In the Hall of the Martian King

BOOK: In the Hall of the Martian King
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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.

Cover design by Don Puckey / Shasti O’Leary Soudant

Cover illustration by Matt Stawicki


Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at

First eBook Edition: April 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-56014-6



Copyright Page

CHAPTER 1: Everyone Knows Your Uncle

CHAPTER 2: Your Special Little Princess

CHAPTER 3: I Have the Most Complete Confidence in You

CHAPTER 4: Not the Most Useless Person on the Team

CHAPTER 5: If You Can Pull It Off, You’re In Out of the Cold

CHAPTER 6: Don’t Expect My Call Anytime Soon

CHAPTER 7: Utterly Contrary to Policy

CHAPTER 8: How Is Up to You

CHAPTER 9: A Double-Sided Snipe Hunt

CHAPTER 10: A Panty Raid Is Not Standard Procedure

CHAPTER 11: The Third Purpose of a Rubahy Dagger

CHAPTER 12: A Reasonable Assessment of My Performance Is Total Failure

CHAPTER 13: In the Hall of the Martian King

CHAPTER 14: All Right, What’s the Plan?

CHAPTER 15: Find Your Path




“We knew from some of his notes and letters that Nakasen kept a lifelog from very early on—”

Jak all but gasped. A lifelog was a record, maintained by an AI complex running in background on one’s purse, downloaded into
a more permanent location at every opportunity. The AI complex watched from your purse through all the years and events of
your life, snapping copies of everything that might be of interest to a biographer—rough drafts, messages to friends, shopping
orders, school work, anything—keeping a running organization and catalog as it went. Nakasen was humanity’s greatest single
religious teacher. Finding Mohammed’s home movies, Jesus’ agent’s appointment calendar (with the rough draft of the Sermon
on the Mount folded between the pages), and Buddha’s complete sent-email file would not have been as important.


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

A Princess of the Aerie

For Sean Walbeck. Lose the hat.

“Since people will say everything in the world about Jak Jinnaka, now, as long as it’s bad—maybe I should say something true
and simple. We met just casually, before either of us was anybody, and then we were friends, and then we stayed friends while
we worked together as colleagues, then I took on that assignment you keep harping about (which I was
so glad to have failed at), and then there was our long period of a close relationship. In all that time, he never brought
up any of our past. We were what we were to each other, right then. From that first mission to the Harmless Zone when

right up until the moment those

and I lost my best and oldest friend, Jak Jinnaka always just accepted that your relationship was what it was right then,
whether he was your tove, your pizo, your target—or your lover.

“Of course I know which of those relationships you want me to talk about, masen? There’s only two really interesting subjects,
sex and violence … which should I start with? And do you mind if I ask you something? Are you aware that for a media heet,
you’re an exceptionally attractive young man? Would you mind sitting here, a little closer, so I don’t have to raise my voice?”

From “Looking Back on a Long, Eventful Life: Jinnaka’s Onetime Mistress, Would-Be Assassin Says She’d Do It All Again,”
Reasonably True news,
vol. 1344, Story 336, page 9, see catalog for over one million Jinnaka stillpix.

Everyone Knows Your Uncle

ak Jinnaka swam through the air carefully, watching where he was going, because even the widest tunnels swarmed with Deimons.
His face was less than half a meter from the feet of the girl in front of him, and the small child behind him occasionally
tugged Jak’s ankle. The tunnel seemed dim even with the bright central light, for almost nothing reflected from the glass-coated
gray-brown natural rock of Deimos.

Tunnels on Deimos were crowded even at midshift, because there were as few tunnels as possible. According to a report Jak
was supposed to annotate, drilling new tunnels on Deimos cost more than on any other airless, low-gravity world in the solar
system, because the waste you bored out was mostly chon. Deimos circled Mars, which was literally covered with chon, so it
was like having a sand quarry near the Sahara.

Jak was glad he could link
Hive Army Report 737FEB08F26: Current economics of construction at Hive Possession Deimos,
with the fact that he was perpetually about to bounce his face off the girl’s sneakers.

Most of the airswimmers were in uniform—bureaucrats, maintenance workers, Army, and crewies (many in the black-with-red uniform
of the Spatial; most of the young women were depilated, another depressing feature of Greasy Rock, as every non-Deimon called
the place whenever there were no Deimons apt to hear (or whenever they wanted to fight a Deimon).

As it was for billions of workers around the solar system, midshift break was, too often, the highlight of Jak’s day. And
it always began with a very stale joke.

Jinnaka could not help that he spoke Standard with the fast, flat, nasal accent of the Hive, stubbing his consonants and barely
opening his jaw; he had grown up on the Hive, he had only been away from it for brief periods, and it was the way everyone
else he’d grown up with talked. Thus when Jak airswam into the Sweet and Flaky, every day at fifteen-thirty, Avor Brindoneshta,
the owner, would say, “Udlakka lardubba cuffy untuh binyezzplizz.”

“Ahem,” Jak said, trying to sound like an unusually stuffy actor showing off his diction, “I would very much like to purchase
a large, double-strength coffee, and two beignets, if you please, and I would like that with some
humor, now that we have established that I talk funny.”

