A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 10

A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 10

“Well, maybe Merlin can give us an estimate,” Cayleb said.

“Maybe.” Sharleyan knew her tone sounded a bit tentative, but she also figured she was entitled to at least a little anxiety, given the nature of her projected itinerary.

“Nervous?” Cayleb asked gently, as if he’d just read her mind . . . not that it would have required any esoteric talent to be able to figure out exactly what she’d been thinking.

“A little,” she admitted, nestling more comfortably against him. “It’s not something I’ve ever done before, after all.”

“Well, I’ve only done it twice myself — once, really, if you’re talking about round trips,” Cayleb said. “On the other hand, Merlin’s done it a lot. Of course, he didn’t take me ‘out of atmosphere” — the emperor pouted for a moment — “but he didn’t have as far to go then as he does this time. And if he’s confident his ‘stealth systems’ are up to the trip, I’m not going to argue with him.”

“Very big of you, since you’re not the one making this particular trip,” she pointed out dryly.

“No, I’m not,” he agreed. “In fact, I wish I were.” He hugged her more tightly against himself for just a moment. “Still, given that he can only fit in one passenger, I think you may actually be a better choice for this first trip than I’d be, in some ways. And I know Father Derahk says everything is just fine, that all this morning sickness is perfectly natural, but I’ll still feel better having Owl say the same thing.”

“Me, too,” she acknowledged, then giggled just a little nervously against his shoulder. “Still, it does feel a bit strange to be talking about getting a . . . machine’s opinion.”

“Just ‘strange’?” Cayleb asked softly.

“All right,” she said after a moment, her own voice more serious, “I’ll admit it worries me a little, too. I can’t help that. I know, up here,” she raised one hand to tap her temple,” that everything the Church ever taught us is a lie. I know that, and I truly believe it. But I was still raised a daughter of Mother Church, Cayleb. Somewhere down inside, there’s that little girl reciting her catechism who can’t help being a little scared when she thinks about walking into the very lair of Shan-wei herself. I know it’s silly, but . . . .”

She let her voice trail off, and his arm tightened around her.

“I don’t think it’s ‘silly’ at all,” he told her. “It’s been less than five months since you found out about Merlin and all the rest of it. As a matter of fact, I think that’s one reason you make a better choice than I do just now. After all, I’ve had a lot longer than you have to adjust — as much as anyone can, at least — although I’d be lying if I said I don’t still have my own worried moments. And I understand exactly what you mean. It’s not a matter of having doubts, just a matter of realizing how completely and totally you’ve broken with everything you were brought up knowing you were supposed to believe. On the other hand, I’ve found it helps to ask myself if someone like ‘the Archangel Langhorne’ is supposed to’ve been would ever have let someone like the Group of Four take over his church if he actually existed!”

“There’s that,” Sharleyan agreed grimly.

Cayleb was right, she thought. And as he’d said, it wasn’t that she had any doubts about the truthfulness of everything Merlin Athrawes had told them, either. On the other hand, the occasional spasms of deeply programmed anxiety she felt left her less than totally confident about how the rest of the planet Safehold’s population was going to react when the time finally came to reveal the full truth about the Church of God Awaiting. It was going to be ugly, at the very least, and deep inside, she felt sinkingly certain it would turn out to be much worse than that, in the end.

It couldn’t be any other way, really. Not when every human being on the entire planet had been taught the same things she’d been taught. Believed the same things she’d always believed. Believed in the Holy Writ’s version of God’s plan for Safehold, and in The Testimonies’ description of the Day of Creation. And how could they not believe those things? The “Adams” and “Eves” who’d written those testimonies had told the absolute truth, as far as they knew it. Of course, they hadn’t known their memories had been altered during their long cryonic journey (she still had trouble understanding how that bit had worked) from a doomed planet called Earth to their new home. They hadn’t known the “archangels” who’d appeared to them in human form as God’s messengers and deputies had actually been members of the colonizing expedition’s command crew.

And they hadn’t known the “Archangel Langhorne” and the “Archangel Bédard” had deliberately and cold bloodedly murdered Dr. Pei Shan-wei and everyone else who’d disagreed with Langhorne’s plan to lock Safehold into a pre-technical civilization forever.

So it wasn’t a bit surprising that their totally accurate accounts of what they had seen and experienced, thought and felt, after awakening here on Safehold should be so damnably consistent and convincing. Worse, there were literally millions of them . . . and not one of them disputed the Church’s official version.

Well, maybe one of them did, she reminded herself, thinking of the journal of Saint Zherneau. It wasn’t part of the official Testimonies, and there was no question in her mind what the Inquisition would do, if it should ever discover that journal’s existence. But Saint Zherneau — Jeremy Knowles — had also been an Adam, and his version of events didn’t agree with the Writ, The Testimonies, or Mother Church herself. Of course, that was because he’d been part of Pei Shan-wei’s Alexandria Enclave. He’d known the truth about Safehold, about the genocidal Gbaba who had destroyed something called the Terran Federation and driven this last remnant of the human race into hiding. He’d known what was supposed to happen here on Safehold — known the mission planners had never intended for all memory of the Gbaba to be lost. That they’d recognized that sooner or later mankind and the Gbaba would meet again, and that while it was essential for humanity to temporarily abandon technology while it hid among the trackless stars, it was just as essential for that technology to reemerge once more in the fullness of time.

