Favorite Passages in Literature

The Darkness That Comes Before, by R. Scott Bakker

One of my personal favorites, this is a fantasy story heavily influenced by philosophy, science fiction and apocolypse. The main character, Kellhus, has been raised at the frozen edge of the godless northern wastes by a secretive cult pursuing the complete perfection of body and mind. One day, the elders all receive a sorcerous message in their dreams from Kellhus’ exiled father, Moenghus, to send his son to him. Kellhus agrees to the demand and sets out on a quest of discovery, but quickly finds that his godlike father has left tests of person and place for him to overcome along the way.

Cnaiür is a savage Scylvendi chieftan who agrees to lead Kellhus through his people’s deadly lands in a bid to help find Moenghus and kill him. But what the savage man fears in the all-knowing father he also finds living in the unnatural son…

(pg. 235)

 

At some point, they crossed the spine of the Hethantas, and the trail began to fall. The Scylvendi forbade them from making fires, but the nights began to warm. Before them spread the Kyranae Plain, dark in the waxy distance, like the skin of an overripe plum.

Kellhus paused at the promontory’s lip and looked over jumbled ravines and ancient forests. Kuniuri had looked much the same from the roof of the Demua, he supposed, but while Kuniuri was dead, this land was alive. The Three Seas. The last great civilization of Men. At long last he had arrived.

I draw near, Father.

“We cannot continue like this,” the Scylvendi called out from behind him.

He’s decided it must be now. Kellhus had been anticipating this moment ever since they’d broken camp hours before.

“What do you mean, Scylvendi?”

“There’s no way two men such as us could cross Fanim lands during a Holy War. We would be gutted as spies long before reaching Shimeh.”

“But this is why we’ve crossed the mountains, isn’t it? To travel through the Empire instead…”

“No,” the Scylvendi said sullenly. “We cannot travel through the Empire… I brought you here to kill you.”

“Or,” Kellhus replied, still speaking to the vista before him, “to be killed by me.”

Kellhus turned his back to the Empire, toward Cnaiür. Surfaces of rock, sunbathed and soaring, framed the man. Serwë stood nearby. There was blood, he noted, on her fingernails.

“That is what you’ve been thinking, isn’t it?”

The Scylvendi wet his lips. “You tell me.”

Kellhus cupped the barbarian within his scrutiny the way a child might imprison a bird within tingling palms — alive to every tremor, to the pulse of a pea-sized heart, to the small heat of panicked respiration.

Should he give the man a glimpse, show him just how transparent he was? For days now, ever since Cnaiür had learned the truth of the Holy War from Serwë, he had refused to discuss anything regarding it or his plans. But his intentions had been clear: he had led them into the Hethantas to play for time, the way Kellhus had witnessed others do when they were too weak to surrender their obsessions. Cnaiür needed to continue hunting Moenghus, even when he knew the hunt to be a farce.

But now they were about to enter the Empire, a land where Scylvendi were flayed alive. Before, as they neared the Hethantas, Cnaiür had simply feared that Kellhus would kill him. Now, sure that his mere presence was about to become a mortal threat, he was certain. Kellhus had glimpsed the resolution over the course of the morning, in the man’s words and his wary glances. If he could not use the son to kill the father, Cnaiür urs Skiotha would kill the son.

Even though he knew this to be impossible.

So much torment.

Hatred, tidal in its scope and strength, enough to murder endless thousands, enough to murder self or even truth. A most potent tool.

“What would you have me say?” Kellhus asked. “That now we’ve reached the Empire, I no longer need you? That now I no longer need you, I intend to kill you? After all, one does not cross the Empire in the company of a Scylvendi.”

“You said it yourself, Dûnyain. Back when you were chained in my yaksh. For your kind there is only mission.”

Such penetration. Hatred, but pleated by an almost preternatural cunning. Cnaiür urs Skiötha was dangerous… Why should he suffer his company?

Because Cnaiür still knew this world better than he. And more important, he knew war. He was bred to it.

I have use for him still.

