by Piers Anthony

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497657441
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Series: Bio of a Space Tyrant , #4
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 330
Sales rank: 236,174
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Piers Anthony is one of the world’s most popular fantasy writers, and a New York Times–bestselling author twenty-one times over. His Xanth novels have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world, and he daily receives hundreds of letters from his devoted fans. In addition to the Xanth series, Anthony is the author of many other bestselling works. He lives in Inverness, Florida.

Read an Excerpt


Bio of a Space Tyrant, Volume Four

By Piers Anthony


Copyright © 1985 Piers Anthony
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-5744-1



I stood in the reception area of Pineleaf Bubble, which was a tiny park made up to resemble a section of pine forest. Megan, my beloved wife, was turning away from me in tears. I had lost her—not legally or socially or physically but in that cruel but necessary separation of paths that was now upon us.

It was Emerald, my former wife, now in her fashion reclaiming me. For she was Admiral Mondy, commander of the task force of the Jupiter Navy designated to enforce order, and I was the man designated by the Constitutional Convention as the government of North Jupiter. I was the Tyrant. I had to give her my first order, by that act committing myself to responsibility for the operation of the most formidable nation in the Solar System.

The Constitutional Convention had been assembled to balance the budget—a thing that had never been accomplished on any continuing basis hitherto. The planetary debt (North Jupiter is only part of the planet, but common usage tends to term it a planet, regardless) exceeded a trillion dollars and was increasing at an accelerating rate. My first commitment had to be to deal with that.

"Get me the most knowledgeable expert on the budget," I said to Emerald's brown face in the park camera. "I promised to balance the budget and I shall do it."

"That would be in the civilian sector," she said.

"I am the civilian sector," I said. "Get me the personnel I need to do my job."

"We'll get on it, sir," she agreed with a certain muted satisfaction. "Meanwhile we'd better get you aboard ship."

"Aboard ship?" I asked querulously. "Why?"

"To guarantee your safety, sir."

I looked across at the Secret Service men who had been guarding me through my political campaign just past. "My safety is already guaranteed."

"Sir," she said. "There is a sub homing in on your bubble."

A sub! I know what damage they could do and who had control of one or more. I had defeated President Tocsin and now had taken power from him, but he was not a man to allow legality to stand in his way. "I suppose, then—"

"We have detached a destroyer to pick up you and your personnel," Emerald said. "But if that sub opens fire before we nullify it—"

"There are other people here!" I exclaimed. "Innocent residents! I can't go and leave them to be—"

"When you go, the bubble will no longer be a target, sir," Emerald said. "Wait there and be ready for pickup in fifteen minutes."

I saw a Secret Service man nod affirmatively. He knew this was best. I shrugged.

"Shelia," I said. "Coral. Ebony."

They appeared. Shelia, so named because her father had not spelled "Sheila" correctly, was in her wheelchair, a Saxon I had hired at age sixteen, fifteen years ago; almost half her life had been in my employ, as executive secretary. Coral, a Saturnine émigré in her mid-thirties, my personal bodyguard and still a fine-looking woman. Ebony, our gofer, Black and uneducated and surprisingly useful. I kept them with me because I trusted them, and they understood my complex needs.

"Sir, better get suited," Emerald said.


"That sub is firing. That will help us pinpoint it. But until we take it out—"

"But the other residents—"

"Had all better get suited," she said grimly.

Hastily we broke out the emergency suits. The law required all bubbles to have suits for every resident, in case of accidental pressurization, as might happen if there was a leak. There were regular drills, but seldom was there really a need. The suit-alarm sounded, alerting everyone in the bubble.

However, suiting was a complicated process for Shelia, because of the wheelchair and her inoperative legs. It was possible to get her into a suit, but it would interfere with her ability to function in her chair. I felt guilty, getting into my suit while she did not.

"They are finding the range," Emerald said, evidently reading her battle indicators. "Proceed to confinement alert."

That meant that each resident had to get into his or her chamber and seal it shut. This was to maintain normal pressure in individual apartments even when the bubble itself was holed.

"But I can't—" I protested, thinking of Megan. I knew she didn't want me with her now.

"Mine," Shelia said, propelling her chair rapidly down the hall. The Secret Service man followed, glancing around warily.

Her apartment was next to mine. She shared it with Ebony, so that the two were always handy for notes or errands. Coral's was on the other side, and she shared with my sister, Spirit, who was elsewhere today. We entered, and the Secret Serviceman took up his position in his suit, in the hall. Coral, I knew, was going to join Megan, to be sure she was all right.

Megan had left me, but her life remained precious to me and would always be so.

Shelia had a transceiver in her wheelchair. "He is with me," she was murmuring into it. I could hear her despite my suit, somewhat foggily.

"It's going to be close," Emerald said. "Those subs are almost impossible to nail down quickly when they take evasive action. We'll get it, but it will have several more shots at the bubble."

I removed my helmet. "If you can't get suited, I won't be, either" I said to Shelia.

"But Hope—" she protested. She always addressed me as sir" in public, but in private her feeling for me showed.

