The Stalk

The Stalk

Can humanity still exist after an excursion into an alien space-time dimension?

The interstitial interpreter had shown Mickey Croft, Secretary General of the United Nationals of Earth, a universe beyond Mickey’s comprehension. That historic meeting had created an Earth ambassadorial mission into the alien space-time dimensions known as “Unity.” And to of Earth’s valuable children had also vanished into Unity, star-crossed lovers fleeing the wrath of their powerful parents. Now the children had returned, bringing a message to Croft. The Unity would welcome expanded contact with the UNE. Bit to accomplish this, Threshold — the space station that was the center of human government, commerce, and entertainment — must be moved out of Earth’s orbit to an orbit around Pluto. The Unity had made its offer, stated its terms. Now the UNE must respond. But how could Mickey Croft make an unbiased decision for all humankind, when his own direct contact with the Interpreter had left him uncertain whether he himself was still completely human?

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About the Book
[excerpt from The Stalk]

 

Chapter 1: Be Careful What You Wish For

Humanity’s two lost children were back on the space habitat called Threshold. Mickey Croft, Secretary General of the United Nations of Earth, once had wished for nothing so fervently as the return of the star-crossed young lovers.

But you had to be careful what you wished for, these days.

Ever since the aliens from the Council of the Unity had contacted mankind, materializing their uncanny teardrop­shaped ships in a polite parking orbit at Spacedock Seven, nothing could be taken for granted-not mankind’s hegemony among the stars, not space, time, nor even physics. Not if you’d had direct contact with the Unity aliens. So you were very careful what you wished for, and what you thought, and what you dreamed if you had been contaminated by alien contact.

And Michael (Mickey) Croft, had been the first to be so contaminated. Or so he’d thought then. As Secretary General of the Trust Territory of Threshold, home to two hundred and fifty thousand souls in a stable orbit between Mars and Jupiter, it had been Croft’s job to act as emissary and meet with the aliens aboard their incomprehensible flagship.

As a result of that meeting, Croft’s world had turned upside down. The three hundred colonies of the United Nations of Earth (UNE) were no longer the boundaries of humanity’s universe. Mankind was no longer master of all it surveyed. The UNE Secretariat no longer ruled creation from the Stalk, the administrative center at Threshold’s axis.

Mickey Croft’s office looked the same. Its soft blue walls obeyed a knowable geometry. Its staff still scurried busily. His mundane duties were no less pressing. Yet the phenomenal world as he’d known it could no longer be taken for granted.

The Unity aliens had come. And gone. Bringing gifts. Leaving confusion. Taking away with them a contact team handpicked by Croft (the beginning of a diplomatic mission) to their own cosmos. And leaving Croft to deal with the aftereffects of humanity’s first contact with an arguably superior race.

In Mickey’s office, with its trappings of power, everything looked the same. His panoramic window with its vista onto the stars showed them unchanged in their courses. Yet everything was altered. He was altered. Changed, like everything else1n the universe, by contact with the aliens. All humanity’s certainty had gone, disappearing into unknown reaches with the alien teardrop craft.

In their wake, nothing remained sure. No fact was certain. The power of the unseen was greater than the seen. The spacetime inhabited by Mickey Croft was no longer dependably proceeding from past to future. The comfortable “now” of human reality was no longer predictable. Everything humanity had thought it knew had been swept into a maelstrom of false assumptions and into that chaotic vacuum of uncertainty had come . . . the missing children.

The aliens had returned them. Perhaps found them. Possibly rescued them. Conceivably abducted them in the fust place. But no one dared say that, or even think too much about the consequences of such a line of reasoning. The Unity aliens were too powerful to consider as enemies. And they were gone now, leaving behind the prodigal children and a mysterious sphere floating at Spacedock Seven.

Leaving behind a UNE Secretary General contaminated by the contact. Mickey Croft’s mind, his soul, his personal spacetime, all were suspect, so far as his reasoning self was concerned. But he could convince no one of that. No medical workup showed a problem. No psych profile showed the damage. Mickey had tried to resign.

His resignation was not accepted. He had measured himself against a profile stored in his psychometric sampler modeler and found no deviation. But that proved only that alien contamination was not measurable by contemporary standards.

At least, where Croft was concerned, the alteration was not outwardly noticeable. Yet.

