Monthly Archives: May 2012

New short story! This is the one Ommwriter lost, but I feel I wrote it better this time around. When one door closes…

***

The target came into view. A long truck with a trailer, its load in need of removal. I pushed the accelerator down, drawing closer. Our car slipped through the street lights of the Eastern Freeway, nary another car in sight. Every strike I imagined my vehicle as a panther, jet black, hunting a slow and dimwitted prey. I smiled to myself as we drew up behind it.

Turning back to my compatriots, their balaclavas concealing who they really were, I gave the nod. It was go time. They scrambled for the equipment–homemade sticky grenades–and unwound the windows in preparation. Then my whole stomach twisted and fell as high beams cut into the car from the back.

“This is the police,” a voice said over a loudspeaker. “Desist immediately, or we will use force.”

“Shit,” someone said, maybe me.

No wonder this shipment had been scheduled for so early in the morning. It was a trap. But I knew that didn’t mean that these cars weren’t real, didn’t have a destination. It just meant they would be harder to dispose of. I thought of the numerous attacks I had made during the day. Some shipments were destroyed during the day, while waiting at the lights. Immobilised then set alight. This was meant to be far easier. Such is life.

“We’re going ahead with the plan,” I said. “We will not let ourselves be caught.” We weren’t meant to talk, as another precaution to identification, but I was damned if I didn’t take charge. I didn’t know how green the other two were.

They both nodded, and I just wish I could have seen whether or not they had resolve on their brows at that moment. Either way, I sped up to level with the truck, and that’s when the shooting began.

The whole rear of the car exploded with sparks and flashes, but I knew the reinforcement that it had would hold. For a while. The man on the right held a grenade in each hand, ready to launch them. He managed to fling one and have it stick right in the middle before I came too close to the cab. I looked up and into the barrel of a shotgun.

Thankfully the trucks passenger had aimed at J.B. number one as opposed to me, otherwise the whole thing would have been over. That’s the difference between amateurs and warriors–making the right choice under pressure. The man fell back into the car, an explosion of viscera spraying my interior. The other grenade was still in his hand. I swerved away to the left, still under fire, before accelerating and arcing across the front of the truck.

We were on the other side, and I motioned for J.B. two to continue. He didn’t seem to shaken up, which was a bonus. He snatched the bomb from the dead guy’s fingers, as well as another from the bag. In quick succession he managed to land one on the back of the cab, and another towards the rear. He went for a third, but I quickly pulled away. That would be plenty.

Again a storm of bullets struck my car, one shattering the side-view mirror. I cursed something, and managed to glimpse J.B. two leaning out the window. He took a bullet through the throat before I could blink. I cursed again, and rammed my hand down onto the car horn. A little bit of ingenuity on my part.

The truck no doubt exploded in a fine ball of flames, taking its supply of luxury cars with it. They had been Ferraris, a worthy goal indeed. What I didn’t expect was the bright light and shockwave from behind.

The cop car. J.B. two had somehow lobbed a grenade onto the cop car. I didn’t know whether to feel safe, or in more danger than ever.

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Forum Life Novella

A little novella I started on a few weeks back. Really need to get back into it. In other news, I wrote 500 words of a new story just before and Ommwriter deleted it. Argh!

***

“Welcome to Persordin”
I slip under the words, through the arches that give me access to the city. It’s a busy thoroughfare with people coming and going as they please. Keeping to the sides, I make my way towards the centre. I take it all in. The buildings, pale white and fading red. The people, smiling and chatting, not a trace of concern or doubt. I notice a great deal of augmentation on all of them, built for functionality, not fashion. I mutter thanks to the Creator for my forward-thinking; my own hasty additions will fit right in. I look down at the pipes and wires newly connected to my flesh. Basic as it is, I’m still adjusting to the changes, but at least no one is going question them.
I keep going, hands firmly in pockets, head down. This is not my world. My eyes swivel constantly, both to take everything in and to be sure I’m not being watched. Amongst the crowds of individuals I notice some people in uniforms, obviously some form of police or security. I avoid them at first, but soon realised they patrolled out of a formality. None of the citizens seemed frightened of them. They would have been like anyone else were it not for the clothes. I relaxed.
The city was of classic design, but clean and modernised. The streets I traversed were smooth and well-maintained, the buildings and habs spewing steam from the rooftops. PM-tubes ran likes vines across terraces. For the Tech Capital, it employed a perplexingly subtle approach to architecture. So transfixed by the wonder of Persordin, I kept walking in passers-by, none of whom seemed slightly angered by my obliviousness. Eventually, through nothing more than luck, I found what I was looking for.
I came into a gigantic forum. While I gathered myself,  I recalled what I had learnt of Persordin. For it is not only a hub of technology and progress, but also a place to freely discuss thoughts and opinions. A number of small districts border the centre, each having their own focus. There is one for serious philosophical debate, one devoted to personal technology progression, and the largest of them focussing on the popular practice of digital combat. While each would interest me in time, I headed straight for the social sector: The Rhube.

