Nebula Nomination for Odyssey
November 2006: Odyssey
The world has discovered, despite all the promises held out by the champions of interstellar travel, that it offers few prospects for economic advantage. Public funding and private contributions for the Academy have been drying up. Even sightings of mysterious lights in the sky, once called UFO's, now known as moonriders, draw only skepticism.
In an effort to recapture some of the glamor of earlier years, the Academy plans a well-publicized mission ostensibly to seek the truth about the moonriders. The mission will visit tour spots where they've been seen, while simultaneously the real purpose of the flight giving the general public a chance to get a good look at the magnificent orbiting temple left by the Monument-Makers thousands of years ago at 61 Cygni; at Terranova, the first world discovered with multi-cellular life forms; at the Origins Project, a hyper-accelerator thousands of miles long beyond 36 Ophiuchi; at Beta Comae Berenices, with its sungrazer; and at other famous locations in the solar neighborhood. In what she hopes will be a good public relations stroke, Hutch persuades the caustic Academy critic Gregory MacAllister to make the flight.
But the moonriders, never more than a semi-mythical presence, become suddenly aggressive. No one knows why until MacAllister sees a rationale during the celebrated hellfire trial.