November 2021 Archives

Excerpt from Moving The Pieces

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Copyright 2021 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

It suddenly hit us: Whatever else happened, this phase of our life was coming to an end. We'd both been barely adult when we'd met - I'd been twenty-two, Earth age, and close as we could figure, she'd been a little younger. Four assignments here on Calmena with a break to raise a family on Earth - just over 150 Earth years since we met - and once the war was over, we'd be done with our mission on Calmena, too. She was the first to say it. Any ideas what you want to do when this is over?

A vacation. Our contracts had been good to us. We had enough money to last us at least twenty years, more likely sixty. Given the income from renting our service points, we might never have to work again if we didn't want to.

I meant longer-term. Our next professions.

I hadn't thought about it, babe. Visit the kids, do some touristy stuff. I gave her a mental leer Maybe take a year and just rut like crazed weasels.
That was intended as a joke, but even cosmetically aged, Asina was a petite fox. Let her go back to young adult in appearance like everyone else in the Empire, and I could spend a year in bed - a real Imperial sleeping field - just working off the urge. We're both Guardians; we have time and choices. Did you have something in mind?

Not yet. But you know me.

Yes I did. You like vacations, but you can't really enjoy them unless you have a plan for what comes next. A legacy of a childhood spent cold and starving. If money is what's driving you, Tia Grace has made it clear there's damned good money in piloting. Sixty years of that, and work becomes something we do because we want to.

Joe...

I know. It wasn't really money. Or it was, but it was the thought of having more money going out than coming in that made her uncomfortable. Or more money going out than reliably coming in under our control. There would always be a little daimon in the back of her mind worrying about enough. It may have been a legacy from an abused and impoverished childhood that was now close to two centuries in the past, but changing that would mean she was no longer Asina. Besides, her need and drive kicked my lazy butt into action and made me a better person that I'd have been without her. I understand the idea of not working for a period of years is something you're not comfortable with. I will give it some thought. We certainly have the money for any training we might need.

Thank you. But you should know that 'lazy' is not a word anyone should use in describing you, Joe.
That little bit of encouragement from her made my day.
A quick smooch and we went about our tasks for the day.

What Comes Next

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Just spent some time on the websites for Amazon and Books2Read, cleaning up some issues I'd noticed. I also changed the blurb for Fountains of Aescalon to:

The first thing Alexan knew was standing over an impossible corpse with an ichor-stained sword.


Exiled from home for reasons of politics and health, he has to orient himself in a new home, but he still has the skills he was 'born' with, skills which make him a wizard in his new homeland. A blasted, sterile cavern has many portals, but the one he chooses leads to the top of a huge tree, the source of magical power for an entire world.

Power is plentiful in Aescalon, but those who have it want to keep it all for themselves, and the arrival of a new wizard upsets the balance. It seems everyone who doesn't attack immediately wants something from him - including a cursed demi-goddess desperate to escape her fate who thinks Alexan may be able to help her.

But Alexan can't even help himself until he unravels the secrets of The Fountains of Aescalon

So what comes next?

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to do some advertising and put the first two books of Politics of Empire (The Invention of Motherhood and The Price of Power) on sale prices for a few days each. Then I will release The End of Childhood, book three in the series.

I will also put the Preparations for War novels (Preparing The Ground, Building The People, and Setting The Board) on sale for a few days each prior to releasing the final novel in the series, Moving The Pieces.

Meanwhile, work on Gifts of The Mother continues, slower than I'd like due to day job but it is coming. If you want it to come more quickly, tell folks to buy my novels so I can afford to quit!

Happy Thanksgiving

I smiled and waved as they brought Julie into the courtroom for her bail hearing. She looked a little wan, bedraggled from her ordeal, bruises beginning to darken on her face and arms, and completely beautiful. It didn't take long for Mister Stuart to shoot down all of the county's contentions about why a higher bail would be appropriate. In the end, her bail was set as considerably less than mine, and I posted it the minute the clerk got the formal document.

Soon as she was officially 'free', she turned and gave me the best hug I'd had in weeks. She was trembling in fright the whole time but she did it. I tried to gauge what she needed, settled for a good tight hug while carefully avoiding any areas that might frighten her or cause an involuntary reaction. "Scary as it was, I needed that," she said.

