Monthly Archives: January 2016

Barghest Chapter 6

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Hour 1325, Day 104, Year 2119


Fortieth anniversary of the passage of the first legislation restricting the rights of Genetically Modified Humans. These Lynas Laws defined GMH as incorporating non-human DNA, legally demoting them to less than human.

“This morning I was on the Senate floor, a wet Paris spring outside the windows, listening to debates on the war and reading a live transcript of a strategic planning session on Kuiper Station, and now here I am having lunch in Omaha with you. The marvels of the modern age can still surprise me sometimes, Avani.”

Sudarshan nodded politely, but she did not drop her guard, despite the casual surroundings. The noodle shop was far too small to be expected to offer indoor dining, but an April snowstorm had covered the sidewalk tables in a layer of wet, cold snow. The owner had squeezed a tiny table and two chairs in a corner between the counter and the front window to accommodate the Prime Minister, leader of the Sol Coalition Senate, for a luncheon meeting. Most of the business seemed to be in deliveries made out the back entrance, so their meal was undisturbed except for the polite service of cups of delicate tea and steaming bowls of fragrant noodles.

“I find it especially striking when I come home. To think, my grandfather used to bring me here when he came back from Washington. That was just after the Repulsion, and he was overseeing the reverse engineering of the Culler ships that landed on American soil. Oh,” the older woman reminisced with a smile, “the base here in Omaha was such a small place then – barely equipped to deal with the soldiers and scientists that all flooded in, doing everything they could for the war effort – to ensure the survival of humanity.” The Senator smiled and took a bite of her noodles, “Mm, delicious as always. You can’t get Vietnamese anywhere that is better than this. Not since the Red War.”

Sudarshan, despite her tension over being summoned by the Prime Minister more than seven thousand miles from the Sol Coalition Congressional Hall, relaxed somewhat as she also began to eat. The highest member of the Senate, the Prime Minister, was an unassuming American woman. Her hair was thick and white; unlike most women her age she had forgone pigment treatments. It contrasted nicely with deeply tanned skin and bright blue eyes. The woman was quite fit, which was appropriate given her campaign persona of a hard worker and no-nonsense legislator. Sudarshan had only met her a few times before, and never in a personal meeting, but she found the relaxed, friendly manner of senior Senator to be at odds with the whispered rumors that she was a tenacious political shark.

The Prime Minister set down her spoon and took a sip of tea before continuing, “He would not recognize the city now, my grandfather. Tripled in size and home of the Sol Coalition’s largest research facility on Earth. I imagine he would be quite proud of some of our accomplishments.”

“Due, in no small part, to your efforts, Prime Minister,” Sudarshan ventured tentatively.

“Oh, no, I cannot take responsibility for that. North America pooled its resources to establish this base, the location is entirely a logistical issue. Besides that, to claim, even privately, that my efforts as a servant to our government are in any way personal would be rather disgusting, don’t you think?”The Prime Minister smiled as coolly and charmingly as on any of her campaign ads

Sudarshan hesitated, sure that there was a verbal trap ahead of her, but not able to see it. . “We are all only working towards the greater good,” she responded slowly. The senior politician’s smile remained, but her gaze hardened into something that sent a shiver down Sudarshan’s spine.

“Sam,” the Prime Minister called out. The owner popped out of the kitchen, a damp towel in hand. “Give me a few moments, please, would you?” He nodded and immediately disappeared into the back. The sounds of water being shut off and muffled conversations abruptly stopped as a door slammed shut. Sudarshan was suddenly very aware that the only person who would witness the remainder of the lunch was the Prime Minister’s personal security guard.

“The greater good,” she said the words slowly, as though testing their flavor like a Vietnamese noodle. The shiver froze around her spine, and Sudarshan felt a tightness in her chest. “It is interesting that you would use such a phrase, Avani. Exactly what greater good were you working toward this morning when you voted against the Emancipation and Suffrage bill?”

“The party has always held conservative views toward the GMH population,” Sudarshan quickly responded. “I was only-”

“And who, exactly, told you that a publicly promoted conservative view translated into a vote against the E&S? Or did you deduce that little nugget on your own.”

