Saturday, May 4, 2013

nook central...and big news!

Well, due to some internal conflict, I've had to part ways with Amazon. However, in every cloud there is a silver lining, and my library is now live on nook! Click on this link, or on the bog NOOK BOOKS link right over there --------->> to the right.
In further news...

-Flesh Wound is finished, also with a name change to the Warhammer. Its live right now on nook.

-My library of titles will soon be available on Kobo.

-Junker Girl and her Droid now also contains Junker Girl and her Destiny. Two books in one!

-I am working on TWO new titles, Country of Superheroes 2 and Space Marine.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Flesh Wound- Two

My name is Cain the suicide. If it was Cain the book lender, I might have chosen another profession. My hair is cut into a War stripe, and I kill Orcs.

My favorite way to do that is with a sword, although I'll use whatever comes easily enough. My sword is a mean bugger, hand and a half valyrian steel. I wear ramshackle Shardplate armor. Orc teeth are sharp. Like any suicide, I stole or bought illegally all this. I’m not a fucking knight. Or a barbarian. Especially not one of these Imperial redcoats, running around with their fancy new rifles. Smarter than that.
In town I like dark ale, loud music with a Nord bard on the drums, and a woman with tattoos and a war stripe. If a bitch approaches me and she looks like she comes from temple, I won’t pass up, but that isn’t an often occurrence with my appearance. Not that my appearance matters to me. I can read and write, and do sums, which is more than many of your Ser's and Milady's.
The last bloody mess I was in came courtesy of a favor I did while I was in Cyrodil. They happened to let me in one of the nicer areas, which doesn’t happen too often. Means they don’t think I'll steal too much, which I did anyway. I was between horses when I got there, and had to ride a caravan, which seemed to work out all for the best, as they were attacked by gobs three times. Things are rough these days in the Empire. I impressed the lot with my swordplay, and a visual display of gob guts and brains in abundance, but none of the womenfolk was a proper nice wench, and one of the menfolk seemed to be looking at me in that funny manner which I don’t go for. So I kept to myself and did my business, got off at the gates and didn’t look back. People are funny about suicides, they want us when there’s things to kill, and every time else, not at all.
I am here today, to save a Princess. It is entirely the wrong sort of job for a suicide. As such, I have failed at it horribly.
The Princess is in my arms, dying. If I want to I can feel the holes in her side, where the arrows stick out. An arrow is a messy wound, and you don’t want to pull the shaft out, if you can help it. Not without a Maester around.
"Can you hold me tighter?" She says. "It’s getting kind of cold."
She isn’t dressed for warm, that’s for sure. High boots and bustier, with one of those short black skirts whores prefer around Kings Landing. Lips and eyes painted dark, along with jet black hair. The hair coloring is natural, only. I don’t tell her that the chill she feels is death coming. I just press her tighter to me. A beautiful girl. Her teeth are chattering now.
"Just answer me one question." She says.
Anything, I tell her.
"How is it my father was so stupid to send a suicide to guard me?" She asks
A long story, I say. And then I start to tell it.

***

An Orc is nowhere near as attractive in its menace as popularly portrayed, by artist across Cyrodil. An actual Orc is about four and a half feet tall, grey, and wrinkled. Not to mention the smell. The stink of perpetual feces and rot, is a calling card for anyone that’s dumb enough to look, a sure indicator, Orcs live here.
The story starts with me in single combat against one such Orc. I say single combat because there is two of them, and I have a companion, so the odds are even, in theory. In practice, I am standing out in the woods with a dumb, fat friar, armed only with a ceremonial mace, who looks as if he might piss himself at any moment. It is two on one, then, made even more complicated by the fact that I have to keep both Orcs attention, and keep the friar alive, in order to get paid for the job.
I have evened things up early by relieving one Orc of its arm. It was a smooth cut, and it staggered the creature. Will most likely kill it, eventually, from blood loss. But the Orc is overall too stupid to care about little things like a mortal wound, and it hobbles around with a simple club, swinging back and forth. Possibly it will hit me, possibly it will hit its comrade. So much of fighting these things is a game of chance.
The other Orc is quicker. It has one of those rusted edges of black metal they use as blades. Its own blood is trickling from between its fingers where the creature is gripping it. There is no handle to an Orc sword, no unsharpened or padded point on the sharpened edge. They lose their own fingers often, and with little regard. "Grag slagger de nork!" The Orc howls at me, which I take to be its own language for "Kindly relieve me of the useless burden of my own life."
It jumps furiously. It is nimble despite being ugly, and I have only made minor wounds. It suddenly shats and pisses itself, the urine dribbling out its member in brown gold trickles. A series of warts decorates its lower belly, making its way prominently to the penis. To save me from this sight alone, I would clothe the enemy myself. I have an epiphany, and drop my guard.
The Orc takes the initiative immediately, charging and howling. I let my armor take it. That is the key thing about shardplate, it can indeed take it. The black metal sparks with each impact, and leaves a glow from where it was hit, but it holds. I bring my sword up in time to save my face from the one lucky blow that might get me. The Orc is fast, but frantic and erratic.
The thrust that kills him he almost throws himself on.
I take its head off for good measure. You have to be sure, with Orcs. There is absolutely no need for an abundance of caution. I move over to the side, where I see the other Orc has sagged to its knees. Its eyes are dull and mostly lifeless, a stroke of good fortune for the overweight friar, who is comically dancing forward and back, swiping his ineffective mace just short of touching the beast. I take this one's head as well. The friar squeals when the torrent of blood that issues forward splatters the front of his brown habit.
"You got me." The friar whines. It’s all over."
I ignore the man. It isn’t over, of course. There still is a matter of the eggs.
The friar sits and eats a leg of mutton he brought with him to satiate his appetite. I give him credit for that, I have little stomach for eating after spending a day around Orcs. I look around for the nest. It has to be close. Orcs don’t stay in one spot unless rooted. I find it at last under a fallen tree stump that comes up nearly as high as my head. Five eggs, two hatched. The infant Orcs are ugly pink thinks, blind and mewling like kittens.
I crush them quickly beneath my boot. One of them a merely maim with the first stomp, and it lets out a tinny howl at the injustice. My next blow crushes its head flat to the Earth. Afterwards I put flint and tinder to the mess, and burn the unhatched. Only way to be sure. No need to waste time, trying to crack the shell of an Orc egg. Let it cook.
When I get back the friar looks up at me, his face a mess of mutton juice. "What’s that smell?" He asks. "Are you making breakfast? Those eggs are rotten. I won’t eat rotten eggs."
"Neither will I." I tell him. "So let’s get back to your abbey, and you can make breakfast for us both."