If the pilgrim routes to Shimeh were closed, Kellhus had no alternative but to join the gathering Holy War. Yet the prospect of war presented a near insuperable dilemma. He’d spent hours in the probability trance, trying to draft models of war, but he lacked the principles he needed. The variables were too many and too fickle. War… Could any circumstance be more capricious? More perilous?

Is this the path you’ve chosen for me, Father? Is this your test?

“And what is my mission, Scylvendi?”

“Assassination. Patricide.”

“And after thirty years among world-born men, what kind of power do you think my father, a Dûnyain possessing all the gifts I possess, wields?”

The Scylvendi looked stunned. “I had not thought —”

“I have. You think that I have no need of you? That I have no need of Cnaiür urs Skiötha the many-blooded? The breaker-of-horses-and-men? A man who can strike down three in the space of as many heartbeats? A man who is immune to my methods, and therefore to those of my father as well? Whoever my father is, Scylvendi, he will be powerful. Far too powerful for any one man to kill.”

Kellhus could hear Cnaiür’s heart thunder beneath his breast, see his thoughts roil through his eyes, and smell the numbness that spread through his limbs. Oddly, the man glanced for a beseeching moment at Serwë, who had started trembling in terror.

“You say this to deceive me,” Cnaiür murmured. “To lull me…” Again the wall of his distrust, blunt and stubborn. He must be shown.

Kellhus drew his blade and lunged forward. The Scylvendi reacted instantly, though in the wooden manner of reflexes dulled by disbelief. He parried the first sweep easily but fell back before the ringing combination that followed. With each impact, Kellhus could see his anger brighten, feel it awaken and grab hold his limbs. Soon the Scylvendi was countering with blinding speed and bone-jarring power. Only once had Kellhus seen Scylvendi children practicing the bagaratta, the “sweeping way” of Scylvendi sword fighting. At the time it had seemed excessively ornate, freighted with dubious flourishes.

Not so when combined with strength. Twice Cnaiür’s great sweeps almost struck him to his heels. Kellhus retreated, affecting fatigue, planting the false scent of an impending kill. He could hear Serwë screaming. “Kill him, Kellhus! Kill him!

Grunting, the barbarian redoubled his fury. Kellhus parted a hammering rain of blows, feigning desperation. He reached out and clamped Cnaiür’s right wrist, yanked him forward. Somehow, impossibly, Cnaiür managed to bring his free hand up, seemingly through Kellhus’s sword arm. He pounded his palm into Kellhus’s face. Kellhus fell backward, kicking Cnaiür twice in the ribs. He rolled into a handstand, effortlessly vaulted back into stance. He tasted his own blood. How? The Scylvendi stumbled, clutching his side. He’d misjudged the man’s reflexes, Kellhus realized, as he had so many other things.

Kellhus cast his sword aside and strode toward the man. Cnaiür howled, lunged, struck. Kellhus watched the sword-point arc through flashing sunlight, across hanging escarpments and scudding clouds. He caught it in his palms, as one might a lover’s face or a fly. He twisted the blade about, wrenching the pommel from Cnaiür’s hand. He stepped within his reach and struck him in the face. As the man pedaled backward, he bounced low and swept his legs from beneath him.

Rather than scramble out of reach, Cnaiür rolled to his feet and leapt at him. Kellhus leaned back, caught the Scylvendi by the back of his girdle and his neck, then heaved him back the way he came, closer to the ledge. When Cnaiür tried to stand, Kellhus struck him backward even farther.

Further blows, until the Scylvendi was more a rabid beast than a man, sucking shuddering breaths, swinging arms that were punished with senselessness. Kellhus struck him hard, and he fell slack, cracking his skull on the edge of the promontory.

Heaving him up, Kellhus thrust the barbarian out over the precipice and, with one arm, held him dangling over the distant Empire. The wind swept his jet hair across the abyss.

“Do it.” Cnaiür gasped through snot and spittle. His feet swayed over nothingness.

So much hatred.

