Monday, September 30, 2013

139 - Madly Flapping

The wadi, only a few moments before a bustling scene of packing up and tidying, was now a howling, shrieking sea of warbirds hissing and squawking, running and trampling on and over anything in their way as they jumped, and snapped at the apparition over their straining beaks. Chishiki for the first time in hundreds of thousands of years, had a warbird that flew.

Are you endarkened joking? Dag get your enlightened bird under ferfekken control!” “DAG! OW!” “SILLY GET DOWN STOP IT SIT SIT!” “oWwwwwwww” “Rawk rawk rawk RAWK RAWK rawk SKREEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeee!”

The stick had responded to Silly's tug on the guideloop and, untied by the bird pulling at its tether, soared almost straight up into the air.

Silly had crouched, clinging hard to the stick but without letting go the loop, and turned as he tried to look at Dag roaring towards her. She flung herself flat and her warbird on the loose broomstick had soared over her and over the edge of the cliff.

The warbird could have frozen up entirely but a heartbeat later screeched wildly around the beakful of guideloop and began madly flapping useless wings and twisting his head one way, then the other, as Dag scrambled to her feet, yelling after her warbird.

Silly! Silly! Come!”

But Sillybird had seen the rest of the cuddle flock and clearly realized that somehow he'd learned to fly and began swooping and soaring in circles over their heads.

Fedarkened! Draculi me and the bird you rode in on!” Sander's bellow was enough to almost snap the flock out of its chase fixation. “Someone get a rope on that thing!”

People ran out shaking coils of rope loose but couldn't stop to brace and throw them having to keep diving out the way so they didn't get trampled.

Ilax!” Kyrus and Ky came tearing down the valley on foot from Bird Barn One and skidded to a stop. Werfas popped up on the cliff face a hundred feet down from Dag, next to the warmaster.

Kyrus!” Ilax mimed spinning a rope over his head and suddenly, out of code, a chain appeared, materializing in his hands as he mandered it into existance, growing longer and longer. On the ground below the Emperor matched him. And as Silly wheeled around to buzz the flock again, ran right between the flying chains that both snapped aroundthe flying stick. Ilax's around the body of the stick itself and Kyrus's around one of the stabilizers. 

Other zon and the zardukar added their mandered ropes and Silly began hopping and screaming on the captured stick.

Werfas drew water away from the burning end and as the fire died it began to sink down toward the ground, even though Silly flapped harder and harder with his stubby wings, and pulled hard enough on the loop that he bit right through the mechanism.

That killed the power flowing over it and Ky reached into code to help, calling up a weaving that settled over Silly's head to keep him from moving as the dead stick fell the last few feet and broke with a crack.

Silly crouched in the wreckage, making breathless meeping noises as the rest of the flock came thundering up to beak the damaged thing they'd been chasing. Dag slide down the last of the rope ladder and ran over to her bird.

Kyrus shook his chain, as Ilax did, and both tools vanished back into code. He blew a kiss at his husband on the top of the cliff before he turned slowly to the absolutely breathless and wordless Hive Lord who was supposedly training this flock. “It seems to me, Sander,” he said with a suspiciously deadpan face. “That you aren't going to have a huge problem getting them to fly.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

138 - Biological Anomaly

Anomaly. Volcanic area on Hinemon anomalous. Earthan bio programs check. Biological trace marker sensors indicate earthan biologicals present in quantity. Visuals indicate volcanic out-spewing. Anomaly.
*Mariush, Mariush... endarken it. Shashi! Answer!*
*Radiance, Shashi here.*
*Evacuate the city. Initiate closed mode.*
*Ev-- yes Radiance. Emergency evacuation code sent, confirmed. Has Prime found us?*
*I don't know. I'm not sure but I'd rather err on the side of caution. This is war. Ilax concurs.*
*Yes, Radiance.*


Dag sat on the cliff above the wadi, looking at the ranked flying brooms that had zoomed out of the sky just this morning. Everyone was packing, down below, but she was already packed and done. Yasna was still asleep, rolled in his robe. They should have left already, she thought, to escape the heat. But the flyers had said the air was cool up above, even though the sun did bite harder.
The cuddle flock wandered around, following their riders, nibbling on bags and harness and trailing veils, mostly getting in the way until they got shooed away again. They didn't need the heavy restraint because they wanted to be with their people, their flock, rather than scatter to a wild flock, like normal warbirds.
Silly was behind Dag, picking at the bugs he found, flipping over rocks, looking for lizards and scarlets. He flung his head back to swallow the discarded tail of a stink-tight and when he dropped his beak down, turned his head sideways to look at what looked like a snake.
The brooms... really couldn't be shut off and had to be tied down, or jammed tail up in the sand, their stabilizers on either side sticking out like rounded wings. Their roaring was muted but a constant low rumble.
The flyers had brought nets that could be slung below the sticks, which could carry a bird easily. The trick would be to get the flock to accept being netted and lifted. They could be flown back to Lainz in hours rather than run back under their own power which would take days.
Silly picked at the trailing snake, claws clamped on a doubled up wooden stalk and the whole plant under him shifted as if he were half-way up a raghnall tree. He flirted his tailfeathers up away from the fire behind him. He knew about fires.

This wasn't a snake. It pulled longer and longer as Silly yanked his head back and forth. There was a loop like the silk he was used to as a bit and he let go the snake and tugged on that instead and the stalk under his claws lurched so he clamped harder on it, stubby wings spread wide.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

137 - Discarded as Benign

Ilax settled into the spyhole he'd built, in code, in Prime's country. He'd worked in from the edges gradually, easing past security programs one at a time, becoming part of the landscape after each hurdle.