He does. Or rather, a slightly plump, well bosomed handmaiden does. The church eats well, in my experience anyway. This meal is no exception. Buns with honey and butter, strips of bacon. Bowls of berries. Fine mead to wash it all down. We finished our business early, and it is just mid-morning when I push back from the table. The light is shining through the stained glass windows, warm sunshine. I think I could take a nap, if I let myself. Just in the grass, outside the confessional. I imagine the residents of this Shire have lazy moments, just like that.
The friar pushes back, and smacks his lips. We get down to business. "Now," he says. "On the matter of your payment."
"Twelve talents." I tell him. "Six an Orc. agreed upon guild rates."
"Ah." His eyes darted around nervously. "And you feel that is, shall we say, appropriate?"
"And you don’t?"
"It did seem a quick bit of work." The friar said. "No doubt, I am sure that you are very good at what you do."
"The best." I lied. One-lipped Sawl is the best, but there was no reason for this asshole to know that.
"As you say." The friar said. "The best. I am quiet adept as well, in my ministries. And I believe that as I was out there, the Prophet God himself was helping me, aiding my strength, that I was able to dispatch one of the fell Orcs myself. So I do believe, that, ah, if guild rates were to be applied, then the price should be-"
I summoned up the steel in my voice, and turned my eyes to ice. "Should be what?" I asked him.
"Six talents." The friar gulped.
I let my right hand subtly drift to the sword resting beside me. "The price was for two dead Orcs." I said. "Those are both dead. What’s more, a nest of eggs was destroyed, free of charge. This was agreed upon on condition of hire."
The fat man gulped, and said nothing.
I let my voice soften. "But I suppose a discount could be provided." I said. "For assistance rendered, and this fine meal. Five talents an Orc, then."
The friar was happy, smiling contentedly between greasy cheeks. "Ten it is." He brought out a fat purse, brimming with more than six times that number of golden coins. For a moment, I considered taking it from him, and taking off his fat head with a Valyrian blade. Then the moment passed. The friar intoned that he would pray for my soul. I thanked him graciously. As I walked down the road, away from the abbey, I gave it my middle finger. Five an Orc was the actual guild rate. I had told the man ten because I knew he would try and cheat me, and I knew that I would have a better chance of getting my money if he thought he was getting some sort of bargain. Men of the cloth are notoriously stingy when it comes to settling their debts.
I knew what would happen next, of course. Or rather I didn’t know, completely, but more like heavily suspected, based on years of being a suicide. So I ducked in the woods, a quarter mile down the road to Westshire from the abbey. I dusted off my boot prints from the dirt, so if you read my tracks it would look like I simply vanished in my tracks, called up to heaven by the Prophet God. I picked a spot off in the woods, and waited.
It didn’t take long.
There were four of them. Amateurs all. The kind of rough sort you pull up from the docks in any city, especially the so-called free cities beyond the dark portal. They weren’t wearing professional garb, no mail between the lot of them. Simple peasants rags, mostly. Their weapons were the worst of it. I counted two with long knives, one with a lumberjacks axe, and one with the sort of rapier that is mostly ornamental. They had a half starved dog, which they obviously didn’t know would be no good against a proper suicide. When they reached the point where my tracks vanished, they started to argue.
“He’s in the trees!” Said the fat one with the lumberjack axe.
“Shut your mouth.” Said a skinny one with one of the long knives. He spat, and I could see a mouthful of ruined black teeth. “You think he’s a bird then? He can fly.”
“He can jump!” Blubbered the lumberjack. “Jump high, to the thick of the branches.” He scratched his mangy head. “We should have brought arrows.”
"Oh?" Said the fat one. "And who would have shot the arrows? Perhaps you could stick the bow up your fat arse, and pleasure yourself thusly."
A brief struggle ensued, in which the fat one managed to blacken the skinny ones eye, purely on accident. After which they separated, muttering curses. The one with the dog petted it on the hind-quarters, which caused the animal to wag its tail morosely. I could see that this one was merely a boy, very young indeed.
"Toby's lost the scent." Said the boy."
"Fuck that dog." The skinny one spat in the dirt. "It’s done nothing but chase a damned squirrel. This whole things a wash. I told you we should have gotten what we could out of the friar when we could have, and then headed to the pub to drink it away."
"He promised us half a talent each." Whined the fat one. "From what we got back from the suicide."
"Do you think it really was a suicide?" The boy asked. "I’ve heard the stories..."
"Every sell sword this side of the plague lands calls themselves a suicide." The skinny one said. "It’s just business, and nothing more. That lot died out a long time ago."
But I hadn’t, and to punctuate the point I took out a small dagger, and threw it so it caught in the skinny ones shoulder, buried to the hilt. He let out a howl and then fell and started to kick and thrash around. The others that weren’t carrying their weapons in their hands drew them. I rustled the bush I was hiding behind and stood up, allowing them to see me. The reaction was predictable. Shouts of "there he is!" and "let’s get him!" If they looked around them carefully, they would have spotted me long ago.
I took off on a careful run, headed back into the woods. It was careful because I was deliberately letting them see and hear me. The group chasing me made only slightly less noise than a herd of Kroog, particularly the fat one, who managed to fall down twice. The dog took the lead, yapping near my heels, but not getting close enough to bite. I doubted it would, anyway. When we reached a small clearing that I thought was perfect, I let them surround me. I took a moment to let them feel comfortable. They were cowards to the bone, the kind that would only think of killing a man in his sleep, ordinarily, unless the target was weak enough. And I didn’t want them to run. I would have to chase them. I kept my hands by my side, off my sword, and tried to look neutral. They were panting, breathing heavy from the run through the woods.
It finally happened with the skinny one. Anger from the wound I had given him earlier gave him enough courage to cry "God damn it!" And charge at me with his long knife. I drew my sword cleanly while slashing low, in the manner of the east. The cut opened up as he passed me, and his guts spilled out the wound, to his feet. He fell trying to put them back in with both hands.
I took the one who had not spoken with the most skill, afraid he would run, in a leaping thrust. After that my Valyrian blade went in neatly to rupture the fat ones heart. When I reassessed the dog was long gone, being the only member among the party with any degree of good sense.
The boy put his back to the tree, his eyes wide and bright like two shiny pennies. He looked impossibly young now, years from shaving the hair from his face. I pointed the blade in his direction. As I did blood gently dripped from the steel, making a soft patter onto the leaves.
"Who sent you?" I asked.
"The friar." He told me, confirming what I already knew.
"Are there any others?"
He shook his head. "You killed them." His voice was filled with awe. "Your sword wasn’t even drawn, and you killed Lean Tom without even trying. I’ve never seen anything like it."
"I doubt you have seen much death, boy." I told him. "How old are you?"
"Fifteen." He sniffled, a thin trail of snot running out his nose. "I’ve seen Lean Tom kill a man once, by the docks in Kings Landing. A merchant. He bought me a sweet bread with what we got." The boy shook his head again. "It wasn’t like that, though. What you did. You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?"
I said nothing.
"I didn’t want to come." The boy said. "They told me I had to. I was planning on running away once we got to the Shire. There’s work there, you can work the fields when harvest comes in, and they don’t care who you are or what you've done. But they made me do it. I didn’t want to."
"I believe you." I said gently. And then I brought the sword down fast to the back of his skull, splitting it to the brains, so that when he fell forward I would not have to see his face.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flesh Wound- One


Flesh Wound

the American Soldier

Thomas was on the front porch, smoking his pipe, when the truck pulled up the dirt road, to park in front of the cabin. He sucked deep one last draw, before stamping out the bowl next to his rocking chair. It was good shire-leaf, from away, and he didnt want to waste it. He felt the last rush to his head from the smoke, the elation making him slightly dizzy, before he looked in regret at the pile of ashes next to the rocker chair. A bit of the other world, wasted now. Impossible to get back.
The man from the truck walked up to him. He was ex-military, that was impossible not to judge, by his walk, if not his general frame. Thomas sighed. It had been a long time since Vietnam, and one hip replacement later he didnt walk so straight. When the kid got closer, Thomas could see the inconsistency, his right leg was prosthetic. A deep shiver passed through Thomas. An ounce of regret, for what was about to happen. Then he forced the smile.
"You must be Conner." He said. "I'm glad y'all could come out."
The kid offered his hand, close enough so that Thomas could see the colorful tattoes, extended from his wrist and dissapearing beneath his t-shirt. "Conner James, sir." The kid said. His grip was firm. "Are you Mr. Cowens?"
"Ya'll can stow that sir crap." Thomas said. "And Mr. Cowens was my daddy. Im just Thomas, if that's all right."
"That's cool, Thomas. I'm Conner James, then." The kid grinned. At one level he was starting to make Thomas sick. The kid was young, tan, and healthy, with dark blonde hair and green eyes. Thomas was pale white these days, with only the occasional blue vein giving him any sort of added color, and what hair there was on his head and chin had faded from grey to white long ago. Was I ever so young? He thought. Maybe. Before sixty-eight, maybe. After that I was old inside, until I matched it out.
"Put your stuff inside." Thomas waved, in the general direction of the screen door. "And get changed up. After that we'll have a little sit-down, you and me, and I'll tell you what's what. And you can tell me about yourself."
"Did you get my facebook messages?"
"That the new internet thing?" Thomas said, and laughed when the kid's face fell. "Ayuh, I got what you wrote. Someone printed the thing off for me, and I read it. I'm not one for computers, mostly. Dont have one in the cabin, and cell phones down work either. Its more or less a dead zone. But I read what you wrote, and I liked it. You wouldnt be here if I didnt."
The kid walked off to the truck, good mood restored. "If I didnt think you had a chance." Thomas continued. He hated himself, for a moment, watching the kid grab two green duffel bags, and hoist them up on his back. Then he turned to go inside.
The kid came out fully dressed in the period attire, which wasnt exactly what Thomas had in mind, but damned if he didnt look the part. "How do you feel?" Thomas asked.
"Not bad." Conner said. "How do I look? I mean, will it pass?"
"Not bad either." Thomas said. "You bought everything from our distributor? Special order?"
Conner nodded. "Jenkins had some of it tailored." He said. "To make it- to make the fit right."
"Ayuh." Thomas nodded. "They see a lot of travel over there-a lot of foreigners. You dont have to look absolute perfect, and you wont- too clean, for one thing, but it wont matter too much." He switched to the common tongue. "But you have to speak the language."
"I'm okay with it." Connor replied, in Common. "I've studied for a year, on your program."
"Have you now." Thomas said, in english this time. "Thats good. You've got an accent, but there are a lot of accents out there. You should fit right in." Thomas looked him up and down again, at the medieval-ish attire, down to the cape, and the sword in its scabbard, at the belt. "How are you with that pig-sticker?" He asked.
Conner drew it with a flourish. Thomas was pleased with the look of the blade, a mostly traditional longsword, with a plain hilt and no ornamentation. He had a fear initially that the kid would bring some guady thing with etchings and dragons that belonged only in a video game.
"I've spent three weeks going over it with Jenkins at..at your farm." Conner said. "Before that, I was part of a medieval reenactment group, back in Texas. I thought I was pretty good, until I met Jenkins, and he kicked my butt all over the place."
Thomas grinned. "Thats what I hired Jenkins for." He said. "He was a military man himself, before spending all his time with a sword. British special air service. I dont know if he mentioned it."
"He didnt." Conner said.
"I didnt find him myself." Thomas said. "The video game people did, but when I got a hold of him, and got my little plan together, I thought how useful he would be. Its paid off in spades."
"Speaking of video game...." Conner brought out a plastic sleeve, and laid it on the table, next to the remains of dinner. Thomas picked it up. He recognized the copy immediatedly. Worlds of Mourn, for the Playstation 3. Game of the Year edition. "I was hoping I could get an autograph."
Thomas did so, signing the cover with a flourish of his pen. "You realize, of course." He said. "That you cant bring this with you."
"I wasnt going to." Conner said. "Its for my nephew. He's an addict."
Thomas handed the game back. "Well, tell him thanks for playing." He said. "Then tell me a little something about yourself."
He had heard Conner's story before, of course. It was why the kid was here, why he had been chosen, out of all the possible applicants. It was still something to hear him tell it. He started with the parents, both dying when he was a teenager. From there it was the perrenial pit stop in a millenials history, nine-eleven. An enlistment in the Marines. A roadside bomb, ending a five year career, on the third tour of Iraq, and taking off Conner's right leg just above the knee.
The story got better and worse. Conner got depressed. Did something stupid with a gun, and a quick call from his wife landed him in a brief stay in a psych ward under suicide watch. Conner got divorced. Got broke. Went to college, and it didnt take. Got into something called Crossfit, and something else called MMA, some sort of fighting and exercise, and both of those did take, but the injury tempered any real competetive drive. Found out about the video game from a website, after wasting most of a month playing World of Warcraft. Loved it. When the "Learn Common to Win." Contest came out, studied for months, before submitting the Youtube vid.
"And what do you think your winning?" Thomas asked.
"Jenkins said it was the real deal, the one time I asked." Conner said.
"And what do you think that means?"
Conner scratched his head. "Ive been thinking about that." He said. "And I think either you've got the greatest LARP group of all time, out here, or you've got some sort of virtual reality stuff. Either way, its an experience, right?"
Thomas nodded. "That it is." He said. "And experience."
Conner's eyes dropped to the table. "I've had a lot of shitty ones." He said. "I dont know if thats normal, at thirty, to look at your past and see a pile of shit. Pardon my language."
Thomas got up to get in the cabinet. "Dont worry about the cussin'." He said. "I was in the Army myself, and it doesnt bother me none. As for the pile of shit, you'd be suprised. I saw things about that way, at your age, and I'll bet you'n me werent the only ones. A couple of them young rock stars, that died out when I was comin up, Janis Joplin and them. They prolly saw it too."
He found the bottle of Jack Daniels and two tumblers, and poured them each two fingers. And then he went into his own story.
In some ways it was a mirror of what the kid had told him. There was Nam, and a divorce, three of them, to be exact. There were jobs that didnt work out. Finally there was the big C, cancer, eating out his lungs and bones after twenty years of cigarettes at two packs a day. Then there was this very cabin, and a loaded shotgun, with no hope left...
"And then I went through that very door there." He pointed to the back of the cabin. "And when I came out, I was in Mourn."
To his credit, the kid did not fall over laughing, or even smirk. It might have had a little to do with how Thomas was looking at him hard in the face. "What do you think about that?" Thomas snapped, despite himself.
"Its..." Conner was struggling. "I guess..its the kind of story I wish I could tell, right now."
"Are you ready, then?" Thomas asked. A thrill of excitement ran down Conner's back.
"Sure." He said. "Lets do it."
Thomas brought up the leather bag, that had been sitting next to him. "This should be enough to get you started." He said. He brought out a small book, with parchment pages. A map was folded up in the front. Thomas drew it out. It was Mourn, beautifully detailed. Thomas brought out a coin purse, and shook several pieces out. He held up a small bronze piece. "An urn." He said. "Ten urns to a jot." The next piece was square, and square. "Ten jots to a talent." He said. "If you get one, make sure its silver, and not tin."
"How can I tell?" Conner asked.
"Bite it." Thomas said. "Tin will bend, and silver wont." He held up one more coin. It was unmistakably gold, circular with a square hole in the center. "A talent." He said. "Never pay in talents for anything besides horses, property, or well made weapons. Try not to pay that much at all. Haggle whenever you can. Most vendors expect it."
Thomas took out one last item. It was a letter written in parchment, sealed with red wax. "When you come out on the other side of the door, walk straight until you get to the road." Thomas said. "If you take it left, its ten miles to Winterhill, a good mid sized city. If you take it right, its forty miles that leads to wilderness, and forest, and cold, frozen tundra." Thomas shivered. "Its a long way, if you go right. So take it left. When you get to the city, head to the Carls seat and ask to see Octavian. You wont be admitted right away, but my letter should get you in. Your story, when you see Octavian, is that your Lord Griffen's natural son, from the southlands, and you seek to make your fortune. Have you got that?"
"Griffens son." Connor said. "Turn left. Carls seat and letter. Got it."
"Remember." Thomas said. "His natural son. Make sure you put that bit in." He got up, and took the bottle of Jack with him, taking a long swig. When he came back it was with a piece of greyish brown fur.
"Put this under your cloak." Thomas said. "Mourn gets cold, dont forget."
Conner grimaced. "It got cold in Iraq, once or twice." He said. "It actually snowed, if you believe it. I havent seen a lot of snow, since I moved to Texas."
"You'll get your fill." Thomas rubbed his eyes. "Shit. What am I forgetting? Oh right, your leg."
"What about it?" Conner asked.
"Modern things dont work." Thomas said. "Not on the other side of the door. I tried it once with a gun, and it didnt fire. I took the bullets apart and tried to light the powder with a match, and it just fizzled."
"My leg isnt a gun."
"No." Thomas said. "But theres a chance that- I dont know- the springs could burst apart. The frame could rot out. I'm not sure.
Conner looked thoughtful. "There isnt really anything complicated to it." He said. The frame is carbon fiber. I'll risk it." Thomas felt guilty for bringing it up. Of course he would risk it. What other choice did the kid have? Hobble ten miles on a wooden crutch?
"Right." Thomas said. "Are you ready?"
He hobbled over to the back door of the cabin. Bringing out the small, metal key. Putting it in the lock. Already he could feel the chill coming from the door.
"Wait." Conner said.
A sinking feeling came over Thomas' stomach. He's going to say, dont do it, he thought.
"What happened to your cancer?" Conner asked.
"Cured it." Thomas lied. "Full remission." He turned the key and swung open the door, and Conner's eyes went wide. The woods painted white with snow. Everything large and in color, somehow more of it, then through the front door. The world of Mourn.
"Good luck." Thomas said, and, resting a hand on Conner's shoulder, pushed him through, the kid staggered, and then Thomas swung the door shut, and locked it. He walked away as quickly as he could, hating himself. He poured Jack Daniels into the tumbler until it overflowed the brim, and then he tossed it back, down his throat. Whiskey spilled down the front of his shirt. How much time had he bought with this? Another year? Three months? He shivered, waiting.
Out of the corner of his eye, a shadow moved, with a pale face.
"Its done." Thomas said. "He's on his way."
"we know." The shadow hissed. "We see everything."
Thomas grew angry. "This ones good." He said. "He might make it."
The shadow laughed, and the sound made Thomas sick to his stomach. "Is that what you think?" It said. "Doesss that help you ssleep at night?" It moved behind his chair, and the presence made Thomas want to run outside, screaming. "Iss he asss good as you, Thomasss?"
"How much longer do I have?" Thomas whispered, afraid. He turned around, and screamed, "How much longer!" But the shadow was already gone, and the kid was gone, and he was alone, in a cabin in the woods.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