Here the buildings swung in close together. Signs and posters littered the walls, the latest social events advertised for all. I wandered for a while, getting to grips with this city. I’d never felt this level of boisterousness. It was invigorating to be among so many people all living and working together. I got lost, but eventually I stumbled on what I was looking for: a tavern. The sign hung over the large oak door. I entered the Uplate Lounge.
The stench of cigar smoke hit me, followed by the warmth of the fire. It was crowded, raucous shouts pinging between patrons, and the typical after work chat had taken hold. I made my way to the bar.
I ordered a whisky, neat, the bartender asking no questions.

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At last, it’s finished!

Well, not entirely.  The story requires a good deal of editing, not least of which includes using the right name for everything! There’s a bit of tidying up to do, so that’s the next step. In the mean time I’m going to try some new stories. Enjoy:

***

The Temple of Dreams was before Felicia. Locked behind two giant, obsidian doors, gold-painted chains holding them shut, but they would not be much of a hindrance. Felicia had gathered her retinue in the catacombs, a small group of men from the Eastlands. Each of them had arrived by their own means. Brave fighters and hunters, they had sworn allegiance to her during the days, months, years of being an outcast. She had learned their fighting style, one of fluid motions, quick movements, and feints from nowhere. It suited her.

As she brought up her sword, Dusk, in order to cut through the chains, the sound of armoured footsteps came from behind her. The Temple of Dreams sat stop the castle at the end of one of its many marble walkways. Surrounded by arches, the walk to the Temple offered a splendid view of the kingdom. But Felicia’s eyes were fixed only at the other end, at the top of the stairs that came from below. She motioned to her comrades, ordering two to hide behind pillars, and two more to notch arrows. If her brother had not changed, there would be a fight.

Two of the King’s guard reached the top of the stairs, and seeing the archers, raised luxurious shields. The Arch-Knight followed them, raising his more suitable yet no less glorious shield. Then her brother came into view.

Her brother Sean looked well, healthy even. Felicia felt no anger. They were blood after all. She smiled.

“Hail, brother, oh Life’s Tyrant as they call you in the Eastlands. How do you fair?”

She saw a flash of red on his cheeks, but he recovered quickly.

“Sister, you and your jibes have not changed a bit. How good to see you.” He called out to her. “I do not know precisely what you plan, but it will fail. Look to the sea–the bale-fires burn the sky. Your fleet is set to the flame, it seems.”

Felicia glanced out to sea, down the length of the Romance. It was true, the horizon glowed unnaturally, and she doubted her small and under-equipped fleet could have razed the Golden Fleet. Still, that had not been the goal. She spied a small number of black specks entering the mouth of the river. Her mouth twitched.

“True. A minor setback. We may have more luck on the plains. Or perhaps, on the very streets of the Citadel of Day and Night. Or is it just of Day? I forget. Either way, the city is awake to its destinies.”

“Why have you returned?” spat Sean. “What is it that you want?”

“To restore the balance, of course. And since I know a civilised sibling discussion is off the table, I believe I’ll have to fight for that desire.”

“And a fight you shall have. Guards, Protector of Fate, dispose of my sister and her cronies. Let us be done with this.”

The Arch-Knight nodded, and marched solidly towards the usurpers.


The archers loosed their ammunition, but the arrows merely crashed off armour and shield. As smooth as a shadow they had another ready and fired again. One guard went down, gushing blood from a neck wound, but more were coming up the stairs. Felicia brought out her own bow, and pulled an arrow from her quiver. She had tipped them with Night’s Kiss, a nocturnal flower that opened only at night, the poison of its pollen too fast acting to counter. She aimed at her brother, but took out a hapless guard. She reloaded another, but the guards were almost upon them, as well as the Arch-Knight. She shifted her aim.

She struck the Protector of Fate on the ankle, and hoped it had pierced. She heard a growl of pain, but there was no time left to think–it was time to fight. She drew Dusk as the Arch-Knight raised a massive crimson broadsword. Her men unsheathed their rapiers as well. Battle was joined.

Round and round the melee swirled, a skirmish in the clouds. Felicia used all her skills, backstabbing clueless adversaries, riposting blows that would have maimed her. Her cloak of stars surrounded her, disorientating foes. But the retinue, those she trusted most, fell one by one. She watched in horror as the Arch-Knight drove his weapon clean through Master Graves. The Knight stumbled, the poison finally having an effect. Night’s Kiss did not hurt, but quickly put you to sleep forever. She stepped in to finish the job.

As she slid Dusk along the Arch-Knight’s throat, she felt a sharp pain in her side. Immediately she spun around, swinging her sword to deflect another strike. Behind her was Sean, the glow of Dawn dulled by blood.

