Failing alien technology crashed our civilization. Nations shattered to city-states and kingdoms, and billions died...because we had no tech support for the alien artifacts. Now, two centuries have passed, and exposure to the few artifacts that remain has spawned humans who can learn the alien "magic." As an aging wizard tries to found a school of magic technicians, the drive has begun to reunify a splintered continent. But will it be restoration of the old Union by diplomacy...or unification by conquest, as a tyrant pursues a dream of empire? Abducted to be an unwilling apprentice, a young man struggles to make a difference, as he learns the use of Pathspace -- the space of paths.
While Aria processes the truth about her father, Xander reminisces with Kristana and then they talk about the coming invasion.
A failed attempt so seize artifacts from a shrine reveals that a wizard is in the city. With the search for more artifacts for the war effort underway, the Honcho sends Lester a dollar coin to see if he can make an everflame.
Even a ruler can fall into self-pity. Peter is determined to rebuiild civilization without alien tech this time. But he can't help feeling sorry for himself sometimes. Mankind will go to the stars someday, but he knows that doing it without alien shortcuts will mean that he won't live to see it.
In Dallas to rescue Lester, Xander finds himself distracted by a priest harassed by soldiers. Although the Church has been oppressing magic users, the old wizard cannot turn a blind eye to the priest's predicament. Xander has to step up and stop it. It's what heroes do.
Lester practices his pathspace weaving,. He makes a bit of progress until the lynch mob arrives.
When her dying husband persuaded her to assume the responsibility of keeping his Dream alive, Kristana thought it was the hardest thing she would ever have to do. Now, with invasion coming, Xander asks something similar - to keep his dream of a rebuilt civilization alive by founding his school for wizards even if she is driven from the capitol.
The machinery of war that we take for granted is gone and nearly forgotten, two centuries after the fall of civilization. Governor Kristana has a little difficulty convincing her officers that actual tanks may be coming to confront their crossbow-wielding cavalry.
Following the shock of an assassination, Jeffrey speaks with a cardinal who believes they have something in common: both are impatiently waiting for their turn to rule.
In my future scenario of a fallen civilization, major religions as well as national governments have shattered. Cut off from Europe, America has its own local Pope. He agrees with the Honcho of Texas that no one should use alien artifacts. When he visits the Honcho to find out why the captured magician has not been turned over to the Church, the two leaders engage in some verbal fencing and the regrettable possibility of a violent incident arises.
As the daughter of a ruler, Aria, the Governor of Rado's daughter, has led a sheltered life in the skyscraper fortress in Denver. When she learns that the court wizard Xander has a new apprentice, naturally she wants to meet him.
In an Earth after a fall of civilization, with the loss of easy long-distance communication and transportation, it was easy to predict that large nations would shatter into numerous small kingdoms and city-states. But what of the major religions? Having lost touch with Europe, a similar fragmentation has occurred to institutions such as the Catholic Church. There is now a second Pope in the Americas, and a second Vatican, which has recently moved to Texas, center of the Lone Star Empire. There is a partnership between secular and religious government, but the Honcho does not take orders from the Pontiff.
Xander's new apprentice wakes up and learns there are perks to being in training, even if he was kidnapped. Xander's quarters have wonders he has never seen before, like indoor plumbing and hot water.
Xander and the Governor have an arrangement convenient to both sides. As her court Wizard, he supports her control of Rado and helps defend her against attacks. As Governor, she has her men find him books and artifacts that have survived the two centuries since the Fall of civilization.
Some dread the coming of war; others look forward to it. In the shattered remains of the old Union, one local ruler reaffirms her dedication to the restoration...even as another plans to extend his empire.
Xander regrets having to draft an apprentice. he would prefer them to come to him of their own free will. The problem with that is that not everyone is ready for the training, so he has to take what he can get. He has found a viable candidate, so he cannot afford to give the boy a choice.
Xander wants civilization to rise again with a hybrid alien-human technology. His goal is to found the school to supply the missing tech support. But the alien tech is like magic so we need wizards.
And sometimes the bear gets you. Wounded Xander hears Rado soldiers investigate the banger site as he prepares to limp home with his swizzle staff.
Aria notices that their court wizard has wandered off again to look for another apprentice.
Sometimes, for other people, you have to appear more confident than you are. Kristana remembers when she stepped up and accepted a responsibility that changed her life forever.
Lester wakes up in the wizard's lair and Xander begins to tell him about pathspace. After a bit of this a pleasant distraction intrudes.
