Jak Jinnaka parlayed his powerful family connections, unearned media fame, and consistent dumb luck into a cushy job as vice procurator of the Martian moon Deimos, an office he precariously maintains alongside his top-secret post as a station chief for Hive Intelligence—two soft jobs for an already rich, handsome, single young man in a fun-loving colonial outpost.
Sadly, when his boss takes a well-deserved vacation, it looks like Jak may actually have to do a little work—keep local trade humming, maintain the Hive’s hegemony, prevent the boss’s pretty teenage niece’s internship from becoming front-page celebrity gossip, and make sure his rambunctious visiting uncle Sib doesn’t cause international incidents among the thousands of prickly petty kingdoms on Mars.
Then, in one of the pettiest kingdoms of all, the lifelog of the man who wrote the Wager—a set of principles that guides all human life in the thirty-sixth century—is discovered, and the race is on for control of the holiest relic in a thousand years, with Jak in the lead and all of the devils and angels of his past howling at his heels.
About the Author
Barnes has authored more than thirty novels and numerous short stories including the national bestseller Encounter with Tiber (cowritten with Buzz Aldrin), Mother of Storms (finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula awards), and Tales of the Madman Underground (a Michael L. Printz Honor Book), among others. He received his doctorate of philosophy in theater arts at the University of Pittsburgh, and has taught college courses in a wide variety of disciplines. His personal blog is at thatjohnbarnes.blogspot.com.
John Barnes (b. 1957) is the author of more than thirty novels and numerous short stories. His most popular novels include the national bestseller Encounter with Tiber (co-written with Buzz Aldrin), Mother of Storms (finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula awards), Tales of the Madman Underground (winner of the Michael L. Printz Award), and One for the Morning Glory, among others. His most recent novel is The Last President (2013).
Read an Excerpt
In the Hall of the Martian King
By John Barnes
AspectCopyright © 2003 John Barnes
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEveryone Knows Your Uncle
Jak 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 new 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 Pro-tectorates 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 really 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 ad-ventures 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 is very dull, which is scientifically proven to cause boredom. And 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 are 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?"
"You know, sex, war, sports, taxes-"
"In the Hive, nobody talks about taxes. Otherwise it's the same."
"You have a gift for keeping Deimons on Deimos," Avor observed. "Of course, you are a Hive bureaucrat and that is Hive policy."
"That also means I've accomplished one thing that I was supposed to, today, so I guess I should go back and write a bunch of memos claiming the credit. I'll see you."
Jak airswam into the tunnel, merging between an older kobold (diligently paddling along with an expression of utter boredom) and a group of teenaged boys (airswimming in cylinder formation, discussing how dull life was).
The visit with Avor had been nice, but Jak was still discouraged. His first independent command, beginning in less than two hours, ought to feel more significant, more like a moment when all of history changed, or more like the heavy hand of doom, or just more something.
Reeb Waxajovna was going on vacation. Like any PASC administrator, he had little choice: he went on vacation whenever his accumulated leave time, desired days at destination, and possible shipping schedules specified a solution to a scheduling equation at PASC headquarters. He wanted to go back to the Hive, which sat at the Earth-Sun L5 Lagrange libration point, sixty degrees behind Earth in orbit. A scheduling algorithm somewhere back in the main office had spotted a chance: Eros's Torch, a downbound quarkjet liner (twenty-two days from Mars to the Hive), and The Song of Copernicus, an upbound sunclipper (two and a half months from the Hive to Mars via a Venus assist), would provide Waxajovna with three more days at the Hive than the sixty minimum he had requested. While he did that, Jak Jinnaka would be administering Deimos, for a total of five months.
Waxajovna was waiting for him. "Mister Jinnaka. Let's go over everything one more time, so that your obsessive, neurotic supervisor will not worry himself ill while on vacation."
"I never said anything like that about you, sir."
"Of course not, you're not crazy, Jinnaka, but you are not stupid either, and considering what I've been putting you through for the last few weeks, you have to have been thinking it, now and then. Now, humor me on this. Then I have a few last notes."
The Procurator for Deimos was an unmodified human, a medium-brown-skinned endomorph with slight epicanthic folds, flat cheekbones, and a snub nose. In messages to his more closely trusted toves, Jak sometimes called Reeb Waxajovna "The Modal Man" because he seemed to have the most common type of everything. He even looked the average age; only the tired crackle in his voice revealed that he was older. "Now, then, let's run over each area budget first."
After area budgets, there were culture grants, infrastructure financing, projects advice to the local government, revenue enhancement relations with Deimos's tax bureau, and some issues about Wager orthodoxy. Only the last of these really mattered; though individual nations were continually at war, the essential unity of humanity (against the Rubahy if another war were to break out and against the Galactic State if it ever issued its long-expected Extermination Order,) was absolutely a matter of survival. The Wager, the religious-philosophic system followed by nineteen out of twenty humans, was the basis of human unity, and though there were local variations and minor differences in its practice, so far, in seven hundred years, there had been no major schism. The Hive itself had been founded, in part, to be the center and sustainer of the Wager.
