The Prologue

This was the prologue which I wrote for the original version of Run From The Stars, but then dropped from the electronic edition.

The Secret Places

Department of History,
University of Astropolis,
9th Jan. 3001.

This is the story of a work that almost refused to be written.
When, fifteen years ago, I made the final years of the Arcturian Confederation my chosen field of study, I hoped to write a definitive history of this fascinating period. I was encouraged by the wealth of information available in both the Space Fleet Headquarters and University of Astropolis databases.
However, as time passed, I became increasingly aware that the story revolved around one young woman, whose intelligence, courage and sheer determination changed the course of events in a way that, even now, is hard to comprehend.
To understand the autumn years of the Confederation, I had to understand Jane Gould. But, at a remove of one and a half centuries, she was making things difficult for me, just as she had infuriated her contemporaries in the early twenty-ninth century.
The official logs of the spaceships are still in the Space Fleet database at Astropolis, as are some of the personal records of the officers involved. The motivations of William Keefe, Douglas Spence, Ian Sinclair, Heloise McAlister and many others are easily understood from their journals. But for Jane Gould there was no journal, and without it I began to wonder if there was any real hope of completing this project.
Too many crucial events were completely undocumented. Much of what Jane Gould did, she did on her own, without her equipment, and out of range of sensors. My sense of frustration was compounded by the certain knowledge that her journals had once existed. In them she had not only recorded the missing periods, but added her personal comments. In fact she had gone beyond that: In the long, lonely hours when she had cruised between stars in her eighty-footer, she had breathed her hopes, and confessed her fears to the recorders. A few, maddeningly incomplete, fragments remained as appendices to her colleagues’ records. But the journals themselves she had removed from the database.
She said that she had done it because she had told too much. She said that the recordings still existed, but she had put them in her “secret places,” and that they would be returned to the main system when she had the time to edit out everything that was hurtful. But she never had a chance to begin that review of the material, let alone finish it. I believed, as did most historians, that the journals were lost beyond recall.
There matters remained for many years, and probably would have remained for ever, had it not been for a chance remark spoken by a biochemist of my acquaintance over dinner.
“I was on Mercia last week,” he said, “taking soil samples. Do you realise the Gould family are still farming at Hallsfield? You know, where your Jane was born.”
It had never occurred to me that there was still a Gould family. I had committed the classical error that has dogged Arcturian scholarship, and which I had sworn to avoid. I had refused to believe that anyone outside the nine worlds of the Arcturi had better data. Jane Gould left no descendents – but I had forgotten Thomas Gould, her brother. Sixteen hours later I was on a liner bound for Mercia.
Driving up to Hallsfield Farm was a deeply moving experience, seeing for the first time the roads that Jane Gould herself had used a century and a half before. I presented myself, and was ushered into a warm, dimly lit parlour. I was introduced to Karin Gould, sixty years old, but quick witted and bright eyed. She explained that she was Thomas Gould’s great-great-granddaughter, and quickly understood what I was doing. She sent a teenage brunette with brilliant blue eyes to get what she called, “Auntie Jane’s Box,” and poured black coffee for both of us while we waited.
When the girl came back she was carrying a green container the size of a small suitcase, and I felt a sudden thrill. It was a Confederate Space Fleet emergency medical case, and the date code was late in 2829. Jane Gould herself could have handled this box. I held my breath while Karin opened it. On top was a blue silk evening dress, ragged with age, but obviously made for a very small woman. From beneath this Karin removed a jewel box and laid it on a side table. Finally she pulled out a cracked leather shoulder bag, from which she produced a case containing five little plastic rectangles. Hardly daring to hope, I slotted them one at a time into my wrist unit, and each time I was rewarded with a flood of data.
They were Jane Gould’s personal journals, and they were complete.
I have of course made the original journals available in both the Space Fleet and University databases. But in this series of books I have tried to tell the true story of the woman who was dragged against her will onto the field of history and, through her own inner strength and unshakable courage, went on to remake that history in her own image.


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