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Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press is proud to bring you The Muse of Music! This is the second title since our relaunch under are new redesigned logo and brand. It is written by Enrico Toro and David Carrico. Cover illustration and layout by Emily Mottesheard.
The Muse of Music is an expanded version, with new material, of the stories originally published in the Grantville Gazette, the magazine of the 1632 Universe, the Ring of Fire. Continue reading “NEW 1632 Book Release! “The Muse of Music””by
Words from Eric Flint
Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 36 “It may take a while to explain it fully,” said Tabor. He looked around, then shrugged. “What the hell. It’s not as if you’re going anywhere.” And he explained as much as he understood … Continue reading →
Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 36
“It may take a while to explain it fully,” said Tabor. He looked around, then shrugged. “What the hell. It’s not as if you’re going anywhere.”
And he explained as much as he understood about the magic of the Old Ones, about the origin of the term Old Ones and Cthulhu, about his experiences on Cthulhu, and as much as he knew — which was minimal — about what he and Shenoy were doing on Cornwallis.
“Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” he said in conclusion.
“Certainly not,” replied Jaemu.
“Not crazy,” said the Vitunpelay. “Just wrong.”
Tabor stared intently at him. “Wrong in what way?”
“I know what your boss is looking for,” said Jaemu, “and it’s not on Cornwallis. But it was here, once upon a time, as the saying goes.”
“Those goddamned bastards!” snapped Tabor.
“Oh, I like that!” said Jaemu.
Tabor frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“Goddamned Bastards!” enthused Jaemu. “In ways it’s even better than Fucking Clowns!”
“Get back to the subject!” growled Tabor.
“My subject or yours?”
“The Old Ones’ artifacts!”
“You needn’t yell,” said Jaemu. “I’m right here. Mostly.”
“When did they destroy them?” persisted Tabor.
“When did who destroy what?” asked Jaemu, clearly confused.
“When did the Paskapans destroy the Old Ones’ artifacts?”
“They did?” asked Jaemu. “When?”
It took all of Tabor’s will power not to take a swing at the Vitunpelay. “You just told me they did!” Jaemu shook his head. “No, I told you that the artifacts aren’t on Cornhole.”
“Cornwallis, damn it!”
“Right,” agreed Jaemu. “They aren’t on Cornwallis Damn It.”
“Then where the hell are they?” demanded Tabor.
“Oh, they’re not in hell yet.” A paused. “At least, it seems unlikely.”
Tabor closed his eyes and forced himself to take ten deep breaths in succession. Then he turned to Jaemu again. “Do you know where the artifacts are right now? Answer yes or no.”
“Seems silly, but all right: yes or no.” Jaemu stared at Tabor. “You face is becoming a bright red, did you know that?”
“Let’s try it again,” said Tabor. “Do you know where the artifacts have been moved to?”
“Yes, absolutely,” said Jaemu.
“Are they on this world?”
Tabor exhaled deeply. “All right. Now, where are they?”
“I won’t tell you,” answered Jaemu. “But I’ll show you.” He smiled. “Get me out of here and I’ll take you to them.”
“It’s a deal,” said Tabor. “As soon as Rupert gets here I’ll have him pay both our bails and we’ll be on our way.”
It sounded simple enough when Tabor said it, but it got considerably more complex when Shenoy showed up in another hour. He approached them, walking down the long corridor to their cell, accompanied by two uniformed Paskapans, and stopped at the doorway.
“No farther,” warned one of the guards.
“Are you all right, Russell?” asked Shenoy.
“Yeah, except for a couple of bumps on my head and a slight hole in my pride. How about you?”
“I’m fine. But I had to drop all charges against them for assault and harassment and what-have-you in order to be able to see you.”
“And here you are,” said Tabor. “Pay my bail and get me the hell out of here. And this critter is Jamie.”
“Jaemu,” the Vitunpelay corrected him.
“Jaemu,” said Tabor. “He’s going to be very important to our mission, so pay his bail too. We can bill your employers for it.”
“Important?” repeated Shenoy. “How?”
“He knows where the artifacts have been moved to, and is willing to lead us to them.”
“Excellent!” said Shenoy enthusiastically. He turned to his guards. “All right, take me back to the magistrate.”
Then turned and accompanied him down the long corridor, turning to their right as they reached the end of it.
“That was your partner?” asked Jaemu.
“Why would I talk to him like that if he wasn’t?” growled Tabor.
“I like you!” said Jaemu.
Shenoy was back ten minutes later, still accompanied by his two Paskapan guards.
“That was quick,” said Tabor. “All taken care of?”
“I’m afraid not,” replied Shenoy.
“It seems your cellmate killed six Paskapans with his bare hands. Well, tentacles. He’s awaiting execution in five days. No bail.”
Tabor turned to Jaemu. “You didn’t tell me that!” he said furiously.
