5,000 years in the future, humankind has spread across thousands of worlds, and more than a dozen different governments exist in an uneasy truce. But human beings have found no signs of other life anywhere approaching human intelligence.
This changes when scientists discover a sunless planet they name Danann, travelling the void just beyond the edge of the Galaxy at such a high speed that it cannot be natural. Its continents and oceans have been sculpted and shaped, with but a single megaplex upon it--close to perfectly preserved--with tens of thousands of near-identical metallic-silver-blue towers set along curved canals. Yet Danann has been abandoned for so long that even the atmosphere has frozen solid. Within a few years Danann will approach an area of singularities that will make exploration and investigation impossible.
Orbital shuttle pilot Jiendra Chang, artist Chendor Barna, and history professor Liam Fitzhugh are recruited by the Comity government and its Deep Space Service, along with scores of other experts as part of an unprecedented and unique expedition to unravel Danann's secrets. And there are forces that will stop at nothing to prevent them, even if it means interstellar war.
Other Series by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
The Saga of Recluce
The Imager Portfolio
The Corean Chronicles
The Spellsong Cycle
The Ghost Books
The Ecolitan Matter
The Forever Hero
The Green Progression
Hammer of Darkness
The Parafaith War
The Octagonal Raven
The Ethos Effect
The Eternity Artifact
The Elysium Commission
Empress of Eternity
The One-Eyed Man
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
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About the Author
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, and Archform: Beauty. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of the fantasy series The Saga of Recluce, Corean Chronicles, and the Imager Portfolio. His science fiction includes Adiamante, the Ecolitan novels, the Forever Hero Trilogy, and Archform: Beauty. Besides a writer, Modesitt has been a U.S. Navy pilot, a director of research for a political campaign, legislative assistant and staff director for a U.S. Congressman, Director of Legislation and Congressional Relations for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a consultant on environmental, regulatory, and communications issues, and a college lecturer. He lives in Cedar City, Utah.
Read an Excerpt
The Eternity Artifact
By L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2005 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
All rights reserved.
At times, every professor believes that his classroom represents the abnegation of intelligence, if not absolute abiosis. This feeling has been universewide since long before the Tellurian Diaspora. Lughday was no exception, especially not for my fourth-period class, Historical Trends 1001, the introductory course, one of the core requirements for undergraduates.
I walked through the door into the small amphitheatre classroom and toward the dais. Forty bodies sat waiting in four tiers, arrayed in a semicircle — all avoiding my scrutiny. At times such as the one before me, I could only wish that the university did not require all full professors to teach one introductory course every year, at a bare minimum. I'd drawn fourth period — right after lunch, and that made it even more of a challenge.
I stationed myself behind the podium, the representation of a practice significantly untransformed in almost ten thousand recorded years of human history — and for the last five, savants and pedants had prognosticated the decline of personal and physical-presence classroom instruction. Yet in all instances where such ill-considered experimentation in technologically based pedagogical methodology had been attempted in an effort to replace what had worked, if imperfectly, the outcomes and the ramifications had ranged from social catastrophe to unmitigated disaster, even as my predecessors in pedagogy had predicted such eventualities.
Technology and implementation had never constituted the difficulty, but rather the genetic and physiological strengths and limitations of human cognitive and learning patterns. From a historical perspective, successful technological applications are those that enhance human capacities, not those that force humans into prestructured technological niches or functions.
As I cleared my throat and stepped to the podium, the murmurs died away. I glanced down at the shielded screen before picking a name, smiling politely, and speaking. "Scholar Finzel, please identify the single most critical aspect of the events leading to the Sunnite-Covenanter Conflagration of 3237."
"Ser?" Finzel offered a blank look.
