Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Preliminary Cover for Warbird

10 - Children, You're late

Dukir stood at the top of the rift and looked out over the basin spreading before him.  He didn’t like to admit it, but he’d gotten used to having the young Emir-al with him, playing the part of the grizzled old Amir who spent his remaining days until retirement wiping young Emir-al’s noses and bottoms and kept them from getting too many of the foot, the kapikulu, killed.

Things hadn’t been right, since Diryish died.  He was too old to be a proper spymaster anymore, with a bag of mandery tricks, dancing around the nets and traps and pitfalls of his craft.  It wasn’t fun anymore and the ability to shift his appearance and demeanor in a moment was almost tiring instead of exhilarating.

I should retire and play with my grandbabies.  Fak I’m not sure I can even remember what ‘my’ face feels like. Right now he was a fussy, annoying old herbalist, come all the way from the city down to Trovi to buy from the lush grounds of the Trovian delta.

The cliffs reached out and down in great falls of stone, the sand growing darker and more toxic the lower it lay, till it was almost red in the lowest waves of the basin.  To Dukir’s left the river trickled out over the edge in a white thread that evaporated less than a quarter of the way to the bottom. At one time the water had been so precious that none of the delta tributaries fell over the edge.  None of the water had even reached the edge of the highlands, but now there was enough planetary water that letting some flow free was a luxury.

That basin was supposed to be full of water by now, you fakkin owner.  There were supposed to be oceans.  That was the contract.

“Oh my goodness!” He exclaimed to his guide.  “Oh, oh that is so... vast!”  His hands fluttered ineffectually somewhere in the vicinity of his shoulders and he shuddered in horror at this vastness so nakedly displayed.

The village urchin he’d hired didn’t bother to hide his eye-roll.  He’d been guiding old Naser ‘Sherfa’ for long enough that he was heartily tired of him, for all that he paid in good Lainz cash. It was the fourth time he’d asked to be guided along the edge, supposedly searching for an elusive plant that he’d completely made up, for a market he did not have.

The warmaster from Milar and his new Radiance did work together well, and he found both of them like minded enough that it was easy to work with both of them.  It had been weeks since their operatives had actually messaged from the other continent, Prime’s nest.

Four youngsters had set off, leaving a trail of repeating lin stations behind as they managed the difficult and dangerous trek.  They’d made it, three of them and begun sending invaluable information back from this place called Xanadu.

Out here on the edge the wind howled like a bush dragon and flung sand with the gleeful abandon of a toddler.  Naser Sherfa shuddered delicately and drew his fancy veil and sarband across his face.  “Ah, my faithful Trovian!  It seems we have failed in our magnificent quest, once again!”

He could almost hear the boy’s teeth grinding, at his fruity condescension but answered mildly enough.  “It would seem so, Naser.”

“Well, we shall have to pursue this fickle vegetation once more, tomorrow!  For now let us return to your charming domicile!”

“Yes, Naser.”  Thank the light and the dark I don’t have to be here much longer, this child’s mother is starting to imagine I’m choosing to stay at her hostel because I’m attracted to her. It helps my cover, so I’m leading the poor woman on, but her mother cannot stand me, and I’m encouraging that antipathy.

He sighed to himself.  He’d have to disappear into the local hive offices here, soon. You’re late, children.  Light and Dark don’t get yourselves caught.

Friday, January 25, 2013

9 - Too Many Problems

Kyrus looked across his room at Werfas who lay sprawled across the floor cushions, fingers laced behind his head.  Hara sat cross-legged on a cushion of her own, next to Kurazon, who settled herself carefully down.  She would be giving birth soon.  Shashi lay on her stomach on the carpet chin propped on her hands.  Her baby lay next to her, sleeping.

If it weren’t all krashnall silk pillows in every colour under the sun, with handwoven feather veils and hair-feathers.  If it weren’t in a room so high that if it weren’t for the water flowing down over the windows it would be so hot we might as well be steamed.  If we didn’t have a scattering of silver and alabaster bowls and plates instead of red clay... we could be a bunch of Basin rats hiding out, hanging out, in a soak under the city.

“I think it’s the wrong approach to try and rediscover how to fly, much less fly over the air,” Werfas was saying.

“We need to get to the communications equipment on the moon, though.” Kurazon put in.

“And once we’re there we need to find out who to contact to make sure that Prime doesn’t just wipe us out and claim we just died of some disease or disaster.” Hara said.

“So, wing-brother, if we don’t rediscover how to fly... how do we do it?”

