In 2113 humanity was near extinction, but aliens stepped in to save us. Five hundred years later, spaceships are being sabotaged and Emma, the only human aboard a huge ship filled with aliens, is nearly killed. Humanity may be to blame. Emma must find the real villains or we could be confined to our home system forever. The fate of humanity rests with one woman -- and her small dog.
In the catastrophe called the Waste, all polar ice melted, the seas rose 300 feet, and wars, famine and plague killed 90% of all humans and half the other species on Earth. As we stood on the brink of extinction in the early 22nd century, the galactic federation known as Concord contacted us and asked politely if we really meant to do that. When we asked for help, we were invited to join Concord as a probationary member, and the aliens immediately began helping us back to our feet.
Concord consists of 44 Tribes (including us). It monitors every star and planet in the galaxy and keeps the peace. Sixty other living Tribes declined membership, and are protected by Concord but not allowed to leave their home systems. Most of these Hermits only last a few million years before fading away. Concord was founded by two tribes seven billion years ago, one of which, the Pilots, are the only Tribe that knows how to navigate faster-than-light spaceships.
Five centuries after humans joined, an unprecedented series of sabotages begins, starting with the enormous warship Violet Enforcer. The sole human aboard this ship of one million people is Emma Fuji, the daughter of a Scottish doctor and a Japanese relief worker. Emma is tricked into going outside the ship with a faulty suit, and only quick thinking, meditation, and luck save her life. The investigation that follows also turns up a time-delay bomb that would have obliterated the ship.
Emma's official job is to introduce humanity to the six other Tribes that have habitats on Violet Enforcer. She does this in regular live interviews with her mentor, a five-limbed, three-faced, feathered alien who has a well-developed sense of humor. The interviews are a hit on the ship's network, but shortly after the sabotage begins, her star is eclipsed when her terrier, Moondog, becomes the bigger celebrity. Everyone knows Emma, but everyone loves Moondog.
When the immediate crisis is past, Violet begins investigating other acts of sabotage in several solar systems. There are hints that humans may be responsible somehow. Then another ship, the only ship with a human crew, is destroyed by the same kind of bomb that was placed on Violet, and a group of human radicals that want humanity out of Concord claims credit. Violet travels first to Earth to investigate these claims, and then to the planet that Concord is terraforming for us when we leave probation. More and more evidence piles up that humans may be at fault, but no one wants to believe it. If it's true, humans would be confined to Earth, and the chances of us surviving even a century after that are slim.
In the end, Emma and her friends discover the bitter truth and deliver justice -- but not without the help of Moondog, the most popular dog in the Universe.
One Hundred Light Years of Solitude
Emma Fuji clung to the outside of a spaceship larger than Pluto, so large that it was more like lying on an endless metallic plain, except that if she pushed off she would drift away and float through the black sky forever.
The only light she could see came from her helmet, illuminating a sharp-edged circle of the shockingly violet surface, almost smooth except for the small recessed ring into which she had shoved one gloved hand. That handhold may have saved her life. Above her there were no stars, no galaxies, only empty space. Sometimes, out of the corner of her eye, she could see a dim light several kilometers away on the surface of the ship; a navigation light, perhaps? She wasn't sure. She had only seen the outside of the ship once, almost two years ago, from the shuttle that had delivered her.
It was difficult to believe that she was moving at a good fraction of the speed of light. There was no wind, of course, no apparent motion, no background against which to gauge the progress of this immense ship and the small, helpless woman clinging to its skin.
She was feeling a little light-headed. She called up her circlet's time display. She'd been outside for over three hours. It felt like half her life.
“I'm going to die out here,” she muttered to herself.
“No, you’re not,” said a soothing voice inside her head. “Tell me about Moondog.”
A Most Unusual Morning
“That’s weird,” Emma said. Moondog looked up at her briefly from the floor, then put her head back on her paws.
She twitched Seeüwit. Ze answered after a few seconds.
“Emma, good morning.” Zis voice was like a sweet melody, rising and falling.
“I just got a really weird message. You should see this.”
“Send it to me.”
She reread it again while waiting for Seeüwit to respond.
Good morning, Emma my sweet. I’ve left a surprise for you, but you must experience an adventure to find it. This may seem strange, but trust me, it will be worth the effort. Go outside the ship to the coordinates shown below. The package is tethered to a handhold, and it will start blinking when you get within a kilometer so you’ll be able to find it. It probably won’t survive reentry translation, so don’t wait too long. You won’t get the full experience unless you go alone, but bring a friend if you feel you must. When you’ve seen your present, you will know it was worth it, and you will know what to do next. I will expect suitable thanks.
There was no signature, just polar coordinates for a spot somewhere on the northern hemisphere of the ship.
“I think we’d better discuss this in person,” Seeüwit said. “Meet me in the usual place.”
“Okay. Be there as soon as I can.”
She took Moondog outside and told her to pee, then let her back into the cottage. “Be good,” she said. Moondog trotted into the living room and curled up on her bed. She seemed to be asleep before Emma could close the door.
The nearest portal was about five minutes’ walk from her cottage. Emma set out on the path through the woods, enjoying the crisp air and the sunshine darting through leaves that were just starting to take on their fall colors. The ground was still a little damp from last night’s scheduled rain. A songbird, probably a thrush, warbled nearby, and she could hear a woodpecker’s steady thwacking in the distance.
The ground rose up slowly, the trees thinning out, until she reached a rocky outcrop, great boulders—some larger than her cottage—forming a broken cliff face. The path led between the first of the fallen rocks, into an open space surrounded by granite walls. She walked into a tall crack in the stone without having to stoop and pressed the button for the transport.
Seconds later the rock wall slid aside and she stepped into a spotless, well-lit elevator car big enough to hold fifty people. She sat on the bench that ran all around the perimeter and said, “Lounge 751.” The door closed and the car sank smoothly.
Her rendezvous point was over sixty kilometers down, on deck three, and a quarter of the way around the ship—roughly two thousand kilometers. The trip took less than fifteen minutes. The transport opened and she stepped out.