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Escape on Tekmar (?), sample chapter 8

13 Nov

I will put up ten chapters, which is about half of the novel. I will also probably take at least the last four down sometime after I have published the novel, although not maybe immediately.

Still thinking about the planet name. Well, Tekmar doesn’t look too bad, now does it? 🙂 Names are funny, they can give the weirdest associations sometimes. Well, ‘tek-‘ might remind one of ‘technology’, which is perhaps not the best possible name for a planet which is deemed to be rather primitive in the universe of this story, but on the other hand it does rather fit a science fiction story.

 

I will probably use Tekmar.

 

Chapter Eight

They were all dressed as peons now, including Rahan, a small bunch of young people, looking perhaps healthier and, due to that, also taller than the peons were in general, but while the discrepancy was noticeable to Rahan nobody else seemed to be paying much attention, certainly not the peons.

He hoped that would also hold true to the police or the Ytjar. The peons were perhaps ignoring them out of a sense of self-preservation since the ruling class here seemed to be holding their power with open bullying tactics, but the low level bullies working for the big guys might be a bit more bold, especially when it came to doing their duties even when most of these rebels were related to, and as it seemed to some extent protected, by their bosses.

On the other hand, for all he knew the latest craze for the high born kids here might be roleplaying games, including ones where they would go and mingle with the peons, and their own group might then be just one of many here…

One could hope.

The place they were going to turned out to be a big yard filled with bags of used clothes.

“Okay, these are going to a village outside the city where they will become the raw material for new clothes, but before they will be packed into those trucks,” Lida pointed towards three very old fashioned looking ones standing in line on one end of the wide yard – tires and, from the smell, engines which ran on wood alcohol – “they will be sorted, and the more badly worn thrown into that pile, the others will go back into the bags. We will mingle with these people and start doing that – you stay with me – and when the trucks are nearly full there will be bit of a disturbance away from the trucks and you and I, and a couple of the guys, will hide between the bags in there. These have never been checked, so far, well sometimes they have opened the back doors and looked inside but they have never started to look through the cargo, much less used something like a heat viewer, so this should be relatively safe. This method haven’t been used much, only once or twice during the last three years, usually we smuggle things out of the city in our own flyers. That is the method the Ytjar and police are more familiar with.”

She had spoken very fast, hardly taking the time to breath between sentences.

Rahan nodded.

He still wasn’t sure how far he would be able to trust Lida. Much less these friends of hers. They hadn’t acted particularly friendly towards him, and Lida was now nervous every damn time she talked with him.

But maybe it was just the inconvenience of having to make arrangements, and risk their necks, for an outsider. He might have been a bit pissed too, in their place.

***

After the police let him go Ryn had gone to check the place where Rahan’s com was, and had retrieved it from the storm drain.

The police had tried to tail him, but even when he knew he would not be able to lose them completely – the city had both flying and fixed cams around, and he stood out, badly – he had been in the mood to make things as difficult as possible for them so he had kept losing his tails. They still didn’t get quite how fast he could move, or how well he was aware of the people, and everything else, around him.

The police who had tried interrogating him had not known any more than what the AI had been able to find from the nets. Rahan’s girl was involved in some sort of illegal activities – they seemed to be mostly fairly benign efforts, such as educating members of the peon class, and to get them better medical care, but there were also some hints that there might even be a threat of an armed rebellion. There had been some terrorist tactics used. Gun smuggling, spying, building of an activist net both from some members of the noble classes and from peons, only the hints indicated they were divided into cells which were not in direct contact with each other.

This was a young movement. No telling which way it might go.

He stepped into a side alley, then sprinted to the middle of it and jumped up to the low roof of one of the buildings and flattened himself down, hearing the tail starting to run on the street in order to catch him but then running right past him, to the other end of the alley.

Ryn grinned. In spite of his worry over Rahan he was enjoying the cat and mouse game. He had been confined inside the ship far too long.

He got back on the street a couple of roofs later, the same one he had been on before – right now the tail was probably a street or two towards the east from it – coming to it from one of the enclosed small yards between the buildings.

The locals gave him looks and a wide berth, but while they did not seem at all happy about his presence none had tried to get confrontational, so far. He suspected he would not be served in any of the cafes or shops that now, as he was getting closer to the starport again, were starting to dot the ground floors of the buildings, but looked like he wouldn’t have to worry about anything like hanging mobs.

The two things he would not be able to do were moving around without being noticed, not without a camo suit which was something they did not have in the ship – he could ditch the tails, but they would easily find him again, if not by using the cams then simply by asking if anybody had seen an exceptionally tall dark skinned man around. The peons didn’t like the police, but their distaste for him was even greater so they’d talk. But they would not talk to him, and that was the other thing he would not be able to do here, talk with people.

He would of course be able to get some information simply by asking questions and then estimating the reactions to those questions, but while he sometimes was able to get close to a telepath’s level with mind reading he would not be able to go and dig for what somebody knew from a distance like a telepath could. In order for him to read somebody that person would need to think about the information he wanted to find while facing him and close to him, and even then he might get things wrong when the person was not somebody he knew, nor from a culture he was familiar with, and that limited things quite a bit. The interrogators had been more easy since they had, of course, revealed quite a lot simply by the questions they had asked, but that had been one situation, getting info out of somebody who’d probably refuse both to answer or to stay and wait for further questions was another. He could wander around for days and never find anything important, while getting the natives all riled up by bothering them. Not a good idea.

The guards at the landing field gate did not ask any questions. That fitted what Rahan had told him, they searched you when you left the field, but didn’t seem to be particularly interested when you returned, more worried about contraband going out than of contraband coming in. As for the person himself, no problems as long as they knew you were somebody who belonged there and was not wanted by the police, and that was something their coms told them.

