I’m now working on my eleventh book “Cyber-Magic.” <see the cover concept to the left> It’s the sequel to my cyber-punk novel “Cyber-Witch”. Which hasn’t been getting much attention, by the way, although the people who’ve read it like it (note the clever use of homophonic alliteration;-)
Anyway, this one has become a problem. I’ve ventured away from what I view as hard to semi-hard science fiction and fallen out of cyber-punk gritty reality (with a drug-addicted MC) into a post-modern world where civilization has totally changed due to A.I. mediated “magic.” It’s essentially a fantasy and this is my first foray into this genre. I’m finding it difficult to gather all the strings together.
One of the problems is that “magic” allows the author to define the rules of the world. My version of magic is so powerful that there are few rules. With enough ability, a character can do almost anything. That’s not a good story line. It leads to the reader thinking, “Why not just wave your hand and solve all of the problems in chapter one? Then I wouldn’t have to waste time reading the entire book.”
Well, it’s not really that bad, but I’m seriously having difficulty defining the scope of what is possible.
Today my goal is to get my WIP in progress again.
I’m sitting on 25k words, six magicians (1 evil, 1 bad, 2 neutral or possibly allies, and 2 superstars), trolls that breed like tribbles (for you Trekkies out there), one fairy, a were-bear, an A.I. creature in the form of a snake, and an implacable dark force in the form of a distributed AI and my plot line suddenly seems inadequate, so I’ve been wandering in the wilderness for a while.
Besides paying business has picked up greatly and gets in the way. Then I’m moving. It looks like it may rain and the grass might grow and need attention. <Delete more excuses and cue sad violin music.>
This is what writer’s block looks like and I DON’T LIKE IT. I don’t like it in a box. I don’t like it with a fox. I will not tolerate Writer’s Block. I will not, Sam-I-Am.
More about this struggle to come soon. <Provided the grass behaves.>
This story is the sequel to Heart of Fire Time of Ice, which introduces Kathleen and Cadeyrin. I’ve finished the first draft and am now working at editing. Here’s an action scene from one of the early chapters:
A sense of presence warned her. Kathleen turned slowly to see a large, ugly creature rising up from where it had been resting in some thick bushes. It was covered with fine yellow down-like feathers and looked like some gargantuan baby duck, except its huge mouth was full of awful teeth. It opened its mouth, showing teeth that she instantly equated with those of a T-Rex. An incongruous cheeping sound came out as it stepped one large step forward, its leg pushing through the bushes as if they weren’t there.
The thing was too large for the nine millimeter to make much of an impact, but perhaps the sound would discourage it. It had turned its head to look at her better from one side, reminding her of a chicken eyeing a bug that it was about to peck. She aimed carefully and shot at the large eye. The yellow dinosaur recoiled and made a nasty hissing scream, raising one of its arms and raking it against the damaged optic.
This was no T-Rex. Its arms were longer and more capable. She backed up while it was distracted, then turned and dashed up the ridge towards the rocks. The creature made another hissing scream and began to follow, its legs moving deceptively slowly. Its stride was so long that it quickly began to catch up to her. She dodged through a thick stand of trees, hoping that would slow it down. It followed her directly through the trees, simply pushing its way through the trunks, and leaving two of them leaning sharply.
She continued up the slope. The rocks might be some shelter. They were piled high and her pursuer didn’t look particularly agile. Perhaps it couldn’t climb very well. She was panting as she reached the first of the stones. The yellow thing screamed again from close behind. She whirled and fired five shots into its opened mouth. That slowed it down. It stopped and raked at its face. Blood was coming from the back of its throat and running between its teeth. The yellow feathers on its breast were rapidly becoming crimson stained. At least the bullets had some effect, even though they would never be adequate to stop it permanently.
She used the brief respite to work her way up a crevice in the rocks, then quickly climbed beyond the creature’s reach. She was safe, unless it could climb. Panting, she paused to regain her breath. As she rested, a thought struck her. She’d panicked like an idiot. It could never reach her as long as she saw it coming. She could simply duck through time. If she moved an hour or even a few minutes, the creature couldn’t possibly catch her, unless it was extremely luck and happened to be in location when she re-appeared. She was glad that Cadeyrin wasn’t there to see how poorly she’d reacted, but perhaps he would have been alarmed also. He wasn’t any more used to dinosaurs, even feathered ones, than she was. His experience was in hunting the mega-fauna of their adopted home period.
The creature had recovered and was scrabbling ineffectually at the crevice that she’d climbed. It was still interested in her, turning its head to the side to stare balefully up at her perch with its undamaged eye. She didn’t want to harm it irrevocably, but it seemed intent on hanging around until she came down.
The next time it turned its head to look up at her, she fired a round into its eye. The 110 grain bullet hit with a splat and the yellow creature squawked, then began to blunder around. Her shots had either blinded it completely or damaged its vision enough to make it difficult to see. It crashed into some rocks, then knocked a small tree over.
She stood, determined to escape while it was distracted. Below the yellow creature moved into an open area. There was a flash of brightly colored feathers and a much smaller bipedal dinosaur leaped up and clung to the yellow one’s ribs. The smaller one made a convulsive movement with its feet, cutting large channels with its talons. Blood spurted and ran in rivulets down the yellow dinosaur’s side. Big Yellow hissed again and spun ineffectually. The brilliantly colored one dropped off and dodged making a quick flash of green, blue, and red feathered motion.
Kathleen noticed that there was a second feathered creature watching the battle from a vantage point on a low rock. She hadn’t seen it arrive. The two small dinosaurs reminded her of colorful birds of prey. Their eyes had the same distant, uncompromising gaze as that of an eagle.
