Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Science fiction  ➡  Adventure  ➡  Hard sci-fi

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Four

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Four

Michael Brachman

Copyright 2017 by Michael Brachman

Shakespir Edition

[* *]

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

[* *]

TALES OF THE VUDURI: YEAR FOUR

All rights reserved

Copyright © 2017 by Michael Brachman

Cover art copyright © 2017 by Bruce Brachman

V4.01.0001

[* *]

[* *]

[* *]

[* *]

[* *]

[* *]

[* *]

Also by Michael Brachman

[* *]

The Rome’s Revolution Series

Rome’s Revolution

The Ark Lords

Rome’s Evolution

The Vuduri Knights Series

The Milk Run

*The Vuduri Knight
(*not yet in publication)

The Vuduri Universe Series

Tales of the Vuduri: Year One

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Two

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Three

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Four

The Vuduri Companion

Dedication

 

Unlike the previous years, there is a new person who has been added to the list of people who have inspired me and encouraged me to produce this volume. The prior cast of characters that helped with Tales of the Vuduri: Year One, Year Two and Year Three, still helped me produce this book, Tales of the Vuduri: Year Four. There is my wonderful wife, Denise. She will always deserve a special thank you for understanding I have to write the blog posts. Her patience continues to be boundless. I only have one more year to go so I have to put in the time to craft the entries. Denise graciously allows me the time to do so. Thank you, Denise.

And, as always, I need to thank my immeasurably talented brother Bruce. He is my go-to guy when it comes to the world of the Vuduri. Not only is he my editor and artist and the inspiration behind MINIMCOM, but he is also fiercely protective of the Vuduri culture and characters. He is always receptive to me bouncing ideas off his head, even when he doesn’t have the time. In addition, Bruce creates the amazing covers, the astounding book trailers and makes my writing so much better. Bruce, none of this would exist without you. Thank you.

The new person? My grandson Isaac. He is coming up on his second birthday. His growing up and his adventures simply becoming aware of the world around him has inspired many an article and a new way of taking a look at things.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this book to my Dad, Ray Brachman, who passed away this past December after a long illness. He will be missed by all.

Introduction

 

Starting in 2012, I had thrown in the towel trying to keep my Wiki called the Science Behind the Science Fiction up to date. I needed a different kind of forum so I turned to Goodreads and started a blog called Tales of the Vuduri. The blog format was much better suited to what I wanted to accomplish. The one thing I didn’t count on was that it created a monster with a voracious appetite that had to be fed continuously. I have now written over 1500 articles, one every day, and I have another year to go. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea I ever came up with. However, writing the blog articles does give me an opportunity to practice my craft weekly and maybe that is [_not _]such a bad idea.

Generating these articles forces me to look out at the ever-accelerating world of science and technology. It also gives me a chance to go back and look at my previous novels more critically, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses which should help in the future. This past year, within the blog, I finally finished up with my study of Rome’s Revolution and jumped right into The Ark Lords .It is my hope to finish up that book as well as Rome’s Evolution before I get to the end of Tales of the Vuduri: Year Five. It is not necessary that you have read these books to enjoy these articles but it couldn’t hurt.

As I stated, the pace of science and changes in our lives is accelerating. The things Elon Musk is doing are astounding. The Em-drive is headed for space trials. Virtual Reality pushed passed ordinary 3D as an all-encompassing viewing experience. Many of these articles focus in on some amazing new scientific facts and discoveries. Here is a partial list of what you’ll find in these entries about science and life:

·         Virtual Reality

·         Why airplanes fly the Polar Route

·         The DOCX Format

·         How the Moroccan Sun will provide free energy

·         A floating solar farm

·         Gravity Waves

·         Lavacicles

·         Vantablack

·         The EmDrive

·         Room temperature superconductivity

·         A real Death Star

·         Future Jobs

·         Hexagons and Saturn

·         How do robots see?

·         Free Will vs Predestination

·         The Electoral College

·         Are comic books science fiction?

·         Tesla’s Solar Shingles

·         The Dark Side of the Moon

·         Trump and Musk

·         Zero Point Energy

·         Above Unity devices that produce more energy than they consume

·         I find out that Asteroid Day is a real thing

·         And don’t forget, lots of amusing images. All guaranteed to be 100% copyright free!

 

In 2016, I finally released The Vuduri Companion: a series of short stories and novelettes which didn’t really fit in anywhere else. It even includes the original versions of VIRUS 5 _]and [_Rome’s Revolution written way back in 1973. It also contains an original short story entitled “The Immortals” which will be the springboard for a new set of stories starring Rome and Rei. I don’t have much by the way of detail regarding the various plots but I have complete faith that my heroes will provide me with what I need when I need it. They haven’t failed me yet. Much of the introductory material from The Vuduri Companion has been folded in these posts as well.

