Red Mist (pt.2)

I’m keeping my last post going a little. Here’s another few hundred words of the story I’ve been picking away at. Same as yesterday, it’s a little rough on grammar, spelling, and overall quality. I just wanted to get it down and it’s by no means the final version. That all said and done, enjoy and lemme’ know what you think. Oh! Tiny disclaimer: I totally made up the names and events. If it resembles anything real or whatever, it’s happenstance.


“What happened from there?” Dean Daily was as invested in his interview as his audience was.

“It wasn’t long before the next time we were called on to do something important. The wrong man in the right place, they say. I’d been promoted again to commander of the technology division under Faction Three. Was still a Corporal, but I had superseding authority over the decisions of the other Corporals in the division – like that made a difference. This semi-military thing was new to all of us and we just ran with the best idea regardless of ranks.

Around the middle of December –must have been a week before Christmas­– F3 was ordered to the sewers to repair a couple meters of broken pipes before the next attack.”

“Anyone else sick of Anderson,” one of the technicians asked. He was banging away at some rusted cables, complaining that percussive maintenance was the only way any of this would be done inside three days.

“Enough chatter,” Lucius ordered, beating on his own length of torn material. “The Commander wants this done and Anderson agreed to front the cost of tools and time. This isn’t cheap, you know.”

“Don’t I know it,” one of the techs answered from across the way.

“That’s when all Hell broke loose,” Lucius told Dean. His voice was low and even.

Dean Daily leaned in, a cue for his audio technicians to adjust the gain on the microphones. He barely whispered, “Go on.”

“A few days later. The main invasion. You’ve all been through a history class or two, right? Twenty ships dropped out of orbit right on top of us. The hovered, office blocks in the sky. Each carried hundreds of soldiers who wanted out city. Why? Who could say? The SDF wasn’t so hush-hush in those days. New management, I suppose.”

The team from Faction Three felt the shockwaves of ships landing far below the surface. The city was built to withstand natural disasters of all sorts from flooding to super-storms like the one over Siberia.

“What was that?”

Lucius said, “Groundwave concussion. What could have caused that?”

The question was rhetorical, but received an answer. “Nuclear weapons?”

“Idiot,” Lucius answered in kind. “There aren’t any nuclear weapons left. At least, none anyone will admit to.”

“Exactly. What if America is up to that research into nukes again?”

“Shut it. Besides, that was Brittania you’re thinking of.”

“One empire falls apart, a new one took its place. I don’t think anything but the name changed.”

“You watch too many movies.”

“Then what was that shockwave?”

“I don’t know. Those repairs done yet?”

“Near enough. Should we glue the cover plates back on, or leave them?”

Lucius knew he wanted them back on, but they didn’t have the time to adhere them any better than that. “Bolt them in place. If they fall off, no matter. Let’s get to HQ and see what happened.”

The Auto-Bolter was meant as a weapon against the possibility that something might follow them into the subterranean sections of the city. It fired twenty-millimeter slugs meant for short to mid-range suppression. He supposed the Commander adapted the thing from a power tool because the projectiles were almost the same shape and size of a bolt gun one would find of any modern aircraft carrier or battleship. It made quick work of the cover plates and his team was hightailing it back to the surface.

“We high-tailed it out of the sewers damn fast, hoping that nothing happened.”

“But you weren’t sure?”

“Of course! For all we knew, the city was gone. Those shocks didn’t feel like much, but we were almost a hundred meters below street level.”

“That you felt anything at all was the problem.”

“That it was. We came up on the opening salvo.”

“Green Squad, suppressive fire! Red Squad, circle around and flank!” Orders left and right came down from the command staff on the ground – Sergeants barely awake at such an early hour waiting for their superiors to take over.

Lucius ran up to someone who seemed to be giving orders. “Corporal Brad Lucius, reporting.”

“Hell of a time,” the Sergeant said. “You’re tech, right?”

Lucius nodded.

“Command is in disarray. All I know is that something blew up near the center of town. Get your people over there and get whatever it is working.”

“Any idea what it is?”

“None. Heard from one of the Colonels that we’re calling everyone. We’ll hold here, cover your six.”

Lucius grabbed his hand. They shook. “Thanks. Knock ‘em dead.”

The Sergeant turned back to his people. “That’s the plan.”

