Fallen angels larry Niven Jerry Pournelle Michael Flynn



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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Cruisecon




The big sailing ship had been designed for cargo, a high tech windjammer with four tall masts and sails that looked like airplane wings standing on end. They shifted constantly as Gullwhale raced at 18 knots through the Caribbean toward the Windward Islands. She could make 20 knots in decent winds.

Chuck had his videocamera bolted to the deck. The view tilted with the ship, heeled over by fifteen degrees. "February 31st, 23,309. This is Gullwhale Crossing, a videofanzine published by Chuck Umber. Rick Foss, what are we doing here?"

Foss was a lean, bearded man with a mad smile and an absurd hat. "We are here to hold Cruisecon, the first World Science Fiction Convention ever to be held at sea."

"And how did this come about?"

"Nice timing. I notice we're coming about. Well, Gullwhale was a Green research project, expensive even by NASA standards, but clean as clean can be. What she couldn't do," Rick Foss said, "was make money. Between the U.S. environmental regulations and the unsteadiness of the wind, nobody wanted to risk sending cargo that way."

"So we got her cheap," Chuck said.

Rick grinned. "I got her damn near free. This is her shakedown as a passenger resort cruise ship."

"Hotel bill and food all in the convention registration fee. Quite a coup Rick."

"I didn't tell them it was a science fiction convention, of course. I just guaranteed to fill the ship up with people who don't mind being a week late so long as it doesn't cost them any more. But we're not in U.S. waters now-—"

From the rail Poul Dickson shouted, "Ach, ja, now ve can sing ze old songs!"

A heavy-set black man stuck his head out of a doorway. "Land ho!"

Chuck swung the camera around to catch him. "Ken, shouldn't you be up in a crow's nest?"

Ken patted his ample bulk. "It'd never hold me. We've got Grenada on radar. We're still two hours away, but you should think about wrapping it up."

Rick grinned mysteriously. "I may have another surprise for you, Chuck."

"I'm talking to Bruce Hyde and Mike Glider. Bruce, you left the rescue party to spring any traps at Sherrine's apartment. I take it that was for misdirection?"

Bruce said, "Sure. At best we'd get the law looking in the wrong direction. At worst, we had the owner's written permission to be there, and a key. We went in through a window anyway, picked up a few of Sherrine's things-—still nothing-—walked out the front door and boarded Mike's van and drove north."

"Nobody stopped you?"

"No, but they were following us. I guess we could have stopped, but-—"

"I wanted to cross the glacier again," Glider said. He held newsprint from the National Enquirer under his chin, for the camera, under a wide toothy smile. The headline said:



ICE NUDES ORGY ON GLACIER!



Bruce said, "We took the same track as before, with the Angels' death beam toned down a little-—"

"How many of you?"

"-—So we could-—Huh?" Bruce laughed. "No, no, just me and Mike, fully dressed. We crossed to Fargo and went straight to the local TV station-—"

"Hide in plain sight," Mike said.

"-—and told them about joining the mating rituals of a tribe of naked semi-humans with pale blue skin. Don't look so disappointed, Chuck."



"We all got away clean after the launch. Maybe everyone got an extra day or two because of Moorkith," Glen Bailey said. "You remember how it looked when Phoenix went up?"

Harry Czescu nodded briskly. "I kept thinking, 'Ours always blow up. Ours always blow up.' But it was going smooth as silk-—"

"Remember the vapor trail, sprawled all over the sky? They used to call that 'frozen lightning,' the Germans did, I mean. It's in Willy Ley's books," Bailey said. "In the thirties they thought their rockets were going wild-—"

"It's just stratospheric winds blowing the vapor trail around," Mike Glider said, sticking his head into camera view. Umber scowled.

"Yeah, but it looks like something spun by a spider on LSD. The Green bigshot cop, Moorkith, he saw the frozen lightning and thought the Phoenix must have crashed. He was searching the desert for Phoenix while the whole gang drove away."



"I missed it all," Ann Hudson said. "I was in New York. I tried to follow it on the news, but how much could I trust? Gary didn't try to call me till he was already in orbit."

"But you're going up this time."

