Progress Report

It’s Done! What may, if I can make the sale, turn out to be the first volume of a trilogy is finished. One last read-through, little bit of polish on the rough spots, and I will print it out and mail it to my editor. The work is 121000 words, about 430 manuscript pages, and I sat through 963 revisions, first version dates May 2005. That is not 900 complete drafts, merely 900 writing sessions. Still, it’s done!

As a free sample of the work, here is a snippet from near the beginning. Menelaus Montrose is discussion the finer points of theology with his brother Leonidas. The scene is a sick-room in a monastery, not far from the ruins of Houston, Texas. The time is late autumn of AD 2233.

"Little brother," said Menelaus.

A low chuckle answered him. "Not no more. I’m older than you, now."

"You froze me?"

"The bone-grower messed up, started your ribs and stuff getting all crinkly. Had to bring in a Jap to redo your skeleton, and that cost. Specialist from Osaka."

"How long was I out?"

"Year and a half."

"Why so long?" Menelaus asked.

"We had to keep you stiff until Nelson could raise the money."

"Nelson? He even got a job?"

"In Newer Orleans. Some scratch he got gambling, some he got diving for treasure in the sunk part of the city. Some he got from some Anglo pumpkin with dollar signs in his eyes, just for drawing a map and making sweet talk."

"Damn stupid of him, going into hot water."

"He says its clean these days, the water."

"If there’s no fish, its not clean. Don’t care what the Geiger counter says. Fish know." Menelaus shook his head. "Hope he’s planning to be a monk. No women’ll marry a man with nuked-up stones."

"Maybe Nelson wore a lead jockstrap. But funny you should mention …"

Menelaus looked around the room. The crucifix on the wall was Spanish-style, with the figure of the torture all carved and painted in grotesque and vivid likeness, and adorned with gold leaf. "You didn’t. You surely didn’t."

"We did. We surely did."

"Can’t baptize a man without his say-so. They got rules. A catechism."

"We told ’em it was your last words, dying wish, all that."

"I ain’t joining no bean-eater church."

"Been done. The Governor’s brother came by and put oil on your face and everything. Washed all your sins away, prettied up your soul to go meet St. Peter. But I guess you’ll call him San Pedro now, eh? Got to go to Rome and kiss the toe of the Pope."

"Preacher Brown says the Pope got horns and a split hoof like a goat."

Leonidas grinned, which made his cigarette tilt up at a jaunty angle. "Preacher Brown will take a strap to you, he finds out say your prayers in Latin."

"I don’t say prayers."

"You do. Before your meals. I heard you."

"Saying ‘thank God its time to eat’ ain’t saying grace. Saying the blessing don’t do nothing."

"Well, cussing a man to hell don’t do nothing neither, but I heard you do that, too."

"Well, go get the brother or whoever. Tell ’em I changed my mind, and I’m going back to … what is Preacher Brown? Whatever the hell he is, tell ’em I had a vision or something calling me back to, uh…"

"Mormon. Preacher Brown’s a Mormon."

"He ain’t no Mormon. In the first case, Mormons got two wives, and in the second, we hang them when we catch them, like they do us. Utah’s enemy ground. It just ain’t possible! Umm—is it? He’s not really a Mormon, is he?"

"Ain’t possible you can be born and raised from a pup and don’t even know what Church you are."

"Which is the one that believes in hellfire?"

"All of ’em. How many years you been a-going to Meeting? You didn’t pay not the least attention in all that time?"

"I was thinking of something else."


"Maybe we could make a promised land by our own lone selves, asking no help and bowing to none. Maybe the Garden of Eden weren’t at the beginning of time, but at the end, a garden we can make as soon as we figure how to make it. That’s what I was thinking. Old Preacher Brown’s spook stories didn’t seem like much to me, held up against that. Call the brother."

"Don’t be a mule, Meany. The Governor’s brother, the Bishop, came by and tended to you while you were sick, and he didn’t turn you over to the Regulators."

"Bishop? Ain’t no bishops in Texas."

"So is. Bishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. He’s shielding you. You step off of sanctuary ground, you might as well put your head in a bucket of boiling pork-lard. Mike Nails was setting to get married, did you know that?"

"No. Who is the girl?"

"Lill Palmer. Josiah Palmer’s girl, the man who owns half the county. See? Might have been okay if you had killed him clean, but word got out that you drilled Mike over and over."

"Because his gun was stupid and his chaff was packed like crap."

"Blew his head clean off, you did. If you’d’ve drilled him in the heart and left a good-looking corpse…"

"Bugger that. Gunfighting ain’t a game. Besides, it’s not my fault I win."

"Win? You shoot like the devil’s in you, little brother. Lookit this. Got you a memento."

Leonidas pulled out a slug of metal. It was two bullets, melted into one shape, curled like a question-mark. The payload of Mike Nails’ main shot had been fused by the heat of impact to one of Menelaus’ escort bullets—a rare perfect interception.

Looking at the shape, Menelaus could see it in his head: the patterns, the pretty patterns of vortices. He could see the math needed to describe how that impact had been done, and he could guess at a way to solve for simultaneous partial differentials, more elegant that what he’d been doing before.

"Shoot like the devil is in you," Leonidas said again, this time more softly.

"I just got a knack, is all," he muttered.

"That’s not what Rainier says."


"Your Prince. The Prince of Monaco."

"Captain Grimaldi. Ain’t no titles in space."

"Ship ain’t done a-building yet. Most likely never will be."

"The Hermetic. He’s still the Captain," said Menelaus. And in his heart, he wanted the words to be: my Captain.

Leonidas shrugged. "Whatever his name is, His Serene Highness helped pay for some of your fixup. He was talking about a scholarship. They’ll pay your way to go to Oddifornia and study math." Leonidas shook his head in wonder, as if baffled by rich foreigners and their lunatic ways. "Guess when it takes you more ‘n ten years to build a ship, you might as well put the kids through schooling what might grow up to be your crew. Train ’em up to the job, like."

For a moment, Menelaus had the strangest feeling, as if time itself had forgotten how to let the seconds pass. Pay? To study? It was the future. A doorway to the future had just become unlocked for him.

In one part of his mind, he noticed how much joy was like horror: the same horripilation tingled his skin electrically, the same faintness of breath, the same prickling of the scalp, the same sensation that something too enormous to grasp was upon him.

His gunfighter’s nerve knew how to deal with horror, and so he could master this wild bucking-bronco feeling too. Menelaus controlled his voice and spoke nonchalantly.

"So… Pay my way outta here. He said that?"

"He did indeed. And seeing as how pretty Lil Palmer will kiss any man who shoots you in the back, and her Dad will give him a thousand acres of prime land, this might be a good time to pack up and go study. Pox, I’d beef you myself to get a lip- dicker from sweet Lilly:  fine as cream gravy and easy on the eyes, she is."

"Did the brothers say how soon I’d be fit to travel?"

"You’re body’s got to flush out the cellular machinery used to hold you in life-suspension: so you’ll be crapping black ink for a while. Aside from that, we can leave as soon as…"


Leonidas looked shy, and pulled his hatbrim down, but eventually said: "Well, I’m your brother, Meany Louse. Older brother now. Can’t let you go off by your lonesome. Lookit what all kinds of trouble you make."

Menelaus was not in the mind to argue the point. "You got a cigarette?"

"Sure do."

"Old or new?"

"New. This is newbacco. You don’t think I touch that poison stuff, do you?"

So Menelaus leaned back comfortably in his bed, watching the blue plume of cigarette smoke drift toward the ceiling. The two brothers shared the silence, neither feeling much need to talk, not yet. The smoke trickled up.

Up. The direction the stars were in.