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Today is the last day to get The Man From Empire on sale for 99 cents in e-book!

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This is set in the Empire of Humanity, about 35 Earth years after Imperial contact. The first excerpt is here, and the second excerpt is here. It's currently a novelette, but I'll probably re-work it at some point into a longer story. For time-line comparisons, Joe and Asina are towards the end of their Windhome Bay assignment (See Building The People), while Grace and Asto are in the military/Merlon's Eyes (between Working The Trenches and The Invention Of Motherhood)


"The rest of you could try to disappear," Motafo suggested, "If they do what they said, you can always step forward later."

Tessa noted that none of them were pleading family, mates, or children. The Morelli were a matriarchal society; males such as these four owed taxes and labor to the Community, not to any specific female. Matings were transient, the young were raised by females alone. Males were the workers and laborers, females were administrators and executives, networking their relatives for advantage. Only in the military and a few other 'dangerous' professions was there any path for a male into positions of authority, and even there, oversight from females was pervasive. Hashot had been a ship's commander - but it had been female Councilors who gave him that rank and command of Dominion, not Warleader Jafinto.

"If you're certain about that, we'll do our best to insure your survival." The Ambassador spoke their dominant language at least as well as Tess. None of the Morelli had learned more than a few words of Traditional. To be fair, none of them had the advantages of being operant, either.

"That would be appreciated, sir."

"I'll ask the ship's commander to see to it." The Ambassador left.

"Any ideas how they're going to keep him alive, miss?" Cosur was nothing if not practical.

"Nothing detailed, no. My planet has only been a part of the Empire for a few years. You're our first non-human close neighbor - I understand the bright star system you call Mamoshin is known to us as 'Capella'"

"You think they're going to try and conquer us?" That was Sajopil.

"Understand I'm just a grad student, hired to learn about you. But according to what the Ambassador told me, his job is to prevent having to conquer you."

"You think we're just bugs beneath your feet?" Motafo reacted.

"Your Community is more advanced than my own people were, before the arrival of the Empire. We hadn't even a colony on our own Moon. But according to what we're told, the Empire is enormous. I don't really understand it, but those Earth people who do find the claim credible. Some have visited Imperial worlds. Others have joined the Imperial military. What disputes have arisen about Imperial truthfulness appear to be matters of opinion. They act as if they've plenty of experience contacting new civilizations."

"Why did they want you, but not us?" Motafo demanded.

"I don't know. They told us we're the same species, that we're a lost colony, result of a ship that got lost. They even claim to have found the remains of the ship."

"So they want you because you're the same species, but not us because we aren't?"

"That's my understanding."

"So they're species supremacists?"

"Could be," Tess admitted, "But it doesn't seem right. According to them, there are large numbers of non-human neighbors they coexist with. But they did have to fight an immense war to conquer First Galaxy." There was no word for 'galaxy' yet in the translator, so it rendered the word in the Empire's Traditional in which she'd spoken. "Supposedly took thousands of years. That's what they claim anyway."

"What's that word? The one you used after 'first'"

"Galaxy. A large mass of several sixths of stars. This one is shaped like a spiral with several arms."

"Galaxy," Motafo supplied the missing word. Tess duly added the word and its translation to the database. "Wait one heartbeat. Do you mean to tell us The Empire is in more than one galaxy?"

"Sixty-four galaxies in their Home Instance is what they claim. Only this one in ours so far."

"You're using 'instance' in a way I'm not familiar with. What did you mean, 'instance'?"

"I'm not certain," Tess began, accessing her datalink for a definition, "I've been told it's from a metaphor of some sort. Give me a few moments." Unfortunately, the explanation left her more at sea than before. "The best I can do seems to be 'a unique three dimensional experiential universe embedded within the eleven primary dimensions of reality,'" she parroted, "But don't ask me what that means. I'm a linguist, not a physicist, and I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to be telling you. I do know there are potential penalties for sharing Imperial technology."


That was an answer she knew, "Because it can do tremendous damage. They are crystal clear about responsibility for actions."

Copyright 2023 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

Mister Stuart opened the door to the interrogation room back up, gestured to Ramirez to take me away, and went off, presumably to rescue Julie. Ramirez, for his part, grabbed me by the arm and 'escorted' me to the holding tank as roughly as he could contrive.

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 can't 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.

I woke up the worst kind of alone.

