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Military Science Fiction Short Story: The Woman

September 28, 2013 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  2 Comments

Hello, my friends.

Awhile ago I came in third with a military sci-fi short titled The Woman. Unfortunately, the blog that hosted the contest and the story is no longer online and the nice comments I received are now lost forever.

I’ve decided to turn the The Woman into a novella that will be published sometime this year. For prosperity sake, I present the original short story in its entirety below. If you want to avoid “spoilers,” be sure signup for my newsletter which will announce when the story will be available for free on various digital distribution sites and only read the expanded version when available.

While the novella will be published through Deep Mountain Studios with the fancy cover and professional editing, if you are a fan of my Lexus Toulouse science fiction setting (and specifically, Arune, the sentient warship with the yummy digital avatar), The Woman stands on its own.

Enjoy!

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In Which I SQUEE

July 01, 2010 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, The Craft  8 Comments

Writing a short story, as opposed to a novel, is difficult for me.  But I vowed to work on that craft, and I’m very pleased that one of my shorts won third place in Michelle Davidson Argyle’s short story contest. Any genre except erotica was welcome, and I picked science fiction.

The Woman” is a story based on the characters in my novel Armageddon’s Princess. Only, I reversed the roles, the story is about Arune, an AI, not about Lexus (although she does play an important part in the story).

Arune is a great character to write. He’s sensitive. He’s based on human DNA, but he is not human, he thinks very, very fast. But he is a person, and an interesting one at that. I was happy to finally be able to do him justice.

I love exploring gender relationships in my writing. My female friends often accuse me of being an incurable romantic. Of that I am proudly guilty.

Dex, 2

April 26, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  0 Comments

I did a bit of exposition into Dex and the people around him, continuing to world-build in the YOUR LITTLE SISTER universe.

If you have been follwoing along, this is pure world-building Anthony: Hack Writer style. It’s not a short, but it is connected to the previous Dex world-building post. If I was going to stuff this into a book, it would be half as long. Or even shorter. Right now, I have no real plot concerning Dex, although I am thinking Major Hackett will make an important appearance, not here, but later.

I love typing away without structure when world-building, seeing where the setting will take me. Here, I am expanding on the history of the YOUR LITTLE SISTER universe. The novel(s) are set eighteen years from these world-building “notes”.

***

Dex wanted boring back.

Hackett led him to a waiting room at the apex of the space station. She patted his hand, winked at him, and left without a word.

The door slid open and a young woman walked into the room. She was extraordinarily attractive, but her face was a story of fear and worry. She was wearing a brand-new uniform, with Lieutenant Stripes and a S&W G17  strapped to her thigh. Dex guessed she was just out of pre-vocational. She paused when she saw him.

Then she burst into tears and ran from the room.

“The Space Marshal will see you in about five minutes, Leftenant,” said a serene, feminine, voice in his left ear.

Hoo-boy.

Never had five minutes crawled so slowly. Finally, the door opened and a friendly voice called from inside. “Come in, Leftenant, come it.”

Dex strode across a hardwood floor of all things, his new boots clicking. The Space Marshal was standing before his high-tech desk, and Dex stopped and saluted.

Charles Olson held the command General of the Orbital and Space Force, and was primarily responsible for many of the decisions leading to the winning the war and the vanquishing of the enemy.

The new Constitution specified he was beholden to no one. Literally, he was the last in line, both rank wise and from a literal standpoint floating in space above Earth. But a single lowly Constitutional Enforcement Officer could replace him after one of their Jury Trials. Dex thought this was insane, but he had to admit, for a check-and-balance, it was a brilliant insanity.

He knew it was wrong, but he always assumed the man was older and taller. Instead, he was middle-aged, and reminded Dex of his father.

The Marshal returned his salute, briskly shook his hand (and thankfully did not kiss him) and motioned towards a couch with a loveseat in a corner. Dex took the overstuffed chair while the Marshal took the couch.

“This is an orientation, Dex, in which I impress upon my newly minted unrestricted line officers the state of O&E and where they fit into the service.”

“Yes, Sir.” So far, this wasn’t so bad. Dex was still trying to come to grips that he was an unrestricted officer, slatted for command. His two years of vocational training focused on logistics, not command. He would have to go to command school.

