Excerpt from The Man From Empire

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Excerpt from The Man From Empire, only 99 cents in e-book form (to get you hooked so you'll buy the next three)!

The Man From Empire

Twenty-three kilometers up, Osh Scimtar felt the explosion through his feet.

More ominously, he immediately realized that he was no longer feeling the full force of Sharanna's acceleration. The building was falling.

Quick probes with his mental abilities and datalink told him all he needed to know about this disaster before it happened. Blue Gold Arcology held fifty-two million people at the peak of the primary business day, and its' support columns had been severed and back up gravity generators destroyed by a series of cutter bombs at the base.

There was no time for anything but trying to save as many people as possible. He commanded all portals within the arcology to lock into emergency exodus mode - they would lock onto the destination chosen by the first person to enter them, and would refuse to accept any incoming traffic. Matos, his superior, beat him by less than a millionth of a second to flashing the emergency via all data channels.

Osh wasn't concerned for his own safety. Like roughly a seventh of the Imperial population, he was capable of generating his own portals. The question was how many he would be able to save with himself.

Next question, what would happen to the mass of Blue Gold as it fell? Either of the destroyed systems would have had no difficulty keeping the Arcology up alone, but with broken supports and no gravity generators, the hull charge on the building wasn't enough to keep it from falling - down or over. That hull charge was the real issue, as it was likely to cause irregular resistance as the massive arcology fell, imparting lateral force to the building as a whole. In short, the hull charge made it more likely the building would fall sideways, into the lesser arcologies surrounding it. The choice was to order the hull charge dissipated and hope it fell straight enough not to hit the smaller but still populous arcologies around it, or keep it on in order to buy perhaps an extra minute to escape with a practical certainty it would fall and hit at least one of its lesser brethren, more likely two or three.

Osh ran a quick mental simulation - the structural systems of arcologies were tough. It would take something more than bare mass to bring them down, but if Blue Gold Arcology still had its own hull charge when it hit a neighboring arcology, there was considerable doubt they'd maintain their integrity. He linked with Matos, his superior, who concurred in his estimate, and Matos ordered the hull charge dissipated. It wouldn't make that much of a difference to those inside Blue Gold Arcology.

Already in the first four seconds, at least a million would have died as the lower floors pancaked, falling ever faster with the force of Sharanna's acceleration. Ironically, the people at the top would have the longest fall, and therefore the greatest chance to find a way to save themselves. More than eight sixtieths of the imperial population were Guardians, and most of them would be able to rescue some non-operants as well - perhaps two or three each. Perhaps another five or six sixtieths might make it through a portal on time. Some few would be close enough to vehicles or spacecraft on the parking levels to get out. Isolated individuals might figure something out that enabled them to escape or be rescued, but already the lowest levels were crushed debris, and the levels above were crashing to ground with ever greater force. Osh estimated than probably eighteen million would die in the minute it would take for the collapse to complete itself - at the end, the top floors would be falling at supersonic speeds. Most of the non-operants were simply too far inside the building to have any hope of escape.

Osh, Matos, and all three of Osh's Primus subordinates were among the Guardians - one of them, Fridalisa, was a known Fourth Order Guardian, and she had already created a portal for everyone in the government office to escape the fall, with a terminus in Leading Edge Arcology, too far away to be endangered by the fall of Blue Gold. Aided by Matos she was expanding it downwards as fast as she could - an escape column in one corner of a building several kilometers on a side. It wasn't much, but it was what could be done. Matos and the Primuses had the situation in hand; that left Osh free to investigate.

He stretched his perception to the now crushed sublevels where the explosion had been. There was a fading Instance Portal not five steps from one of the blast centers. Where it led, he couldn't tell, but it wasn't the home Instance. There wasn't much doubt; the ston terrorist who planted the bombs had fled through that portal. The time for action was now; in the next minute tracking down the exit Instance, let alone a precise destination, would be something that would take a specialist days at least to track down. Osh didn't want to emerge right on top of his quarry, so he applied a small lateral - thirty ififths. He was confident he would be able to sort out the proper Personal Event Line from that distance. He reached his hand into his personal pocket for his main weapon, and projected himself through the portal


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Empire and Earth Amazon

I announced myself to Helene and she invited me into her studio. She was working on a voice project for someone else that day; she put it aside and sat with me. "The first question I have to ask, Grace, is how territorial you are about the dog business?"

