Series Updates (Year-End, 2022)

To all readers : Here’s a quick update on the status of the Angel Brings Fire, Future Burns Bright and Bonnie’s New Auntie series of novels, as of the end of 2022.

I took a hiatus from writing last year to attend to various personal matters (long story there; in my “day job” I’m an IT security consultant, and things have been busy at work), as well as attending to issues with some of the publishers from whom you can acquire these books.

Furthermore, in mid-2022, my wife and I welcomed a family of Ukrainian refugees (from Mariupol… need I say more) into our home, and much of the rest of the year found us preoccupied with trying to help these people “get settled” in Canada. It’s amazing how much we take for granted in North America… for example, just the ability to register one’s children in school; this is anything but “easy” if you’ve showed up in a foreign country, with little more than the proverbial shirt on your back.

Let’s hope that the terrible war now plaguing Ukraine comes to a rapid and just end in 2023. The people of that beleaguered country have suffered far too much, already.

Anyway, hopefully the issues that complicated the ABF / FBB / BNA project are now (mostly) dealt with and I’ll have more ability to write in 2023.

And on that note, right now, I’m considering a variety of potential story lines that would take place after the events of the previous novel series.

These are :

(1.) The further exploits of one Ms. Bonnie Billings (and her side-kicks, Megha and Anna-Maria), as the three teenagers (and Bonnie’s brother Dylan) learn the “ups and downs” of “how to be a super-hero”.

(2.) In the vein of “Gulliver brought down by the Lilliputians”, Karéin-Mayréij is beset by lawsuits over “slights real or imagined”, brought by various U.S. citizens who believe that she (and / or her followers among the “New People) has somehow wronged them. The President and Minnie Chu are caught in the frustrating position of having to support petty harassment of an alien goddess who saved the planet from complete destruction… something tells me that this all will turn out badly for the complainants! 😉

(3.) Some or all of the crew of the now-defunct Eagle and Infinity spacecraft, re-visit Mars (but this time, without the distraction of a planet-killer comet, on their minds). What do they find, as they explore the cave complex where they first found mighty Karéin-Mayréij? Do they encounter the “Ancient Ones” that the Storied Watcher described to Bob Billings?

(4.) Fast-forward a few years; characters like Curtis Claremont, Elissha Billings and Kevin McGregor, are now young adults, each with his or her own super-powers. How do they use these abilities? Are they all still able to obey the Storied Watcher’s orders never to use super-powers, in a “dishonorable” manner?

(5.) Then, there are some really “out there” possibilities; for example, stories set in the far future (in which Earth, now mostly populated by “super-beings”, ventures out into interstellar space), or in which an evil Watcher (one whom Karéin-Mayréij thought that she had defeated, eons ago and galaxies away, tracks her down on Earth, resulting in a Titanic battle), or in which the Storied Watcher is forced to abandon Earth entirely, for some catastrophic reason… or other themes to similar effect.

I’m honestly not sure which, if any, of the above appeal to me, and note that one or more of these themes could be combined in the same novel or novels… but if you have a preference, now’s the time to say! (Drop me an entry in the blog’s “Comments” section.)

Happy New Year, everyone!

Marcus Shields

Author, The Angel Brings Fire, The Future Burns Bright and Bonnie’s New Auntie

 

Bonnie’s New Auntie, is PUBLISHED!

I’m very proud to announce the general availability release of my latest science fiction / modern fantasy novel, entitled Bonnie’s New Auntie.

This is an “Epilogue” to the final volume of The Future Burns Bright (e.g. Book #4, The Future Alight, of the second series); however, Bonnie’s New Auntie, can also be read as a “stand-alone” novel, without having read either The Angel Brings Fire or The Future Burns Bright, beforehand. (Obviously, though, you will understand more of what’s going on, if you have read the previous two series.)

Bonnie’s New Auntie is also a more “Young Adult” – oriented novel compared to the earlier series… although there’s plenty within it to interest audiences of all ages! The book can be ordered from Amazon (paperback / Kindle format), from Lulu (EPUB iPad format) and from Google Play Books (PDF generic e-Book format).

The Plot (spoiler alert!)

The novel tells the story of one Bonnie Billings, 16.5-year-old daughter of Simon Billings of Phoenix, Arizona… and, therefore, niece to Bob Billings, of Tucson, in the same state. Endlessly bullied and condemned by her weight and personal appearance issues to being “the last kid called for the volleyball team” at her boring, run-of-the-mill American suburban high-school, Bonnie’s day-to-day routine is all about “surviving… not thriving”.

Tonight, Bonnie’s Uncle Bob (and, his mysterious and newly-acquired immediate family) are due to drop in to the Phoenix Billings clan’s residence, for a long-postponed get-together. Bonnie isn’t looking forward to the occasion; especially, she fumes at seeing Uncle Bob’s new trophy girlfriend, whose unnatural, supermodel-like attractiveness is everything that Bonnie ever wanted for herself (but couldn’t dream of obtaining).

Bonnie hates this newcomer, with a resentful, jealous passion. But the Billings teenager is in for a big surprise… because “Sari” (as Uncle Bob’s new “squeeze” has been introduced to the Billings clan), is unlike anyone who has ever walked on the face of Planet Earth… and Bonnie’s humdrum, “C”-student lifestyle, is about to get the ultimate in “celebrity make-overs”!

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ll enjoy reading Bonnie’s New Auntie as much as I enjoyed writing it, over the past year or so; COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, and perhaps reading the novel will help you forget about the pandemic for a short while. (Semi-relevant sidenote : The Storied Watcher’s “New People”, while naturally immune to virtually all human diseases, also can’t get vaccinated… since you can’t stick a needle into them without it being melted off; and even if you somehow got the vaccine into their bloodstream, it would be automatically destroyed by their alien-powers. So — when “COVID-40” shows its ugly face… are the “New People” the only sentient beings left on Planet Earth? Or do they all die off, because they can’t be vaccinated? 😈 )

As always, if you have any comments or observations (good, bad or indifferent), by all means leave them as responses to this blog; I read all of them and value everyone’s perspective.

Sincerely

Marcus Shields

Author, The Angel Brings Fire, The Future Burns Bright and Bonnie’s New Auntie

 

 

 

The Future Burns Bright, is PUBLISHED!

I’m very proud to announce that (after many fits and starts, not to mention unanticipated delays), the second and final series of novels in the combined tale of the Storied Watcher’s advent on Earth, in 2040, has finally been published!

The Future Burns Bright consists of four volumes, entitled as follows :

  • Storm In The North (Book #1)
  • The Race (Book #2)
  • Against Time* (Book #3)
  • The Future Alight (Book #4)

Note : Against Time was previously known as The Race (Part 2).

As of today, these novels are available in both e-Book (Kindle / .MOBI) and paperback formats from Amazon (the .EPUB and .PDF e-Book versions for Apple iBookstore and Google Play Books are available now for the first two novels; the rest will be published later).

Here’s the URL that you can use to find The Future Burns Bright, on Amazon :

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Marcus+Shields&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Note : For some obscure reason, Amazon has labeled Storm In The North and The Race as being in a “2-book series” (whereas, of course, the series incorporates all four novels referenced above). Fortunately, this does not have any effect on your ability to access and purchase the other two novels of The Future Burns Bright.


There will be ample time for “lessons learned” and reflections later, but for the record… writing the story of Karéin-Mayréij’s advent on Earth in the year 2040, has certainly been a lot of work, and while I’m completely satisfied by the final results, I’m glad to be finally at the end of this marathon.