He hoped command school was in his future. He really did not know what he was doing. Having people salute him was unnerving.

“First off, and you’ll get all of this in training: O&E is simply a branch in the Military. And that is with a capital “M”. The Constitution does not classify sub-groups, and we probably shouldn’t either. With that said, let me display a the command structure of our entire Military force.”

The coffee table beeped and Dex realized it was a holo projector. Up popped a bunch of boxes with names, connected by lines, and as more boxes came into view, they shrank to display more data. Dex realized he was looking at a three-dimensional org chart.

The chart rotated slowly and the Marshal kept talking. “This is our current officer personnel structure, created after the Military split in three: Office of Constitutional Enforcement, Investigator, Military. Efficiency experts, command analysis and computer modeling designed this model. It flows and adjusts dynamically to standards for our society’s maximum military capabilities.  It’s a brilliant model. Except, of course, it just highlights the singular fact we’re all fucked.”

The Marshal paused and looked at Dex. Suddenly Dex had a bad feeling, one of those nebulous feelings that clawed at the bottom of the gut like an itch.

“Sir?”

“The model doesn’t lie. This is what the design is. Now let me show you the model from Year 1 to today in Year 3. Red is unfulfilled slots.”

Red boxes started appearing. And then more. And more. Suddenly half the chart was in red.

“This model is broken. We can’t use it, so we’re using something we all know sucks. Is sucking a bad thing, Dex, since we won the war? Do you think this is a consequence we should just live with?”

“I…” Dex shut his mouth. This was no easy question. Dex decided to do the ‘think aloud approach’. It could sink him, but at least he wouldn’t be sitting on the couch with his dork hanging out.

“Sir, if that is the model, based on an analysis of our global society as it exists, although new, then that is the model and to ignore it is inviting disaster. On one hand, you could argue the model is moot because there is no enemy. We waged genocide and killed them all.” Dex leaned back as he was thinking. He was getting into the rhythm of his answer.

“On the other hand, the purpose of the Military is to wage war on behalf of society to protect it from threats. Well, we already encounter a threat, and it nearly whipped us out as a species. Therefore, we need to plan for an enemy just as nasty and evil as the Unionists. Denial of logic is responsible for killing three-fifths of the planet’s population, if you add the enemy’s casualty count. We cannot deny the possibility of this happening again.”

The Marshal also leaned back and smiled warily. “Very good, Leftenant.”

Dex wasn’t finished. “In a sense, this model is a blueprint for our future society. We learned, with horrific cost, that Total War was necessary or we would cease to exist. ‘Military’ doesn’t mean much today because for several decades every free person was engaged in a war for our very existence. There was nothing political about the war. It was resist or die. So, in a sense, the model is broken.”

The Marshal cocked an eyebrow at him. “Oh, how so?”

“Can we, as a society, do anything else but wage Total War?”

Silence filled the room. Finally, the Marshal spoke. “A good question, Dex, a really good question. One I don’t have the answer, and neither does anybody else. We’ll just have to see and pray the Constitution can build a society where we can prevent something like that from ever happening again.”

Dex gave the Marshal a thin smile. “We’ll it helps there is only one Government. We’re finally united as a people.”

At horrific cost, was the qualifier that Dex did not need to add.

“Now we come to the part about you. I read your closing thesis, Current Military Expenditures and the Post-War Economy Incomes. In it, you assert corporate user fees cannot sustain the Military past the war infused Nuevo Credit reserves.”

He paused.

“Yes, Sir.”

“An accurate portrayal of finances, and you even took account post-war economy efficiency gains. Without a tax base, you assert, the Military is sustainable but would regress in capability.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Which is all true. To your credit, you did not give an opinion, one-way or the other, if this would be a good thing or not. So I am now here to ask you that very question.”

Dex did not even hesitate. “No Sir, that is bad. Really really bad,” he added, sounding just like his little sister.

“And why is that bad?”

“We belong in Space. Space won this war; our space assets will win the next war. The answer, I believe, is to somehow encourage private expansion into space beyond the Moon. We’ll just follow.”

The Marshal leaned back, looking thoughtful.