"You bet. God help Gary if he already knows how to mate in free fall. Chuck, I want a copy of this tape to take with me."

"That's why I'm hurrying. I want it finished and copied before the ship takes off again."

"No trouble," C.C. Miller said. "We just drove off. We even got the clubhouse cleared out before the Greens came sniffing. But there are tons of it. If the Angels don't want it, I think we'll just leave it in Grenada."

"You mean it's aboard?"

"Oh, yeah. We sold the bull semen, but we've still got the plastic corn and acorns and honeycomb and powdered chlorine and five cartons of earthworms, and there's a package I don't know what's in it but it wants out BAD . . ."

"Gordon, nobody spotted you?"

"I could walk, even then," Gordon said. He got out of his deck chair and spread his arms and bowed. His head nearly brushed the floor.

C.C. Miller said, "Today I could hide him on a basketball team."

"What have you been doing since, Gordon?"

"Your viewers, they know. I publish Wind Chill in sections. Now Baen Books, they want it. I can publish because I won't be on Earth."

"You're going up?"

"Sure. Alex say my family ready to skin him if he can't produce me, so I go with Annie. Bring a copy of Wind Chill, tell everyone-—"

There was a sharp sound, loud above the wind, and a sharp crack! "Hold it," Chuck said, and he swung the camera around. "It was-—got it."

High in the sky over Grenada, a dot, descending.

"Comes down just like a falling safe, only faster," Chuck said rapidly. "Those rockets should be lighting any . . . any minute now . . . it's broad daylight so they won't be too conspicuous . . . shit fire, will you light?"

"Phoenix is slowing," Gordon said. "Rockets must be lit. See? Slowing."

"Yeah. Sorry. Ni . . . ice."

The cone had settled behind trees.

Umber laughed. "Your faces! The rocket was too far away to show much, but you watching it land, that's something. Okay, Gordon, you published autobiographical material, but there's a novel, too, isn't there?"

"I am working on it. Should finish, how do you say it, Real Soon Now."

"He did a verse for the song, too," Harry said.

"Song?"

"Jenny's song," Harry said. He took out his guitar.

The others gathered around, fifty fans on the deck of a sailing ship, staring across to an island where a spaceship had landed.

"The Angels fell. And rose again," someone said. "And by God we did it!"

Chuck was still filming. Harry began to play. Jenny sang, and the others joined in.



"Wanted fan in Luna City, wanted fan on Dune and Down,
Wanted fan at Ophiuchus, wanted fan in Dydee-town.
All across the sky they want me, am I flattered?
Yes I am!
If I could just reach orbit, then I'd be a wanted fan.



"Wanted fan for mining coal and wanted fan for drilling oil,
I went very fast through Portland, hunted hard like Gully Foyle.
Built reactors in Seattle against every man's advice,
Couldn't do that in Alaska, Fonda says it isn't nice.



"Wanted fan for plain sedition, like the singing of this tune.
If NASA hadn't failed us we’d have cities on the moon.
If it weren't for fucking NASA we'd at least have walked on Mars.

And if I can't make orbit, then I'll never reach the stars.



"Nader's Raiders want my freedom, OSHA wants my scalp and hair,
If I'm wanted in Wisconsin, be damned sure I won't be there!
If the E-P-A still wants me, I'll avoid them if I can.
They're tearing down the cities, so I'll be a wanted fan!



"Wanted fan on Chthon and Sparta and the Hub's ten million stars,
Wanted fan for singing silly in a thousand spaceport bars.
If it's what we really want, we'll build a starship when we can;

If I could just make orbit then I'd be a wanted fan.



"Wanted fan for building spacecraft, wanted fan for dipping air,
Sending microwave transmissions, building habitats up there.
Oh the glacier got us last time, next time we'll try to land!
And when the Ice is conquered, it'll be by wanted fans.
And when the stars are conquered, it'll be by wanted fans!"



The End

Acknowledgments and Other Thuktunthp



Fallen Angels is sold as science fiction, but one could quibble with that: while the book is clearly fiction, the science is it real.

Item: Although the Phoenix spaceship doesn't exist yet, it or something like it could be built today for between $50 and $200 million dollars.

