Authors: T. R. Harris
Jason King: Agent to the Stars
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The Fringe Worlds
T.R. Harris & Harris Publications, Inc.
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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
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Also by T.R. Harris
The Human Chronicles Saga
Part One (5 Books)
Book 1 –
The Fringe Worlds
Book 3 –
The War of Pawns
Book 4 –
The Tactics of Revenge
Book 5 –
The Legend of Earth
Part Two (3 Books)
Book 1 –
Book 2 –
The Apex Predator
Book 3 –
A Galaxy to Conquer
Jason King – Agent to the Stars Series
Book 1 –
The Enclaves of Sylox
The Enclaves of Sylox
Nothing can beat that new starship smell….
In addition, the spacecraft was also agile, sleek, and could blow the doors off anything up to three times its size.
was everything it was advertised to be, and as I was finding out, a whole lot more.
So with giddy enthusiasm, I gripped the control stick a little tighter and sent the tiny craft diving in low toward the huge gas giant of Unilox, so close in fact that I could make out the swirling of the brilliant kaleidoscope of colorful gases below me. I’d been out here before in my little in-system flitter, but this was different. As I skimmed the tops of the roiling clouds of deadly methane gas, I felt more in control and confident that the ship could counteract the tremendous gravity of the giant planet, while allowing for the closest approach I’d ever made.
I also couldn’t keep from smiling knowing that my wild maneuver would raise the blood pressure of the salesbeing seated next to me. However, after so many years of being on the other side of the table, it felt good to be the customer now. And with such a huge commission on the line, it was my turn to have a little lighthearted fun with the salesperson.
Regrettably, however impressive the planet Unilox may be, our visit there was brief, lasting only a handful of minutes. Now the Jupiter-like globe was displayed on my rearview monitor and shrinking noticeably as we sped away, heading for the vast open space between star systems.
“You should know, the transit time to Cryus is only forty-six minutes at full power,” the salesbeing managed to say, having recovered from our close encounter with the gas giant. His name was Vol’ox and he was a Mulicorean, and even though the kangaroo-like aliens didn’t build the Noreen brand of starships, his boss did have the local dealership on Sylox.
I glanced behind me at my friend and business partner, Quint Valarie, and saw a silly grin plastered on his face. He seemed to be more excited about the N-Two than I was – and he wasn’t even sitting at the controls.
“Can we open her up once we’re in open space?” he asked Vol’ox.
“Of course; have some fun. It is not every day that one gets the chance to pilot a Noreen, and especially an N-Two."
The alien had that right. I’d checked out the original Noreen – the XL-1 – and found it to be only slightly more powerful and responsive than my old Fusion. I’d even flown some used Ortons and Novas, but they just didn’t feel right.
And even though the Noreen wasn’t huge – coming in at just over eighty feet – it was livable and with an interior similar to that of a Class-A motorhome. I have to say, I really did like the compact feel of the spacecraft. It provided for a more-intimate flying experience, and helped to make the teenage fantasy of piloting your very own starship that much more
However … it was still the raw speed and agility of the N-Two that really got my juices flowing.
I knew I should have been holding my cards a little closer to the vest with regards to Vol’ox – after all, I know how to play the game better than most. But it’s a little hard to be cool when sitting at the controls of a starship that could get me all the way back to Earth in only sixty-one days, a journey of twenty thousand light-years. And besides, how many people can say they own their own starship? And I mean a real
type of starship?
So cut me some slack; you’d feel the same if you were in my shoes….
“This particular model is available for immediate delivery,
King; we have four in stock,” Vol’ox said.
“And you’ll take the Fusion in trade?”
“Of course; however, you should be aware the value has dropped considerably since the new XL model came out with the 75-mag generator and Zilic converter.”
I already knew that, but I didn’t care. The trade-in would only knock a couple hundred thousand off the total price of just over five million. I’d been saving up for the purchase for over two years, and now with Undersecretary-of-something-or-another Mark Wilson arriving tomorrow, the commission from his deal would put me over the top. I already had four-point-nine in the bank, and if Wilson bought in the price range as did most diplomats of his rank, then I’d have it.
Still, that was a lot of money, and since all purchases of interstellar-class starships were cash-only, I needed the commission and not the credit. I have to admit, the cash-only requirement
a bitch, even though it made sense. After all, someone with a ship like this could head off across the galaxy at a moment’s notice, never be seen again – if that was your intention.
So it came down to cash or nothing.
But this ride was sweet, so I wasn’t going to let something as trivial as the cash-only-requirement keep me from getting her.
After all, I’m Jason King, President of Galactic Realty and Relocation Service, and a legend in the real estate industry on the planet Sylox. I knew I’d make quick work of Mark Wilson and his family, helping to bring their dream of homeownership into reality – even if it was an alien world thousands of light-years from Earth.
But it’s just what I do, and I do it well.
We were now beyond the boundary of the Sylox star system and I cranked the gravity generators up to full power, increasing the well-intensity now that we were free of any conflicting gravity sources. The continuous series of microscopic black holes being created just ahead of the ship was now free to warp the fabric of space and place the tiny starship just inside the event horizon, at a point where the laws of nature no longer applied.
