Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Excerpt for September 17th, 2017

It has been far too long since I posted any excerpts here on my blog. Part of the reason was that Friday Fiction dwindled away, though I would love to see it return with many of my writer friends from Faithwriters and beyond.

For this new entry, I’ve posted the opening scene from last year’s NaNoWriMo project, “The Daedalus Episodes.” One of the stories in the Pod series is “The Daedalus Child,” about a young man born with his arms engineered as wings, who ends up as the living model for an animated superhero character, Daedalus. I had thought for a while about writing some of the stories about the superhero version of the character, and so made that my NaNo project last year. This story is still in the original draft stage, and I expect to begin revising it sometime soon, but for your reading pleasure, here is the introduction of the character who will become Daedalus.

The Daedalus Episodes

 by Rick Higginson

Episode 1 Scene 1

            She walked between two deputies without pausing, earning her condemning looks and a staccato challenge. In response, she flashed her ID over her shoulder and continued without looking behind her. Once inside, she went straight to the small office in back and entered without knocking. “Are you in charge here?”

            The sergeant stood up. “I’m going to assume, ma’am, from your demeanor that you’re with the Feds.”

            “Nancy Rich.” She opened her ID again. “Domestic Security. I’m told you have a ‘specimen’ that is of interest to us.”

            “I’m Sergeant Jeremiah, and I’m the ranking deputy on site.” He took a closer look at her ID. “Yeah, we got a ‘specimen,’ though that’s an interesting way to describe it.”

            “Take me to it, please.”

            He squeezed by her in the tight confines of the office. “This way, ma’am.” Gesturing to two other deputies standing beside a security door, he waited until one unlocked it and held it open for them. “None of us has ever seen the likes of this – thing – before, so I hope you understand the additional security.”

            “Understood. How was it captured?”

            “Two of my deputies were on patrol and found themselves in a weird storm yesterday. They pulled off to the side to wait it out, when they said it just dropped into the bushes a short ways in front of them. It was unconscious when they got to it, so they bundled it up and brought it here.”

            “I see. Has it regained consciousness?”

            “Yes, ma’am, about two hours ago.”

            “Has it given you any difficulties?”

            “No, ma’am. It’s just huddled in the back corner of the holding cell. We tried talking to it, but it never responded to anything we said.”

            They stepped in front of the cell. At the rear wall, a human-like head poked just above a wrinkled flesh-colored membrane.

            “What’s it hiding behind?”

            “Best I can describe it, ma’am, is that the thing has wings, kind of like a bat.”

            She considered the information, and slowly exhaled a deep breath. “Are there cameras monitoring this area?”

            “Of course.”

            “I want them shut off. No video or audio recording, and I want all your people out of this area before I approach the specimen.”

            “With all due respect, ma’am, I’d strongly advise against that. We don’t have any idea what it’s liable to do if approached.”

            “Look at the face, sergeant. I’d say it’s about the equivalent of mid to late teens in age, and it’s terrified. It woke up locked in a cell, held by people it didn’t know.” She raised her eyes to meet the sergeant’s, and smiled. “The reason I’m here is that I am very good at what I do, and I don’t anticipate having any trouble with the specimen.” She pulled a folded piece of paper from her purse. “If you need any more convincing, this is the order giving me custody and authority over the specimen and the situation. Unlock the cell, and leave me to do my job.”

            He read over the document before giving her a skeptical look. “I’d feel a whole lot better if you’d at least allow me and another of my deputies to remain here and keep an eye on you, just in case.”

            “Go, and turn off all the monitoring equipment.” Her expression turned stern. “And close the door behind you.”

            When he had complied, she opened the cell door slowly. Before entering, she removed a small device from her purse, pressed a switch, and then placed it on the flat cross bar midway up the cell wall. The specimen watched her as she approached, but made no move either towards her, or to try and keep as much distance between them as it could in the small confines.

            Crouching in front of him, she pulled a tiny earpiece from a container in her purse. She held it where the specimen could see it, before she slowly reached to put it in his ear.

            Her hand moved involuntarily away from its head, so she held her other hand where it could see, and then made a show of removing an identical earpiece from her own ear. She placed the first one into her other ear, and then again reached to place her own in its ear. This time, she was able to insert it, and then leaned back. “Can you understand me now? Nod your head if you can.”

            Its expression turned to puzzlement, but it nodded.

            “Good. What I just gave you is a translator device. Do you have a name?”

            “I am called Adedeles.”

            “I am called Nancy. Are you hurt, Adedeles?”

            “I am bruised from the fall, but nothing serious. What is this place? Why is everyone I see crippled?”

            “That will take some explaining, but for the moment, you are safe. Can you stand and walk?”

            “Yes.” With a little effort, it rose to its feet, holding its wings folded in front of it.

            “May I look you over, to see if you have any injuries you are not aware of?”

            It held its wings out slightly, revealing a sling-type garment that wrapped over both shoulders and then through the crotch. He turned about, allowing her to examine his lean frame and fleshy wings.

            “You have a few scrapes back here, too, but nothing that looks worrisome. I need to get you away from here. Will you come with me?”

            “Will you answer my questions if I do?”

