Dan Melson: December 2018 Archives

Empire and Earth is the concluding book of a 'tight' trilogy where each book takes up very quickly after the conclusion of the others, yet each book has it's own story, conflict, and resolution.

Excerpt:

In Empire and Earth, the background events warned of in the first two books come to a head, reaching a tipping point and escalating rapidly from there.I woke up to the thought that I can't keep doing this.
I couldn't keep fighting demons like that solo.

It wasn't that I was getting old. It was simply that I wouldn't stand a prayer against a basileus or one of the uniques that could dominate even them. I could maybe handle terostes, even nephraim, but against any of the great nobles I was toast. I had no evidence that there were any more demons on Earth, but I didn't have any evidence that there weren't, either. You think there weren't any more demons on Earth after my most recent victory up north? Great - now prove it. I couldn't prove it either. Even if there weren't any now, that didn't mean there couldn't be more arriving in the future. The stons might have been stupid and unfocused, but they were at least a credible threat to keep any demons that might be on Earth under some type of control. Removing them had removed that threat and that control.

Asking which came first, stons or demons, was not a productive line of questioning. Whichever had brought the other, clearly the demons now had some sort of access to Earth. I wasn't certain I understood Instance Portals; they were beyond what I could do thus far. I'd have Asto or one of the others explain more when I got back. Maybe I could handle an Instance Portal; it was just nobody had explained how yet. When billions to trillions of operant mindlords are building up the science of the mind over tens of thousands of years, don't expect to master it all in a few months, no matter how fast your mind works now. All those other Guardians have minds that work just as fast.

Speaking of which, progress on my real goal - insulating people from the coming government failure - was thus far going nowhere. Yeah, I was making a lot of money selling dogs in the Empire - even if the land for my dog farm suddenly became worthless, I was still in the black. But I couldn't reach the real goal by myself. I needed other people from the Empire helping me for that. One person may be enough for an underground resistance, but it's not enough to make it a viable replacement for the multi-trillion dollar economy the government was going to kill. I needed lots more people and lots more traffic for that.

Before I went back to the Empire, though, I had to catch up with the backlog of pickups. It had been four days while we were preparing to fight the demons, a fourth night to actually do it, and it was now after noon of the fifth day since the last time I had picked up any dogs from my suppliers. If you've got a farm, you've got to work it - doesn't matter whether that farm is crops in the soil or a supply chain. I had just had a gap in pickup of three weeks; I couldn't leave pickups another five to seven days until I was caught up and had prepared my suppliers. That catching up took me three days, by which I was time I was two days past my planned stay, and had to get back before Asto came looking for me. I let Ray and my suppliers know that I was planning to be back in six days, and shaped course back for the Empire with almost exactly six thousand dogs.

I dropped back into the Home Instance, and the first thing I got was Asto's sense of relief. It was almost funny in a way, and I suppose from his point of view it was a little scary: I find out my new husband's family secret - that they were really Seventh Order, not Fifth - and promptly go over-schedule. Think about the obvious conclusion to be drawn from that. Sorry about being late. There were some demons, and after I spent four days on preparing and fighting them, I had to catch up the business before I could leave. I was worried you'd come looking for me and we'd cross paths.

Anana told me I had to wait a full day, he replied, but then she and Parnit would come with me in case it was stons or another basileus. Imperial Home Instance Time ran about one quarter the speed of Earth. Neither one of us mentioned Iaren's splinter.

Sorry to cause you worry. I got feedback to the effect it couldn't be helped.

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A Guardian From Earth is the second book of Rediscovery, the middle book of a 'tight' trilogy where the events in subsequent novels take up very close upon the heels of the previous book. Nonetheless, each story has it's own beginning, middle, and climax.

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"M'ija, what have you gotten into?"

