Dan Melson: November 2019 Archives

Then, with an hour still to go, we took a walk, the two of us meandering through the public areas of the level, hand-in-hand, just being alone together in the crowd. We sat on a planter and watched people go by, then with ten minutes until the reporting window opened, we teleported into the transport terminal in the small city at Fulda, no more than three or four million people. From there, we took a public portal to the base gate, used our orders to pass the gate and approached the induction center. Entering, we found that there was no line. "Excuse me," I asked the attendant, "We have orders to report between fortythree and fortyfour, but it's only fortytwo fiftytwo. Would it be better to formally report now or to wait?"

"A good start," the woman in the uniform of a Staff Private commended us, "We'll take you now."

The hardest part was cutting off my hair. I've never been a beauty (unless you asked Asto) but I took good care of my hair. It was very dark brown, almost black, and thick, with just a hint of wave and went down to my shoulders and they simply told me to stand here and cut it all off in about fifteen seconds. I'd been expecting it, but it was still difficult to accept. They took our measurements, issued us recruit clothing, subjected us to a quick medical exam despite the fact that as Guardians, we were as qualified to heal as their doctor, told us to get dressed and told us to go wait in a room with two other people, both of whom were obviously operant as well. There we sat for several hours, waiting. A couple more people came in, one at a time, all operant. There was a purpose to everything the military did with recruits, Parnit had informed us. Part of the purpose was to start off making it obvious that according to the military, nobody was any more or less special than anyone else. That said, it would be ridiculous to start Guardians and other operants on the same training regimen as natural state recruits, so they didn't. They'd be shipping us off to a training unit designed for the fact that we could do things natural state humans couldn't. We were stronger, faster, more agile, physically superior in every way because we'd won the operancy lottery and were able to augment ourselves better than healers could augment natural state humans. But our training was designed to accomplish the same thing theirs was: force us beyond our normal limits and teach us what we needed to know. Make us understand that to the military, a soldier was a soldier was a soldier. Nobody was intrinsically more valuable than anyone else, as a soldier or as a human being.

Eventually, they sent an inoperant trained private in to take us to a meal. He formed us up into a file, and walked us about half a kilometer to a place where they served three different kinds of tasteless glop; protein glop, carb glop, roughage glop. The glop was nutritious, but about as appetizing as cold baby food. It was likely mass extruded out of a converter that could just as easily have produced something appealing. Once again, the military had their reasons for everything. They wanted you to think of yourself as one more cog, no more important than the one next to you. Once that pattern of thought was engrained, trained soldiers got better food. Oh well, I suppose they could have just thrown us a chunk of Life and a cube of water, so it could have been worse. Come to think of it, as unappealing as the glop was, I'd rather have gnawed a chunk of Life.

Meal concluded, the same private escorted us back to more hours of waiting. One more operant inductee joined us, and then the same Trained Private came in with an operant Staff Private. Addressing us, he said, "This is Staff Private Ugatu," gesturing at the Staff Private, "He will be escorting you to your training facility and turning you over to your unit Instructor. Follow his instructions." Why was a lowly Trained Private instructing us to obey a Staff Private, several grades higher? Because staff ranks were not part of the chain of command. Yes, a Staff Private was senior to us, but wasn't normally entitled to give orders, to us or to anyone else. Technically speaking, if we obeyed an order from a Staff Private without such an instruction, we'd be responsible for the consequences. "There are reasons for everything the Imperial military does," Parnit had explained over and over. "You might not understand or even agree with those reasons. You might think they are pointless, even counterproductive. The reasons are never explained, for reasons that won't be explained to you, either, at least not until you achieve your first staff rank. But every single one of them has been field tested and cross-checked over thirty square (75,000+ Earth years) of successful operations covering an incredible volume of space and situations too varied for you or even me to imagine."

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Catharin slept through the night, so when I awoke, I carefully disentangled myself from Petra while making certain the blankets still covered her. She drowsily stirred enough for a quick kiss, then I dressed hurriedly and strode quickly through the Tower down the two levels to where Neekel awaited in his assigned room.

"How does my lord Alexan intend to travel?"

"You have heard the story of the seven leagued boots?" The story seemed to be one that went wherever humans did. He nodded. "I can do slightly better." I took him by the hand and teleported us about two paces into the air above the King's camp.

He cried out at the sudden fall, but my sympathy for him was limited. I let him fall about my own height in the light of dawn - being east of Treemount, the day was a few minutes more advanced here at Avande. Had he been seriously injured, I would have healed him, but the odds were against it.

I admit I could have spotted us on the ground. My survey of the previous evening was precise enough, but ultsi learned at an early age always to build in a margin for error when we could. Being too low would have violated one of the Exclusion Principles on a macrocosmic level. In other words, BOOM! - with fatal consequences for everyone around, possibly even myself. By comparison, the density and fluidity of air meant things were much more controllable, and a few feet high was no challenge to survive unscathed. I lit with legs bent slightly to absorb the fall.