“But I spoke true, Cnaiür. I do need you.”

The Scylvendi’s eyes rounded in horror. Let go, his expression said. For that way lies peace.

And Kellhus realized he’d misjudged the Scylvendi yet again. He’d thought him immune to the trauma of physical violence when he was not. Kellhus had beaten him the way a husband beats his wife or a father his child. This moment would dwell within him forever, in the way of both memories and involuntary cringes. Yet more degradation for him to heap on the fire.

Kellhus hoisted him to safety and let him drop. Another trespass.

Serwë crouched beneath her horse, weeping — not because he had saved the Scylvendi but because he had not killed him. “Iglitha sun tamatha!” she wailed in her father’s tongue. “Iglitha sun tamatheaaa!

If you loved me.

“Do you believe me?” he demanded of the Scylvendi.

The Scylvendi stared at him with dull shock, as though bewildered by the absence of his wrath. He pushed himself to unsteady feet.

“Shut up,” he said to Serwë, though he could not look away from Kellhus.

Serwë continued wailing, crying out to Kellhus. Cnaiür’s eyes clicked from Kellhus to his prize. He strode toward her, struck her silent with an open palm. “I said shut up!

“Do you believe me?” Kellhus asked again. Serwë whimpered, struggled to swallow her sobs. So much sorrow.

“I believe you,” Cnaiür said, momentarily unable to match his gaze. He stared at Serwë instead.

Kellhus had already known this would be his answer, but there was a great difference between knowing an admission and exacting it.

Yet when the Scylvendi at last looked at him, the old fury animated his eyes, burning with almost carnal intensity. If Kellhus had assumed as much earlier, he now knew with utter certainty: the Scylvendi was insane.

“I believe you think you need me, Dûnyain. For now.”

“What do you mean?” Kellhus asked, genuinely perplexed. He’s becoming more erratic.

“You plan on joining this Holy War. On using it to travel to Shimeh.”

“I see no other way.”

“But for all your talk of needing, you forget I’m a heathen to the Inrithi,” Cnaiür said, “little removed from the Fanim they hope to slaughter.”

“Then you’re a heathen no more.”

“A convert?” Cnaiür snorted incredulously.

“No. A man who’s awakened from his barbarity. A survivor of Kiyuth who’s lost faith in the ways of his kinsmen. Remember, like all peoples, the Inrithi think they are the chosen ones, the pinnacle of what it means to be upright men. Lies that flatter are rarely disbelieved.”

The extent of his knowledge, Kellhus could see, alarmed the Scylvendi. The man had tried to secure his position by keeping him ignorant of the Three Seas. Kellhus tracked the inferences that animated his scowl, watched him glance at Serwë… But there were more pressing matters.

“The Nansur will care nothing for such stories,” Cnaiür said. “They’ll see only the scars upon my arms.”

The sources of this resistance eluded Kellhus. Did the man not want to find and kill Moenghus?

How can he still be a mystery to me?

Kellhus nodded, but in a shrugging manner that dismissed even as it acknowledged objections. “Serwë says peoples from across the Three Seas gather in the Empire. We’ll join them and avoid the Nansur.”

“Perhaps…” Cnaiür said slowly. “If we can make it to Momemn without being challenged.” But then he shook his head. “No. Scylvendi don’t wander. The sight of me will provoke too many questions, too much outrage. You have no inkling of how much they despise us, Dûnyain.”

There was no mistaking the despair. Some part of the man, Kellhus realized, had abandoned hope of finding Moenghus. How could he have missed this?

But the more important question was whether the Scylvendi spoke true. Would it be impossible to cross the Empire with Cnaiür? If so, he would have to —

No. Everything depended on the domination of circumstance. He would not join the Holy War, he would seize it, wield it as his instrument. But as with any new weapon, he needed instruction, training. And the chances of finding another with as much experience and insight as Cnaiür urs Skiötha were negligible. They call him the most violent of all men.

If the man knew too much, Kellhus did not know enough — at least not yet. Whatever the dangers of crossing the Empire, it was worth the attempt. If the difficulties proved insurmountable, then he would reassess.

