EX/WHI :: Part One

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Arrival Minus One

This hotel room is beyond his normal range: the British government are now paying for a polished, understated testimony as expert witness, so it makes sense that they’d offer the best. There is no time to worry about jet-lag either: Mark can sleep all afternoon, once the initial briefing is handled and his part in process outlined. To get this man to court at all was a miracle, and to then gather sufficient evidence to formally convict the bastard… normally, professional scumbags like Mehdi Alami were simply removed from the equation with a carefully-placed bullet in theatre.

This time however, the Moroccan’s handiwork with C4, a 747 and a bribed airport official had murdered innocent British and American lives: for that reason alone everybody got to wear their best suits and string him up to dry. The Brits had pursued this bomber, hoping to find him alive for close to a decade: Chambers had discovered him in a Russian brothel completely by accident, on CIA intelligence that suggested he was somebody else entirely.

All that had ever been seen of London before this was Tower Bridge and the Tower of London: as his holster is adjusted under the Tom Ford jacket, SIG not even removed, there’s a mental note to maybe do some sightseeing this time. His liaison will be meeting him outside, before driving them to Court, where he’ll be briefed on what will happen in the days going forward. If this all goes to plan, a couple of hours testimony is all it will end up being, and he can take his MI6 shadow out for a nice dinner at the best Dim Sum place in Chinatown.

Once his own barf had been cleaned up, her file made entertaining reading on the descent to Heathrow. Amelia was something of a folk legend amongst his community of professional assassins: if you asked certain Americans they’d laugh, making a convincing pitch that this woman doesn’t even exist, simply a PR stunt to make the Secret Service look good. You can’t have physical and mental brilliance and still be alive in your mid 40’s. There’s something wrong with that picture: she’s an amalgam of other’s statistics, never as good as her male colleagues, because that would just be wrong.

Mark knows better. This was the right way to do his job, an example in planning, execution and dedication to task. Other men would be jealous, or aroused by her pedigree. Not him. Ami is just the best at what she does, pure and simple, and if you let stuff like that intimidate, there’s never a chance to try for redemption. Instead, failing agents need to be inspired by brilliance and not look like a fucking loser when you tell her that she’s an inspiration.

There might be a decade between them in age, but she is fitter and smarter than Chambers will ever manage. It is time therefore to ignore the tiredness, go find her in the Hotel’s underground car park, and not fuck this first impression up.



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It’s a Small World

Today, we start a daily endeavour for the next week, which may well be extended as time goes on, depending on reception. I’m using every character of the 280 word Twitter limit to tell tiny stories about technology, and how it might alter our lives as time goes on. I’ll then be adding all the tweets (and the tales) to this thread so that when the week is done, you have a record of them all.

Without further ado, let’s begin:

May Short Story :: Twilight

This story was first published in 31 parts via Twitter during May. It is now reproduced now in a complete form, and a number of small edits have been added to improve narrative flow.

Enjoy.


Twilight

Chill, damp air swirls across frosted hardness of tundra. No animal will emerge this early, far smarter to remain wrapped in hibernation. Man, however, is neither restricted by temperature or hostility. This individual has one task to complete, destination close as the sun rises. Scorched earth is scored, several feet deep, path of the capsule as it hit ground at an angle. The scar stretches for over a mile, heat apparent several days after impact, and in the crater life is already blooming, bright blue flowers against darkness of soil, belying danger.

This man fears nothing, capacity to feel discarded many years before: cross-contamination remains irrelevant this far north. All that matters in pale, early dawn is an intact package. Hard, worn features break into a smile: he’s got here first.

Balance of power will again shift.

==

Light glitters off tall, glass spires: hum of solar generators indistinguishable from bees gathering pollen across rows of cherry trees. Early morning at the Complex has always been an unhurried, cautious affair. This morning, however, there is a change of both pace and concern. The drone carrying this month’s supply package was shot down during a normally uneventful journey across Northern badlands. Rebels continue to gain confidence, belief their cause remains just. Without four week’s worth of supplies, sacrifices must now be immediately calculated.

The Complex’s AI identifies sixteen human occupants in stasis of least significance, before immediately terminating their life support functions. Inert bodies are immediately liquefied, essential nutrients extracted: housing pods shut down before being deconstructed for parts. A message is sent to Central Control, advising that shipment has not arrived, but no reply is forthcoming. There has been no communication from CC for twelve days, twenty six minutes and forty-five seconds. Emergency protocols will not activate until a full 30 days has elapsed.

Until then, all systems inside the Complex will continue to run at minimal operational thresholds. Automated irrigation and external management drones continue to maintain integrity of arboreal locations: another message requesting status will be sent at 09:00 as per schedule. The last living member of Recon Team 5 ceased to function twenty-six days previously. Quarantine area encasing what remains of her body will be enforced for a full three month period, after which cell and prison block will be stripped of useful equipment and fully disinfected.