And it was for knowing that truth — for refusing to abandon that truth — that Pei Shan-wei and every other living soul in the Alexandria Enclave had been slaughtered by Langhorne’s Rakurai — the cataclysmic kinetic bombardment which had transformed Alexandria into the officially damned and accursed Armageddon Reef.

But Knowles, his wife, and his brother-in-law and sister-in-law had survived, hidden away in a tiny colony settlement called Tellesberg which would one day become the capital of the Kingdom of Charis. They’d written their own testimony, their history of what had really happened, and hidden it, hoping that when it was rediscovered, centuries later, someone would be willing to recognize the truth when he finally saw it.

Someone had been, and the Brethren of Saint Zherneau had guarded that knowledge for over four hundred years, passing it on, nurturing it in secret, working by gradual degrees to undermine the crushing political and spiritual tyranny of the “Church” Langhorne and Bédard had created. There’d never been many of them, and they’d always had to be insanely cautious, yet they’d never given up.

The fact that they’d believed Knowles’ journal when they read it still awed Sharleyan, in many ways. The intellectual and spiritual integrity it had taken to accept that lone voice of dissent was staggering, whenever she thought about it. She hoped she would have been able to do the same thing, yet deep inside, she doubted it. Put her faith in a single voice of protest, however passionate, rather than the massed testimony of eight million other Adams and Eves? Accept the word of someone who’d died almost seven hundred years before Sharleyan’s own birth, rather than the word of the living, breathing Church of God Awaiting? Reject every single belief about the will of God she herself had been taught from girlhood?

No. Despite her own deep disappointment over the Church’s failings, despite her recognition of the degeneracy and venality of the men who controlled that Church, despite her deep-seated conviction that the Church had to be somehow, impossibly purged of its corruption, she’d never once questioned the fundamental, underlying “truth” she’d been taught about Langhorne and Bédard. And, if she were going to be honest, she never would have . . . if she hadn’t met someone who’d been dead even longer than Jeremy Knowles.

Merlin Athrawes. Seijin Merlin The most deadly warrior in the world, seer of visions, Cayleb’s protector, mentor, friend, and guide. All of those things . . . and also a PICA — the “personality integrated cybernetic avatar” which housed the memories, hopes, and dreams of a young woman who had once been named Nimue Alban.

Merlin, the one being on the planet of Safehold who knew the truth about the Terran Federation and its destruction because he had seen it with Nimue’s own eyes. Because Nimue herself had died over nine hundred years ago, deliberately sacrificing her life so that this planet, Safehold, might someday become not simply mankind’s refuge, but the cradle of humanity’s rebirth.

No, I would never have believed it without Merlin, she admitted. I would’ve wanted to, I think, but I wouldn’t have. Despite how much I love Cayleb, I don’t think even he could have convinced me of it. But I’ve got Merlin. We’ve got him. And given that, how could I not believe?

* * * * * * * * * *

“I wish you were here, Cayleb,” she said now, wistfully, and heard a soft chuckle in her ear.

“I wish I were, too,” her husband said from their bedroom in Cherayth . . . well over six thousand miles away. “And not just because Edwyrd and I are going to find it a bit difficult to explain where you are if someone happens to notice you’re away.”

The water-clear earpiece tucked into her right ear relayed his voice from the “security com” she wore on a golden chain around her neck.

“Fortunately,” a second, deeper voice observed, “you’re one of the most talented . . . fabricators I’ve ever encountered, Cayleb.”

“Any diplomat learns to lie with the best of them, Merlin,” the emperor replied.

“Why do I suspect that you learned to ‘lie with the best of them’ trying to explain away little things like broken windows, stolen apples, and all those other childhood infractions of which you were undoubtedly guilty?” Merlin Athrawes inquired from the skimmer’s forward cockpit.

“Because you know him?” Sharleyan suggested innocently.

“Probably,” Merlin said dryly, and Sharleyan chuckled.

Well, maybe the “communicator” is magic, she thought. But if it is, at least it’s magic I’ve started getting used to. I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point of taking it for granted the way Merlin does, though?

Sometimes, she suspected she would; other times, she was positive it would never happen. It was simply too marvelous, too impossible, for that. Yet there were also those moments when her own lack of familiarity with Merlin’s miraculous toys actually became an advantage.

The com she wore around her neck was a case in point. It was considerably smaller than the one Merlin had originally given her, and her lips twitched in another, less crooked smile as she considered why that was. It hadn’t occurred to her, at first, that coms could be smaller than the one he’d initially shown her, but as she’d encountered more examples of the often incredibly tiny bits and pieces of “technology” Merlin had shared with her and Cayleb, a possibility had crossed her mind.

