Two dimensions collided on the rust-red deserts of Marsand are destined to become entangled once more in this sequel to the critically acclaimed The Daedalus Incident.
Lieutenant Commander Shaila Jain has been given the assignment of her dreams: the first manned mission to Saturn. But there’s competition and complications when she arrives aboard the survey ship Armstrong. The Chinese are vying for control of the critical moon Titan, and the moon Enceladus may harbor secrets deep under its icy crust. And back on Earth, Project DAEDALUS now seeks to defend against other dimensional incursions. But there are other players interested in opening the door between worlds . . . and they’re getting impatient.
For Thomas Weatherby, it’s been nineteen years since he was second lieutenant aboard HMS Daedalus. Now captain of the seventy-four-gun Fortitude, Weatherby helps destroy the French fleet at the Nile and must chase an escaped French ship from Egypt to Saturn, home of the enigmatic and increasingly unstable aliens who call themselves the Xan. Meanwhile, in Egypt, alchemist Andrew Finch has ingratiated himself with Napoleon’s forces . . . and finds the true, horrible reason why the French invaded Egypt in the first place.
The thrilling follow-up to The Daedalus Incident , The Enceladus Crisis continues Martinez’s Daedalus series with a combination of mystery, intrigue, and high adventure spanning two amazing dimensions.
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July 21, 1798
Allah, be merciful. It is like lambs to the slaughter," the young man said as he surveyed the flat plain far below. His was, perhaps, the finest vantage point one could muster — atop the Great Pyramid of Cheops itself — and yet one neither side from the battle below had seen fit to use.
Far below and far away, the young man and his companion watched the first line of mounted mamelukes charge forth across the desert toward the arrayed forces of infantry and artillery before them. The cries of the horsemen could be heard faintly over the desert wind, their words not quite discernible, though both men knew that among the cries, many of the mamelukes would be shouting allahu akbar — God is great.
Wisps of smoke erupted from the lines of the European infantry, followed shortly by the sound of gunfire reaching the observers' ears. The Europeans, in actuality, were not in lines per se, but had arranged themselves in squares, with artillery pieces in the center of their formations. It was a canny move, for it allowed more muskets to be deployed against the charging cavalry. Thus the mamelukes fell in waves, as if harvested by an invisible scythe. Barely a handful of riders made it to the European lines, and these few were handled expediently by the soldiers and their bayonets.
The second line of mamelukes charged, this time trying to take a different tack by aiming for the spaces between the squares. Perhaps they had hoped to peel off at the last moment before getting caught in the crossfire, but that experiment never came to fruition, for the cavalry riders and their horses fell just the same. It was an exercise in utter futility and, perhaps, the very end of a storied era of warfare in this part of the world.
"Murshid, I feel I must warn someone," the youth — barely a man of 16 years — said to his companion. "Should we not ride to Cairo?"
The older man, who appeared to be a very hale and healthy forty, merely shrugged under his robe and turban, which seemed an odd pairing with his sandy hair and thinly drawn face. "Cairo knows, Jabir. The mamelukes rode forth from there, after all, and the city is far closer to the fighting than we are. They'll see it from the battlements, and know the extent of the defeat when no one rides back afterward."
Jabir studied his mentor intently. The older man sat serenely on the stones of the pyramid, some four hundred feet above the valley floor, as he watched the defenders of Cairo shredded before the modern European army, which had arrayed itself in massive squares of men, muskets, and cannon protruding from all sides. Surely, the great murshid — "teacher" in the Arabic tongue, a sure sign of respect for a foreigner — would be keen on learning the kinds of alchemical shot the Europeans used, the tactics they employed and, in the end, what their purpose was. But to Jabir, Cairo was his one and only home, and he knew it would fall to these new crusaders within days, perhaps less. He wanted to do something — anything — but exactly what ... he knew not.
"So it's true," the murshid murmured to himself, still in Arabic. "They've come all this way. But why? Why Cairo? Why now?"
Jabir cleared his throat. "The traders in the suq say this Frankish general wishes to cut off the English from India. He hopes to hurt them so they sue for peace back where they came from."
The murshid shook his head. "A likely story," he said, standing and stretching his long limbs, his robes fluttering amid the winds that graced the slopes of the ancient monument. "You might as well direct your attention toward a gnat when your enemy stands before you. There are other reasons for this."
The murshid started climbing down the steep rocks of the pyramid, leaving Jabir scrambling to pack up their gear and follow. "Where are we going, murshid?"
The older man turned to his student, a compassionate look upon his face. "Cairo is lost, Jabir. I'm sorry. The best we can do now is head north. I doubt the English will have allowed the French to simply sail across the Mediterranean without contest, and I'll wager the Royal Navy will be at Aboukir Bay before long. There's 25,000 Frenchmen down there, and they're just about done cutting the heart out of the mameluke army. So we'll go and tell the English what has happened here."
Jabir frowned as he slung their gear over his back. "Why? So that they too can come and launch a new crusade?"