News! News! News!

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny , now live on the Kindle store.
Up next....
EPHRAM THE BARBARIAN, appearing right here on this blog!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny-Chapter 15

15
The Cryo level of the station was freezing cold. Mona looked inside the pod at the frozen crew member. "Is he dead?" She asked.
"According to the logs." Aleph said, "He suffered a large wound to the abdomen, and the medical staff wasnt sufficiently trained to help him. So, right before he would have expired, they placed him in cryogenic stasis."
"So, he's almost dead."
"From what I can tell." Aleph said, "The minute you wake him up, he'll flop around and bleed out, then die."
"Sounds horrible."
"And, for my plan, thats exactly what we need him to do."
"What!" Mona looked angry. "Whats your plan?"
Aleph held up a mass of wires. "This is a retinal scanner, I've rewired from the bridge. It will provide us with access to all the stations functions- including, hopefully, the military ship docked nearby. Which gives us a way home, and a massive weapon for the Colony. All we need this guy to do is look inside it, and were all set."
"And then he'll die."
"Thats right."
"We cant do that."
"Why not?"
"Its murder."
Aleph sighed deeply. "Mona, can you fix this mans wound?"
"No."
"And neither can I, and neither can Arril. That makes three people, the last three people left alive on this station. None of us have the needed medical training. This man would have died hundred of years ago, if not for this cryo-tube. The fact that he survived at all is nothing short of miraculous."
"So, we shouldnt just use him for out benefit."
"This is the best plan I've come up with." Aleph said. "It will almost certainly get us home. Remember that sythesizer? Think about all the people it could help back on the Colony, if only we could bring the schematics. This could be a real breakthrough."
Mona looked through the foggy glass. The man had a thick neck and bald head. Underneath the green medical gown he was sleeping in his skin looked pale with frost. "What was his name?" She asked softly.
"David Akerson, according to the records." Aleph said. "First officer aboard this station."
Mona stood silently for a moment. Then she nodded reluctantly.
The procedure was a complex one. Mona stood by the bank of controls for the Cryo-pods, while Aleph hovered directly over the frozen crew member. "You need to let him up slowly." Aleph said. "He needs to live long enough so that I can establish a good read on the retinal scanner. Ready?"
"Lets do this." Mona said.
Underneath her fingertips, she began the rescucitation program on the computer. Lights began to hum in the pod. A heart rate showed on the monitor followed by a stark red warning banner, for low vital signs. "He's destabilizing!" She said.
"Open the pod!" Aleph said. "Do it now!"
She hit the control. The pod door flipped open. The near-corpse awakened to gruesome life, life some malevolent Frankenstein. Blood spurted in his mid-section, across the pod and the front of Alephs uniform. "First Officer Akerson!" Aleph shouted, as he keyed the device in his hand. "Look into the retinal scanner! Do it now!"
The man screamed and thrashed around violently. Finally he began to shudder, in the action of dying. Through it all Sgt. Aleph held the retinal scanner to his eyeball, even drenched with the mans gore. There was a small beep at the end of it, not quite inaudible.
"Thats it." Aleph said. "We got what we needed. Full access throughout the station." He stood up. "I need a clean uniform. Lets get out of here."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Chapter 14

Mona pushed the red button.
From the screens on the control panel the canisters detached, assisted by tiny rockets headed for the planet below. Good luck, she thought. She had this strange sensation like she had accomplished something of immense importance, with this tiny action. Would the scientists plan work? She hoped so. Humanity had survived this long, despite everything.
Back at the dining hall, Aleph told her "I think I've figured out a way out of here."
"How?" She asked.
"We need crew member clearance to do anything." He said. "To get on board that military ship. And for that, we need a living crew member. And I think I might have one." He looked at Arril. "Hey kiddo, for this next part I think you need to go back to the room, okay? This might be messy."
"I want you to show her the guitar first." Arril said.
"The guitar?" Mona asked.
"Its a little embarrassing." Aleph said.
Back at the room Aleph brought out a long, flat case. "So me and the kid here." He said. "While you were doing what you were doing, we were digging around in the crew quarters, trying to find what we could."
"Scavenging."
"Well, not really. The idea was we would come up with some way to get access to the systems. I mean, I guess that got put on the back burner. But anyway, I found this beauty during the little expedition." He took out the guitar. "This is a Fender Stratocaster. Its one of the finest electric guitars ever made."
"How do you know about guitars?" Mona asked.
"I had one." Aleph said.
"Really."
"Remember when I told you I was trying to be a junker? Well, my one real find was an electric guitar. Just a crappy mass produced late twentieth model, but it still worked. It had an instructional tape with it on how to play. I worked on it all the time." He plugged the guitar into the amp "And lets see if I'm any good."
The music howled and stirred the room. For a moment, Mona forgot where she was. Aleph seemed to be putting his heart and soul into the work, making the instrument sing and burn.

