Dark Matter (Star Carrier, Book 5)

Dark Matter (Star Carrier, Book 5) by Ian Douglas Read Free Book Online

Book: Dark Matter (Star Carrier, Book 5) by Ian Douglas Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ian Douglas
its inhabitants as the N’gai Cloud. There, they’d learned about the Schjaa Hok , the Transcending or Time of Change, when the highly advanced species of the ur-Sh’daar had entered a period of transcendence, vanishing from the ken of minds still firmly anchored in what they thought of as Reality. Gray had seen downloaded records of that event almost 900 million years in the past, and was still shaken by it. Of particular interest was the fact that not all members of that long-ago civilization had transcended. Called Refusers —those who had refused the augmentation and the advances in genetics and computer enhancement of an artificially directed evolution—the remnant species had rebuilt a shattered civilization from scratch . . . the civilization Humankind knew now as the Sh’daar.
    Traumatized as a collective of intelligent species by the Time of Change, the Sh’daar had eventually recovered, spreading not only into the much larger galaxy that was devouring the N’gai Cloud, but ultimately through time as well, at least in a limited sense. Within the current epoch of the Milky Way, they’d established themselves as a dominant, apparently electronic civilization that had first appeared a few million years ago, creating a network of client races, the va Sh’daar . They seemed dedicated to the active suppression of higher technologies among their clients—in particular the GRIN drivers of the singularity that had wrecked their culture ages before. Newly encountered species were given the opportunity to join the Sh’daar Collective freely. If the offer was rejected, the new species were forced; Humankind had received the Sh’daar Ultimatum, as it was known, in 2367, through the recently contacted Agletsch. A steady, grinding series of wars had been waged with various va Sh’daar races for the following thirty-eight years.
    Then, twenty years ago, the Sh’daar were beaten . . . or, at least, so it had appeared. America ’s battlegroup had passed through a TRGA cylinder and emerged at the heart of the N’gai Cloud 876 million years in the past—a temporal end run that seemed to have panicked the Sh’daar more than the possibility of a new technic singularity. The resulting truce engineered by Admiral Koenig had promised an end to hostilities, and had actually held for two decades. But recently, Sh’daar client species had been testing human resolve once again. The Confederation insisted that Humankind could not long hold out against superior alien technology and numbers; better to surrender now , Geneva insisted, before Earth was obliterated.
    The difference in cultural philosophies between Old World and New, differences between two alternative and mutually contradictory views of Humankind’s future in the galaxy, had, along with other more mundane problems, resulted in the current civil war back home.
    “The Alcubierre bubble is stable,” Captain Gutierrez reported, jerking Gray’s full awareness back to America ’s flag bridge. “We are currently ’cubing at five point three. We should reach the local TRGA in eight hours.”
    “Very well,” Gray replied, and he smiled. ’ Cubing was naval slang for traveling under Alcubierre Drive. The number was how many light years America was now crossing in a day.
    The Sh’daar, with their distinct advantages in technology over what humans were capable of right now, had obviously missed an important point. That series of wars between their clients and Humankind had put considerable pressure on the Confederation for more than half a century . . . but what the Sh’daar seemed to have missed was the fact that human technology tended to advance much more rapidly during times of war than during peace. Intelligence believed that they were avoiding launching an all-out attack that might easily drive humanity into extinction; they wanted another pliant and cooperative va Sh’daar client, not a glassed-over cinder that once had been an inhabited world.

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