January 2021 Archives

Here are the first few paragraphs from the First Draft

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It was hard to believe she was gone.

For over an Earth century, Sephia had been the commander of Bolthole Base. She'd been the one constant, unchangeable thing about the mission on Calmena. The base was four times the size it had been when I started, Calmena itself was utterly changed, but Sephia was changeless - until this morning. She'd had a cerebral hemorrhage at some point overnight and died in her sleep. Her bright blue eyes were forever closed and I could have used a shot of her no-nonsense grandmotherly attitude. But her body had already been fed back into the converter as per standard procedure; she was one with the universe now.

Section Private Kryphan was seniormost of those in the line of command; therefore he was interim commander. It was unlikely a successor for Sephia would be more than two days in coming - today's courier run would have taken the news to Earth, almost certainly the new base commander would arrive tomorrow. But whoever it was, they'd never replace the grandmother hen who'd watched over us for the last century, kept us focused on the task, held us together through all the setbacks, and kicked us into action when it was necessary.

It had been pointless to Portal back to Bolthole Base, but every single one of the twentytwo teams currently working the Advancement Mission nonetheless made the journey, each of us making a solemn pilgrimage to the door of the base commander's office that had been hers for so long, just standing at the door looking in in silent farewell, bore executing tatzen, the Imperial gesture of respect, before turning and walking away silently. Tatzen was a variable gesture. Fingertips to upper lip was respect. Nose to the joining of the ring and middle fingers was more. Nose to wrist and palm to heart was all that and love and loss and you couldn't get any higher. Anything more than that was simple pretension, and none of us would do that to her. Sephia's absence was a burning hole in all of our hearts. She hadn't had to do anything beyond her job as commander of Bolthole Base, but she'd done everything she could to make our jobs easier as well. She would be missed.

Both Asina and I had last messages from her in our datalink queue. Likely a last farewell and whatever last message she'd wanted us to be reminded of. We'd play them back in Yalskarr.

Yalskarr was a different place, forty Imperial years on. It had been a port town when we arrived; now it was one of the busiest ports on Calmena as well as an industrial center rivalling anything Earth had had in the mid-twentieth century. Nearly a million people lived in the city itself and another four in the territory it governed, which included the oilfields to the north as well as enough farmland to feed them all. It had had growing pains but Asina as First Captain had done her best to help the area remain livable as well as defensible from demonic incursions. She was retired from that now but still consulted from time to time; administering the industrial conglomerate that built ships, airplanes, and automobiles as well as the engines to power all of them took all of her time while I worked on advancing the technology as fast as I could, largely using the blueprints from Earth's Industrial Age. The time was coming when the lives of every human on Calmena would hinge on how fast we could upgrade.

Author Update

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I'm in the finishing stages with "The End of Childhood" It's the third "Politics of Empire" book, but once finished it will be put on hold until "Moving The Pieces" has at least a completed first draft, as they share some common events.

Soon as that is finished, "Moving The Pieces" will be the fourth and final book in "Preparations for War", and likely the shortest. I'd hoped to be able to get the whole story told in "Setting the Board" but it just didn't work that way.

After that, my next project will be "Gifts of The Mother" a Gates to Faerie sequel.

There is a third Connected Realms story in the outline stages. Working title: The Crazy Lady

There is a fourth "Politics of Empire" also in the planning stages. The older children will be legal adults.

I'm looking at a story about Urona Scimtar, trying to figure out if I can make it interesting enough to justify the work of having a Seventh Order Guardian as a viewpoint character. The basic angle is make it the story Disney's "Brave" should have been - about the protagonist realizing the reasons why what her family wants her to do what they want and the costs of not doing so.

My plan from here out, once I have the current series in progress finished, is never to be working on more than two series at one time.

The forges of N'yeschlass began their beat at dawn, every day without fail. Things had changed since we began.

The town had never been officially named. The name had grown from the unofficial motto of what my wife and I and the original group of refugees cowering in the jungle had begun not quite twenty Imperial years ago. The demonic tongue of Calmena had no word for freedom. N'yeschlass translated literally as "no slaves." It was a promise to all - come to us and be free. It didn't appeal to everyone, as it included freedom to fail and freedom to starve, but those were simply the terms of life everywhere on Calmena. In the portions run by the fractal demons, slaves were eaten when they began to show signs of aging. Where the pseudo-feudal human agaani held sway, grinding poverty and recurrent famines were almost as brutal. Only in N'yeschlass and its confederated territory was there a significant chance of a human being alive on what an Earther like me would consider their fiftieth birthday.

