Depths of Time
Depths of Time
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  • ISBN-13: 9780553574975
  • ISBN: 0553574973
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group



Brightness flared upon the face of the deep. Alaxi Sayad, the most junior watch officer aboard the Chronologic Patrol ship Upholder, saw the dazzle of energy that appeared on her screens. She hit the alert button before she even had time to think -- but not before the automatics had a chance to set off the alarms themselves. She checked the drill-indicator, the one light on her board that would tell her if this was just old man Koffield running yet another dry run, another systems test. If this was a drill, the indicator would be a steady dot of green. The drill-indicator was unlabeled, and carefully positioned in the upper-left-hand corner of the display board so that only someone actually seated in the watch officer's chair could see it. Only the watch officers and senior officers were even supposed to know it existed. Sayad had seen that tiny secret green light come on during a thousand drills, and she expected to see it now. But instead she saw a tiny, flashing dot of red: shocking and positive confirmation that this was not a drill. It was the real thing. Some damn fool was trying to make an unauthorized run through the timeshaft wormhole. Stranger still, if her displays were to be believed, they were going for the downtime, not the uptime, end of the timeshaft wormhole. They were trying, not to head from future to past, but attempting to dive out of the past and into the future. Sayad allowed herself the luxury of a full hundredth of a second of stunned disbelief. Such a thing had never happened, to the best of her knowledge, in all of Settled Space. But it was happening now. She shoved feeling aside and let training take over. Seemingly without any intervention from her conscious mind, she started on step one of the standard operating procedure that had been drummed into her through all those thousand drills. Confirm alert. Easy enough. There was no doubt this one was real. Locate. That part was likewise quite straightforward. The blast of light had come straight from the timeshaft wormhole. Identify. A far more difficult proposition. What in space could light up a wormhole like that? And why hadn't the Standfast, the downtime ship, sent some sort of alert through the shaftlink comm system? Even as she formed the questions, she got her answers. The comm system powered itself up and reported data streaming in from the downtime link. Seventy-nine years downtime from the Upholder, the Standfast had activated her comm system and started relaying through the shaft communications system. The signal had been flashed from the Standfast to the downtime stationkeeping laser relay. Then the stationkeeper had fired a repeater signal through the wormhole's signal portal, and to the uptime stationkeeper relay, which instantly passed it on to the Upholder. The action-status display flashed to life, and Sayad expended five whole precious seconds studying the three-dimensional symbol-logic imagery the Standfast had sent milliseconds ago -- or decades before, depending on how one looked at it. She swore silently, but vehemently, as she struggled to believe what the display was telling her. Thirty -- no, thirty-one incoming targets, sixteen of them bearing down on the wormhole, and the remainder diving straight for the Standfast. One of the targets bearing on the Standfast popped out of existence as the ship brought fire to bear. There was another flash of light, dimmer this time, as the blaze of the explosion lanced through the wormhole. That first light blast must have been another of the targets going up. "Are they trying to kill the ship, or just trying to keep her busy?" asked a low, calm voice from directly behind her. It took a major effort of will for Sayad not to jump half a meter in the air in surprise. It was Captain Koffield, of course. She glanced up at the small look-behAllen, Roger MacBride is the author of 'Depths of Time' with ISBN 9780553574975 and ISBN 0553574973.

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