I will still be publishing bits and pieces of the narrative on this blog (and elsewhere) over the foreseeable future, of course; but I will be taking a hard-earned rest from “real” novel-writing, for the time being.

Also for the record, I’d like to answer a question that comes up from time to time : “Why did you do two different book series… and why is each series made up of four fairly-long novels?”

There are many technical reasons (associated with the paperback publishing process) for this, but the honest answer is, “I wanted to write the story that I wanted to write”… it’s basically that simple.

As all authors know all too well, when one embarks on a project like this, one is besieged with (often, unsolicited) advice (often from people who have never written, much less published, anything longer than a business memo) about “how to make your books, ‘better'”). Either the book is too long, or it’s too short, or it has too much dialogue or action, or too little, or, or, or… (you get the idea). Failure to fully implement all of this (often, self-contradictory) “sage advice” inevitably (in the opinion of your self-appointed “editors”) will inevitably doom your novels to the bargain bin in Walmart, or wherever.

One tries to be polite when listening to this stuff, but everybody has their own limits, I suppose.

So, at the end of the day,  either one writes the book that one is satisfied with reading back to oneself, or one doesn’t. That’s what I tried to do. It’s up to you to evaluate how successful the effort ultimately was.

Long before I started out on writing The Angel Brings Fire, I had a very clear idea of who Karéin-Mayréij is, what motivates her, and so on; she’s obviously a complex, multi-faceted character, and shortly after putting pen to paper I realized that even if just writing a short book about her might be theoretically possible… it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I wanted to write a narrative that would not only be interesting for other people to read, but that would fully explore the Storied Watcher’s personality, that would explain the nature of her supernatural powers, and that would (in particular) show how she reacts to and overcomes, adversity. I also wanted to properly depict what might happen to human society, if a being on Karéin’s level actually showed up on Planet Earth (clearly, this wouldn’t be just some story that gets its “15 minutes of fame” and then everybody goes back to following the sports scores). Finally, there’s the concept of “wouldn’t it be great, to have super-powers?” Sure it would… as long as it doesn’t get a government run by nervous (but otherwise quite ordinary) human beings, declaring you to be “Public Enemy #1”! 😉

I’m confident that the combined Angel Brings Fire and Future Burns Bright series, accomplishes these goals… but of course, at the end of the day, that judgment isn’t up to me, as the author : it’s up to you, as the reader!

And in the same vein, there’s another often-asked question that I’d like to address, here; namely, “Is Karéin-Mayréij actually an ‘angel’, in the Biblical (supernatural) sense?”

I have my own ideas about this, but I will leave it to you, the readers (as well as to others such as Devon White, the Claremont family, Minnie Chu, Sylvia Abruzzio, Hector Ramirez, Sam Jacobson, Cherie Tanaka, Brent Boyd, Tommy George, Elissha, Sayuri and, of course, poor old Floor-Tile Sales Agent Extraordinaire Bob Billings), to form your own conclusions on that subject.

All that I have to add, is what I fancy Karéin herself would likely say, if one were to ask her the same question :

“Is it not that an ‘angel’ is… as an ‘angel’ does?”

Sincerely

Marcus Shields

Author, The Angel Brings Fire and The Future Burns Bright

Epilogue : Meet You On The Beach

SPOILER ALERT!

(if you read this one before reading the rest of the books, it’s on “you”… not “me”! 😉 )

As has been noted elsewhere, editorial work on the entirety of The Future Burns Bright, has now been completed; but as of now (early December, 2019), according to the publication schedule, the latter 3 books of the series will likely not be available for formal distribution and purchase until somewhat later in 2020.

With that having been said, as is inevitable in cases like this, a lot of material simply could not be put into the various books of The Future Burns Bright, simply for reasons of space.

You can find one such chapter – which takes place (SPOILER ALERT) after the end of The Future Alight – below.

Sincerely

Marcus Shields

Author, The Angel Brings Fire and The Future Burns Bright


Epilogue : Meet You On The Beach

Well… finally, I get some quality time with her, mused Billings, as he whispered “taxi” and stepped out of the ink-black-shroud that had been enveloping him, as he stole away from the crowd.

I should be happy… all those hangers-on up there in the castle could have kept her busy for weeks.

But damn, wasn’t it nice dancing with her… and letting the kids join us while doing it.

I’m counting my blessings… that’s for sure.

He had gingerly stepped down the stone steps of Fort Catherine (nearly stumbling and falling prat-over-teakettle at least twice, due to the imprecision of using the heat-seeing-thingie in place of good ol’ Human Mark One eyeballs), toward the immaculate sand-beach upon which now he trod.

Actually, near the top of the stairs, he had gone for a bad stumble; but something innate had kicked in, stopping his fall a few imprecise inches above the very hard stone construction of the fortification.

Couldn’t even see where the floor was, he ruminated,

But somehow… I didn’t end up on my head, or on my butt.

Thank you, Sari!

Though his hiding-cloak was now defunct, the surroundings were still quite dark; sunset had been about an hour ago, and what little visible illumination was available was provided by the castle’s sparse night-lights, plus the considerable shine of a nearly-full moon, starkly visible high over the horizon.

Billings looked out over Gates Bay and soothed his soul by listening to the low sound of the ocean’s breaking waves. The crests were minimal, as only a light breeze was blowing.

He scanned in every direction. Luckily – other than for a couple of random tourists, who were perhaps 300 feet down the beach to the south – he appeared to be alone.

God… after the insanity of the past few months, I needed this, reflected the ex-salesman.

It’s all like a dream… mostly, a bad one… except for her, of course.

Okay… and the kids… Tommy particularly.

Never thought I’d hear myself saying that, considering it was a big part of why Patty and I had to call it quits.

Now, I’ve somehow ended up with a “gf” who snatches kids off the streets of Third World countries and flies them, all under her own power of course, to her own private Batcave, self-hollowed out of Antarctic islands.

Okay, then, Bob… how’d you pull that one off, again?

Oh, right… you got tortured, and almost killed.

Other than for “that”… well, it was a walk in the park!

Now if I could just get a buzz out of the next Piña Colada…

This forlorn memory called for a deep sigh, which he did fully aloud.

You sound wistful, my love,” came a familiar, melodious voice, from nowhere in particular.

There’s nobody around, honey,” he offered. “You can drop the hidey-thing.”

And in an instant, thus did the perfect-shapely figure of the Storied Watcher appear by his side, as if from nowhere. She was dressed in typically-fetching, diaphanous beach-garb, almost as revealing as a bikini and every bit as stylish and complimentary.

He saw the teenager-cut bang of her almost-white-blond hair, along with its long tresses flowing down her shoulders and back.

Her big, soft, green eyes stared affectionately up at him.

By now, Billings had – barely – figured out how to control himself when she came as close as she now was, with his arm around her upper-body and her head leaning affectionately against his bicep.

It still drove him crazy, though.

It’s pretty dark out here – nobody would see us, if we were to toss our clothes aside and – oh well.

She promised me for later tonight, anyway… guess I can wait, but a million other men couldn’t…

Truly, this is a gentle time and place,” observed Karéin-Mayréij. “Our brother Alan chose well… did he not?”

Umm-hmm,” murmured the ex-salesman.

You left the kids up there?” he inquired.