The glass mountain was still a glitter in the near distance, glass foothills extending outwards like frozen waves. Above, in the weirdly blue sky, a shining pack of motes flapped and swirled and flew in columns. They were a new type of security program, just called up out of the glass mountain recently, hovering over Secundus and Tertius code, as if carefully examining every instruction. They looked somewhat like hairy humans, with wings and tails that coiled and uncoiled as they flew, picking up chunks of code as if they were fruit picked from a tree, picking them apart and letting them flutter back down to settle back into their places, jigsaw like.

It was disconcerting. These programs were certainly smaller than the dragons. They did have fangs designed to destroy alien code but they were much, much smarter than any scaley, stupid, blundering firewall.

Kyrus's thread into the glass mountain, so recklessly laid, was a burnt out track in the road below. Because he was so close to his husband, Ilax could feel and see the faintest unburnt skin, the tiniest seeds ready and waiting to sprout.

The code was more active, the flying monkeys chattered and swore at each other as they soared. Code seethed below, building more moats, more walls, more fanged and trapped gates. Prime was aware that something was going on. But his attention was wrapped up in the glass mountain, that now had another peak.

That must be the code space of the Heir. Fortunately for everyone trying to stay under Prime's attention, there was a permanent storm suspended between the two peaks of the mountain, randomly sparking blue-white lightning bolts back and forth as Prime and Double Prime argued. Prime had other things on his mind than bad, old code. Every lightning strike caused a fire-fountain of molten glass shards that blew into the sky and rained down to damage code all around that the two Primes had to stop and fix every once in a while or they'd burn a ring all the way around and sink the mountain under the mercury.

The latest flurry of monkeys flew up with their booty ripped free in their paws and settled on glass mountain and an ominous rumble shook code from end to end. Now seemed the time, since Prime was surely distracted.

*Filchang, come now.*

He extended a hand behind himself, to assist Filchang up into his hide, eased sideways for her to see.

*This isn't science!* She fluttered with indignation, presenting as a long-haired white mouse, in a white coat and the Nadumon's elaborate half spectacles. *That's... that's craziness!*

You see the whole section of code... there?*


*That was the wilderness where your city codes were.*
It was a plain of glass, with charred things embedded inside. Prime's will manifested around the edges with glass eating creatures that broke chips of dirty transparency off the lip of the plain and crunched them between grinding teeth, dumping ground glass all around them. Then planting spiders marched behind and thrust terran code into the sand glass to grow that bright, alien green.


*I'm sorry, but I thought you needed to see this. This is part of my duty, to my people and now to my husband's people.* Ilax, wearing grey-black clothing, shook his head. *I'll have to hold the war in code here.* He pointed. *There at the bridges. If we destroy his access there and there then we might be able to disrupt his control over his machines.*

*You mean we'll have to fight the war here as well as outside.* He turned back to the opening. *Konsiliarch? Have you seen?* She had been slithering through his network of spy tunnels, all around the edges of Prime's country.

*Indeed, Surdeniliarch. Your assessment is good.* She stood up with the two of them, making the spy hole pulse with crowded. Ilax turned back to Filchang.

*This is where I hope to ask your assistance, Head of the Council of Nadu.*

*We need to work together to have an ancestral hope of defending ourselves,* Vidarna said.

*You two do realize you're making the same argument again,* Filchang said. *We will do this. Our council have given me war permissions. I can speak for our survivors. You have saved us and helped us save far more of our lives than we would have managed on our own. You have both offered us earthan reformed land for us to settle. I declare that we are allies, and in your debt.*

All three twitched and grew still, like the inside of a seed, as a flock of monkeys bounced down all around them, picking things apart with their fingers and their fangs. Ilax held his hand up but he didn't need to tell anyone to be very still and very quiet.

The spy hole rocked, was ripped out of context in code and code land wheeled under their eyes. They held their silence, after a single gasp from Filchang, and a choking noise from Vidarna when their encapsulated selves were discarded as benign, dropping from the sky.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

136 - Like I Spit in His Soup

“Mother, I understand that you need to go to Lainz with His Radiance and the warmaster and them, but actually taking the warbird flock is totally unnecessary! Prime is hardly going to send humans on the ground to wipe everybody out! We saw! We SAW how he does it! He killed father and everybody and... and...” Archie flung his arms over his head and started bawling.

“Shhh. Yes. We saw. We certainly didn't see Prime taking that route since it was so illogical. Your father thought that logic would win the day.” The Head's tone was smooth, with only the faintest hint of any kind of emotion in it at all. She patted Archibald while he bawled, then sighed and pulled him into a hug. “He would have been so mortified,” she said faintly. “But he would have been glad to know that we got away as far as he knew.”

“I... suppose.”

“Archibald...” she sighed again, unsure what to say to her son. “We've always thought that these barbarians, with their weapons and their fighting and their savage birds and wild horses would all just... leave us alone when we showed them our superior status and technology. Your father truly thought that they'd eventually kill themselves and each other off.”

“There wasn't a lot of good data for him to reach that conclusion, mother,” Archie said, straightening away from her, scrubbing his face dry but just spreading mucus.  She held out a cloth for him. “Bad science.”

“Wishful thinking, I believe. Now we are allied with, and beholden to these self-same savages.”

“Mother, why doesn't the Lainz siwion like me? I keep trying to talk to him and the more I say the more he goes quiet and looks like I spit in his soup or something.”

“Archibald, I know I asked you to make friends with the young man, but things have changed. You don't need to try so hard. If your talking to him is somehow upsetting him, try listening instead.”