            “Yes, I promise, I will answer all of them to the best of my ability.” She took the blanket from the bunk. “Let me drape this over you for now.” She wrapped the blanket over his shoulders, bringing it around for him to grip with his thumbs, which were the only digit he had that resembled a human finger. “For now, don’t speak until we are away from this place. It will be safer for you if the people here see you as quiet and passive.”

            “I have been quiet and passive since I woke up here.”

            She smiled, and placed her hand lightly on his back through the blanket. She took her jamming device from the crossbar and placed it back in her purse as they walked through the cell door. The outer door opened to her knock, and she led Adedeles out into the main room of the substation.

            Most of the deputies backed away, some with their hands moving towards their holstered weapons as they formed a loose circle around her.

            Nancy waved her hand. “Your fears are unfounded. He presents no threat to any of you.”

            One of the deputies kept his hand near his sidearm. “Where are you taking it?”

            “Your sergeant has my authorization to take him into Domestic Security custody. You didn’t really think you were going to keep him here indefinitely, did you?”

            “There should be more than just you.”

            She strode over in front of the deputy, with Adedeles staying just behind her. She was a good eight inches shorter than the muscular deputy, and he gazed at her with unmasked doubt. “You think I can’t take care of myself, deputy?”

            “Let’s just say I think this warrants more than just one middle-aged, overweight woman.” He cut his eyes between her and Adedeles, keeping his hand poised over his pistol.

            “You’re an idiot.” With a swift motion, she snatched the pistol from his holster, ejected the magazine and cleared the chamber. Before the pistol hit the floor, she seized his hand and swept his legs from beneath him. As the pistol clattered on the tile, she pinned him down and looked about the room. “Anyone else want to doubt my ability to take care of myself?”

            Sergeant Jeremiah raised his voice. “All right, people. That’s enough. Stand down and allow Agent Rich to do her job.”

            She released the deputy. “Thank you sergeant.” Everyone continued to stare at her, some fearfully. She laughed gently to help ease some of the tension. “If you’re worried I’m going to pull out some flashy device and erase your memories, I can assure you that technology has not been invented yet, that I’m aware of, and you’re all going to be talking about this tomorrow. You might want to keep the talk amongst yourselves for now, just in case the Government decides to classify this, but I have no way to make you forget what you’ve seen.”

She ushered Adedeles out the door and to her van. Every deputy followed them out and watched as she settled her charge in the vehicle. Without another word to the assembled officers, she got into the driver’s seat, started the engine, and pulled back onto the highway.

            Once she was a few miles up the road and confident none of the deputies were following, she adjusted the mirror to look at Adedeles. “All right. This should be private enough for your questions. As to your first question, you are still on Earth, just not the Earth you are familiar with.”

            “I do not understand.”

            “You were caught in a storm. Describe the storm to me.”

            “I had never seen a storm like it before. I was trying to get to shelter, but I could not seem to fly against it.” He hesitated a moment. “I thought I must have injured my head, because I thought I saw…” He looked out the side window of the van. “It was not possible, though.”

            “You saw another world.”

            “How did you know?”

            She stopped the van in a roadside turnout, and then twisted in the seat to face him. “Because I saw one in the storm that brought me here from my Earth, many years ago.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Friday Fiction for November 22, 2013

I have the joy of hosting Friday Fiction this week, made especially nice as this Friday is my birthday. Please enter your link in the Linky Widget following this introduction!

NaNoWriMo 2013 is entering its final week, and “Draconian Responses” is over 58,000 words now, with more still to write. One of the things I’ve enjoyed in writing the stories in this series, is seeing creation through the eyes of the natives of another world. When I wrote the first story, I imagined what it might be like if some of the things in our creation account had happened differently, and how the story might be told elsewhere. On Epsilon Eridanus, or Qi’le as they call it, their account holds that God created the woman first, and then the man, and that it was the man who fell first. Therefore, the man was made subordinate to the woman, resulting in a Matriarchal culture, and a Matriarchal image of God. In this chapter, I visited a bit of their culture and tradtions, while bringing in some hints of events still to come in the story. I hope you enjoy, and for my readers here in the United States, I hope you have a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Draconian Responses
By Rick Higginson
NaNoWriMo, 2013

