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Nothing Sacred
Book Two Of The Messiah Trilogy
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-434-9
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 596 Pages
Published: November 2018

From inside the flap

This sequel to Flynn’s acclaimed Messiah Games continues in a future civilization that’s obsessed with religion, yet furious at Terra (Earth) for giving rise to the most popular creeds of all.

Terra may be the planet where humanity originated, but sophisticated Galactics treat it like a dismal step-child. “On the planet where humanity rose,” a popular saying goes, “it hasn’t risen far.”

Few Terrans seek their fortunes among the stars. Those who try face patronizing discrimination. Into this Galactic crucible leaps Earth-boy Gram Enoda alongside an impossibly intelligent vibrionic sidekick: his secret weapon and the bane of his existence. Enoda just wants to get rich. Instead he stumbles into a top-secret, half-baked plan to (yes, literally) save the Galaxy. Along the way he must confront a crackpot Mormon trideevangelist and a seductive preacher of nihilism.

Like Messiah Games, Nothing Sacred brims with complex plotting, searing black humor, colorful characters, and penetrating examination of religious and philosophical issues—all woven into a can’t-put-it-down techno-thriller.

Nothing Sacred (Excerpt)


Prologue

So you want to know how the universe got saved. I mean the Galaxy. Then, who's quibbling?

People always clamor for my story. Usually they know what they want: a hearty tale peppered with heroes, glorious sacrifices, harrowing risks overcome by bold gambits. If my tale-telling approaches the classical, perhaps there'll be characters whose tragic flaws exact hideous costs even as they ransom us all.

Since the first hunter danced beneath a savanna moon telling his fellows a whopper about his exploits, humans have anticipated that pattern in their narratives. If a story's worth telling, most people presume it merits pouring into the distorting mold of classical myth.

That's not the way I mean to tell this story.

Not this time.

You see, the way things really worked out, there were no heroes. The protagonists were so ordinary that you'd never send them on such critical business if you could avoid it. Sacrifices? They occurred, but never attained to glory. You want harrowing risks? Bold gambits? The risk was real enough; all 42,000 inhabited worlds might be cinders had things broken differently. But neither gambit nor strategy played much role. The players improvised blindly, never imagining where their dangerous choices might lead.

Of the standard mythic elements, only one was in generous supply.

There was no shortage of central characters with tragic flaws.

I was one of them.

If you can characterize what I've done since as a career, I spent most of it rehashing my story. Over the standard years, many listeners expressed surprise that I settled down so quietly. Some tell me I should have grabbed for more. Others wish I'd seized less. To all of them I say, forjel off! I was there when the Galaxy got saved; I played a role. That's enough for one life. And don't forget about sacrifices. I made one of my own. Two, if you think about it.

Anyway, I tell the tale often. Usually I recite the predictable legend, making each story point peal like a familiar carillon. But that's warmed-over plorg, and I'm tired of shoveling it along like that.

So today I'll break with tradition and give you unadorned truth.

When you hear what really happened, you'll learn how laughably accidental it all was that the Galaxy got saved. You'll realize how lucky we all are still to exist. Your readers, or your experients, or whatever the sfelb you call your clients, will recognize how it's only by absurd happenstance that any of us are still here.

Some people say that precisely because of that, everything that happened must reflect God's plan for us. They think the very unlikeliness of it all, the vacant arbitrary quality that makes the story real, merely underscores what a shrewd creative fellow their deity must be. I'm unconvinced. No god worth worshipping could have planned for things to shake out the way they did. Conversely, any god who did plan things that way merits not our worship but our terror. I'd gladly embrace a purposeless universe rather than declare myself the subject of a god like that. (Come to think of it, I have.)

Enough disclaimers! On with the story. Though I should precede the narrative proper with a little background …

It's been a century-and-three-quarters since the vast, sophisticated Galactic Confetory stumbled onto Terra-or Earth, as the retros are calling it again. Terra's so-called "Galactic Encounter" occurred late in its twenty-second century local, 2181 c. e. for you sticklers. Even at that late date, the little blue world was nearly judged too backward to join the Galactic community. But Galactics found Terran religions quaint. Christianity and its variants, rich in tradition, fertile with contradiction, took the Galaxy by storm. Terra got whisked into the Confetory as a full Memberworld, an honor for which the planet was by any standard ill-prepared.

It should tell you how strange things got that Roman Catholicism became Terra's premier cultural export, the first native institution able to buy a planet of its own. Restyling itself the Universal Catholic Church, it dubbed its new headquarters world the Planet Vatican. But more on that later.

Galactic civilization offered Terrans no end of surprises. They learned that humans inhabited 42,000 worlds among the stars-bona fide human beings, H. sapiens sapiensfrom Terra. That's right, earthlings, right down to their mitochondria, all over the forjeling Galaxy. Genetic evidence suggested that hundreds of centuries before, unknown visitors had come to Terra, plucked up proto-humans and some edible plant species, and strewn them among the stars. (For some reason the "Harvesters," as they're called, failed to poach any proto-Caucasians. White people, now but a twelfth of Terra's population, appear nowhere else in space.)

