THE SILVER PATH CONTINUES

In a rush of enthusiasm across August/September I have finished the first draft of the second Silver Path novella. I’m sitting on it now for a few weeks before I start polishing and its off to the editor (Zoe Markham) in November. The story just took off after a little outlining and didn’t exactly write itself but there was a momentum which i enjoyed enormously. Number three is half way outlined already. I’m on a roll!

The complexities of the mythology have resolved themselves with the realization of an end game and a pivotal moment. Sheesh, were those two things a relief when they finally came. I now know where I’m going and there’s a quiet confidence in that. Anyway, another excerpt below to keep the interest up.

2017 – PARK HYATT HOTEL – CIRCULAR QUAY, SYDNEY

Billy Rohl undid the button of his best suit jacket and sat, enjoying the plump cushioning of the very expensive chair.

“Detective,” said Malcolm Ricci, signalling a waiter. “What can I get you?”

“Ah … Scotch, neat, please.” The order was taken.

Billy placed a thin manila folder on the marble coffee table, nudging it towards Ricci who looked down his nose at it. “And this is?”

“Justice, I hope, Malcolm.”

Ricci was mildly affronted at the familiarity but picked up the folder and quickly read the contents of the single sheet of expensive paper within. His eyebrows rose unconsciously.

The waiter returned with Billy’s drink and a fresh one for Ricci.

He drinks champagne at lunchtime, Billy noted.

Replacing the folder, Ricci said, “What strings are attached to this?”

Billy sipped his whiskey, then answered, “None. We felt an obligation. Our system can’t do anything much about the contractor. How many life sentences can one person serve? We’d rather turn our attention to the person who hired her; and his intermediaries.”

Malcolm sipped his champagne, calculating. “Idris al-Madini,” he said simply.

“Yes, we know. Tangentially, Robert Preston. We can’t touch either of them at the moment, although Preston is feeling the pressure.”

“We?”

“Criminal Intelligence task-force. There’s quite the buzz in there at the moment. They’re hitting sixes. The pollies are very pleased.”

Malcolm sniffed derisively. “Howard Sales is a prat. I wouldn’t mind having this drink with Peter Nguyen, though.”

“Ha,” said Billy. “You’ll need to have something substantial to trade before that happens.”

Both men sipped their drinks, again.

“On a personal note,” said Billy, “please extend my condolences to Mr Russo. I believe he valued Evie and I respected her despite sitting on opposite sides of the table. Her death was unnecessary; sloppy policy.” He finished his drink, stood and left.

Ricci watched him go. After five minutes he was joined by Patrick Russo. Two minders hovered several metres away.

“Interesting,” said Patrick, picking up the sheet from the folder and holding it to the light. He put it down and photographed the page with his phone. “Burn that before you leave here. It seems benign but I’m not taking chances.”

“Yes, sir. What do you make of this? There must be strings attached.”

Patrick considered the question, having listened in on the conversation via Malcolm’s phone. “This move is too subtle for Nguyen, who we know is involved. And William Rohl is only the messenger; a sharp one but … No, there’s someone else pulling strings here. Someone very sharp. We need to find out who.

“In the meantime, let’s be obvious and take out Urquhart. Make it nasty; I want to send that message also. Let Robert Preston know we expect compensation from him since it was one of his crew who arranged the hit, even if he wasn’t consulted. See if you can set up a meeting. This place would be ideal but anywhere secure will do.”

Ricci nodded. “I’ll start both those tasks this afternoon. Tagging Rohl has not produced results yet. He knows he’s being followed.”

“Keep doing it regardless. He may slip up.”

“Yes, sir.”

Russo stood and Ricci joined him. “Can I offer you a lift back to your office, Mal?”

“Why, yes. That’d be very convenient.”

One of the minders was already on his phone calling the car.

***

Billy Rohl and his three-man tail were strolling leisurely back towards the cruise ship terminal with Billy connected to his phone by ear bud and in some form of conversation. In reality he was simultaneously watching the front of the hotel from the pen camera he’d planted in the stone wall opposite and the nano-chip tracker in the sheet of paper he’d left with Ricci.

Malcolm and Russo appeared on the camera as a saloon car pulled up at the porte cochere. Ricci took out the paper and using a lighter burned it, dropping the residue onto the roadway.

“Fuck,” said Billy under his breath. “That was quick.” But seeing Russo was enlightening. The man was hands-on here. Very unusual. The car drove off and Billy dialed up Marnie Benson to update her.

ROSELLE, SYDNEY

Russo received the call just before arriving at his holdings. He directed the driver to a service entrance and walked the short distance to the basement server farm under the complex, one of his minders in tow. Harrison met him there and took him to his office.

“How bad, John?”

“Very.” They both sat. “I’ve spent the last few days investigating and there’s no doubt we’ve been totally compromised. I mean everything, the whole set-up.” Harrison was starting to get shrill and Russo shifted in his chair turning his full attention to the man. The scrutiny worked.

“Sorry,” said Harrison. “It’s just …”

Russo grinned, grimly. “I can only imagine. Chapter and verse, John. But without techno babble elaboration.”

“Yes, sir. OK … after the last attempt we had the system rebuilt. I’m convinced the contractors embedded a drip-feed scavenger function in the software. I can’t go looking specifically ‘cos that will certainly set off alarms. The proof is in the fine detail but essentially, we’re processing a lot more data than we should, which means copies are being made deep in the stacks.

“Then, the kicker is the fibre node outside on Smith Street. The telecom techs have been there three times in two weeks. We monitor their work schedules and these are all unscheduled and the contractors, when you look closely, well, some of them are packing. That node must have a data cache. Those things can be detected if they transmit so they’re there to download it.

“We’ve been set up.”

Russo said nothing. He was looking at Harrison but not seeing him, his mind churning. This explained a lot, most notably how easily the West Australian police had shut down Brandt.

Harrison held his tongue, waiting.

“Are our backup servers secure?”

“Yes.”

“Suggestions, John?”

“Ah, you won’t like it, sir.”

“Regardless. This is what I pay you so well for, John.”

“Yeah, well, OK. We can run on the backups for six months maximum once a new connection point is established; two weeks for that. I’ve already scouted a likely point of entry. But we’ll have no duplication. Everything in the backups will become prime data, no copies. I’ll set up a slow leak server but real time copies won’t happen. That’s high risk; if we had a crash …

“Anyway, while all that is happening, we need to rebuild the system, and, sir, I strongly recommend we do it off site. I can’t guarantee integrity if we try to rebuild anywhere near here. That’s going to cost about twenty-five million, minimum. Something closer to thirty is likely.”

Silence hung.

Russo pulled a mobile phone out of his inner jacket pocket and started typing. Harrison noted the size and thickness of the device. Is that one of those compact satellite phones, he wondered.

Harrison’s mobile, sitting on his desk, pinged.

