Sunday, May 29, 2016

Prisoner of the Stone - Chapter Five

Chapter Four
My Books

Chapter Five

The dragon returned, “I think we can rest here for the night. Although if you do not require rest?”

Brother Aron looked around, “I'm a bit hungry. Is there a village nearby? One you haven't eaten?”

That evil-looking grin returned to the dragon, “There is a village a half-day's walk south. I can take you nearby, they won't see me if I don't want them to. I can cough up some gold for you...”

Aron waved a hand, “Never mind. I'm not hungry anymore. I'll just find a place to lie down.”

'You might be right about humans, they do seem to spread quite rapidly. Sort of like the rats that carry pestilence I into cities,' the dragon projected the words into his mind, 'If I peek far enough into the future, I think we might see the whole earth squirming with crowded humans who have no room to sit down. Like maggots on a day old carcas.'

Enough already,” Aron said, lying next to a tree on a pile of long grass he had pulled from nearby, “I get it. I understand how much you hate humans.”

Aron closed his eyes. He wanted his mind to be as dragon-free as possible. He could still feel the dragons presence. “Don't you ever get tired?”

He started to nod off before he heard the dragon thinking toward him again. The tone was less angry and confrontational this time.

'Thousands of years ago, humans and dragons lived in relative harmony. We shared knowledge that humans found useful, things which have been lost to history. We dragons were gatherers and savers of knowledge, much like monks in your day.'

I remember living in what you might call a castle, with my scrolls and paintings. I remember hunting alongside humans for sea monsters and great whales. Humans had larger ships in those days, they sailed across oceans to new lands. That was before humans began thinking you'd fall off the edge.'

'One Captain named Faustus and I became friends on a long voyage around the southern tip of the new lands. It was quite cold there, it was there I met Asara. She was my mate. She loved her isolated kingdom on the southern ice cap, so few humans ever wandered there and it was not a long trip to the continent to feed on the animals there.'

'Human society changes one way and then another. Eventually the shift came, humans began treating us as if we were monsters. We had no part in their politics or their wars, but we were supposed to be the monsters. Some dragons returned to the old realm, I could not even try to describe it in terms you might understand, most had no desire to return. Certain that humans would come to their senses, we stayed and hid.'

'Many of my kind were sought out and hunted down. It's quite hard to kill a dragon the regular way, your swords and spears can't penetrate most of our outer skin, and we have more layers inside. They thought to burn us, smash us, blind us and poison us. Mostly to no avail.'

The dragon sighed, 'Eventually the humans began learning more effective ways. Not the silly ways of the fairy tales, instead they used sorcery. Emorald was petrified into stone, Aggus was exploded from the inside out. I won't tell you how to do these things, of course.'

'Asara, I found her encased in her icy castle that she had buried. They had injured her several times as she sought to feed, she stopped trying to hunt on the continents, for a while she survived on the seals of the ice caps and the occasional Orca. Then humans built camps that encircled her domain, she was wounded each time she approached.'

'We never attacked the humans in those days, we never ate them. Even as she slowly starved, Asara would have never thought to eat them. If she had, she would still be alive today. She was too weak to move much when I found her, I stayed with her for days until she breathed her last and her body went to the other realm.'

'You see, our bodies do not belong here and we vanish when we die. We can also never travel in time to save one of our own, because we live outside of normal time. When we die, we are dead to all time. I know it sounds strange. It is what drove me to vengeance. It is what drives me and what will drive me for all my remaining decades and centuries.'

Meanwhile Aron was lucid and able to understand the story. He was able to actually see this white dragon named Asara as she withered away. Somehow he had been brought into the mind of the dragon, he was seeing that beasts thoughts and memories. Many places, many people, many events were moving and taking place all around him. This dragon had lived a long time.

Then Aron started to pry a bit more. He wanted to learn a certain detail but didn't dare even think of what he was looking for. Then Brother Aron found himself on a large ship, larger than he'd ever seen. A deck busy with men furling sails, a man in a high post yelling about seeing a sea-monster ahead. Aron followed others to the bow of the ship and saw the great hump of the creature rise and fall before them, it must be almost as large as the ship.

Thar she blows! Prepare the pinchers!” He heard someone yell. He looked behind him and then up to the top of the wooden island. That's where two men controlled a large wheel, another used some long device over his eye while a tall, balding man with gray beard yelled out, “Move the mainmast five degrees to port! Prepare for the beast to turn!”

Behind that man was the dragon. It was the same dragon that Aron had been traveling with, the hated creature who devoured humans. This dragon was laughing with the Captain, it must be Faustus, Aron realized.

The pinchers were double-pronged harpoons. The ropes were pulled taught and the whole ship was rocked as the sea creature moved left and right and then dived.

This beast be a strong one!” Faustus laughed over the cacophony, “We are defeating the mighty king of this sea!”

Suddenly one of the ropes snapped, cutting a crew member in half. The ship shifted and one side was quickly being pulled under the frothy seas.

My friend, I think we are in trouble!” Faustus said, “I'll have to cut the cable.”

No!” The dragon declared, his wings unfurling, “I'll help!”

The dragon lifted up into the sky and then forward towards the sea creature. The dragon dived into the water after the monster. Then Captain and men were still and quiet, waiting for their friend to reappear.

Then the monster breached the surface, for the first time Aron could see its head. It looked like the head of a snapping turtle but with row after row of long white sharp teeth. The dragon had dug its claws deep into the sides of the monsters head and was ripping out its eyes. Trying to get to the brain, no doubt.

The struggled continued for another hour before the lifeless body was abandoned by the dragon, more pinchers carried cables to embed into its carcass. It sank under the waters as the ship sailed over it, then reappeared behind the massive ship being towed.

The dragon had been in the water again, to clean itself of the blood and landed atop the island where the Captain and the wheel were located.

