rosemary edghill: Archangel Blues

Archangel Blues


Archangel Blues [?]
by eluki bes shahar
DAW Books (1993)
ISBN: 0-88677-543-4

Chapter 1: Meet The Tiger

My name is Butterflies-are-Free Peace Sincere and I have all the trouble anyone could possibly want. People've said so. Often.

I'm beginning to believe them.

Just now I had enough different troubles that even I couldn't keep my mind on them from the beginning of the list to the end, but at the exact moment my particular trouble was a "borrowed" Imperial Battle-Yacht that hadn't read its own design specs.

I pulled the angelstick for the Drop. I saw the world outside Ghost Dance's cockpit turn to silver silk. Welcome to angeltown, the subjective mathematical convention that isn't really anywhere.

I started locking down the boards. You don't use your engines in hyperspace -- well, not much -- angeltown is what powers your goforths, and all you got to figure is how to get in and out. I was hoping it was going to be a whole bunch of hours before our mystery coordinates dumped us back out into realspace.

"Now, che-bai," I said to Baijon Stardust, ex-hellflower at large, "all we got to do is. . ."

Berathia squawked. She was looking out the canopy; I wasn't. I started back around to see what she was havering at when all kinds bells and whistles went off at once across Dance's boards and all the cockpit lights went red-green-amber and "I'm not ready for this". The goforths what was supposed to be blocked and locked woke up and redlined, the navicomp grabbed for something that wasn't there and went null-set, and I got set back on my tail in my very damned expensive mercy seat as Dance turned herself which-way loose and did something she wasn't supposed to be able to do.

She hit the Mains.

"St. Cyr!" weefed Berathia over the howl of engines gone radical, but there wasn't no point calling my name. We was on the wrong side of most of the shielding Dance had and I knew what came next.

"Close your eyes! Both of you!"

There was a blinding flare. Bad disorientation. I groped for the cockpit-opaque as hot gold Mains-light beat through my bones. An endless spiral, white-gold and furious, and our stolen starwings whipping down the center, falling infinitely faster than the speed of light.

Welcome to the Mains.


There's two kinds of not-realspace: angeltown, which anyone with a ship can get into, and the Mains. The Mains are superfast directional currents that exist in hyperspace (it says here in the Pilot's Manual): on the Mains you can cross a thousand lights in a handful of hours.

Riding the Mains makes Transit to angeltown look safe. Mainlining takes a big ship -- lots of mass -- in finestkind condition, or forget about ever making the Drop to realspace again.

I finally found the right toggle. Dance's cockpit went black and seemed-like dead silent. I shook my head to clear the non-existent roar of the Mains out of my ears and took a couple deep breaths so as not to throw up.

"San'Cyr?" Baijon said. I opened my eyes. Bright purple-green sundogs swam behind my eyes, and behind them I could see faint red as the cockpit safelights came up.

Baijon looked worried. I did my best to look trustworthy, bearing in mind that for our galactic cousins the alMayne, a smile is what they do before they kill you.

"Now you know why I never decided to be a legit stardancer, 'bai."

Baijon nodded, just like he knew what I was talking about. Company pilots top the Mains all the time. Darktraders don't. I'd used to be a darktrader, before I'd took up with treason, revolt, and hellflower honor.

"Where are we--" he started.

"Where are we going?" Berathia demanded. She shoved out of the songbird seat to come and stare at my boards, just like they was going to tell her something. "How did you cut yourself loose from Toystore's security system?"

"Why did Archangel decide to destroy Toystore and what are we going to do now?" I finished up for her, since she was making a rundown of the hot topics of my life. "And while we're on the subject, 'Thia, just what made you think you was safer with us than with somebody else?"

"We are not safe," Baijon said. Berathia smiled so as to show no hard feelings, which was pretty damn gracious of a Imperial spy what had just changed sides.

"Je." I went through locking down the boards again. "You got that right, babby."

The goforths was revving higher than they maybe ought, and from the (unshielded) cockpit the powersong was making fair inroads on my bones. I got up.

