Read Aneka Jansen 5: The Greatest Heights of Honour Online

Authors: Niall Teasdale

Tags: #Science Fiction, #spaceships, #cyborg, #Aneka Jansen, #robot, #alien, #artificial inteligence, #war, #Espionage

Aneka Jansen 5: The Greatest Heights of Honour

BOOK: Aneka Jansen 5: The Greatest Heights of Honour
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The Greatest Heights of Honour

An Aneka Jansen Novel

By Niall Teasdale

Copyright 2014 Niall Teasdale

Amazon Kindle Edition

 

 

Contents

Part One: Heat
Part Two: Fuel
Part Three: Fire
Part Four: The Slow War
Interlude
Part Five: What Once Was Lost
Part Six: The Battle of New Earth
Part Seven: Summer Without Sun
Epilogue

 

 

 

Part One: Heat

Farrington’s World, 6.9.528 FSC.

Aneka looked out across the volcanic landscape of Farrington’s World and wondered again why anyone had ever thought of living in the place. It was midway through what passed for autumn there and the temperature was over forty Celsius in the shade. Slight tremors could be felt at least once a day as the crust shifted and a fault line moved. The atmosphere was standard nitrogen-oxygen laced with enough hydrogen sulphide that everyone except Aneka was forced to wear a filter mask all the time. And in the distance, thankfully, clouds of dark smoke rose from arcs of very young volcanos, belching more toxic gasses into the air.

Farrington’s World was what was known as a Roanoke. Aneka had been amused to hear the term used, especially since the Jenlay seemed to have no idea where it came from. Roanokes were colonies that failed for no known reason, often with the loss or disappearance of everyone in them. In this case it seemed misapplied. The mining facilities and buildings that had once housed around forty thousand colonists were half-buried under solidified lava. Yes, Farrington’s World had failed, and no one had known why, but that was mostly because no one had bothered to look until now.

‘Adams to Jansen.’ The voice sounded in Aneka’s head and she grimaced on hearing it; Marshal Adams was a pain in the butt. ‘Are those seismometers in place yet?’

‘Are you receiving telemetry from them all, Doctor Adams?’ Aneka asked. It was a thought to her, converted by her internal systems into radio waves so that they came out as words to the man back at the base camp facility.

‘No,’ he replied. ‘All but one are returning data.’

‘Then clearly they are not all in place. I’ve got a hundred-metre walk to the last site. It should be functional soon.’

‘I was hoping to have the entire network up and running by now…’

‘Then you should have brought more facilitators. Jansen out.’

‘Doctor Adams has an exceptionally high opinion of himself,’ Al commented as Aneka marched off toward the next target location. The AI was inside Aneka’s chest somewhere, there originally to observe her while she observed Humanity. He was an able psychologist.

‘I wish Bash was here. He could have taken the flak from the jumped-up gowdeyinjing and I wouldn’t have to.’

Adams’ expedition had not come with a big enough budget for six scientists, the Garnet Hyde, and the number of facilitators that should have gone with such a large group. The Federal Administration had helped out a little by adding a seventh person, a Scout, to the team. He, at least, knew what he was doing. Aneka had had the chance to settle in and do the necessary exams to get herself promoted to a rank three facilitator, and Leo Bashford, her boss, had stupidly let himself be promoted as well. The result: Bash was back on New Earth doing lectures and teaching courses, and Aneka was leading the facilitator team here.

‘That will teach you to be good at your job,’ Al commented wryly.

‘Huh. I’m still surprised David took it so well.’

David ‘Monkey’ Gibbons had been second in rank to Bashford, and now he was second to Aneka. When she had completed the necessary exams, he had actually hugged her, even though she had jumped past him in rank and he, at least theoretically, had more experience.

‘He lacks your confidence, even now,’ Al replied. ‘I think he is quite happy letting someone else make the tough decisions. And, of course, deal with people like Adams. Besides, he really doesn’t care what he’s doing so long as he gets to do it with Delta.’