Avor smiled and shook his head. “Old pizo, I don’t think you’re ever going to pull off an air of wounded dignity. Are you
going to sit in the centrifuge, or hang out here at the counter so I can make fun of you?”

“Serve it for micrograv,” Jak said, hooking his feet into the stirrups of the stool. “If your life isn’t too busy.”

“Only if I get a rush, and who can predict that?
Eros’s Torch
is due but the quarkjet liner crowd goes to lighter places than mine. You didn’t bring work with you today? Shouldn’t you
be working out complicated rules to mess up citizens’ lives?”

“Probably I should, but my brain aches and I’m falling asleep at my desk.” Jak sighed. Besides the food, the Sweet and Flaky’s
other attraction was that Avor was always willing to listen to him complain.

The year before, to the surprise of everyone who had known him when he was younger, Jak had graduated with honors from the
Hive’s Public Service Academy, and been chosen late in the first round of the Agency Draft. It was good to be in the first
round, but better to be early in it; Hive Intel, the Spatial, the Army, and the other glamorous fast-track agencies picked
first. Jak had been drafted by the Protectorates Administrative Services Corps.

PASC administered the strategic real estate that the Hive had acquired via the not-unrelated factors of being the largest
single nation in the solar system, unbeaten in war for more than four hundred years, and the possessor of the largest Spatial
in history.

Deimos, Mars’s outer moon, was vital to the Hive as a military and intelligence base against the Martian nations, a trading
post, and a political base of operations for preventing Martian reunification. It was invaluable as a counterbalance to the
Jovian League base on Phobos. For a flying mountain of tar with less volume than any of the major volcanoes on Mars below
it, Deimos was an important place.

“Tell you what your problem is, pizo,” Avor said. “You’re spoiled three different ways, and it’s hard to get over all three
of them at once.”

Jak took a sugary bite of fresh, hot beignet. “So, nothing short of the sun blowing up would stop you from telling me, masen?”

Avor grinned at him. “Toktru, pizo. One, you’re spoiled because you grew up on the Hive, and you’re not used to living on
a big military base. Two, you’re spoiled because you grew up rich, and you could always buy more amusements, and we don’t
have nearly as many for sale here. And three, you’re
spoiled because you’ve had two big adventures in your life, running and scrambling and getting shot at and barely getting
away. Compared to that, sitting at a desk and deciding whether or not to permit a mercantile company to open a department
store in Malecandra Pleasure City is pretty dull. Oh, and four: you also got to stick it in a princess.”

Only his Uncle Sib, or perhaps Dujuv or Myxenna (his oldest toves), would have been able to tell that Avor’s casual teasing
had wracked Jak like a backhand to the balls. Jak’s eyelids tensed slightly, his breathing hitched, and for a fraction of
a second, his jaw muscles pulsed. Jak’s two great adventures had both been directly caused by his having had, as his high
school demmy, the sweet but vague Sesh Kiroping—later revealed as secretly Shyf Karrinynya, Crown Princess of Greenworld and
utter bitch on wheels. In his first great adventure, Jak had rescued Sesh/Shyf, and made many friends; in his second, she
had nearly enslaved him with the psychological conditioning techniques that the aristos used to create perfectly loyal servants
and to destroy captive enemies. She had then set him to tasks that had cost him most of those friends.

Even now, Shyf’s name, spoken aloud, sent a tremor through Jak’s guts and made him feel heart-ripping insanely sixteen-years-old-and-fresh-in-love
again. A casual reference to sex with her could send Jak to the brink of a killing rage; unfavorable stories about her on
news accesscasts sent him into depression; and each message from her made his heart scream upward in pure joy.

“On the other hand,” Jak said, marveling that Avor had no awareness of how close he had come to a broken neck, “objectively,
my life
very dull, which is scientifically proven to cause boredom.
it’s about to be duller, because Waxajovna removed anything that requires judgment or initiative from the in-box.”

Avor shook his head, smiling sympathetically. “You aren’t going to be here for long,” he said. “Whether you realize it or
not, you aren’t. Reeb Waxajovna is.” Waxajovna, Jak’s boss, had been Procurator of Deimos for ninety-five years. “He’s been
here forever and he’ll stay here till they fire him out the casket launcher. But all vice-ps leave within a couple of years.
Either they aren’t good at things, and Reeb gets rid of them for the good of Deimos, or they
good at things, and Reeb gets rid of them for the good of Reeb. He’ll find some perfect position for you somewhere else,
as soon as he can.”

Till Jak unbelted from his seat to leave, the rest of the conversation was about the chances of Deimos’s minor-league slamball
team. Then, as Jak gripped his stool to push off, Avor added, “Don’t worry about getting stuck here. That’s not going to happen.
You’ll get out of here like everyone else. Nakasen’s pink hairy bottom, old pizo, that’s what I envy you most. Every few days
I think about selling the Sweet and Flaky and moving back to the Hive. I’m past two hundred years old now and I still like
to talk to people, but it would be nice to talk about something new.”

“What are you tired of talking about?”

BOOK: In the Hall of the Martian King
13.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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