It seemed too good to be true...
When marauding ships attack the Andromeda Ascendant, the Andromeda crew, desperate to save their ship, slipstream to a world called Festival, which fends off their mysterious attackers and welcomes the crew with open arms. The crew couldn't be happier. Festival wishes to join the Commonwealth, and, as its name implies, is a safe haven, a perfect place for relaxing and indulging in life's finer pleasures.
But there's something not quite right about Festival. Captain Dylan Hunt is suspicious of the large number of armed soldiers who are ostensibly providing security for their visit. And when his crew finds a big underground bash, the revelers seem more tense than happy. Dylan and crew uncover a diabolical scheme seething beneath the planet's utopian façade: Festival's planetary government is really a powerful militant regime bent on forcing neighboring worlds to join the new Commonwealth against their own volition.
Before the Andromeda crew can do anything about Festival's strong-arm tactics, they receive a distress call from a renowned peace ambassador whose ship is being attacked by space pirates. In a bloody battle, Dylan and his crew defeat the attacking pirates. After the smoke clears, they learn from the ambassador the rulers of Festival don't just want to join the Commonwealth . . . they want to rule it! Suddenly, Festival seems like the Andromeda's worst nightmare. Captain Hunt and the crew have their hands full escaping from the clutches of Festival's power-hungry government, and trying to keep the peace within the Commonwealth.
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Jeff Mariotte has written over 15 novels, featuring tie-ins to Angel, Buffy, Charmed, and Star Trek. His original titles include Behind Enemy Lines and The Last Rainmaking Song. He also has an array of short stories and comic books to his name. A long-time resident of San Diego, he lives in Douglas, Arizona with his wife and children.
ONE “Welcome to Caernaevon Drift. Now go home!” —GRAFFITI
The residents of Caernaevon Drift didn’t like strangers. There was just no other way to say it. Some folks were shy about meeting people they didn’t know, and hid away or built big walls. Others were polite, even outgoing—they enjoyed the novelty of fresh faces, new ideas, and the opportunity to make new friends. Still others—like those on Caernaevon Drift—just loosed their dogs. Or pointed guns. Or both. In the case of Caernaevon Drift, the dogs were metaphorical—in fact, what they sent winging toward Andromeda Ascendant were not dogs, but an entire fleet of Vipers—small, fast, two–person fighters, heavily armed and Slip-capable. Not truly dogs at all. But the guns? Those were real. And everyone on Andromeda’s Command Deck was looking at them. “We can take these clowns,” Seamus Harper insisted. “Romdoll could do it with her eyes closed.” He paused a moment. “I mean, if she even needed her eyes to do stuff like that, she could.” “She could,” Captain Dylan Hunt agreed confidently. “But should she?” Beka Valentine arched an eyebrow at Dylan. “Dylan,” she said. “Can I just point something out? They are attacking us.” A slow smile crossed Dylan’s face as he regarded Beka. Her concern was real—and quite possibly warranted—but he found it oddly amusing just the same. After a moment, she seemed to realize she was providing Dylan with some private merriment. “Is there something we should know, Captain Hunt?” she asked him. She generally used the formal address only when she was truly ticked. “Some kind of secret you haven’t shared?” “No secret,” Dylan replied. “It’s just that we don’t really have any urgent business here anyway. Caernaevon Drift isn’t going to join the Commonwealth. We could use some hydrogen, and they dealt in it, once upon a time. They also deal in smuggling, and I guess they’ve prioritized that over more legitimate businesses these days. Anyway, we’re not desperate enough to get into a fight over it. I guess I just thought it was kind of entertaining that you guys are so ready to mix it up with them for absolutely no reason. They just want us out of here, and since we don’t have any pressing need to stick around, why not just go?” Tyr Anasazi gave him a sidelong glance. As usual, of the small crew who had joined Dylan on his mission, Tyr was the most difficult to read. “Sometimes you surprise me, Dylan,” Tyr said. “I would have expected you to consider it a matter of principle or something. Instead, you are taking the pragmatic, survival-oriented approach. I approve.” Harper interrupted Dylan’s chuckle. “I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself, Boss, but those things are gettin’ closer. A single mosquito can be annoying, but a thousand of ’em can kill somebody.” “Nobody’s getting killed today,” Dylan assured the young engineer. “Certainly not by those bugs.” He gripped his captain’s console and braced himself. “Get us out of here, Beka. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor,” he said. “And sometimes it just saves ammo.” “So we’re just going to cut and run?” Beka asked. “I don’t know about the cutting part,” Dylan said. “And not so much run as Slipstream. There’s a Slip point nearby. Let’s use it.” He was putting a good face on things, but the fact was, Harper was right. Andromeda Ascendant probably could take the Vipers—at least, a lot of them. But they continued to swarm from the Drift—not yet the thousand Harper had mentioned, but at least a couple hundred, and counting. They were small, but they were fierce. And as the engineer had pointed out, an overwhelming number of opponents—even little ones—could be real trouble. Dylan wasn’t a guy who would run from a fight, as long as there was a compelling reason for it. But in this case, there wasn’t. Andromeda ran on hydrogen and antiprotons, both of which allegedly could be had on Caernaevon Drift, but from the looks of things the Drift had become pretty possessive of what they had since Dylan’s last trip here—which, admittedly, had been about three hundred eleven years earlier. Dylan was willing to pay any fair price, but blood was too high. Just as the first of the Vipers swung into weapons range, Beka accelerated into a Slip portal. A flare of light filled the main viewscreen, followed by the tangled, knotted strings that always made Dylan feel like a blood cell traveling through a circulatory system. Then he gave up on metaphorical thinking altogether and watched his pilot guide the huge warship. Beka was strapped into her seat, which rocked and swiveled as she kept up with the dizzying twists and spins of Slip navigation. She’d done it a thousand times, but each Slip journey presented its own challenges. Locks of blond hair fell in her face and her bright eyes focused rigidly on the screen ahead of her. Only humans could effectively navigate Slipstream, and since faster-than-light propulsion remained in the realm of the purely theoretical, only the Slipstream lanes allowed transit between the galaxies. Dylan didn’t imagine the Vipers would give chase, since their goal had been achieved. If they do, he thought, well then, they’ll learn just what a Glorious Heritage Class starship is capable of. Trouble is, most people who learn that because they’re on the receiving end of her weaponry never take the lesson home to share with others. A few gut-wrenching moments later, they transited out of the ’stream into a planetary system where he knew he could acquire fuel, and which he’d been wanting to visit anyway. The relative smoothness of linear space was always a vast relief after the stomach-churning motion of Slipstream, and the appearance in the main viewscreen of a huge green planet, like a jade ball resting on the rhinestoned velvet backdrop of space, was a welcome sight. “Welcome to Festival,” Dylan announced. Rommie’s face appeared on screens all around them, and there was an anxious edge in her reply. “Dylan,” the ship’s avatar said, “Vipers are dropping out of Slipstream behind us.” Dylan checked a secondary viewscreen, and saw that she was—as usual—correct. Small, pointed ships filled the space behind Andromeda like so many angry wasps. “I thought they just wanted us to get out of their neighborhood,” Harper whined. “Apparently they also want to make sure we don’t come back,” Beka opined. Now Dylan was angry. The Caernaevon Drift stop had simply been one of convenience. It would have been profitable for the Drift’s residents, too, assuming they’d marked up the price on their hydrogen supplies fairly. But Festival was his real next destination, and he wouldn’t be chased from here by a bunch of little gnats. “Maintain course,” he ordered. “We’re going to Festival.” “Dylan,” Rommie said again. “They’re firing.” For all his faith in the big ship’s weaponry, Dylan knew that several hundred small ships could do Andromeda some real damage. “Mr. Anasazi, deploy ECM fans and point defense lasers, and ready defensive missiles,” he commanded. “And Beka, increase speed. Let’s shake these little—” A concussive wave interrupted his insult. Andromeda had been hit, somewhere astern, and Command rocked from the impact. Harper, not actually holding onto anything at that moment, was thrown to the deck. Trance Gemini looped her tail around a handhold just in time to catch herself. Tyr hadn’t been holding on either, but it took more than a little explosion to make the Nietzschean lose his balance. He took a quick half step but maintained his footing. “Return fire,” Dylan commanded. “Firing,” Rommie replied. In his tactical viewscreen Dylan saw missiles streaking across the strip of blackness that separated Andromeda from the front wave of Vipers, and then the explosions as those missiles found their targets. Whether the Vipers hit were the ones that had fired made little difference—the other pilots would quickly understand that their weapons wouldn’t take out Andromeda easily, but their own much smaller ships were no match for the big warship’s armaments. He was about to comment when he spotted another half dozen tracers closing on them. “They’re still firing,” Rommie reported. A moment later a much bigger shock wave battered the deck. Everyone was ready for it this time, but even holding on or strapped in, the impact was jarring. “Enough of this cat-and-mouse, Dylan,” Tyr said through clenched teeth. “I recommend that you hit them with something meaningful.” “Something big won’t necessarily do the job,” Dylan argued. “There are just so many of them, and they’re so spread out, we pretty much have to target them one by one.” Rommie stood by Dylan’s side. He thought he could see a slight distraction in her eyes, which would not have been surprising considering that she was operating all of the ship’s systems, including, at this moment, weaponry, and probably tabulating damages at the same time. But usually she didn’t show the strain of that much activity, so he figured he was probably just projecting. “Rommie, take them out,” he commanded. She flashed him a momentary smile. “I’ll do my best,” she agreed. The Andromeda Ascendant’s best, Dylan knew, was pretty damn good. Officially designated the Shining Path to Truth and Knowledge AI model GRA 112, serial number XMC-10-182, she had been built for the Systems Commonwealth’s High Guard in the Newport News Orbital Shipyards, high above