It’s Done!

My next manuscript, titled THE HERMETIC MILLENNIUM has just this hour been sent off to the kindly editor. Superstitious people, cross your fingers; Catholics, pray a rosary; Protestants, pray if you are not one of the irredeemably predestined to be damned; Witches, draw your charming wands and call upon your familiar spirits; Jews, don’t eat shrimp wrapped in bacon. The goyim are going to treat you like dirt whether your try to blend in or not, so why try? Taoists, the way that can be spoken is not the way. I don’t know what that means any more than you do. Jedi, shoot up mitochloridians and unleash the power of the Force. Stoics, maintain your serenity of mind despite the fears and terrors of the world, knowing that whatever is not in your power to solve, means nothing to you. That won’t help me much, but at least you won’t be elated if I make the sale or downcast if I don’t. Atheists, you are useless to me. Agnostics, you are also useless, but you don’t have the guts to come out in public and say you are actually atheists. I make an exception for anyone who is a real, practicing agnostic, that is, he prays fervidly at mass and takes communion every OTHER Sunday, because the proposition that God exists has but a fifty percent likelihood in his estimation.


Glad you asked! The premise is … ah, stuff is happening.

I think someone gets shot, or falls in love, or is frozen in suspended animation like Buck Rogers or Rip van Winkle. There must be space ships involved in some capacity, because this is science fiction.

CHAPTER TWO: Theft of Fire

AD 2535

1.       Sir Guy


Menelaus Montrose woke up while his body was still frozen solid. The bio-implants the battle-surgeons of the Knights Hospitalier had woven into his brainstem were working well enough for him to send a signal to the surface of the coffin, activate the pinpoint camera cells dotting its outer armor, and see who was trying to wake him up.

The light in the crypt was dim. The walls in place were irregular brick, and in place were cemented with bones and skulls. Niches held both coffins for the dead and cryonic suspension coffins for the slumbering.

There was a figure like a metal ape near the vault door, which had been moved on vast pistons and stood open. The light spilled in from here. Only things near the door were clear.

To one side of the larger metal statue was a marble statue of Saint Barbara, holding a cup and a palm leaf in her stiff, stone hands, the patron of gravediggers; to the other was Saint Ubaldo, carrying a crosier, the patron to ward off neural disorders and obsessions. Above the vault door was a relief showing the martyrdom of Saint Renatus Goupil under the tomahawks of Iroquois. He was the patron saint of anesthesiologists and cryonicists. Above all this, in an arch, were written the words Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum.

From this, Menelaus knew he had been moved, at least once, from his previous interment site in beneath Tiber Island, in the Fatebenefratelli Hospital vault.

The larger metal statue moved, ducking its head and stepping further into the vault. Menelaus could see the Maltese cross enameled in white on the red breastplate. There were four antennae and microwave horns on his back, folded down. The scabbard for his (ceremonial) broadsword was empty, and so was the holster for his (equally ceremonial) chemical-energy pistol.  Between helmet, and goggles, and breather-mask, the figure looked like a nightmarish bug.

Montrose turned on the microphones on the outside of the coffin, and special cells in his brain stem sent signals to receivers dotting the inner coffin lid, and also to implants lining his auditory nerve. It sounded like a strange, flat, echoless noise, not like something that actually came through his ear, but he could make it out.

Menelaus turned on the speaker vox. “Why do you disturb my slumber, Sir Knight?”

He heard the ticking hum of motors and actuators coming from the armored figure. Like a mountain sinking into the sea, big armored figure knelt. Menelaus realized this was strength-amplification armor. He tried to work out the Cliometric constellation of a set of military circumstances where this type of gear would serve any purpose that a sniper with a powerful set of winged remotes could not serve better, and his imagination failed. Unless the man was wrestling giants, or facing enemies who could walk up to arm’s length and tear the flesh from his bones, he did not see the purpose.

“My apologies, sleeper. Ah. Our records are somewhat dark. Are you Menelaus Montrose? You don’t sound like him.”

“Why the poxy hell do you disturb my poxy slumber, Sir goddam Knight?”

“Ah! Montrose! Good to hear you again, Liege.”

“Guy? Sir Guy, is that you?”

“Pellucid thawed me out two days ago. As we agreed, I have a veto over anyone trying to disturb you, even your pet machine. And it is His Excellency Grandmaster Guiden von Hompesch zu Bolheim now. They promoted me when I slept.”

“Yeah, they do poxified pox like that to you when you ain’t up and about to fend it off.”

Another implanted circuit in his brainstem made contact with a library cloth stored in an airtight capsule inside the coffin armor. The self-diagnostic showed much more deterioration than he would have expected. Half the circuits were dead, and file after file was corrupt. But he brought up the calendar, and a fiber fed the pixy image directly into the same neural circuits he was using to peer through the cameras.

“Pox! Twenty-five years. Rania’s not back yet? Any signals?”

“I have not heard, Liege. There is something that may be a signal. I would have prevented them from thawing you, if it were not significant.”

“So tell me.”

“An astronomer has detected massive energy discharges erupting from the Diamond Star. So it looks like your Princess arrived there years ago, and we are seeing now the result of some sort of macro-scale engineering. The data are ambiguous, and the Order thought you would want, with your own eyes, to look the data over and draw your own conclusion. Was I right to wake you?”

“Damn right, and thank you for asking. Have the astronomer send his data into the coffin. I can tell you the input-output registers.”

“I’d rather you thawed out fully.”

