The Span Of Empire – Snippet 62

This book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

The Span Of Empire – Snippet 62

“Positive,” Tully said. “Get back to your squads. Life in general may be about to get ‘interesting’ again.”

The two guards both gave a brief rendition of obedience-to-orders, and headed back up the corridor.

Tully shook his head. “‘Goes Oppuk’, huh? I haven’t heard that one before.” The meaning was obvious, though, and he started to grin.

“Oh, yeah, Colonel,” Boyes said with a matching grin. “That’s been making the rounds for a while. Came out of Terra taif, of course. It’s got human written all over it.”

Tully laughed. “Too right, Boyes, too right. Only a human would think of something like that.” He laughed again, then said, “Come on, Sergeant. Let’s go see what kind of trouble we can get into on the Lex.


Caitlin turned as the command deck door to the main lifts irised open again. The last time it had been Vaughan returning from grabbing a fast meal, accompanied by Caewithe Miller. That had saved Caitlin from having to summon her bodyguard captain, who was on her off-shift but would have wanted to be here for this.

This time the door opened to admit Gabe Tully, Lim, a jinau that she assumed was Sergeant Boyes, and a Khûrûsh-an who could only be the captive officer Kamozh entered the command deck. Gabe started toward her, but her eyes were drawn to the sight of Kamozh seeing the main view screen. He froze, eyes narrowed and fixed on the recording. After watching a few loops of it, he raised up on his hind feet, turned to Lim and spoke loudly and rapidly, all four hands moving in the air. He stopped, waited a long moment, then something in a low tone as he dropped down to his mid-hands and settled his hindquarters on the deck.

“So what did he say?” Caitlin asked. “He looked pretty excited.”

Rhan Kamozh says that the view screen is lying to you.”

“Oooo-kay,” Caitlin responded. “How does he get that out of that little bit of picture and that message?”

“First, the . . . person . . . in the recording is wearing the robes and crest of a clan that died out close to two hundred Terran years ago, with the markings of the clan-heir at that. Second, the person is female, and very very few of them are allowed off-planet farther than the orbit of Khûr-liyo.”

Lim’s voice almost sounded dry at that point. Caitlyn thought for a moment that there was a disapproving note in her voice. Lim went on, and Caitlyn dropped that train of thought.

“Third, the very fact that she is calling you is treason, for the Khûr-melkh Sheshahng–think of him as an emperor–decreed long generations ago that there was to be no contact between our people and the devils from the outer dark. It is treason, and an affront to re-heshyt,” here Lim used a Khûrûshil word that she didn’t bother to translate right then. “Such would be unthinkable to any right-living Khûrûsh-an. So therefore, he says, it is obvious that the view screen is lying to you.”

The door had irised open in the middle of Lim’s translation. Yaut and Wrot had entered the command deck, followed by Aille and Pleniary-superior Tura. The four Jao had stood to listen to the rest of the translation.

When Lim finished, she placed both hands on the staff she had entered with. Caitlin decided she would ask about that later. Kamozh folded his upper arms and leaned back a bit.

Caitlin looked at where Fleet Commander Dannet had joined the group around Aille. Tura and Dannet both had flawless neutral angles that nonetheless were distinctive to each. Wrot and Yaut were displaying something on the order of simple-curiosity, although Yaut’s had a definite flavor of impatient from the tilt of his head.

Aille, on the other hand, was displaying a posture that was so rare Caitlin had only seen it recorded, never in action: concession-to-oudh. Her mouth twisted. Aille was making it very clear without a single word that the decision to be made was hers alone.

Caitlin didn’t look at Ed. She felt him stir just a bit, though, and turn to face her at a slight angle. He said nothing–he didn’t have to. She knew he would support her in anything she decided, as would Gabe Tully. She drew a great deal of comfort and strength from that, as she faced what might be the most important decision ever made by Jao or humans alike.

She took a deep breath, and held it for just a moment. Caitlin could feel the eyes of everyone on the command deck resting on her–humans, Jao, Lleix, and Khûrûsh alike–waiting to see what she would do.

“Fleet Commander Dannet,” she finally said, “Return a signal, please.”

“As you direct, Director Kralik,” Dannet replied. “And the message?”