“I’ve sent you,” said Russo, “a very confidential contact. Call him. Don’t be put off by the accent. He runs a parallel system facility which is fed from our static archives. The two of you need to come up with a way to bring that asset into play. I’ll expect a proposal within a week, John.”

“You knew this would happen?” asked Harrison, slightly stunned.

“I knew it was possible and planned accordingly.”

He signaled to the minder. “Casey, call Malcolm and relay what has happened here. I want him to start silent tracking of the contractors who compromised us.”

“Yes, Boss.” The man stepped out and started making the call on his mobile.

Russo stood. “Thank you, John. I recommend you take an hour, get a coffee or something and try to relax. You’re going to be flat out for the next week.”

“Yes, sir.”

Russo left the office and stood off a little from his minder while he spoke to Malcolm Ricci.

So, he mused, we are up against someone exceptional. Murphy’s Law, of course. Whoever this was, plus Evie’s death, plus Robert Preston, plus Idris al-Madini. All at once.

“Casey,” he said to the minder.

“Yes, Boss.”

“Very quietly, contact Jeremy Duporth and brief him. I need intell on our new hunter. Indicate some urgency but don’t push; you know Jeremy …”

The man grinned. “Subtlety is my middle name, Boss.”

Russo raised a skeptical eyebrow at one of his most trusted employees then pulled out his mobile again and started making calls. All his senior lieutenants needed to put their heads together and sort this out. It was going to be a late night. The last call he made was to his wife to let her know he wouldn’t be home till after midnight. Movie night with their grandchildren would have to wait.

THE SILVER PATH & THE GOLDEN BELL – Progress Report

Book 1, a novella has come back from the editor (Markham Correct) and I think we might have a project. Zoe’s (Markham) sharp eye has picked up my usual stumbles and pointed out some logical missteps but overall it ‘intrigued’ her.

I’ll take intrigued any day of the week.

My concerns were that I was too ambitious but so far, I’ve managed to balance the paradoxical content – reincarnated 17yr old who solves crimes with astral projection!!! I’m starting to write pieces for the second installment and wondering if I can get the same balance of Book 1. The novella form (20,000 words in these cases) seems to provide a good skeleton on which to flesh out the continuing story. No. 2 will be crucial to maintaining the flow; I’m tempted to cram too much in, I just want to blurt it out but my notes, so far, are keeping me honest.

Here’s a sample;

2017 – PETERSHAM, SYDNEY

It had been their fourth outing in less than two weeks. Mina had invited him to a going-away party at her house and it had been very low key and pleasant in a non-eventful way. He’d stayed till almost everyone had gone except the happy travelers whose lift to the airport had promptly broken down. He had offered to help, of course and they hurriedly repacked the Audi and took off for the airport.

Now they were on their way back.

A ping sounded from the dashboard.

What’s that?” asked Mina, with a small frown. “Is something wrong?”

A message typed itself onto the monitor in the center of the console and Mac glanced briefly at it. “No, it’s a diagnostic issue,” he answered, “But we have to take a detour to fix it. Will that be OK?”

“How long?”

“Half hour, max. The mechanic is in Petersham so it’s on our way. Sorry about this.”

She grinned. “Our first adventure. I’m really sick of Mum hovering.”

He laughed. “They are rather obvious, aren’t they?”

“Yeah. Like they don’t trust us or something.”

“More like don’t quite trust me, I think.”

“I do,” she said simply, looking at him directly. He glanced over and saw Her again. He nodded and returned his gaze to the road.

They drove for five minutes and eventually pulled into the narrow alley which led to Eustace O’Hara’s garage.

“This is seedy,” she said.

Mac barked a laugh, “Everyone says that. Can’t see it myself.”

He was grinning. So was Mina.

“These people can be a bit rough, so, forewarned …”

“Got it.”

They drove through the roller door and into the garage. Silvio, the zombie-bikie-bear, was waiting.

“Whoa!” said Mina. Mac laughed again, popped the hood and stepped out. Silvio lifted the hood and started connecting leads.

Mina joined Mac as Dred came out of her father’s office. “Hey, hey Mac-o-boy, this the feckin’ girlfriend?”

Mac was about to speak when Mina stepped up to Dred, she towered over her, and said, “Girlfriend, yes. The feckin’ part is still being decided. And you are?”

Mac wanted to smile so wide his mouth might break but held his breath to see what Dred would do. She looked a little nonplussed, took a melodramatic step back, looked Mina up and down and said, “Spunk in this one, Mac. You betta feckin’ watch out.”

Stepping around Mina and going to the engine compartment she pulled out a tablet from one of the many pockets in her cut down overalls and connected it to the machines Silvio had already plugged in.

“Now,” she continued, “feckin’ po-leece techy nerds are tryin’ to be feckin’ clever. They’re sending out feckin’ spyware with random pings to target scanners. Dumb feckin’ move really but they might get lucky so I need to adjust the feckin’ filters on your rig.”

Mac and Mina joined her at the open engine bay. Mina stared. “Oh my,” she said, “That’s a work of art.”

“Eh?” the other three said in unison.

“Look at it,” she said. “Everything lines up. And its color coded. What a sweet machine.”

Mac swallowed hard. Jaz was like this with her instruments. She appreciated the art in engineering to a ridiculously high degree.

“Well, well, feckin’ well,” said Dred. “I like her.” Silvio grinned as Dred’s mobile rang and she fished it out and looked at the screen. “Feckin’ faggot husband again. Bloody man never shuts up.” She wandered off to the office.

Mac looked at Silvio, eyebrows raised. “Husband? Faggot?”

The man mountain smiled. “Mildred is twenty-nine years old and married for seven years. They have twin boys aged four. Her husband, Nigel, if you can believe it, is somewhat effeminate in his mannerisms but utterly devoted to Dred. He’s also a very successful corporate lawyer and can dish out anything as good as Dred can serve up. They’re great fun at parties.”

Mac was stunned. Mina beamed. Stepping forward she offered her hand and said, “I’m Mina. Very pleased to meet you.”

Silvio grinned, took the offered hand and nodded acknowledgement. Looking at Mac, he said, “Gotcha.”

Mac burst out laughing.

Dred re-joined them. “Bloody lawyers. He’s got a feckin’ overseas conference call and can’t pick up the kids. Uncle, do you mind.”

“Not at all. I’ll get going now. Eustace should be back in thirty.”

Dred grunted and Silvio left.

Dred continued to tinker, mumbling to herself while Mina joined Mac, took his hand and just watched the not-so-young-looking techno-sprite work.

“There, feckin’ done.”

“Cool,” said Mac. “We better get goin’.”

“Oh feck,” said Dred looking behind Mac. He turned to see four youngish men swagger into the garage. “Feckin’ Fantonie’s. Silvio cleared ‘em off coupla months ago.”

Mac went cold, reached out and took three medium sized spanners from a tray and walked towards the group. He started juggling the spanners very fast. One of the men started to speak and the first spanner hit him in the midsection, followed rapidly by the other two which found similar targets. The men went down in groans of agony and Mac kept walking up to the last man.

