The section which follows was removed from the Temporal Void, leading on directly after Paula found someone had downloaded the Cat’s memory from its secure store on Kerensk. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t simply try to write the longest story possible. And even as I started writing this section, which was introducing Morton from the Commonwealth Saga to the Void Trilogy, it was obvious to me that it was a plot-line too many. So I cut it.
What was due to follow in both Temporal and Evolutionary was Morton and Paula teaming up to track down rogue technology suppliers, which would have led Paula to the secret Accelerator station that built the Swarm and the ultradrive engines for the pilgrimage ships.
It might have been an excellent, thrilling ride for the reader, but I still can’t convince myself of that. The trilogy is shorter and faster because of its absence, and in my opinion better for it.
But I know a number of readers, especially those who use this website, were interested to know what happened to Morton after Judas Unchained. So here in what can now only be described as an event which never happened, is what he did next…
Peter F. Hamilton
The Alexis Denken flew a fast semi-ballistic trajectory around Kerensk to reach Kaluga. The megacity was actually spread out over thirty-eight islands, linked together by long causeways and bridges. In the old days, they’d been strictly divided into residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. Then came Higher culture, and semi-independence. The most senior members of the Nikolayev Dynasty departed the Commonwealth on colony ships for an unknown destination never to be heard of again. The executive levels that were left gradually moved their wealth and enterprises offplanet to the new External Worlds, while the ancient jaded ones migrated inwards. They abandoned a colossal manufacturing base for technology that found itself increasingly obsolete. However, there were any number of corporate research laboratories that were now unshackled by Commonwealth restrictions. They could never gain a lead in genetics, that field belonged to Far Away, though a great deal of diversity could still be sequenced especially in non-terrestrial DNA. Biononics of course belonged to the Sheldons, then the Central worlds; as did the most sophisticated replicators. However, there were huge grey areas between what was definitely Higher Neumann molecular-level replication and ordinary cybernetics. For a society that specialized in cutting edge products, there was still a lot of opportunity. Internal competition was sharp, market forces strong, and government was a corporate democracy. In that respect little had changed since its time as a Big15, for those with ambition there were no limits and a great many rewards.
Paula landed on Sumy spaceport, once island nineteen, which had been a single giant petrochemical refinery. The plant had long-since been dismantled and its metal reprocessed into new products leaving a highly toxic wasteland exposed to the elements. It was covered in a giant sheet of enzyme-bonded concrete, and converted into a spaceport.
During the twenty minute flight Paula dressed carefully in a pair of tight black trousers whose surface resembled wet snakeskin. Maybe too tight, she’d thought as the waistband flowed shut, forcing her to breathe in. But what the heck, they were tame compared to most of the clothes in Kaluga. A simple white singlet was covered by a quickgold jacket incorporating a lot of anti-intrusion modules. She thought about styling her hair for a while, but eventually settled for slicking it back with true primitive panache. Her chain belt was active-armour with several weapons built in. She didn’t want to advertise the fact she was Higher, not on the street anyway.
“When in Rome,” she muttered as she floated down out of the airlock. The belt wrapped a filter-field around her as she passed into Kerensk’s atmosphere, protecting her from the chemical toxins belching out from factories across the city archipelago. The Alexis Denken’s smartcore had negotiated with eight spaceport supply companies for a simple isolation contract. Even that wasn’t cheap, but she wasn’t going to allow anything made on Kerensk into the starship’s tanks.
True prejudice, she thought as her feet touched the ground and she put on a pair of antique silver shades.
Five taxi capsules were lined up along the perimeter of her landing pad, all with sub-contracts to the service company. Each vehicle completely different, from a huge black armoured craft with shark fin spoilers to a dinky little pink and chrome globe that looked like it had dropped out of some alternative history future. They all pinged her, promising high speed and low prices. She chose Princess Jeallol lines because she just had to ride in the cute little globe, and anyway it looked harmless and touristy. Not that looks meant anything on Kerensk.
“Where to, ma’am?” the taxi asked as she sat down on its curving real-leather bench seat. It had a trash-girly voice, the waitress in the coffee shop that never gets any tips.
“Island one, Centrika Park.”
“Yes ma’am. Have you been to Kerensk before?”
“Once or twice,” she admitted.
Paula frowned at the retro dashboard console with its five coloured lights around an oval speaker grille. “Who am I talking to?”
The taxi went vertical, it was fast but there wasn’t a quiver in the gravity field. “Princess Jeallol.”
“Is this some kind of communication link?” her field function began to scan the cab, revealing systems that were different to anything used in the Commonwealth.