Croft touched a control pad on his desk and the alien Ball appeared on the opposite wall: the artifact of the Unity sat quiescent, huge, silvery, spherical, silent, and smug, still surrounded by the scaffolding that supported the science station he’d had constructed to evaluate it. Were the aliens man’s best hope or worst nightmare? Or both? The Ball had preceded the aliens, towed in as salvage by a white­ hole scavenger named Keebler. At the aliens’ request, Keebler had been part of the contact team who’d left for the Unity.

If Croft had known then what he knew now, he’d never have sent a contact team to Unity space. The team, a skeleton diplomatic mission, had not been heard from since. Three weeks, and no contact. If they were lost, or suffering, it was Croft’s fault.

But at the time, he’d thought he’d been the first to contact the aliens. He hadn’t fully realized that a pair of young lovers, lost in space, had preceded him. He hadn’t known what the children would be like when they got back. The aliens had left as the children were returned, taking Croft’s handpicked team with them: Director Riva Lowe, formerly of Customs, Commander Joe South, a Relic pilot relativistically delivered from Earth’s distant past, and Mikah Keebler, the white-hole scavenger who’d salvaged the Ball and towed it to Threshold in the first place. Some said Croft had picked the team to get rid of troublemakers, but Croft had chosen those who’d been contaminated by alien contact, like himself, to make the journey into the unknown. It had seemed a rational decision, at the time.

It still seemed a rational choice, but whose? His? or the Unity Council’s? Croft couldn’t be certain whether he’d decided on his own or the decision had been made for him by the Unity aliens. His skin crawled whenever he tried to think about the events connected with the alien contact. He crossed his long, lanky arms and rubbed them with his palms.

He must get control of himself.

The Ball seemed to shiver slightly in Mickey’s monitor. The real-time image took on a pinkish glow like sunrise along its eastward edge.

“No, you don’t,” Croft muttered aloud, and stabbed at the image control to wipe away the sight. The Ball obediently disappeared. Croft had too much to do to indulge in paranoia. Or to let the Ball mesmerize him. Whether or not the Ball had the power to twist spacetime and human minds, it was a fact of life now. It had sat there for months; it might sit there forever. The children were on this afternoon’s agenda. And their parents.

The children; he should stop calling them that. They were teenagers, young adults who had caused immeasurable trouble with their secret marriage and headlong flight into alien arms and the pages of history.

But that wasn’t why Croft dreaded the coming interview. It was the children themselves he feared to face. Or what they had become.

He had reports, from his executive officer, Vince Remson, on the pair. Remson’s reports were cold, bloodless, factual, and deeply disturbing. The youngsters were changed, different, wise beyond their years and transformed by their flight to a youth hostelry at the edge of spacetime. But transformed into what? Aliens? They scanned to be as human as Croft.

So much for Remson’s analysis of the children themselves.

The lovers’ families, the entrepreneurial Cummings dynasty and the religious Forats, had become the Montagues and Capulets of the United Nations of Earth. Despite promises and endless negotiations, the feuding parents were refusing to let their children’s marriage stand unchallenged.

And that was a blessing. Croft wasn’t about to turn loose any alien-contaminated youngsters onto Threshold, let alone allow them to leave for their parents’ vast holdings among the human extraterrestrial colonies.

So, some subterfuge was in order to hold the children here until they could be evaluated thoroughly. Mickey Croft had once been a master of subterfuge. Now he was master of nothing, not even his own emotions. Holding the children in quarantine for their own safety was Vince Remson’s idea.

Croft could think of little else but the Unity aliens, their sad eyes, the teardrop ships he still entered in his dreams, and the increasingly enervating task of holding body and mind together.

Concentration, once his strongest skill, was beyond him. Vince knew. Remson was taking up the slack masterfully. But that left Croft to manage the best he could alone, at times.

Unfortunately, this was one of those times. Mickey could have demanded that Remson make time to be present for the youngsters’ interview, but he hadn’t.

He needed to face them alone. They were only children, after all-teenagers. And he was the senior diplomat on Threshold. He had told himself sternly that if he couldn’t manage this interview without support, he would resign a second time.

And this time, he would let no one dissuade him.

So his career hung in the balance of this seemingly minor, if somewhat unusual, matter of the UNE Secretary General intervening in the case of a pair of wellborn children whose parents opposed their marriage.