Yes,” she answered. “Whitney and Saquina volunteered to look after them, for the remainder of this evening. So we have this time to ourselves, my love.”

Damn, Sari,” he said with a grin, “Don’t that sound good, or what?”

Ahh… more ‘Eng-lish’ idiom,” she faux-pouted. “May I assume from this that you are happy with our situation?”

“’Happy’ is hardly the word,” he concurred. “It’s not just being here with you. It’s being here with you… and not having anybody fixin’ to drop a bomb on us.”

He paused for a second, and then asked, only half in jest and with a whiff of nervousness in his voice, “There’s nobody planning to do that… is there? I mean, the ‘bomb’ thing, that is –”

No,” she reassured. “The war-children so assure me; and besides, I checked myself, before I came down here. Now… of course, there is always the possibility that the President, despite his assurances – or some other such miscreant – could have tracked us down, and then directed yet another of these ‘atom-smashing-bombs’ against us –”

A look of alarm showed momentarily on Billings’ face; but it was short-lived, as his distaff companion’s serene demeanor and impish smile, quickly put his concerns to rest.

They will build more of these hateful weapons, you know,” she commented. “And we will deal with them. You, me, along with our brothers and sisters of the New People – we will do so. Those who mean us ill will soon discover that treachery will fail, and that it will bring ruin to them – and it will not be the end of us.”

How can you be so sure of that?” he demanded.

Because I have seen it all happen before,” she softly remarked. “Other times… other worlds… perhaps, other dimensions of reality. But it is always the same.”

Wow,” whistled the ex-salesman. “That’s heavy stuff. Did I mention how you, like, make me feel ‘inadequate’, all of a sudden?”

For a moment or two, the Storied Watcher just flashed one of her entrancing, enigmatic half-smiles at him; but then she responded with, “That is the last word that I would use to describe you, dearest. Already, you are a veritable god among men, though you dare not to admit it, to yourself. We will have to – ahh – ‘work on that’, you know.”

She giggled, girlishly.

But I don’t feel like a ‘god’, you know,” he protested. “In fact, I don’t even feel like a regional sales manager!”

Again, he heard Karéin-Mayréij’s gentle, low laugh.

Well, Bob,” she offered, “Perhaps when your arts will make some of these ‘floor-tiles’ to glow in the dark – and thus to give off the little-particle-shine – then shall Hugo and his peers give you this ‘promotion’, which is so very important.”

Billings nodded his head in agreement, chuckled, squeezed her waist and murmured, “Yeah.”

For as much as a minute, both just stayed silent, breathing in the salt air and enjoying the touch of half-human-to-alien skin. Their gaze was first cast over the sea, then upon the bright-shining orb of the moon.

Sari,” said Billings, “There’s something that I’ve wanted to ask you for a while now… but the time’s never been right… you know?”

She looked up, her lambent green eyes staring coquettishly.

Yes?” she responded.

I’m not sure exactly how to say this,” he haltingly started, “But, well… do you remember when we first ran into each other – after you had sprung me, Whitney and the kids from the ‘Jesus Jail”? Like, after we – you know – uhh, ‘did it’ in the grass. The first time, I mean.”

Oh… of course I do remember this,” she confirmed, with a sly smile. “For sure, it is a fond memory… although as I also recall, our dalliance was occasioned by you coming into contact with little specks of my life-blood, which as you discovered, contains a corrosive agent. Commander Sam found out the same, back on Mailànkh – it is a defensive measure, which makes me rather unappetizing to big predatory beasts that would, perhaps, want to eat me. We both know what happened after I had to – ahh – clean this off your lips. Out of pain comes pleasure, in other words.”

You have a way of saying that,” he commented. “You know I’m crazy about you… but every so often I gotta remind myself that you and I, we’re really awfully – uhh – different, from each other… you know what I’m saying?”

That is true,” conceded the Storied Watcher, “Tommy said much the same thing, when he agreed to let me become his adoptive mother. And I will tell you exactly what I told him : namely, that when beings such as all of us – people who can live with each other and who can love each other, who can suffer fear and loneliness, who can give each other kindness and comfort – who can live and communicate with each other as I am doing with you now… who cares, if we are technically the same species, or different ones? You are a human; I look like one; and I have accepted you as my mate. What else matters?”

Yeah,” he acknowledged. “I guess that bridge was crossed a long time ago, but… well…”

Yes?” repeated the alien-girl.

Listen, Sari… what I’m try to say, in my own clumsy way is… well… I was thinking…”

Bob,” she gently prodded, “Just tell me what is – ahh – ‘on your mind’. It will not offend or upset me, whatever it is.”

He gave her a pained look.

I already know what you propose to ask, she sent to his mind.

How could I say anything except for “yes”?

Okay, then,” declared the ex-salesman. “What I wanted to say was, you and I have been through a lot together – a lot more than I’ve ever done with any other, err, human woman; and so I was thinking that maybe we could – that is, we should – formalize the relationship… so…”

Yes?” half-teased Karéin-Mayréij.

Her face wore a bemused smile.

I… I guess I should maybe get down on a knee…” he stammered.

All of a sudden, she, herself, was kneeling in front of him; but the alien-girl was now down on both legs.

What are you doing?” asked a perplexed Billings.

Preparing,” answered the Storied Watcher.

For what?” he demanded.

Oh… well, Bob, you see,” she responded in matter-of-factual tone, “Where I come from, when a female proposes herself in marriage to a male, she kneels down, as I am now doing. That was what you were thinking of… was it not?”

For God’s sake, he found himself thinking.

Look,” he protested, “Didn’t we have an, uhh, agreement, about you reading my mind?”

We certainly did,” parried Karéin-Mayréij. “But doing so was not necessary in this case.”

How you figure that?” he continued.

Would it help to know that I have been ‘married’ to – ahh, let me see – yes – twenty-eight or more ‘husbands’ – and at least three ‘wives’ – in my lifespan so far, Bob?” she remarked. “I have kind of grown used to proposing to a mate… or being proposed to.”

He sighed.

Is that your way of making me feel ‘special’?” grumbled the ex-salesman.

It sure is!” she countered, still on her knees. “Bob – my love – this is the same thing as that which we discussed, back in the Too-sawn shopping-mall. I do not betroth myself to just anyone, you know! I have turned down offers of marriage from more kings and queens, High Priests, Grand Wizards and just rich people – even, one or two mighty demons – than you could easily count. So… are you ‘special’? You bet, man! You are the only person on this planet, who shall have my hand as my acknowledged mate.”

He was dumbfounded. He couldn’t think of anything to say.

Bob of Billings, most honored man in the Kingdom of America,” she plaintively asked, with her intimidating (yet, somehow, vulnerable and doe-eyed) presence staring upward, “Will you have me – the Storied Watcher of the Many Worlds – as your wife? Will you cleave to me – to love, to hold, to pleasure and to defend, in good times and bad, until either you or I, shall leave this life?”

Suddenly, the words came back to him.

Sari – no, I’ll call you by your real name, the one that you came to my rescue by, the one you saved my ass by, God bless you, woman – Karéin-Mayréij,” he gushed, while falling to his knees directly in front of her. “Yes… I will! And will you have me as your husband?”

Yes – as the stars and the Gods are my guide… I will have you as my mate, my husband… my love!” she exclaimed.

Her presence, at this close range, was simply overwhelming.

Come to me now, man!” she demanded, as a cloak of darkness began to envelop the two.

Somehow he was aware of another energy-field – powerful enough to resist any physical intrusion into the area – extending many feet in every direction.