From the beginning, she’d decided that figuring out ways to conceal things like the communicators had to be one of their highest priorities. Small as the original, handheld units Merlin had given them might be, they were still obviously — and dangerously — alien looking. They didn’t belong to Safehold’s homegrown (and allowable) technology, and anyone who saw one of them would realize that. It might not be very likely anyone ever would see one of them, but unlikely wasn’t the same thing as impossible, and as Merlin himself had pointed out, if the Group of Four ever discovered their enemies truly were dabbling in the proscribed knowledge of Shan-wei, the consequences could be disastrous.

Especially if they could prove it.

So she’d asked Merlin if there were smaller, even easier to hide “coms” tucked away in “Nimue’s Cave.” There hadn’t been, but as Merlin considered her question, he’d realized there was no inherent reason he couldn’t make one smaller. Most of the existing units’ size was more a consequence of having to provide something large enough for a human hand to manipulate comfortably than of any unavoidable technological constraints. The same basic capabilities could be provided by something far smaller, if those manipulation requirements were removed. In fact, they had been, prior to the Federation’s destruction, in the form of the surgically implanted communicators the Terran military had issued to its personnel. Of course, he didn’t have any of those, and surgically installing something which would cause the eyebrows of any healer who discovered it to become permanently affixed to his hairline would probably have been a bad idea, anyway. But if he had Owl redesign a com to respond only to spoken commands — for “voice activation,” as he described it — even an external com could be made little larger than the end joint of Sharleyan’s slender thumb.

Which was precisely what he’d done, using the “fabrication unit” in the cave where Pei Shan-wei and Commodore Pei had hidden Nimue’s PICA (and all the other tools they’d provided for Merlin’s use) to manufacture the new devices. Just as he’d used the same fabrication unit to hide Sharleyan’s com in the golden pectoral scepter she wore about her neck. Cayleb wore a matching scepter — they were exact duplicates, down to the maker’s stamp and the tiniest scratch, of the pectorals she’d commissioned as a welcome home gift for his return from Corisande — and they’d have to be literally smashed apart to reveal the forbidden technology concealed at their hearts.

While he was at it, he’d produced yet another marvel in the form of the “contact lenses” Sharleyan wore at this very moment. At first, the thought of actually sticking something into her own eye — even something as clear and tiny as a “contact lens” — had been more than she was prepared to undertake. Cayleb had been more adventurous, however, and his delight had been so great Sharleyan had gathered her courage and taken the same plunge.

She was glad she had, since the tiny lenses not only corrected the slight but irritating farsightedness which had been growing worse over the last couple of years, but also permitted her new, tiny com to project its imagery directly onto the lenses. She could view remote imagery, transmitted to her over the com, without the betraying “hologram” the original, larger com had produced. In fact, she and Cayleb could actually view images garnered by Merlin’s SNARCs — those “Self-Navigating Autonomous Reconnaissance and Communication” platforms she still understood only poorly — which was actually letting them assist Merlin and the artificial intelligence called Owl in the endless struggle to cope with all the intelligence material Merlin’s network of SNARCs made available.

Merlin had followed up the same idea and provided the same ability to everyone else who’d been added to what Cayleb had dubbed “the inner circle” — the list of people who knew the entire truth and had been cleared to use the coms. There weren’t many of them, unfortunately, but the list was growing slowly. In some ways, that only made it more frustrating, of course. The ability to stay in close, instant communication with people literally thousands of miles away — not to mention communicating with Owl, or the ability to view Merlin’s “visions” for themselves — was an advantage whose importance would have been literally impossible to overstate. At the same time, it was something which had to be used with extraordinary care. They couldn’t afford to have too many of the wrong people start wondering just exactly how it was that they managed to coordinate so perfectly over such vast distances, for example. And, in some ways, the ability to talk to some of their closest allies only made their inability to do the same thing with all of them even more incredibly frustrating.

Still —

Stop that, Sharley! She told herself severely. You’re letting your mind wander on purpose, and you know it.

Which, she admitted, probably wasn’t too surprising, under the circumstances.

She looked ahead and saw the vast curve of Safehold stretching out before them. It was beginning to grow lighter, she realized, and felt a fresh stir of awed delight as she realized they really were catching up to the day which had already left Chisholm so far behind.

“How much longer to your cave, Merlin?” she asked, and heard his quiet, amused chuckle over the com. Apparently she hadn’t managed to pitch her voice quite as casually as she’d intended.

“About twenty-five minutes, Your Majesty,” he replied. “Just over another seventy-five hundred miles or so.”

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49 Responses to A Mighty Fortress – Snippet 10

  1. Grant says:

    I have only one thing to say about this Snippet…


    It’s about time Merlin started getting more creative and proactive with his application of the tech available to them. Now bring on the cave!