"C'mon. Dance can take care of herself for whiles."

Berathia looked past me to the hole in the cockpit farings where I'd torn out the navicomp, without which no ship can kyte. She looked at the touchpad keyboard I'd canniballed into its place so I could input coordinates direct to the Jump-computer. I bet she wondered where I'd got them, too.

The fact of the matter was that I'd been using Jump-numbers supplied to my jury-rigged navicomp by the ghost of a renegade Old Federation Library what had set up light housekeeping amongst some of my lesser-known braincells and was trying to turn me inside-out in its spare time.

Like I said. Trouble. More'n anyone could possibly want. Even me.

"Captain St. Cyr," Berathia said again, "where are we going?"

"And when do we begin to kill Archangel?" said Baijon.


If you've been following along from the beginning you can skip this part. For the rest of you, it's like this. A long time ago -- when I still had a mind of my own and a future -- I went and did the dumbest thing I ever managed in a life career of doing dumb things and rescued a hellflower from some roaring boys in a Free Port. Only the hellflower turned out to be The Honorable Puer Walks-by-Night Kennor's-son Starbringer Amrath Valijon of Chernbereth-Molkath, Third Person of House Starborn of Washonnet 357-II/alMayne -- that's Baijon Stardust for short -- in the throes of his first attempt at being murdered.

Somebody'd let him shag off from his consular ship without ID in the pious hope that either the law or the natives of a little piece of lazy-fair called Wanderweb Free Port would sign the lease on his real estate in short order.

The reason for this gets complicated. It starts out that once upon a time the Nobly-Born Governor General His Imperial Highness the TwiceBorn Prince Mallorum Archangel -- what I'd just gave the slip to for the second time lately -- decided he wanted to put the Azarine Coalition in his pocket and walk off in the direction of becoming Emperor his own self, the Azarine Coalition being the sum total of all the mercenaries available in your Phoenix Empire and mine.

For any number of rude reasons, the only way to do that was to rewrite the Gordinar Canticles that govern the Coalition and abrogate the hell out of Azarine Coalition Neutrality.

Archangel couldn't do that while Baijon's father Kennor Starbringer was president of that same Coalition, Kennor Starbringer being a Constructionist who took Coalition Neutrality to bed with him at night.

Anybody with political weltschmerz would say it looked like Kennor was after having a lifespan measurable in centimeters, but offing Kennor direct would just stir up bad trouble back on alMayne. So nobody was going to do that -- they was just going to arrange for Kennor to become a Official alMayne Nonperson and Imperial criminal by murdering Kennor's son.

That was Baijon. If Baijon died, Kennor would either have to avenge his death (illegal in the Empire) or not avenge it (illegal on alMayne). Either way Kennor got himself removed from the catbird seat.

Only it didn't work that way -- because I rescued Baijon back at that Free Port, remember? So Baijon just vanished and put all of Kennor's problems on hold.

Until I did stupid thing number two. . I brought him back to his da. And in the process the two of us tripped over the fact that Mallorum Archangel, Imperial Prince, Governor-General, and second in line for the Throne, was elbow-deep in a scheme to use infinitely-illegal Old Federation Technology to take over the universe.

There is a serious down in the Empire on the possession -- nevermind the use -- of what the Technology Police calls Inappropriate Technology -- which is among other things everything that came out of the last astropolitical unit to work this neighborhood, the Old Federation. The Old Fed isn't around any more, because about a thousand years ago -- back when our friendly neighborhood Phoenix Empire wasn't even a twinkle in the Federation's eye -- some bright kiddy came up with the notion of putting pure intellect in a box and calling it a Library.

And since the Federales thought they had more important things to do with their time, they turned over the running of their Federation to the Libraries and made it so Libraries could build more Libraries.


Because -- so the story goes -- the Libraries had more important things to do with their time too, and thought that organic life clashed with their decor.

There was a war. And ten centuries later the Empire is still hunting the nonexistent surviving Libraries from that war.

