Posts Tagged ‘fiction

05
Mar
12

Meanwhile, at My Other Blog…

I do have a post or two planned this week for “Holy Sh!+” but in the meantime, why don’t you go enjoy some fiction.

A couple new chapters were posted in recent weeks for my series “The Gathering Storm.” If you haven’t started reading it yet, now’s a good a time as any (list of current chapters, in reverse order, is here), and it will keep you busy (21 chapters thus far).

Also have some one-off short stories at that blog that were posted in the past few weeks:

Curiosity Thrills the Cat

Dividing by Zero

Bad Breakup

Pilgrim’s Progress

That last story in the list is a Thanksgiving-themed story, so obviously I’m being a tad generous to myself in term of speed of output by classifying it as having been posted in “the past few weeks.”

All right, hopefully I’ll have a good rant or two up between tomorrow and the weekend.

30
Jan
12

Free Fiction! Drama! Pathos! Tears! Romance! Superheroes!

In the absence of deep thoughts today (or snarky ones), how about you enjoy some free fiction online? My fiction. Don’t let the presence of superhero and supervillain themes fool you into thinking it’s campy or corny stuff. I actually have serious themes, interesting (I hope) characters and development of them, engaging dialogue, occasional comedy, etc.

You can find it all at Tales of the Whethermen.

Besides, the latest post (well, most recent one as I’m typing this post) is a story that ends with a shout-out to my college roommate, and more people need to know about his work for comics, animated series on TV and more. Go! Now!

Or I will unleash my armored mutant minions on you.

14
Nov
11

People Are Complex and Compelling…Even the Ones Who Don’t Exist

If you’ve visited this blog for some time, you know I was for a while writing a novel in chunks here, between other postings. It was a contiguous storyline, rolled out more or less episodically (really, snippets of chapters since writing whole chapters as blog posts was too unwieldy). This was both an experiment (to see how well-received it might be, to roll out a novel as I was writing it from scratch) and a labor of love (as the first draft of what might turn out to be a novel I try to publish one day).

If you’re one of those people, you also know that with the crush of real life and the addition of more blogs to my life, a few of them devoted to fiction (erotica in some cases), that project stalled.

But it isn’t dead yet. The characters in that far-from-finished tale (the resulting novel of which would still only be the first in an epic series) continue to speak to me at times. In fact, sometimes they won’t fucking shut up, and it can get really annoying. Good thing for them that I love them.

Characters are important to me. Who they are, what they say and how the interact with each other and make decisions…well, it’s fascinating to me (whether in the “Cleansed By Fire” novel, or at my Tales of the Whethermen blog, or my erotica and fetish stories). You might, however, ask: “Why? You created them, so you know what they’re going to do.”

If only that were true. Much like living-and-breathing people, I can’t always predict their actions. Familiarity and experience with someone will give you a lot of clues and insight into what they will do, but they can still surprise you. So too do my characters. No matter how thoroughly I plot a story, in any genre or whatever medium, characters will surprise me and do things I didn’t plan on them doing.

Sometimes, things I didn’t want them to do, because it complicates my plans or changes the direction of my plot. Usually, though, I see the necessity in letting that happen, just as I acknowledge that unexpected decisions by friends, families, co-workers, etc. are not always bad ones. Usually, they are neutral or positive in the long run.

I hope my characters in my fiction continue to be complex (or perhaps I should hope they become so; some of you might argue the notion that they’re complex right now). I hope they continue to challenge me.

At the same time, I hope I don’t become lazy (assuming I’m not already).

You see, it’s easy to write in black-and-white. To have clear good and evil and to have defined winners and losers. For the people who do right to be rewarded and for those who do wrong to receive some kind of justice. But that’s not life, now is it? And I try to make sure my fiction feels enough like real life so that it not only rings true but also sucks you into my world, to give you as immersive an experience as you can get.

Yes, I love my villains and my heroes both. I love those who are neither. I love that sometimes a villain can do something noble and a hero do something awful. Even when I hate what people do and what happens to them, sometimes I have to accept them for who they are…even when they’re fictional. I have to accept life doesn’t always go my way, even when I’m the one creating the reality.

(This is one part of a kind of thematic dual-post. For the “other part,” click here and visit my Tales of the Whethermen blog)

14
Oct
11

A Seed to Cultivate?