This second one was a little larger than the first. She judged that this one probably massed about as much as she did. It swayed back and forth, gauging the distance. When Big Yellow came close, it leaped, timing its jump to land along the big one’s spine. It climbed quickly upward, digging in both fore claws and the huge hind talons as it climbed. The big one screamed again as the smaller creature reached its neck. It tried to claw the rider off, but the smaller dinosaur was too quick to be caught by the big one’s blunt claws.
The first two colorful dinosaurs were suddenly joined by a third, slightly smaller one. This one appeared out of some low bushes at the side of the clearing. Kathleen was fascinated, despite the danger.
The small ones looked like some maniac’s version of a roadrunner combined with a threshing machine. They were covered in bright, almost iridescent red, blue, and green feathers. Their pretty aspect was marred by the presence of seriously deadly-looking claws on their arms and their feet were armed with a large claw that they kept raised until they flexed their toes to use it. She could see the results of their kicks with that claw. There were rib bones showing through the gaps in the big yellow creature’s side. The claw must be as sharp as a ceramic knife.
The smaller creatures also had teeth, but didn’t use them in their attack. Instead they waited for openings, their brightly feathered bodies blending surprisingly well into the undergrowth. When the big creature turned, the two that remained on the ground would leap in, grab with their fore legs and kick hard with their hind claws. The large creature’s downy yellow coat was streaked with bright red blood. The damage was having a definite effect. Kathleen was impressed at how deadly this type of attack could be.
The smaller dinosaurs were about her size, seemingly too small to attack such a giant, but they were systematically cutting the huge one apart. The battle would have been more equal if the large one could see, but her shots had greatly increased its vulnerability. Big Yellow must have out weighed them by thousands of pounds. She guessed it was nearly thirty feet in length.
The action was amazing. She had a momentary thought that a modern paleontologist would pay any amount to be able to see such an attack. Kathleen’s thought brought her back to her own position and she moved slightly. She’d been so impressed by the smaller animals that she’d neglected to think about how they might view her. She’d be far easier to kill than the big one. Of course she could move in time, but these three seemed very clever. They were coordinating their attack in a way that made them seem almost human.
She drew up her feet and prepared to slip down the other side of the rocks. She’d better use the moment to escape. As careful as her movement was, the smallest of the colorful creatures saw it. It turned and looked directly at her. Its mouth opened and to Kathleen’s utter astonishment, it said, “Stop,” in a tone that left no doubt that it meant what it said.
Paralyzed, she sat there wondering just what had happened. She must have been mistaken. Dinosaurs didn’t talk, even if they looked like colorful birds. They most definitely didn’t speak English and use the words in a meaningful manner. What was this creature?
The battle below had paused for a moment. Big Yellow was breathing heavily and weaving unsteadily, suffering from blood loss. The small ones were now back in the trees watching it expectantly, waiting for it to collapse. During the quiet, she heard a slight rustle as something pulled itself over a boulder. She spun, aiming the pistol at a man who was working his way up the boulders behind her.
He grinned and held up his free hand in a surrender motion. “You’re safe, Miss. I was just coming up to help you get down,” he said.
Kathleen took a deep breath, then said with a degree of satisfaction, “Jason Gridley, I presume?”
Aleksandra Klepacka posted a fun video of her work on the cover for Paradox: On the Sharp Edge of the Blade.
ALL THE TIME IN THE UNIVERSE MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH!
Previously, in my last NaNo novel (Heart of Fire Time of Ice – available on Amazon, free on KENP – find it here ):
Kathleen Whitby’s quantum physics research allowed her to develop a mathematical formula that gave her control of time-travel. At least one shadowy group besides her government wants the formula. After having escaped a deadly attack by inadvertently jumping into the Pleistocene, Kathleen found a way to break her self-imposed barriers and not only survive, but thrive with the aid of a handsome Clovis culture hunter.
Now the two have been driven out of their refuge in the inter-glacial Sangamon period by hostile pre-humans. Forced to return to modern times for medical assistance, they find that the same antagonistic forces are still at work.
The government has used a theory based on another time-traveler’s experiences to develop a method of time travel. Unfortunately, it has proven to be uncontrollable, stranding their initial subject somewhere in the past. Now they want Kathleen’s information even more than before.
Cadeyrin is held hostage until she surrenders her formula. Will he be set free if she cooperates? And what about the second group that wants the secret?
Once again Kathleen meets a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Will her intelligence and natural creativity allow her to overcome the complex mixture of enemies and problems she now faces?
Kathleen paused, and looked around in sudden alarm. There was something in the dense evergreens, something that might represent danger. Her wolf, Ulfsa, had stopped a few feet ahead of her, his ears flat and his back fur ridged. His lips were drawn back in a silent snarl. She noticed that his tail was clamped tightly against his haunches. Whatever it was, it frightened him. She dropped her rifle from her shoulder, and cradled it in both hands, ready for action.
The mid-Sangamon interglacial period was not without its normal dangers. The North American mega-fauna was threat enough for any human, regardless of how well they were armed.
Kathleen and Cadeyrin had set their home in the middle of a howling wilderness almost exactly one-hundred-thousand years BCE. The animals held no surprises for Cadeyrin. He’d lived all of his life hunting them. The thing that he continually marveled over was their number.
Here in pre-human North America, the animals thronged. Cadeyrin’s time, the last part of the Pleistocene during the final glaciation period had far fewer animals. This was more due to the harsh climate than the actions of humans, although humans did their share of killing. Fire drives often resulted in far more dead animals than the hunters could use. This waste was thought of as a necessary part of hunting, but Cadeyrin’s people generally were conservation oriented, killing only what they needed.
