A NOOSE OF STARS TO HANG ME (BOOK OF THE WAR IV)Layout
Technical and Other Appendices and side-bars, in style of Book of the War.
A young Scarratt, using the locking point of a murder of a prostitute in post-war Liverpool (historical fact) observes
- the death of a nechronmancer,
- the death of a future-Scarratt.Side bars a) the post-book debriefing of a gibbering living-head (eventually revealed as a preserved Web-possessed Scarratt, here iconically parallel to the Templar’s alledged head of John the Baptist) and b) the rationale behind the use of murder as a time-line mapping point. [3,300 wordsdraft attached
Compassion discovers the Great Attractor, and around it a web spun from 10 million years of Earth’s history ending with its fall into the Great Attractor, everything previous to this back to X AD Palestine has been dismantled into the web. That age is occupied and being demolished. She comes closer to investigate and is attacked by men of Titu’s 10th Legion, who have a suspiciously well informed – if crude - technique for attacking timeships. Recovering she meets Judah of Xaoleth, a local servant of the Great Houses who smuggles her out of Titus’ bombardment to the city of
A slightly older Scarratt is demoted for refusing to kill Brennos during the sack of Delphi, he leaves a window of opportunity in case it proves necessary to return to the task.
A nechronomancer entering a decaying timeship, its structure ageing to dust in the far far future, discovers something horrible. Pulled back to the nosphere of House Xianthellipse, he dies, his body attempting to repair itself, but becoming (seemingly in a variant of a “dying man scrawling a few letter of his killer’s name cliché”) a dead, ten days older, Richard Scarratt. Analysis shows he has advanced time-cancer. [Aside, isn’t it odd that space prefixes are now silly, but time-prefixes are still sinister.]
Sidebar (told as continued debrief of “head”)
Xianthellipse troops reaching (actually the wrong conclusion) burst into Scarratt’s command post on Hesperidies where he’s in the process of rigging some local elections, to increase the probability of a coup twenty years future-wards. It’s bread and butter work, and his Group are getting increasingly trigger-happy, a condition he likes to discourage when ever possible. Scarratt is unsurprised by the arrival of the Xianthellipse Militia and convinces them he isn’t going to be the killer of their nechronomancer by a) pointing out he isn’t able to survive that deep into time, and b) showing their leader his gallery: a pocket dimension full of dead Scarratt’s none more than a month older than him, and the most recent (found dead in an alley behind a notorious time brothel). This is the dead body of which Scarratt gained future knowledge in the prologue].
Compassion has been brought to the settlements along the edge of the Sea of Galilee (as was) now a vast mud flat. There the pipes go deep into the Earth, breaking down raw elements and passing it up into the construction. Great ducts descend from orbit sucking the planet away a piece at a time, and breaking down space itself.
Judah has an acquaintance there (either an old enemy or an old friend) – “it’s all the same since the Great House came. The first thing they stole was the meaning out of the past. What matters a crooked dealing, or a betrayal now” - who now runs a ramshackle hostel for the workers who go into the ducts to clear away blockages. The reader will be given plenty of opportunity to see how the corrosive environment within the ducts can break down any non-biological system (hence the use of humanoids) – this is because Compassion will have to venture into the ducts in chapter 18.
They plan to hid Compassion there until they can make use of her in an attack on the House.
Compassion has however by this time has recovered almost completely and frankly can’t see any point in hiding out in a lot of mouldy pipes full of time-distorted pipemen and servicers. Instead she enfolds Judah and his friend [implicitly either Jesus or John the Baptist] and takes them to Jerusalem to confront the citadel of the Houses on Earth.
Scarratt and the Housemaster of Xanthellipse in charge of the dismantling discuss why the project is centered on Jerusalem rather than Rome, and its importance as a “pivot” in the “web we are seeking to weave around the future”. Scarratt appears to be endeavouring to discover the purpose of the web. He suggests that the House is fearful of something within the Time Hole, something in the early years of space and time. Housemaster Escadrimis is dismissive of this. ‘Oh much earlier than that’. House Xanthellipse has inherited a peculiar crusade, a crusade to preserve the peace of God.
Compassion arrives in Jerusalem, and finds a functioning if shell-shocked society – one which has lost its purpose at the fall of the temple – and the arrival (some say return) at that point of the Heavenly Hosts of the Great House forces, armoured creatures in the form of Ezekial’s angels prowl the skies, the voice of the House of Heaven speaks from Herod’s golden tower. Soldiers from Rome, lost and beaten down are stoned in the streets [the historical death by pressing, not casting of the first stone].
