Authors: M.K. Wren
Tags: #FICTION/Science Fiction/General
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Copyright © 1981 by Martha Kay Renfroe
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First Diversion Books edition July 2013
PART 1: APPRENTICESHIP
Octov 3244 to July 3253 A.D
The Lord Alexand DeKoven Woolf is destined by birth to occupy a unique position of power in the Concord of the Loyal Houses, the monolithic and essentially feudalistic government that is the matrix for all human civilization in the thirty-third century. The Concord, despite its outward appearances of stability and prosperity, is suffering severe internal stresses, primarily manifested by chronic “uprisings” among the Bonds, its serf/slave class. The Concord is, in fact, threatened with the specter of a third dark age.
The Elite, the Concord’s ruling class, however, remains myopically oblivious to that threat. Alexand does not, and he accepts as an obligation, not a privilege, the power to which he is heir. He is the first born of Lord Phillip, member of the Concord’s Directorate and First Lord of the House of DeKoven Woolf. Alexand is also the grandson of Lord Mathis Daro Galinin, Chairman of the Directorate and the most powerful man in the Concord, and at the age of seventeen Alexand becomes indirect heir to the Chairmanship when Galinin’s only direct heirs are assassinated. Those assassinations precipitate a political crisis, and Alexand is not alone in suspecting Lord Orin Badir Selasis, whose ambition for the Chairmanship and antagonism toward Phillip Woolf make him a bitter enemy of the Houses of Woolf and Galinin.
In the highest echelons of power there is little room for love, but Alexand finds it in Lady Adrien Camine Eliseer. He loves her from the moment they meet, as she does him, but political necessity comes between them; both are committed to marriages—but not to each other. Four years pass before an unexpected chain of events alters the political situation, and Alexand and Adrien are at length betrothed.
Yet before the wedding takes place, Alexand makes a decision whereby he forfeits not only his heritage of power, but all hope for marrying Adrien.
Alexand is near the end of his traditional tour of duty with Confleet, during which he has been involved in quelling fourteen major Bond uprisings, each a searing nightmare in his memory. The catalyst of his decision is his brother, Richard, victim of a crippling neurological disease that will inevitably kill him before his twenty-fifth year. Rich becomes a recluse while still in his teens and devotes himself to the study of sociology, his principal subject the Bonds and Bond religion. Using the Fesh pseudonym of Richard Lamb, he earns a University degree in sociotheology before he is twenty. The Bonds with whom he works in his research regard him as a holy man and call him Richard the Lamb.
As a sociologist, Rich recognizes the critical instability of the Concord. By chance he discovers what he considers the only hope for its survival: the Society of the Phoenix, founded in the Centauri System by survivors of the Peladeen Republic, which was crushed by the Concord. Little is known about the Phoenix in the Concord, and the few who are even aware of its existence generally dismiss it as a pirate clan with revolutionary overtones, but Rich learns its true purpose: evolution, not revolution; to
the Concord by forcing on it a longterm process of social evolution toward a representational government providing “a maximum of individual choice, opportunity, and judicial equality within the limits of a stable system.” Rich becomes a member, well aware that this makes him a traitor in the eyes of the Concord, and the penalty for treason is death.
Phillip Woolf has loved his two sons passionately, as he loved little else in life, but he proves incapable of acceptance or tolerance when at length he learns that Rich is a Phoenix member. It is Rich himself who reveals his “treason” to his father. His disease is only days or weeks from its lethal culmination, and he has two missions to accomplish before he dies. First, to act as an envoy of the Phoenix to Woolf and Mathis Galinin, to give them a true accounting of the Phoenix and its aims. Second, as Richard the Lamb, to become a saint in the Bond pantheon by offering himself as a martyr in a public execution. His purpose in this is to prolong the life of the Concord by sacrificing what little life is left to him. As a saint, he will have profound influence on the Bonds after his death, a pacific influence he hopes will mitigate the emotional chain reactions that precipitate the bloody uprisings plaguing the Concord and contributing to its instability.
But Woolf angrily renounces his son; he cannot believe Rich’s purpose in becoming a martyr is anything other than to instigate a disastrous revolt. When Alexand comes to Rich’s defense, Woolf turns against him, too, calling him as much a traitor as his brother. It is then that Alexand makes his decision to follow Rich into the Phoenix. He realizes that he is only heir to power, not yet in possession of it, and by rejecting him, his father renders him politically impotent and incapable of altering to any degree the ruinous course upon which the Concord is embarked. He chooses to sacrifice his marriage to Adrien and his very existence as the Lord Alexand to the cause for which Rich offers his last precious scrap of life and for the hope that the ultimate catastrophe of another dark age can be averted.
