The Evolutionary Void

The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton

Book: The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter F. Hamilton
shock wave of its passage
slammed past it, shattering all unprotected panes of glass within a
three-kilometer radius. Nearby regrav capsules tumbled through the air like
leaves in a blizzard as their smartnets used emergency power to try to right
them. Local traffic control was screaming warnings at Digby on every frequency.
Metropolitan police cruisers curved around to intercept. He sent out a blanket
broadcast to be picked up by every cybersphere node and macrocellular cluster
surrounding the force field.
    “Everyone in the generator complex, switch off the force field and
deactivate the wormhole. You are violating an ANA-sanctioned operation. I am
authorized to use extreme force to end your transgression.”
    As he suspected, there was no reply. There never would be, he knew. Every
moment he waited, playing the good guy, was another moment spent eradicating
the precious evidence in orbit. All that left him with was the problem of
knocking out the force field without flattening half the city.
    Eight slender atomic distortion beams stabbed out from the starship to
the top of the force field dome, ripping the air molecules apart in a blaze of
incandescence. Monstrous static discharges flared away into the heaving
atmosphere. The force field began to glow a pale purple, as if it were growing
a bruise. A cluster of dump webs skittered down from the Columbia505 .
They struck the force field, kicking out blooms of dusky ripples. The darkness
around them intensified, expanding rapidly. Under such an assault, overload was
only a matter of time. The force field collapsed amid a deluge of wild energy
flares and superheated shock waves that battered the surrounding buildings. Columbia505 received a heavy buffeting, which the
smartcore fought to counter and hold stable above the circle of glaring ion
flames that were eating into the generator building. Sensors reported the
wormhole had failed. Digby was worried about how much evidence it had already
cleared away.
    Ellezelin Civil Defense Agency force fields were coming on above Riasi, a
series of large interlocking hemispheres protecting the city’s districts. Five
large Ellezelin navy cruisers were racing around the planet, their trajectories
curving sharply to position them above the city.
    A starship hurtled up from the buckling generator complex, accelerating
at nearly forty gees. It fired a barrage of energy beams and disrupter pulses
at the Columbia505 . Digby found himself gripped by
safety webbing as the starship spun helplessly. Planetary atmosphere was an
alien milieu for it; systems designed for combat in the clear vacuum of space
were operating below optimum, fogged by the dense gases. The force field
shimmered a vivid amber, spitting off glittering scintillations while Digby’s
vulnerable inner ears conjured up a wave of nausea. Far below, consecutive
shock waves crashed down across the beleaguered commercial buildings and
warehouses that comprised Riasi’s sprawling interstellar commerce district.
    The Columbia505 leveled out, and the routines
in Digby’s macrocellular clusters neutralized the nausea. Exoimage displays
showed him the other starship streaking up through the troposphere, a huge
ionic contrail shimmering behind it. “Follow it,” Digby ordered the smartcore.
The air above the shaken city howled yet again as the Columbia505 powered its way up, ignoring the cruisers that were attempting to converge on
it. The other starship slipped into hyperspace. Columbia505 followed.
    “Why?” Paula asked before Digby had even cleared the Ellezelin system.
“Those fragments were vital. We’ll lose most of them now.”
    “Forensic analysis was only ever a long shot,” Digby countered. “I
determined the faction ship was a much better lead. They risked a lot to
obstruct my collection operation.”
    “Which implies the fragments you were recovering were important.”
    “My judgment,” Digby insisted, wishing he didn’t feel quite so small. No

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