“You’re a credit to your generation, Dex. Your parents and your teachers have taught you well. But I am not here to blow nano up your ass. In a way you are right, but your model, just like the one you see floating here,” the Marshal waved a hand at the floating chart, “is broken. No fault of your own, you’re missing a key data point: Japan.”

Dex was puzzled and he was sure he looked puzzled. Japan went untouched by the ravages of war; they were a very industrial people steeped in tradition. Indeed, Dex held an enormous amount of respect for their culture; they adjusted their entire war economy without ripping their society apart like everyone else. If there was any old-style country with borders, it was Japan. They were not an anachronism; they were simply a lifeline into something normal from the past. Dex was sure without Japan, the war would be lost and the human race would have ceased to exist.

Tradition or no, the Japanese were just as enthusiastic about the new Constitution as everyone else was, so Dex didn’t get it.

“I don’t follow, Sir.”

“That’s because nobody talks about it, Dex, because it’s nobody’s business. Except ours. Because of your commission, I will give you the poop: the Japanese are funding the military through taxes. They have a 10% flat tax rate. And the entire amount, literally, goes into Military coffers.”

“But that is emphatically illegal, Sir. There is no tax authority. It is impossible to compose a government that actually collects taxes.”

“Of course. You’re going to find Constitution Enforcement Officers in Tokyo, but they aren’t going to be arresting anybody. You see, this tax is completely voluntary. The Empress of Japan, through word-of-mouth, simply asked people to make the payments. And that’s it. Everyone does. 10% of any Nuevo Credit earned in Japan simply is donated to us on a monthly basis.”

Dex mind whirled. The implications were staggering.

The Marshal grinned. “Amazing, isn’t it? Don’t think this is a pure altruistic dynamic, Leftenant. For one, what the Japanese giveth, the Japanese can taketh away. If the Empress wanted me to hop on down to the Palace and kiss her lily-white butt, I would do it without hesitation and ask her if she wanted me to wipe her ass with my tongue while I was there. There is also a bit of self-defense in their donations: they are very enamored of their wartime economy. They do not want to go through the upheaval everyone else did by going cold turkey. So they didn’t. And it’s a good thing too, because convincing a private company to make us spaceships when they economy is still adjusting to post-war reality would be an exercise in futility. We’re talking decades to get to the same point, if ever.

Dex was thoughtful. What the Marshal just described was a centralization of power, something the newly designed government was supposed to prevent. Yet it wasn’t illegal, so, in the end, wasn’t this just part of the design of letting people do the right thing?

“Wow,” was all Dex could say, feeling stupid for saying it. He couldn’t think of anything else though. He felt punch-drunk.

“Wow indeed. But back to you, Leftenant. Your paper was widely read by everyone interested in recruiting, which, as you can see here by our handy floating model, is everybody. Let’s stuff you in this model, shall we?”

Suddenly there were blue rectangles replacing the red ones. Dozens and dozens.

“The blue represents places where we can stuff you. See all those white squares above the blue ones, connected by the wispy lines? Every single one of those wankers, and I say that with affection, made a play for you. But I cashed in two silver bullets and burnt a bridge to snag you for my greedy bastard self.”

“Why, Sir?”

“Take off your boots and come with me,” the Marshal replied, taking his off with practiced ease.

Dex did so and felt a little foolish, but the Marshal was also in stocking feet, so he mentally shrugged. They walked out of his office, and then through a door from his reception area to a small room devoid of any furnishings or fixtures. The hardwood turned to bare metal, and in the center of the floor was a simple metal disk, a big dot.

“Step on the dot, Mr. Landau, and keep your hands to your sides.”

Dex did so. He heard a whisper and looked up, and a circular hole opened above him.

And then he was floating, quickly, up. He passed through three rooms and suddenly he was in space.

His caught his breath. Literally, it looked like he was “above” the station, floating in space. There was nothing above him. Nothing to the sides. Below him, there was the station, with a small hole at the top of a tower. Between his bare feet and the hole was nothing.

The Earth loomed impossibly large. It seemed to be tugging at him, and the feeling of vertigo was almost sexual.

Dex realized he was still alive, so he decided to start breathing again. He also realized he was stationary, part of the station’s artificial gravity. There was a “down” and an “up”.

