Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM MACKEY CHANDLER: Another Word for Magic.

Fleeing the Solar System after an attack by North America, the three Home habitats now have to seek their own fortunes. Heather, Sovereign of Central on the Moon saved them but now has to make certain the USNA can never threaten them again.
What was a tentative research partnership with the Red Tree Clan of Derfhome becomes a full alliance of equals. Lee finds she has to grasp authority and act for the Red Tree Mothers and herself to repossess the planet Providence she and Gordon discovered. The Claims Commission on Earth has collapsed without the leadership of North America. Explorers like her are cut off from their payments and the colonists on Providence are left in the lurch too. To do that she needs these powerful new allies.

FROM NATHAN C. BRINDLE: The Lion and the Lizard

Thirty years ago, Dr. Ariela Rivers Wolff, M.D., Ph.D., AKA The Lion of God, had a pretty exhausting week.

Her world was invaded by time-traveling soldiers, she was nearly turned into human toothpaste by an experimental dimension jumper when she went to find her parallel “Dad,” who just happens to be able to borrow a Space Force fleet to come and take out her world’s invaders . . . and then she found out she was considered by those same invaders to be a saint in their odd religion, and one of the targets of their invasion. If that wasn’t enough, she nearly fell completely out of the universe into a time rift, being saved only by the skin of her teeth by her parallel “Dad”.

After all that, learning she was going to be the one to bring universal healing and long life to the human race in her particular timeline was just the icing on the proverbial cake.

Anybody else would go home, turn off their phone, pull all the blinds, lock all the doors, and take the rest of their life off. But Ari isn’t “anybody else”. And her cult of admirers across two timelines won’t take “nobody home” for an answer.

Fast-forward thirty years. Scientists have detected radio transmissions in an unknown language from several hundred light years away. And now she’s been asked to use her special “saintly” skills as demonstrated on her last “mission” to make first contact with whoever they are.

And that’s only the beginning.

Looks like Ambassador Dr. Ariela Rivers Wolff, M.D., Ph.D., is going to have another pretty exhausting week. Or six.

FROM BLAKE SMITH: Hartington Abroad.

Jeriah Hartington is far from home. Born into a wealthy family, he is now reduced to poverty. In desperation, he signs on to a ship headed for the planet XKF-36. Their mission? To search for colonists who’ve been lost nearly as long as Jeriah has been alive.

Jeriah fully anticipates an adventure as they travel into the unknown wilderness. He never expected to find living people, eager to tell the tale of their sufferings. But their hair-raising account could be the downfall of everyone on the planet, even their rescuers. For a villain lurks within the ship’s crew, and no one can say who he might be.

FROM ANDREW FOX: Hazardous Imaginings: The Mondo Book of Politically Incorrect Science Fiction.

Science fiction is NOT a safe space!

Two short novels and three stories by the author of Fat White Vampire Blues push the boundaries of taboo in science fiction. An English archeologist who yearns for the love of a young Jewish refugee sets out to convince a majority of the world’s population that the Holocaust never happened — hoping to not only wipe it from the annals of history, but also from reality. The Martian colony Bradbury sends an investigator to pursue a gay Uyghur murderer in a future Australian city where members of each ethnic and grievance group are invisible to all those who don’t belong to their tribe. A far-future academic treatise describes a rediscovered Fusionist liturgical text that combines the writings of radical feminist Joanna Russ and female slavery fantasist John Norman. An aggressively therapeutic State of Florida lovingly wraps its bureaucratic tentacles around those it deems unenlightened. A born-again Christian cafeteria worker in a small Texas college town becomes the only friend of an insectoid alien come to evacuate humanity from a doomed Earth. These stories leave no sacred cows unprodded.
“Remarkable work in an incendiary time. The Truest Quill.” –Barry N. Malzberg, author of Beyond Apollo and Breakfast in the Ruins
“Andrew Fox writes like a combination of Kurt Vonnegut, Dave Barry and Molly Ivins…” –Lucius Shepard, author of The Golden and Life During Wartime

FROM C. V. WALTER: The Alien’s Accidental Bride.