“We steal a flying warbird from Prime.”

Everyone was silent at that, and the baby stirred and made a chirpy noise in her sleep.  Shashi sat up slowly.

“I like that idea,” Kyrus said.  “But there’s some problems.”

Hara snorted.  “Only some?” She held up her fingers... “We would need to send someone to Prime’s continent and suborn someone... someone who flies there.  Or someone would need to go there and learn to fly and then steal one without alerting Prime and all his manders.  If they didn’t manage to pull you back where would you get away too?  They’d come looking for their missing flyer...”

“... and find and obliterate us...” Kurazon chimed in.
“It would be possible to get someone over there... but to set them up as a high enough tech class... a high enough pedigree to be able to have the knowledge to learn how to fly... it will take years,” Shashi said.  “I believe that His Radiance and the Warmaster have already set that particular plan in motion, to be activated if we succeed at nothing else.”

How exactly does she know that? She’s like that old Amir who wasn’t really an Amir, Kyrus thought. “There are so many problems with that idea that whoever goes –“ he paused for a moment before continuing.  “—or has already gone, better be really good.  Do we even know if Prime’s current people look more like Lainz or Milar, or what?”

“They look mostly like Nadumon, but without the hair, as nearly as we can see.”  The Nadumon cultivated elaborate, matted, beaded and braided hairstyles.

“This is too big a problem,” Werfas said grumpily, flinging one arm over his eyes.  “I mean, how do we even start to get caught up to where we were at the time of the first Radiances?  They’d already destroyed a lot of their knowledge, given it up, burned it and booted it out the door, idiots that they were.”

“They were likely like that Komeni fellow,” Hara said.   

“Lotechers and Pysonits.  Ky, your ma’s found more of Empress Petra’s lesson files?”

He shrugged.  “Bits and pieces.”

“There’s enough there to build on,” Shashi said firmly and Kurazon nodded.

“Werfas, you need to remember that it’s not just us trying to solve this problem.  We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people working together.  Like the Hive.  We’ll get our tech back, with improvements wrought out of our experience living under where Prime would even think to look.”

He rolled over and propped up the side of his head with one hand.  “We’ve just now found out how to build a thing to scan for the fancy power Prime uses.  We don’t use anything other than muscle and he hasn’t thought to look for all the heat we’d put out... we’re just a bigger blot of heat at night... hmmm.  During the day we’d be invisible in the background heat.  It’s the cities and villages on the surface at night that would be visible.  As heat and light.”

“What we need is to cline evidence of us being there, just in case someone slips up and alerts Prime.”

“That’s a good start,” Shashi said, and sat up as her little girl fussed herself awake.  “We don’t need to solve any more than that.  Why don’t we concentrate on that, day after tomorrow?”

“Why not tomorrow?” Kyrus asked.  Fak me, I hope its not –

“Another ceremonial you have to do as siwion,” Shashi said.   

“With all this change going on people need to know that all of life hasn’t changed.  They need some stability.”

Even if it’s a bell-ringers dinner or a wax cleanser ball, or both. Kyrus tried not to sigh.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

8 - Laugh or Scream?

 A quick note to readers:  I'm going to be shifting all the first person present bits to third person.  Blogger was out tonight so I will be doing that gradually over the weekend.
Hara put the lin’d note down and stared out through the mist curtain that made everything outside pale and hazy looking.  She wasn’t sure whether to take this ‘Adjon Komeni’ seriously enough to be offended or if she should just laugh.

This man had been using the much despised tech to reach every single person in Lainz and Milar.  The lin had been spreading like wildfire and she was certain that the officials in Hippefrey and Rumon and Nadumon had private boxes all their own already.  This was something that she sure of.

Stepapa hadn’t said anything about having spies, but pa had taught her that everyone had them, so the court was probably full of people spying on each other for various reasons... and stealing ideas and things.

The thing the other countries didn’t realize was that Pa and Stepapa really wanted the lin to spread.  Pa said it’s all a plot.  If they pretended that Lainz were trying to keep it to themselves, that practically guaranteed everyone would be secretly scrambling to get it.

But the lin... this one man with his florid style of writing... it sounded more like he was dictating.  He even said in his letter that he had someone scribe it for him.  Probably so he didn’t sully himself with this awful ‘learning to read and write’ business.  He seemed to be the spokesman for a handful of others, equally awful. There were the Komeni women, also dictating things about how to be properly womenful or some such rot.  It sounded a lot like it was said by him and they just put their names to it.

