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The Naked God
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As the Confederation begins to collapse politically and economically, the “possessed” insidiously infiltrate more and more worlds.
Meanwhile, Quinn Dexter is loose on Earth, destroying the giant arcologies one at a time. As Louise Kavanagh tries to track him down, she manages to acquire some strange and powerful allies whose goals don’t quite match her own.
The campaign to liberate Mortonridge from the possessed degenerates into a horrendous land battle, the kind which hasn't been seen by humankind for six hundred years.
And finally, Joshua Calvert and Syrinx race to fly their starships on a mission to find the Sleeping God — which an alien race believes holds the key to overthrowing the possessed.
"Elements of space opera, Straubesque horror and adrenaline-laced action make this a demanding, rewarding read." —Publishers Weekly on The Reality Dysfunction
The Night’s Dawn Trilogy
The Reality Dysfunction
The Neutronium Alchemist
The Naked God
Copyright © 2000 by Peter F. Hamilton
Excerpt from Debatable Space
copyright © 2008 by Philip Palmer
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Hachette Book Group
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First eBook Edition: February 2009
Originally published in two volumes by Warner Books in 2000
Orbit is an imprint of Hachette Book Group. The Orbit name and logo are trademarks of Little, Brown Book Group Ltd.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
BY PETER F. HAMILTON
A Quantum Murder
The Nano Flower
The Night's Dawn Trilogy
The Reality Dysfunction
The Neutronium Alchemist
The Naked God
A Second Chance at Eden
The Confederation Handbook
The Dreaming Void
Jay Hilton was sound asleep when every electrophorescent strip in the paediatric ward sprang up to full intensity. The simple dream of her mother broke apart like a stained glass statue shattered by a powerful gust of sharp white light; colourful splinters tumbling off into the glare.
Jay blinked heavily against the rush of light, raising her head in confusion. The familiar scenery of the ward hardened around her. She felt so tired. It certainly wasn't morning yet. A huge yawn forced her mouth open. All around her the other children were waking up in bleary-eyed mystification. Holomorph stickers began reacting to the light, translucent cartoon images rising up to perform their mischievous antics. Animatic dolls cooed sympathetically as children clutched at them for reassurance. Then the doors at the far end of the ward slid open, and the nurses came hurrying in.
One look at the brittle smiles on their faces was all Jay needed. Something was badly wrong. Her heart shivered. Surely not the possessed? Not here?
The nurses began ushering children out of their beds, and along the central aisle towards the doors. Complaints and questions were firmly ignored.
"It's a fire drill," the senior staff nurse called out. "Come along, quickly, now. I want you out of here and into the lifts. Pronto. Pronto." He clapped his hands loudly.
Jay shoved the thin duvet back, and scuttled down off the bed. Her long cotton nightie was tangled round her knees, which took a moment to straighten. She was about to join the others charging along the aisle when she caught the flickers of motion and light outside the window. Every morning since she'd arrived, Jay had sat in front of that window, gazing solemnly out at Mirchusko and its giddy green cloudscape. She'd never seen speckles of light swarming out there before.
The silent mental word was spoken so quickly Jay almost didn't catch it. Though the feel of Haile was unmistakable. She looked round, expecting to see the Kiint ambling down the aisle towards her. But there was only the rank of flustered nurses propelling children along.
Knowing full well she wasn't doing what she was supposed to, Jay padded over to the big window, and pressed her nose against it. A slim band of tiny blue-white stars had looped itself round Tranquillity. They were all moving, contracting around the habitat. She could see now that they weren't really stars, they were lengthening. Flames. Brilliant, tiny flames. Hundreds of them.
My friend. My friend. Lifeloss anguish.
Now that was definitely Haile, and intimating plenty of distress. Jay took a step back from the window, seeing misty grey swirls where her face and hands had pressed against it. "What's the matter?" she asked the empty air.