In a quiet, deadly voice he said, “Get this trash out of here and don’t ever come back. If anything happens to Eustace and his family, I will burn you to the ground.”

The man was frozen.

“Go,” barked Mac in his parade ground voice.

The stunned young man quickly helped the others rise, or half rise as the case may be and they left. Mac turned back to see Dred with her mouth hanging open, speechless for once, and Mina with a look of such ferocious lust on her face he blushed.

Dred glanced at Mina and then Mac and started to giggle. Clearing his throat Mac said, “We’re going now. It’s late.”

They quickly got into the car and reversed into a spare space and turned to leave. Eustace O’Hara came trotting down the lane with a frown on his face and waved as Mac eased the car out of the lane.

“That feckin’ part is under serious reconsideration,” said Mina quietly after a few minutes.

“But we hardly know each other,” answered Mac with mock seriousness.

“Ha!” she said. “I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. And what I just saw … I want a piece of. I’ve never been this turned on.”

“It’ll pass.”

“I know, but I won’t forget.”

Mac grinned; delicious repartee; it had been so long since he could indulge like this.

“You’re not a virgin, are you?” asked Mina.

“This body is, but I can’t see that being a problem, given my extensive imagination.”

“Ha! We’ll see, we will see.”

They drove to her home in a silence dripping with expectation, savoring it equally.

NEW PROJECT – THE SILVER PATH – ONGOING

Something to wet the whistle or tickle the fancy depending on your metaphor preferences. Its from the new project which at this stage, 10,000 words in, looks like being a series of novellas.

WARNING – Strong-ish language.

“This is a bit seedy.”

“About what you’d expect from a chop shop,” answered the young man beside the older driver. David Browne glanced at his son, a grin flashing across his face as he angled their expensive car into a possibly safe space at the end of the seedy alley. “It’s always interesting with you, Mac.”

The boy grinned back. “I warned you.”

“You did. No regrets.”

“Thanks. That does mean a lot, David.”

“Welcome. Now, your new car is here?”

“Yep.”

Mac led the way into the only open roller door and was greeted by what to his father looked a cross between a zombie bikie and a bear.

“Hey, Mac,” said the bear. “It ain’t ready yet. Not quite, anyways.”

“No problem, Silvio. Just brought my dad to have a look.”

The bear glanced at the older man; his face neutral. He grunted and flung a huge arm inward. An invitation. David Browne tried not to be seen taking too big a side-step around the man. He quickly caught up to Mac who had gone straight to a rather underwhelming Audi A6.

A smallish man came out of a daggy office to join them.

“You the dad?” he said by way of introduction. David nodded.

“What the fookin’ hell you doin’, lettin’ a kid have a fookin’ car like this.” This was accompanied by a great many swinging arm gestures.

David laughed, looked the strange man straight in the eye and said, “You ever win an argument with him?”

He seemed nonplussed to be spoken to that way, then burst out laughing.

Meanwhile Mac was pouring over the car. A pair of slim, childlike legs slide out from under it just in front of David. The pixie-like girl attached to them came next and sprang upright. “Fookin’ Germans,” she said. Mac gave her a quizzical glance.

She threw her arms in the air and said, “They fookin’ bury the good stuff deep. Ran a fookin’ diagnostic this mornin’ and the fookin’ valences were out by five fookin’ milliwatts. The fookin’ adjuster is behind the fookin’ exhaust in’it.”

“Me daughter, Mildred,” said the other man to David. “We calls her ‘Dred’ for some odd fookin’ reason.”

Mac and Dred had started an intense conversation so David offered his hand to the man and said, “David Browne.”

The hand was shaken and Dred’s father said, “Eustace, just Eustace. No last names here, bucko.”

“Fair enough. Tell me about the car because he won’t.”

“Ha. Plays it close does your boy, that’s for fookin’ sure. But he’s a man of his word and pays on time. Now, the car … ah, you want the full dope cos I’ll deny all this in court if …”

David laughed again and made a sign of the cross. The Irish accent and crucifixes around the necks of all present had given that away.

“Done then. Rego n’ VIN are off the donor, an old A6 we picked up at the wreckers. Body panels and chassis too. Everything else is custom. Engine’s from an S6 with turbo and supercharger added on. Suspension and brakes from a couple of V12 Jags.”

“Horsepower?” asked David.

“Five hundred and ten fookin’ kilowatts.”

“Dear God!”

“You ain’t fookin’ wrong. Stops right smart though and with the electronics me Mildred has added, it drives like a train on tracks. Bullet proof too with a front battering cage. That’s what the power is for. The thing ways three fookin’ tons.”

David was speechless. It must have showed because Mac stopped his conversation and joined him. “Eustace hasn’t been scaring you, has he, David?”

Dred caught her breath and covered her mouth. “You called ya Da by name, Mac-o-boy.”

“Yes,” he said slowly turning to her. David Browne knew that tone and the look. Dred was about to get a lesson in manners.

She grinned, held up her hands and took a step back which collided with Silvio, who caught her playfully. Perhaps she already has, thought David.

“No, no,” he said. “Eustace has played a straight bat. The numbers are a bit staggering, is all.”

Mac grinned. “It’s effectively a mobile ops centre. Executive protection level hardware and a comms system, courtesy of the amazing Dred, that rivals most police forces.

 “I hope I never attract the attention these precautions warrant but if I do …”

Silence hung for a few seconds before Eustace said. “Well, that’s the tour, David, me boy. Can I offer ya a cup o’ coffee? Brewed it myself.”

David glanced at Mac who nodded. “Why not?” he said and allowed himself to be ushered into the daggy office. Mac and Dred continued their discussions.

Half an hour later David gingerly backed his Volvo out of the alley in Petersham and headed for the city.

“He makes good coffee.”

Mac laughed, “That he does. Always has. His wife is Italian, a Catholic marriage, and she insisted he learn the right way. Silvio is her little brother.”

“You’re making this up!”

“No. All true. The joys of cliché. They’re very talented but completely outside the law. Eustace and his team could make a fortune in the custom trade but they won’t be told in any fashion. Gets them in trouble sometimes but that’s what let me get to know them, so I can’t complain really. Who else would build a car like that?”

“Ha. Your paperwork all done?”

“Yep. Exemptions and documents were all stamped two days ago. Special Provision driver’s license is waiting at the DMR now. I’ll pick it up this afternoon. Take a left here, David. I’ll get you to drop me a block short and walk in.”

David made the turn, brooding a little. This was standard operating procedure for the whole family now, all at Mac’s insistence. It was a bit like being in a spy film really and nothing had ever happened but the implication of threat which it presented sometimes got him down. He wouldn’t change a thing that had happened in the last seventeen years with this extraordinary man who was his son, but sometimes …

He pulled over into a loading zone. As Mac unlocked the door, David said, “Will we see you for dinner?”

“Should do. I’ll text Mel if anything changes.”