------ has saved us and our catch once more!” The Captain declared, but Aron hadn't quite heard the name and the crew cheered his name but it was muffled. Aron was confused.

You are not permitted inside my head!” He heard a loud voice growl and then Aron felt as if he had been thrown bodily back to reality. He awoke with a start near the tree, on the other side of the dying fire he could see the great hulk that was the dragon. It opened one eye.

'Stay out.' it projected.

------ Chapter Six

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Escape From The Free Republic - Chapter Five

Chapter Four
My Books Page

Chapter Five

Tom Grier wanted to shout to those Marines, but he knew it would be useless. It was just a holoscreen with video gathered by aerial drones. Those Marines didn't have a chance. Not because they were heavily outnumbered but because of the rebel device that totally shut down the powered armor-suits.

Some of those Marines were strong enough to get out of the suits, but then they would find themselves unprotected and unarmed. Even the strongest among them would barely be able to drag a QBR-44, which was the main weapon of the Marines.

You don't need to do this,” Tom told Sandy and her bodyguard, “This is not the way to get me on your side. Those Marines are helpless and defenseless.”

The aerial platform that had delivered the Marines was a burning hulk. Tom couldn't believe all of this was happening because the Free Republic had picked up his signal on that plateau. A signal from the enhancements that they had surgically removed from his head. The rebels had laid a surprisingly effective trap.

They're going to know there are underground installations in that area. Those vehicles can't really come out of nowhere. You are sort of blowing your cover to make a point.” Tom told them.

Sandy shook her head slowly, “You still don't get it, Tom.”

Get what?”

We're not trying to make a point,” Sandy said, “We are trying to liberate our world and our people.”

Tom wanted to come up with some reply, but couldn't think of one. “Those Marines are just doing a job, they aren't your real enemy.”

Sandy laughed, “I knew you would say something like that. The ones pulling the trigger and slaughtering my people and enslaving the rest aren't the bad ones. Wow. They willingly volunteered to do the dirty work of the tyrants, that doesn't exactly make them innocent bystanders.”

Sandy leaned over the control panel near the holoscreen and said, “Task Force, RTB. Condition Orange.”

The rebel armored soldiers began climbing back into the ground vehicles which sped away from the scene. Then the video was cut off. The two soldiers came into the room.

We'll just leave them there, this time,” Sandy said, “You can go back to your room.”

As if there was a choice. Tom covered the left side of his face with his palm again. It had gotten to be a habit. Not only had he lost the enhancements and the ability to merge with the armored suits of the Marines but even something as simple as depth perception, since he only had the right eye now.

There was more pain from the left side of his face, so he applied a bit of the cream that had been left in the room for the purpose. It deadened the pain receptors and made his face feel almost normal.

Nothing made sense. Sure, he could see why people would oppose the new regime controlling the Free Republic, but secession was simply wrong. Sync or any other planet shouldn't be able to just opt out and become independent just because they didn't like the present government.

Sandy was a commander. Tom shook his head, that was a hard one to figure out. Sure they could have set it up to seem like she had authority. Maybe it was all one big act, but it didn't seem to have a point.

The next day the soldiers were back and they escorted him to a new room. It was empty except for a powered armored suit standing in the center. Tom slowly walked all the way around it. It was very different from the ones his Marines used. It was smaller, for one thing, and probably weighed a lot less.

It looked civilian. Totally unarmed. Like something you would wear to check outside your spacecraft because the antenna wasn't calibrating.

How long are you going to stand there without saying something?” a magnified voice on the armored suit said. It was Sandy. Since he could not see inside of the suit, he could not assume she was actually inside. It could be another trick.

Was I suppose to say something?” He asked.

The voice returned, “I assume you had something you wanted to say. Or ask.”

It's question time, then,” Tom said, slightly amused, “Do your rebels not have any enhancements? Do they not bond with their suits?”

They do not do either. Here on Sync, the suits are tools that we use. In your fleet, the Marines are the tools that get used.”

Tom frowned. “That's not very nice.”

It's true.” Sandy said.

The suit still hadn't moved a millimeter. Surely there was a reason he was standing in a small room that was empty except for this suit.

Why do you assume I will join your cause? Just because some emphatic meter says I will? There's got to be more to it than that.” Tom asked.

After a brief moment of silence, the suit answered, “Humanity. You exhibit humanity, Tom, most of the enemy Marines we found seemed to have lost it. Probably because they had been part of the collective mind for too long.”

“Your rebellion doesn't stand a chance as far as I can see,” Tom said, “The fleet is way up there, out of your reach. They hold the high ground, you could say. Unless you have a plan to take out the fleet and anything else the Free Republic sends, your rebellion is doomed.”

Another moment of silence, a longer one.

“That is where you come in, Tom.” the voice replied, “You are going to help us defeat the fleet.”

Tom laughed, “What do I know about taking out ships?”

“You just need to get there.”

Carrier Umbrage, flagship.

Command & Control

Jesse Gallant, the Marine General on the ship did not like being subordinate to the Admiral. He felt that the Admiral should run the fleet, not the operations of the ground forces. He dared not say or write any of these feelings down. He knew that Admiral Robinson actually was crazy enough to throw people out of an airlock.

The control room was very busy. There was a large dominating holographic representation of the planet below with symbols denoting the location of ground troops and ongoing operations. There were people at consoles around it focusing on more regional and local operations.

Then there were the controllers on the outside of the room who were in constant communications with active units on the ground.

“Where is my extraction team?” He asked one of the younger officers who monitored the operations of a highly mobile unit. Maggie Anders sat up straighter when he started talking.

The detachment lost contact an hour ago. I can't raise them.” The girl said, “Their suits are still sending signals, but their Aerial platform is not. The platform is destroyed.”

General Gallant was livid, “Why wasn't I informed?”

The girl looked scared, “I passed on everything.”