A cascade of new flames burst into existence outside the habitat. Expanding knots blossoming seemingly at random across space. Jay gasped at the sight. There were thousands of them, interlacing and expanding. It was so pretty.
Evacuation procedure initiated.
Jay frowned. The second mental voice came as a faint echo. She thought it was one of the adult Kiint, possibly Lieria. Jay had only encountered Haile's parents a few times. They were awfully intimidating, though they'd been nice enough to her.
No. The adult responded forcefully. Forbidden.
You may not, child. Sorrow felt for all human suffering. But obedience required.
No. Friend. My friend. Designation. Two. Confirmed.
Jay had never felt Haile so determined before. It was kind of scary. "Please?" she asked nervously. "What's happening?"
A torrent of light burst through the window. It was as if a sun had risen over Mirchusko's horizon. All of space was alive with brilliant efflorescences.
The adult Kiint said: Evacuation enacted.
Jay felt a wash of guilty triumph rushing out from her friend. She wanted to reach out and comfort Haile, who she knew from the adult's reaction was in Big Trouble over something. Instead, she concentrated on forming a beaming smile at the heart of her own mind, hoping Haile would pick it up. Then the air around her was crawling as if she was caught in a breeze.
"Jay!" one of the nurses called. "Come along sweetie, you . . ."
The light around Jay was fading fast, along with the sounds of the ward. She could just hear the nurse's gasp of astonishment. The breeze abruptly turned into a small gale, whipping her nightie around and making her bristly hair stand on end. Some kind of grey fog was forming around her, a perfectly spherical bubble of the stuff, with her at the centre. Except she couldn't feel any dampness in the air. It darkened rapidly, reducing the ward to weak spectral outlines. Then the boundary expanded at a speed so frightening that Jay screamed. The boundary vanished, and with it any sign of the ward. She was alone in space devoid of stars. And falling.
Jay put her hands to her head and screamed again, as hard as she possibly could. It didn't put a stop to any of the horror. She paused to suck down a huge breath. That was when the boundary reappeared out on the edge of nowhere. Hurtling towards her so fast from every direction that she knew the impact would squash her flat. She jammed her eyes shut. "MUMMY!"
Something like a stiff feather tickled the soles of her feet, and she was abruptly standing on solid ground. Jay windmilled her arms for balance, pitching forward. She landed hard on some kind of cool floor, her eyes still tight shut. The air she gulped down was warmer than it had been in the ward, and a lot more humid. Funny smell. Rosy light was playing over her eyelids.
Still crouched on all fours, Jay risked a quick peep as she gathered herself to scream again. The sight which greeted her was so incredible that the breath stalled in her throat. "Oh gosh," was all she eventually managed to squeak.
Joshua initiated the ZTT jump with little enthusiasm. His downcast mood was one which he shared with all the Lady Mac's crew and passengers — at least, those who weren't in zero-tau. To have achieved so much, only to have their final triumph snatched away.
Except . . . Once the initial shock of discovering that Tranquillity had vanished from its orbit had subsided, he wasn't frightened. Not for Ione, or his child. Tranquillity hadn't been destroyed, there was at least that comfort. Which logically meant the habitat had been possessed and snatched out of the universe.
He didn't believe it.
But his intuition was hardly infallible. Perhaps he simply didn't want to believe it. Tranquillity was home. The emotional investment he had in the habitat and its precious contents was enormous. Tell anyone that everything they ever treasured has been erased, and the reaction is always the same. Whatever. His vacillation made him as miserable as the rest of the ship, just for a different reason.
"Jump confirmed," he said. "Samuel, you're on."
Lady Mac had jumped into one of Trafalgar's designated emergence zones, a hundred thousand kilometres above Avon. Her transponder was already blaring out her flight authority codes. Somehow Joshua didn't think that would quite be enough. Not when you barged in unexpected on the Confederation's primary military base in the middle of a crisis like this one.
"I've got distortion fields focusing on us," Dahybi said drolly. "Five of them, I think."
