Tag: sci-fi

Chapter 1!

Here’s the first chapter of my new novella. I’ve been told I should make this a full novel, but I’m resisting that for the moment. Let me know what you think…

********

ONE

Corporal Aaron Hobbes stripped off his armor, tossing each piece to clatter tonelessly into the DECON barrel nearest his locker.  The boots came off last, thudding against the other gore-covered sections of carbon fiber and nylon 3d-printed armor in the recycling pile.  He followed that by stripping off the elastic skinsuit worn beneath.  Clad now only in his underwear, he sat alone on the bench, holding his helmet in calloused fingers.  Its faceplate, scarred with a deep, ragged gash meant for his flesh, stared blindly back at him. He traced the inside of the canyon with a dirty thumbnail, feeling the ragged terrain as a toneless vibration.  This romero had almost gotten through his armor.  Right after it tore off Briggs’ head.

Hobbes grunted and threw the helmet into the bin, then stood, steadying himself with one hand on the lockers as he shuffled toward the shower stalls.  Alvin Pitts, Yolanda Wilson, and Matty Iverson were already inside, lathering up, laughing it up, and playing slap and tickle.  Yolanda’s voice, harsh yet somehow still playful, warned the boys to keep their hands to themselves.  If he closed his eyes tight enough, he could imagine he was standing in front of a classroom of unruly students.

“Try that again, Pitts, and you draw back a stump.”

“What?” Pitts whined.  “I thought you needed your back scrubbed.”

“My back is two feet higher.”  Seven years his senior, she cut off his advances like a mama lion weaned her cubs.

Iverson laughed, though whether at Yolanda or Pitts, Hobbes wasn’t sure.  He was sure that if he didn’t hurry, they’d use the last of the hot water rations before he could step under the showerhead.

Walking past a row of sinks, he caught sight of himself in the mirror and the lines around his eyes that had nothing to do with age.  His face, grizzled beard sporting patches of gray, was covered in dried blood—both the red kind, and the black sludge that flowed from the romeros veins; it made him seem strangely youthful.  None of the human blood was his own.  That had all come from Briggs and the team’s medic, Garcia.

“Whoa, simmer down, folks,” Iverson said as Hobbes entered.  “New Top on deck.”  The private teased, but it felt like a knife twisting in Hobbes’ guts.  And not because of the dark edge that always hid behind Iverson’s light banter.

“Stow that talk, Private.”  Hobbes caught his sudden shift in attitude and almost apologized.  But he wouldn’t.  He couldn’t.  “Can we at least get Briggs’ body in the compost pile before talk turns to replacing him?”

Iverson frowned and glanced at Pitts and Yolanda.

“What?”  Hobbes frowned right back and stepped under a shower head, turning the water all the way hot.  The limp, lukewarm stream trickled in lazy rivulets over his head and shoulders.

“You didn’t tell him?” Iverson said to Pitts.

Hobbes took a bar of soap and lathered his hair, then scrubbed his skin with a desperate intensity, tearing at it as if ripping away the day’s horrors.

“Tell me what?”  He rinsed quickly and stared at Pitts.

Pitts threw his hands up, palms out, like warding off a rabid dog.

“I’m just the messenger, man,” he said, that same whine still in his voice.  It was always there.  “The Old Man wants to see you.  Pronto.”

Hobbes continued to scrub.  “Me?”

Pitts winced.  “Yeah.  He, uh, caught me while you gave our after-action report to the Major.”

Iverson chuckled.  “Dude, that was, like, half an hour ago.”

Hobbes slumped, let the soap slide from his hand into the dish, and leaned into the water, turning his face up.

Shit.

***

“Surely there’s someone more qualified, sir.”

Hobbes stood at ease, yet motionless before the wide mahogany desk.  The principal’s office still looked almost exactly as it had before the military’s remnants took over the school three weeks after the Fall.  It wasn’t as if anyone had thought to bring their own brick-a-brack to decorate the new digs, but Colonel Handy had still somehow made the place his own.  The most obvious change was the addition of a small, though well-stocked bar beside the desk.

He lifted his tumbler, sipped from the scavenged whiskey that two men died to procure, and considered his subordinate over the rim.  He set the drink down and leaned back in the creaky old chair, screwing up his face as if sniffing something rank.

“If only that were true, Corporal.  But you’re all I’ve got, since, you know, you got your sergeant killed.”

Hobbes clenched his jaw, suppressing the urge to react.  Handy waited for an explosion that never came, then frowned.