Abducted by the wizard Xander, Lester hears how civilization fell: a tale of aliens called Tourists and the Gifts they brought to Earth. At the end of the history lesson, Lester discovers why he has been taken from his home.
Much has been written about alien technology. but such talk ignores the problem of tech support. Sure, if aliens came, they might bring wonders...but would our use of them be sustainable? Research is big business today, and needs governments and corporations to fund it. If civilization fell, it might not be easily rebuilt. In my new series, there are two choices. We can either forget the alien tech and climb back up the hard way...or build a second civilization on a hybrid of human and alien tech. For that, some of us will have to become wizards.
Torn from his wife and family, a Greek demigod from the Bronze Age finds himself in an online computer 3000 years later, chosen to fight for the freedom of humanity from alien superbeings. Is he Hercules, or Achilles? No. He is Asklepios, Homer's "blameless physician" whose temples were hospitals. Now he must find a way to destroy The Devourer of Millions. Befriended by Darla Kaplan, an online gamer who nicknames him "Aes", he has no real world body to go back to. It's now or never, and in this struggle for the future of us all, the most powerful weapon of all may be the love of a woman for a man who is only a ghost in the machine.
In a gaming team, the Tank takes the heat, drawing aggro from enemies, the DPS people do the damage, and the Healer tries to keep them alive. I was a Healer in City of Heroes, a Defender, and my avatar's name was Aesculapius, named after the Greek demigod of healing mentioned in the Hippocratic Oath. It inspired me to write a book about him. This is that book.
Many games are designed to allow soloing, but most encourage teaming. In the modern gaming team, the tank draws the aggro while the melee or ranged fighters do damage. This works well until the tank is overwhelmed, at which point you need a healer, whose main job is to keep the tank alive.
Elizabeth shares memories with Am-heh via the PanGames quantum game server to let him prove his is an alien. Unfortunately, this reveals one of her most dangerous secrets, as a mistake of her past threatens to hand Earth over to the aliens.
Aes remembers meeting his wife. Cheiron interrupts his meditations and tells of his own apotheosis.
In our current Internet we can always just log off if we don't like what's happening because the keyboard buffers us. In the human-computer connections of the future, however, a more intimate entanglement brings risk as well as greater immersion.
As Farker ponders the impossibility of gods in his computer, the situation takes an ugly turn. Whatever is going on in the PanGames server is now beginning to endanger paying customers.
Aes proves there is more to him than meets the eye when he demonstrates the unexpected ability to bleed. His avatar is more detailed than necessary: it exceeds requirements.
Aes is confused and needs something familiar other than the simulation of Mt. Pelion. Enter Cheiron, who has already spoken with Darla. Cheiron is called the "noble centaur" in Greek mythology and was foster father to numerous heroes including Achilles and Asklepios. He begins to brief Aes on where and when Aes really is, and what is actually going on.
How do you explain to someone who lived three thousand years ago that he is living inside virtual reality? Aes has never heard of computers or videogames. Darla has to explain to him how she can just vanish and reappear in the 'space' his avatar inhabits.
People like to feel they've learned something while being entertained. When I discovered in my researching for this book why rice paddies are flooded, I couldn't resist having the reader learn along with Am-heh. In the case of the Devourer, the flooded paddy reminds him of the Nile's annual flooding in ancient Egypt.
Aes believes himself to still be in ancient Greece. But so much is nonsensical! people appear and disappear. The stars are in the wrong positions. How can this be so familiar...and so alien at the same time? Back in ancient times, virtual reality was called "storytelling".
A bioweapon has killed 80% of humanity, dropping the human population down from eight billion to only two. An interesting question is how it would affect the age distribution. It would be most devastating to two particular age groups: the very young and the very old. So there are not just fewer people on Earth. Babies were quickly replaced but the older and most experienced minds are few and precious after the disaster. Farker is very old. He is thus isolated not merely because many of his colleagues are gone, but because he feels like a walking fossil around all the younger humans.
Sometimes we envy the lives of less complicated creatures. Many of our worries are self-inflicted, arising from our own civilization's values and struggles. But there are compensations for being human. With all the burdonsome trivia of consciousness comes also the potential to love and be loved.
Am-heh has a very simple power that works everywhere in virtual reality: he eats your avatar. This is from his title the Devourer of Millions. Unfortunately this also exploits a hole in the game logic - because eaten avatars cannot be rendered...*and* they aren't dead so they aren't relayed to virtual hospitals either. They're in limbo, unable to act or log out.