“No this is me,” the taxi insisted with a hurt tone. “I multiplied myself into all my vehicles. All part of the service. You get the boss each time, because you simply can’t get the staff.”
“Ah, you’re an I-sentient personality.”
“Thank you, ma’am, this is not your Commonwealth. We don’t use that dead end crap here. The cab’s matrix has DNA-sourced neural algorithms running my thought routines. My brain, my personality.”
“No offence, especially not from a customer.”
Paula peered through the side of the globe as they passed over a wide arching causeway. Grey waves churned against the old stone wall on both sides. The water looked cold, which it shouldn’t do, they were almost on the equator. But the leaks from the old reactors which used to provide cheap electricity had contaminated half of the planet’s oceans. Marine life had suffered badly. There was no seaweed within a thousand miles of Kaluga, nor fish, nor plankton. The water was cloudy with silt and sand churned up from the barren seabed.
Beyond the causeway, the islands dominated the sea. All of them were smothered with structures, from simple vast domes to the turrets and spires rising from a single amalgamated sprawl.
Island one looked as if it was sinking beneath a foam of giant bubbles. Some were transparent, containing little parks and gardens, some were black metal, others shimmered with refraction rainbows. Several sprouted lethal-looking spines that could impale anything flying too close. Paula saw a few that looked completely biological, with undulating scarlet surfaces and twitching insect-antenna.
“That’s changed,” she said as the cab curved round the shoreline where long chains of smaller bubbles floated with the swell.
“When were you here last?” the cab asked.
“About a hundred and fifty years ago.”
“Wow, so did you see the… “
“I always loved the memories of that. Eleven miles high, and every square inch shining like the sun! My daddy said the view from the top was fan-goddamn-tastic.”
“It was. But nothing lasts forever.”
“Too true, ma’am, too true.”
The cab began to sink towards the crest of the bubbles. The surface of a chrome-pink one turned translucent, and they passed through to be immersed in fizzing liquid. A few seconds later they went through the bottom and began gliding along the fissure-like cavities between the bubbles. Paula couldn’t help looking away, it was like being inside a living organism, which made her queasy.
After a couple more minutes skimming a long convoluted path they popped through another bubble surface to emerge into Centrika park, a wide open space whose ground was the original island one surface. It was now a jungle parkland with tall alien trees and waterfalls and lakes glowing in a strange phased rouge and jade light. As far as Paula knew it was the largest enclosed area in the Commonwealth, including the High Angel’s domes. The cab touched down on a raised landing zone near the edge.
“Do you know where to go?” the cab asked.
Paula used a credit coin to pay the exorbitant fee. It was loaded with EMAs, though Kaluga citizens would happily take any currency in existence. “I think so.”
The door popped open. “Thank you for using me. If you need another flight, please call me. I operate right across Kerensk; best rates, fastest response.”
“I’ll remember.” Paula went down the steps from the landing pad. The street around the edge of the park followed the irregular bulges in the wall of bubbles that curved away overhead. At ground level the bubbles were encrusted with tall neon-Gothic buildings that extended wide buttresses over the pavement as if they were preparing to walk across the park.
The cab rose behind Paula as she reached the pavement and plunged into the fast hustle that was Kaluga. Never give ground was the city’s basic maxim. So she walked straight through the zoo of pedestrians, the human, the transformed, and the cybermechs. All the ordinary-looking people were taller than her, and strikingly beautiful. As always she was mindful of classical angels, but without the wings. Over half of them were naked, proudly showing off their flawless bodies. They had a few subtle decorations, muscle lines shaded for emphasis, feathery hair in colours that were just beyond the natural genetic palette. Those in clothes did indeed make hers look bland, their fabrics glowed and sparkled in rich hews, many of them blending seamlessly into the skin producing extravagant works of body art that flowed and surged with each movement. Then there were the mechanicals, or part-mechanicals. Human torsos of every size, mutated with tentacles and wings and tails and pseudopods and biomech appendages, grafted with engineered limbs. Some crawled, some walked, some slid along on tiny regrav drives. Skin could be any colour and was often variegated, sometimes glowing sometimes sucking in light like a shaped event horizon. Mechanical men with cogs and pistons instead of muscle and joints crunched along, with everyone getting out of their way. A troupe of tall silver-white men whose lower legs had been replaced by thick magaxle wheels skated past her with fast grace. Mythology crafting was popular, she saw, both human and alien. She even saw a little glass globe with a head inside, flying along by itself.