Why did I take off my boots?

Dex took a small hesitant step. His foot found a floor. It felt padded, squishy. He was standing on an invisible floor! He could not help it; he put his hands out to his sides, as if to balance. It felt as if he was walking on pillows, and he moved out twenty feet until he bumped into a wall.

He heard another whisper behind him. The Marshal was standing there, grinning.

“You’re doing a lot better than I was when I first came here.”

“What is this place?” asked Dex, almost in a whisper.

“Don’t know. This is an old US, Japanese and Russian built station. Did you know that before the war, the Japanese and Russians hated each other?”

“No Sir, I didn’t. I find that hard to swallow.”

“Heuh, well threats of annihilation of your very soul is a great catalyst to put petty national interests aside. Anyway, this room is not on the original blueprints. The people who built it are not talking. Hell, we don’t even know who the orbital workers were. All the records were lost in the Cyber War. Anyway, we think this room has some early war religious meaning concerning the alliance of Japan and Russia and their contribution to the Federation. You can line yourself up with the three towers of the station and look down to the Sea of Japan. Or something like that. “

Dex looked out at the Earth. “Well, it certainly is having an impact on me Sir. I have never in my life felt this way before.” Dex felt euphoric. The view was so intense it was like a drug.

“Good. To answer your question, this is half the reason why O&S snagged you from the recruit channels: we believe you’re a pilot. You have no qualms like the prior generation about getting implants, nor Uplinking with an AI. The fact that you are standing here, right now, without pissing your pants, and yes, that does happen, means you can adapt to what we call ‘the macro of space’. All of this is similar to what you will feel and experience when you Uplink. Your senses will expand, and you just have to be the right kind of person to do that. It’s why your placement tests and deep scan seemed like they went on forever. Uplinked pilots are both born and made, and thus hard to find.”

Dex absorbed that.

“And the other reason, Sir?”

The Marshal actually frowned, and Dex felt his heart quicken.

“That’s personal. There’s a certain kind of officer, specifically, vets, that I want on my team. It’s a thin red line. One side lays madness and despair over the horrors of war. On the other side, denial. You, my Brother, are on the razors edge.”

Suddenly Dex did not want the Marshal to continue, but the man held his gaze and Dex was helpless.

“I need the kind of young man who made the decision to kill his little sister in the heat of battle. The same young man who saw beyond the utter awfulness of that act to the long-term ramifications on what would happen if he didn’t kill her. That giving her to the enemy would be a crime beyond her murder. You made a choice where other men could not.”

Dex wanted to float away. “But I didn’t, I didn’t kill my little sister,” he whispered.

The Marshal walked right up to Dex. “Of course you didn’t. But you tried.”

How does he know how does he know how does he know?

Dex fainted.

Dex

April 25, 2009 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, The Craft  1 Comment

Had an itch to write sci-fi separate from the YOUR LITTLE SISTER manuscript. So I decided to do some more world-building and see where it took me. Since I have been accused (by more than one person, I should add) of having a fascination with kissing, here’s a sci-fi kiss. We have the return of Major Hackett, and a new character, Dex. After writing this, Dex seems really fascinating. I don’t know why.

I’m digging the expanded Major Hackett though. Big time.

***

Leftenant Landau, the Space Marshal wants to talk to you,” said the Major in a neutral, flat voice. The short, sharp-featured woman looked him up and down, as if was a fresh piece of meat. Considering he was just off an orbiter, he was. He could almost see her mentally smirking through the thin veneer of her professional blankness.

Dex froze in place. He had not been on Space Station Mitachi more than five minutes. It was his first time in space. It was his first time in uniform. Hell, he did not even know where the head is, and he had to pee.

But he wasn’t stupid. He saluted the woman, remembering his training.

Training he received only yesterday.

She saluted back, and then stuck out her hand. “Jill Hackett,” she said, her voice warming up. “I am the Marshal’s attaché and all-around gopher girl.”

Dex took her hand and instead of shaking it, she clasped his wrist and pulled him close. She actually stood on her toes and kissed him on each cheek. He hoped his surprise did not wash across his face.