  2. Bryan says:

    Sigh, I know that recap in the middle of the snippet is actually very short when viewed in terms of the whole book, but part of me is horrified at loosing any chunk of a snippet right when things were getting interesting.

  3. Jared says:

    I wonder what will happen when Merlin shows her the armory with the (I think) 400 Assault Rifles and 1 million rounds of ammo. Not to mention his (technically hers) massive, Boeing 747 sized gunship…I can’t wait till he finally brings out the big guns!!! I foresee Sharleyan and the child to get thhe nanotech treatment Merlin gave to Cayleb 9 and finally get some use out of the kitchen). And I have to agree with Bryan about the recap in the middle of the snippet.

    Just as a side note does anyone thing OWL will finally grow a personality? It’s been three books already, but OWL is the same as ever.

  4. saul says:

    Another unlikely but possible motive for the trip would be to tube the baby. If there had been a timing problem, it might have caused a scandal for her to become pregnant. Of course, I am sure some of the experts have tracked the timing down.

    The baby could be cryoed until the timing was better, or perhaps even taken to term inside the machine?

  5. Jerry says:

    There may be a timing issue. This October snippet states that it has been 5 months since the assassination attempt. That was late June which only gives 4 months till now. Also, Cayleb returned to Chisholm in September. That means only about a month and certainly less than 2. My recollection is that is early for morning sickness, although it appears that she has just started suffering it. Others may know better.


  6. Mike says:

    Safehold has a different calendar.

    And anyway, in almost any culture ever, as long as the parents are married by the time the kid is born, no one really cares.

  7. Karina says:

    You may have missed the comment from the previous snippet that quoted DW as saying that Caleb and Shalyanne practiced birth control. Even if parents are married there’s a problem if the kid was concived when father was nowhere near.

  8. Elim Garak says:

    @6 No, the timing problem could arise if Caleb was supposed to be a thousand miles away when the child was conceived.

    Anyway, I can’t wait for Norman (or Narhman) to be admitted to the circle. Probably the smartest person among all of the people in the novel. And most interesting and ruthless. Come on, more Norman, less bland stereotypes!

  9. jgnfld says:

    Let’s hope DW and Nimue remember to reinstate a normal atmosphere in the “Batcave”. Would hate to see Sharly die of anoxia!

  10. Alsadius says:

    Saul – Can you imagine what would happen if a woman in this era claimed a baby as hers without ever having been pregnant? Putting the kid on ice for a few months should be possible, tubing it to term would not be unless the kid is either acknowledged as a bastard instead of legitimate(with some suitably bribed woman to provide cover), or simply not acknowledged at all.

  11. Greg says:

    I was tempted to be bummed about the recap, but this snippet is so long I just settled for believing that David / Eric made the snippet long to make up for the recap in the middle of it.

  12. Peter Z says:

    @3 I doubt they will ever use the big guns against anything employing current Safehold tech. Sharleyan’s ruminations pretty much foreshadow the general Safeholdian response to something that blatant. As for OWL developing a personality, it should begin pretty soon. After all they have a group of new people interacting with it, each of who will treat it as a person. How else could they treat it? All their experience with entities that talk back to them are people, so the default approach to OWL will be as a person. Merlin’s experience pretty much encourages him to treat OWL as a dimwitted child, until OWL gets less literal. Since OWL is designed to learn, Merlin’s attitude has retarded his development.

  13. Peter Z says:

    @8 Nahrmahn may or may not be the smartest guy on Safehold. The more important question would be if he would be tempted to use OWL’s abilities for his own ends. He is certainly smart enough to find a way to do just that, should he be invited into the inner circle. On the up side getting his feedback on the direct take would be priceless. Nahrmahn would also be invaluable at better integrating the high tech capabilities with the more low tech appraoch currently used on Safehold.

    On the whole if Nahrmahn is invited into the inner circle, Cayleb and Sharleyan would almost certainly have to include him as a voting member of a Charisian strategy council whose vote carries as much weight as theirs. Our Imperial Couple may still be the faces of Charis, but Nahrmahn would have to be an equal in behind the scenes decisions. Any other set up would almost invite Nahrmahn to play the Great Game as an opponent as opposed to an ally.

  14. Maggie says:

    I’m happy that DW addressed Sharley’s trust/doubt issues. Frankly, the whole “revelation of the truth” scenario has been w-a-a-y too easy thus far. Jeez, everyone has been swallowing the whole “You’ve been lied to for a gazillion generations, so just accept what I tell you” with no problem at all.
    We KNOW that the Church undoubtedly teaches the usual religious dogma of “You aren’t capable of understanding THE PLAN” and “If anyone comes up with convincing arguments contrary to our dogma it’s because they are EVIL placing TEMPTATION in your path”
    Actually, I’ve been waiting for SOMEONE to treat all of the technical goodies as “forbidden fruit” from the tree of knowledge.
    Is any one else nervous that the inner circle might be expanding too quickly and that a member might have some type of crisis of faith that comes down on the wrong side??

