Monday, February 13, 2012

Kirlian Quest Prologue - Piers Anthony

"The astronomer formed a second eye and contemplated a holograph of the Amoeba. It appeared to have a number of projecting pseudopods, each curving slightly; this was what had given it its name. Overall it was amazingly regular; the pseudopods seemed individual and evenly spaced.

Its discovery had been largely serendipitous, a result of the Cluster survey program instituted after the Second War of Energy. After twice narrowly averting destruction of their galaxy, the coalition of species of the Milky Way intended to keep fully informed of all future developments in the Cluster. The most powerful Segments--Qaval, Etamin, Knyfh, Lodo, and Weew--had pooled their resources and manufactured the largest fleet of spaceships ever known: 125 billion strong. But they were very small ships, any one of which an average-sized sapient could have lifted in a single appendage without effort. Each contained perceptive apparatus, mainly optical, and a tiny molecule mattermitter. They were dispersed around the entire outer surface of the Cluster, accelerating to one-tenth the speed of light and then drifting outward until they were, theoretically at least, eventually recovered by the gravity of the Cluster. Every ten years each unit mattermitted back what was visible from its quota of space. Each ship was about ten light-years from its neighbors, and so was responsible for a surface area of a hundred light-years; its report was normally current within about seven years. Thus no major intrusion into the Cluster could escape detection; the Net would report it long before the light reached the nearest galaxy.

The Net had been in operation for almost a thousand years. As the fear of alien intrusion had abated, the main beneficiaries of this expensive program had been the astronomers and stellar cartographers. The entire Cluster had been mapped with phenomenal accuracy, retroactively. For the Net reported what it saw, and it saw what the Cluster had looked like up to a million years before, because of the time it had taken the plodding light of distant stars to travel."

3.5 out of 5