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Tad Williams

A Stark And Wormy Knight

And Ministers of Grace

The seed whispers, sings, offers, instructs.

A wise man of the homeworld once said, “Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” Everything is possible for a committed man or woman. The universe is in our reach.

Visit the Orgasmium — now open 24 hours. We take Senior Credits. The Orgasmium — where YOU come first!

Your body temperature is normal. Your stress levels are normal, tending toward higher than normal. If this trend continues, you are recommended to see a physician.

I’m almost alive! And I’m your perfect companion — I’m entirely portable. I want to love you. Come try me. Trade my personality with friends. Join the fun!

Comb properties now available. Consult your local environment node. Brand new multi-family and single- family dwellings, low down payment with government entry loans…!

Commodity prices are up slightly on the Sackler Index at this hour, despite a morning of sluggish trading. The Prime Minister will detail her plans to reinvigorate the economy in her speech to Parliament…

A wise woman of the homeworld once said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.”

His name is Lamentation Kane and he is a Guardian of Covenant — a holy assassin. His masters have placed a seed of blasphemy in his head. It itches like unredeemed sin and fills his skull with foul pagan noise.

The faces of his fellow travelers on the landing shuttle are bored and vacuous. How can these infidels live with this constant murmur in their heads? How can they survive and stay sane with the constant pinpoint flashing of attention signals at the edge of vision, the raw, sharp pulse of a world bristling and burbling with information?

It is like being stuck in a hive of insects, Kane thinks — insects doing their best to imitate human existence without understanding it. He longs for the sweet, singular voice of Spirit, soothing as cool water on inflamed skin. Always before, no matter the terrors of his mission, that voice has been with him, soothing him, reminding him of his holy purpose. All his life, Spirit has been with him. All his life until now.

Humble yourselves therefore under the strong hand of God, so that He may raise you up in due time.

Sweet and gentle like spring rain. Unlike this unending drizzle of filth, each word Spirit has ever spoken has been precious, bright like silver.

Cast all your burdens on Him, for He cares for you. Be in control of yourself and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Those were the last words Spirit spoke to him before the military scientists silenced the Word of God and replaced it with the endless, godless prattle of the infidel world, Archimedes.

For the good of all mankind, they assured him: Lamentation Kane must sin again so that one day all men would be free to worship God. Besides, the elders pointed out, what was there for him to fear? If he succeeds and escapes Archimedes the pagan seed will be removed and Spirit will speak in his thoughts again. If he does not escape — well, Kane will hear the true voice of God at the foot of His mighty throne. Well done, my good and faithful servant…

Beginning descent. Please return to pods, the pagan voices chirp in his head, prickling like nettles. Thank you for traveling with us. Put all food and packaging in the receptacle and close it. This is your last chance to purchase duty-free drugs and alcohol. Cabin temperature is 20 degrees centigrade. Pull the harness snug. Beginning descent. Cabin pressure stable. Lander will detach in twenty seconds. Ten seconds. Nine seconds. Eight seconds…

It never ends, and each godless word burns, prickles, itches.

Who needs to know so much about nothing?

A child of one of the Christian cooperative farms on Covenant’s flat and empty plains, he was brought to New Jerusalem as a candidate for the elite Guardian unit. When he saw for the first time the white towers and golden domes of his planet’s greatest city, Kane had been certain that Heaven would look just that way. Now, as Hellas City rises up to meet him, capitol of great Archimedes and stronghold of his people’s enemies, it is bigger than even his grandest, most exaggerated memories of New Jerusalem — an immense sprawl with no visible ending, a lumpy white and gray and green patchwork of complex structures and orderly parks and lacy polyceramic web skyscrapers that bend gently in the cloudy upper skies like an oceanic kelp forest. The scale is astounding. For the first time ever in his life, Lamentation Kane has a moment of doubt — not in the rightness of his cause, but in the certainty of its victory.

But he reminds himself of what the Lord told Joshua: Behold I have given into thy hands Jericho, and the king thereof, and all the valiant men…

Have you had a Creemy Crunch today? It blares through his thoughts like a klaxon. You want it! You need it! Available at any food outlet. Creemy Crunch makes cream crunchy! Don’t be a bitch, Mom! Snag me a CC — or three!

The devil owns the Kingdom of Earth. A favorite saying of one of his favorite teachers. But even from his high throne he cannot see the City of Heaven.

Now with a subdermal glow-tattoo in every package! Just squeeze it in under the skin — and start shining!

Lord Jesus, protect me in this dark place and give me strength to do your work once more, Kane prays. I serve You. I serve Covenant.

It never stops, and only gets more strident after the lander touches down and they are ushered through the locks into the port complex. Remember the wise words, air quality is in the low thirties on the Teng Fuo scale today. First OK? time visitors to Archimedes go here, returning go there, where to stand, what to say, what to have ready. Restaurants, news feeds, information for transportation services, overnight accommodations, immigration law, emergency services, yammer yammer yammer until Kane wants to scream. He stares at the smug citizens of Archimedes around him and loathes every one of them. How can they walk and smile and talk to each other with this Babel in their heads, without God in their hearts?

Left. Follow the green tiles. Left. Follow the green tiles. They aren’t even people, they can’t be — just crude imitations. And the variety of voices with which the seed bedevils him! High-pitched, low-pitched, fast and persuasive, moderately slow and persuasive, adult voices, children’s voices, accents of a dozen sorts, most of which he can’t even identify and can barely understand. His blessed Spirit is one voice and one voice only and he longs for her desperately. He always thinks of Spirit as “her”, although it could just as easily be the calm, sweet voice of a male child. It doesn’t matter. Nothing as crass as earthly sexual distinctions matter, any more than with God’s holy angels. Spirit has been his constant companion since childhood, his advisor, his inseparable friend. But now he has a pagan seed in his brain and he may never hear her blessed voice again.

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. That’s what Spirit told him the night he was baptized, the night she first spoke to him. Six years old. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

He cannot think of that. He will not think of anything that might undermine his courage for the mission, of course, but there is a greater danger: some types of thoughts, if strong enough, can trigger the port’s security E- Grams, which can perceive certain telltale patterns, especially if they are repeated.

A wise man of the homeworld once said, “Man is the measure of all things…” The foreign seed doesn’t want him thinking of anything else, anyway

Have you considered living in Holyoake Harbor? another voice asks, cutting through the first. Only a twenty- minute commute to the business district, but a different world of ease and comfort.

…And of things which are not, that they are not, the first voice finishes, swimming back to the top. Another

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