If the children had not been explorers into alien spacetimes, the whole problem would have been so much simpler. Not even the UNE’s Secretary General could grant the pair open-ended sanctuary on Threshold as if in a church, proclaimed the parents’ attorneys. Croft could have let the parents deal with their offspring.

But the question of alien contamination raised the issue of the lovers’ fate to the level of an interspatial security decision. If the children were noticeably changed, or represented any threat, they must not be allowed to move about Threshold or the colonized worlds, spreading their contamination or raising questions about the Unity aliens.

Croft knew the dangers of contamination personally. And as to questions, the less questions asked about the aliens-the first superior race ever to encounter humanity­ the better. At least, until the Stalk bureaucracy had some answers.

Threat or salvation was out there, wrapped in a silvery Ball like a giant Christmas ornament at Spacedock Seven, and Mickey Croft hadn’t the faintest idea which was the correct description. Even now, Croft couldn’t articulate what had happened to him during his visit to the alien vessel. He couldn’t remember, precisely, what had occurred. He remembered being invited aboard the alien flagship. He remembered meeting three aliens, including the Unity’s Interstitial Interpreter. He remembered being returned to his own ship.

Sometimes Croft wondered if he had been truly returned safely by the aliens of the Unity to his native spacetime, or whether he was somewhere else, similar to but not precisely the same as the spacetime he’d left. A place where things were marginally out of whack, where time didn’t flow as smoothly as he remembered it once had, where spaces were more malleable. Where the forward-moving arrow of Einsteinian physics meandered in its course, and bent, and wriggled, and sometimes fell spinning, out of control like a badly fletched crossbow bolt.

But Vince Remson was the same as always. Vince was Croft’s touchstone, his assistant secretary, his executive officer. And Croft’s office was the same-most times.

Mickey’s office was dominated by a huge desk with a hematite top where schools of fossils were locked forever in black and silver profusion. Sometimes the fossils moved now. Sometimes, when he looked at them, he was sure they moved. He had taken to placing objects-a pen, a notebook, a paperweight-at strategically chosen angles to the fossilized schools to see if the borders he thus established would be violated when he looked again. Today, he was certain the school was at least six inches beyond its previous leftmost border.

But there was no way of telling whether the phenomenon was a function of disjointed spacetime, or whether the robot cleaner had disturbed things when it dusted during the night.

Croft rubbed his weary eyes and forsook his desk for the window. His observation window showed him a panoply of stars. The window was a symbol of his putative power over Threshold, displaying to all and sundry his perch at the “top” of Blue Mid, the Stalk’s most “northerly” vista. His reflection, not the stars, stared back at him: a horse-jawed face collapsing in on itself from stress, pale eyes surrounded with so many circles that each seemed to be the center of a stone dropped into a pool, a mobile mouth that had finally taken a permanent downward turn, and thinning hair which had picked up a perennial static charge that made it unruly despite all cosmetic and antistatic measures.

Most of the things that were “wrong” in Croft’s universe were much like the static in his hair: tiny, inconsequential, even laughable if their basic wrongness wasn’t so disturbing. His entire life, since the arrival of the aliens, had taken on a wrongness alleviated only by an occasional sense of destiny, of power, of resonance, of harmony, that seemed even more wrong. Change itself was the most likely reason for the tumult of feelings within him. Change itself, unfortunately, did not explain the static charge in his hair or the cascade of wonder arid terror in his heart. –

He was different, since his return from . . . what? A spaceship with vistas within, a teardrop portal into eternity? A journey undertaken only in his mind? He couldn’t say. If just Mickey Croft were different, he would happily have declared himself mad and retired posthaste. But the universe was different, now that the aliens had come. Broader. Deeper. Mythic, almost. Mystical, certainly. And, for the first time in humanity’s history, threatening.

Well, perhaps not for the first time. All ancient Earth cultures had feared the sky, the night, nature, the weather, and all things unseen and unknowable. Ancient man had peopled the universe with gods and devils, demons and dark forces, and enslaved one another for centuries using humanity’s fear of the dark. Then had come Aristotle, Plato, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, and the rest, lighting more lamps to chase back the dark of superstition and all mankind’s demons with them. The lamplight of science had held back that dark night for millennia. Now, in the twenty-fifth century, the lamp of man’s triumph over the dark was going out. Flickering. Sputtering. Croft didn’t want to be the man who let it die completely, never to be rekindled.