Then the first shell struck. I knew by the feel of the impact that it was a shell; my Navy experience had left me with the ability to interpret such strikes instantly. A nonexplosive, hull-piercing shell, designed to hole a ship without otherwise damaging it. Ships were valuable once the personnel were eliminated; holing could save the one while accomplishing the other.

"Oh!" Shelia exclaimed in alarm. As a lifetime civilian, she was not used to being under fire.

"They'll take out that sub in a moment," I reassured her. "Every time it fires, it provides another line on its position."

Her chin firmed. "Of course," she agreed.

"I am in contact with Coral," Emerald said in the tiny chair-screen. "She tells me to 'Wash his body.' I'm not sure I understand."

"It is a Saturnine expression," I said, remembering. "More completely, it is, 'Wash his body in blood.' It means—"

"Now I get it. That sub!"

"That sub," I agreed.

"About two more shots and we'll have it zeroed in."

"We've been scored on once," I reminded her. "Two more strikes might make the matter academic."

"You've got to take evasive action," she said.

"In a residential bubble? This is no spaceship, Em!"

"Be creative," she suggested.

"Maybe—" Shelia said faintly.

"Out with it, girl," I snapped, knowing that her mind made up for what her legs lacked.

"If the shield were turned off briefly-"

"Done!" I exclaimed. "Get me the Pineleaf engineer."

She touched buttons. In a moment the man's harried face came on the little screen. I had to shove my head almost into Shelia's lap to get it into the pickup range. "Hubris, here. I have just assumed the government of Jupiter. We are under fire, in an attempt to take me out before I can consolidate my power. We must take evasive action for a few minutes, until the Navy scrubs the enemy sub. Cut off the gee-shield as long as you dare."

"But, Mr. Hubris, that would risk—"

Emerald's face appeared in split screen. "Do it, man. Want to get holed?"

The engineer swallowed. "It has to be very brief because—"

"Do it!" Emerald and I yelled together.

For answer, the bubble lurched as the gravity of Jupiter took hold. Pineleaf, like all the towns and cities of Jupiter, was a good deal more solid than the atmosphere and would plummet to the hellish depths if not shielded from the main effect of the planet's gravity. The pressure at this level was about five bars—that is, five times the pressure of Earth's atmosphere at sea-level—which the bubbles and suits were constructed to withstand. The pressure below was much greater. Too great a drop would cause a bubble to implode—a far more certain demise than depressurization. But it was the only motion we could quickly make.

We did not lose weight. This was because the bubble spun on a vertical axis, generating a centrifugal emulation of gravity. Neither did we gain weight, for we remained in free-fall. That spin continued, unaffected by the cessation of the shield. But now we were dropping.

Another shell scored. It must have been on the way even as we began our descent. Had we not moved, it might have struck dead center and holed us. As it was, it struck at the top, and its formidable impact translated into a nudge of rotation in another direction.

Remember what happens when you nudge a spinning top? It doesn't just fall over; it precesses. There is a complex explanation for this, but the essence is that there's a lot more energy in the spin than in the nudge, so the compromise resultant motion is not in the direction of the nudge. So it was in this case. We stared to rotate to the side, in addition to our normal spin and the sliding descent into deeper atmosphere. It wasn't enough to throw us around, but we did feel disoriented. Even the slightest complication of orientation can nauseate a person.

I had been trained to handle this during my time in the Navy, of course. My memory of that experience remained imperfect, because of a recent memory-wash I had been subjected to, but my reflexes remained. Shelia lacked that experience, but I think her lifetime in the wheelchair enabled her to adapt to other handicaps of motion. She clung to her wheels, preventing the chair from moving around.

Information was still coming in on the transceiver "Glancing hit," Emerald said. "Damage report?"

"Hull intact," I said. "Some modification of attitude, not serious." By "attitude" I meant the situation of the bubble in the atmosphere, not the feelings of its residents.

"Evasion tactic successful," she continued briskly. "Third shell missed." Then, after a pause: "Coral, watch the screen."

I knew what was coming. I jammed my head at Shelia's midsection again, to get a view of her screen. It had required three shots to pinpoint the sub; now they would take it out, ending the immediate crisis.

There was the dark blob that was the sub, highlighted on the image. A sub is a small ship that possesses a screen to absorb radiation, so that neither light nor radar reflects from it. Thus the normal methods of location aren't effective; it is invisible. But it does occlude background radiation and can be approximately located by analysis of the pattern of occlusion if it is careless enough to position itself where such a pattern manifests. For fast, specific location it is necessary to triangulate on its own emissions: such as the shells it fires. This had now been done. The sub remained invisible, but the Navy computers knew exactly where it was, and so were able to mark it on the screen.

Then the blot exploded. The screen damped down the brilliance, but still, it was impressive. A tiny nova had formed in Jupiter's atmosphere.

"We washed his body," Emerald reported grimly. "Cease descent."

I had forgotten: we were still going down. The atmosphere of Jupiter is enormous, and the constant winds prevent a straight drop, but still, this was not a process we wanted to continue one moment longer than necessary. "Engineer," I snapped. "Restore the shield!"

There was no response.