“I never wanted to do this, Felicia.” He looked genuine. “But you’ve left me no choice. Coming back was never going to end well.”

Felicia spat phlegm and blood. She looked around. The King’s guards were dead or dying, and only one of her retinue was left, though he was wounded and unable to help. She flicked her eyes back to Sean.

“Brother, I have come here to end this. I have come to end this brutal sacrilege. The Temple of Dreams must be reopened, your Mirrors must be destroyed. Balance must be returned.”

“Never has the land been so prosperous! We work and toil longer, and gain ever greater riches. My armies are the strongest, the biggest. My people are the happiest. Or they were until you showed up. Do you think that crowning yourself queen will lead to something better? Your power resides in the dark, the cold of Night. Nobody wants that.”

The pain in her side was growing–there wasn’t much left in her. She shifted the hand that clutched her wound, fiddling with a pouch, as her right hand tightened its grip on Dusk.

“I have not come to crown myself. I have come to renew the cycle, brother.”

Sean’s eyes widened in realisation as Felicia struck during his moment of shock. He had time to raise Dawn, but with a lightening fast parry it was knocked to the ground by Dusk. Felicia drew the poison coated knife from her belt, and sunk it into her brother’s chest. He gripped her tightly, and she hugged him back.

“I am so sorry brother, but this must be done. Tomorrow, or whenever dawn should rise in this forsaken land, two babes will be born. Twins, yet different. We were a broken family, but with a new lineage balance will be restored.”

They looked into each others eyes. Felicia bent her head, and kissed Sean gently on the lips as his breath left him. She let him down to rest on white stone of his castle.

With the last of her strength Felicia picked up the greatsword of the Arch-Knight and wearily dragged herself to the Temple of Dreams. Raising it high above her head, she brought it down on the chains. She dragged the doors open, feeling the embrace of sleep and hopes and desires sweep over her. She was so tired, she realised. It would be good to sleep.

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Foucault’s Pendulum

As my first Umberto Eco book, it’s a good indicator of how well read the man must be. Every chapter begins with a quote from some forgotten tome, and the entirety of the novel relies heavily on literary history. While he knows how to write, I felt that the book slowed down because he knows way too much. The golden rule in writing is ‘show don’t tell’ and unfortunately Umberto told us too much, though perhaps unintentionally.

The book follows Casaubon, an expert on Templar history, as he travels the world and sees cabalistic rituals, trying to understand whether it was all linked together. The characters are absolutely sublime, and their motivations well set out (Belbo is a fantastic side-antagonist). It’s like The Da Vinci Code for intelligent folks. But then about two-thirds of the way in the characters are devising the Plan, an imaginary conspiracy involving just about every famous group or figurehead imaginable. There are literally pages upon pages of the characters sitting around and reeling off historical speculation so as to make their conspiracy sound. It’s quite boring to be honest, though it gets mixed up at times with fictional accounts by Belbo. Sometimes there isn’t a way to avoid exposition.

The Plan is fake of course, but those who want to believe it—the Diabolicals as they are called—take the Plan and will stop at nothing for its secrets to be revealed. The story ends with the sentence “It’s so beautiful”, summarising the entire book. You see, it doesn’t matter if the Plan is real or not—nobody knows and nobody will ever know. So why worry about the chaos of life when life’s chaos is so beautiful to behold. It struck me on the last page of the book that the entire novel tells us to chill out, and that we should enjoy life for what it is. It’s a complicated way to explain it, but I now have the utmost respect for Mr. Eco as a writer, and I look forward to his other books.

We all need a focus point, something sure in this world. Maybe the only thing that offers that is Foucault’s Pendulum—as long as no one moves it.

Day and Night Part 3

It’s been a while (too long in other words) but here is the third part of Day and Night (I really need a better title, but that will come). I wrote this in two 25 minute pomodoros, and it’s about 1200 words long. There was a good rhythm, and I like where the story is going. Won’t be much more to it I feel. Enjoy, and remember, this is literally the words that come to me posted straight away. The polishing comes later. Any tips and suggestions are welcome.

******

She turned and headed to her room, food in hand. It would not do to stay close to these citizens.

When Felicia reached her room, she looked out the attic window, and witnessed Sundown. It was a quick process, and all it took was a few movements of the giant mirrors to shift the spread of light. One moment the world was bright and golden, the next an amber haze fell across the land. Not quite enough to get a proper rest, but sufficient to deem the King merciful. Felicia set her eyes and clenched her fist at the thought of her brother.

Wrapping her cloak around herself, she closed her eyes and began to meditate. Soft but steady breathing. She felt herself drifting towards sleep. Focusing on the feelings of her balled up fists, she slipped into a Dream.