“When they ask,” Kellhus replied, “the disaster at Kiyuth will be your explanation. Those few Utemot who survived Ikurei Conphas were overcome by their neighbors. You’ll be the last of your tribe. A dispossessed man, driven from his country by woe and misfortune.”

“And who will you be, Dûnyain?”

Kellhus had spent many hours wrestling with this question.

“I’ll be your reason for joining the Holy War. I’ll be a prince you encountered traveling south over your lost lands. A prince who’s dreamed of Shimeh from the far side of the world. The men of the Three Seas know little of Atrithau, save that it survived their mythic Apocalypse. We shall come to them out of the darkness, Scylvendi. We’ll be whoever we say we are.”

“A prince…” Cnaiür repeated dubiously. “From where?”

“A prince of Atrithau, whom you found traveling the northern wastes.”

Though Cnaiür now understood, even appreciated, the path laid for him, Kellhus knew that the debate raged within him still. How much would the man bear to see his father’s death avenged?

The Utemot chieftain wiped a bare forearm across his mouth and nose. He spat blood. “A prince of nothing,” he said.

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Progress Report

The new cover for the Nightglory 3rd Edition is now complete, and the final editing pass of the text itself is more than halfway done. This is coming together strongly, and I am extremely proud of the work. Goldenslaughter’s story will finally fulfill the narrative promise suggested in the first two Editions, and as a thank you to all of my readers this upcoming “Master” Edition will be briefly free upon release. Otherwise: I am still writing, still editing, and will have much more to share with you all soon 🙂

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Currently Reading…

Armor, by John Steakley.

The premise: a first time soldier, Felix, is given an incredibly dangerous first assignment. Tasked to scout humanity’s power-armored push into the desert planet Banshee, his highly advanced, futuristic force lands in the boiling nest of a highly dangerous alien species that immediately attacks them in endless overwhelmning waves. Pushed to the brink, Felix must dig deep within himself to find a way to survive until earth’s decimated fleet can send back a ship to retrieve the desperate remnants of their invasion force…

A surprising novel. It has a sterling pedigree, but there is a narrative swerve early on and it also introduces another unexpected character. I don’t know where the story is going now, but it’s damn interesting.

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Progress Report

Still writing the new fantasy story, although I will switch back to writing the new science fiction story soon. The first editing pass of the military science fiction story is more than halfway complete and the final editing pass of the Nightglory 3rd Edition is a third complete. Also: the new cover for Nightglory is almost done. It looks great so far, and a new section of this website will soon be added to show my cover process for each release.

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Favorite Passages in Literature

Cyteen, by CJ Cherryh

This book is one of my personal favorites. A science fiction story with grand vision, sweep, and epic scope. Cherryh is a master of the craft, and with Cyteen creates a fully realized future history spanning the galaxy. In some ways it is the history of a human race much like our own, but in another it is the tale of an iron-willed, unparalleled genius who has built herself up to impossible heights, her control now extending from the scientific to the political, and all the way down to the intimitely personal…

(pg. 4)

Verbal Text from: THE HUMANE REVOLUTION. “The Company Wars”: #1. Reseune Educational Publications: 4668-1368-1 approved for 80+


Imagine all the variety of the human species confined to a single world, a world sown with the petrified bones of human ancestors, a planet dotted with the ruins of ten thousand years of forgotten human civilizations—a planet on which at the time human beings first flew in space, humans still hunted a surplus of animals, gathered wild plants, farmed with ancient methods, spun natural yarns by hand and cooked over wood fires.

Earth owed allegiance to a multitude of chairmen, councillors, kings, ministers and presidents; to parliaments and congresses and committees, to republics, democracies, oligarchies, theocracies, monarchies, hegemonies and political parties which had evolved in profusion for thousands of years.

This was the world which first sent out the starprobes.