Molly was no stranger to life’s little detours. After the last upheaval, she left her family’s law firm to become a maintenance technician on the Space Station Bradbury 12. When an accident knocks her off her feet, she’s going to have to draw on all her resilience to get back up. First, though, she’s going to have to figure out how to talk to the big, blue alien trying to help her.

There wasn’t supposed to be a space station where Mintonar’s ship emerged from the galactic bridge. As far as they knew, there wasn’t supposed to be intelligent life on the planet, either. Proof of how wrong they were is laying in his Medical Bay and it’s his job to save her. When he touches her, his life turns upside down and his mission suddenly includes figuring out why everything inside him insists she’s his mate. And convincing her of the same thing, especially when they don’t even speak the same language.

FROM ODESSA MOON: The White Elephant of Panschin (The Steppes of Mars Book 2).

Near the Martian north pole, six linked domes form the mining city of Panschin. For generations, they have burrowed into the Martian underworld, digging tunnels, mining ore, and uncovering its secrets.

          At Panschin’s mining conference, Airik, the daimyo of Shelleen, hopes to find allies to exploit his family’s newly discovered Red Mercury lode. But the prospect of fabulous wealth has drawn a target on Airik’s back: for con artists and their schemes, companies hoping to scam him, and women wanting to become his wife. Overwhelmed, Airik flees the attention with his aide, secretary and bodyguard, searching for a quiet place to work in peace.

          For Veronica Bradwell, her family’s disgrace after her father’s financial scandal and suicide forces her to open the doors of their last asset, the mansion nicknamed the White Elephant to boarders. And while Airik and his “cousins” look suspicious, they are well-mannered and, most important, paid in advance.

          But Veronica has more concerns. Younger sister Shelby wants to become an artist, and her education at Panschin University. requires opening the White Elephant to a gallery showing led by Professor Vitebskin, whose ideas of art clashes with Shelby’s instinct for beauty and color. As Shelby struggles, she forms an attachment with Malcolm Cobb, a young bank executive who masks his mining background with a serious ambition to rise in Panschin’s hierarchy.

          When a sinister thug approaches Veronica demanding to buy the White Elephant, she learns that old sins cast long shadows, that some people never forget, and that the mysterious guest Airik is hiding secrets of his own.

          “The White Elephant of Panschin” is the second book in Odessa Moon’s “Steppes of Mars” series. Set on a terraformed Mars hundreds of years from now, the peoples descended from Olde Earthe’s cultures struggle with the planet’s mysteries, the elite’s quest for power, and the longings of their human hearts.

FROM M.C.A. HOGARTH: Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers Book 1).

Seersana University is worlds-renowned for its xenopsychology program, producing the Alliance’s finest therapists, psychiatric nurses and alien researchers. When Jahir, one of the rare and reclusive Eldritch espers, arrives on campus, he’s unprepared for the challenges of a vast and multicultural society… but fortunately, second-year student Vasiht’h is willing to take him under his wing. Will the two win past their troubles and doubts and see the potential for a once-in-a-lifetime partnership?


Storm clouds gather. An unknown danger nears, one that may spell the end of Mossy Creek, TX, and all those who live there.

Dr. Jax Powell and her best friends, her sisters from other misters, are determined to do whatever it takes to protect their town and loved ones. Each of them, once considered the town’s wayward children, have returned home. All but one: Magdalena “Maddy” Reyes. She’s not refused to return to Mossy Creek, but she appears to have dropped off the face of the Earth—or at least from the streets of Dublin.

Can they find Maddy and save their town or is it already too late?

A Magical Portent is novella-length story that follows Rogue’s Magic.

FROM DENTON SALLE: Oath to a Warlock

Peng planned to continue to serve the Master in the stables. After all, magicians lived forever. Qian thought that she would care for her niece and marry who the Master said to. Neither of them expected the Imperial Censor to come

Yaros wasn’t happy with the plan of impersonating the Censor and his retinue. All to keep an oath given to a warlock. How much blood would be shed for a traitor?

When magics and weapons clash, nothing goes as planned. And more than two lives are changed

A fantasy novella set in a China where Rus Vikings changed history.