The alarm went off, same as usual. My arm was across her as I woke up, my befuddled mind thinking Wow, guess that wasn't just a dream. I managed to reach over and hit snooze in order to cuddle up, just the way we used to before getting up to start our day, just a few minutes with each other, before I realized something was very wrong.

What I'd woken up with wasn't a living, breathing woman.

I bellowed an inarticulate cry of panic and scrambled backwards out of bed, stumbling over the blankets on my way out of bed, but also ripping them off what was in bed with me.

Once I was free of their entangling grasp, I looked at what was there on the bed: a dried, desiccated corpse, long dead, eyes shrunken in, skin sagging, pitted. Intact as far as I could tell, but dead for years. Only the honey-blonde hair was unchanged, still the young, wavy style it had been the previous evening.

I wasn't going to pretend I understood, but it was clear I had to do something, and once I got over my initial panic, I knew who to call.

"Hello, Larry!"

"Mark, what are you calling about at such an early hour? You know I don't get to the office before eight-thirty!"

"Yes, Larry, but this is different, and I need your help now. I woke up with a corpse in my bed this morning!"

"Mark, I must not be awake yet. I could have sworn you just told me you woke up with a corpse in your bed, and I know that can't be true!" I started to tell him it was true, and he talked over me, "I know it can't be true because you wouldn't have called a securities lawyer over a criminal matter that didn't happen. Are you understanding me, Mark?"

"I didn't kill her, Larry!"

"Of course you didn't, Mark, because I must have misunderstood what you were saying. You couldn't have told me you woke up with a corpse in your bed because you didn't, and you wouldn't be calling me if you had."

"Larry, you're the only lawyer I know that I can call at this hour of the morning! Help me, here!"

"Mark, if such a thing did happen, the only advice I could give you would be to call law enforcement right away and not to say anything - and I mean nothing at all, no matter how innocent, until you can get a lawyer who knows what they're doing in these sorts of cases. Cops will lie and will try to set you up. I'd recommend Morris Silver, if he can take you. If not, he'll know someone good who can"

And then he hung up.

Well, shit.

So I looked up Morris Silver, and dialed their number. It was still early; it took a couple minutes with their phone tree to get the answering service on the line. I left my name and number, they said someone would be in touch as soon as possible, and read me some standardized advice like it was off a standard form, the central point of which was to tell anyone "On the advice of counsel, I decline to answer any questions or make any statements until my attorney can be present." Standard boilerplate.

I was steeling myself to dial the police when my phone rang.

"Hello, Mr. Jackson, I'm Julie Ingmar with Morris Silver and Associates. What is the nature of your difficulty?"
So I explained what had happened the previous evening. "I know how this is going to sound, but last night about ten PM my ex-wife called me at home. I hadn't seen or heard from her in seven years. I have no idea how she knew my number or where I lived, but she did. She fed me a story about how she needed to hide from some people for a few days. One thing led to another, we ended up sleeping together. Then I woke up this morning with a corpse - only it looked like it had been dead for years. Dried out, mummified, except for the hair. That was exactly how it was last night, so I'm pretty sure it was Diane. My ex."

"I see." I could hear the skepticism in her voice. "Have you called the police yet?"

"I was just about to. Look, Ms. Ingmar, I know it sounds like something that came out of Hollywood. I deal with enough of those folks to know. But I'm not stupid enough to jerk around my own attorney. You have to be able to deal with whatever the police investigation discovers. You can't do that if I don't tell you the truth about what I remember."

Copyright 2019 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpt from The Monad Trap

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"Somehow, I thought there would be more for a god to do."

"Why husband, you always seem busy enough," Petra replied.

"Those are my own projects, and I know I spend more time than you would prefer on them. But I presumed the position of being a god came with its own duties and requirements. Thus far, I have found none."
"Husband, we are both Eternals - minor gods as such things go. We know there are at least two tiers above us. I spent ten thousand years and more as an Immortal. Outside of the chains of my creation, I was never tasked with anything. Art thou disappointed?" She'd taken to wearing what I called her Ultimate Lady from The Next Farm Over appearance most of the time we were together. She appeared as a dusky, light brown-skinned young lady with shoulder length medium brown hair, just barely into the first flush of maturity and shapely to the point where she drew eyes from all the men, even now at the end of her pregnancy with our first child. Petra's skin glowed with health, her hair shone with golden highlights in the soft brown. Nothing exaggerated or fancy - her breasts and buttocks were if anything slightly smaller than average, her parts just all fit together perfectly. Her hairstyle was dead simple - straight with just a hint of wave. She never wore complex fashions or glaringly sexual clothes or anything that clung too tightly, just simple and loose, hinting at the lush curves beneath. Nor was she particularly thin. Maybe by some perverse standards she might even be a little overweight. She almost never used cosmetics of any sort. But most women of King Edvard Haraldsson's court hated her for the way she drew male eyes despite everything they did to keep attention centered on themselves. They'd never understand what Petra had spent ten thousand years learning - men liked simple and elegant. These days, Petra was happy and content, and that amplified attraction even more.