“You didn’t ask,” replied Jaemu.
“I’m afraid that’s not all,” continued Shenoy.
“You roughed up a bunch of police officers. There’s no bail for you, either.”
“I’m stuck here?” demanded Tabor. “For how long?”
“I don’t know,” replied Shenoy. “I’m flying in a top lawyer. The problem is that it may take two or three months before the trial.” He turned to Jaemu. “He’ll represent you too, if you’re still alive, though your case seems quite hopeless. Anyway, if you’ll just tell me what I need to know, I can begin my quest, and I assure you your name — once I learn it — will be prominently mentioned in all my notes and scientific papers.”
“I thought I was supposed to be the only Vitunpelay here,” said Jaemu.
“I beg your pardon?” said Shenoy, frowning.
“If I tell you what you want to know, you have no reason to pay your lawyer to defend me, no reason to pay any expenses required to get me out of here. I know what you need to know, but I’m not sharing it while I’m in jail.”
“I hope you’ll reconsider,” said Shenoy. “But whether you do or do not, I simply cannot spend two or three or six months waiting for the pair of you.”
“Six months?” bellowed Tabor.
“Who knows how long trials take on Cornwallis?” replied Shenoy. “You’ve already seen how much paperwork and bribery it takes just to get through the day here.”
“And what exactly do you plan to do in the meantime?” demanded Tabor.
“I’m not quite sure,” admitted Shenoy. “I intuit from what the two of you have implied that what we’re looking for is not, or is no longer, on Cornwallis. I’ll spend two days studying everything I can find in their library here in this godforsaken new village, and then I’ll head off to the likeliest location, wherever that may be.”
He turned and began walking back the way he had come, still accompanied by armed guards.
“He won’t find it in the library, will he?” Tabor asked Jaemu.
“No,” replied the Vitunpelay. “If there was anything useful to be found, it would have been found already.”
“I was afraid of that,” said Tabor. He grimaced. “Well, we’ve got two days.”
“To do what?”
“Break out of here and join Shenoy before he takes off from this dirtball.”
Darkship Revenge – Snippet 36 Gambit “How long has she been out?” A voice that was familiar, but not immediately identifiable. “About a week,” Kit said. “She’s been semi-conscious, mostly sleeping. I think she just got so exhausted. I mean, … Continue reading →
Darkship Revenge – Snippet 36
“How long has she been out?” A voice that was familiar, but not immediately identifiable.
“About a week,” Kit said. “She’s been semi-conscious, mostly sleeping. I think she just got so exhausted. I mean, I don’t think the flu is that terrible, just that she was horribly tired and it worsened it.”
“You haven’t caught it all?” the other man asked. The smell of burning was briefly more intense. He’d moved near the bed on my right side. The smell was coming from him, I thought.
“I had something like sniffles,” Kit said. “But I took the anti-viral, and it passed. Fuse had a little worse flu, but just the flu and it was gone in there days. Same with Eris. I think Athena’s is a little more severe because of exhaustion. Her fever never got as high as the boys'”
“Umph,” the man said. “I suspect the boys were deliberately infected, with a stronger version, or perhaps a greater load of the virus.” Pause. “I am not a biologist. But I think they were given this in such a way that the period of greater contagion would last the most, and also so they would necessitate caretakers, who would in turn be infected.”
I had been struggling to open my eyes, and now managed it. My eyes were only partly open, but the sliver of vision admitted was enough for me to identify the person talking to Kit. “Nat,” I said, and struggled to sit up.
Nat is whip-cord thin, pale blond with seeming-incongruous black eyes. The smell of burning originated from the cigarette in his hand. He’d started smoking obsessively after Max died. I knew he’d slowed down on the smoking when I’d last seen him, and I wondered if the habit was now back full force due to stress.
He looked stressed, not in any way in particular, but in holding himself a little too tautly. There was an almost brittleness to his posture, as though he must keep himself from showing weakness.
Kit rushed to help me sit up, all the while scolding me for even trying to, but I ignored him, till I was sitting against the pillows, my eyes fully open. I felt fine, really, just like I’d had a really long sleep. Thirsty and strangely “gritty” in every joint, but not necessarily ill. “Is Eris?” I asked Kit.
“Perfectly recovered. She’s asleep,” he said, indicating her little box. “She eats an awful lot.”
“Yeah, materials for making more Eris,” I said, and turned to Nat. Luce had said he was ill, and there was something odd to his being here, and to his posture. I didn’t like odd things, not when a plague was killing people. “You?” I said. “Are you recovered?”
He shrugged. “Not… precisely. I am medicated. I have recovered from the flu, and they’ve given me meds to try to prevent the onset of the other thing, whatever it is. I feel fine, really.”