For the second class of the first semester, blank looks were not exactly infrequent, not for beginning students, especially for those from nonshielded continents or from the occasional off-planet scholar. "I realize neolatry precludes your interest in matters of past history, but since the Conflagration resulted in the devastation of Meath, extensive damage to the Celtic worlds of the Comity, and significant taxation increases for the entire Comity, and since both the Covenanters and the Alliance have continued to rearm and rebuild their fleets, with a continued hostility exemplified most recently by the so-called pacification of the Mazarene systems and the forcible annexation of the Walden Libracracy ..."
That not-so-gentle reminder did not remove the expression of incomprehension, but only added one of veiled hostility. I used the screen to check his background. As I'd vaguely recalled, he was from Ulster, where he could have netlinked and been provided the answer.
"Scholar Finzel," I said politely, "Gregory is a shielded continent, and the university is a shielded institution. You are expected to read the texts before class. For some reason, you seem unable to comprehend this basic requirement. I suggest you remedy the situation before the next class." I turned to a student with a modicum of interest in her eyes. "Scholar MacAfee?"
"According to Robertson Janes, ser, there were two linked causes of the Conflagration. The first was the malfunction of the communications linkages of the Covenanter fleet command, and the second was the widespread perception among the population of the Alliance worlds that the Covenanters intended to spread a nanogenevirus that would transform all herbivores into hogs." A hint of a smile crossed Scholar MacAfee's lips.
"You're in the general area," I replied, "but I don't believe that Janes said the Covenanter fleet's command communications malfunctioned. Do you recall exactly what he wrote?"
"Ser?" The tentative voice was that of Ariel Leanore, a dark-haired young woman who looked more like a girl barely into seminary, rather than at university.
"I think ... didn't he write something ... it was more like ... the expectations of instantaneous response resulted in the ill-considered reprisal on Hajj Majora ... and that reprisal made the Sunnis so angry that they passed the legislation funding the High Caliph's declaration of Jihad. There were rumors about the Spear of Iblis, but those were noncausal ..." Leanore paused, her voice trailing away.
"Very good, Scholar Leanore." I stopped and surveyed the faces, seeing that most of them still hadn't grasped the impact of Janes's words. "The expectations of instantaneous response ... what does that mean?"
All forty faces were blank with the impermeability of incomprehension. When I had been in the service, I had believed that such an expression was limited to those of less-than-advanced intelligence. The years in academia had convinced me that it appeared upon the visages of all too many individuals in the adolescent and postadolescent years, regardless of innate intelligence or the lack thereof.
"What it means ..." I drew out the words. "... is that instantaneous communications and control preclude the opportunity for considered thought and reflection. The Covenanter command had the ability to order and carry out an immediate reprisal. They did so. They did not think about the fact that the Covenanter trading combines on Hajj Majora had, within the terms of their culture, acted responsibly against those Covenanters who had manipulated the terms of exchange in a manner that could be most charitably described as fraud." I cleared my throat. There are definite disadvantages to auditory lectures, especially without even sonic boosting, but my discomfort was irrelevant to those who had enacted the shielding compact. "Now that
you know that, why did I initially suggest that there was only one critical aspect to these events?" "You suggest that both events listed by Janes share a commonality, ser?" That was Scholar Amyla Sucharil, one of three exchange students from the worlds of the Middle Kingdom.
"Not only the events cited by Janes, but those cited by Yamato and Alharif."
"Isn't it communications? They all deal with communications, ser," suggested Leanore.
Young Ariel might have been tentative, but at least she was thinking, unlike most of the others. "Exactly! Both the events cited by Janes were the result of misunderstanding and misapplications of the use and function of communications, if in different societal aspects. If you apply the same tests to the examples of Yamato and Alharif, you'll find a similar pattern." I smiled, not that I wanted to, because it was likely to be a long afternoon. "History illustrates a pattern in communications. In low-tech civilizations, only immediate personal communications can be conveyed with any speed, and those are often without detail. As more detail is required, communications slow. As technology improves, there is always a trade-off between speed and detail, because improving technology results in greater societal and infrastructural complexity, which requires greater detail. Until the development of fullband comm and nanoprocessing, this trade-off existed to a greater or lesser degree. For the past millennium or so, however, the limitation on communications has not been the technology. What has it been?" I surveyed the faces, some beginning to show apprehension as they realized that they did not know the answer, and that I might indeed call upon them.
