Pegasus reaches the planet Winter, whose inhabitants have lifespans of thousands of years, and who are all apparently insane. Something in the planet’s environment prevents humans from aging, but in return, they must live for all eternity on a cold, bleak, forbidding world. Commander Keeler learns that one of the Ancients was a General in the Galactic Crusades, he departs to visit him and gather information. General Ziang turns out to be even more insane than the norm. He recites the history of the nine crusades, some of which bear suspicious resemblances to the plots of the movies "Alien," "Independence Day," and "Star Wars." (Keeler has previously mentioned that the real history of the Galactic Commonwealth has become commingled with the literature and film produced by the ancient humans themselves, and it is impossible to know what is real, and what is imaginary). General Ziang tells Keeler of a magnificent repository of information in the form of a library that lies in a distant village. Soon, Keeler is off on a treacherous sea journey, led by a captain suffering under an ancient curse. Meanwhile, one of the Ancients attempts to molest one of the children from Pegasus. When the immortal turns up dead, Tactical Commander Redfire is the prime suspect. He is put on trial by the inhabitants of the planet, but before a verdict can be read, he is kidnapped by a woman who turns out to be an Aurelian. She tortures him physically and sexually, and during the torture, Redfire sees into the future and sees the outcomes of his choices. If he joins the Aurelians, they will destroy Sapphire. If he does not join them, Pegasus will be destroyed. Back on Pegasus, an Aurelian infiltrator attempts to destroy the ship, but is thwarted by Hunter and the Centurion called Constantine.
Winter is the third of nine planets in the system 14 001 Horologium. It is locked in a semi-permanent ice-age, with ice, snow and tundra covering most of its surface. Most plant and animal life is adapted to the extreme climate. Geothermal activity, however, creates pockets of warmth in valleys where vegetation and animal life flourish. A close orbit with a larger planet, called Cardinal, causes tectonic activity to peak at regular intervals, and maintains the geothermal stresses that help warm the planet.
Trivia and Obscure References
Winter’s system is identified as 14 001 Horologium, Horologium translates as “the clock.”
- In Book 4, it is revealed that the Aurelians answer to a set of demi-gods knowns as “the Arcana,” who each have names corresponding to the Major Arcana in the Tarotdeck. When Redfire is invited to join them, he is told he will be a part of the Arcana known as ‘The Artist,’ but there is no such card in the Tarot.
- The plot of Book 4 superficially resembles the Space 1999 episode “Death’s Other Dominion.” And, in fact, the planetary capital of Winter colony is called “Ultima Thule,” the name of the planet on that episode. Ultima Thule in medieval geography denotes any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world."
- A subplot in Book 4, Winter, involves a character named Ishmael Gilligan, and incorporates elements of both Moby Dick and Gilligan’s Island. Keeler mentions that Gilligan is also the name of a “trickster demon” from Earth mythology who imprisoned people on a magical island.
- Book 4 contains a reference to ‘Calvinball,’ from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
- The prosecutor, Lord Waterstone, is a parody of Sam Waterston’s “Jack McCoy” character from Law and Order. The investigation and prosecution of PJM Redfire is a parody of a typical, formulaic Law and Order episode.
- The character of Sestina Gotobed is a parody of the character Susan Ivanova fromBabylon 5. Her name is taken from the name of the drummer for the band Wire.
- The subplot where Alkema feigns illness to spend a day with Trajan Lear parodiesFerris Bueller’s Day Off complete with adapted movie dialog
Book 4 makes a reference to the ‘Raw Saltdrop’ vineyards. ‘Raw Saltdrop’ is an anagram for ‘Worlds Apart.’
At one point, while traveling in a rocket-sled, Keeler prays, “Dear God, bless this rocket-sled and protect all those who travel in the rocket sled…” which parodies a line in the Simpsons episode “Mountain of Madness.”
- Dead Keeler’s account of the battle on his starship Ark Royal bears some similarity to the battle between Miracleman and Kid Miracleman in Alan Moore’s Miracleman comic book.
- The timeline of ‘Aurelius’ arrival on the colony that became the Aurelian homeworld, ties in closely with the timeline of the Olympic project, suggesting that Aurelius was from the planet Republic.