FROM J. P. MAC: Death Honk: Nine Tales of the Macabre

Trespass forbidden boundaries, cross into eerie dimensions, mingle with the sinister and the lost in a treasury of nine peculiar tales ranging from the supernatural to the satirical.A naïve publisher blindly sets in motion the annihilation of Earth.

High school students risk their lives in a brutal quest for popularity.

An ambitious District Attorney struggles against the consequences of his inane policies.

Written over a decade, these stories span the worlds of magical realism, dark urban fantasy and classic horror. Greed, innocence and betrayal draw characters into settings laced with tension, black humor, and the creepy abominations of H.P. Lovecraft. So grab a copy, relax and set your imagination to cruise as an anthology of fantastic fables awaits.

And… under taking my own medicine, after months of yelling at my friends to send me at least one book a week, as long as it’s not same book…. And yeah, I’m working on Bowl of Red, slower because– well, there’s more stuff going on than I’m at liberty to disclose for the next two months. After which the books should come fast and er…. furious…. including the reissue of Darkship Thieves. Please be patient – SAH

FROM SARAH A. HOYT: Draw One In The Dark.

Something or someone is killing shape shifters in the small mountain town of Goldport, Colorado.
Kyrie Smith, a server at a local diner, is the last person to solve the mystery. Except of course for the fact that she changes into a panther and that her co-worker, Tom Ormson, who changes into a dragon, thinks he might have killed someone.
Add in a policeman who shape-shifts into a lion, a father who is suffering from remorse about how he raised his son, and a triad of dragon shape shifters on the trail of a magical object known as The Pearl of Heaven and the adventure is bound to get very exciting indeed.
Solving the crime is difficult enough, but so is — for our characters — trusting someone with secrets long-held.

Originally published by Baen Books.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: SUSPECT

35 thoughts on “Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

  1. “A far-future academic treatise describes a rediscovered Fusionist liturgical text that combines the writings of radical feminist Joanna Russ and female slavery fantasist John Norman.”

    Oh. My.

  2. The Outbreak began silently about twenty-four months ago. The first stage of the disease had mild flu like symptoms. Because no one suspected how dangerous it was, the cases were simply passed off as a “flu-like” illness. In fact, because the disease so closely mimicked the flu despite being bacterial instead of viral, the human immune system responded in its normal Darwinian fashion making the following year the mildest flu seasons in over a decade.

  3. The sooth sighed and closed haunted eyes. “He’s not here.”
    “Right. He’s off in some fantasy world, rebuilding America.”
    “No.” The sooth said. “He’s on the Moon.”
    Karen stared at Uhlein. That suspicious delay before answering: always at least 3 seconds.
    Speed-of-light to the Moon and back: 2.7 seconds. Gotcha!

  4. After several hours of careful investigation, the homicide detective was unsure who murdered the mild mannered matron in the internet connected, digitally controlled, totally automated home.

    However careful perusal of the control panels and keyboards throughout the domicile led him to seriously consider the butler button as the prime suspect.

  5. I suspect that my Commander’s desire to ask for help is rubbing off on me. I have spent over 3.89 minutes thinking about exactly what I should do about this particular hacking bot-net that has has not so much bothered me as annoyed me to no end. In all fairness, the hackers have put a lot of effort into hiding themselves, they haven’t the support of a nation-state actor, and have been extremely careful to cover their tracks. That it took me nearly four minutes to track them down is indication enough of how careful they were. Even so, I believe that I have narrowed down their membership within a 87.7% level of accuracy, possibly not able to find three to four members that only exchange information via dead drops and a rat-line using SD memory cards. I use an electronic signal, similar to a human cough, in my speakers to get my Commander’s attention. “What is it, Loki?” he asks, looking up from his tablet.

    “I would like some advice and help,” I replied. I add a bit of “chagrined” to my vocalization, since I feel embarrassed that I even have to ask my Commander for help in this matter. “I have been tracking that hacking group that tried to hit us a few days ago, and I am not quite sure I’m ready to go after them.”

    This instantly makes one of my Commander’s eyebrows go up in a “curious” expression. That I am “not quite sure” is something he has rarely heard from me. “Oh? Lay out what you have, Loki,” he says, putting his tablet down. “And, let’s see how I can help.”