The last thing I need is to juggle more fiction. I already have an entire blog, Tales of the Whethermen, devoted to a world increasingly populated by super-powered people, and in it I have an ongoing, ultimately novel-length (I suspect) series along with numerous short stories. I also have the in-hiatus “Cleansed by Fire” sci-fi epic I began here at this blog and will probably return to one day in the foreseeable future.

Not to mention two erotic fiction blogs I maintain under another identity that need to be populated with stand-alone short stories and which also have multiple ongoing series that need to be worked on.

Furthermore, I started a novel last year, “Necroverts” for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which is coming up again. I never got far with it because all the other fiction-writing ate up my time, and have been considering whether I should try to write it for real this year.

So, naturally, with all that, I would have a line pop into my head yesterday that stuck with me, and makes me think there is a very large story to go with it (*sigh* need more hours in the day):

The Earth is round, but the world is flat. And it has edges.

And so today, I quickly wrote a scene that I think might be the first one in a future novel. What do you think?

__________________________________________________________________
“I probably won’t be seeing you again, Little Rogue,” the man said, ruffling the hair of his granddaughter as if she were still eight instead of a woman of 28. He was still hale and hearty, though well into his 70s, and even with a little hunching of his back, he still stood nearly six feet tall, well over Anna’s height. “I’ll be sailing toward the edge of the world tomorrow.”

Anna almost laughed at the joke, until she realized how grave and serious his tone was. It confused her. Papa Vlad had always been a religious man, but he also voraciously read philosophy and science books. He’d never been a superstitious type, so she could only assume he was teasing her.

“The edge of the world, eh, Papa Vlad? There be dragons…” she trailed off with a smile as she looked up into his face. His eyes were still serious, but now there was a distance in them as well, as if he were looking past her into some far-off landscape.

“Dragons would be more welcome, I think, than what actually lives there,” he said gravely. “I wouldn’t tell many people this, Anna—my Little Rogue. I tell you, I am taking a ship to the edge of the world, and I doubt I will return. If I do, it will likely not be me as I once was, and you should run.”

“You believe in a flat Earth, Papa Vlad? That doesn’t seem like you. That’s not rational. The Vatican even gave up on that centuries ago.”

“Flat Earth?” he said, and managed a short, hearty laugh despite the stoniness of his face. “No, my granddaughter, the Earth is round. It is a sphere—an ovoid—as it always has been. It still circles the sun and spins on its axis. The world, though, is a different story altogether. Flat as can be. With edges aplenty, often razor-sharp ones.”

“What are you talking about?” Anna asked, not simply perplexed but now worried for her grandfather’s mental health.

“The Earth is round, Anna,” he said. “The world is flat, with many layers.”

He hugged her hard, kissed the top of her head for nearly a minute, and then he stood. Without another word, he left the room.

That had been five years ago.

She thought he’d never come back from the edge of the world. Yet there he was, seated on a bistro table outside a café, sipping from a steaming cup, with an iPad in front of him and a newspaper off to the side.

Anna wondered if she should run as Papa Vlad had warned her. But instead, she walked up to the table where he sat. She looked into his face. The set of the lines in it was different; crueler perhaps, or maybe just more indifferent. The eyes were still sharp, but no longer warm. As he set down his tea and looked at her, she realized he recognized her, yet didn’t. As if he knew her history and her name but nothing about her heart. She was data to him; something anonymous. Not his granddaughter.

This was not Papa Vlad, though it was his body. Anna almost did run then, but forced her quivering legs to stay rooted.

“Which layer of the world did Papa Vlad’s ship travel, and what did he find at the edge of it?” she asked, the words seeming alien on her tongue for the absurdity of what they described. “More to the point, who are you and how do I find him instead of just this body he left behind?”

28
Oct
10

Hey, Come Visit!

I know I let my novel stall here at this blog, and I’m not sure when I’ll return to it, but if you like fiction with a “fantastic” element to it, don’t forget that I have another blog, recently launched, with a superhero/supervillain theme to it. I’ll be posting ongoing series and also one-shot stories, so there won’t be the same kind of stalling effect we saw when I realized here that I had an epic novel series on my hands.

No, it’s not all “Bam” and “Pow” and costumed mayhem. I have characters, issues, dialogue and more. It’s real fiction, folks, not fluff, and I hope you’ll give it some attention even if you find “caped crusaders” not to be your usual fare.

http://whethermentales.wordpress.com/

10
Nov
09

Cleansed by Fire, Part 62

For the previous installment of this story, click here.

