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Girly Stuff

November 09, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  1 Comment

I like to believe, as a male writer, I write a good female protagonist. In my Investigator Lexus Toulouse sci-fi murder mysteries, Lexus is a three-dimensional character that seems to resonate with my female readers in a way that I don’t quite understand.

Actually, I take that back. Part of the reason I can write a three-dimensional female character is because I have done research pertaining to women in lawn enforcement, and I’ve met female police officers while on duty while doing this research.

Research is vital. It is not enough to look into the heart of a female character and try to bring that to the page. The setting and plot details need a basis in reality. Lee Lofland writes to this in his latest, “Female Police Officers: Are They Really Wimpy, Or Do You Just Write Them That Way?” This article really resonates with me, because Lee often gives great tips around certain themes, themes that appear in his blog over and over again. Essentially, what he tells his blogs readers is to write life as it is, rather than life as you think it is.

Sound familiar? It should. Rachelle said the same thing:

“I get the feeling many people are so saturated with media (books, TV, movies) that they are writing not from life but from their perception of life as shown in media. They’re writing stories I’ve seen and heard a hundred times before.”

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent: Fiction Writing: Craft and Story

Back to Lexus (because, this post is all about me, me, me, me), Lexus is a flawed individual. You can make a compelling argument that she is mired in psychosis. She certainly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. She has an addiction-prone personality.

These are flaws.

Lexus is also an emotional creature. She has a deep sympathy for people with problems and a strong intolerance for injustice. She takes injustice personally. She approaches problems with logic, but does not have tight reigns on her empathy. She feels. She feels a lot. As a woman, she has feminine emotions.

This is not a flaw. That is part of her strength. Too often, I read characters where the author went out of her way to make sure I, as a reader, understood the character was not flawed because she had boobs and lacked a penis. Yet the character is still a cliché; essentially she is an immature girl compensating for being female.

There is strength in femininity, just as there is strength in masculinity. I can write the strong female main character because I play on my strengths: observation and research. Sometimes I write the obvious in a way that is appealing to women simply because I’m an outsider and am providing a fresh, outsider voice.

Or something like that. I don’t fully understand it. I’m certainly not blazing new territory. My running theory: women are powerful creatures. As technology progresses and makes physical strength not even worthy of a secondary characteristic, the era of the woman may be upon us.

LindaT2

A Guide to Guns in the Year 21

October 13, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random, Setting, The Craft  5 Comments

Guns, guns, guns!

Here’s the deal. My Blog Harem keeps my little blog going with hits. Nevertheless, what really drives traffic, and I mean traffic, are posts about guns. Merely linking to a website about guns does something to my occasional readers of my blog. They love that topic. They love that topic more than my writing!

Waaaaaa!

But, when the going gets tough, the tough slut out their blogs. So today’s post is about GUNS. Guns of the future! Ladies and Gentleman, I give you guns of the Lexus Toulouse books, set in the Federation, Earth’s three species society of the future, set in the Year 21.

 

Needler
An Investigator-only weapon, the recoilless needler shoots an aerodynamic needle anywhere between 800 and 6,000 feet per second. The needle is a collection of nano bots that pierce armor or cover, and deform on flesh, biotech or cyber-gear.

When an Investigator pulls the trigger, the needler instantly programs the nano-needle and computes the relative velocity of the needle based on the armor and movement of the target.

It is a deadly and accurate weapon, the apex of Federation pistol technology. There are no recorded instances of a person or robot surviving a needle round.

Says Investigator Scott:

Scott nods his head in appreciation at my skill. “I went to Fort Lewis, mainly so they could all give me a ribbing about retiring from OCE, and used their force-on-force range,” he says.

I smile. I can picture Scott showing up and being obnoxious while taking a good amount of ribbing.

“They have this simulation where these three bots are in an armored tank. A fucking tank, one of the pre-war non-composite models. Like, a real God damn tank. And I nail all three of them. I simply shot them through the armor. The needles sliced through the armor and then deformed on the bots, blowing them to Hell and gone. Through a fucking tank!”

Charge Pistol
The five-inch barreled Charge Pistol is the precursor to the needler. Essentially, it is a near- recoilless miniature scram-rail.

Charge pistols get their name from the 9mm bullets feed into the scram-rail by the magazine, and the magazine itself. Each bullet contains an energy lattice that deforms when encountering flesh, which in turn causes the bullet to expand from back-to-front.

This weapon causes horrific damage to soft targets, the bullets acting as armor piercers for cover, yet switching to anti-personnel round performance for living targets.

On the downside, it was a marginal performer against bots. The magazine, holding bullets and a miniaturized accumulator necessary for the large power requirement of the scram rail, were not interchangeable with other weapon systems.