Chapter 18

            G’Se watched out the side windows of the transport as it sped along over the trees. An obvious line revealed where the stream ran through the forest, though in this location, the channel was narrow enough that the trees closed enough over it that the water could not be seen. In several places, the path from T’Cha heading towards the Temple City would be near the stream as well, though that was just as much obscured by the dense foliage.
            A new robe rested on her lap, folded neatly and awaiting presentation to H’Na. She smiled as she thought about it. H’Na’s grandmother would have stood in and made the presentation, and it would have preserved the symbolism of the ceremony just fine. The presentation from mother to daughter signified the lineage of the priestess, daughter through mother, all the way back to the women of Ch’Ma, the first priestesses of Qi’le.
            A narrow, rocky canyon passed beneath them, bringing to G’Se’s memory a journey long ago by klur to the Temple, after a detour to T’Cha. The canyon had made some of the women on the journey nervous, with the open sky above. She had felt strange without the trees, but she hadn’t recalled feeling afraid. She had been a young woman, not yet ordained, but with the Terran devices proving the sky was nothing to fear, she had grown up with a slightly different mindset than previous generations. God created the forests for us, but She also created the plains, and the deserts, and the oceans, and the stars.
            In the very early years of their dealings with the Terrans, it had still been considered odd that any Qi’le would want to go to the stars, let alone a priestess. The priestess B’Tra had gone, of course, but that had been at the direction of the High Priestess, for the purpose of being an ambassador. While it still was not common that Qi’le went to the stars, it wasn’t as unusual or seen as indicative of some kind of mental lapse.
            Their own star shone down on them, providing life and warmth, and sustaining the trees that, in turn, sustained life on Qi’le. She had seen that star from Alsafi, and she had seen it from Earth, and from those places, it shrank to insignificance amongst all the other stars. Some stars stood out in the night sky. Theirs did not. For that matter, the Terran star did not, either.
            What was it, Most Blessed Mother of All, that made these two stars the place where You put Your children? She suspected the Terran scientists would offer long, detailed explanations of the type of star, and the distance between the star and the planet, and so many other things that she did not fully understand, but she went back to what she had always been taught. The Most Blessed Mother of All formed the world, and blessed it, and called forth the trees from the ground, and gave them the power to sustain life. Then She created the creatures for the trees to sustain, and in turn, ordained that the creatures would return to the trees eventually, and give back the nourishment they had taken from the trees. Then She formed the woman, and She touched the woman’s cheek, and the woman lived.
            The Terrans had more complicated explanations for how the worlds had formed and how life had begun, and most excluded the idea of God having been the One responsible. They may have their ideas. I see God in all that She has made.
            “We have arrived in T’Cha, honored priestess,” Peri said. He settled the transport to the ground near the old vessel the first Terrans had arrived in, and sent notification to Temple City Terminal Control of their safe arrival. “You have been so quiet this journey, honored priestess. Have I offended you in some way?”
            “No, Peri. I have just been thinking. I do not believe you would willingly offend me, and I prefer to not take offense to things that are done without intent to offend.”
            He lifted their two bags from the back of the transport, and slung them over his shoulders. “The priestess Se’Ana insists we stay with her, while Emily also has offered us rooms in the inn.”
            “Where would you prefer to stay?”
            “I believe it is better to stay with my grandmother, both because I would not risk offending her, and because I believe Emily will be around to welcome me for much longer than my grandmother. I dread the day I return from a journey, to learn she has experienced the final dream.”
            They walked the worn pathway through the village, receiving and returning frequent greetings from other residents they passed. Peri finally turned towards one door, where he called a greeting. The door opened, and they were invited inside.
            The older man took the bags from Peri. “Welcome home, Peri. I trust your journey went well?”
            “I cannot say for certain, Grandfather. I am told that, following our answers to the Council, the Archipelago entered a state of active war against Alsafi.”
            “War?” Peri’s grandfather switched to English. “There hasn’t been war since the old political systems nearly destroyed Earth.”
            “Alsafi used Empties in an attempt to attack Earth and Earthrise, Grandfather. The High Priestess told us we had saved lives with our warning, but none of us knew the extent. The Colonial Council isolated some of the Empties in a simulator, and gave them the messages from Alsafi.”
            G’Se noted the look of distress on Peri’s face, and placed a gentle touch on his arm.
            “Grandfather, one of the Empties took control of a Voidship in orbit around the Moon, and activated the Plateau Drive to send it crashing into Earth. The Council said if it had been a real Voidship instead of the simulator, the death toll could have been in the millions.”
            The old man nodded. “I would say that I hope both sides know what they’re doing, but it’s obvious that whoever on Alsafi instigated the attack, doesn’t realize the potential consequences.”
            The priestess Se’Ana stepped out of a side room. “If people considered the consequences of their actions before they performed them, many of our actions would never be performed.” She drew Peri into an embrace. “You have done well, child. Pray for all those affected by this, but do not accept the lie that you are in any way responsible. God used you to save many innocent lives, and for that, honor has come to the families of T’Cha, B’qa, and K’Za.” She turned to G’Se. “Honored priestess, enter our home in peace. It is a joy to see you again, G’Se.”
            “Honored priestess, be’tra for your welcome. I am delighted to see you again, Se’Ana. The priestess S’Bu sends her greetings, and bade me to convey her affection to you.”
            “I would that I could go and receive her affection in person.”
            “ Would it not be possible, honored priestess, for you to make the journey?”
            “I have sometimes thought about it, but I fear I am too old to travel the stars again.”
            G’Se cut her eyes towards the younger man. “Peri?”
            He met her eyes and smiled, before turning to Se’Ana. “Even if you were truly ready for the final dream, grandmother, SusAn would sustain you for the journey. Did you not tell me the story many times, of the crew member from Pisces that was attacked and seriously wounded by an animal, and was kept in SusAn until she was returned to Earthrise?”
            The old woman patted his arm. “I would think you were trying to get me away from T’Cha.”
            “You could go if you wished, Grandmother. You said when I was last here, that you were considering passing on the duties of priestess elder to another. If you and Grandfather wish to visit Earth again, I will gladly take you there.”
            “We will speak of this later. Come and sit, and we can discuss pleasant things for a little while. Honored priestess, I will send for the Headmistress of the school, so that we may plan the ordination of your daughter. Your mother offered to stand in for you when the other priestesses in her class were ordained, but she would not receive her robe from any but you, even if you were to be delayed for many years.”
            “Be’tra, honored priestess. I purchased her first robe while we were at the Temple City, so I will be ready to proceed whenever it is convenient for you and the council of priestesses here in T’Cha.”
            Peri’s grandfather remained by the door as the two women settled into their seats. “I will go and inform the Headmistress that the priestess G’Se has arrived, and is ready to speak with her at her pleasure.”
            Se’Ana smiled at the man. “Be’tra, my beloved. Peri, go with your grandfather, please, so that the priestess G’Se and I may discuss some priestess business privately.”
            Peri stood up, looking a bit confused. “Of course, grandmother.”
            When the two men had left, Se’Ana turned to her. “The High Priestess conveyed your request, honored priestess, and I have asked some friends to assist in the effort. I cannot promise, though, that we will find her. My impression is, that she does not wish to be found.”
            “Why is that, honored priestess?”
            “I cannot say for certain, G’Se, though I have my guesses. God, however, has been chastising me lately for slipping into gossip far too often, and I am making the effort to heed Her correction. If I share my guesses, even if they are correct, then I will be gossiping about someone who is not here to speak for herself.”
            “I understand, Se’Ana.”
            “I must ask, child, if you are sure of this path?”
            “I have been sure of very little since the day my husband died, Se’Ana, but of this, I am sure. It seems strange to think of such, but when the High Priestess suggested a path of service for me, it felt as if God was telling me that it was the right thing to do.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Friday Fiction for November 15, 2013