"My pleasure. Sorry you got assaulted. How did it happen?"

"Don't take this the wrong way, but now that I'm allowed to leave, I want to grab my stuff and leave before we do anything else."

I understood completely. Also, I suspected she wanted to be away before she said anything to antagonize people she might still need to work with. "I guess I'll wait here." She didn't take long to change. I'd been home; we walked to the Porsche and accomplished our usual ritual.

Once we were out of the parking lot, she said, "The women's side is all one big barracks. I woke up and the lights were out, like they were in that Chinese place we went to where the shadow-cat showed up. Then the others all started speaking in unison, something about the Mad God and his vengeance. I don't really remember much between that and the guards pulling them off me, and they took me to the hospital."

"How bad is it?"

"I'm bruised everywhere, and it all aches, but the doctors said nothing serious as far as they can tell. No broken bones, all the organ tests they did came back within limits. They did another pregnancy test, but damage to the baby isn't going to show for a while unless I miscarry."

"I'm sure Mister Stuart would love to represent you in your suit for failure to protect."

"I'm sure he would, but I think the boss is likely to pre-empt him. Mister Silver does not suffer us to be abused by anyone except him."

"A jealous boss?"

"Very."

"Your experience seems to square with something RaDonna told me. The men's side is smaller cells, four bunks to a cell. She said the cell separators are probably what short-circuited the Mad God's attempt to do the same thing to me - and one of the guys I was sharing with was big enough to make me look like a toddler."

"Then I'm glad it short-circuited."

"Me too. I'd have been a small spot on the wall or floor. But when I was speaking to her about other things, I also asked RaDonna if she knew any therapists who understand magic to deal with our particular problem. She went one better and suggested her great-grandmother would be willing to help. She said she needed a couple days to ask, but seemed optimistic."

"Is that good?"

"I can't imagine RaDonna's great-grandmother agreeing to help unless she was pretty certain she'd make a difference. From what I understand, she's an important mage to the Elven holdings on this continent."

"I think I remember RaDonna saying her great-grandmother was out in Iowa just a few weeks ago. How fast can they move?"

"I don't know, but I don't think Ra' would have suggested it if we'd have to wait months. Maybe they move over to this side and drive the interstates. Maybe they even hop planes and fly commercial."

"You need I.D. to get on a plane."

"You're right, but maybe she has one. The point is RaDonna isn't the kind of idiot who'd suggest a solution that we can't use."

"You know her better than I do."
"Best office manager I've ever heard of, in addition to whatever else she does. She's sharp, Julie. She warned me about the Mad God. Evidently, he has power over groups; the larger the group the more he can do."

"Makes sense. The men were split into small groups and it fizzled. The women were all in one room and it didn't. She didn't happen to say anything limitations of this power? Something we can do to forestall it, or break it?"

"Not other than breaking up the groups or dividing them into pieces too small for the Mad God to use. Even that was implied from what she said rather than direct advice.:

"Well, it's a nice caveat, but if the Mad God can raise a riot looking for us and direct it towards us, our days are numbered unless we can think of a counter," Julie realized, "This is L. A. and large groups are part of life here. Baseball will be going for another three months. Football starts soon, and basketball too. Concerts and traffic jams, and so on."

"Point. Just regular traffic probably has plenty of people, at least if he can get them out of their vehicles."
"There's no point in freaking out over every possibility. We need something that can prevent it, or break up a mob if it happens."

"Here's a question: Why hasn't the Mad God used this power to break his rivals?"

"What do you mean?"

"If he can get any group of ten or twenty people to do his bidding," I told her, "He could destroy a lot of property and attack a lot of people, particularly if he could somehow keep them going from target to target, and the momentum would snowball as they encountered more people. Imagine if riots were contagious. There have to be limits of some sort, or he would have destroyed any rival power centers by destroying the rival's worshippers or temples, or the means to pay them. The only reason that makes sense about 'he hasn't' is that he can't. Why not?"


Copyright 2021 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

Joe and his native wife Asina have spent the last twenty years helping the natives of Wimarglr Continent on Calmena throw off their overlords, both demonic and human.