Charge Pistols were popular with NI soldiers in the war for various reasons as a BUG (Back Up Gun), mainly because they did not have neural links and had high-capacity magazines (holding only bullets with no need for a shell).

During the war, it was rumored a few prototype Charge Rifles were made, but since Federation rifle technology was already so effective, it is not surprising that these rifles, if they existed, never made it out of Skunk Works.

SiB-Gee
Standard Issue Big Gun

The SiB-Gee is a 14.5mm, near-recoilless, armor penetrator.

Federation soldiers and irregulars used the SiB-Gee extensively in the war, usually against bots, and especially in the extensive underground complexes the enemy created and liked to hide.

Also called the “Idaho FU Rifle.”

Hamilton NI Carbine, MK-2
The Mark II Ham-nCee is a NI Soldier’s primary, personal battle rifle.

We’ll let Lexus describe the Ham-nCee:

In my hands, I have a Hamilton NI Carbine, a nasty little fucker that shoots 6mm rounds from a clip that consumes itself while firing. Wired directly into my nervous system through my neural receptor on my right wrist, the targeting interface is my suit battle computer, with data piped directly into my optic nerves for visual input. It doesn’t project a HUD—it interfaces with my eyes directly. The display is in my eyes because it is my eyes.

Underneath my Ham-nCee is a 15mm grenade launcher, holding ten rounds of pure Hell Fire (the HF-nGL). The grenade is a ball of plasma in a shaped magnetic containment system inside of a composite shell. Once activated through my battle computer, the grenade’s magnetic field propels itself down the scram rails of the launcher. The mag-bubble degrades at the apex of its flight maneuvers, and the plasma then uses the rest of the shell as fuel. The resulting confabulation then smacks into the target, and burns.

And burns. It will burn anything for a brief time. Metal, rock, people.

NI Soldiers were extremely accurate with their Ham-nCee. When one pulled the trigger, something usually died.

Ghost Rifle
A Russo-Sino rifle manufactured exclusively for NI Stealth Soldiers.

Very little is known about the Ghost Rife other that, despite being one of the most sophisticated rifles ever built, they are highly reliable and, of course, extremely accurate.

During the war, the Ghost Rifle was the standard rifle of the Trans-Siberian Sniper Team.

S&W G-Series
S&W manufactures popular civilian weapons, and they target the G-Series line to women.

Based on the tried-and-true old GLOCK design, a G-Series pistol mitigates recoil with additional frictionless parts. It also contains micro-channels in the magazine well/grip construction filled with memory liquid that ebbs back and forth.

The most popular G series pistol is the G-16 Slim-line, a single-stack 9mm pistol manufactured in a variety of colors, including pink.

While technically a fully automatic pistol, magazine capacity limits their effectiveness in this setting.

A popular, back-woods variant is the G-20, a 10mm pistol with a six-inch hunting barrel, where one inch of the barrel pokes out of the five-inch frame. Every decade or two a petition goes out for a “long slide” variant of the G-20, which S&W subsequently reviews and then denies.

All S&W pistols come with a powerful green targeting laser.

The Abominators
Abominators are shotgun-based weapons made by a variety of manufacturers. On an undetermined time-period, The Killer-Bunny Abomination Society (K-BAS) awards the title to a shotgun from a manufacturer that “upholds the traditions of the Abominators and those who use them.” This title is very prestigious for a manufacturer, while to lose it is a great loss of honor.

No one knows when K-BAS came to be, but the archaic and secretive group has been in existence for hundreds of years. On popular net theory is the society existed all the way back to pre-Collapse, human civilization, around the beginnings of the Twenty-First Century in the old pre-Fed calendar.

The current Abominator is a double-barreled, drum-fed automatic 12-guage shotgun, with a 15mm over-the-barrel grenade launcher and a four-charge thunder-lance nestled underneath (in the center channel provided by the two barrels).

Due to their popularity in the war for killing rooms full of attacking cyborgs, weapon aficionados also call Abominators “monster killers.”

M4-MK26
The twenty-sixth version of the M4 carbine, this short-barreled rifle shoots 5mm rounds fed by a standard 5mm quick-feed magazine in either 40 or 60 round capacity, or drums containing 120 rounds. Typical velocities approach over 3,800 feet-per-second at 200 yards.

This bull-pup, variable-automatic design is a popular post-war variant. The rife is light, almost recoilless and very accurate. The M4 weapon system is modular, and is a favorite weapon for home defense and County Safety departments, with many types of accessories and manufacturers competing for the lucrative civilian M4 market.