Sari,” he ordered, “Open your mouth.”

She complied, and in the next instant when his tongue met her own, he could control himself no longer.

Neither could she.


Billings was secretly elated that – at least apparently – the lovemaking had managed to tire out his alien paramour, whose eyelids were shut as her elfin face nestled serenely and securely under his chin.

Someone had started to play a medley of “oldies”-style tunes, perhaps as background for a dance somewhere inland from the beach. Although these were clearly audible to the alien-powered ears of both the ex-salesman and the alien-girl, mercifully, the volume was still low enough not to trigger bylaw-complaints.

Neither of the two newly-vowed lovers had really been keeping much track of time; but slowly, the Storied Watcher’s hiding-cloak and its associated external force-field had been abating. By now, it was all but gone, so the ex-salesman figured that at least a few minutes had passed by.

He kissed the top of her head and noticed that only her bottom under-garments had been put back on. Her arms were crossed in front; which was fortunate, as she was naked from the waist up.

You up yet?” he asked.

I never fell completely asleep,” she disclosed. “But I am contented.”

That’d be two of us,” he noted. “That was… ‘wow’, is all I can say.”

A wan smile greeted him.

“’Wow’, indeed,” she echoed. “May all our encounters be so, ahh, ‘torrid’. You know, Bob… the weirding-arts possessed by some of us – myself and yourself included – can cause a fire to burn very hot. But not even this can exceed the flames of passion… do you not think?”

You got that right, honey,” he smugly confirmed.

Her equally-self-satisfied giggling was the proverbial music to his ears; but he was somewhat crestfallen at seeing her top-garment re-enveloping her torso.

Aww!” pouted Billings.

Like the rest of my body,” she teased, “My breasts and nipples and other girl-parts are at your disposal… but let us refrain for a few minutes. Again shall the embers of love flare to incandescence!”

That’s my girl,” he snickered.

She blew him an air-kiss.

Nice music,” said Karéin-Mayréij, upon hearing the chords and lyrics of People Will Say We’re In Love. “It is well-suited for such relaxing and happy times as these.”

Yeah,” agreed the ex-salesman. “Sinatra, I think.”

He is a good singer,” she observed. “His voice is very smooth and precise.”

He was, like, the biggest thing in America for a while, as I recall,” mentioned Billings. “But now you are.”

Another of her entrancing, girlish laughs met his ears.

Well… not as a musician… at least, not yet,” she quipped. “I shall stick to shattering comets and to shrugging off atom-smashing bombs, for the purposes of fame – though not of fortune. I doubt that this ‘Sinatra’ person could overmatch me at those duties… perhaps it would be rude for me to try to contest his singing.”

I never mind hearing you – talking, singing, or just those weirdo ‘war-songs’ that seem to be everywhere, when you’re fixin’ to kick some serious ass,” commented Billings. “Especially that last one. Did I tell you, by the way, that when we heard that – down in the dungeon on the island, that is – it was like being shot full of high-test stimulants? The minute I heard it, I felt like Superman, despite being half-dead beforehand. Damn, girl… if you could record that, you’d be on top of the charts, eternally –”

Ha, ha,” she gently disputed, “Métschaì’l does not work that way, dearest; its notes and tones are of the Holy Fire, and they cannot be fully –”

The ‘what’ doesn’t work that way?” he interrupted.

The background-music had transitioned to that of some other singer, perhaps Bing Crosby.

It is pronounced ‘mate-sha-eye-el’, as near as I can do in Eng-lish,” she elaborated. “I honestly do not know exactly how it works; but my ancestors told of a blessing that would both empower their descendants – like me – while warning evil-doers that a mighty demon-slayer of the Khùl-Algrenàthi’i stands against them –”

The ‘kool… what’?” he again interjected. “Oh… forget it.”

You really should learn how to say that,” she instructed.

Why?” he requested.

Because… you are one now, Bob of Billings,” she disclosed, with a proud but slight nod of her head. “A dread warrior are you – and those who would oppress, steal or kill, should fear your coming!”

The music’s nice,” he offered, through pursed lips, “But the sound of that’s… even better.”


They both fell silent for a short while, absorbed in each other’s company and with the relaxing surroundings; then Billings happened to again glance at the moon.

Sari,” he asked, “Didn’t I hear you saying – okay, I read about it somewhere – that when you were ‘her’… like, when you were the other ‘you’, I mean… you were flying around out there? In outer space, I mean.”

Yep,” she replied.

There was a proud, confident tone to her voice.

That must, uhh, be quite a ‘thing’,” he advanced.

Definitely,” elliptically confirmed the alien-girl.

The hit-parade at the far-off dance-floor had, evidently, returned to numbers by “Ol’ Blue Eyes”.

With curiosity overcoming him, Billings asked, “What’s it like?”

Well, Bob,” stated Karéin-Mayréij, “After all… you, too, have learned how to shrug off the bonds of gravity – that is, to turn them to your own use, and thus to soar into the clouds, here upon this beautiful little blue planet… have you not?”

Sure I have… except it scares me shitless – especially when I look down,” he admitted.

It is like that – one bends the waves of gravity to propel oneself, although there is really no ‘left’ or ‘right’, ‘up’ or ‘down’, in the empty black void,” she explained, “But one must use the Holy Fire as a substitute for breathable air and – later, in long trips – for water and nourishment. And since the void has next to ‘zero’ air-pressure, it is also vital to employ one’s, ahh, ‘force-field’, to protect oneself from the vacuum’s lethal embrace… fail to do this, and one’s very blood will quickly boil away, leading to a painful demise. It is scary when one first tries it; but later, it is thrilling because one can travel at great speeds in the void – much faster than in the Earth’s sea of air, where the drag of the gas-molecules slows one down and causes a blaze of incandescent fire, to envelop oneself.”

That’s one hell of a lot to get right, all at the same time,” remarked the ex-salesman. “Especially… if you get it wrong – you’re kind of screwed… right?”

That would be a ‘yes’,” she answered, with a knowing smile. “One does not have ‘second chances’ in the void. But one learns gradually; I did not just jump out into it – back on my native world, I tested my abilities by flying faster and faster, higher and higher, adjusting my defenses as necessary. When I had it all, ahh, ‘figured out’, only then did I leave the planet’s atmosphere, entirely. You can do that too, you know. You just need someone to, ahh, lift you up to where you can safely experience it, first-hand.”

I’ll take your word for it,” stated Billings. “Once I figure out how to – say – get myself from New York to L.A. without paying for a plane-ticket… maybe I’ll try this crazy stuff you’re talking about. Honestly, Sari… it all sounds unreal. I mean, if the ‘me’ of a year ago, could hear what today’s ‘me’ is saying…”

Well,” she philosophically mentioned, “One Earth year ago, I would have still been lying in the sleep of the ages – only slightly alive – in a cold tomb on Mailànkh.”

Oh… right,” he said. “I had forgotten about that. Want to talk about it?”

I am not sure that there is a lot to say that you would easily understand,” she evaded.

Despite the disclaimer, her demeanor suggested that, in fact, she did want to discuss the subject.

You know I don’t want to make you do anything that you don’t want to do,” he pledged, “But come on, humor me… I’m curious… what was it like?”