Sol Station existed, a much more primitive Sol Station, but altogether self-sustaining; and favored with a system of tax remission in return for scientific benefit, it launched a number of ambitious projects, including the first large-engine starprobe, and ultimately the first crewed pusher-ship cluster toward the near stars.

The first of the pusher-modules was of course the venerable Gaia, which was to deliver the Alpha station-component at the star known at that time as Barnard’s, and leave thirty volunteer scientists and technicians in what in those days meant inconceivable isolation. They would build their station out of the star’s expected system-clutter of rock and ice, perform scientific research and maintain long-distance communication with Earth.

The first concept had been disposable pushers, hardly more than robotic starprobes; but human passengers mandated an abort-and-return capacity which, considering all the possibilities for disaster, was negotiated finally to mean a full-return capacity. That led to the notion of a crewed pusher-module to stay at Barnard’s should the star prove impossibly deficient in raw materials necessary for self-sufficiency of the Alpha module, in which event Gaia might remain for a number of years, then strip the station to the essential core and return the mission to Earth. If the star proved a viable home for the station, Gaia would remain only a year or so until the Alpha Station module was fully functioning and stable in its orbit. Then it would return to Sol with its tiny complement of crew and surrender the Gaia module to a second mission, which would, after refitting, go out again with such supplies as trace minerals and materials which the infant station might not have available. Equally important with the supplies, those early pioneers theorized, was the human link, the reassurance of face-to-face contact with other human beings across what in those days was an inconceivably lonely expanse of space.

Earth, with years’ advance warning via the constant dataflow from Gaia and Alpha Station that the mission was abundantly successful and that Gaia was returning, trained a replacement crew and dutifully prepared the return mission.

But the crew of Gaia, subject to relativistic effects, running into an information stream indicating greater and greater changes in the Earth they had left, had become more at home in the ship than in the mainstream of a Terran culture gone very alien to them. Their sojourn on Sol Station was intensely unhappy, and they reoccupied Gaia by a surprise move which immensely disconcerted station authorities, but which finally won them their ship and relegated the replacement crew to waiting on the next pusher-craft.

Other crews of further missions reached the same decision, regarding themselves as permanent voyagers. They considered their small ships as home, had children aboard, and as star stations and attendant pushers multiplied, asked of Earth and the stations only fuel, provisions, and the improvement of their ships with larger compartments, more advanced propulsion—whatever had become available since their last docking.

Starstations at half a dozen stars linked themselves by the regular passage of such ships. But in the isolation of those days in which messages traveled at mere light-speed and ships traveled slower still, every station was at least four or five years time-lagged from every other human habitation, be it ship or station, and learned to exist in these strangely fluxing time-referents which were impossibly alien to the general population of Earth.

The discovery of intelligent life on the planet at Pell’s Star, the star Earth once called Tau Ceti, was more than ten years old by the time the word of it reached Earth. The dealing of human beings with the Downers was more than two decades advanced by the time Earth’s elaborate instructions could arrive at Pell; and it was much longer before Terran scientists could reach Pell, up the long route that led them station by station into a human culture almost as foreign to them as were the Downers.

As it is difficult from our viewpoint to imagine Earth of that time, it was virtually impossible for Earth to comprehend the reasoning of spacers who refused to leave their ships and who, in their turn, found the (to them) teeming corridors of Sol Station chaotic and terrifying. It was virtually impossible even for Sol Station to understand the life of their contemporaries in the deep Beyond—contemporaries whose culture was built on history and experiences and legendry that had much more to do with the hardships of life in remote stations and famous ships, than with events in a green and chaotic world they saw only in pictures.

Earth, beset with overpopulation and political crises largely attributable to its ancient rivalries, had nevertheless flourished while it was the focus of human development. The unexpected rush of stationers to new construction at Pell, following the prospect of abundant biostuffs, a native population primitive and friendly, and exploitable free-orbiting resources, became a panic flood. Stations between Earth and Pell shut down, disrupting the trade of the Great Circle, and creating economic chaos on Earth and Sol Station.