"If it would get me the people I need to help Earth, I'd sell the dog farm tomorrow. I can make more running cargo around the Empire than I can in the dog business, and be home every night."

"Well, perhaps you ought to do precisely that. My husband has a pair of older size two capital ships that really aren't economical any longer. They've been sitting in a holding yard for years. You should be able to put Interstitials in, maybe even pay an on-board cargo handler. Agree to rent space in the hold to anyone who wants. Class two capital ships have external racks for nine small cruiser auxiliaries, as well as internal space for smaller craft. Inoperants can make sublight runs within the system on impellers. If you simply hold your fees to something the consortium can pay, that would solve most of the problems."

"That seems like it might have merit, but the real point is to get strong Guardians who can fight demons. My satellite has found a jopas, two spraxos, and several nephraim, none of which I'm confident of facing alone."

"Not all operants are Vector pilots, let alone Interstitial pilots."

"I know, Helene, but how many will be interested in Earth?"

"All you can do is ask."

True. Without the Empire behind it, this whole thing was purely voluntary. On the other hand, I didn't have to choose by the method of taking the first eight people - or eighty - who ask. I could explicitly reserve slots for operants willing to fight major demons. Class two capital ships might have been small by the standards of current commerce, but they were over three hundred fifty meters in radius - nearly one hundred million cubic meters of which was cargo capacity. By comparison, the largest cargo ships on Earth are around seven to eight hundred thousand cubic meters. I wasn't certain every stray dog and cat on Earth would fill a hundred million cubic meters. On the other hand, with an internal system for moving stasis boxes, it would make it easy for dog people to bring back a stasis box at a time, and each participant could have boxes and hold volumes marked for their individual use. "Is anyone likely to volunteer just for a demon hunt?"

"I'd say it's likely. There's a lot of bad feeling towards demons over their part in the Interregnum. If I wasn't raising two small children, I might volunteer myself."

That was a shock. Helene was the embodiment of a dignified lady artist. Then I remembered Anara telling me how she used to have two other children, and I realized I didn't know how many other close friends and family she might have lost. Figure every Imperial citizen old enough to have lived through the Interregnum was a good candidate to volunteer, and that included a large proportion of the strongest as well as all of the most experienced Guardians. For the first time, I really understood that learning about history second-hand was a poor substitute for the experience of those who lived through it.

"What if I were to simply upload my satellite log?"

"You might have to promote it a bit, and add a location. Perhaps you might have to promise transportation. But the response that would surprise me the least is veterans of the era start recruiting on their own. Everyone lost people they cared about. I was extraordinarily lucky in that I, my husband, and four of my six
children survived. By comparison the Baryan lost twenty out of twentytwo adult members and all of their children and spouses, the M'Dorna lost fourteen out of fifteen adults and all their children and spouses, and depending upon your interpretation, ten or eleven of the Great Houses were completely exterminated.

The Council actually had a survival rate greater than the Imperial population at large. More than half of all Imperial planets were completely destroyed or sterilized, none kept even half their old population alive. Nobody got through the Interregnum unscathed, and the demons were the enabling factor. Most
survivors of the Interregnum don't think we've done anything like even the scales yet. Many will drop anything they can to give them a chance at demons."

"So a two prong strategy, one to recruit volunteers for an assault, one to recruit fellow dog sellers. What is the advantage of the other dog sellers?"

"One person, isolated as you are on Earth, is a lot easier to kill than an ongoing presence. Even if you're the only pilot for the consortium, the other members will have someone who checks on them if they don't return."

So if there were a dozen of us on Earth, killing one of us didn't help them. With Asto behind me, it wouldn't help them even if I was alone, but they'd know it wouldn't help them if I wasn't alone. "Thank you Helene. Am I going to be able to thank Scimtar in person this evening?"

She communicated no, so I continued, "Please also tell him thank you for me?" and started to take my leave, but she interrupted me.

"One more thing, Grace. My husband said it's time you had a refresher. I've made reservation for you with the family arms people tomorrow from nineteen zero to twentysix."

Well, dang. I had had plans for tomorrow - it was the only day I'd get in the Empire before I had to head back to Earth. A day and a half here was roughly six days there.

Neither she nor grandfather can force you, love, Asto sent, but it really would be a good idea. The skills decay without use. So I agreed, and then took my leave.

