In the 1940s, Edmond Hamilton earned the title of “World Wrecker” for his galaxy-smashing space operas. Now, seventy years later, John C. Wright sets out to inherit Hamilton’s coveted mantle with the masterpiece of pulp madness, SUPERLUMINARY: The Lords of Creation. And to whet the appetite for this ambitious spectacle of science, fantasy, and adventure, Castalia House offers this excerpt from the first chapter.
Aeneas Tell of House of Tell, the youngest of the Lords of Creation, was twenty-one when he was assassinated for the first time.
His secondary brain came awake while his primary brain was still foggy with strange dreams. Alert to danger, the secondary brain stopped the nerve pulses from the primary brain which otherwise would have let him groan and open his eyes, which would have precipitated the nervous killer’s attack.
But his primary brain had been in the delta brainwave stage of sleep, a deep and dreamless slumber. There was no sound, no light, no disturbance. What had broken his sleep? A memory, like an echo, of terrible multiple toothaches left a metallic taste in his mouth.
He had been dreaming about his insane grandfather, the Emperor. The old man had been telling him about the secrets of the universe… then a stinging pain in his teeth had jarred him awake. But how could Aeneas remember a dream when he had not been in the desynchronous brainwave state in which dreaming was possible?
Aeneas, eyes still closed, not daring to move, increased the firing rate of his auditory nerves. He was laying on the nongravity cushion of his opulent four-poster bed. The neverending whisper of the high-altitude winds of Mount Everest beyond the bubble of weather-controlled air was now loud to him.
On these upper peaks his family had erected the proud imperial palace-city of Ultrapolis, whose towers and domes were impregnable behind concentric force-shells and thought-screens. None of the artificial or bio-modified races of the nine worlds, fifty worldlets, and one hundred eighty moons of the Solar System could bring any realistic threat to bear on these defenses, not while the twelve ranking members of the House of Tell, the so-called Lords of Creation, retained control of the stratonic supertechnology known only to them.
But betrayal from within was another matter.
The quiet hiss of the protective screen that the bedposts projected around the bed was gone. He could not hear the heartbeats of his two bodyguards posted in the anteroom of his apartments. Instead he heard the heartbeat, louder and faster than was possible for an unmodified human being, of the assassin.
As the youngest member of the Family, Aeneas had been stuffed into the oldest wing of the oldest palace, and no other guards were within shouting distance.
There was no sound of footsteps on the nightingale wood floor of his bedchamber, and so for a moment Aeneas had a false sense of hope. But the sound of the racing heart was close at hand.
The killer was in the chamber with him.
Then he felt a waft of intense cold radiating from the cells of the man’s body. The assassin was near the bed, coming closer, bending over him.
Aeneas reflexively focused a thought to his signet ring, asking alarms silently to ring and the armaments hidden in the walls to slay the intruder. But there was no response. The electrotelepathic circuit was blocked.
The nanoscopic thought-broadcast cells his mother had implanted in the bones of his skull likewise were blocked when he tried to send needle-thin neuropsionic signals to receivers hidden in the ceiling.
A sharp, stabbing pain reappeared in his lower left molar, and then vanished. And then an upper incisor throbbed with a pain that vanished, and then a bicuspid. It was an basic proprioception code. It read: Intruder in dis-inertia armor… negative-vitality field integument… contortion node detected…
Of course. The killer was wearing armor that contorted the fabric of space a few inches in each direction around himself and lowered his inertia. It would prevent ordinary weapons, bullets or monomolecular blades, from imparting kinetic energy to him to do damage. Hence he could glide across the floor without imparting any pressure to the special floorboards biogineered to sound off when they felt an unfamiliar footstep.
The contortion node was a teleportation path for the assassin’s escape.
Modified electroneural ganglia beneath the killer’s skin—impossible for normal antiweapon sensors to detect—had erected a life-energy absorption cocoon. Hence the killer had silently drained Aeneas’ two bodyguards of their life and added it to his own, increasing his neural speed and muscle pressure. It was a vampire field, a modification illegal to all but the highest ranking and most trusted servants of the Lords. And a normal man would be killed at a touch.
Aeneas was no normal man. From hidden retaining cells in his bone marrow he released stored life-energy charges into his body, increasing his nerve-muscle potential beyond what a vampire energized with only two men’s vitality could match.
Faster than a striking snake and stronger than a rhino, Aeneas flung up the bedsheet and drove his fist into the man’s chest.