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Authors: David Gerrold

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Under the Eye of God

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Under the Eye of God: Trackers, Book One

David Gerrold

BenBella Books, Inc.

Dallas, TX

Under the Eye of God: Trackers, Book One Copyright * 1993, 2014 by David Gerrold

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

BenBella Books, Inc.

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Suite #530

Dallas, TX 75231

www.benbellabooks.com

Send feedback to
[email protected]

First e-book edition: January 2014

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available for this title.

ISBN 978-1-939529-54-1

Distributed by Perseus Distribution

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Cover design by Sarah Dombrowsky and Jenna Sampson

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Under the Eye of God: Trackers, Book One

For Olivia Lowe Partridge
,

with love
.

Out of This Whorl

If you consider the Milky Way galaxy as a great wheel turning ponderously through space, then you may regard the Palethetic Cluster as a clot of earth tossed up by that wheel as it pounds down eternity's highway.

You will find the Palethetic Cluster a hundred thousand light years off the plane of the ecliptic, and nearly that distance off the galactic axis. It spins whirligig in the galaxy's wake, but it does not trail the Milky Way; on the contrary, the Palethetic scuttles off in its own direction, a sideways tumble which takes it away from that immense brilliant disk with an unexplainable velocity.

In the old tongue,
palethetic
means “interesting place to stand.” Indeed, the Palethetic's singular appeal lies in the fact that it affords a spectacular view of the enormous starry spread of the Milky Way galaxy—as seen from the
outside
. On almost any world within the Cluster, the great spiral displays a dazzling splendor. The locals call the view
the eye of god
.

The Palethetic Cluster itself contains (approximately) seventeen point five billion objects of large enough mass to justify a place in the Regency star maps. Only a small percentage of these objects radiate enough energy to deserve the appellation of
star
1
. Approximately a hundred million stars comprise the cluster; less than one percent of them shine their light on inhabited worlds. Despite the lack of any recent census to validate the count, the locals still refer to the cluster as “The Million Worlds.”

Cosmologists in the Palethetic remain puzzled by its existence. None of the best models of galactic dynamics can account for the anomalous existence of seventeen point five billion objects scurrying across the galactic wake; none of the worst models can account for it either. No cluster should exist where this cluster exists; but the fact that it does exist clearly demonstrates the fallaciousness of all current cosmological theories which do
not
account for it—meaning
all
current cosmological theories.

Some scholars have argued that the Palethetic Cluster may have originally spun off as a side effect of the Milky Way's formation. Unfortunately, the path of the cluster does not support this thesis. The Palethetic hurtles into the darkness at an odd angle and at an astonishing velocity relative to the Milky Way—as if it knows something it shouldn't about its apparent primogenitor. Tracking the models of both stellar aggregations backward through time produces unbelievable headaches for astrophysicists.

Another theory, one far more attractive to those with much less knowledge of stellar mechanics, holds that a careless creator left the cluster here after finishing its much more important work on the greater wheel of the nearby galaxy; to these theorists, the cluster comprises nothing more than leftovers. A splinter faction, operating under the auspices of The Church of The Grand Jape, suggests an even more insidious premise: that a mischievous God deliberately created the Palethetic Cluster and sent it whirling off on this deliciously unexplainable vector specifically to confound cosmologists throughout eternity.

Others simply refer to the whole thing as “the Pathetic Cluster” and leave it at that.

Whatever the case, the view remains spectacular.

Under the Eye of God

High up in the northern reaches of the Cluster a swollen red star gutters and sparks in the darkness. It gives off just enough heat and light and feeble radiation to register on the star charts. A small orange planet named Thoska-Roole orbits the giant at a gloomy distance.

A dark, burnt world, Thoska-Roole has little to recommend it. The planet tumbles in an elliptical orbit, spending most of its time roaming out in the cold reaches of night, but occasionally approaching close enough to its primary to pass through streamers of gas, or the outer fringes of its corona. Life exists here only by the application of powerful technologies. During the extremes of Thoska-Roole's orbit, infra-winter and ultra-summer, life survives by burrowing underground and waiting for the seasons to pass.

Under the vast sun, day smolders like a ruin. The sky becomes a ruddy ceiling, filled with the massive red gloom of the ponderous giant. Vision becomes almost impossible; everything looks rippled and indistinct, as if illuminated not by light, but by heat-blurs. During the day, the citizens of Thoska-Roole avoid the outdoors.

