Flash Fiction: Derelict of a Lost City

Today’s inspiration comes from this digital painting from Marcus Lindgren.

The Roanoke was drifting with a clockwise spin port side. It was an old husk, with markings of an empire that burned millennia ago. The design was practical even for how old of tech it was, a hammer head model that could slam through the stars and deal with any lose particles that would rip apart the rest of the hull.  The paint was long ago baked white by the local star and wispy cloud of decay seeped from the back of its spent reactor.

“How bad is that radiation?” Tev asked.

“Not terrible. Wouldn’t want to go in there without shielding but the worst would be gone by now.”

“Then what’s that smoke?” He asked. “I don’t think the decay should be that visible to the naked eye.”

Joan chewed her cheek and looked over her console.

“That, that I’m not sure of. We should launch an array.”

“Let’s launch an array. I’d rather be safe than boiled.”

Tev turned his seat and set up the firing pattern. The probe array control let out a soft chirp of confirmation.

“Probes away,” he said.

A dozen lights appeared on the display, each a half meter cylinder filled with sensors, transmitters, and smart analyzers. The screen reacted to the data they broadcasting as they neared the Roanoke’s trail.

“Lots of trace metals,” Tev said. “Radiation but about on par with the earlier readings. Lots of carbon dioxide and water too. It’s almost like wood smoke.”

On the screen, half a dozen of the lights of the probes started to dip into the trail. As quickly as they do, their signals stop.

“Tev.”

“I know,” he said. “It’s got to be a chaff effects from the metals and radiation. Nothing to worry about.”

On the screen, the remaining six probes begin to skim the surface of the smoke on their approach to the hull of the Roanoke. Trails of smoke seem to bob up and down under them. Joan reached up and pulled the screen, until the feed zoomed in on the streaking form of a probe, using its own camera to enhance the detail around it.

“Tev, look at this.” On the screen the smoke changed from thick plums to long threads. They pulsed as the probes neared, until one whipped out and slapped a probe. Where it touched the cylinder, the smoke latched on and begin to trail after the little point of light. “It’s pulling it in,” she said. The tendril of smoke following the probe reached and connected with the smoke trail of the derelict. When they connected, the probe was yanked into the wake of the Roanoke.

“The ships changing course,” Tev said. “The Roanoke is changing course.” He paused as the console fed him the derelict’s new direction and speed. “It’s moving to intercept. It’s picking up speed and moving to intercept us.”

I like ghost stories and I love space fiction and so, given the chance, I like to toss out a combo platter of the two. Space is a mysterious place, and already we’re starting to cloud it up with old tech and pieces of history. In ten, twenty, and thirty thousand years what will be up there for our descendants to find? What treasure or knowledge might be discovered and lost before it’s returned to the future of human society?

What should have stayed lost?

Status Report – February 2016

It’s the first weekday of the month, and that’s makes it update time!

*steps back as a field of fireworks, excitement, and loud music plays for a moment, until I’m left holding a single unlit sparkler*

Yay, imagination.

It’s been a month since we started this new adventure and I wanted to share with you the highs and lows of that time. Our goal at the end of January was to have a finished book project ready to bake and print. We’re not there. We’re actually quite far from it. I’ve completed the outline and worked heavily on the first chapter but things hit a snag throughout the time we laid out for the project. There’s a myriad of excuses but the biggest falls under health and work performance.

So what did we accomplish writing wise instead? Flash fiction. Today marks the first installment of a three times a week flash fiction project I’m pushing. The stories are meant to serve as writing practice and as a general draw to people new to me. They’re also fun to write and fairly quick on the immediate satisfaction scale. They’re also the lynch pin to the upcoming Patreon, as donors get access to upcoming stories a week earlier than everyone else. I also have plans to include serial fiction as part of this project, but I’m holding off pushing that out until the novel is further along.

I’ve also been really lax with the podcast. It’s meant to be a daily thing but getting sick rather early into its production halted it. We’ll be fixing that this week. Tonight, actually, since I’ve no reason to put off putting out an episode.

That’s really it for now. We’re very early in the process for what I’m creating, and until I’m out there more with production, projects, and connecting with people, these will remain brief. Our goal for February are the completion of the Novel, having the flash fiction out there Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of every week from now until I’m not writing anymore because the bore worms have taken over my brain, have an episode of the podcast out at least 5 days a week and make sure to post when and why episodes aren’t coming so people aren’t in the dark, and finally having the Patreon up and running with something people can dig. Those are reasonable goals.

