The Evolutionary Void

The Evolutionary Void

Book 3 of the Void Trilogy

By Peter F. Hamilton

For Felix F. Hamilton,

who arrived at the start of the Void.

Don’t worry, Daddy’s world isn’t really like this.

ONE

THE STARSHIP HAD NO NAME; it didn’t have a serial number or even a marque. Only one of its kind had ever been built. As no more would ever be required, no designation was needed; it was simply the ship.

It streaked through the substructure of spacetime at fifty-nine light-years an hour, the fastest anything built by humans had ever traveled. Navigation at that awesome velocity was by quantum interstice similarity interpretation, which determined the relative location of mass in the real universe beyond. This alleviated the use of crude hysradar or any other sensor that might possibly be detected. The extremely sophisticated ultradrive that powered it might have reached even greater speeds if a considerable fraction of its phenomenal energy hadn’t been used for fluctuation suppression. That meant there was no telltale distortion amid the quantum fields to betray its position to other starships that might wish to hunt it.

As well as its formidable stealth ability, the ship was big, a fat ovoid over six hundred meters long and two hundred meters across at the center. But its real advantage came from its armaments; there were weapons on board that could knock out a half a dozen Commonwealth Navy Capital-class ships while barely stirring out of standby mode. The weapons had been verified only once: the ship had flown over ten thousand light-years from the Greater Commonwealth to test them so as to avoid detection. For millennia to come, primitive alien civilizations in that section of the galaxy would worship as gods the colorful nebulae expanding across the interstellar wastes.

Even now, sitting in the ship’s clean hemispherical cabin with the flight path imagery playing quietly in her exovision, Neskia remembered with a little shiver of excitement and apprehension the stars splitting asunder. It had been one thing to run the clandestine fabrication station for the Accelerator Faction, dispatching ships and equipment to various agents and representatives. That was easy, cold machinery functioning with a precision she could take pride in. But seeing the weapons active was slightly different. She’d felt a level of perturbation she hadn’t known in over two centuries, ever since she became Higher and began her inward migration. Not that she questioned her belief in the Accelerators; it was just the sheer potency of the weapons that struck her at some primitive level that could never be fully exorcised from the human psyche. She was awed by the power of what she alone commanded.

Other elements of her animal past had been erased quietly and effectively: first with biononics and acceptance of Higher cultural philosophy, culminating in her embrace of Accelerator Faction tenets, then by committing to a subtle rejection of her existing body form, as if to emphasize her new beliefs. Her skin now was a shimmering metallic gray, the epidermal cells imbued with a contemporary semiorganic fiber that established itself in perfect symbiosis. The face that had caused many a man to turn in admiration when she was younger now wore a more efficient, flatter profile, with big saucer eyes biononically modified to look across a multitude of spectra. Her neck also had been stretched, its increased flexibility allowing her head much greater maneuverability. Underneath the gently shimmering skin her muscles had been strengthened to a level that would allow her to keep up with a terrestrial panther on its kill run, and that was before biononic augmentation kicked in.

However, it was her mind that had undergone the greatest evolution.