The Cainsian Gravity Drive also had the added effect of drawing in space from the opposite side of the singularities, effectively compressing interstellar distances in our forward direction to only a fraction of their true length. It was really quite a remarkable device, and at such velocities, we were soon halfway to the next star system, and without even coming close to redlining.
I pushed the control stick over to the left and watched the stars sweep across my field of view. And then I whipped it back in the other direction. The inertia compensators adjusted with barely a blip, keeping all of us from being crushed against the bulkheads by the incredible g-forces of the turns.
This was really something, to be out here amongst the brilliant stars and with an entire galaxy at my beck and call, even if this was just a test drive—
“What’s that?” Quint asked. “It looks like a star … with a tail.”
I scanned the star field before me until I saw what he was talking about. He was right. The object was just off our starboard quarter: a bright star with a prominent curved tail jutting out from its fiery sphere.
“I believe that is the
Insit Accretion Disk
,” Vol’ox said. “It is one of a dozen or so in the region.”
“An accretion disk – like you find with a black hole? And I mean a
black hole?” Quint asked.
“That is correct. As you know, these objects are carefully tracked and monitored since they are such dangerous obstacles to star travel.
, I believe, is the closest to the Sylox System.”
I felt Quint bump the back of the pilotseat as he strained to get a better look at the object. “I saw one up close on the way here from Earth,” he said. “The ship took a detour so we could get a better look. It was incredible. I mean, it’s a black hole … eating a star. Now that’s something you don’t see that every day.”
I looked over at Vol’ox. The long-eared alien appeared to be as excited as we were.
“Okay, then,” he said, “let us go take look!”
It was only a short ten minute hop over to the accretion disk, and I had to back off on the throttle as we approached otherwise we would have shot right past.
As it turned out, Quint wasn’t exaggerating – the sight was awesome, and looked like something you’d expect to see only in a CGI-intense sci-fi movie. Yet this was real, with the deadly spectacle now unfolding right before our eyes.
The black hole was located about a million miles from a decaying white dwarf and was drawing in a wide swatch of material from the star across the gap between the pair. The gas was thick, yellow and white, and I could see it flow even from this distance. And as the roiling river of stellar ejecta approached the black hole, it formed into a tight spiral and turned a brilliant cobalt blue around the utterly black disk of the singularity’s event horizon.
Beyond that there was nothing. It was an eerie sight, and no matter how hard I looked I couldn’t see anything in or crossing the dark void. It was literally a hole in space, and I was in awe that so much material – essentially an entire star – would eventually disappear into such a tiny point in space, never to be seen again. This was the true power of the universe on full display.
The gravity drive of the Noreen operated on the same principle, yet on a microscopic scale compared to this voracious star-eater.
The three of us sat mesmerized for several minutes without speaking, entranced by the brilliant spectacle before us. The interior of the Noreen was now bathed in the soft glow of starlight, and with occasional flashes of yellow and blue sparkles helping to enhance our near-hypnotic state.
But then I shuddered, realizing that there were millions – if not billions – of these deadly objects occupying every region of space, including a supermassive one sitting at the very center of the galaxy. The incredible gravitational influence of this central behemoth was what caused the slow swirling motion of the Milky Way, and everything that made up our conglomeration of space dust – stars, planets, even me – had been attracted by its inconceivably intense gravity-well. And the monster was still growing, destined in some far distant future to consume the entire universe with one final, galactic-size belch.
From Sylox the Galactic Core was only eight thousand light-years away – just a skip in the park by galactic standards. I ruminated, thinking that once I got the Noreen, I might even risk a trip out there one day, even though it wasn’t recommended—
“Mon King, pardon me, but we really should be heading back,” Vol’ox said, interrupting my reverie.
“Yeah, of course,” I said. “It’s just that, well you know.” I cranked the stick over, and just before pressing the accelerator, a proximity alarm blared.
Quint leaned over my shoulder and scanned the monitors, as I desperately fumbled around the control panel trying to figure out how to turn off the screeching alarm. “We have three ships closing on us, fast.” Quint said.
“Are there pirates in the area?" I asked Vol’ox.
“There should not be. Not this close to Sylox.” The alien then wrapped his short tail around his waist and inserted the end into his marsupial pouch, before leaning forward at the comm station. “Approaching spaceships: please relay your intentions.”
The response was immediate. “Unidentified craft, you have entered restricted space. You are ordered to cease well-generation and prepare to be boarded.”
“But we are just an LPS – a Licensed Private Starship – on a test run. We were not aware we had entered restricted space.”
“If that is so, then transmit your C-14 license code immediately.”
The three ships had bolted in from different directions and I could tell from their energy signatures that their weapons were active. I should have been expecting this. After all, Sylox was the capital of the Galactic Union, so it only made sense that the area surrounding the planet and its star system would be full of military facilities, both known and unknown. Yet nowhere on the charts was this area marked ‘restricted.’
The Noreen II came equipped with a small flash-cannon – only one – for defense against the rogue pirate or other hostile threat, but certainly not one powerful enough to go up against three military-grade warships. I wasn’t comfortable with that, so I made a mental note that if I got the ship, I would beef up her weapons and defensive systems. After all, one can never have too much firepower.