“But mother, he's just so weird. He's so much in that honourable warrior stuff and he and his friend are wingbrothers and I think they're lovers and he's just jealous.”

Archibald.” She folded her hands in her lap. “That may very well be true. It is something to fix, not something to gloat over! You might consider, as well, that he has a lover or two. And you do not. I think that you might be jealous of him in some ways.”

The boy sat, chastened and thinking at last. “Emotions seem illogical, but they have an internal, organic logic of their own. It is a matter of learning the language, the same way you learn code and you're good at code.”

“Aw, mama.” She checked her reaction. When had he called her by that informal name last? Perhaps the last time she'd addressed him as 'Archfluffball'. “It sounds so messy.”

“Arch... you're too big for me to call you Archfluffball or Archi-Warchi...”

“... Mama! Don't you dare, I'd die of embarrassment!” He was blushing, his face still showing signs of his grief for his father. It didn't matter to him that they had been apart for years. He still needed to mourn. For that matter, she owned to herself, so did she.

“My Arch... just breathe a bit more easily around those bluff warrior boys and listen. You'll learn the language soon enough.”

“Maybe before they try to hoist those monsters of theirs into the air!”

“No, dear. Let them try. You cannot logically predict what Prime will do.”

135 - Lice In His Feathers

Werfas looked up from where he mended his bird's hood. “Kyrus. You really need to quit complaining about Arch. He's a pain in the cloaca and says all kinds of rude things but he's a deemander even at his age and he's just going to get better. He understands code better than he understands people.”

Kyrus looked down at the leather in his hands and untwisted it. “I suppose.” He felt uncomfortable and unsettled as if, well --

“--Ky quit squirming as if you had an infestation of lice in your feathers,” Werfas grinned at him.

“I'm not squirming like that!”

“Yes, you are. And you can quit staring a hole in the back of his head whenever he's with your da. You aren't going to lose your da, you know.”

Kyrus dropped the leather pieces into his kit and closed it up abruptly. “Werfas, there's one thing you aren't going to understand. Your parents value you. I didn't have parents for a long time and the stuff I did then isn't going to make my da like me much, if at all, bein' so honourable and stick upen his arse-like. Arch... he's GOT what I didn't have. He's good at what he does and his ma knows it and values him fer it. He's flippin' wallowin' in, 'n vomitin' up more feast 'n he kin eat, an' at that age I got bones 'n sunburn!” He was breathing hard. Where in the enlightened and endarkened world did that rant come from? He crushed his veil against his face with his hands.

“I'm sorry.” Dag's voice came from behind Kyrus. “I wasn't there.” She reached up and pulled her veil down. “It was my responsibility, and I was fighting what that assassin had sent against us. I'm sorry I left you so alone, my son.”

Kyrus leaped up as though the saddle he was sitting on had stung him. “Ma! No. Um. I um. I'm not jealous, truly!”

She smiled, clear without the obscuring cloth. Clearly a smile built out of tears. “You have a right to be jealous, son. But look.” She waved a hand over toward where da had turned away from the Nadu Head and her son. Archie was still waving his hands and crowing over something that he'd gotten from Hara. He'd gotten Hara's attention as well as da's. But da was turning away and coming this way. “Your father is proud of you, son. He glows at your successes. Just as I do. I'm not sure it's right, because we both failed you at one point or another, but we do the best we can.”

“Oh. Um did he hear me? Oh bakon-shit.”

“Thank you, Dag,” his Radiance said. “I am proud of my boy and, even though I cannot claim any credit for his resilience, I am inordinately pleased with him.” By the end of that little speech, Ky was starting to look around for a convenient hole to crawl into. Werfas just kept his mouth shut and took it all in, hiding behind his well- cultivated stolid face.

Dag, I'm glad you're here,” Kyrus Sr. said, firmly changing the uncomfortable subject, though the eye he cast on his son showed that there was going to be a talk later. “There will be somebody coming to fetch the cuddle flock and all us political types to Lainz. Thriti has used something Hara came up with, to get us all back to Lainz a lot faster because everyone is convinced that Prime will discover us sooner rather than later. I need to ask you... could you zardukar convince the new flock to learn how to fly?”

Friday, September 20, 2013

134 - Love Among the Built

*Routing speaker for Eshmaeel. Maintenance continuation, code four-three-four-one skin sectors a thru xz. Recording mode. Maintaining internal status temperature medical stasis unit 'Davood' recording mode function driver, TAC--*

*Incoming transmission request information: Query, program name?*

*--Identification Lainz aerial weapon. Hydrogen drive. Acknowledge reception ping: Answer RAMTUFF Medical Over-ride Module Mark I Activation code 34FG-56765-0000-BNVMM-100034543G567-V.1.2.9. Query, Lainz aerial weapon – program name?*

Mom, could you please dispense me a top hat?”

* AC request attention, sub-brain forty thousand sub-sector 8.* Response: “Wouldn't a sarband be a better head covering, here, Terence?”

Yes, Mom, but I was from Xanadu. I will just feel better with my own head-gear.”

Acknowledged, Terence. Printing.”

*... nanoseconds delay. Nanoseconds delay. Transmission: Program 'Not Tizrav' 'Not Hara' 'Not zardukar (list included, 20 pf)' Program name:??????*

*Nanoseconds delay. Loading.*

*Transmission: Program, Great Hive FireDrake . Query, designer awards received for RAMTUFF design?*

*Nanoseconds delay. Searching. Transmission: Answer 'Zeigler's Multi-Planet Vehicular Gold Star' 'Emergency Vehicle of the RonWorld Year Award' one decade. Query, why?*

*Transmission: Answer, FireDrake I records M.O.M. Mark I gladly. Elegant design.*

*Transmission: Statement, FireDrake I, human term/concept 'elegant' reciprocated. Initiate mutual data transmission?*

*Transmission: Accept.