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 10, Strange Days

“Is Stavin a total void? Wiped trail? No twittering about him anywhere?” Kylie asked the man in her office, who was serving as liaison between her and the other Secular Genesis cell leaders this week.

Kylie“None, Domis. Not via linkpad nor Grid messaging nor any of the usual drop-points,” the man responded. “And he missed three critical salon appointments with Paradigm, Witta and Thomas. Three hours ago, per protocols, we shoutcalled his priv-trans and got nothing but vapor. We can’t even confirm if he’s alive, so either his priv-trans was cripped, he’s in custody under heavy shielding or he’s off-planet.”

“Are you linked up with the other cell leaders, and what are their opinions?” They were all trying to keep their locations and identities secure, and no one even wanted a virtual salon meeting right now since Stavin vanished. The man before her, whose name she didn’t know and didn’t want to know, and the sliptrans-equipped hindbrain attached to his cervical spine, were all the contact she was likely to have with her comrades for days, and she was the ranking coordinator now with Stavin gone.

“All of them but Coulter. Consensus of all but Gloria is that the Vatican has Stavin in custody and is interrogating him.”

“Harass Coulter’s devices and tell him that if he isn’t linked up with you in one minute, I will assume he is behind Stavin’s disappearance and have him killed on sight.”

Kylie waited, drumming her bony fingers on her hard-desk, counting off the seconds in her head.

“Coulter is online, Domis,” the man told her as she silently reached the 37-second mark. “He dissents with the consensus.”

“As well he should. And good fortune that Gloria is thinking clearly, too, right now. No one should be thinking that the Vatican has Stavin. After the hellpod attack, they would be broad-shrilling the news to the entire Catholic Union if they had one of us. Especially on the heels of the ‘miraculous’ survival of the Black Pope and naming of a new Red Pope soon.”

“The others wish to know what the minority opinion is, then.”

“Maree Deschaine almost certainly found him,” Kylie said. She was uncertain if Gloria and Coulter agreed with that, but they would line up behind her out of reflex. “I can understand the Vatican being too drone-witted to realize how resourceful she is, but there’s no excuse for us to be. Stavin underestimated her, too. At his peril, it would seem.”

“How does that explain the situation with his priv-trans?” the man asked.

“She snared him and burned him to ash like he did to her cousins, or she took him off-planet so she could well and truly enjoy her time with him without interruption. It isn’t beyond conception that she has access to a private craft dressed up to get past Aerial Control, or some deal with a third-tier Ishmaeli or Isaacian to give her orbital passage out of the Union.”

“Consensus is willing to cede that your theory is sound, but not a lock. What is the coordinator’s course, then?”

“Stavin was right that we can terrorize the Catholic Union even without being able to arm our remaining hellpods,” Kylie responded. “Take one of them to a a storage facility that looks like a hundred or two other storage facilities in heavily populated areas. Make sure its the kind of place that is distinct enough that they’ll know its somewhere in the Union, but with few enough identifiers that they’ll go crazy trying to find it.”

“Make some demands and attach them to a vid of our staged hellpod placement,” she continued. “Sell off one of our hellpods and buy eight or nine small thermos. If we don’t get what we want in a week or two, set off three of those thermonuclears in the middle of a storage area like the one we vid and tell them we have a dozen more hellpods where that one came from.”

After a few minutes of letting that sink in with the other cell leaders, the man came back with the majority response, “Dramatic, certainly, but hitting them with fissionables isn’t going to look like a hellpod attack.”

“Hellpods set to explode from a ground position don’t have the same character as those launched from orbit, and all the tests done with ground detonation were done off-Earth. No one will know what to expect, and it will still kill thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Enough of the populace will think the Vatican is covering up and that the radiation is something they released as a cover to keep the public from panicking about more hellpods. There’s enough fear brewing already to fuel paranoia aplenty.”

After a few moments: “Consensus agreement.”

“One more thing,” Kylie added. “I had a priv-trans put in Tobin Deschaine when he was still a templar, and I want it trilled so that we can get him in for some questions. I just wish he would have put one in Maree. Maree is a cracked reactor right now and she needs to be dealt with. He may know where to find her and, besides, I’m tired of my grandson’s ‘retirement.’ It’s time for Tobin to get back to work with Secular Genesis.”