Maggie Anders punched up her logs and the General saw that they had been rerouted. Admiral Robinson hadn't even bothered to CC him on any of it. The Admiral had already ordered three more aerial units, sent to retrieve what looked like stranded Marines.

General Gallant looked around the room. How many of these people were no longer telling him what was going on? The situation was out of his control, yet he knew that he would be blamed for anything that went wrong. Fine, we would do this the old fashion way.

It's too quiet in here!” The General announced, “I want my staff to be told, verbally, about everything that happens. I want to be informed about what is going on down there!”

Yes, sir!”

Umbrage bridge

So, they used this device again, there has to be a way to counter it.” Admiral Robinson said.

I think so, sir,” One of the young engineers answered, he was still nervous from being summoned to see the Admiral, “I'm already working on a countering system. It would send out the direct opposite signals, although this won't always work.”

The Admiral nodded, although he did not understand the technology involved, “Is there a time-frame on deploying something?”

It's too soon to say.”

I see, I want that device to be your top priority. I'll have your other duties reassigned. Dismissed!” The Admiral said, then he spun his chair around and floated off.

The Admiral asked Commander Grabble for a report on the extraction team.

The enemy was long gone when the second team arrived. They found Marines trapped in their armored suits but got them out. It was a chore to carry those suits to the aerial platforms. The Marines who had lost their suits were not very happy as they climbed into third aerial platform which had arrived empty. They are leaving the scene now.”

A messenger arrived and stood next to the Admiral, “We've just been informed that some rebels are going to be congregating in a township called Valla, in the North Plains section. The source said the meeting would be about new plans for the rebel forces.”

The Admiral thought about this. Just bombing the site would be good, but capturing some rebel leaders would be better. After dismissing the messenger he floated over to the Commander again, who had been given the same intelligence.

How big is Valla?”

About fifty-thousand residents.”

Admiral Robinson nodded, “We need to get some troops in there incognito. Is that possible? I want to be able to disrupt this meeting and capture some bad guys. I want to demoralize the rebels and be able to get useful intelligence from the prisoners.”

Yes sir, I'll see to it.”

And don't share this intelligence with General Gallant's people.”

------ Chapter Six

Monday, May 23, 2016

Prisoner of the Stone - Chapter Four

My Books
Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Humans are a plague and a pestilence. They are like tiny parasites all over this world, though I will not deny that it is your world. Most humans seem to revel in their ignorance. A few good ones move the whole species forward, but in times like these the whole species moves backward,” The dragon said, as if lecturing Brother Aron about his own species, “Knowledge is lost. The Romans built roads and devices that your people could never duplicate presently. If it weren't for the monks and their monasteries, who would collect and store knowledge?”

The sun was peeking over the horizon.

Europe is being savaged by a plague. Humanity will recover,” Brother Aron said, “I have faith in that, as surely as I have faith in my messiah.”

The dragon seemed to sigh, but it ended in a long growl, “I want to see more of your peoples future, and I don't think I want to eat any more of them in this time of plague. Climb on.”

They flew and soon things once again shifted. Brother Aron felt a but nauseous and had to lie down on the back of the dragon. He was perfectly safe there, the magic it carried kept him from falling. After the transit through time the dragon seemed impressed by something.

'The human parasites have bred a lot these past few centuries.' Aron heard the thought from the dragon.

Centuries! Aron looked down to see a rather large city spreading out beneath them. 'Tens of thousands of people must live in that city,' Aron thought to himself. Many ships docked at wharfs, a very busy seaport it was.

'I will make myself invisible and land atop the dwellings. Maybe we can see how the people live,' The dragon projected to his human passenger. Soon enough the dragon was sitting comfortably atop a building passing judgment on the lives of the people.

'Dirty, smelly place,; The dragon thought at Aron more than once, 'The sewage in the streets, pouring into the river is an insult to any species. Animals often bury their excretions for good reason.'

They heard two men arguing.

The water supply is contaminated, we've known this for a score or more due to Doctor Snow,” One of the men said, “The authorities have done little to stop the miasma from killing us.”

Not completely true, it is a slow process but the Board of Works has been on it for nearly a decade. It's not as if they can clean the slate and rebuild a whole new London.” The second man said, “I think Mr. Bazalgette has done a competent job given the limitations. We haven't had a Cholera outbreak in a good long time, at least.”

The first man sarcastically replied, “Most of those limitations are political. We should thank the stars that we haven't seen another Cholera outbreak, definitely not the Board of Works!”

The dragon whispered, “Politics. The most infernal human invention, so of course it continues to get worse. Whenever humans get crowded they always feel the need to try and control each other.”

“I don't disagree that politics is a problem, but government is a necessary evil, as they say,” Brother Aron said, “As opposed to unnecessary evils.”

The dragon laughed and looked away, 'Is that supposed to offend me? Hardly.'

Two men were passing in the tight alley below.

Good evening, Mr. Samuels,” The first man said, tipping his hat.

G'evening, Mr. Farriner, are you headed to work then?”

Yes, got a night of baking bread ahead o' me!” came the answer as they passed below. The bread maker entered the building they were on top of.

The dragon looked around at the rooftop, with many chimneys and smokestacks. “I suppose this is where they bake bread then?”

Brother Aron agreed, “In my time the bread is usually cooked in the manor houses of the lord or dukes. Thankfully, monasteries didn't have to crawl to the local landlord for their daily bread.”

The dragon chuckled, 'Oh yes, feudalism. The good ol' days. Well, climb on, I have to get back to my evil-doing or you might forget that you wish to smite me.'

The dragon shook his mighty wings and the building shook horrendously before it finally lifted off, carrying Brother Aron on its back. The baker, Mr. Farriner rushed out of the building below, back and forth indecisively he began to move. Then, with one last look inside the glowing interior, he ran away without shouting any warnings or for help. The pop and crackle of a fire could be heard within.

Somewhere over continental Europe the dragon set down on land, a clearing in a forest,“You can stay here while I feed. There is a small village not far from here.”

