Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams



Series Archive: The Kaslo Chronicles

Erm Kaslo is an “op”—a confidential operative based on Novo Bantry, a long-settled planet that is one of the Ten Thousand Worlds, humanity’s far-future civilization.

A highly trained, highly principled security agent, he is at the peak of his professional career when he discovers a forgotten truth: every several thousand years, the fundamental ground rules of the universe arbitrarily switch between rational cause-and-effect and “sympathetic association.” Very soon, the laws of physics will give way to the reign of magic.

Only a handful of people know what’s coming: technological civilization will collapse; Novo Bantry will be ruled by wizards. And the would-be mages are already jockeying for position.

The question facing Kaslo: how will he greet the new order?



And Then Some

Erm Kaslo came to Cheddle on the Adelaine, a tramp freighter that didn’t mind taking passengers who didn’t mind the quality of the accommodations. He could have come on a liner, but he preferred, when working, to make his entrances unnoticed.



Erm Kaslo always found that a strong drink or two helped clear his head of the after-effects of the sedative that cushioned the fragile human psyche from the irreality of passage through a whimsy. He was sipping from a glass of red abandon in the second-class lounge of the second-rate liner, Armitou, when harsh bells clanged throughout the ship. Immediately, the ever-present underhum of the vessel’s normal-space drive lowered its pitch then began to fade. In a few moments, Kaslo couldn’t hear the sound at all.


His Elbow, Unkissed

Erm Kaslo arranged the materials of the experiment on the scarred and scorched workbench in his new lodgings. He had recently had to relocate to new quarters on the outskirts of Indoberia, after the custodial agent of his former lodgings had complained to the Commune about the noises, smells, and other disruptions arising from Kaslo’s suite of rooms. He had taken this isolated cottage in a clearing of the Forest of Shades, where his nearest neighbor was well out of earshot.


Phalloon the Illimitable

The estate of Phalloon the so-called Illimitable was in most respects much like that of the budding thaumaturge Diomedo Obron, Erm Kaslo’s new employer: It had a large, solid house, some remote outbuildings, lawns and a lake, clumps of mature trees, and an all-enclosing wall. What made it different, Kaslo saw as he surveyed it from a hill in the middling distance, was a rocky prominence that stood in the estate’s northeast corner.


The Ba of Phalloon

“I’d say there are at least three hundred of them,” Kaslo said. “Mostly men, but quite a few women. I don’t see any children. I see clubs, knives, some homemade spears.” He turned from the narrow slit of unglazed window that pierced the castle wall.


A Hole in the World

“I’m taking Bodwon with me,” Erm Kaslo said. “He’s handy.” Diomedo Obron did not look up from the ancient tome in which he had been immersed when his security chief entered his work room. “All right,” he said.


Under the Scab

It was too late in the day to start back to Indoberia. Kaslo tried to find ways to busy himself about the castle, but his thoughts would not leave him alone. Finally, he went up to the flat roof of one of the larger towers and leaned against the parapet as the planet’s sun sank below a horizon no longer broken by the Commune’s skyline. In the opposite direction, the stars were coming out, but Kaslo saw only a handful of the glittering orbitals that used to stretch in a sparkling, glinting arc across the night sky.


Enter Saunterance

Back in Obron’s workroom, Kaslo told the wizard his theory that the reason their enemy had sent a fire elemental against them was because he wanted the fiery spirit to seize the noubles the op had originally acquired from the murderous thaumaturge, Asrat Gozon. “Fire cannot harm them,” he finished.


The Archon

“What do we call this thing?” Erm Kaslo said, gesturing to the smooth opaque walls. “It’s not a spaceship.” Diomedo Obron tapped the green leather-bound tome he was studying. “Testroni’s Impervious Conveyance, it says here.” They were inside an object that had looked to Kaslo like nothing so much as an oversized version of the silver dome that a butler would whisk away from an aristocrat’s meal. It even had a large ring on top — a ring that was now grasped by the talons of an honest-to-goodness dragon.


A Face of Black Iron

Diomedo Obron and the Archon Filidor passed the evening and much of the night in the latter’s study, discussing the next day’s journey into the wastes of Barran and the expected confrontation with whatever survivor of the Nineteenth Aeon wizards’ cabal still lurked in the Seventh Plane. Erm Kaslo struggled to try to understand the concepts the two thaumaturges threw onto the table — sometimes literally.