Earth reacted by attempting to regulate—across a ten-year time lag: Terran politicians could not readily conceive of the economic strength the remaining stations might achieve, given the unification of population that rush to Pell had created. The concentration of population and the discovery of vast resources combined with the psychological impetus to exploration . . . meant that Earth’s now twenty-year-old instructions arrived in a situation in such rapid flux even a month’s lag would have been significant.

Earth found itself increasingly isolate, subject to internal pressures from a faltering trade system, and in a desperate and ill-advised action imposed a punitive tariff which led to smuggling and an active black market; which in turn led to a sudden fall-off of trade. Earth’s response was the declaration of most-favored-status for certain ships; which led in turn to armed hostilities between ships from Earth and ships which had not been built by Earth and which did not hold any allegiance to its convolute and wildly varying politics.

Further, Earth, convinced that emigration of scientists and engineers from Sol System was feeding the spacer cultures with the best and brightest and robbing Earth of its best talent, slammed down an emigration ban not only on travel from Earth and Sol Station, but on further moves of citizens in certain professions from station to station.

Gaia made her last trip to Earth in 2125, and left, vowing never to return.

A general wave of rebellion and mutiny swept through the stars; stations were mothballed and deserted; probes and missions sought further stars not only with economic motive now—but because there were more and more people anxious to move outward, seeking political freedom before restrictions came down.

Viking Station and Mariner sprang into existence as stationers found even Pell too vulnerable to Earth’s influence and as Pell’s now established economy afforded less opportunity for highly profitable initial-phase investment.

By 2201 a group of dissident scientists and engineers sponsored by financial interests on Manner founded a station at Cyteen, about a world vastly different from Pell. The brilliant work of one of those scientists combined with the economic power of Cyteen’s new industries sent the first faster-than-light probe out from Cyteen in 2234, an event which altered the time-scale of spaceflight and forever changed the nature of trade and politics.

Cyteen’s early years were characterized not only by a burst of growth and invention unparalleled in human history, but, ironically, by the resurrection of long disused technologies out of ship archives: combustion engines, gravity-dependent processing, all to save soft-landing the enormous mass-requirements of a full-scale terrestrial development. In addition, there were new on-planet technologies specific to Cyteen, to create pockets of breathable atmosphere in the otherwise deadly environment—all this effort because Cyteen represented a major biological opportunity for the human species. It had no intelligent indigenes. It did have a varied and entirely alien ecosystem—virtually two ecosystems, in fact, because of the extreme isolation of its two continents, differing significantly from each other but vastly different from Earth and Pell.

It was a biologist’s paradise. And it offered, by its absence of intelligent life, the first new cradle of terrestrial human civilization since Earth itself.

It was not politics alone which led to the Company Wars. It was the sudden acceleration of trade and population mobility, it was the stubborn application of outmoded policies by Terran agencies out of touch with the governed, and finally it was the loyalty of a handful of specially favored Terran merchanter captains attempting to maintain a fading trade empire for a motherworld which had become only peripheral to human space.

It was a doomed effort. Cyteen, no longer alone in the Beyond, but motherworld itself to Esperance, Pan-pans, and Fargone Stations, declared its independence from the Earth Company in 2300, an action which, reported now with the speed of the Faster-Than-Lights, prompted Earth to build and dispatch armed FTLs to bring the dissident stations back into line.

Merchanters quickly fled the routes nearer Pell, thus reducing the availability of supplies, while Earth itself, even with FTL technology, was by no means able to supply the mass requirement of its fleet over such distances. Over a span of years the Earth Company fleet degenerated to acts of piracy and coercion which completely alienated the merchanters, always the Earth Company’s mistake.

The formation of the merchanters’ Alliance at Pell established the second mercantile power in the Beyond and put an end to Earth’s attempt to dictate to its scattered colonies.

Surely one of the more ironical outcomes of the War, the Treaty of Pell and the resulting economic linkages of three human societies, drawing on three vastly different ecosystems, now exist as the driving forces in a new economic structure which transcends all politics and systems.