Which was a valid point. Monkey and Delta had made their relationship official in the spring, and they tried to do everything together. It was cute to the point of nausea at times. It had, however, prompted Bashford and Gillian to get their act together, and another good reason that Bashford was not there with them was that he had been on holiday with his new official partner when the Hyde had left. Aneka referred to it as a honeymoon, though marriage no longer existed so it was not exactly the same.

The map scrolling past Aneka’s vision field indicated that she had arrived at the location where Adams wanted the last seismic sensor and she stopped to set it up. The device was a cylinder, ten centimetres in diameter and six centimetres high with a metal probe that needed to be sunk into the ground. Aneka had seen films where they set up similar things back in the twenty-first century, and that had required a lot of digging and careful isolation. Things had definitely moved on.

On the other hand, Adams seemed to have decided that this one needed to be right on top of an old lava flow. The spike was not going to go into basaltic rock without help. Aneka took a heavy-duty laser drill from her backpack and set to work carving a hole into the dull, black stone.

She had just finished cutting the hole when her edge detection software picked up another one a few metres away. From where she was standing it looked as though someone else had been doing exactly what she was doing. Pushing the seismometer into place, she activated it, checked that it was transmitting, and then walked over to the other hole. It had not, she decided, been cut by a laser, but it was a near-perfect shaft cut into the basalt and, apparently, went down a long way. The edge was weathered so it had been there for a while. What marked it as different was that the weathered edge was slightly raised, almost as though it had been drilled up from below rather than above.

‘Some sort of heat-based cutting device?’ Al suggested. ‘A plasma or fusion torch, perhaps. Heat expansion would explain the raised edge.’

‘I’ll show the data to one of the geologists,’ Aneka replied. ‘Though it probably is artificial; I just can’t imagine any survivors here spending the time analysing the rock.’

Turning, she started on the long walk back to the camp site.

Tristar Township, New Earth.

‘The study programmes are going better than I could have imagined.’ Holly Marsden’s image on the wall screen in Gillian and Bashford’s house showed a rather happy woman. Actually, it seemed to show a woman wearing a combination of joy, relief, and surprise. ‘Like I said, at the beginning everyone was a little wary. The students wanted to learn, but they weren’t sure about the Citizens, and the Citizens were either half-convinced their students would be useless or unsure of their own ability to teach them. I’m pretty sure it was the enthusiasm that did it. When we figured out what each of the students was really good at, what they
wanted
to learn… Obviously we all have to put up with learning, and teaching, the boring stuff, but when they sit down to their own lessons,’ Marsden smiled broadly, ‘I’ve seen fairly jaded scientists becoming enthused about their subject because here is someone to teach it to who finds it all amazing!’

A thought from Ella paused the playback and she grinned at Gillian. ‘I was a little worried she wouldn’t be able to make it work myself.’

Gillian nodded. ‘Yes, me too. Or at least so quickly. I was worried that the first year would be lost as they tried to work out how to make it all work.’ Gillian, and Bashford, had already seen the message from Old Earth. It had arrived a couple of days ago, addressed to Gillian, but with a note saying it was for the whole team. This was the first chance Ella had had to watch it.

The playback restarted. ‘Young Abigail is my little star. I’ve been taking some of her lessons myself because I get insights I’d never thought of from her as much as anything. She has a real talent for people. She’s a little less naive than she was when she first arrived, though I think that was a little bit of an act, or maybe more like a defence. Anyway, she’s seen more of the world and she’s coming out of her shell. We’ve been taking her out to talk to some of her fellow surface dwellers. She’s kind of our ambassador for the programme.’

‘I’m glad Abby’s doing well,’ Ella commented.