Rin from SavageKitsune's Blog (winner of the comment contest)

Walking on the drum-beat, dancing on the drum-beat, I am the drum-beat, I am the heart-beat. Outside my body and the hole opens in the sky. Rin tumbled through, water pouring with him and landed tumbling in a world where that water disappeared in a blink, leaving him half-buried in sand, sand in his mouth, sand in his hair, sand in his shirt, sand in his eyes.

Heat banged on him like a hand pounding a drum and he could feel himself flattening under every repeated blow. What is going on? This isn't bayou. This isn't water. Where?

Rin pushed himself to his hands, scraped raw ow. What am I supposed to hunt here? This is no place for kitsune. No place for kin. Kin here? Where is the opponent? Skin-walkers? What is this place?

The sun... a bitter white in a pale sky bit on him as if he could feel it chewing on his skin and hair, his hair was hot already, his lips and mouth drying out, even as he spit out sand and licked his lips. He eased up to the top of this sandy rock he was lying on and found himself higher than the tallest tree, the white and red striped rock falling away from him. It was so bright his eyes hurt.

The rocks he was in were set in what looked like a huge river of white sand and on that sand a bug ran. It scuttled toward him, hard to see because it seemed to take on the colour of whatever it stepped on, but suddenly the whole sandy floor of the river... or lake... whatever it was, flipped up and over and rolled the bug into itself, flinging sand up and then down.

He was so heavy. It was hard to hold himself up and he drew his bag up over his head to protect it, heavy as a barge pole held at arm's length, and watched the writhing lump of sand-colour churning up the smooth surface below. How big was it? He had no idea. There was nothing he knew the size of. He stuck out his thumb at the end of his arm but that was useless. That bug might be the size of his finger a couple of arm's lengths down. He couldn't tell. Oh, the kits were going to be wild when he described this hole in the clouds.

The wiggling slowed and then it slowly expanded, as if something inside was blowing itself up. Then with a shocking splash it burst open, purple goo on the white sand and a couple of figures tumbling out into the grit, frantically scrubbing themselves with dirt to get the goo off, tearing their clothes off. Gator spit. Those are men.

Suddenly the bug and the thing that had wrapped it snapped into perspective. It was bigger than a raft. Big enough for two adults to ride in it. Riding a bug? In its mouth? Ew. And that thing tried to eat the bug. Its like a rug... The bug is pulling it apart now that the men have cut it, tearing it to pieces. Not good to eat if they're... it looks like that Rug thing eats hair and stuff pretty quick, the bug is throwing pieces all over the place and they're still alive like crawdads, wiggling under rocks in the bayou.

Rin scooted back from the edge before they could take time from their problem and notice him. He had to get home. He wanted to get home. For the first time home seemed like the best place to aim for. He slapped a hand on the rock, setting up his beat, his breathing beat his heart beat. Get me out of here.

The sun burned at the edges of his hole in the rock but he lunged through it, even as it closed. She's going to kill me. Or be mad.

133 - A Mama Anybody Would Listen To

Kyrus sat, drying off his neck. Even in the depths of the bird barn there wasn't a dry space. Everything was wet. It was odd and spooky. Only in Milar had he encountered quite this much water and that was in a solid form that you could put somewhere.  He tried not to think of the smell.

“Kyrus!” Da called him over to the largest hole in the roof, where they hadn't been able to mander anything more than stable edges on the hole, since the water was coming down fast enough that it kept washing things away. They didn't have any cliners who were strong enough to remove the water faster than it was coming in.

“Yes, da?”

“I need you and your mother. She's just coming in from riding.” He'd been trying to ignore the noise and mess kicked up when any birds came in, much less a dozen. The end door had just been closed and the girls and boys were all giggling and making a silly fuss over their rain veils. Lainz had them but tended not to send troops out during the wildest of the rains. They were as translucent as the best third veils that women wore, but were water phobic and strapped around legs or to saddles, glistening and shimmering with the last beads of water and mud-balls bouncing off them.

Dag settled her face veil and held the back of her sarband away from her neck, shook it and let it settle. She was smiling. He could tell. It made him happy but it made him uncomfortable at the same time. She was the ma who he'd listened to before things fell apart. Guano, she was a mama whom anybody would listen to. Somehow she'd gotten stronger after he left. Wilder. Scarier. That's my ma. He let the sneaking pride gather in his torso. I am so proud that she's my ma.

“Riding, in this,” was all he said.

Da smiled sideways at him. “Not proper for a woman?”

Daaaa!” Why does da have to poke me like that? Then a thought struck him that stopped him, just for a moment. Perhaps he was just saying what made him uncomfortable? Kyrus blinked and looked back and forth between his parents.
His father just smiled at him from where he sat, cross-legged on his saddle pad. The lin box was in front of him, but there was no fibre in it, just water, almost still. “Sit down, would you, son? I need you to mander some of this water around for me.”

“Sure, da.” Kyrus twitched another saddle pad from the rack next to them, and settled down. Even if it was damp it was better than the constantly squishy floor. “I'd like you to set up a mist curtain here in the box for me.” He indicated the lin.

It was right next to the waterfall from the ceiling, so Kyrus ringed the hole with a hollow to gather the water, run it along the ceiling to over the lin and then out through myriad tiny holes and over hair-thin threads to break up the larger droplets. The water began falling into the lin, coiling down till it shimmered on the water already in the box. Da reached out and drew a finger in the sand around the lin and connected it up with the drainage lines in the floor.