Trade and common interests have proven, in the end, more powerful in human affairs than all the warships ever launched.

CHAPTER 1

i

It was from the air that the rawness of the land showed most: vast tracts where humanity had as yet made no difference, deserts unclaimed, stark as moons, scrag and woolwood thickets unexplored except by orbiting radar. Ariane Emory gazed down at it from the window. She kept to the passenger compartment now. Her eyesight, she had had to admit it, was no longer sharp enough, her reflexes no longer fast enough for the jet. She could go up front, bump the pilot out of the chair and take the controls: it was her plane, her pilot, and a wide sky. Sometimes she did. But it was not the same.

Only the land was, still most of the land was. And when she looked out the window, it might have been a century ago, when humankind had been established on Cyteen less than a hundred years, when Union was unthought of, the War only a rumbling discontent, and the land looked exactly like this everywhere.

Two hundred years ago the first colonists had come to this unlikely star, made the beginnings of the Station, and come down to the world.

Forty-odd years later the sublight ships were coming in, few and forlorn, to try to convert their structure and their operations to faster-than-light; and time sped up, time hurtled at translight speeds, change came so fast that sublight ships met ships they took for alien—but they were not: it was worse news for them. They were human. And the game was all changed.

The starships went out like seeds from a pod. The genetics labs upriver at Reseune bred humanity as fast as it could turn them out from the womb-tanks, and every generation bred others and worked in labs breeding more and more, till there were people enough, her uncle had said, to fill the empty places, colonize the world, build more starstations: Esperance. Fargone. Every place with its own labs and its own means to breed and grow.

Earth had tried to call her ships back. It was all too late. Earth had tried to tax and rule its colonies with a hard hand. That was very much too late.

Ariane Emory remembered the Secession, the day that Cyteen declared itself and its own colonies independent; the day the Union began and they were all suddenly rebels against the distant motherworld. She had been seventeen when the word came down from Station: We are at war.

Reseune bred soldiers, then, grim and single-minded and intelligent, oh, yes: bred and refined and honed, knowing by touch and reflex what they had never seen in their lives, knowing above all what their purpose was. Living weapons, thinking and calculating down one track. She had helped design those patterns.

Forty-five years after the Secession the war was still going on, sometimes clandestine, sometimes so remote in space it seemed a fact of history—except at Reseune. Other facilities could breed the soldiers and the workers once Reseune had set the patterns, but only Reseune had the research facilities, and it had fought the war in its own dark ways, under Ariane Emory’s directorate.

Fifty-four years of her life. . . had seen the Company Wars over, humanity divided, borders drawn. The Earth Company Fleet had held Pell’s Star, but the merchanters of the newly formed Alliance had taken Pell and declared it their base. Sol had tried to ignore its humiliating defeat and go off in another direction; the remnant of the old Company Fleet had turned to piracy and still raided merchanters, no different than they had ever done, while Alliance and Union alike hunted them. It was only hiatus. The war was cold again. It went on at conference tables where negotiators tried to draw lines biology did not, and make borders in boundless, three-dimensional space—to keep a peace that had never, in all Ariane Emory’s life, existed.

All of that might not have been yet. It might have been a hundred years ago, except that the plane was sleek and fine, not the patch-together that had run cargo between Novgorod and Reseune: in those days everyone had sat on bales of plastics and containers of seed and whatever else was making the trip.

Then she had begged to sit by the dusty windows and her mother had said to put her sunscreen on, even so.

Now she sat in a leather seat with a drink at her elbow, in a jet snugly warm inside, immaculately maintained, with a handful of aides talking business and going over their notes, a noise just barely enough to get past the engines.

No traveling nowadays without a clutter of aides and bodyguards. Catlin and Florian were back there, quiet as they were trained to be, watching her back, even here, at 10,000 meters and among Reseune staff whose briefcases were full of classified material.

Much, much different from the old days.

Maman, can I sit by the window?