Mostly nonexistent.

Because Archangel'd got his hands on one -- the second I'd ever seen, but that's another long story. Archangel's Library was a Final Weapon called Archive, and it was little consolation to anyone that it'd of ate him for brekkers if me and my ex-partner hadn't iced it first.

Paladin. My partner, the Library.


And you would think that with Archive gone, Brother Archangel's problems in the realm of having something he oughtn't was nonfiction, but the Tech Police don't work that way, and Archangel couldn't be sure how many of them'd stay bought. He was still in as much trouble as he'd ever been.

I knew it. Kennor knew it. Baijon knew it. And Archangel knew we knew it. In fact, just as soon as Brother Mallorum had his hand in the Old Fed Tech cookie jar it'd be obvious to anyone with more brains than I had that the next place Archangel was going was the largest and only legit cache of Old Fed Tech inside the Empire's borders -- the Logotek of the WarCollege at Wailing on alMayne.

So Archangel went on to Step Two, and Kennor Starbringer turned out not to be as standup as popularly advertised.

Earlier in our last exciting episode, Kennor'd sent me and Baijon off to Washonnet 357-II/alMayne. He told us it was for a ship and papers, so Baijon and me could take off and hide in the never-never and Archangel couldn't get holt of Baijon to frame Kennor to resign. I knew from the git-go it was a con, but I had it by the wrong end.

I thought Kennor's plan was to execute Baijon (who would never be safe while he was a way in to Kennor anyway) and frame me for it.

Kennor thought Kennor's plan was to have Baijon accuse Archangel of High Book -- that's Chapter 5 of the Revised Inappropriate Technology Act of the 975th Year of Imperial Grace (all rights reserved) -- and raise the hellflowers against the Empire, which would interfere nicely with Archangel's plan to annex the alMayne WarCollege and steal all its Old Fed Tech to help him rebuild the Library Archive what Baijon and me'd blown up with a little help from our friends. If there was one thing hellflowers hated worse than death and hell and chaudatu it was what they called The Machine and the rest of the universe called Libraries, so anybody saying Archangel was a Librarian ought to get everybody's cooperation un quel toot de sweet, right?

What Kennor didn't realize was that Archangel'd swung a good bloc of the home vote back on sunny alMayne.

Hellflowers is xenophobes almost more'n they's technophobes, and Archangel won the heart of Baijon's aunt -- who was the Dowager Regnant of alMayne in her spare time -- by promising to seal alMayne up tight, give it Interdicted status, and not let the chaudatu bite.

So instead of getting a ship and a crusade when we showed up on alMayne at Kennor's corkscrew behest, Baijon and me started a civil war: hellflower against hellflower, and all over the musical question of Was Mallorum Archangel Really a Librarian (or Malmakosim, which means something a tad bit different in helltongue) and if he wasn't, was there any such thing as a Library anyway?

Baijon and me got out of there about six minutes ahead of the faction as wanted to look for the answer in our entrails, and copped a ride with a Gentry-legger I knew, what was running street-lethals in to a place called Royal.


Because in one of the galaxy's better coincidences, our free ride off alMayne was the ship originally hired by Kennor Starbringer to take me, Baijon, and a surprise package to Royal -- something none of us knew at the time. The surprise package was a decoy so that Kennor could get the real Brightlaw Prototype from a place called Toystore and take it to somewheres else what probably ain't there no more either at the rate Archangel's re-arranging stars.

The Brightlaw Prototype, to put it mildly, is a fake Library that does what it's told. Something so close to Old Fed Tech anathema that when the real thing came along Kennor Starbringer didn't blink twice. Brother Kennor'd been hip-deep in anathema for years.

Because Kennor meant Archangel to do just what Archangel did -- hellbomb Royal to destroy the mythical Brightlaw Prototype and do it with a weapon that only an Old Federation Library could build. Kennor'd planned Royal to make Archangel show himself high wide and public. To make Archangel his own self trigger the High Book investigation that would bring The TwiceBorn Lord Prince Mallorum Archangel down.