  15. Peter Z says:

    Funny that you bring this up, Maggie @14. I have been thinking that at a gut level, the challenge to CoGA faithful is very similar to what Jews must have felt when Christ brought the Good News. Think about it a bit. Here is a guy claiming to be God to a people as devoutly monotheistic as it is possible to be. He further claims that to receive God’s salvation one must partake of the blood of Christ. Huh!?! Not only that but all the Laws given by God himself are now rendered immaterial save one. Is this guy claiming that God has had a bout self dout or has decided He was wrong all along? Sacriledge! There will always be people in the Safeholdverse who will never believe that the CoGA cosmology is wrong no matter the proof.

    As for the secret getting out too soon, no it won’t. If it gets out now or within a few years, Charis is doomed and the stories end with a repeat of the death of the Terran Federation. Our story would parallel Camelot more fuly than I believed it would when I first started reading. Anyother outcome would involve so much suspension of disbelief that it would be easier for me to walk away from the entire story line. The internal consistency of the story would be completely lost.

  16. robert says:

    @15 Peter, without getting into a lot of extraneous (to Safehold) religious stuff, I believe that it was the Messiah that Christ was claiming to be, not God. Judaism holds, or held at that time, that when the Messiah comes, the good will be resurrected. So Christ’s claim was taken to be false because nu, already, where were the resurrected ones if he was the Messiah? And there were the political issues as well. Enough!

    Being a fan of Nahrmahn, I can only see him being fascinated with this great espionage device and thinking up great ways to use it against the bad guys. Further, I think his wife would kill him if he strayed from his oath to Cayleb. No, he is in for the duration and will be a major player once he gets in on the secret. Being no dummy he probably already has some idea that strange stuff is going on. Yeah, he has the itch.

  17. Michael says:

    I have to think the MWW has a good plan for rolling the story forward in a believable way, but I agree the secret can’t get out broadly in the current generation, or possibly even the next two or three. Langhorn’s plan is actually very well executed. It gets even worse for Our Heroes, though, with those temple ‘power sources’.

    I see the plot developing along a predictable course regarding the military front. Innovation and warfare are simply too powerful a force together, and they always have been. From the last book, though, it seems DW is setting up the Boss Bad Guy to ironically get called by the Wilson cabal, ostensibly to confront the corruption at the heart of the church. I’m still putting my money on one of the colony ship’s command cores with a Chihiro personality matrix, but that could be totally wrong. A big problem with that idea is why it’s been quiescent this whole time. An active AI core could have absolutely assured no doctrinal shift, and Chihiro would have been feeling pretty desperate when all of his associates got prematurely nuked. Plus it swings the plotline too far to the bad guys… an active Deity with (presumably) control over the orbital systems would be unstoppable.

    That’s why I love this series. The HH series is, of course, another favorite, but I can see many ways for the good guys to win that particular space opera. This one looks hopeless. :-)

  18. Peter Z says:

    Totally agree Robert. I didn’t want to get into any real world religious comparisons, only proposing how the message Jesus brought would have rubbed jewish sensibilities extremely raw. Rubbed raw the same way Merlin’s truth will rub traditional CoGA adherents as your response admirably demonstartes. The paticulars may be argued with little result, but the depth of people’s faith and belief both on Safehold and on Earth cannot. It is that depth of faith and passion that is at work on Safehold which must be countered before the truth can be revealed.

    I also agree that Nahrmahn will get into the inner circle and indeed be a major player. If they let him in there won’t be any other option and they will let him in.

  19. Peter Z says:

    DW is one of the sneakiest writers I know. All this discussing about truth and Truth has me thinking about the story. Let’s see…there is a family renouned for their virtue and faith, the Wylsyns. It is well documented that they are the holders of a divine talisman that unfailingly detects falsehoods. It seems this family also holds another talisman which apparantly holds a fearsome power, the Key. The Key may or may not initiate an AI, but will almost certainly arm/trigger the Kenetic Bomboardment system.

    Combine these factors in a way that leads to victory for Merlin et al. Father Paytr appears to be the one of the next inductees to the inner circle. I suspect that this will happen as he shares with Staynair the straits into which his family has fallen and the Archbishop offers a potential rescue. If good Father Paytr puts his faith in both the talisman and the Archbishop his family may be saved. Yet doing so will mean that the Shuler Stone announces that Shuler, Langhorn and bedard are liars.

    That man is truly sneaky! Now, I wish I could get the e-ARC Yesterday.

  20. Grant says:

    Ummm… you do mean “well documented” to us and not to Safeholdians right? Because IIRC, that talisman is supposed to be a secret and is not general knowledge. That being the case, if he suddenly goes public saying “I have a magic truth confirming stone, and it tells me everything you all belive is wrong!” I’m skeptical of how much impact it’s supposed to have.

