Larry Niven: Fate of Worlds: Return From the Ringworld

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Larry Niven Fate of Worlds: Return From the Ringworld
  • Название:
    Fate of Worlds: Return From the Ringworld
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    A Tor Book
  • Жанр:
    Космическая фантастика / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2012
  • Город:
    New York
  • Язык:
    Английский
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    3 / 5
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For decades, the spacefaring species of Known Space have battled over the largest artifact — and grandest prize — in the galaxy: the all-but-limitless resources and technology of the Ringworld. But without warning, the Ringworld has vanished, leaving behind three rival war fleets. Something must justify the blood and treasure that have been spent. If the fallen civilization of the Ringworld can no longer be despoiled of its secrets, the Puppeteers will be forced to surrender theirs. Everyone knows that the Puppeteers are cowards. But the crises converging upon the trillion Puppeteers of the Fleet of Worlds go far beyond even the onrushing armadas: Adventurer Louis Wu and the exiled Puppeteer known only as Hindmost, marooned together for more than a decade, escaped from the Ringworld before it disappeared. And throughout those years, as he studied Ringworld technology, Hindmost has plotted to reclaim his power ... Ol''t''ro, the Gw''oth ensemble mind — and the Fleet of Worlds'' unsuspected puppet master for a century — is deviously brilliant. And increasingly unbalanced ... Proteus, the artificial intelligence on which, in desperation, the Puppeteers rely to manage their defenses, is outgrowing its programming — and the supposed constraints on its initiative ... Sigmund Ausfaller, paranoid and disgraced hero of the lost human colony of New Terra, knows that something threatens his adopted home world — and that it must be stopped ... Achilles, the megalomaniac Puppeteer — twice banished, and twice rehabilitated — sees the Fleet of Worlds'' existential crisis as a new opportunity to reclaim supreme power. Whatever the risks ... One way or another, the fabled race of Puppeteers may have come to the end of their days.

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Larry Niven, Edward M. Lerner

Fate of Worlds: Return From the Ringworld

To big ideas. And to those who dare to dream them.


DRAMATIS PERSONAE

HUMANS

Sigmund Ausfaller: retired Defense Minister; New Terra resident; Earth expatriate.

Julia Byerley-Mancini: Captain in the New Terran Defense Forces; commander of starship Endurance; leader, expedition to “The Anomaly”; granddaughter of Sigmund Ausfaller.

Alice Jordan: member, expedition to “The Anomaly”; New Terra resident; Sol system expatriate.

Donald Norquist-Ng: Minister, New Terran Defense Forces.

Denise Rodgers-Bjornstad: Governor (planetary executive), New Terra.

Louis Wu: Earthborn adventurer; member of both Ringworld expeditions; newly escaped from the Ringworld.

Tanya Wu: Earthborn junior naval officer aboard ARM vessel Koala.

Wesley Wu: Earthborn naval officer commanding Koala, deployed to the Artifact Monitoring Mission.

GW’OTH

(FLEET OF WORLDS [NATURE PRESERVE FIVE] RESIDENTS UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

Cd’o: A Gw’o unit from the Ol’t’ro ensemble mind; born on the colony world of Kl’mo.

Er’o: Memory remnant within Ol’t’ro of a long-dead Gw’o unit; veteran of the Pak War.

Ol’t’ro: the Gw’oth ensemble mind (a Gw’otesht-16) who secretly rules the Fleet of Worlds; also see artificial intelligence Proteus and Citizen/Puppeteer Chiron.

Tf’o: the Gw’o leader in the joint Gw’oth/Citizen expedition lurking around the Ringworld.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCES

Hawking: AI managing tactical operations of Earth’s Task Force Delta within the Artifact Monitoring Mission.

Jeeves: Any of the many AIs descended from the shipboard intelligence of the ramscoop Long Pass (from whose embryo banks New Terra was populated).

