Agreed," Lleshi nodded. "Which I imagine is why it took the Empyreals so long to get rid of us. Laser-point precision on top of a fast field reconfiguration."
Telthorst looked at the dim star on the viewscreen. "I suppose they expect us to be impressed by that."
Lleshi shrugged. "I'm impressed. Aren't you?"
The Adjutor looked back at him, his lip twisted in contempt. "Impressed, Commodore? Impressed by a people who've become so sheep-like that they won't kill even in their own defense? You're too easy to please."
"Am I?" Lleshi countered, the slow unprofessional burn starting again. "Those Empyreals were risking their lives, Adjutor--make no mistake about that. If those Spearhawks had hit them they'd have died, with or without those fancy sandwich-metal hulls of theirs. In my experience, sheep seldom come equipped with that degree of courage."
Telthorst's expression didn't change…but abruptly Lleshi felt a chill in the air. "Admiration of one's opponents is said to be a useful trait in diplomats," the Adjutor said softly. "The same doesn't apply to soldiers. Bear in mind, Commodore, that we're not dealing with men here. We're dealing with men under alien control. There's a considerable difference."
"I'm aware of what we're up against," Lleshi said, keeping a firm grip on his temper. "But then, that's why we're here, isn't it? To rescue our fellow human beings from these dangerous angels?"
The lines around Telthorst's mouth deepened. "Don't mock me, Commodore," he warned. "I may not profess admiration for their soldiers the way you do. But I wasn't the one who set up a dry scorch run, complete with a full complement of fighters and Hellfire missiles ready in their launch tubes."
Lleshi swallowed a curse. He'd hoped that in all the excitement Telthorst would have forgotten about the Beta simulation. Not only hadn't he forgotten, he'd obviously even taken the time to monitor that part of the exercise. "My orders are to subdue the Empyrean and bring it under the Pax umbrella," he said stiffly. "I intend for my crew to be ready for any contingency that may arise in the act of carrying out those orders."
"I applaud your foresight," Telthorst said. "Just remember that the operative word is 'subdue.' Not 'destroy'; 'subdue.'"
"Understood," Lleshi growled. No, of course the operative word wasn't "destroy." You could put an Adjutor into a cold sweat simply by suggesting something with cash value or money-making potential might be damaged. "Let me remind you in turn that that was the main reason we chose the Kosta feint over the other scenarios Spec Ops suggested. If he isn't caught, he may be able to provide us with valuable information on the angels."
Telthorst snorted. "Of course he'll be caught. Isn't that the whole purpose of a feint? To get caught?"
Lleshi nodded reluctantly, feeling a twinge of discomfort. Dangerous situations were hardly anything new to him, and he'd had his fair share of ordering men onto what were little more than suicide missions. But always before they'd been military men, who had known what they were getting into and had had the best possible chance of getting out alive. Not a civilian with barely eight weeks of training.
Especially not a civilian who'd been bed to straight from square one about what his contribution was expected to be. "He may get lucky," he said.
Telthorst eyed him thoughtfully for a moment. "Perhaps. I'd like a copy of that Lorelei data pulse."
Lleshi caught Campbell's eye, nodded. Wordlessly, the other stepped over to Telthorst and handed him a data cyl. "Thank you," the Adjutor said, getting to his feet. "If you need me, Commodore, I'll be in my stateroom."
He went to the bridge lift platform; paused there. "By the way, you'll want to do a complete survey of this system," he added over his shoulder. "As long as we have to leave a functioning catapult here anyway, we might as well see if there's anything worth coming back for."
"Thank you," Lleshi said. "I am familiar with standing orders."
"Good." For a moment Telthorst let his gaze drift leisurely around the balcony, as if to remind them all who was ultimately in charge of this operation. Then, without another word, he disappeared down the lift plate shaft to the lower command deck and left.
Bastards, Lleshi thought after him. Carved-ice bastards, every one of them. He turned back to his console, keyed for an engineering status report. Work on the kick pod catapult was already underway, with an estimated completion time of five days.
At which point they would be able to send word back to the Pax that Kosta's drop had been successful. And the Empyrean would be on its slow, leisurely way to defeat.
"Tell engineering that as soon as the kick pod is away they're to put triple shifts on the main catapult construction," he instructed the comm officer. "I want it ready in four months."
"Yes, sir."
With a grimace, Lleshi keyed for a copy of the Lorelei data pulse. To be trapped out here for four months, only marginally in touch with what was going on with his task force, was going to be an unpleasant exercise in patience. But for the moment, at least, he possessed information that no one else in the Pax had. Plus five days to decide how much of that information would go out with the kick pod.
Settling himself in his seat in the ship's slowly returning gravity, he began to read.
* * *
The timer pinged quietly, and Kosta looked up from his reading. The twelve hours Lleshi had insisted on were up, and a careful look at the displays showed no Empyreal ships within inner scan range.
It was time to go.
Unhinging the control cover, he turned and then pressed a button; and with an awful racket of explosive springs he was shoved back into his seat as his tiny ship was thrown forward through a tunnel that magically appeared in the rock-textured surface of the cocoon. He held his breath, waiting tensely for the inevitable enemy fighter ship that must surely have been skulking behind an asteroid waiting for him.
But nothing. Not as the tiny ship oriented itself; not as it began its pre-programmed flight inward toward the Empyreal world of Lorelei; not even as Kosta breathed a sigh of relief and dared to relax. The gambit had worked, and he was on his way. Heading to Lorelei, and a rendezvous with a little automated spy system the Pax had managed to set up before their last talks with the Empyreal leaders broke off some months back.
And after that it would be on to Seraph. To Seraph, and Angelmass.
Staring out his viewport at the distant crescent of Lorelei, Kosta felt his stomach tighten. I won't fail, he'd told Lleshi confidently. But now, far from the bright lights and purposeful men and women of the Komitadji, the words echoed through his memory like so much empty bravado. He was alone now, in hostile territory, facing an enemy possibly more alien now than it was human.
A little trip to heaven, Lleshi's last words echoed through his mind. It had been something of a running gag, that, during Kosta's training: the fact that the breakaway colonists who'd founded the Empyrean a hundred eighty years ago had chosen an ancient term for the highest reaches of heaven.
Question was, had the choice of that name indeed been purely coincidental? Or had it been an indication, even way back then, of the angels' subtle influence on people's minds?
There were all sorts of questions like that hanging over this mission. Questions currently without answers. Questions he, Kosta, was supposed to find answers for. Overwhelming, deep, impossible questions…
And then, as the enormity of the whole thing once again threatened to drown him, the image of Telthorst's face floated up into his mind. That face, and all that contempt…
"Forget it," he said aloud to the memory, the sound of the words echoed oddly by the displays curving around in front of him. If Telthorst expected Kosta to land on his face just to accommodate the Adjutor's preconceived notions, he could forget it.
The pep talk helped a little. A flashing light on his console reminded him that the cocoon's escape tunnel was still on standby; keying in the proper commands, he watched as the false asteroid sealed itself up again and then went inert. Briefly, he hoped inert meant exactly what it said, then put it out of his mind. Surely the masterminds behind this mission had understood that if the Empyreals came across a ship berth disguised as an asteroid it would be a dead giveaway that the Pax had slipped in a spy.
And with that chore out of the way, the ship was back on automatic, where it would remain until they reached Lorelei. Keying one of the displays for a continual status report on his course, Kosta returned to his reading. The data pack Lleshi had sent down to him was far more extensive than he'd expected, and it was going to be a bit of a push to get it all read in the five days before planetfall.
But he would manage it. If for no better reason than that Telthorst probably didn't think he could.
* * *
The cocoon remained inert for six hours more, until Kosta's ship had passed beyond any theoretical possibility of detecting a change in its status. Six hours of totally wasted time; but the vast network of computers and sensors and fabricators built deep inside the rock was patient, and its designers had considered it absolutely imperative that Kosta believe he had left nothing behind him but an empty shell.
Quietly, stealthily, the network activated itself and began to look around. Even without its inertial memory to guide it, the sensors would have had no difficulty locating the center of the net fields which had caught the Komitadji. The hive of Empyreal ships buzzing around the area would have been all the indication it needed.
Quietly, stealthily, the sensors reached out, delicately probing and studying. It would take time--considerable times--for it to achieve its programmed goal.
But the network was patient.