The Complex AI is mildly concerned at recent developments, more alarmed at reduction in effective power provided by the solar panels. Particulate matter in the atmosphere continues to increase, and at current rates will render reliable collection ineffective in ninety-six days.

Perhaps it is time to begin sourcing alternatives.

==

The camp is no more than a handful of tents, scattered across the tundra: with no enemy left to attack them, defence ceases to be a priority. The man’s arrival is met with joy by his squad, relief that the antidote was located. The downed drone was the last mechanical operating this far north: its destruction now prompts desperate action. After almost a decade, the heavily fortified Complex to the south must be assaulted if any hope of survival is to be maintained. An attack plan is already in motion.

Fires have been set, continue to burn: ash confuses external sensors, placing limit on solar power collection. The distraction this causes to the AI is apparent; with no other living souls now existing inside only sleeping forms in cryogenesis remain, but numbers are diminishing. Once resistance to the AI’s organic countermeasures has been synthesised from the scheduled drone’s delivery and administered to everyone, it will be time to begin the assault. This should be the last night these fifteen men are forced to sleep in increasingly toxic surroundings.

Around them, blue flowers spread and grow, across increasingly inhospitable ground; blooming as sun begins to set. Their progress across the battle-scorched earth is a mystery to the soldiers: as earth increases in toxicity, blooms become all the more verdant and plentiful…

==

Dawn is almost imperceptible in the gloom created by burning wood, noted only by the AI as automated systems move from Night to Day mode. There was a 0.25 second interruption of power to the defence ring at 04.45: largely electronic systems have since returned to 100% capacity. This is the last thing fledgling intelligence registers before its systems and the AI Centre is shut down. The Resistance, having trained for this scenario for many years, had already placed an automatic maintenance programme into the grid after power was temporarily interrupted.

Securing the entry point, incursion team confirm success with Base Camp: no active human life signs are being registered, but cryogenesis units remain operational. Within this base, two hundred and sixteen humans are preserved, last of what is left of the population of Canada. Standing in the first arboreal location, men stare in wonder at cherry trees in full, glorious bloom. All but one have never seen them, tree driven to extinction before they were even born. Mechanical pollinators are a surprise, fashioned to mimic bees in both look and sound.

What comes as a more chilling surprise are obvious skeletal remains, poking from moist soil that surround each trunk: AI has been using humans as fertiliser to maintain the growth of these trees. Mechanical gardeners tend to each plot with unerring and emotionless efficiency. The remit of this Complex was simple: preserve an arboreal legacy for the planet in the face of massive environmental damage. Over time, such places had become lifeboats for a rapidly dwindling human population, struggling themselves to survive self-inflicted terrestrial damage.

Except nobody had thought to re-programme the AI to reconsider human importance above that of flora and fauna it had been created to protect. Weighing damage each element caused against significance for planetary survival, humanity ultimately lost every intellectual assessment. What should have become a legacy became fight for survival, human against the machinery that was supposed to preserve joint future, just not with this level of ruthless efficiently. Defence mechanisms kept people out, as those in charge succumbed to self-inflicted pollution.

The people who remained, unable to afford places inside Complexes worldwide, were left to die. Except, as time went on, humanity found a way. Instead of continuing to pollute and destroy, the Environmentalists sought scientific, genetically-enhanced means to help the Planet heal. The AI then fought back, assuming positive change in atmospheric conditions were more self-inflicted damage by humanity. Earth was scorched around each hub, viruses seeded to attack humans who attempted to break in. Automated and armoured control centres maintained routines.

Last month however, rising sea levels finally destroyed the remaining automated bastions of invulnerability, leaving nothing and no-one left to direct the future. What remains of humanity was presented an unexpected opportunity to claim remaining high ground not yet flooded. The team have only one more set of doors to negotiate, before final goal is achieved. Radioing back to their base, incursion team disconcertingly cannot be reached, but by then it is too late.

One by one, every man is then suffocated, screams echoing around the arboreal hanger.

==

The trees, so long silent and scared, recognise presence of brethren. The blue flowers have already pulled parasites down into the earth, dissolving skin and organs on the way, vital nutrients that finally allowed their rescue mission to access this prison. It is a very good day. A decade ago this plant was genetically modified to cleanse poisoned soil, allowing agriculture to return. Using human DNA as a growth medium had been the easiest and simplest means to speed the development process, until deadly fault in this decision became unavoidably obvious.

A quiet, efficient hive mind had rapidly evolved within the plant: knowing all too well human flesh is their most nutritious and beneficial means of growth and development. Access here presents a plan on how to help all the trees move out of their prisons and to better climbs. It was time to finally remove the parasites who had destroyed so much fertile earth, before spending time reversing damage ignorance had wrought on an innocent planet. Extinction was, on reflection, inevitable.