Flash Fiction: Price To Pay

Today’s story was influenced by a music complication featuring some of the tunes from Shadowrun Returns. The specific track is Blood Hounds. The compilation video is here, and is the same music I listened to for Tuesday’s story.

I touched his forehead. It was warm still, and he squirmed a little in protest. I nodded, then took my dagger and slit his throat. I suppose I could have saved myself the trouble and just tried to kill him immediately but I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of desecrating a body. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s my way. I need you to understand that, as you go through my memories. I need you to know why I’m doing things this way.

Franklin had been the last of the squad, besides me. The bulk of them had died from the fire wave of bugs. Invaders. Look, whatever you want to call them. I’m not clear what they are anymore. They had crawled out of the hatch as soon as we tried to board the vessel. They came fast and began slicing open pressure suits and skin with every touch of their vine like bodies. It was supposed to be a simple recon job, but you bulkhead warriors didn’t bother to tell us what was on board.

The four of us that lived through the attack pulled back, trying to seal the airlink’s hatch and save ourselves. That’s when Jenn died. They wrapped their limbs around her and… I’ve never seen a body taken apart like that before. Look, I used to work at a butchery house on Raekin III. I know what how fast a bovine can be killed, shredded, and cleaned. That’s merciful quick work. She suffered. She suffered as she watched parts of come undone in strips. It was done to hurt, to hurt her and to fuck us out of our minds.

It damn near worked too. Franklin was the one who attacked Hugo when he slipped on the latch. I think Hugo would have had it too, if Franklin hadn’t slammed him head first into the metal door. I managed the handle but another vine already reached in and grabbed Hugo’s limp form. It yanked and yanked until strips of him floated around the room. My knife cut the bug’s limb. Invader. Sorry. Invader’s limb off. The damage was done though.

That’s when I tackled Franklin, slamming him against the bulkhead and knocking him out. He cost Hugo his life. He paid with his. I don’t regret it. I don’t care what you do with me now. I just want you to understand why. I’m no traitor, I’m not infected by those things.

Really? I guess that’s one way for me to pay for a taken life. Yeah, I’ll go back out there. I’ll face them again. I’ve got no one else to lose.

Working in first person direct narrative is a weird experiment for me. I’m used to avoiding the word ‘you’ outside of dialogue boxes, so using it within the context of a direct narrator is a fun experiment. First person limited narratives tend to be my bread and body for longer pieces, which third person narratives representing most of my shorter flash pieces. In the coming weeks I’m going to use these flash pieces to experiment with styles, and see what works, what fails, and what’s worth developing further.

Flash Fiction: Swapping

Something about this image from Regiane Cristina caught my attention. Combined with listening to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memory and this piece came together.

The city beyond the window was quiet and cold, but Desire only heard the rhythmic thrum from the club under her. She had come here to escape the lights, the pulsing bodies, and the smell of burnt biohol. The bar always over cooked the stuff. It smelled like shit but it made the patrons looser with their wallets. The club would make another killing tonight between booze and body rentals. A night of fantasy and false memories.

It was all fake, she knew it, but she was part of that world. Her own body was sitting in stasis downstairs, waiting for her to come back. He wouldn’t budge or age or hurt, and that’s the only thoughts she tried to keep for him in her mind. The rental was temporary, but it was her fantasy for the evening. Swapping was popular these days, and clubs like this were the cheaper way of getting different body types. Desire, her name for the night, had been many things the past year. Men of various ages, women, mostly young like this body, a few animals but that was rare, and one time a plant.

She hadn’t liked being a plant. Too little personal control.

The city beyond was so quiet looking, and her mind was echoing that. Her thoughts were so noisy lately. It’s what appealed to her about swapping. That body below, it’s pains and aches and worries and anger and concerns, they hammered on him and she hated being him for it. In these dreams she could leave that pain behind. She could be like that city looked.

Quiet.

Cold.

Desire took a sip of her glass of biohol. The burnt flavor filled her mouth and tickled her nose. She could hear the DJ below introducing another dancer. Another model for rent. She squinted and her body brought up the club feed. The music slammed her before the visual showed her the new form. Another young woman. She was disappointed when she realized she’d been that one before. The feed died away as she squinted again.