14
The droid was not dead.
When its cameras came back on it struggled to stand up. It had been it its previous body when the explosion went off. Those systems were now mostly terminated. In its way Markus felt regret, a twinge of something akin to nolstalgia. The body had served it well, from the time the droid had reassembled itself until this moment. Then the Droid stood up in its new wartime frame.
The data transfer had been nearly instantaneous, taking all of its consciousness and transferring it into the hardened case of the Droids new head unit. From there, it was a simple matter of rebooting key systems, piece by piece, until everything was in its right place. Markus looked around the laboratory. The explosion had done a great deal of damage to many of the Droid's experimental drone creations, as well as a few modified appendages designed to function in combat. But overall, the laboratory was only an interface for Markus, with the server systems of the dome. He could quickly set up another hardwire point, in order to access what he needed to. He did, in fact, find a suitable interface in the very next room, and plugged in to the data feed. Within minutes, he had assembled the accumulated security feed from the dome, regarding every minute of the explosions, as well as key details before and after. The Droid new immediatedly what it had to do.
From outside the dome, it began to rain.
****
The rain set a frenzy on the citizens of the Colony. For one thing it was harsh, stinging eyes and skin like acid, and leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. For another it had never rained before. There was no known precendent for water falling from the sky, first drop by drop, but then with a steady patter, and soon a monsoon torrent.
At the open air market the ground quickly turned to mud, and residents scrambled for some degree of safety from the downfall. Fruits and goods tumbled into the street. Cloth coverings of stalls failed and vendors hastily tried to secure electronics which would soon be rendered useless by the bath. In the habs children screamed with fright, and mothers held them close to their breast. There was always the chance, in this rotted Earth, that everything could change in an instant, and that this could be the true end. At that time there was nothing to do but hold the one you loved or cared about as close as you could, and hope things would pass quickly.
Inside the dome the technicians watched with a degree less superstition, but no less wonder. They spoke to each other about possible reasons why. They wondered how long it would last, and whether anything would grow afterwards. In the library Ms. Witingtons students remembered the story of Noah's ark, and wondered out loud if the dome would float. In his quarters Yaryl Rogers clung to his whiskey bottle and wondered if this were all punishment for his sins. In his head the Black Century leader asked him,
What is it?
And out loud Yaryl answered "Its raining. Its raining, its raining, its raining."
Let me see, the leader whispered, so Yaryl pressed his face up to the window. Through his eyes hundreds of kilometers away the leader watched it through his GameStation room, and tried to think what it would mean to his plans.
Out on the perimeter the Colonial Guardsmen have adjusted the visors on their helmet down, to protect their vision. Biel and Den were on duty together again, as usual. Both of them were excited by the possibility the attack opened up. They were both young and foolish enough to welcome the possibility, even the eventuality of real war. Somewhere ahead of them, off in the distance, the raiders had began to assemble. Now they were scuttering for cover from the stinging rain.
****
And under the far corner of the junkpiles, where only a few drops were reaching, the raider Khef was waiting for the courier with his cargo. In his pack were data transfers of sensitive intel from the colony, a Plasma Pistol, and a plasma rifle. The electric motorcycle whirred quietly to meet him, across the wastes. The rider stood to greet him, and saluted. Khef shot him quickly in the head. The corpse crumpled to the floor, but Khef had no regrets. It was not coincidental that the cycle had only one seat. Most likely the rider had orders to give Khef the same treatment. After all, it was not long since Khef had terminated both his own men. For some reason the traitor Yaryl was being allowed to live. It seemed the leader had designs for him still.
Hours later Khef had arrived at the ruins of the Mega-city. He was either recognized on sight, or more likely his arrival was already planned for. The raiders made way for him, from each quarter to the next. Until he arrived at the very heart of the place. The leaders tower. The door automatically opened before him. He had been here before, but only once, right before his mission. He took the silver elevator up, to the top floor, where the leader would be waiting for him. The true leader, in his checkerboard Vans and skinny jeans, with an ironic t-shirt. Or so he described himself.
"What's up, Khef!" the leader hi-fived him. "Come on in, dude. Chillax for a minute."
"I have the data and equipment." Khef said.
"Cool." The leader said. "Just throw that stuff on the couch. Come on in with me to the GameStation room, and tell me what you know."
Khef's eyes grew wide when he walked in to the GameStation room, with its concave screens covering every surface of wall. The leader laughed. "Oh, shit." He said. "I forgot. You've never been here before, right? This must be total sensory overload."
"Is this where?"
"This is where I run everything." The leader said. "I mean, everything everything. Everyone of those, I guess you could call them, Leader puppet guys. Which reminds me, if you see any more tall, muscular dudes out there, let me get to them so I can pump them full of brain control juice. My supply is running low."
"What was...what was the purpose of this place?" Khef asked. "In the time before."
"That's a good question." The leader said. "You know how many raider guys I have that ask good questions?"
"No."
"Not many. Not enough. Were entering a growth phase, right now. Moving out of the simple patterns we have and becoming a full-fledged society." He pointed at Khef. "The right sort of people, that ask good questions? In a society they serve prominent roles. They become men of power." He laughed. "Aw, shit. I'm sorry. It was a room where they played something called a video game."
"Whats a video game?"
The rain lasted hours. At night when it ended there was the faint smell of moisture in the air, the hint of humidity. At dawn little green sprouts fluttered in many places around the Colony. People approached them with curiousity and wonder. Children would pick them and dart them inside their mouths before their mothers could object. Something strange and wonderful had happened. It was the first item of discussion when the Droid met with the Council.
"It rained." Witington said. "It really rained. That is something."
"Your traitor is a member of this council." Markus said.
"Impossible." Veers objected. "Why do you say that?"
"All deduction about crime can be reduced to one simple calculation." Markus said. "Who benefits?"
"No one benefits." Berks said. "At least, none of us."
"Incorrect." Markus said. "The Black Century benefits when this Colony suffers. The traitor, or should I say traitors, because we are using the plural, have been promised material gain and a position of power once this government falls. And of everyone gathered here, Yaryl Rogers stands the most to gain."
"The devil you say." Veers said. "I've known the man for years!"
"Councilman Rogers held a much different position that any of you when the old tier system was in place." Markus said. "Controlling the markets and illicit purveyment. He thinks he has lost power since the new democratic functioning has taken effect."
"Where is Veers?" Witington asked.
"In hiding, no doubt." Markus said. "The attacks are supposed to have crippled this Colony sufficiently to allow the raiders a clean sweep." He brought up a drone camera on the touch screen display, showing a Black Century horde gathering. "But two things have occured they could not possibly have calculated for. I have survived, and this rain has come to pass."
"Surely a little water wont hurt a mighty horde of raiders." Veers said. "What do you expect them to do, melt?"
"If I may interject." Witington said. "We have already seen the effects of this rain among some of our citizens in the clinic. It burns the skin, and in some cases has damages eyesight severly."
"Which is exemplary to our cause." Markus said. "But not quite the point I was attempting to make."
"Which is?" Veers said.
"I have analyzed samples of the soil in the aftermath of this torrent." Markus said. "It has undergone genetic alteration at a truly fascinating level. What was once simply a desert is becoming verdent topsoil. You can plant from our seedbank directly outside, and it will take hold."
There was murmuring from the Council. "How long will this take?" Berks asked.
"A season." Markus said. "But even when a sapling takes root, the psychological impact will be immense. This Colony will be a slim part of the world that is not rotten. Moreso than it already is."
"So lets hunt down Councilman Rogers." Witington said grimly. "One way or another, he has something to answer for."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Chapter 13