Her eyes snapped open. She was in a grey world, of fog and shadows. Little bubbles of activity whirled about her in all directions. She let her legs unfold, her arms float up. It had been some time since she had visited the Nexus, the spiritual side of the Temple of Dreams, and she had to become accustomed to the physics.

This point in the Nexus was mostly empty, or only half-formed. There was very little activity close to her, but she could sense stronger dreams a long way off, near the place of her exile. The unfortunate side-effect of near perpetual sunlight. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t feel the subconsciousness of all her people.

It was Sundown, and a vast majority of people were sleeping, or trying their best. Very few houses were allowed dark rooms, and at least some fraction of light had to touch all corners of any building. Theirs was a light sleep, a tortured one. Felicia drew herself up, felt the tendrils of many minds, and pulled.

Tiny bubbles and larger ones, all were drawn to her. She gathered them, joined them, made them one. This was potentially dangerous, but she was the Night Queen; the act was her duty and her life, and she would make no mistakes. She felt one particular consciousness sweep by, deeper in sleep than the others. It carried a particular familiarity. She smiled. She would make sure this one slept the deepest.

* * *

Sean woke with a start, his bed drenched, his breath harsh. He couldn’t believe it–he had had a Nightmare. Surely that was not possible, he thought, trying to remember what had happened.

He had been in a market place, in casual attire, mingling with his subjects. No one had recognised him. That should have given him enough concern, but no, there was more to it. He chewed his nails, trying to drag it all out.

He remembered, he remembered that he had tried to buy some fruit, some exotic things, but when he touched them, they dried and shriveled up, wasting away quickly to nothing. Every fruit, no matter what. Then he had grown thirsty, but as the water touched his lips and tongue, it had evaporated. Yes, that had been frightening, truly frightening, but there had been something else. A figure…

A dark figure, someone in shadows but radiant nonetheless. And this person, they had been drawing everybody. It was a man, no, it had been a woman, atop a podium, calling out, rousing the people. He recalled following the others, his people, and looking at this feminine figure. The sun blinded him, but in a flash, it came back.

His sister.

The Night Queen.

The Night Queen had been in his dream. Sean scrambled out of bed, the image of her pale face so vivid. He gulped. Surely it could not be. He went to call his servants, just as Saul blew the doors open, dismay on his face.

“Your Brightness, you have slept too long. Battle has been met on all fronts. And I do mean all.”

* * *

The Lord of Light gazed from the gilded balcony that overlooked the centre of the city, the core of the Citadel of Light. He wore his full armour set, the gold and crimson design catching the light and making him a beacon. At his right side was Saul, given that Rufus had been called to the battle on the Eastern Plains. To his left stood the Arch-Knight, Champion of the Sun, Protector of Fate. Their faces were not welcoming. Sean looked over his people, and they intermittently looked back, but it was not with mutual respect.

There had been riots from the moment Sundown had ended. It was worse than Sean had thought, and he had not been prepared. Saul had told him of the rebellion, marching on the streets. The eyes of his people sagged as usual, but a spark had gone off in them. They had dreamt last night, as he had. The Night Queen had touched them all.

“Have we enough Citadel Guard to quell this?” asked Sean.

“Barely my lord, but this is no organised attack,” said Saul. “It will be contained.”

Sean glanced back, a hint of fear.

“Do you think she will strike in the middle of this, from some unknown angle?”

“No, my lord, she knows we are too well-defended. She is relying on three fronts. The Gilded Sea, where she hopes to plough through and up the River Romance; the Eastern Plains, where her forces are numerous but out of their league; and here, where she hopes to sow discontent and a sudden, new army. None of these will work.”

“I do not think that is the whole picture,” said Sean. “The Temple of Dreams, that is the basis of her power, like the Solar Array is mine. To do this, she has to be close. But without the Temple…I still don’t…how could she…?”

Saul thought about it for a moment. Their entourage tensed ever so slightly, as the discontented voices from below reached their ears. The Guardian of the Sun walked to the edge, placing his hands on the railing. He watched his subjects milling around, shouting in the faces of the guards who bravely protected his halls. There was something not quite right…

“Your Brightness,” said the Arch-Knight. His name was Julius, hand-picked by Sean to be a personal body guard in war and peace. “If you say that the Night Queen gets her power from the Temple of Dreams, then we must protect it at all costs.”

“Don’t be foolish,” scorned Saul. “The Temple is at the top of the Palace, above the throne room. It would be nigh impossible to reach its heights.”

“But our guards,” wavered Sean. “They protect the streets and the entrances. There are other ways into the Palace. And Felicia, curse her name, will not have forgotten those catacombs of yesterday.”

Saul’s eyes widened, his shoulders dropping. Julius shifted his stance, unconsciously preparing for a fight. Sean twirled, marching between the two.

“Guards!” he bellowed. “With me, for the Eternal Light!”

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