The Unity aliens represented every fear of ancient man and every hope of ancient prophets, all rolled into one. They were gods and devils, the ultimate good and the penultimate evil. And when you were touched by them, you were never the same again.

Croft, who had been touched by them, knew he was changed. Proof was beside the point. So why was he afraid of similar changes in the children of NAMECorp’s chief executive and the Mullah of Medina, Beni Forat? Croft had more in common with those two children now than with any of his staff.

That fact might be the most disturbing change of all. It disturbed Croft’s aide, Vince Remson, and both of them knew it. Remson thought that Mickey was not objective where the children were concerned.

Children . . . They were old enough to marry, old enough to thoughtlessly, selfishly become the center of this cyclone. At their age, Croft had been far more responsible than to reenact Shakespeare’s most famous play with spaceships, hoping to write a different ending. Croft wished that he could turn back the clock, find the delinquent teenagers before they’d slipped out of his staff’s grasp, and keep them from crossing the path of the Ball out at Spacedock Seven and being precipitated into the heart of this crisis.

Be careful what you wish for. In this undependable spacetime, thoughts could become reality.

Afraid, suddenly, that the past might reshape itself to suit his wishes, Mickey Croft counted up events on his long, thin, trembling fingers.

ONE: Before the NAMEcorp boy and Medinan girl sped off toward their destiny and an alien world, the scavenger had brought the Ball to Threshold.

TWO: Before that, intimations of an imminent first contact with a superior race had existed in a classified file of an experimental space mission nearly five hundred years old.

THREE: If the pilot of that mission, Joe South, hadn’t turned up near Threshold, a Relic of the twenty-first century and an artifact of relativity, no one in the Stalk bureaucracy would have been at all prepared for contact with the alien Unity.

FOUR: The aliens had kept their distance for five millennia. Now they were here. Their housegift to Threshold had been the return of Richard Cummings III and Dini Forat, young lovers caught in a web of destiny.

Croft was out of fingers and nearly out of time. He went back to his desk and sat down, glaring at the fossils embedded in the hematite, willing them to be still.

Focus on the present. Romeo and Juliet were back, after more than a six-month absence. They had been places and seen things no humans before them had ever experienced. If Croft had the power, he would have made them wards of the state, but he did not have it. All he could do was try to maintain control of them temporarily by pretending to shelter them from their furious, vengeful, and powerful parents.

If the youngsters would cooperate.

Even that was not certain. Even that, which might be critical to mankind’s survival, was not completely within Croft’s control Mickey Croft, Secretary General of the all-powerful United Nations of Earth Secretariat, was not accustomed to feeling helpless or inadequate.

The worst thing the alien encounter had done to him was thrust him into a nightmare where he was, continually, both.

A chime from his desktop sounded and he jumped as if he’d heard the sharp report of an emergency depressurization. “What?” he snapped.

Dodd, his secretary/receptionist, answered meekly, “Your two-o’clock is here, sir.”

Not, “Romeo and Juliet are here,” not, “The kids who found the Unity homeworld are here,” not, “Rick Cummings III and Dini Forat are here.” Sometimes, Dodd’s dull wit seemed like heaven-sent implacability. The stolid youngster was hardly older than the Cummings boy, but Croft would have given his SecGen’s prerogative as Commander-in-Chief of Consolidated Space Command in even trade for Dodd’s equanimity.

In the face of it, Mickey stuffed his pocket handkerchief into his conservative suit, ran a palm over his wayward hair, and said, “Send them in, Dodd,” as if they represented only another hour marked on his calendar to be inconsequentially spent. Croft leaned his elbows on his desktop for support. Under his hands, the fossils began to glide along agitated currents. Mickey Croft squeezed his eyes shut and willed the fossils to immobility once again.

When he opened them, in came the two youngsters who had upended humanity’s future, arm in arm, pale of face, and glowing of eye.

Croft had heard from Remson that the kids’ eyes glowed in certain light. Not a lot. Just a little. In reflected light, as if their eyes had become cats’ eyes. Yellow lights gleamed and receded as the youngsters approached his desk.

He didn’t stand to greet them. Young Rick Cummings had Dini Forat by the arm as he strode up to the desk, half-dragging the Medinan girl who, before coming to Threshold, had habitually worn a veil over a face that would have done Helen of Troy proud.

Then the children began to slide. They seemed to slip through the intervening space, rush up to his desk with their eyes preceding their faces.