She was anomalous, child of two parents, Olga Emory and James Carnath. They had founded the labs at Reseune, had begun the process that had shaped Union itself. They had sent out the colonists, the soldiers. Their own genes had gone into hundreds of them. Her quasi-relatives were scattered across lightyears. But so were everyone’s, these days. In her lifetime even that basic human thinking had changed: biological parentage was a trivial connection. Family mattered, the larger, the more extended … the safer and more prosperous.

Reseune was her inheritance. Hence this jet, not a commercial airliner. No hired plane, either, and no military jet. A woman in her position could call on all these things; and still preferred mechanics who were part of the Household, a pilot whose psych-patterns she was sure of, bodyguards who were the best of Reseune’s designs.

The thought of a city, the subways, life among the clerks and techs and cooks and laborers who jostled one another and hurried about their schedules to earn credit. . . was as frightening to her as airless space. She directed the course of worlds and colonies. The thought of trying to buy a meal in a restaurant, of fighting crowds to board a subway, of simply being on a topside street where traffic roared and people were in motion on all sides—filled her with an irrational panic.

She did not know how to live outside Reseune. She knew how to arrange a plane, check out the flight plans, order her luggage, her aides, her security, every little detail—and found a public airport an ordeal. A serious flaw, granted. But everyone was due a phobia or two and these things were far from the center of her worries. It was not likely that Ariane Emory would ever face a Novgorod subway or a station’s open dock.

It was a long, long while before she saw the river and the first plantation. A thin ribbon of road, finally the domes and towers of Novgorod, a sudden, remarkably sudden metropolis. Under the jet’s wings the plantations widened, the towers of electronic screens and precipitators shadowed the fields and traffic crawled along the roads at ground-bound pace.

Barges chained down the Volga toward the sea, barges and pushers lined the river dockage past the plantations. There was still a lot of the raw and industrial about Novgorod, for all the glitter of the new. This side of it had not changed in a hundred years, except to grow bigger, the barges and the traffic becoming ordinary instead of a rare and wonderful sight.

Look, maman, there’s a truck.

The blue of woolwood thicket blurred by under the wing. Pavement and the end-stripes of the runway flashed past.

The tires touched smoothly and the jet came rolling to a stop, for a left turn toward the terminal.

A little panic touched Ariane Emory at this stage, despite the knowledge that she would never get to the crowded hallways. There were cars waiting. Her own crew would handle the baggage, secure the jet, do all these things. It was only the edge of the city; and the car windows would permit vision out, out none in.

All those strangers. All that motion, random and chaotic. In the distance she loved it. It was her own creation. She knew its mass motions, if not its individual ones. At a distance, in the aggregate, she trusted it. At close range it made her hands sweat…

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Progress Report

Working on the new Nightglory cover, with the 3rd (and final) Edition of the novel to be released March 2016. The new cover for Übermensch is complete, with the 3rd (and final) Edition of the novel to be released April 2016. Still writing the new fantasy story, and also still editing the military science fiction story for May 2016. Add in book reviews, editorials and guest blog spots, and this year is shaping up to be quite productive 🙂

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Released.

The Rage is now available for purchase. Warning: this story is funny, dark, romantic, and PG13/R Rated.

Valentine’s Day Hangover Sale ($0.99)

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Favorite Passages in Literature…

A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin

This book is one of the classics. Set in an island realm of farmers, lords and wizards, it is the story of a young man who comes from humble beginnings to find a new name, new power and eventually an unexpected trial that would test him to the limits of understanding: attempting to conquer his own desires, fears, and ultimately the darkness hidden within himself…

(pg. 2)

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Progress Report

Still writing the new fantasy story which is really starting to find a good groove; I am very excited about this one. Began a first editing pass of the military science fiction story which is coming along well. Also: working on new covers for my original two releases. Übermensch is first, and so far the early sketches look great.

Much more to share in the near future 🙂

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Update

The Rage

My third release will be an urban supernatural novel titled The Rage. The “Books” and “Excerpts” sections have been updated with blurb information and a sneak peak at the first chapter, respectively. You have my solemn word: this one is going to be a very different type of story…

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