His Royal Majesty - The Eternal Emperor - hereby requests and requires that all his subjects join him at Arundel Castle on Prime World, March 15-17, to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of his empire. Special guests to include Sten, Alex Kilgour, Ian Mahoney and oceans of Stregg.
NOTE FROM ALLAN: THE EMPEROR HAS DECREED THAT WE WILL TAKE THE FOURTH OF JULY OFF. THE ETERNAL EMPEROR'S TALE WILL RETURN JULY 11.
"God doesn't play dice with the Universe."
- Albert Einstein
"Einstein, stop telling God what to do."
- Niels Bohr
'YOUR DOCTORS MADE no mistake,” the great physician said. “It was a stroke.” Her name was Imbrociano. In the field of anatomical damage and regeneration, she had no peers.
Kea unconsciously gripped the numbness that was his left arm. Remembered his helplessness on Destiny I when it had been bound to him. This time, however, it was his whole left side that was useless. Imbrociano nodded at his arm. “We can get that going again,” she said. “Nerve implants will do the trick. Some rather complicated rewiring should take care of the rest. Although I should warn… you will be definitely weakened.”
Kea steadied himself. He needed courage now. “That was not my greatest concern,” he said. “What about the remainder of their diagnosis?”
The physician sighed. “Unfortunately for you, I have no quarrel with that either,” she said. “There is a good chance it will happen again. There’s no telling when. A week? A year? More? I can’t say. But I can say… it is unlikely you will survive a second attack.”
Kea laughed. Harsh. “You’re not much on bedside manner,” he said.
Imbrociano shrugged. “Lies are time consuming,” she said. “And time is something you are definitely lacking.”
Kea laughed again. This time, it was a full-bodied chortle. The joke was on him. Hadn’t one of his last thoughts been about the emperors who held dominance over time?
But not all time, he thought.
Not biological time.
Imbrociano peered at him, then nodded, satisfied. “You’re taking it well,” she said. “No hysteria.”
“I’m not the type,” Kea answered.
“No. I guess you wouldn’t be… Mr. President.” She rose to go. Kea raised a hand to stop her. “My staff spoke to you about the need for secrecy?”
Imbrociano shuddered. “They stressed it… quite intensely. Really, sir. There was no need for threats. President or not, you are my patient. I have my oath.”
“Forgive their enthusiasm,” Kea said. Dry. Thinking that if his enemies got wind of Kea’s illness, they could soon change her mind. “I’d be in your debt,” he said, “if you stayed on… until I decide what to do next.”
“You’re still considering surgery,” she asked, “even though the ordeal is most likely to be pointless?”
“I’ll let you know,” Kea said.
She left, a puzzled woman. But no more puzzled than Kea. What was he thinking? What could he do? The best physician in the Federation had just told him he was doomed. His advisers were urging him to choose a successor. Meaning one of them. Unspoken—but implicit—in their constant hammering was that it was also time to reveal the source of Anti-Matter Two.
If I die now, he thought, the system—that perfect system—he had designed would automatically shut down. All traces wiped. And the secret of AM2 would die with him. The system had been the only real protection against his enemies. A shield of knowledge against their assassins. But what was the point of it now? Without AM2, the Federation would collapse. All his work for nothing.
So? Giving them the secret would be worse, wouldn’t it? There would be terrible wars over control of AM2. He’d run the progs countless times. Each time the death toll burst through the top of the scale.
It was too late to produce an heir. Besides, he had dismissed that prospect from the beginning. He knew too much about kings and their children. They lived miserable lives waiting to succeed. Sometimes plotting against their parent. Almost always overseeing the death of the kingdom that parent had built. You had to look no further than the Bargetas to see the deterioration from generation to generation.
Enough wandering. He had to make up his mind. Who should succeed him? Who could he trust with the secret of AM2?
The answer came back: No one.
I must decide, he argued. I have no other choice.
There must be another option, came the insistent voice. There must be.
But… everyone has to die… Eventually.
But we’re different, the voice said. Special. We know a thing no one else knows. A great pure thing that sets us apart from anyone who lives now… or has ever lived before.
Kea wrestled with this insanity—for he thought he must have gone insane—for a long time. Finally, he slept. Floating. Dreamless. Aides and nurses monitored him. Noted the peacefulness of the bio charts.
He awakened. Refreshed. Alert. Ravenous.
He sent for his breakfast.
And he sent for Imbrociano.
She answered all his questions, then listened closely as he outlined his proposal. Calmly. Dispassionately.
“Yes. I could do it,” she finally said. “I could build a living body… a human form… exactly like yours. There are theoretical obstacles, to be certain. But with the right team and sufficient funds… it could be done.”
“Then you’ll do it?’ Kea asked.
“No. I won’t.”
“Why not, for godsakes?”
“You can’t deny death, Mr. President,” she said. “And that’s what you’re doing. You must see this whole thing is highly irrational. I can make a copy of you. Duplicate you. But… I can’t make that new organism be you.”
“What would be the difference?” Kea pressed. “If it had all my thoughts… my knowledge… my motivations… identical cells… all the stuff that makes me… then it would be me. Wouldn’t it?”
Imbrociano sighed. “I’m a doctor. Not a philosopher. A philosopher could better explain the difference.”
“I can make you very rich,” Kea said. “Bestow many honors.”
“1 know,” Imbrociano said. “Enough to overcome even my ethics. But if I participated in such an endeavor—and succeeded—I can’t help but think I would more likely be signing my own death warrant. It would be dangerous knowledge, you must admit.”
“I thought of that,” Kea said. “However, for you to accomplish what I have in mind will most likely take the rest of your professional life. It will be a very secure, very lavish life. This I guarantee.”
Imbrociano thought for a long time. Then she said, “If I don’t do this, you’ll find someone else. Albeit not as skilled.”
“Yes, I will,” Kea said.
“Which would once again leave me in jeopardy. For knowing too much.”
“This is true,” Kea said. Flat.
“We’d better get to work, then,” Imbrociano said. “We might not have much time.”
NEXT: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
***** STEN #1 DEBUTS IN SPANISH!
Told in four parts, Episode One now appearing in Diaspar Magazine, the best SF&F magazine in South America! And it's free! Here's the link.
Sten debuta # 1 en español! Narrada en cuatro partes, Episode One ahora aparece en la revista Diaspar, la mejor revista de SF & F en América del Sur!
Relive the fabulous four-day Stregg-laced celebration. Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. New recipes from the Eternal Emperor's kitchen. Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. Sten's thrill-packed exploits at the Emp's castle. How to make your own Stregg. And, did I mention, Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever?
Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.
The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 115,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Amazon.com. Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!