USA Today bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith returns to his fan-favorite Seeders Universe series with a third novel, Morning Song.
A massive ship powers toward the Milky Way Galaxy, threatening to destroy entire worlds. The rogue ship, the size of a moon, seems to have no entrance.
With little time before millions die, Maria Boone and Roscoe Mundy must somehow take a small team into the massive ship to stop it.
A galaxy-spanning tale of adventure and suspense and the humanity that can exist in a vast culture.
Dean Wesley Smith is a fixture in my StoryBundles. He writes an extremely popular and insightful blog at the cutting edge of the publishing industry, and he is also one of the hardest-working writers I know. When I asked if he had something appropriate for the Adventure SF StoryBundle, he just lifted his eyebrows as if I should already know the answer. He chose MORNING SONG as the best title for the bundle. – Kevin J. Anderson
WADE RAY STOOD calmly, waiting, his hands grasped behind his back as he stared at the huge view screen in front of him. His long gray hair flowed over his shoulders and covered the top of his casual gray silk shirt. He wore comfortable dark slacks and dark leather shoes. He never wore anything else.
He stood only six foot tall, had thin shoulders, and looked fairly young, but his mere presence in the ship's command center kept the other scientists behind him silent, staring at their individual control areas, some using screens, others using holographic heads-up displays.
The command center had three levels. The top level along the back had four stations, all diagnostic stations. The next level one step down had three major stations. Two were ship controls and operations, since the ship was huge, carrying over two thousand people.
The third and center chair was for the chairman of the ship, a term used by many to designate the captain of the ship. Most large Seeder ships like this one, with so many people and families, were for-profit businesses. So chairman was a better title for Wade Ray. Over the centuries, it had always been the standard designation on all Seeder ships.
Ray had stepped down to the area in front of his major control chair to try to get even slightly closer to the empty, black space staring at him on the screen.
Every human on this ship was a Seeder, working to spread the human race over every habitable planet in every galaxy they could reach.
The youngest scientist with him in the command center was only five hundred years old. Ray had told a few who asked that he had lived for just over three hundred thousand years, long enough to see humanity spread over six galaxies, including the Milky Way and its smaller satellite galaxies and now working into the Andromeda Galaxy and all its satellite galaxies.
But he was far older than even that.
He hoped to live long enough to see many more galaxies seeded as well, but he had no idea how long he would live. As far as he knew, barring accidents, Seeders could live forever, their bodies constantly renewing. Only boredom or accidents or violence cost Seeders their lives. That's why the mission of continuing to spread humanity from one galaxy to another was so important.
It kept them all sane. And challenged.
From what he understood, there were over fifty thousand major Seeder ships like his, mostly all working in the Andromeda Galaxy on the front lines of the Seeding. There were many, many other Seeders embedded in cultures without ship support working to help newborn human civilizations grow into stable cultures.
Seeders not only planted the human race, but spent centuries with each culture guiding each planet to maturity.
And not only could Seeders live a long time, but many had teleportation powers over short interstellar distances. It helped those without ships to get around between systems.
He had been embedded in cultures for many, many thousands of years, more than he could ever begin to remember, before taking command of his own ship. Now here, in this galaxy, his ship was one of the trouble-shooting ships who jumped around to where they were needed. He had no more desire to work the frontline of the Seeders. His interests lay with helping the cultures that the front line seeded grow.
Right now, he and his ship were back in the Larger Magellanic Cloud Galaxy, a very long way from the Andromeda Galaxy and all its many satellite galaxies.
There was a problem here.
This Milky Way satellite galaxy had been seeded for a hundred thousand years now and had a stable and growing interstellar culture from which many had been recruited to become Seeders and help out in the Andromeda seeding.
The problem hadn't started here, but right now the problem was here and that's also why he was back across so much space.
Finally, a scientist to his left said, "Now."
As he had expected, a huge ship, thousands and thousands of times larger than his ship, almost unimaginable in size, dropped out of Trans-Tunnel flight, but didn't slow in the slightest as it flashed near the Parson's system near the outer edge of the Larger Magellanic Cloud Galaxy.
The ship was a perfectly proportioned winged ship, shaped like a glider, yet Ray could never imagine it entering any atmosphere since it was larger than most moons. It was normal older-Seeder-ship design, with a command bump near the front and the top of the pointed nose.
