Farthinghome, Book One: Invasion

Overview

For years, the peculiar "nosey-globes" have harmlessly visited Farthinghome. Now that’s about to change, along with the life of every Human who calls that star system home, because this time the “noseys” are anything else but harmless.

 

The survivors' fate rests with an unlikely trio of leaders:

 

Aisha Tambour, StellaGuard commander. Her actions in a long ago battle saved her crew, but tainted her career. Now that career is all she ...

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Overview

For years, the peculiar "nosey-globes" have harmlessly visited Farthinghome. Now that’s about to change, along with the life of every Human who calls that star system home, because this time the “noseys” are anything else but harmless.

 

The survivors' fate rests with an unlikely trio of leaders:

 

Aisha Tambour, StellaGuard commander. Her actions in a long ago battle saved her crew, but tainted her career. Now that career is all she has left, except for an adult son who may or may not be able to forgive what duty requires from her as Humankind’s greatest crisis falls squarely onto her shoulders.

Father Bazel daKiev, Primate of the Outlands. In his youth, he loved Aisha. The secret that robbed him of the life he planned back then may, if he dares to explore it now, hold the key to everyone’s survival. But only with help from...

Magister Charra Waxwoman. Mythologist, terrified mother of two young children, and new widow, whose husband used to be married to Aisha Tambour.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781411605855
  • Publisher: Lulu.com
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Pages: 104
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.25 (d)

First Chapter

“It’s just another damn nosey, Brenna.  Don’t get your keezers in a knot.” Lieutenant of the Home Guard Gregory Wolfenden lifted the nose of his tiny spacecraft and climbed away from the object of his flying partner’s exclamation.  They’d seen dozens of those things during the years since the two of them, Greg Wolfenden and Brenna Taggart, first took to Farthinghome’s skies.  Shimmering silver spheres, loaded with a weird jelly-like mess that probably meant something to someone, somewhere—since that was what the scientists found when they opened the spheres and analyzed their contents.  Clearly these so-called “noseys” had been made on purpose, by someone or something intelligent.  But just what they did remained a mystery, because so far Farthinghome’s best minds couldn’t dope it out.  All anyone knew was that the noseys had never hurt people or damaged property, and that after surviving the impossible heat of passing through the planet’s atmosphere they self-destructed following varying periods on the ground.  Or in the ocean, or (if collected but not opened right away) in storage at one of Farthinghome’s research laboratories.

 

When opened, they didn’t do anything.  Their organic contents decayed quickly when exposed to air, and their gleaming shells soon followed.

 

“I got it!” Taggart’s voice announced over her comrade’s suit-comm, in triumph.

 

“Nice shooting,” Wolfenden answered, but his words came out on a groan.  “Brenna, target practice is all those things are good for!  D’you really need it today?  Just ignore ’em if we see any more.  Noseys aren’t worth the power it takes to blow ’em out of the sky.”

 

They’d had this discussion, which occasionally turned into an argument, many times before.  Taggart sighed as she answered, “Greg.  Dammit all, every one of those things ought to be blasted before it can get anywhere near our atmosphere!  I don’t care how long ago the Powers That Be decided there were just too many, and quit bothering.  I don’t care how harmless the experts’ stupid tests claim they are.  They come from an alien species somewhere, one we don’t know anything about.  You can’t tell me those aliens aren’t sending ’em here on purpose.  For a purpose.  Besides, they just plain give me the creeps!  Unless someone who’s got the right to give me orders tells me I can’t do it anymore, I’m gonna go right on taking out every nosey I see.”

 

“Some people are too damn stubborn to be believed!”  Wolfenden muttered that with his head turned aside from his comm pickup, addressing himself to the universe in general.  When he turned his face so his flying partner could hear him again, he said, “Brenna, did it ever occur to you that maybe the people, beings, whatever who’ve been sending the noseys our way are friendly?  Or at least want to be?  That’s what I’ve read some of the authorities think.  If they had any interest in hurting us, they’ve had more than ten years to do it.  And they haven’t.  That sounds pretty conclusive to—”

 

“Greg!”  Taggart’s scream cut him off.  “Look!”

 

He looked.  At a swarm of nosey-globes, coming in faster than any he’d seen before.  Normally they almost drifted out of space, and let Farthinghome’s gravity capture them and pull them down.  But not this batch.  These spheres moved toward Humankind’s home with purpose.

 

The two pilots also moved deliberately, as Wolfenden switched from private comm-cast to his partner and shouted instead to a battery orbiting high overhead.