Once back inside the ship he downloaded the information Rahan’s com had gathered during the last days he had had it, but apart from some interesting conversations with the girl – Lida – he found nothing he could use to figure out where Rahan was now.

But some of those conversations were interesting, not because of what she said but because of the way she said it. What seemed clear was that the girl had been hiding something from Rahan, and had been feeling… guilty, perhaps… about it. But he could not tell more by just her voice, and that was all the com had recorded.

What had the boy gotten himself into?

***

The ride in the back of the truck had been comfortable enough at first that Rahan had fallen asleep, right after they had passed the last checkpoint dotting the roads leading to and from the city, but gradually the relatively well paved streets had given way to country roads, and those were bumpy enough that he had woken up. He had given up trying to go back to sleep after the second time he had rolled off from the pile of cloth bags he had arranged into something like a bed all the way to one of the walls, and had hit it with enough force to rattle his teeth.

Lida had given him a somewhat sheepish grin when he had located her wedged into one of the corners, several bags between her and the walls. Whether she had done this before or not, she at least knew what to expect.

It was noisy enough that there was no point trying to talk to her. Or the two men, but since they had, so far, exhibited no desire to talk with Rahan he probably wouldn’t have tried in any case.

So he had settled to wait. Since both of the corners closest to the truck cab had already been taken he had dug into a pile of the bags next to one of the walls, hoping that their weight might keep him a bit better in place.

***

The message came as a letter. One written on some sort of typewriter, something Ryn was able to see because he had seen those devices, even gotten the chance to try using one once before, when visiting another backwards colony as child with his father. The letter  had been enclosed in an envelope, and had been deposited on the ship’s AI monitored mail slot, which, according to the AI, had never been used before. The man who had left it had been wearing the overalls used by one of the cleaning crews who worked for the field. The AI had not been able to find any additional information about him. He didn’t seem to be a regular member of the crew he had been with.

Something he could not trace.

He thought he could smell male pheromones when he sniffed the letter, and ones possibly left by a male who was nervous, although that might have been just his imagination as his sense of smell was not really that acute. When he told the AI to take a look he learned that the paper seemed to be something made locally, but that didn’t do him much good under the circumstances. The AI would also, now, be able to recognize everything else written by that same typewriter, would be able to say if the typist had been the same, and would know the typewriter if it was ever shown it. None of which was of any use to him right now either. It confirmed his guess of a male, and possibly a nervous one, also that there had been at least two other males dealing with the letter and the envelope. The other traces were more faint. The delivery boy had not touched more than the envelope.

The contents of the message were sparse. It told him that Rahan was alright except for a twisted ankle, and would be kept safe until the ship was repaired. Where and when Ryn would then find him, an alley behind a certain building in the city, where Rahan would be dropped by the rebels – or whatever they were, the letter just talked about ‘friends’ – during the early morning rush hour two days from now. And instructions how he would be able to get there and bring Rahan back without being seen, which included how he would be able to leave the port without being seen.

“Can you verify any of this?” he asked.

The AI’s voice, adjusted to a range which could as well has been that of a low voiced woman or that of a bit higher range man, was as even as it always was. Ships this small usually had ones with no self-awareness, and no personality except the ones programmed into them by the crew. Rahan preferred ones with none. If it was not a person, something self-aware and with a naturally grown personality then better let it sound like what it was, a machine. “According to the blueprints I found when I hacked into those parts of the city net which are not public, yes, there really seems to be an old remnant of the original water drainage system underneath that corner of the field, one large enough that a person, even one as tall as you, can walk inside without having to bend more than their head. Whether it is possible to access it in the way described in the letter can not be verified. The house, as described, also does stand in the address given, the alley is behind it, and all the alleys and backyards they instructed you to use after you get out of the drainage tunnel also exist, as described. The data about working, and not working, surveillance equipment in the area and the given route there also seems to fit what I can find. As to the rest of the letter, I can’t give any other verifications.”

Ryn sighed and leaned back in the chair.

This made him somewhat uneasy. But he could not think of any reason why anybody would have gone to these lengths to get at them. He didn’t have access to anything of much value, apart from his pay, and all he had with him – something that held true for Rahan as well – was what he had accumulated during the last few months, and even in the economy of this planet it was not that much. There was the ship and the Corps spending account, but the ship had a mind of its own and Ryn could not order it to do anything like submit to new owners – and it monitored the use of that spending account as well, and their use of that credit depended on its approval.

And while the people here didn’t like his kind – hell, they very much disapproved of his whole existence, thinking of it as an affront against nature – and these young rebels presumably would not have shed any tears over any trouble he got into here, nor over his death, he couldn’t think of anything they might gain by trying to trap him. Much less doing it by going to such lengths as kidnapping Rahan for bait…

And if they disappeared here both the Corps and his people would come looking. And they would not stop looking until they found out what had happened.

And the Shemasharra would find that out. They had been designed as fighters, and as hunters. Hunters of men. And the Maylo clan was one of the best when it came to hunting.

Maybe this really was as it seemed. Rahan had met a girl, they had hit it off and the girl had kept seeing him because she liked his company, but she had been involved in illegal activities and because of them trouble had found her, at a time when Rahan had been with her and so had got entangled in it. And now she, and her friends, felt bad enough that they were trying to help the kid to escape the planet.

He hoped he was right.

“Record everything. Hide it in the next bundle of messages the Startalk station will send out, and keep track of, and record, everything which might seem even remotely connected to this in any of the nets. I will go to the designated meeting point, at the designated time. If I can return with cadet Kendal we will need to lift off immediately, and then either find some place to hide in the system until help arrives or take the risk and jump.”