 

Red Mist Day Retrospective

So as part of the back story to my book, I’ve been jotting a lot of ideas down. One of them is a major turning point for the war that was effectively “First Contact” for humanity. Red Mist refers to what happened to the enemies of mankind when fighting the guardsmen. The following is an excerpt from a work in progress and, while it’s feeling and sense of style probably aren’t going to change, the exact wording will. It should be taken with a grain of salt in terms of progress.


“And today, we have one of our best and brightest, Colonel Bradley Lucius, hero of the Red Mist! Please help me in welcoming him!”

The host waited for applause to die away while Lucius walked, slowly and with the assistance of his cane, across the stage to his seat. He’d been offered automated help, but declined.

Lucius sat gracefully in the oversized recliner, but refrained from pushing back into a more comfortable position. He sat up, showing off the untarnished uniform of his prized rank: a repairman jumpsuit, one he’d received days before Red Mist Day, a bomber jacket with a few medals sprinkled about and two sets of rank pins: Corporal and Colonel, denoting his ascension from one rank to the other without intervening ranks.

He himself was a dignified, aging man. Wrinkles coated his angular face, but his body moved where he wanted it, albeit slowly. He stared out into the crowd, smiling slightly and waving softly.

“Colonel, welcome to the Daily. How are you today?”

Lucius was somewhat slow to answer. Taking his time, “Well today. Yourself?”

“Pleased as pudding to have you with us. As you know, today marks the sixtieth year since the turning point in the Omega Conflict.”

“Of course. It was when I earned this.” He pointed at his Colonel’s stripes.

“Yes. I was wondering, along with all our guests, if you’d tell us a little about your involvement.”

“Well… Nothing you wouldn’t see in this history books, but I suppose it’s more interesting if I give you the nitty-gritty, eh?”

“Of course! Anyone can read about it, but you can bring it to life for us.”

“I won’t go that far,” Lucius said. “How about this. I’ll tell you how we got the defensed back on. It’s boring thought. Fair warning.”

“How about it,” Dean looked out on the audience. “Do we want to hear it?”

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

“You heard the people.”

“Indeed I did,” Lucius said, picking at his left ear. “Started early December 2119. I’d just joined the Method—the Defense Force—that November and they’d put me to work as a general specialist at the lowest rank. I was already pretty good with electrics, so I was repairing energy weapons and running power all over the city before I knew what I’d signed on for.”

“Brad,” one of the other low-ranked specialists called. “You have a minute? Spec-ops grabbed some laser gun or something this morning and they want us to pick it apart for use.”

Bradley Lucius, barely out of his teens, looked up from his work recharging an early human attempt at a directed energy weapon in astonishment. “We get to pick at something like that? I thought they leave the cool shit to the Generals.”

“Generals are busy. We’re the highest rank that isn’t doing anything useful.”

“Useful my ass. I’ve been fixing these things all day.”

The weapons Lucius had been repairing and charging fired, at best, five shot before melting the barrels and depleting the batteries. There weren’t strong enough metals or powerful enough batteries to make them worthwhile in anything less than mass quantity.

“Well drop it and come over here. We might get something nice out of it.”

Of examination of the captured weapon, it was quickly evident that this so-called laser gun was nothing of the sort. It fired super-compressed bursts of plasma from a fuel cell that attached like a rifle’s magazine. While inoperable, they could pick apart how it worked by comparison only.

It fired projectiles out of a barrel, used something resembling a trigger assembly and seemed to have a stock made for a slightly differently shaped shoulder than a human shoulder. All that aside, it was as alien at the creatures carrying them though the streets.

“What do you make of it,” the younger specialist asked.

“I have no idea,” Lucius said. “It looks like a gun. If the videos are anything to go by, it fires like a gun.”

“But?”

“But it doesn’t make sense! What the hell is this,” he exclaimed holding up the fuel cell. “What makes it go?”

“Micro-fusion?”

“Not this again.”

“Why not?”

“Because your best reference for that idea is a video game that is was antiquated when its principle event came and went twenty years early.”

“World War Five wasn’t nuclear.”

“I was talking about Three and Four.”

“Bite me. Got a better reason?”

“It’s like arguing with a brick wall.”

“As God is my witness,” the younger tech said, “I am red and held by concrete.”

Lucius turned back to the weapon. “Lets tape it up and see if we can get it firing on our batteries.”