 

* * *

 

“Primate, there’s a call for you.”

 

Bazel daKiev turned a swift glower in his aide’s direction.  His voice he kept cheerful and hearty, though, as he answered, “Sheena, take care of it.  I don’t have time.  Not if I’m going to arrive at my next engagement on schedule!”

 

The Primate of the Outlands, newly sentenced to that exile, could have toured his domain at leisure because his boss back on Farthinghome certainly wasn’t going to verify his stops and write him up for tardiness.  daKiev knew that very well.  But he also knew that if he wanted his new flock’s respect, he would have to start earning it immediately—and colonists, inhabiting space stations and the Farthinghome system’s less hospitable worlds, had little use for officials who wasted their time by not respecting an agreed-upon itinerary.

 

He would visit the settlements on planets closer to the sun, and farther away from it—including those on the moons of the great gas giants, and on the largest of the mineral-rich asteroids in two belts of solar-orbiting debris—later.  His tour, or “progress” as his staff grandly called it, must begin with the mother planet’s own satellites.  The natural ones, as well as orbital habitats built to host industries that could function more efficiently (and without further harming a stressed biosphere) in space.

 

He’d already made his appearance aboard every permanently occupied space station in Farthinghome orbit, and at every dome and Human-carved cavern on Castor.  He was now halfway through his progress across (or rather around) Pollux, Farthinghome’s smaller moon, and he couldn’t spare even the time to take a comm call if he wanted get his ashram underway to Minerva with any hope of arriving there on schedule.

 

Getting to Minerva on schedule mattered.  That most Farthinghome-like of the system’s other worlds had surface conditions hospitable to some Human crops, without the need for doming over.  So its enclosed habitats housed thousands, stable communities of colonists who’d been there through generations.  Visiting Minerva was (at least from a political standpoint) very much like visiting Castor or Pollux.  It mattered to the Faith, not just to Primate daKiev and his flock’s individual members, that he make a good appearance there.

 

So I suppose I must make a good appearance, then! daKiev told himself with resigned sarcasm, as he sighed and took the bright orange priority comm unit from Sheena’s hand after all.  Mustn’t put Great Mother through the awkwardness of finding an even worse place to send me, by fouling up my assignment to this one.  I wonder what she’d have done with me if I hadn’t merited a primacy, or if the one for Outlands hadn’t been vacant?

 

“Father Bazel.”  Great Mother Sigrid’s voice sounded sharp and impatient in his ears.  “You’re recalled.  Immediately!”

 

“What?”  Her tone held something more than impatience, on second thought.  Something that the man she was addressing so formally had never heard from her before.  Something he couldn’t pin down, except to realize that it troubled him.  A siren’s screeching wail filled the hall whose podium he’d been about to mount when the call came through, and he felt the same nameless, sinking horror that had haunted his nightmares through fifteen of his first eighteen years.  The same certainty that something a thousand times larger than he was, relentless and pitiless and vastly powerful, was bearing down to tear him away from everyone and everything he held dear.

 

“Great Mother?  Great Mother Sigrid?  Sigrid!”  He dropped her title as he realized that the alarm on Pollux, the interrupted comm from Farthinghome’s surface, and the completely foreign sound of fear in the voice of the most powerful woman he knew must spring from a common source.

 

* * *

 

Aisha Tambour hauled herself out of sleep with ruthlessness learned long ago, and honed by years of starship service.  She said to the pickup beside her berth, “Tambour.  What’s going on, Lieutenant?”

 

The officer of the watch answered tautly.  Which didn’t make sense, with the armed cruiser safely orbiting its mother planet.  “Sorry to wake you, ma’am.  But Central Dictate’s just put all ships in system on alert, and since you are in command right now....”

 

“I see.”  Tambour swung her feet to the deck, and grimaced at the metallic cold beneath the thin carpet that was one of her cabin’s small luxuries.  On a warship this old, only the captain and the XO rated carpets, private heads, and—the most valuable perk of all—solitude.  “Recall the captain immediately.  I’m on my way to the bridge.”

 

What could it be?  The coup come at last, as the increasingly restive labor co-ops seized this moment of military weakness to take control of Farthinghome’s faltering and disordered central government away from the industrial giants who’d held onto it for so long?  That was Aisha Tambour’s guess, as she hauled on her uniform trousers, jammed her feet into her boots, and shrugged into a blouse that she tucked in one-handed as she emerged into the narrow passageway bisecting Officers’ Country.  Jacket and weapons belt she held under the other arm.