David nodded. “Hope it goes well.”

The grin he received back was more than a little chilling. “Oh, it will. It will”

THE DEAL

A Travel Agency story

I wrote this as an exercise in exploring the technology of the Travel Agency universe and as a treatise on the limitations of an Earth-centric view which has been discussed in popular science off and on for some time. I hope you enjoy …

DR FIONA BOON GAPED; SHE COULDN’T HELP herself. Glancing at her companion, she was pleased to see she wasn’t alone.

“Sixteen, seventeen thousand kilometers, equatorial?” She queried.

The man shook his head without taking his eyes off the glorious view of Earth. “Closer to twenty. This can’t be real!”

Fiona turned slowly, taking in their surroundings for the first time since they had stepped out of the closed box Mohamed Jones had called an ‘elevator’. He was off to the side, waiting patiently.

She took it all in with a mounting sense of dread. Impossibly light and airy, the platform on which they stood was a tube of bright steel and huge panes of glass. The elevator had docked with it at a slim collar which seemed insubstantial for the pressures she knew were at play.

The man stepped up to her shoulder.

“Gravity,” he said simply, and she suddenly realized the other thing which had been bothering her.

Gary Polinsky was a professor of astrophysics and her bitter academic rival but right now all she wanted to do was hold his hand and stare down this impossibility.

They heard soft footsteps and turned to see Mo, as he preferred to be called, joined by a tall young woman who touched is arm affectionately. Only she wasn’t quite human. Her hair moved; by itself, ruffling like feathers. She looked directly at them and pointed over their heads. They turned to follow the direction of her outstretched arm and saw through the glazing of the lift lobby roof, the greater structure to which it was attached.

“I’m gonna be sick!” said Polinsky, softly.

***

“Fram Medellin Depso Tzu,” said the young woman, with a certain formality that presumed you knew who she was. Boon proceeded to start chatting, playing the gender card, such as it was.

Oh great, thought Polinsky, a politician! They seem to be universal. A veteran of every variation of the proverbial funding committee, he prided himself on being able to recognize politicians and bureaucrats at the drop of a pin. Fram was a politician, even if she wasn’t human. I’m having trouble with that also, he mused. The initial shock was wearing off now, though.

Boon seemed to be adapting to this insanity, too.

They were in some sort of conference center and Gary finally had a chance to regroup and review. He had serious suspicions about the events of the last month and would have loved to take it all out on Boon, but she was as gobsmacked as he felt. And she was no actress. They’d sparred often enough for him to be sure of that. So, she’d been set up as thoroughly as he had. The invitation to speak at the opening of the University of Queensland’s new Physical Sciences Building was deliberately arranged to get him to Australia from the US. The free flights and accommodation had helped; he wasn’t rich by any means. He wondered how they’d dragged Boon out of her lab in Sydney.

His musings were interrupted by a new visitor. Clearly not human, this one looked like something out of a Tim Burton film, all elongated limbs and a strange loping elegance. The clothes were interesting too; leather, maybe and a style like something out of the sixties.

“Doctors,” said Mo, “this is Neelak. He’ll brief you on ‘why’ you’re here.” With that Mo and Fram left. Boon walked over to Gary and sat beside him.

Neelak nodded and touched a band on his right wrist. The conference table and chairs folded themselves away and left the two humans in their seats with a small workbench adjacent each. What looked like a parking bollard rose out of the floor six odd metres in front of them and Neelak stepped up beside it.

“I’ll be brief,” he started, “as each of you is probably bubbling over with questions.”

“You think?” said Gary with some heat.

Neelak smiled. All the pointed teeth took the wind out of the astronomer’s sails.

“Thank you, professor. There is a bonus here if you’ll be patient.”

Polinsky swallowed and then inclined his head.

“Excellent. You, professor, are a Big Bang skeptic and are here because we want to give you the evidence you’ve longed for. You, Dr Boon, despite your opposition to Dr Polinsky’s point of view have produced some of the most elegant and near-accurate mathematical proofs in human astro-science. Proofs which are tantalizingly close to reality. We wish to give you the opportunity to apply those skills to Dr Polinsky’s new data, to radically change human cosmology.”

“Why?” asked Boon.

“Because it’s time for human perceptions to shift. That can’t happen without better data. The cargo-cult methodology doesn’t work; we’ve tried. So, creative interference is our preferred option. You are the instruments of that plan and will be paid very, very well for your participation.”

“What if we don’t want to play,” offered Gary.

“Then you’ll be returned to Earth and nothing more will be said.”

“That’s it. No threats?”

“Unnecessary, doctor. Who’s going to believe you?”

Gary shrugged. He had to ask.

“How am I wrong?” asked Fiona.

“Wrong is perhaps inaccurate, Dr Boon. ‘Misplaced application’ would be a better term.”

Gary sniggered.

Neelak inclined his head slightly and his lips threatened that smile again. “Now, now Dr Polinsky. While correct, your speculations have only ever been exactly that, speculative. You’ve never been able to provide proof.”

“Ha,” said Boon.

Neelak adjusted his wrist band again and on the opposite side of the pole an image snapped into being, a perfect hologram.

“This is the Horsehead Nebula as seen from Earth’s most powerful radio telescope.”

After another adjustment, the image shifted into something equally spectacular but totally unrecognizable.

“This is the same region of space but free of the galactic debris and spectrum distortion from which you currently suffer.”

They rose as one and approached the display.

“How?” asked Boon, “filters?”

“No. We sent a survey vessel on Earth’s line of sight and took a multi spectrum image from five light years away.”

“Why?”

“For the two of you to examine.”

Gary and Fiona looked at each other and then turned as one to face Neelak.

“You’re kidding,” said Fiona.

“Not at all.” Neelak adjusted his wrist band again and the display morphed into a flat projection of astronomical calculations and diagrams. Gary recognized half a dozen principal equations but knew he’d need days to wade through the rest.

Fiona scanned the display for a few seconds and said, “No, no … Doppler shift doesn’t work like …”

“Yes?”

“What’s a Slipstream?”

***

Half a day later, Gary flopped into a human-style sofa in one of the many observation lounges on Regulator 2. They’d just finished a two-hour session of general orientation and his mind was struggling to process all they’d seen and heard. The information was fragmented, a puzzle for which he was yet to see a whole pattern.

A young woman who seemed vaguely familiar approached him, “Dr Polinsky. I’m Vicky Jones. Spare a minute?”

Gary stood and shook hands, “Sure, grab a set, miss.” Aussie accent, he noted.

A passing group of who-knows-what, to Gary’s mind, began to chitter and all nodded at Vicky. She grinned slightly, inclined her head and spoke in the same language briefly.

“That was weird,” said Gary.

“You have no idea,” laughed the young woman and Gary relaxed despite himself.

“You’re Mo’s sister?”

“Yes.”

“Right, what can I do for you, Vicky?”