Proteus: AI that manages the Hearth/Fleet of Worlds defensive grid; controlled by Ol’t’ro. As a minor function, it also animates the “Citizen” known as Chiron.

Voice: AI long in exile with Hindmost on the Ringworld.

CITIZENS/PUPPETEERS

(HEARTH RESIDENTS UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

Achilles:planetary hindmost[*] of Nature Preserve One; member of Experimentalist Party; former Hindmost[*]; former Minister of Science; former physicist.

Baedeker:former Hindmost[*]; former Minister of Science; former engineer; member of Experimentalist Party; in off-world exile.

Chiron:longtime Minister of Science and planetary hindmost[*] of Nature Preserve Five; secretly a network persona animated by Proteus; Ol’t’ro’s stealthy presence within the Citizen government.

Hindmost:deposed Hindmost[*]; member of Experimentalist Party; hindmost[*] of the second Ringworld expedition; newly escaped from the Ringworld.

Horatius:Hindmost[*] — as a pawn of Ol’t’ro — since soon after the first Ringworld expedition; head of the Conservative Party.

Minerva: Citizen head in the joint Gw’oth/Citizen expedition lurking around the Ringworld. A deputy director of Clandestine Directorate.

Nessus:onetime senior agent/scout of Clandestine Directorate; hindmost[*] of the first Ringworld expedition; in exile on New Terra.

Nike: former head of Clandestine Directorate; former Hindmost; Experimentalist.

Vesta: longtime deputy to Achilles; Experimentalist. 

KEY DATES

2645

Puppeteers and their worlds flee the galactic-core explosion

2650–51

Human slaves rebel; New Terra (was Nature Preserve Four) goes free

2659

Puppeteer effort to reclaim New Terra fails

2675

The Pak War

2780–81

The Gw’oth War

2783

Isolationist New Terran regime veers away from the Fleet of Worlds

2850–52

Ringworld discovered; first expedition to the Ringworld

2878–93

Second expedition to the Ringworld; explorers all stranded

?–2893

War among many spacefaring species for control of the Ringworld

(Dates follow Earth’s calendar and reflect Earth’s frame of reference. During much of this era, New Terra and the Fleet of Worlds traveled fast enough relative to Earth to experience significant relativistic time dilation.)


PRELUDE

Earth Date: 2893

A beautiful world, alone, serene, races through the interstellar void. Warmed by necklaces of artificial suns orbiting from pole to pole, the world’s climate is everywhere and always temperate. Beneath the many suns, oceans sparkle and cloud tops gleam. Bountiful fields and lush forests span continents. Here and there cities stand, proud and prosperous.

The human inhabitants call this paradise New Terra. Only in story do they remember the days when their home was known merely as Nature Preserve Four. When their home was but one farm world among many in the Fleet of Worlds. When alien masters ruled their lives. “Citizens,” the aliens called themselves and, moreover, “saviors.”

But young and old on New Terra know the hard-won truth: that their former masters had attacked their ancestors’ ramscoop, not chanced upon a derelict starship. That from the wrecked ship’s embryo banks the aliens had bred a race of slaves.

Independence had not come easily, but now New Terra sets its own course through space.

And what of Old Terra? Earth? No one here could say where the ancestral world may lie.

Not only artificial suns accompany New Terra on its seemingly endless trek through the darkness. Myriads of tiny spacecraft, sprinkled across many light-days, hold formation with the world. The early-warning array endlessly scans in all directions, endlessly probing with every known method of long-range sensing.

In the planetary defense center, staffed round the clock, people try to imagine against what, besides boredom, they stand guard. New Terra is light-years from the nearest star. Aboard their Fleet of Worlds, the ruthlessly cowardly Citizens — increasingly, and aptly, come to be known to all here as Puppeteers — have receded beyond the reach of every instrument except powerful optical telescopes.

Suddenly every element in the planetary early-warning array clamors in unison. Every watch stander in the planetary defense center jolts to full alertness to stare at their consoles.

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