Excerpt from Moving The Pieces

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Moving The Pieces is the fourth and final novel of Preparations for War. The Calmenan Advancement Mission has enabled the natives to largely throw off their fractal demon overlords, and live in city-states which ally with each other for common protection. Technology is mostly mid-twentieth century, but time has run out - the fractal demons have mobilized to attack the Empire of Humanity, and the seven Gates mean Calmena is a strategic stop on their route.

*******


The jungle in this part of Karnel Peninsula was two levels of canopy. I found myself in a densely shaded area between tree trunks, but smaller vegetation was more sparse than you'd probably expect. The level of light was about equal to having thick curtains over your windows in the middle of the day. It was light enough to know the sun was out, but less than if you'd turned on an ordinary room light, and it was all filtered through vegetation that was slightly yellower than Earth's. Tree leaves overhead, vines, and bugs. Anything bigger had learned to flee humans and demons or gone extinct. Bushes were rare on the jungle floor; the trees blocked too much of the light. It was almost silent; there were no bird analogs on Calmena.

After shrugging out of my parachute, the first order of business was finding Makis, so I headed northwest. He didn't take long to find, although his parachute had caught a tree branch and he was hanging about ten paces up - high enough that just cutting himself loose would result in major injury if not death. He'd started rocking to swing himself back and forth, trying to bring a tree within his grasp. He'd been lucky his parachute hadn't ripped and that the branch he'd caught on poked out far enough so he hadn't been thrown into the tree trunk on impact.

"Makis!"

"Be down in a minute, boss!"

"Not intact you won't. That trunk is too big to get your arms around and if your parachute rips, you'll fall the whole distance. Wait a minute and let me think about this."

He stopped pumping the swinging motion he'd built up, "Don't take too long, boss. The parachute's going to rip sometime."

He was right. My options were limited: I could climb the tree somehow - or make it appear I had by going up the far side and using matris. He knew I was what Calmenans called agaani - gifted - and the local operants were reasonably proficient with that part of matris, but once again he'd expect it to exhaust me. I could tell him to cut himself loose and 'catch' him enough to break his fall. Or I could do what I did.

It was a dirty trick. I ripped his chute myself using matris, but limited how fast I allowed him to fall by pulling upwards on the cords - exactly as if the parachute itself was only ripping slowly. "Ahhhh!..." his panicked cry rang out through the jungle, while the fabric-ripping noise of the parachute was barely audible under it. But it brought him down at a controllable speed into the trunk of the tree and then scraping against the rough bark the rest of the way down, and it didn't require me to pretend to be exhausted because he had no way of knowing I'd used matris.

He ended up sitting in the mud at the base of the tree, parachute cords taut above him to where the remains of the 'chute were still hanging above. His clothes were ripped, he was scraped and bloody and probably had enough splinters to make a good-sized sapling, but he was essentially intact. "You done thinking about it, boss?"

"Yes," I said, deadpan. "Let's get you cleaned up and get out of here. Not necessarily in that order."

He stood up, wobbly, visibly surprised his legs held his weight. "Guess I got lucky." He wriggled out of the harness.

"That you did. You able to walk? The demons behind us aren't going to waste any time."

"You know how to motivate a man. What about the others?"

"If they can't stay ahead of the demons, the two of us aren't going to make a difference." The reality of the war between human and demon on Calmena was harsh, but irrefutable. There was no sense adding a couple more people to the demons' pantry. "Asina knows where we are. If we can get to the road, she'll have a vehicle for us as soon as it can get here." At that point we might be able to run away if we encountered a cohort of manesi, and it wouldn't be suicidal to go back.

"Boss, how did you get out of the plane?"

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on August 8, 2022 7:00 AM.

Excerpt From Setting The Board was the previous entry in this blog.

First Draft Excerpt from Gifts Of The Mother is the next entry in this blog.

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