Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I pray you made it to today in once piece, more or less safe and sound, happy and hale.
So why do I call last year an onion? Because 2020 sure stank and made most of us cry! I’m firmly convinced that it will be looked back on as the year before we entered the next dark age or came into a Golden Age.
It has been a factory farmed dumpster fire…
In a flood…
During a hurricane…
That busted through all our living room windows…
And turned upside down…
to wreak havoc in our lives.
Many of us weathered the year better than others. Some had to learn the truth of the “pandemic” the hard way, while others are still terrorized by it. As for myself and my family, it’s been a very rough year both in the terms of health and employment, and is part of the reason for this update.
Now, I am going to strive to keep my politics out of this save for this one blast of steam from the relief valve. It’s been extremely difficult to do anything these days (write, work, live) in the era of #Covidiocy, #stolenelections and #justus for the implementation of “The Great Reset” which is poised to re-establish a new neo-feudalist world order and turn us all into serfs of a Godless world police-state. With the amount of stress, anxiety and depression I’ve fought against, plus a few new things in my life has made it very difficult to focus on things that matter to me in a creative sense. To realize what I’ve accomplished so far is pretty surprising. At least I’ve survived this plague that only kills 0.03% of all who catch it with no lasting issues. I expect things to change for the better in the future, barring a full on civil war/revolution. Okay. So now you know that we’re all struggling in these days, depending on your nation and state, some worse than others. I pray you all have kept safe, healthy and sane enough to keep living life in accordance to your conscience, and that God bless you all as He knows you need. Amen?
Despite all these hardships, I’ve been able to make ends meet thanks to God’s grace from a variety of sources, and some lucky breaks on keeping money rolling with new day jobs and assignments. I’ve had to swallow my pride on more than a few occasions, but I’m very grateful for all the positive things that happened to keep me afloat and in my home, fed and safe. Happy is a relative term of course. I make sure to get my sourpuss curmudgeon card stamped daily by the news and current events.
There have also been some personal triumphs as well, but those are for a later date. It has distracted me a bit from writing, and I apologize. In the long run it will be helpful and maybe facilitate even more writing. They’re not ready for the big public reveal.
One year ago, book 3 of the Akiniwazisaga (Into the High Places) still on Amazon came out. I personally think it’s probably the best of the series to date. Don’t let the lack of reviews fool you. But if you haven’t bought a copy yet, come on! It’s there! You’ll love it!
Since then, I have gotten about 30% through Book 4 of the series before I had to shelve it to focus my creative power on a new project that I hoped to have farther along by now: Tales from the Dream Nebula.
As I talked about last blog. Positive side, two novellas are done. The third is percolating in my head and is about to start rolling out soon enough as I can get some obstacles out of the way on the mechanics of the plot. Some great ideas have come up that I can’t wait to implement.
I hope that I will be putting out either 4 novellas for Dream Nebula this year, or finally finish book 4 of Akiniwazisaga. At least that’s my aspirational goal. I’m not a big believer of resolutions. I always manage to blow through them like a small town red light at 3am. So why set myself up for failure. Just sharing what I hope to accomplish and bring into your lives. Otherwise, I’ve been working on music from time to time, though I’m not sure where to put it out there to share with you all. Youtube has been getting a tad…. persnickety and I’m not thrilled about that. We’ll see what comes up and share then. It’s some nice stuff. Still working on the first movement of an actual symphony. Yes… an actual honest to God symphony. We’ll see what comes of it. There’s been some great learning experiences with that so far.
But anyway, in the spirit of your enduring with me, I figured I’d give you an early look at one of the first pair of scenes of “Tales from the Dream Nebula” as a thank you to you all. Mind you, this is like a third draft before going to an editor, so we’re not even talking beta read level, but fans be fans, and one should give treats and surprises to them from time to time. Yep, I mean it. Your fandom is deeply appreciated. In this era more than ever.
Synopsis: Tales from the Dream Nebula
“Series 1 : Omnipresence”
Episode 1 : “Dreams Within Dreams”
Tales of the Dream Nebula is a high Sci Fi fantasy adventure in the vein of classic Raygun Gothic stories. Think Flash Gordon meets Smokey and the Bandit with many other cyberpunk, film/neo noir, space opera and classic suspense influences mixed in. Earth is no more. Conquered by Xiao the Eternal who came from somewhere deep in space and conquered the planet, breaking it up into pieces, where the chunks of the planet floated as islands in an endless sky of breathable air. Meet Winston A. Harper, pilot of the tug, Sierra Madre. A man who is haunted by his past, drifting with the circumstances of his life. His partner Billy Joe Bob, a sentient industrial mechanoid haul freight with their tug, the Sierra Madre through the skylands that make up the remnant of Earth, living small and unnoticed in the blind spots of the new nations of a humanity subjugated by Emperor Xiao, for now.