But even on the Wager-related matters, the real creative thinking was done; Jak would merely follow orders and fill out paperwork.
Almost all arriving and departing ships would be Deimos-based Hive Spatial patrols by orbicruisers and armed sunclippers. Patrol in-and-outs required no real effort; their crews already had quarters, and for every ship that left its berth to go out on patrol, another came in.
All the real headaches during Jak's five-month watch would derive from the eleven ships from extramartian space: two downbound quarkjet liners, four upbound sun clippers, a down-bound sunclipper, and four warships-a downbound armed sunclipper from New Hamburg making an allied-port call, and a task force of three Spatial ships, the battlesphere Like So Not, warshuttle carrier Actium, and orbicruiser Tree Bowing to the Storm, upbound to the Neptune system to relieve the Hive's task force guarding Triton (whether the Spatial guarded Triton from the Jovians, the Rubahy, or the Tritonians themselves was always an interesting question).
"That armed sunclipper will be no problem at all," Waxajovna observed, "because nobody's going to be allowed off it. New Hamburg has a major defection problem, so Bunne will co-orbit rather than dock, and send over officer parties by longshore capsule.
"But any trouble that the Hamburgers save you, our own task force will make up for. Battlesphere crewies always drink and fuck themselves silly, and Actium will be worse- two hundred fifty warshuttle crews. And then add in that they're all going up to Triton on a direct ride from here-so after this one port call they're in for thirty-seven more weeks of training on simulators, then two years at Triton, where Forces personnel are confined to base due to terrorist threats. And then at least forty weeks in all getting back down to the Hive.
"Which means their lives are looking to absolutely stink for the next three and a half years, and their last ten days to blow off steam will happen here.
"So the pilots, navigators, weaponeers, and beanies will all be roaming bar to bar and whorehouse to whorehouse, looking for chances to beat each other up, and the officers will all be publicly telling them to cut it out and privately betting on whose crewies can stomp whose, and the warshuttle crewies will clash with the battlesphere crewies ..."
"And you haven't even factored in the orbicruiser," Jak pointed out.
"They won't be the problem," Waxajovna explained. "Orbicruiser captains and crews are usually tight little families that don't like anyone else. They'll come onto Deimos for about ten minutes, spend all of it buying liquor and hiring prostitutes to go back on board with them-"
"Isn't that contrary-"
"If you even think of enforcing those regulations, I'll see that your next post is administering sanitation at a methane mine in the Kuiper Belt. Half the art of administering, Jinnaka, is leaving well enough alone. Now, everything is in good shape and you have worked hard to make sure that it is. I would imagine that you are specking that, headaches of the port call excepted, the next five months will be spectacularly boring."
"As a matter of fact, sir, yes."
"Well, don't bet on it. Let me emphasize that, again. Don't bet on it. The world can always become lively. The kind of surprises that can happen is a surprise all by itself." Reeb Waxajovna stretched and yawned.
Excerpted from In the Hall of the Martian King by John Barnes Copyright © 2003 by John Barnes
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
Contents1. Everyone Knows Your Uncle,
2. Your Special Little Princess,
3. I Have the Most Complete Confidence in You,
4. Not the Most Useless Person on the Team,
5. If You Can Pull It Off, You're In Out of the Cold,
6. Don't Expect My Call Anytime Soon,
7. Utterly Contrary to Policy,
8. How is Up to You,
9. A Double-Sided Snipe Hunt,
10. A Panty Raid Is Not Standard Procedure,
11. The Third Purpose of a Rubahy Dagger,
12. A Reasonable Assessment of My Performance Is Total Failure,
13. In the Hall of the Martian King,
14. All Right, What's the Plan?,
15. Find Your Path,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By the thirty-sixth century mankind has spread all over the universe. Jak Jinnaka has finally graduated from the Hive and was employed by the Protectorates Administrative Service Corps, stationed on Mar¿s outer moon Deimos. He is actually a double agent working to further the Hive¿s interests and goals. When his supervisor leaves him in charge of Deimos, he is given a mission that will take him to Mars. In the ruins of Chrysepolus, an archeologist finds the lifelog of Paj Nakagen, the founder of the interstellar religion known as the Wager. The Martian king possesses the diary that Jak must retrieve by persuading the monarch to turn it over to him on behalf of PASC (actually, the Hive). Others will do anything to get their hands on these priceless records, but the most dangerous is Jak¿s ex-girlfriend the evil princess Shyf of Greenword. She conditioned him to love her unconditionally and give her anything she wants, an obsession that he has not been entirely erased which makes success for Jak quite difficult to achieve. If one can imagine a futuristic version of the TV series Get Smart, than readers will have a very good idea of what IN THE HALL OF THE MARTIAN KING is like. The hero of this fast-paced, action-packed space romp is an adorable man who tries to do his job and ends up alienating even more people than he did in his last caper (see A PRINCESS OF THE AERIE). John Barnes has put the fun back in space opera and readers will love him for doing that. Harriet Klausner