Brother Aron climbed down, “Feeding again so soon?”

The dragon paid no heed, it began to flex its wing muscles. Aron tried to get closer to its head, “What did dragons eat in the old days, then? Surely not humans.”

The dragon looked back and projected its thoughts, 'We can talk later, human.'

Then it threw itself into the skies and was away. Aron would have to find a place under a tree and wait for the evil dragon to return. With a start he realized that a very old woman was staring at him from a tree across the clearing.

Hello, may I help you?” Aron asked in French and Latin and then English as he approached the elderly woman. He had no idea what part of the continent the dragon had dragged him to.

I am here to help you.” The woman said, “First tell me why a man dressed as a friar is riding around on the back of a demon?”

Aron decided that she didn't want the long version, “I am trying to find his weakness, so I can defeat him and return him to his realm.”

The woman looked back into the sky and then nodded. “I see. That must be why we have been brought together.”

Do you know something about those?” Brother Aron asked, indicating the dragon with a nod.

Aye,” The gray-haired woman said, “An ancient curse they were, I had thought them extinct. The main thing you need to do is to find its true name, with that word you can banish it back to whence it came.”

Aron had heard the same thing from the storyteller of Grantwood. How was it possible to determine the true name of the dragon? The dragon certainly wasn't going to tell!

The woman dug something out of her satchel. “Those beasts haven't been seen by human eyes for a thousand years, but they do have weaknesses. Their true name, of course, but they can be captivated by the sight of another of their kind.”

Fat chance of that happening. 'Besides, who wants to have two of these things around?'.

She pulled out a small piece of polished metal, a short stretch of twine and what looked like a claw from a large wildcat. “These are the things you need. If you are able to captivate the dragon, you might also be able to get from him that information you require.”

Then she walked away.

Brother Aron looked at the three ordinary objects in his palm and thought the woman might truly be insane. The idea that one could capture a dragon with these things and then talk the dragon into revealing its true name was, as far as he could see, crazy.

Aron looked into the sky. “You send help and this is it? This is impossible.”


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Escape from the Free Republic - Chapter Four

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

All he could do was moan. The pain had been enormous at first but the nurse kept applying a cream that deadened all the nerve endings. Tom Grier could not believe that they had really removed his enhancements.

It was like losing his sense of taste, small and hearing all at once. Tom didn't want to wake up or admit he was already awake. He wondered what the left half of his face looked like after they had ripped out the equipment. He was also afraid to look.

These rebels had seemed normal but they were barbarians. How could they do this to anyone?

Okay, Tom. Rise and shine!” A familiar voice said. Tom groaned, he really didn't care to see Sandy again. Such an annoying kid. How old was she anyway? Why are they letting a kid be in charge of a prisoner? No doubt the man who seemed to be her body guard would be standing there too.

I'd rather stay down and dark,” He grumbled.

The sheet came off and he felt rough hands on his shoulder and back pull him up into a sitting position, he opened his eye. The man was there and he hadn't shaved or showered since the day before.

How goes the war?” He asked.

Sandy put a platter of fruits, vegetables, cheeses and breads on the low table in front of him. Tom had been out for days and he was starving. Still, he didn't let that show. He would be in no hurry to eat.

The war is going, that's for sure,” Sandy said, “If you need to know, they wiped that village off the face of Sync. It's a good thing no one was there.”

Tom was only a little surprised. He knew the reaction would be tough, but he had also heard rumors that Admiral Robinson was a hot-head. Those rumors would seem to be confirmed. Robinson was not officially in charge of the Space Marines in the fleet, but in reality the Admiral held sway. The Marines top-brass had demanded a complete separation, but the regime refused.

Why do you keep me here? What do you need me for?” Tom asked, “Holding me as a prisoner won't stop them from blowing us up.”

The man by the door crossed his arms. Sandy sighed, “I've already told you. You are going to fight for our side now.”

Tom Grier was confused, then he laughed. “That's insane. What makes you think I'd do that?”

She held up a metallic piece of electronics. “This device reads your personality. Your empathy level is extremely high. Once you understand what is really happening, you will side with the good guys. That's us.”

Tom pointed to the left side of his face, which was still covered in bandages. “After you did this to me, you think I'm going to fight for you?”

Besides,” he thought, “How would I fight without my enhancements?”

Sandy didn't seem concerned, she just smiled and said, “Eat up, you will need your energy.”

Then they left.

The rebels were obviously using a cute little girl to gain his sympathies. They weren't even hiding it, even showed him the device they said measures such things. Sync was supposed to be a backward planet, but it seems they weren't. What else had the Free Republic gotten wrong?

Tom then began eating the food.

The long he sat there, the more he unconsciously tried to access his enhancements and the more he felt panicked by their absence. All of it was happening without having to think about it, but his heart-rate had increased and he was sweating.

Apparently the war was going bad for the rebels. Good! The faster the rebels were defeated the quicker that peace can be installed. That would be better for everyone. Just get it over and done with and move on.

When Tom woke up the next morning there was already food on the table and a change of clothes hanging by the door. He was happy to toss the dirty old pajama-like outfit for something half-way normal, if rather plain. Tom knew what was going to happen, this was propaganda day. Give Tom the grand tour of their struggling, sad, rag-tag people and try to turn his allegiance to their side.

Good luck with that,” Tom muttered.

He heard the lock click and the door opened. Sandy and the same man entered but there were two black-suited soldiers behind them this time.

I guess it's time for a tour?” Tom asked them.

Let's go!” The man said. Tom held up his hands and did as they said. Sandy led the way, the man and the two armed soldiers were behind him as they walked through the rocky corridor. It looked to Tom that they must be in some sort of cave complex. If it had escaped scans from the fleet, then it must be pretty deep underground. If that were the case, they must have some very good air circulation system.