“Yes sir. If we stay would recommend the smaller of the gas giants. The locals don’t seem to have anything going on around there, and it should be relatively easy to hide in the upper cloud layer for long enough. The power plant is functioning at top capacity, and the sublight drive works well enough. The lowest risk jump would be to the supply point in the Wala system.”

“Accepted. Prepare the flight plans for both. I will decide depending on the response our lift-off gets.”

“Yes sir,” the AI answered again.

Ryn sighed again, then got up to make himself a meal.

Escape on somewhere, sample chapter 7

10 Nov

I’m still vacillating when it comes to the name of the planet. Rudanos I like, but now I started thinking about the fact that the main character is named Rahan, and the Shemasharra guy is called Ryn, and that may be too many names starting with R in one story. Rahan and Ryn are, hopefully, just different enough that they won’t confuse anybody, but maybe I should use something different for the planet after all.

So, back to the mythology books. Well, this time I looked at older Greek deities, and found a goddess called Tekmar. Seems to have been the lady of limits and end of lives. Scary. Well, the planet is supposed to be dangerous (or rather the people there) so… maybe. I will think about this for a few days.

Chapter Seven

Ryn had known the police would be coming sooner or later. The AI had informed him that the Ytjar had identified their male suspect as one of the offworlders from one of the five ships currently sitting on their single starport. The men outside the hatch were, however, members of the regular police. Not that surprising though, the Ytjar had jurisdiction over the regular police, and could use them to do their dirty work when necessary.

“Should I open the hatch?” the AI inquired.

“Yes. If they require me to go with them I will. Keep tabs of all the information you can get at.” Ryn wasn’t particularly worried about his own safety. These people presumably knew what he was. But they had no experience dealing with people like him.

And if he saw people who knew something face to face he’d find out what that person knew. That might give him the lead which would help him to start unravelling this whole tangled ball of yarn. Information was what he needed most of all right now. He would not be able to act until he knew at least something.

It would be still be over a week before the ship would be able to make a jump safely – provided the police would not prevent the repair shop from fulfilling their contract – but it would be able to get into space. If he got Rahan back they could either risk a jump, or hide somewhere in the system and wait for help to arrive.

But he needed to find the boy first.

***

The headache was the first thing Rahan noticed.

The next one was that he was lying down, but not on the floor, on something at least a touch softer.

He spend a few moments listening before he finally opened his eyes. It was fairly quiet, there were some sounds of the kind of traffic you’ll hear in any larger town or city but they were muted, and he heard nothing indicating anyone was there – wherever there was – with him. Something which got confirmed when he did look around.

A bare room, with walls, floor and a slanted ceiling consisting of raw, rather new looking planks. One window, small and closed. The bed he was on, one shaky looking small table, three chairs, one of which was missing a leg. One closed door.

“Looks like I have come up in the world,” he muttered to himself. “From the cellar to the attic. Yee. Lets celebrate.”

He felt slightly dizzy when he sat up, and needed to rest a bit before he dared to stand up. Had he conked his head when he fell? The knock-out gasses or liquids which could be used as an aerosol, the few he knew about, shouldn’t have affected him like this.

But none of them should have made him pass out for more than a few minutes either. Presumably he had been given something after the initial attack.

It was full daylight behind the small window. Rahan walked to it, shuffling his feet a bit, and saw a scene consisting mostly of rooftops, and some higher buildings in the horizon, plus a blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds sailing across it.

Yep, attic.

How high an attic was one question. How well guarded was a different one. Was he a prisoner or a guest?

And ‘where’ was the third. The scene didn’t look like the more sparsely built area – and those buildings had been lower than these seemed to be, and there had been trees – where the building with the cellar had been.

He could not see to the ground from the window, and he could not open it for a better look either.

Should he break it? The glass seemed thick, but he doubted it was nothing more than ordinary window glass.

Next he tried the door, but it was every bit as locked as he had assumed it would be. Rahan spend some time examining the hinges and the lock of the door, but then retired back to the cot.

He needed information.

Food and drink might be nice too. Not to mention toilet…

He settled down to wait.

***

It took maybe an hour, but then he heard a key being used in the lock, and the door opened. The first person who came in was a woman, but not Lida. Her face was almost completely covered with a bright lime colored scarf, and she was carrying a tray with some bowls and a tall glass on it.

After her a man came in. He was sporting a scarf too, only his was black, and instead of a tray with food and drink he had some sort of rifle with him. Rahan peered at it but could not make out much, the make was unfamiliar. All he could tell that it was of the type which used ammo, not an energy weapon.

“Eat and drink. Your friend will come soon. She will tell you what you need to know,” the man said while the woman put the tray on the table  and then left.

“Okay. Any chance of a toilet visit?”

The man shook his head, then yelled something in an unknown language, without taking his eyes off Rahan.

After a moment the woman came back in carrying a plastic bucket and a roll of toilet paper. She put it against the wall and left again, and this time the man followed her.

“Okay, I guess that will do.”

The armed man had seemed fairly professional. No openings. Except for the fact that Rahan could have attacked the unarmed woman who came in first.

He wasn’t sure what to make of that. If anything.

***

He had just finished eating when Lida finally came in. This time the guard didn’t step in, but Rahan thought he heard him, just outside the door.

Lida was dressed differently than before. The generic look was still similar, bright pastels, a tunic and trousers, but it had, before, seemed like an upscale imitation of what the lower classes here wore, now the cloth was the cheap synthetic and her leather boots had been changed for the cloth slippers used by the all the poorer people here. And her hair had been straightened and dyed black when it had been dark brown and curly before.