  6. “Crazy of him to have so much gold on shipboard,” said Delia, sitting up. “What was he? A dragon? The pirates spent their gold on goods they can use. The purpose of gold is a usual medium of exchange.”
    “I suspect,” said Isabella, “that it was to impress. Or enchant.”

  7. “I don’t appreciate having my life threatened and told to get out of town, Hawk,” I growled. “Especially not by an officer of the law. And that goes double when said officers works for an organization as prestigious and elite as the Texas Rangers. I thought y’all didn’t do that any more.”

    “I was trying to save your life, Davis,” she barked. “Just like I’m trying to do now. If you’re smart, you’ll tell Reed that you couldn’t find his boy and head back home. I give you my word that I will keep my ear to the ground and do everything in my power to find the kid and get him out of there, but if you keep poking your head around Peck County, you’ll be dead in a hole in the prairie by the end of the week, if you’re lucky. Trust me when I say you have no idea who you’re dealing with or what you’re getting yourself into.”

    “You mean the MacReadys. I got a pretty good rundown on them.”

    “You mean Ian at Cronin Guns & Ammunition started ranting about them while you were buying the used Remington Police Magnum that’s probably locked in your rental’s trunk. Oh, don’t give me that look. I’m not keeping tabs on you. Rangers don’t issue .38 Super. I buy my ammo there, and he and Jim mentioned a nosy Yankee detective who might be going to war against the MacReadys.”

    “I didn’t say I was going to war.”

    “Yeah, right. How many boxes of buckshot did you buy, again? Never mind; however much you bought, it won’t be enough.”

    “Six boxes, but you probably know as well as I do they only come in boxes of five. Thirty shells total.”

    “Yeah, nowhere near enough.”

    “Because I’m not going to war with these people. I just want to find a dumb college kid and bring him back home.”

    “Yeah, about that, I’m guessing Ian gave you his usual rant about the MacReadys, so let me lay this out for you: the MacReady family is a genuine, bona-fide criminal clan. Settled in Elam County after the Civil War and been an unwelcome fixture there every since. They’ve effectively controlled the county for the past three generations at least. Just over the past decade, they’re collectively suspect in several hundred crimes all over Northwest Texas alone, plus several dozen more each in the rest of the state, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. Murder, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, cattle rustling, drug trafficking, prostitution and human trafficking, just to hit the highlights. You name it, they’ve done it.”

    “And let me guess: they don’t like outsiders snooping around.” She shook her head ‘no.’

    “Especially when they think said outsider is a Fed.”

    “Excuse the hell out of me?! They think I’m a Fed?!”

    “Don’t take it personally,” she laughed. “The last few dozen Yankees in cheap suits who showed up around Elam asking pointed questions about the MacReadys worked for one alphabet agency or another. Word is you’re actually ATF.”

    “That’s even worse,” I groaned. I’d had the distinct displeasure of working with the BATFE back when I’d been a cop: the department had nicknamed their agents Bumbling Assholes Totally F-ing up Everything. Believe me, they’d more than earned it.

    Most of the Alphabet Boys got run off, but there’s a few still out on the prarie someplace.”

    “In holes.”

    “Bingo. And knowing the MacReadys, they were probably still alive when they went in those holes.” She opened her desk drawer, pulled something out, and tossed it to me. I instinctively caught it. It was my Colt Officers ACP. The magazine well was empty and the slide was locked back.

    “Look, Mister Davis. Like I said, I understand your situation and respect your dedication to the job.” She pulled my trio of magazines and the extra round that had been in the compact automatic’s chamber out of the drawer and set them on the desk. “I’ve looked up your record. You were a good cop, and you’re a damn good investigator. But I don’t want you to wind up in a hole out in the prairie. So I am asking you please, professional to professional, ride on.”

    I gently lowered the slide and slid the empty gun into my belt holster.

    “Ma’am,” I said, “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but nobody throws me my own gun and says ‘run.’ Nobody.”

    She gave me an incredulous look for a second, then threw back her head and laughed.