Karéin-Mayréij paused for a second or two, pensively staring out into the distance. Eventually she described,

It is – was – like nothing to which you – or any previously-human-being – are accustomed, Bob. It is sort of like slumber, but one is actually not asleep; one’s senses are still working to a very limited extent. And time passes very slowly; a minute becomes a second; an hour becomes a minute; a day becomes an hour; and so on. With each passing second, the time-scale becomes different, even more extended… I honestly do not know by how much. As time passes, it becomes more and more like a dream, and one cannot be sure whether one is even alive any more.”

That’s crazy,” was all Billings could think of to say. “Does it, like, hurt, or something? If I sleep in too late, sometimes I wake up with a sore back or whatever.”

Not while I am in this state of, uhh, ‘suspended animation’… no,” she disclosed. “But when finally I awake, oh sacred stars man, does it ever hurt! Each movement of one’s muscles – that is, what little is left of them – brings agonizing pain, like having one’s arms twisted backwards by a strong opponent, would feel to yourself. Even breathing is like having a huge weight on one’s chest –”

Hey… hey,” he interjected, “If the subject’s too painful, we can just –”

But the alien-girl was by no means finished.

Do not worry, Bob,” she responded. “It is good that I finally have someone to whom I can entrust this information, you know. It is awfully lonely never being able to talk about it, lest ‘the wrong people’ should overhear, and thus determine a weakness that they can use against me.”

The melodious voice of Frank Sinatra again sounded over the night-time Bermuda beach; the tune was louder now, so that it would be easily audible even to human hearing over the lapping of the waves breaking on the sand.

Hmm… another nice song,” remarked Karéin-Mayréij. “I really enjoy hearing this man.”

Well,” he noted, “A lot of it has to do with having good material to work with. Which, he usually did.”

Ah,” she acknowledged; and then, staring forward as if deep in thought, she went on,

While I was thus in repose, I remember that my mind went wandering outside my body – perhaps to other places, to other dimensions of reality – and though thus I had many adventures, there was always the fear that I would never again be whole; that is, my mind and body would be hewn asunder by some psychic or mystical mishap. I was on one such mind-quest, when – somehow – I was again as one within the crystal-box that the Old Ones and I had crafted many centuries – perhaps, millennia – earlier, to preserve my physical body as best I could. It was then that I sensed the presence of Commander Jacobson and Professor Tanaka. The rest you know.”

She looked up at him and asked, “Does that answer your question, Bob?”

I’ll have to, I guess,” he said. “This is, like, way beyond me, but… uhh… the ‘Old Ones’, Sari? What the hell’s –”

Spirits… ghosts… minor demons, even, as you would reckon this,” explained the Storied Watcher. “Nothing that humans of Earth would recognize as ‘living beings’… their life-essence requires the kinds of senses that now are in your possession, to detect or converse with. Even though in a way they are similar to the life-spirits of my war-children, still did it take me a very long time to learn how to successfully communicate with them. They were on Mailànkh when I first came to that planet; and – as far as I know – they are still there, now.”

Holy crap!” exclaimed the ex-salesman. “You mean there are Martians –”

They are on Mailànkh… that is – or was – true,” she clarified, “But as to whether they are native to that planet, or whether they – like me – came there from somewhere else… I cannot say. By the way, Bob… I would prefer that you not discuss this with anyone else, except for Tommy, and then only if he asks. The Old Ones are no threat to the humans of Earth… but as you have seen from personal experience, their fears and prejudices might drive them to persecute these gentle and ancient beings. I owe the Old Ones a great debt, as they guarded and kept me safe over untold centuries. They are my friends – and I pray that someday, you will make them your own, as well. Oh-kay?”

You can count on me, honey,” vowed Billings. “But… wow. I mean… ‘spirits’? ‘Ghosts’? Can we say, ‘over my pay grade’?”

No, my love,” she contradicted. “They became, ahh, ‘within your pay grade’, the moment that you first elected to travel with me. Though – I will allow – perhaps you did not completely understand what you were getting yourself into. Ah, well… life is full of little ‘surprises’… is it not?”

There’s the understatement of the Century,” he ruefully admitted. “So far, after hitching up with you, I’ve been turned into a half-alien superhero, been kidnapped, been tortured, had a H-bomb dropped on me, been flown to your little home away from home in the Arctic Ocean –”

It is in the Antarctic Ocean, Bob,” she corrected. “You know… the southern polar sea… not the northern one.”

Whichever one that would freeze my ass in five minutes, upon going in for a dip,” he parried. “I forgot to mention how I dropped in to the White House, had to deal with yet more nukes and a shoot-out there. Now ghosts and goblins on Mars. Give me strength!

Oh… do not worry about it, Bob,” cajoled the Storied Watcher. “Once you become accustomed to them – and, they to you – I believe that you would get along just fine. The Old Ones are very wise and patient; but their perspective on life and reality is – ahem – a little different from my own, or yours. You would learn from each other, just like you, Tommy, Elissha and Sayuri have done with my war-children. You should try it… it would, ahh, ‘expand your horizons’.”

Ha, ha… I guess it would,” was all he could think of to say.

Far off in the distance, the alien-girl and her half-human lover could just hear an emcee announcing, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, in a few seconds we’ll play our last number for tonight… but please don’t forget your personal belongings on your way out and drive safely as you go home.”

Darn,” commented Billings, “And here I was just getting used to it. Never was much of an ‘oldies’ guy, but still –”

He stopped for a second or two while trying to figure out the first notes of the final song but was taken off-guard, upon seeing the Storied Watcher coming quickly to her feet with an all-too-familiar dim glow in her eyes; but any apprehension that he might otherwise have felt vanished instantly, as he descried an enigmatic smile on her face.

From somewhere behind them came the silken, immortal voice of Frank Sinatra, crooning out that familiar anthem,

Fly Me To The Moon”.

Uhh… what, Sari?” he guardedly inquired.

Karéin-Mayréij looked kindly – albeit, mischievously – at the man who had undergone so much on her behalf, since first she had chanced upon him.

Her face and body fairly radiated companionship, gratitude, affection and – most of all – a kind of love that none else on this world would ever have, nor would understand.

The alien-girl pointed backward over her right shoulder, at the brilliant orb of the almost-full moon. She turned her head to briefly glance at the heavenly body. Then she again regarded Billings and extended her arms, as if to embrace him.

She arched an eyebrow and winked at Bob Billings, formerly of Tucson, Arizona, but now – as much as anyone could ever be – a citizen and junior guardian of Planet Earth.

Ready?” she proposed.

Yeah,” he softly replied, as he fell into her embrace, not even caring that in the next second, he would not feel anything beneath his feet.

 

 

A Milestone… Work On The Future Burns Bright, Is Complete!

Well, here we are, nearing that scary date of October 31, 2019… much has been done, but so little has been published! 😉

There’s some great news 😆 … but first, I know that I owe some of you an explanation, and here it is.

In mid-2017, my family and I decamped for the last time from our former home in Brampton, Ontario, leaving for the nice, forested retreat of Bancroft, Ontario (which, for those of you who may not be native Ontarians, lies about 3 hours drive west of Ottawa, just south of Algonquin Park). Bancroft is a wonderful place to live with that real “small town” feel to it, and best of all… there’s no Greater Toronto Area traffic to fight, out here! 🙂

While the move definitely was “the right thing to do, at the right time”, as you can probably imagine, it was very disruptive and time-consuming in many ways, including its effects on my ability to write (which, for a while, ebbed off to “next to nothing”…). This changed in 2018, as we became more settled in Bancroft, and in September 2019, work on the final volume of The Future Burns Bright — entitled The Future Alight — was completed.

