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The Temporal Void

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The Temporal Void

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Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Publisher: Del Rey, 2010
Pan Macmillan, 2008
Series: The Void Trilogy: Book 2

1. The Dreaming Void
2. The Temporal Void
3. The Evolutionary Void

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Space Opera
Alternate/Parallel Universe
Space Exploration
Avg Member Rating:
(80 reads / 34 ratings)


Long ago, the astrophysicist Inigo began dreaming scenes from the life of the remarkable Edeard, who lived within the Void, a self-contained microuniverse at the heart of the galaxy. Inigo’s inspirational dreams, shared by hundreds of millions throughout the galaxy, gave birth to a religion: Living Dream. But when the appearance of a Second Dreamer seems to trigger the expansion of the Void-which is devouring everything in its path-the Intersolar Commonwealth is thrown into turmoil.

With time running out, the fate of humanity hinges on a handful of people: Araminta, now awakening to the unwelcome fact that she is the mysterious Second Dreamer; Inigo, whose private dreams hint at a darker truth; and Justine, whose desperate gamble places her within the Void, where the godlike Skylords hold the power to save the universe . . . or destroy it.


Chapter One

Strangely enough, it would be the oak trees that Justine Burnelli remembered from the day Centurion Station died. She had been hurrying toward the safety bunker doors, along with everyone else in the garden dome, when she glanced back over her shoulder. The thick emerald lawn was littered with the debris of the party: mashed canapés stamped into the grass, broken glasses and plates juddering about as colossal gravity waves washed across the station in fast, unrelenting succession. Overhead, the timid light emitted by the nebulae surrounding the galactic core was being smeared into pastel streaks by the dome's emergency force fields. Justine felt her weight reducing again. Yells of surprise and near panic broke out from the staff pressing against her as they all fought for traction on the glowing orange path. Then a crack like a thunderbolt echoed across the dome. One of the huge lower boughs on a two-hundred-year-old oak tree split open close to the thick trunk, and the bough crashed down. Leaves swirled upward like a flock of startled butterflies. The whole majestic tree sagged, further fissures opening along the length of the trunk. It twisted as it started to fall into its neighbor. The elegant little tree house platform on which the band had been playing barely a minute earlier splintered and snapped apart. The last glimpse Justine had was of a couple of red squirrels scampering out of the toppled giants.

The malmetal safety bunker doors contracted behind her, and for a moment she was enveloped within an oasis of calm. It was a bizarre image: Everyone still dressed in his or her best party clothes, breathing heavily with disheveled hair and anxious faces. Director Trach?tenberg was standing beside her, looking around wild-eyed.

"You okay?" he asked.

She nodded, not quite trusting her voice.

Another of the gravity waves swept through the station. Once again Justine felt her weight lessen. Her u-shadow accessed the station's net, and she pulled out the sensor images of the sky above. The Raiel's DF spheres were still accelerating across the star system to their new positions. She checked that the Silverbird was unaffected by the weird gravity waves the DF spheres were throwing off. The starship's smartcore told her it was maintaining position just above the dusty lava field that served as the station's landing area.

"I've just conferred with our alien colleagues," Director Trachtenberg announced. He smiled wryly. "Those that talk to us, anyway. And we all agree the gravity shifts are beyond anything the safety systems were designed for. With regret I am ordering an immediate evacuation."

Several people groaned in dismay.

"You can't," Graffal Ehasz complained. "This is what we're here for. Dear Ozzie, man, the data this event is spewing out. What we can learn is unprecedented! We can't just crawl away because of some safety restriction imposed by a committee back in the Commonwealth."

"I understand your concern," Trachtenberg said calmly. "If the situation alters, we will return. But for now please embark your designated ship."

Justine could see that most of the staff was relieved, while Ehasz and a small hard-core science clique radiated resentment. When she opened her mind to the local gaiafield, the clash of emotions was pronounced, but Ehasz was definitely in the minority.

Trachtenberg leaned in close to Justine and quietly asked: "Can your ship cope with this?"

"Oh, yes," she assured him.

"Very well; if you would please depart with the rest of us."

"Of course."

Through her link with the smartcore she saw the safety bunkers break the surface, titanium-black spheres bubbling up out of the dusty lava plain. They started to glide smoothly toward the waiting starships.

With the evacuation procedures obviously working, Justine's nerves calmed considerably. She asked the Silverbird's smartcore to open a link along the tenuous navy communication relay all the way back to the Commonwealth, thirty thousand light-years away. "Dad?"

"You're okay, then," Gore Burnelli said. "Thank Christ for that."