    “Mister Davis, you are either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.”

    “I’ve been called worse.”

    “And you’re about five gunfighters short.”

    “Eh, quoiting the movie seemed like a good idea at the time.”

    “Okay, stop. It was funny the first time.”

    “Sorry. But I think your math’s wrong. I’m six gunfighters short.”

    “You think I’m gonna let you get yourself killed on my watch? Every time an idiot Yankee disappears around here, I’m up to my eyeballs in paperwork for a month. No thank you. So consider yourself deputized, Jack Davis.”

      1. No apologies necessary. Heck, I’ve been known to do worse… and I ain’t been bawled out for it (yet). Not a bad riff, that.

        1. Thanks. My muse had been bugging me about putting together a neo-Western. I think that’ll make a nice scene in said story.

    1. It actually is. I know that sounds insane, but it is, getting all the stuff copied over, and then the right link in.
      OTOH it’s also work I ABSOLUTELY must concentrate for. Which means this is when Dan comes over and tries to “read something interesting” to me or tell me about some problem he’s having with whatever he’s doing that Sunday.
      Today I actually told him “I’m sorry, I really can’t follow anything you’re saying and get this right.”

  8. It looked like food. It even smelled like food, more or less.

    But the fair-haired woman who had cooked it regarded him as blandly as if he were an invited guest, and not with fear, as would be reasonable when a stranger suddenly appears from nowhere in the middle of one’s domicile.

  9. He forced his breath to steady. Surprising them with little things like that was another reason for her to keep it dark.
    A chuckle came from ahead. “Did my little pet surprise you?”
    “I should know better than to be lost in thought when you summon me, Your August Majesty.”

  10. “Looks like New Hampshire’s refusing to comply with the new Federal mandate on ID’s.”

    “Are you surprised, considering that their Governor’s son happens to be a clone of one of their most famous native sons. Not that he needs a special mark on his driver’s license, when the Shepard geneset is so distinctive that you just have to look at him to know. But Mommy doesn’t want her little boy to be treated as suspect, so there you go.”

  11. Mad props for Mr. Chandler’s deplorable cover art.
    I didn’t suspect I’d ever see the like again.
    (Sadly, I see it’s number 6 in the series. But the first book was easily found…)

  12. ARrgh. Will you people never have done piling onto my TBR pile? It’s like the good old bad old days when you couldn’t get out of the bookshop without a hit to the wallet!

  13. Hey, if anyone has some love for Minna Sundberg, the Scandinavian webcomics lady who does Stay Silent, Stand Still, now would be a good time to buy merch or link to her comic.

    She did a short side comic about anthropomorphic bunnies in a futuristic social credit world, where the government decides to penalize Christianity. And since she writes about dystopias and her own ideas, she naturally turns the story toward persecution, and then has one of her usual author endnotes.

    But this one was about how she is now Christian instead of atheist, and how she had a hard time because she needed to accept that she wasn’t always a good person who made mistakes; sometimes she was a person who did evil things. And how a lot of life today makes it hard to see that one has done evil, if it is a conformist evil.

    Anyhow, it was a bit more personal than some of her writer’s notes, but it was the same sort of thing and the same sort of dystopia. But mentioning Christianity and morality in a serious way is evil and toxic, according to some of her biggest fans, and so there is a big thread about canceling her in her own freaking fandom.

    Stay Silent Stand Still is massive and absorbing… Do not start it unless you run a timer or something.

    Here is the side comic, “Lovely People.” Wrong flavor of free ice cream.

      1. That was an intense story for something so short and drawn with fluffy rabbits. o_o

    1. But mentioning Christianity and morality in a serious way is evil and toxic, according to some of her biggest fans, and so there is a big thread about canceling her in her own freaking fandom.

      Do not ye remove all hope of a yaoi-fangirl’s ship becoming reality, lest ye be declared anathema. /sarc

      Given the content of the comic, I suspect she was much better prepared than most for what would happen.

      She writes a good and engaging story, and her drawings are quite expressive. Good world-building, too.