Rich has his apotheosis, and Richard the Lamb becomes a saint. On the following day the Lord Alexand “dies” in the crash of a Confleet Scout on Pollux.
PART 2: METAMORPHOSIS
July–Augus 3253 A.D
The Lord Alexand dies and Alex Ransom is born. At Phoenix headquarters on the island of Fina on Pollux in the Centauri System, he meets its governing Council, including three friends of Rich’s: Dr. Erica Radek, Chief of Human Sciences; Ben Venturi, Commander of Security and Intelligence; and Dr. Andreas Riis, founder of the Phoenix, chairman of the Council, and creator of the Society’s ultimate secret weapon the matter transmitter.
Alex also meets an enemy: Councilor Predis Ussher.
Phase II of the Phoenix’s General Plan hinges on establishing a member in the Concord’s ruling hierarchy through whom the social reforms vital to the Concord’s survival can be initiated. Before Alex’s arrival only one member is likely to be recognized as a Lord by the Concord: Predis Ussher, who claims to be the son of Elor, last Lord of the House of Peladeen. But Alex offers a better alternative if the Lord Alexand—an heir to the Chairmanship—can be resurrected, and Ussher does not welcome him. There is no immediate confrontation, however; Phase II will be achieved only by forcing the Directorate to the bargaining table with a show of military force. The Phoenix isn’t yet prepared for that encounter, and beyond that, its primary offering—and threat—is not yet operational: the
matter transmitter (LR-MT). At present the MT functions only within Einsteinian limits and is not feasible for interstellar distances.
Alex’s real identity remains the secret of the Council pending a breakthrough on the LR-MT, and he is assigned to Fleet Operations, the Phoenix’s military branch. But his identity is guessed by one member who is not on the Council: Jael the Outsider, who joins the Phoenix shortly after Alex. Before Jael leaves Fina for duty with Security and Intelligence on Castor, he warns Alex to beware of Ussher because he is not only a threat to the future of the Phoenix, but, quite literally, a killer.
|ALEXAND DEKOVEN WOOLF|
|First born and heir to the First Lordship of the House of DeKoven Woolf, indirect heir to the Chairmanship of the Directorate|
|Alexand’s younger brother|
|PHILLIP DEKOVEN WOOLF||Alexand’s father, First Lord of the House of DeKoven Woolf and member of the Directorate|
|ELISE GALININ WOOLF||Alexand’s mother, the daughter of Mathis Galinin|
|OLIVET OMER WOOLF||Daughter of Lord Sandro Omer, married to Phillip Woolf after the death of his first wife, Elise, in 3253|
|THERON ROVERE||Lector; Alexand’s and Rich’s tutor|
|FENN LACROY||SportsMaster in the House of DeKoven Woolf and Phoenix agent|
|MATHIS DARO GALININ||First Lord of the House of Daro Galinin and Chairman of the Directorate|
|ORIN BADIR SELASIS||First Lord of the House of Badir Selasis, member of the Directorate, and bitter antagonist to Woolf and Galinin|
|KARLIS SELASIS||First born of Lord Orin Selasis|
|ADRIEN CAMINE ELISEER||Daughter of Lord Loren Camine Eliseer of Castor, and Alexand’s Promised|
|LECTRIS AND MARIET||Adrien’s Bond servants|
|DR. ANDREAS RIIS||Founder of the Phoenix, chairman of its Council, and creator of the matter transmitter|
|DR. ERICA RADEK||Council member, head of the Human Sciences Department|
|BEN VENTURI||Council member and commander of Security and Intelligence|
|PREDIS USSHER||Council member, head of Communications, who claims to be the son of Elor, last Lord of the House of Peladeen|
|EMERIC GARRIS||Council member, commander of Fleet Operations until his retirement in 3255|
|JOHN M’KIM||Council member, head of Supply and Maintenance|
|MARIEN DYCE||Council member, head of Computer Systems|
|IAN BARRET||Officer in Fleet Operations|
|VALENTIN SEVERIN||Assistant to Erica Radek|
|JAEL||First Outsider to join the Phoenix, SI agent in Helen on Castor|
PHOENIX MEMFILES: DEPT HUMAN SCIENCES: BASIC SCHOOL
SUBFILE: LECTURE. BASIC SCHOOL 1 FEBUAR 3252
GUEST LECTURER: RICHARD LAMB
SUBJECT: POST-DISASTERS HISTORY
WARS OF CONFEDERATION (2876–2903
The “Sudafrikan Union” was the Holy Confederation’s term. The name the Minister-Keffe Tsane Valstaad used is translated as the “Tsanian Empire.” (Or, as some historiolinguists prefer, “Commonwealth.”) It was not an alliance put together in the face of the threat of the Confederation, which even the Allienza Salvador was, although it predated the initiation of the Wars. The Sudafrikan Union was forged in a series of wars comparable to Even Pilgram’s, and Tsane Valstaad was the third in a dynasty of rulers who held his diverse and scattered subjects in thrall of a centralized, imperialistic government that should have appealed to Lord Patric Eyre Ballarat. Certainly it impressed him in a tactical sense during the seven-year Sudafrikan campaign, the most difficult and most costly of the Wars.