 

Her ship wasn’t at full alert, despite what Lieutenant Maher had said.  The signal lights along the bulkheads flashed yellow, and the officers and ordinaries heading toward their duty stations moved quickly—but not with the frantic purpose of men and women under orders to prepare themselves and their vessel for impending combat.

 

Whatever it is, then, it can’t be that bad, Tambour decided with relief that didn’t cause her to slacken her own pace.  She emerged from the lift onto the Gallant’s bridge with her belt fastened over her tunic, her sidearm riding her hip, and her sleep-rumpled silver hair (that used to be auburn) finger-combed.  She demanded of Maher, who stood in the bridge’s center and stared at the main viewscreen:  “Report!”

 

The senior lieutenant’s voice came out rusty, but steady.  “Central Dictate’s gone quiet, ma’am.  Not a peep since they put us on alert.  They don’t even answer when I hail them.”

 

“Get me a private link to the captain.  Now.”  Tambour’s hazel eyes narrowed.  She walked the few paces from lift to command chair, and sat down.

 

“No can do, Commander.”  The Alpha Shift communications officer, who must have slipped into his seat only a second ago, didn’t offer that negative response.  His Beta Shift counterpart did, because she was still standing beside him.  “She took herself off web a couple of hours ago.”

 

Tambour put her forearms flat against the command chair, and drew a breath.  Then she said, as if to herself, “So this is what I get for going to bed early for once.  Damn!”

 

It was, after all, only 2143 hours on the 25-hour standard chrono followed by all ships in space and all off-world installations.  The new primate of the Outlands would still be working his way through his engagement calendar on...Pollux?  Yes.  He’d be perhaps halfway through his progress there, finishing long after midnight and then sleeping aboard his outward bound ashram.  Off to Minerva, with the Gallant providing suitable escort.  So the Gallant’s executive officer had retired early, anticipating her captain’s last-minute return and tumble into bed—leaving the XO in charge of their departure.

 

Valerie Ashton seldom worried about how her personal behavior affected her XO, and Tambour really couldn’t fault the captain for wanting to stretch a gift of unexpected (although also unauthorized) dirtside time out to the last possible moment.  The older officer could well remember what it was like to have a child and a spouse who at every sailing from the home-world must be left behind.  For her that was far in the past, but Aisha Tambour couldn’t recall deliberately removing herself from Farthinghome’s communications web except while on properly granted furlough.  Not even once, during all the years when she’d been wife and mother as well as military officer.

 

That seemed so long ago now, with her one offspring grown and in uniform, and the man who’d been her husband mated to someone else.  Not only mated to another, but the father of a second family.  Tambour pushed those thoughts down, ruthlessly, to where personal matters belonged while she was on duty.  The Gallant’s main viewscreen was showing her the skies between it and Farthinghome’s surface, and those skies swarmed with small, silvery spheres.  Spheres that the orbital batteries and Home Guard patrollers blasted steadily, but there were far too many tiny invaders for any amount of fire to stop them all.  She asked sharply, “Are we picking up any ship chatter?”

 

Alpha Shift’s comm officer answered, “Plenty, ma’am, but none of it’s for us.  Want me to put it on speaker?”

 

“Yes.”  The XO clamped her teeth together, and waited.

 

* * *

 

Wolfenden pushed his little ship hard, climbing away from Farthinghome’s surface for all he was worth.  Behind him, in her own cockpit, he could hear Brenna Taggart swearing.  From all around came the sounds of ship talking to ship, and space station talking to space station—while from the planet below came nothing but silence.  Except, of course, for unnaturally calm prerecorded emergency messages and monotonously wailing civil defense sirens.

 

“Greg, we’ve got to return to base!”  Taggart’s shouted words cut across the din.  “When we can’t raise anyone on the ground, that’s standing orders!  Greg, do you hear me?  Greg!”

 

“Brenna, something’s gone totally wrong down there!”  Wolfenden finally remembered that he could mute the background noise.  “I’m not sure what, but until we do know we’re staying clear!”

 

“Maybe you are.  But I’m not.  See you dirtside, Greg.  Whenever you finally get there.”  After a long silence, his partner’s voice came over the commlink one more time.  She was turning her patroller as she spoke.  Flipping the little spacecraft around, and diving it back toward the planet’s surface.  Toward base, and home.
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Preface

Kiev and Sedna hung in the after viewports like blue-green gems awaiting the jewel smith’s mallet.  A mad smith, who would soon fling them into a furnace—the heat of which their fragile loveliness couldn’t hope to survive.