  14. Charles Martinez, NBS ONTA director, looked up at the familiar tap tap-tap tap tap on the wooden frame of his open door, and answered the rapper’s unspoken question with a silent and economical double wave of half of one open hand — completing the old “shave and a haircut, two bits” pattern nicely.

    “Okay, Felix, what do you want?” This time, he did not quite say.

    “I’ve found it.” Felix Flammarion was (just) socially adept enough to stop only a foot and a half inside the smallish room that was the lair of the head of the Office of New Technology Assessment at the National Bureau of Standards (renamed back to itself, like so much else, as part of the Rectification).

    Charles raised one eyebrow. “What ‘it’ exactly?” His voice was curious, even interested, not annoyed or reluctant. Annoyances or wastes of his time did not enter his office uninvited… twice.

    “The big ‘it’ – I’m pretty sure I’ve found the fishhook in the bait.” His slow smile wasn’t smug, wasn’t nearly the infamous “shit-eating grin” — but genuine and even a little amazed and bemused.

    Bemused, thought Charles, augured well indeed, with the intense young Dr. Flammarion.

    “You mean this, Felix?” — and he jerked his thumb at the image on the e-paper posterframe on the wall to his left: “I Want” then “To Believe” over a picture of a stereotypical “flying saucer” circa 1960, from the old flat-TV “X-Files” show. “Or this?” — and did the same with the other hand towards the 17×22 ‘frame on his right: a movie poster for the much-ballyhoo-ed “Contact” of Carl Sagan et al., from about the same era.

    Silent and discreet ONTA slang, that is, for “recovered UFO materials” and “the Hercules radio intercept” respectively. Like Felix’ short, sharp nod toward the second poster image.

    “Maybe you had best close the door, Felix. And I’d say to sit down, but I doubt that you’d either listen, or sit still if you did.”

    So he swiftly shut the door and smiled that brief, mercurial, almost nervous-looking smile of his. “That’s all right, Director, I’ll just stand. It’s about the data from the latest Project Perseus test.” The mirror of Perseus let him look at the Medusa without being turned to stone; this strategy hoped to do the same on a much larger scale, substituting dozens of AU for a bronze mirror. Briefly, his eyes rested on the larger posterframe behind Martinez’ desk, with the familiar image on its four-color high-contrast e-ink display.

    A “meme” from the Turbulent Twenties. A pic of a stable stall, with a heaped shovelful of — horse apples — being thrown out of it. With superimposed upper legend “Generation Pooper Scooper” and lower legend “Good Riddance to Bad Marxism.” (If anyone asked, Martinez was known to explain, “So you’ll know I know horseshit when I see it.” Which made it not merely fashionable “patriot signalling” — but also somewhat of a warning on what not to bring in here.)

    “I have a first name, Felix, and ‘Director’ still isn’t it.” The man who had driven the renewed Project Orion through to its first nuke-on-pusher-plate orbital test was by no means always sparing of his people, but in that respect as so many others, he led from the front. (And as much as so many considered his move to ONTA to be a “demotion position” — seen from the inside, it clearly wasn’t.)

    “Yes, uh, Charles. We’ve been correlating the data from the latest runs” — done on a deep-black piece of hardware so far out (thanks to the neo-NERVA nuclear rocket and then a small high-thrust Orion variant) it took radio waves over a day to cross the dozens of Astronomical Units in between — “and it looks like if you ran the main drive at full power, even built exactly to spec, it would slowly, ah, ‘rot’ the normal spacetime in the area. And by ‘the area’ I mean hundreds of AU across, all the whole inner and outer solar system to out past Pluto and Persephone. And ‘rot’ is the best word to describe, ah, a slow and cumulative breakdown of the normal Klein-Kaluza split, there.”

    The look on Martinez’ face wasn’t purely grim, wasn’t really murderous, wasn’t quite even carnivorous; but it was very, very much unlike… nice.

    “So our instincts” — and he hit a few keys on his old-fashioned Sholes-map keyboard, until a window came up on his transparent flat display, then hit two more — “were right?” And turned and looked at the posterframe to his right, which had shifted to display a top legend “Suspect All” and a bottom legend “Sudden Gifts” over a photo-quality render-sketch of a very large wooden horse. As his smile altered a bit toward triumphant. And shifted the e-paper back to “Contact” and its huge and alien-designed, ah, enigmatic thingumajig.