"Would it be understanding, ser?" ventured Sucharil.
"Precisely! Just because you have the information, and even a hundred near-instantaneous analyses, doesn't mean that you truly know what to do with it, particularly when the analyses may be conflicting, depending on the background assumptions and the weight of the evidence. This was particularly true in the case of the Conflagration, because of the cultural imperatives of both the Covenanters and the Alliance. Even today, any analyses dealing with the interaction of those cultures are problematical."
"Ser? Why does it matter that much?" That was from Emory David. "The Comity has a thousand world members, and the Covenanters have less than two hundred. There can't be more than seventy Alliance worlds."
"What is the first rule of interstellar warfare?" I replied.
"No planet can be effectively defended against a determined attack ... ser ..." replied Scholar David.
"And what are the beliefs behind a jihad?"
Finally, comprehension began to illuminate a few faces.
"You mean, ser, that they don't care because they'll go to paradise?"
"Or Heaven, if they're Covenanters doing the Will of the Divine, and seeking to ensure that we do not recover the Morning Star," I replied dryly.
"But ... that's a myth without foundation ..."
I could not ascertain the source of that incredulous murmur.
"Not to true believers, it is not. Not even in this so-called enlightened and rational times, and certainly not upon the Worlds of the Covenant. The Morning Star, or the Spear of Iblis, the Hammer of Lucifer, whatever the specific term, is a symbol of forbidden knowledge, knowledge that is considered only the province of Iblis, Satan, or their demon children. If there is one aspect of all true-believer religions that remains constant across time and history, it is that certain aspects of technology or science are forbidden by the deity because use of that knowledge usurps the powers and privileges of the deity. Such theocracies will therefore commit great violence over issues or scientific practices that would appear common to many of you." I inhaled slowly, for a pause. "With regard to this, even if the Comity is more secular in outlook, once the theocracies have used force against our interests, such actions require force in response, or the perception of weakness will cost even more in the long run. We lost the populations of ten worlds. The Covenanters lost thirty and the Alliance nearly forty. It has taken close to ten centuries for them to recover, half that for us, except that a dead world remains that for longer than we or any other humans will be around to recolonize. A hundred worlds scoured ... would you like it to happen again, on Ulster, or Lyr? Or perhaps Culain or Liaden?" I paused. "Or perhaps the Covenanters are somewhat sensitive to the power of position, in which case, what happens to be the other leading secular polity? The one with whom they share the closest stellar congruencies?"
"The ... Middle Kingdom?"
"Correct. Now ... my skepticism is almost without limbi, but most recently the First Advocate of the Middle Kingdom died in circumstances resembling assassination — right after he had delivered a series of addresses severely critical of the theocratic expansionism of the worlds of the Covenant. What might happen if the Middle Kingdom were reputed to obtain some forbidden knowledge, something resembling the Spear of Iblis? To borrow an ancient metaphor, how long before the sabres began to rattle? Again ... just over, if you will, information?"
There was silence in the room, although I could hear someone murmur, "It couldn't happen again ..." I refrained from suggesting all too many people, particularly politicians, had said those words, or some variation, over hundreds of centuries, generally to everyone's regret.
"Now ... I'd like each of you to take a moment to reflect. I would like each of you to come up with an example from history where information and how it was handled was critical in determining the fate of something — an army, a fleet, a nation, a world." I held up a hand to forestall the objections. "I know. Once you're away from Gregory, you can netlink and get a reply, ordered by whatever parameters you suggest. The point of this exercise is to develop your judgment so that when you do that in the future, you will have a greater understanding of what that information actually means."
