Blog Tour with Author Michael Brookes

Mark Carver, Overlord and Grand Anarch of the Mega-Dark group at GoodReads organized a Blog Tour for August. So in the coming weeks here at HSSJ, I’ll feature posts from five other authors. First up is Michael Brookes.

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Writing An Odd Quartet

‘An Odd Quartet’ is my first collection of short stories, the next, ‘An Odder Quintet’ will be revealed later in the Mega-Dark Book Blog Tour. In this post I’m going to talk about what motivated me to write each of the stories in the first book.

As the name implies there are four stories in the book. The first is called ‘The Yellow Lady’. This story is based on a tale I heard around a camp fire as a young boy. The origin story of the ghost, the grave with the metal spikes and the legend of Heartbeat Tree are all true. I remember being terrified sleeping in the tent with a few other boys in the night, our tent right next to the graveyard with the corroded metal cross with spikes through it.

The scary thing about ghosts is that they keep coming back. With this story I wanted to do something a little different and that comes from the main character, a young man who makes his living by grave robbery. He’s also heard the story of the Yellow Lady and of the secret treasure. Naturally that brings him to the attention of the ghost, but he deals with the situation in a most unusual manner.

The twist in the tale is the central theme to the stories. I enjoy reading a story that ends in an unexpected way. I like writing stories like that even more!
In second story, ‘This Empty Place’ the inspiration came from the H P Lovecraft (one of the greatest horror authors) quote “And with strange eons even death may die”. I imagined what it would be like for an entity charged with the task of death and what they would feel as the universe drew to a close.

‘Forced Entry’ was an idea I’d had for some time. The idea was to have a hostage rescue team, highly trained soldiers, enter a house and encounter an evil way beyond what they were trained for. I decided to tell this story in a slightly different way. I wrote it as a series of radio communications between the soldiers.
Interestingly this story has divided many readers, some love it, others no so much. It’s also one of the stories that will be continued in the new collection.
‘The Reluctant Demon’ is possibly my favourite story in the collection. Previously I’d written a story for an anthology called ‘A Splendid Salmagundi’ about a demon taking his wife on holiday. Holidays take place within unwilling human hosts. It was a slightly comical look at Hell and one I wanted to develop.
For this story I wanted to feature a young demon who like other young demons wanting to become the best, have to become a possessor. To gain this they have to pass an exam. He doesn’t really want to become one, but is forced to by his father. Naturally the story doesn’t quite end as you’d expect.

So that is the history of how I wrote ‘An Odd Quartet’, if you haven’t read it yet, than I hope you’ll do so.

An Odd Quartet
A quartet of dark short stories (10,000 words total) each with a twist in the tale. The drabble enhanced edition also contains some of my favourite drabbles (100 word stories).

The Yellow Lady
Grave robbing is a dirty business, in more ways than one. When he disturbs the grave from a childhood scary story he discovers it’s not always treasure to be found.

This Empty Place
At the heat death of the universe, Death contemplates his existence.

Forced Entry
Terrorists seize an average suburban house. A Special Forces hostage rescue team is sent in and encounter more than they were trained for.

The Reluctant Demon
A young demon prepares to take his possession exam.

OddQuartetNewCover

Buy now from:
Amazon (US): http://www.amazon.com/An-Odd-Quartet-ebook/dp/B009QJMMPC/
Amazon (UK): http://www.amazon.com/An-Odd-Quartet-ebook/dp/B009QJMMPC/
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/an-odd-quartet-michael-brookes/1046494250?ean=2940016693453
iTunes (US): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id636526301
iTunes(UK): https://itunes.apple.com/uk/book/id636526301
Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/An-Odd-Quartet/book-IW9-ulByxE-fcgKdLgZT8Q/page1.html

About the Author
Michael Brookes considers himself a fortunate man. By day he works as an Executive Producer making video games for a leading independent developer, and by night he writes fiction in the horror and science fiction genres.
He is also very active is supporting indie authors from all genres through interviews and guest posts on his blog. He also runs a monthly short fiction contest that is open for everyone.

Follow him on his blog: http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/
You can also follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/TheCultofMe
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheCultofMe

Reciprocity?