The young woman smiled again, “More the other way around, professor. I’m the investor Neelak spoke to you and Fiona about. The business entities which will allow the two of you to operate are my creations. I’d like to kick off discussions on the details if you’re feeling up to it.”

“What are you,” said Gary, incredulously, “twenty?”

“Twenty-one. Last month. Big party and all that. I brought my friends up here for a rave. It was a blast. And my personal wealth dwarfs the US economy by an order of magnitude. And yes, I’m human. Also, very lucky and thanks to my brother very well connected. A few years ago, I invented something which had great value. I didn’t do it for the money but that came regardless. Now I’m stuck with it and have to find ways to amuse myself. Does that about cover everything?”

Gary snorted a laugh, “Yes. Sorry. I’m still struggling.”

“Fair enough. Now, to business. Who do you think will see your new expertise as profitable. What sort of market segment can we access …”?

Gary’s mind churned, and many pennies dropped as one. “OK. Frame of reference is the key to this I believe. If, as part of an asteroid mining operation we were to put observational equipment out near Jupiter’s orbit ….”

***

The conversation continued for over an hour and Vicky was well pleased. She’d had Neelak listen in via her communications implant and he had in turn fed her relevant questions without alerting Gary to the less-than-private nature of the discussion. Fiona was also present at the other end but under strict instruction not to contribute.

Vicky wound things up and took her leave. She traversed from the lounge across a connecting tube to the operational area. The journey of ten odd minutes wasn’t actually necessary; she could have hole-conferenced, but she wasn’t ready yet to abandon face-to-face meetings.

Fiona Boon was literally jumping with questions when she arrived.

“Why the cloak-and-dagger? Don’t you trust him?”

“No. he’s a scientist for hire after all.”

“That stopped a nearly decade ago. He settled down.”

“True. But before we include him further, he has to prove he’s left those attitudes behind. This last session has done that, I think?” She looked at Neelak who had been standing nearby quietly.

“Yes,” he said, “The bio-metric monitors confirm his sincerity.”

Fiona’s eyebrows raised and stayed there for several seconds.

Neelak smiled ever so slightly and said, “You passed.”

“Great! Now what?”

“Now,” said Vicky Jones, “you both get to see the big picture. Pack a bag.”

***

It took two days and if Boon and Polinsky thought their minds had already been blown, this trip disabused them of that notion. They surveyed the asteroid belt and cruised a moon of Jupiter on the journey out of the solar system.

Now, they stood in an operational annex of the Slipway, a ring-like construction one sixth the diameter of Earth’s moon.

“I’m numb,” said Polinsky.

“Roll with it, Gary. What else are we going to do?”

“Yeah! I don’t know. The scale of it. Look at that! The inner race of this ring thingy is two hundred meters wide. For fuck’s sake, Fi … the scale.”

The ring thingy started to glow.

“What!”

“Activation commencing,” announced Neelak, who had taken over the annex when they arrived. The two scientists stepped eagerly up to the viewing area, another expanse of glass-like material which seemed too large to withstand the pressure differential. Boon reached out and touched it tentatively. It was a reflex by now and she didn’t really notice.

The ring race changed color.

“Inbound reinsertion in five seconds.”

Polinsky peered at the space he judged to be the middle of the ring. It seemed impossible to him, but he could just see the other side of the ring’s glow nearly six hundred kilometers away.

Without warning a massive ship appeared in the space he was watching, continuing to move to the right as it completed its inter-dimensional journey out of the seam of gravitational resonance which was the Slipstream.

“Jesus H … it looks like it’s only a few hundred metres away.”

Neelak laughed, “Yes, it still is an impressive sight, no? I never tire of it. And here on the Sagittarius Arm we are a very long way from the nearest connection point. The craft must be robust.”

“How far away?” asked Boon.

“The third arm; eight thousand light years.”

Neither scientist spoke.

***

Victoria Jones joined them in the lounge an hour later after they’d exhausted themselves peppering Neelak and his staff with questions.

“Hi Vicky,” said Fiona, “I could die happy now. Well, after I published a few papers, anyway.”

 “Publication is going to have to wait, I’m afraid. You’ll have to make do with money.”

“What?”

Gesturing, she said, “Your orientation to date has been deliberately vague. But the crux of things is that all of this is run by an entity called The Trade Directorate. It’s what passes for governance on a galactic scale. It’s been in place for about ten thousand years. Mo and I are directors in a sub-department of that organisation called the Travel Agency and we’re intending to expand. When we first met, Gary, those passing people I spoke to were tourists returning from an adventure holiday on Earth.”

The young woman adjusted a bracelet at her wrist and the coffee table erupted into a holographic display of the Milky Way galaxy.

“We’re here,” she said, and a red dot blinked into existence. “A lonely little water-world on the fourth arm of the galactic wheel.

“Most of the star-faring peoples of the galaxy live here.” A yellow mist oozed into view covering large sections of the other galactic arms, thinning as it moved towards the rim.

“A few years ago, my brother and his friends shut down an illegal operation which was using an unregistered Slipway here.”

Another red dot blossomed on the fourth arm but much closer to the center. A thin red line snaked away from it to a similar point on the third arm.

“Six months ago, the Trade Directorate granted the Travel Agency exclusive control of that previously unregistered Slipstream. The terminus is ten thousand light years from Earth. Between there and here are four hundred and five industrialized planets, most of which have never had off world contact.”

“Four hundred …”

“… and five … worlds.”

“Yes. Just shipping tourists to those worlds alone, will triple the Agency’s current revenue. But the opportunities for trade will make Earth a Galactic power within three centuries. There’s a planet a few light years away called Cuvalla; it’s volcanic and produces exotic metals like we produce corn. Some of those metals can form the control mechanisms in the drives of the ship you just saw.”

“Aliens will invade and take it all away,” said Gary.

“No, they won’t,” answered Vicky, “That’s not allowed. More importantly, it’s enforced. The Trade Directorate has been around for so long because they know how to do business.

“Fifty years from now, the Agency will stage-manage First Contact on Earth. What we’re doing now, hopefully with your help, is prepare for that. Are you in or out?”

Polinsky and Boon looked at each other.

“In,” they said as one and turned back to look at Vicky. She touched her wrist again and the hologram vanished. Taking a clear slate from nearby she handed it to them.

“Sign here.”

NEW PROJECT

THE SILVER PATH & THE GOLDEN BELL

The ideas for this series of novels/novellas have been around for over 5 years but with the completion of the third Shehkrii book, I’ve started thinking I might jump into a new universe and play there for a while.

So, what’s it about …

In a nutshell –  it’s set in Sydney, Australia and on the surface is a police procedural. The protagonist is a (almost) 17 year old computer prodigy who is the core resource in a police criminal intelligence unit which targets organized & international crime. The reality is that the boy, Jackson (Jax) has manipulated all involved to create the unit to track down those responsible for his murder.