"I'm about to explain that, Mama. Do you have an empty tin can in your recycling?"
"I think so m'ija. I used a can of tomato sauce a couple nights ago. You want it for something?"
"A demonstration. I want to start out by showing you and Papi evidence of what I'm going to tell you. I want you to understand early that this is not something like anything you're familiar with. If I can get past that hump early, this will go a lot easier."
"I'll get it."
Meanwhile Papi was coming in the front door, Riley doing his happy wiggle, but tonight Papi had eyes only for me. "M'ija! I was starting to worry it might be the hallucinations of an old man, but you're still here!" I hugged him, hard, "Yes, I'm still here Papi. What I'm going to have to show you and tell you will be a lot easier if I can start with a demonstration, and have you examine a couple things with your own eyes. First, I asked Mama to get me a used tin can, and here she is." I took the sauce can from her, went out only the spaced tile walkway behind the house, set it down, then thought better of it, picked it back up and handed it him. "Take a good look at it. Decide for yourself whether it's a completely normal can with no abnormalities, or if you think it's in some way unusual, say so. And I can wait a couple minutes for you to say hi to Riley, too. Probably a good idea if he and Candy are in the house when we do this."
"Looks normal to me, hija. I'll go put the dogs in the house." It was a couple minutes later when he came out again, carefully closing the back door so the dogs wouldn't get out. "Set the can down on one of the tiles, Papi. Take a good look at where you set it down before you do." They were all identical, square masonry tiles he'd set down roughly eighteen inches apart in a line back to the patio near the back fence just after we'd bought the place. They were weathered, but solid. "Ok, but I don't understand."

"You will in a moment Papi." I took the hand blaster out of my bag, made sure it was on and aimed it at the can. Actually, I didn't know what the hand blaster would do to a can, but I was pretty certain it would do something. You don't blow a hole clean through someone's head with less power than it takes to shoot tin cans.
Actually, my first shot missed the can completely. Fw-crack! It blew a hole in the tile the can was on and cracked it from front to back, into two pieces. He and mama both jumped in alarm. "M'ija, what did you do that for?" Papi demanded, "I knew I should have taught you to handle a gun. This isn't the place!"

"Papi, look carefully. This isn't a gun. It doesn't shoot bullets. Stand back." Then I carefully squeezed off another shot. Fw-clink-crack! I hadn't dead centered it, but there was now a hole in the can, and it had moved just a little. The poor tile it sat on was now hopelessly shattered. I held the studs in back, watching the indicator go black. "The blaster is now safe. Examine the can if you will."
Papi knelt down. The first thing he did surprised me. He looked at the tile underneath the can, then the dirt underneath the tile. He felt around in the dirt, which had formed narrow divots. "Your shots appear to have pierced both the can and the tile. The tile is warm and so are a couple of places beneath it where I believe the shots hit, but I cannot find a bullet. The edges of the holes in the can are consistent with there being no physical bullet as well, as there is no bending back or tearing of the edges. It appears to be a clean hole like a laser might make, but I don't know of any lasers that powerful."

"I don't know that it's a laser Papi. In fact, I don't know anything about it except what ScOsh told me in order to shoot it. I can dial the power level up or down, I can turn it on or off, I can mostly read the power indicator, and I can tell you that this this weapon was completely drained this morning and recharged itself while I slept. And before you ask, yes, I was in a gun battle, kind of. I'm not hurt, but I'm the only survivor. Are there any other tests you would like to make to determine whether this is a thing that can be made anywhere on Earth?"

"Let me shoot it once, hija."

"Alright, watch me. I showed him how to shoot it, turn it on, squeezed off another shot of my own at the helpless can, which he'd set down on the lawn. I missed, again, sending up a tiny protrusion of displaced dirt and grass. I turned it off and handed it to him. He turned it back on, and shot, but Papi hit the can with his first shot. The indicator went from blue to gold briefly and then red. ScOsh wasn't kidding about high power drain while the weapon was powering up. I didn't know how much we'd burned, but that last shot had to be significant to change colors twice. Papi shot again. Hit the can again. The indicator stayed red, so the power up must have been complete. Mama was obviously upset almost to the point of rebellion, but then he turned the weapon off and handed it back to me. "I'm convinced, no real recoil, smooth mechanism with no difference between slack and pull range, and I am pretty certain nothing made on earth can do that kind of damage without weighing at least a hundred times what that thing does. Not to mention that the power indicator is completely different than anything I've seen from Earth engineers. But it looks like it was designed for a human hand?"
"Yes it was, Papi. The man who gave it to me was as human as we are. He just wasn't from Earth. Let me show you one more thing, even more unusual. But this we can do inside. We're done with gun discharges, I hope." With that, I put the gun away and pulled out the "pocket" while walking into the house, "I'm sorry I upset you Mama, and I'll replace the tile Papi, but I hope you can see why I needed to show you. You had to feel it for yourself."