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Vonnie over on her blog, My Back Door. Vonnie writes wonderfully imaginative stories for the young and the young-at-heart. Be sure to check out her writings, especially if you have young children or grandchildren to entertain.

My 2013 NaNoWriMo story, “Draconian Responses,” is now over 52,000 words, with several more chapters of events needing to happen to bring the story to its conclusion. One of the themes of the story is that a dictator has secured the position of “Adon” on Alsafi, a colonized planet in the Sigma Draconis system, by orchestrating civil unrest and controlling the Empties. He also smuggled Empties off Alsafi, and sent them to the Terran Archipelago capitol in the Lunar city Earthrise, to secure employment in potentially vital positions.

The Colonial Council responded to the dictator’s actions by dispatching the Aggressor Voidship Chesty Puller to Sigma Draconis, and in this scene, the commander of the Chesty Puller speaks with two captured members of the Alsafi Ruling Council.

Chapter 28
From “Draconian Responses”

            The woman sat in a chair, secured into it by a strap locked behind her. One other chair was in the room, and Ignatius entered and sat in it. She looked up at him with an expression that seemed to mix regret and relief. “Commander Crane,” she said.
            “I see that I don’t need to introduce myself, then.” He scrolled through the file on his datab. “I see you are Emilia Hendricks, and you have been on the Ruling Council for about fifteen standard years. That would put you having served the previous Adon as well as the current one.”
            “That is correct.”
            “Did you support the current Adon’s rise to power?”
            “But you remained on the Council after his assumption of the position.”
            “Did you support his methods or his programs?”
            “If you did not support his rise to power, or his methods and programs, then why did you stay on the Council?”
            “Commander Crane, have you found any former Council members?”
            “I haven’t looked.”
            “Don’t bother. You won’t find any. When Leonard first presented himself as the new Adon, several members of the Council opposed him. He had one killed on the spot, and those who chose to stand with the old Adon were taken to join him. Do you know what they did to the former Adon, Commander?”
            “Our files indicate he was executed.”
            “He was, and so were all the Council members who chose to oppose Leonard. He didn’t stop there, Commander. He didn’t just execute the Council members. He executed their families. Beretti was the most vocal in that meeting. He had Beretti strapped into a chair, and brought out both his mother, and his three year old daughter. They were stripped naked, bound hand and feet, and both were placed on the gallows with the nooses around their necks. As if that wasn’t enough, Leonard had two twenty five kilogram weights tied to two ropes, through pulleys attached to the ceiling above Beretti’s chair, and under the weights were the triggers that would release the trapdoors under the gallows. Beretti had to hold the ropes, knowing if he let either slip, a family member would die. He had to watch them standing there for hours, until his hands could no longer grip the ropes, and then he got to watch them die. The next day, they brought out his son and his father and repeated the process. The third day, it was his wife and his oldest daughter, only they forced him to watch a gang of men abuse them first, and then they put them on the gallows.”
            “How do you know this?”
            Tears were running down her face. “Because we had to watch it as well, Commander. Leonard told us that he would have no mercy on anyone who stood against him, and he promised us that our families would suffer miserable deaths as well, if we should ever think of betraying him.”
            “How many Council members did he subject to such torture?”
            “Over half of the former Council chose to side with the former Adon, and the torments were different for each one, but each was forced to endure some painful process in the vain hope of prolonging the lives of the people they loved. I have children, Commander. Leonard reminded me of that fact often, and that his Empties were employed as my children’s caretakers. He’d already demonstrated that all he needed to do was speak the word, and the Empties would do his bidding, no matter how heinous. What would you do, Commander, if there was always the implied threat, that all he needed to do was make one transmission, and your child’s nanny would torture them to death?”
            “My job is not to determine your guilt or innocence. My job is to try and determine which council members may have been complicit in the attack against Earth and Luna, and leave the rest to the Colonial Council.” He handed her a handkerchief. “What do you know about those actions, Ms. Hendricks?”
            “We knew nothing of it until your transmission, Commander. The most we knew was that Leonard implied that he had taken measures to sever Alsafi’s ties with the Archipelago. None of us from the previous Council roster approved of the idea of Alsafi Independence. The only Council members that truly agreed with it, were the puppet members he installed to replace those he had executed. The rest of us also suspected the new Council Members were there to keep an eye and ear on us, should any of us start talking sedition.”
            “Did any of you?”