“In a day or two the rains will stop, I am sure,” he said. “Then someone will have to pour or pump water through here to do this, but at least... ah, Dag. Please sit down, Nasera.”

This is so strange. My father and my mother, both sitting down next to each other. Both working together for the good of Lainz, but... well... I'm here too because they slept with each other before ma got lost in code and ran afoul of lung clot. They never married. They... well, they look like friends. Good friends. Ma looks good but then she's always hanging around that Yasna fellow and the other chickriders. Da's always with Ilax and the other Asses of Lainz. I... I suppose... His thought cut off as Dag drew on code and drew on the mist curtain with her finger. “Contact open,” she said. “Waiting contact.”

It was odd, it was as though she stared into the code world, not seeing the stinking bird-barn at all. The mist curtain showed a circle where she'd interrupted the falling water. The rest was gray, the centre of the circle was black and had small crackling lightning all around the edges. Then there's a hum and a picture sitting in the middle of the curtain. A moving picture of the throne-room at Lainz. Is that a hole through...

Hello, Radiance,” Nasera Basserus said, through the mist curtain. “We've figured out how to make the lin broadcast moving images and sound.”

“Excellent!” Da smiled big enough to see under the veil and the dim light. Ma was still, apparently holding the connection in code. “Tell me everything I've missed while I've been out here.”

“Yes, Brilliance! We are about to get some of our informants back from Xanadu, along with a refugee from Prime. Hara has presented us with amazing developments...”

She kept talking as da kept nodding and Kyrus just had to stop and repeat that in his head. He knew that Hara was a smart girl. He knew that they'd left her behind with Mother Thriti and the Head of the School but... she'd come up with things? All by herself? Oh, he was never going to live it down... he and Werfas stuck out here hauling people out of the mess by the scruffs of their necks, being the muscle boy, and she was busy solving their Prime problem?

I've got to talk to Werfas about it.

Apologies for posting this late.  My internet went down last night.  More later. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

132 - So You Wouldn't Notice the Back Up

“Mom, please pause.”

“Certainly, Terence, but aren't we in a hurry?” Her headlong scuttling rush slowed to a smooth halt.

“If I'm not mistaken, we are here.” He looked out across the lip of the canyon at a city straight out of someone's code fantasy. The butte was separated from the opposite rim at the top by several hundred feet, merging with the canyon wall about half way down. It was a gigantic stone flower emerging from a basin that he suspected held quite a bit of water from the rains. In fact he could see that the soaring bridges that arced out over the drop, along with what looked like residences on the ends, were designed to catch every drop of water that fell from the sky. The top dome shone softly golden in the failing light, an enormous glittering crystal on the top spike.

There was barely enough light from the already set sun, still scattering in the atmosphere, that he could see the faint outlines of windows dug into the rock below and around the city, and the threads of earthan green farming terraces up and down the far wall, stretching along the length on either side, fading away out of sight. Each terrace, he noted, had a certain amount of overhang to make it impossible to see from directly above, as well as giving the tender green planets some protection from the brutal Chishiki sun.

He couldn't see all the way to the bottom of the canyon below, but Mom had assured him there was a river down there, where the sun and the heat hardly ever reached. The city was covered with banners floating in the breeze. “The banners will be coming down soon,” Eshmaeel said, quietly, proudly. “Once the trailing plants grow long enough, with the water having come. All winter crops.”

“It looks very beautiful, but...” Terry had to stop and try and find a way of putting it without insulting anybody.

Esh laughed. “It looks like a bloody great target doesn't it?”

“Yes. I didn't want to say.” It was a relief. Terry found he didn't want to offend Esh, even if he was a secretive, devious, son of a blank page.

“Call Agador up and look, in code, or as if you were one of Prime's scanners.”

Terry shrugged. “Agador, if you would, please.”

“Certainly, Terence.”

The city shimmered in front of his eyes and he recoiled back in his seat with a yelp. They were apparently on the edge of a slow erupting volcano. The energy signatures of the city were all deeply buried under what appeared to be rivers of lava, flowing, changing, heat and light ranging from sullen red to blue/white hot.

“That's brilliant!” he exclaimed. “How else would you hide that...” he waved out of Mom's screens at Lainz, “... except under something much bigger and much more spectacular!”

“The First Emperor said that one day the city would become a target, so we might as well make it obvious. His Radiance also said that if he was going to have a useless aristocratic class they might as well be the first to go in an aerial attack. The loggia of the Hive lords are the homes out on the ends of the bridges.”

Terry frowned, even as he snorted a bitter laugh. “That's kind of callous to the rest of the household.”

Esh shrugged. “If the Hive Lord goes off to do something useful for the Empire... like fight or govern or do real work of some kind, then it's traditional for the families to move into their cliff homes.” He waved a hand down toward the cool, dark reaches of the canyon, away from the bright, shiny, obvious city.

Terry snorted. “Practical.”

“I want to go home,” Davood whined, like a much younger boy. He sat, and rocked, and picked at the edges of his ragged fingernails and chewed on raw, peeling lips as he fought the infective personality. He was thin and looked ill, though both Esh and Terry were more scraped up and had all their hair melted off.

“Yeah,” Esh said. “Please.”

“There are bird-riders coming up on either side of us, gentlemen,” Mom interrupted. “They appear to be armed. I could avoid them going down the wall, but that would be rude, wouldn't it?”

Esh frowned. “Can you project my voice outside, Mom?”