Any indie spec-fiction authors interested in swapping reads/reviews? I’d like to boost my review numbers at Amazon and GoodReads, and I’m sure others would too

I mean a one-for-one swap: I’ll read your novella/novel, (50 – 100K) in a specific time frame, then post a short, honest review at Amazon, on my Blog, and GR.

I don’t want a typical ‘shill and gush’. Participants have to agree to a definite deadline, be willing to face constructive criticism, and genuinely honor the agreement. At the end of the day, I’m more than happy to read a good story and promote solid work. And I believe one of the main ways indie authors can all benefit is to support and encourage one another with honest, quality writing.

Considering my schedule, I can do 4-6 titles (depending on size) by the beginning of October.

Again, only Spec-Fiction at this time, please.

Any interest?

Milestone: 7/18/13

Ain’t NY Times Bestseller list but still pretty cool. Today’s Shift Tense- Red Flags Amazon stats

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Cyberpunk
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Religious Fiction > Christian > Futuristic

Story fragment 1

Wrote this sample a while back at the request of a company working on a Post-Apoc RPG. Don’t think their project ever took off but I was pleased with this vignette.

***

Trying to get back home…

Balkanized

A neat little term to make someone at a desk feel better. A word-trick to contain what happens when the reins of civilization slip and life-long neighbors flip psychotic overnight. Hell vomits mind-numbing savagery on some little town or village, like Satan’s timeshare, and we expect a clinical description. It is life ripped out by the roots, a world torn and shattered, bodies draped over charred rubble accenting a certain brutalized emptiness.

Like dabbing antiseptic on a gut wound; the sleight-of-hand won’t stop the bleeding, but maybe it’ll take away the sting.

Balkanized…

We were just trying to get to safety. To friendly lines. Back home.

I drew on the stub of my cigarette, embers on the filter, and looked through the binoculars again. The hollow eyes of a hundred broken windows stared back at me. Nothing. No motion. No sound. Not even birds. The town was empty – or at least made to look that way.

I keyed the mike. “I want security 200 meters out on both flanks. No visitors this time.”

“Roger, Boss. 200 meters out. Anders thinks Putin Guard tore through here last week. Probably won’t be anything left.”

“Yep. Probably not,” I sighed. “But we have to look anyway. We’re low on everything. And,” I patted my vest pocket. “I’m out of cigarettes.”

“OK, boss, whatever you say. Two out.”

I cradled the mike and pounded on the roof. “Smiley! Crank her up. We’re going in. Keep your eyes peeled for a gas station.” As the Bradley lurched into gear I grabbed the .50, unlocked it and swung it forward. “Knowles. Load up a TOW. I don’t want any surprises.”

“Sure thing Sarge. Last one though.”

“Well then let’s hope we don’t need it.”

The remnants of my company broke out of the tree line and start downhill into another nameless east European town.

We found two gas stations. Eventually. Both had been raped clean. Whoever it was missed the rental center though. There was a warm dry garage with a lift and tools still scattered across the workbenches. More important there was a 200 gallon diesel tank in a concrete shed out back. Its tin roof had collapsed in the fighting and the scorched frame of a trunk was melted into the asphalt in front of the door. Easy to miss it if you weren’t desperate and didn’t know what to look for.

“Round up everything that even looks like it still works. Bring up the truck and have Dureky’s squad drain this thing. We can fuel up once we get clear of this place. I don’t like being confined.” I jumped down out of the hatch. “Stay here and keep an eye out – I’m going scrounging.”

I kicked in the metal side door and let that rusty dead air and sewage tang billow out. I peered into the gloom of the office area. There’s got to be a break room. Stepping gingerly over the threshold, I started my search. Right away I came across a row of scattered bones shrouded in moldy suits. Lined up in one of the larger offices, all of them were face-down with their skeleton wrists zip tied behind them. Civilian casualties from the early days. Probably the first wave of riots and retaliation. I keep looking.

And there it is: end of the hall next to the bathrooms. Thank Christ the vending machines are still there and one of them has cigarettes. Sobranies, Davidoffs, even Magnas, all dirt cheap Russian smokes but still. I break open the back and start stuffing my cargo pockets.

CRUMP

I feel the explosion through the walls. I freeze. My radio squawks.