Hara just could not fathom the depth of deliberate misunderstanding that they had to maintain.  There were other women writing for the lin – one of them was Ky’s ma – and they held very different ideas.  It was easier to read them than to read even one of Komeni’s letters, or anything from that group.  She often felt like she was growing stupider, just listening.

She shook her head and set the page back into the hopper.  She actually had schooling to get back to.  Pa had turned her mandery lessons into assignments focussed on getting a message out to the greater world.

Prime wouldn’t hesitate to try and kill them again, if they came out of hiding, that was clear from the attack that was fading, but fading very slowly, from people’s immediate memory.  There were reports of deaths in the city that could still be from pa’s attempt at eavesdropping.  Shashi had people investigating those.

Outside, she could hear the Rasheem guarding her door, talking to his relief, though the words were indistinct.  She could hear them laugh at something.  It was so odd, to be considered so different that she needed guarding at all. At home she was just another youngster.

The model on her desk was an elaborate mock-up of a gigantic dragon-fly, big enough to carry at least one person.  Her thought had been that since they could obviously put themselves into the air, surely humans could build one like that. Prime owner had flyers.  Flyers that could get them up to the moon and beyond.

She set the parameters to what stresses would be on a full sized machine, putting in the numbers for the lightest metal and the finest silk the bees could lay down. It looked good, sitting on the desk.

Her worker bees flew up and settled in her hair, settling down as if they were jewellry and she took a breath.  “Let’s try this,” she said to herself.  “Half-speed,” and touched the on-pad. The wings began to rise, even as the legs under the craft began to crumple. Her dragon-flyer tipped to one side and both wings folded in half under their own weight.  It tumbled, still trying to fly thrashing and strewing pieces.  She put out her hand just in time to catch the body as it fell off her desk, bits scattered all across the stone surface.

She tabbed it off so that it quit beating itself to pieces against her hand and laid it down gently.  “Hmmm.”  It had seemed like such a reasonable step, to try and fly to the top of the air and then somehow push off from the air toward the moon but she was obviously missing a lot of information. 

“Endarken.  I don’t know whether to laugh or just scream in frustration.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

7 - Letter to the Sunrise Loggia

Letter to the Sunrise Loggia LIN: copy to news network:

“... should be ashamed!  Ashamed I tell you!  Your Radiance is endarkened TARNISHED.  This literacy shouldn’t be allowed to the masses.  It breaks the contracts we signed generations ago, the ones our forefathers signed with the original owners!

I don’t need to quote the original contract here, since t’was the old Radiance, may his soul rest in coolness, who posted that sacred document!  But it clearly... and I do mean clearly... CLEARLY states that we, the workers would be given a viable, sustainable piece of the planet for our, and our heirs’, livelihoods – in perpetuity -- in exchange for our sworn agreement to NOT teach our chil’ren!

Learning is anathema to anyone of tech class or below!  It is a breach of our sworn word to the foresighted and benevolent owners of the very ground beneath our feet!

Oral passage of any of our survival knowledge is good enough for our great-grandfathers however many generations removed and it is STILL good enough for me and mine!  I tell you that for this vile piece of common technology, this lin thing... a scribe is the best set of tongs one can use to not be tainted and stained with the ugliness of learning out of place!

And speaking of ugliness... let me speak of the immoral veiling of the women!  One veil in place of three!  It is bad enough that even in the past year the veiling of the women has been shockingly, shockingly reduced to a mere two veils and both those so transparent they might as well not be there at all!  If my wife were to be so wanton, so strumpetly, so as to go out in public in anything less than full formal veils I would put her aside in a moment!  My daughters would never, never be so shameless to let themselves be so exposed!

These veils are mere face veils, either so sheer they all but expose the lips and chin, or are a sham and a mockery of desert feather veils!

Don’t let me get started on the evils these naked-faced, sheep loving, Milar have brought with them!  Their women... with only face veil... riding warbirds.  Not only that but riding ASTRIDE.

Their uteri will be addled and produce nothing but men who prefer boys, those unnatural exposeri who prefer their own sex or girls!  How is Lainz to return to the correct and sane warrior culture that the Grandfather of our misguided Radiance at one point adhered to?

It’s a plot, I tell you truthfully.  It is a plot to weaken us.  It is a plot to destroy our warrior spirit and our brave desert culture that is obviously meant to rule over the lesser, weaker, more degenerate races of man.  We are trading with these disgusting foreigners, these barely more than animals, rather than subjugating them!