            “I suspect several of us would have, if we had thought we might get away with it, but Leonard seemed to have eyes and ears everywhere. The Empties were his agents, and we’ve figured out that he had Empties programmed that no one – not even themselves – knew were Empties.”
            “Tell me what you know about the Empties.”
            “Imagine a world, Commander, where you learn that, all around you, were thousands upon thousands of people who, with a command, would turn into sociopaths that could be turned against anyone that Leonard chose?”
            “Could he still issue that command?”
            “Do you have him under guard? Is he dead?”
            “Not yet.”
            “With the communications network down, it would be a lot slower for him to unleash them, but all he needs to do is find one or two, give them the appropriate command to go and repeat the command to others, and let it domino out from there.”
            “Where are your children, Ms. Hendricks?”
            “We have an estate outside of Eldorado.”
            He held his datab over to her. “Pinpoint it on the map.”
            She placed a spot on the display, and gave him a look. “Are you going to hold my children hostage against me as well, Commander?”
            “No, Madam Council Member, I am going to send some of my troops to get them away from the Empties, before your ‘Benevolent Adon,’ as he liked to call himself, has a chance to get a message to anyone.” He stood up.
            “How bad was it? The attack on Earth and Luna, I mean? Just how many deaths did Leonard cause in the name of Alsafi?”
            “To be honest, none.”
            “But the attacks? The files?”
            “We were fortunate. The Eridani Rover that escaped Alsafi with the Priestess, had been given information by the Priestess’ husband, and dispatched a drone to the Eridani Ambassador. She brought the information to the Colonial Council, and the Council managed to identify and quarantine the Empties. The images you saw of the Empties operating the consoles were real, but the consoles were in a simulator. All the results were from the simulator. That does not change the fact that your ‘Adon’ ordered the attack, knowing full well what he programmed those Empties to do, would result in possibly millions of deaths.”
            She released a breath. “Don’t let him live, Commander. So long as Leonard is alive, he’s a danger.”
            “My orders are, if at all possible, to return him to Earthrise alive. The Council will decide what to do with him, but the Colonial Charter does not contain a provision for the death penalty, regardless of how much he might deserve it.”
            “I never thought I would say this about any person, but it really will be better if one of your soldiers has to kill him.”
            “I’m not disagreeing, but my function is not to be the judge and executioner.” He opened the door. “One of my people will be in shortly to escort you to a berth. I’m afraid, for the time being, you will have to remain confined, but we will make every effort to be sure you are comfortable. I will send word to you just as soon as I know something about your children.”
            “Thank you, Commander. I don’t know if your soldiers know this, but just before they broke into the Council Chambers, Leonard had given the order to kill all of us. I won’t mind being confined up here. At least, I’m alive.”
            He transmitted the directive for the rescue to the Command Center, trusting Ivan on the Console to route it to the squad best positioned to carry out the mission, and went to the next room. This man had a defiant expression on his face.
            “You have no right,” the man said.
            “You are Cassius Applegate, one of the newest members of the Ruling Council. I assume that means you were hand-picked by the current ‘Adon’ to fill one of the vacancies he created in the Ruling Council.”
            “I don’t have to answer any of your questions. You have invaded a sovereign world, and violated Alsafi space.”
            “No, you don’t have to answer any of my questions. The System has verified your identity, and the files we have from Alsafi confirm the date of your appointment to the Ruling Council. Since you appear to have been complicit with the attack against Earth and Luna, my orders are to secure you in SusAn for transport back to Earthrise, where you can argue your case before the Colonial Council.”
            He sneered. “The Colonial Council is dead. Their chambers were destroyed in the attack. You should know, since you played the files on our media enough times.”
            Ignatius stood up and smiled at the man. “Well, then, maybe we’ll just plan on waking you from SusAn where the Council Chambers once stood, and let you decide whether to remain in your chamber until your air finally runs out, or open your chamber and experience the explosive decompression your attack subjected others to.”
            “The Colonial Charter forbids such actions.”
            “If there is no Colonial Council, then who is going to hold me to the Colonial Charter?” He opened the door and gestured for the soldier waiting outside. “Take him to the secure SusAn compartment, and put him under.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Friday Fiction for November 8, 2013

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by fellow NaNoWriMo participant and talented storyteller, Sara, on her Fiction Fusion blog. Be sure to drop in, read a little, and say ‘hi.’

My NaNoWriMo novel for this year, “Draconian Responses,” crossed the 25K word count threshold tonight. I missed posting an excerpt last week, as I was furiously typing away for the first night of NaNo. I’ve been furiously typing away tonight, too, but decided I can stand another late night, and post an excerpt.