Caitlin considered that for a moment, then gave another wry grin and said, “We hear you. What do you want?”

Dannet’s angles flowed from neutral into obedience-to-instructions. But then, without a pause, they flowed into gratified-respect, which was more than Caitlin had ever thought she would ever receive from the fleet commander.

As Dannet turned away to give orders and Pyr, Lim and Kamozh moved to a nearby workstation, Caitlin looked over at the rest of what she thought of as her command group. Tully was grinning the biggest grin she had ever seen on his face. Ed had moved to stand behind her. She couldn’t see his face, but she could feel the bedrock of his presence. Aille and the others, even Tura, all slipped into an echo of gratified-respect, which just for a moment caused her vision to blur.

“Well done, Caitlin,” Aille said. “Well done.”


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29 Responses to The Span Of Empire – Snippet 62

  1. David says:

    And we have a launch! Enjoy the rest of the book. :-)

    • Greg Noel says:

      Done. Not a bad book. I hope Eric and David don’t take this the wrong way, but I miss Kathy’s fine touch.

      • David says:

        To tell the truth, I wish I could have read her realization of Eric’s outline myself. Didn’t happen, though. The cancer shut down her writing pretty early on, unfortunately.

        With the outline Eric wrote for Span, it was going to read rather differently from the first two books anyway, regardless of who wrote the first draft.

        • Greg Noel says:

          [SPOILER] Very likely, but her aliens were so very, well, alien, yet with differences perfectly comprehensible once explained, but still catching us by surprise again and again, because we’re just not wired that way. No offense, and maybe it’s just that they haven’t received all that many column-inches yet, but, so far, none these three new species seem any different than humans in disguise. (But I can hope that they surprise me in the next book!)

          • David says:

            The scenes involving the Trike were mostly written by Kathy.

            The scenes involving the Khurush mostly involved a small group of “slaves” trying to orient themselves in their captor’s culture. And the scenes involving the Eleusherar Path mostly involved two contact specialists trying to learn the human ropes. None of the native cultures have been revealed yet. Stay tuned for the next book.

            The Ekhat, however, are mostly mine. :-)

  2. Andy says:

    [Spoiler Warning]

    I wonder how the introduction of frame point technology will go for the Eleusherar path. Giving it to all the 4000 members at the same time could get very … interesting.

    It sounds as if the Ekhat have been beaten decisively. As they said themselves, they failed to decide the “nexus” for them. Does that mean they are preparing another, even bigger mass assault or will the next book be about hunting down Ekhat?

    • David says:

      Dunno. Eric hasn’t written that outline yet. :-)

    • WEH says:

      I expect our heroes will be restricting the number of new nodes they create until they find a way to hide them from the Ekhat. Until then, it wouldn’t be prudent for the E-Path folks to build a network using the Jao tech. Also, research into this issue might teach the alliance how to see the Ekhat nodes, maybe even important ones like hubs or planetary bases, now that they know it can be done.

      Clearly though, the Ekhat conspicuously didn’t need to send a pathfinder ship or establish their own framepoints before sending a fleet into battle.

      And why didn’t the Jao in the Khûr system sense the flow of such a huge event about to happen on their doorstep? Not even Kaln or Tura?

      • Greg Noel says:

        First off, the technology can’t be given to all 4,000 at once; communication is (currently) constrained by the speed of light. The Eleusherar Path is on the order of 100 light-years across(*) and we know we’re on one side. As a result, the technology will spread no faster than the frame-point network itself is extended, and they can afford to pick and choose which worlds get it initially.

        (*) I think that the assumption that all possible habitable planets have given rise to (or been occupied by) a civilization is too optimistic. It’s correct for determining a minimum size, but, realistically, it will be larger than that. If the worlds were all within a sphere, the furthest world would be about 50 light-years away; any other shape would make it farther.

        My assumption is that they can’t hide the network from the Ekhat, that such networks are not “hideable” in that sense, and that the best they can achieve is to be able to see the Ekhat network.

        Assuming that, it means that they can only expand as fast as they can defend stars while the locals are developing their own defense units. That rate might be very slow at first (giving a lot of time for battle sequences), but eventually it will grow exponentially as each new world adds resources.

