For twenty years Earth has been exploring the stars using faster-than-light stardrives whereby a manmade black hole pulls the ship through space. Dangerous to themselves and everything in the vicinity, the twenty-four starships, led by the flagship Horizon, have opened up new worlds to colonize.
Now mankind stands on the brink of a momentous breakthrough: Hyperidor drives; faster-than-light travel that is inexpensive, risk free, and available to all. All that stands in the way of vast exploration and colonization is a corporate behemoth that wants to see the hyperidor drive fail; no matter what the cost.
It is left to the Horizon's Captain Pamela Carlson and Third Engineer Mahlon Stewart to decipher the means, motives and murders that threaten not only mankind's future in space but the Horizon and its crew as well.
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Double Dragon Publishing
July 29, 2004
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Excerpt from Horizons by Peter Prellwitz
Terran Date: February, 2259
"Pretty, huh?" The private lifted his hand out toward the sun. Their open air observation tower was twenty meters above the surrounding buildings and gave them an unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico and the sunset. As it had for the past two months, the sun painted the canvas of dark blue sky with pinks, reds, and yellows. Mendez, his fellow guard, glanced at the vast panorama and shrugged her shoulders. The action caused her diamond cross necklace to glitter briefly in the fading light.
"Yeah, if you get off on that kind of stuff."
"Hey," Hansen countered, "it sure beats the other insertion point." They both laughed.
"I won't argue that," she conceded. "I've been on six of these in the last twelve years, and I don't ever want to see the Himalayas again." She glanced at the vanishing sun, now dropping below the horizon, pulling its celestial artwork with it. "You're right, Hansen. It is a pretty sunset."
They watched it quietly for a few minutes, then Hansen shook himself out of his reverie and lifted a hand to his ear. Mendez saw a small light flickering behind his lobe, meaning he'd been contacted by Sergeant Karumoto, undoubtedly to notify them of the arriving workers. Mendez turned her attention to the viewer at her right display, and sure enough, there were three hovs approaching from the northeast.
"Command gives fourth level clearance for transponder units 43-H784J, 43-H711R, and 44-D292R," Hansen said in a monotone, clearly relaying the message word for word.
"Acknowledged," Mendez responded. "Three bogies just passing the Hammer Point tower, 65 kilometers distant, approaching at 120 kph. Transponder identities.." she paused while the decoder received the multi-tone signal, then flashed white, "are verified. All three hovs are registered to Harting Enterprises."
"We have them, Sergeant," Hansen spoke aloud to his invisible superior. "Arrival in just over twenty minutes."
"Make that ten," Mendez interrupted. "They just accelerated to 250."
"Make that ten, Sergeant." He listened a moment longer, nodding absently, then signed off. He took his hand away and turned toward Mendez.
"Time to move to the launch point. Karumoto wants us down there in five."
"Got it." With skilled hands, Mendez shut down the display while Hansen armed the autosentry. They descended eighty meters by eledisc, then, since there was just enough light to see the ground, they slid the final twenty meters down the ladder railing, using their gloved hands for braking. Hansen hit first, then leaped back as Mendez plummeted toward him, nearly landing on top of him. She laughed at him as he stumbled out of the way. He brushed himself off.
"Geez, Mendez! Can't wait an extra five seconds?"
"Sure I can," she laughed again. "I just don't want to."
Hansen shook his head in disgust and annoyance. He'd worked with Connie for six years now, and she was always pushing. Pushing the rules, pushing the risks, pushing him. It irked him because he usually got into the same hot water she did. On the other hand, her risks often paid off, and he reaped the benefits as well. And she was one of the best looking partners he'd ever had.
He punched in the ladder lock down codes, then ran after Mendez, who was already walking toward Boot Key Harbor, where the hovs were due to dock. Marathon was one of the larger towns on one of the larger pieces of islands that made up Cuba's Florida Keys. Several kilometers long, the island was less than 200 meters wide from west shore to east shore. They were on the upper arm of the key, heading south. On their left, to the southeast, was Vaca Key Bight, but because of the huge factories and narrow, twisting alleys, it was impossible to see from ground level.
They wove their way quickly toward a massive, dark building and approached the only lit doorway. Outside stood a guard, dressed in the trappings of a Harting Enterprises shock goon. Hansen didn't particularly like working with Harting goons - they tended to be rude and unprofessional - but this was who the Colonel had contracted out to, so he followed orders and got his paycreds. It was a large enough sum to hold his tongue. Mendez felt no such inhibition.
"Check it out, Hansen," she pointed at the goon. "They look almost like people when they're dressed." The guard flushed and stood, towering over them. Mendez laughed at the bravado. "He can stand, too!" she exclaimed with mock surprise.
"Lousy rental creeps." He shoved a tabinal at them. "Sign in and go in. I can't stand your the smell any longer."