Here’s the trailer for the third Gaea Ascendant story:
Cyber-Witch is now available on Amazon and IngramSpark.
A gritty and dark novel about the real-world AI threat highlighted in a cyberpunk theme, drug addiction, genetic hybrids, killer-drones, nanobots, and the transformation of the world. Warning: adult themes including sex, drug addiction, and violence.
First Review: 5 out of 5 stars Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
“Excellent story that contains a realistic look at where our technology could be headed. The writing is strong and articulate while fully immersing the reader in the story. Grab this book.”
Second Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful vision well-realized. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
“Sometimes we get ideas, simple ones, that in actualization are difficult. I think this story is of one such overarching idea, but executed well. I don’t want to give away the big idea, but the bulk of the story builds a long sort of mythology to it, culminating in the battle with the BBEG. The last bit of the story ties it all in together, using the story as a springboard for the grand idea. There were some slowish bits, especially the first three chapters or so before the actual plot really reared it’s head. Once that happened, the story runs full tilt toward the climax. Then the magic happens.”
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?”
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.
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.