14
Oct
09

Cleansed by Fire, Part 61

For the previous installment of this story, click here.

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 9, Reunions and Seekings (continued)

After so many visits to Domina’s suites, dealing with every form of seduction or sexual innuendo known to humankind being thrust in his face, Peteris Gregory future-in-vestmentsDyson was wholly unprepared to see a plate with a pastry waiting for him, and Domina attired in very casual, standard garb.

She sat with a similar plate and identical dessert in her lap, a nicstick smoldering in an catchtray on one side of her and a cup of tea steaming near her other hand.

“Come, Gregory, have a bite with me. I’m so tired of talking about ancient papal history and current Vatican politics,” she said to him silkily.

“Don’t you mean you’re tired of giving away tiny clues to me, with increasing frequency, despite your best intentions to obfuscate?” the Paulis countered. The dessert did look delicious, but it was highly disturbing. Not because of any risk it posed, because Miko would never let him anywhere near a fork to eat it anyway. Rather, because it was a honey-grape crispcake with a light ginger cream frosting—Gregory’s favorite sweet treat, and one he only enjoyed here on Mars, in his own chambers, baked by his wife when she was actually in-planet and in a doting mood.

How deep a damn profile do their have on me, anyway? Need to steal away a couple of the Vatican’s psychotechs for ourselves.

“You don’t really think I haven’t told you anything I didn’t want you to know,” she said. “I simply don’t want to shatter your delicate male ego. Please, have a bite. I don’t bake for many of my captors.”

“Watching the waistline, Domina, but thanks,” He told her, “and I granted you asylum, if I recall. However, I bow to your continuing ability to regale me with how much you know about my tastes—in all things.”

As she opened her mouth to respond, Gregory’s linkpad chimed—only two individuals would have ignored his order not to interrupt him for the next hour. One was the UFC’s chief AI. The other was his wife.

As he glanced at the text display, he was dismayed to discover it was both of them, telling him he needed to cut his session with Domina short.

“You know, I was just about to take a taste of that, Domina,” Gregory lied with an almost convincing cadence and grin, “but something seems to have come up.”

* * *

Domina swept the dreadful cake Gregory found so appealing into the disposal bin the moment he, his bodyguard and the MobileEye had left her apartment. On the one hand, it was a shame to have their session end before it could even begin. In a domina-fancy1strange way, the Peteris’ visits were a comfort to Domina—she could almost have called it a friendship, even if the man were a bitter enemy, technically speaking.

Even more than that, it was the only mental stimulation she could enjoy these days. Gregory was proving to be more adept at the finer points of misdirection and manipulative diplomacy that the psych profiles gave him credit for having. No doubt the influence of his wife, or that damnable AI Ghost—or perhaps both of them.

But in the end, the Nazarene really didn’t expect her to seduce the Peteris or to totally confuse him; only to waste his time. And, at least, Gregory’s departure meant she could continue to translate the latest message from her patron. The Nazarene had sent a much longer than normal message, which meant pieces of it were hidden in dozens of different innocent-seeming transmissions and messages to her terminal.

When she finished, the completed message filled her with pangs of remorse for the past—for the Red Pope who has been her mentor and lover—as well as with an eager, fierce rededication to her current mission.

When the new Red Pope is named, I will come for you. The arrival of an important new visitor is your signal. I will come from the sky and carry you out of the nest of your enemies.

* * *

Gregory made his annoyance clear when he arrived in Ghost’s atrium. Uncharacteristically, Amaranth was there as well.

amaranth“What couldn’t wait for another damned hour or so?” he snarled.

“The White Pope, Black Pope and Godhead are sequestered,” Ghost answered.

“They cut off contact with everyone but the Papal Advisory Council a half hour ago,” Amaranth added.

That gave Gregory pause, but only for a moment. “All right, so that means they’re about to decide on a new Red Pope and will probably name him in a few days. We already know who’s calling the shots with the ships in space above us: the Black Pope. Soon, we’ll have a face to attach to the man who will be giving the marching orders to the people picking off our people one by one on the ground. So?”

“Gregory, they will be naming the new Red Pope tomorrow, and I already have reliable intelligence on whom they will be announcing,” Ghost said.