Terrans got another surprise. Who would think that the elegant, powerful Galactics lived in fear? Yet they'd spent millennia dreading the Tuezi (the word rhymes with floozy). The Tuezi: vast robot war platforms scattered through time and space by some other vanished super-race-or maybe by the Harvesters themselves; no one knows. Several times each century, a Tuezi would just appear somewhere. Protected by invulnerable shields, the sinister machine would enter the nearest star system, ravage its planets, then self-destruct. Decades before this story begins, a math prodigy named Fram Galbior figured out how to predict where and when each Tuezi would appear. Guided by Galbior's "equilibrational calculus," battle fleets would surround its entry point. They'd destroy the Tuezi just as it materialized, an instant before it could raise its shields. The greatest terror of Galactic life had been - well, not defeated, but neutralized.

For their part, Galactic scientists would be astonished by one thing they'd find on Terra. They'd known for millennia that all humans shared a common origin - DNA and all that - but they'd never known just where all this originating took place. Terra, it turned out, was the elusive Cradleworld. Only there had the lineage to which humans belong arisen from nonliving matter.

Religion and human origins: together, they explain why Terra became a Memberworld. What the Galactics never anticipated was how they'd then combine, generating social institutions of unforeseen corrosive power.

Christianity came at the Galaxy like bacteria colonizing a Petri dish with no antibiotics in sight. Only after the Universal Catholic Church became powerful did Galactics understand what a serpent they'd invited to their hearthsides.

Universal Catholicism's power lay in its new doctrine of "serial incarnation," the teaching that God gives His Son flesh repeatedly. On world after world, the Cosmic Christ works out the salvation of each globe's peoples. In one of those flights of hubris the popes carry off so well, Vatican claimed sole authority to sift through other planets' religious histories and decide which, if any, native messiahs were true Incarnations of the Cosmic Christ.

Back to Fram Galbior - remember him, the mathematician who solved the mystery of the Tuezi as a youth? Late in life, Galbior took up Catholicism. He found the doctrine of serial incarnation fascinating. To his commanding intellect, the mystery of Christ's successive Incarnations and that of the Tuezi emergences seemed tractably alike. Obtaining a secret papal audience, Galbior announced that he'd developed another new mathematics that accounted for most of the church-verified Incarnations. More important, Galbior declared, his equations predicted when and where the Cosmic Christ would take flesh next.

What followed was sufficiently byzantine and perverse to justify a book of its own [and it got one, Messiah Games]. Galbior forecast that the next Incarnation would take place on Jaremi Four, a Tuezi-blasted world so primitive it was off limits to everyone but social scientists and undercover documentarians. On that world, a bumpkin religious leader named Arn Parek emerged amid a brutal messianic cult. Parek was an obvious fraud, which never stopped his native followers from launching a feral jihad in his name.

Thanks to the aforesaid undercover documentarians on Jaremi Four-"human cameras" called Spectators, employed by the infotainment conglomerate OmNet-trillions of Galactics followed Parek's story. Willingly they overlooked his rough edges and pledged their faith. In what seemed an eyeblink, much of Galactic society had convinced itself that vile, fraudulent Arn Parek was the current Incarnation of the Cosmic Christ.

Various Galactic factions established illegal contacts with Parek, his disciples, or his enemies. One such cabal was led by two Universal Catholic cardinals operating under personal command of the pope. Another was controlled by Alrue Latier, a Latter-day Saint trideevangelist whose quirky "back-to-the-roots" Mormonism drove what was already Terra's second-biggest export church.

The Parek affair became a slow-motion disaster that befouled all it touched. When it finally ended, Catholicism lay disgraced.

Alrue kept his freedom by adroit media manipulation, but his reputation and his ministry's finances suffered grievously.

Shamed at the terrible error into which faith had seduced his reason, the mathematician Fram Galbior hanged himself in the pope's private library.

Arn Parek, the false messiah, died by his own hand as well, mere hours after he learned that Galactic civilization exists.

Well, maybe.

Parek's "death" occurred amid frenzied upheaval as the native armies his offworld friends and enemies had so illicitly raised lurched into their final combat. Parek's body was never found. Across the Galaxy, hard-core Parekists refused to accept their messiah's passing. Splinter sects erupted teaching that Parek had resurrected, that he'd never died, that he'd never existed, that he was a pansexual robot from the future-no theology was too eccentric to command at least a few adherents.

Since Vatican intrigues had triggered the final conflict in which Arn Parek vanished, those who thought Parek the next Christ-by then, a majority of Christians-declared the pope and his minions to be the new Judases. Chastened, the Universal Catholic Church abandoned planet Vatican and limped back to its Terran birthplace.

As for Parekism, a scandalized Galaxy had at last beheld Terran-style religion at its most toxic: a squalling creed in all the intolerance of youth, hurling aside its moorings in historical reality. But by then it was too late for Galactics to force this genie back into its Terran bottle.

Not that they wouldn't try.