“Contact! Contact! I got heavy contact east. Anders is gone. So’s Travino. Michaels is pinned down. It’s Putin Guard! Say again – Putin Guard. I see 3 BMP3s and one, two T80s. I need back up now.” Heavy fire hammers in the back noise.

Shit. Crumpled packs fall from my fingers. I snatch up my M4 and start running to the sound of guns.

Giveaway and Review Request

Red_Flags_17_titleB Two weeks after the release, sales are strong even with little/no PR, but I’d like to boost those ever important Amazon and Goodreads review numbers. So… I’m offering TEN electronic copies of SHIFT TENSE- RED FLAGS to blog readers and FaceBook connections free the week of July 15 through July 20. Yes… FREE.

Now, if you’ve already purchased RED FLAGS, Thank you very much. It’s a blessing any one purchases/reads my work. By way of compensation, fire off a review of RF and I’ll send you a pre-release of the second installment, SHIFT TENSE – SOLDIER DREAMS for your effort. (You have to keep contents to yourself until it is officially available however.)

What’s the catch? I ask for a short, honest review at either Amazon or Goodreads. (or both and where ever else you feel like posting) Reviews make a huge difference and every one counts. The more direct and honest, the better. I think most readers can smell a shill at a hundred paces, so legit comments are worth their weight in gold.

If you’re interested, leave a comment below and we’ll work out specifics.

If the response is larger than expected, I’ll give away more copies.

I also found several ARCs (advanced reading copies) of Running Black and CW:One Bad Apple if anyone’s interested in reading/reviewing either of those. Let me know.

A thousand thanks.

The Fiction of Autonomy (a Clar1ty Wars story)

THE FICTION OF AUTONOMY

Hans Moller sat in his office, waiting.

The view port behind him framed a portion of Kepler 22B; brilliant cerulean ocean marred by a dimpled whorl of alabaster clouds. He had seen a thousand such storms. From orbit, their rage was nothing more than a curious blemish edging across a luminous abstract.

His attention was on a blank three-panel video screen.

Waiting.

The center display lit up. A scowl, dark, close-set eyes under a broad forehead topped with a bristle of white-blonde hair, Branko Vudijic had a face chiseled from a hunk of concrete.

Moller had known Vudijic would respond first. After all, the Kalashnikov Combine had drafted the Canton Contingency, diplomacy by blunt trauma the cornerstone of their corporate dynamic. It was simple and unequivocal: they were a Founder. That justified everything.

Four corporations settled Kepler 22 a century earlier, not nation-blocs. Corporate money subsidized the first exploration and terra-forming efforts. Their engineers developed the sleeper-ships that transported the first inhabitants across the deep void, built the stations, the giant orbital platforms, the dome habitats. They built the Bradbury spaceport, and the city – Drop City – a metropolis that spanned the equatorial islands on the planet below.

Every day since, corporate legations fended off the grasping aggression of NorthAm, EuroUnion, and AsianPac back on Earth, furiously defending Kepler 22’s neutrality and tax-free status. The ultimate off-shore account, an entire solar system free of ethical restraint, ruled by articles and by-laws, governed by profit.

Kalashnikov were deed-holders, progenitors of this apogee of free enterprise six-hundred light years from old Earth. In their mental architecture, Drop City citizens were the scaffolding to a monument of unified corporate vision. Employees at best, not peers. And the troublesome Trade and Transit Authority was nothing more than a messy prop in the fiction of autonomy that appeased a massive labor force.

In their opinion, menials must be mindful of their obligations. Or strongly reminded.

Moller nodded. Vudijic thick face grimaced a smile in return.


Licia Magro’s porcelain doll features blinked on next. Pale, smooth, exquisite, and austere, the ‘Ice Queen’ was in her nineties, kept taut and sharp by an implacable will and aggressive rejuv-therapy.

Vudijic grinned like a shark when he saw her, and Moller watched her lapis eyes narrow even as she locked a smile in place. No doubt she had been hoping to connect first, if only to gain a sense of perceived authority over her counterparts. Moller delighted at her discomfiture. Subtle and cruel, if Kalashnikov was massive ordinance, Genzyme’s Head of Security was a neuro-toxin. An object handled with extreme care. She sniffed acknowledgment to Moller, then blinked impassively at the Russian.