Kennor hoped.

Kennor'd paid out ten billion people he didn't own to get Archangel. He'd spent his only son. But the Empire held billions more. Prey for Archangel.

Saved by Kennor. If his plan worked.

Only Archangel'd had a different plan. Archangel's plan had been to bomb Royal and say the hellflowers'd done it. People might even of believed him long enough for him to pull his smash-and-grab on the WarCollege logotek and get his hands on another Library. With what he'd learned from Library Archive he could put a living one together from the bits and pieces there.

I knew he could. Because I could. Because whiles back I'd got a ringside seat at the fight where my good buddy Paladin took the evil Library Archive apart. And because it was so up close and personal, Archive'd made sure that Paladin didn't just copy Archive into Paladin.

Archive'd copied its own self into me too. At least parts of it. Enough so I could plug a computer into my head and not go mad. Enough so I could be the navicomp for a starship.

Enough so I thought like a Library. Permanent, incurable, and getting worse.

There was really only one thing worth doing in the time I had left until I forgot I was me.

Kill Mallorum Archangel.

And make sure nobody else used Old Fed Tech to start a war.

Any questions?



We'd got down to Dance's galley, safe on the cuddly side of the shielding. Baijon was standing over me holding a hot box of tea in a way what told me he'd been standing there whiles.

One of Baijon's purposes in life was to cut off my head as soon as I forgot which side of the organic life fence I was on. The other was to kill Mallorum Archangel. As soon as he got as close as he could get to doing both things he'd be dead too, because in our last thrilling installment, Archangel'd run Baijon's hellflower arthame through a molecular debonder. No Knife, no hellflower. Suicide follows, details at eleven.

But Baijon'd found something more important than doing right by hellflower honor. Its name was Archangel.

I took the tea.

That only left Berathia Notevan unaccounted for. I looked at her.

"Now, jillybai. You was just about to explain why it was you decided to jump a burning Toystore with us."

"Well, no one expected Prince Mallorum to. . ." she trailed off, thinking of Toystore going up like a roaming candle, the Empire's largest sink of outlaw technology gone to smoke and mirrors in the blink of a illegal Fleet.

"He's gone mad. We have to warn the Court."

If she meant the Court of the TwiceBorn back at dear old Grand Central the seat of Empire she'd been out in the starshine too long. The only way the Emperor and his good buddies was going to listen to me and mine was on tape in the past tense, Library, rogue AI, or not.

"And will your chaudatu Court listen, when it is Archangel who leads them -- Archangel, whose shadow taints all with his corruption? Archangel who--"

"Archangel who destroyed Toystore trying to get his hands on the Brightlaw AI your father built, Prince Valijon!" Berathia came right back.

"Button it!" I shouted. Both of them looked at me.

Berathia's hole-and-corner escape hadn't dented her much. She was still Imperial Image from her spike-heeled moldfast sandals to the high-ticket A-grav play-pretties holding up her hair. She'd been Kennor's holecard on alMayne -- and if Kennor'd been the one who'd built the Brightlaw AI, she'd been the one who assigned the work.

And she'd jumped sides at Toystore. Why?

"It's like this, 'Thia. I need Baijon, and I like Baijon, and I want Baijon. Can't say most of those things about you. Ship Ghost Dance has real reet air lock. Maybe you give me some good reason you shouldn't inspect it from outside?"

"I can be useful." Berathia licked her lips, playing scared, but playing was what it was and I knew that for stone truth.

"How?" Baijon said, all scorn. I kept forgetting how young he was. Grown-up to the hellflowers, maybe, but only fourteen Imperial Standard Years to the rest of us. And if there was anything our boy liked less than chaudatu, it was chaudatu spies.

"Back on Toystore you said you wanted Mallorum Archangel. I can get him for you."

Baijon lit up. He bought the pony and forgave 'Thia all her genetics.

