Read Empyrion I: The Search for Fierra Online

Authors: Stephen Lawhead

Tags: #Science Fiction, #sf, #sci-fi, #extra-terrestrial, #epic, #adventure, #alternate worlds, #alternate civilizations, #Alternate History, #Time travel

Empyrion I: The Search for Fierra

Empyrion I: The Search for Fierra

Copyright © 1985 by Stephen R. Lawhead

ePub ISBN 978-0-9567731-3-5

Mobi ISBN 978-0-9567731-2-8

 

Published electronically by Lawhead Books

Visit
www.stephenlawhead.com

 

Published in the United States of America

All rights reserved

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Cover design by Lina Bronson

Cover photo from NASA Archive

 

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Other books by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Dragon King Trilogy

In the Hall of the Dragon King
The Warlords of Nin
The Sword and the Flame

Dream Thief

The Empyrion Saga

The Search for Fierra
The Siege of Dome

The Pendragon Cycle

Taliesin
Merlin
Arthur
Pendragon
Grail
Avalon

The Song of Albion

The Paradise War
The Silver Hand
The Endless Knot

Byzantium

The Celtic Crusades

The Iron Lance
The Black Rood
The Mystic Rose

Patrick

The King Raven Trilogy

Hood
Scarlet
Tuck

Bright Empires

The Skin Map
The Bone House (2011)

The Search for Fierra

Empyrion I

by

Stephen R. Lawhead

Forward to the 2011 electronic edition

It's said that even
a stopped clock tells the correct time twice a day. The same can be said about virtually every SF writer: stuck in your own time, you're still bound to get some predictions right. Thus, I take particular satisfaction in publishing this electronic version of a twenty-five-year-old book that imagined something called a ‘laserfile reader’ — a device similar to the one you're holding right now to read this.

Everything else that was got wrong will not, I hope, prove too great a distraction to your enjoyment, for the EMPYRION SAGA – consisting of
The Search for Fierra
and
The Siege of Dome
– is not an attempt to predict the future. It is, like most works of science fiction, about explaining and understanding the present. In 1985, when the first volume was written, two superpowers vied for world supremacy. One championed individual freedom, the other limited it in the name of a collective good. Both were armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons (still are), and no one was setting a date for an end to the Cold War. The Doomsday Clock was set just a few minutes before midnight in the mid-80s, and like everyone else, my mind was occupied with these matters. As a consequence, my characters were, too.

Rereading my own book, I remember the thrill of fearlessly inventing two divergent cultures, each with its own landscape, political and social hierarchy, creation myths and religion. And I remember how fun it was to give characters names such as Orion Treet, Asquith Pizzle, and Giloon Bogney.

Perhaps this sort of fantasizing was always my first love – an affair born of countless hours in the library stacks with Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and Kurt Vonnegut. And maybe it's significant that I've returned to it in recent years. For if we cannot creatively and bravely envision a redemptive future – and do it with a certain degree of humour — what hope is there for the world we must one day inhabit?

 

Stephen Lawhead

Oxford
2011

And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink Eastward, Springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and ah! bright Wings.

—G. M. Hopkins,
God's Grandeur

The Search for Fierra

Empyrion I

PRELUDE

Transcript #2-1BX = EMP

V1: [Static] We're down! And it's beautiful! Wonderful!

V2: It's heaven! It really is.

V1: All probe data confirms observational analysis. Geoscience Officer Tovardy will dispatch a brief preliminary report.

V2: Okay—

V1: Keep it short, Ben.

V2: Right—just the highlights. Atmosphere is thin, but friendly—high oxygen and nitrogen content; other gas ratios well within normal tolerances—except for minute levels of rardon ionization in the inert sectors. No idea at present what affect that will have on free-breathing; we'll check that out. Weather—there's no weather to speak of here! It's Hawaii every day. No observed cyclonic disturbances; projected climatic variation: negligible. Flora and fauna? This is a fairly complex environment. It's going to take time to sort everything out properly. At present no known pathogenic lifeforms identified. No sentient life either, for that matter. Like I said, the place is an absolute paradise! That's it for now. Full report to follow.

[ten seconds silence]

V1: Okay, let's take a look … How long ago did this happen?

V3:Three minutes maybe … not more.