Then there were the straight cyborgs that came in every geometry possible, also ranging in size from football up to imposing giant. She was scanned, viewed, sonic echoed, query-pinged, resonated, radared, laser swept, gravpulsed, and had her quantum signature taken. From her point of view, the only plus point of Kerensk was that it didn’t have a gaiafield.
Walking along the pavement she felt ancient and obsolete, resisting a stupid urge to hunch up her shoulders and slink along in shame. This was a technology culture she was glad had never spread itself throughout the Commonwealth at large. Body retroforming had swung in and out of fashion among the trendy and weird and bored rich for over a thousand years, but that was all it was: fashion. Here, function and form played a more integral part of life, not to mention wealth and status. It wasn’t for her.
The stores in the glitzy parkside buildings noticed her quickly enough: foreign and rich. Their electronics decided she must be here for a reason, and focused their advertising on her. She walked on surrounded by a haze of holograms, her macrocellular clusters warding off a blizzard of pings. They all offered services, nobody here held stock in the back of their store; stock tied up capital. There was no such thing as standardization on Kerensk, every product was custom built, designed and styled to your specification as you waited. So what the stores promised was design style. Even Paula hesitated at some of the clothes the adverts quickly showed off, from classic to gaudy, chic to funky. If ever she wanted to overhaul her style, this would be the place she’d come to, she conceded.
Five minutes after she left the cab she reached the building she wanted, a black pyramid sticking out horizontally from a big emerald-chrome bubble. Its apex swept out into a long spire two hundred metres above her, sticking a long way out over the azure and amber grass. She found the entrance at the bottom, an old fashioned revolving door with five sections. It took her into a modern lobby with black and white walls and purple furniture. The wooden reception desk curved round a cyborg that was a three-metre high collection of smooth grey spheres clinging together in a roughly humanoid shape. The head sphere rotated so the tiny eye-globes were pointing down at her. “Yes?” it asked in a deep, resonant bass.
“I’m here to see the Chairman of New Gansu.”
“No one sees the Chairman.”
“I do. Tell him Paula Myo is here.”
The eighteen spheres that made up the cyborg’s torso straightened up. “The Investigator?”
“The Chairman, now, please.”
“Go through, Investigator.” The five globes which made up its arm swept out, gesturing to a door that opened at the back of the lobby.
Paula walked into what she thought was a lift, then she saw it was the base of a tube that curved away above her, and groaned. She always hated gravity manipulation. It sucked her up and propelled her along. The tube forked several times. She closed her eyes at the first one, and kept them closed. Secondary thought routines monitored her field scan function just in case, but her mind was removed from the journey.
Her feet touched solid ground again, and she opened her eyes. The room was a huge pyramid-shape, with a vertical wall behind her and two perfectly transparent triangular roof sections angled down so their apex intersected the tip of the floor. Large colourful plants and high-tech furniture seemed to be fighting a war for groundspace, it was as if someone had built their living room in an exotic botanical garden. But it did provide a panoramic view out across Centrika Park. Paula realized she must be near the top of the black pyramid, where it emerged from the green bubble.
Two people were walking towards her down a path of flowing white mist. She gave a moderately disapproving smile at their features. Morton, of course, hadn’t changed at all; still a handsome man with a youthful face and thick chestnut hair. And, yes, he’d tied it back into a ponytail just like that first meeting all those hundreds of years ago. His companion was a perfect replica of the teenage Mellanie Rescorai, even down to the small yellow bikini she’d had on at that same encounter. The only real difference between then and now was their size; in keeping with Kerensk style they were both about ten percent bigger than people back then.
“Very impressive,” Paula said sardonically as they stood in front of her. She had to tip her head back to meet their gaze.
“From anyone else that would be a compliment,” Morton said, and leaned forward for a brief air-kiss.
Paula almost pulled back, but allowed him the courtesy. “So who are you really?” she asked the Mellanie-alike.
“Morty’s friend,” the girl said impishly. “I reconfigured myself in your honour. Morty’s been having fever fits about you for the last couple of hours.”
“Has he now?” Paula arched an eyebrow to give him an expectant gaze.
Morton blushed. “Thanks, Sa-hasha.”
“So what do you really look like?” Paula asked.
The girl shrugged, then became motionless. Her skin shuddered as the muscle bands slowly flexed in reorganization, shifting the epidermal layers into different features. The golden tan paled down to a Nordic-white while her hair turned ginger-red. A wider, freckled face grinned back at Paula.
The features weren’t that different, Paula thought. There are some things you just never can cure a man of. “Equally pretty,” she said lightly.
“Why thank you.” Sa-hasha gave Morton a kiss. “You two behave now.”
“I’ll try,” Morton said.
The gravity tube door opened in the wall beh