13
The green in the station was even larger than the green located in the dome, if that was at all possible. Birds cried out overhead, and monkeys swang from vines. The humidity was stifling. Mona's face broke into a smile.
"What is this area called?" She asked the AI.
"This is the biodiversity level for recreation and the prevention of space fautigue." The AI said. "It is based on the rainforests of South America."
"Its beautiful." Mona said.
"This area has been self-sustaining for the last two hundred cycles." The AI said. "Care should be taken to ensure safety from hazardous animal species."
Mona could see one of those species. From a distance a large cat was eying her, lounging on a tree limb. It flicked its tail lazily back and forth, golden eyes shining. Mona walked carefully, having no intentions of becoming the next meal.
"We have something like this back at the dome." Mona said. "How common are they? I mean, were they. before the Rot?"
"A biodiversity area can be found in nearly every level three habitat throughout the Colonies on Mars, Alpha Centauri, Titan, and on numerous geodesic domes on Earth." The AI said. "Such an area is fully funded by the Colonial agreement in any new construction of said areas."
Mona walked through the path provided. It turned to dirt in some areas. There was a roaring waterfall nearby, spanned by a catwalk. As she passed Monarch butterflies flew around her head, their wings beautiful shades of orange and black. Underneath the catwalk the waterfall turned into a gently flowing river.
On the other side was a control station, with a corpse in a chair. She was able to ignore it somehow, at this point slightly numb to the sight. In front of the corpse was a recording. It showed the sideways triangle transluscently displayed over it that meant PLAY, which meant that the recording was, in fact, paused at this moment, or stopped at the beginning of its cycle. She gently eased the chair with the skeleton over to one side, and hit the button. A middle aged woman appeared, with bright reddish-orange hair and pale green eyes.
"-Chief science officer Moira Mctaggart." The recording began. "We have retreated aboard this space station, in an effort to develop a solution to the worldwide viral outbreak known as RT-582. More commonly called the Rot. The virus seems to work on both organic and inorganic material. It seems to spread through simple touch, although there is some evidence that it can be carried on wind patterns." The woman on the screen took a deep breath, and the video ended. From there the flex screen shifted into a tile pattern, with a list of available files, all of which seemed to focus on the woman. Mona chose the next available date and pressed play.
"-Findings today have been unhelpful, to say the least. RT-582 has shown a half-live of nearly half a millenium. Thats five hundred years. Which is not to say that anything will be left standing by that time. Projections show that within six months..." The woman on the screen appeared to be blinking back tears. "Within six months ninety-eight percent of all life on Earth will be gone, for all organisms larger than a bacteria. To include plant and animal life. There is some small chance that insect life will continue, but mostly populations will be decimated by a lack of plant life."
"-What will the world look like? I imagine a vast desert. Not a sandbox, mind you, when we think of a traditional desert like the Sahara or Magobe, but a lack of life. A lack of...of anything."
"-Its staggering to think about this. Within this generation, we have enabled true AI. We have established self-sustaining power sources. Harnassed energy materials that were once the realm of fiction. All of that, all of these accomplishments, are going to be gone now. I should say, gone from Earth. Alpha Centauri and Mars still have a chance."
"-But even then, there is the possibility that the half-terraformed Martian climate will not be sufficient. Or that the existing technology produced will not sustain life indefinetely. Bare in mind that all the Colonies have been established as just that, Colonies, not as self-contained units. In their non-native habitations, there is the distinct possibility that human life will be extinct from those areas within a generation."
"-I'm a little drunk right now. I've tried to hold off on that, but its been very, very hard."
"-Found a crew member dead today. An Ensign from engineering. He was severly decomposed. I assisted with Doctor Forman with the autopsy. He had ingested a modified dosage of RT-582, apparently in capsule form. It caused almost instant death, followed by the severe composition. The only good news is that the dosage appears to be made in such a fashion to lack the severly contagious function of the species threatening all life on Earth."
"After a little research in which the security officer interrogated some of the Ensigns colleagues, the story came out that this sort of pill is getting popular right now among young people on Earth. The idea being, I guess, if your going to die slowly, and everything you know is going to be rotted away, why not just end it now? I am ashamed to say that I dont completely disagree with this sort of nihilism. Although I will do everything in my power to fight against it."
"We lost communication with the North American Mega-City today. The Pakistani and Korean Mega-Cities have been gone for nearly three weeks now. Things are really strange up here. People move about there duties in a sort of trance. At least ten people have been found dead from the Rot pill, but no one really talks about it. When I do talk to people- like Doctor Forman, its about things like how beautiful space is. How many stars there are, how many possible habitable planets. Everyones avoiding the problem staring them dead in the face."
"-I believe I had come up with a long term solution to the Rot. I say long term, because as long as it runs through its virulent primary strain, this solution wont work at all. In co-ordination with the Chinese Mega-city, which I should say is the last Mega-City at this point, we have come up with a sort of seed- pod of extremely potent mixture of organic carbon based flora. The pods can be dumped into the atmosphere, at which point they will produce a chemical rain on the target location. Which may have certain hazardous effects for any surviving population, but who's to say there will be one, at that point.
Anyway, this chemical laden rain, it will 'salt the Earth' as it were, with a mixture of seeds and extremely nutrient rich fertilizer. Its designed to be a mix of simple trees, grass, wild oats. The sort of basic mixture that can support the very bottom end of a food chain.
Now, for the time being, we do not have enough of said seed pods to support a large area. But the good part is the nutrient mixture in the cloud cover should produce several rains. So there should be one area completely covered, maybe a hundred square kilometers, but a larger area partially dosed, five hundred kilometers or a thousand or so. And in that area, as long as the Rot has run past its half-life, there should be some sign of life. Green growing things."
The woman in the video wiped away a tear. "Maybe I'm talking to some visitor from Alpha Centauri, or maybe I'm dealing with no one at all. Maybe this station has long since burned up in orbit. But there is a chance to restore what weve done. Human beings have been the butchers of this planet. We've raped her and in the process killed ourselves. If we do return, I hope that it will be on different, better terms."
In the next video Moira looks shaky, ill at ease. She isnt wearing make-up, and her eyes are darting around the room. There is a little red pill in her hand, that she holds up close for the camera. "I'm going to take it." She whispers, which she does, tossing her head back to swallow. Immediatedly her eyes go wide with horror. She brings both hands to her throat in the universal gesture for choking and whispers, "Oh, God."
What happens next is swift and terrible. There is a sound not unlike burning paper from the video. Her skin is eaten inside out. Her eyeballs fall back into her head, her lips pull back from her teeth, until finally all that is left is a withered husk of a skeleton, that matches the husk Mona has found inside the chair. Mona wishes the chair was empty, so she could sit down. She feels overwhelmed. By all of it. The state of the world, and the knowledge of how it ended.
When she looked across from her she saw the control panel.
It was an old fashioned analog control panel. The kind of thing that was a little more reliable than a touch screen, or at least thought to be that way. Knobs and switches, that sort of thing, along with two screens that looked old to the point of possibly being powered by transistors. In each of them was a picture of some sort of large white cylinder, sticking off a vestigial appendage of the space station. One screen read SP-1 and the other SP-2. From the video Mona acertained that both were the Seed pods the scientist had been talking about in the recording.







Monday, February 18, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Chapter 12

12
The meeting between Big Tate and Khef went astonishingly well, as far as Yaryl could tell.
The two men talked in private, for a while, and when Yaryl was called back in the room they were laughing like old friends.
"Where did you find this guy?" Tate said. "I've been waiting for an offer this good for some time."
"Oh?" Yaryl said. "What is it?"
"We have the sort of services our friend Tate provides in the Mega-City." Khef said.
"Whores and such." Tate added. "And a little drink, didnt you say?"
"Thats right." Khef said. "And what I proposed, is an idea that comes straight from the leader himself, the monetization of such services."
"I'm a business man, such as it is." Tate said. "And the prospect of expanding my business on a large scale is damned appealing. Would anyone care for a drink." He winked at Yaryl. "Ive got more of that good thousand year old bourbon, if your interested."
The men all drank, and Big Tate leaned back in his chair and sighed noisely. "Now the thing that gets me." He said. "Is when you use all these objects- the explosives and such, there will be an immediate backlash by the Guard on my part."
"It might not be immediate. They would have no evidence."
"It dont matter. They wont be looking over for a orgy of evidence. They'll know something went boom, or someone got shot, so's they'll be looking for me. And in this Colony, they're arent a great many places to hide. This here's sort of an open secret. I dont cause no trouble so they'll let me stay open for business."
"What exactly are we talking about here?" Yaryl asked.
"The felling of your government." Khef said.
"And governments tend to enjoy staying about, and protecting themselves. Least from what Ive read, and my limited experiences." Tate said. "So if I'm to be blamed, I need to skedaddle. I've got a fallback position in the piles. I'll lay out, until things die down."
"And thats where we come in." Khef said, pointing at Yaryl. "Our objective is to make sure the why of it is placed loosely. To spread fear and doubt. Most importantly, to make the people doubt the ability of the government to provide any sort of protection."
Back at Yaryl's quarters, as Khef and his men worked on the explosives, Yaryl asked, "What happens afterwards?"
"We've already discussed this." Khef said, dismissively.
"But I mean, long term." Yaryl said. "You defeat this Colony. Fine. What next? What happens to any of us?"
Khef smiled. "For your answer." He said. "Unbutton your shirt, and place your hand on the black mark on your heart. And you will have it."
Yaryl did as he was told.
****
And just like that, he was transported into the presence of the leader.
He was the same towering masked giant from the holding cell, only know clad in a grey and black uniform. He looked capable of any sort of murder and violence. They were on a platform, and down below legions of Black Century raiders were cheering and screaming.
"Do you know what they are, Yaryl Rogers?" The leader pointed.
Yaryl thought he might piss himself. "No sir." He stammered. "I d-dont."
"They are a means to an end. Every great empire has such a means. The Romans had their legions. The Nazis had their Stormtroopers. The Americans had their Marines. Every empire. Do you know what an empire is?"
"I th-think I do, sir."
"An empire is a working method of civilization. Notice I said working. If man were good, no such thing would be needed. But man is cruel and wrong. He has destroyed this Earth, rotted away all manner of life, and nearly killed everything. Man must be guided by a firm hand, clenched in a fist." The emperor made that gesture. "For every Cicero, there was a Ceaser. Every James Cameron had a George W. Bush. It was written across history, great thought and philosophy only comes about in an environment safe enough to cradle it, and that safety comes from the strong arms of an empire."
The leader reached over, to touch Yaryls shoulder. "Do not think yourself a traitor. The colony was doomed from beginning. It was simply a colony, after all, and not a true model of society. Rather think yourself a friend to civilization. If we do not usher in another golden age, it will at least be another age, another chapter in the book of man. And when you've faced extinction, that is truly saying something."
When Yaryl came back to himself, tears were streaming down his face.
"Did you hear what you needed?" Khef asked. "Then good. Let us begin in earnest."
Witington was teaching her class, when the first explosion went off.
She was in the library. Some of her students had nagged about that, having class in the library instead of out on the green, under the trees, but she had insisted. She wanted to do more than teach from assigned texts today, she wanted each child to pick out a book and read it. Books were key in her mind, to unlocking the riches of society long ago, and Before. Only later when things were over with, did the sickly feeling come that making this decision had saved all their lives, and hers as well.
The shockwave ruptured one of the walls, and shoved her out of her chair. She was laying on the ground for more than a few minutes, trying to reconcile the bell ringing in her head. She could see the children crying but not hear them. Kela was not crying, she was twitching slightly and lying on her side. There was fresh blood on her head. Witington said "Kela." That is, her lips moved but no sound seemed to come out. She tried to remember what to do about a head injury. Not to move the victim. Check if their breathing. She put a finger underneath Kela's nose, and slowly, she felt the bit of warm air come out.
When she staggered out of the library, to the main chamber under the dome she saw what the attack had done. The green was burning. The trees and grass were on fire. At least one person was on fire with them, swaying back and forth, arms in the air. Where were the emergency systems? At last they cut on, and billowing foam shot out of automated nozzles, battling the flames.
Her hearing was just coming back when the second explosion went off, and the third. One seemed to come from above, inside the dome, the other nearby outside. She saw Colonial Guardsmen scrambling nearby. Was this it, then? Were they under attack? Were the raiders just outside, waiting to kill them all, and rape/eat their corpses? She had never really put together a plan, for that eventuality, and the shudder of fear moved through her visibly, until her bowels gave way, staining the front of her dress.
That night was a hard one.
They found out one of the flaws in their Colony. There was no real place for a mass casualty event. The clinic took in the injured, and the sick houses took in the ill and dying. But the victims of the five explosions did not fall into either of those categories. There were amputations. There were burns. There were people with shrapnel peppering their bodies, or foreign objects piercing their skin. With her self-taught medical training, Witington did what work she could as a nurse. She tried to hide back the tears, when she saw the bodies. They piled up the bodies in the morgue, on tables covered with sheets, but they soon ran out of tables, and laid the dead on the floor. Then they ran out of sheets. She managed to fall asleep in a side closet of the clinic, and was woken by Berks shaking her shoulder.
"I know its asking a lot." He said. "But the Council needs to convene."
"Your right." She stood up. "We should of done it earlier."
Berks gave her a hug, suddenly, and the sudden affection sent shudders through Witington. "I was afraid I lost you." He said. "Us old fuddies need to stick together."
"I'm fine." She said. "Really, I am. I was with the children, in the library."
Berks face went slack. "Oh God." He said. "How..."
"Kela was knocked unconscious. The rest of them should be okay."
"I saw the bodies." Berks said. "And I saw that there were some of them, the little ones. I didnt know what to think."
They killed children, Witington thought. They killed children and people enjoying what may be the last piece of green on Earth. She started to shake again, not with fear this time, but anger.
"Lets go." She said.
****
All four of them were there, Witington, Berks, Yaryl Rogers and General Veers. "Lets begin." Berks said, "by stating the facts. General Veers?"
"At ten-twenty-three AM today." Veers said, "There was a series of five explosions in five seperate locations throughout this Colony. Fifty-seven people were killed and over two hundred were injured."
There was a moment of silence, as this information sinked in.
"The Colonial Guard has been fully mobilized." Veers said. "A perimeter has been set up around high value areas. Access to the dome has been restricted to emergency personnel only. The targets of the explosion are as follows: An open-air marketplace, the biodiversity area, the produce storage area, a technical area with prototype equipment, and a holding facility inside the Guard military compound."
Witington ticked over the list, and her fears grew. "In english." Veers said, "They hit the market, the fresh food, the trees inside the dome, the Droid, and our prisoner."
"Where is the Droid right now?"
"We have recovered his body." Veers said. "That is, one of his body. It is unresponsive."
"That doesnt mean his dead." Berks said. "Or off-line, or whatnot. The last time I spoke with Markus, he told me he had overridden the programming of the dome to supplement his own."
"Regardless." Veers said. The body is unresponsive."
"What about the food?" Witington asked.
"The produce was utterly destroyed." Veers said. "However, the embryonic storage area was unharmed."
"So the attackers were smart." Yaryl said. "They didnt want to destroy all the food- or at least not our ability to get food. They just wanted to take out what we had."
"The marketplace was were the heaviest casualties were inflicted." Veers said. Due to the highest concentration of citizens. As for the attack on the Guard itself, the raider prisoner was killed." Veers paused. "And several plasma weapons are unacounted for."
"Theres no doubt in my mind, then." Berks said. "It was them. We are at war."
Veers slammed his fist down. "We have been sloppy!" He exploded. "We allowed too many refugees in, too fast. Now innocent people are dead."
"It does appear that way." Yaryl said. "I move that we formally sequester all recent citizens until we resolve this issue."
"Now just a minute!" Witington said. "Your going to blame innocent people for this? Simply because they havent been here as long as the rest of us?"