To produce so many blog articles, I still follow the discipline I learned in that first year. I write no less than seven blog articles on Saturday or Sunday and then post one each day over the course of the next week. Sometimes, if I know I am going to be away the following weekend, I’ll write 14 articles. That’s a lot to pump out at one time! This year I decided that I wanted the [_Vuduri _]year to coincide with the calendar year so this volume contains 370 articles rather than the usual 366. Call it a bonus edition.

 

As with the previous volumes, you will find occasional hypertext links but of course they are not functional within an ebook or paperback. When the sole purpose of a link was to take you somewhere else, I added an underline. Likewise, with the prior volumes of Tales of the Vuduri, the entries are exactly as they appeared on Goodreads although I do fix typos when I find them.

Feel free to jump in anywhere. You don’t need to read the articles in any particular order although the general flow of the literary analysis follows the latter half of [Rome’s Revolution _]and the beginning of _The Ark Lords.

As always, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Entry 4-001: December 28, 2015

 

Virtual Reality

 

In the 35th century world of Rome’s Revolution, they have no interest in virtual reality. The reason for this is very simple. Virtual reality is all about me and the Vuduri are all about we. They do not treasure personal experience. They only care about the collective whole.

 

In fact, there are some Vuduri (on the way wrong end of autonomy) that use what is called Second Sight. Their senses perceive the world, the information is passed along to the Overmind and then returned, altered, and form what that particular Vuduri perceives as the world. I guess when you consider it, maybe that does count as virtual reality.

 

Virtual reality started when the first caveman dreamed about saber-toothed tigers. It continued when stories were told around a campfire. Books, movies, television, any art form that takes our consciousness away from our current surroundings is a primitive form of virtual reality. Hollywood is pushing 3D movies hard so you get the sense you are in the movie. . The virtual community called Second Life has been around for 12 years.

 

I know the future is coming. We have Google Glass, the Occulus Rift and now the new Samsung Gear VR which uses a regular smart phone to deliver content.

 

These devices can all produce “augmented reality” which is your surroundings with a second layer of information or images seamlessly superimposed. Even my heads-up display on my Camaro is a version of this.

 

There is a danger. The pleasures of virtual reality could become so addictive that people could put aside their actual life in favor of their simulated life. Why go out and expose yourself to danger when you can sit in your home and take a virtual tour of any location on this Earth or any other world the designers can imagine. See the movie called Surrogates starring Bruce Willis as one slant on this.

 

In the end, life is all there is so we should live it to its fullest, not swap it out for a simulation.

Entry 4-002: December 29, 2015

 

Stepping it up

 

It first started with Rome’s Revolution and the state of the art is currently The Milk Run. But as I mentioned in a previous article, the time has come to get back on the horse and start cranking out some new books.

 

The first one, working title MASAL – The Robot War, is actually a prequel. This one is very clear in my mind. I’m too new at writing to have canon but this book will not deviate from the hints and off-hand references presented to date. Part 1 is the invention of electro-gravity, the Casimir Pump and using the PPT tunnel method of space travel. Part 2 is two bozos inventing MASAL by basing it off of the Essessoni computer buried under rubble in just to the north of what is now Paterson, NJ. Part 3 is the invention and injection of the 24th chromosome, the birth of the Overmind and the ensuing Robot War.

 

But after that, I have to start writing new books about new characters with new issues. The first one, The Vuduri Knight, I only have one scene in my brain. Aason’s son Rory is running down a street carrying B’Shev, the son Aason’s friend Sh’ev, a member of the plant people known as the K’val. They come to a dead end and are rescued by a long pair of pink arms, dragging them through what they thought was as solid wall.

 

Then I have to write another book. I have no idea what it is about but I know I have to step up the drama, the action, the science, everything. I can’t just continue to mine the mountain of material I have produced already. But what that means, I don’t know. Aerial battles, disease, life and death, I’ve already done those. I want to write about a pair of immortals but I’ve never been immortal so it will take time to relate to their condition.

 

I may have to break down and buy a book on what makes for a good book. Up till now, I’ve let the people of the future tell me the story. The time has come for me to start producing the stories myself.

Entry 4-003: December 30, 2015

 

Happy Three Year!

 

Can you believe it? I have just completed three years worth of these blog articles and I am just getting started! Today marks by 1100th article. That’s a lot of articles!