The flight computer alerted Joshua that targeting radars were locking on to the hull. When he accessed the sensors rising out of their recesses, he found three voidhawks and two frigates on interception courses. Trafalgar's strategic defence command was directing a barrage of questions at him. He glanced over at the Edenist as he started to datavise a response. Samuel was lying prone on his acceleration couch, eyes closed as he conversed with other Edenists in the asteroid.
Sarha grinned round phlegmatically. "How many medals do you think they'll give us apiece?"
"Uh oh," Liol grunted. "However many it is, we might be getting them posthumously. I think one of the frigates has just realised our antimatter drive is ever so slightly highly radioactive."
"Great," she grumbled.
Monica Foulkes didn't like the sound of that; as far as the Confederation Navy was aware, it was only Organization ships who were using antimatter. She hadn't wanted to take Mzu back to Tranquillity, and she certainly hadn't wanted to wind up at Trafalgar. But in the discussion which followed their discovery of Tranquillity's disappearance, she didn't exactly have the casting vote. The original agreement between herself and Samuel had just about disintegrated when they rendezvoused with the Beezling.
Then Calvert had insisted on the First Admiral being the final arbitrator of what was to be done with Mzu, Adul, and himself. Samuel had agreed. And she couldn't produce any rational argument against it. Silently, she acknowledged that maybe the only true defence against more Alchemists being built was a unified embargo covenant between the major powers. After all, such an agreement almost worked for antimatter.
Not that such angst counted for much right now. Like ninety per cent of her mission to date, the critical deciding factor was outside her control. All she could do was stick close to Mzu, and make sure the prime requirement of technology transfer wasn't violated. Though by allowing it to be deployed against the Organization, she'd probably screwed that up too. Her debrief was shaping up to be a bitch.
Monica frowned over at Samuel, who was still silent, his brow creased up in concentration. She added a little prayer of her own to all the unheard babble of communication whirling around Lady Mac for the Navy to exercise some enlightenment and tolerance.
Trafalgar's strategic defence command told Joshua to hold his altitude, but refused to grant any approach vector until his status was established. The Navy's emergence zone patrol ships approached to within a cautious hundred kilometres, and took up a three-dimensional diamond observation formation. Targeting radars remained locked on.
Admiral Lalwani herself talked to Samuel, unable to restrain her incredulity as he explained what had happened. Given that the Lady Macbeth contained not only Mzu and others who understood the Alchemist's principles, but a quantity of antimatter as well, the final decision on allowing the ship to dock belonged to the First Admiral himself. It took twenty minutes to arrive, but Joshua eventually received a flight vector from strategic defence command. They were allocated a docking bay in the asteroid's northern spaceport.
"And Joshua," Samuel said earnestly. "Don't deviate from it. Please."
Joshua winked, knowing it was being seen by the hundreds of Edenists who were borrowing the agent's eyes to monitor Lady Mac's bridge. "What, Lagrange Calvert, fly off line?"
The flight to Trafalgar took eighty minutes. The number of antimatter technology specialists waiting for them in the docking bay was almost as great as the number of marines. On top of that were a large complement of uniformed CNIS officers.
They weren't stormed, exactly. No personal weapons were actually taken out of their holsters. Though once the airlock tube was sealed and pressurized, Lady Mac's crew had little to do except hand over the powerdown codes to a Navy maintenance team. Zero-tau pods were opened, and the various bewildered occupants Joshua had accumulated during his pursuit of the Alchemist were ushered off the ship. After a very thorough body scan, the polite, steel-faced CNIS officers escorted everyone to a secure barracks deep inside the asteroid. Joshua wound up in a suite that would have done a four-star hotel credit. Ashly and Liol were sharing it with him.
"Well now," Liol said as the door closed behind them. "Guilty of carrying antimatter, flung in prison by secret police who've never heard of civil rights, and after we're dead, Al Capone is going to invite us to have a quiet word." He opened the cherrywood cocktail bar and smiled at the impressive selection of bottles inside. "It can't get any worse."