M4-MK26

 

M4-MK26
The twenty-sixth version of the M4 carbine, this short-barreled rifle shoots 5mm rounds fed by a standard 5mm quick-feed magazine in either 40 or 60 round capacity, or drums containing 120 rounds. Typical velocities approach over 3,800 feet-per-second at 200 yards.

This bull-pup, variable-automatic design is a popular post-war variant. The rife is light, almost recoilless and very accurate. The M4 weapon system is modular, and is a favorite weapon for home defense and County Safety departments with many types of accessories and manufacturers competing for the lucrative civilian M4 market.

Handguns: You’re Still Writing Them Wrong. Yeah, You!

October 05, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Setting, The Craft  4 Comments

Author Lee Lofland takes authors to task for their bad gun research:

Okay, I attempted to read another book last week, a book I wanted to toss off a steep cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Why would I want to drive 3,000 miles just for the pleasure of watching a book sink into Half Moon Bay? It’s a simple answer really. I like my green tea hot with just a touch of milk, I like my Riesling chilled to the right temperature, and I like my freakin’ books to be believable. Even fantasy rings true if the author puts forth some sort of honest effort. But to write about guns, especially cop guns, and not do even a little bit of research just rubs me wrong. Like nails on a chalkboard. The information is out there. In fact, it’s everywhere – on the internet, shooting ranges, police officers, gun enthusiasts, target clubs, hunters, gun clubs, websites, blogs Google, books, libraries, newspapers…you get the idea, right?

Handguns: You’re Still Writing Them Wrong. Yeah, You!

Lee’s book is excellent, by-the-way. I used it while writing Bunny Trouble and the police officer who beta read my book only found one esoteric error.

Conflict in the Year 21: Tokyo

August 29, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  2 Comments

Oh man, the absurd situations I foster on my poor main character.

As a ex-NI soldier and pilot, I was naked on base many a time. There were times where if I had anything touching my skin I would just lose it. It’s a common side effect of neural implants. My sensitivity to touch is higher than a normal person is, and sometimes that’s a disadvantage.

Today, nudity isn’t common, but it isn’t rare either.

So it was with some nervousness Kaoru is escorting me to the front of the hotel lobby where I can summon Thor, because I’m wearing nothing but a pair of spaghetti-strap fuck-me heels. Each step is a sparkly slither of the naked sexy.

And people are staring. Conversations stops, mouths hang open, women pause, men drink me with their eyes. Oh, this was a mistake. I feel self-conscious and stupid that I, of all people, feel self-conscious.

Kaoru is following behind me carrying a locked case containing my purse, PDA, and needler. She is smirking at the reactions to her handiwork.

Thor is suddenly at my side. Never have I been so grateful to see him. “I can take that, Miss Kaoru-san,” he says. She hands the case over, bows at me, and when I return her bow, she grins and leaves.

The lobby is still silent. Thor puts his hand on my arm.

“Look, Lieutenant, I want to be up front this was not my idea. I told them no. I might as well have been speaking to a rock.”

“What?” This doesn’t sound good. No, not good at all!

“Come.”

I plant my heels and almost fall over. “Thor, I am naked, wearing only scandalous heels and an absurd amount of credits in diamonds. Spit it out!”

“There is a crowd of people outside waiting to escort you to the Palace.”

No! Damn it!

I feel faint, on the verge of hyperventilating. I don’t do well with crowds. “Crowd? Can I slip out the back? Can we VTOL over? How many people are we talking about here?”

I detect a wisp of a smile from the normally stoic Thor.

“All of them, I think.”

Crap.

imperial-palace

Ideas and the Creative Process of the Hack Writer

August 20, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  2 Comments

Someone asks in a recent blog post:

If you write, where do your ideas come from? Do you start with a scene? A character? A premise? Or do you have some ridiculous trigger that demands you spin a story out of it?

That is a good question. A novel thrusts itself into my poor overloaded mind based on two things: a character, and a theme.

This is the heart of my creative process. I need both a main character with a distinctive voice, and I need a unifying idea. When the two meet, it’s magic. My brain will refuse to let go of the two, and, at some point, they merge and I will have the resulting plot and setting. I am now compelled to write the story.

But where do these characters and themes come from?

Mainly, I observe. I am not a shy man, but I am a quiet fixture. Why does that smartly dressed woman at the airport waiting for the same flight as me have a perpetual frown? Why are the neighbors across the street so reclusive? Is the wife sick? If so, will she ever get better? The Sheriff Deputy in the coffee shop–if she were in trouble, big trouble, would she have the will and fortitude, beyond her training, to survive? If she did have this internal strength, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time, would anybody come to help?

Observation can give me characters, and it can give me themes.