Sudarshan bristled. She had been prepared to be chastised for something, but she wasn’t about to put up with personal insults, not even from the Prime Minister. “I know what the party supports, ma’am, perhaps even better than you, given your tone. The future of Genetically Modified Humans is not one of Emancipation and Suffrage, and least not yet, and if you do not understand the gravity of this matter, of what it means to us all, to the war, then-”

“You twit.” The Prime Minister’s expression did not change. She still smiled and held her cup of tea with an easy gesture, but her voice dripped with anger. “You want to play at shaping the future, at determining the fate of a species? I should take you over my knee for that kind of ignorance. You want to use your former position in Congress, your knowledge of Project Hellhound to justify your actions. If you think that one operation is enough to support such a conclusion, that the party wishes to see GMH individuals held as property indefinitely, you are far more stupid than even my most pessimistic assessments.”

“I have the support of-” Sudarshan began hotly, but she was cut off.

“You have the support I allow you to have,” the older woman said sharply.

“If we want to win the battle in Near Sol space, we need-” again she was overridden.

“Battle, you think this is about a battle?” She set down her cup with a definitive clink. “I am shaping the future of our species, and you want to throw away our best defense, your career, the power of our party in the Senate, the security of our solar system – for one war? Do not be so shortsighted,” she spat. One bluntly manicured nail pressed into the cheap table as she made her point. Blue eyes glittered like ice. “You have seen a fraction of the intelligence, the scouting reports, the research assumptions. Cullers,” she dismissed the species that had come close to destroying the Earth with a hard breath, “what are they but cannon fodder – a prelude to something more? Humanity is on a galactic stage now, one battle, one war, is nothing in contrast. Our plans must be designed to carry us forward, to ensure survival, physically, culturally – morally – beyond species that have not yet even crawled out of the oceans on planets that spin hundreds of light years away.  I am smoothing the way for humanity to endure, to thrive, to expand and seize our future – to command our future, and you whine about one battle?”

The Prime Minister sat back in her chair, lips pursed and breath coming hard through her nose. Sudarshan did not move. Every rumor, every whisper she had heard ran screaming through her brain. They were all a shadow in comparison to the woman before her. There was no denying that the Prime Minister was the power behind her party – and her party was the power behind the Sol Coalition Congress. It ate at Sudarshan to humble herself, to admit to wrongs she still didn’t believe she had committed, but the Prime Minister was capable of decimating her career without even getting out of her chair.

“Ma’am,” she began, but one creased palm made her swallow her words.

“I am not finished.” She closed her eyes for a moment and then opened them slowly. “Gillian has requested a new chair person for the Oversight Committee. Tomorrow, the Chair will tender his resignation from Congress and you will recommend Representative Soledad Venegas as a replacement. When the session closes next week, you will go visit your family home in Renukoot. When session resumes, you will change your views on the GMH issue. You will admit that you have reconsidered and you were wrong. When the Emancipation and Suffrage bill is reintroduced, you will support it.”

“The voting equilibrium will be disturbed, there will be members of the party that will be unhappy,” Sudarshan warned. She chafed at having her vote determined for her, chafed at the prospect of admitting publicly that she had made a mistake – when she truly felt she was acting in the best interests of humanity. “Members of the opposition will try to take advantage of any discord in the upcoming elections.”

The Prime Minister frowned, “At least you recognize that much. Perhaps you are not a complete loss.” The insult was stated with the same tone that would have been used to asses overripe fruit. Blue eyes relaxed, and she sat back, considering Sudarshan with a calculating gleam that made her skin crawl. “Reparations will be made, do not concern yourself. In the meantime, you are going to become a moderate candidate, Avani. I am going to save your career, but do not ever think to assume such grand plans without consulting me first.”

“I can take care of my own career,” she said tightly.

The Prime Minister arched one dark eyebrow.  “It was never yours to take care of.” Quietly, she listed the names and amounts of every contributor to the first campaign that had gotten Sudarshan into a state office position. “Did you really think your supporters saw your social media outpouring and handed over their credits?” Sudarshan could feel the blood draining from her face as the realization sank in that her life had been so carefully manipulated without her knowledge. “You succeeded because there was something in you that could be useful to us, to me. There still is, if you can follow orders. You want the war with the Cullers to end? It will happen, but there are those of us who know better how, and when, and in what way it might benefit the greater good.”