Note: this is an early version, copyright M. D. Boncher. Final product may contain changes.
Black and white flickers of an ancient film entranced Winston’s eyes showing him illusions of an Earth and a culture that no longer existed. Like his life, it was carved up and lost to the Dream. He took another long sip on his sweaty tumbler and shifted in his favorite green couch. Heavy ice cubes clanked in the cut glass. A smile wanted to touch his lips, but faded away.
The detective on screen caught the dirty little stool pigeon in another lie and was giving him the third degree after a sharp sock to the jaw. The bug eyed mousey little man whined and groaned as he spilled his guts.
“Winston?” came the call from somewhere behind him. He tried to ignore it. His daughter, Emmy continued to play her quiet game on the living room carpet, pushing her dolls around in cars, making up her own stories.
“Winston!” the woman’s voice was sharper. Had she gotten in the house, he wondered.
“Hun, I think Mother is here,” his wife’s voice drifted in from the kitchen. Valerie was making lunch for him. Now he smiled at the clanking of dishes and the whiff of her barbeque ham sandwiches.
There was a terrific pounding at the door, as Mother battered it with her fist.
“Winston-on-on-nn-stonn!” Mother’s voice stuttered as her connection to his virtual home instance lagged for a moment.
He sighed, she had hacked her way into his local server again.
“Go away, Mother!” he shouted back, taking his eyes off the movie. He could hear Valerie leaving the kitchen to let her in.
“Val! Don’t let her in. I don’t want to deal with her cheis today. There’s a reason I have the instance set private.”
“Okay, Hun,” Val replied and went back to her cooking. Emmy ignored the racket and Winston turned up the sound.
“Oh for the love of…” came the growl and with a terrific splintering bang, Mother forced her way through the locked front door in a spray of pixels and static that rippled throughout the home.
“Nahq it!” Winston hollered spilling his brandy Old-Fashioned. He shot up off his couch and glared at her angrily.
“Nahq it, yourself! Billy Joe Bob and I have been trying to contact you for three hours. You know better than to log out when you’re being unloaded! I’m hardly surprised I found you here in your own little Levitown nightmare of a shrine watching old movies.”
Mother looked like a woman in her forties today, like she could have stepped out of the movie Winston had just been watching. A sharp gray suit with A-Line skirt and a bright white blouse and a string of pearls, gliding in the room on impressive impractical heels. Her blond-turning-white hair was in a tight bun, with two strands of long bangs framing her face.
“In costume today, Mother?” Winston sounded almost amused as his dispatch agent sneered at him.
“No. it seems your behnging server came up with this. Blended my avatar code in with your stupid movie.”
“And so what if I’ve been down for 3 hours on the dock? Those lumpers normally take my whole break to get me unloaded. I’ve got another five hours at this rate.
“This was a hot load, Winston. They started offloading you the instant you bumped dock. They’ve been done for hours and have been screaming at me to get you moved so they can bring in the next one! I do not appreciate being screamed at by overclocked Wirey warehouse managers every five minutes while you play ‘Father Knows Bankruptcy’. Which is what you’re facing I might add!”
Val came into the living room, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. Her apron which Winston bought her to tease her domestic skills giving off even more of that ancient film era’s vibe.
“Hun, would you like me to escort her out?” her voice was pleasant, but with a hint of iron as Winston’s private server security protocols leaked into her subroutines.
“Try it and I’ll turn you into a thermostat subroutine, missy!” Mother snapped with a sharp taloned finger thrust at the simulation.
“Nahq it! Fine, mother!” Winston shouted. “All of you, shut up and I’ll get off the dock and get rolling!”
“That’s all we ever wanted,” Mother smoothed.
“Wait. They said I was unloaded, but they didn’t give me a backhaul?” Winston said as he readied to exit his home server instance.
“They decided to go with a different vendor. Since you didn’t leave right away, that dock lead decided he couldn’t trust you to deliver on time or follow their rules any more.” Mother said, arms crossed.
“For sleeping three hours on his dock?” Winston whined.
“This isn’t the first time you’ve pulled this stunt with them,” Mother reminded him. “He warned you there would be consequences. Once you’re moving, contact the guardpost on the way out to get further instructions.”
“And what does that mean?” Winston shouted.
“They wouldn’t tell me. Said they’d only give it to you in person as it were.
Winston let out a growl that escalated into a frustrated scream and exited from his home instance.
The snap back to his sleeper cabin was jarring. Winston peeled off the induction rig headband and threw it back onto his bed rack with a tired groan and rubbed his eyes. The sleeper was just big enough for a generous bed, a small shower and kitchenette with impractical storage under the mattress and in cupboards over his head. Billy Joe Bob was knocking on the locked door.
“Hoss, y’all gonna get up in there?” came the autotuned voice of his lumper.