News from Rome and the world is of upheaval and dismay.
Everything is tending to flux. History is being melted in a refiner’s fire, all is to be spun into a golden thread, a net to catch a great hole in the sky. “Sewing up the eye of God”.
The planet she is on is Dominius,a Fortress World on the edge of the Attractor maintained by one of the Great Houses, ostensively as a support station for Timeships swept towards the attractor, but she suspects that it is in reality watching it. Dominius is one node in a “web in space” being built to surrounding the attractor, a lattice of hair like strands each around 75 million miles in thickness enclosing and embedding stars and planets, Dominius is due to be “progressively integrated into the web”, that is dismantled, a process that (we will discover) is actively resisted by some of its native inhabitants. The dismantling as we will see goes beyond matter and involves strip-mining space itself, and “rethreading” the “cored” interior of the lattice with living material that will form a gargantuan nervous system welded to space-time..
To avoid time complications/ enemy interest the web is not timeship based technology but apparently a machine construct being added to continually by progressive von Neuman devices, weaving it around the “rim” or “lip” of the Great Attractor, a distance in total of a billion light years. Once completed it will be the largest known normal matter structure ever made. It seems to Compassion a vastly excessive project merely to save a few lost time-pilots from a plunge out of existance, and her interest (self, and otherwise) is tweaked. Blinking herself forward in time to the projected completion date, she finds not only a ring of web around the GA, but arms curving upward and inward, and downward and inward. The web is going to eventually englobe the GA. HOWEVER IT IS UNFINISHED AND IN RUINS. OBVIOUSLY DESTROYED BY NON-HOUSE XIANTHELLIPSE FORCES.
Note: the Great Attractor is creating a new type of space as it folds the universe in on itself, whether a natural phenomenon or the work of the enemy is uncertain. The web-nerve material is in fact a living creature, brought by Xianthellipse war-beastiery technology from another dimension, growing to engulf the stars. These are, perhaps, two horrors in opposition, and against this background of incorporation into a trans-galactic bionome or being flung into a world where space is time and time space, the inhabitants of Dominus have decided that parties, death-pacts, and the survival of the least fit are the order of the day.
Under the threat of “progressive integration” life on Dominius still continues as normal for many people, who see the move to modules in the inner wall of the local web strand as something that won’t happen in their life-times. The natives have a level of technology about that of 1930s earth, bolstered by dribs and drabs of House technology. They have for instance faster planes and atomic clocks and it is a routine movement of such a clock by a fast plane that first detects an anomalous result in time.
Compassion feels this as a twinge in the small of her back, as if her posture’s bad. (she is feeling a constriction of local space although this is not immediately clear). [Fun interlude with male masseur?
Inappropriate pass met with “horrible monster form”, or with implied full on lust, note ask LM / Lars about levels of permitted violence/erotica/use of language].
Gradually Compassion discovers, that time on Dominius has begun to be strangely affected. Whereas normally a fast shuttle suffers a little time dilation (so an atomic clock on board would appear to lose some seconds) on Dominius, rapid movement has begun to abrade space – the planet is literally – and seemingly permanently - shrinking (albeit by microns) with every fast journey made by it inhabitants.
However the effect is adding up, and is [apparently] threatening the local node of the web. The House masters running the construction, are considering bringing forward breaking up the planet before its raw mass is lost to this peculiar compaction. Their overseer though, tells them that the effect is precisely what was expected. He describes the web as a “tornique”.
Things are however brought to a head when Compassion herself, before discovering exactly what’s happening moves (as she believes in the vortex) between continents while seeking scientists to discuss the compulsion that is impelling her towards the attractor, and in advertantly fuses two continents together, as she collapses the space in between.
[Scene, one House Lord, “Of course we can rely on the effect being inperceptable to native scientists for many years.” Colleague (looking out of window) “No, I’m not sure we can”. 1st character turns, ocean scene established across balcony is gone and urban city in its place, buildings on edges cut and sheared strangely, all wet, dying fish, etc impalled on city spires. ]
Detected (wrongly) as the source – instead of an large example of – the problem, Compassion is attacked by the House Militia of Dominius and forced to hold them off without moving in space, as
She can not risk collapsing space further, or becoming more vulnerable to the compulsion which she has begun to associate with the problem of Dominius’s space-time. She executes some basic “time only maneovres” but the troops have time-jewelry and pursue her.