 

Viewports on a sleeper ship seemed like such a useless luxury.  After today, who would be awake to appreciate them?  And what was there to see, anyway, in open space?

 

“Janna, our stasis couches are ready.  It’s time, don’t you think?”  Fraya, the watching woman’s sister and research partner, stood at the hatch that led from this narrow compartment (a mere viewing gallery, no wider than a corridor) to the place where they would lie through the long years of their journey.  Just the two of them, close to the vessel’s secondary controls.  At its bow, near the primary control center, their brothers already slept.

 

Janna asked nevertheless, without turning around, “Are Kar and Adair all right?”

 

“Yes.  Their readings show everything’s normal.”  Fraya took the single step that carried her to her sister’s side, and stood at the viewports with her arm around Janna’s shoulders.  “It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it?  That when we arrive, we’ll wake up and not realize time has passed at all.”

 

“It’ll be like when we did this to test our tolerance for it.”  Janna nodded as she ran the tip of her tongue over numb, dry lips.  “As if we’d gone to bed for a night’s rest, and wakened with the morning.”

 

“Yes.  That’s exactly how it will be.”  The other woman tightened her clasp.  “But that’s not why you’re so afraid right now.  Is it, Janna?”

 

“No.  It’s not what’s going to happen to me physically.”  How well her sister knew her.  “It’s everyone for whom we’re responsible, Fraya.  All those lives, suspended.  All that distance to cross, with no one to take care of an emergency if one arises.  And then, at the end—what if we’ve made a navigation error?  What if our calculations are wrong, and we wake up somewhere that Humans can’t live?”

 

“That won’t happen.  Farthinghome is a recognized, charted colony world.  We know where it is, and how to get there safely.  We will get there safely, Janna.  If I didn’t believe that was true, I wouldn’t be here.  I’d have stayed behind, to die with our grandmothers on Kiev.  And so would you.”  Again the warm arm tightened.

 

“I still think we ought to try for Earth.  After all the time it’s been since they banished our foremothers, surely they’ve forgotten there was ever a reason for sending us into exile.  It’s not too late to plot a new course.  We could do it from here.  Without waking Kar and Adair.”  Janna was grasping at sun sparkles now.  Grabbing water in her hands, watching it trickle through her fingers, and then trying again to get a grip on the elusive stuff, because she’d reached a pitch of desperation at which such behavior almost made sense.

 

“No.  Terra sent us here because they didn’t want people like us contaminating their society any longer, and that can’t have changed.  Our ancestors didn’t leave the home-world that long ago.”  Still gently, but with growing firmness in her tone, Fraya pressed her case.

 

“They didn’t want people like the ones they sent to Farthinghome, either!  What makes us so sure there’ll be room for us when we get there?”  Janna snatched at one last handful of beloved, fast retreating Kiev’s golden lake-water.  At one last breath of Sedna’s blossom-perfumed breeze.  “What if the people already on Farthinghome tell us we can’t stay?”

 

For that question Fraya knew she had no answer.  So she said, “We’ll deal with whatever we find on Farthinghome when we get there.  The last time our worlds communicated, the settlers had taken hold and started building themselves a good life.  In spite of what the prognosticators on Terra predicted they’d do, if dumped together on a planet and left to fight each other as they’d battled the authorities where they came from.  They’ve had centuries fewer than we had, to fill their new world and move out into space beyond it.  And unlike us, they didn’t arrive united by a common culture and a coherent belief system.  So I can’t imagine they won’t have room.  Especially once they understand what we can offer them that Terra never could!”

 

“If they’re still Human at all, I suppose they’ll have to take us in.  Just because we’re Humans, too.  Because by the time we get there, we really won’t have any choice but to stay.”  Janna put up a hand and wiped her face.  “All right, Fraya.  I’m ready now.”

 

“Good.”  The other woman lowered her arm so they could walk separately through the narrow hatch.  Leaving their final view of twin worlds soon to be swallowed by a star going nova, to enter the state that everyone on board this ship must attain before its hyperdrive could kick in and put enough distance behind them so the coming catastrophe wouldn’t engulf them in its fringes.  And, by so doing, wipe out the last few hundred Humans whose dangerous customs and unholy skills had sentenced their ancestors to perpetual banishment.

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