Saturday, February 16, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny-chapter 11

Yaryl Rogers stood stock still.
He could hear the leader sending a voice, straight into his brain.
You.
I know you are here.
traitor.
The Century's time is coming soon.....
11
Mona woke up with Arril tugging on her arm.
"Five more minutes." She said.
"I'm hungry now." Arril told her.
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Aleph was next to her, snoring contentedly. Vague images of the night before crawled through her mind. It had been a long time, she thought. At least he was a little bit cute. Then she remembered she was in her underwear.
"Get out of here!" She told Arril.
"But I'm hungry."
"Give my a chance to get dressed. Then we'll get breakfast."
They made their way up the twists and turns back to the dining area. The synthesizer prepared them eggs and bacon, with biscuits, coffee, and orange juice. Arril dug into his plate eagerly. Now that Mona wasnt starving she could taste the difference in the synthesized food. It was just a little bit off, not quite perfect to what she had had in the dome. But still, she remembered her youth. MRE's or rations, or more often nothing. When they had half finished Aleph joined them.
"Slept in?" Mona teased.
Aleph nodded. "I guess I took the opprotunity. Not a lot of chances to do that in the Guard."
"Whats on the agenda for today?" She asked.
"Explore!" Arril said.
"Thats a good idea." Aleph said. "We need a better grip on whats out here. The controls systems, the life support. As well as a ride back home."
"Thank you can drive us back?" Mona grinned.
"The flight up here was automated." Aleph said. "Maybe the one back will be as well. And if not, we can get that AI system to give us pointers. If all else fails, there might be a simulator or tutorials."
"I want to find out more about that synthesizer." Mona said. "Get that sort of tech back to the dome, we can reproduce it and solve the food problem."
"Agreed." Aleph said. "Bet from here on out," He pointed at Arril. "We stick together. And that means no running off, okay sport!"
Arril nodded.
The cheery AI led them up to the Control center, navigating the way with a constant stream of bits and pieces long forgotten. "Did you know the colony on Alpha Centauri has based their starships on Virgin Galactic! Its a fact! Also, this model of space station is often reffered to as a "Sisko" in honor of a television program from the late twentieth century? Its a fact!"
"Where is Alpha Centuari?" Arril asked. "And what television program?"
The AI beeped. "Alpha Centauri is one point two light years from Earth." It said. "And the television program was called Gene Roddenberry's Wagon train to the stars: Deep Space."
"Thats a crappy name." Arril said. "I like Star Wars."
The doors slid open and the AI intoned, "Welcome to the bridge!"
Herer Mona let out a little gasp. The overwhelmingly ordered, white, clinically clean appearance of the rest of the space station was gone. There was some sort of red emergency light flashing on and off. Between five or ten of the decaying skeletons were here, taking up several console chairs. Touchscreen panels nearby looked cracked, or displayed error messages. There was a large screen in front, which displayed the red and white font of Virgin Galactic, in broad letters across a starry screen that Mona recognized as a screensaver.
"Arril." Sgt. Aleph said, "Why dont you stay back here with Mona while I take a look around?" It was  a wholly unnecesary little speech. The child was already hiding his face in Mona's shirt. Aleph slowly walked the length of the bridge, pausing at every corpse. Finally he made his way back to the elevator shaft. "It looks clear." He said.
"Is there anything we can do from here?" Mona asked the AI.
"All bridge functions secured in emergency mode." The AI answered. "A staff level password is needed for authorization."
"What about the life-support." Aleph asked. "Hows that working out?"
"Atmospheric and gravitational systems on line and stable."
"Lets get out of here." Aleph said. "No reason for the kid to see this."
The next stop was the docking bay.
"Right back where we came from." Aleph said, tapping a nearby console. "Think you can get into this thing?"
Mona spent a few minutes working on a touchscreen. "No." She finally concluded. "Were locked out of any sort of staff member authorization."
"So does it tell us anything?"
"Nothing good. Its calling the vehicle that flew us up a single-directional pod."
"What does that mean?"
"Far as I can tell, its a one way vehicle for something that flies us up here." She pointed to a nearby ramp marked DEPARTURES. "With their being an entirely different one way vehicle to fly us back."
"What kind of system was that, to do anything?"
"From what I would guess? A luxury one. An automated trip into space and an automated trip back. You could eat or drink on the ride, have fun once you got there."
Aleph shook his head. "They had so much back then." He said. "And didnt even think about it."
He pointed to an area marked MILITARY RESTRICTION. "That looks promising. Lets check it out."
The military area marked a different look to the station. The clean white interior gave way to hardened steel, made for function. When they reached a locked door, Aleph took out a keycard and swiped it. The door beeped and hissed open.
"Whered you get that?" Mona asked.
"Found it on one of the stiffs on the bridge." Aleph said. "I checked the civilian crew as well. Looks like the civvies had a different way of handling their security."
"Retinal scanners." Mona said. "I saw one on the bridge."
Aleph whistled. "Would you look at that."
Through the window, floating in a field of debris sat a starship that was clearly built for one purpose; war. Weaponry bristled off its sides and nose. It resembled nothing more than a sleek metallic bird of prey.
"I think that's our ride." Aleph said. "If we can only figure out how to get the thing to work."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny-Chapter 10

