A Princess of the Aerie

BOOK: A Princess of the Aerie
2.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Copyright © 2003 by John Barnes

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including
information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may
quote brief passages in a review.

Aspect® is a registered trademark of Warner Books, Inc.

Warner Books, Inc.

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at

First ebook Edition: January 2003

ISBN: 978-0-446-56013-9



CHAPTER 1: Not Just Any Sacred Orgy

CHAPTER 2: I Don’t Need You to Kill a Man

CHAPTER 3: I Have a Feeling That Your Troubles Are Over

CHAPTER 4: Outranked By a Toaster

CHAPTER 5: Weird-bad

CHAPTER 6: At the Pleasure of the Princess

CHAPTER 7: “Are You Sane?” “I’m Trying.”

CHAPTER 8: You Saw Too Much and Know Too Much

CHAPTER 9: Which One of Us Is the Princess Here?

CHAPTER 10: About Fourth-Level Famous, for Free

CHAPTER 11: Start Chopping the Parsley

CHAPTER 12: Radzundslag

CHAPTER 13: “There’s Things Worse Than Being Broke, or Dead”

CHAPTER 14: A Principle 4 Case, if Ever There Was One

CHAPTER 15: Nobody’s Going to Blame Me

CHAPTER 16: The Master of Principle 204

CHAPTER 17: An Opponent Fully Worthy of Our Considerable Skills

CHAPTER 18: Nothing Personal





“Well,” Riveroma said. “Well, well, well. Very impressive. You know, Jak, if I were Dujuv, I don’t think I would like you.
He’s been taking a beating on your behalf more or less continually since you pulled your stupid little pointless stunt. And
I think he rather believes you were just trying to save your own hide. Now that he’s seen you as you are—and since your entire
record shows you don’t care in the slightest for or about Dujuv—this whole process will go so much more quickly.”

Bex Riveroma is a slick liar, the master of Principle 204, Jak kept reminding himself. He always tells the lie that gets in
under your skin and that’s hard not to believe. He gives your own worst thoughts back to you and makes you believe them.

He hoped that Dujuv was remembering that too. He looked down. A simple roll forward would send Jak into a long enough fall
to die instantly on impact.

“Barnes plays with old-fashioned space opera in this far-future SF adventure….This is a fun romp.”

—Locus on
The Duke Of Uranium


Orbital Resonance

A Million Open Doors

Mother of Storms

Kaleidescope Century

Encounter with Tiber (with Buzz Aldrin)

Earth Made of Glass



The Return (with Buzz Aldrin)

The Merchants of Souls

The Sky So Big and Black


The Duke of Uranium

*available from Warner Aspect

For Jes Tate.

“Yeah, of course, Jak Jinnaka was my friend. Or at least I was his. Several times. Lots of different circumstances. I suppose
I could say that I was the heet who knew him best, but he confided in women more than he did in anyone male. Although toktru,
he didn’t really ever tell anyone what he was thinking or why he did anything. I knew, because I asked him a few times, that
he didn’t follow the Wager, really, but he pretended to, and he’d quote Nakasen’s
when it suited him, which usually meant when he could manipulate someone or get something he wanted. Which, come to think
of it, was pretty much when and why he did anything.

“I guess he didn’t always feel that that was what he was doing or the way he was. But then, he was the kind of heet who lied
just to stay in practice, masen? Anyway I was his tove and pizo, almost his brother. Later I was more like his accidental
comrade. Now and then, I was good and mad and trying to kill that spawn of a viper. And having known him for ninety years,
I’d have to say that everything he ever thought or said was for his self-interest. I’m sure he’d tell you different. Like
I said, he’d lie just to stay in practice, masen?

“I’d rather talk about a lot of other subjects, you know. This new generation of slamball players, or my old career. What
it’s like out by Vega. My years with the Spatial, or how the Socialist Party might do in the next elections. I’ve known a
whole big bunch of very great people, in a long life, and I’d rather talk about
of them than about this one very famous one. Weehu, I’d rather talk about recipes for beefrat, or the new fashions, masen?”

From “Jinnaka’s Oldest Tove Talks!”
Reasonably True News,
vol. 1042, Story 412, page 3, open distribution at standard terms, 92 hours viv, 65 hours movepics, 31 hours holo, 546,324
stillpix, of Dujuv Gonzawara available at additional charge (subsid. fees to Solar Slamball League, Socialist Party, Provo
Spatial, quoted on request), see catalog for over 1 million Jinnaka stillpix

Not Just Any Sacred Orgy

ak Jinnaka sat in the Dean of Students’s office, in the waiting area. It was one of the lightest offices in the whole Public
Service Academy, way up in the administrative levels, so the gravity was only about five percent, and the ceiling was high,
so to burn energy and avoid boredom, he was pushing off from the central bench with his hands, drifting toward the ceiling
in the lotus position, then drifting back to the cushions below.

He held his breathing even and focused on the lecture replaying in his earphones. “The practice of diplomacy is always extremely
delicate, but it is most delicate in dealing with allies,” Teacher Postick was saying, “for with enemies, it’s mostly a matter
of occasional bribes and threats and some ordinary cooperative matters like prisoner exchanges, declaring open stations, and
moving fighting away from civilian areas. With allies, not only must one bribe and threaten constantly, but one must also
appear not to be threatening at all, and to be giving bribes out of warm affection.”

Jak’s buttocks touched the bench. He pushed up again and drifted toward the ceiling. This far up in the Hive— most of the
way to the surface, more than a thousand kilometers above the central black hole—gravity was so low that each bounce and drift
took a full minute, and he was going almost all the way to the ceiling each time. He was listening to the review lecture from
“Fundamentals of Diplomacy” for the fourth time in two days; he had an exam in an hour and a half.