There were occasionally doors and cross-corridors as they walked. Tom was beginning to wonder how long it might take when suddenly the corridor ended and they were in a larger chamber. There were several levels going up and several more going down, the center was open and water was falling past.

For all the world it looked like some kind of shopping mall, at first. Tom almost laughed. Then the details began filling in and his grin vanished. Instead of retail shops and clean, wealthy shoppers this place looked like a dingy refugee camp. A dozen levels full of people who looked like indigent squatters, some were cooking, some were just wandering around.

I knew I would be shown something like this,” Tom told them, “Although, I admit, it's worse than I had imagined.”

Keep moving,” The man behind him.

Sandy shook her head, “This is the only route to where we're going. I didn't plan it. This, though, is the work of the Free Republic. Its violence, its slavery, its economics all designed to deprive the people of Sync the benefits of hard work.”

Admittedly, Tom knew nothing about the economic system of the Free Republic.

It's complete exploitation. A form of mercantilism that benefits our masters. It forces us to buy and sell at their say-so instead of through voluntary and free exchanges. We are forbidden to buy superior products that cost less, or to sell to buyers who would happily have paid more.” Sandy explained, “So, this place that was once a center of commerce, is now an impoverished shelter.”

Tom nodded.

Of course, we decided to be free,” She said, “The Free Republic has become everything it had stood against for centuries. Today it is a dictatorship in all but name.”

Tom was aghast. “The Free Republic has stood as a beacon of hope for humanity for many generations, how could you fight that tradition?”

Sandy stopped walking. “That tradition is dead, Tom. The Republic is dead. The freedom no longer remains. Today the Free Republic has become the oppressor. This is the reality, not the false virtual patriotism and bravery they pump into your combat suit. It had a history to be proud of, but history is the past.”

She turned and hit a wall switch, a wide door slid to the side with a hiss. Inside were more than a dozen men strapping themselves into armored combat suits. Sandy looked back at Tom, “I thought you might like to meet the Sync Defense Forces.”

A gray-haired man came out of the room and saluted Sandy, “We're about to head out, Commander. Enemy forces have been located near the Reese Plateau and we're going to surprise them.”

I know, we set that up.” She told the man, then looked at Tom Greir, “Your former implants have been activated on the plateau, but it's a trap we've set.”

Tom was looking closely at the girl. That old soldier had called her 'Commander'!

Who in the hell are you?” Tom Grier asked the girl.

The aerial platform sat down on the plateau and eight armored-suited Marines fanned out in all directions, surveying the area. The plateau was covered with high grass and stunted trees.

I'm not picking any suspicious signals, sir!” One of the soldiers reported.

Good, find that locator!” The First Lieutenant ordered. He wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. One of his fellow Marines, who had been missing, had been detected out here. This was just a quick retrieval mission.

I'm picking up drones!” The pilot of the aerial platform reported. “Incoming!”

The first rockets exploded near a copse of short trees, far from where his men were. The First Lieutenant understood instantly that the rockets were probably unguided.

Cleared to shoot them down!” He said. The gunner of the aerial platform activated the top-side turret that turned and began to track three of the four bogeys. The bogeys began to back off, just outside the effective range of the aerial platforms gun.

Lieutenant, we found the locator,” One of his men reported, “This is not good.”

He was curious to activate his suit's jet and take several leaps to where they were standing among some large rocks. The First Lieutenant landed and they moved aside to let him see. Sitting there on the center rock, as if it had been placed there purposely were the still-bloody implants and wires, connected to some kind of battery.

Back to the airship, now!” He ordered them, “This is a trap!”

The drones were now heading at them at high speed. The aerial platform had taken out two but the third impacted near it and exploded. Then as the armored soldiers were heading back, the fourth impacted directly destroying the aerial platform in a fireball.

The First Lieutenant tried to contact the Captain back at the outpost but got nothing but static, “Damn!, set up a defense perimeter!”

Suddenly there were vehicles heading toward them. Armor-suited enemy soldiers could be seen in all directions.

Lieutenant! We need orders!” someone told him.

His men were arrayed in a rough circle, ready to make their last stand.

We can't always choose the hill on which we die.” The First Lieutenant said, “Okay men, if we're going down, let's take as many of them with us as we can!”

Ooh-rah!” they replied in unison.


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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Not productive today, I was distracted.

I was searching for public domain images I could use on a side project and managed to spend the day wasted.

Seriously distracted. As in I am not sure what I even started looking for.

Oh well.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Prisoner of the Stone - Chapter Three

Chapter Three

The evil dragon whose false name was Grotiss bid that Aron would climb on it's back.

“There is no place to hold, I will fall off in flight.” Aron protested. He was also not looking forward to riding in the skies.

The dragon seemed a bit put off, it projected its thought, 'I'm not a mule, human Aron. You will be as safe there as if sitting in a chair.'.

Then its massive wings unfurled and began beating the air furiously enough that grass, leaves and pebbles flew off as if a storm had struck. Before Aron knew it the ground fell away quickly, as if in a dream. He did not feel acceleration or wind, it was as if the whole world was moving but he was not budging an inch.

“That is amazing!” he said out loud.

'What would be the point of being an inter-dimensional being, if there wasn't a little magic in the mix?' The dragon thought towards him.

Once in the sky and moving impossibly fast, Aron was able to see the village of Grantwood. It looked like the whole place had burnt down, his stomach lurched. He closed his eyes and looked away, trying to remove the thoughts from his mind. No doubt the dragon had fed well the previous night.

Brother Aron also knew where the dragon was headed; the Monastery. It was sickening but he knew he had no power to stop Grotiss, or whatever his real name was. The best he could do was to continue to be the pawn of the dragon and live long enough to find the beasts weakness.

Soon, far too soon, the community of the Monastic Order of Santa deCosta with its tall central building, domes, spires and walls came into view. Situated on an island in the center of a wide river connected to both sides by long wooden bridges, the monastery was quite an impressive site.