On screen Marsden was looking more serious. ‘Thank you for the warning about the Pinnacle,’ she said. ‘When we got it we set up another programme, and I have to say none too soon. It was starting to look like we would get more Enforcers going out to carve themselves surface kingdoms, like those ones Aneka took care of near Matlock. Now they’ve got a purpose again. Instead of being Manu Dei’s police force, they’re the best people we have to defend us from outside attack. And then we started getting attacks on some of the ships going to and from New Titan Station. We’ve put out patrol ships and shifted to running convoys. We haven’t identified the attackers yet and they may just be pirates from out of the system. The Guardians… uh, that’s what we’ve started calling the Enforcers now, it seemed more appropriate. The Guardians have suggested a plan. It’s risky, but they seem keen to show they’re willing to protect us, even if it might mean their lives and we aren’t sure there’s another way. We need to know who’s attacking us. Anyway, enough from me. Councillor Holly Marsden signing off from Prime City.’

The screen went to black and Ella turned to Gillian, frowning. ‘Attackers they can’t identify?’

‘I know,’ Gillian responded. ‘The first thing I thought of was the Herosians, but I’m not sure whether I should mention it.’

‘Why not?’

‘The Administration knows nothing about the evidence you and Aneka found. It was Winter’s theory that it was the Herosians behind the attacks on our shipping, and she’s rather out of favour at the moment. And if you’re right about the head of the FSA…’

Ella’s frown deepened. ‘And you can bet the FSA is monitoring our messages to Old Earth, even if the Administration isn’t doing it routinely.’

‘Yes. We don’t want the FSA taking any more interest in us than they already do.’

‘Yeah,’ Ella agreed, her tone grumpy. ‘Aneka’s well out of it at the moment. I might be able to get around it if I talk to someone.’

‘Would that be someone who you don’t know the whereabouts of because you haven’t seen her since she sent you off into hiding with Aneka?’

‘Well, no, because I don’t know where she is. But I might, possibly, know a way of getting a request to her.’

Farrington’s World.

Base camp was a fairly hastily constructed affair. Large tents had been erected and then covered in construction foam to give greater solidity. It was not going to be much use if a volcano erupted under them, but then neither was anything else. It was waterproof and would even survive impact from a lava bomb if needed, but mostly it was air conditioned, which meant no one had to wear a mask inside it.

The inner airlock door opened up to allow Aneka into the ‘operations room.’ That was what Adams was calling it; Aneka thought that was definitely a grander title than it deserved. It had the computers, which were handling data acquisition from the field sensors, and there was the system handling communications, but that was about it.

Primly and Garlan were on duty at the consoles. Both were geologists, as were most of the team. Garlan was the oldest of the two by a couple of years, here to study unusual tectonic systems as part of his advanced thesis. Aneka would have called it a doctoral thesis, except that he would not get to call himself ‘doctor’ afterwards; the term was used for people who had attained tenure in their profession. Garlan was bleach-blonde, attractive, slim, not especially fit, with a tendency to overwork. Primly would have made a good surf-bum. He was blonder, almost to Aneka’s white, but his hair was longer and worn in a ponytail. He was even better on the eye than the average Jenlay, with a tightly muscled body and bright, blue eyes. He seemed to be there primarily because his girlfriend was Adams’ assistant.

‘Good work on the seismos,’ Primly said, grinning at Aneka. Yes, his girlfriend was there with him, but it had not stopped him looking very speculatively at both Aneka and Delta. On the other hand, Adams was not going to thank her.

‘Everything online?’ she asked in reply.

‘We’re getting data from everything. Be a while before we know
what
data we’re actually getting. Indaia wanted to talk to you about setting up her equipment.’

‘Thanks.’ Aneka walked through to the second bubble in the little enclave, which had been set up as a mess area, though that basically meant there was a table and some chairs, and a small foodfac in the corner that could provide something like a nutritious meal. It was sufficiently ‘something like’ that Aneka had decided not to bother eating while she was there. The important thing, as far as she was concerned, was that the device could provide water hot enough for coffee. They had Ashtenna coffee available, thanks to a tryst with Stephen Teldarian, and that would be quite enough to keep her going for the entire trip.

BOOK: Aneka Jansen 5: The Greatest Heights of Honour
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