"You forgot Tranquillity being vanquished," Ashly chided. Liol waved a bottle in apology.
Joshua slumped down into a soft black leather chair in the middle of the lounge. "It might not get worse for you. Just remember, I know what the Alchemist does, and how. They can't afford to let me go."
"You might know what it does," Ashly said. "But with respect, Captain, I don't think you would be much help to anyone seeking the technical details necessary to construct another."
"One hint is all it takes," Joshua muttered. "One careless comment that'll point researchers in the right direction."
"Stop worrying, Josh. The Confederation passed that point a long time ago. Besides, the Navy owes us big-time, and the Edenists, and the Kulu Kingdom. We pulled their arses out of the fire. You'll fly Lady Mac again."
"Know what I'd do if I was the First Admiral? Put me into a zero-tau pod for the rest of time."
"I won't let them do that to my little brother."
Joshua put his hands behind his head, and smiled up at Liol. "The second thing I'd do, would be to put you in the pod next to mine."
Planets sparkled in the twilight sky. Jay could see at least fifteen of them strung out along a curving line. The nearest one appeared a bit smaller than Earth's moon. She thought that was just because it was a long way off. In every other respect it was similar to any of the Confederation's terracompatible planets, with deep blue oceans and emerald continents, the whole globe wrapped in thick tatters of white cloud. The only difference was the lights; cities larger than some of Earth's old nations gleamed with magisterial splendour. Entire weather patterns of cloud smeared across the nightside diffused the urban radiance, soaking the oceans in a perpetual pearl gloaming.
Jay sat back on her heels, staring up delightedly at the magical sky. A high wall ringed the area she was in. She guessed that the line of planets extended beyond those she could see, but the wall blocked her view of the horizon. A star with a necklace of inhabited planets! Thousands would be needed to make up such a circle. None of Jay's didactic memories about solar systems mentioned one with so many planets, not even if you counted gas-giant moons.
Friend Jay. Safe. Gleefulness at survival.
Jay blinked, and lowered her gaze. Haile was trying to run towards her. As always when the baby Kiint got over-excited her legs lost most of their coordination. She came very close to tripping with every other step. The sight of her lolloping about chaotically made Jay smile. It faded as she began to take in the scene behind her friend.
She was in some kind of circular arena two hundred metres across, with an ebony marble-like floor. The wall surrounding it was thirty metres high, sealed with a transparent dome. There were horizontal gashes at regular intervals along the vertical surface, windows into brightly lit rooms that seemed to be furnished with large cubes of primary colours. Adult Kiint were moving round inside, although an awful lot of them had stopped what they were doing to look directly at her.
Haile thundered up; half-formed tractamorphic tentacles waving round excitedly. Jay grabbed on to a couple of them, feeling them palpitate wildly inside her fingers.
"Haile! Was that you who did this?"
Two adult Kiint were walking across the arena floor towards her. Jay recognized them as Nang and Lieria. Beyond them, a black star erupted out of thin air. In less than a heartbeat it had expanded to a sphere fifteen metres in diameter, its lower quarter merging with the floor. The surface immediately dissolved to reveal another adult Kiint. Jay stared at the process in fascination. A ZTT jump, but without a starship. She focused hard on her primer-level didactic memory of the Kiint.
I did, Haile confessed. Her tractamorphic flesh writhed in agitation, so Jay just squeezed tighter, offering reassurance. Only us were designated to evacuate the all around at lifeloss moment. I included you in designation, against parental proscription. Much shame. Puzzlement. Haile turned her head to face her parents. Query lifeloss act approval? Many nice friends in the all around.
We do not approve.
Jay flicked a nervous gaze at the two adults, and pressed herself closer against Haile. Nang formshifted his tractamorphic appendage into a flat tentacle, which he laid across his daughter's back. The juvenile Kiint visibly calmed at the gesture of affection. Jay thought there was a mental exchange of some kind involved, too, sensing a hint of compassion and serenity.