“So… how about some explanations?” he asked.

“Yes, I guess I owe you that,” Lida said and blushed lightly.

Rahan got up from the chair and walked to the cot, then slopped on it and crossed his arms. She took the chair he had been using and brought it next to the cot, then turned it around and sat down, resting her arms on the its back, and sighed.

“Sorry I got you involved in this mess.”

“And what mess would that be, precisely?”

Lida looked at her hands for a moment, then said slowly:” You know the system we have here?”

He nodded.

“Okay. It’s kind of… well, it’s just not right, is it? The peons are practically slaves, and it’s almost impossible for anyone born into that class to rise out of it. They have no power, and they are permanently poor, and…”

“I get it. Let me guess, you want to change things?”

She glanced at him and went back to studying her hands. They looked a bit different now too. There was ingrained grime on her palms and underneath her now short fingernails. Whoever had designed her disguise was either experienced, or smart.

“Yes,” she said quietly. “Anything wrong with that?”

“Nothing. A lot. Depends on how you are going about it.”

“We have secret schools for the peons, and we distribute medicines and have hidden autodocs, and we are trying to organize them so that when there finally is an election maybe we can keep it honest…”

“Does sound recommendable,” Rahan said while studying her face.

Was she being honest? The man with the gun had seemed pretty experienced too. Considering what little he had learned about this planet Lida’s organization would need to know how to deal with violence, but how much violence were they willing to use? Underground teachers, rebels or terrorists?

And would she know?

“You are a noble yourself?” he then asked.

Lida nodded. “I wanted to do something. My parents are… not bad, but they are unwilling to disturb the status quo because they are scared of the consequences. But I wanted to do something. That friend I talked about…”

“The one who died?”

She nodded again. “Yes, she was in before me.

“And it’s possible her flyer accident wasn’t an accident. The Ytjar… they can play ugly.”

“Why did they jump you? Have they found out about you?”

“One of those men had maybe seen me when they almost caught up with one of our med shipments two months ago, or possibly there was a cam I didn’t notice, and they have images of me now. I really am going offplanet, and that’s the main reason. So, he recognized me, anyway, and since it was away from the nobles’ compounds – I am still safe there, a lot of the nobles are not all that involved in politics, and the Ytjar do not want to cause any alarms among them. And I’m not the only child of the Families who is involved either and many of the parents kind of turn a blind eye to us, and while they might let it slide if any of us get caught here, as long as the sentence wasn’t too harsh anyway, they would definitely get angry if their own area was disturbed. I guess the elders kind of see it as a phase most of us will outgrow, or something. We do suspect that if one of us becomes too much trouble in the opinion of the Ytjar – and if the High Lords approve – there may be an ‘accident’, there have been some suspicious ones, although they probably are very careful about doing those.

“So, to repeat, I’m personally not in that much danger, probably, even if I get caught outside our compounds I will just have to sit in a slammer for a while but it’s unlikely they will otherwise do any more than make my parents pay for me, and that they can easily afford. And my family is… pretty well connected… an accident, like the one that happened to Becca, is unlikely. Becca’s family is pretty low tier. They had no resources the Ytjar would have needed to worry about. If it was arranged it was well done too, it really could have been just an accident. It’s just that there have been more of those lately than there should have been if they were all just real accidents. And unless the family pays for a private investigation there is no way to tell which are real ones and which have, maybe, been arranged. Mine definitely would if anything happened to me. So I don’t worry too much about this.

“But you… if they catch you it could be worse. You are Corps, but they don’t respect the Corps all that much here.”

“They should,” Rahan said drily. “So what now, then?”

“You can’t go back to the ship. The landing field is too well guarded, you would not be able to get inside. But once your ship has been fixed – it’s not likely they will try to interfere with that, the nobles do want more ships to visit and any rumors of that kind of trouble would be bad to the port’s reputation. It’s one thing if a crew member gets arrested for a crime, another if the police then go after his ship when there is no real proof that the rest of its crew was involved, so no, they will not do anything like that, your ship will get fixed. And once it has been – it can land anywhere, right?”

“That ship is Survey. Yeah, it can land anywhere.”

“Well, your shipmate -”

“The captain. He is my commanding officer, and captain of that ship.”

“Your captain can then take off and pick you up from the country, right?”

“What kind of planetary defenses do you have here?”

“Hardly anything, just some robots and a pretty lousy missile system. They will know what happened though, the surveillance is good enough, and they may send something after the ship, but it won’t be anything particularly dangerous, and your ships, the Corps ships, they do have good combat preparedness too, right?”

“Yes. Very.”

“Okay. What we have planned is this: we will sneak you out of the city, and get word where to find you to your captain. He will take off once the ship is ready and make a slight detour, pick you up, and you will be good and gone.”

Rahan frowned. “Are you sure you can’t get me in contact with my ship now? You do have encrypted communications between yourselves? It should not be that hard to call the ship.”

Lida shook her head. “Our leaders don’t want to. You lost your com, and we can’t go back there to look for it. We have eavesdropped on the police net, and you have been identified. Which means any communications through the local channels to and from your ship will be very closely monitored now, and we are not that much better than they are, we operate mostly on the strength of trying to be where they are not right then looking. The plan was to send the information on an actual letter, you know, paper?” she said and grinned a bit, “We do have some friends in a couple of the cleaning crews which work on the field, one of them could hand deliver it. When the time is right. But that might take days.

“So, I’d really recommend that you go with our plan. Your captain will have to worry for a couple of days, but the Ytjar vigilance will surely slacken after a short while, and then we can tell him. And getting you from the country with the ship would be a lot easier than trying to get you into the ship while it’s still in that field. And it’s a lot safer there too, the Ytjar and the police are most active here in the city. So how about it?”