“By the by, Corporal, I’ve read your after-action report.  Just how did you escape unscathed?”  The old man taunted Hobbes, and he knew it.  After another long pause with no response from Hobbes, the colonel sighed and continued.  “Anyway, the new recruits have next to zero battle experience and almost no discipline.”  He sighed.  “They’re just not… marines.”

Hobbes cocked an eyebrow.  “Neither was I until nine months ago.”

“True, true.  The fuckin’ romeros speed up our training, don’t they?”

Or just kill off everyone but born survivors, Hobbes thought bitterly.

“Hell, boy, weren’t you just a teacher or something before all this?”

“Yes, sir.  Band director.  This very campus, in fact.”

Music.”  The word hung in the air between them like putrescent meat.

It was Hobbes, a musician, who had organized his students and held the building against the initial onslaught of romeros, taking in the uninfected and protecting the neighborhood—until Colonel Handy arrived weeks later with what remained of the forces under his command.  Hobbes had stopped teaching then and began learning.  Handy had immediately conscripted every able student into his command, with most dying in the first three months.  Hobbes mourned the loss of each, but mourned more the loss of their youth and what they might have become.  Sometimes Hobbes wished he’d left the lunatic to the flesh-eaters; it wasn’t as if many of those original soldiers were still alive.  Handy’s “marines” now consisted mostly of faculty, students, and the three surviving SROs.  Those last had gotten all the school’s janitors killed in the first attack.  Fat fucking cowards.  Handy used the cops for personal security and was welcome to them.  Hobbes certainly didn’t trust them in the field.

“Regardless, I’m jumping you up to the acting rank of Master Sergeant.”  He frowned at Hobbes’ instant look of irritation.  “Temporary, of course.  Permanent, contingent upon the success of your mission.”

Hobbes forced himself not to laugh.  Such bumps in rank—even in this new marine corps—just weren’t done.  And there was no such thing as a temporary promotion these days.  “And the mission is…?”

“Intelligence.  Long-range reconnaissance.”

Hobbes spun toward the voice coming from the shadow-shrouded corner behind him; it was deep, velvety, and colored with a hint of Alsatian.  He hadn’t seen the man standing there when he entered, nor heard so much as a breath from him the whole time.  The man, like his voice, was dark, though not from an abundance of melanin.  He was, in fact, as pale as a gamer, but thin, fit, and tall rather than overweight.  The darkness, that sucking hollow nothingness, radiated from not only his hooded brow, but his entire manner; as if all the room’s light simply gave up when it passed too near.

“Fucking drac,” Hobbes muttered.

“Ah… or more accurately, Wolfgang Armen Oberman, Spec Ops V, Intel Division,” the drac said, its words oozing around long canines.

Shit.  Shit, shit, shit.

Hobbes narrowed his eyes at the drac, then turned his hard glare back to Handy, who winced slightly before controlling himself.

“Sorry Corp… I mean Sergeant.  This comes from the highest pay grade we have left in the service.”  At a gesture from the Colonel, the drac glided toward the desk on silent boots.  “Specialist Oberman will accompany your team on a fact-finding mission, the details of which he will explain on the way.  He fills the role of Intel and Ops, and will serve as your SIC.”  Handy glanced hesitantly toward the drac.  “At no time are you to engage the enemy.”

“That seems… a little short-sighted,” Hobbes said.

“Not if security is the primary concern.”  Handy glared at Hobbes.  “Do I make myself clear, Sergeant?”

“Yes, sir.  Expendable.”  Hobbes glanced at the drac and shivered internally.  “The Hodags will be ready by oh-six-hundred tomorrow.”

“Negative, Sergeant,” Handy said, shaking his head.  “You’ll be ready by twenty-two-hundred.  Tonight.”

“But sir…”  Hobbes fought for control, and the colonel waited, a bland look on his pasty moon face.  “My team just got back from a sweep-and-secure of the mall.”  Where I lost both my sergeant and my medic, he wanted to add, but didn’t.  “The guys are spent.”

The drac touched Hobbes’ shoulder, and the soldier almost squirmed away.

“I really hate to do this, Sergeant, but… I do my best work at night.”

Ignoring both, Handy said, “I’ve already reassigned a medic to replace the one you lost, and your team is gearing up as we speak.”  He eyed both the soldier and the vampire at his side.  “Dismissed.”