For example, why does our society have a culture of blame-the-victim, bordering on the tolerance for the criminal? Where did this corruption come from, and where will it lead? Why do some cultures today feed off each other, becoming stronger, while others clash, causing conflict? Is a society that devalues the lives of children for the sake of control and equality doomed to failure? If so, how will it fail?

Sometimes, I will be thinking these questions and suddenly they will merge into a story. Like this proto-outline:

The Sheriff Deputy in the coffee shop is in trouble. She is a strong person but in the wrong place at the wrong time. She is a righteous woman, but righteousness is not going to save her now (this is the character, maybe the main character, or an important minor one).

Career criminals, released by our society to prey upon the weak once more without mercy, decided they were going to kill a copy one day. Our society tolerates evil men such as this. It has happened before (in the real world), and it will happen again (sadly, this is also a reality). Where did this corruption come from, and where will it lead? (this is a theme).

The righteous and the evil go at it in the coffee shop parking lot. Outgunned and outmaneuvered, the death of the female deputy is a forgone conclusion. How would she get out of this?

She gets help. A woman caught in the crossfire draws her sidearm and joins the gun battle (this is the glimmering of a plot and also a very strong character).

Why did this woman have gun? Well, she has the typical ex-husband who has threatened to kill her. She decided she wasn’t going to use a paper shield and actually defend herself (this is related to the theme, but also further characterization).

Only, she isn’t defending herself. She is defending someone sworn to defend her! She is shot. Several times. Nevertheless, everyone lives, except the evil men.

And this heroic action caused the next American Civil War (this is now the plot).

That’s my writing process. For me, only when I have a firm character, or characters, and a unified idea to generate conflict as a theme, can I get a plot that works for me. At this point, I have a novel. All that is left is my outlining process (which I do in my head) and typing.

You may think a gun battle in a coffee shop parking lot and the next American Civil War is a gigantic, random leap–but it’s not. The theme, as you recall, is “Where did this corruption (tolerance for evil) come from, and where will it lead?” With these characters and this theme, the plot burst out of me like the alien from the chest of poor Kane on the Nostromo.

This is my creative process, how I obtain ideas and turn them into novels. And it works very well for me.

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent: Fiction Writing: Craft and Story

August 04, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  0 Comments

Writer folks, check out this post:

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent: Fiction Writing: Craft and Story

She says:

I get the feeling many people are so saturated with media (books, TV, movies) that they are writing not from life but from their perception of life as shown in media. They’re writing stories I’ve seen and heard a hundred times before.

I love this post. I love it very much.

Rachelle is talking about stories with a heart.

Stories that speak to your soul.

Stories that bypass the surface and talk about things the way they are.

Stories that are honest.

That is exactly what I read.

And that’s exactly what I want to write, and I do write.

What an inspirational post!

The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room

April 20, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, Setting  2 Comments

From my world-building notebook for Your Little Sister. I’ve gotten in a habit of creating back-story for people who don’t make an appearance, but live, in the world.

When world-building, I start with a general idea and just start expounding. As I progress, I shift from exposition to direct storytelling. This type of world building works well for me. In no way is this a short story. More of a definition of a theme than anything else.

***

The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room sits surrounded by boys vying for her attention, at a table by the window. She wears a gun. She has been contemplating getting rid of it all day.

High school in Year 3. Only, no one calls it high school anymore. It’s finishing school. Let’s get it done, school. You need to become an adult school. Pre-vocational training school. It would be a decade before a new cultural name would emerge: prevoc. Very swanky sounding, prevoc. Prevoc is what you did before moving up to advanced training, or research. General education, well, they just called it “General”.

Half the seats in the lunchroom are empty. The prior government built the school in an earlier age, where every child could get a public education. Now school cost money, no taxes are collected to fund education,a child’s family had to fund it 100%. Some parents could not afford it, but the gist of it all was, smaller schools were more attractive. Schools like this one were going out of style in a slow, gradual death spiral of market corrections.

This one catered to military families, so it was still seeped with macro sized learning techniques. It was, after all, only three years since the war ended. Both the mother and father of the most beautiful girl in the room both served. By all accounts, they were outstanding soldiers.

They were, by the same accounts, lousy parents.

The next table over, going clockwise, is the Math Squad. This group keeps their numbers even, three boys, three girls, not in some mathematical formula of balance, but simply because they were all in relationships. Only couples obtain admittance to the Math Squad.

Two of the couples are actually doing it. The first, the founders of the club, engage in desperate sex, as if each night could be their last. As far as they know, it could. Both are war orphans. They are happy they had relatives to take them in and pay for school. These two, well, these two are broken. Perhaps being together will make one productive adult out of them.