Now it is time to spread the rebellion to the rest of Calmena, which requires bringing the art of shipbuilding to a world that has never known a boat more advanced than a canoe.

But the demons are not willing to give Calmena up easily, and a counteroffensive is on the way that will rock the free humans to their limits

******

"I'm due to be relieved day after tomorrow. I will not force my successor to accept a plan that they might object to," Platoon Private Markoczi was adamant on that point. She refused to allow us the use of one of the cutters until such time as her successor approved the plan.

"Sir, orbital scans clearly show the immediate area as clear of humans today. That may not be the case two days from now."

"Then you'll just have to wait until the area is clear again."

We had no way to force her to cooperate, and we would need the goodwill of the commander of Bolthole Base. We wanted to get on with it, but sometimes the person in charge makes a decision you have to live with.

Our new contract was considerably more generous than our previous one. We had experience now, and a history of results. It called for each of us to be making twelve prime for every four days we were in the field, but we also received one prime each per day we were required to spend in non-field activities like waiting for a new commander to approve our deployment.

Love, we can't win this argument, Asina told me. "Are you willing to offer your official opinion of our plan?" she asked.

"I see nothing wrong with your plan for deployment, and if I was going to be here even a few days longer I would have no qualms approving it. But my replacement would have legitimate concerns because your plan for deployment stretches into their tenure." Shipbuilding required more tools, and more in the way of raw materials than blacksmithing. The schedule for initial deployment stretched over an eight day period, with room for slippage in the event we were under observation. I had to admit Markoczi had a point but the Empire generally accentuated the authority of the current commander on the scene. "I will recommend my successor implement your plan immediately."

It wasn't practical to haul the whole set of gear - metal, wood, canvas, and tools - the fourteen isquare between Bolthole Base and our chosen site on the northwest coast of Wimarglr. It would take sixties of swass-loads with even a minimal amount of lumber. N'yeschlass was as law abiding a land as existed on Calmena, but that wasn't saying much. The odds were that someone would be tempted enough to try and rob us, and there were only two of us. Also, we wanted some more time to blur "Joe and Asina" in the minds of people we might have encountered before, and the trail out of the Collision Range led right past N'yeschlass the city. We had altered our appearance while off planet. I was now my original Earthly 5 foot 11 and had lightened my skin and hair color, while Asina had significantly darkened her hair and complexion and changed her eye color to gray, but mannerisms are hard to disguise and we didn't want anyone on Calmena identifying us with our former selves. I was going to be working under the cover name of Ossitar, and Asina was going to be known as Tellea, as her daughter's name was a perfectly normal Calmenan name. But since we wanted the use of cutters to shuttle our equipment, we had to have the agreement of the base commander. Markoczi was too close to the end of her tenure, and unwilling to approve it when the majority of the shuttle work would be done on her successor's watch.

Copyright 2017 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved

Drives:

Faster than light travel has turned out to be one of those things there are many solutions to.

Far and away the most common are Vector Drive and it's newer child, Interstitial Vector. These are essentially instantaneous over even inter-galactic distances (or between instances of creation as well in the case of Interstitial Vector). The drawback to both is computers on their own aren't accurate enough for reasonable accuracy - you need an operant pilot capable of handling multiple simultaneous equations over a short period of time immediately prior to a Vector. This means Vector pilots are expensive as such things go and many things flow from this fact, from the drive for ever larger ships to a need for insystem ship crews to maneuver before and after a Vector, and pilot modules that plug into those ships carrying a Vector pilot.

An alternative for shorter distances is a timejammer. Timejammers can handle speeds of up to about sixty cubed times the speed of light, and they do not require operant pilots. The issues are two: Unlike Vector Drive vessels, they actually must travel the distance involved and they have to be careful not to run into anything at those speeds. They also capture and build up a 'buffer' of photons that tend to attract the attention of anyone looking in the area - timejammers are definitely NOT 'stealth' ships. Even Earth's technology pre-contact had no difficulty picking out the one timejammer that was operated in the system before official contact. Timejammers tend to be smaller ships, run on shoestring budgets within a galactic neighborhood of sixty light-years or so.