***

Hobbes didn’t even know the mission’s parameters or objective, and he suspected it was already well into FUBAR territory.  He stalked the wide hallway toward the gymnasium, the drac eerily silent beside him.  The vampire’s proximity made his skin crawl, but the uneasy truce had held since the dracs first approached the remnants of the world’s governments and offered their assistance.  It seemed the romeros’ blood was useless to them.  That and the fact the dracs enjoyed the myriad perks of a functioning society.

And now command has yoked my team to one of the fuckers.

“Why me?” Hobbes muttered, so soft no human would have heard.

“It is not as the Colonel claimed, you know,” the drac said.  “Your team is not the only one available.”  It frowned, pursing its lips.  “You have an… interesting record.  Did you know that?”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You have been out on thirty-three missions and have returned each time without a single injury to show for it.”

“Yeah, so?  A lot of guys can say that.”

“No, Sergeant.  They cannot.  More interesting is your team has suffered at least one fatality on each outing, yet you survive.”  It glanced at Hobbes with one eyebrow raised.  “Curious, is it not?”

Thirty-three?  Had he really lost so many?  No… it said at least.  The true tally was north of fifty.  Fifty-two, counting Briggs and Garcia.

“I guess I’m just lucky.”  If only he could shield the others with that luck.

“Perhaps.”  It said the word not so much in agreement as a prelude to further study.

Hobbes glanced up at the drac.  “So you think my luck will rub off on you?  Sorry, Specialist, but I don’t think it works that way.  In fact, I think it saps from other sources; a zero-sum game.”

“Perhaps,” it repeated, though with less interest.  It straightened.  “Sergeant, I am interested in neither undermining nor suborning your team to my will.  I am only here in an advisory and aid capacity.”

Hobbes didn’t look at the drac.  “Then advise me on why it’s so important to send my team back into the suck without rack time.”

The drac made a soft, weird humming noise like a kitten’s growl.

“Have you noticed the creatures seem more… organized of late?”

Hobbes halted mid-step and stared at the drac, who had continued for another two.

In the last clusterfuck they’d attacked from all sides—nothing unusual there—but they had swarmed Briggs first, bypassing Hobbes to get there; it was that detail that so bothered Handy.  Hobbes thought at the time it was because Briggs oozed blood from an earlier wound, but now…

“Are you saying they’re getting smarter?”

“Your human leaders are uncertain, but we think not.”

“Then… what?”

“That is what I am here to discover.”

Hobbes arched an eyebrow.

“So you are as clueless as I am.”  He sighed.  “That’s just fucking great.”

“Not exactly.  I know where we are going.”  The drac hesitated.  “And what we are likely to find there.”

“Me too.  More romeros.”

The drac shook its head almost sadly.

“No, Sergeant.  Something far worse.  A leader.”

Ever feel like you’re screaming into the wind?

Sometimes (and by that, I mean all the time) I wonder what I’m doing all this for. It’s not like people really care about what I write–and that’s okay… no one cares about what most people write. There’s a reason for that. Two, really. One is time. Most people these days just don’t have enough of it. The second is due to Sturgeon’s Law–80% of everything is crap. People know this instinctively, and budget their time accordingly. They stick to the writers they know and like and are often unwilling to take a chance on anyone new. Hence the reason most sales of new writers go to friends and family, and usually only the one time. Even your friends figure out quickly enough whether or not you’re someone they’re willing to add to their list of “writers”.

With that in mind, I offer a little story here for you to dip your toes into the icy river of my words…

An Illusion of Night

by Clancy Weeks

Everything leaked—the window, three bulkheads, seals, and the port reaction chamber; the worst were Will’s head and Paul’s own abdomen, and the second he plugged with two quick squirts of Heal-It.  There was nothing he could do for Will, and Lena had trapped herself in the airlock.  Next up was the port engine before their universe went boom, but unless he got into an EVA suit soon, it wouldn’t matter.  Paul’s trachea burned with every icy breath, and the ship’s alarm faded with every second; in moments, hard vacuum would reduce it to a vibration he could sense only through his boots.

He ran to the nearest locker and shrugged on the suit, ignoring pre-check protocols.  The collar on the helmet clicked home when he gave it a quarter turn, and air flowed instantly to his aching lungs.  Before he could descend the ladder to the port engine, a fierce rumble vibrated up his boots, through his legs, and into his brain.

“God da—”

***RESET***

“I’m not goin’ in there.”  Will shook his head violently, the white-knuckled grip on his weapon never wavering.  “Why me, anyway?”

Paul eyed him with a frown, then pasted a smile on his face.  “Because you’re the better shot.”  Without waiting for further argument, he opened the hatch and shoved the boy through, dogging it closed behind him.  The kid stared through the porthole with wide eyes, then spun at a sound from the darkened depths of the hold.