Praxeology - Something I Love

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Praxeology is the deduction of what someone wants from their actions. It's actually highly relevant to author skills - I use it constantly.

Praxeology has very little to do with what someone says. Most folks in most things have a public agenda and a real (private) agenda. They'll say what supports their public agenda, but they will *do* what supports their real (private) agenda.

Praxeology is rarely an immediate and certain knowledge of what someone wants. Most often, its immediate result is certain knowledge that their private agenda differs from their public agenda. But figuring out what that private agenda *is* generally takes an extended period of observation, and even then it may not be what mathematicians call a 'unique' solution. In short, it can be wrong.

Military planners and strategists use praxeology routinely. What our rivals and our allies are really after can be far more accurately ascertained by watching what they do than by paying attention to what they say.

One of praxeoogy's favorite sayings is "What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say."

I do outline. Not as thoroughly or obsessively as some, but I do have character sketches and a firm idea of where the story is going and the significant events on the way before I start writing.

And then, partway through the writing process, one of the characters stands up and says to me, "I thought of something better." More in character. Smarter for that character to do at that point in time. A better response to what happens to them. And it's usually better for the story than the original idea.

I call this hijacking the story. It's happened at least once in every novel of mine but the first. It happened twice in my most recent.

It also seems to be a sign that I'm not only tuned into the character, but that I'm onto a good story. So I'm happy every time it happens.

Book Two of Rediscovery. Follow the links to the right - only $2.99 in e-book! (Paperback available at Amazon)

I woke up suddenly in the dark. There was somebody in the room with me. I heard Riley bark once, then go silent. The shape of a woman resolved itself in the closet door. It was dark, but she wasn't much bigger than I was. I grabbed for the little blaster in my bag, but she interrupted, "Don't bother with the blaster; it won't work on me anyway. How did you get it and what happened to my brother?"

"Your brother?" I replied. I hoped she had something to do with ScOsh, but wasn't certain.

"His name was Osh Scimtar. He probably called himself ScOsh. There is a Mindsword in this box that shows his pattern, but he wasn't known to have a Mindsword or be capable of forging one. It's inactive, which means he's dead, and you're operant with at least some training. Did you somehow manage to kill him?"
"First explain what you did to the dog and my parents!"

"They're asleep. Nobody is going to interrupt us. Now start explaining!"

"Oh, I am sorry!" It took a while for my brain to get going sometimes. "I knew there'd be people looking for him, but he told me there were so many people in the empire I never thought it would be family first. He gave me a log for the whomever it was. Have you found his log yet?" She gave a little noise towards the end of the sentence, which meant she had as soon as I mentioned it. I watched her face fall. She must have accessed something that told her ScOsh was dead. It was like a hammer hit her, but she maintained her presence of mind.

After that pause, "Are you Grace?"

"That's me," I replied. Since I hadn't yet given her a name, that meant she read it off the log or out of my mind.

"I'm sorry," she said, "But Osh was close to all of us. A surrogate father whenever Father was gone. I'm Anara Scimtar di Baryan. Call me ScAnara." Unlike ScOsh, she emphasized the connection enough that I caught the soft cee and figured out that the beginning was an informal patronymic of sorts. "To expect him to be here so I can harass him about an error he made, only he's gone, dead, it's just going to take a few moments. He thought a lot of you, evidently. Enough to leave instructions concerning you in his log. Would you like to come to the empire with us?"

"Yes, I would." I had already made up my mind on that score. "How long do I have?"

"We need to verify that he did kill all of the stons that were here. And we're going to run an astral survey, compute a temporal ephemeris, drop a beacon. As long as we're here, let's do what we need to in order to keep track of a planet with seven billion humans. That will also insure you can find your way back, incidentally. Eight hours at least. ScOsh's log says our hours are about one point seven of yours so thirteen and a half hours." I looked at my watch, just to be sure. It was 5 AM. I had until 6:30 tonight to say goodbye

"You'd better be nice to me because I'm going to be the Queen!" And she was quite the piece of eye candy - petite, upturned nose, dimples, green eyes, golden blonde hair, pert and ample breasts, well turned backside. Too bad for her she said it with King Edvard only a few feet away.