In the morning Yaryl introduced the dome technicians to Khef, his new personal aide, and asked for full access to all programs. He was suprised enough for his mouth to drop open when he was granted it. Throughout the procedure he was sweating bullets.
So Khef was the contact inside the dome. One of the other men was in training to become a technician. The other two were enlisted into the planetary Guard. With a little glad-handing to General Veers, Yaryl had arranged a promotion for both. After the first days work was done, Yaryl suffered painful diarhhea. Khef pulled him to the side, afterwards, in Yaryls own quarters.
"You arent well." Khef said.
"I'll be fine."
Khef shook his head. "If I can tell others can tell. You are a key part of this task. Two individuals today came up to ask about your well being."
"I dont have anything." Yaryl said. "No Rot or Dysentery."
"But you have fear." Khef said. "Fear is the mind-killer. Your mind is a treasure box for the Century and our Leader. We need them, both in good working order."
Yaryl took in a deep gulp of air. "I dont mean." He said. "I dont mean to fear."
Khef smiled, suprisingly warm. "Do you think we are savages?"
"No!" Yaryl said. "I mean, I didnt say that."
"But you were thinking it." Khef said. "You were thinking that my brothers and I were going to swoop in, and put everyone to the knife. Burn this dome of yours to the ground."
Yaryl kept silent, but nodded.
"It has been discussed." Khef said, "The possibility of keeping a two- tiered society within the Black Century. For example, this area would be under a different ruleset than the Mega-City. In keeping with your unique...traditions. What sort of meat you eat, and so forth."
"I hadnt thought about it." Yaryl said.
"What I want to convey to you now." Khef said, "Is that all this, it will still be here. The dome will be here. The houses and markets and such. Even these little trees....how on this Rotted Earth did you get them to grow?"
"Genetic Engineering, from the domes archives."
"Genetic Engineering." Khef repeated, as if it were some sort of magic. "It could become a symbol of our civilization. The century trees. Not everything must be blood and pain and chaos. That is only the birthing pains, for what is to come next. We will create something with strength and order, and there will be a future for our world." Khef's handheld communicator lit up. He looked at it and his eyes went wide. "Something urgent has happened." He said, "That needs my immediate attention." Without another word, he left the quarters.
After he was gone. Yaryl noticed that the communicator was still on the table. He picked it up, and plugged in into a flex screen nearby. He picked it up and plugged it in. There was information on it, coded in a way he couldnt understand, but what he immediatedly got were the pictures. There was the Black Century, with their guns and armor and tanks. There was someone horrible looking, with a metal mask over his face that Yaryl assumed was the leader of the raiders. Finally there were the meat pens.
His face twitched as he stared at it. All those people, mostly guant, mostly naked. The pictures told the story in a slideshow. They were kept in the pens, and herded. They shit in corners and ate from troughs. Finally they were butchered, a single spike to the head, and a knife across the throat. The absolute worst of it was a banquet feast at the end. It contained far more civility than he assumed the raiders had, officers dressed in crisp uniforms, smiling ear to ear, next to pretty women. On the table was a baby roasted on a spit. Yaryl put the flex screen down.
There was still time. He could go to General Veers, and tell him everything. It would mean banishment, most likely, but it was better than this. He could make up some story. About how he was forced to do it, how they had blackmailed him. No! Better yet, he would tell them he had discovered a plot. A few refugees he had vouched for, had turned out to be assassins. He would report the entire thing, and come out a hero. But Khef and the others would talk. They would implicate him? And what of all his hard work? He could be the leader of the Colony, under the Black Century! Well, if not the leader, than assuredly some sort of governer. Here he was nothing more than a third rate merchant, and ugly besides. So what if they ate human flesh? According to that old bitch Witington, a lot of the refugees did the same thing. Besides, it would be kind of funny of they chopped her bony ass up, and ate her. Not a lot of meat to go around....
****
As Councilman Rogers sat in his quarters contemplating the consequences and potential rewards of his betrayal the supreme leader of the Black Century sat in his GameStation room and contemplated as his Avatar was led inside the military quarters of the Colonial Guardsmen, restrained. He was making a recording of everything that he could see at the time. There was certainly a lot of information to process in. He considered the events that had directly preceded his capture. The rest of his men were busy fighting to the death, with the non-lethal weapons he had foolishly assigned them for this simple mission, when he had the notion to drop his weapon and raise his hands in surrender. It was apparently something that took the Guardsmen off guard, so to speak.
From there it was a suprisingly long ride in a cramped ATV to the Colony. The Leader took the opprotunity to place the avatar in standby mode, and get up and stretch. He opened up screens switching on one of the standby bodies he kept. The Century would not be rudderless, not even for a minute. To ensure this, and quell any rumors, he had the other leader body run a simple program where it walked through the ranks, making a public appearance. Then, using a degree of foresight, he contact Khef through their bond and told him of the events that had transpired.
When the ATV arrived and he was ushered into the military quarters, he was stripped out, and all his hidden weapons taken from him. He was not completely defenseless, of course. The mask was surgically attached to his face. The was an explosive secreted inside it, powerful enough to do some short-term damage. Take the head off the body, and maybe do a little additional harm to anyone standing nearby. But now it was time to wait. Wait and be patient.
The planning paid off. An older, fat Guardsmen came in, with shiny silver stars on his collar that meant high rank.
"I'm General Veers." He said.
"A pleasure." The leader replied, "I am the Black Century."
"Do you have something else you can call yourself?"
"It doesnt matter who I am, does it?" The leader said.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Today is a bad day: A Manifesto

I got in a fight with my wife at six o clock in the morning today, and I dont really feel like writing the next chapter in my newest book. Instead I'll tell you a little bit about why I do what I do, and how I do it.
To start with, I work a bad job that I hate. This is not a plea for sympathy or anything. The job pays me well enough to live a comfortable middle class existence. I simply hate it. If you were to go back in time and tell the ten year old me, or the fifteen year old me "For the rest of your life you will work for the ______ as a ______" he would be pretty upset.
I have given up on this job completely. Every day I do the bare minimum. I will never be promoted, or transfer to a better location, I simply will exist in this space.
I have little to no contact with my family members. They live a thousand miles away. I call my parents maybe once a month. They are all a part of a small cult of religious fundamentalist, which I dont approve of and have been excomunnicated by.
I believe my wife hates me, and is planning to get a divorce once she finishes college. I believe this because she tells me this directly to my face, and often. She also criticizes my weight and body odor, among other things. I have been trying to stay at work longer and longer to avoid her.
The one thing that keeps me going is my writing.
Everyday I start out with a goal of two thousand words. Whatever story I am writing, add two thousand words to it, for at least five days a week. Once I've written a length of thirty to fifty thousand words, I cut the umbiblical cord, get a cover made up, and ship my baby off to the Amazon Kindle store. I have been doing this now since 2010. I have started making actual money since 2011.
The highest royalty check I have been paid is $1400. The average is around $300. When I started I made nothing, didnt sell a copy.
My wife controls the finances with an iron fist (although she doesnt work) but the money I make off of Amazon is mine. I spend it on stuff I enjoy, mostly books or comics or video games, which she criticizes.
I write whatever I want. Usually military fiction, based on my time in the Marines, or genre fiction, such as science fiction or fantasy. The worlds in my head are mine and mine alone.
I have gotten five star reviews, and I have gotten one star reviews. I dont give a flying fuck either way. I dont care if anyone reads my work. Thats not why I write. If you like it, good for you, but the same if you dont.
This feels good to get out.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Prologue

Mona awoke in the morning to the gentle sounds of her Ipod alarm. She tried to place the name of the band, or what kind of music it was. Rock. Folk rock? No, indie rock, alternative, from the early twenty-first century. She lay there for a minute or two longer, letting it all soak in, and not wanting to get out of bed. The sunlight was coming in gentle through her hab window. There was static on the pod for a second, and then the voice of Berks came across with the mornings broadcast.
"Six twenty four in the morning...a good morning to you, and to all the residents of our fair colony...today is yellow ticket day for fresh produce from the dome...sixteen days since our last dust storm, lets be prepared...lets get out there and do our part for humanity!"
The Ipod switched back over, and she finally placed the band as Wilco.
She had MRE coffee, but didnt want MRE coffee. There was real coffee in the dome. A scarce amount of coffee plants had been cultivated, carefully, that the first-class citizens had jealously hoarded and cultivated. Real coffee. With real milk from one of the dome cows, or goats even. Goat milk wasnt half bad. Anything to clear out the fog in her head. But she had a blue ticket, not a yellow one, so there was no ration for her today, from any of it. Which meant that she was going to have to hit up the market. She looked around in her hab for something decent to trade, and found a flex screen. She rolled it up and put it in her jacket. A quick look in the mirror, brushing back her stark white hair, and then it was out the door she went.
Mona lived at the edge of the Joshua trees, which was as close to the dome as she wanted to get. The dome loomed over everything, and if she wanted she could have gotten a pass to live inside. But there was a cramped feeling in there, for her, a loss of connection. What good was green growing things and tech marvels if it wasnt part of the world? For her, real good game from what already was. Like the gnarled tree out her window. It clung to life, gene-engineered to live in the soil of the Rot- festered Earth that could seemingly hold nothing. This was a small miracle. Soon more would come, and the green would take hold. It was a dream that nearly all shared.
At the market it was a general bartering for items crafted in the dome, scavenged from the piles, and a mix in between. The highest price items were food. Food was once a currency, with rations being used to exchange goods and currency, and still could be used that way, from time to time. But many folks were doing better than that, and used electronic currency inscribed upon their Colonist identification, the way folks did in the time before. She made her way over to Abdul, whose face lit up when he saw her, with a wide beaming smile.
"Miss Mona! What will you be having."
"Do you have real coffee?"
"Beans fresh from the dome, if you have the credits!"
"Do you take trade?"
"If its good? Of course!"
Mona leaned in close, to minimize the chance of a thief seeing what she had, and snatching it away. She activated the flex screen, running through a few programs, and a movie clip.
"Ah, Miss Mona, I already have a laptop!" Abdul said.
"This has everything your laptop has." Mona said, and more."
Abdul looked it over and shrugged. "As you say. I can give it to my son, or trade it otherwise, follow me, please."
An off-duty Colonial Guardsman was standing by the tent flap of Abdul's stall. Inside was a variety of produce, apples, mangoes, tomatoes. Abdul opened a small package and inhaled the flavor. "As I said, fresh beans. I roast them myself, and I grind them.." He put the beans in a small machine..."Here!"
Soon the tent was filled with the smell of fresh, hot, coffee. Mona savored her cup, letting the caffiene slowly seep into her, waking her up for the days routine. Abdul sipped his own cup. "How is business these days?" Mona asked.
Abdul scowled. "Everyone wants fresh and better." He said. "In the old days, when the dome was sealed up, everyone was content with rations. Or MRE's. Whatever you could get! But now, people want what they can get. They say, Abdul, your meat is rotten, or, Abdul, your bananas are going brown. Get your own bloody bananas from the dome, I tell them! But they dont listen. They would rather complain to me."
"Still." Mona said, "At least they can eat."
Abdul shrugged. "I liked it better before." He said. "With the old council, everyone knew their place, and the riff raff stayed out near the piles. Now we take them in."
Mona finished her coffee, and thanked him graciously.
She made her way back to the dome. A Guardsmen checked her ID badge as she went through. Inside she felt relief, fresh air, oxygen generated from the last trees on earth. The sound of animals. Witington set up her classroom right in the middle of the green, usually, making the technicians move around them. Mona thought it was the right thing to do. This world belonged to the children, or at least it would, one day. The Junker Girl stood quietly, and listened.
"Can anyone tell me the name of the story we read yesterday?" Witington asked.
"Noah's ark!" A child said.
"And what did we learn from Noah's ark?"
"God is mean." A boy said.
"Thats not it! Your stupid!" A girl replied.
"Your stupid."
"Well, Sam." Witington said, "No one is stupid. And what actually can be a very grown up lesson."
"So God is mean?"
"Well." Witington said, "What they call God in the story, we call nature. And nature can be mean, sometimes. Things can be hard in life."
"Like for the ref-you-gees." A boy said, struggling with the word.
"Thats right." Witington said, "Like with the refugees. Most people dont have what we do here, in this dome. Can anyone tell me what we have?"
"Food!"
"Trees!"
"An-ingmals!"
"Thats right." Witington said, "And the reason we have those things is because we have what is called a controlled habitat. And in the story, Noah's ark was a controlled habitat. It contained two of every animal."
"Teacher." a child said, "Is there every animal inside the dome?"
"I can answer that." Mona said. "There isnt. But we have the genetic material for most of them."
"Hi, Mona!" Some of the class said.
"Class." Witington said, "Can anyone tell me what genetic material is?"
"Its the building blocks." A boy said. "Its the stuff things are made out of."
"What sort of things?"
"People like you and me." The boy said, "And plants and animals."
"Thank you, Arril." Witington said. "And that is another way this dome is like the ark. What was the Rot? Can anyone tell me?"
"A bad thing." A girl shyly said, "That killed everyone, a long time ago."
"Yes, Elie." Witington said. "The Rot was a bad thing. It killed almost everyone, and almost everything. But a few lucky people managed to stick around, and a few things werent destroyed. And we are the great-great-grandchildren of the ones that did." Witington clapped her hands. "Now is everyone ready for Ms. Mona's class trip?"
The children cheered.
At the trucks next to the dome, Witington told Mona, "Thank you for doing this. They look forward to your trip all week."
"I should thank you." Mona said, "Someday I might have kids myself, and you teach our only school."
Witington smiled. "Is there someone I should know about?"
"No." Mona said. "Not since-" She willed herself not to say Skip.
Witington gave her a hug. "You've gotten so tall!" She said. "Your were a little whisp of a thing when you first got here."
"All grown up." Mona said.
"Well." Witington said. "You were pretty grown up to begin with."