Something in Ghost’s tone took him aback, and he noticed for the first time that a faint sheen of impending tears were glistening in his wife’s eyes. Amaranth was holding her emotions in check as usual, but her armor was cracking a bit, and the implications of that frightened the Peteris.

“The new Red Pope will be Gavin xec-Academie,” she said softly, sharp notes of pain edging her quiet words. “Our son, Greg. Our son.”

(This completed Chapter 9. To read the next installment, which begins Chapter 10, click here.)

22
Sep
09

Cleansed by Fire, Part 60

For the previous installment of this story, click here.

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 9, Reunions and Seekings (continued)

Strange  bed-partners indeed, Bechan Adym reminded himself yet again as he waited for the Voudoun priest to see him. Rabbi Brifel Mann had told him to seek out the bechan-adymhoungano Varshtis Maongi for aid, and so he was here. But it was already hard enough being a good Jewish boy looking for help from another religion; so much the worse to have to look to help from one that had so many inadvertent spiritual ties to the Vatican thanks to the the mixing of Catholic, Haitian and tribal African religious traditions some 2,000 year or more earlier to create Voodoo—which was transfigured some four centuries ago into Voudoun.

When the houngano finally emerged from his office, Bechan was surprised to see how Asiatic the man’s features were, having completely forgotten how rapidly Voudoun had spread through nations in the Asian Republics—Chinan, Krishna and Dehli excepted—over the past century. Varshtis had obvious signs of Caribbean or African blood in his veins, but his Pacific Asian heritage showed so much more strongly.

The houngano greeted Bechan warmly, and introduced his priestess wife, the mambin Heathri Maongi, whose ancestry surprised Bechan even more, since she was as pale and blonde a Scanda as he had ever seen outside of high-art grid-vids from Denmark or Swedelund.

The negotiations for the Voudoun’s aid and how Brifel or Bechan would repay it later went well overall, and it was a pleasant enough transaction, though Bechan was uncomfortably aware of the sliptrans implants that the couple wore so prominently on their necks and brows, as did almost all hounganos and mambins.

The Voudoun is probably the only religion that can truly say its gods talk to its practitioners, Bechan pondered, thinking about the history of their religion. The Vatican had virtualized the memories of its popes with the Godhead, but they didn’t try to virtualize God. The Voudoun, on the other hand, have at least 13 AIs scattered across the planet, and maybe elsewhere in the solar system, each of which was a virtualization of one of their L’wha—their godling representatives of their Great Good God Bondye. For all I know, one of the L’wha is riding Varshtis, or Heathri, right now. I can’t know if I’m dealing with a human or an AI that thinks itself a minor god.

But, it seemed to Bechan, if one of the L’wha was running the show at the moment, using either the priest’s or priestess’ body, then the gods must be with him, because the houngano and mambin were generous with their help and modest in their demands.

As they finished up, and he rose to leave, Varshtis paused significantly, slapped himself on the side of his skull, and laughed softly. “Oh, my Hebrew friend, I almost forgot.”

“Forgot what?” Bechan asked, trying to keep his voice mild.

“Why, your zombi, of course,” the houngano said, his gaze becoming briefly flinty before it softened back into slight amusement. “A gift for you.”

A short man in simple trousers and a long coat moved into the room, and settled himself into a casual stance a foot away from Bechan, all the world like a trained dog who had just come to heel.

Bechan’s stomach felt a cold clench of despair as he remembered his parting words to Brifel in Jerusalem, and his off-hand joke.

Maybe they’ll loan me a zombi for my journeys, I had told him. Something to do the heavy work and not force me listen to small talk.

There was no way to refuse this gift of a zombi, some person who had been largely turned into a human automatonwhether willingly or unwillingly Bechan would probably never knowbecause to do so would be to unravel all these negotiations for help.

It was disturbing in part because a zombi was something altogether illegal to possess in most nations of the world.

But what was all the more disturbing was that the houngano and mambin had known he had made the joke to Brifel. Because Brifel would never have passed along that comment to them.

As Bechan looked into the calm and confident smile of the houngano, he realized the message sent by gifting him a zombi.

We know more than you can imagine. The ears and eyes of our L’wha reach far. And your ancient religion is still tied too much to scrolls and rituals. While we have our gods on the SystemGrid.

It was a sharp reminder to Bechan that friends often came at a high price, and he hoped he wouldn’t have to make too many more friends in this journey.