I am therefore proud to announce that The Future Burns Bright will begin to be published, and will be available for order from the various sources (e.g. Amazon, iBookstore, Google Books, etc.) in the first half of 2020.

The exact timing will depend on a number of things that aren’t under my control, particularly book cover art, the number of “revisions” that the publishers demand, and so on. The first book of The Future Burns Bright — entitled Storm In The North— will be published (hopefully) in 1Q 2020. So you will be able to find out what happens after the final chapter of The Angel Brings Fire!

I’d like to thank all my readers for their continued interest in, and support of, The Angel Brings Fire and (eventually) The Future Burns Bright, science fiction / modern fantasy / superhero novel series.

Sincerely

Marcus Shields

Author, The Angel Brings Fire and The Future Burns Bright

Book-reading at the Hastings Highlands Public Library

I’m pleased to announce that I will be doing a public book reading (with excerpts from, probably, the first and third books of the series) of The Angel Brings Fire, at the Hastings Highlands Public Library in Maynooth, Ontario, at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 27, 2018.

Here’s the announcement on the Library’s blog, which can be reached at :

https://www.facebook.com/pg/HastingsHighlandsPublicLibrary/posts/

ABF Book Reading, Hastings Highlands Library, Oct. 27, 2018

(Note : You’ll have to scroll quite a way down on the Library’s Facebook page, to get to the announcement.)

The address of the Hastings Highlands Public Library is :

33011 Highway 62 North
Maynooth, Ontario.
K0L 2S0
613-338-2262

Here’s a map that gives you the general idea :

Where Maynooth, Ontario is (relative to Ottawa)

So come on up to Maynooth on October 27… it will be a nice drive through Ontario’s beautiful fall tree colors, and you’ll get to hear all about the Storied Watcher and her band of superheroes, right from the horse’s mouth!

Hope to see you there!

Sincerely

Marcus Shields

Author, The Angel Brings Fire and The Future Burns Bright

Goings-on and planned publication schedule (for 2017)

First off, a bit of a mea culpa to my faithful readers.

Some of you have been wondering, “what on Earth has been going on, with the Angel Brings Fire series (and particularly the sequels to it), in 2016?” The following is the explanation.

I have a “day job” in IT (computer) security; this is a demanding field at the best of times (especially nowadays, with all the visibility that the Russian hacks of the Democratic Party in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, has generated), but in late 2015 I accepted a new assignment with a major U.S.-based financial sector customer of my current employer.

At the time, I was aware (due to factors that are beyond the scope of this commentary) that this was likely to be a “challenging” deployment… well, I was right, but with hind-sight I can see how badly I under-estimated how “challenging” it ended up being. For the first half of 2016 it was not at all unusual for me to be working 16- to 18-hour days, and the situation only improved in the 4Q of the year (none the less, it is still a very demanding job).

It should be obvious that in this kind of environment, I had little time and even less mental energy to spend on The Angel Brings Fire and (then) The Future Burns Bright; and on top of all that, in 2016 I also encountered some family issues (all, fortunately, “good things”… but time-consuming, none the less) that ate up much of my available personal time to work on the book.

The work situation in 2017 is looking a little less hectic, though, so I should be able to devote more time and effort to finishing off the series. So I’m cautiously optimistic that I should be able to complete The Future Burns Bright (the sequel series), sometime in (late) 2017.

Here’s the status, as of late December 2016 :

  • Storm In The North (Book 1, The Future Burns Bright) : Work on the narrative is complete, except for final editing and proof-reading.
  • The Race (Part 1) (Book 2, The Future Burns Bright) : Work on the narrative is complete, except for final editing and proof-reading.
  • The Race (Part 2) (Book 3, The Future Burns Bright) : Work on the narrative is about 85% complete.
  • The Future Alight (provisional title) (Book 4, The Future Burns Bright) : Work on the narrative is about 30% done.

There will also likely be an “Epilogue” book that will follow shortly thereafter; this will explain the outcome of some plot and character elements that (while interesting), are not central to the narrative of the book series (and thus could not be included in its main volumes).

To sum up, I’d like to thank all my readers for their continued interest in, and support of, The Angel Brings Fire and (eventually) The Future Burns Bright, science fiction / modern fantasy / superhero novel series. I know it has been a long time coming… but I believe, when you read The Future Burns Bright, and you find out what happens after the end of The Angel Brings Fire… you won’t be disappointed!

Sincerely

Marcus Shields

Author, The Angel Brings Fire and The Future Burns Bright

 

Jerry has a new war-song! (And… a note about his abilities.)

As many of you already know, the more powerful characters in the Angel Brings Fire novel series, have a “war-song” — a mysterious type of half-psychic, half-real “music” that sometimes plays when these characters energize or use the alien-powers that they have inherited from the Storied Watcher.

In previous editions of the blog I have added posts that try to describe (in a very general way) what these “war-songs” sound like. The information provided earlier on is still valid, but as time goes by and as I encounter more popular music, I reserve the right to amend the allocations of “whose war-songs sound like what ‘real’ song”.

Today’s one such day… in the last “war-songs” posting I had the following remark about Jerry Kaysten, the former Chief of Staff to the (original) President of the United States :

Jerry Kaysten : Calgary by Bon Iver, but only the short part beginning at the song’s 1:50 mark; this melody predominates when Jerry uses his “killer joke” ability. When running at high speed, his war-song sounds more like Time Turns Around by the Spoons.”

This is still accurate but there is a different piece of music that much better replicates what the quick-footed Mr. Kaysten’s personal war-song actually sounds like : the fantastic “My Decision” number by the Netherlands pop-rock group, Moss. (Not to be confused with the U.K. heavy-metal band of the same name.)

Make sure you check this one out on YouTube… it’s not only what Jerry sounds like when he gets going, but it’s a crazy good song anyway! (And it’s available for sale on iTunes, so do the right thing and pay these innovative musicians for the use of their creative works… I did.)

As an aside… it may at first seem that Jerry Kaysten’s alien-powers are relatively mundane compared to those of some of the other “post-humans” (particularly ones like Cherie Tanaka and Wolf).

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Jerry’s hyper-speed abilities, although they can only be used for a relatively short amount of time between resting-periods, can render most opponents — either “more-than-human” or just plain old Homo Sapiens — next to defenseless.

Only a very few other characters, for example Misha or Minnie Chu (and of course the Storied Watcher herself), have the reflexes and quick reaction time to adequately defend themselves against Jerry’s rapid-fire attacks. Others, such as Bob Billings, have abilities that somewhat erode Kaysten’s advantages but are still not a complete defense against him.

So give our friend Mr. Kaysten some respect… he may look like an “also-ran”… but he’s anything but! 😉

Marcus Shields

 

 

Lost Chapter #5 : Doubt Me Not – Cabinet-Meeting

This is another scene that still exists in the formal Doubt Me Not narrative, but which has been drastically cut back for reasons of brevity and plot. The dialog picks up in a cabinet-meeting called by the President in a secluded location, in which the American leader and his most senior advisers are reviewing the situation in the wake of the “Lucifer” comet’s destruction.

Cabinet-Meeting

Anyway,” continued the Science Adviser, “What we have now is an unusual impact-site… the joint Air Force and NSA team checked hundreds of these, all of which we considered were within the theoretical boundaries of where the alien could have fallen, and apart for a few that we haven’t yet been able to access for various reasons – for example because they’re at the bottom of bodies of water or in really inaccessible areas, like the highest peaks of the Rockies – this is the most interesting one because of the impact-pattern.”