Cummings extended his hand over Croft’s desk and the desk disappeared entirely. All that existed in the universe was the boy’s hand waiting for Croft to take it in his.

“Thank you for seeing us, sir. We really appreciate all you’ve done.”

Arrogant. Proud. Knowledgeable. Perhaps smirking, or promising to share the secret of passing across space without traversing the intermittent ground.

Was this a display of power·, or a figment of Croft’s rattled psyche?

Mickey focused on the young man’s face. Rick Cummings III was handsome enough to make a likely escort, a Paris to Dini’s Helen of Troy, if these children were the Unity’s version of the Trojan Horse.

Meeting the youngster’s eyes, Croft suddenly couldn’t believe there was any evil intent there, only an odd, slight glint of reflected light.

Time shifted under Croft. The fossils in his desk lived, and died, and became one with the rock that was their crypt.

The boy’s hand was still outstretched to him, waiting.

Mickey half-rose to shake Cummings’ determinedly outthrust hand before those glowing eyes could drop to his desktop and make the schooling fossils move again. Couldn’t have that. Let go of the hand. Break contact with the eyes. Sit down yourself.

“Sit down, Mr. Cummings, Ms. Forat.”

“Mrs. Cummings,” Rick Cummings corrected sharply, reminding Croft that these two youngsters wanted him to solve their mundane problems, such as getting their parents to recognize their marriage.

“Sit, please,” Croft said again. Dini Forat was already seated in one of the two chairs before his desk, her dark curls cascading down and across one breast. How had it happened? He hadn’t seen her take a seat.

Never mind. Arresting woman. She’d left him nearly speechless the first time he’d seen her. There was nothing supernormal about her extraordinary beauty.

Now, Croft couldn’t afford to be mesmerized, not by her face, not by the way light came and went in her eyes or in the eyes of her young husband. Now he must gain their confidence, enlist them as allies, and somehow save both their lives from Medinan justice and Richard Cummings II’s retribution, which would in all likelihood be worse than death.

Croft was mildly surprised that he hadn’t realized how important it was to shield the children from their parents’ misplaced fury. It might be the most important thing he ever did.

He must save them, of course. Fighting for control of his own thoughts, of his focus, Croft reminded himself that be must save these children not because he cared about their welfare, which he truly did not, but for his own reasons, for his own purposes, for his own needs and the security needs of three hundred colonies.

Mickey Croft seldom needed help. But he did, today, from these children. He smiled at them.

Two huge Cheshire cat grins answered his, hanging in space above his desk.

Croft ignored the phenomena, but his eyes began to throb and he began to perspire at the collar.

“Well then,” he said, and stopped. What should he say? The two young people sat silently watching him with infrared eyes, their lips firmly attached to their faces now.

He hoped they would speak. They didn’t, just stared at him uncannily.

Croft began again. “I’m sure we can find a way to solve this problem together.” No reaction. “I expect,” Croft continued, “that is, I suppose . . . we may be able to work out something with your parents, but it will not be simple, and it will require great maturity and compromise on your parts.”

“Just work something out that doesn’t mean separating us,” Cummings said brashly and craftily, “and we’ll be as mature as you want.”

The Forat girl shifted in her chair and said, “Rick means . . . we must have our marriage upheld.” And she caught him again with those eyes that had cat’s glow in their depths. He was falling. He was melting through the floor. He was palming his way along a spherical surface that was flat to the touch and yet never intersected any other surface . . . He was back on the alien ship.

And then he was free of her. But frightened. And sweating again. He was SecGen of the UNE, and he was sweating .in front of these two kids. Remson had been right—Croft should have had this meeting with a one-star admiral and five aides in attendance, to take notes and generally support him.

But Croft had a running log of this meeting, as he did of all meetings-not that anyone would ever see him make such a display of himself, quail before children… Croft said, “My dear, I know what you want. You and your . . . husband . . . must do exactly what I say to have any hopes of coming through this alive, well and together. You must realize that the diplomatic consequences of the incident you caused are substantial and not our only problems.”

Croft didn’t look at her again. If he didn’t look at her, he would be all right.

Young Cummings said, “We’re willing to work with you, Mr. Secretary. We said that. We have—” Cummings smiled a negotiating smile that was a chilling caricature of his father’s “—something in common, don’t we? And we’ve all got the same goals.”