His cheeks felt warm as if he was blushing, and he realized the warmth was not from embarrassment. She was a wælcyrie! He had heard of them, but never had met one until now. His brain raced with the cultural meaning of having one kiss him. It was a social greeting, but also more. They were marking you with nano riders carried on their lips. No one knew why, or if anyone did, they were not telling. Eventually, his internal nano regulator would neutralize the benign foreign nano tech.

Theoretically, at least. It was some small comfort that if the nano was malignant, his regulator would go into full neutralization mode.

He pushed this from his brain as he realized she was now smiling at him. “This way, Leftenant.”

He followed dutifully. He tried to memorize the route but gave up after five minutes. She was probably following a trail displayed in her contact lens HUD, avoiding crowds and construction in real-time, both of which seemed abundant.

Dex decided being shy was stupid. He may be still wet behind the ears, but he was a commissioned officer, newb status notwithstanding. He was being silly.

“Could we take a detour to the head, Major?”

“Of course. This way.”

Soon they were in a unisex bathroom. He made a beeline for a urinal while she disappeared into a stall.

As they were both peeing, she got chatty.

“I saw you have a combat record, Leftenant. Did you see a lot of action?”

“No ma’am. In the war, my family operated a Whisper Net Repeater in the Northern Territories. We got hit with a drop. That was the extent of my contact with the enemy.”

“I glanced at your file, personal details are sparse. You have sisters, yes?”

“Yes. Four. Three older ones and one younger one.”

She came out from the stall and they washed up next to each other.

“Four! Goodness, Landau, how did you survive? And I guess that’s why you’re not shy with having a conversation with a female while peeing.”

“I learned to hide really well,” he said grinning.

“I bet the younger one has you wrapped around her pinky.”

Dex felt the grin freeze on his face. His mother used to say to him “You be careful, Dex, that sister of yours has you wrapped around her pinky!”

Concern played across Hackett’s face. She reached across and moved his hands away from the faucet, and the water turned off. He had spaced out to the point he did not realize his hands were still under the running water.

Now Dex was embarrassed. He didn’t know much about space stations, but he knew wasting water was rude. It had to be re-filtered.

“I’m sorry, Dex. I did not mean to bring up bad memories.”

Dex sighed. “Not so much bad as—bittersweet. Is it that obvious?” Sometimes he felt he was wearing his grief from losing his parents in the war like a cloak. He dried his hands quickly, still embarrassed.

“No, no. The war has been over for only three years, you’ll spot it yourself here soon enough. We all have the odd thing that reminds us of those who are no longer with us.” Suddenly her eyes grew large and luminous. “Sometimes, the hurt just sneaks up on you and wham; it’s like a punch in the gut.”

A single tear slid down her face.

Dex felt a pang of sympathy so strong, it nearly made him shudder. Almost against his will, he reached down to her pixie-like face and brushed the tear away. Suddenly, arms were around his neck and she kissed him, a desperate kiss of mouth and tongue, and he kissed her back, just as desperately.

The door to the head opened and they suddenly looked at the entering man and woman, Corporals. The two stopped in their tracks and stared, the Major still had her arms around his neck and he realized he had a hand on her shapely butt.

The enlisted quickly recovered and snapped smart salutes. Dex just as quickly separated from Hackett and they returned the salutes.

“Major,” said the man.

“Corporal, at ease.” The Major smoothed out her uniform.

Leftenant,” said the woman. She bit her lip and her eyes were dancing.

“Corporal,” Dex said. Suddenly he felt very foolish. He gave her a nod and left, quickly followed by the Major. As the door closed behind them, Dex did not hear laughter but he was positive that is what was going on.

“This way, Leftenant.” He could swear she was blushing.

As he followed the mysterious woman, no, the wælcyrie, Dex had to remind himself­­­—he wondered what the Space Marshal wanted of him. In the span of three days, he advertised his availability for work, received a commission, took a 12-hour orientation corpse, was deep scanned and re-assigned to Orbital and Space because of his genetic predisposition to neural implant acclimation coupled with high scores in AI interfacing. In moments, he will be meeting with the Commander of Orbital and Space. Tomorrow he will undergo surgery and then tanked for regen therapy for a month to finish growing the cyber tech and then acclimate his body to the implants.