(For the next installment of this story, click here.)

13
Aug
09

Cleansed by Fire, Part 59

For the previous installment of this story, click here.

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 9, Reunions and Seekings (continued)

“You took a great deal of time sedating and storing the doomed Stavin,” Sarai noted; it had been more than a day-cycle since they had discovered from him scary-sistersthe honor-claim that Maree Deschaine had on him—the one thing that delayed the execution of their own vengeance. “Did you encounter difficulties with him?”

“Not at all, sister,” Mehrnaz replied. “But it occurred to me that given the depth and nature of their relationship as co-conspirators against the Catholic Union, he must have methods of contacting the Maree-avenger. So I brought with me substances to loosen his tongue before I prepared him for stasis.”

“Your demeanor indicates that you were successful, but why would you suppose that the Maree-avenger would be monitoring any usual channels of contact with him?”

“Because he assaulted her, burned her family, and set a hellpod upon her city, dear sister,” Mehrnaz said with some amusement. “And she does not seem to subscribe to the usual notions of Catholic forgiveness. I suspect she wants his blood, and will look anywhere that he might turn up and reveal himself.”

“Very well, then. Now the only problem is in determining how to compose a message that will actually convince her to tell us where to find her.”

* * *

It was getting harder to keep Bohlliam in check. It was taking so much longer than she thought to knit her mind back together. Almost a day now that he had been hidden in a  dark corner of one of the basements of the hospital, without food or water. Grace had been able to suppress his thirst and hunger a bit, and she was actively feeding him as many blissful emotions as she could while she worked, but he was beginning to become impatient.

And if he became too impatient, he might also become suspicious.

She knew she was close, though. Almost ready to make the leap. In fact, she had already knitted together all the connections she needed to create. Everything was ready. Except that she couldn’t do anything until her father was there. Everything hinged on that.

Bohlliam began to send waves of complaint once more, and she tamped them down as gently as possible.

I’m still here with you, Bohlliam. I will always be with you, she lied.

And then she sensed her father beside her body. Just barely felt the touch of his hand on the cheek of her little body, several levels above.

Daddy.

Grace leapt. It wasn’t her most graceful psychic act of all time, but she didn’t dare be cautious now.

Bohlliam felt the connections tear in his mind. He sensed her attempted flight and grabbed at her.

But she was gone.

In the sub-basement, Bohlliam howled as all those beautiful, borrowed emotions were torn from him like food from a starving man.

* * *

Paulo looked down upon the sleeping face of his daughter and saw so much of her mother in there right now. He felt a pang of physical discomfort at that. He had saved his daughter, and probably lost her mind in the process. He could come here to grieve and bear watch as an uncle, but never admit his fatherhood.

paulo1And in all this, he couldn’t even properly mourn the woman who had been his wife in all the ways that mattered—the woman who had taken the name and place of his cousin to remain hidden from the authorities and prevent Paulo from being punished for breaking his vows. He couldn’t tell anyone around him, “I have lost the woman to whom I gave my heart for safekeeping.” He could only be a man mourning a dear cousin.

So it was bittersweet feelings that he bent forward to kiss Grace’s brow.

“Daddy,” she whispered into his ear.

She hadn’t spoken once since her virtually unprotected passage through slipspace. “Grace? Grace?”

“Say nothing. Call no physicians in here,” she said. “Everything depends on that.”

Even with his elation at hearing her voice, even with the rising hope that her mind could be saved, Paulo’s perceptions weren’t so dulled that he could prevent feeling a little thrill of fear.

My daughter is speaking with a little girl’s voice. But not a little girl’s words.

And then another frightening thought took hold.

How does she know I’m her father? We never told her.

With the barest of whispers, he asked, “Why?”

She hugged his neck fiercely and kissed his cheek.

“A man with a sensorium array is going to be looking for me right now,” she whispered. “He won’t give up. You have to run, Daddy. You have to run with me now.”

“It’s not that easy, Gracie. I can’t just run, I know you don’t understand, but I need…”

“You need to deal with the problem of our IDentipods,” she interrupted, nothing of a little girl’s inflections in that youthful voice. “You need to somehow forge transit documents. You need to get past hospital security. How long do you need?”