For her part, Kathleen sometimes thought it was amazing that humans had survived long enough to form modern civilization. Her origin in the twenty-first century hadn’t prepared her for such a life. Despite her handicap, she had become a seasoned huntress in just a few months.
Now she sensed a heightened tension in the air as if whatever it was had decided to attack. She raised her rifle, a hard-hitting thirty caliber, and prepared to empty the magazine. She’d purchased thirty-round magazines, and had never regretted it. Better to have too much fire-power than not enough.
Ulfsa shifted nervously. He’d arrived just a few minutes earlier. When she and Cadeyrin had started their hunt, Ulfsa had gone with the man. Their intent was to jump a deer. If Cadeyrin couldn’t shoot it immediately, Ulfsa would trail the animal.
Most deer would eventually circle, coming back to familiar ground. The wolf would continue to follow, guided by his exquisite sense of smell, until the deer circled. On its way back, there was a good chance that it would pass within range of either Kathleen or Cadeyrin.
Kathleen had been looking for an open area in the heavy spruces. While a deer would travel quickly through the trees, it was a little more likely to run through an open area when tired. When Ulfsa came up, she realized that he’d lost the trail or, as it now appeared, something more serious had arisen.
The wind shifted, eddying around the spruces, carrying the scent of resin, and something strange. She sniffed. It was like…somewhat like a heavy, musky body odor. Her mind flashed back to a day at the Minneapolis Zoo. It had been hot. When she’d walked by the gorilla enclosure, one of the male gorillas had been near her location. The current scent reminded her of his body odor.
No gorillas here, though, she thought. It must be something else. I hope it’s not a bear.
She turned slightly. The presence had moved to a thicker clump of fir trees. She couldn’t actually see anything. She’d somehow sensed it’s movement, though. She glanced quickly down at the wolf. He was looking fixedly at the same clump. She lifted her rifle, aimed, and squeezed the trigger. The bullet ripped through the fir branches as the sound of the shot rang through the air. She waited.
Nothing happened. She gradually became aware that the tension had lowered. Whatever it was, it had retreated when she shot. Ulfsa had lifted his ears, and his tail had returned to its normal upright position.
He stopped beside her, panting. He held his rifle at the ready also. After a moment, he sniffed the breeze, then lowered his firearm.
“Gone,” he said. “Lets move forward a little so I can check the area.”
They walked forward silently, paced by Ulfsa.
There was a scuffed mark in the forest floor on the far side of the fir trees. Cadeyrin bent down, inspected it, then walked on. He abruptly stopped, pointing at a soft patch of earth. There was a large footprint showing.
Kathleen’s first thought was that it was a large bear, but then she saw that the conformation of the track was wrong. It looked more human than bear.
Cadeyrin grunted, then explained, “Forest giant, I think.”
Kathleen jerked in surprise, and looked to see if he were serious. She shook her head negatively, then said, “We’re too early for there to be any men here. When we moved back from your time to now, I was careful to move us far enough back that no humans would have come to this part of the world. There are humans right now across the seas, but my people have never found any remains from this time here on this land. The soonest any people will arrive here will be fifty-thousand years from now.”
He smiled, obviously liking what he saw as he gazed into her eyes. “Yet, there is the track. It does not tell an untruth,” he said.
She looked at the print again. It did look human, but it was quite wide and much longer than her own foot. She glanced at Cadeyrin’s moccasin-shod feet. The print dwarfed them. If foot size was indicative of the creature’s height, it would be huge.
“How large is this thing, anyway?” she asked.
Cadeyrin thought for a moment, then answered. “I’ve never seen one. They were very rare in my time. Perhaps there are more now. I’ve heard that they may be somewhat taller than me, but not much.” He held his hand a good foot over his head leading Kathleen to understand that his idea of ‘not much’ and hers differed considerably.
He added, “They are also supposed to be heavier than all but the largest man. Look at the track, see how deep it is? Now watch this.”
He stepped down in the soft earth, his foot leaving a print beside the larger one. It was only about half as deep. Kathleen knew that Cadeyrin was at least two-hundred pounds, probably more. He had very little fat, but was quite heavily muscled, something that she found incredibly attractive. She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts of his body. She estimated that meant the unseen creature weighed over four hundred pounds. It must be quite bulky.
She asked, “How strong are they?”
Cadeyrin shrugged. “I don’t know. It was said that they are much stronger than men. They are dangerous, but they only carry sticks, not pointed weapons.”
He paused again. “If they are here, they know we are here also. They may become a problem for us. The old stories say they are enemies to men. I want you to always carry a weapon. If you don’t have your rifle, at least carry a pistol. I don’t want one of them catching you by yourself and unarmed.”
Kathleen shuddered. She’d been threatened by enemy tribesmen in the past and didn’t want to relive that experience. She looked up at her mate, and said, “I promise. I’ll be careful.”
He turned and led her back the way they’d come. After a few hundred paces, he said, “Let’s go out to the forest edge. Perhaps we can find some prey there. It’s getting late and the deer will be coming out to feed.”
Kathleen mulled the afternoon’s discovery over in her mind. The idea that there was an indigenous population of possibly hostile hominins made her quite nervous. She didn’t like the thought of having to constantly watch for intelligent enemies in addition to the ever-present large predators.
If they couldn’t live safely in the here and now, then she’d have to figure out another time to move to. She briefly thought of bringing Cadeyrin back to her time. She imagined him in modern clothes walking across the university campus. He’d probably be attacked by lustful women every time he went out in public. He was, she thought, very desirable. That led her to another topic.
