On a hell-class world where feudal lords joust with mechs and use memetic tech to imprint loyalty onto their vassals and thralls, all Charlie and his people ask is to be left alone, free to think for themselves.
Peek inside the novel:
“Whhhhy doeth thou hhhhesitate?” the alien Sulphine queen asked.
“Sorry, ma’am.” I shook my head. “I can’t put on the helm. Not even to save my life. It will steal my mind.”
With that decision, I felt a deep peace and joy. I wasn’t scared of death no more, I just felt good.
“And what of thhy mate?” the Sulphine asked me. “Hhhumans fighhht for many thhhings thhat to us seem worthhless but yet thhou wilt not for thhy mate?”
All my fine feeling left me. I choked. The sound of them bandits flyin away with Benisse on the plane rang in my ears. There was no way I could save Benisse if I was dead. Hell, wasn’t no way I could save Benisse if I was alive neither, not unless a miracle occurred.
A miracle, like, say, findin a weapon that would let me take the fight to them what took my girl.
I hadn’t never been sure I believed I had a soul till I had to make the choice to give it up.
To save her, you gonna have to fight them on their own terms and win.
Better to lose my life than my mind; but better to lose my mind than to lose her.
I unzipped the kit of Lord Brin. For a minute, I stared at him, or what was left of him, a skinny white skeleton grinnin at me. Once I had got to knockin his bones out of my way, I sat into the lee of the open kit. Kits is designed with smart-threads so that an old one will weave off you and a new one weave on you without exposin you to the poison gas about you. The whole lot slid on smoothly.
“Thhhou hhhast made thhhy chhhoice,” said the Sulphine “Thhhou hhhast chhhosen life. We shhhall bidhh thhhee farewell now.”
Suddenly, I was blind and in pain again. But I was breathin better and I could feel Brin’s kit and helm. Can’t explain how, but I knew that me and the plane wasn’t in the Sulphine palace no more. It’s like them Sulphines was able just to melt clean away once they was satisfied they was done with me.
I took a deep breath of the stale air in Brin’s kit and pressed the button that welded the implants of the Helm of Brin into my skull.