David Louis Edelman
MultiReal
'MultiReal' trade paperback cover

Draft 16: June 19, 2005

A new approach, featuring Magan Kai Lee, Rey Gonerev (then named Rey Goneril), and Papizon discussing whether to overthrow Len Borda. The character of Ridgello didn’t exist at this point, and Magan Kai Lee was still leading the mission into Natch’s apartment personally in chapter 2. Written in the evening of June 19, 2005.

*

In Len Borda’s observation tower, there were no shadows.

The tower jutted out the top of the Defense and Wellness Council’s fortress with priapic majesty as if waiting for some falling thing to impale. [1] The fortress itself floated in geostationary orbit at the outermost reach of the earth’s gravitational pull, only a quick rocket thrust away from either floating off into the aether to become permanent cold storage or spiraling earthwards to die in a phoenix horror of fiery metal.

An outsider might have noted that the room at the tip of Len Borda’s observation tower was the highest point in human space. But up here there were no outsiders, because the fortress’ very existence was a closely guarded state secret. Even the thousands of Council officers who multied up here every day for work did not know where the system was projecting them.

Up here there were no shadows, because there was nothing above to cast them.

Ordinarily, Len Borda would have been the one sitting at the head of the long tombstone of a table at the top of the observation tower. But today, the High Executive had complained of fatigue and begged off, leaving the afternoon’s business to Lieutenant Magan Kai Lee. [2]

Lieutenant Lee didn’t mind. Caesar probably wasn’t invited to the strategy meeting where his subordinates plotted his overthrow either, he thought.

The assembled advisors and factotums stood respectfully as Lee went through the opening formalities of a Defense and Wellness Council staff meeting. He stood at least a head shorter than anyone else in the room and at least ten kilograms slighter. But all along the table, there was nothing but deference and even a little fear for Len Borda’s second-in-command — the first because the high executive placed such trust in him, and the second because it was widely known that Magan could kill anyone in the room with ease. [3]

Magan went down the day’s itinerary with crisp military discipline, gradually plotting the state of the world with bits of information from the staff. Unrest among the Islanders and the Pharisees had reached a fever pitch. The libertarian Khann Frejohr had been coronated the Speaker of the Congress of L-PRACGs, and the markets were reacting with cautious optimism. [4] The last of the unsettling aftershocks surrounding last month’s mysterious infoquake seemed to have finally died away. Margaret Surina remained sequestered at the top of her own tower, her intentions unknown.

Lieutenant Lee listened judiciously, made the occasional spot decision or word of guidance. An hour and a half passed. Magan knew that what happened here was inconsequential, mere paint-by-numbers over the broad strokes sketched by High Executive Borda and his Hidden Council. [5] Finally, their agenda mined to depletion, Lieutenant Lee dismissed the advisors with a curt flick of the wrist. Multi projections winked out up and down the table.

Within seconds, only three remained: Magan Kai Lee and his two most trusted subordinates: Papizon and Rey Goneril. [6]

No one spoke for several minutes as Magan brooded in his chair.

“We have many questions before us,” he said, “but chief among them are these:

“Is Len Borda still fit to lead the Defense and Wellness Council?

“And if not, should he be eliminated?”

*

Rey Goneril was a tall, lithe panther of a woman with a mind both sharp and multi-faceted. She ruled over the Council’s legal and administrative wings with cool beauty and almost drama-star grace. [7] Magan suspected that Rey would eventually be able to mount a serious challenge to him for the post of high executive — after he himself had gotten a chance to make his mark there, of course — but that time was still decades in the future. For now, her loyalty was unquestioned.

“So he has asked you to go through with this mission then,” she said.

Magan nodded. “He insists that I see to it personally.”

“And there is no changing his mind?”

The Council lieutenant snorted. “Does Len Borda ever change his mind?”

Rey stood and rested her hands on the back of her chair, clenching and unclenching her fingers on it in frustration. “This will be a public relations nightmare,” she said. “The drudges will be merciless. That libertarian Frejohr won’t stand for this now that he’s in charge of the Congress. He’ll torpedo our entire agenda for next year. He’ll embolden the Pharisees, the Islanders, everybody.”

“Then the question before us,” said Magan, “is whether we will undertake this mission or not.”

Papizon’s head tilted clockwise until it was nearly at a forty-five degree angle. “D’you mean — there’s an alternative to following a direct order from the high executive?”

[…]

“This mission can succeed… but there must be no hesitation. We must be quick. We must be thorough. And we must be merciless.”

Notes

  1. The Defense and Wellness Council fortress remained intact in the final draft, as did this sentence — with the exception that I decided to flip it upside-down so the observation tower looks down on Earth instead of up. [Back]
  2. Magan Kai Lee’s title would change many times throughout these drafts, from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Executive and back again. “Lieutenant” simply didn’t seem like a prestigious enough title for a second-in-command, while “Lieutenant Executive” seemed like a mouthful. I eventually settled on the latter. [Back]
  3. Magan is still presumed to be a ruthless killer here, a bad idea which would persist for quite a long time. [Back]
  4. I struggled for a long time to find an adequate way to reintroduce Khann Frejohr into this book. He’s mentioned briefly in Infoquake, but in such a tangential way that the reader isn’t likely to remember him. Still, Frejohr becomes an important character in this book, so I needed to find a way to introduce him. I eventually settled on the letter in Chapter 4. [Back]
  5. The Hidden Council, an inner circle of Len Borda’s that I had in the back of my head for many early drafts. Later abandoned. [Back]
  6. The genesis of the Rey Gonerev character was simply a matter of practicality: I needed someone to deliver the speech in the Congressional hearing much later in the book. In early drafts, first Len Borda made the speech himself, and then Magan Kai Lee delivered it. Both inadequate. (Serr Vigal’s speech, meanwhile, was originally spoken by Khann Frejohr.) I conceived of Rey Gonerev as a way to deepen the mystery around Magan. Then as soon as I started to write her, damn if she didn’t start developing a personality all by herself. At this point, I was trying to find ways to backfill her into the story. [Back]
  7. One of the main criticisms I heard about Rey Gonerev in these early drafts was that she was constantly being described as either a) sexy and beautiful, or b) a panther. I eventually realized that I was using the “blindingly beautiful” thing as a crutch because I hadn’t developed the character enough. I took pains in later drafts not to constantly refer to her beauty. And to cut down the 4,000 references to her as a panther, a cougar, a puma, a mountain lion, etc…[Back]