Why did we not help? Haile asked.
We must never interfere in the primary events of other species during their evolution towards Omega comprehension. You must learn and obey this law above all else. However, it does not prevent us from grieving at their tragedy.
Jay felt the last bit was included for her benefit. "Don't be angry with Haile," she said solemnly. "I would have done the same for her. And I didn't want to die."
Lieria reached out a tentacle tip, and touched Jay's shoulder. I thank you for the friendship you have shown Haile. In our hearts we are glad you are with us, for you will be completely safe here. I am sorry we could not do more for your friends. But our law cannot be broken.
A sudden sensation of bleak horror threatened to engulf Jay. "Did Tranquillity really get blown up?" she wailed.
We do not know. It was under a concerted attack when we left. However, Ione Saldana may have surrendered. There is a high possibility the habitat and its population survived.
"We left," Jay whispered wondrously to herself. There were eight adult Kiint standing on the arena floor now, all the researchers from Tranquillity's Laymil project. "Where are we?" She glanced up at the dusky sky again, and that awesome constellation.
This is our home star system. You are the first true human to visit.
"But . . ." Flashes of didactic memory tumbled through her brain. She looked up at those enticing, bright planets again. "This isn't Jobis."
Nang and Lieria looked at each other in what was almost an awkward pause.
No, Jobis is just one of our science mission outposts. It is not in this galaxy.
Jay burst into tears.
Right from the start of the possession crisis the Jovian Consensus had acknowledged that it was a prime target. Its colossal industrial facilities were inevitably destined to produce a torrent of munitions, bolstering the reserve stocks of Adamist navies which thanks to budgetary considerations were not all they should be. The response of the Yosemite Consensus to the Capone Organization had already shown what Edenism was capable of achieving along those lines, and that was with a mere thirty habitats. Jupiter had the resources of four thousand two hundred and fifty at its disposal.
Requests for materiel support started almost as soon as Trafalgar issued its first warning about the nature of the threat which the Confederation was facing. Ambassadors requested and pleaded and called in every favour they thought Edenism owed them to secure a place in production schedules. Payment for the weapons involved loan agreements and fuseodollar transfers on a scale which could have purchased entire stage-four star systems.
On top of that, it was Edenism which was providing the critical support for the Mortonridge Liberation in the form of serjeant constructs to act as foot soldiers. It was the one utterly pivotal psychological campaign waged against the possessed, proving to the Confederation at large that they could be beaten.
Fortunately, the practical aspects of assaulting one or more habitats were extremely difficult. Jupiter already had a superb Strategic Defence network; and among the possessed only the Organization had a fleet which could hope to mount any sort of large-scale offensive, and the distance between Earth and New California almost certainly precluded that. However, the possibility of a lone ship carrying antimatter on a fanatical suicide flight was a strong one. And then there was the remote possibility that Capone would acquire the Alchemist and use it against them. Although Consensus didn't know how the doomsday device worked, a ship certainly had to jump in to deploy it, which in theory gave the Edenists an interception window to destroy the device before it was deployed.
Preparations to solidify their defences had begun immediately. Fully one third of the armaments coming out of the industrial stations were incorporated into a massively expanded SD architecture. The 550,000-km orbital band containing the habitats was the most heavily protected, with the number of SD platforms doubled, and seeded with seven hundred thousand combat wasps to act as mines. A further million combat wasps were arranged in concentric shells around the massive planet out to the orbit of Callisto. Flotillas of multi-spectrum sensor satellites were dispersed among them, searching for any anomaly, however small, which pricked the potent energy storms churning through space around the gas-giant.
Over fifteen thousand heavily armed patrol voidhawks complemented the static defences; circling the volatile cloudscape in elliptical, high-inclination orbits, ready to interdict any remotely suspicious incoming molecule. The fact that so many voidhawks had been taken off civil cargo flights was actually causing a tiny rise in the price of He3, the first for over two hundred and sixty years.