I wrestled with this scene, knowing that it’s not going to sit well with many readers, and for different reasons. Yet, it seemed far too important to shy away from it. One of the plots in the story is that, in the wake of the events on Alsafi from the story, “Empty Threats,” Peri, the pilot of the Rover Vessel “Stardreamer,” and the priestess G’Se are summoned to appear before the Colonial Council, in the Lunar city Earthrise. Following the questioning by the Council, they travel to Earth where they stay as guests of the Qi’le (Eridani) Embassy. This scene takes place their first night at the Embassy.

Draconian Responses
By Rick Higginson
NaNoWriMo, 2013

Chapter 9

            G’Se lay on the bed in the dark room, staring towards the ceiling. She began quiet prayers, each of which burned out before she could finish them, and thought about what S’Bu had said. Where is my heart? Not in S’Po, and not even at the tree where I hold memorial for Solomon. It is not in teaching the children, nor standing each morning with the other priestesses for the prayers.
            Peri was in an adjacent room, and she had heard him return there perhaps half a standard hour before. She took a deep breath, and turned her head towards the door. The lights in the corridor outside had been extinguished, and the Embassy was quiet.
            She threw the bed linens back, and sat up on the edge of the bed. She stayed there for a moment, and then stood to walk to the door. With her hand on the knob, she hesitated briefly, and then stepped into the corridor. A few steps down, and she placed her hand on another door knob, hesitating again. Closing her eyes, she turned the knob, and entered the room quickly. She shut the door behind her, and leaned against it momentarily.
            “Hello?” Peri said. “Is someone there?
            She crossed the floor to the bed, and slid beneath the linens next to him.
            He shifted back quickly in surprise. “Who is there?
            She sang quietly. “It is G’Se.”
            “Honored priestess, this is not proper. You should not be here.”
            “It is not proper, if I take you in the manner that a woman takes a husband. I am not here to do that. Please let me stay, Peri.”
            “I am confused, honored priestess.”
            “Would you call me G’Se for tonight, Peri?”
            “I do not understand, honored priestess.”
            She slid closer to him, and reached an arm across his chest. “Since the day we left Alsafi, I have been nothing but a priestess. Would you speak with me tonight as a friend?”
            “I have been your friend since that day we first met in Su’bui, G’Se, but I still do not understand what you are doing in this bed with me.”
            She sighed at the sound of her name. “I miss this, Peri. I miss being held in the night as a friend. I miss being treated by someone as a friend first, and a priestess second. I miss the feel of falling asleep next to someone who cares about me, and waking up in their arms the next morning. Please do not send me away tonight, Peri.”
            “What if we are found out?”
            “I do not care. I will not take you tonight, and if anyone should believe that I did, it is to their shame that they will not believe me. Will you let me stay, Peri?”
            He slipped his arm behind her, and she rested her head on his shoulder. “Be’tra, Peri.” She savored the warmth of his body, and listened to the sound of his breathing for a few minutes before speaking again.  “I was angry at you when we left S’Po and T’Cha.”
            “I apologize, G’Se, if I did something that angered you.”
            “It is I that should apologize to you. I was angry, because you were taking me away from S’Po and Qi’le, and I thought it was so much easier on you, since traveling between worlds is your life.”
            “That is true, G’Se.”
            “I said as much to the High Priestess. She told me of your offering for the completion of the vow to Solomon, Peri. She told me what it could have cost you, and what you said to her when she asked if you would request the price of your vow to be returned to you.”
            He drew a slow breath, and remained quiet.
            “I did not know that your actions could have cost you this life, Peri. I did not know that, when pressed by the High Priestess, you still made the choice to put my welfare and the welfare of Peqa and H’na before your life. When you stood before the Council and took the responsibility for what we had done, I saw again that you were willing to risk the life you love for me.”
            “That should not seem strange to you, G’Se. There are many that would give of themselves in the service of a priestess.”
            “There are many that would take for themselves, as well, the benefits of association with a priestess. When many thought my time of mourning for Solomon should be complete, they began to suggest other men to take his place as my husband. I never felt they were offering to me someone who would take their place beside me as friend, but rather, they sought the prestige of marrying their son to a priestess who had been honored by the High Priestess.”
            “I am the grandson of the priestess Se’Ana, and the great-grandson of the priestess Y’La, both of whom were honored multiple times by more than one High Priestess. Even before we were honored by the High Priestess, there were those who also sought the prestige of joining their daughter to my family. I never wished to be a prize. I wished only to travel to the stars.”
            “Do you fear that is why I am here tonight, Peri?”