Seventeen years ago, there was a double killing at Rose Bay, a trendy Sydney harbor-side suburb. A middle aged man and woman were shot in broad daylight by a man of Arabic appearance. As he died, the male victim was able to flick a knife into the face of the attacker who subsequently fled. The dead man was unusual in many ways but in particular he was a practitioner of an ancient Chinese form of astral projection. It was not a skill he acquired willingly but the discipline had served him well and he kept those skills keen.

In the panic and pain of death, his soul had fled to the astral plane and traumatized, he railed against the inevitable. At the same time a six month old child miles away, passed peacefully from a once-in-a-million combination of circumstances as his terrified mother froze on discovering her dead newborn.

The man detected the child’s passing and reached out in desperation, reviving the boy and finding himself in the body of a baby.

Weird, eh? It gets better.

While the man appears middle aged and in good health he’s actually much older; early nineties to be precise. How did this happen? Well, for the sake of brevity I’ll have to stop there and ask you to read the first installment. Salesmanship, don’t you know?!!!

But what about the woman who was killed with him. She was the assassin’s real target but neither of them knew that at the time. The reason for her murder was mundane in part but driven by a backstory almost as fascinating as her lover’s.

iDM

Image copyright – WALLHERE

MY PROCESS

Other than “Where do you get your ideas from?”, the next most asked question to aspiring writers is often, ”How do you do it?”

“How long have you got?” pops its head up again here.

American commentators have categorized a dichotomy that, in my view, is quite accurate. You are either a PANTSER or a PLOTTER.

A Pantser writes by the seat of their pants i.e. randomly, and a Plotter creates a plot or plan of the story and then writes to that plan/plot.

Sometimes it’s a hybrid.

I started out as a Pantser courtesy of Kate Grenville’s THE WRITING BOOK. She proposes a solution to the question, “where to start?” called piling; making small ‘piles’ of story. Whether it be character studies, action pieces or conversations, write what’s in your head. Do this enough and eventually you’ll have sufficient piles to start stitching together the bones of a story. That narrative critical mass will then feed off itself. Hopefully!

As my stories evolved I found I gravitated towards more and more plotting. If I’m stuck, I’ll write randomly but it’s usually not long before an overall strategy intrudes. Can’t complain, it’s made getting the word count up a whole lot easier.

I’ve found that a multi-part story structure works for me; 7 parts generally.

From David Trottier, the Magnificent 7 Plot Points are:

Number One. The Back Story haunts the central character. Sometimes referred to as Introduction or Exposition. It sets up the characters and at least hints at the premise of the story.

Number Two. The Catalyst gets the character moving. It’s a further part of the story’s setup.

Number Three. The Big Event changes the character’s life.   

Number Four. The Midpoint is the point of no return or a moment of deep motivation.

Number Five. The Crisis is the low point, or an event that forces the key decision that leads to your story’s end.

Number Six. The Climax or Showdown is the final face-off between your central character and the opposition.

Number Seven. The Realization occurs when your character and/or the audience sees that the character has changed or has realized something. Often called Denouement this is where you wrap up loose ends or drop breadcrumbs for future stories.

Regarding Number Four. James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From The Middle has been pivotal (yes, pun…) for me. His examples ring very true and when I checked my own work I found the stories fell into the patterns Bell describes. It was a very liberating experience and well worth the read.

The other aspect of story which arose early for me, was the balance between description and dialogue. I didn’t intend to do it but have found that I tell a story through dialogue more than the average. Or so it seems to me. There’s an inherent challenge in creating dynamism within dialogue that is my touchstone. If the conversation is not building tension in some way then I automatically step away and review it. I can be a very talkative introvert but sometimes I bore even myself, so … self-editing can be cruel but it is very necessary.

I’ve been complimented on my action scenes more than once. Where did that come from? Beats me, I just started doing it! It might have something to do with my history as an amateur gymnast and martial artist or it might just be a knack I have. Again, can’t complain and I look for opportunities to make that skill work. It has become a ‘beat’ for me, part of the rhythm of a story or a set of scenes. Jim Butcher does this very, very well and I enjoy reading it enormously.

Another touchstone for me, a conscious filter, if you will, is thematic content. Character development and esoteric information are the spices in my story stew. If I can’t get them in there then the story dies for me. Those aspects are the ENGAGEMENT mechanisms that I believe hook readers who share my broad interests and those who have similar sensibilities even if the specifics are new to them. Can’t remember where the advice came from but “… write what you would like to read,” remains a maxim.

I hope I haven’t bored you. If any of this helps, you’re welcome. I have benefited from the generosity of others so I hope to contribute in some small way also.

iDM

RANDOM TRAVEL PIX

This is a selection of pictures from places I’ve been over the last fifteen years. I LOVE to travel. Literally can’t get enough of it but with limited resources it’s always well spaced out.  Seeing other places and people is fascinating and sometimes, intimidating especially when there are language difficulties. But it never fails to inspire. I hope that comes across in my writing. The similarities and the differences reinforce the ‘One World, One People’ point of view I adopted in my teens. We all bleed and we all dream.

Post COVID I’m off to Europe, dollars permitting. I will see the Mona Lisa at least once!!!

THE GREEN ARMY

EXTRACT FROM THYLACINE– I.D. MARTIN c2016

Available in the Kindle Store at Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/Thylacine-Mr-I-D-Martin/dp/1541059786

This story grew out of my concerns for the longevity and effectiveness of the environmental movement in Australia. Having lived through the triumph of the Franklin Dam campaign and the rise of political eco-warriors I was dismayed that time had whittled away many of those gains.

I still am (dismayed).

The us-and-them mentality remains a significant divide both between the warring parties and within the green lobby itself.

The extremes of my story, I hope, will make people of differing opinions wonder how bad things have to get before reason can prevail over profit and ego.

EXTRACT:

Six hours later they were still waiting. The moon was high and the sky clear. An eerie light made everything look pearl grey. Mel had nodded off around midnight and was gently snoring. The others had rotated every hour and a half. There was a sense of endless waiting, and John remembered countless nights in the SASR and then the Elite Air Service, or Shadow Corps, or half a dozen other names for the organisation to which Atkins assumed he had belonged. He didn’t miss it. What he did now with the group he had formed, the Green Army, was what he most wanted to keep doing.

It had all started with Cambodia. And the blind eye his own government had turned to the whole thing. The Vietnamese were very appreciative, but when it was pointed out to his government that Australian companies were benefiting by proxy from massive environmental exploitation and had done nothing, then he got very, very angry.

Planning for the Green Army had started shortly after and, despite what might be termed an interesting life, he had never felt more alive and motivated than when he was in the field, not with fellow soldiers but with the dedicated housewives, tradesmen, and many others who made up his army. They had to get through his training first, though, so the numbers weren’t large. But quality counted, and they were all talented and tough.

Mel coughed and woke up. “What did I miss?” she mumbled.

“Not much …”

The first boulder landed short. Impact though, was like a detonation, rock on rock and a crack like a hundred whips.

Mel flinched and knelt up.