Tsane himself was a fascinating man. (“Tsane” was a surname—his family name—despite its placement; “Valstaad” was actually his forename.) Had his domains been a little more advanced historically and technologically, Tsane might easily have taken Ballarat’s role in history as the first conqueror of an entire world. As it was, Sudafrika had advanced little past the iron age, although it made great strides after its initial contacts with the Holy Confederation in its period of expansion by trade; the Tsanians were apt learners and excellent imitators. Still, they didn’t have facilities for any kind of heavy manufacturing. Tsane sought to offset that disadvantage while Ballarat was still occupied with conquering the rest of Terra by stockpiling weapons and machines of war, most of which were actually produced in Conta Austrail, but reached him through covert and circuitous channels. Tsane also fortified his territories and trained his armed forces during this preparatory period, and beyond that instilled in his subjects a patriotic fervor that can only arise when people are fighting for their homeland. Further, Tsane, like Ballarat, recognized the efficacy of religion as a motivating force and in essence prepared to cross swords with Bishop Almbert as well as with Ballarat. His was also a holy war, although a battle to preserve, rather than to disseminate, a religion. Oddly enough, the religion sanctioned by the Minister-Keffe and imposed two generations earlier on his subjects was also based, like Mezionism, on Pre-Disasters Christianity, although it had changed almost beyond recognition in its evolution.
Tsane’s preparations for his encounter with Ballarat included learning his enemy’s language, which I think gives us a measure of the man. I’ve always been intrigued with the accounts of his first personal meeting with Ballarat, which occurred after the Battle of Capeton, where Ballarat’s forces made their first landfall in Sudafrika. Tsane sent a messenger to Ballarat in bivouac asking for a meeting under truce. In an open plain, where every movement could be observed by both sides, Tsane’s soldiers erected an open-sided tent luxuriously fitted with carpets of animal skins, furniture of carved ebony embellished with gold, tables laden with wines, fruits, and epicurean viands in serving pieces of silver and gold, the servants in attendance all comely young women decked in silk and jewels. Tsane allowed none of his soldiers within the agreed-upon three-hundred-meter neutral area, although he accepted the tenman “honor guard” Ballarat brought with him. Tsane entered the neutral area entirely alone, except for the two leashed leopards flanking him. He was an exceptionally tall man, and he dressed himself on this occasion in flowing robes of red silk edged in gold embroidery, with a leopard skin draped over one shoulder, and a plumed crown adding to his imposing height. An impressive sight, no doubt, and his leopard “guards” must have been particularly astonishing, since the animals were thought at that time to be extinct.
Ballarat and Tsane met in those exotic surroundings in the wake of the first battle of what both knew would be a desperately fought campaign and played a game of chess.
It sounds like the fancy of a romantically inclined historian, except that the event was so well documented; there are even photograms of that fateful game, but they’re all rather fuzzy since they were taken from outside the neutral zone. Tsane informed his guest upon his arrival in the tent that his sole purpose was to meet the famed Lord Ballarat and to play a game of chess with him. Ballarat was apparently amused at this and willingly acquiesced, even offering to play by Tsane’s rules. (Slight differences in the rules of this venerable game developed in different parts of Terra during the isolation of the Second Dark Age, although the basic principles changed remarkably little.) Tsane, however, insisted that a host must always accede to his guest’s rules, and so the game was played. It lasted for three and a half hours and ended in a draw. No doubt both men found it enlightening.