Winston said nothing and swung his legs over the side. His flight suit rumpled and feeling dirty for sleeping in it. No time to shower, so Winston grabbed his hat and opened the door to the cockpit.
Billy Joe Bob glided backwards and got out of Winston’s way.
“Mother’s all sorts of mad, and that dock boss has been bangin on the windscreen off and on for an hour. Paint’s busted up on the side of the sleeper but nothin’ that cain’t be buffed out,” the industrial mechanoid prattled on, like a dutiful but rather clueless deputy.
Billy Joe Bob’s rotund torso bulged like a beer gut that vanished into a glittering pile of volcanic sand that surfed silently across the floor, picking up after itself as it went. His humanoid chest and head rode on top of that bulky core with massive brawny arms and hands made of the same glittering charcoal sand that poked out at the shoulders like he wore a sleeveless tee shirt. The BJB series of industrial mechoid was an incongruous mix of metal and grit but created a lot of flexible utility, plus it humanized him enough to feel personable to most people. Although a biologically modeled head was less efficient as a sensor suite, most industrial mechanoids preferred them. Or as the sentient ones, called, Indus, did. It helped with inter-sentient interaction. Nothing seemed to freak out bionts faster than a giant insectoid or incomprehensible sensor suite for a head.
The particle shield was down on the canopy leaving the cab dark, lit only by the monitors and blinking LEDs. An angry red pulse from the comm suite indicated Mother was on the line. The large number of missed messages snarled at him in a red insistent font
Winston grunted at Billy Joe as he took the few steps to the pilot’s chair. The co-pilot and navigator’s seats remained empty. Ever since he bought the Sierra Madre after his life was destroyed, they were never filled. Billy Joe sure didn’t need to sit in one and he avoided the pretense of that level of humanity.
Winston flopped down into the seat, and the crash frame slowly descended, and wrapped him securely in place, he started to do a quick instrument pre-trip checklist. There was a smooth vibration as the grav fans could be felt through the hull of his tractor.
Green across the board.
His pair of bulk trailers reported back their hitches were working proper with a double hook and they were free of the dock and station-keeping. They were go for departure.
The message continued their accusatory glare, till with a sigh, Winston raised the particulate shield and the outside came into view in a bright golden glow.
The clouds went on forever in all the colors of the sunset with darker blots of green, black and brown skylands drifting among them. Like the islands of Earth before it was conquered and consumed by the Dream and its lord and master, Xiao the Eternal. Closer in, the huge industrial anchorage of Omnifeed’s complex was peppered with other draymen waiting for their dock. Some had only one trailer hooked on to their tugs and tractors, others were pulling sky trains with over ten over sized containers.
The windows of his cab’s canopy slowly revealed more of this busy scene as the shield retracted extending a little past him, revealing the four huge open maws of his grav fans that compressed gravity and sucked in air with their usual dull rainbow flicker when more substantial than gas was sucked through and mangled in the compression.
Winston threw on the Sierra Madre’s running lights and fired up his nav computer’s course projector.
“Hoss, look out.”
A man was flying to him on his Bumblebee flight harness from a tug parked danger-close.
The man, landed on his canopy over his head and started yelling at him in a language Winston had no clue about.
“Get the behng off my hull!” Winston shouted and slapped the horn. A low chord of ear shattering sound cut through the hull. The irate pilot grabbed his ears and staggered. Winston smiled as the fellow driver was no longer cussing at him in his gobbledy tongue. Apparently he decided to tell Winston off without putting on his proper protective gear. One hundred and forty decibels at close range will do that.
“Shut down number four, Hoss,” Billy Joe Bob said quickly. The careless pilot had staggered too far back and was close to being dragged through the fan.
“Way ahead of you, Bubby,” Winston said, his hand already hitting the emergency shutdown for the number four fan just as the gravity well plucked the careless pilot up and fired him through its maw. The tidal forces, though no longer fatal, shot the man through its open vortex guards at hundreds of klicks per hour out the other side, zipping past Winston’s trailers like a musketball. His flight harness’s emergency safety protocols protected him from impacting another object. At least the man could float back to his tractor, once he regained his senses.
“Uhhh…” drawled Billy Joe Bob in horror as the monitor tracked the man through space. “This ain’t gonna… this… Aww cheis.”
Panic shook Winston wide awake. He sounded the horn again signaling his departure from the dock with two shorts and a long blast. The Sierra Madre left her dock behind and followed her assigned path toward the guardpost, an irrational part of his mind hoped that by getting out of there fast would somehow absolve what just happened.
Winston said nothing. His mind whirling on what just happened. It was not his fault, he rationalized. That pilot climbed onto his tractor without proper gear inside a restricted area. The fact he saved his life by shutting down the grav fan in time made it all just a near miss. No one was really hurt. Right? Just pride and ego. Cheis, cheis, cheis.
