Aeneas Tell of the House of Tell is one of the youngest Lords of Creation. His family rules the Nine Worlds through its control of the ultra-advanced technology that has permitted the colonization of the entire solar System. More gods than men, the Lords of Creation have cheated Death itself.
But even a quasi-immortal god will take exception to being assassinated. Twice. Especially when the assassin turns out to be a someone he thought was a friend.
SUPERLUMINARY is the latest and most outrageous creation of science fiction grandmaster John C. Wright, the Dragon-award winning author of THE UNWITHERING REALM, THE GOLDEN AGE, MOTH & COBWEB, and AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND. THE LORDS OF CREATION is the first book in the series.
Aeneas felt a chill in his soul.
This was the Cerberus.
He was aboard the dreadful, legendary ship.
The last time the ship had been seen, Aeneas had been a little boy playing the gardens of the Ishtar Plateau, in the fragrant shadow of Mount Freyja, overlooking the perfumed north polar sea of Snegurochka. The Cerberus, the ancient superdreadnought and spaceborne palace of his mad Grandfather, had taken up a menacing orbit about Venus. He remembered seeing his mother crying when no servants were around.
“I thought it would be more… luxurious. Harems. Gold. Wine centrifuges. Do you think grampa is here?”
I cannot imagine.
Once inside the airlock, the hatch shut, atmosphere was pumped in. Weight slowly returned. The heat, the oxygen, the moisture revived him.
Aeneas found a modern First Aid kit and broke the seal with a swing of his periscope. Inside the kit were ampoules of blood and bone marrow, totipotent cells and other biological materials. He opened one ampoule after another, absorbing the materials directly into his center of mass.
Restoring himself to his earth body was easy, since the cell memories yearned to return to their wonted shapes. Soon Aeneas stood on the deck in human shape: He was nine foot tall, a layer of convincingly human skin over his hidden layer of armored scales. With his metal bones and muscles of ultradense fiber, he was over four hundred pounds in earth-normal gravity.
Working the airlock might alert Lord Pluto.
“Maybe he went to the conclave at Everest. And he keeps no servants.”
Do not be at ease. It is forbidden to be on this world. It is death.
The inner airlock hatch was round, and a sideways ladder led to it, designed to be climbed out of, not crawled through.
On the far side, Aeneas straightened up and stared in astonishment.
He now stood on an unrailed circular balcony overlooking a wide well. It was a five hundred foot drop. Whatever was at the bottom, Aeneas could not see at this angle. But a reddish light was splashed along the undersides of the balconies.
In a circle with him were cryocoffins with transparent lids. Had the ship been under spin, the sleepers would have been prone. But the ship stood on her nose. The men inside the coffins were hanging head-downward.
All were unmodified. Some were greyhaired, or wrinkled, or scarred, or blemished like characters from a history lesson. Oddly, the coffins were chained shut.
There were fifteen of the nudes upside-down in coffins on this balcony. There were ten balconies below, nine above.
Three hundred crewmen.
“Stars in heaven!” said Aeneas in a hoarse whisper. “These are the three hundred. Were they asleep this whole time?”
Not asleep, sir.
“Grandfather said none of them survived!”
Nor did they, sir.
All the eyes of the upside-down crewmen flicked open. The eyes were dead, their faces, expressionless. A sensation of weakness, faintness, dying, washed over Aeneas. He staggered, but did not fall. He clamped shut the scales of his subcutaneous armor, blocking the death-energies. An unarmored man would have been killed instantly.
Their pallor was not due to cryonic suspension. Their cells had been adjusted into the negative bands of the life-energy spectrum. They were not alive, but absorbed life.
These had been turned to zombies, just as Thoon had done to his guards, but at the same time refashioned into vampires, as Thoon had been. They were necromatic automatons, soulless soul-eaters, creatures of negative-life.
Just then, a hand fell on his shoulder, and spun him around.
“Who dares trespass on my keep?”