Earth, in the year CY 9768. The ship, with Dylan on it, had been trapped near the accretion disk of a black hole—stuck out of time for three hundred years, during which virtually everyone Dylan had ever known had aged and died. Beka Valentine and the crew of her salvage ship, the Eureka Maru, had rescued them from the black hole’s rim. The universe had changed drastically in that time, but one thing had not changed: then or now, Andromeda Ascendant was one of the finest fighting vessels anywhere. Dylan took comfort in the view he had of the little needle-nosed ships exploding right and left. But that comfort was minimized somewhat by the fact that they were right and left, and up and down, and virtually everywhere else, filling every viewscreen. The hits were coming harder and faster now, each one shaking the Command Deck again. Andromeda fired back, and gave as good as she got, but this unceasing barrage was going to take a toll. “Dylan—” Tyr began, but his words were cut off by a loud boom and a flash of light. That one had hit very close by, Dylan knew. Another shot like that and they’d be blessed with the familiar Roman candle effect, sparks blasting out of control panels. Harper, who’d have to get down behind the panels with his tools, would be in a foul mood until he’d repaired the damage. The big Magog, who had stood silently on the Command Deck’s upper tier, finally spoke. “The Divine prescribes retreat rather than intentionally inflicting harm, when possible,” Reverend Behemiel Far-Traveler growled. His tone wasn’t angry or upset; it was just that every utterance from the furry, clawed Rev Bem sounded like a growl. “We’re not retreating!” Dylan shot back. Under his breath, he added, “I hope.” Another blast rattled the deck, and alarm Klaxons began to whoop. Dylan frowned. It wasn’t as if he needed those to know that his ship was taking a beating. “Dylan,” Rommie said. He cut her off. “I know! And you can turn off those Klaxons any time. I know we’re in trouble.” “That wasn’t what I was going to say, Dylan. Please take a look out your tactical viewscreen.” Dylan did as she suggested. What he saw surprised him: yet another fleet of ships, but these were good-sized warships. Not as big as Andromeda, but each one far larger than the Vipers of Caernaevon Drift. And they were approaching quickly. “They left the orbit of Festival several minutes ago,” Rommie reported. “On an interception course with us.” “I’m gonna have to go with the Rev on this one, Dylan,” Harper put in. “Gettin’ the hell out of Dodge seems like a really good idea right now.” Dylan glanced over at Tyr. Tyr nodded once, calmly. Dylan couldn’t remember Tyr Anasazi, out of Victoria by Barbarossa, last of the Kodiak Pride, ever willingly running from a fight. First time for everything, Dylan thought That’s the old saying, right? Dylan told Beka to scan for Slip points, where they could dive into the ’stream if it became necessary. The Festival fleet drew nearer, their big ships already appearing far larger on Andromeda’s screens than the tiny Vipers did. “Dylan, the new ships are firing,” Rommie warned. “Stand by for evasive action.” But the missiles fired by the Festival ships bypassed Andromeda and sailed into their targets—more of the seemingly innumerable Vipers. Satisfying bursts of light and flame filled the screens. “Hey, they’re on our side!” Harper exclaimed. “All right!” Rev Bem looked toward the ceiling. “Thank you,” he uttered softly. Even Tyr managed a brief smile. Once the Festival ships got into the mix, the battle was short and lopsided. The remaining Vipers darted back into Slipstream, and within minutes the skies were quiet again. Harper breathed a loud sigh of relief, and Dylan figured everyone else felt pretty much the same way. Andromeda’s virtual face appeared on one of the viewscreens. “Incoming transmission, Dylan,” she said. “From the Festival Fleet.” “Put it through.” A moment later, the screen flickered and a friendly-looking, apparently human face came into view. The face was of a male, dark-haired, with large, inquisitive brown eyes, a straight nose, and a firm jaw. His mouth was turned up in a pleasant smile. He wore a dark blue uniform, trimmed in red at the neck and cuffs. On his shoulder were three narrow red stripes that Dylan thought probably indicated rank. “This is Admiral Parnett Havil of the Festival System Command,” he said. “Do I have the honor of addressing Captain Dylan Hunt of the New Systems Commonwealth?” “You do indeed,” Dylan replied. “And thanks for the assist, Admiral Havil.” “Not at all,” Admiral Havil said. “We were happy to do it. And happier still to welcome Andromeda Ascendant and the New Systems Commonwealth to the Festival System. If you’ll follow us in, we are very much looking forward to getting acquainted with you.” “Lead the way,” Dylan said. The admiral nodded once and broke off the transmission. “Hey, Captain,” Harper said. “You’re famous here!” Dylan couldn’t help chuckling. “So it would appear, Mr. Harper. So it would appear.” Copyright © 2005 by Tribune Entertainment Company and Fireworks Entertainment Inc.
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Description du livre Tor Books, 2005. Hardcover. État : New. N° de réf. du libraire DADAX0765304872
Description du livre Tor Books 2005-04-28, 2005. Hardcover. État : New. First Edition. 0765304872 We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. N° de réf. du libraire TM-0765304872
Description du livre Tor Books, 2005. Hardcover. État : New. N° de réf. du libraire P110765304872
Description du livre Tor Books. Hardcover. État : New. 0765304872 New Condition. N° de réf. du libraire NEW6.1294258