I looked around, ascertained the location of the King's tent, and strode off in that direction. Neekel would find his way back to whichever superior he reported to on his own. I was challenged by one guard who'd seen our abrupt arrival, but his partner stayed him, saying, "It's Jarl Alexan, fool! If you challenge him and he doesn't know the pass, you'll get both of us killed to no good purpose!"

"Actually, I try to avoid killing King Edvard's men for doing their jobs," I responded, "But I doubt you'd enjoy the experience anyway. The pass is Queen Veronia." I'd read it out of their surface thoughts.

"Thank you, Lord Alexan!" and they both saluted.

The King's tent was not far. "Alexan! I'd hoped to see you yesterday!" King Edvard was already armored for the day.

"My apologies, Your Majesty, but I was on an errand of my own when your messenger arrived. Since it was too late in the day to begin an assault when I returned to Kiltig's Tower, I decided to wait until this morning."

"If I'd known you were coming, I'd have the men in better order for an assault already. Do you have a plan?"

"Nothing solid. I brought along a few mana bombs like I used on the diligar cohorts last year, but a quick survey didn't suggest anything masterful. I decided to consult with Your Majesty, as your engineers have had a week to prepare the field."

"Not nearly enough time. They tell me the soil is too moisture-laden to be easily tunneled. Pity you can't simply knock the walls down."

"Who says I can't? It would require loosing enough energy to destroy most of the rest of the town, though, and I presume you'd prefer to have the townsfolk alive and paying you taxes. Would it be sufficient to simply remove it?"

1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Zebulon Kyle. Most folks call me Ol' Zeb.

2.Tell us where and when were you born.

I was born in South Carolina, on an Indigo plantation near Charleston. I couldn' tell ya what year but I 'member people talking about Old Hick'ry Jackson when I was a young-un.

3. How would you describe yourself?

In pretty good shape for someone of my years! It could have somethin' ta do with the elves teaching me neecro..aw hell - healing!

4. Tell us about where you grew up.

I's a slave on a plantation. Massa worked us all day.

5. How old are you?

Not sure eggsakly. What year is it? Really? I don't reckin I'm two hunnert yet, then!

6. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not?

My mammy did the best she could after Massa sold Daddy away down south, but there were four of us young-uns and she didn't get much from Massa. Thin's got a little easier when my sisters left, but we still had to work hard.

7. Past/ present relationships? How did they affect you?

The women they love me!

8. What do you value above all else in life?

Bein' my own man.

9. What are you obsessed with?

Obsessed? What's that? Right now I want the elven mages to teach me a little more life magic. I think there's a way to make m'self young again! They promised if'n I help this young feller Mark Jackson, they'll help me.

10.How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?

Since Mammy died, haven't really cared about no one. I believe in Jesus and life everlastin' for humans, but the elves have their own deal goin' with the Mother in the Summerlands.

11. Biggest fear?

I ain't afeered o' much. Maybe drawing the eye o' one o' the big powers... Nah, pissing off the elves so they don't help me learn no more!

12. What line will you never cross?

Never thought about that one. Don't want to tangle with ennythin' I cain't handle.

13. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst?

Bein' born a slave was the worst. Escaping was the best - until I went back and bought Mammy's freedom from Massa with fairy gold!

14. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

There was this woman one time, I thought she liked me! And she not only threw me out, she took two dollers ta go off with someone else!

15. Biggest secret?

Wouldn't do you no good to hear it - you're not a mage!

16. What is the one word you would use to define yourself?

Slick. Ah'm slick!

17. What is your current goal?

Ah want to learn to make m'self young agin!

Zebulon Kyle is a supporting character in The Gates of Faerie available through Amazon and also all of the Books2Read retailers such as Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and their library services as well. He's looking forward to a bigger role in the second book, tentatively titled "Gifts Of The Mother".

Rediscovery Medium.jpg

Releasing the four novel Rediscovery series as a set today.

The e-book is available from Amazon or the Books2Read retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo, etcetera) for $9.99 US. Essentially buy the first two, get the third for a buck and the final novel is free.

For paperback fans, Amazon couldn't handle the file as it was. The only way we could get the paperback through Amazon was to make it 8.5 x 11, and in 10 point type. The paper size is fine, but 10 point type is less readable than I'd like. The advantage is the set is $22.99 on Amazon, less than half the price of the four paperbacks individually.

The Books2Read retailers are selling a more readable 12 point type. It's more expensive at $32.99 - still $15 less than the price of the four individual novels - but much more readable.

If you're a fan of library checkouts, Books2Read includes several library services such as Overdrive and Biblioteca. Find out which your favorite library uses and ask them to order a copy!

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