In the Year of Union 437, an armada of ships appeared on the borders of the CASS. Terrified of again being subjugated to an alien race, the CASS attacked the invaders. A century has passed and still the war drags on, without anyone in the CASS having seen the face of their enemy.
The greatest strategic mind to come out of the Jandahl Academy in fifty-six years, Bah’dur Das brings victory wherever he goes. He is the hope of every system in the CASS to finally bring an end to this long war. Now he and his fellow Djaans have embarked on a daring plan to lure the Foundlings to the blasted hull of old Earth and draw a noose around the Foundling fleet.
But Djaan Das has a secret; a secret so big that if it is revealed it could destroy not only him, but the entire Confederacy as well.
The difficulty was not so much in how the system worked, but how to build it from the limited resources available to them.
When they were about to come out of the last jump, all five Djaans gathered in the cockpit. Liem was nervous, but though no one could find any flaw in his calculations. Three of them breathed a sigh of relief when they emerged from the jump hovering over the magnetic pole of Nushrat’s star as they had intended.
Coming out of the jump was normally bad enough, making Bah’dur’s magnetic sense painfully intense for a moment, but jumping in directly over the magnetic pole of the star—he hadn’t expected it to be so disorienting. He reeled and fell back against the wall, his face gone ashen, only vaguely aware that Kerem had taken control of the ship. Vevina had her hands on his arms as he fought to clear his spinning head, but even so, he tried to shake her off.
Bah’dur gasped for breath, eyes closed against the image of the cockpit that seemed to swim in his vision. “The star must be—“ Bah’dur tried to explain weakly, struggling for air. His knees felt weak. It felt like every system in his body had gone haywire. He was vaguely aware of Liem moaning softly from the vertigo he was also suffering. “I hadn’t realized… it would be so— I just need a few… minutes.”
Bah’dur pushed himself weakly away from the wall and stumbled back into the cabin, falling into one of the chairs. He rested his head in his hands, eyes closed until the sense of vertigo and the nausea had passed, and the throbbing pain in his fingertips subsided enough to orient him in the field around him. He heard, rather than saw, the others lead Liem in as well to lie on one of the couches.
When Bah’dur finally looked up to expressions of concern on Malak’s and Vevina’s faces, his own face looked considerably less pale than when he’d stumbled into the chair.
“You’ve never hidden above a magnetic pole before?” Malak asked what Vevina must also have been thinking.
“Of course,” his voice was already sounding stronger, and a tad indignant. “Planetary poles, dozens of times. I’ve even hidden a ship in the pole of a star before, but I flew in, and the star was not this big. This was very sudden.” That this was an understatement of facts was obvious.
“Will Liem be able to hide in here?” Malak questioned, looking at the younger Djaan still with concern.
Bah’dur nodded carefully so as not to disturb his newly found equilibrium and then rose from his chair, testing his legs’ stability. “The disorientation will pass.”
Bah’dur crossed the cabin and went to sit beside Djaan An where he lay on the couch. He was still shaking slightly and even lying down looked like he’d be ill. Bah’dur spoke to him very softly so that the others could not hear, and instinctively held one of his hands in his own. Slowly, the tension began to disappear from his muscles. Then Liem pulled his hands away from his face and finally pulled his body off the couch entirely.
Bah’dur put a hand on his shoulder very gently. “I believe you were piloting the ship.”
Liem nodded equally carefully. He didn’t speak, but did slowly return to the cockpit.
Bah’dur watched him leave sympathetically.
“Will he be okay?” Vevina wondered aloud.
“He’ll be fine. He just has less experience doing this than I do. The magnetic fields of even small stars are chaotic enough that they require a strong stomach. The last time I hid the Janus at a star’s pole, I couldn’t keep down anything more solid than water for days. Most humans aren’t bothered by the magnetic fields, so it isn’t included in any of the simulations.”
Bah’dur didn’t tell them how badly his first taste of a star’s magnetic pole had really been. Neutron stars were not his favourite hiding places! If it hadn’t been for the GS, he’d never have been able to function. Nushrat’s star’s field was not nearly so powerful, but he didn’t add that part of the reason he was finding the field so disorienting now was because he’d never experienced one without the drug before.
Bah’dur returned with the others to the cockpit. “What’s our status?”
“I launched the sensor buoy,” Kerem replied. “No indication that we’ve been spotted. We should be safe here, at least for a while.”
Betsy McCall was born near Cleveland, Ohio, in 1972. She has received a bachelor's in Classical and Medieval Studies from Cleveland State University. She has also received master's degrees in Linguistics from Indiana University, Mathematics from Cleveland State University, and Management Information Systems from Nova Southeastern University. In addition to her writing, she is Adjunct Faculty in Mathematics at Columbus State Community College, and also holds adjunct faculty positions teaching mathematics, English, writing and computers at DeVry University, and Baker College. Besides Janus, Betsy has also published several fantasy novels including The Dragons' Lord. She currently resides in Columbus, Ohio.