Phase One space is a sort of hyperspace where faster speeds are possible sub-light. Very common with less technologically advanced races but only rarely used by Imperial vessels.as timejammers are faster, but it is easier to guard against collisions are you're not exceeding speed of light.

There are fourteen other known methods of faster than light travel, but the ones above are by far the most common.

Finally, it should be noted that modern impellers are capable of interstellar voyages sublight. This is a commonly taught means of recovering from a FTL failure away from civilization where it cannot be fixed for some reason: Crank up the impellers and head for the nearest Imperial system. It'll only take a week or so of subjective time, and if twenty years or so pass in the main universe, that's not an impossible adjustment.

Communications:

Tachyonic communications has a maximum range of about three years (just over two Earth Light-years). In First Galaxy of the Imperial Home Instance, there is a well-developed relay system that works to pass messages at tachyonic speeds all over the galaxy. There are less-developed systems in several other of the more heavily colonized galaxies of the Home Instance. However, bandwidth is limited and therefore it's often cheaper as well as faster to use Vector couriers as the military does.

Both are finished and ready for publication.

This time, I'm going to try a coherent marketing plan and hopefully boost sales. To that end, if you're interested in an Advance review copy, let me know.

Meant to have this up yesterday - but by the time I got various crises dealt with, it was almost 5pm here on the west coast. So moved to today


******


The tank was an open area separated into cells by bars and not much else. Each had four bunks attached to the 'walls' two sets each of above and below. There were already three occupied bunks so I simply climbed into the fourth, the upper bunk on the right, the side 'behind' the cell door. It had neither pillow nor blankets; I presumed one of my 'roommates' had appropriated them. Mr. Stuart had instructed me not to arouse the other inmates, so I simply made myself as comfortable as I could under the circumstances.
I wasn't asleep yet when the lights suddenly blew out.

I had just time enough to think, this is not good when my cell mates jerkily got out of their bed in unison, like human marionettes on invisible strings, illuminated by the low, eerie light of computer monitors from the room next door.

The only way to make it obvious I wasn't the aggressor in whatever was about to happen was to stay right here in my bunk and scream, "Guards! GUARDS! GUARDS!" There was no immediate response. I kept yelling it anyway. It made the theater of what was going on undeniable. In the dim light, I noticed the inmates in the other cells also moving jerkily, like someone was controlling them.

"The guards cannot help you now," a low growling voice issued from every other throat in the room. In the darkness, it sounded sibilant, like a snake. "You have angered the God, and you shall be made to pay."
I'm not going to kid you, I nearly lost control of my bladder I was so scared. But suddenly it was like all the strings were cut; the marionettes broke free. I supposed there had to be limits; they couldn't all have been minions of the Mad God. They hadn't accepted his bargain - he couldn't make them do much.

The lights were still out in the room. A few of my fellow detainees fell over, but most managed to preserve their balance, shaking their heads and asking questions that were variations on "What just happened?"

I was not going to attract attention to myself. I just lay there pretending nothing had happened. The mental state of my fellow detainees being what it was, none of them realized I was 'odd man out' before others had returned to their beds. Now that it was over, I had to admit I was glad the Mad God had tipped his hand - now I knew he was gunning for me, and was at least forewarned of other attempts.

Maybe half the other detainees had returned to their beds. The rest were milling about in the low light trying to figure out what had happened, talking to each other. Two of the other three in my cell had returned to their beds. The third, a huge slab of meat, stalked the small cell in the shadows trying to find someone to vent his wrath on. "You! What did you see?"

"I woke up standing on the floor in the dark, same as everyone else," I said.

"I didn't see you!"

"It was dark and I was behind you. I didn't see anything I could do about whatever it was, so I went back to bed."

He probably could have taken offense to that if he'd really wanted to, but he didn't. His gaze lit on something else, and he left me alone. Eventually, he gave up his search for something to lash out at. But the lights stayed off and none of the guards came to investigate. I hoped things weren't as bad as that omen presaged, but there was only so much my mind could worry the situation without more information, so eventually I fell asleep.

Later, I woke up to the sounds of people replacing the lights in the room. They didn't seem interested in answering a couple of questions other detainees asked, and nothing else seemed to be going on at the moment, so I after half an hour of trying, I managed to get back to sleep.

Copyright 2021 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

 



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