'Just as Brother Benjamin remembered it.' The dragon projected to his mind. Then the dragon flew over and around the island, before flying lower and lower toward the river. Aron braced himself as much as he could for what the dragon was about to do and found it impossible. As they approached the wooden bridge on the eastern side the dragon opened its mouth and a pillar of red light erupted, everything it touched became an inferno.

Then the dragon rose again and repeated the attack on the western wooden bridge. Unless there was a boat that Aron hadn't seen, everyone on the island was trapped. The dragon landed in the biggest open area of the island, the central square. Monks were fleeing and some were shouting.

The dragon laughed, and shouted “Your fortress has become your tomb this day!”

The dragon reached out and pawed a passing monk who flew high into the air and landed with a thud far to the other side of the island. The dragon then swiped its tail and took down a small building near one of the thick walls.

“Bring me the Monsignor!”

Very soon several older men approached, the white haired Monsignor Bruno n the lead, carrying a heavy illuminated Holy Bible in front of him like a shield.

“Grotiss!” Bruno shouted, “Return to your own realm, I command thee in the name of The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost!”

The dragon lowered its head to directly in front of the assemblage, most of whom flinched. The head of the dragon was larger than all of them together. The Grotiss said, “That spell has already been broken, Monsignor, and more importantly it was one of your people who has become my liberator!”

The Monignor now looked up onto the shoulders of the foul beast, far above and saw Brother Aron. He would not be able to explain what had happened. “You have released the most foul beast to darken the skies this world has seen since Lucifer! I curse thee, Brother Aron, I curse thee for all eternity!”

The Monsignor was not finished, “Centuries of darkness will come the world. This calamity has doomed us to misery and death for generations!”

The dragon's face showed a hideous smile, all of those sharp teeth showing, “Yes, these will be memorable times. Pity you will have to miss it, Monsignor Bruno!”

As Aron watched from high above, the dragon opened its maw and the Monsignor flew off of his feet and into the jaws of the beast. The men who had been with Bruno fell to their knees holding their heads and screaming in agony. They crawled away and vomited repeatedly in what seemed familiar bad memories for Aron.

Monks on a wall were throwing stones at Grotiss' back, the dragon didn't even notice them. Suddenly the dragon spun around and fired the evil beam of fire from its mouth, and as it lifted into the sky Arn could see the Monastery was in flames.

'That was fun,' the dragon projected. 'Now I want to see this new dark age for myself, let us travel to the future human.'

Brother Aron had no concept of seeing the future. Would not understand that the dragon did not mean tomorrow or next week. Aron had no idea how to even conceive of such a thing. The sun came up and the sun went down, not even a dragon could make the sun move any faster.

Suddenly everything looked strange. Many different colors invaded his eyes and he could not tell up from down. The dragon seemed to be several dragons occupying the same space, for Aron could see wings, feet and head in more than one place at a time.

Aron looked down at his own hand and moved it to hold in front of his face. Yet there was still a hand down there, and several more in between his knee and where he felt his arm to be in reality. Then Aron decided that there must be other Aron's, in the same position in different... “dimensions”. He had heard that word used in relation to the dragon and by the dragon, could this be what the word meant?

A larger village was ahead and the dragon slowed down. 'I smell the stench of death,' it projected and soon pointed Aron's attention at a man pulling a wagon with bodies piled on it. Brother Arons gut lurched.

'I suppose this is the darkness that the monsignor mentioned.' The dragon projected, 'I like it.'

Aron supposed they must be invisible as they hovered overhead and he could hear the man who pulled the wagon saying, “Bring out your dead!”

'Plague would be my guess. Maybe they'll name it for me.' The dragon gloated. Then they flew higher and faster and soon came upon a larger city near the sea. Large wooden ships were tied to docks, a few looked rotted and disused. The city was larger than Aron had ever seen, but there was open sewage in the center of the cobblestone streets, he spied a dead horse lying on one corner.

'Even here, far from the pit, they suffer the same plague.' The dragon thought, 'Everything seems to be the same, the ships are no better, the population has declined sharply. Humans might as well move back to the caves and trees.'

“Humans will get past this, we always do.” Aron told the dragon.

Brother Aron had thought this plague would keep those people safe. Yet the dragon landed at the nearest Guild Hall and punched off the roof. Then the beast lowered its head inside and Aron could hear the screams and the crunching of bones. He dared not look down.

'I don't think you understand,' the dragon told Aron, “We are a century past your time. A century! You should be quite impressed with traveling into the future.'

A century! Brother Aron was aghast. Everything he had known was gone. His siblings would have all died of old age, his nieces and nephews as well. Generations had passed in the time it had taken the dragon to fly to this place. Aron was astonished at that kind of magic.

“Humans have been dying and falling backwards for a century. Stagnation. There is no progress here, only disease and privation. Shameful,' The dragon projection, 'It is glorious to me, though. I long to see humans returned to their wild and animal past.'

Brother Aron shot back, “Lies. God created humans in his image!”

The dragon chuckled, “Who created my species? Certainly not Satan, since he was a fallen angel. Or do you think angels look like me? I'd like to see that worked into your gospel somehow.”

On they flew, over oceans, islands and the occasional fishing boat staying within visual distance of the coast. 'Humans moving backward, may God save their souls.' Aron told himself, and then he prayed a silent prayer.

The dragon landed on a small, uninhabited island and Aron was able to get off and walk around. The dragon watched as the human washed himself in a stream and hunt the crabs that crawled along the beach.

“The crabs must see you as humans see me.” The dragon said, amused.

Aron said nothing as he built a fire in wish to roast the crabs next to.

The dragon stretched and then laid down, still watching Aron.

“Shall we see how humans fare in the farther future?” Grotiss asked, “A hundred more years? A thousand?”