One, two, three shots rang out, vibrating the floor plates under Paul’s boots.  There was a short, high-pitched scream, and a bucket of blood splashed over the porthole.  The beast that had once been Lena had just pureed Will, then pressed a leathery snout against the glass and licked it clean.  Paul pointed his weapon, hands shaking, and blew the glass out with a single blast, accomplishing nothing more than enraging the creature.  She bashed the door, and Paul retreated.

Not fast enough.

The metal screamed, and the door popped open like a can of biscuit dough.  She gripped the ragged metal and pushed the door wide; head and body revealed an inch at a time.  Paul fired into her abdomen and head with no effect, and she lunged and seized him around his chest.  She tore the rifle away, taking most of his right arm with it.  He cried out in agony, his vision blurry from pain and rapid blood loss, but clear enough to see her mouth open wide.  Rows and rows of glistening teeth awaited, and he smelled Will’s blood on her hot breath as she—

***RESET***

The upper half of Will’s body exploded in a fountain of gore, bits of bone and brain raining over Paul’s head.  The creature lifted Lena high into the air, its roar of rage shaking the ground, and he shouldered the weapon and prayed this time his aim was true.  He took a deep breath and pulled the—

***PAUSE***

Dr. Jackson lifted his hand from the control panel and rubbed his temple.  The power of the machine humming through every surface faded, then stopped.

“Why did you do that?”  Inspector Janet Hardison stood on the other side of Paul’s body, studying the holo-field over his head.  “We’re close.”

“He’s spiraling, Detective.”  He shifted from rubbing his temple to scratching the five o’clock shadow on his cheek.  “The longer he’s inside, the greater the chance of trapping him in a loop.”

Janet rubbed the side of her nose with a forefinger.  “I think we were close a few iterations back.”  She frowned and furrowed her brow.  “Can you re-run from there?”

“Yes, but—”

“Do it.”  Her tone left no room for argument.

“How long do you plan to continue?”

She sneered.  “The man murdered his wife and son, Doctor.  I want that confession.”

“How long?”

Janet straightened.  “As long as it takes.”

***RESET***

Will’s body lay splayed on the ground, his head a mess of red oatmeal, while Lena screamed under the weight of the bald man with all the tattoos.  A wave of déjà vu washed over Paul as the other bikers struck him over and over with their lead pipes.  How many times had he been here?  A thousand?  Two?

Blood poured from a deep cut on his forehead into his eyes.  They burned and blurred, but he refused to close them.  One leather-faced animal wound up like a major leaguer and—

***RESET***

Superman is NOT of Krypton!

Let’s get this out of the way up front:  I am not a physicist, nor have I made an in-depth study of the subject.  I also am no Superman geek who knows the entire canon.  What I am is a science fiction writer with a better than fair passing knowledge of the character, and someone who was able to successfully explain the ending of Lost to my friends.  That, right there, is qualification enough.

I’ve been thinking about Superman’s various powers over the years and have spent much time arguing with fellow comic book fans over who is the better superhero in the DC universe, The Man of Steel, or Batman.  Setting aside Batman’s obvious mental illness, Superman still comes out on top every time.  “But Batman has beaten him more than once!” they say, as if that matters.

Riddle me this—Why doesn’t Superman just nuke him from orbit?  The reason is obvious—Superman is actively trying not to kill his friend, but Batman has no such compunction.  He fights like a lunatic, and the battle is therefore asymmetrical.  I laugh at those who say Batman doesn’t kill—take a look at decades of comic history for the real story.

So, after settling the issue of greatest (at least in my mind), we come to the meat of the Batfriends’ major complaint—Superman is a god, and therefore is cheating as a superhero.

But, for the first time, I reveal here that Superman is no god.  He doesn’t, in fact, have any powers at all.

What?

For an explanation, we must travel far back in time.

Krypton, by all accounts, was a planet orbiting a Red Giant.  A Red Giant star is very old, at the far end of its lifespan, and by most theories began as a sun much as our own.  At the end of its life, with much of its hydrogen burnt, it feasts on the helium and iron byproducts and swells into a Red Giant and swallows the inner planets as it expands.  What’s left are the gas giants that were once orbiting far outside the habitable zone.  Much of the gas on these planets would be stripped away by the solar wind as the star expanded, leaving a smaller—though still massive—rocky, or even a crystal core.  Krypton is one of these.

