The Line of Polity

The Line of Polity by Neal Asher Read Free Book Online

Book: The Line of Polity by Neal Asher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Neal Asher
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction, adventure, Space Opera
Skellor, and we've got probes out as far as twenty kilometres in every direction," said Gant, over Cormac's comlink.
    "What about the stratospheric probes?" Cormac asked.
    "No sign of a ship, and they've covered most other possibilities. They've been surveying from the moment we arrived," Gant replied.
    "Could be under another chameleonware shield."
    "Yes, there is that."
    Cormac looked around for Gant, and spotted him over by one of the barracks buildings, where a team was stripping out and crating everything, including those damned coralline fragments. He considered going over and joining the Golem, then rejected the idea. He had to find out what all this was about, why Tomalon was being so difficult. Then he would find out what the hell Skellor had been up to.
    Jain ... Cormac tasted the word as he walked to the shuttle. The name had been that of a member of an ancient Hindu sect believing the material world eternal, and seemed suitable for a race with a seemingly numinous technology. It was also suitably ironic considering the race no longer existed. The first fragmentary coralline artefacts had been discovered before Cormac's birth and had immediately been a sensation, for though alien life was common in the Polity, sentient alien life was rare. Interest had waned when the fragments were dated at over five million years old, then resurged when further examination revealed some of them to be the product of advanced nano- and even pico-technology. That discovery had consequently impelled huge advances in Polity technology. Ever since, the hunt had been on for similar remains, but the sum total of fragments found weighed less than ten kilos. Of the Jain themselves, little more was known than that they had occupied many worlds, had actually rearranged solar systems to suit their requirements, and were now gone. No one knew what a Jain looked like. It was speculated that like humans they had adapted themselves to their worlds when the reverse could not be done. And knowing of what those aliens had been, capable, AIs and humans alike expressed the sentiment that perhaps it was a good thing that they were no longer around.
    "Tomalon, can't you transmit the message down here to me?" Cormac asked, suddenly feeling frustrated.
    "No," replied the Captain of the Occam Razor . "It is for your eyes only and it cannot be retransmitted. You have to come here to read it."
    "You say there's no information as to why we have to pull out so fast?"
    "None, unfortunately."
    "What about Occam, has it got anything to say?" Cormac asked, as he reached the lock of the shuttle. The lock irised open and he stepped inside. He was removing his breathing gear and goggles when the Captain's reply came through the shuttle's comlink — the craft's hull otherwise being impervious to radio transmissions.
    "Occam says that Earth Central is aware of the importance of capturing Skellor."
    "That's it?"
    "That's it," Tomalon confirmed.
    Cormac dropped into the seat next to the pilot, and turned to the woman herself. She was Golem, he realized almost immediately. She watched him enquiringly until he impatiently pointed upwards, before strapping himself in — this being a military craft it did not have the luxury of internal grav-plates. She cursorily scanned the instrumentation then lifted and tilted the joystick. With a deep AC hum the craft rose and turned, the screen polarizing as it partially faced towards the sun. To one side Cormac saw the heavy-lifter coming down to collect, piecemeal, the entire Separatist base. For someone the future would involve a great deal of deep forensic scanning, as they extracted every mote of available information concerning what Skellor had been up to from the material of this base. And the deepest and most rigorous scanning would certainly be concentrated on those small fragments of coralline material.
    The sky turned from an inferno to that abrupt blue twilight, as the shuttle outdistanced the sun and continued to ascend.

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