"Which is why you was so wishful to kyte with us, 'Thia? Get real," I said. Baijon might not of had all the stardust knocked out of him yet, but my suspicions had just come back cleaned and blocked from their thirty million klik overhaul.

"Do you think you can get to him alone? Mallorum Archangel is second in line for the Phoenix Throne. He's the Imperial Governor-General, one of the Court of the TwiceBorn. Even if everything you have to say about him is true, you'll never get within a dozen lights of him without a collar and leash," Berathia wheedled.

"Ne, jillybai. I can get to him." I held up my left arm, the one that ain't real anymore since I met all Baijon's relations. Now it's cybereisis prosthetics, jinked terreckly into my brain. I'd lost three of the fake fingers at the same party Baijon lost his Knife. I wiggled what I had left and the universal connectors I'd black-boxed in dropped out of the hole carved in the fake skin.

"I can get in anywhere I want."

Berathia looked from me to Baijon. I saw it occur to her that getting out to walk might be a great idea. Neurons fired, associative pathways opened, concantative memory-nets were activated: I remembered all the other times it'd been like this. When I'd watched some organic try to bargain for more life that I was going to give it.

Archive's memories.


The only difference between me and a Old Fed Library was quantitative. Maybe.

"So make the pitch, jillybai," I told her.

"What. . . are you?" Berathia's voice did skittery things with her Interphon. She was scared. Finally.

Paladin, why wasn't you here to keep me out of trouble like this?

I looked at Berathia looking at me, and finally understood what scared Baijon about not having any Knife no more. The Knife didn't make him human. But without it how did he know when he'd stopped?

"Malmakosim, shaulla-chaudatu. You have claimed to study the Gentle People to cloak your espionage in decency. You have hunted the secrets of the Machine. She is Malmakosim," Baijon said.

Librarian. But what it really means in helltongue is, "the Machine that takes human form".

"Don't be. . . If Captain St. Cyr were a Librarian, you. . ."

"Would of shot me, 'Thia? Sure. That's second on his list of things to do."

I didn't like it when Baijon called me Malmakosim with Berathia to hear. Nothing living will succor a Librarian, and the penalties for High Book are nothing you want to even flirt with. But everyone in the Empire was after us and this yacht already. Even High Book wouldn't make any difference.

And who could she tell?

Berathia looked from Baijon to me and bought back all her composure.

"And Archangel, I suppose, is first? Well, I've certainly gotten myself into a mess this time. I can just hear Daddy now."

For some reason, me being a Librarian made Berathia feel better.

Sometimes I think everyone in the Empire is crazy but me.

And I'm not sure about me.


I went back to the cockpit. The Mains was a white-hot yammer all around. I had the canopy stopped down to sunblock forty-seven and I could still see it. The roaring throat of hell.

I guessed Dance could stand up to it. She must of been built to hyper-Jump anyway; factory-issue goforths don't have that two-step cycle to kick a ship over. Maybe she'd even last long enough so we could all come out the other end, in whatever safe place I'd keyed blind into the Jump computer out of Archive's memories when the alternative was plasma conversion in the middle of Archangel's battle-fleet.

I stared out at nothing and tried not to feel sorry for myself. I'd lost everything. And now I was going to die not even for something a person could ship and spend. I was going to die for an ideal -- for the idea that peace was better than war and people did not have the right to ice other people just along of being inconvenient.

And for the idea that evil has to be argued with.

And even with Baijon by me, I was going to die alone.

"God damn you all to hell, Paladin."


Once upon a time I had a partner I could trust. His name was Paladin, and he was a Library.

But they never told me the fine details about techsmith hellgod abominations back at Granola Simple School, and when I was contract warmgoods at Market Garden they didn't tell me anything outside of what I needed to know to be a name-brand product.

They never told me not to rescue and rebuild an illegal Old Fed Library.

They never told me not to name it Paladin and make it my partner for twenty years.

I'd never heard of Libraries, then. I'd needed a navicomp the way I needed oxygen, and the broken blackbox I lucked into in a place called Pandora looked more like a numbercruncher than anything else local did. It was a damn good thing what it turned out to be was maybe the only pacifist Library there ever was.