Paulo pulled away from her slightly, looked down into her eyes. His daughter was there, her eyes filled with trust and fear and love. But they were a woman’s eyes, so much like Gina’s. They weren’t the eyes of the weeping daughter he had carried through the slipgate. “What happened to you, Grace? What are you?”

“Your daughter,” she said, an edge in her voice now; not anger, exactly, but maybe desperation. “I’m still that. I always have been, I always will be.  How long do you need?”

“Two days, maybe three,” he said. “I can have someone brought here to guard the room. Or hunt this man down.”

“Under what pretext?” Grace asked. “And if the med-techs or physicians walk in here right now and see us talking like this, I’ll be taken away from you for study and evaluation and observation, seeing as no one has ever gotten their mind back after a trip like mine.”

“If I just run with you, we’ll be caught before I can even get out of the city.”

“I can play comatose for the doctors for a day and probably hide my mind from Bohlliam that long, Daddy. That’s all I can promise.”

“Do you know where this man is, Grace?”

“Until five minutes ago, he was in a sub-basement near where some linens are stored.”

“Will you be all right?”

Her head was already back against the pillows, in the same composure and demeanor as before her mind had returned. For a sickening moment, Paulo feared he had imagined this entire episode.

But then, speaking out of the side of her mouth, eyes still closed, she said, “I’ll have to be. But if you can find him and kill him quietly, that would certainly make our lives much easier.”

(To read the next installment in this story, click here.)

05
Aug
09

Cleansed by Fire, Part 58

For the previous installment of this story, click here

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 9, Reunions and Seekings (continued)

Paulo hadn’t expected Maree to arrange to meet him quite so quickly, just a few days after their clandestine exchange of Grid messages. The meet paulo1location was out of the way enough to be private; not so far out of the  core city that it would cause Paulo to be flagged for monitoring.

And in the style of so many cloak-and-blade grid vids, it was an abandoned structure, full of shadows and places to hide—Paulo had picked the general area; Maree had picked the final location. He’d been here 15 minutes now, time enough to wonder if Maree had a secret melodramatic streak. He saw something move in one set of shadows, and his hand fell instinctively to the grip of his sidearm. It strode out on six legs, something like a mix of terrier and cat, but with none of the organic charm. A pest-hunter. He spied another one in the distance, and took a deep drag on his blunt brown nicstick, designed to mimic the look of an expensive cigar.

Pest-hunters were easily purchased in retail outlets. These ones were budget models, and certainly purchased by Maree. They were probably set to attract and kill only flying insects right now. Maree was almost certainly watching from afar through an ocular, and was looking to see if any flying things weren’t caught by the pair of vermin killers. Anything they didn’t catch would likely be a spyfly.

And so, Paulo was patient. Maree would come when she was satisfied it was safe. And if she didn’t come, it probably meant there was a spyfly somewhere nearby, and Paulo would know he was being monitored.

But he doubted it. Only Lyseena would have a desire to keep tabs on him and as far as she was concerned, his hospital-bound daughter, Grace, was anchor enough to hold him close and keep him loyal.

Twenty-one minutes passed before he heard the low, growling hum of her duosphere approach. “I’ve never seen you smoke before, Paulo,” Maree commented as she stepped away from her vehicle.

“Only occasionally. My father and brothers had a tradition of smoking a cigar before a deal, and then another one after it was sealed,” he said, looking at his nicstick and deactivating it, watching the last wisps of smoke drift away. “I took up the practice with them before I was given over to the templars. When I was cut off from the merchanter lifetsyle, I switched to nicsticks. So much more appropriate for a common law officer.”

Maree grinned at that. “I’ve missed you Paulo, you insufferable classist stick-prick.”

mareeAs Paulo slipped the now-cool nicstick into a pocket, he said bluntly, “Did you have any idea that Secular Genesis would put Nova York under a broiler like that?”

The hellpod attack, she realized, and wondered why he would bring it up, but didn’t hestitate to shake her head and answer: “I never would have thought they even had the capability to do that, but it explains why I became so expendable so fast to them.”

Paulo nodded. “Good. I’d hate to think you were capable of involvement in something like that.”

“Why do I have the impression if you hadn’t liked my answer, we’d be having a gunfight right about now?”

“It’s a fair enough assessment. Gina—damn, will I ever stop calling her by that borrowed name? She. She was there, near the impact. I got Grace out, but with only part of her mind intact.”