I'd spent a couple hours after my return building a simple trap. It wouldn't do any harm to those who triggered it; all it would do was light up the location of any active magic on tower visitors. A simple trigger of matra as a detective together with kored to light up the specific location. I even extruded a nice silver frame for the visitors to walk thorough into the tower. It wouldn't last forever, but it was almost foolproof in its simplicity. Particularly at the level of the local talent.

King Edvard, for his part, wanted to get a good look at how his prospective brides treated his veterans, so he was dressed simply as one of his officers. He watched calmly as the door guard - Magni - explained to the young woman in question and her father the wizard that his instructions were that all visitors were to pass through this portal upon entering the tower. Her father - a wizard who styled himself Heffinglass - demurred, and so did his daughter, heaping abuse upon poor Magni.

Finally, King Edvard, still posing as the lieutenant in charge of the watch, took charge, "My instructions from the king are explicit. No visitors are to enter the tower without passing through the silver portal. If you do not wish to attend the king's invitation under such conditions, my lord Heffinglass, then you and your daughter may depart without fear."

"But the portal is enchanted! What is its' function?"

"I cannot say. We were told only to take careful note of the location on your persons of any illumination such passage provokes. The king's wizard is here; perhaps you would take it up with him?"

"Sir, I demand to know the nature of the enchantment!"

"The nature of the enchantment is quite simple; all it does is alert the observer to the presence of active magic. But since you seem to have difficulty and I happen to be standing right here, I will report what I see directly."

"Well, that would be welcome, since I am not doing any magic currently."

"Lord Heffinglass, that may be the truth in that you're not casting any spells at the moment," I replied, "However, it's intentionally misleading. In fact, this woman is not your daughter, she is your concubine, and she's already pregnant. You've bespelled her with a simple glamour any apprentice should be able to spot. Do I need to demonstrate, or would you rather retain what shreds of dignity you have remaining and retire from this spot, never to return?"

"Preposter..." he began huffily, as if I was impugning him, then finished weakly "...ous" as the glamour vanished, the young woman being replaced with a significantly older but still attractive woman, dark hair beginning to gray, everything else significantly aged.

This is an excerpt from the story I'm working on now. It will be my first fantasy, a riff on Zelazny and Moorcock.

"Returning to the original question you asked me, though, marrying a wizard's daughter or even a wizard herself would be a wise move. Not only would it give you a new ally, other wizards would be less willing to try and take your place if you've got wizards on your side. They might also be more willing to live in a city or kingdom ruled by someone not hostile to their kind. Finally, it's possible that one or more of your children could be a wizard."

"Against that," he responded, "We have the issue that one of the reasons people want to become wizards is power. Too many of them aspire to power no matter the consequences, or the cost to others. What you're saying has merit, Alexan, but I'd need to be very careful about taking a wizard for a queen."

"That's one of the reasons it would be a very good idea to have many wizards around. Where there are sixties or hundreds of wizards, they will keep each other in check. And the wizard who thinks magical power is the ultimate force is going to be mortally surprised when they discover it's not. Maybe in a duel between two wizards it would be. But when there are too many other wizards for anyone to fight, political power is the winning argument."

"I still don't understand why you are willing to create a situation where you are not the ultimate power. Why don't you want to rule?"

"I told you, Your Majesty. I've been a ruler. It's not something I'm looking to repeat at the moment, because rulers are not free to do as they wish. Even if you're not interested in being a good ruler, the requirements of being a ruler will catch you. Furthermore, having many other wizards around gives me opportunity to pretend to be nothing extraordinary. If there are sixty or a hundred other wizards around, all trying to convince everyone they're the biggest, baddest wizard out there, people will have no reason to bother me, as I have no such intention or need. Finally, the place I come from taught me many things in a lifetime that's been significantly longer than you probably believe, and I've had opportunities to hone my craft. I doubt anyone will be able to challenge me for at least a human lifetime. I hope you enjoy being King, Your Majesty, because the truth is that the constraints of being ruler have you snared already. I suspect you will be a good king, and if you accept my counsel when I offer it I will help you become both happier and better, but your latitude of action is less than many would believe."

"And you would advise?"

"Send messengers to the noble houses and to the wizards. To the former, invite them to send their daughters of marriageable age to Treemount. To the latter, add an invitation to the female wizards who wish to be considered and an invitation to relocate to Treemount regardless. Once they start arriving, see if you can find one you get along with. Any of them will do for an alliance, but finding one who will help you as an ally and a friend is worth doing if you can."