When night rises, the Eye of God glares down with a horrific splendor. Brightness fills the air with wild hallucinatory colors. The sky sparkles like radioactive foam. The mordant light dances, blazing through states of exhausting glory. The eye cannot assimilate, the mind cannot grasp the grandeur of it. The overload of optic ecstasies intoxicates like a drug, leaving the viewer delirious and bedazzled. Under this shameless exhibition, this great tumbling wheel of heaven, the desert burns so brightly that all normal patterns of diurnal life have collapsed, staggered and stunned.

Here, creatures of daytime instincts have redirected themselves into nocturnal channels, coming out only when the sky blazes like a pinwheel, while those of nighttime impulses struggle blindly through the crimson murk of day. The brilliant leeward sky arouses the activities of life, the dreary red mornings bring the release of sleep.

Night, described as shadow elsewhere, exists only as a supernatural dream on this terrible star-blasted world—never as a darkening, neither of the sky, nor of the soul. On Thoska-Roole, the souls of the people have already darkened by themselves.

Despite its awesome glory, the Eye of God weighs as a heavy burden to the inhabitants of the cluster. Popular belief has it that the good people of Thoska-Roole come into their lives already in a state of virtue, and that throughout the length of their small existences, they do not commit as many of the nine unforgivable sins as often as do the inhabitants of other worlds elsewhere beyond the reach. Perhaps, as some think, under the direct study of the Eye of God
, the commission of any sin seems infinitely more dangerous.

The same belief also suggests that when the good people of Thoska-Roole can no longer bear up under the strain, when they can no longer maintain their holier purposes under the intense scrutiny of the Lord of Creation, they fall from grace with a
thud
that shakes the ground for leagues in all directions. Some storytellers insist that this explains Thoska-Roole's perpetual earthquakes and tremors: the unending rain of unfortunate souls falling from grace has shattered the planet's poor crust.

As a result, either of the rain of souls or of the many stories told, probably the former more than the latter, the name Thoska-Roole has become synonymous with the Stygian depths of human behavior. Here, the stench of villainy and mischief reeks so profoundly that the smell of it seems to permeate the entire northern reach of the Palethetic Cluster. The scent apparently serves an attractant, not only for those who practice such skills, but also for those who have need of them. Money begets mischief.

The pheromones of wealth in any of its myriad forms have an irresistible allure. Maddening. Mind-numbing. Intoxicating. Infuse that allure with the enticements and attractions of power, glamor, drugs, violent excitements, and of course, sex—never forget
sex
—and suddenly, all the starlanes point downhill, with the StarPort at Thoska-Roole at the end of the slide.

Here, you will find: aesthetes, arbiters, barristers, bean-eaters, boodlers, box men, brokers, burymen, cackle-broads, camp-followers, clinker-boys, coosters, cotton-pickers, councilors, cyberphytes, diggers, doops, dung-burglars, dusters, dweezils, easy-walkers, fandanglers, firecats, fences, flappers, flummists, filberts, fingermen, floor-walkers, gaffers, gamines, gandy dancers, ghouls, goons, grinders, grounders, hackers, half-fasters, handlers, hardballers, heir-baggers, heralds, honeyfugglers, hooters, hornheads, icemen, importers, ink-slingers, Ivy-smokers, jackarandles, jackbooters, jammers, jaw-breakers, jeasles, jeppos, jimmies, jinglers, jinkos, jollywobblers, kadigans, keepers, kelsies, kewpies, knockabouts, larcenoids, lawyers, leathermen, libertines, lifters, mask-workers, mid-leggers, monkeys, monkey-chasers, morkies, Mortals, mud-busters, muscle-suckers, narrowbacks, needlemen, nose-lickers, number-crunchers, ore-burners, outlanders, pettifoggers, pilferers, pinkertons, psychomorphs, publicants, questors, quickies, razzlers, rippers, rooters, scofflaws, scramblers, slavers, sugar-doggies, tar-boys, tinglers, tipsters, touts, twizzlers, twinkies, uncles, undermen, users, vaginoids, Vampire-attendants, vintners, voluptuaries, walkabouts, weed-breeders, weevils, xenophilatics, yafflers, yocky-doctors, zaglers, zappas, zombies, zoomers, zoots, and zygothetics of every persuasion—Thoska-Roole draws them all.

BOOK: Under the Eye of God
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