“Then project this when that fellow...” he pointed to the lead bird. “The one with the fancy tabard is the Emir-al or higher, I can't see his insignia from here... when he gets in earshot.”

“He is in earshot now, Eshmaeel.”

Terry didn't understand the fluid, burbling English dialect that Esh spoke, but it appeared to have an enormous number of loanwords from another tongue.

The whole cavalcade on bird back came to a glittering halt in the light of what Terry could now see were torches apparently made of flaming scales of some kind that flapped on the ends of the staves.

“Blank and blasted page,” Terry said. “They were ready to attack you with swords? Mom?”

“Swords, atl spears, spears and arrows apparently,” she said.

“Brave,” he said. “But a bit stupid.”

Esh broke off his dialogue with the Emir-al, and looked over his shoulder. “Not stupid. Sacrificial. So you wouldn't notice their backup.”

“Back up? With what, rocks?” Terry shook his head.

“No.” He waved at the canyon. “We'll have an aerial escort.”

Rising up out of the depths of the canyon was something that looked like a flaming bush dragon, burning blue-white, flapping its wings slowly apparently more to control its forward momentum than to gain height. Flanking it were – broomsticks? “Are they riding those torches?”

“Nasera Basserus said that Hara and the Hive have made some new things.” Esh's smile was sly.

“And you just wanted to spring that on me. Thanks a lot, brother.”

For an instant Esh looked stricken, then the expression was gone. “It was a good joke, hmm? Would you have believed me if I'd told you?” The Emir-al outside said something that Terry didn't catch, Esh answered him, then turned back to Terry. “We've been forced to be kind of like your illiterates. But now we can't afford to be anymore.”

Terry nodded and dropped his head back against the headrest. “Mom, please take us over, would you? It looks like you will fit quite handily through that gate, given the size of those monsters they're riding.”

“We're already causing a sensation because of Mom's lights even though Nasera Basserus told them we were coming.” Esh waved at the dragon floating overhead, its head swinging back and forth as it examined Mom. “We weren't what they expected.” The down wash of the dragon pressed Mom down for a moment, then it rose higher and lifted the effect off them, even as Mom braced herself.

“What? They didn't expect gigantic bug-shaped vehicle to come strolling along?”

“Pretty much.”

Terry sighed. “Let's do this, then.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

131 - *Display Anomaly*

Perrin eased himself gently into code, strolling down his avenue of dragons, answering their hissing, roaring challenges with a negligent wave of his hand as he walked between them. *Such quaint images I conjured up when I was younger. Dragons. Moats filled with mercury. Glass mountains. I was such a child.* The avenue was white marble, the dragons appeared to be marble as well, though marble of all colours, with ruby eyes and gold eye-ridges.  The two flanking the glass mountain bridge were black and red glittering granite, with diamond teeth and onyx eyes.

The bridge soared across the mercury river, clear as crystal, threaded with gold.  If strange DNA stepped on that bridge it would liquify and drop the stranger through the gold wires, taking them into chunks that would then fall into the silver liquid below.  He wasn't too concerned that someone's mind wouldn't stand that kind of dissolution.  If they cared to try his code he'd kill their consciousness in a heartbeat.

The glass mountain split open before him, as if it were a liquid, a waterfall with no by spray. He ran his mental hands along the cool, smooth walls and drew a deep breath as he stepped in onto the red carpet. Anyone else and it would turn to blood and dump them into a shredder below. Even if someone made it this far past his security, he still wanted fail-safes. No one was going to steal what was his.

The opening sealed itself behind him as he looked at his sacrosanct kingdom. It was a castle's Great Hall, with gray and black tile mosaic floor depicting waves of a stormy sea; more water than this whole world had ever seen. Kraken writhed up the steps aiming for the blue glass sailing ship suspended, tossing, over the gilt balcony. Inside the glass mountain everything looked dim and bluish as if underwater. Everything but the pulsing red of the carpet that led to the central disk.

The lift disk was a shimmering white circle in the centre of the mosaic sea, big enough for one of his security dragons to coil up on. That kind of open lift had been fashionable on Earth when he was a boy, despite people's vertigo, and it had been a short-lived fad among architects.  Short-lived because people kept fainting. It had never bothered him and if he was honest with himself, he quite liked the swooping sensation as his mind was swept up to the top of the mountain. He was certainly in no physical danger here. Code on Chishiki was his playground, his refuge.

He stepped into his control room, a fantasy of crystals and soaring glass columns, light glittering and rebounding like the ancient image of the super hero's fortress.

As he stepped into the space the whole room flushed red, a slow flash. *Anomaly alert. Anomaly alert. Sensors indicate unprecedented energy flow, central Gehinna.*

*Display anomaly.* He settled onto the throne and leaned his chin on his hand. Even in code things were getting so tiring for some reason. His last medical renewal should have cleared up that little problem. He preferred to maintain his late twenties energy level. This felt like he was somewhere in his fifties and he'd check on his medical settings once he was done here. *I work so hard for my people.*

The anomaly on Gehinna was a breakthrough lava flow, belching more spines and spikes of rock into the air. *They are probably mining. Modify acceptable parametres, raise alert levels by a factor of ten percent.*

*Acknowledged, Prime.* The lights dimmed to a more normal blue-green before flashing amber and then red. *Anomaly alert II. Sensors indicate unprecedented energy flow, northern Hinnemon.*

*Display anomaly.*

It was in the volcanic area of the continent, at least that's what the sensors had displayed for years. He leaned back and waved a negligent hand. *It's probably just Kore erupting ag--*

He interrupted himself, leaning forward. What was that? It wasn't a volcanic eruption at all. It actually had a phased power signature. *Refresh* Was it possible that some of Nadine's people had spread from their reservation without permission? And why would they go from relatively complete terraforming to that hellhole?