The other two, the youngest of the group, actually, are simply fucking like mad weasels because it feels good. In twenty minutes, they will sneak to an unused classroom, and have sex right on the old teacher’s desk. Their hedonistic streak does not end there. After the last period, they go to the girls home for dinner, bringing home stacks of impressive books, pilfered from the empty class room. After dinner, they go to the girl’s room and close the door.

Her parents think she is studying. In actuality, she is engaged in more enthusiastic sex. They do it for hours.

The Math Squad only has a mild social interest in the most beautiful girl in the room. Most of it is either a small attraction, or envy. Sometimes, she has the highest senior math score.

Continuing our clockwise stroll around the immediate tables surrounding the most beautiful girl in the room, we come to another couple, sitting alone. She is very pregnant, this young woman. In three weeks, she will give birth to a baby boy, at a whopping nine pounds, three ounces. The young man sitting at the table is both her husband and the baby’s father. Legally adults, they have pre-paid for all four years of finishing school with the money they inherited from their parents’ estates.

They are the last of their line. Their parents, of course, are dead from the war. This baby matters more than most. He is a new beginning to a bad end. They will have six children in total, and eventually adopt three more.

The pregnant woman thinks the most beautiful girl in the room is quite beautiful, and she is also envious. The most beautiful girl in the room thinks the same of her. The husband carries no thoughts of the most beautiful girl in the room, other than a base attraction when they were swimming together one year.

The next table over is a teacher and three of her students. She teaches pre-war history, and these three students are very fascinated by both her age (old), and her willingness to speak frankly about many subjects, subjects now taboo to their parents. She is a good orator, and likes to talk. It is a good combination, these four. She only eats half her lunch, but by the end of the break, one student will volunteer to mow her lawn, the other to fetch groceries and the third to have the accumulator serviced on her small e-car.

None of these four have any interest in the most beautiful girl in the room. She is, quite simply, a person of no historical interest, nor one interested in history. She might as well be invisible.

Our circle of tables is almost complete. At the last table surrounding the most beautiful girl in the room, sit two boys. Rumor has it they are gay. They are not gay, they are collaborating on a software project, and it is all consuming. This project will turn into one of the very first civilian released overlays for a quantum computer, and finds classification as an AI Level 3. In only three years, they will have accumulated nearly a million Nuevo Credits. They refuse all VC money tossed in their direction, and start a computing empire stretching for hundreds of years.

These two are watching the most beautiful girl in the room. When they go home, they share fantasies about her. Sometimes silly, sometimes nasty. Right now, they are contemplating how they can get her to go to the Spring Formal with one of them.

They are too late, unfortunately. It is a lesson each will remember well. All they had to do was ask, they found out later. The most beautiful girl in the room always said yes, because hardly anyone ever asked her to dance. You could even kiss the most beautiful girl in the room, all one had to do was make a play for her rosy lips. Each would remember this lesson, and socially, they sprouted wings and flew. They never were shy again.

Back to the most beautiful girl in the room’s table. The boys at it are of no consequence. Each is flirtatious, in his own way; most are charming and even mature. But they are competing with her thoughts. She can’t help but think of her gun, and what it would mean to give it up.

Lunch is over. The most beautiful girl in the room leaves, but does not go to class. Today she has been excused post lunch. She sighs, knowing she is the faculty’s disappointment, and heads to the Principal’s Office.

Principal Vernon is expecting her. Inside the small office with him is a short woman dressed in a distinctive, but unrecognizable, uniform. The most beautiful girl in the room sighs again, and sits without asking.

“Sandra, I want you to meet Major Hackett of O&S.”

Sandy raises an eyebrow, and shakes the woman’s hand to be polite. Whatever Vernon is doing, however, she does not want to be a part of, no sir. She frowns, unfastens her holster, and slides it across the desk.

“No,” she says simply.

His eyes flash with anger, actual anger. He pushes the holster back.

“Don’t give me this bullshit, Sandra. It’s your pistol now. You’ve worn it for a month now, it’s yours.”

“Mr. Vernon! Don’t you cuss at me!”

“Ha! See Sandra, you’re an adult. You have been for an entire year. You haven’t Declared because you’re saddled with the apathy from your fucking parents and you’ve been wearing it like some kind of mantle.  Hell, I’ve been more of a parent to you for the last four years then either one of those two sloths, and I am here to tell you to knock this shit off. We’re all tired of it.”

Sandy could not believe what she had heard. Vernon never cussed. Until now, she had never even heard him say “darn”. She slumped in her chair. She contemplated crying, but couldn’t muster the tears. Maybe he was right; maybe she wasn’t a girl anymore if being cussed at by the Principal did not make her cry.