“Ma’am,” the security detail held out a phone, the screen indicating it was on hold, “An urgent call from the Secretary of Defense, ma’am.”

“We’re done,” she dismissed Sudarshan and took the phone with the same hand. With a knot of humility, anger, and fear in her stomach, Sudarshan rose and stepped toward the door. Behind her, the Prime Minister answered in her practised, cool voice, “Helen Maker, here.”


Barghest: Chapter 7

Second Alliance – Incentives

I posted the fifty-second chapter of Second Alliance to this site today. That is 569 pages. For three years, including a nine month sabbatical while I switched jobs and dealt with other, uninteresting life issues, I have been working on this piece of fiction. It was a writing exercise that turned into an epic tale that I am incredibly proud of; at the same time I wish I had put this kind of creativity and energy into an original work. Regardless of the effort, this needed to be finished. I needed to finish it, and I am close.

Just prior to today’s post, I finished fleshing out the framework for the rest of Second Alliance. It isn’t fully written, but I can practically taste the Fin and I am excited to share it. I write a few chapters ahead of when I post, so I have an estimated 6-8 chapters remaining left to write. That is about 75 pages, depending on how wordy I get. Which, as you know, is pretty wordy. We are nearly there. Thank you for going on this journey with me.

And now, for the shameless self-promotion:

I write every week, and I haven’t held any chapters hostage for comments or reviews. They are posted as soon as I have written a new chapter and edited the next to go up. However, I want to get to the end and hear your thoughts on it  almost as badly as I don’t ever want this story to be over. So, I am willing to offer us both, reader and writer, an incentive. For every review that is posted to my original book, North Sea Dawn, on Amazon, I’ll post another chapter of Second Alliance – with a maximum of one chapter per day. That could mean ten new pages a day. Don’t worry, I’ll still finish and post approximately every 2 weeks if no one is willing to buy or borrow North Sea Dawn in the Kindle Lending Library and review it. If you do review, send me a link to it with your screen name so I can thank you.  When Second Alliance is done, I would like to put something new out on Amazon. Maybe Barghest, which I am currently posting to my blog (space, genetic engineering, and political intrigue – oh my). Maybe Nordic Diner (ah, NaNoWriMo, sorry I failed you – again). Maybe that steampunk idea that is still churning around in my brain like a pushy salesman (hey, this is a nice watch, this is the watch for you, just try it on). I can’t move on though, until the massive, massive cast of characters in Second Alliance all get their planned ever after and the future of demons is determined.

Let’s do this, together. Give this story the culmination that has been so long in coming. Let’s all gasp and cry and laugh and cheer and shout for the characters that we love – and the ones we love to hate. And then, after a respectful period of reflection (and by that I mean raving about the things that you would have done differently and lamenting that it is over), let’s find a new journey.

I know it is going to be good.

Barghest Chapter 5

A/N: It has come to my attention that some readers may not realize that the chapters in Barghest are skipping around in the timeline. I have listed the date in which action is taking place at the top of each chapter, along with some historical information about the universe in which Barghest is set. However, I understand that given the delay between postings, it is harder to keep track of a fictitious timeline than it might be if this was being consumed in a single reading. So, for the sake of simplicity, chapters featuring the character Maker are taking place in the present. (That’s the simple past tense for those grammatically inclined.) Other chapters are generally taking place prior to Maker’s personal timeline, but I have written those sequentially. I am aware of five past tense forms in English – if you know of more please share – and I try to use them all in combination with as many hyphens, italics, semi-colons, and commas as I can get away with. See previous sentence for reference. I do love emphasis.

If you are having any issues with following the story line, let me know why or how and I’ll see what I can do to correct the issue. Thank you for reading!


Previous Chapter


Hour 0830, Day 001, Year 2115

35th Anniversary of the assassination of President Aiden Murphy during his inauguration speech as he declared the commitment of America to a united earth confederation. Vice President Haifa Ahmed Al-Sindi was sworn into office minutes after her running mate was declared dead.