ImClone’s Trevor Heath was last. Moller found it ironic the TTA considered him the most ‘human’ of the corporate security group: rugged, with tousled brown curls and bright green eyes, he was the fifth iteration of the Heath gene-template. A facsimile. The original had been a lieutenant in the First Wave security detachment, killed suppressing a coup attempt when Drop City was landing slab ringed by geodesic domes. The content under Heath’s skin had long since been rewritten.

Of the Founders, the genetics firm’s policies toward planetary affairs were the most reticent. Short of open and armed insurrection, Heath’s superiors preferred minimal interference. Direct intervention required a unanimous decision, and in this instance, Moller knew he’d have to convince the clone the situation on Drop City was a hair away from rioting in the streets and high-orbit missiles.

He greeted each of them in turn. “Thank you for responding so quickly.”

“We had a choice?” Licia Magro asked.

“Let him talk,” Vudijic rumbled.

“He hasn’t said anything yet,” she snipped, then turned her sapphire eyes to Moller.”And that’s the problem, isn’t it? You didn’t keep us in the loop.”

Moller dipped his head in mock humility. “Surgical operations. Strictly pre-emptive.”

Those sparkling eyes bore into his. “Explosives, assassinations, forensic tech-teams… excision by hammer?”

“What operations?” Heath demanded.

Licia Magro flicked her gaze at the ImClone security chief. “Really, Trevor. You must grow some good people for your intel-teams. Or watch the news.”

“Most of them have been spun as industrial accidents or terrorist attacks,” Moller explained.

Heath waved up data off-screen, then scowled as much at Moller as Licia. “Seven months ago, we agreed direct action would be kept at an absolute minimum. This is far too conspicuous.”

“I acted on new information,” Moller said. “This faction is virulent. They have allies. Resources.”

“Who?” Vudijic demanded.

“I sent profiles. All TTA reps and industrial leaders with secessionist tendencies. They call themselves the ‘Du-li ‘ coalition. It’s Chinese for ‘freedom.”

Heath rolled his eyes. “Another independence cabal that shakes their fists at the sky. Petulance, trivial boycotts and conspiracy theories… the refuge of the powerless, Hans. Hardly count as news – let alone sufficient cause.”

“I want to hear him,” Bradko Vudijic snapped.

“You want to bomb someone is more like it,” Heath retorted.

“If necessary.”

Moller looked at each of them in turn, raised his voice a fraction. “We’re beyond political posturing here. They have money, means, and resolve. They pose a legitimate threat to our control of the Kepler22 system.”

“Don’t be melodramatic, Hans.” Heath scoffed. “They’re rabble-rousing for their re-election campaigns.”

Mollor paused a millisecond before he answered.”They have a Clar1ty analog.”

Bradko Vudijic sat back with a grunt as if that were a declaration of war, but the other two were unimpressed.

“Amplified amphetamines,” Licia said dismissively. “It’s not the first time.”

The ImClone Security Head nodded in agreement. “Remember that Finance Minister seven years ago, Reiniger. He popped on the Parliament floor, in the middle of his ‘throw off the shackles’ speech. Sprayed blood like a fountain.”

Licia laughed at the memory, a sound like tiny silver bells. “Almost enough to make one believe in God.”

Even Vudijic chuckled.

“You’re shitting kittens over Speed, Hans.” Heath said. “Your product – your problem. Don’t drag us in to clean up your mess.” He glanced at Vudijic. “Or pummel it into submission.”

“I wouldn’t call for a secure quorum over cheap stimulants,” Moller persisted. “I’m trying to impress on you the gravity of the situation.”

“Isn’t that the point,” Licia asked lightly. “We’re above gravity?”

Hans Moller composed himself, quelled his exasperation. “This Du-li cabal has managed to synthesize a complex neurostimulant. They’re calling it Edge and my source says the first batch is ready for distribution.”

“Edge,” Heath said. A flat word for a flat stare. “You assured us manufacture was impossible. You said dirtsiders couldn’t duplicate the proprietary bonding. That the pharm was -”

“I said lots of things three months ago,” Moller said. “New data – new assessment. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

“Who is this source?” Licia asked lightly.

“A highly placed one,” Moller answered. “Tier One Administrative.”