Somehow, in the midst of all of this, he kissed the Space Marshall’s intelligence officer—a genetically engineered soldier from the war times who, technically, was not human.

Dex had to admit to himself that his future, if the present was any indication, was a big unknown to him, very different from his carefully sister-arranged life. This both terrified and elated him. Whatever tomorrow holds, it would not be boring!

To Channel Your Inner Sci-Fi Moojoo, You Must Swim With the New Media

December 05, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Plot, Setting, The Craft  5 Comments

Some of the best science fiction stories lately do not come from books. While it seems that some authors are trying to grasp a straw from the playbook of the golden years of science fiction Grandmasters, there are visionary people working outside of traditional story-telling to deliver the goods. Interactively.

Take for instance, Portal. Portal is a three-dimensional puzzle computer/console game that requires spacial thinking. But it also tells a story, and is vaguely connected, in a creepy way, to another great science fiction story from a computer game, Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Set in the grand and so very bleak Half-Life universe, Portal is, at its heart, a complex tale filled with tension, foreshadowing and base malevolence hidden behind sarcastic humor. Over the course of the game, you are slowly fed this story and if you do not pay attention you can even miss it! And when you escape from the clutches of the antagonist, your are not really too sure escaping was a good idea.

My point is thus: If you want to write science fiction (and the Bunny Trouble story is science fiction which is why this subject is dear to my heart), then you have to play and understand the appeal of these games. For they are very good, and very compelling. They tell a story in such a way as to draw you in and keep you thinking about it long after it is done, much like a good science fiction book does. That is caused not just by the game itself, but in large part from the pure science fiction goodness presented to the player.  If you do not understand the appeal of the great  stories, in their complex universes, such as Half-Life 2, Portal, Mass Effect, etc., your future audience is limited, your readers left wanting for more.

Evolve or die.

Read More…

Monster Hunter International now on Amazon for presale

November 30, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Awesomesauce, The Craft  0 Comments

Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International is now available for presale on Amazon.com.

I have the pre-Baen version (which is now a collectable). It’s an outstanding debut genre-stretching novel. One could classify it as military urban fantasy, or near-future science fiction. I loved it thoroughly. Loved loved loved.

The novel has a great voice and the characters are wonderfully developed and three-dimensional. I could go on, but just buy the thing.

Give the gift this year in books. Anyone who likes the great contemporary monster story, this is the cat’s meow.

Buy it. Now. And then wait, knowing that a lucky few got a POD version before Baen found this gem.

Heeeeeee.

Treason by Orson Scott Card

October 18, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  0 Comments

It takes a special novel for me to read more than once. Reading more than twice, that to me is an indication that there is something fundamentally engaging about the novel. Since 1988, I have read Treason every two years.

Treason by Orson Scott Card is back in reprint and comes recommended for anyone contemplating writing science fiction. A thought provoking tale of personal sacrifice, redemption and doing the right thing even though it is the hard thing, the book will ping your inner science fiction child. Somewhat forced in places, the story is engaging and, at times, surprisingly warm for such a bleak premise.

As any classic science fiction book should do, the ending will leave you with a feeling of wonder. Indeed, after I finished the book, I was smiling. The ending is so endearing I yearn for more of the two characters, but the bittersweet truth of the story demands we leave them right where they are. The ending of the book is so personal, it calls to you, and few speculative novels can match it, either before or after its publication.

Card is a monumental storyteller, and this sometimes overlooked gem is one of his best. I say this with no hesitation or reservation.

Dreams of My Youth Shattered

September 23, 2008 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft  0 Comments

I had no inkling that Alexei Panshin’s ode to a proper education, Rite of Passage, was a response to Heinline’s politics.

My YA Science Fiction fan core is hiding under the covers, snuffling.

It’s still a hell of a book, which is a very interesting observation to me. Even though History has been kind to Heinline and less kind to Panshin, motivation and passion provides the fuel for an excellent story. As a teen, it made me think.

Politics motivates one of the main characters in Bunny Trouble. This motivation does not serve him well.

As a meta observation, how many other bombs are lurking for me now that I am diving into the world around SFF, rather than the SFF stories themselves?