This time the majority of expressions were those of resignation. I supposed that was an improvement. If they thought what I was requiring was difficult, they hadn't even considered what was going to be required in the later stages of applied manual mathematics. I'd learned, years earlier, that if I leaned on the students hard in the opening classes, the classes got easier and more rewarding toward the end. Unfortunately, doing so, and maintaining a cheerful demeanor in the process, was arduous in the first weeks of the semester.
I didn't quite breathe a sigh of relief when fourth period was over and I left the classroom, walking down the ramp to the main level. There were times I could feel my hands tightening, wanting to throttle certain students. The best ones cared for knowledge as a tool, and the worst only sought a degree with marks that would guarantee entry into some multi or another or into the Comity bureaucracy, which was worse, from what I'd seen, than that of academia. I could not help but wish, at times, that I were back teaching in the days prior to the Disapora on Old Earth, where everything had been broadband and without the direct face-to-face student contact that reminded me all too often of how little most of them cared for knowledge itself.
But ... that time on Old Earth had been before the discovery of the subtle but far-reaching effects of broadcast energies, even at extraordinarily low power, on neonatal and prematuration mental development. The Comity had banned wide-scale public and private broadcast of information and power, and relied on monoptic distribution systems, unlike the more conservative governments, such as the Covenanters and Sunnite Alliance, for whom cost-benefit analyses included individuals with environmentally damaged attention spans. I couldn't help but snort to myself. My students had short enough attention spans without additional technological assistance in shortening them further. The continent of Gregory, as many other continents on Comity worlds, had even more stringent requirements than the baseline regulations in force throughout the entire Comity of Worlds.
Once back in my office, little more than an overlarge closet three meters on a side, I settled myself behind my console and keyed in the codes to call up my in-comms — there were no personal direct-links at the university, or for that matter, anywhere on the continent.
The first message was from the provost — just a message, and no text.
Congratulations on being nominated for a senior fellowship with the Comity Diplomatic Corps. Your continued diligence in seeking outside validation and recognition of your talents, accomplishments, and credentials has not gone unnoticed ...
I just looked at the message. The last thing I wanted was a senior fellowship with the CDC. Years back, my service tours had convinced me of the futility of government service. I certainly had not applied for such a fellowship. Had the provost nominated me? Why? Had I been that much of a thorn in his bureaucratic side? It didn't matter. In the unlikely event I happened to be selected, I'd politely refuse. There were more than enough brilliant junior professors who wanted such empty honors and would be happy to accept.
I moved to the next message.CHAPTER 2
The five-story building in New Jerusalem was identified as the Zion Mercantile Exchange. It wasn't, although there were legitimate trade and commerce offices on the main level. At the end of the east corridor, I stepped through the gate to the lifts, cleared by a minute sample of my true DNA. My destination was on the second level. At the third doorway on the second level, I offered my wrist once more to the DNA-coder.
"Request clearance codes."
"Kappa seven-eight-nine-six, Josiah three, Walls of Jericho, Hatusa version."
"John Paul Goodman, cleared." The endurasteel portal irised open, long enough for me to enter one of the sanctums of the Covenant Intelligence Service.
One of Colonel Truesdale's bright young men looked up from his console at me. "The colonel will be with you in a few minutes, Operative Goodman."
I was a senior CIS operative, not just an operative. I didn't correct him. Instead, I settled into one of the straight-backed chairs to wait.
Fourteen and a half minutes passed before the aide said pleasantly, "You can go in now, Operative Goodman."
"Thank you." I offered a warm smile and walked through the door that opened as I neared and closed behind me.
The inner office looked to have a panoramic view of New Jerusalem through a wide expanse of glass. That was an illusion. Two men awaited me. Colonel Truesdale sat behind a table desk, and a dark-skinned man with gray hair sat in a chair to his left, facing me.
Colonel Truesdale's eyes were hard and glittering blue. They didn't match the genial laugh and the warmth of his voice. "Operative Goodman, you've heard of Major Ibaio."
Excerpted from The Eternity Artifact by L. E. Modesitt Jr., David G. Hartwell. Copyright © 2005 L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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