“Not milking your paranoia?” Trevor Heath was still dubious.

Moller waved up more prepared files from his desk Cloud and sent it to each of them. “There.” You have everything I do.”

“I doubt it,” Licia muttered.

A five-second delay as the three scanned the data. “What am I looking at?” Heath asked.

“Two files outlining a coordinated bid for secession,” Moller said. “Pages one through four outline phase one. Notice the pattern and timing of the ‘spontaneous’ protests and the boycotts. It mirrors a new round of off-world tariff legislation. Cleverly phrased, but anti-corporate to the bone. Add to that the latest secession rhetoric on the Senate floor. Shelton, Specht, Ryan, Allen, the lot of them are playing the ‘Freedom from the Orbital Oppressors” card loud and proud.”

Heath dismissed the idea. “Political fodder,” he said. “They’re frothing their constituents. We’re their bread and butter, their favorite scapegoat. They call us the ‘Four Horsemen’, for God’s sake.”

Moller shook his head. “I included intercepts of their private comms: they’re on the warpath. Look on page five and you’ll see there’s been a systematic info-campaign fed to the News Nets and social media over the last six months as a preface to Phase Two.”

“Which is…?” Vudijic asked.

“Tainting select batches of Clar1ty.”

“Poisoning their leadership? How Machiavellian,” Licia purred. “Didn’t think they had it in them.”

“Not the Executive supply,” Hans replied. “Only intercepted blackmarket stock. Half the Senators and most of Drop City’s CEO’s are users. It’s their profit margin. But enough junkies and celebrities bleed out of their ears on the evening feeds, the product credibility drops…”

“Resentment and repudiation of Orbital oversight gains traction — ” Licia continued.

“And the Du-li step up with their replacement pharm,” Moller finished.

“We lose our leash,” Vudijic muttered “That would be very bad.”

“Exactly,” Moller said. “And my source was emphatic: this “Edge” is ready for distribution.”

“How can you be sure they’re making their play now?” Heath asked.

“There has been a surge in neuropharm-related deaths in the last thirty-six hours. Eighteen so far. Headlined culprit is… bad Clar1ty.”

“Coincidence?”

“Eighteen?”

“Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity,” the ImClone security head quoted. “I don’t doubt their loathing, just their capacity.”

“Underestimating the dirtsiders is the worst mistake we can make,” Moller countered. “I’m telling you the Du-li is starting Phase Two.”

Licia steepled her fingers under her chin. “If what you’re saying is true, they had help cracking the bonding codes,” she mused. “One of your own skipped down the gravity well?”

Hans shook his head. “I triple-checked everyone associated with the production labs. There’s been no breech on my end.”

“You’re certain?” she pressed.

Moller didn’t bother to reply. Surveillance for all Pfizer-Teva Orbital staff was stringent; it was nearly suffocating for those in sensitive departments.

Trevor Heath leaned forward. “So you really believe this Du-li faction to be a critical threat, and still your operations were unsuccessful?”
“Partially successful.”

“Semantics. You deployed insufficient assets. ”

Moller bit his tongue. “I moved to re-acquire the black market stock and shut down Edge production. The Du-li efforts are extensive and tenacious. My operations were able to delay but not deny. We’re all here because full closure will require multilateral action.”

Heath nodded, apparently satisfied by the explanation. “You’re positive the threat is legitimate?”

Moller made the effort not to sound caustic. “I wouldn’t have contacted you otherwise.”

Heath glanced at Licia then to Vudijic, and Moller sensed the conversation’s demeanor shift. It was subtle, almost imperceptible, but rivalry had yielded to business. They understood, if not fully appreciated, the communal threat.

“Fine, partial success,” Trevor conceded. “You’re recommending an escalated intervention?

“Yes,” Moller replied.

“Which is?”

Bradko Vudijic leaned forward, filled the screen. “I thought the Canton Contingency was under consideration? I say we humble these Du-li pests.”

Licia sighed. “You can’t go bombing cities.”

“Why not?”

“Too much residual ill-will?” Heath suggested.

“Well, yes,” Licia said. “And it’s messy. Clean-up is costly. Infrastructure, replacement personnel… Commerce is interrupted.” She frowned. “It’s inconvenient.”