The housecore at Rialla was too hot too dark and toodamn full of too many things that bit. I was here to rescue my partner, only nobody knew that, even Baijon. They thought I was here to end history for a Old Fed Library called Archive, in which I hadn't believed when I took the job.

"Surrender and I will let you live," Archive said. I knew it was lying. Archive was born to kill -- to be the revenge of the Libraries on humanity in the unlikely happenstance they happened to lose.

Only they'd lost some time back. And Archive had slept for a thousand years, waiting for some idiot to resurrect it.

Like Archangel.

"Paladin?" I said. But the only thing in reach was Archive -- which had more tricks than I did available when it came to staying alive. I drew my spare blaster and started in to where I knew it was. . .


Archive'd had too many tricks and not quite enough, but before Paladin killed it Archive managed to arrange for me to spend the rest of a real short life knowing exactly what it was like to be a Library.

Paladin didn't know that. Paladin used what he'd got out of Archive's memories to dump me. Better off apart, he said. Endangered by his very proximity, he said. My friend, my partner, the edge I needed to stay alive in the never-never -- history.

And just a little too soon, because now I was walking treason all on my lonesome, even without a Library for a partner. Because whiles Paladin was turning Archive into spare parts, Archive was doing its best to turn me into Archive. And having Archive's memories would of been bad enough, but memories wasn't all it'd stuck me with when it reconfigured my chitlins. The old reliable Butterfly St. Cyr-as-was could never of walked into a protected memory core through a dumb terminal and shut down all the power on a planet.



And the icing on the brass cupcake -- the thing that made all this such a laugh a minute -- was that I'd never needed to go to Rialla and meet Archive at all. I'd gone to rescue Paladin, and Paladin hadn't needed rescuing. Once he'd found out about Archive he'd taken it apart for the tech he needed to hop onto the Imperial DataNet and ride starlight forever. He'd been planning to ditch me anyway. Archive just made it easier.

I hadn't needed to go to Rialla at all.

Now my head was full of Archive's memories, with maybe a few of Paladin's thrown in for good measure. And if a person is the sum of his experience, and I had thirty-five galactic standard years of being Butterflies-are-Free Peace Sincere, Luddite Saint from Granola and darktrader, and fifty times that of being two other guys that happened to be Old Federation Libraries, which was going to win out?


"San'Cyr?" Baijon came in through the cockpit door that didn't lock. I pulled my eyes away from the Mains-light and my mind away from wherever it'd been.

Less than three hundred days ago Baijon Stardust'd been your average hellflower glitterborn. Since then he'd died and had a number of other illuminating experiences.

"Where do we go?" he asked, putting himself into the worry seat. I looked at him. Perfect trust in whatever I was going to do.

I looked back out at the Mains.

"Don't know, babby. Someplace Archive thought was safe."

"A thousand years ago," Baijon pointed out.

"Might of changed," I admitted.

"And then?" he prompted.

Our original plan -- which is to say, the last one in a series of great ideas that hadn't worked -- was to get our hands on some beaucoup illegal cybertech called The Keys to Paradise and use it to track down Paladin. With Paladin on our side, the chances of leading a preemptive strike down Archangel's throat was pretty good, actually.

That's what we'd gone to Toystore for in the first place. And got, mostly by accident. They was somewheres in the cockpit now if I remembered right. I made a mental note to tidy.

"What we do depends on what we find. And how hard who's looking. And if we can trust Berathia any way at all."

"The chaudatu woman has a transparent shadow," Baijon said, which airy persiflage I guess made them weep back on dear old alMayne.

"Yeah, sure," I said.

We still didn't know where we was going. Or how long it'd take to get there.

Or who'd be on Ghost Dance when she did get there.

I was dying by inches, sure as if I'd been poisoned, and no remedy in sight. Baijon and me had to kill Archangel before Baijon had to kill me and if Paladin hadn't lied to me none of this would ever of happened.