“You think we’re in trouble?” Billy Joe asked.
“We’ll find out soon enough, Bubby,” Winston said, as he eased the Sierra Madre into their prescribed flightpath.
Another call was coming in to his comm suite, priority one.
Winston tapped the channel open.
“This is the Sierra Madre, receiving you. Over.”
“Sierra Madre, this is Omnifeed Control,” came the professional sounding AI voice. Their voices had been modeled on the ancient art of flight controllers’ speech. No matter what, everyone was equal in their eyes, or so the timber of their voice implied.
“Go ahead Omnifeed Control.” Winston squinted as he fought to keep the fear out of his voice.
“You are hereby charged with violating site safety rules as well as professional rules of conduct on site for failing to leave dock when ordered.”
“He climbed on my hull! Without safety gear! I shut down the fan but it was too late,” Winston complained. “Blame him!”
“Understood and he will be dealt with accordingly,” Omnifeed Control replied. Winston could hear the ‘but’ hanging unsaid. “Regardless, you have four violations of loading dock policy in the last five weeks. Your company is hereby suspended from all Omnifeed facilities for six months due to those violations. After that time you may reapply to be a certified carrier.”
“Aw, come on!” Winston shouted at the AI.
“For the safety incident, you are hereby personally permabanned from this loading facility.” The passionless words were worse than being cussed at.
“I’m being permabanned for him violating your loading dock policy? He climbed on me!”
“His discipline is a private matter. Be glad he was essentially unharmed. Your legal information has already been exchanged with his agent for the incident, in case there is permanent harm and medical bills.”
“You have no right to do that!” Winston protested and slammed his fist against the armrest.
“That is the law in accordance with Xiao’s covenants and protocols of commerce. Hail, Xiao the Eternal.” the controller said in Pavlovian reflex. “We, as a third party witness, must report what was recorded to maintain good standing with the empire. Omnifeed maintains the highest rating and will protect it with all due legal effort.”
Winston let out a defeated sigh, and as if she could hear it, his comm bleeped again as Mother tried to get through.
“Copy all that Omnifeed Control. Sierra Madre out.”
The other comm continued to blink as he sat there considering his situation.
Was this to be the final plunge?
Will he be rockbound and sucking on the Imperial dole because he just couldn’t find work after they impounded the Sierra Madre?
This was his last regular client. It was all low paying spot work from here on out. Last second frantic runs to cover for people who dropped the ball. Sure you could look the hero doing that, but the hassle. Oh my Xiao! The hassle!
Winston flipped the comm from Mother open but said nothing.
“It isn’t as bad as you may think, Winston.” Mother’s words were gentle.
“It certainly isn’t good. Did the payment process out?”
“Yes. We’re paid in full, so there’s a little money in the kitty, but you can kiss your insurance goodbye. I have several texts to respond to from Omnifeed, and that pilot’s lawyer.”
“Did you see Omnifeed’s evidence?” Winston said with a little hope.
“I did. He was at fault and so I might be able to get my lawyer in to provide a good defense and resolve this with some lost time and wages from him.”
“Mother, did I ever tell you that I loved you?” Winston said with a smirk. Behind him Billy Joe Bob let out an arpeggiated laugh.
“Eugh!” Mother let out a strangled groan. “You Biomes and your erratic emotions.” Winston knew she appreciated his sentiment, otherwise she wouldn’t have called him such a racist name. AIs were often just as emotional as humans.
“Okay, I know we’re on the bubble, so what’s next, Mother. Am I untouchable now?”
“Give me a minute to put some feelers out,” Mother said. At least she hadn’t abandoned him. Winston knew he screwed up but really, it wasn’t like he had been impairing himself on the job. She knew he slept in his home instance. It kept his own dreams away. Controlled.
He flipped through his cameras to watch the Omnifeed facility recede behind him on his way back home in Pseudomaha. The big nanofabrication feedstock tanks dwarfed the skyland they were originally built on as it consumed the natural and turned into an artificial station.
And then the facility disappeared behind a cloying yellow cloud of sulfur dust.
“Hoss, you want me doin’ anything right now?” Billy Joe Bob asked.
“You got chores left?” Winston asked eyes glazed over on the traffic sensors. The little blobs of blue, green, yellow and red, slid past with neon trails in the holographic hud.
“Naw. Not really. Containers are empty and undamaged. We have an extra free day with ‘em before getting them back to Consolidated Freight for maintenance.” Billy Joe said
“Rog that,” Winston said. “I got nothing for you then. Go on off duty and enjoy yourself. We should still have access to Omnifeed’s network for another hour or two of flight time. We’re slow go till Mother gets back to me.”
“Rog that, Hoss.” Billy Joe went back to his rack up in the engine compartment with a slithering hiss of his utility liquid skirt leaving Winston alone with his worries.
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