“It saves on bodily wear and tear if I can stay icy with only my brain working.”


“There has been a lot of wire corruption since you slumbered, Your Honor, and the Order made laws saying certain messages have to be delivered in person, naked eye, naked ear. Nobody uses or trusts the kind of interface implants you and I have.”

Montrose was not just surprised; he was shocked. His Cliometric calculations had not anticipated such a radical change in the basic social and technological patterns. One more thing to look into before he slumbered again. He said wryly: “Relicts already, eh?”

“Fifty years is a long time. And they insist I wear clothing, like an unevolved.”

“You ain’t talking aloud, are you?”

“No, Liege. Nerve jack. My suit has a short-range emitter.”

It took a long while for the molecular machinery clustered in the major cells groups in his vital organs, bone marrow, and parasympathetic system to restore him to life. Even through the nerve-block, there was something like growing pains, and his limbs trembled and shuddered. The last thing to happen was that special artificial glands released adrenaline into his system, and implants made of his own jinxed flesh, like the Hunter’s organ and Sach’s organ of electric eels, flushed with positively charged sodium and jolted his heart into action. Automatic circuits performed a few tests, just as undignified and invasive as anything a doctor would do, but with no bedside manner. Menelaus just gritted his teeth.

Montrose came up out of the gel, dripping, a white glass pistol in either hand.

Sir Guiden was still on one knee. He had removed his bulky helm, slung his goggles, and the wire from his skull-jack lay across his neck.

Underneath, his hair was close-cropped, and he wore a black leathery cap that buckled under his chin. His face was rounder and fleshier than Menelaus remembered from 2510. Was that a touch of gray at the temples?

His age was hard to tell, since the Sir Guiden sported a full-face tattoo shaped like a double-headed eagle: Wings surrounded his eyes, crooked talons curled on his cheeks, and twin hawk heads bearing crowns tilted left and right over his eyebrows. Montrose thought it one of the ugliest and most absurd decorations imaginable.

Montrose said, “I was wondering why you stepped in here all in full kit.”

“Because you are know to sleep with guns in your hands, sir. That, and no one else could talk to you.”

“So no one else has implants? The whole idea was that I could thaw my brain up to dehibernation, while leaving the rest of me iced, and that would save on wear and tear. Hurts like the pestilential devil to shock the heart awake, you know. Why couldn’t they just use a hand-mike? Clip it to the coffin?”

“The technology is hard to come by, Liege. The automated factories were under Exarchel’s control.”

“What about that motorized ape suit?”

“You like it?” asked Sir Guiden, pleased.

“May my member get pustules if’n I don’t! Always wanted future soldiers to dress in robo-exoskeletons. But it seems damnified impractical, and I surely don’t recall you wearing nothing alike to them when you climbed in your coffin.”

“I thawed in 2508 and again in 2526 to oversee certain operations.”

“War operations?”

“That, and moving the buried coffins when the Rome was burned by orbital mirrors. The Vatican is gone.”

“How many people killed?”

“None. The city was already evacuated due to banner storms of hunger silk. The Consensus insisted that every city have an evac procedure in place, with an aeroscaphe like a lifeboat folded against the side of every house and tower. Lucky they did.”

“I don’t care about that,” said Montrose. He planned to have the current events, no matter how dramatic, be ancient history before he woke again. “Tell me about my coffins.”

“Safe. You’ll be interested to know I used your money to purchase Cheyenne Mountain from the government of Kansas.”

“That’s in Colorado.”

“There are six territories in the North American plains region calling themselves the United States of America. I made the land purchase from George Washington of the Government of the United States of America that is based in Topeka.”

“George Washington?”

“His name was Joua Ja Gomez before he was acclaimed to his position. All the leaders in Kansas become George Washington. He wears a tri-cornered hat and dresses in red, white and blue. Very colorful. But Cheyenne Mountain and the surrounding land are now officially a part of the sovereign territory of Malta, and under the government and suzerainty of the Grand Master of the Order.”

Menelaus wondered how many more centuries the Knights of Malta would continue to hold government meetings, considering that they had not held Malta since Napoleon kicked them off it. They retreated without a fight, having sworn an oath never to raise weapons against other Christians.

“There is an old buried fortress beneath Cheyenne Mountain,” Sir Guiden said, “That should last thousands of years. If we move you there secretly, we might be able to endure undisturbed for longer.”

Menelaus realized that the kneeling man was waiting for permission to get to his feet. “Up! You don’t have to stand on ceremony with me, or wait for permission to wipe your bottom in the jakes. So who is this we? And why are we going to be holed up a thousand years? The Diamond Star is only fifty light years away.”

The armored figure, with a hiss of motors, rose to his feet, spine straight as a rifle barrel. “We are. The Sovereign Military Hospitalier Order of St. John, of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, of Malta, and of Colorado agreed to guard you in your coffin, Your Honor. We took an oath. I personally swore to you. Do you think merely the passage of time will cow me? Ninety men and eight stand without these doors, ready to retaliate upon any who would desecrate holy ground, where the honored dead lay themselves down, waiting.”

“It was ninety-nine when I went under, not counting you.”

“One of them, Sir Alof Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, during the thaw of 2526 was granted leave to depart the order that he might wed a current girl.”

“So why are we talking about a thousand years?”

“Thousands, sir. With an ‘s’.”

“You ain’t gunna tell me, are you? You have to drag this out and keep me on pins and needles.”

“Liege, there are some things that you must see with your own eyes. The observatory is directly above us, and drawing nigh.”