How so?” asked the President, noticing that several others, save Billy Horn, were now listening more intently. Evidently neither McPherson, nor the brass, had shared the news with others in the Executive Branch.

Well,” answered McPherson, “The impact-furrow (on the ground, that is), is quite narrow, but there’s a wide pattern of burn-marks on either side of it… the kind that you’d expect from the impact of a much larger object. And the charring that we analyzed is indicative of a very intense heat – over twenty thousand degrees Celsius, in fact; which is way more than you would expect from a normal meteorite, unless the object was somehow heated by some internal chemical reaction, on top of the heat caused by atmospheric re-entry-friction.”

Wow,” commented the President. “Anything else?”

Yes,” said the Science Adviser. “Furthermore, Mr. President, at the end of the impact-path, there’s a large indent in a boulder, accompanied by the same kinds of burn-marks, where whatever it was that landed, probably ended up. Yetdespite extensive diggingwe couldn’t find so much of a trace of a meteorite at the site. Even if the object shattered upon striking the boulder, there should have been traces of it deposited in the surrounding area, but there’s nothing at all. It’s as if something crashed to Earth, left a trail of smashed trees and so on in its wake, then just disappeared.”

(more dialog that is in the book, then…)

Look, I’ll say my piece, then I’ll shut up,” retorted the Science Adviser. “Mr. President, please try to consider what the General is asking us to believe, here. First, that the alien even was anywhere in the vicinity of Earth, either at the time of the ‘Lucifer’ incident, or slightly later on… I’ll admit one part of me wants to believe that, too, I mean, what with the strange light and the music… but just for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that she was.”

You know, Professor,” interjected Anderson, “We de-briefed Jacobson and his crewexcept for the Russian, who refused to talk to us ‘on orders from his government’, that is – shortly after the ‘Lucifer’ incident, and while their answers were all somewhat evasive, they certainly all believed that the alien ‘saved’ us from the comet. We’re planning on doing a proper interrogation when and if they get back to Earth, but from what we’ve so far heard from them, and remember they had more direct contact with this ‘Karéin’ than anyone else, they said –”

McPherson spoke up, cutting off Anderson, “Yes, I know, General, but you’re conveniently leaving out the fact that they all believe that the alien also died, in the act of destroying the comet. And to continue with what I was saying before, second, we would have to assume that this being survived the greatest explosion that Earth has ever witnessed, larger by far than the most powerful nuclear explosion that we’ve been able to set off; then, she – it – would have had to have survived atmospheric re-entry at a speed of thousands of kilometers per hour, then she or it would have had to have survived impact with Earth at the same speeds… after which, the General is asking us to believe that she just got up and walked away, on the face of a planet that would be as alien to her, as she is to us. Oh – and I forgot to mention – relative to the surface-area of the rest of the Earth, the United States is a very small place. It’s unlikely that she’d have fallen here – the chances are much higher, unfortunately, that she’d have simply landed in the ocean. In which case, she would almost certainly have drowned… which would be a terrible tragedy, but the whole idea of her landing here is very unlikely, anyway.”

No more so,” said Anderson, “Than the idea of this ‘Karéin’, flittering around in outer space, without even a space suit… correct, Mr. McPherson?”

No – vastly more so,” answered McPherson. “Sure, I’d have to admit that she seemed to be able to do that. But for her to have done what I just described would require abilities that are not just far beyond anything that we’re familiar with – but, more to the point – far beyond anything that she ever said she was capable of, either to myself or to Captain Jacobson – I’ve studied every minute of the video recordings from the Infinity and Eagle, and nowhere do I see her claiming these types of godly powers. Indeed… she told all of us the exact opposite, more than once. And, anyway, there’s something else that’s even more implausible about this idea – at least in my mind.”

What could be less plausible than the idea of the alien just walking away from that kind of experience?” asked the President.

The idea, sir,” replied McPherson, “That she could do all that, get up and walk away, then not be noticed by anyone… if – incidentally – she was for some unknown reason trying not to be recognized as herself. I mean, for God’s sake, Mr. President, consider what we’re saying here – imagine that you’re some average citizen, sitting there saying your ‘Hail Mary’s after still being alive, a half hour after you and all of creation were supposed to have been wiped out by a killer comet, and then an alien with glowing eyes crashes down on the next hill, walks up to you and says, ‘take me to your leader’ (or whatever a ‘Storied Watcher’ says, when she shows up on Earth). Don’t you think you’d tell someone?”

With a wry grin, the HHS Secretary interjected, “I sure would. It’d be worth a lot of money and instant fame… I’d probably make it on to the talk-shows.”

After the laughter had mostly died down, Anderson spoke up.

“You’re not being ‘scientific’, sir,” he said, in McPherson’s direction. “There are many possible explanations to what might happen, in those circumstances. Ranging from the chance that there were no human beings around the impact site at the time, to the possibility that the alien might have died shortly thereafter, due to an infection from Earth-organisms… you know, the War of the Worlds idea, to the possibility that she might have… eliminated whomever saw her, or it, to cover her tracks.”

The laughter now stopped, abruptly.

Those hypotheses are also very unlikely,” argued McPherson. “I suppose it’s certainly possible that there was nobody around when and if she arrived here; but the crash-site that we’re discussing today isn’t that far from civilization – it’s just ten or so miles down to the highway, in fact – at least if you don’t turn in the wrong direction and try to cross the Rockies by going north all the way to the Yukon. As far as disease is concerned, this ‘Karéin’ said specifically to Captain Jacobson that she was immune to Earth-germs, and we have evidence of her having survived extended, close contact to Jacobson and his crew, with ‘zero’ ill-effects. And for her to attack the first Earth-based humans that she might have met, would be completely out of character, given the behavior that she exhibited while she was with the crew of the Eagle and Infinity. To say nothing of the fact that there’s no even remotely likely motive for her doing so – use common sense, General; you’re completely alone, on a strange planet, and the first thing you do is attack or murder someone? No halfway intelligent being would do something like that. Antagonizing the inhabitants of your new home without a very good reason, would be tremendously risky… if I were her, I’d probably think it would be tantamount to suicide.”

Not if you’re so powerful that you think nobody can hold you to account,” said another Air Force general. “Or, if the first human to encounter you, got scared and took a pot-shot or two at you, with his or her trusty .22 rifle. What if she unintentionally just got into some kind of confrontation with a human, defended herself the only way she knew how, then went underground to avoid being caught for it? There are thousands of possible reasons why she might pose a threat. We can’t rule anything in or out, at this point.”

McPherson, seeing who spoke, sent a hurt look to Symington.

(more dialog that is in the book, then the Vice-President speaks…)

What I’m getting at, Mr. President, is that in my opinion, we have to contain news of this development – assuming, of course, that there’s any truth in it – at almost any cost.”

I had been planning on keeping it hush-hush, anyway – you know that, George,” replied the President. “But why are you so concerned about just secrecy? From what I’ve been hearing so far, that’s not the worst of our concerns.”

The Vice-President got up and vigorously strode back and forth, as he inveighed.