Jak had mumbled, so the recording hadn’t picked up the question from the room, but Postick always repeated a question. “The
question was, ‘Will there be questions about ethnography?’ ” Postick said. “Jak, you win the Stupid-Question Sweepstakes for
today.” That was about as nice as Teacher Postick ever got; usually he was far more sarcastic. “Every negotiation problem
is riddled with ethnographic considerations. Diplomacy without ethnography would be algebra without numbers or literature
without sex and violence. Now, of the many hundreds of possible ethnographic issues—for all of which you might be held responsible—I
would pay special attention to the following—”

Jak fast-forwarded. He specked if he had to listen to it even one more time, he’d die. Ethnography was the subject he liked
least. He left the recording on pause and pushed off the cushion extra hard. Floating gradually upward, he applied the Disciplines,
slowing his heart rate and breathing.

He was confident as ever that he would be able to talk the Dean of Students into forgetting this latest uproar. Jak’s best
tove, Dujuv, was in there right now and had been in there for an exceptionally long time. Dujuv was goalie on the PSA’s slamball
team, so Dujuv usually got more slack than Jak did, but punishment never took Duj off the slam-ball team or Jak off the Maniples

It was odd that this was taking so long.

Jak dove deeper into his meditative state, becoming very calm and clear, as if he were actually running the katas of the Disciplines,
and considered Principle 128: “Since your emotional state rarely affects anything, always have whatever one you like, and
never worry about what it is.” He added to that Principle 171: “Courage is fear without consequences.”

All his life people had told him how much peace and confidence they derived from following the Wager, that the seven-hundred-year-old
wisdom of Paj Nakasen helped them endure adversity and triumph over it. Jak dakked it was soothing to re-recite old phrases
he knew by heart, but specked that he would have gotten the same confident, calm feeling by concentrating his mind on any
phrase he’d learned in childhood, such as “with a quack quack here and a quack quack there.” Nonetheless, he did feel calmer.

His head thumped on the ceiling. He let go of the lotus position, flailed, and tumbled slowly back down to the bench, kicking
and waving. The lecture got turned back on somehow, so as he descended, Postick talked about all the different tribes and
cities of Mars and how many different kinds of negotiating problems could arise out of their local customs and beliefs. Jak,
to his surprise, didn’t die.

When the seat cushion came within reach, Jak pulled himself around to plant his feet, and switched off the lecture. He was
really hoping that no one had seen that, especially not the Dean of Students.

Jak started to play through the recording one more time, realized he could recite most of it, and, with a sigh, touched the
reward spot on his purse, the blue fingerless glove, worn on the left hand, that contained a microsupercomputer. Most people
would rather be without their clothing than their purse, but Jak had never really learned to like them. Still, his purse had
been coaching him well. It was hardly the device’s responsibility that Jak wasn’t learning quickly, and Jak wanted it to continue
coaching well in the future, so he touched the reward spot twice more. He felt, more than heard, the purse’s little cheeble
of pleasure.

“All right, check content of what I say next against that review lecture I’ve been replaying. Ready?”


“Negotiations are always difficult and negotiations with allies are more difficult than negotiations with enemies. Masen?”

“Correct but general.”

“Negotiations with allies are more difficult because— um, you have to act like you like them, and—”

The door from Dean Caccitepe’s office dilated and Dujuv airswam into the waiting room. He was a panth, a breed that the genies
had made into extraordinary natural athletes, with ultrafast metabolisms, very high muscle mass ratios, sharper than normal
vision and hearing, perfect balance and kinesthetic sense, and extraordinary reaction times. This had necessitated some compromises;
panths were notoriously not bright, test pilots rather than engineers, line sergeants and not staff officers.

Also, though they could sit silently for hours and rest as relaxed as a cat, usually they bounced with sheer exuberance of
life. Dujuv was airswimming in a straight, businesslike line—no rolls, kips, or tumbles. Not good.

Jak and Dujuv’s private code was signed with the left hand. As he airswam, Jak’s toktru tove reached slowly out with his left,
giving Jak a clear view: thumb straight—
good news
. Three fingers curled under—
extremely mitigated.
Not suspended or expelled, but the emotional weather on the other side of that door, today, wasn’t toktru happy.

Dujuv airswam out. Jak waited to be called. Duj got away with everything short of murder partly because administrators, teachers,
and pokheets viewed Jak as the leadership of every operation, and partly because Duj was the star goalie of PSA’s slamball
team. Jak was pretty good at Maniples (third singles for the PSA’s club, and only in his sophomore year), which helped him,
but not like slamball helped Dujuv. Whatever Dujuv’s grim portion had been, Jak was about to get it with seconds and some
to take home.

“Jak Jinnaka,” a voice said. “The Dean will see you now.”

Jak airswam into the Dean’s inner office. Dean Caccitepe was an ange, a breed with very long faces, and long slender limbs.
Even for an ange he was tall, but since he was older—probably about 225 years old, to judge by the coarse brown facial hair
and weary expression—and didn’t seem to get much exercise, his body was a pudgy sphere at the center of all that leg and arm,
like a spider from a children’s cartoon. He gestured Jak to the guest perch in front of the desk, then airswam into his own
chair, facing Jak.

BOOK: A Princess of the Aerie
2.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

El monje by Matthew G. Lewis
Hitler's Niece by Ron Hansen
All Hope Lost by Samantha Dorrell
Hitched by Karpov Kinrade
Codename Winter by Ross, Aubrey