Farker considers the idea that his quantum computer could be a soulcatcher. He looks up the word and learns more about this tool of the native shamans of Alaska and British Columbia, who used it to draw evil spirits out of patients, and also to catch souls that had wandered and blow them back into those who had fallen ill.
Am-heh, the Devourer of Millions, was a lucky find when I was looking for someone for Asklepios to battle in book one. The hound-headed Devourer has only one job in the Egyptian Pantheon: devouring the hearts and souls of the wicked. He arrives inside the PanGames metaverse not knowing at first that he has been chosen for a Covenant match.
Cheiron was known as the "noble Centaur". One of the peculiarities of Greek art is that Cheiron is often portrayed with his front legs looking like human legs. The Romans drew him with all 4 horse feet, which I went with because it made more sense to me. Cheiron is one of only two known centaurs (Pholus is the other) who were friendly to humans. He has a different lineage from the wild, savage Centaurs
I decided to locate Wu's Enclave within Aokigahara neat Mt. Fuji.. This spooky forest is a real place and a favorite destination for suicides. In the virtual world, it is a good location to be in if you do not want to be disturbed.
Omens lead Darla to Aes who has just arrived in the metaverse. He is without apparel, and thinks he is still in Hellas (ancient Greece).
Every team has its tank, but a team often needs a healer too. Especially a team with an overconfident tank.
Arrival: Asklepios wakes up inside the PanGames metaverse. Everything seems real but he is different. Is this a dream?
Omens lead Darla to meet someone who is not part of the game. I use the hill-topping behavior of Papilio Machaon to bring the characters together. P. Machaon is named after a son of Asklepios who fought in the Trojan War. The butterfly thus ties together Darla, Cheiron, the hilltop meeting, combat, and Asklepios, (Aes) who has not yet appeared.
Working late, Farker finds something unexpected in his computer. Investigating, he has his first meeting with Darla, who is still looking for a healer for her gaming team.
Farker assures his boss that they are ready to include another virtual realm into PanGames. I use this scene to reveal some of the backstory of the United Earth of 2051, which arose from the ashes of a nuclear exchange and the mother of all plagues.
Darla's father remembers taking Darla as an infant to his homeland. We learn why he is raising Darla by himself. In a moment of unhappiness Manny asks God for a sign. What he receives is not what he expected.
Greek legends tell of Asklepios, a son of Apollo who became such a great healer he could raise the dead. But the Fates and Hades complained, and Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt. Later he was deified, but without much explanation. I have decided to tell the middle part of the story, but I have to begin with his execution.
Aes is gone to his reward in Olympus, but he left a gift behind: Darla's *avatar* is pregnant! Join Machaon, the son of Asklepios, as he continues his father's fight for the freedom of mankind from the alien gods. He will face a fierce opponent who was called The Destroyer of Rebellions. The first hero born online, Machaon will have to discover how to be human as well as how to fight. But being human means learning to love. Can he find love? And if he finds a love forbidden by the gods, can he be true to his heart...and still stay true to his people?
As Darla tries to deal with a father - who doesn't understand her virtual pregnancy is important - Farker tries to be there for her. His growing feelings for her are inconvenient and, he is certain, not wanted or returned. But she needs *someone* to be there for her in her grieving.
The funny thing about virtual reality is it can engender the same feelings and reactions as *actual* reality. Darla, in her avatar online in the PanGames server, has just given birth to a virtual baby, Machaon. Talking her into letting go of him and logging out to eat and rest in the real work is tough, but they discover an option they hadn't foreseen.
Elizabeth admits to Wu that her presence in his Enclave was more for hiding than for virtual therapy. Now that she knows her family is alive, she will go to them, and her 'therapist' deserves the truth,
Looking out from his corner office in the PanGames skyscraper, Max struggles to process the news that he is dying of lung cancer.
Caught unprepared, Manny reacted badly to his daughter's revelation of her avatar's virtual pregnancy. His wife tries to salvage the situation by telling him more about the beings that have infiltrated the PanGames computer.
Here i do some exposition in dialogue between Machaon and Cheiron. Aes was a spirit incarnated as living softtware. His son Machaon is not in exactly the same situation: Machaon was *born* inside cyberspace. So what is he? Software, human, or demigod? Does the fact that Machaon entered the metaverse via a virtual birth make him a different sort of incarnation than his father, who appeared as an adult? The answer is yes. Aes appeared with memories of his last life in ancient Greece. Machaon, however does not remember a previous life.
before I realized I was writing a trilogy Victor had been a very minor character. When I began writing the Sequel to AES, however, I realized that none of Am-heh's victims knew how they had been rescued. So Victor returns to the story, as a man changed by the experience and determined to find out what the hell happened to him.