Cadeyrin was sitting at the table of their travel trailer, his back to her. He was working on cleaning their weapons. He had a natural ability for mechanical work. She attributed it to his mastery of flint-knapping, but wherever it came from, he had quickly learned to clean the firearms. He could field strip and reassemble them like a trained soldier.
She moved over behind him, bending to nuzzle his neck. He placed the mechanism he was cleaning on the table, and caught her arms, turning his head so that their lips met. One thing quickly led to another with the result that it was dark before they’d fixed their evening meal.
During the night she lay awake, thinking. In addition to possible competition for Cadeyrin, moving back to her time also had another drawback. It was highly likely that the government agency that had tried to co-opt her method of time-travel for military and espionage work was madly trying to find her. She didn’t think those people would give up easily.
The possible use of time-travel for espionage undoubtedly represented a true prize for the government. That was something she didn’t want to see.
The time-travel method was her discovery, and, since she was the only one who understood it, at least at present, it was her property. To have a bunch of bureaucrats trying to force her to pass the information on was not something she wanted. Yet, if it wasn’t safe here and now, they’d have to go somewhere or somewhen. She wasn’t sure what the answer was.
Well, when you don’t know what to do, the best thing is to gather more information about the choices. Either you’ll discover something that helps you make up your mind, or the situation will change while you’re waiting, she thought.
Kathleen decided to shelve the problem for awhile. Perhaps the answer would be clear tomorrow.
I’ll post another chapter later so you can have a decent preview of the story.
I’m relieved. I just finished my latest story — title above — and it was a bit of a struggle. The final section had to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and it gave me a fit. I generally feel more at home writing straight action sequences, so putting things into the context of a meeting was a little more difficult.
Just to give y’all a feel for the story, and, yes, it’s time-travel again, here’s a section from Chapter 8. The main character, Logan Walker, has just arrived in the past, and is still trying to adapt to his unexpected situation.
The moon was high, its bright rays shining through the oak leaves. The light made strange patterns and shapes on the ground between the trees. The blotches of darkness seemed impenetrable, making it impossible to see what lurked below.
Despite his thirst, Logan had managed to sleep for awhile. He wasn’t sure how long it had been. The moon was now nearly overhead. It hadn’t even risen when he had dropped off to sleep.
He carefully studied the ground. There was no sign of the cat creature. Perhaps it had left, looking for other prey. Surely there was something to attract it, something easier to catch than one scrawny human.
He thought about climbing down to look for water, then rejected that idea. Even with the moonlight, he couldn’t see well enough to be sure that something wasn’t hiding, waiting for him to make a stupid move.
The tree seemed to be intent on impressing every nuance of its rough bark on his posterior. He found that changing position every thirty minutes or so made the fork of the branches barely tolerable. Thirst bothered him more and more as the stars wandered towards sunrise. All-in-all it was an amazingly long and restless night.
Logan had always slept late, but now he was beginning to think that the sun had stopped. When that thought first popped up, he snickered, but then stopped to consider his situation.
He was in a tree, trying to avoid some kind of big and really toothy cat thing, and trying to hold out until morning so he could get a drink. He’d been in the front yard, fallen into the drainage ditch, and then this place had somehow grabbed him. He hadn’t consciously wanted to come here. He’d…Oh! He’d wanted to escape that woman. Before that he’d eaten that brownie. Maybe something in it was giving him a bad trip. She’d said it was very strong. Still this didn’t seem like an hallucination. Everything was too real. It had that unmistakable feeling of reality, not like a dream or any kind of altered state of consciousness.
Whatever had happened to thrust him into this situation, it was beyond his understanding. It may have been related to the brownie or it may simply have been chance. It seemed that somehow he’d fallen through a hole, ending in another world, or…and here he paused…another time.
The cat-creature gave him one clue. He hadn’t looked too closely at it, being more concerned with avoiding its jumps, but it had a tawny, sort of stripy coat and a short tail. The most obvious feature was its huge teeth. He’d thought that it reminded him of a saber-tooth tiger, but they were extinct. Only maybe not in this place. Maybe here they weren’t extinct.
Logan gave up trying to figure out what had happened. In a sense it didn’t matter. He was here now and he had to learn how to survive until he could get back to where he’d come from. It really was that simple.
The thought crossed his mind that he might not be able to go back, but he shoved it away. That wasn’t something he wanted to consider.
By this time it was getting light. The sun was peeping over the horizon somewhere out at sea to the east and its light was gradually infiltrating through the foliage that surrounded him. Somewhere a bird started up, singing its morning song. The song quickly changed, and then changed again. It was a mockingbird; had to be. Nothing else sang so many songs at peak volume.
He heaved a sigh of relief. At least he was still on Earth. He’d thought for a moment that he might be on another planet. All he’d had to go on was the impossible cat or tiger of the saber-tooth variety. A mockingbird was at least familiar and made the place seem very Florida-like despite the lack of people and houses.
Logan maneuvered around and stood up, trying to stretch the cramps out of his neck and back while he waited for his left leg to regain its circulation. He’d been sitting in such a way that it was wedged tightly into the fork of the tree and now it hurt and tingled.
He carefully edged over and rested his hand on one of the more vertical branches, unzipped his pants, and relieved himself. The stream spattered on the dried leaves below. There was no answering sound. He’d half expected the cat to come charging out at the noise.
Finished, he began to edge onto the connecting branch to the magnolia tree. He’d descend carefully, then see about a drink. The idea of water tormented him now, and he had to mentally restrain his movements. It wouldn’t be good to slip and fall. He had to be careful.
He reached the magnolia with no sign of his attacker. Just to make sure, he broke off a rotten stub and threw it into the bushes. It made a gratifying rustle and crunch. Then all was silent except for that mockingbird. It continued to sing somewhere over near the edge of the stand of trees.