"No, Jabir," the murshid said. "The English have India. They rule the sea and the Void, and they have little quarrel with the Ottomans. But this French general ... he is canny. Last I heard, the Royal Navy is all that's keeping him from launching an invasion of England itself, or taking flight beyond Earth. And should this general reach land, as you can see, there is no stopping him. He must be contained to the Continent, lest England fall."
The two continued to pick their way down the side of the crumbling limestone pyramid, occasionally stopping to watch the fighting rage on. "I thought you did not care about England, murshid," Jabir observed.
"It is true that I left home a long time ago," the man replied. "But there are still friends whom I care about most dearly. And they will be among those who will be told to fight this General Bonaparte. I must tell them what happened here, so they may be prepared."
Jabir nodded; friendship he could understand. "I will defer to your wisdom, as I do in all things, murshid."
That brought a small, wry smile to the man's face as he replied in quiet English. "Good luck with that," said Dr. Andrew Finch, formerly of the English Royal Navy — one of the finest alchemists in the Known Worlds.
July 28, 2134
A single rust-colored rock sits upon red soil, shrouded in darkness. It begins to tremble, slightly at first, but then starts to move of its own accord. It rolls ... uphill. Gaining speed, it ascends a hill of rubble, then moves vertically up an orange cliff face. It reaches the top, piling atop other stones. There are tears and sadness from somewhere, shouting and vengeance. The stones rise higher, the cliff surrounded by a purple sea. Suddenly, the sky turns black, and from nowhere, snow bursts in a whirling fury.
Lt. Cmdr. Shaila Jain shook herself out of the momentary reverie at the sound of Stephane Durand's voice. He was grinning sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his head, turning to examine the culprit — a protruding electrical access hatch, the corner of which caught him squarely on the crown of his head. He gave it a sharp slap with his hand — which in turn sent him floating away in the opposite direction, prompting another oath, this one in more familiar French.
Shaila couldn't help but giggle. The French language was sexy as hell, even if it involved swearing and a rather comical attempt at zero-g movement by a mostly naked Frenchman. She had been enjoying some well-deserved afterglow when the little half-trance overcame her, and her laughter now was equal parts relief and genuine amusement. "Hey, this was your idea," she teased. "I told you it wouldn't be easy."
She watched as Stephane managed to grab one of the overhead conduits and arrest his sudden flight, blushing furiously. "We didn't have this problem when we were doing it, yes? So why now?"
Shaila launched herself toward her coverall-slash-uniform, twisting her body mid-flight so she could slide the lower half on as she progressed down the storage bay toward her boyfriend-slash-shipmate. "I'm just better at this than you are. And I can multitask better, too." She arrived just in time to loop an arm around his waist, ending her zero-g flight with a caress and a hug, her black hair flowing all around them, dark Indian skin contrasting with his paleness.
"You mean? While we were ... you were making sure we hit nothing?"
Stephane asked, brushing aside a strand of his blond hair from his eyes. "I thought I did a better job than that!"
She slid up his torso and planted a kiss on his face. "Don't worry. You were fabulous, as usual. I wedged myself in before you really went at it."
"All right," he demurred, returning her kiss with one of his. "Thanks for this. I always wanted to try."
"Was it what you expected?" she asked.
He laughed quietly. "Yes and no. It was ... different. Parts were very good. Parts were just confusing."
Ever since the Joint Space Command Ship Armstrong launched four months ago for Saturn — humanity's first manned mission to the ringed planet — Stephane had been asking to give zero-gravity sex a try. With manned spaceflight well into its second century, they weren't really breaking new ground, except on a personal level. But Shaila, a Royal Navy pilot and the ship's second in command, had heard all the stories about zero-g antics, and knew that the fantasy wouldn't quite measure up. Stephane could be awfully persuasive, however. And today seemed like a good day to experiment.
"Happy two years together," Shaila said.
"Give or take," he replied. "Funny you measure our relationship by what happened that day on Mars. You were not even out of medical for more than a week after that."
Unbidden, Shaila's memory raced back two years, to the longest three days of her life, during which the red planet was wracked by earthquakes, her mining colony nearly collapsed around her, and her life was nearly taken by the first alien species ever to come into contact with humanity.
On this side of the fence, she reminded herself.
"Sometimes really bad shit has to happen before you realize how lucky you are," she said, reaching up to snag Stephane's coverall, which was languidly floating past over his head. "I thought you were some asshole playboy."
"I am," he smiled. "The planetary geology thing, this is just a fake."
"Yeah, well, then you had to go and save my life a few times. Cat's out of the bag, darling."
Stephane's reply was cut off by the ship's intercom: "Archie to Jain, Archie to Jain, please report to command. Over."
Shaila looked up at the comm speaker in surprise; it was Dr. Dean Archibald's watch, but for months, all a watch entailed was running diagnostics, relaying communications, and staring out the window as Saturn began to get larger day by day. What would he need her for? On the other hand, he didn't sound an alarm, so it's not like the ship was in trouble.
