May 2020 Archives

"Nay, O Lady of My Heart, I am not disappointed, but happily surprised. The fact it is a happy surprise does not alter the fact it is a surprise. Why does the universe allow us to exist, when it does not require our assistance? Why are we thus privileged? There must be some purpose to allowing us this power."

"Why question thy good fortune, husband?"

"I am ultsi, milady, by habit if not by fact. We are seekers after knowledge, which requires us to be askers of questions, and I'm not explaining myself clearly, so let's approach it from another direction. Have you ever seen a living thing simply exist?"

"Trees. Grass."

"Trees and grass do not simply exist. They're in competition for soil and sunlight and water. All the other trees and blades of grass want these same things, and there's only so much to go around. Where are our competitors?"

"Other gods."

"The niche seems suspiciously empty. One of the rules is populations expand to make full use of resources. Doesn't it seem that with so much energy available, there would be more and more beings clamoring to take it for their own survival? Yet it seems that there's plenty there for all, and there's a disturbing next question."

"I would rather not be disturbed at present, husband, but it does seem that the number of gods is increasing."

I let the next question lie for now. "And our rivals?"

"Kiltig and Klikitit would fit that description."

She had a valid point. Perhaps I came from a place so energy-starved that we'd been forced to learn to make more efficient use - and now suddenly I'd been given access to a place where all the energy you could want was there for the taking, and my competitors simply had less ability to take advantage of that energy? But resource rich environments served as a beacon for organisms from less fecund locales. Aescalon was so energy rich its divinities never learned skills that even the weakest martsi and natsi - ordinary humans with the weakest level of mind power - learned as a matter of course. "Not the same thing, milady. Those are personal animosities. Given the energy rich environment of Aescalon and its fountain of plentiful energy, there should be so many gods clamoring to partake that there is none to spare. I can think of two possible reasons why this is not the case, but I'm unable at the present to test either hypothesis."

Here's a short excerpt from Setting The Board, book 3 of Preparations for War:


Jammont's attack was crude; a feint towards my head that turned into an oblique cut towards my right-side ribcage when I moved to parry his initial assault. I parried it yieldingly in what an Earther would call seconde, deflecting the heavier blade down so its momentum would carry it downwards to my right, stepping to my left as I did so. I drew the back side of the tip along Jammont's forearm and wrist in passing, cutting through his clothing to leave a long trail along his forearm, rapidly running with red arterial blood.

That wasn't my real riposte, though. The continuation of the same stroke that pinked his arm turned to present the front edge of my blade towards his leg. Before Jammont could begin to recover his blade to protect himself, I'd hit him hard near his right hip, cutting through the stiffened leather to draw more bright arterial blood from his upper thigh, cutting the tendon of the abductor muscle in his outer leg. Then I stepped back and to the left, bringing my weapon back into a terce guard position as his leg gushed blood.

I needn't have bothered. He didn't collapse in place, but it was all he could do to remain standing. The cut had already saturated his armor and clothing, running down his leg and beginning to pool on the floor.
It would have been easier to kill him, but everyone could see that the duel was essentially over. The arm wound would have made it difficult to retain his grip on his weapon through slippery blood, the leg wound not only crippled him, he would bleed to death in a minute or so if I forced him to fight on it. A Guardian might have healed it while fighting; the locals didn't practice necris nearly so diligently.

"A lucky strike," I said, "Yield?" That would allow him to pretend it was luck, but I could see in his eyes he knew better. Before this, he might have told himself we were only half agaani by some sort of courtesy exempted from combat training; now he knew that we were the real thing. If there was a next time, my opponent would be more prepared, and I probably wouldn't have the option of being so merciful.

"I yield the issue," he responded, "Attend me!" to his servants, allowing himself to collapse to the floor.

The first thing to greet me upon returning home was a golden furry missile, ankle high and forearm long. Mischief launched herself off the sofa, demanding attention. I picked her up and petted her for a moment, then tucked her under my arm before taking a seat on one of the couches. The English Cream longhair dachshund fancied herself queen of the household, and she wasn't far wrong when she was in "Miss Chief" mode. Her chocolate and tan shorthair partner in crime, Scarecrow, wasn't far behind, with his song of greeting, telling me of the neglect and starvation he'd endured in the two hours since I left.

Studious Alden, my youngest, interrupted his cosmology lesson to come get a hug. It was still a disconcerting the way he'd teleport next to me just to save a few steps and seconds, grab a hug, then teleport back to what he'd been doing. At ten Imperial - seven Earth - he'd decided he liked his skin lighter than most, with light brown hair as well, so that was the way he was keeping it for now. But he was a holy terror with a blade or in a hadul arena as well, to the point where Asto and I tried to get him to eat more to bulk up his slight frame, in order to have a reserve if he needed it.

Imtara, eleven with the same dark brown shade of skin and black hair her father and great-grandfather favored, smiled over at me from where she was working with the specialty converter, building a circuit for some project of hers. Hi mom! Did you get all the bad guys today?

I did get more than my share of criminal cases, because however weak I was compared to my husband's family, I was a stronger than average Guardian. No criminals today. Just four civil cases any Investigator could have handled. What are you building?

A sensor discrimination module. Trying to find a more sensitive configuration for remote identification that doesn't fry with interference. Ilras and Esteban are with Dad's splinter and grandfather's getting lessons.

Here's an excerpt from near the beginning of Preparing The Ground. It's the first book of Preparations For War, the story of how a young man ends up as a missionary of civilization on a primitive world belonging to the enemy during the run up to war between two empires.

The series thus far is Preparing The Ground, Building The People, Setting The Board, and will conclude with Moving The Pieces, which is one of the two novels I'm actively working on.

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Piloting a time-jammer was a lot like an old song from one of the rock stars my parents liked - Driving With Your Eyes Closed. I remember it being a fun little song, but the reality not so much. The piloting sensors used direct detection of mass akin to the operant discipline of farza, which allowed the computers to extrapolate mass from natural bodies from their effects on the metric of space - in other words, gravity. Imperial gear was crazy good. Anything shields or hull charge couldn't handle would get detected in time for a good pilot who was on the ball to avoid it, even at a couple hundred thousand times the speed of light. The problem was the potential for other ships. Gravity only propagated at light speed. It's all very well and good for natural bodies which are on the course God last set for them billions of years ago. Their gravity propagation was a thing of long standing. Not so much other ships travelling faster than light. As far as any such ships were concerned, we were driving with our eyes closed.

We didn't think there were any such ships around, but we didn't know. Difficult as it was to believe, we were actually going where no humans we knew of had ever been before. When the Imperial military had come to Earth, they'd done a fast survey looking for signs of advanced civilization, but signs of anything advanced enough to worry the Empire could be seen at interstellar distances. Nobody had actually visited Barnard's Star, our first destination, or any of the other nearby star systems we were planning to visit.

Back in the Empire, Tia Grace says time-jammers are essentially a hobby, and an uncommon hobby at that. Most interstellar ships use Vector Drive, or the brand-new Interstitial Vector. From point A to point B with effectively no in-between. But Vector Drive requires a pilot with auros and para, two of the disciplines of operant mindlords. Computers can simulate para just fine; even on Earth it's been done in hardware for decades. But computers can't quite get the fine ability auros gives a trained operant to anticipate with acceptable precision. The Empire had given up on computer-piloted Vectors thousands of years ago - the errors were too large and the accidents were too many. Except for my aunt, all of Earth's operants were currently somewhere back in the Empire undergoing initial training. So without operants, Earth had a stark choice for faster-than-light: time-jammers, or nothing.

 



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