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

 

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.”