Brother Aron could still not understand how it was possible, but he was beginning to wonder of there was a point to what the dragon was doing. He also noticed the dragon had said nothing about moving backwards in time. Of course, to Aron, he was thinking more along the lines of returning to the proper time and not “backward”.

“I would like to go to wherever they know how to hunt dragons.” Brother Aron said casually while eating one of the crabs he had roasted on a stone next to the fire. The dragon hissed at him, which shook Aron's stomach, and then chuckled.

'We shall stay here tonight, I will have made my decision by morning,' Grotiss projected to the human.

----------------------- Chapter Four

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Escape From the Free Republic - Chapter Three

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

“No. You can't do that!” He said, his right eye was already tearing up. The feeling of being weak and helpless because of the lost connection to the suit and his enhancements not being able to connect to the system was nauseating. He felt as lost and as scared as a child.

“They give you false courage with their machines,” Sandy told him, “They want you and the others to rush into combat gleefully and without any fear.”

Tom had already understood that the suit and enhancements did something like that. “So?

So, fear is natural. The mouse is afraid of the snake, it stays away. Otherwise it will get eaten, the fear protects the mouse. Artificially brave mice, would just die.” The man said.

Who are you?” Tom asked the man, “A rebel leader, I suppose.”

Sandy shook her head, “There are no leaders, Tom. Sync will be free again, we are all working toward the same goal. We don't need leaders when we all work for the same cause. We don't have to turn ourselves into robots that follow orders.”

Tom let his head droop down, he was tired. “I don't even care. Kill me, or whatever, just make it quick.”

Sandy put a hand on his shoulder, “We want you to come to our side. We have to take those implants out, so you can think for yourself.”

Tom shook his head, “I would have one eye left. I don't think I could live that way any more.”

One eye that really belongs to you is better than an eye that is sending signals back to the fleet up there, believe me,” The man said, “You wouldn't even stand out, the Free Republic has tortured and maimed many people on this world. You would fit right in, nobody would think you were one of them.”

I would have to think about it. This isn't something I can decide on the fly,” Tom Grier told them. The girls face suddenly had a sad look cross it.

There's no time for that, it'll all be over when you wake up,” she said spraying something right into his face. The world went blurry and then dark, he could see shapes moving around. There was no sense of time passing, but there was a bright light and then people wearing surgical gear. Tom wanted to tell them to stop, they were right there in his face but he couldn't say anything. Suddenly the world was black again.

The Carrier Umbrage

The Admiral was furious. Everyone on the bridge was tense as his hover-chair paced back and forth during his loud rant, “How could we lose an entire platoon? How can a whole landing party become incapacitated? What kind of rebel device can do that?”

The Colonels were standing at attention, being judged. Their positions and their lives could come to an end if the angry Admiral decided to end it. The Admiral was confined to a hover-chair but it had it's own holo-screens and was as well connected as any enhanced person.

One of the Colonels spoke up. “They defied convention. We had not prepared for the possibility that the rebel army was so decentralized. They have no leaders, for all intents and purposes the civilian population and the rebels are indistinguishable.”

To hell with the civilians, then!” Admiral James "Jim" Robinson shouted, “Kill anyone who even looks at our Marines sideways, zot them all! Also have that village, Jexas, wiped out by Onyx flight, immediately.”

Yes,sir!” They all said before leaving the bridge.

Admiral Robinson was in overall command of the fleet, but he did not personally command the ground troops and Onyx flight. That was all down in the Command & Control Center by other officers, the Colonels would relay orders to the Controllers who would relay them to the ground troops.

We lost last time because too many were willing to sit on the sidelines, and I am not going to let that happen this time.” He told nobody in particular. Admiral Robinson was a true believer in the Emperor, that they could make the Free Republic great again.

Team Four had been bushwhacked. The other teams arrived to find three immobilized platoons and one platoon of Marines with holes through their carapaces. Evidentially they had continued to try and fight the rebels who had attacked. One Marine was missing, not even his armored suit had been found.

Admiral Robinson brought up the holo image of his beloved Sarah. He spoke to it, “I don't have too many days left to fight, but I will fight to the end of them, you betcha!”

It was eight years ago on Cain when he had first saw Sarah. She was leading the charge against the enemy rebels, even though she had been second in command. The leader had been listless, but she had been energizing the troops.

Sarah and James Robinson had hit it off great. She didn't mind his age or his hover-chair. She saw age as wisdom, she saw the chair as a medal of valor. He had lost his legs in combat and she thought this made him a hero.

The fall of Cain hadn't been her fault, but the old Admiral Borner had blamed her to keep his own reputation intact. Robinson had been injured, again. He would have been there for her if he hadn't been carried to a hospital ship on a medical shuttle. Robinson had been decorated for his actions at Cain, then found himself promoted to Admiral.

His beloved Sarah had been disgraced. Although he had tried to change the past with his new position, he could not have her reinstated. It wasn't until a few years ago that she rose to prominence again, this time at the side of the Emperor. Admiral James Robinson was jealous but he admired the Empire and the way he had grabbed power from the old regime.

Sarah belonged to the Emperor now. Robinson understood and accepted this, to a point. His feelings for her remained, though.

The side of the Umbrage opened and a half-dozen fighter ships of Onyx Flight shot out from inside and toward the green planet of Sync below. As they flew into the atmosphere, shielded from any worries of friction, they targeted the small village on their scanners.

Each of the six fighters dropped four bombs, each bomb communicated with the others to pick their targets without any human involvement. The buildings below would be their priority target. By the time the bombs struck they were traveling so fast that they had ploughed through the targets and embedded themselves several feet below before the proximity sensors set off the explosions.

The small village of Jexas was now a series of smoking craters.

“What was the military point of that?” One of the brass in the Command & Control Center messaged the open forum aboard the ship.

Admiral James Robinson responded personally, “The point is that we aren't going to be satisfied if the whole planet doesn't look like that before we leave. Let them fight, we'll adjust. If any of you don't want to go along, then get off my ship! Get out of my fleet!”