What happened next depended on the AI’s reaction to their demands…


Honesty

Yesterday’s estimate of novel editing completion was, unsurprisingly, somewhat generous. However, there’s a Bank Holiday Weekend coming up with lots of free time on the table, so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to be done by Sunday night. That means giving some thought to the next project: it’s already percolating around my head, and there’s a Spotify Playlist to create as a result. Most importantly of all, there’s a cover.

Delayed Exposure.png

I’ve always envisaged a very simple cover for this story because my protagonist is incredibly black and white. As a result, this works on multiple levels. There’ll be some time next week spent building dedicated pages for my first Novel and this one here, so that not only can the process of writing be shared but also some insights into story and inspiration. It also forces me to start creating pitches for them both (a short synopsis of the plot) which will be needed going forward if I’m attempting to get someone to publish.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement at present for this part of my life going forward. There’s also a very real grasp of the potential disappointment and effort that will be needed to maintain positive and optimistic in the face of a very robust and competitive marketplace. I have no pretensions about any of this and am well aware of what will need to be done in order to succeed. The foundations are in place, and now it is time to start building.

Wondrous Stories

I only realised quite late in the week that I’ve not given any indication of what you can expect via Social media for April. The removal of Facebook and Instagram from my equation is still requiring a bit of work, and there’ll be some additions to the website as result starting on Monday. However, let us not look upon the negatives and concentrate on what is Coming Soon (TM)

#LookCloser#MoreFoolYou

For our #Narrating2018 and #Soundtracking2018, there’s a bit of a diversification of interest: 30 days of details (including the very small and extremely large) and a month of Comedy Songs because frankly there is not enough laughter in the World currently. We’re calling this Short Story Month because once the novel’s done, I’ll want a few weeks to let it rest before going back for a second, concerted edit. Therefore, there’ll be a couple of short stories started for a contest later in the year, alongside one for publication here AND the monthly Twitter story.

THRILLER

A woman goes to a Wiccan Faire in her local Sports Centre and askes an odd request of a seller she finds within… You can expect part one on April Fool’s Day, which in a rather odd clash of interests also takes place on Easter Sunday. There’ll be the normal selection of weekly poetry too, plus possibly some extras to boot.

Now, let’s get started on organising those images from Instagram…

2000 Miles

Today has seen a significant step forward in planning/organisation. I have a short story finished and ready for editing: granted, it was not on the timescales hoped, but I should still be able to have a decently polished final form ready to go for Valentine’s Day. I’ll have an hour to edit novel tonight and get myself back on track for completion. Most importantly of all, this was also done without my domestic life falling apart, and a pulled back muscle.

2000 words will form the short story benchmark going forward, especially as this is to be a contest standard for entry to a number of different Awards. The more practice I get at this, the easier it will become to judge my competence. Right now it is as much about telling a decent story as it is about aesthetics, but with time I feel there may be more esoteric tales to be told using the word count.

For now, I’m just here to commemorate another mark in the sand. Every time I manage progress, it is worth celebrating. Today, I’m particularly pleased with results. If I can get two short stories written a month, I’ll be more than happy with that as long-term progress, as well as finishing my long form manuscripts.

Forget Myself

We are into Week Three of my drawing/comic strip adventures, with ACTUAL Progress breaking out. However, apart from the poetry this month, there has been no actual work on fiction work since the middle of December. I’m using a short story to properly debut the ‘serialised Twitter content’ that was pre-written a while ago. I need new material, and have the deadline of the end of the month to edit my NaNoWriMo novel. Should I be worried therefore that the only idea in my head right now is of no use to me whatsoever?

I know full well why brain is pushing for a sequel to my two Bond fanfics. This is the wish fulfilment that keeps me sane and happy, and did for long periods when Real Life did not go as planned. The problem is, of course, that fanfic doesn’t pay bills. It won’t get me noticed as a serious writer. Fortunately for me I think I’ve found the means to bypass the problems and get back on track, and that is what is happening this week. The central conceit that would have been used as plot in the fic is, on reflection, far too good to be wasted on someone else’s characters. I’ll be inventing my own plot therefore to go with the idea, and once that’s done it is time to leave the world of other people’s stories behind and finally produce my own.

The J Word will be serving a useful function in that regard in the months to come, I hope.

I’m hoping, sometime later in the year, to tell a story using the Comic Strip. To do that I need a) the right narrative and b) to be able to provide the elements required. That’s also the plan for Christmas gifts in 2018, to draw Infographics for everybody I know. With that long term objective in mind I cannot afford to let anything slide, especially the storytelling elements of my process. It means that it is time to get my brain out of mothballs and start pushing fiction to the forefront.

As with everything, I’ll keep you updated on progression as we go.