Well, it did sound like a reasonably good plan. If everything she had told him was true.

Did he trust her?

He wasn’t… quite sure. But he wanted to. And the alternatives he had weren’t good. No, he would probably not be able to sneak back to the ship, not easily, the port was well guarded. And even if he could and the ship had not been fixed… well, they could jump, but it would be risky, and he wasn’t sure if that was an acceptable risk, or whether Ryn would think it was. One alternative of course was for him to hide somewhere on his own and try sneaking back when the repairs had been done, but he didn’t know much of anything about the planet so hiding here for days might be difficult for him without help. And he knew nobody here but Lida.

He decided to trust the girl. For now.

But he would keep his eyes open.

***

Ryn had been sitting in the police station for several hours now.

They were trying to make him nervous. Mostly he was slightly amused. They knew what he was, but since they only had theoretical knowledge of his abilities they didn’t quite believe in them.

If he wanted out of here he would get out of here. The only complication was that it would probably require killing quite a few of these people, but killing  people like most of these seemed to be was not something he had any personal problems with. And his own superiors –  if there seemed to be any justifiable reason to suspect that his life or well-being might be in danger, or even if he was only detained but feared for the life or well-being of his crew, that being one idiot cadet, so he had to get out in order to go after and try to rescue said cadet – they would probably approve.

Even the human ones.

But as long as there seemed to be no pressing need to get out he would not risk harming them. He might not give a damn about them but he preferred things clean and ordered. Doing something which would, no doubt, be seen as inappropriate behavior by at least some human groups would not be be that.

He yawned and settled more comfortably. He was sitting on the floor of the interrogation cell, leaning against the wall. There were chairs in here, two of them, on both sides of the table, but they were not very comfortable, especially not to somebody his size.

He could wait. It would be interesting to see how long the local police would.

New cover painting for Demons

3 Nov

EPSON scanner image

 

 

 

 

 

Finally. And this is not exactly great, but I think it’s at least an improvement to that boring dark doorway.

Some photos

1 Nov

Oh well, since it’s this time of the year and all, and I still want to edit the fourth chapter a tad before I put it up, some pictures of the local graveyard.

And one of me. Yes, I said I wouldn’t show any recent ones, but this fits the theme.

hautuumaa 6 hautuumaa 9 hautuumaa 12hautuumaa 2hautuumaa 10kl black:white

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. I’ll put the fourth chapter up sometime during the next 24 hours – free day, so I have plenty of time to finish the editing now.

Brief interlude

23 Oct

once upon a timeVery brief. But since I have published one picture of my mother, why not… this is what I used to look like. That’s a scan of my driver’s license picture, minus the badly faded color. Lovely late 70’s glasses and all… And not a chance I’d show what I look like now. 😉

Real life interfering with the important stuff

21 Oct

This week is going to be consumed mostly by working. And I need to take the old tom to vet, he needs to get his teeth checked. Which is going to cost… oh dear. Hopefully I can squeeze in a few hours of writing between the hours of working.

That villain is having a fun time so far. I have started to write in his scenes, and the good point, as far as making things easier for me, is the fact that he does not meet Rahan at all until towards the end, so I don’t need to adjust much in what I have already written in order to get him in, I can write him his own scenes where he observes, plans and plots the heroes’ demise (no, I have never seen any of the original ‘Perils of Pauline’ or other such silent serials, but I am quite fond of those older movies you can find online, and some of the new talkies did make fun of the older ones with their mustache twirling baddies – if you are young enough to have no idea what I’m talking about go look soonest, your education is lacking). Unfortunately he does not have a mustache he could twirl, being a clean cut fellow who looks like somebody’s ideal son-in-law candidate, honest and trustworthy. Ambitious, maybe, but wouldn’t that be an asset in a son-in-law? He also seems to have the name ‘Kerrin’. No idea where that came from. Current United States Secretary of State? Njah, surely not… well, any resemblance is accidental, I don’t actually know much of anything of that politician, but the name has been in news somewhat during the last few months so that is one possible source. 🙂 Half of the time I use those fantasy name generators you find online, sometimes a name just pops into my mind, occasionally the character seems to have one when he appears. I usually try to adjust the names I find a bit, to the extent it’s possible so that people who are supposed to be of the same ethnicity and language would have names which at least sound vaguely similar so ‘Kerrin’ may need a bit of work, so far the names used by the people of that world seem to be getting a somewhat Baltic slant, but we’ll see.

Okay. My next blog post should appear either around the next weekend, or the next Wednesday after that, and then it will be the third sample chapter. I aim for the weekend.

sample chapter 2

12 Oct

And some more infodumping. I think this is going to take a while to edit, when I get down to it. Right now I have maybe two thirds, or a bit over, written, so it will take at least a few weeks before I’m even done with that, and then it’s probably a good idea to keep a short break before I go for the edits.

Chapter 2

The ships used by the Survey branch of the Corps were among the most durable ever built.

That didn’t mean they were maintenance free. Their ship started to complain about a worn jump field grav capacitor when they were two days off planet, and one day away from the designated jump point.

“How many jumps can we do?” Rahan asked the AI.

“The ship can perform one with close to a hundred percent probability of finishing it. On the second the probability will drop to about 95 %. On the third it will be about 78 %. On the fourth 60 %. On the fifth…” The grav capacitors were needed to get in and out of the FTL flight bubble.

“Yes, we are getting it,” Rahan said, sounding somewhat grumpy even to himself in spite of  trying to keep his irritation out of his voice.