That was a good sign, wasn’t it? Logan thought that birds might be quiet or sound some kind of alarm call if anything dangerous was nearby, but he wasn’t sure about that. All he had to go on was his brief experience at the dig site, and, years ago, a week at summer camp with the Cub Scouts. He was realistic enough to recognize that he couldn’t really rely on the information he’d seen on TV.
“I wish I’d read more prepper-type stuff on the Internet,” he muttered as he climbed down the smaller tree.
The last branch was about five feet up, and it decided that his weight was too much this time around. It snapped, precipitating him onto the ground in an undignified fashion. The fall knocked the wind out of him, but he jumped up, looking wildly around, preparing to either run or to try to climb the tree again. Nothing happened. The saber-tooth must have given up and gone elsewhere for its meal.
I’m rewriting the first draft now, cleaning it up and working on the flow, so it will read easily. It’ll go to my editor in a few days, then (I hope) be ready to publish by July 1. (I know. I’m optimistic.)
Interesting question, isn’t it? Especially if one imagines that we humans could conceivably be on the receiving end of said weapons. Of course, we’d have to meet the aliens first (or they’d have to discover us) and the relationship between our two species would have to be one where aggression made sense. That last is probably the most realistic assumption, considering our inability to get along with each other.
Our historical tendency towards international (possibly interstellar in the future) aggression and our distrust of those who are not members of our own self-identified group is actually the motivating point of my Gaea Ascendant trilogy. It starts with a sneaky alien invasion, works through multiple attacks, and ends with an attempt to structure a way for humans and two allied alien species to co-exist peacefully in an interdependent manner.
In the process, my hero, Declan Dunham, asks one of the Sunnys (a non-aggressive species that provides a lot of the advanced technology to the fledgling confederacy) how one of their primary weapons, an anti-matter projector, works. Below is a section from “Confederation”, the third book in the trilogy, wherein Frazzle attempts to explain the weapon. You’ll notice that Frazzle’s command of English is only fair. Humans cannot speak the Sunny language at all due to their use of whistles and supersonics that are beyond our capacity to reproduce. As an aside, Frazzle and Red are a mated pair and Dec has interrupted them in the middle of a moment of alien romantic cuddling.
Here’s the section:
Frazzle let his shoulders droop and I knew that he was upset, but Red suddenly gave him a hard shove. “Get over dat!” she said. “You and me both know dat there be plenty of need for the shooters. Tell Dec what he need to know.”
Frazzle sort of shook himself and then asked, “Whats you want to know. I can talk about the technology an I tries not to think about the use.”
I considered how best to ask. “What I want to know is a simple explanation of how they work and what could go wrong with them unexpectedly. I don’t want to be surprised at a critical moment.”
He seemed to be thinking it over, so I added, “I’d also like to know about their limitations and true capabilities. I feel like I’ve been lucky so far and I need to know more.”
He drew a breath and began to explain, “Making de anti-matter particles normally takes much energy, but we cheats. The weapon creates a field that gathers positively charged virtual particles from the sub-field of space – ”
Here I interrupted, “What’s that mean?”
He continued, “You call it de quantum plenum. It’s full of particles of all sorts coming and going, so there plenty of anti-particles to grab with the weapon field. The power of the weapon, the little power packs for the hand weapons and the ship power for the big gun first are used to grab these particles. All sizes of guns work the same, just the smaller ones can’t grab as much particles.”
He paused for breath and I interrupted again, “What happens to the particles once they’re captured by this field?”
He smiled; a closed-lip tightening of his cheek muscles, and looked aside at Red. She nodded her head.
“Dat a good question and it’s the next thing that the power pack does. It powers a circular field that uses the strong magnet force. The positive particles pulled from the virtual plenum become real here and are trapped in the circle field. When the shoot button is pushed, the field opens and the particles, whoosh – ” waving his hand wildly, “fly out. The direction tube (by which I thought he meant the barrel) has magnetic field that keeps the particles in the tube and away from the sides. That field also makes the particles to go faster. It uses electric force to make them accelerate to close to light speed. An you know what happens when anti-particles hit regular matter. Fswhoosh!” He threw both paws up in a gesture intended to represent the resulting annihilation.
“Okay. That sort of explains how the things work,” I said, thinking about what he’d just told me. “What can go wrong with the system? Does it wear out or break?”
“De direction tube and the place where the circle field is can sometimes get eroded by leaking particles. This happens most when the power pack is low and the magnetic field not strong enough. So, we put limiter on the weapon. It won’t work if not enough power. The hand held ones have flashing red light when power packs get too low. But this not a problem for the big shooter attached to ship-power. It not run out of shots and power is enough to keep erosion very low.”
He scratched his nose and then continued slowly, “De only problem you have with the big ones is that regular atoms in air or space dust get dissolved and thin anti-matter pulse down. If too much dust, or try to shoot through too much air, the pulse gets used up and no damage to the target happen. Same happens to small guns if try to shoot too far.”
“Frazzle, I’ve always thought that anti-matter reacting with regular matter would create an explosion. Why doesn’t that happen?”
“The shooters project a long burst of particles. Not much hit at once, though very fast. Difference like dripping water on dirt compared to dumping whole bucket at once on dirt pile. Best I can ‘splain,” he shrugged in a very human-like gesture.
Our, or maybe I should say, my grasp of physics wasn’t up to much more than this anyway, so I went on to my next question, “How far and how fast do the big ship cannons shoot?”