No one in the fleet dared to challenge the Admiral.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Chronicles of Neron (short story)

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Chronicles of Neron (A short story)

Ko'ash slowly became aware of waking up from a sleep, the artificial lighting on the false window showed that it was morning, at least on station time. As he stretched he also became aware that he was alone in his sack.

“What the Chadra!?” he exclaimed, kicking the female onto the floor. She rubbed a sore shoulder as she stood and gave him a bow.

Begone female. You have served the King of all Neron and should feel honored, now return to the clutch!” He told her in no uncertain term. With another bow she turned and left the royal bed chamber. Ko'ash shook his head, the nerve of that female allowing herself to fall asleep next to the king, outrageous.

After scrubbing off his scaly skin in the vibratum, which took and disintegrated loose scales, the King was refreshed. He was a warrior, he did not need to hire symps to clean his scales for him. He was perfectly capable of doing it himself, although his powerful tail was big enough to take some time.

Sire!” His Chief Counsel, Reigu entered.

I assume the preparations for the fleet gathering are underway?” Ko'ash asked. His Counsel looked a bit abashed.

Not exactly, sire,” The Counsel said.

Ko'ash was taken aback. “We have been preparing for this gathering of the fleet for weeks, Reigu! What could possibly be holding it up? Who would embarrass the King this way?”

The females are refusing to work, Sire.” Reigu told him.

Ko'ash was silent as he absorbed this absurd information, his claw clicking on the floor in annoyance, then trying to hold down his temper he replied, “The females are on strike? For what possible reason?”

Sire, they have demands.”

Ko'ash wanted to bite his own arm off. “This is the worst possible time for the females to be playing these pranks. Tell them to get back to their duties! We have planets to invade, enemies to conquer! Glory to gain, why would we let females.... females, hold us back?”

I assure you, Sire, this is no prank. They have representatives and they demand to see you or they will... they say they will and I quote 'shut this station down'.” The Counsel said.

Ko'ash stood there, his fangs showing as his jaw opened and closed a few times silently.

Send. Them. In.” He said, almost a growl. They would be lucky if he did not bite their heads off.

Soon three of the small timid females were led into the chamber, he wanted to keep this information from getting out if he could. Better to keep it contained. Ko'ash thought their scents were a little familiar, something about that did not sit well.

“What are your demands?” he asked, in as neutral a voice he could muster.

One of them took a step toward him, the armed guard tensed. “Females make up half the population of this station, half the population of the whole Neron Empire! We are treated as if we aren't even Neron, we are treated as if we do not want to conquer our enemies and achieve glory just like male Neron!”

King Ko'ash sighed. Then he told them, his tail thumping back and forth, “The fleet is gathering as we speak, I do not have time to deal with the problems of females at the present time. Return to your duties immediately and you won't be punished.”

We wanted to be treated better. Is that really too much to ask?” The female standing closer asked and with a bit of a jerk he recognized her. She was the female who had serviced him the previous night and fell asleep in his sack. The impertinence...

He crossed his arms. Ko'ash wanted this over, it would go one of two ways. They would take the first offer or they would be sent back to the swamps of their ancestors.

I am the King, it would be good for you to remember that,” He told them in a warning tone, “This is not how one addresses the King.” (especially females but he really didn't have time to go off on that tangent.)

I will ascent to consider all of your demands, seriously, once the offensive is complete...”

The led female glowered, “You haven't actually heard our demands.”

Her again! Ko'ash closed his eyes. Curse her whole clatch.

Then quickly, let me hear them.” He said.

The lead female stood up straighter, trying to look proud. “We demand to be allowed to become warriors, some of us are fit enough.”

He nodded, “It's probably not a large portion, I suppose that's doable. Never hurts to throw more spears at the enemy.”

She looked as if that wasn't expected. Good, throw her off.

She proceeded, “We demand a female be seated on the Neron Council.”

Ko'ash looked away and sighed. After clearing his throat and pointing at the shorter, plumper female (an obvious follower, not a leader) standing behind the brave one and said, “Fine, fine, that one is a member of the council on my orders. One more, and then it is time to leave.”

The three females looked a bit shocked.

Go ahead Li'ani.” The other one, with the thin head and yellowing rill said. Ko'ash hadn't really ever cared to know that females had names. He found that strange.

The bravest woman leaned forward and smiled, showing all of her sharp teeth, “We demand a queen!”

King Ko'ash nearly fell down from the shock. As King he had his choice of any female, and now these representatives were demanding that he share his bed and his power with a queen! The insolence, he had the mind then and there to have them thrown out the nearest air-lock.

“Or, we shut down the station.” Li'ani said, her small tail swung back and forth.

Having the station shut down at this time would threaten his rule. Every commander in the fleet would conspire against him. On the other hand, earning the loyalty and support of the females could prove to have some benefits in that regard.

“If I agree, you will return to your duties and the other females will also?” He asked.

The three females nodded.

Li'ani should be the Queen!” Yellow rill said.

Yes, that's a good idea.” Said the newly appointed council female.

King Ko'ash wondered what he had just gotten himself into. A trap that did not seem to have a way out, except possibly to execute the three of them on the spot. Maybe that example would make the other females get back to work.

Or revolt. Easily put down, but it would make him a laughing-stock.

Well?” Li'ani asked.

The Chief Counsel was standing next to the short, thick one and he too asked, “Well, sire?”

He emitted a long growl, “I should have had you fed to the dwargs. Fine, I will accept these terms, but if this station isn't prepared in one sill, I'll send you three to the swamps.”

White Yellow rill and the council female celebrated, Li'ani turned to the Chief Counsel, “You heard the King, continue with all preparations!”

Yes,” He bowed and awkwardly added,”my queen.”

Let the hunts begin!” King Ko'ash said.

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