Monday, February 4, 2013

the Junker Girl and Her Destiny- Chapter 8

The supreme leader of the Black Century awoke on what was once a very nice guest suite inside Mega-City Alpha. He had fallen asleep in his t-shirt and jeans again. It was one of his favorite t-shirts, referencing a series of video games known as Call of Duty from the early twenty-first century. The jeans were pretty good too. Hopping out of bed, he went to put on a pair of checkerboard Vans and brush his teeth. Instead of a shower, he applied deoderant. Breakfast was a few handfuls of sugary cereal. The basics out of the way, it was time to go to work.
The GameStation room consisted of a solid screen that curved around a corner to another. On the floor in the center was a biometric sofa that looked something like a bean bag chair. The screen saver was currently on, showing an aquarium of exotic fish. He clapped his hands and it dissapeared. The first person view of the dictator came up.
Over a hundred of the raiders were genetically linked to his controls here in the suite. Mostly he used the dictator. The dictator had started life as a very tall, muscular soul, with a half-rotted face. Now the leader dressed him in something that looked between Cobra Commander and Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Appearance was everything, when you dealt with a legion of bloodthirsty cannibals. A voice synthesizer helped too, made the dictator sound like a cross between Bane and Darth Vader. His aide was droning on in the boardroom.
"Five hundred infantry." He was saying. "Fifty-seven tanks. Eighty-four trucks."
"The numbers dont mean anything." The leader said, through the dictator. "The Colonists have those Plasma weapons."
"It is possible we can overwhelm them through sheer numbers." The aide said.
"And then what? Pillage everything? Rape the women, and eat the survivors?"
The aide looked nervous over the top of his glasses. "There are certain protocols that we have established."
"Here's the problem." the leader said. "No one had these sorts of weapons. Everyone used small arms. And then, suddenly we have this great technology from the time before. How long were we fighting the Piss Yellows?"
"Approximately three years."
"Three years, of skirmishes and major battles. And then gone. In one round from these Colonist, what was left was hardly worth mopping up."
"We have benefitted from the lack of competition." The aide said.
The dictator leaned in close. "Do you know the difference between a cannibal and a regular person?"
"No." The aide stuttered. "No, I dont."
"A cannibal looks at you and sees a piece of meat. A source of foodstuffs he can use. If you dont give a cannibal something new to do, some new target, he's going to look at you and get hungry. Are you interested in becoming dinner?"
"No. No sir."
"Me neither. We need this colony. We need it burnt to the ground, and all its secrets revealed."
The aide said coughed slightly. The dictator wondered if he was getting sick. A sick aide would be no good. He would have to go to the meat pens, and he would know it. What was his name, anyway? Once there had been an aide named Sephers. Sephers was a good one, kept the books straight and troops fed. Some idiot had let loose with a stray burst from an AR at a banquet table and Sephers had caught a slug right between the eyes. The dictator had had the man flogged, but it turned out to be a fairly valuable warrior, so an execution was out of the question.
The dictator opened up a picture-in-picture in the GameStation room to the feeding pens. The livestock area looked a little overcrowded. Some of them were crying, and almost all of them were naked. He sighed. If you stressed the herd out, frightened them to much, the meat tasted worse. You fed the people. You kept them warm and safe. You gave them a place to shit and sleep. And then, you thinned the herd a little, and slaughtered what you needed. You cooked the meat and seasoned it if that was available. There was a variety of things you could do with pork, and long pork was still pork. There was a bored looking raider standing guard to the pens, and the dictator opened up an intercom channel to him.
"This is your leader." He snapped. "Find some clothes for the meat."
The raider jumped up, panicking. "What do I use?"
"Use sacks if you have to." The dictator said, "But keep them covered."
From there the dictator jumped back into his usual body for public appearances, and set it walking with the GameStation controls. It was always good for the men to see him visible, lest anyone get any ideas.
He had the barest inklings of what the program was used for before he found it. A way to remotely control prisoners, and send them off on televised deathmatches. Once a man was infected with the virus most of his willpower shut off completely. He became little more than a puppet. Such puppets had allowed the dictator to rise to the place of power he possessed. He was a one man Hydra. If one body was killed in a battle, another took its place, wearing the same clothing, possesing the same synthesized, mechanical voice. The men took a sort of superstitious fear to him, which worked well for his purposes. Immortality was hard for primitive cannibals to overcome.
Most the time he appeared before the Upper Caste of the Mega City. These were the raiders who had distinguished themselves, through battle or some other skill. He had encouraged them to adopt a larger tone of civility than the rabble. Standard rules applied, mostly unspoken, such as,
1.Cook food before eating it, whenever you can help it
2. Avoid wearing trinkets made from human flesh
And to these he had stretched the rules further. Wear a uniform. Avoid beating the whores in public. Think about not eating all the children, sons could be useful. His goal, his utmost, striving, goal, was for the Black Century to become more than just a strong group. He wanted it to become a country, like Imperial Rome or Nazi Germany. He had appropriated much of the imagery, the strong use of black and dark grey, occasions of bright red. There was hope in the dictators heart, beneath all this. If man were to survive, he would need to be strong. The world was ruined, from what could be seen. What hope did they have otherwise?
The dictator scanned through the comm channels, from inside the GameStation, until he found what he was looking for. A patrol was about to leave out, headed through the west gate. He cut into their traffic. "This is your leader." He said. "Do not disembark until told to do so. I will be joining your expedition."
The patrol was light. Eight people in two vehicles, light technical trucks for quick capture. The commander saluted crisply, in his dark grey uniform with a red beret. The rest of the raiders were adorned in the standard black patchwork of scavanged clothing that bore the mark of their tribe. At least they are in black, the dictator thought. Uniformity does make a difference.
"My lord." The commander addressed him.
"Commander." The dictator said. "The purpose of this patrol?"
"Standard encapture."
"Number of targets?"
"Four possible. Two male, one or two female."
"Use non-lethal force, unless challenged directly." The dictator said. "We need the stock for the pens." To their credit, the raiders did not grumble about this, or contradict him. The dictator made certain he had a heavy barreled Assault Rifle for himself, just in case.
The patrol left through the west gate, making good speed. Outside the west gate was a derelict section of the Mega City itself, that had succumbed to Rot at a somewhat greater speed than the sections inhabited by the Black Century. Far enough in it, among the sands half-swallowing doors and windows, a scavenger might be tempted to find shelter, and look for food. It was a great big honey pot of a trap, an easy target for the raiders, who constantly needed fresh meat for the pens.
A twinge of sadness came through the dictator as he sat on the biometric sofa in the GameStation room. Times like this he wished he could go out in the real thing, feel the wind through his hair. But still. He resolved to straighten his puppets back, and look presentable for the men. Appearance was everything.
They found the stragglers when the convoy took fire.
It was nothing too major. Light small arms fire from a handgun, or a pair of handguns. The bullets cracked near the trucks harmlessly. The reaction, or in the dictators eyes, overreaction, was nearly immediate. The entire convoy opened fire on the burned out, half buried structure where the muzzle flashes were barely visible.