            He was quiet for a moment, and then reached his other hand across to her face. With a tentative touch, he placed the tips of his middle and ring fingers against her cheek. “The day we were honored by the High Priestess, when you met me at the Terminal and we went to the Temple, I thought about Solomon. I thought as we walked side by side, speaking as friends, that I was experiencing a small sample of his life, and for a few moments, I envied what he had shared with you. When we stopped in T’Cha before this journey, and Peqa walked out from her ordination, wearing the robes of a priestess, I felt as proud as if she were my daughter, and wondered if Solomon could see her through my eyes. At that moment, I wanted that life, but I cannot have both it and this life. I will not be as my father, and leave my family to grow without me while I travel the stars.”
            “You were the first man to call Peqa ‘honored priestess,’ Peri. Solomon always said he hoped he would be the one to have that distinction for both Peqa and H’Na. If her father could not be there for that, I am at least glad it was you.”
            “I suppose it was a fair exchange. I had wished my mother had come when we were honored by the High Priestess, but it was your mother who blessed me afterwards and stood in the place of my mother.”
            She reached her hand up and reciprocated the touch on the cheek, fighting the urge to use the middle and index finger. She allowed the two fingertips to linger on his skin, and felt a warm flush go through her skin as she struggled with the temptation to place all her fingers on his cheek. I told him I would not take him as a woman takes a husband, but it has been so long. How easy it is to slip from wanting only the warmth of a friend, to wanting the touch of a husband again. With a feeling of disappointment, she returned her hand to rest across his chest.
            His free arm went across her shoulder, and he clasped his hands together behind her. She settled into the embrace, determined to remain satisfied with being held as a friend. “Peri, could we stay here one more day? Priestess S’Bu mentioned a trail through the forest to a lake nearby. I feel the need to find the peace of the trees around me, before the journey home.”
            “I think the priestess and her husband could be persuaded to tolerate us for one more night, G’Se, though if she learns that you came to my room in the night, she might post guards to preserve proprieties.”
            She gave a gentle laugh. “She might force me to marry you, since she considers you as her own family.”
            “My grandmother would be angry, if I returned as a husband, and my wife did not present herself first according to the customs.”
            “The way my mother speaks of you, I believe she would consider that she had already given approval of you.”
            “If you take another husband, G’Se, you should take one that will be a proper husband for a priestess.”
            “Will you ever consent to be a husband, Peri? Or will the stars always be your comfort?”
            “As I said, G’Se, I am a Rover, and I will not be an absent husband. A woman of Qi’le needs a husband that will fulfill all that is required of him, including being there to care for the home and children.” He gave an amused grunt. “If I ever have any B’sela dreams, I will board Stardreamer and leave for the other side of the Archipelago as swiftly as I can.”
            “You would refuse even a B’sela for this life? Yet, you were willing to sacrifice this life for me, Peri.” She rose up a bit, and turned her face towards his. “What if the B’sela were with me? Would you still refuse, even though you have already been willing to give up this life for me?”
            “After three daughters, G’Se, I do not think you still retain the trait required for a B’sela.”
            “I am teasing you, Peri. You have twice shown that you were willing to accept the consequences for helping us. I could not ask you to give up that which you willingly risked for us.”
            “And what have you risked tonight, G’Se? You say that this is not improper, but could this not cost you the robes?”
            “I wonder, sometimes, if it would be better if I just found another trade to practice.”
            “You were born to be a priestess, and I was born to be a Rover.”
            “I do not know what would have happened to us, if you had not become a Rover and come to Alsafi when you did.”
            “I wish I could have brought Solomon with us as well, G’Se. I would have liked to have known more about him.”
            “I have spent many nights wishing he had come with us as well, but I do not believe anything would have saved his life that day, Peri. I believe now that his final purpose in life was to prophesy to the people of Alsafi. The Most Honored Mother of All does not allow judgment without first sending warning, and She did so through Solomon.”
            “Do you believe there will be judgment, then?”
            “Yes, Peri. It was in the words the Council did not say, and it is already in motion. I cannot say how I know this, other than to think that God revealed this, and I pray that I am wrong.”
            “And you think you should not be a priestess? If you think that God is revealing things to you, G’Se, then perhaps She is doing so to remind you of your calling.”
            “Perhaps, Peri, but for tonight, I still wish to just be a friend.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Friday Fiction for October 25, 2013

            Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Sara, over at her imaginative blog, Fiction Fusion. Don’t miss her story this week, or the other wonderful submissions.

            My plans for this year’s NaNoWriMo is a story titled, “Draconian Responses.” This will be a follow-on story to 2009’s NaNo story, “Empty Threats.” In preparation, I’ve been going over that story, refreshing the characters and situations in my mind as I plan on the events that will follow what happened. One of the things that happens in that story, is that the Empty in charge of caring for the Rover Hall decides to run away from her position, and goes to Epsilon Eridanus (“Qi’le”) with the main character. Because she was never programmed for life outside the Rover Hall, she has a difficult time adjusting, even though she is secured employ helping to care for an Inn. This changes when she experiences the Qi’le phenomenon called “B’sela,” which is the joining of two minds, believed by the people of Qi’le as God specifically bringing two people together in marriage. In the original draft, the Empty (who by then has decided to call herself Emily) has been presented to Musi for the B’sela, and he has consented. I skipped ahead to their Affirmation in the Temple, but began to think this week that it would be interesting to explore how Emily’s former life as an Empty might come into play in their early relationship. The result is this new chapter.

            Next week, I hope to have the first excerpt from “Draconian Responses.”

Chapter 26
Empty Memories

            The couple walked slowly along the edge of the forest, around the perimeter of the meadow surrounding Pisces. Emily held to Musi’s hand, trying to assimilate all the memories she could from his mind. Every aspect of his life was a new concept to her, and a painful reminder of all that had been denied to her because she was an Empty.
            One of the older students from the priestess school followed perhaps a dozen or so meters behind them, providing a sufficient chaperone that all proprieties were maintained. The girl’s presence was subtle, and not sufficient to inhibit free conversation, though for most of the walk so far, they had both been silent.
            Musi plucked a leaf from a low hanging branch and crushed it between his fingers. A pleasant scent wafted through the air, and he rubbed the fragrant greenery across his forehead and his neck. “I know your former home was at another star, but will your mother be offended if you do not present me to her for approval before our Affirmation?”
            A panicked feeling ran through her, and she released his hand. She stood still and closed her eyes, struggling with whether to release the memories, or suppress them.
            He sought her hand again, and took it gently. “I can sense you in my mind, exploring all that I am, as a child eagerly explores the forest for the first time, yet, you have a door to your mind that you have not opened to me yet. The priestess Se’Ana warned me of this, Emily, and I still accepted the B’sela. There cannot be anything in your mind that could break the bond we now share.”
            She opened her eyes and blinked away the tears before meeting his gaze. “I don’t have a mother to present you to for approval.” With the B’sela, she could understand his Qi’le speech and even respond a little in kind already, but English was still easier for her.
            “She has passed through the final dream, then?”
            “Did she abandon you as a child?”
            “No, Musi. You don’t understand. I never had a mother.”
            He gave her a puzzled look. “No, I do not understand this. You are here, therefore, you must have had a mother at some time.”
            She shook her head. “No. No mother, and no father, either.”
            “What you are saying is not possible.”
            Her hand slipped from his again, and she lowered her face. With a soft sob, she reached both hands up and placed them on either side of his face, with all fingers touching his skin.
            “Emily, this is not proper - ”
            Before he could finish the correction, she allowed the memories to flood through.
            Her eyes opened for the first time in a sterile room. She sat up in a container, flanked on all sides by similar containers. Some were empty, and some contained other sleeping people, all younger than her. A woman walked over and consulted a device in her hand, before handing her a simple garment. She had never seen such a thing before, but somehow, knew what she was supposed to do with it. She stood up, and draped herself in the plain cloth.
            “This way,” the woman said, and even though she had never heard speech before, she understood what she was expected to do and followed.
            She was led to a doorway. “Open Empty Holding,” the woman said, and the door opened. “Go inside, and commence conditioning routine one.”
            There were others in the room, dressed just as she was, and machines that she suddenly knew what to do with. On one, she would walk for a certain interval every day. On another, she would lift a bar in a prescribed pattern. Each machine had a different function, and each day, she would follow the others in the room through the routine.
            She had no way of knowing or caring how long she spent in this room. Each day was the same as before – awaken, eat, exercise, take care of personal hygiene, eat again, and then sleep. She never spoke with any of the other residents in the room, and none ever spoke to her.
            The next distinct memory was of another woman coming to her in the room. “You have been requisitioned,” the woman said. “Come with me.”
            She was taken to another room. “Open Empty Programming,” the woman said, and the door opened. They entered, and the woman pointed to a cylindrical bed. “Remove your clothing, and lie down there.”
            She did, and the bed glowed blue, and she fell asleep. When she awoke, she was handed a different kind of clothing, and taken to a different room. A man waited there, and he looked her over before nodding.
            When he had walked around her several times, he stopped in front of her. “What would you like to do?” he asked.
            “I would like to take care of the Rover Hall,” she replied.
            “How will you do that?”
            “I will clean the hall, see to it that the facilities are maintained, the linens changed between occupants and at regular intervals besides, and arrange for whatever needs or desires the Rovers express, in keeping with local laws and their ability to pay.”
            The man led her outside to a transport, and took her to the Rover Hall in Eldorado. He did not even go inside with her – she already knew everything she needed to know about the building and the operation.
            Emily wept softly against Musi’s shoulder, aware through the B’sela that tears ran down his cheeks as well.
            “You have no memories of a childhood?”
            She shook her head without lifting it. “My childhood was spent asleep in a chamber. I was created, grown, and maintained by a machine until I was an adult, and ready to be requisitioned.”
            “They called you ‘Empties,’” he whispered. His voice sounded flat in the Terran tongue.
            She nodded. “My mind was filled only enough to perform the tasks I was requisitioned for, until that moment you touched me.”
            “How can they do such a thing?”
            “I don’t know. I was never programmed to understand the technology.”
            He reverted to Qi’le. “They will answer to God someday for what they have done. I am just a man, and may not understand the Scriptures very well, but this must be one of the worst forms of blasphemy.”
            “I was nothing, Musi. I was property. When the day came that I was no longer useful for my requisition, I would have been disposed of like trash.”
            He brought his hands up and placed the ring and middle fingers of both hands on her cheeks. “They may have thought of you as nothing, but they did not see you as I see you. You are the B’sela I have prayed for my whole life. You are the gift that God has led to me from across the stars, and the completion of who I am.” His melody changed to the formal dialect used for the liturgy. “Truly God has joined us as one mind. We shall be one heart, and when we have been affirmed, we shall be one body.”
            She listened to his words and to his mind, and leaned back to look at his face. “I was supposed to say that last phrase to you when you gave your touch consenting to the B’sela.”
            He smiled at her. “God had a different way for you to say it.”
            “I don’t know what kind of wife I’ll be.”
            “I do not know what kind of husband I will be, but we will learn together, and if the Most Blessed Mother of All grants that I place children at your breasts, we will learn together how to give them full memories.”