“But what would I do?” The words are out of her mouth before she realizes perhaps this is why Major Hackett is here. She looks at the woman.

“If you Declare, I have a job for you. Briefly: you fit a profile for our advanced piloting program; you’ll start right after a month of space acclamation, followed by on the job training and formal instruction, which will last two years. It will be a very intense two years, but Day One you will be an officer with a commission. “

“Piloting?” Sandra was confused. She did not even have a car. She narrowed her eyes. “Profile? Who gave you a profile of me?” She put her jumbled thoughts together and turned to face Vernon. “You had no right to violate my privacy!”

“Right? Right? Adults have rights. You, Sandra, are merely a child.”

Oh well played, sir, well played. She felt as if the Principal had just slapped her across the face. She slumped further in her chair. By rights, she should call her father and have him give the Principal what for.

If he wasn’t drunk.

And fucking the neighbor girl.

Her mother of course, was more useless. Sandy should have been the daughter. Instead, to her mother, she was simply sister to the brother who died when she was merely one month old. Slain by the enemy. In a bad way.

“And what does my profile say?” she asked the Major. It came out bitter.

“It says many things. But the gist is: institutions to you are familiar, you have above average marks, you test well under stress, you are attractive and your nervous system is well suited to implants for the neural interfaces.”

Sandra’s mind whirled. She wanted to ask what being attractive had to do with anything, but this is not what came to the front of her mind. “Would I be anywhere near my parents’ chain of command?”

“Absolutely not. If you say yes, in twenty minutes you will actually outrank your parents.”

A chill went down Sandra’s spine. Oh they had her. They had her now.

She looked at Vernon. He started smiling. She contemplated punching him in the nose. She stood up, and put her pistol back on.

“Do I get a starting bonus?”

The Major actually paused. “Yes. Yes, you do.”

She looked at Vernon again. “I want it to be the same as his finding fee.”

Now the Major flinched. It was small, but noticeable.

“Ah, yes. Yes, I can authorize that.”

The grin threatened to split Vernon’s face.

It took ten minutes to walk to County Safety. They were expecting her (damn them all), and in three more minutes, she was an Adult. Her very first contract was accepting an Officer’s Commission for Orbital and Space. It took eight minutes to receive verification and for the major to swear her in.

The Major was driving her to her parents’ house, no longer her house, in a rental e-car.

“Major, what does being attractive have to do with anything?”

“Good question, Leftenant. You’ve been matched to an AI. Level 1. She was very specific. She said, and I quote, ‘If I’m going to Uplink with a stinky human, make it a woman with some brains and nice, perky boobs’.”

Sandra burst out laughing. The Major gave her a side-glance.

“You are not offended?”

“Are you kidding? That’s funny as hell.” Sandy was still getting used her ‘Uplink to an AI’ future, but it was funny. Everything seemed almost like a dream, and she would wake up only to find her same apathetic life with her same apathetic family.

Major Hackett grinned. “Damn it all if the profile matchup actually worked.”

They pulled up to Sandra’s house. Suddenly she was nervous. But something again was nagging at her brain.

“Ma’am, is this a ship left over from the war?”

“Negative, Leftenant. This is not an orbiter. It is an armed corvette, with a landing shuttle and everything. It can go planet side, but it is built for space duties.”

“Space? Why do we need armed space ships?”

“Well now, you’re smarter than you look, Leftenant,” said Hackett as she got out of the car.

Whoa. All thoughts about a stressful meeting with her parents were now gone.

What’s going on, and what did I get myself into? thought the most beautiful girl in the room.

Setting

March 19, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Setting, The Craft  4 Comments

Previously on Hack Writer TV: Conflict

***

They were standing in the gray nothingness, the four of them, holding hands.

Zeke realized this was an errant thought. They were not really standing, nor were they floating. They simply were.

“This is the Void,” said Father, still sounding ghostly. “It is merely a perception of a reality we can only see. There is nothing ‘here’ but us. It is the literal Void. We could, if we so desire, stay here for all eternity. Time marches on based on our understanding of the passage of moments, but the longer we stay here the slower it gets, and after a while, it will merely stop, and that is a dangerous state of being. Your body you see before you is just a reflection of how you used to see it—for you are the Void, not just in it.”

His father took a deep breath, uncharacteristically steeling himself.

“Never tarry longer than necessary.” He looked at Zeke. “Sometimes the sheer nothingness will call to you. Beckon you to stay, because ‘stay’ is a very accurate for what you feel. At this moment, you are everywhere and nowhere. Come here without a destination and after awhile, everyone you know, everything you have seen, is gone, lost to you in the relentless march of time.”

