The Fenris Device

by Brian M. Stableford
Series: Hooded Swan 5
Reviewed date: 2018 May 21
Rating: 2
156 pages
cover art

Grainger is a star-pilot on the Hooded Swan, working off a two-year indenture. His bosses insist that he land the Swan on the planet Leucifer V. With a name like Leucifer V, you know that's no cake-walk.

Grainger makes one attempt, but the atmospheric storms are too unpredictable and unsafe. He refuses to try again. His bosses insist, because this request came straight from the mysterious alien Gallacellans. The Gallacellans are a reticent species, but old and very powerful, and they want a human pilot to help them recover the Varsovien, an abandoned Gallacellan spacecraft stuck on the surface of Leucifer V.

At this point I became aware that I was missing a great deal of back-story. It turns out The Fenris Device is book five in a series. Oh. So I don't know quite how or why, but Grainger has an alien consciousness sharing his mind. He calls it the wind. The wind and Grainger get along all right. Mostly the wind just stays out of the way, but he pops up occasionally with useful observations or bits of information. Handy guy, that wind.

Grainger is adamant about not attempting another landing. But circumstances force his hand: the Hooded Swan is hijacked by an angry dwarf with a gun and a bomb. The dwarf, Maslax, is bitter and angry at the world, and he figures the Varsovien has a Gallacellan secret weapon: the Fenris Device. He intends to use the Fenris Device to exact his revenge on those he feels have hurt him: the entire human race.

Well, you don't argue with an angry bitter dwarf holding a gun, so Grainger lands the Hooded Swan on Leucifer V. They board the Varsovien and blast off. Both human and Gallacellan spaceships attack Varsovien, but their missiles trigger an automatic defense mechanism. Varsovien activates the Fenris Device, which annihilates all matter within a five-hundred-thousand mile radius of Varsovien. It's a weapon all right: the perfect defensive weapon. But with a range like that, it could swallow whole planets--and Maslax the angry bitter dwarf is intent on doing just that.

Grainger and the crew manage to subdue Maslax, but they can't control Varsovien or turn off the Fenris Device. The Gallacellan warships are closing in, and all appears lost. But the wind saves the day. The wind reveals to Grainger that he was previously joined with a Gallacellan, so he knows the language and a fair bit of their culture. Grainger allows the wind to take control of his body, and the wind navigates them through the situation until everybody is safe. The Gallacellans are surprised to meet a human who can speak their language, but ultimately they simply don't care.

Grainger realizes the Gallacellans as a race are timid by nature. Varsovien was created during a long-forgotten Gallacellan conflict: a city-sized ship with the perfect defensive weapon, designed for long voyages. Grainger figures the Gallacellans, being so timid by nature, created Varsovien as a way to escape conflict by retreating to a faraway galaxy. Whatever conflict originally prompted the building of Varsovien is long gone, but contact with humans has so unnerved the Gallacellans that at least some factions think maybe it's time to put Varsovien to use.

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