It has always seemed strange to me that Ballarat and Tsane didn’t become friends, which has happened more than once in history between commanders of opposing forces. I think Tsane could have regarded Ballarat as a friend; certainly we have ample evidence that he held him in high esteem. But Ballarat couldn’t regard Tsane as a friend, and not because they were at war. The real reason was far less rational. It was because of Tsane’s race. He was negroid, as were all his subjects. The caucasian population that had once inhabited Sudafrika had been entirely absorbed by the negroid, leaving almost no trace of their existence. The opposite was true in Conta Austrail, where the native aborigine population was absorbed by the more numerous caucasian intruders. Ballarat grew up in a essentially caucasian world, and there is ample evidence in his writings and responses to other racial groups that he harbored a deep-seated bias against noncaucasians that was particularly virulent when it came to negroids. Unfortunately, he wasn’t alone in that among the Lords of the Holy Confederation, and it was only in the later years of the PanTerran Confederation that the racial barriers Ballarat raised finally gave way.
I should put in a good word for Almbert here. The Bishop did not share Ballarat’s aversion for other races, perhaps convinced that all of them were potential converts and therefore worthy of consideration.
Ballarat’s next attempt at a landfall at Dares Salma was a disaster, the first of many. His second-in-command, Lord Aram Barth Andrasy, attempting a simultaneous invasion at Luanda, was also roundly defeated. But Ballarat had a firm foothold in the south in Capeton, plus a navy strong enough to blockade every Tsanian port. He also had Sahrafrika in thrall. However, the vast overland distances involved, through desert and jungle, delayed the arrival of supporting forces from the north for months, so that Tsane could concentrate on fending off the assault from the south as well as protecting his flanks. Ballarat made good use of his airships, but their range was short, and Tsane’s holds were well fortified and armed with heavy artillery that made air assaults very costly. Ballarat maintained the southern front while continuing to nibble at the eastern and western coasts, and finally Andrasy was successful in another assault at Luanda and drove the Tsanians inland along a strip a thousand kilometers long. This was the Holy Confederation’s first major victory in the Sudafrikan campaign, but it cost Lord Aram Andrasy his life. Ballarat was personally grieved at the loss, and it had lasting adverse effects for him in Conta Austrail; Andrasy had become almost as much a hero there as Ballarat himself.
Ballarat took time from the Sudafrikan battlefields to return to Sidny for Andrasy’s funeral, where he gave a moving eulogy, and if he had been wise he would have stayed longer, or at least made himself more aware of the changing temper of the Lords. The Sudafrikan campaign was in its second year and proving extremely costly. As one influential Lord complained, “It empties our coffers and brings nothing in; it takes the lives of our young men by the tens of thousands and offers no salve for our grief.”
Ballarat did take time to assemble the Directorate and the Council to assure them that Sudafrika
bring something into their coffers and salve their grief, but he didn’t stay long enough to see how effective his assurances were, nor to notice how ineffective his brother Hugh was as VisChairman. (Bryan, incidentally, after the Quador disaster, retired to the House’s Estate in Ballarat to tend its business affairs.) Perhaps the Holy Confederation had simply, after more than twenty years, grown tired of war, and its Lords were satisfied to reap the tribute of the domains already subdued and leave one part of the planet unconquered.
Patric Ballarat, of course, would not be satisfied with that, and his imperial ambition was bolstered now with personal frustration and grief. He wanted vengeance, as well as victory, and he returned to Sudafrika determined to have it.
In the end, of course, he did have both, but not before another five years had passed, and not before his armies suffered nearly a million casualties. Tsane’s casualties can only be estimated, but it’s doubtful they were any less appalling. The monetary cost of the campaign came very close to literally emptying the Holy Confederation’s coffers. Ballarat saw in Sudafrika’s plentiful resources the means for financial recovery, and he was right, but the immediate fiscal strain on the Holy Confederation’s Lords, who had so quickly grown accustomed to overflowing coffers, had a strong influence on their thinking and future reactions.
It should be noted that Ballarat was not immoderate in his vengeance. Any reprisals against the Tsanians that occurred were carried out in defiance of his orders. Once conquered, Sudafrika was treated exactly like the other defeated domains. The ceremonies of surrender took place in Tsane’s palace in his capital of Pratoria, which Ballarat had occupied and where Tsane was a prisoner, but treated with the respect due an emperor, conquered or not. Before the actual signing of the surrender, Ballarat invited Tsane to meet with him, and the two of them sat down together in a garden pavilion. And played a game of chess. The second game also ended in a draw.