“What’s the nearest place with repair facilities?” Ryn asked, his voice carefully modulated into calmness. Rahan suspected he was still fuming, and that this setback was pissing him off as much as it was him. Rahan might not be a mindreader himself, but by now he thought he knew Ryn pretty well.

If the capacitor failed they might drop out of the FTL in the middle of a jump. That was potentially dangerous in itself, although these newer ships had fail safe systems which usually meant they’d emerge in one piece. The problem was that the ship did not have a startalk station. Those needed nearly as much power as the FTL drive itself did, and were usually installed only in the largest ships.

So if they dropped into normal space, and without the ability to go back to FTL, they might be lost for years, decades or even centuries. Even that was not a death sentence because the same technology which had given humans FTL had given them reliable stasis – which did not require that much power to maintain, just to start and finish, so the occupants would be able to wait in their boxes until they were found. And the jump paths between the stars were fairly constant, so their people would have some idea where to go looking.

But it meant the risk of losing everybody and everything they were familiar with, their families, their friends, the places they knew…

Rahan’s answer to Ryn was equally professional. This was business. You didn’t play games with subjects like this. “There are three. Closest will need only one jump, of two day duration.” They were called ‘jumps’ but they took subjective time anyway. “Seems to be a class six civilization, but they have been in contact for nearly a century now so presumably they will have the necessary facilities…” Rahan asked for a new database search from the AI “…yep, they should. The system is called Wala, it has two potentially habitable planets but only one terraformed one, Madalait. One of the last sublight wave colonies, so they haven’t been there that long, probably only about a thousand standards, and the people come from two second wave colonies, Mercaro and Suzanish. Okay, looks like that means that I could for once blend in.”

Rahan had slightly curly black hair and brown eyes, but his skin was almost porcelain white and he took forever to tan when he tried to do it naturally. A bit harsher star and he’d burn rather than tan if he forgot to take the pill. If somebody described his looks, with the narrow nose and the ‘round’ eyes he’d be said to look European and since that was a fairly rare look now Rahan was used to being somebody who stood out in most crowds. There were no humans of pure anything ancestry anymore, but certain broad traits in looks still existed, and the names of some of Terran continents had lived on as a shorthand for certain types of looks: African, Asian – sometimes divided into North and South – and European, and some people also used more specialized names, like ‘Chinese’ or ‘Indian’ or ‘Scandinavian’, although those were more rare. But they were used just for looks, now, since the mixing which had happened during the different waves of colonizations meant that some people who now got called ‘Asians’ because their ancestors had happened to have enough people with that heritage for the the looks to become dominant might have a culture which derived mostly from what had once existed in some parts of South America mixed with heavy doses of ancient Scandinavian, while some called ‘Africans’ might have recognized early space age Chinese culture with American influences as the most likely ancestor to theirs, while an other group of ‘Africans’, looking exactly the same, would have felt most kinship with the white Canadians of the mid-period slowship colonization era of old Earth.

And then there were the colonies which had developed completely unprecedented new cultures from the older blends, ones which gave an endless source of work for cultural historians who would happily spend careers trying to untangle the different threads and figure which came from where.

Mercaro was a well established and developed planet with mostly European-African people, Suzanish a considerably more backward one of almost purely European ones, and the people of Madalait seemed to look mostly like Europeans with some hints of African. Rahan might look a touch pale compared to most of them, but yes, he thought he’d probably should be able to blend in well enough.

“Looks like they had a feudal society when contacted,” Rahan then continued, “serfs and lords and all that. Well, seems they are called peons and lords…”

“Presumably still have, then. You can’t change something like that in less than a man’s lifetime.”

“I’ll look… well, not officially, but yeah, the practical system doesn’t seem to have changed much. Just names.”

Ryn played with his own com a bit, downloading most of what the ship had concerning Madalait, and after a moment of looking at the highlights sighed. “The Corps main database lists a warning.”

“What…” Rahan had done the same and now searched. “They are… okay, they will not like you.”

“And not even disguising my eyes will help. They know about the Shemasharra, they know we are usually very dark and tall…”

“And as they do not see that many offworlders they are suspicious of anyone who looks like they might be one of you, and most of them act at least somewhat hostile towards all dark skinned and taller than average visitors… Yea, that does explain some things.” More humans had darker skin tones than didn’t. The planet was in a place where it should have, just by being where it was, gotten somewhat more traffic than it seemed to be getting. But if negotiating and trading with the locals would become difficult simply for looking a bit like one might be a Shemasharra…

Yes, that would explain some of its even lower than expected traffic.

“It’s still the best alternative. So we’d have a pretty good probability of reaching the other two, they’d both need two jumps, but since the main problem with Madalait is that you will have to do most of the work outside the ship,” he turned to look at Rahan and grinned – maybe he was starting to calm down a bit for real. “We’ll go there. I can play catch up with my reports.”

Rahan grinned back. “As if you had anything left unfinished.”

***

They touched down on the main starport. Or rather, the only official one. That was on the surface, while there were a few stations in near space, and one in orbit, they seemed to be purely for entertainment and research purposes – they had hotels, nightclubs and restaurants, and/or labs, but no real facilities for ships, nor much in the way of shops, not even stores catering to ships with something like foodstuffs. There were two where the interstellar liners embarked and disembarked their passengers, but even those got their supplies and got their repairs done on the surface. The big ones, those which could not land on a planet, did not come here at all.

So surface it was.