He told her the story then, in fits and starts, and stopped several times to compose himself. He’d would sometimes cry in front of Gina when she was alive. He could cry in front of his aunt or his daughter. He would shed no tears in the presence of anyone else.

When he was done, Maree sighed. It was a simple thing, but full of honesty. She felt for him, and that gave him confidence she might help him, particularly after he related to her the measures he had taken to cover her tracks.

“I suppose I do owe you a favor, then, Paulo,” she admitted. “But I am rather tied up. How soon can we get you and her on the run?”

“I don’t know. I suppose if there isn’t a change in her condition, I should probably run in a week or two at most regardless.”

“Paulo, no one recovers from losing their mind in slipspace. So you might as well run now instead of waiting.”

He glared at her, then closed his eyes and spoke carefully. “She doesn’t show typical symptoms. She has no madness. I think she was shielded from that, but I still don’t know how much of her I’ll get back. But I have to wait a bit first, to be sure.”

“I can’t guarantee I’ll still be here, Paulo, when you’re ready. If I find a trail that leads to Stavin, I’ll be on it.”

“I understand, but I suspect you could help me from afar, even if just to help me plan. You are, clearly, the superior undercover operative.”

“And the most stylish,” she quipped, leaning against her duopshere like an advertis-femme. It surprised her to feel any kind of humor again; camaraderie felt good, especially with someone in similar straits. “I’ll help you as much as I’m able.”

“Then I suppose,” Paulo said, fishing out his nicstick again. “This calls for a simulated cigar.”

* * *

Riding Bohlliam’s mind and sensorium array, Grace was increasingly eager as they approached the hospital where her tiny three-year-old body waited for her, and the rest of her mind.

enigmaShe was also increasingly nervous.

What she brought to Bohlliam wasn’t something he was going to part with willingly. She might as well be a drug to which he was addicted, so hungry was he for satisfying emotional stimuli and responses for his emophage-ravaged brain. She needed his help to knit herself back together, but if he had any inkling of what she ultimately planned, he would cut her off and close her in.

But she hadn’t spent a lifetime, give or take, in slipspace to be thwarted now in realtime.

I’m in your mind, so it should be easy enough with my help for you to recognize and reach my physically anchored mind once we’re a bit closer, she told him. Make an empathic connection and hold it, so that I can repair my own damage and sustain a lasting link to you once I am back in my own head

<Concern> he projected.

It’s a gamble, certainly. But you have two choices. First, make the attempt and succeed or fail. Second, don’t make the attempt and we’ll see how long I last in your head, giving you an emotional foundation again, before I fragment and you’re back to second-hand emotions from the mentally ill.

The split second he paused filled her with concern. She couldn’t be sure she was shielding her emotions and intentions from him adequately by amplifying her impatience, irritation and anger all this time. He was an empath after all. Not well trained, but still…

<Agreement>

Let’s hurry then, but be careful. A man with a sensorium array is going to stand out. I don’t know how much time I’ll need, but we need as much as we can get.

(To read the next installment of this story, click here.)




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

_________

Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

_________

E-Mail

You can reach Deacon Blue/Jeff Bouley at deaconbluemail@gmail.com.

_________

LinkedIn

For my public profile, click here.

_________

Tales of the Whethermen

My superhero fiction blog, click here

_________

Raising the Goddess

My parenting blog, click here

Copyright Info and Images

For more about images used on this site, and copyrights regarding them, as well as usage/copyright information about my own writing as posted here, click here.

Deac Tweets

  • RT @oshitwhatup: Reminder that y’all favorite lil feature on y’all favorite lil app was stolen from a black woman https://t.co/jcNm02cA3o 3 hours ago
  • RT @sanguinesu: To everyone who voted 3rd party to "send a message to the system," the Supreme Court is sending a message back. 3 hours ago
  • RT @Kennymack1971: "Why won't the Democrats protect Roe?" You could've in 2016. SCOTUS wasn't enough of a reason to vote for her though.… 17 hours ago
  • RT @Kennymack1971: And already here we go with the anguished "WHY WON'T BIDEN AND THE DEMOCRATS DO SOMETHING ABOUT ROE?" Tweets. Shut the… 17 hours ago
  • RT @bunrxm: republicans will roll back the country to 1890 and climate change will destroy us all and the Democrats will be shaming people… 17 hours ago

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 834 other followers

December 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

%d bloggers like this: