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Authors: Martin H. & Segriff Greenberg,Larry Segriff

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Guardsmen of Tomorrow

BOOK: Guardsmen of Tomorrow
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Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff

GUARDSMEN
OF
TOMORROW

2000

DAW

Guardsmen of Tomorrow

Copyright © 2000 by Tekno Books and Larry Segriff.

All Rights Reserved.

Cover art by Bob Warner.

DAW Book Collectors No. 1169.

DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Putnam Inc.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

Nearly all the designs and trade names in this book are registered trademarks. All that are still in commercial use are protected by United States and international trademark law.

The quote at the beginning of “The Gemini Twins” is reprinted from
Mythology
, copyright 1942, by Edith Hamilton, with permission of Lit-tle, Brown and Company.

First Printing November 2000

Contents

Introduction ©
2000 by Larry Segriff.

A Show of Force ©
2000 by William H. Keith, Jr.

Blindfold ©
2000 by Robin Wayne Bailey.

Wiping Out ©
2000 by Robert J. Sawyer.

Smart Weapon ©
2000 by Paul Levinson.

Procession to Var
© 2000 by Andre Norton.

The Gemini Twins ©
2000 by Paul Dellinger.

That Doggone Vnorpt 
©
2000 by Nathan Archer.

The Silver Flame ©
2000 by Josepha Shennan.

Stardust 
©
2000 by Jean Rabe.

Keeping Score ©
2000 by Michael A. Stackpole.

Alliances © 
2000 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

A Time to Dream ©
2000 by Dean Wesley Smith.

Endpoint Insurance ©
2000 by Jane Lindskold.

INTRODUCTION

by Larry Segriff

Adventure stories. FTL ships rocketing through space; the Space Guard keeping vessels safe from pirates; ray guns, BEMs, and damsels in distress. These are the stories I grew up on, and these are among the stories I still like to read.

Robert Heinlein. Isaac Asimov. E. E. “Doc” Smith. And, of course, Andre Norton.

These are some of the people whose work I devoured growing up-and, in Andre’s case, whose new books I eagerly look forward to.

Space opera has changed a lot since the Golden Years of SF. The laws of science are followed more rigorously, for example (“modern” spaceships don’t bank when they turn), and the people in the stories tend to be more well-rounded, and even more flawed… more human, if you will. But the heart of space opera-the rousing sense of adventure, the strong pacing, the exotic settings, the larger-than-life issues-these haven’t changed. Or, if they’ve changed at all, they’ve only gotten better… as the stories in this anthology prove.

So sit back, turn the page, and enjoy… but before you do, you might want to buckle your seat belt, ‘cause it’s going to be a wild ride.

A SHOW OF FORCE

by William
H. Keith, Jr.

William H. Keith is the author of over fifty novels, divided more or less equally between science fiction and military technothrillers. While most of his SF is written under his own name, he writes the military novels under a variety of pseudonyms.
His most recent work is
Europa Strike
, third in a planned series of military science fiction novels written under the pseudonym Ian Douglas.

Watch your helm, Mr. Sotheby,“ Captain Fifth-Rank Greydon Hazzard said quietly.

”Put a dent in that thing up ahead and they’re going to be taking it out of your pay for the next ten thousand years objective.“

“Aye, sir. We’re at fifty-three meters per second, in approach.”

Hazzard could sense the drift of the ship, the tug of gravity, the caress of the photon breeze, the shrill, insistent drag of the interlocking magnetic fields of planet, star, and galaxy. The frigate
Indeterminacy
was edging gently toward the orbital moorings, primary sails folded, her impetus coming now entirely from way sails and jigs, her secondary drive barely ticking over.

Jacked into the virtual display of the shipnet, Hazzard was immersed in the data feed, with a crystalline, all-round view of the approach, just as though he were perched out on the fifty-meter thrust of the ship’s dorsal flying jib spar. The sprawl of Tribaltren Station spread across star-limned blackness dead ahead, the nearest bastions and field guide towers now just ten kilometers distant, dark and monolithic against the soft, liquid-light glow of the Milky Way.

The moorings about the station were crowded with other vessels, and there was heavy traffic in the approach and departure lanes. The steady wink of IFF netbeacons and shipboard running lights crawling across three dimensions would have been a bewildering tangle of confusion to any observer not equipped with an AI that could make sense of the chaos and feed it in manageable chunks to the bridge.

“Approach Control signals we’re clear for Bay 12,” the comm officer of the watch announced. That would be Midshipman cy-Tomlin. Bright kid. Steady, with a streak of laziness that watch-and-watch for a few subjective months would cure. And of course, with the cy-enhancements, he was of the Chosen and destined to go far in Union service.

“Very well. I see it.” Text and flickering symbols overlaid sections of Hazzard’s view of the sensory feedscape around the vessel. He could see the steadily incoming trickle of navigational data both from the
Indy’s
helm and from Tribaltren Station Approach Control, see the traffic sites of other ships in the moorings, see the readouts for all departments and decks of his own ship. All of that information played across his brain, instantly accessible, but his responsibility was the whole, not any given part. He held back, aware of the rhythm of ship operations, giving orders when needed, but letting his people do their jobs.
Indy’s
officer complement was a good one, well trained and experienced. Her crew, like most crews in the fleet, was a melage of gutter sweepings, metplex gangers, and pressed c-men, but. by the Goddess, they were
his
sweepings, gangers, and c-men, and he was proud of how they’d shaken out over the past three months subjective.

He took a moment to check crew deployment on the
Indy’s
starboard foremast, a constellation of golden stars, each light representing in netgraphic clarity the position of a sailhandler maintaining the delicate set and trim of the 2,000-ton frigate’s spacesails. At the moment, only the fore-ways’Is were set, giving the ship just enough of a vector that she could maintain way.

The image of Tommis Pardoe,
Indeterminacy’s
First Lieutenant, materialized to the right of Hazzard’s viewpoint. “A good deployment, First,” he said. “The new hands shaped up well.”
Indy
had been on blockade duty off Danibar, three months subjective pacing back and forth at near-c, which had translated to almost two years of tau minus.

“Thank you, Captain.” He sounded worried.

“Problem, First?”

“Just wondering what the urgency is, sir. The dispatch calling us in to Tribaltren was still smoking when it came across the comm station. ‘Report immediately,’ it said. Where’s the war?”

“All around us, Tom. We’ll find out in a few hours which particular part of the war is so urgent.”

“I suppose so, sir. But it’s not like they don’t have plenty of assets right here in port.”

His senior lieutenant had a point. Closer in to the mooring station roads, the ship traffic ahead resembled a swarm of angry stingflies, everything from service bugs, LO coasters, and single-sailed planetary luggers to huge three-decker first-rates.

An alert klaxon sounded through the shipnet. “Bridge, port lookout! We have a collision alert. Incoming at port high at two-zero-three plus one nine!”

Hazzard spun his point of view, looking off
Indy’s
port beam. A ship moved athwart the blue-white crescent of Tribaltren IV.

“Mass reading! Ninety-eight thousand tons, range 705 kilometers. It’s a first-rater… 
Goddess
!”

That last exclamation accompanied the deployment of a dozen sails, spreading across the first-rater’s yards. She was huge and blunt-prowed, a five-hundred-meter dagger shape carrying several square kilometers of mesh sail, a Galactic Union ship of the line. On
Indeterminacy
‘s sensory feeds, she was painted a patchwork red and black, with white trim highlighting the lines of sealed firing ports along her three gundecks. The G.U. flag materialized across her foreways’ls as their surface displays altered. A second emblem shimmered into visibility beneath the first, a family crest in red, gold, and black.

“She’s the
Victor
, Captain,” Lieutenant Pardoe observed. “One-oh-two. Captain First-Rank Arren Sullivese, commanding. She’s flying Admiral Starlord cy-Dennever’s flag.”

“She’s closing, Captain,” the helm watch called. “Oblique approach at one point one kilometer per second! Looks like she’s trying to cut us off at the moorings.”