“Five series, Dr. Gillian. Five.” Representative Sudarshan punctuated the number by pressing her palms flat against the table on either side of her tablet. Her manicured nails clicked against the steel. “I have provided everything you have insisted is necessary for the success of Project Hellhound. The Oversight Committee for Defense Research has spent more on funding your facility than on cleanup of the Michigan-Pennslyvania and Showa crash sites combined. And yet, I have here your most recent quarterly report.” Gillian opened her mouth to respond, and Sudarshan glared to let her know she wasn’t finished.

“And yet,” she continued, “as I was on my way to a session hearing, sipping my coffee and listening to my daily calendar, I read this: …twenty-six series is not viable for field deployment…” Sudarshan flicked one finger across the surface of her tablet, “…inability to assume effective leadership…” She looked up, brushing a non-existent stray hair back into her chignon. “I understood you corrected that defect in the twenty-twos. So why is it, then, Doctor, that despite trillions of dollars, years of research, the brilliant minds recruited to this staff, that you still have not produced results?”

Gillian remained silent for a long moment, her jaw clenched in obvious anger. The white scar tissue that covered nearly half of her face remained smooth, while her undamaged skin was showing the inevitable signs of aging. It only reminded Sudarshan of how much time had been lost. If her election went well, in less than a year she would be moving into a Senate office and handing the leadership of the committee and Project Hellhound over to a junior Representative. She needed progress, concrete proof of success. Her entire career had been dedicated to finding a solution to the loss of life against Culler forces – and all of her bets were placed on Hellhound and Gillian.

“If I may, Representative?” Gillian motioned toward the door. Surprised, Sudarshan nodded. She stood only a beat behind the doctor, picking up the tablet, and followed the white-coated woman through a security door – not the one by which she had entered the office and began walking through several corridors. “Series 26 does display some undeniable indicators that they will not perform in the field as the project requires. However,” she cut her eyes to Sudarshan and the representative bit back a tart comment. “However, that does not mean they are incapable of ever being utilized as soldiers.” The two women entered an observation area, not unlike the one Sudarshan remembered vividly from her first visit to the facility. On the opposite side of the glass was not a small sterile room, but rather a large space not unlike a public school gymnasium.

Two rows of pre-teens, mostly boys, faced each other. A bearded man in generic exercise clothes walked between them, calling out commands for a set of exercises. Each child performed perfectly in sync with the others. Each increasingly complicated task was done without hesitation. The leader reached the end of the row, nearest the glass and turned. Sudarshan could not help but make a small noise of surprise when a short-haired brown tail flicked into view – attached to the man’s backside.

“That is 22-B, and this series follows his commands easily – far better than any of our staff. I believe it to be instinctual.”

Sudarshan studied the man more closely, but could not quite believe he was the same individual she remembered from the many reports on him and his series. “The ageing flaw,” she said uncertainly, remembering the primary reason for the discontinuation of the twenty-two series.”

“Correct. From the outset, one of our objectives has always been to reduce maturation time of the subjects – reducing the total cost of ownership and the investment period in each individual. With the 22s we managed to achieve maturation at the chronological age of eleven years, but the cellular degeneration in most subject could not be prevented from continuing at that rate. Bee is one of the few that responded positively to treatments to slow his progression, but still his aging makes him unsuitable for the field.”

“Yes. And while it may be considered efficient of you to have found a use for outdated models, I did not come here for a history lesson, Doctor. If these subjects can take orders, something which you vehemently stated was not possible, then in what way are they unsuited to their purpose?” One of the young men in line muttered something out of the corner of his mouth, startling a laugh out of the boy next to him. Their instructor, tail whipping angrily, was in their faces in an instant. Although no sound was being piped into the observation room, it was still clear that the youths were put into their place as they dropped to the ground and began push-ups with twin grimaces of shame.

“The twenty-two series had cellular degeneration issues. The twenty-threes were too empathetic. The twenty-fours were incapable of the spacial learning required for modern weapons training. The twenty-fives had hormonal imbalances that made them emotionally unstable. We have corrected all of those problems with the twenty-six series, and-”

“But,” Sudarshan interrupted, “You have brought back an old one. I would think you, of all people Gillian, would know the inherent danger of a hybrid killing machine that refuses to recognize authority.” She had intended the comment to give the doctor a reminder in humility – and warn her to stop wasting time. It resulted in an unexpected smile. The rough skin of Gillian’s cheek pulled down on the corner of her mouth, making the toothy grin nearly grotesque.