The planet’s tilt was similar to Old Terra, and there were two moons, both small, and a third natural satellite which would not be visible from the surface except as a fast moving pinprick of light. It was in the middle of a severe glaciation, and the poles and those parts of the hemispheres close to them were covered in ice, leaving the habitable area as a wide corridor around the equator. There seemed to be no real tropics, just shift from tundra to taiga to deciduous forest to a bit warmer climate version of deciduous forest, and then back, with a few small deserts here and there, and one big one, a mostly dry sea basin sitting right on the equator and between two continental plates which were in the beginning stages of the very slow motion collision of active plate tectonics. Rahan thought there was probably an interesting story for how that basin had managed to completely dry up, for it was not only a large one, it was also a rather deep one. There was also one spot where it was walled from the nearest ocean by only a very narrow looking isthmus. Drop a big enough bomb there and you’d get a really magnificent waterfall for several decades, possibly a century or more.

He grinned when he thought of that. Maybe somebody ought to suggest that to the people in charge here. From what he had looked at so far the colony very obviously was in need of money, and also seemed to lack any obvious means to get it. Offworld tourism was something that could bring in big bucks, especially since this world was not that far off the more travelled lanes, but there’d have to be something more than just rustic charm to draw it. ‘The biggest waterfall in known universe’ might be just what the doctor ordered.

On the longer perspective, the fact that the planet did have active plate tectonics promised good for its long term viability as a living planet. The fact that it had been completely dead before terraforming also meant that it would be one of those planets where the Terran biosphere might continue to develop as a purely Terran biosphere instead of the more normal hybrid between the imported life and the original alien micro-organic one.

One celled, and smaller, life had turned out to be rather normal on the planets sitting on the Goldilocks zones of different stars. But so far no explorers had found anything which would have resembled the original Terran biosphere. Usually you’d need some microvisor system to even see any of the found aliens, at least if you wanted to see more than some sort of slimy biofilm. Most had been different enough to prevent actual merging of the two forms of life, native and imported, but even so they always affected each other at least to some extent. Purely Terran biospheres were somewhat rare, and valued.

Most of the planet was covered in oceans, roughly a 70 %, and those seemed to be well stocked with Terran life. So was most of the ice-free land. A large part of that land was too far north or south for full human comfort, but that still left a more than large enough area for the rather small colony. There was also only one as it hadn’t yet grown large enough to split into different countries, a development which seemed rather inevitable after a certain size had been reached, somewhat depending on the habitability of the planet and how easy it was for dissenting groups to go forth and establish their own jurisdictions – or what stage of technological development the colony had kept or regained, for it was always a bit easier to establish a worldwide tyranny, any sort of tyranny, at a point when surveillance was easy but the populace did not yet have easy access to efficient countermeasures.

This one seemed to be something of a tyranny, in fact.

“Be careful,” Ryn had warned when Rahan had first ventured out after their landing. “Remember the database warnings.”

“Aye aye, I will. Highly corruptible officials should be good too, though, I can always bribe my way out if there are problems.”

“If you have enough credit and they didn’t get a better offer from somebody else. Or an order they dare not refuse since they live here and the elite in power seem to have a pretty thorough grip of the system right now.

“Just be careful, okay? They don’t like the Corps much here, even the human members. Remember that. Keep a low profile.”

Rahan grinned as he thought of that discussion. Ryn could be such a handwringer sometimes. Especially when he had to delegate.

Getting out of the ship on his own was good. The business of negotiating for the repairs had been swiftly done, and not overly expensive. Although he supposed he had ended up overpaying compared to what the locals did the price had not exceeded their budget, so good enough. And it was not on his credit anyway, this was a Corps ship and a Corps mission and Corps money paid for maintenance so the fact was he didn’t particularly care.

And after spending several months on the unpopulated planets he now had plenty of saved pay to use here.

***

The man was young, and had not been working long at the spaceport. It was his first job, actually. And he rather liked it, so at first he hesitated when he finally managed to crack the code protecting the information concerning the Corps ship which had landed a day earlier.

He was comfortable enough when it came to searching for forbidden knowledge in the databases for he had every confidence in his abilities as a hacker.

Forwarding that knowledge to people who might do something with it, something which might make it obvious that there had been a security breach, was something else.

But in the end his loyalty to the movement won out.

“Kerrin?”

“Yes.”

“I may have what you asked about in the last meeting. A Corps ship. The Survey branch, at least the ship is registered to them.”

“Yes?” The voice was cold.

He had never liked Kerrin, the man was a bitch. Not a son of a bitch, but a bitch.

But he was the contact.

“There seems to be one of them onboard. And what’s more, it’s a male one.”

A silence. Then: “Tell me more.”

***

The area close to the port had, of course, been the first Rahan explored. And entertaining enough on its own to merit several days. There were bars, brothels (which he intended to stay away from – even if he did not, on principle, have nothing against the concept of buying sex, providing the prostitutes were doing the job of their own choice, he had not done it himself and felt no particular urge to remedy his worldly education, or lack of, in that subject), restaurants, all kinds of shops selling both local goods and cheap imports. And a rather interesting looking open air bazaar. He had not, so far, never seen a real bazaar in person, so he figured that was going to keep him amused for several days.

So far he had only taken some preliminary looks. This, his third free day, was going to involve some more thorough combing of a few branches of that bazaar.

He knew he had several days. The repairs were going to take a while. The job itself was not complicated, but manufacturing the necessary parts was – according to the shop foreman he had talked with – going to take days since they had to purchase the schematics for printing those parts from offplanet. And for starters the next time they would be able to contact the seller had been four days away. Interstellar communication was expensive, it took almost as much power as flying a ship between stars did, and on planets like this it was not maintained continuously. You took your message, gave it to the operators and they would send those messages as a bundle maybe once a week or twice a week, or on some places once a month or even only once or twice a year.

