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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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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.

 



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