Moller cleared his throat. “If I may? Two objectives: we must decapitate the Du-li leadership and debilitate their pharmacological production.”

“And bombing does not accomplish this?” Vudijic demanded.

Heath ignored the Russian. “Your suggestion then, Hans?”

“Employ proxy operatives to disorient the TTA and Central Enforcement with high-profile harassment while our tactical teams carry out surgical strikes on the Du-li.”

“Proxy operatives on Drop City…” Vudijic’s eyes narrowed. “Who do you have in mind?”

“The Prophet Jones and his Anachronists are useful,” Moller answered.

Another moment’s hesitation. “How prosaic,” Licia finally commented.

“Typical,” Moller agreed. “But suitable abettors. They have fervor, motive. We nudge them in the right direction: a few access codes, some data, specialty weaponry, and they will generate sufficient turbulence to cover our efforts.”

“Did you calculate blowback probability?” Heath asked. “Fanatics can be volatile accomplices.”

Hans Moller grinned. “In every sense. Some backlash is inevitable, but in this case, the cost-benefit seems necessary.”

Licia Magro took charge. “I vote to proceed with Han’s enhanced operations then,” she said primly. “Pfizer-Teva assumes responsibility to interface with Jones and his primitives. We release tactical assets.”

“Pending real-time updates and command discretion.” Heath stipulated.

“Of course.”

Lica looked at each of the men. “All in favor?”

Bradko Vudijic grumbled his disappointment, but four hands went up.

“Motion carried. Confirmed and logged,” Licia said. “I trust your department is waving tactical briefs this instant, Hans. We’ll authorize them so you can start putting the vermin back in the cage.”

“I’m indebted,” Moller said.

“Yes, you are,” Licia said tightly. “Just get it done quickly.”

Nodding, Hans Moller glanced at the time. It’s already started, he calculated.

Red Flags Release

Red_Flags_17_titleB

Now available at AMAZON ON KINDLE. Read/Reviews would be much appreciated.

Special thanks to Michal Oracz for the cover, Mark at Angel Editing for the clean-up, and a heap of patient readers. I’m grateful.

Part 2 is under the copy-edit scalpel right now.

An Ocean of Storms. (a Clar1ty Wars story)

Fact is I’m a slower writer than I care to admit, but here’s the prologue for the next Clar1ty Wars installment, ‘Under Strange Stars’.

PROLOGUE: AN OCEAN OF STORMS

“– the Check-In at Gate E –”

He sat on the edge of the red-padded couch and stared at the domes’ apex; a thin, impeccably dressed man surrounded by luxury fascinated in the polished navel of a titanium skeleton twenty meters above him.

He stopped and looked around the empty room. ‘Executive Lounge.’ He bristled at the name; Executive Waste is what it was. One man in a bubble of light and warmth and oxygen that could easily house fifty. The profligate disgusted him. Oblivious, entitled, they flaunted the wealth wrung from the sweat and air of thousands of people. People like him.

This place was a profanity. God damn them all.

Drop City was below the horizon, so the Lounge windows swelled with a deep, star-dusted black. He kept looking up, hoping to see it peek over the horizon, but he calmed himself. He would be there soon enough – God willing.

When he left fifteen years ago, he was certain he was gone forever. He had elbowed his way to the bulkhead and stared for hours out a tiny porthole, first at the pale blue orb receding from him, then when the tears dried, at the stars.

There was so much light. He had been stunned to think of space as bright, but he soon learned a billion suns scintillate in the void. The farther out, the clearer they were. Sorrow begets revelation begets rebirth. This too was from the hand of the Almighty.

But that was long ago and he was here now. Today.

The spaceport’s landing pads gave him enough light to make out the rough gray of the crater lip on his right. Without a reference, it was difficult to gauge the distance, but the panels were so clear, he swore he could have stepped between the struts and bounded across the dark basalt.

He snorted. The electro-stat needed to keep the view dust-free for a month probably ran more than he made in a year. More squandering.

He grit his teeth, swallowed. His old bio-suit, a few hours oxygen, a good ship, and he could be far away from this blight, this poison, back where God spoke in the endless silence among the frozen dunes. Back home.

But leaving wasn’t an option. The Prophet had declared a great and effective door was open – but only for a little season. They must move swiftly, at any price.