[Possible, - set bits of this pursuit in other chapters of book, as Compassion jumps forward into her own future. And indeed inside herself.(a rare case of jumping into one’s own skin) Note use of time-jewelry suggests troops may in fact work for Scarratt ].
She is eventually cornered, by the troops – when a door in the air opens and, an arm (Scarratt’s pulls her in). Scarratt is travelling with a nechronomancer “Temnos Ra” “Don’t blame me dear, it’s a guild rule we have to be vain” and a beautiful albino woman. [“So who’s the white witch?” compassion asks]. Scarratt tells Compassion he needs her to promise to kill him on sight the next time she sees him.
He claims to have gone into the Attractor and “bounced”. Now fragmented rogue anti-Scarratt’s backwards in temprement and Time-flow are causing havoc, and absolutely “wrecking his good name with the ladies”. He has tracked the last three to Dominus. [This account is a lie as we will learn in a confrontation between a Web-Scarratt and Compassion later, in fact he has bargained with the Web itself, giving it sufficient biodata to grow itself into twenty hims (ten of which are dead so far). If a Web-him can escape into non-House space it will spread the web over space and time, outside Xianthellipse’s control, in return he has learned, he hopes, how to enter the Attractor safely. He is playing a cat and mouse game with himself, unsure actually if the Web is indeed a danger, space is big after all.]
Bulk of book, with character development, hardest to plot out. Bear with me here. It gradually draws together the vast planetary scope of Scarratt and Compassion’s search for his other selves, down into the bucolic gothic horror of the L and M narrative.
L tries to defend his father, but Scarratt brutally tells him his father is dead. Not redeemed by suffering, not altered by his woes, but just dead, and buried in the long barrow behind the pipeworks.
The thing posing as his father, is the last web-copy of Scarratt, which forced its copied biodata to
Recreate itself in the immolation that supposedly changed M’s character. Now with Scarratt too ravaged by time-cancer to act, and the fake-father in the ducts is safe from Compassion. From there he will be drawn up and incorporated into the biomass that will form part of the web itself, this was the web’s real plan, not to escape but to learn the time-manipulating secrets from Scarratt’s biology and return them to itself. Or so it seems, but now, she ventures into the duct with L providing her with eyes and ears.
In the duct her hyper-senses are simply too acute, it is a link to a superconductor of information channelling the other worlds in the great web, it drowns her. [Chance for traditional futureward flashes of later books in series? / other author’s settings] L has to guide her. [Note possibly intimately/sexually? Symbolically/symbiotically anyway. We’re talking a bareback riding motief, establish earlier a “cowboy” persona for L?] He also has to choose whether or not to kill the think he’s learned to love as his father, or not. It was a lie, and yet it did genuine good. In the end he doesn’t kill it, even though he has the time-gun he took from Scarratt, the biologically engineered time-gun from chapter four (odd how useful that is in a duct environment, eh Scarratt?).
Compassion interrogates the snatched Web-Scarratt [learning the truth of Scarratt’s involvement] and decides to let it go, but only on a world who’s sun is due to nova in 20 years. She tells it she intends to inspect in 19, and decide then what’s to be done. In twenty years even a thing that can make a civilisation from itself shouldn’t have gone from flints to rocketry. However when she’s gone the Web-thing reaches out and remodulates the sun.
[Note this is the sun, Scarratt had on his list to save in Chapter Three]. Cut to Scarratt, in pain and under treatment, who knows the Web-duplicate has time-cancer (which he incubated in himself prior to providing the biodata) [hence the death of the nechronomancer, copying the web-scarratt who he had encountered to the biodata level] and thus only about a brief time to live.
Scarratt is about to take the last dose of antidote (the glowing blue-vials seen in Chapter four), and find it has been removed [by Compassion in chapter five]. Without it, he is permanantly marked by the time-cancer, though he survives. “At last a scar,” he muses, “touche, Compassion, we must meet again”.
Compassion begins to brew/decant/create more antidote, and makes a note to herself to revisit the world of the Web-Scarratt in when its ready. Then she’ll really control it. But a still voice in her head wonders, is it control she wants or the sort of gratitude the scarratt-thing displayed to its “son”, even if it was only a lie.