Once built, Phoenix would operate the way airplanes do. It takes about the same amount of fuel to fly a pound from the United States to Australia as it does to put that pound in orbit. Airlines operate at about three times fuel costs, including depreciation on the aircraft. Phoenix wouldn't run much more. The operational costs of any system depend on how much you use, it but given the low-cost regime Phoenix works in, it should be used a lot.

Of course airlines have about one hundred fifteen employees per airplane; but most airlines need to sell tickets. The SR-71 program (which didn't) ran with about forty employees per airplane. NASA, with four spacecraft, has over twenty thousand people employed to support shuttle operations. This may explain why Phoenix, which wouldn't need more than fifty people to operate, would charge less than one percent of what NASA charges to put cargo in orbit.

Item: Despite all the talk of global warming, there is just as much scientific evidence for the coming Ice Age. Experiments have failed to detect solar neutrinos in the quantities expected, and astronomers tell us that we are going into a new period of minimum solar activity. The last such prolonged period was known as the "Maunder Minimum," and coincided with what has come to be known as "The Little Ice Age." Moreover, archeologic evidence shows that in the last Ice Age, Britain went from a climate a bit warmer than it enjoys now to being under sheet glaciers in considerably less than a century.

* * *

Of course our story is fiction. Many of the characters are fictional, too. But some are based on composites of real people; some are real people with their names changed; and some appear here under their own names. A few have even paid to be in the book! We allowed certain fan charities to auction off the right to play themselves in Fallen Angels. Because the book takes place in an indefinite future we have made free use of an author's right to change details of age, or occupation, or city of residence.

Readers who find the action of the book surprising must consider that we have, if anything, tamed down the reactions of organized science fiction fandom had there really been a downed spaceship in a society that hates science and technology.

As to the society portrayed here, of course much of it is satirical. Alas, many of the incidents-—such as the Steve Jackson case in which a business was searched by Secret Service Agents displaying an unsigned search warrant-—are quite real. So are many of the anti-technological arguments given in the book. There really is an intellectual on-campus movement to denounce "materialist science" in favor of something considerably less "cold and unforgiving." So watch it.



References



There are many literary references in Fallen Angels. A few are explained in the text; others are left for the delight of readers familiar with science fiction and fan publications.

One is worth explaining here. In Robert A. Heinlein's early work "Requiem," the hero dies in a successful voyage to the moon. He is buried on the lunar surface by companions who have no grave marker other than a shipping tag for a compressed air cylinder. When Mr. Heinlein died, he was, according to his instructions, cremated and his ashes scattered at sea from a U.S. Navy warship. Some of us feel it would be appropriate to honor him by placing a pint of seawater and a suitably inscribed shipping tag on Mare Imbrium. The poem to be inscribed is R. L. Stevenson's "Requiem."



Acknowledgments



Acknowledgment of everyone who has, either directly by commenting on the manuscript, or indirectly through his or her life and example, contributed to this book would require a volume a great deal longer than the book itself. We therefore apologize now for taking the easy way out: as you might suspect, this section is being written the night before the final manuscript is due.

The song "The Phoenix" is copyright 1983, by Julia Ecklar, and is used by permission of Julia Ecklar. The song "Starfire" is copyright 1983, by Cynthia McQuillan, and used with her permission. Both songs and many others much worth listening to are performed on tapes sometimes available at science fiction conventions. Excerpts from the songs "Black Powder and Alcohol" and "Bring It Down" are used with permission of Leslie Fish, and are available on her tape Firestorm.

We do want to acknowledge the special help of Gary Hudson, President of Pacific American Launch Systems, Inc., who generously helped us get Phoenix right. We only wish that we had the money to let him build the rocket. Any one of us would be glad to ride it with him. Ann Roebke Hudson deserves equal thanks. Clearly, any mistakes in the science and technology are ours, not theirs.

We also thank Jim Baen, our editor and publisher, and Toni Weisskopf, Executive Editor at Baen Books; we suspect that few books have ever been delivered this close to a previously scheduled publication date.

As to everyone else, you mostly know who you are. Thanks!



Larry Niven

Jerry Pournelle

Michael Flynn

Hollywood, California,

and Edison, New Jersey, 1991


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