It’s really quite simple, you see,” he declared. “Now… if the alien really is wandering around down here, and if she has all the godly abilities that our good friends in the Pentagon,” – he shot an obliging glance to Anderson – “seem to think she has, we could have mass panic, and a total breakdown of what authority we’ve been able to re-assert, since the whole ‘Lucifer’ thing; I mean, there’s a sizable number of people who think that the creature is, or was, the ‘Anti-Christ’, or something like that, right now; imagine how much worse that school of opinion could get, if she goes from being some imaginary devil to something very powerful but real, tangible, and right here. Especially if it turns out that she can’t be controlled or defeated by all the forces of the U.S. government; nothing could be worse, for our position of power and authority… and we all know how bad things are already, in that regard – bloody gangs are basically in control of at least five major cities including L.A., last I checked, and as it is it’s going to take the Army and National Guard months to go in there, shoot whomever they need to, and let ’em know that Uncle Sam’s back in the driver’s-seat. Not to state the other obvious issue – that is – she might just walk in here, sit down at the desk you’re now occupying, and start issuing orders to us. So I’m afraid that if it looks like any of the stories about her are true, I’m with the General… we’d better ‘neutralize’ her swiftly and effectively, or, at best, we’ll be faced with a completely new authority competing with us for the loyalty of the public; at worst, possibly something like the worst of those Bible-prophecies that Mr. Horn’s constituents keep telling us about.”

But what if –“ started McPherson.

Now it’s my turn to say, ‘I know what you’re thinking’, Professor,” interrupted Horn. “Consider the other alternative… that she’s really here, but that all of these high-falutin’ powers that she was credited with by Captain Jacobson and his crew were the result of some kind of mass-hallucination, bad air in that there space station affectin’ their minds, or such… a much more likely kind of ‘super power’ for her to have, than what we’ve been told by Jacobson, in my opinion – but that’s really secondary to the issue, anyway. If we take action against the alien and she’s really just a nice, ‘E.T.’-type friendly green girl, and it gets out into the press, it could be a different kind of P.R. disaster for us… you know, ‘nasty Men In Black hurt harmless alien girl’. Especially if we end up killing her. We’d probably lose a lot of sympathy votes, and, so my able polling-experts tell me, they’re in the states where we’re most vulnerable, next election-cycle.”

Lost Chapter #4 : Doubt Me Not – Reminiscing

A heavily-cut-down version of this chapter is still in The Angel Brings Fire Book 2, Doubt Me Not; this version, however, provides a little more background information about what the space-goers were up against, in making plans for coping with the aftermath of the “Lucifer” incident, not to mention what to do with the already-desperate situation on board the ISS2 space station.

Doubt Me Not – Reminiscing

“Just out of interest,” continued Cohen, “How many people do you think that Infinity and Eagle, together, could accommodate? Shivani?”

It all depends on how long a trip we are expecting them to make, while in these ships,” said Parmar. “My calculations indicate that if we do not offload any of the Eagle or Infinity’s air supply to ISS2 – something that I would remind you we had planned to do, to maintain our life-support on the station itself – these two ships could probably support up to fifty or so people for a trip of, say, two to three days. Or six to ten for a trip of a few weeks. Or somewhere in between, for intermediate-duration trips. These estimates all assume that the individuals in question are basically sedentary; if they engage in any strenuous activity and therefore start breathing more rapidly, they would exhaust the available supplies more quickly. I could give you a precise estimate if I knew exactly how many you wanted to transport.”

“Taking Li’s point in hand,” continued the Israeli, “The difference between the last time and what we would be doing here is, an explosion within the engines of either the Infinity or the Eagle could render both of them unusable, whereas at least the previous booster was external to ISS2’s main structure. Even at that, when it blew, it made part of the station uninhabitable. If we do that to Commander Jacobson’s ships, we would then have no obvious way to get anyone off the station, except for a few emergency egress-modules and space-suits. I don’t need to explain what might happen, then.”

“Commander,” replied the East Indian woman. “I suppose I should start by saying that as far as I can tell, the crew is in fairly good shape, considering… considering how they might have been, had the eventual outcome of the incident been the way we had expected it to turn out.”

The way it would have turned out, the way it inevitably must have turned out,” interrupted Jacobson, forcefully, “Except for… her.”

Tanaka hung her head, tears suddenly in her eyes.

Yes, Commander Jacobson,” replied Shivani Parmar. “Except for your ‘Karéin-Mayréij’. There is nobody on this ship who does not understand what we – everyone on Earth, need it be said – owes that alien.”

It appears,” impassively commented Chen, “That not everyone on Earth shares your assessment of this sequence of events, Madame Parmar. I have a separate channel to Beijing and have received a few messages from them. In fact, there is considerable confusion about what actually took place. Some parties are speculating that the comet was, in fact, destroyed by the ‘Salvador Two’ ship. We must recall that it had a substantial payload of nuclear devices, and… possibly also by some new kind of weapon, previously not revealed by any of the major powers. I asked my superiors if this weapon was Chinese, but they did not give me a definitive answer. Other parties say that the comet disintegrated naturally, due to the weaknesses that had been introduced into it from the previous attacks.”

That’s nonsense, you know it, and she’s – she was – not just an ‘alien’,” quietly countered Tanaka, wiping a tear. “She was our crew-mate… our friend. A sister to me.”

I am not voicing an opinion on this matter, Madame Tanaka,” replied Chen. “I am only reporting what I have heard. But if I assume that your theory regarding the alien’s contribution to the destruction of the comet is correct… then I share your regret. Even if not, in fact. The loss of scientific knowledge to mankind caused by her death is great. No doubt we could have learned much from this ‘Karéin-Mayréij’.”

You’ll never know the magic she could have taught you, thought Tanaka.

Maybe that’s as it should be, after all.

I never met her, you know, except for seeing her floating out there, in front of ISS2; now that was quite a sight, I’ll have to admit,” mused Humber, with a far-away look in his eyes, “But I know what you mean, Cherie. I feel it, down deep in my heart, somewhere, it’s like I knew her, for only a second or two, but I did. I really did.”

Jacobson arched an eyebrow and shot a quick glance at Humber, then Tanaka. “Do you think he –” Jacobson whispered to his Science Officer, but then another spoke up.

Anyway,” stated Parmar, “There will be time to discuss that affair, later. Maybe a memorial… that would be my suggestion. But regarding the crew, Commander, I have not yet finished my interviews with all of them – I am maybe three-quarters of the way through – but other than for a few who have needed additional rest due to the after-effects of the stress of the last few days, they are holding up quite well. The most serious problem appears to be communications with loved-ones and family back on Earth; Michael Theodikas has been trying to re-establish all the up-links and down-links, but much of the Earth’s communications-infrastructure appears to have been either destroyed or damaged. Michael has, in fact, been able to access some of these channels but when he does, he is being told that all transmissions of a non-essential nature are still prohibited. We asked when this situation would end, but did not get a firm answer – all they would say is ‘maybe in a few weeks’.”

I was able to get through to Charlie,” interjected Humber. “But then, I had to bend the rules a bit, assisted by Mike poking around in some channels he’s not supposed to touch. I owe the bloke one for that.”

Ordinarily,” replied Cohen, “As station-commander, I’d have to tell you to stop that kind of thing, Alan. For now, my orders will be, ‘write what you did, and how you did it, down’, so that the top five or so from the rest of the crew who need the same kind of access, can get it.”

With a knowing smile, Jacobson said, “Ah… the art of command. Well, Devon told me that Mike Theodikas was a lot like him. I suppose the purpose of a communications-officer is to communicate, whether or not the powers that be want you to.”