“Didn’t see that one coming,” murmured Brown.

“No,” snapped Atkins. “Anyone got line of sight?

“Incoming. Eleven o’clock long,” said one of the other commandos.

“Getting his distance. Target range?” demanded Atkins.

“Moving right, a hundred and fifty metres. Stopped at one o’clock. Incoming, short.”

John stood and drew his bow, aiming high. He fired, knelt back down, and waited five seconds before pressing a detonator on his belt. The explosion was muted but Borun let out an ear-piercing shriek.

“Gotcha,” said someone.

“Trident; track target and ready,” ordered John. The commandos moved as one, shuffling forward and then kneeling in a triangular formation – two forward, one behind. Their visored heads moved in unison.

“Twelve o’clock, one hundred twenty-five metres.”

“On line, rapid advance, seventy-five.”

The triangular formation moved forward in a quick short-paced trot. Atkins and John followed, flanking. At seventy-five metres they all stopped.

Mel watched, fascinated. She’d never seen John in real action and this was surreal as she listened in on the command frequency.

“Track?”

“Twelve o’clock, sixty.”

Another rock soared out of the brush.

“Shit,” said Brown from beside Mel, “… this one’s gonna hit. Move left, quick.”

Mel shuffled left as the small boulder smashed into the ground inside one of their makeshift walls. Shards went everywhere and Brown shielded her with his body.

“Advance and rapid fire,” she heard in her ear bud.

The trident surged forward, opening up with their silenced M18’s, the front two soldiers firing several seconds ahead of the rear one, to facilitate magazine changes. The bush was shredded and Borun howled and shrieked as he was hit multiple times. One of John’s arrows struck him in the shoulder and exploded, sending him spinning. The commandos were getting close and still firing.

“Halt. Maintain fire.”

Borun leapt up and back, just as another arrow sailed through where his head had been. He disappeared into the bush and could be heard rapidly retreating.

“Ceasefire. Withdraw to base. Leapfrog formation.”

John and Atkins started walking back to the camp in a sideways crab style, which kept their weapons pointed uphill and to the sides. The two leading commandos turned and quick-stepped behind the third, who maintained his bead in Borun’s presumed direction. Then they switched until they were back with Brown and Mel.

Sitrep?’ said Atkins.

“Smart prick,” answered Brown. The commandos who were back in sentry mode, sniggered.

John grinned.

Mel looked from one face to another. “Men! Jesus …”

John laughed. “Yes, well, not much we can do about that.” Looking at Atkins, he said, “Out thought us, didn’t he?”

THE INVISIBLE BOY

Reproduced from TIMBER – Stringybark Stories (2018) – Anthology

Strong language warning

A tale from Australia in the 60’s.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

My fingers touched the rusty iron cladding of the shed. My mind entered my fingers, became one with the sensory resonance of touch.

And I vanished.

Just as fucking well, ‘cos that prick Kelly and two of his mates came sprintin’ around the corner and would have been kicking the shit out of me if I hadn’t; vanished, that is.

Kelly swore. Better than I ever could. There were words I’d promised Mum I’d never use but Kelly didn’t have a Mum so …

Then he pushed one mate and tried to backhand the other. Nobody knew where I’d gone. Kelly bellowed and the rest of the gang came from both ends of the shed. He gave orders and they split up again. He was a smart fucker, was Bob Kelly. He set up concentric circles with his boys around the abandoned depot; maximised the overlap. There was no way I could run without havin’ them fifty yards behind me within seconds.

And they had Rizzo. He’d run me down in a minute flat.

Shit, shit, fucking shit! Why hadn’t I just flattened Kelly instead of backin’ off.

The touch started to slip and I drew a slow breath, re-establishing the dominant split in my concentration. Fingers caressed the rust; flaky pieces moved ready to fall; the heat of the day bled out in the slight shadow of the wall.

Sensei Takahashi would be proud. Of my control, at least. Not of gettin’ into this bloody mess in the first place.

“Hide your skills or they are wasted,” he said when we started all this training, seven years ago. It was my Dad’s idea. Him and Sensei went way back; the Korean War, apparently. I never really paid attention. They met when Dad was on R&R in Tokyo or something like that. And then Dad sponsored him to live in Sydney. Sensei said he owed my father a debt and teaching me was part of the deal. He and Dad got all serious about it when it came up and I zoned out. Old people stuff!

Not that I’d say so to either of them.

***

Rizzo came back. Skinny runt of a kid. Nasty temper but so bloody fast. His legs were like a threshing machine. Like, I was quick but Rizzo ran like the fuckin’ devil was on his tail. Might be, considering how Kelly kept at him; always windin’ him up.

Which was how this all started.

Rizzo had a thing for Gwen Brickmore. Strange, ‘cos she was nearly a head taller than him and the class weirdo. Or so everyone said. Dressed like a guy, didn’t take shit from anyone and kept to herself. Funny taste in music, too. What sort of name was ‘the Beetles’ for a band anyway!

But Rizzo had the hots and kept following her around. Kelly found out and started pushing him to ask her on a date.

So, he did. Right in front of Kelly and his crew. And me.

She told him where to stick it. Literally and, man, I’ve never seen anybody turn that red.

Then Kelly started.

***

Rizzo walked towards me, looking funny.

I checked my fingers, kept my breathing shallow, looked straight back at him, not caring.

He stopped, turned his head a little and then shook it. He spun around as though someone had crept up on him then swore.

Not very well, but he tried. Repetition seemed to work for him.

“If you’re going to use bad language, young man,” Mum had said, “at least add some imagination. “Saying ‘fuck’ fifteen times in two sentences doesn’t count.”

Jesus Christ, Mum!

I’d turned almost as red as Rizzo when she said that; in front of Dad and my little sister.

But she had a point. One Gwen seemed to have acquired from somewhere also. She said things to Rizzo which were not physically possible. I think!

That didn’t stop Kelly starting in on the guy though, which gave him a chance to get close to Gwen which was really the point of the exercise. I’d seen him stealing glances at her for weeks and it was pretty obvious now he’d used Rizzo as a, what did Dad call it, a stalking horse.

Rizzo wandered off to the right of the shed, still swearing his head off.

***

Training was fun. And hard. But mostly fun.

Keeping it to myself was the hardest. Not being able to show anyone what I could do! That was a bitch.

Dad explained it best. We went to the city one day and sat in this corner of Martin Place and ‘people watched’; that’s what Dad called it.

Took a while but what he was saying eventually made sense and I saw how we all gossip so bloody much. How we label and judge without thinkin’ anything through; without facts. And the biggest targets are the people who stand out.

“Envy has killed more people by a country mile than evil,” my Dad said and I reckon he’s right.

Which is why my training was so important. It was a leg up. But only if I kept it quiet; used it carefully. Sensei hammered that point over and over. The guys, and a few girls who came out from Japan to train with him said the same.