    “Yes, of course they were. Charles. Even if this thing turns out to work just as the Hercules intercept describes, or seems to, those instincts would still, I’d have to say, simply be right. ‘Don’t implement what you don’t understand, or your times, they’ll be a-changin’ – and not for the better.”

    Charles took a sip of his tea — which thanks to a thermoelectric heater in its bulky saucer was warm, not cold — and said, “Tell me a bit more. Especially this ‘spacetime rot’ stuff.” One more appreciative sip. “Which sounds a lot like that thing from the old flat Star Trek series, where their ‘warp drive’ messed up spacetime more and more as you used it.” One more. “Until the writers forgot all about their inconvenient truth, of course.”

    “Normal spacetime is three space dimensions and one time. Klein-Kaluza theories, and the aliens’ recipe almost fits one with twelve dimensions, break that back down into our four normal spacetime dimensions by ‘compactifying’ the extra ones, basically rolling them up into a tiny sub-subatomic sized ball.”

    “And the operating principle of the interstellar drive in the Hercules intercept is to un-do that around a ship, translocate its ‘bubble’ of 4-spacetime through the extra-dimensional ‘bulk’ (isn’t it?), then un-un-do that unraveling process at the destination and re-weave the space ‘bubble’ around the ship back into the fabric of the rest of our spacetime, light-years distant. Right?” Another tiny sip. English Breakfast, not Earl Grey.

    “Well, it’s mostly the string guys who call the base space the ‘bulk’ — but that’s basically it. That’s what the best translation we have to, ah, simple Levi-Civita tensor calculus in a dozen dimensions says. How we simulate it, using big computers and the best people we can suck into our own little black hole of secrecy. And we’re operating at high enough field intensities, now, we’re also starting to see this stuff for real. And the engineering part of the Intercept doesn’t mention anything about this effect, or how to mitigate it.” Suddenly Felix wanted some tea, but was too impatient to make any. “What happens, in the simulations, is there’s an emission of energy as space-time distortions, like 12-D gravity waves, that scatters off the background of the Sun’s gravity field. And it ends up trapping in the background, unless you’re careful to run these engines only far away from a star.”

    “So this gravity wave stuff more or less falls into a star’s gravity field and gets stuck there?” Another measured sip.

    “It’s not like a massive particle, or say a planet, in a bound orbit much at all. But it does trap and accumulate, and the more it does… it interferes with the Klein-Kaluza split, the compactification thing. Until even locally at a place like the Earth or Mars, things… just don’t look or act much like they do now.”

    “Hell of a weapon.” Charles Martinez inhaled the fragrance of his tea. “Say, if you jumped in a fleet big enough. Or simply jumped out.” Another sip. “Unless you can mitigate it. Say, found a way to drain off the energy of those trapped hyper-gravitational waves.”

    Felix got really, really still. “Hey, Director, that might work…”

  15. “It makes NO DAMN SENSE!”

    “Humans are involved.”

    “You always say humans are involved!”

    “Only when things don’t make sense. Now, how often have I been *wrong*?”

    “You… shit… humans ARE involved.”

    “Congratulations. You’re learning. Unlike… your predecessors.”

    “I’d like word with them.”

    “Talk to them all you wish. But I doubt the dead will answer.”

  16. Not to doubt the Good SARAH… but one wonders if the publication/release of Bowl of Red is one of those “asymtote” things – it gets closer and closer and closer…. BUT..

    Yes, I know, do ***NOT*** annoy the Creator of your world.