It was gray, without a mark or viewpoint or access port on it that anyone on his ship could find. It was as if the surface of the thing was one piece.
There didn't seem to be any engines or thruster ports or anything. Everything on the inside of that ship was hidden.
The huge ship was moving at an impossible real-space speed of over ninety-eight percent the speed of light.
If it followed its pattern as it had the numbers of times before, Ray knew it would remain in real space for two weeks real time, not ship time, and then jump back into trans-tunnel drive. It would appear again a hundred light years away, remain in real space for two real-time weeks again, then jump again.
Due to time and relativity problems, ship time on that ship was only about two days before it jumped. That was a problem with anything traveling that fast outside a trans-tunnel flight.
The ship had followed the exact same pattern since it was first discovered entering the Larger Magellanic Cloud Galaxy. He had watched it now for weeks.
Luckily, there had been no inhabited planets or systems in its way. It had plowed through a number of red dwarf systems, simply knocking anything aside that got it in its way with force screens of immense power.
Even a collision with a large moon had simply shattered the moon and hadn't even seemed to slow down or alter the big ship's course. That horrified him more than he wanted to let on and he felt responsible.
He knew it should be slowing. It wasn't.
Something was clearly wrong on that big ship and he had to figure out a way to stop it.
Beside him Tacita shook her head. She was feeling the same about this big ship as he was. They had to stop it.
Tacita had been at his side now for more years than he wanted to think about. They were partners in every sense of the word. It seems like they always had been.
She had long black hair that she always wore down and loose and dark black eyes that seemed to see everything.
She was also the smartest human on this ship by far. How she put up with him, he never understood and always questioned.
He could never imagine not having her with him, as his partner in life.
"Has it shifted course at all?" Ray asked, hoping something was changing as he stared at the huge ship on the screen in front of him.
The more his crew and others studied the ship, the more they all became convinced it was Seeder built, but long before any of their time with the Seeders.
He knew it was.
Many wondered if this ship might be from the original Seeders.
That possibility had many on this ship and other ships excited.
He and Tacita kept their silence. At this point they needed to.
"It has not shifted course," Tacita said, her voice clearly not happy with that. "Something is very wrong."
Ray could feel the knot in his stomach tighten even more.
The giant ship was on course for the Milky Way. And in a very short time it would plow through some of the most inhabited systems in the Milky Way Galaxy.
That was assuming it did not alter course, or if he couldn't find a way to alter its course or stop it.
Considering the shields that big ship had, the only way to alter that ship's course was to get inside of it. And at the speed it was going, with the shields it had, he had no idea how to do that.
This was not supposed to be this way.
And none of his smartest scientists seemed to know what to do either.
Standing on the outside looking in was not something he liked or often did.
"Everyone have all the records you need?" he asked, turning to Tacita and the other scientists sitting at stations behind him.
Tacita nodded without looking up at him. He knew that she was scared to death of what the big ship would do when it reached the Milky Way Galaxy, the damage it would cause without ever meaning to.
"We have everything we need," Tacita said, again not looking up, but instead scanning the data on the screens in front of her station.
"Make sure we have two ships taking readings of that ship every time it appears and have them forward that data to us."
He hoped the big ship would start braking, but it should have before now if it was going to avoid disaster ahead.
"They are confirmed and will comply," Tacita said.
Ray nodded and stepped up and sat in his large chair, double-checking all the readings. Then with a glance at Tacita to his right, he said, "Get us to the Milky Way, on the predicted path ahead of this ship."
"Trans-tunnel jump in twenty seconds," Tacita said.
Staring at that big ship one more time, he said, "We got to go find some help. And maybe warn a few billion people to get out of the way."
This entire situation made him sick to his stomach.
"We have candidates that should be able to help," Tacita said.
Then as if he needed just one more look to really make his nightmares even more real, he kept staring at the huge glider-shaped ship until his ship jumped to trans-tunnel flight.
It would take them two days to cross the distance to the Milky Way. It would take the big ship six months.
Six very short months.
Before then they had better have some answers and some help, or billions of humans were going to die.
He was a Seeder. His job was to help start new human life and protect it and nurture it where he could.
There was just no way he was going to let a runaway ship destroy entire civilizations he had helped build.