“Where can we go?” asked Josh.

“Good question,” said his mother. “You can go to places that you have been and can recall merely by wishing it so, once you are in the Void. And one other place.” To Zeke, her eyes were sad.

“Where,” asked Zeke, “is this other place?”

“Here,” said his father.

Suddenly their feet were on solid ground, and the transition was sudden, jarring, and Zeke almost fell to the ground even though he transitioned standing up.

He looked around him. No sun was visible, but the incredibly bright stars overhead lit the landscape, as if the atmosphere served as some magnifier. And the night sky here was filled by a gigantic moon—no, that is a planet, thought Zeke, staring at the extraordinary sight of the blue and green cloud filled planet with a ring.

And the smell—there was a slight breeze, and it carried with a dusty, metallic smell of summer, of earth baking in the sun only to cool off at night. It was an overpowering scent, and he suddenly realized, wrong.

Through sheer willpower he forced himself to look at the nearby, not the dream of the beautiful night sky. This is when the horror of the place washed over him. They were standing in the middle of a gigantic battlefield, with bones, armor and broken weapons stretching as far as he could see—and somehow in the place he knew he could see for miles. On all sides of him, off in the great distance, were hills and mountains, as if designed to collect the battlefield and steer the combatants to a titanic struggle for—Zeke looked around again.

For nothing. There were no buildings. No fortifications. It was as if armies clashed here for the sole purpose of killing each other.

For the first, time Zeke felt raw fear. This place was wrong. It was wrong. It was—

“W-w-what is this place?” whispered Josh. To Zeke he looked pale, probably how he himself looked.

“We’re not sure,” said his mother, “but we are fairly certain this is where Great-grandpa and his friends came from. Escaped from. Fled.”

“When?” asked Zeke.

“We don’t know that either,” said his father, “we do know they spent time in the Void, longer than they should have. What your mother and I do know, this place came unbidden to us in our memory. Like a racial memory. No one showed us the way.”

His mother nodded. “We are sorry to show you boys this, but Great-grandfather was, well to put it simply, insane. When your father and I got here it was not hard to figure out why. If he fought in this battle, he saw things, did things, that must have been unspeakable. He and his friends never showed their children anything of the Void.”

“But we figured it out,” said his father, “and here we are. Our parents didn’t show us the Void, but they taught us all of the necessary things about how to access it ourselves. Your mother and I have theories that it takes several generations to remove-whatever the taint was that prevented them from traveling back to their home.” He looked around. “That is, if they had a home to go back to, it could be…”

Suddenly a gigantic sound filled Zeke’s ears—a massive trumpeting, low and malevolent, coming from the mountains on his left. It went on and on and on and ended in a low wail that made his teeth ache.

He did not even know his sword out, but it was in front of him in the low-ready position while Josh, who stood facing the other direction, had his in the high ready. Slowly they circled, looking for the threat. His parents did the same.

“What was that?” asked Zeke.

“We’ve never heard of anything like that here,” his father said simply.

THUD.

The ground shook with a low boom. Zeke peered to his left but could not see anything at all other than the stars and battlefield, so he started slowly looking around hoping to—

THUD.

The ground shook again.

“Are those earthquakes or something?” asked Zeke.

THUD. Zeke noticed the bones and battle remnants rattled with each thud.

“Impact tremors,” said Josh, matter-of-factly.

Zeke caught his breath involuntarily. He really did not want to know that. He felt the grip of icy fear anew.

The bones—THUD—moved again.

The low, load moan of the trumpet call went out again, this time slightly louder.

Zeke stared at the bones while slowly circling with Josh at his back. That wasn’t—

Suddenly they moved again.

THUD.

“Combat is imminent!” Zeke yelled.

“Where?” asked his father, “I don’t see anything!”

“The bones! They are moving by themselves, not just with the impact! With the next call I believe…”

THUD.

“BARRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” goes the call again, this time sounding otherworldly, alien and very very evil.

Closer.

Zeke did not hesitate. As the bones around him stood up, he was striking, his sword already moving in a fast arch, obliterating the thing that was forming right before him. Off to his right, another thing has formed—a skeleton of bones, dust and insubstantial, boiling black and purple mist, with eyes of burning red. It grabbed a broken spear stuck in the ground and looked directly at Zeke, a warbling hiss escaping from its bony jaw.

Zeke reversed his grip and continued his swing, this time arching up with the sword tip as he stretches forward and—

“Annette! Get us out of here!”