A planet such as Krypton might be more than four times Earth’s mass, with a toxic atmosphere and very low surface temperature.  And it was here the “Kryptonians”, already a starfaring race, settled a small community to mine the planet for resources.  These proto-Kryptonians were much like us (let’s just go with that for now) and could never have withstood the gravity or atmosphere, so they altered themselves with nano-technology to give them the ability to live on the planet without the need for environment suits.  The nanites are intelligent enough to give the people whatever abilities are required for each given circumstance and are powered by the radiation from the Red Giant.

Why nanites and not simply altering DNA?  Because the proto-Kryptonians traveled to other planets, and each had their own needs.

At some point in Kryptonian history, they became a separate and distinct colony from their homeworld—far enough removed that they no longer remembered their origins.  It was possibly due to an interstellar war, cutting off the distant colony, and leaving them to fend for themselves.  This might explain their reluctance to leave a dying planet.

Once Kal-El arrived on Earth, our yellow sun—much richer in the radiation spectrum than Krypton’s sun—supercharged the nanites with the energy they needed to endow Superman with his abilities, and even explains his evolving powers over the years.  The machines in his body give him the abilities he needs when he needs them.  It clarifies his ability to stop a falling plane instead of just punching through it—the nanites forcefield emitted to protect him envelops whatever he is trying to stop.  This even explains the effect kryptonite has on him but not humans.  The radiation interferes with the normal functions of the nanites, not his biological systems, and is why he heals so quickly once the kryptonite is removed.

This is why he is the hero he is.  He knows the nanites could fail at any given moment—that he could die at any time without their help—yet he charges head-first into every dangerous situation.  This guy commits, and he does it on pure faith.

Every single so-called plot hole is filled (maybe even Bizzaro) with reliance on the technology we know the Kryptonians possessed.

Deus ex machina, indeed.

Superman may have come from Krypton, but he is not of Krypton.

Mining for books…

So… I had a discussion a while back with a friend who happens to be a genius and a physicist. I made the simple supposition that since Pi is a non-repeating infinite series, we could assign each character necessary for printing a book to a simple three-digit code. My theory is that somewhere in Pi is a long string of digits corresponding to all the recorded knowledge of, well, the whole universe, past, present, and future.

This would, consequently, mean that every book I have ever written, or ever will write, is in there somewhere.

Now here’s my question: if this is true, what does this say about free will? In fact, if I even consider writing a book or story, it’s in there whether I write it or not. What does this say about destiny, or even time’s arrow? Of course, we can’t actually find these strings of numbers, but what if we could? Would knowing what I write ten years from now affect my decision to write it? It might not matter, because there’s room for every story in every style of every author ever born or will be born. That’s the nature of infinity.

We could do this for music, too, finally hearing Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony, or the full catalog of works Mozart would have written had he not died young. Future history books are in there, too, making a mockery of the idea that information can’t travel backward in time.

Also, hidden within Pi are the blueprints for a faster than light engine, or a working matter transporter. Perhaps plans for a super-efficient table-top fusion reactor. Anything you can think of, really.

Yep. These are the kinds of things I think about all day long. The cool part was my friend agreed with all this. I kept hoping he would point out the flaw in my logic, but he couldn’t.

Such is the nature of infinity…

Who the hell am I?

And why should you bother reading my books?

It’s a long and winding road (apologies to the Beatles), beginning when I was nine and wrote a (*ahem*) “novel”, which I immediately mailed out to either DAW or Tor. I wish I’d kept the rejection letter because they obviously knew they were dealing with a very young Sci-Fi fanboy. I wrote little after that, but became a voracious reader, then turned my attention to music. I won’t bore you with the details, but I ended up earning my D.M.A. in Music Ed. and Conducting, also spending my time teaching band for over 20 years. During that time, I also published over three dozen works for wind ensemble and orchestra.

Once I’d decided to do this writing thing full-time, my amazing wife dove into the deep end with me and became our sole support. Scary, right? More for her than me. I’ve published a few shorts–one in Analog–but most of my time belongs to the novels. I just have too many ideas to set them aside while I write a short. I do keep doing them, though, whenever I’ve finished a book, or kicked it out of the nest to fly on its own. I also still write music, having just picked up a commission for a large work. I’ll be damned if I know how I’m gonna shoehorn that into my schedule, but what the hell?

The only Con I hit regularly is Comicpalooza, and only because it’s close to home in Houston. I encourage people to contact me, and not just because writing is a lonely business. But, yeah, that’s some of it.

Looking forward to hearing from a reader or two in the future!

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