"That's appealing, Alexan. I'd like to marry someone who's a friend, or at least friendly. But those who want to marry me for power may not give up their ambitions so easily. I'd hate to put a prospective friend in the way of a jackal's path to power. You don't owe me anything, but I dare to hope we've become friends, you and I. Will you help your friend protect the woman who might help me rule?"

The set up

This essentially re-tells the biblical story of the rise of David with a few additions. It is the first in a series.

The good: The writing is clear. and most people should know the background of the story

The needs improvement: Lots of telling, not so much showing

What else you need to know: It does take liberties with the biblical story of David. Although it is largely compatible with the Christian mythos, some of the Christians I know would likely have issues with some of the scenes with Jezebel, particularly with allowing children to read it. It is written in a style comparable to the bible or the prose eddas. If you don't like the style of those, or had issues with the Silmarillion, this book is probably not for you.

Asina was born on the fractal demon dominated planet of Calmena, around Epsilon Indi, in one of the 'free' human holds. They are in fact anything but free, having a rigid caste based social structure where you are either a member of the noble classes, or a slave.

Asina was 'rescued' by the first Earth Expedition, and taken back to Earth aboard the Golden Hind, where an Imperial charity took her in and trained her in the operant disciplines when it turned out she was actually operant. She is a very weak Second Order Guardian, just barely able to qualify, but qualify she did.

She has a horrible past. She was an orphan, her parents died of starvation and the brutality of life on Calmena while she was very young. As she matured - at roughly fourteen Earth years - her social position on Calmena became involuntary concubine, getting raped by the male nobles and taking care of noble children in between. She gave birth to a daughter who tested operant, giving her a minor caste boost into privileged slave status, but she was still slowly dying to the brutality of life on Calmena and being a sex toy for the nobles.

However, Asina is a survivor, and Imperial healers are good. Once she escaped and trained to become a Guardian, she accepted a proposed assignment to return to Calmena as a technological missionary of sorts, helping the humans of Calmena throw off the chains of both their human and demonic overlords, because war is coming between the Empire and the fractal demons, and Calmena is the planet squarely in the Imperial crosshairs as an invasion route.

You can read more about Asina in Preparing the Ground Amazon e-book or paperback Books2Read

Asina's Adventures are further continued in Building the People Amazon e-book Amazon Paperback Books2Read

Preparations for War, Book Three, tentatively titled Setting the Board, is in the plotting stages

When we meet Joe, he's a 22 year old community college drop out. He was studying to be an automobile mechanic, but he got lucky in that his aunt Grace was the first person from Earth to become a trained Guardian.

The family is mixed race. His Anglo father was a retired Senior Chief in the US Navy who worked at a defense contractor, his Mexican-American mother was a homemaker who recently got her real estate license as her youngest was getting close to graduating high school. Joe is the third of five children, three boys and two girls. The family has lived in Temecula, California for about the past five years since his father retired from the military.

When his aunt started a business shipping dogs back to the Empire as pets, Joe was one of the first to sign on, ditching his community college classes and part-time job. She taught him and other members of the family what it takes to be a crewman on an Imperial cargo vessel, and he spent about a year working the dog business, both working with the dogs on the ground and as a crewman on her ships. As a consequence, when the Empire made official contact with Earth about six months ago in the wake of a nuclear war between Russia and China, the family is about the only place interested parties on Earth can find people who know anything about Imperial technology. He is sought out and offered a post on Earth's first interstellar mission. His cousin Adela also gets a berth, but on the other ship.

Joe is a fairly typical young man who has been raised well, but not in a particularly genteel fashion. He's used to being middle class, but he's not a gentleman by any stretch of the imagination. For all of that, however, he's a good human being, and he tries to do the right thing when he realizes what it is. He doesn't realize how much his father's military attitude rubbed off on him, despite his father's frequent absences on deployment while he was growing up. The family might well be the richest on Earth under the new Imperial economy (dogs are one of the few things Imperials are willing to pay for, and they own the largest dog rescue operation and control the transport mechanism), but they still act middle class as they haven't had opportunity to adjust their thinking.

You can read more about Joe in Preparing the Ground Amazon e-book or paperback Books2Read

Joe's Adventures are further continued in Building the People Amazon e-book Amazon Paperback Books2Read

Preparations for War, Book Three, tentatively titled Setting the Board, is in the plotting stages

 



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