I still worked my smithy a couple hours per day. It had seen upgrades since the day we'd built it - it was probably the equal of a mid-19th century forge on Earth now. But these days, the metal was mined out of the Collision Range and I didn't have to pretend to cart it in while pulling most of it out of a converter. We still had the secret room with all the technological conveniences underneath our forge, but these days I bought all of the metal I used. I might create the gold and silver I used to buy it out of the converter, but the metal I actually worked was honestly mined by miners who were part of our new nation. N'yeschlass the nation held better than a third of Wimarglr, the North America sized continent we'd called Continent One when we discovered Calmena, including most of the Collision Range.

There were probably twentyfive square people in N'yeschlass the city these days. After better than twenty years of thinking alternatively in demonic and Imperial systems, the former for everyday interactions with Calmenans and the latter for reports and planning to our Imperial sponsors, the decimal system and all the other standards of measurement I'd grown up with on Earth was almost alien to me now. 90,000 was a fair number of people for a city to have with this level of technology, and N'yeschlass the nation probably had four or five cities that were bigger now. N'yeschlass the city was the gateway to the mining regions in the Collision Range, a name that had stuck when I'd used it inadvertently in conversation with a Calmena native. "Collision" didn't mean anything in demonic; they just thought it was a good name. Probably half the place names on Earth came from circumstances not too different.

N'yeschlass the city had a very European feel to it. I don't mean the architecture was similar, it wasn't. That looked like nothing in my experience. By any reasonable definition, construction here was mostly wooden squalor. But the streets had grown organically rather than planned. Asina and I still owned a good bit of land, but these days most of it was in use. I spent more time managing others than working metal myself. The city was where more metal was smelted than anywhere else on Calmena. Iron, nickel, copper, tin, lead and even small amounts of aluminum and others. N'yeschlass' metallurgy was probably late eighteenth century equivalent on average. Not bad. Asina and I owned a good bit of the production, and had shown everyone else how to do it.

Asina was First Councilor of the city, and Captain of the guard. She spent almost no time working our business any longer - civic affairs kept her busy. This was by design. N'yeschlass the nation was a confederation bound by trade, mutual defense, and a common attitude towards human slavery. Other cities of the confederation had decided upon other ways to run their affairs. N'yeschlass the city maintained its primacy within the confederation by economic means thanks to Asina and ruthless adherence to the principles behind M'Don's equations. City regulation was almost non-existent, but things like sanitation were the product of ongoing awareness campaigns, and if you did something like dump your used food out on the street, your neighbors would let you know they frowned on that. Stridently. The town even had the beginnings of a rudimentary sewage system, which I'd begun by the simple expedient of digging it before I'd erected any additional buildings on our land. Eventually it would have to be expanded, but for now it discharged into a small cavern we'd found underneath a small nearby hill, not back into the river.

Even the people around me were different. I was no longer close to the tallest person around. Many of the younger men were taller than my current two ififths thirtyeight, and even a couple of the young women. Not suffering constant malnutrition as a child will do that for you. The people I could see from where I stood had some meat on their bones; they weren't in significant danger of starvation. Yes, we'd had our crop failures the last thirtyfive local Calmena years, and even lost some people in the early years, but the last real famine was almost twenty local years in the past. These days, N'yeschlass the city and its surrounding countryside were even able to export a little food, despite the primitive shipping technology. Perhaps improving those would be the focus of our next contract period with the Empire.

The view inside a time-jammer bubble is pretty.

Not that the Imperials built ships with windows. It almost defeated the purpose of having a hull, to leave a hole in it where radiation could get in or some random piece of debris could punch a hole and let your air out. If anything, time-jammers were more vulnerable to that than most Imperial vessels. Unlike Vector Drive, time-jammers actually had to travel the entire distance, and so time-jammers weren't used for anything over a few hundred light-years. But they didn't require operant mindlords to pilot them, something Earth was in short supply of at the moment. Nor could most transparent materials accept hull charge, which meant they were, comparatively speaking, fragile as ancient glass.

If you wanted to look out of an Imperial vessel, you did it electronically. The sensors weren't cameras, technically speaking, but that's what everyone called them. In a time-jammer under drive, you couldn't really see anything but the lights of the capture buffer, accretion disk, or whatever you wanted to call it. Photons got caught in the buffer, and took anywhere from about forty seconds on up to work their way clear. The capture buffer provided heavy lensing as well as drastically slowing the photons within. The upshot was the entire leading hemisphere of the bubble glowed soft, shifting pastel colors like the auroras of Earth. Traveling faster than light, the entire front hemisphere captured photons that struck the field surface. The ones that were eventually emitted inwards were spread out over the entire inner surface of the field. Photons that weren't absorbed by sensors or the dark gray hull of Golden Hind went through the whole process again.

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 traveling 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.

 



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