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Authors: Terry A. Adams

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Battleground

BOOK: Battleground
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Praise For
Sentience
and
The Master Of Chaos
:


It is an exciting story, well told and well written. . . . An excellent SF thriller by a new writer, one whose future books will be well worth watching for.

–
VOYA


Adams writes with an elaborate, intricate prose . . . [and] weaves an elegant tale that makes for fascinating reading.

–
Locus


Ms. Adams proves herself to be a major talent to watch with this complex and fascinating tale.

–
RT Book Reviews


Telepathy is a well-used theme in SF, but seldom is it used with the effect that Adams is able to create.

–
Kliatt

 

 

 

Also by Terry A. Adams:

 

THE D'NEERAN FACTOR

(Sentience | The Master of Chaos)

 

BATTLEGROUND

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013 by Terry A. Adams.

 

All Rights Reserved.

 

Cover art by Stephan Martiniere.

 

Cover design by G-Force Design.

 

DAW Book Collectors No. 1633.

 

DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).

 

ISBN 978-1-101-63568-1

 

All characters and events in this book are fictitious.

All resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

 

If you purchase this book without a cover you should be aware that this book may be stolen property and may have been reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher. In such case neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

 

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

 

 

Contents

Praise

Also by Terry A. Adams

Title page

Copyright page

Dedication

 

PART ONE: NEW EARTH

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

 

PART TWO: ENDEAVOR THREE

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

 

PART THREE: ROWTT

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

 

PART FOUR: THAT PLACE

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

 

PART FIVE: WEKTT

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

 

PART SIX: OLD EARTH

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Dedicated
with gratitude
to Patricia

PART ONE

NEW EARTH

Chapter I

O
N OLD EARTH
,
a man and a woman sat on a terrace in the first mild even
ing of not-quite-spring. Between them, on the flagstones at their feet, a baby slept in a cradle. The woman rocked it with her foot.

The woman had once been Lady H'ana ril-Koroth of D'neera. She now used only the offworld form of her first name—Hanna—and her birth name, Bassanio, as surname. She was well known, even infamous, by either name. She sometimes forgot she was D'neeran, but inescapably, she was; she was a telepath, and D'neera was the telepaths' world.

The man's name was Starr Jameson, and he had never seen any reason to use another. He had once been a great planet's representative to the Coordinating Commission of the Interworld Polity, and he missed it. He was now director of the Polity's Department of Alien Relations and Contact, answering to a commissioner himself. A commissioner had as much power as anyone could get in the societies of billions occupying human space. A director had none, except in that director's own department. Jameson still felt the change acutely. He had always liked power.

They were an unexpected couple, people said: the big light-skinned man with the face all angles; the woman dark, rather small, blue-eyed. It was said he was a little old for her, although that meant less than it would have at any other time in history; two hundred years was not, now, an especially long span of life.

The two were perceived, as a couple, to be somewhat reserved. They lived together, along with the baby, but in public appeared to be edgy colleagues rather than anything more.

In private, they made love often, with a passion that surprised them both.

They were not getting along particularly well, otherwise. Jameson had recently compared Hanna—to her face—to something that might finally stop itching if you scratched it just one more time.

The child was her son. Jameson was not its father. The baby's father had died violently, before Hanna's eyes and, worse, in the full presence of her thought. She still mourned.

Jameson was growing accustomed (without liking it) to the flow of her emotions, when she chose to project them. She was doing so now. A balance was moving, he thought. There was a sense of tenuous peace slowly supplanting deep grief, which was as good as it got with Hanna; but there was also a new restlessness.

It was not a welcome thought. Not long ago she had turned her back on everything she had achieved and gone outlaw for a time, seduced to it by the man now dead.

Jameson looked up from the reader he had been studying and said, “What is it, Hanna?”

“I don't quite know . . .”

Her son woke and began to fuss. She leaned over and picked him up. Her hands—small hands, experienced in imposing sudden death—caressed the baby's soft cheeks.

“I think,” she said, “it's just that there is nothing new . . .”

•   •   •

On New Earth, where a human colony had been misplaced and recently rediscovered, the Polity's Colonial Oversight and Protection Service had been busy for some months. The New Earth Task Force's historian had recently turned her attention to the colony's archives. Today she skimmed a document like nothing she had ever seen before—here or anywhere. She asked the native archivist about it: yes, he knew the document she meant. No, there was nothing else like it in the files. He had been curious when he ran across it himself. He had looked.

Later, when there was time, the historian showed the report to her commanding officer. The older woman read it and said, “I think Alien Relations and Contact should see this, don't you?”

“Of course. I've never made a report to them, though. Do you know what the channels are?”

“Oh, never mind channels,” the officer said. “I know Starr Jameson slightly. I'll see that it goes straight to him.”

•   •   •

On Battleground, which its inhabitants called by a name that meant “the World,” there was war.

Chapter II

S
OME WEEKS LATER,
when it was really spring, Hanna went to Contact's primary suite
in Polity
Admin's central tower. Jameson had told her the night before (late, very late) that he had something interesting to show her. “No hurry, though,” he had said.

She had taken him at his word. He was the most self-contained human being she had ever known, and not just outwardly; only rarely could she sense a thought or an emotion naturally projected, and he knew her telepathic touch too well for her to skim his thoughts undetected. Like most ordinary humans, he disliked telepathy intensely, perceiving it as a threat and an invasion. And anyway, at the time, there had seemed to be plenty of night left. He had pulled her to him again, and she had turned her attention willingly to other demands.

Now one of his aides, the dark woman Zanté, smiled at Hanna and said, “Conference. He's almost done, though. Do you have time to wait?”

Here Jameson was Hanna's superior just as he was Zanté's.

“A little,” she answered, and sat down.

The offices of Alien Relations and Contact were on the fortieth floor of this cloud-piercing tower. An ancient river lapped at its foundations. From where Hanna waited, the far edge of the river—gray under an early April sky—ended at low bluffs and hills, heavily populated but blurred in the haze from just-ended rain. Hanna had been here so often that she looked at the clouded scene with the appreciation of one contemplating an artist's vision of home.

Presently Jameson came to the inner door and said, “Nothing better to do?”

“I have a Level One class starting in half an hour. Nothing until then. You spoke of something I should see?”

They went in and sat on opposite sides of Jameson's desk, acknowledging their respective positions. Hanna was never quite comfortable in this daunting room, where beautiful, irreplaceable old furnishings hid batteries of data displays that tracked relations with sentient nonhuman species almost minute by minute. Here, she was always aware that Jameson had once been used to having almost absolute power, he was determined to have it again, and he carried himself as if it were a certainty. In the abstract, she could resent that. In his presence, always, she was seduced by his strength—body, mind, will—and by her knowledge of qualities he preferred to hide. He did not give much of himself away, even to Hanna, but at times when grief and loneliness had seemed all that was left for her, when sobs like seizures shook her body and burst out in inhuman sounds, he had comforted her without reservation. She had loved him deeply once—years ago. She did not mean to love him again.

“...a rather strange report,” he was saying. “A possible opening for a first contact. I want to know what you make of it.”

“Something that might require a telepath?” she said. “But you would have told me sooner if you thought it important.”

“That's because if the incident happened at all, it was two Standard centuries ago.”

“And?”

Hanna folded her hands in her lap and waited. Over time she had come to appreciate Jameson's style of analyzing and presenting fact and theory. Whatever he had to say would be worth the exercise of some patience.

“We are back to Lost Worlds,” he said.

“I am sick of Lost Worlds,” she muttered.

“I know . . .”

Jameson had plenty to do on the Alien Relations side of his job, but lately he had been fighting for Contact's life. During a period that extended from seven to five hundred years before the present, human beings had fled Earth for the stars in such numbers that the era was now called the Explosion. Many expeditions had vanished from history, their ends unknown. But two lost human colonies were now certainly known to exist to the present day, and Contact's tiny exploration fleet was in danger of being redirected completely to search for signs of human habitation.

He shrugged; he even seemed rather pleased. “I've just gotten agreement for the
Endeavor
fleet to place equal emphasis on Contact and the search for colonies,” he said. “That's better than it might have been. How much can I argue when the issue is one of rescuing human beings? And really, Hanna, we would not now be building
Endeavor Three
if it were not for the outcry over colonies.
One
's refit is nearly finished; soon all three will be in space. Meanwhile we're left with—what we have. And what we have is an old, but very clear, sighting from New Earth.”

“I haven't paid much attention to New Earth,” she said. “It prospered, I understand.”

“Very much so. That was one of the best-run and best-documented of the settlement ventures. It was mounted near the end of the Explosion, and the organizers had studied their predecessors' mistakes. Their equipment and supplies were of the very highest quality. The settlers were of mixed social classes, but the aim was egalitarian, and they did not start out with, nor develop, the rigid class division you found on Gadrah, and which proved so disastrous there. A friend in Oversight told me last week, by the way, that there is little hope for Gadrah.”

Hanna had been thinking of a return to Gadrah—only to see it once more, never to stay—since the baby's birth. Her son's father had been a native of Gadrah, had returned and died there; the child's aunt was there. So was a grave on a mountainside. But going there would not get her back the part of her heart that was in that grave. Best not to think of that—

She said, “So New Earth should never have become a Lost World.”

“No. Except New Earth isn't New Earth.”

She looked at him in exasperation. “You are being deliberately obscure again—”

“The New Earth settlers never got to their original destination,” he said. “When they stumbled across the world that is now New Earth, they didn't plan on staying there. The planet had been missed by the independent explorers, and the expedition stopped long enough to document it carefully. There was no relay system in place then, not that far out. The Polity was in its youth, the Interworld Fleet not yet under a central command. Without relays they could not report the find—”

He paused and looked at her doubtfully. He could not understand her lack of interest in history, and was often uncertain of what she knew.

Well, so was Hanna.

“I did know that,” she said. “So they documented it and went on. And?”

“Their Inspace systems began to fail. First-rate equipment, as I said, but not as capable of self-diagnosis and self-repair as today's. Their technicians were good, but even now a failure of the kind they had requires assistance and resources from outside. And they could get none. There was no way to call for help.”

“So they turned back?”

“And returned to the planet now called New Earth. They were lucky to make it there.

“They didn't give up their original plan at first, all the same. They established a temporary, provisional settlement while they continued to attempt repairs. Finally they acknowledged there was no choice. They brought down the remaining settlers, the breeding stock and seeds—everything flourished there, not at all the way it was on Gadrah—”

(
The rats did well there,
Hanna thought, remembering sounds in broken walls.)

“—the dwellings, the factories for basic needs, and all the rest—and left their mothership in orbit. It's still there; the mayday it transmits is the signal
Endeavor Two
picked up. And
Two
found a self-sustaining colony—agrarian, of course, but doing very nicely.

“When Colonial Oversight arrived—in a hurry, I assure you—”

—
and with what delight you can imagine,
said his thought—

“—their historian found remarkably good archives. New Earth has had fine data storage from the start. Unfortunately from our point of view, it's heavily biased toward public records, crop reports, legal proceedings, that sort of thing. Understandable. But there's very little in the way of personal memoirs, or reference back to a larger society with which, of course, they had no contact.

“And Oversight found a report, nearly two hundred years old, which states clearly that New Earth was visited by nonhumans. I've had it transmitted to your office.”

He paused, and she said, “Tell me more . . .”

“You're out of time. You have a class, I think?”

She shook her head at him, not even bothering to swear, and went to class.

•   •   •

In fact, she taught all the classes in Alien Relations' new Contact Education Division, and all three me
t today. In the intervals she slipped back to her rooms, skimmed the report Jameson had sent her, and spent some time editing it to essentials and resolving some ambiguities in language. The colonists had left Earth before the newborn Polity mandated Standard as the language throughout human space. The colonists' language of choice had been English, however. It had not been the native tongue for all of them, but all of them spoke it. English—a rich and flexible tool with the largest vocabulary of any language Earth had ever produced—had also been the foundation for Standard. Jameson could have told her in detail how it got that way—conquest and assimilation, mostly—but the salient point was that New Earth and Colonial Oversight had communicated readily from the first, and translation programs for the written word were already good. But not perfect.

•   •   •

She meant, at the end of the day, to study the report intensively, but was interrupted by a student so d
istressed that his hands were shaking.

“Can I talk to you?” he asked—meaning more than talk, because like her he was D'neeran, a telepath.

Of the fifteen men and women who had actually finished Hanna's recently established program, only four were D'neeran, all of those except Bella Qu'e'n now attached to Contact's
Endeavor
vessels. Hanna kept closely in touch with all four.

“Come in, Hal,” she said gently. “What happened?”

He showed her an image of himself on Admin's concourse, enjoying the view of the river between rain showers. And an image of the couple who passed by and the man glancing his way. Hal did not know the man, but evidently at some time Hal had been pointed out to him as a—

D'neeran!
spat the man's thought—
filthy, snooping telepath!

I know,
Hanna answered.

H'ana, I couldn't help it, I know you tell us not to react but I couldn't help it, I looked at him, that's all, just looked at him, and H'ana, he wanted to kill me!

I know
, she said again; took him into the embrace of her thought and soothed him, showing him again what she had gone through in her own first immersion in true-human society, not as long ago as it seemed. Things were even a little better now.

Routine teaching duties,
she thought after he left.

She had gone through this with all her D'neeran students. A dozen more had started it, besides the successful four. But most could not endure what true-humans thought of them even with all the solace she could give them, and relinquished their hopes and fled home. She did not think Hal would finish the course.

She had not let him see that, though. In theory, she should not have been able to hide it from him. But she was a telepathic Adept, one of a rare class even on her own world. And in some part of her brain forever subtly, materially changed, she had acquired an immense power from the group mind of the alien People of Zeig-Daru—the power to block as much of her thought as she wished from any human telepath.

No one except Starr Jameson knew this, and there was another thing she had not told even him (though he must suspect). While she taught her students how to keep from slipping into true-humans' thoughts uninvited—difficult for a D'neeran—and how, in the interests of harmony, they should never, ever attempt to probe those thoughts, she had long since dispensed with her own scruples. If true-humans wanted to lie to her explicitly or by omission, she had decided, they were fair game.

•   •   •

The document was headed simply:

“Report to Archives.

“I'm writing this because our grandchildren might w
ant to know about it someday.

“This place, the town of Dwar on New Earth, has been visited by nonhumans.

“There were only a few of them and they only stayed a few days. They didn't show any sign of hostility but they didn't respond to friendly overtures, either. Mostly they just walked around and looked at things. They seemed to prefer to sit under trees and talk to each other most of the time. Maybe this was some kind of rest stop for them. I said there were only a few, but that could mean we only saw a few at a time, not necessarily the same ones every time. They looked so strange to us that they would have had to stay longer for us to learn to tell them apart. And they were here, or some were here, two or three times a day, with gaps in between, so maybe they were on some kind of rotation. We assume they were using a shuttle, unless there's some way to build a starship small enough to land on a planet. Earth couldn't, when our ancestors left, but they said it wouldn't be long, so why couldn't somebody else?

“Anyway, they came down in the meadowland out past Li Chen's farm. Nobody saw the first landing, but once we knew what to look for we could see their craft coming and going from there, and after they left we went over to look, and that was obviously the place they used for landing.

“We talked about them a lot while they were here, and we've talked about them since. This is a consensus report, so I'm including everything that everybody saw.

“It doesn't seem like much now. A lot of us tried as best we could, with gestures and single words, to start some kind of language exchange, but they just flapped their ears at us and walked away. Same thing when we tried drawing pictures. Same thing when we offered them food. We have no idea what it meant when they flapped those ears, which they did with each other, too. Maybe it meant they were laughing.

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