Consensus considered the economic repercussions to be a worthwhile trade for the security such invulnerable defences provided. No ship, robot, or inert kinetic projectile could get within three million kilometres of Jupiter unless specifically permitted to do so.
Even a lone maniac would acknowledge an attempted attack would be the ultimate in futility.
The gravity fluctuation which appeared five hundred and sixty thousand kilometres above Jupiter's equator was detected instantaneously. It registered as an inordinately powerful twist of space-time in the distortion fields of the closest three hundred voidhawks. The intensity was so great that the gravitonic detectors in local SD sensor array had to be hurriedly recalibrated in order to acquire an accurate fix. Visually it appeared as a ruby star, the gravity field lensing Jupiter's light in every direction. Surrounding dust motes and solar wind particles were sucked in, a cascade of pico-meteorites fizzing brilliant yellow.
Consensus went to condition-one alert status. The sheer strength of the space warp ruled out any conventional starship emergence. And the location was provocatively close to the habitats, a hundred thousand kilometres from the nearest designated emergence zone. Affinity commands from Consensus were loaded into the combat wasps drifting inertly among the habitats. Three thousand fusion drives flared briefly, aligning the lethal drones on their new target. The patrol voidhawks formed a sub-Consensus of their own, designating approach vectors and swallow manoeuvres to englobe the invader.
The warp area expanded out to several hundred metres, alarming individual Edenists, though Consensus itself absorbed the fact calmly. It was already far larger than any conceivable voidhawk or blackhawk wormhole terminus. Then it began to flatten out into a perfectly circular two-dimensional fissure in space-time, and the real expansion sequence began. Within five seconds it was over eleven kilometres in diameter. Consensus quickly and concisely reformed its response pattern. Approaching voidhawks performed frantic fifteen-gee parabolas, curving clear then swallowing away. An extra eight thousand combat wasps burst into life, hurtling in towards the Herculean alien menace.
After another three seconds the fissure reached twenty kilometres in diameter, and stabilized. One side collapsed inwards, exposing the wormhole's throat. Three small specks zoomed out of the centre. Oenone and the other two voidhawks screamed their identity into the general affinity band, and implored: HOLD YOUR FIRE!
For the first time in its five hundred and twenty-one year history, the Jovian Consensus experienced the emotion of shock. Even then, its response wasn't entirely blunted. Specialist perceptual thought routines confirmed the three voidhawks remained unpossessed. A five-second lockdown was loaded into the combat wasps.
What is happening? Consensus demanded.
Syrinx simply couldn't resist it. We have a visitor, she replied gleefully. Her entire crew was laughing cheerfully around her on the bridge.
The counter-rotating spaceport was the first part to emerge from the gigantic wormhole terminus. A silver-white disk four and a half kilometres in diameter, docking bay lights glittering like small towns huddled at the base of metal valleys, red and green strobes winking bright around the rim. Its slender spindle slid up after it, appearing to pull the dark rust-red polyp endcap along.
That was when the other starships began to rampage out of the terminus; voidhawks, blackhawks, and Confederation Navy vessels streaking off in all directions. Jupiter's SD sensors and patrol voidhawk distortion fields tracked them urgently. Consensus fired guidance updates at the incoming combat wasps, determinedly vectoring them away from the unruly incursion.
- "Hamilton's joy in science-tethered flights of fancy is infectious."—Interzone on The Reality Dysfunction
- "A space opera that is big, boisterous, and has something for everyone."—Science Fiction Weekly on The Reality Dysfunction
- "This series is taking on one of SF's (and maybe all of literature's) primal jobs: the creation of a world with the scale and complexity of the real one."—Locus on The Reality Dysfunction
- "Elements of space opera, Straubesque horror and adrenaline-laced action make this a demanding, rewarding read."—Publishers Weekly on The Reality Dysfunction
- On Sale
- Feb 11, 2009
- Page Count
- 1360 pages