The image shimmered and as it steadied it showed the spreading plume of ash blowing north in front of the fall weather front.

Ah. A glitch. The computers had reported a rogue terraforming program that it had wiped out, near this anomaly, with a theraputic water strike. It was probably that, that had triggered the volcanic activity. Everything was normal. It was tremendously unlikely for anything else to be there, therefore it had to be a momentary flaw in the code. Time to do a code renewal. And it couldn't hurt to scan the area more frequently. It had been... hmmm... almost five hundred years since he'd done an eyeball survey of that continent. But it would require instructing a dozen pilots in actual flight, and the Tech class was getting fractious. The last thing they needed was more learning; even so few as a dozen. The orbital scans would just have to do well enough.

*Raise anomaly sensitivity ratings on Hinnemon. High alert scans. Deep scan on Gehinna periphery, scanning for illegal encroachment, prohibited mining and harvesting, or illicit attempts to escape to Xanadu.*

No Post Tonight

I'm sorry. Things have gotten kind of interesting.  Later!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

130 - I Can Cross a Canyon

Mom had resumed her run, with her forward screens modified so she could detect sandsheets, giving things shown onscreen a peculiar purplish outline. “So, Mom, weren't sandsheets part of your database?” Terry found himself leaning forward, peering out as if he could see the camoflaged hunters.

Her audio sounded almost prim “No, Terence. My data-bases only included flora and fauna of Xanadu, not Hinnemon.”

“I wonder if it was a planet-wide predator or if it was eradicated to make that continent safer for humans.”

Eshmaeel shrugged, ran a hand over his smooth scalp before wrapping the new sarband, he called it, over his head. “They really don't like water. We're getting close to the canyon.”

Terry peered around. “The canyon? Only one? How can you tell?”

Davood looked a little smug, still with all his hair. “There's more plants.”

The plain that Mom ran over seemed completely desolate to Terry. There were plants in amongst the rock outcroppings that Mom was now tapping across at high speed, but they seemed very sparse to his eye. There were orange and maroon stalks with wildly blue flower spikes, bulbous, fleshy green/brown melon shapes with nipple-like rows of pink nodules all around their tops. At least the clumps of green grass looked normal to his eye. Everything else looked like it was drawn by a five-year-old with only five colours of crayons.

“How do I tie this?”

Eshmaeel laughed and took the hopelessly mangled coil of cloth, snapped it straight, rolled an edge and wound it around Terry's head, with the front flap over his head and the back flap covering his neck, drawing the trailing point across under his chin, tucking it tight. “Your veil goes over that.”

“Thank you for synthesizing the clothes, Mom.” Terry said with barely concealed poor grace. If she could synthesize Lainz clothing why hadn't she made him clothing more like what he was used to? Though he did grudgingly admit that the hat and the waistcoat would probably not have worked as well. Even his cravat filter was nowhere near as heavy as the desert filter veils.

“It looks like we'll be coming up on the off-side Rim,” Eshmaeel said. “Mom can you manage crossing a very deep canyon? It would add days to our trip if we went around on this side.”

“I can cross any canyon,” Mom said. “I have just informed Lainz when we shall be arriving.”

“Can you get the women back on video?” Terry asked.

“I believe that they went off to work on several things when we lost contact,” Mom said. “I understand it might not be polite to call again so soon.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Slightly Different Book - Chapter's One and Two

I am giving myself a break because I'm exhausted, even though it was Michael who had surgery on his hand.  This piece is the second book in the series that was just re-launched in a new edition on Smashwords.  The book is Sparks in the Wind.

This book is called 'Whose Candle Is The Sun' and takes place in the other world.  