Thinking about them made me realise how lucky I was. They accepted me, challenged me and I was one of them, whatever that was. We didn’t have a name, it wasn’t a club or anything. And every time they came out from Japan it was like cousins were visiting. My Japanese was getting better too. I could swear in it now.

I had a few friends at school but not many. And that was cool. The gossip factory Dad showed me started young and we managed to keep out of it, mostly. Bit like Gwen, really

***

Kelly pushed her. Gwen moved with the blow and only needed a half step to deal with it but this was the obvious play. Kelly wanted to rough her up. Maybe she’d told him where to stick it too.

I really had no choice, there were five of them and maybe Gwen could look after herself but not against five.

I could, though.

But I had to be careful.

“The Chinese call it Drunken Monkey Style,” said Sensei Takahashi. “There is no Japanese equivalent. But … “

That was a year and a half ago and I was getting good at this shit. So, I stepped up and stumbled a bit, separatin’ Kelly and Gwen then leaning into the punch Kelly threw and ankle tapping him. I tried to apologise but one of the others grabbed me and I stumbled again but managed to trip him up and stomp on Kelly as I went.

“What the fuck are you doing?’ hissed Gwen from behind me.

I turned quickly, gave her my best serious face and said, “Run. Now”

She did. Smart chick. A quick thinker.

Turning back, I found Kelly almost on his feet and three of his boys about to swamp me.

It wasn’t hard to put all three down quickly without them seeing what I was doing but that was about it for keeping my skills hidden.

I ran in the direction almost opposite to Gwen. Slowly enough to keep an eye on them. I might have laughed a bit too, just to make sure they came my way and not hers.

It worked.

Unfortunately.

Kelly sent Rizzo wide to cut me off and I had to detour into the old store yards beside the railway.

Fucking Rizzo. I’m going to have to do something about him. Don’t know what but something.

Kelly came back.

***

“What I teach you, young man, son of my friend, is an ancient art. In the West, it is called Ninjutsu. Depending on where you are in Japan it will have other names. There are many forms but at the heart of them all is stealth.

“However, stealth is not always possible and then you must have speed and no mercy. If your skills are seen you become a target. Even when you fight plainly, you must conceal. Therefore, you will be faster, harder and impossible to see. This is the legacy of your father’s selfless bravery and his honour. Teach my son to defend himself, is what he asked of me. I have done that and more. But you will dishonour my debt if you use your skills to kill. So, if you must be seen, if circumstance, and honour will not prevent it, leave no man standing and make them terrified of even your shadow.”

***

Kelly yelled for his boys and they came running. They couldn’t find me and Kelly was spewin’. He started telling them what he was going to do to Gwen and how they’d hunt her down now and nobody could stop them. He kept at it till they were all as horny as hell. Kelly really knew how to wind people up. He was good. And he liked it. Standing there, a few yards away it was easy to see.

I’d never seen anything like it, the hate …

My fingers touched the rusty iron cladding of the shed. My mind was as one with my fingers, in rhythm with the sensory resonance of touch.

My fingers came off the tin.

EXPLAINING WHAT A STORY IS ALL ABOUT!

Because I write what can be loosely called ‘cross-genre’, sometimes ‘mixed genre’, it’s often difficult to explain to people what a story is all about.

“How long have you got?” is often my first response.

Anyway, short answers are difficult, so I’ve tried a number of times to break things down to basics. It’s been a learning experience! As the author you know the story intimately and have a grab bag of assumptions which your polite questioner doesn’t have. It’s very easy to become boring quickly and put people off.

So … I’ve learned that to do the work justice and keep people interested you have to tell a little story. It ends up (for me) being a bit longer than a traditional blurb or pitch but hopefully, like all good stories, it hooks the listener.

Here’s that pitch for the second story in the SHEHKRii series – The Curse. I would love to know what you think of it.

PITCH: SHEHKRii – The CURSE

One of life’s little burdens is never being exactly sure if someone is telling you the truth. Imagine if you could SEE the truth.

And pretty much every other emotional state – anger, lust, joy, fear.

What if everyone could do this? Much of the baggage of our emotional lives would drop away – lying to one another would simply not be possible. You would have absolute honesty; absolute perception.

This is the doorway to the SHEHKRii –those who have returned to the path of intended human development. On top of which they can see other things – like speeding bullets, infrared and ultraviolet light, magnetism … and gravity. All of which they can influence and manipulate.

So how is this possible? No drugs, radiation or alien tech.  They can do this because they are HUMAN; perfectly, optimally human. And we all have within us the code to achieve this state but it has been tragically jumbled.

Occasionally, that which was meant to be, surfaces. Think back to your school days; remember the really smart kids, the ones who didn’t have to try to do long division, they just did it. And the jocks, the guys (& girls) who could hit any ball thrown at them; make any football play work no matter how complicated. That’s the code, just poking its head above water momentarily.  Put all that together in one person and you start to see what might be; what should be.

So, what’s it like to be SHEHKRii? How does it change your life? Dramatically, obviously.  Most of the ‘rules’ go out window. And you see life very differently. You also become aware of Terra. 

The Earth has a biosphere; a thin layer which we think of as Life. But it is the whole planet which lives: from the super-dense stone at the heart of its molten core to the electromagnetic web at the top of the stratosphere.  And since all complex life has consciousness, we have Terra.  The sum of us all and more. The heart, soul and Purpose of life on Earth.  And we are her children, her instruments. And she’s a bit pissed at the moment.  Things are not going to plan.

So what do you do if you’re a Planetary Consciousness and someone’s messed with you? 

You fix things.

But Terra works in ages and epochs; individual lives tend to lose focus for her. But this problem needs fine tooling, so a very delicate, very human instrument is needed.  Someone to take the dying flicker of humanity and fan it into the furnace that it should have been – a keeper of this human flame – Mahk-te-heh-pankukhan.

A thousand years ago, Terra started the process that would produce her ultimate instrument.  In 1903 he was born. Male, because mobility and aggression would be needed; Immortal because the task would be long and the reward must match the risk; Unique, because he must be more than what was intended in order to achieve it. Nathan Chalk, born to an Irish mother and Breton father, carrying the accumulated heritage of all humanity; his birth, an eon spanning journey that started with his ultimate grandparents, a crippled Hindi girl and a shaman from the hordes of Genghis Khan.

A magnificent future from an unknown heritage – all of which has to be kept under wraps in order to succeed.  If only …

Into this planetary drama stumble two very unusual people, Mark Todd and Lindsey Keough.

Todd is an Australian journalist – a drunk but brilliant financial analyst with a mouth to shame any sailor. He has tripped over a particular SHEHKRii and is obsessed with tracking him down.

CIA agent Keough too, has seen the SHEHKRii but in her original form as Sun Wu Lin, the last descendant of Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military genius.

They collide in Canberra and Sydney, chasing Todd’s original quarry but soon discover much more and begin a global journey which will take them to places they never expected to go – places beyond Death … beyond Love … into the very soul of a planet.

iDM