Some hours of tinkering and trying everything from duct tape to cybernetic enhancements, they settled on a relatively basic adaptor to get a current to flow from their batteries to the weapon through it’s fuel cell compartment. The result was a single shot per battery. It wasn’t much, but it made the weapon work using Terran tech to power it.

Lucius took in a deep breath before continuing. His face stretched upwards when he told Dean, “You know what happened next, don’t you? That was a major boon to the tech division’s morale. We figured out alien guns! How strange. You-know-who came down to the catacombs next and all hell broke loose around us. The Supreme Commander said, “Kids, you just made Corporal. You’re in charge of Tech now.” And we were.”

The Immortal Mr. Smith

I haven’t posted anything in a while, and what I was posting was a little off on my wild soap-box ranting side. I’m not getting off my soap-box, but I don’t really have anything to rant about today; no monsters to defame and no tyrants to shoot off their horse… Except to mention one woman (to quote Manual Davis, “can’t call her ‘lady.'”) who didn’t sign the petition I was passing around, insisted that she was a progressive activist anyway and called President Obama a tyrant and a dictator. What a country we live in that you don’t get carried off in a bag at night for saying these things – it’s not that way in some places.

Anyway, I’ve been writing in my spare time. I won’t go into too many details about the story, but I will say that if you were stuck with me in Mark Powell’s fiction workshop at any time in the last year or so, you’ll remember Mr. Smith, the immortal. His disjointed and often non sequitur tales have been woven into a single piece that follows his endless life for several centuries while he gets jerked around.

In fact, the image today was something my wonderful, fantastic Assistant drew for me out of the blue before I got on my plane out of Tampa back to sunny (not so sunny this last week) Muskegon, Michigan. For as much as she insists that she can’t draw and that everything she creates is crud, I would choose to point you at the image I chose for today’s post. This is Smith. It’s an image of him sometime before he realized he was probably going to live forever; a young, puckish rogue who’d sooner just nap than actually do his job. A man, fictional or not, after my own heart. (*chuckle*)

In addition to my Assistant creating the faces of my world, a Certain Scientific Railgun– I mean Sparky– I mean… Let’s try this again. I met a friend of Lind’s at Metrocon who I spoke to at relative length about my book. He agreed to let me have a look at his sketchbook he had at the time and I commissioned him to design the machines and ships of my book. Now at first, the commission was for a shorter, AU tale about the same characters, but in a more Miyazaki-esque steampunk setting. This has since expanded to more of the whole book of The Immortal Mr. Smith. I don’t have anything from him yet, but I’m really excited having only seen a few images in his sketches.

Last, I suppose, I’ll put a little sample of the prose here. I can do that safely, right? I mean, IP is more or less a protected thing these days, eh? Whatever. I’ll put a little up and let me know what you think. The following is about a thousand words from the beginning-middle parts of Runners of Arcadia, one of the short stories from Immortal Mr. Smith. I wanted to put it up mainly to illustrate my writing style, so I’ll put the scene into context. Jason and Lucas are part of some kind of death game on a planet called Arcadia. The ten million victims of the Arcadia Project are trapped in a super-city and were told there are no laws. Go nuts. One year later, these two teenagers are doing their day-to-day business when Lucas finally finds where the ringing he’s been hearing is coming from. Atop the building, Smith and his crew have arrived, partly to turn the Arcadia Project on it’s head, partly out of whim and random chance. This is Smith’s intro into this part of the story:


At the top of a thirty-story climb, no small feat at how fast Lucas was moving; they came to a large, somewhat curved structure. It seemed to be large enough to fit several people and rooms inside and fit loosely on the roof of the massively wide building. The windows were coated in a silver, metallic, watery material that rippled with the change in sunlight. It reminded Jason a little of the older science fantasy stories back home – those that existed before spaceflight was a common enough practice. An ‘ufo,’ he thought. But this thing was just sitting there, a far cry from flying anywhere

Lucas approached the craft, amazed, it would seem, that it was in front of him at all. “Jason,” he said, staring at the strange thing in front of them. “The bells stopped.”

Which was when a door slid open from the craft. A ramp slid down and an airlock hissed out the remainder of the pressure difference. Jason couldn’t see through the light coming from the ship, but Lucas wanted to get closer. They closed in, Lucas grabbing Jason’s hand to pull him along. It might be sweet if Jason wasn’t scared out of his wits.