How would gestation proceed for a virtual pregnancy? Normal stages of development such as growing organs and a nervous system are unnecessary for a being that will exist only as a 3D rendering in virtual space. I decided that Machaon, son of Asklepios, would have to figure it out as he went along. There is no DNA controlling the stages of his growth.
Max has learned he is dying of lung cancer. Alone in his corner office in the PanGames skyscraper, he confronts his mortality. As a lapsed Catholic, he had grown comfortable in wealth and authority, but now he finds himself wanting to believe in gods and afterlives.
Sekhmet, the Destroyer of Rebellions, the Lady of Dread, is a lioness-headed goddess of ancient Egypt. At one point mankind was saved when she got too drunk (on wine colored to look like blood) to destroy us. Every year her priestesses would get totally hammered in ritual drunkenness to commemorate it.
Aes is gone to his reward in Olympus, but he left a gift behind: Darla's *avatar* is pregnant! Join Machaon, the son of Asklepios, as he continues his father's fight for the freedom of mankind from the alien gods.
This will be the third and final round in the war between pantheons, for Zeus has agreed that the third match with be winner-take-all. The aliens have chosen Set, the god of chaos, storms, and warfare as their champion. Against him, Zeus is pitting Alexanor, the infant grandson of Asklepios. But how can Alexanor grow up in time and beat a champion of a million battles, a being who has never lost a Covenent match? Will he first find love? And will love be a mere distraction from this Mother of All Battles...or the edge he needs to win for all of us?
"Justice is a human concept." Zeus reminds an outraged goddess that Alexanor's upcoming fight to the death is partly her doing. The universe does what it does, and our moral and value opinions come not from rocks and trees, but from the human heart.
They couldn't dodge the news media forever. When Darla is caught in the UNN crosshairs, Max makes a deal to take the heat off her. But he doesn't like it.
The only thing harder than trying to learn how to be human and fight for a planet you will never really see...is trying to explain to someone that you only exist in a computer. The young lady Alex met returns and he makes another attempt to tell her why he can't go other places with her online. When he loses patience with this and takes her to meet his father, Machaon is less than pleased.
Wu the doctor is the barber who shaves everyone in the village who does not shave themselves. Who shaves Wu? If he shaves himself he must not shave himself. If he does not shave himself he is required to shave himself. Therefore probability neither confirms nor denies, and his shaven state is never finalized.
The war between pantheons for control of Earth is taking place only in virtual space, so most of it was unnoticed by the majority of humanity until the dramatic end of the second novel. All of that changes in the third book. Even as PanGames is tries to avoid any outside interference that could forfeit the third match to the aliens, a star reporter smells a major story. She doesn't know what the real story is, but it must be big for a major corporation to try to distract everyone with alleged 'gods' in cyberspace. Florence gets lucky when two major players arrive on a flight and her attempt to interview Dr. Wu leads her to Liz Kaplan. What does the reclusive physicist have to do with the PanGames coverup?
Conceived in virtual space from a forbidden love, Alexanor has to grow up without much in the way of family or friends. But to fight for humanity, he needs to see himself as human. Exploring a mysterious attraction to female avatars, he finds himself face to face with one and handicapped by the unbelievable truth of his origins. When she invites him to travel with her to an Adult sim, how can he explain to her that the PanGames server is the only world he will ever be allowed to know?
Liz is bored on a transcontinental SCRAMJET and tries to amuse herself by tinkering with some physics theorizing.
A narrow escape made possible only by the memory of previous trauma. Howard's was one of the avatars sawllowed by the Devourer of Millions in book one of the trilogy. The memory of that terror saves him from being forced to be Set's guide in the metaverse.
Set had a changing reputation. At one time he was regarded as a protector, a good god by the people of Egypt. Later, the capital moved to another city and religious views shifted, portraying him as an evil god. As god of chaos, storms, and foreigners, his darkened reputation led me to have him be the final champion for the alien gods battling Zeus and the Olympians for the control of Earth's future.
The action picks up right after the events of the second book. There is no time for Machaon to mourn. The next champion from the aliens is in PanGames and the boy Alexanor has been chosen to fight him. Getting young Alex to a safe place where he can grow and train will be complicated by the intrusion of major news media.
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