"Yes, I did. What else do you have to show me?"
"ScOsh called it a pocket." I laid it out, cloth side up, on the kitchen table. "Feel." Mama and Papi both reached out and touched it. The material was like a cross between velvet and silk; light, but with a sturdy plush feel, pleasant to run your fingers over. I turned it over, and now they could see into it. Mama's mouth made the O of exclamation and she clapped her hands and said, "Ooh, I want one!" Papi's eyes got real big, but he reached his hand in, and pulled out ScOsh's original sword.

"Careful, Papi. I don't know how to use any of what's in there. I don't even know what anything else is, and I'm pretty sure some of it is dangerous. But is the container anything we can make here on Earth?"

"You know the answer to that, m'ija. If it were, would you women ruin your backs carrying around huge purses?" as he gestured at my large travelling bag. "I want to try something, though." He took a pen out of his pants pocket, put it inside the pocket, released it. It floated there. Evidently, gravity didn't exist inside. He put his hand into one of the side pockets that wasn't holding anything. "Sticky, like a Post-It, but stronger." Rubbing his fingers together, "It doesn't feel like the adhesive transfers, either. I can't feel a thing on them."

"Okay, m'ija, you've got me convinced. Tell me the story."

It was time for work, but my phone rang again. I didn't recognize the number, but it was long distance, so I gave it a chance on case a family member needed help. It was ScOsh, "Grace, I have two million dollars for you."

A statement like that does get your attention, especially when you're scrabbling for twelve bucks an hour so you can go to school part time. He'd already refused my virtue, such as it was, so I was pretty certain that wasn't his objective. What was? "Um, thanks, I think. Why?"

"I offered you compensation, and you accepted. You may not realize it, but you are running a risk by hosting me. What is your schedule today?"

"Nothing special. Work, then school tonight - Organic chem. There's an exam I haven't studied for"

"Can you call in sick to work today? There's a risk I have to show you how to minimize. You should be fine by tonight."

"For someone paying me 2 million dollars I can. When do I get it? And risk? What risk?" And what did you DO to earn two million dollars overnight? To myself.

"I'll explain when I see you. Stay in until then. I'll be there within an hour. An Earth hour."

So I called in to "Call Me George" Martinez and told him I'd caught a cold from all the rain. My first sick call in two years. He wasn't happy, but I'd finished the EPA report he needed, so he had to let me slide. If ScOsh was as good as his word - and he had been so far - I might never come back. Then I cracked the O-chem book.

I amazed myself. I had struggled with the differences between aldehydes and ketones, but it was a snap now. I not only understood, I was drawing connections the book wasn't making - at least not yet. Better yet, I was remembering them. I satisfied myself, pulled out my calculus book from last semester, and suddenly understood calculus for the first time in my life. Ditto my Tuesday night Molecular Biology class. I went back to O-chem. I remembered it all. I read three chapters ahead. It was dryer than hot desert sand thanks to the writer's pedantic text, but it wasn't hard.

I got the impression more time than an hour had passed, and I was right. It had been an hour and ten minutes. I couldn't have done it in less than four hours before. Then I remembered ScOsh was ten minutes overdue. The way he came and went was creepy, but he seemed to have it pretty well under control. Where was he?

He stepped out of the hall closet just then. God alone knows where he found the room, but he did. He wasn't carrying anything that looked like it could hold a million dollars, but I'd reserve judgment on that. He hadn't been carrying the sword I'd seen, or the other weapon, the one that killed the gangbangers, either. "Sorry I'm late," he said, "But exchanging the money turned out to be more complicated than I thought. I found out about your physical libraries last night after you went to bed, so I walked through first your local college library, then the Library of Congress. Then I went to Atlantic City, and went through all the casinos there. Then Las Vegas"

"You cheated the casinos?" I interrupted, incredulous, "You cheated the mob-owned casinos?"

"I did no such thing," he said, "It's not cheating to use skill. If they don't have rules posted that forbid it, it's not cheating. There were rules posted, but absolutely nothing about using any of the skills I employed. I borrowed a chip from someone for a few minutes, and used it to win. Then I gave the original chip back to the owner with interest. I went from casino to casino. Didn't win too much from any of them. When people started to take an interest in my winning, I lost a little, then changed tables and started winning again. I know how not to be noticed. Speaking of which, that applies right now. You're about to have visitors. I'm not here; don't expect them to find me no matter what they do, so act natural. Don't do anything out of the ordinary. Your planet doesn't have the technology or the wizardry to catch me. I want to keep it to a minimum because there's at least one person around who can." Then he simply disappeared right in front of me, just as there was a knock on my door.

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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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Preparing The Ground
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Building the People
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The Fountains of Aescalon
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