“– Jumaat please report to –“

And what a price. He tugged his shirt collar for the hundredth time. The tie was still tight, but not knowing how to retie it, he feared loosening it further. The jacket, with its smooth, iridescent silk, bunched under his arms, cinched around his waist. This mission must have cost dearly; the outfit, a new identity, a Movado Charm, even this Shuttle ticket. But he had been assured a thousand-fold reward. How could he refuse?

A wallscreen beside him pinged on. Twice his height, it blossomed with high-def color. Are they blind as well, that it needed to be so huge, he fumed. At least the Auto-Serve had stopped pestering him about a beverage.

Two News Net personalities were blathering about a mega-storm south of Drop City’s equatorial land-chain. Satellite imagery flashed a cotton-pearl swirl on a bed of azure blue. The frowny faces of the newscasters nodded thoughtfully at projected path icons and wind speed data. Raging thousands of kilometers wide, the storm crept northward. Massive oceans and twin moons conjured furious weather patterns on a gigantic scale, Drop City’s southern hemisphere being particularly volatile.

Oceanum Procellarum, they called it. An Ocean of Storms.

He smiled at that. He decided long ago Irony was God’s most common figure of speech. A storm was coming indeed.

“Will Mr. Tenuk Jumaat please report –“

He heard the name and froze. Why were calling him?

A split second of fear tingled down his spine. What had he forgotten? Had he missed something? His cell leader had drilled vigilance into him: every step closer brought another level of surveillance. Threatened, defensive, the Orbitals and their TTA lackeys layered it around their dens: monitors, retinal scans, voice and facial recog-ware, chemical and biological sniffers… Paranoia revealed their corrosion, their weakness, but he must be careful.

Without moving his body, he glanced around. He checked the reflections in the glass. No CE uniforms bursting in, no security turrets sprouting up, no micro-drones… Why were they calling him?

“Will Mr. Tenuk Jumaat please report to the Check-In at Gate E.”

He stood, swept his hair back, smoothed his jacket. Slender, with dark, delicate Malay features, he looked every inch the refined technocrat now. The skin next to his eyes was still tender from where they lased the Glare Lines smooth, but not rashed. Spacer Squint would have been a dead give-away. Certainly something Mr. Tenuk Jumaat wouldn’t have. Everything was in place. He set disdain on his face, and strode out the door.

Twin TTA attendants, eerily beautiful in their bio-sculpted symmetry, perked up as he approached the Check-In.

The female lit up with a smile as bright as arc-light wattage. “I’m so sorry to disturb you, Mr. Jumaat. As a courtesy to our Executive Class Passengers, we wanted to personally inform you the storm system has delayed all in-bound flights to Bradbury Space Port. We apologize for the inconvenience, but TTA Control is re-routing shuttles as we speak.” She double checked her station screen. “It shouldn’t be more than a twenty minutes before we have you on your way.”

Relief shivered through him but he nodded thoughtfully, just like the newscasters on the wallscreen. “No worries. It’s the season for storms, right?”

“Exactly,” she said.



Copyright 6/2013. P. Todoroff

Is my work ‘Science Fiction’?


I recognize my work isn’t ‘Christian’ in the traditional sense. In preparing Shift Tense: Red Flags for release I wondered if it really counts as science fiction in the traditional sense. I gots no wise-cracking aliens, no FTL, Jedi Knights, death rays, or time machines.

Is it cyberpunk? Moreso, perhaps. Its got that ‘high-tech fluff/lowlife’ spice. But there are no big hair/metal-band, leather-clad punks. (You’re welcome)

Fact is, I wrote Shift Tense to illustrate the friction between First and Third World armies with their widely different weapon systems and soldiers, and the general social, technological and financial inequality that in my opinion will remain and widen.

So is it near-future thriller? Espionage? Vanilla Action and Adventure? Or something else? I’m interested in your opinion.

Side Note – I do love this trailer:

Sneak Peek: Red Flags cover

It’s really coming.
Here’s the first stage cover art. Minor changes and “Red Flags” subtitle pending. Each portion of SHIFT TENSE feature a different cover and will be released for Kindle over the next six months. The full novel will be available after in both trade paperback and electronic format. (About time, eh?)
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