"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."

"What are those possibilities?"

"First, that the amount of energy has seen a recent increase, although 'recent' in this case is in terms of natural time, and I've insufficient data on the length of divine generations. The second is that there was a population collapse - something caused the number of divinities to drop - and we're still building back up to equilibrium. In either case, resources would seem to be plentiful until the new population increased to fill the niche."

"And how long will it take us to fill this 'niche', husband?"

"Thousands of years, perhaps tens of thousands."

"Then does it not seem like thy worry is premature? We shall have plentiful time to solve it."

"A true observation my love, and yet questions of this nature are better answered sooner than late. A full answer would point us to a method of securing needed sustenance for ourselves and our descendants when the resources become strained, and such procurement is much simpler when the resources are easily acquired."

"I have faith in your abilities, milord. In ten thousand years, I have encountered none with so restless a mind."

"But as resources become strained, the quality of competition will necessarily increase as well."

"I thought I asked you not disturb my contented state, milord?"

It wasn't worth the argument at this point. I changed the subject, "How long until you believe yourself ready to give birth, milady?" But that didn't mean I wasn't going to keep pursuing answers. Nor did Petra expect me to - she knew I was ultsi to the core. She just didn't want to be disturbed at the moment. I hadn't even touched upon the most disquieting notion of all: predators. Every ecosystem has predators, and they almost always strike without warning, when they think you're most vulnerable.

Copyright 2020 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

The Monad Trap is the second book in Connected Realms, sequel to The Fountains Of Aescalon. It can be bought from Amazon any of the Books2Read retailers, or if you prefer pdfs which can be read on any machine with Acrobat Reader, from Gumroad.

The first thing I remember was a sword in my hand and a corpse in front of me.

The corpse looked human, but wasn't. Judging strictly by outer appearance, it would have passed. Looking inside at the organs and genetic material, a star dragon was more closely related. At least a star dragon came from a three dimensional being. This corpse in front of me was from a different sort of place entirely. The body I was looking at was put together in a place of differing geometry. Fractal iterations within it said that it came from a place where the third spatial dimension wasn't as developed as we're used to.

My sword was real, but felt wrong. It was a standard charged bondsteel blade, a glossy dark gray in color. It should have been sparkling blue and silver, but it wasn't. What had initially appeared to be blood dripping off it was now changing, reverting to its true state - a two toned ugly blue and blackish green - as the glamour faded.

How did I know these things?

Good question. I could not remember anything that had gone before. Not who I was, not what I was, not where I was, where I was from. Nothing. I couldn't remember anything about how my dead opponent had gotten there, how I'd killed it, how or why we'd fought.

Logically, my memories should have been accessible to me through auros, even if I couldn't remember normally. But they refused to come. I tried perception, hoping to read the molecules themselves, only to discover I didn't have any. I wasn't material at all; simply a self-perpetuating energy pattern.

That wasn't right, or at least wasn't the whole story. I thought of myself as human, I identified as human, my mind told me I was a loyal adherent of humanity and the Human Empire. I was, at some level, both human and somehow important within that Empire.

There had to be an explanation that made sense, I just didn't know what it was at the moment. Knowledge filled me - all about the Human Empire, its history, cultures, and technology. I knew an uncountable number of facts about the universe and how it behaved in exhaustive mathematical detail. I had skills and abilities beyond the average human - I'd read the corpse in front of me with perception and compared it to a large number of other biologicals (the star dragon being a large predator of the interstellar depths and one of the most alien species humanity had encountered). I could even use those skills. I just couldn't have told you who I was - or even what I was.

Copyright 2018 Dan Melson. All rights reserved.


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The Man From Empire
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A Guardian From Earth
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Empire and Earth
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Working The Trenches
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Rediscovery 4 novel set
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Preparing The Ground
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Building the People
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Setting The Board

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Moving The Pieces

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The Invention of Motherhood
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The Price of Power
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The End Of Childhood
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Measure Of Adulthood
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The Fountains of Aescalon
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The Monad Trap
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