        The thing that I find the scariest is that the Ekhat network may already extend to this region, but they weren’t going to expand their efforts there until the local arm was sufficiently “cleansed.” That would allow the Ekhat to do a lot of damage before word got out (remember, no FTL, so it would take years until the news of any attacks reaches anywhere useful).

        • Andy says:

          I should have written “as fast as possible”, of course nothing is instantaneous. But I don’t think it would take more than a year or two to contact all 4000 members with even just a few ships. The Eleusherar path knows everything there is to know about these stars.

          No, I don’t believe the Ekhat have a network there. There is no indication that the Ekhat would leave defenseless civilizations alone, if they even knew about them. Why exactly they didn’t spread to that arm in their millions of years of history is beyond me, though.

      • Greg Noel says:

        Oh, I also wondered why the Jao didn’t pick up on the attack (one of the many little nits I have), but I finally put it off to the ad-hoc nature of the attack; the Ekhat basically jumped in their ships and went there: no plan, no harmony, no melody. We already know that the Jao time-sense is somehow linked to the Ekhat harmony, so perhaps the Jao can’t detect something without “melody” (i.e., advance planning).

        • David says:

          Pretty much.

          • Greg Noel says:

            Hmmm… That makes an interesting battle scenario: the Jao and the Ekhat basically counteract each other, with the Jao unable to determine the right time to do anything and the Ekhat unable to coordinate via harmony, leaving both limited to the tactic of blindly charging at each other. The humans save the day by being able to synchronize using clocks.

            Probably too obvious to carry an entire battle sequence, but it might work as a part of something larger.

            • Andy says:

              Neither Harmony nor Flow seems to work that way.

              For a long time I was wondering if these two senses were “supernatural” in our understanding, because a lot of these instance could have been explained by intuition based on shared information. But it does seem to be somewhat more.

      • Greg Noel says:

        One other point: Did I understand it correctly that 2700+ Ekhat individuals at the conclave are basically all of the species? Or a very large chunk of them? It’s possible that the 2700+ are only the ones in range or that the individuals represented many more left behind (or a combination of both), but even that doesn’t sound like enough to make the Ekhat a very large species.

        Similarly, there were 700+ ships at the conclave, but only about twenty were warships that went to Khûr. These were the bulk of the entire fleet. Again, is this just the local fleet? Are there still fleets further away? What kind of ships were the others? Were they like a courier? A yacht? A freighter?

        Fundamentally, how are these warships replaced? The Ekhat don’t seem to have the mind-set for industrial operations (the creche staff are the first Ekhat that aren’t crazed killers), so what is the worker force that makes their society possible? Is it possible to destroy, sabotoge, subvert, or otherwise separate the crazy Ekhat from their tech?

        Sigh. Too much speculation. When is the next book due?

        • David says:

          RE: first questions: No, and No.

        • David says:

          RE: second paragraph questions: umm, that will probably be dealt with in the next book.

          RE: third paragraph questions: ditto.

          And before you ask, no, Eric hasn’t written that outline yet, and no, I can’t give you a target date. I’m going to guess 2-3 years, but publisher scheduling kinks can extend that. They certainly did this time.

        • Andy says:

          As I understood it, these were mostly Harmony masters with their immediate “staff”. The best explanation I have for “only” 20 ships making it to Khur is that Ekhat are spectacularly bad at teamwork. I don’t think any of the harmony masters have a ship without weapons. For that matter, I don’t believe they have any unarmed ships, given their nature.

          For some factions, the answer to how they build their ships is easy: Slaves.

          I have been wondering about that myself though. One explanation could be that a group of Ekhat can be “harmonious” if a leader has them under some kind of spell, like naked mole-rat queens using pheromones, or they use singing to get work done with minimal bloodshed.

          The appendix describes Ekhat as a “genus” more than a species. So far we have not seen any distinction in these species, though there must have been some because of different factions. There may be a “second line” of Ekhat species with less blood lust, who aren’t considered “true Ekhat”, but can be kept/controlled as slaves by most factions.