“De direction tube on the big ones use lot of energy with each pulse. By time the pulse reach the end of tube, it going nearly light speed. That gives very fast shot. Distance determined by matter in between like I ‘splain. Only thing is shooting at long, long distance, pulse take a while to get there, so target can move,” he answered, waving his finger in the air with an attitude of admonition.
“Okay, so keep the targets fairly close. The atmosphere must not be too much of a problem for the big gun. It had no problem burning a wide path through the middle of the Pug-bears position from space.”
“Dat’s correct. It more a problem for the hand-held weapons. They’re not nearly as powerful. But when we shooted Boulder to get the Pugs, I boosted power in the gun so the circle magnetic field built up much more particles than normal. Can’t do that much and it take some time. Try too often and erosions becomes a problem,” he answered.
I judged that I’d gotten about as much information as I could understand. “Thank you! I’m going to go talk to Rudy. You two continue where you left off.”
They laughed as I turned to the transporter. I was still smiling myself when I came back into the bridge.
That’s the section. Now, should you be so disposed, I’d be quite interested to read critiques of the piece, particularly the implied science.
BTW – Here are the links to the series on Kindle:
Note that I’m about to re-release The Time of the Cat. It is my first fiction novel and it is self-edited. I’ve now got an editor and we’re working to make the story an easier read. The new edition should be out by 5/1/2016.
I’m finally getting ready to release this story. Maybe a little more editing still. However, I think I’ll be releasing it on Monday, November 2nd. Anyway, I thought I’d give you (should you actually find this obscure page) a couple of chapters introducing a secondary character. Note that she may well have her own book in the future, since she turned into such a strong person.
Warning: Post-apocalyptic violence. If you don’t want to read about some of the bad crap that can happen to people or if you’re easily horrified or addicted to the politically correctness drug, stop here or else risk being offended.
Here are Chapter 17 and 18 from “Confederation”. If you like Hazel, let me know. Please. I’m dying for some feedback.
The Mother-effers were coming again. Hazel had been doing her best to avoid the soldiers for the last week. She’d been hiding in a dry, concrete culvert that went under the narrow, asphalt road a mile from the remains of her parent’s farm. She’d been in shock for the first three days, but now her emotions were beginning to crystallize. Physical discomfort and hunger seemed to increase the effect and now she was experiencing nothing but a cold, hard anger.
Last Saturday had been bright and sunny. She’d been gathering eggs when her dad had come running around the barn shouting for her to hide. Soldiers were coming. There had been smoke from burning farms in the distance for the last twenty-four hours and she and her parents had realized that something bad was coming. Now it had arrived.
Last night, over supper, they’d argued. She had wanted to run, but her parents were adamant that they had to stay with the farm.
“Hattie, the animals need us. They won’t be able to survive alone,” her father reasoned, calling her by her nickname. “Besides, if it is His will that they come here and find us, then nothing we can do will change that.”
She wished that her parents weren’t so religious. Since society stopped years ago, their faith had only grown deeper and firmer. Now, they wouldn’t leave and she knew they’d take no steps to defend themselves. “Turn the other cheek,” her father always said.
Her mother added, “The cows have to be milked twice a day, otherwise they may get udder rot. We owe it to them to stay. They’ve supported us well in the past and we need them, too.”
They’d made it clear, though, that if armed men found them, she was to hide. Her father and mother looked at each other with worry in their eyes and then her mother had said, “Hazel, you’re too pretty to take any chances with invaders. They would probably kidnap you and you might be seriously hurt.”
Hazel knew what they were talking about. “You mean they’d rape me, don’t you. You needn’t think I’m totally ignorant. I’m nearly an adult,” she fumed.
Her parents looked shocked. That had pretty much been the end of the discussion. Her mother went into the sitting room to read her bible by candle-light and her dad went out to the barn to repair something or other. Things were always breaking.
Two weeks ago, a refugee family had come by the farm. They were headed for the mountains; the distant mountains. They hadn’t seen any soldiers, but they’d heard tales of atrocities and that was enough to drive them towards safety.
Hazel had only dreamed about the mountains. She’d never seen more than a faint purple line against the western sky. Before the EMP blast, back when she was still a child, her parents had told her that they’d take a vacation to the front range, but it never happened. They never made enough money on their small farm, since it was barely a subsistence-level enterprise. They always had enough to eat, but there was precious little left over for clothes, let alone luxuries like vacations or even birthday or Christmas presents.
She’d gone to school in the small town that was eighteen miles to the south and that was just about the limit of her exposure to the outside world. That and reading. There hadn’t been any school since the EMP burst and she’d read and re-read every book in the house.
She had turned sixteen three months ago and she had harbored dreams of a life that had more in it than gathering eggs.
At her dad’s shout, she’d put the egg basket up against the side of the chicken coop and dashed off into the corn field to the west of the house. There was a drainage ditch on the far side of the field and she made her way to it. Once there, she scrambled down into the dry ditch and waited, hoping her parents would show up.
There was a rustling in the corn and she peered over the edge of the ditch in trepidation, wondering if the soldiers had followed her or if it was her parents. Shortly a black and tan muzzle came through the corn. It was Katie, their aged, border collie.
She snapped her fingers and the dog came over to the ditch, wagging her tail. It took some pulling and lifting on her part, but she got Katie down over the edge. The old dog was so stiff that she couldn’t jump or scramble down easily.
It was hot and there was only a little breeze. They sat in the ditch listening to the insects buzzing in the corn, waiting.
Suddenly there were two shots, then three and then after a pause, a fourth echoed over the cornfield. Katie whimpered.
Hazel could hear men shouting off in the distance towards the farm house. She waited for a few minutes, wondering what to do. Her mind was abruptly made up for her when she saw a column of black smoke rising from across the field. She heard the squealing of their pig, Blackie. She’d named him in jest, since he was a white-colored animal.
His squealing rose in terror and then abruptly faded in a gurgling sound. She’d seen hogs butchered before and this sounded like he’d just had his throat cut. She thought about creeping through the corn to see what was happening, but a sudden cold fear came over her and she turned resolutely and followed the ditch down towards the culvert, taking care not to leave any footprints where the dust had blown up into thick, soft patches.
She took the dog into the culvert and they huddled behind a bunch of dried weeds that blocked the narrow tube. She’d had to push her way past the weeds, forcing the dog ahead of her and checking carefully for snakes as they entered. Once inside, there was another blockage of debris and weeds that provided shelter from the other end.
She carefully crawled back to the entrance and backed in, brushing out the signs of their entry with a piece of tumbleweed. Then she and Katie laid on the dry sand and kept quiet. After an hour or so, a group of men came down the road and walked over the culvert. She could hear them talking as they walked.
One said in a loud voice, “Pretty poor pickins at that last place, not even nothin’ much worth stealing, stupid sumbitches.”
He was answered by another who spoke more quietly, “Yeah, but we got some good bacon and that woman wasn’t too bad either. Too bad for her that she had to fight so much.”
Loud-mouth came back with, “Did ya see that stupid farmer. Imagine him trying to fight us with a pitch fork.”
Another added, “He looked pretty surprised with that hole through his head.”
Hazel sniffled and tried to suppress a sob by biting her lip. Nevertheless, one of the men said, “Say, there was some smaller sized dresses in the second bedroom. There might’a been a girl lived there. D’ya think we’d better look under the road here?”
She quivered in terror and held her hand on Katie’s muzzle to suppress a possible snarl or bark. There was a scrambling sound as the men came off the roadway and bent down to peer into the culvert.
“Na, there’s nothing in here but a bunch of weeds and crap,” Loud-mouth shouted. “It’s so plugged that ya can’t see through. No tracks going in, either.”
Hazel was glad that she’d taken the time to blur the signs of her passage, erasing their tracks. She quivered in an agony of fear that one of them would try to crawl in and discover her hide-out.
“Hey, Tim, get yer ass down here and look in this here hole,” shouted Loud-mouth.
There was another scrambling sound and someone said, “It’s pretty plugged.”
Loud-mouth said, “Why don’t ya slide in there and see what’s what?” He seemed to have only one volume setting for his voice. Hattie couldn’t see him, but she imagined that he was fat and filthy.
Tim answered with a tone of disgust, “Whyn’t you? It’s too damned tight for a man to go in that hole. An ‘sides there might be a rattler or two in there. I ain’t a goin’ a do it.”
Loud-mouth cursed and Tim called him a ‘Damned fool.’ There was the sound of a little scuffle and Loud-mouth grunted as if he’d been struck in the stomach, then said, “I’ll get you for that someday, you sumbitch.”
Tim replied, “Maybe, but I ain’t waiting down here for it. I’m going to catch up with the rest of the guys.”
There were some more scrambling noises as they crawled back up onto the road and then all was quiet.
She remained still until dark, when thirst drove her and the dog out and back to the farm.
It hadn’t been a good day and it became far worse when they reached the farmstead.
She now thought of herself as Hattie. In her mind, she was Hazel no longer. That was another person who’d lived in another time. Hattie was a stronger name, someone who didn’t feel grief, someone who survived and most especially, someone who lived for revenge.
She wore a pair of her father’s overalls. The legs had been cut off at ankle length and the suspenders were cinched up to the max. A couple of tee shirts covered by a baggy sweat shirt camouflaged the fact that she had breasts. She’d chopped her pony tail off and now her hair hung in a ragged mop that could have been a boy’s.
A belt around her waist carried her Dad’s hunting knife, a butcher knife in an improvised sheath, the small hatchet and the twenty-two Ruger pistol. It was a nine-shot, semi-automatic that was covered with rust, but it was dead accurate and always hit where she pointed it, as several rabbits had found out to their disadvantage.
She was very careful when she approached the culvert, stopping and inspecting the ground for signs of an invader and also to ensure that she left no track of her own.
She was alone now. Katie had quietly died the second night they were in the culvert. Perhaps it was just old age or perhaps the dog felt as much grief at the loss of her family as Hattie did. Either way, it didn’t make any difference. When Hattie woke up, Katie was stiff and her body was cold.
She’d dragged the last member of her family into the cornfield to bury, then thinking better of it, she’d carried the dog into the farmyard and left her body to decompose behind the barn. There were dog dishes and food on the remains of the porch and the absence of the dog might make an enemy suspicious. Better to just let nature take its course.
By now, the crows and other birds had been at the bodies. Hattie wanted to bury her parents, but the same consideration held. The act of burying implied survivors and survivors meant there was someone to hunt. She didn’t want to send that message.
She’d been lucky to find the pistol hidden in the tin box under the floorboards. Her dad hadn’t believed in guns, but for some reason he had hidden the small pistol and three boxes of long-rifle ammo along with the deed to the farm. The box had also contained her parent’s marriage certificate, two hundred dollars in paper money, some older silver coins and three gold coins.
The paper money wouldn’t buy much. She knew from hearing her parents talk that the only thing most people would take were silver coins. Nevertheless, she carefully hid the box under a rock at the edge of the field. She’d keep the marriage certificate in remembrance.
The deed to the farm had no meaning in this world. Things belonged to those who were strong enough to take and hold them. That was an obvious truth to her. Her parents hadn’t been strong enough.