The city beyond was so cold looking. It was supposed to be a chilly evening, but these bodies didn’t register discomfort. Well, at least she hadn’t programmed it to. Her real body hated the cold. It made his joints ache, and it compounded when the rain was coming in. She chased the thought away. This was supposed to be a vacation from those worries.

From him.

She debated going back downstairs and finding someone who wanted to share their bodies, but thought against it. Other people, other entities in other bodies didn’t interest her. It wasn’t the point. She’d played with others when she first started to swap; it had been why he’d tried it. But the act of having of a freed mind, of being disconnected from the worries of him; that’s what captured her. She loved that freedom. Other people and fulfilling his sexual desires didn’t matter in most of the bodies she had been.

She wondered if he resented her, them, the other bodies, the way they resented him. It was her mind and she thought the same thoughts, but freed of his concerns and pains and wants, she wondered if they were truly his thinking anymore. His mind. She was running in circles again. She needed to focus on something. The city.

The city beyond the window was quiet and cold, and only the thrum of the club below filled her ears. She let it fill her mind.

For now, she wasn’t him.

For now, she was just her.

For now, whoever she really was became quiet and cold.

There’s a lot of confusion with defining our “us-ness” in human life. It’s not something new, but we’re more apt to talk about it more these days I think. Whether it’s personal mental identity, sexual or gender identity, long term or short term personalities, I think many of us enjoy escaping our “self” every now and then. Being able to make a choice, be that thing, and then go back to our own issues after the fantasy is over.

Foundation: In Which We Begin a New Journey

hidden_node_logoThis post is my official announcement I’m writing full time. I decided to come out swinging instead of trying to find a fancy way of dropping that bomb on the end of this paragraph. It’s a scary ass choice and one my wife and I don’t make lightly. The new year is full of many great opportunities and this is my chance to try and see if I can be that writer guy that’s in my mind. It’s time to start laying down our ‘reasonable’ expectations. First, I’m not expected to fund the family’s coffers all by myself this year. Starting a creative career isn’t that easy and even if we get close to having a decent finical flow we’re still going to be playing it safe with any fiscal choices we make for some time. Second, the idea is to do an all-consuming creative approach. Writing for long form fiction and the blog will become my main focus, but podcasting on the regular and producing weekly (and sometimes daily) short fiction will also be a focus. I’m going to be trying this from as many angles as I can reasonably juggle. First short fiction should be up a few hours after this.

This means a number of changes in terms of my online presence:

This place is one of them. The J Samuel Diehl thing is my main announcement channel for works that are out there. I’ll get a category up with those posts and I’ll associate those with the newsletter (yeah, we’re getting one of those). Other posts such as my reviews of books, games, shows, etc. will also show up here, as well as opinion pieces, but those won’t be as flashy on the main page (At least not once we get a theme rolling). Audio fiction will also show up here, but the audio blog is reserved for the Hiddennode. Hiddennode will also mirror that fiction. Free fiction will show up here as well, and my intentions are to get a Patreon up and running in the coming weeks to post the fiction to early (as well as providing full copies of upcoming works before they become site exclusives).

The Hiddennode site has been archived. The old version is available here but except for fiction I’m bringing to J Samuel Diehl, most of the posts will remain in the archive. The site will be my audio blog, which will be daily, baring health and holidays. Many of the comments I make on blog posts here will be expanded on in that format. I don’t think of the podcast as a super strict thing so expect more casual conversation there.

Beyond my sites, we’ve got a few points to reach me. First, the nulloperations twitter thing isn’t changing. That’s my feed for personal posts, opinions, etc. The J Samuel Diehl account, though, that one is reactivating as my official “here’s stuff coming down the pipe” feed. Basically the writing stuff without the ‘Me’ fluff. It won’t be all of the posts here, just the ones that are about writing updates. Same with Facebook. The nulloperations account is me. The writer page is here. The ‘Me’ page gets the fluff. The author page gets the official announcements and such. I think it’s straight forward. No, I don’t really have much more than that. I mean there is a Tumblr thing but I’ll be honest I still don’t get that site. We’ll explore it more later. Anything else we’ll look at as the year passes through.

I don’t pretend to how things will turn out. I think my writing is pretty rad, and I think people will like it, but I don’t know. We’ve got a year to plan, act on, and then review. Unless something incredible happens beforehand I’ll let you know next year if things worked out. For now, let’s get down to business and defeat the huns. I meant write. I’m going to write. Not be in an animated movie. That would be weird.