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The autobiography of Cording Vance–callsign Rakehell; alias Cordwood Vance, alias Thomas Cording, alias Tommy Bombshell; interfederal fugitive on charges of racketeering, assault, contraband weapons trading and a number of murders so great it is technically classified as a war crime; called the Fire on Algol, the Sunkiller, Slick Burn Tommy, Bloodbather or the Terricide; subject of the late Jacen Knobpop’s #1 intergalactic megasingle “Demon Star;” threat to disobedient children; pimp, controlled nucleotide dealer, enforcer, executioner, gangster, petty warlord and, of late, writer–reads in its entirety as follows: “Listen man don’t EVER fuck with librarians that’s all I’m gonna say.”


“They must be wrong,” Jacen told Father Joy, stunned. “I’m not rotting, not unclean–“

“It’s no curse,” said the priest softly.

Jacen dug his nails into his hands, feeling nothing.

“It’s a sign from God, Jacen,” Joy smiled. “It’s His way of calling you to be a warrior. It’s the gift of freedom from pain!”

And now he’s knitting: those members of the Leprous Irregulars with unbroken fingers make bandages for those without. Jacen always thought of knitting as women’s work, but among the men in these barracks and their short, brutal swords, he shuts up and works on his purl.