They had been lucky enough to be in reach of a planet where the communication happened as often as once a week. There had been some talk about trying to buy the rights to keep the schematics in the ship databases, but so far the negotiations had not gone through except for the warships, for which the Corps had been willing to pay more. Those patents would still be valid for nearly four centuries too, so it did not look likely they’d get them in the near future, probably not in Rahan’s lifetime.

And by the time those patents got old the Corps would most likely be using newer ships.

That system meant things could get difficult, even dangerous, at times, but if the ship was in no particular hurry it also meant long shore leaves when stopping for repairs for the inmates – sorry, crew – so Rahan had decided, early on, that he rather liked the system the way it was now.

So, four days until the shop send the request for the schematics, a week after that before they’d get them (if lucky), and a few days after that until the work would be done. At least they seemed to have the materials needed for printing those parts in stock.

So – he had at least two weeks. Two weeks during which Ryn would be confined to the ship, and he’d be mostly free to explore this place. Not much undone jobs in the ship, and not much he even could do there. He had done his reports, the ship needed no maintenance they could do, and he was ahead with his coursework.

So, off to the bazaar!

Rahan took a last look behind, at the ship, gave it – and the man inside it – a one finger salute, and strode off, grinning from ear to ear.

Covers, covers, covers

28 Sep

Just a few comments this time, but considering what I’m seeing with my current free download I wanted to bring this up.

I have two of the short stories free on Amazon, until Monday, and the way they have been downloaded is, once again, reinforcing the idea that covers can matter quite a bit when it comes to what people go after.

So, short stories usually seem to be much less popular than novels. And when it comes to shorts the longer ones are usually more popular than the shorter ones. The stories I have for free now are ‘Raven’s Night’ and ‘After the Night Descends’. The first one is an estimated 9 pages (well, I’d say six, but Amazon says 9, so lets go by their estimation) while the second is about 22 pages long. Both have only one review, at least one vampire fan seems to have liked them, but the longer one has a five star one while the shorter one has four stars.

And the covers (and these are also links, and I still have no damn idea how to put these up as a little bit smaller images):

http://www.amazon.com/After-Night-Descends-Wampyrs-ebook/dp/B0099JJDWO/ref=la_B00ASZ8S38_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380378607&sr=1-6

http://www.amazon.com/Ravens-Night-Horror-Wampyrs-ebook/dp/B0092AWNQ8/ref=la_B00ASZ8S38_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380378014&sr=1-3

So, neither one has been downloaded much, but ‘After the Night Descends’ has one third fewer of them than ‘Raven’ has. The only thing that can contribute to that is the cover. And ‘Raven’s Night’ is not even that great a cover, but it is prettier than the muddle I have on the other story.

I really, really have to make better covers for the two novels, and for the shorts which still have the old photo covers. That is the initial attention grabber. Well, there would be better ones,  like a recommendation from a friend or a review on something like a blog the potential reader follows, likes and trusts, but without those the only way to get that reader who is just casually browsing is to entice him to take a closer look, and the best tool for that is an eye catching, professional looking and eye pleasing cover. Only if that works can the blurb, and the sample, work, but no matter how great those are if the potential reader never reads them in the first place they are still useless. You got to get him to take that closer look.

Cats and building bookcases

21 Jul

So, again a long time since last post, and I’m still not going to post new drawings.

It seems I have promised to take a new cat. Old one who lost her human servants recently, one died and the other one had to move from their house to an old folk’s home, and house is going to get sold (and right now I don’t even know whether we are talking about a male or a female cat…) and whose temporary caretakers can’t keep her (she has spend several weeks mostly alone in that house, somebody goes there to feed her and change the litter once a day but otherwise she’s alone, but everybody in the family has some reason why they can’t adopt her, allergies and so on), so it’s either I try or the final vet trip. Try being the word because if Pörri (the one female I have now) will not get along with the new arrival it’s the new one who will have to leave. I have done this a couple of times before, and sometimes it works with no problems, sometimes there will be a long cold war period which you should not allow to get hot so you’ll need to be present and keeping an eye on both sides for weeks, or months. And sometimes it just doesn’t work, which happened once.

If it works, the cat is already well over 10 years old so there is a good chance she will not have all that many healthy years left. And since my vet budget is very limited and she is several years older than Pörri if she gets sick it will probably also mean that last vet trip for her, and no attempts to treat her, just euthanasia. I’ll rather save the money for the younger cat’s treatments than use a lot of money on the older cat and then have none for the younger if she suddenly gets ill.

I’m conflicted with this. Who knows, it might be best if the old cat was just taken to the vet now, no new extra stress. On the other hand I’ve been told that she is pretty laid back and, at least right now, completely healthy individual, so there is the possibility she will be able to have several good years with me. This is one of those situations where there just is no actually good alternative, and not even an alternative which would be clearly the best one.

But, anyway, one thing I got caught with when I agreed to take the cat – I have had a pile of planks and some other things standing in a corner for well over a year. I need some more bookshelves, and the only place left for them is such that I can’t fit any ready made ones well there. So, I’ve been planning to make something myself. I have done this two times before, and they are both workable solutions, one even rather pretty (the other more just workable), so I’m confident I can make a third one, just haven’t gotten around to doing it. Well, once the new cat comes it will be better if there is a minimum of extra sources of stress for both cats for several months, it will be hard enough for both of them without. No hammering or drilling or sawing, or lugging stuff around. Which means that unless I do the new bookcase right now I will keep having that pile of shelves and planks in that corner until sometime next spring, at least.

So I’m doing carpentry now, and not much else for a few more days.

Promise to post pictures. Photos of the cats, and of the bookshelves. And sooner or later also those drawings…

not much going on

5 Jul

I’m busy writing the science fiction novel. But my hand is finally starting to behave, so there may be a few new drawings in a day or two.