    As for the other Talisman…. my suspicion for a while now has been the Inquisition is about to crack down on the dissenters in its own ranks, probably on some kind of conspiracy charges, and there’s a possibility they end up discovering and seizing that talisman in the process if they do. THAT could turn things interesting in a hurry. (If that’s what’s going to happen however I very much doubt it’s a direct control for the orbital bombardment platform… or else they don’t figure out exactly what it is/does but Merlin finds out they have it and taking it away from them before they figure out what they have becomes priority one of the entire campaign.)

  21. Peter Z says:

    The Stone of Shuler is known to the Vicarate as having been granted to the Wylsyn family but is thought to be lost after the last Wylsyn Grand Vicar passed. The Vicarate knows about the Stone. It may or may not be used to support the veracity of Merlin’s claims to a broader public. I doubt it will. I suspect that it will be used to to prove to Father Paytr and by extension his entire family that the CoGA is a lie. With the Wylsyn clan on board the ground work to prepare the rest of Safehold can begin, much like the Brothers of St. Zherneau prepared Charis.

  22. Jerry says:

    And, the “one-use” key is also in Charis with Paytr. It is hard to see how the Inquisition will get their hands on it.

  23. Michael says:

    The problem with the key being directly tied to the Rakurai system is that it doesn’t make much sense (at the moment) from a storyline balance perspective. The orbital guns are unbeatable by any means at Merlin’s disposal. Merlin’s assault shuttle and weapons locker are unbeatable by anything the other side has if the orbital guns don’t act. Neither of those two technological elements can counter or conflict against each other… if the key controls the orbitals, they win, and all the pulse rifles in the world won’t help Nimue. If the orbitals can be disposed of then tension is gone as Nimue has nothing to check her or her batcave full of goodies. Things are currently set up for either side to win without thematic conflict, so there’s a major story element we don’t know about yet.

  24. Peter Z says:

    Those assumptions are a bit off after this snippet, Michael. Merlin can’t use the batcave goodies without loosing in the minds of all Safeholdains. He will be Shan-Wei resurected, the embodiment of pure evil. Using the goodies before Safehold is prepared means he loses regardless of any military dominance achieved. So the Bombardment platform isn’t the only deterent, certainly not the most important deterent. It is the Red Herring and has worked to DW’s sneak heart’s content.

    Add to this the pure irony of having one of Shuler’s failsafes instrumental in the demise of all their plans and my heart simply bubbles with glee at DW’s sneakiness.

  25. Grant says:

    Hmmm, I’d missed the “one-use” key being with Paitr, I thought another member of the family closer to the Temple had it for some reason… need to re-read that section.

    If that’s true however then I’m defininitely with Michael, no way is it a platform control. Merlin gets his hands on that and it’s an instant gaeme over. He’ll know what it is and know how to use it, if it has access to the platform controls then even if it isn’t intended to shut them down between him and Owl he’ll find a way to hack in and do it once he has the communication channel through it’s security protocols that he can use without getting immediately blasted by the platform as soon as it picks up the signal. And I would have to assume the platform is programmed NOT to smite the person activating the talisman just because it detects an advanced communications signal.

    However, if the idea is for it to fall into Charis’s (and thus Merlin’s) hands it doesn’t make a lot of sense that it’s anything else either. Wake up an “archangel” in stasis? He’ll just bury the thing in his cave, archangel never wakes up. Activate some kind of secret weapon under the church they can use? Either Merlin can use it himself without the platform blasting it, which means war over… divine weapon of the Archangels rises from beneath the Temple itself and sides with Charis? Temple’s done, both physically and politically. Or, the church would be able to use it and Merlin never turns it on if that’s the case.

    I can’t really think of anything it can be that would result in the story being advanced by it coming into the possession of the Charisian side.

  26. Peter Z says:

    Assume the platform is not innert and has triggers in place beyond the Key. The Key can start the whaterver-it-is program or some other trigger can do that. Once triggered the AI or automation takes over and we Rakurai. No mas proscription violation. This simply enforces the rules of trying to sneak advances anywhere in Charis past this machine. Which almost mandates a slow and methodical progression in technology development. Good thing too, progress too fast based on other people’s research and the technology is never really understood.

    In short the platforms act in the story as an external limit on how fast technology can progress. As I said DW is sneaky. Suppose that he uses this device to force Safeholders to progress in different technological directions than Earth did? Safehold research may end up milking every bit of utility and efficiency from each technologcal advance before progressing further. All because the platforms has forced them to limit the speed in their introduction of new technology.

  27. Michael says:

    @24: My comment wasn’t worded well. Didn’t mean to imply he/she would break out Heavy Weapons and go on a campaign of conquest the day after the orbitals were turned off. He wouldn’t even really need to do that without anything else to oppose him on the other side… the PICA itself could defeat whole armies if it came down to it. No, I meant it removed story tension long term as Nimue’s victory is eventually inevitable. If it takes 100 years or 1000 years, Nimue would be there to see it done, and nothing long-term could oppose her will. She’d become the ultimate deus ex machina and the story would lose much of it’s gravity, so that just won’t happen.