While it was still hissing obvious hatred,  Zeke’s sword impacted the thing’s head in his upward swing. Behind him, he sensed Josh taking down something that rushed him while—

THUD

—the things are all around him now, dozens and then a wall of bone and mist and red eyes, Zeke grabbed his brother’s arm, locked his own with it and they whirled against each other, lashing out in a huge, sword filled double-arc. Bones flew everywhere, wherever his sword swung; he connected with a bony, red-eyed monster. They fall from the sheer force of their blades and they do not get up, but there are so many. So many!

“Boys, protect your mother! Form a triangle!”

Instantly they shifted positions and in an eye blink, they surrounded their mother, but in doing so, the things press in at the opportunity their movement created. One bashed at Zeke with a battered shield, and Zeke parried with his sword. The shield and sword impact and make a mighty crash, stinging his hands. Zeke lashed out with his foot, kicking the shield with a mighty blow. It sent the creature flying backwards just in time for Zeke to parry a particularly large thing with an intact sword.

THUD.

Zeke realized they were now on the defensive. Concentrating, he evened out his movements. Shifting into a rhythm let him press the attack.

Behind him, he heard his mother strike her sword with a tuning fork. It sounds different from his father’s, a rich tone that sets her sword singing in reply—

“BARRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

The chord off the sword and fork stopped, as if never struck.

A part of Zeke’s mind wanted to be more frightened, but he dropped into a rhythm, a deadly cadence that flowed with his father and his brother. The three parried and thrust, go on the offense and just as suddenly, dropped back to protect Mother. Zeke realized they can only keep this up for so long. To tire means death.

THUD.

“I see it! I see it! Off of my two-o-clock!” screams Josh. “It’s invisible, but the stars shimmer differently behind it! It’s huge!”

Josh is not panicked, but Zeke noted that clearly whatever he saw had shaken him. Zeke picked up his pace by decapitating a rushing skeleton, realizing now he can expend as much energy as he wants. This battle will not be long.

Suddenly his mother sang a clear bright note, her soprano voice loud and unwavering. His father instantly answers, a third below his mother’s note. Zeke sings out with his mother, an octave lower, and Josh answers on the same note as his father.

“BARRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

This time the trumpeting is loud, so very loud, and it rattles Zeke’s head. But he does not stop singing, and neither does anyone else. He delivered a vicious chop to a rushing skeleton, his sword impacting the top of its head. As Zeke continued with his stroke, his sword traveled down its bony, misty body, and it literally exploded outwards in all directions.

Zeke heard a new note, this one from his mother’s sword. It was sweet and metallic, and it blended into their singing, creating a wondrous harmony.

THUD.

This time the impact almost caused him to lose his footing. It certainly did with the skeleton things around him—most of them fall and he heard crunching sounds off Josh’s two.

Suddenly Zeke felt a pull, a primal tug coming from behind him. There is wind at his face. He did not see it but he knew it is there; surely as if he had eyes behind his head. Slowly he backed towards it in step with his brother and father, as if he had rehearsed the maneuver. As one, the three of them entered the rent that his mother opened right at her feet.

In a blink, they were gone.

Wife Unit Literary Influences

March 04, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Awesomesauce, Setting, The Craft, The Wife Unit  1 Comment

The Wife Unit has a sneaky literary influence on me. She has a penchant for historical mystery novels, or the character-driven historical novel. She introduced me to a type of book I use to by-pass, what I now call the “Über-researched” novel. A story full of show, but you can feel the undercurrents of the setting because the author made it come alive. The details are not in your face, but oozing from the page, taking you back to the time of the setting.

I started to appreciate this type of mystery, and as a researcher, cracking open one of these gems is a special treat.

I have one word for this type of book: NOM!

When I joined Twitter, I followed a few people I exchanged email with prior, and suddenly I had several followers who in turn were following the people I was following who followed me back. Did you follow all of that?

One of these people was Gary Corby. Gary is not a heavy Tweeter, but sometimes he would say something about his work in progress or the novel he wrote previously that would peak my interest. Gary seemed like a researching, fun writer, and his blog was a hoot. I will admit, after awhile, I just wanted to read the damn book. Like now, a clear case of book lust.

Now he has an agent, and his novel I was so interested in makes its way to bookstores in 2010 as the THE EPHIALTES AFFAIR. How exciting! I plan to immediately preorder it and hand it to The Wife Unit to read. Then I can harass her proper, with “Are you DONE WITH THAT YET?” and passive-aggressive husband behavior such as walking into the room when she is reading and delivering a big sigh.

In any event, at the very least, I shall enjoy finding a genre specific book in the Wife Unit Category before she does. These little one-ups keep me slightly ahead of the curve.

Lastly, if you like historical mysteries, bank on Mr. Corby. Five minutes in his blog will leave you drooling for more.