The two stopped at the bottom of the ramp as four people descended toward them.

“It’s good that someone finally heard my call,” one said in a chiding retort to an unheard comment. He seemed young, but his voice was old.

“It is not the fault of lesser species that the Methuselah’s methods are too advanced. The Methuselah is lucky that this worked at all,” another voice ground out. It was harsh, but tolerable.

“I have to agree,” a younger female said. Jason stared as well as he could into the light – finding it hard to take his eyes off of her. He couldn’t tell exactly what she looked like, but appeared young. “That even one person on this entire planet had the psyonic aptitude to hear the cloister is astounding.”

“You forget,” the last voice said. This was a modest, mature voice and the easiest of the males on the teenager’s ears. “Smith has access to unknown foreknowledge.” He turned to the first man to speak, Smith. “You’ll pay for this, my friend. You’ll have to inform yourself of all of this at a later time and I don’t want to help you.”

“Forgive me if I step on the rules a bit,” Smith said. “I didn’t write them and I don’t like following them.” He seemed to see the boys for the first time and greeted them. “Hello there!”

Lucas leapt forward to shake Smith’s hand while Jason steadied himself against attack. Twice today is twice too many.

“Your friend doesn’t like me,” Smith said to Lucas.

“He’s got no reason not to,” Lucas said, directing the sentiment at Jason.

“For all we know.” Then, Smith said to Jason, “Boy, have I wronged you before? Be honest. Time travel confuses me as much as, well… this planet, I guess.”

Jason slowly took to a social stance. He tucked the metal pipe away and said, “Not that I know. You’ve done nothing to harm us. Who are you and what do you want?” Jason eyed the gun Lucas hid away, considering two possible situations. The first, Lucas uses it if this goes south. The second, he has to steal it if Lucas were to freeze up.

Smith let Lucas’ hand go.

“That’s an interesting question, boy. Let me just say that our interests intersect.” Smith finished with a spin to face his crew. “Welcome aboard.”

“Don’t give him that, Smith,” the mature man said.

The young woman said, “For once, can you take the mission seriously?”

“Methuselah is incapable of taking action with solemnity. This is both Methuselah’s strength and most pressing danger,” the man with the sandpaper vocals said.

Smith sighed out a loud sigh. “Fine.” He turned back to the teenagers. “Guys, I’m called Smith. Name never really mattered, call me what you want. The lovely lady is Chi Anderson. Nice girl. Knew her… was he your dad or your dad’s mom’s dad?”

“Hey,” Chi responded, indignant.

Smith ignored her complaint about his phrasing. “Girl needs manners. The kid next to her is Alexis Wells, Super-Awesome-Time-Boy.”

“What was that,” Alexis demanded.

Smith again ignored the peanut gallery. “The scary fellow is Jones. He’s harmless, I swear.”

Jones said, “Mostly harmless,” dismissing Smith’s asserted fact, moving into a half bow.

     “This is my ship, Veillantif. And you, boys, are looking at the single most advanced piece of technology you’ve ever seen. Feel like hitching a lift home?”

It was like the veil was lifted.

“Home,” Jason questioned, aghast at the idea after so long.

“That’s what I said, kid,” Smith said.

Jason though for a moment. His glance at Lucas’ weapons told Smith that the trust to believe him wasn’t there. As it stood, he lured in Jason’s best friend and showed them nothing less than a miracle. Jason wasn’t buying it.

Before Jason could question Smith further, an explosion shook the building, collapsing parts of the facade and shattering windows up all thirty flights.

“Ruka!”

A high voice came up the building, piercing ears. Lucas, Chi and Smith raced to the side of the roof, taking a careful glance over. Smoke was rising from the ground and Smith thought he saw the beginnings of a fire in the shadowy mist.

The building shook again with a male shrill of “Aki!”

Chi was first to lose her footing when the floor collapsed. Lucas reached for her, but couldn’t pull her back up; instead was pulled over. Smith leapt for them, pulling both in tight only part way through his trajectory over the side. Jones, alert at once, took off in a run after the three. His arms turned to massive wings as he moved.

“Methuselah!”

He dove into the collapsing building, taking up a transformation and an avian-style assisted dive in an attempt to fall faster than those ahead of him. All of this took only seconds.