“Damn it,” cy-Tomlin said, “
we
have right-of-way.”

Hazzard scowled, the expression safely hidden within the anonymity of the shipnet.

Victor
had been on normal approach, her velocity a bit high for that approach corridor. As soon as her helm AIs had identified a collision danger with the frigate
Indeterminacy
, though,
Victor’s
captain had crowded on more sail, hoping to pass the
Indy’s
prow, rather than slowing in order to pass astern.

Technically,
Victor
should back down and allow the
Indeterminacy
to proceed; vessels to port and zenith always had right-of-way over ships to starboard and nadir.

However…

“You feel big enough to argue with him, Tomlin?” Hazzard said gently.

“Maneuvering! Back full!” In any case,
Victor
was the burdened vessel right now… burdened with too much mass and too much speed in a claustrophobically narrow volume of space. First-raters had all the maneuvering finesse of a Thaldessian bloaterslug, especially when compared to the nimble sail-handling elegance of a frigate. It made more sense for the tiny
Indeterminacy
to defer to the drifting mountain of the
Victor
. “Bring us to zero closure with the station!”

“Maneuvering back full, aye, sir!”

“Spread more sail! Deploy main tops’ls, port, starboard, and dorsal!”

“Loosing main tops’ls, aye!”

Like all trihull lightjammers,
Indy
possessed three sets of masts and field-guide spars, canted out and forward from port, starboard, and dorsal fairings, mizzen and main masts astern of the gundecks, foremasts well forward, nine masts in all, not counting the trinity of bowsprits reaching far out ahead of her prow dome.

Sails unfurled, popping taut under the snap of static fields. Their leading faces shimmered, then went mirror-silver as their trailing surfaces dulled to black, perfectly reflecting the star-misted black of space and the red-brown, black, and gray battlements of Tribaltren Station ahead. As yards pivoted, the reflective surfaces of the sails caught the light of Tribaltren’s sun, as the mesh beneath the adaptive surface display grabbed hold of the local magnetic fields. The total energy striking the sails from forward was equivalent to less than a ten-thousandth of a gravity, and yet…

“Drive room! Emergency maneuvering! Cut in the main drive!”

Vector drive fields amplified any acceleration, however minute, drawing on the literally inexhaustible energy of quantum space through a singularity-induced Cashimir cascade to augment the ship’s vector or, as in this case, to arrest
Indeterminacy’s
forward momentum. Since everything within the field was affected uniformly, there was no sensation of deceleration as the
Indy
slowed sharply. A two-thousand-ton vessel moving with a relative closure rate of over fifty meters per second could
not
stop on the proverbial tenth-credit piece. Still, the
Indeterminacy
slowed rapidly as the
Victor
loomed huge to port.

“Incoming signal from Approach Control,” cy-Tomlin said.

“I should think so. Let’s hear it.”

“ ‘Slow to full stop and yield to incoming traffic.’”

“Already in hand. Mid. Acknowledge.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Too little and too scrabbing late,” Pardoe muttered. ‘’What are those people playing at over there?“

Hazzard didn’t know if he was complaining about Approach Control’s tardiness or the heels-in maneuver
Victor
was attempting to pull off. The
Victor
was still two kilometers off
Indy’s
port beam, but through the magnification inherent in the ship optical sensory feed, the immense vessel loomed like a passing cliff face, with sponsons, barbettes, field projector arrays, and fairings turning hull metal into a landscape of faceted surfaces and complex topographies, with masts like forest giants, with gun ports grinning down her gundeck modules like bared teeth.

“Now,” Pardoe said, “just so long as he doesn’t-”

A shudder rolled through the
Indeterminacy
, a long, crunching lurch that seemed to rack the brain and twist the stomach. For a jarring few seconds. Hazzard’s linkfeed was interrupted; he was plunged into blackness and, for just an instant, was back on his jackrack, hot, drenched with sweat, as other command deck personnel shouted and screamed in the echoing close darkness around him.

BOOK: Guardsmen of Tomorrow
10.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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