But I understood what he didn’t say. What he didn’t say was that he was afraid he was already doomed and that there wasn’t anything anyone could do to save him. It was a moment of weakness, and then he shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. The idea you gave Luce was a good one,” he told me. “We have found several foci of infection, and we think we located … Lucius’ younger clone. We have reason to think the boys are the carriers, but we need more carriers, because Doctor Dufort is having trouble isolating the virus from the boys here. Or rather, figuring out how it causes the after-effect illness. And I thought, if we could get a… another of the boys or … or two.”
I looked at him. He looked sheepish. No one ever accused me of being tactful. “You want to get the Keeva clone…”
“No,” he said. “I mean, yes, but only because if I have to get one of them. Also, he’s … that is he is at La Mancha Seacity. He’s accessible. Or should be. Easy to get at. So … I will be going there and trying to rescue him. If I succeed, I’ll bring him – and his companions – here.”
“Why did you come here first?” I asked. “If you’ve determined you’re going to do this, by yourself?”
“Oh,” Nat said. He glanced at Kit. “I tried to com you, and couldn’t get an answer. I thought you might all have died, or you might all be very ill and need help, so since La Mancha is relatively close to your location, I thought — ”
If I remembered clearly, and since geography was never a passion, I might not, La Mancha was in fact several hours away, but granted closer to central Europe than to Olympus seacity. “I don’t understand,” I said.
“He came to make sure we were alive and well,” Kit said. “Or at least the rest of us were well. With you not being awake, and I trying to watch both Eris, and Fuse and the boys…. If the com signaled I didn’t notice or wasn’t in the room at the time. He got concerned.”
Nat stood up, tall and lean, holding a cigarette between his fingers, and I remembered something my late friend, Max, had once said about him, in exasperation “World’s most unlikely mother hen.”
“I think,” I said, sitting up fully and only remembering afterwards to check and be relieved that Kit had dressed me in some sort of loose gown. “I’ll be all right. Go and get the boys if you can. I feel bad about any of them being in the hands of people who might use them… I mean for more than for getting a treatment for this illness. I don’t think any of them ever had a chance.”
Nat’s lips went thin. “I’m almost sure they didn’t. But we can’t save all of them. Not on our resources right now. Besides, I might get way with one raid, but two would be suicide. They’d know to expect me. There would be a trap.”
“Isn’t it dangerous…?” Kit hesitated. “Going on this mission all by yourself? Even if it’s the first? Surely there will be guards and surely the boys are watched, at least if they made contact.”
“They made contact,” Nat said. “We — We broke the code for that particular cluster of Good Men sometime ago, and we caught references to the boys. They made contact and they’re alive, but kept isolated because they’re not trusted.” Pause and he lit another cigarette. “There was some talk of using Luce’s – John to get concession from us. So we know where they are, and can guess at the defenses. I wouldn’t do this on my own without on the ground intelligence. I might be foolhardy, but despite rumors to the contrary, I’m not actually insane.”
“Still,” I said, worried now. “Shouldn’t you take someone? You’re a military man. Surely you have underlings who –”
“Whom I’d rather don’t know what is happening, Athena. We’re in a very delicate situation. Remember — No, you wouldn’t know. The reason Simon lost control of the Sans Culottes in Liberte is that we had to publicize what the Good Men really are. The Good Men spent so much time distancing themselves from what they’d been before the turmoils, that they taught everyone to fear and hate the Mules.
“We’re all right in Olympus, because so many people are Usaians and Luce is a known Usaian, and … and in a relationship with a normal person. But Thena, if people find out that this plague started with the Mules, in orbit on the Je Reviens sending down infected teenagers who are also mules…” He pulled deeply on his cigarette and released a cloud of smoke into the air. “The Turmoils are nothing to it. Civilization as we know it will be leveled. There won’t be two stones together. And Luce and anyone they suspect of being a Mule, or enhance, which could well include myself and my family, and many others, will be killed. You’ll pardon me if I don’t think it’s worth risking that on the chance that one of the people I pick to help me will recognize similarities and speak.”
“I suppose it’s why we’re here, with the boys,” I said. “To keep it as secret as possible.”
Nat nodded curtly. “I’m not a master of propaganda, like Luce is. I don’t study mass psychological reactions every day, but I’m not stupid either. This situation has the potential to blow sky high.”
“And you think the infection came with the boys?” I said.
“We’re sure of it. We just don’t understand how it’s activating the secondary plague, and without it, we can’t fight it. But we’re sure of it. We’re sure this is… well, the revenge of the Mules. What the boys were told was substantially right. They were told the Mules had decided they wanted the Earth for themselves, after all, and that was true. They were told they were necessary for this endeavor, and that was true. What I don’t think they told the boys is that they had sent them down as the instruments of the Mules’ revenge, the Mules’ plan to clear the planet of homo sapiens sapiens and make room for them. They want the whole Earth. I presume the boys didn’t know, because that was the way to get maximum efficiency in the attack. It’s possible, of course –”