Copyright © 2001 by Timothy Zahn
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    Awesome!

    Angelmass is a black hole that spits out these "Angel" particle like things that are worn as a necklace by the Empyreans that make them passive and constrained. On the other side of the galaxy, the Pax believe that the angels are an alien invasion and are getting ready to do battle using the mother of all star-ships.

    The characters and story are great, well written and very entertaining.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2007

    Angelmass

    Angelmass is Timothy Zahn's best book yet.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2003

    Unpredictable

    A well written story with a rather interesting ending. No one can write a science fiction novel as creative as Timothy Zahn's. I was very pleased with this one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2002

    A wonderful piece of writing

    This book is excellent, like all of Zahn's books due to the depth to which his characters are developed. The fact that it has a first class story that is really different doesn't hurt either.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    deep science fiction adventure

    The black hole dubbed ¿ANGELMASS¿ because of what it emits has dramatically changed the Empyrean colonists on planet Seraph. Apparently the unique particles impact people so that everyone goes out of their way to befriend everyone else. Peace, tranquillity, and honesty run the Empyrean colony, as ethical behavior is more than just the norm, it is six sigma. However, even with this high rate of adherence to using ANGELMASS to promote peace, some individuals fear the loss of free will. Still the Empyrean senate agrees to reject overtures to join the Pax Comitus alliance controlled by Earth. <P>When word reaches earth about these so-called ¿angels¿, the leadership concludes that it is a Trojan Horse sent by aliens to conquer humanity. To learn more about the perceived danger from the angels, earth dispatches subatomic research scientist Jereko Kostas to investigate. He quickly joins forces with thief Chandris Lalasha, Empyrean Senator Forsythe and his aide Ronyon in a quest for the truth. <P> ANGELMASS is as deep a science fiction adventure tale as one can get due to the powerful characterizations and the profound look at intergalactic political, social, and behavioral interactions. The question of what is and who determines ethics is interwoven into the fantastic story line without slowing done the action. Timothy Zahn paints quite a landscape that enables the reader to understand the author¿s message while entertaining the wide spectra of speculative fiction fans who will fully enjoy this zestful outer space novel that seems like a throw back to the Golden Age. <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2009

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