Thousands of years after an entire colony mysteriously disappears, antiquities dealer Alex Benedict comes into possession of a cup that seems to be from the Seeker, one of the colony's ships. Investigating the provenance of the cup, Alex and his assistant Chase follow a deadly trail to the Seeker-strangely adrift in a system barren of habitable worlds. But their discovery raises more questions than it answers, drawing Alex and Chase into the very heart of danger.
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November 17, 2005
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Excerpt from Seeker by Jack McDevitt
. . . But what provided the truest sense of the antiquity of (the Egyptian tomb) was to see graffiti scrawled on its walls by Athenian visitors, circa 200 C.E. And to know the place was as old for them, as their markings are for me.
Wolfgang Corbin, The Vandal and the Slavegirl, 6612 C.E.
1429, THIRTY-ONE YEARS LATER
The station was exactly where Alex said it would be, on the thirteenth moon of Gideon V, a gas giant with no special characteristics to recommend it other than that it circled a dead star rather than a sun. It was in a deteriorating orbit, and, in another hundred thousand years, according to the experts, it would slip into the clouds and vanish. In the meantime it was ours.
The station consisted of a cluster of four domes and an array of radio telescopes and sensors. Nothing fancy. Everything, the domes and the electronic gear and the surrounding rock, was a dark, patchy orange, illuminated only by the mud brown gas giant and its equally mud brown ring system. It was easy enough to see why nobody had noticed the station during several routine Survey visits. Gideon V had just become only the third known outstation left by the Celians.
"Magnificent," Alex said, standing by the viewport with his arms folded.
"The site?" I said. "Or you?"
He smiled modestly. We both knew he wasn't good at being humble.
"Benedict strikes again," I said. "How did you figure it out?"
I hesitate to say Alex ever looked smug. But that day he was close. "I am pretty good, aren't I?"
"How'd you do it?" I'd doubted him all the way, and he was enjoying his moment.
"Simple enough, Kolpath. Let me explain."
He had done it, of course, the way he always did things. By imagination, hard work, and methodical attention to detail. He'd gone through shipping records and histories and personal memoirs and everything else he could lay hands on. He'd narrowed it down, and concluded that Gideon V was an ideal central location for the exploratory operations then being conducted by the Celians. The planet, by the way, was given the Roman numeral not because it was the fifth world in the system. It was, in fact, the only one, the others having either been swallowed whole or torn from their orbits by a passing star. It had happened a quarter million years ago, so there'd been no witnesses. But it was possible to compute from the elliptical orbit of the remaining world that there had been others. The question up for debate was their number. While most astrophysicists thought there'd been four additional worlds, some put the probable total closer to ten.
Nobody really knew. But the station, several hundred light-years from the nearest occupied world, would be a treasure trove for Rainbow Enterprises. The Celians, during their golden age, had been a romantic nation, given over to philosophy, drama, music, and exploration. They were believed to have penetrated deeper into the Aurelian Cluster than any other branch of the human family. Gideon V had been central to that effort. Alex was convinced they'd pushed well beyond, into the Basin. If so, there was considerably more to be found.
Several centuries ago, the Celians had gone abruptly downhill. Civil war erupted, governments across the home world collapsed in chaos, and in the end they had to be bailed out by the other members of what was then known as the Pact. When it was over, their great days were also over. They'd lost their fire, become conservative, more interested in creature comforts than in exploration. Today, they are possibly the most regressive planetary society in the Confederacy. They are proud of their former greatness and try to wear it as a kind of aura. This is who we are. But in truth it's who they were.