    The idea that the orbitals will be around long-term is interesting, but even that doesn’t really ring true though I suppose it would work. We don’t have a ton of details on the prescriptions, but I’d imagine electrical generation is right at the top, since that would start to create the emissions the Gbaba might eventually pick up. Not sure about Steam power. There’s only so much you can do with a wind / water powered culture before you run out of refinements, and electrical generation also sounds like something that would be relatively easy to detect from orbit. IMHO the Rakurai system has to go, and relatively soon in the timeline.

    I need to re-read the end of the last book as well, as I don’t recall Paityr having it… only the verifier.

  28. hank says:

    On the subject of people taking to the truth too easily:
    The abbot who originally unsealed the St Zherneau journal considered just destroying it(BSRA, pg223)
    Many people, some in the past and even some we know (Grey Harbor, IIRC) have been kept out of the loop for fear of lack of mental flex.
    also see BSRA, p 233-234 for a discussion of this issue.


  29. Peter Z says:

    I think you answered your own concerns, Michael. How does one train a species to develope far enough technologically to defeat the Gbaba? One way would be to force that species to do their research in secrecy and betraying as little emissions as possible from the very start. Do this for a few centuries and the result may be a species that can escape detection until they had sufficient firepower to survive the innevitable war.

    So the Charisian research into higher energy technology is kept under ground both figuratively and literaly. They distribute only that which can be disseminated safely both from a Rakurai and social acceptability perspective. Hopefully by the time they can create an affective attack against the bombardment platform the social dynamic has changed enough where research doesn’t have to be clandestine any more.

  30. Grant says:

    The orbitals can’t stay long term. Shutting them down will probably coincide with the “final” defeat of the church. They need to be there while the conflict is ongoing or else the bag of tricks at Merlin’s disposal, even if he wants to stay secret and not reveal his presence yet, just becomes ridiculously lopsided. If he’s able to act with impunity using any technological advantage he can muster and manage to hide from the general Safeholdian public (as opposed to a sophisticated modern orbital sensor array) then it’s a done deal. The Church has absolutely zero chance.

    After that however, you simply can’t transform the planetary technology base all the while playing Russian Roullette with the fact that someone, somewhere, is eventually giving off a signal while they’re tinkering with a new gadget that gets half a continent turned into swiss cheese. Yes you want to maintain emissions control as much as possible for as long as possible to minimize the odds of detection by the Gbaba until you’re ready for them, but the platform is ridiculous overkill to acheive that end to a degree that is hugely detrimental to the effort. Once the church has been brought down the platform must go.

    And even if you do manage to retain total signal control so you’re not detectable at a distance one of these days a Gbaba scout ship or something is just going to cruise by and take a look at the planet on their own… signals or no signals. And they’re not going to care if the Safeholdians don’t appear to have advanced technology when they see them. You can’t just hang out there for centuries leisurely developping the tech at a creeping pace, you’re risking discovery before you’re ready for it that way too. They need to go on a crash development program as soon as it can be practically implemented without panicking the public.

  31. robert says:

    @19 “Now, I wish I could get the e-ARC Yesterday.”

    Sorry Peter. This is the land of TOR, not Baen. Ain’t no eARCs, just eBooks at about the same time as hardcover paper Books. My shipping estimate from Amazon is April 19th.

  32. Peter Z says:

    I am so happy that we have not reached a consensus for future plot development. I do so enjoy being surprised ;-)

  33. Steven says:

    Going back to the comments regarding the key…it was mentioned toward the end of the book when the Wylsynns were discussing the traitor in the Circle. The older Wylsynn explained that there was another reason why Paityr was exiled to Charis. Also if I remember correctly, it can be only used once, which implies that it maybe something tied to the Rakurai…in fact I think the older Wylsynn at the dragon and pony show was thinking about whether or not it was time to use the “Key”. BTW, it was never mentioned who else was with Commodore Pei in the secret resistance to Langhorne…remember in the first book he told Nimue in the hologram that he and one other were going to visit Langhorne and Bedard…probably when they set off the pocket nuke. Could Schueler have been the one who was also not in agreement with the megalomaniac Langhorne? There had to be some reason why the Wylsynns received the Stone and the Key…something to inspire them to fight for reform of the CoGA. Just a thought.

  34. Peter Z says:

    @31 Indeed, Robert. My burning desire for the book overwhlmed my conscious thought as well as my furiously typing fingers.

  35. Paul says:

    When will the Paper ARC’s start appearing on E-Bay?

  36. John says:

    @33. I’d think Nimue who’d have remarked if the “preascension” Book of schuellur were substantially different for today’s version. I mean I don’t see someone willing to blow Langhorne up, being the same guy who came up with very painful ways of killing people. I do agree though that it is odd that the wylsynns would get the key and the stone, apparently from schuellor.

