With the frontier worlds going down before the Zunshu and the DeepSky Fleet headed out with orders to use any means necessary to extinguish the Colonial Wars, the board is set, the pieces are positioned – and Neil Travers and Curtis Marin find themselves in Freespace, hunting for old enemies.
The rogue industrialist behind the event that almost destroyed Omaru is hiding out on Halfway -- surrounded by a regiment of bodyguards, in the fortified heights of a lawless space city where anything goes, from the dark, virulent, violent underbelly to a dazzling place called Xanadu. Sergei van Donne is also gunning for Boden Zwerner, but even he can’t get close, and an unlikely pact is made between sometime enemies.
The data trail leading to Zwerner takes Richard Vaurien’s crew through the muck trodden by slave dealers. They’re after the survivors of the super-carrier Shanghai – soldiers, pilots, techs, who made it through the Battle of Ulrand alive, only to be snatched by unscrupulous Freespacers and sold in hellish colonies on the wrong side of the frontier. Harrison Shapiro wants them back, and the trail sends the Wastrel to an open-pit mine of a world. The slaves are just part of the treasure that might be seized -- and perhaps another clue to the secrets of the Zunshu will be uncovered.
The ancient Resalq have emerged from stasis to discover a harsh new reality … the Zunshu are too close, no world is safe, and Mark Sherratt’s people will become fugitives once again, while Lai’a launches into the incredible realm of transspace, which the Resalq called Elarne … ‘the stormy side of the sky.’ Its mission was simply to test the hyper-Weimann engine. Its reality is stunningly different.
For Travers and Marin, the day of reckoning has arrived. The super-carrier Chicago has brought Earth’s war to Velcastra. The colonial republic is proclaimed, and peace reigns for a matter of hours, while worlds like Jagreth and Borushek watch shrewdly, and chart their own future. Harrison Shapiro’s bridges are burned – the only way back is victory.
And at a place called Alshien’ya, a very different drama explodes with the return of Lai’a … the heroes of the modern frontier and the icons of other centuries are players, pawns, in a vast game of statecraft and survival – winner take all.
HELLGATE #5: Flashpoint is a massive novel – 250,000 words long – driving the story toward its immense conclusion, which you’ll be reading in 2012, in #6: Event Horizon.