Leaking along the minuscule bandwidth was the faintest sensation of a smile. Warm Caribbean sunlight was shining on his lips. It was a comfort that delivered a completely unexpected emotional jolt to Justine. She felt her throat muscles tensing as her eyes filled with tears and her cheeks flushed. Goddamn this stupid body, she raged at its weakness. But she smiled back weakly, ignoring the way people in the shelter were looking at her. "Yeah, I'm okay."

"Good, then get a load of this. I've been monitoring the navy relay link to Centurion Station. Your new friend Trachtenberg just called the Cleric Conservator to tell him about the expansion phase. He did that before he even bothered to warn the navy what was happening."

Justine was proud of the way she managed to avoid glancing in Trachtenberg's direction. Okay, maybe this old body's not quite so useless, after all. "Really. How interesting."

"It gets better. About five hours ago the Second Dreamer told his Skylord pal that he wasn't going to lead anyone into the Void. Next thing we know, this expansion begins. I don't know what your take is, but nobody back here thinks it's a coincidence."

"The Second Dreamer caused this?"

"It wasn't deliberate. At least I seriously hope it wasn't. Cause and effect, I guess. The Skylords exist to ferry souls into the Heart of the Void, and someone tells them that their new supply is going to be cut off. Junkies tend to get irritated and irrational about such things."

"The Skylords aren't junkies."

"Don't take everything so literally. I'm doing metaphors or allegories—some shit like that. Point is, now that they know we're out here waiting to be guided, if we don't come to them..."

"They come to us," she whispered.

"Looks like it."

"But nothing can survive the boundary."

"The original ship did. Somehow."

"Has the Second Dreamer said anything?"

"Not a goddamn word, not even ‘oops, sorry.' Conceited little turd. I thought I was arrogant, but Jeezus!"

"Well, he's going to have to do something."

"That's the consensus back here, too. The thing is, Living Dream is closing in on him. That's going to make serious trouble if they get their hands on him; our friend Ilanthe will make sure of that."

Justine accessed the data coming from the station, watching with concern as their life support equipment was stressed close to its limit by the gravity waves. "It doesn't get much worse than this, Dad."

"Shit, I'm sorry, angel. Are you going to get out all right?"

"You know you don't have to worry about me. Hang on for a moment; we've reached the starships."

People were activating their personal force fields as the airlock's outer door parted. Some of them also were taking pressure suits from the bunker's lockers, making sure they were safe. Justine knew she could depend on her biononics to protect her from anything the unnamed planet could throw at her. Her integral force field strengthened around her. She slipped her heeled pumps off and followed the others out through the triple pressure curtain. Ten aluminum steps and she was standing on the lava in bare feet and a completely incongruous little black cocktail dress. Tremors managed to shake the soles of her feet through the protective cushion of the force field. A gentle argon breeze fluttered around her, raising short-lived twisters of dust that never came above her knees.

The bunker had come to rest a hundred meters beyond the squat building holding the base's main airlock. Two of the five navy ships were poised on either side of her, hanging a few meters above the ground on ingrav, rocking slightly as they compensated for the treacherous gravity. Justine hastened around the nose of one to see the Silverbird waiting a farther twenty meters beyond it. Its simple purple ovoid shape, holding a lot steadier than the navy ships, was a welcome sight. She grinned in relief and scurried underneath. The airlock at the base of the fuselage bulged inward, opening into a dark funnel leading to the heart of the ship. The smartcore was already countering gravity to pull her inside when she saw something moving on the horizon. Something impossible.

"Stop," she commanded.

Her feet paused ten centimeters above the lava. Retinal inserts zoomed in. It was a mounted Silfen. The elflike hominoid was clad in a thick cobalt-blue coat embroidered with a fabulous stipple of jewels that sparkled in the wavering pastels of starlight. His black hat was tall and pointed, with a simple gold ribbon fluttering from the tip. A gloved hand gripped a long phosphorescent spear that he held aloft, as if in salute. It might have been such a gesture, for he was leaning forward in his saddle, half standing on the stirrups. As if his appearance wasn't astonishing enough, she was dumbfounded by his mount. The creature most closely resembled a terrestrial rhinoceros, except it was almost the size of an elephant and had two flat tails that swept from side to side. Its long shaggy fur was bright scarlet, and the four horns curving from the sides of its long head were devilishly sharp and curved. Justine, who once had ridden on the Charlemagnes that the old Barsoomians had produced on Far Away, knew that this fearsome beast was a true warr...

Copyright © 2008 by Peter F. Hamilton


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