"His station is near the point that the shell struck," Shelia said. "He may have been jarred, hit his head—"

"I've got to turn on that shield!" I exclaimed.

"Stay where you are, sir!" Coral cried from the transceiver. "I'll handle it!"

Of course it was better for her to do it; I could not afford to go dashing off on every errand. Still, I chafed. I preferred to be a man of action.

Ebony came on. "She says to cut the power. We don't know how much we'll need to lift back to proper position."

"Right," I agreed.

The light went out. Shelia and I were locked in darkness, as were the other residents, scattered through their apartments. I understood the necessity, but nonetheless felt the psychological impact. We were still falling, the pressure rising outside. How much could the hull take? Would Coral get the shield restored in time? Of course she would—but my alarm would not be quieted.

Each person, I suspect, has his own special fear. Many planetary-bubble inhabitants fear the empty reaches of deep space, and depressurization is their ultimate horror. Navy personnel, in contrast, understand space but tend to fear the horrendous pressures of the planetary environment and are appalled at the notion of implosion. I was born and raised to age fifteen on Callisto, which is termed a planet (technically a moon of Jupiter), but it had no atmosphere, no threat of pressure. Then I joined the Navy, for another fifteen years. Thus my fear aligned with that of the spaceman. Vacuum I could handle; a good suit would protect against it. But pressure—simple holing at normal level would mean an increase to five bars, and that would stifle all Navy personnel, for true space suits were not constructed to withstand that. The pressure suits would, but my conditioned reaction did not quite accept that, and, of course, those seldom-used suits are not perfectly reliable. That was why we had had to seal ourselves in our cabins; they were rated at six bars and would save us from such pressure.

But, if the bubble imploded, so would the cabins. It would take ten or more bars to implode the bubble, because it was spherical and sturdy—but when it happened, it would be virtually instant. One moment we would be alive and nervous; the next we would be crushed, more or less literally to pulp. We were surely approaching the limit now. That notion insinuated itself right into my consciousness and knocked the props from under my courage, leaving me a coward.

Then I thought of Megan, now alone in the next chamber, and was horrified for her as well. Even if we survived this ordeal, she would not be mine. She had left me for the soundest of all her reasons: the philosophical. She accepted the necessity of what was to be termed the Tyrancy but could not support it personally. So she had freed me to do what I had to do—and left me desolate. What the fear of implosion did to my physical courage, the knowledge of my loss of Megan did to my emotional courage.

Shelia knew. She had invisible antennae that resonated to human distress, and she knew me as well as an executive secretary of fifteen years could. "Hope—here," she said in the darkness.

I got to my knees and leaned over her wheel and armrest. Her arms came up to enclose me, to draw my head to her bosom. She held me there and stroked my hair while I sobbed.

"It had to be, it had to be ..." she murmured over and over. Of course, she was right; this was a necessary pass. But a necessary thing is not necessarily a pleasant thing.

Then there was illumination of a sort, and I lifted my head and looked at her face. "Helse," I said.

"I always come to you when you need me," she replied.

"You always do," I agreed.

Helse was my first love. She had been sixteen, I fifteen when we met, thirty-five years before. She had taught me love. She had died on the eve of our wedding, helping me survive. Death had changed her only in this: She had not aged from that moment. She was always sixteen, for me. Always lovely, always understanding. Always there for me, in the recess of reality.

And I was always fifteen, for her. Always the innocent, loving her and grateful for her kindness.

"If I am to die," I said, "this is the way I would do it."

"It has to be," she agreed.

I got to my feet and reached my arms down around her and lifted her out of the chair. I set her on the bed, her head on the pillow, and gently, methodically stripped her of her clothing. My subsequent experience advised me that there were women more thoroughly endowed than Helse, and I had possessed more than one of them, but none was ever better formed for my taste than she. I kissed her bare breasts, and she held my head to them. "It has to be," she murmured again.


Excerpted from Executive by Piers Anthony. Copyright © 1985 Piers Anthony. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Executive (Bio of a Space Tyrant Series #4) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
helver on LibraryThing 2 days ago
In the fourth episode of the life and times of Hope Hubris, our hero, now fully into middle age, is denied the presidency that he and his sister won by popular vote. In response, they orchestrate a takeover of the government and form a tyrancy to rule. Throughout the course of the Tyrancy, Hope is targeted for assassination many times and he's forced to assume an alter ego in order to get out and actually do things. At the end of the volume, however, a nonviolent resistance to the Tyrancy had formed and Hope had to retire and turn the government back over to the people.I found this to be a much more satisfying book than the prior one in the series. Far fewer Piers-isms in this one. Although, I was not a big fan of the whole "Hope Hubris - the man who men want to be and women want to be with" thing. Hope's sexual conquests get a little out of hand. Unfortunately, I kinda saw that Amber was going to end up one of his bedpost notches rather early - although some of their null-gee pin the tail on the donkey games were both funny and intriguing.I enjoyed the Julius Ceasar reference, and through the Big Iron beatdown attempt was interesting and well done. I also caught more than a whiff of the JFK white house in Hope and Spirit's administration. But, I have to admit - the last line were we discover the identity of the leader of the resistance was no surprise at all to me.