  37. Technology in the form of a few hundred neat rifles and a limited ammunition supply will not let you dominate a huge population that thinks you are emissaries of Satan. For contrary evidence, note The First Afghan War, The Second Afghan War, the Soviet Afghan War–and they at least had numbers–and it would appear the NATO Afghan War. If the folks in Chapter 1 appeared to have difficulties, consider their circumstances if the locals thought the Charisians were tools of Shan-Wei. And while some will quote Tacitus about making a desert and calling it peace, ‘desert’ turned out to be a losing strategy.

  38. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Three comments on Schueler.

    First, there is text evidence (later in this book) that Schueler appears to been one of the surviving Archangels after Langhorne’s death as well as being one of the Leaders of the surviving Archangels.

    Second, there is mention of a family legend (among the Wylsynns) that they are descendants of Schueler.

    Third (just my opinions), while Schueler may have been a sadistic SOB to think up those punishments (or just to find them from historical records), he may have also high ‘ideals’ on how the Priesthood should behave. He may have realized that after his death (and the deaths of the remaining Archangels) the Priesthood would fail to live up to those ideals. So He may be the ‘true founder of the Circle’. [Wink]

  39. Peter Z says:

    Heavens but that would be rich, Drak! A true believer of a misbegotten plan trying to ensure the plans continuation instead ensures its destruction. If your supposition is true, it just emphasizes my assertion of the MWW’s divine sneakiness.

  40. Maggie says:

    Jeez, it’s getting to the point that I read for the comments as much as the snippets themselves!

    Have a nice weekend, all. I am battening down for the expected winter storm with a supply of evening primrose backed up with lots of chocolate!

  41. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Peter, for that matter don’t forget that no matter how much Nimue/Merlin hates Bédard, she/he admits that the Order named for Bédard does very good work.

    For one thing, the Bédarden Order does more than any other Order in helping the poor on Safehold.

    David Weber is great for that sort of irony.

  42. KenJ says:

    Another alternative on Schuler. He may have originally been an avid supporter of Langhorn’s Plan. However, the mass murder of Alexandria followed by Commodore Pei’s reprisal MAY have caused him to have personal second thoughts. Knowing that there is nothing short term to be done to reverse Langhorn’s scheme, he may have recognized that in the future, the church and it’s dogma may become weakened. Hence the Key that can only be used once and only when the CHURCH is threatened. If that were to occur than obviously the rot has spread so much that there is no saving the Plan and it would be ripe to be toppled and Mankind placed back on a path to survival. That could be accomplished by having someone, (say Schuler himself) who knows the truth and has access to the stockpile of OTHER tech that was used to build the Temple, place the OBS defense system, etc, in suspended animation.

    Or, of course, MWW will have something totally different up his sneaky sleeve.

  43. Steven says:

    @38 hmm That is is interesting,,,now if we can invent a time machine so we can read this book instead of the snippets. I foresee another sleepless night ahead when it is on sale. :) I am looking forward to the development of Duchairn,,,how is he going to react when Clyntyn goes after the Wylsynns and the rest of the Circle…also what about Siddarmark, that is going to be the next hot spot because Clyntyn is going to push them into open defiance against the CoGA. @36 that is true,,, but I am curious about who else was with Commodore Pei, we did find out the Shan Wei was reeducating other colonists, so I was thinking that there may be another plot twist. Now

  44. Rekes says:

    I was wondering who would be the next candidate for blast-from-the-past villainy that Nimue will have to deal with.

    If I were Merlin, I’d put more consideration into using those fabrication units to make more good steel, iron, etc (if they’re the kind that can make big objects that is). If Charis happens to have a surplus discovered in time of need, then it must be a divine boon.

    Speaking of surplus, where’s the Church POV? I kinda want to know what the Church is thinking on the mainland atm… although I’m wondering if this is still winter and so they have no information to go on… Probably turning to more internal matters if that’s the case.

    BTW: Levinas is one confusing philosopher sometimes. I’m starting to see his points in my daily life. :(

  45. Summercat says:

    Um. Wasn’t it stated in OAR that the person accompanying Pei was … shit, forget his name, but I remember that he is called ‘The Father of Lies’? Or was it Disease…

  46. Of course, some of you have read the whole thing, but it was not quite obvious from the text we peons receive that the Key and the Lie Detector are necessarily two different things. Of course, some people are less enthused about sound extrapolation from text than others as witness the lack of total critical success of the “The Solarian League Navy is Invincible” series.

  47. robert says:

    @40 Maggie, you can’t batten down without a good book. So what are you reading?

  48. Rekes says:

    I wonder if the Key is in Charis.

    @45 He’s the betrayer.

    @47 Starting on the Codex Alera series myself.

  49. Maggie says:

    @40 Hi Robert! I just finished “In The Stormy Red Sky”. Rattlin’ good fun! Falling back on Matthew Arnold’s The Scholar Gypsy with Vaughn William’s Oxford Elegy in the background…

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