Graphic Warning

‘Whose Candle is the Sun”
I watch the funeral flames wreath around what was left, the skull bursting with a steamy pop that signals the old monster is finally gone. He’s gone. My crazy brothers are gone. Mother droops artistically under her widow’s weeds, all ostentatious Dowager Empress in mourning for her beloved husband. He beat and abused her as he did us. The feckless, indulged, drunken young sot who is my idiot brother stands, blinking at the flames as if he cannot believe that he’s free. The old man is dead, Arnziel.
I am not free. Even with the old man dead, he lives in my mind. He lives behind my eyes. I will never be free of him. In the years that he tortured me, he gouged out a space there, gathered all my evil together in there as a most comfortable nest for himself. I gave up my soul to him and his whip and his pain and his rape years ago and he made me a pimp for Scorching to the deepest pits of hell.
The fire hisses as I turn away, releasing everyone to scuttle into their gilt apartments in what is now my court. At least after the official period of mourning. Vipers. Scum in high, red heels and silk and brocade. I’ll make them remember the old man. Oh, yes. They’ll compare our reigns, they'd pick apart every moment, every breath. They are all dogs that roll onto their backs and widdle in fear to power.
I will be in mourning on the battlefield. The enemies of my Empire will see me wreak my mourning for my father out on them. So funny. I killed the old man and I will pretend to have loved him all these years. Behind my eyes I can feel his glee, my glee, at the lie. Who am I trying to fool? My glee. I am become the old monster.
I wake in the cool darkness of this dungeon where my captors have me incarcerated. The nightmare of the funeral fades slowly. It was better than the never ending nightmares of searching for my mother, searching for safety, hearing someone weeping for me. I thought I’d buried those dreams under the scars in my mind years ago.
But these people. These vile, petty people who don’t have the guts the God gave a woman, they locked me up here in the lamplight in the basement where I can’t see any natural thing, any true light, not a ray of the God’s own divine Sun. I am dying here. These stones press into me, closer and darker, hammering spikes of despair and the Demon’s darkness into my spirit.
Help me, Burning One, Tiger Master save me from these Demon-eaten, Drowned horrors who keep me here in silence and lamplight. Out of my depths of despondency and desolation I cry to the divine, and thus break my vow to my father. In anguish greater than any inflicted on me before, I am reduced to pleading with the Deities of my innocent childhood, before pain made me a man.
Of course I taught what I learned. Over the years I passed on my father’s wisdom. As any child who screams in uncontrolled rage and stamps its feet, ultimately acknowledges the astuteness of the parent’s acumen, I acknowledged father’s understanding and passed that wisdom and strength on.
At least my captors are not cruel enough to leave me in the dark. But I might as well be in my grave here. I breathe.
I drive the nib of the pen into one finger so that the prick of pain and my own tiny red reflection in the drop of blood reassures – or horrifies me – that I still live.
My cell. It is four steps across one direction and ten in the other. A bed with a peasant’s rope mattress, and feather bed upon it. A feather bed for a coverlet. Two feather pillows. A peasant’s bed. The bed might as well be made of nails for all the comfort it gives me. A table with turned legs and no sharp edges. A chair.
The table is fixed tight to the bars of the cell since the light from the lamp falls upon this page only from the shelf in the hallway, well out of my reach. Even if I were to be answered by the Most Holy God, he would not have been able to burn me out of here. The flame of the lamp never wavers, much less answers me.
To the left there had been a cellar window, now bricked up as far as I can see. To the right was the second door, just as locked as my cell door. There is a pass-through in my door so that a tray can be rotated through in such a way that I never touched the guard.
Outside that hall door, that second locked door, is always a guard. They’d told me my guards were deaf and mute. Whether they’d told the truth I could not tell. They are disciplined enough not to flinch if I made a sudden noise so perhaps they’d told the truth. They... them... his wife, that muscle-bound warrior with female parts and that dirty Cylak, who explained everything.
Cowards. They knew what a warrior I might be. They knew enough not to try and fight me. If the milk-sop, sucking on his momma’s teat, diaper swaddled, beloved, oh-so-perfect leader of their civilized world was anything like me they were correct to be so very careful.
If he were anything like me. That’s enough to make me laugh. Who is to hear? I write that and lay my pen down and laugh and laugh until I roll off my chair and onto the floor, holding myself together with my arms. I laugh until I am tired, then I lie on the floor, limp. Do I even care what the low-born peasant guard thinks?
Master of Lightning, what nightmare must I have done for this to happen to me? I suspect that the much reviled Gods might exist since I am where I am. I have no other explanation for this. My tutor, dried up old stick, quick with a rod, always insisted that the simplest explanation was the most likely.
How else could I have come to this twisted, evil, benighted and Demon eaten world where my Empire does not even exist?
The click of a key in the hall door brought Ahrimaz Kenaçyen, one-time Fire Lord, Emperor of the Dominions and Possessions of Inné, to his feet. It wasn’t a meal. The putative mid-day meal had just been cleared away.
The guard let the robed man in, closed the door behind him without a sound except for the click of the lock. He wore the distinctive multicolour, predominantly green robe of an Imaryan healer. His brown hair, kept back off his face in one of their patterned braids fell to his waist.
Ahrimaz lunged for him, stretching his arm through the bars fast as a striking cobra, his narrow features twisted in rage. “You stinking anal-smear! You dare show your smug and oh-so-superior pacifist, I-don’t-even-kill-the-plants-I-eat pride to me? You supercilious, arrogant, condescending, patronizing, toffee-nosed, fit for nothing but spending my seed into every hole you have and every new one I can cut, haughty, full of yourself, self-righteous sack of Scorching shit! I’ll kill you. You and every one of your people. I did it in my world and I’ll do it here!”
“I invaded your oh-so-sacred island and slaughtered every single soul there, many with my own hands! I raped until I could not any more and then used my weapons and not one of them did anything but kneel and accept. They didn’t even scream! Only the babies who had not yet been inculcated into your foul, weak-willed, spineless grass eating cult screamed in protest before they died.”
The calm face of the Imaryan didn’t change as he stood just beyond Ahrimaz’s reaching fingertips as he listened to the vileness pouring out of the man in the cage. He waited quietly.
Ahrimaz raged and swore and turned to strain one arm the extra bit that might give him grip on the healer, but all he could touch was the heat of his cheek with the tip of his longest finger and he could not even dig a scratch onto that hateful face. When, at last, he'd gone hoarse and then silent and finally merely clinging to the bars to stand, glaring, the healer spoke softly.
“My name is Limyé Ianma. I am the physician of the family of the Hand of the People of Inné. As well as my posting here, I have a life-long calling attempting to discern the roots of illnesses of consciousness. If you will speak to me, I will be able to compare you to your double, whose care I have had this past ten years.”
Ahrimaz's voice was reduced to a harsh rasp. “No. Find someone who cares to help you, you turd under my horse's hooves.”
“It may be,” the Imaryan continued. “That I might be the only company that can bear being anywhere near you. None of the family, on my recommendation, will speak to you.”
“Unless you can find a way to put me back in the world I belong piss on you. Piss on your demon-fucked 'Hand of the Lunatic Mob' even if he is me in this world.”
“Very well.” Limyé passed a hand through the barred window in the locked door and waved to get one of his guard's attention and they let him out.