          • Positroll says:

            I’ve written, so far just for me and for fun, my own continuation of the story. Here’s my explanation:

            Still, Seventh-flat was careful. She convinced her fellow leaders – and those of the other factions, which were busy repairing their ships as good as possible anyway, to wait for the return of the 300 ships sent to the other galactic arm (the remaining ships detailed to attack known Jao strongholds would take too long to return to wait for – they had a long list of targets).

            * * *
            All that came back of that fleet was her newest scout-cruiser. Speaking of ollnat, her faction had invested a lot of energy into its design and it had paid off. Her captain’s report however, was anything but positive.
            “As we could not use the Jao frame-point network, we had to jump there making use of the suns. At one point, the path divided. The direct path led through a big sun. A small number of ships, maybe 30, decided their shield technology might be too old for this kind of star and took a longer road. I think they made it to the target, but none returned so far. The other ships, in their hurry to complete that song, decided to take the direct path. That was a mistake. The sun wasn’t just big, it also was unstable and in a contracting phase when we arrived there. My ship had the strongest shields and the strongest engines, and we arrived first, when the contraction was just beginning. That allowed us to leave the star alive. The rest of the fleet was not able to do so.”
            Seventh flat stared at the screen, numbed. 300 ships – gone, just like that.

      • Andy says:

        The Ekhat probably can’t jump directly from one arm of the galaxy to another. They probably didn’t in the first place, either. They may have used a pathfinder ship for the first jump, considering their disregard for their own lives it seems an insignificant event.

        • John Roth says:

          As I understand it, the “arms” of a spiral galaxy are actually density waves, which compress the available gas to where stars begin condensing out. They’re highly visible because there are lots of big, young, blue stars. That’s why they look like arms on photos – they’re heavy with bright young stars.

          The space between the arms isn’t unpopulated, but it contains lots of older stars. Those are, of course, not the big luminous blue giants; they’re yellow and red dwarfs.

          • Andy says:

            For the purpose of this book, there is a region of space where Jao/Ekhat can’t easily go in and go beyond, but beyond which there is a region with high probability of life supporting worlds.

            My primary problem is: The Jao “discovered” Earth first, before the Ekhat did, suggesting the Ekhat have an expanding sphere of exploration/spread, which did not yet reach earth. However, the expedition, which naturally should have gone in the opposite direction, found lots of worlds with traces of Ekhat pillaging, where no Ekhat should have been without exterminating Earth first.

  3. WEH says:

    For future correction:
    In Chapters 57 & 59, several times Pyr is referred to as “Pym”. There may be other places; maybe a find/replace operation needed. I’d love to be a proofreader for the next book! Pretty please?

    Thanks to Eric Flint and David Carrico for a good yarn! And thanks to the estate and family of K. D. Wentworth for their support as the Yao series continues. The creatures of Kathy’s imagination live on and will enrich readers like me for years to come!

    • David says:

      Found a total of 5 Pyms. Noted for correction.

    • WEH says:

      I have a four others corrections that I noticed. Is this the best forum to let you know about them, or is there another (or private email) that you would prefer? None of them would be spoilers.

      Also, would you rather have the location in the physical book (i. e. pg 346) or relative location (i. e. Ch. 48, first sentence)?:
      “other members of mission who will be involved in our discussion” – need something between “of” and “mission” (the? this?) or perhaps “our mission…this discussion”

      Lastly, what would be the rough deadline before the galleys are sent for the second printing?

      • David says:

        Just post them here, with a full phrase or sentence for each case and point out each glitch. I can do a find with a character string search a lot faster than I can figure out where a particular page would be in the file.

        At this point, the next opportunity for making corrections will be when the galley proofs for the paperback edition are produced, and that’s probably about a year away.

    • WEH says:

      Thanks, David. I will include page numbers just for my own reference and for others who wish to submit additional questions/errors.

      p. 481
      “The medics has provided some cleansing wipes …” s/b “had provided”

      p. 493
      “Very likely, Lieutenant Dannet,” Dannet is actually speaking, so either remove it or replace it with Vaughan

      p. 522
      “throw their shield before first Khûr-ma and then…” s/b “Khûr-mar”

  4. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Thanks, David and Eric, for a great story, and for carrying forward a great work by Eric and K.D. Wentworth.

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