Shaila turned to see Stephane with a wide-eyed, oh-shit look on his face. "Do you think he saw us?" he whispered incongruously, looking as if he got caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar.
It was enough to make Shaila laugh. "We're not the first people to have sex in space, you know," she said, shaking her head as she launched herself across the cargo bay toward her socks and shoes while sending various articles of Stephane's clothing back at him as she went. "And it's not like JSC can up and fire us out here. We're a billion clicks from the unemployment queue."
She turned to look at Stephane as he struggled into his coverall, which produced a series of cartwheels along with another bout of swearing in surprisingly lyrical French. Zipping up her own coverall, she quickly slid her socks and shoes on. "I'll catch up with you later. Don't forget you're on mess duty tonight — don't make me write you up for tardiness!" As she pulled open the access hatch, she plugged the camera's feed line back into its socket — a little joke, one of many on this trip, at Stephane's expense. He generally took them well, and Shaila had no idea why she insisted on pranking him. Sometimes she wondered if she was so unused to actual happiness that she subconsciously tried to sabotage it.
Whatever. Stephane was a good sport — and besides, it would take a minute for the system to reboot and his indecency broadcast to the entire ship. He'd be fine.
Shaila quickly propelled herself down the access corridor that spanned the ship's length, using regularly spaced handholds to guide her flight. Behind her were the two cargo bays, which were positioned just fore of the ship's reactor room and engine core — the very latest in nuclear propulsion technology that made the trip to Saturn a reasonable length. After the cargo bays were the access hatches for Armstrong's landers, which would be used when they arrived in the Saturn system to explore the four moons on deck for this mission — Titan, Iapetus, Enceladus, and Tethys.
She quickly flew past the ship's hub, where four access tubes spun idly around the central axis of the ship. These tubes led to the ship's outer ring, which rotated around the axis in order to create artificial gravity aboard. Crew quarters, labs, and the medical berth all spun around the ship at 2.5 rotations per minute in order to give the crew about 85 percent Earth gravity. Combined with exercise, a carefully constructed diet and a regular dose of pharmaceuticals, it was enough to stave off the worst effects of space travel on a two-year mission.
Shaila grabbed a handhold just before the door to the ship's command center, which was an ambitious name for a glorified cockpit. She pulled open the hatch and entered a hemispherical space about three meters in diameter, with enough seats for three people; the three other seats were on the zero-g science lab and observation lounge, located directly under the command center.
Inside the command hemisphere, Shaila found Dr. Dean Archibald, one of the foremost nuclear engineers in the world, a certified mathematical genius with a second Ph.D. in physics to boot. He was 90 years old and still fit enough to pass muster with JSC's medical staff. That was a good thing, because not only did he design the Armstrong's next generation nuclear propulsion system, but he was one of a bare handful of people qualified to run it.
And at the moment, the wiry engineer with the handlebar mustache and snow-white hair was sitting in the command center as if he were suspended in space itself, his gloved hands outstretched and fluttering in the darkness. Armstrong featured the latest in holographic command-and-control software, which essentially projected the space around the ship on the surfaces inside the command center. The goggles Archie was wearing projected holographic controls into his field of vision, while the computer measured where his hands were in that holographic space and the gloves provided tactile stimulation. Archie could be plotting the course of a rogue asteroid, running a diagnostic on the ship's reactor, or simply writing an email to his girlfriend, about whom Shaila had already heard far too much. He was old, after all, no matter his conditioning.
"What's up, Archie?" Shaila said as she floated into the room, grabbing a pair of goggles hanging off the armrest of the command chair next to Archie and sliding into the seat. She buckled herself in and slid the semitransparent headset on. Immediately, her surroundings included her piloting controls, a communications panel, a general computer workstation and her lucky holographic fuzzy dice. She looked over at Archie and saw he was working on a communications diagnostic. The headset also gave her the latest on Archie's workflow for the watch; he was efficient as usual, it seemed.
With a practiced wave of his hand, Archie slid his holographic screen closer to Shaila's seat and widened the view. "We were just getting our usual data dump from Houston when we had a seven-second interruption in the feed."
Shaila studied the screen intently. Armstrong kept in constant contact with Earth through the latest in laser-guided communications. Houston sent data destined to the ship to any number of satellites situated in Earth orbit, in the Earth-sun Lagrange points, and around Mars as well. Armstrong's communications suite would seek out signals from each of these sources every second and recompute their positions vis-à-vis the ship, which was hurtling through space at nearly 11,000 kilometers a second. When the computer latched onto a signal, laser beams would send microsecond pulses across space with startling accuracy, forming the ones and zeros of data packets. While it took a lot of pulses to create a full data packet, it was still a lot more efficient than old-fashioned radio.
Archie's screen showed the typical cascade of data packets — the pulses of light transmitted from Houston — and then a strange millisecond cutoff. From there, a different set of data packets had taken over before a second millisecond blip. The normal feed had resumed after that.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Enceladus Crisis"
Copyright © 2014 Michael J. Martinez.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
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