VI: Ground control, we've got a situation here. We're not sure …

[static—two seconds]

… event monitors have picked up electromagnetic disturbances that could indicate …

[static—four seconds]

—anomaly in singularity region. Don't know what it means. We'll stay on it at this end. Next dispatch will be at our regularly scheduled time. This is Empyrion Colony Com—

[static—five seconds]

End of Transcript

ONE

The body staring up
through the translucent green of the nutrient bath might have been dead. It floated beneath the surface, open-eyed, its face becalmed, a snaking nimbus of dark hair spreading like a black halo: a saint embalmed in emerald amber.

Presently a small bubble formed on the rim of one nostril, puffed up bigger, and broke free, spiraling to the surface. Plick! This was followed by another slightly larger bubble, which also spun up to the surface of the bath, drifted momentarily, and burst. Plick!

A whole fountain of bubbles erupted and boiled up, and in the center, rising with them, the head of Orion Tiberias Treet, sputtering and inhaling great draughts of air, like a whale breeching after a long nap on the ocean floor.

Two broad hands came up, dashing liquid from two dark eyes, pushing ropy strands of hair aside. Treet snatched up a watch from the rim of the white marble bath and held it before his face. “Six minutes!” he shouted triumphantly. “A new record.”

“I'm impressed.”

Treet glanced up quickly and saw a stranger sitting on the edge of the bath opposite him. The stranger had a needle gun aimed at his throat, and, contrary to his word, did not seem at all impressed with the new submergence record. Besides himself and the gunman, there was not another person in the public bath.

“What do you want?” Treet asked, the skin at his throat tingling beneath the aim of the needle gun.

“I have what I want: you,” replied the gunman. Cool menace clipped his words efficiently. “Get out of the soup and get dressed.”

Orion Treet glared dully at the slim needle gun in his abductor's hand as he rose slowly from the bath, took up the fluffy white bath towel the attendant had given him upon entering, and began drying his limbs and torso with exaggerated care in order to give himself a moment to think. By the time he was fully dressed he had concluded that it was probably no use trying to talk his way out of whatever it was this stranger with the gun wanted to do with him—he looked like a man who was used to having his way, and was not overly shy about how he got it.

“You have been a problem, Treet,” the man was saying. “I don't like problems. In my line of work, problems cost me money, and you've cost me plenty. It's over now, so you might as well relax and put that brain of yours in neutral for a while. I don't want you taxing yourself over how to get away this time. Just stand easy, do as you're told, and you'll likely live that much longer. You like living, don't you, Treet?”

Treet had to admit that he did indeed like living; it was, after all, one of the things that made life so worthwhile. But he did not share this observation with the man training the needle gun on his jugular. Instead, he just glared and tried to look dutifully irritated.

The man took a short step closer. The gun did not waver. “I almost had you in Cairo, and then again in Addis Ababa, Cologne, Zurich, Salzburg, Milan, Tokyo, and San Francisco. I've got to hand it to you, you're a shrewdy. I don't know when I've enjoyed myself more, but it's over.”

“As long as it's over,” replied Treet evenly, “maybe you won't mind telling me why you've been trailing me all this time. What do you want?” He had known since Zurich that he was being followed, but was unsure why, though several possibilities sprang to mind. Still, he felt entitled to an explanation. Wasn't that a victim's prerogative?

“I don't mind telling you at all, scumbag. There are some people who want to talk to you. They seem quite anxious, in fact. Personally I don't give a rat's hind end. I'd just as soon drop you where you stand.”

At least this meant the man would not kill him outright. But who were the people so desperate for conversation? Treet ran down a list of former employers, angry innkeepers, outraged restauranteurs, and offended debtors of various sorts, but the effort proved futile. He could not come up with anyone who would go to this amount of trouble to reach him. “So?”

“So, bright boy, we lockstep it to the nearest teleterm. I'm going to report in. Keep your hands where I can see them; turn around slowly and move. Outside there's a terminal directly to the right. If you so much as deviate one millimeter from the course, you're dead. Understand?”

Treet understood. They turned and marched from the spa and out into the main corridor of Houston International Skyport. Travelers, not a few of them free-state refugees by the tattered look of them, jammed hip to thigh, swept along the moving walkway before them, and Treet entertained the notion of jumping on the conveyor and worming himself into the crowd—a trick he had used in Salzburg. He started to turn his head, but felt the needle gun's sharp nose in the small of his back.

“Try it, slime ball. Let's see how you look with a cyanide tattoo.” The voice behind him was disconcertingly close.

“Don't get your hopes up.” Treet saw the triangular sign with the distinctive blue lightning bolt on a white oval screen and stopped in front of the booth. Passengers sliding by on the walkway ignored the two men as they squeezed into the booth together.

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