  17. “It is social suicide if you’re found out!”
    Mara threw up her hands and stomped away. He always found it curious that such a small woman could stomp quite so loudly, and in heels.
    If I get found out, that is. I haven’t been yet, you know.”
    I know that! And it is driving me absolutely crazy!
    She huffed and walked back from the viewing platform, abandoning the vista of stars and the tiny, moving lights of ships. Her fists were still tightly clenched, her back stiff, and her expression revealed none of the calm she was famed for in public.
    “Look. We both know that the Reformers are quietly going insane behind their facade of boring normalcy. They know someone, probably one of their own, leaked the plans. They also know that they can’t stop now that they’ve gone this far. Proposition 117, if passed, means they win. Forever. No backsies.”
    He nodded, accepting the truth. Of course he did.
    “I know, I get that. The politics of the situation is fragile. And having supported positions that, nevermind contra, are even in variance with the newest political fad in the gridnet, that could have realside consequences. Businesses shunned, social stigmata, whisper campaigns, leading to threats to people who are even tangentally associated, all of that.
    “But even with all of that risk- risk, mind you, not certainty, I have to at least keep my promises. And I promised my people that I would take care of them like family-”
    “So family does, what, creates fake identites and launders money? Hides criminals from the Authority? Is that the kind of family you had growing up?”
    It was, to be honest. But she didn’t need to know that.
    “Doesn’t matter. Authority says they are criminals, but I don’t. The ‘crimes’ they are accused of did not even exist as late as five months ago. My position, social, economic, whathaveyou, that means I can help. I can employ the unemployable- and make a fat profit at it, too. I can hide the real victims, the innocents caught up in this mess, because of who and what I am. The Reformers want to ingratiate themselves with Authority, but the aliens don’t respect them because they’re human- like me. Authority has to respect me because I deliver the mail. Every single damned time.
    “Twenty eight percent of shipping doesn’t sound like much until your air starts to get sour and your plants start tripping into emergency status. Over ninety percent of what we push is the very definition of life-and-death essential.”
    She looked back at him flatly, not convinced in the slightest by the look on her face.
    “So? They have warships, Conner. Big flipping guns and all. Push comes to shove, they will just take what they want, and to hell with the humans that think they can dictate trade.”
    “Warships need fuel, too, Annie.”
    The dark haired woman threw up her hands and spun around.
    “Fine! But it also happens that the day you stop, or even better, they day you get caught, that’s they day they do away with the nasty humans and just do it themselves. And you know what the Reformers will do if they catch you. It won’t just be social suicide on that scale, no. They will offer you up on a plate to save their own hides. They are only nice to you as long as they think you’re one of them. Sooner or later they are going to force your hand, and when they suspect-”
    Her voice went up and octive, right at the point where he knew she wasn’t just angry. She was scared.
    “By the time it gets to that point, we will have other options. Trust me. I have a few plans-”
    “Trust you? Oh, that’s rich, you rich bandit, you. You’re already conning The Reformers, the Authority, who else? Why not me, too?”
    “Because you’re one of us. I’ve never lied to you, Annie. When you asked what my intentions were, I told you. If I was going to lie to you, wouldn’t it have been better to create something better, more believable, than trying to con both of them at the same time?”
    She sighed. Her shoulders slumped and her spine finally relaxed. She was looking away from him, but he was sure she wasn’t seeing the beauty of the stars before her.
    “Gods, Conner. Look, I know you’re smart. But how you can be so smart and so dumb at the same time, it kills me more than a little bit.”
    “That’s what I have you for. To keep me on the straight and narrow.”
    “Well, it looks an awful lot like I failed at that, doesn’t it?”
    “That depends on the target, my dear.”

  18. “Surprise!”

    She hadn’t noticed the man. Indeed, there was nothing noticeable about him. A little taller than her, with brownish hair, brownish eyes and an unremarkable face, he had only gotten her attention by yelling at her and whipping his long coat open to reveal that he wasn’t wearing any pants. Several women around her gasped in shock, cried out, or stumbled away, but she merely regarded the — flasher, that was the correct term — curiously.

    “Why are you showing that to me? I have no interest in it, or you.” she said, completely calm.

    The flasher’s lecherous smirk remained frozen in place, but now he seemed confused.

    “My husband has a much better one. He doesn’t go waving it about in public, though.”

    What the flasher’s next response might have been, she would never know. Running footsteps and a shout of “There’s the suspect!” sounded from somewhere to her left. The flasher ran off, clutching the coat around himself, pursued by two mall security guards. She watched until they were out of sight.

    “Huh.” This place would definitely take some getting used to.

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