Radiance I implore you!  Let my words be known in your heart!  I send this openly spoken letter to every brave Lainz heart who longs for a return to what made us strong!  Veil our women!  Destroy this evil and vile lin and cease teaching this anathema of reading.  Return to our glorious wars of conquest and we will be once more whole!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

6 - News from the Corps

The moon station was eerily quiet this hour of watch, as a landing request blinked from one of the screens.  Terry Cameron took his feet off the console, yawned and granted the little plinker landing rights.  Since the Font of All Knowledge had shut down the ice mining and called everybody down to the planet surface there wasn’t much traffic, and the next interstellar cargo spine wasn’t due till next month by Chishiki reckoning.  The plinker was the regular single ship that carried information, new hardware and software to make sure that all of the corporate listed planets had the latest netware to maintain interstellar contact.  The ship was settling down nicely into its usual slot and Terry triggered the audio channel.  No sense in chewing bandwidth to see Siva’s face while he was busy, but he could certainly work his mouth.

“Hey, Siva!  You’re late this run.”

“What the hell, Terry?  Where’s the last shift?  There’s nobody working?”

“Nah.  CEO shut everything down.  Something about maintenance but everybody kinda knew it was moa quano.”
There was a whistle.  “I brought a bottle of Kingdom black brandy.”

Terry laughed.  “I’m here by myself this shift.  No sense sharing with lazy illiterates.”

“What like your boss, His Enlightenment?”

“Dark, yeah.”

“See you in a minute.”


The ice on the moon was thick enough that the easiest way to mine it was to grow machines, Pounders, that looked like headless elephants.  Terry was educated enough – Technician Second Class – that he had an idea what an Earthan elephant looked like.  He strolled past the mothballed machines, with their gigantic pads designed to smash up great chunks of surface ice with each footfall.  In a sense they were really moonquake machines.  Send a row of them across the iceball and set up a resonant frequency... really the ice couldn’t hold solid against the waves.  You just had to have the centipedes follow after, load the biggest chunks of ice into their hoppers and walk them over to the mass driver where they’d get boosted enough to drop where they were wanted.

The centipedes had their legs folded tight around them, one leg hooked up into the rafters, looking like gigantic bundles of wool hanging from the ceiling over the Pounders, mostly to save space, since the original ice caverns had been carved high.  It was all four shifts of machines, crammed tightly into a space originally designed to house and maintain three shifts at a time.  Two shifts garaged, one shift in maintenance, one shift out busting ice.

Terry waved at his friend at the lander door, triggering the organics in the floor to light his way through the dark and silent garage.  “Damn. That’s spooky.”  Sivasubrahmaniam turned in a slow circle, looking up at the sleeping behemoths with woolly balls of legs hanging above, the hardened ice ceiling dimly glowing green and blue with the reflected light of the floor.

“It’s a problem.”

“Yeah.  Isn’t your ceo required to keep terraforming the place?  Isn’t he in breach of contract to the Corps?”  He pronounced the short form the way everybody did, like ‘corpse’.

“Yeah.  That’s why it’s a temporary shutdown.”

“For maintenance.”


Terry closed the door on the garage and they settled down in his cubby.  If anything went wrong with the environmentals, the stupid-ass Brain would let him know.  “How’s Angela?”
Siva grinned. “She’s great!  She just got hired by the Rat himself as admin.”

“That’s great!”

“Yeah, it means we can buy a retirement chunk of planet somewhere outside the Corps.”

Terry’s whistle was silent as he tapped on the table and it extruded a pair of glasses for them.  “That’s expensive.  I’m glad you’ll be able to do that.”  Siva poured a thumb-depth of brandy into both, from his gift bottle and the old friends admired the black/red fire of it for a moment.

“I have a rumour for you... since its hitting the fan downstairs.”  Siva raised an eyebrow.  “Couple a’ things,” Terry continued, seriously.  “My second cousin’s husband is a Tech First class and he told me that the water is poisoning something downside.  Something that the ceo really, really needs.  Sarah figures it’s probably the Funginous seams, or something like lifeweed or rais’er.”

“Quano.  Any one of those would shift life in the Corps something awful.”

“Yeah.  Maybe... just maybe the Rat himself might want to know?”

“Hmmm.  Or the Kingdom.”

Terry shrugged.  “Whatever you do with it, buddy, if you find a bidder for the info...”

“I’ll remember my good friend.” Siva grinned at him and poured another shot.  “How’s the reconciliation between the ceo and his kid going?”

“Like Steinpelzers and mental illness.”

“That good, huh?”

“Yeah.  Any better and the whole damn continent might burst into magnesium combustion.”