The Gods of the Underworld
Roots: Alien (the Ilijah). Chapter 6 is entitled "The Temple of Gloom", a reference to slightly more famous archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). There are references to Little Red Riding Hood ("what big eyes they have"), Buck Rogers, and Tarzan.
Continuity: There have been a dozen Argian War Temples located all over what used to be Argia's space, all of them ransacked and empty; nobody knows what the Argians kept in them. There are numerous swashbuckling tales of brave tomb raiders facing vengeful Argian apparitions, but none of them have ever been substantiated. The Argian Empire gradually disintegrated over a millennium of "sad decline", destroying the entire civilisation and everything it achieved in the process. Argian technology combined the mystical and the scientific, and the Argians claimed that the source of their power was their gods, after whom they named their fleets and temples. The Argians invaded Venedel [and presumably the other planets in their empire] numerous times, on each occasion destroying all books, presses and other means of learning. Other planets in their empire included Zerinzar (conquered by the Ghost Fleet) and Anthrazar (conquered by the Blood Messengers of the Ninth). The temple on Venedel is devoted to the Gods of the Underworld and contains the Argian Oracle, a device capable of locating any living soul in the universe. The Argians always depicted eyes as being large in their art, in homage to their all-seeing Oracle. The Oracle is seemingly destroyed during the destruction of the Temple.
Regions of Venedel include the Shadow Coast and the Fungus Mountains, the area between which is ruled by the Thane of Mahel. The Thane is third Monarch (or chieftain) of all Venedel.
The rat-like Waskas are known for their obsessive attention to detail, however minute, which makes them suited to archaeology.
The Boor were interplanetary gangsters. They are large blubbery humanoids with squat bodies and misshapen heads. Their speech translators are programmed to confuse and irritate anyone they speak to, especially the police. The Earthlink Federation destroyed their organisation.
The lizard like Ilijah originated on a planet inhabited only by animals. They can fertilize their own eggs and incubate them in any creature large enough to hold them. Originally, they squirted their eggs down the throats of a suitable host, killing it. The gases released by the breakdown of the corpse's internal organs then provide the perfect environment for incubating the eggs. The Boor took Ilijah from their home planet and genetically reengineered them, shortening their lifespan and making them more aggressive and fertile. The Boor unleashed the Ilijah on planets under their protection, enslaving the population by selling them a serum that would kill the Ilijah and provide continued immunity; thus dependent on the Boor for survival, the population would be forced to give them whatever they wanted.
The Nishtubi are large and powerful grey skinned humanoids, and are usually employed as mercenaries. They have rock hard skin. It is implied that they hatch from eggs. The Boor were their most notorious employers.
The Shik are spindly humanoids with blue-black skins. At the same time that the Boor were active, the Shik syndicate kept the outer worlds suppressed for over a century.
The planet Obvion was recolonised and renamed c2100 following its decimation by the Boor.
Benny wants to find the Argian Oracle so that she can locate Jason (Twilight of the Gods (NA)). She becomes romantically interested in undercover Federation officer "Starl Stanmore".
Braxiatel has been sponsoring the excavation of the Argian Temple of Blood Messengers on the planet Betheral. He wants Benny to recover the Argian Oracle so that he can place it in the Small Trianon with the Oracle of the Lost (Tears of the Oracle). He has tiny fragments of the schematic for the Argian Oracle in the Collection.
The planet Pan Leica has two suns. There are Dendronian siege engines on the planet Grombi.
Benny nearly employs a pilot who is a member of an unnamed species; it resembles a turnip with a bunch of grapes on its head.
Links: There is a reference to the statues of Levithian Graffs in Braxiatel's study (The Ribos Operation). There is a reference to the planet Kolkokron (Frontios).
Location: The Braxiatel Collection, Pan Leica spaceport, and Venedel, over several days from March 12th 2600.
Future History: The Stellar Police supposedly broke up the Boor's organisation four or five hundred years before 2600 (i.e. between 2100 and 2200AD). The Stellar Police were eventually subsumed into the fledgling Earthlink Federation. In actually fact, the High Boor made a deal with the newly formed but corrupt Federation, and the Boor helped them to capture and cryogenically imprison the other criminal syndicates (including the Shik and the Obvions) in the Argian Temple on Venedel. The Boor themselves agreed to be frozen with them for thirty years, until the opposing gangs had been dealt with or had calmed down, and then planned to return to their operations as before; they would revive the leaders of the other syndicates only if they swore allegiance to the Boor. The Nishtubi were paid to revive them after thirty years, but the Federation become far more powerful and far faster than the Boor had anticipated and struck a deal with the Nishtubi to renege on the deal, leaving the Boor and the other syndicate leaders frozen for five centuries.
The Earthlink Federation tolerates the presence of the Fifth Axis in the sector as long as their warlike tendencies do not become unequivocal, and as long as any squabbles take place amongst the frontier worlds. The feudal, primitive planet Venedel, previously occupied by the Argians, joined the Earthlink Federation c2570. They vote to withdraw in 2600, prompting the Federation to set up a blockade around the planet.
The Shadow Federation is a corrupt element within the Earthlink Federation. The Special Internal Investigations Unit is investigating it.
The Bottom Line: A rather flat effort from Cole, which has plenty of plot but is plagued by uninteresting supporting characters and an assortment of barely sketched alien races.