“Indeed – but that is not what we have here. What we have are killing machines – exactly as you requested. Intelligent. Strong. Agile. Capable of ending life but with an understanding of the value of the same. Physically, mentally, and emotionally mature at approximately fourteen years from extraction. They only need one change in your deployment parameters to make them effective.”

“Are you suggesting,” Sudarshan narrowed her eyes and gestured with a disgusted motion toward the fanged, tail-sporting male on the other side of the glass, “that I recommend to the SC High Command that they send a dog into battle to command their elite forces?”

“Bee is not a dog,” Gillian bit off. Silence fell for another moment while both women tried to rein in their tempers. “And I would not recommend he enter the field, even if he does live long enough for these subjects to be deployed. She turned tightly on a low-heeled shoe and opened another security door. “I am recommending,” she said in a calmer tone, “that the twenty-sixes receive additional training and classification as general support forces while the twenty-seven series matures. Once ready, the twenty-sevens will be capable of commanding their predecessors as well as receiving additional training for special forces missions and highly independent decision-making.” They passed through two security doors, the second guarded by another individual with a tail.

The female, wearing a modified version of fatigues, greeted the doctor with a dipped head and a smile that bared pointed teeth. She sniffed overtly at Sudarshan.

“She is with me, Ae,” Gillian stated calmly. The guard was female, and clearly dedicated to her duty. She took their security cards and carefully compared the photo on Sudarshan’s to her face and the information terminal on the wall before scanning them in and stepping aside. Sudarshan did her best to keep her expression from not reflecting the morbid curiosity that swirled in her mind as a brown tail flicked at the button to open the door. She followed Gillian inside and the door shut behind them, leaving them alone in a five by five room.

“Decontamination will take a moment, breathe normally,” Gillian instructed. Sudarshan had toured research and medical facilities before, so she was prepared for the cool hiss of gas and the glow of UV lighting against her closed lids. After ninety seconds, a chime sounded and another door opened. The room she stepped into was another observation space, but this one was manned with several technicians at computer stations and lab tables. The quiet activity would have been commonplace in almost any biotech facility, if not for the wall of glass that dominated the room. On the other side were four bays of artificial wombs, clustered in groups of twenty-five per bay. The mass of technology that was supporting the lives of one hundred genetically designed beings was phenomenal.

The costs of it all was staggering. Sudarshan had never seen the gestation lab, but she was aware that no hospital on Earth, or anywhere in the Sol Coalition, could boast the level of care that in the Hellhound facility. WIth good reason. Artificial wombs had been declared restricted technology, usable only to save viable pregnancies if the parents did not have any other children. Even if they had not been so carefully controlled, the expense of a single device, even for the few months to mature a regular human infant, was far beyond the means of all but a tiny percentage of the population. Before her were enough machines to grow an army from nothing but artificially constructed DNA, nutrient packs, and energy.

“These are the twenty-sevens. They are the culmination of my work, Representative, and hundreds of other scientists.” The quiet pride in Gillian’s voice was obvious.

“When will they be ready?”

“Extraction is typically around forty-six weeks, since we corrected the aging issue.”

“When will they be ready for deployment,” Sudarshan clarified. She could not take her eyes off of the small bodies, visible as shadows in the pearly liquid of the wombs. So much potential. So much expectation.

“Like the twenty-sixes, they will be mature at fourteen years.” Dislike hardened her next words, “But I strongly recommend that they spend at least an additional year in field training exercises.”
“Noted,” Sudarshan turned to face the doctor. Tearing her eyes away from the tiny soldiers growing at her direction. Tearing her mind away from the possibilities of the future. “Our losses pushing the Cullers out of Near Sol space are unsustainable. We need those soldiers, doctor.” She handed back the tablet loaded with reports and data on the project and turned to leave. “And for gods’ sake,” she tossed over her shoulder as she pressed her palm against the security lock, “stop naming them after the alphabet. It makes the field reports damn confusing.”


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