She’d hidden through two additional incursions of the Motherland Army. The last time they’d been in the farm yard, there had been a lot of cursing about the fact that the place was already stripped. One of the ragged men had gone on about how big a mistake it had been for him to join the Motherland Army and ended by calling it the ‘Mother-effin’ waste’.
Hattie thought that was far more appropriate. Motherland somehow had the connotation of a desirable thing. The army she’d seen was in no way desirable or admirable. She was dead set on staying out of their hands and their appearance reinforced that desire. She had no delusions about what would happen to her if she were captured.
She was lurking just inside the edge of the cornfield watching the mostly burned-out house. She’d seen a small group of men heading down the road towards the homestead and she’d finally decided that she was ready for revenge.
Today’s group of self-styled soldiers was coming down the road. There were just three of them, walking cautiously along, keeping a close look-out for trouble. They rounded the barn and immediately took to cursing, just like the last group.
“Damn it! Some greedy SOB has already taken this place down. There ain’t nothin’ here worth the walk,” said the apparent leader.
His nearest companion added, “Looks like two dead homesteaders here. Woman over there probably put up a fight or they’d a taken her with them.”
The leader responded, “Maybe, less she wasn’t pretty enough. I’d as soon shoot an ugly one as have to listen to ‘er complaints.”
The third turned with a laugh and said, “You’d shoot her alright, but what gun would ya use?”
They all laughed at that.
Hattie didn’t laugh. She was aiming the little Ruger at the leader.
The pistol snapped viciously and the leader grunted and then said slowly, “What?”
He opened his mouth again and a stream of blood ran out over his beard. He slowly put his hand on his chest and then toppled over.
Both of the others were trying to look in every direction at once, their rifles at their shoulders. The single shot had echoed off the barn and the men were looking suspiciously at the barn door, the chicken coop and the hay-mow window, which was hanging open.
Hattie aimed carefully and shot again. The third man screamed, dropped his rifle and clapped his hand to the side of his neck. A bright red gout of blood sprayed through his fingers. He sat down in the dust. The drops of blood were splattered across the area to his right making a somewhat artistic display, bright red against the light-brown dust.
The last man was shooting at the barn. He still hadn’t figured out where Hattie was hiding. She waited for him. His rifle fired several three shot bursts and then the bolt locked open. He started fumbling at his belt, trying to open the magazine pouch there. Just as he got it open, Hattie shot him in the stomach. The little slug splatted home and he grabbed his gut with a curse.
She shot again and he dropped the rifle when the bullet hit his upper arm. He was trying to move towards the back of the house, heading around the cistern and staggering away from her. She stepped out of the corn and yelled, “Hey, Mister. You came to the wrong place.”
He turned slowly to look at her. His face betrayed amazement, “A stinkin’ kid! I been shot by a stinkin’ kid.”
She just nodded and answered, “Yep. That’s the way it is.” She paused, but he didn’t say anything, so she added, “And, I’m going to finish the job.”
He turned and started to hobble faster. She lifted the little Ruger and carefully shot two rounds into the center of his back. One of them must have hit his heart. He slowly folded at the waist and toppled forward, landing face first in the bloody dust.
She sighed, shook her shoulders to clear the tension as she popped the magazine out of the bottom of the pistol’s grip. Seconds later she had reloaded it with six more cartridges. Her mind was blank, no emotions at the moment, just attending to business.
She collected the three rifles and the soldiers’ knives. One of them, the leader, also had a nine-millimeter Glock. She took it along with two full magazines he had in a pocket. Next she checked the others pockets. One had some jewelry that she kept for possible barter and the other had a nice pocket knife.
The rifles were military carbines of a standard sort. She didn’t know much about weapons, but these looked like the ones she’d seen somewhere. She couldn’t remember if she’d seen them in a magazine or on TV. It had been so long since the TV went out and she’d been a child then. She didn’t want to think about it.
After fiddling with the various buttons and knobs on one of the weapons, she figured out how to release the magazine and how to operate the bolt. The safety was a little rotating lever on the left side of the bottom by the magazine well. It had several positions, allowing for, she surmised, single shots, automatic fire, and a safety position.
She took a moment to climb into the barn and looked out the hay mow window. The road was easily visible from this height and there was no one coming or going in any direction. She decided to experiment with the rifle. Sliding the safety lever to the first position, she shouldered the weapon and aimed at the first raider’s body. The rifle banged, much louder than she’d expected, but the recoil was largely absorbed by a spring in the stock. The corpse jerked with the impact. Shooting the thing wasn’t so bad. She pulled a rag out of her pocket and tore off a couple of small pieces to stick in her ears.
The next shot wasn’t nearly as unpleasant. She’d aimed at the second body and the round showed that it was far more powerful than the little Ruger. The corpse’s head practically exploded. She laughed out loud in surprise, then shot the third man also. With her laugh, her emotions started working again.
She’d expected to feel horrified about killing people. She was amazed. She felt good. Empowered and, maybe a little bit, satisfied.
She carried all of the weapons to the culvert and hid the jewelry in the tin box under the rock, taking the silver and gold coins out and putting them into a small pouch she carried. Back at the culvert, she loaded up all of the magazines in a bag with a shoulder strap that she’d taken off one of the men, got her canteen and other supplies that she thought she’d need and then deliberated for a moment over the Glock. She ended up leaving it in favor of the Ruger. She could hit with the twenty-two and it wasn’t loud enough to give her away if she had to hunt. She didn’t know about the Glock, but it was undoubtedly a lot louder. She holstered the little twenty-two pistol and climbed up on the road carrying the best one of the three rifles.
Hattie looked both directions and then set out towards the south. The nearest intersection was there and she was going to head towards the mountains.
You’ll have to buy the book to read more. Sorry. I do need to make some money once in awhile.