Croft wondered about that. What had he expected from these children? Some humility, perhaps. Contrition. Some fear. Some recognition of the depths of their danger. But not arrogance. Not glowing-eyed arrogance. Not wisdom beyond their years. They shouldn’t have realized how much bargaining power they had, when Threshold was desperate for information about the aliens.

But they did. Clearly, they did.

Cummings had his father’s predatory, blond, handsome, soulless confidence. Croft was suddenly angry beyond measure that the boy was so certain of his ground with the UNE Secretariat.

“I could have you both—” He stopped. What? Put into protective custody? Yes, that was it. He would rather have put them each in solitary forever and thrown away the key. But they would have demanded to be locked up together. “Put in protective custody of the Secretariat for the time being. But only if you will cooperate with my people and adhere to certain security conditions.”

“What conditions?” Dini Forat-Cummings demanded. “What kind of cooperation?” her husband added.

Maybe Croft was overreacting, attributing qualities and power to them because of their recent history that were greater than they deserved. Perhaps they were both just children, after all; teenagers facing terrible consequences from their forbidden love.

Croft said, “Place yourselves willingly in my hands. Give appropriate statements to be passed to your embassies. Vince Remson of my staff will help you. Undergo a thorough set of physical and psychological evaluations. And cooperate with my investigators completely, no matter what they ask of you.” It was a tough offer, with no guarantees. Temporary safety in exchange for complete access to whatever they knew. But, children or not, they were in a tough situation.

“All right,” Dini Forat-Cummings said softly, but it sounded to Croft like the tinkling of glass bells, not human words spoken from a human throat.

“You’ll keep us safe,” Richard Cummings III said, as if that were the agreement and the universe itself would mandate Croft’s adherence to it. Or as if the aliens would.

Mickey Croft’s body hair stood on end in a shower of personal static. He said, “Agreed,” and once more offered his hand across his desk to the boy who had been six months in an alien spacetime.

When Cummings’ flesh touched Croft’s, the blue spark that jumped between their fingers was the size of a balled fist.

The snap and jolt of it numbed Croft up to the elbow. He cried out.

The youngster looked at him curiously, as if nothing untoward had occurred. “ls there anything else, sir?” said Cummings, ignoring the electrical discharge as if it hadn’t happened.

“Ah, no,” Croft said with utmost difficulty, managing to sound as if he were in control of this meeting. “Young Dodd out front will have Secretary Remson come and collect you. Stay in the outer office until he does.”

“Thank you, sir,” said the Forat girl in her chiming voice.

“Yes, thanks. I’m sure we’ll all get along fine,” said Cummings.

Croft wanted to throw a paperweight at the boy, or call back his offer of aid, but did neither. He just watched them go without a word, out the obedient door that reacted to them as if they were human. From the rear, it was easier to think that they were.

Poor Vince. Assistant Secretary Vince Remson, fixer extraordinaire, was about to begin the most critical, and perhaps personally dangerous, mission of his life. There was nothing normal about those two youngsters. Croft, who had met them before their flight from Threshold, now knew that for certain.

But then, there was nothing normal about Mickey Croft anymore, not since his encounter on the alien ship.

At least his eyes didn’t glow. Or did they?

Croft went again to his window on the stars, and then into his executive bathroom, where he stood for a long time, moving his head before a mirror, staring at his own eyes, trying to catch a glint of cat’s glow in their depths.

Details
Authors: ,
Series: Threshold Series, Book 3
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Perseid Press
Publication Year: 2022
ASIN: B09Q1FX4VV
ISBN: 9781948602419
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About the Author
Janet Morris

Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. She wrote the bestselling Silistra Quartet in the 1970s, including High Couch of Silistra, The Golden Sword, Wind from the Abyss, and The Carnelian Throne. This quartet had more than four million copies in Bantam print alone, and was translated into German, French, Italian, Russian and other languages. In the 1980s, Baen Books released a second edition of this landmark series. The third edition is the Author's Cut edition, newly revised by the author for Perseid Press. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Janet says: 'People often ask what book to read first. I recommend "I, the Sun" if you like ancient history; "The Sacred Band," a novel, if you like heroic fantasy; "Lawyers in Hell" if you like historical fantasy set in hell; "Outpassage" if you like hard science fiction; "High Couch of Silistra" if you like far-future dystopian or philosophical novels. I am most enthusiastic about the definitive Perseid Press Author's Cut editions, which I revised and expanded.'

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