 

The subject matter is primarily driven by my sci-fi novels, especially Rome’s Revolution but also branches out in time and space to other novels, other places and right here on Earth.

 

I try and bring you news of scientific or political changes that will have a positive impact on your life. I’m especially interested in renewable energy and containing global warming.

 

But sometimes I reminisce, sometimes I speculate, sometimes I just plain make things up but that is what authors of fiction do.

 

I’ve laid out my novelistic goals for the year, lots of writing, lots of recording and told you about places and people in my life who have had a great influence on me.

 

And I will continue. We are nearing the end of the behind-the-scenes look at Rome’s Revolution so we’ll start digging into The Ark Lords which is particularly fascinating because we begin to churn out all the backstories that were only hinted at in the first novel.

 

So I wanted to thank you for sticking with me and rest assured there is plenty more Tales of the Vuduri coming down the pike. 2016 is going to be a great year to spend time in the 35th century!

 

Entry 4-004: December 31, 2014

 

Looking under the ocean

 

When I am writing books like Rome’s Revolution, I try to write about what I know. Failing that, I work hard to learn about what it is I am writing so I don’t make any glaring errors or ruin your fictive dream.

 

Sometimes, when I am doing my research, I stumble across something interesting and poof, it goes into the book. In this specific instance, I was looking at the topology of Hawaii, the place to which Rome, Rei and Binoda are to be banished. I was using Google Maps then switched it over Google Earth. I was amazed at what I saw. Here is a snapshot:

 

 

Right away, you notice that what we think of as Hawaii is nothing but the tips of great underwater mountains (probably volcanoes) and the topography beneath the ocean is like a whole new world. I took this experience and let Rei discover it all over again:

 

The large screen showed a vast expanse of ocean with a few wisps of whitecaps. Just looking at the images, it was impossible to tell how high up they were visually although the instruments indicated they were about 12 kilometers up. Based upon how long they had been in the air, Rei guessed they were somewhere over the Pacific. Rei adjusted some filters. A polarizer removed the glare and rippling from the waves and made the water look completely transparent. From this height, Rei was able to see detail along the ocean bottom clearly enough to make out some of its topology. He could see crevices, channels and even some peaks that looked like underwater mountains. If you ignored the fact that it was deep blue, some of it even reminded Rei of the surface of the moon.

On the horizon, a landmass appeared that Rei guessed was the Big Island of Hawaii. As they got closer, he became certain of it. Their craft banked northward and flew directly over the peaks of Kilauea and the even taller Mauna Loa. To his right was the older, rounder shape of Mauna Kea. Because of their velocity, it did not take long until they passed back out over the ocean. They passed over a small gulf then directly ahead was the peculiar arrowhead shaped island of Maui. There were heavy clouds on the northern side of the island where the sea breezes met the mountain peaking in the middle of the island. They flew over the southern side and Rei could see the mammoth crater of Haleakala which he had learned about as a child.

 

Like it? Maybe not. I just thought it took my experience and gave just a teensy bit more depth to the characters I was trying to build.

Entry 4-005: January 1, 2016

 

The Convenient Shack

 

During the latter portion of Rome’s Revolution, Rome, Rei and Binoda were on their way to being exiled. My problem was when they got there, would they just be dumped off and have to build shelter like on the TV show Survivor? I really didn’t want to bog down the story so I found them an abandoned shack on the southern portion of Wailea on Maui:

 

 

Here is their first exposure:

 

Grus interviewed the natives and came back with this information:“There is an abandoned dwelling approximately one kilometer to the south, on the far side of this settlement,” he said. “The residents have stated that you may take that as your shelter for the time being.”

 

After they arrived, Rome said, “Mea, let us go indoors and I will explain all.”

“Very well,” replied Binoda. “Your cousins live just to the north. After we speak, we will contact them and put together some semblance of a life.”

They picked up some of their belongings and made their way up the rocky path to find a small wooden, two-room hut, a shack, really, sitting just over the crest of the beach.

“Some digs,” Rei said as they entered, wrinkling his nose at the slightly mildewed smell.

“It is home for now,” Rome said, trying to be cheerful.

After surveying the cabin, Binoda spoke to Rei.

“You go and gather the rest of our belongings,” she said. “I will get us some water and see if there is any food here.”

“OK,” Rei said, glad to get back out into the fresh air.

 

So the shack was just a staging point for the next assault. It was really convenient for me that it was there, huh?

Entry 4-006: January 2, 2016

 

Chip Kelly and the Eagles

 

If you are expecting a scifi-based topic today, I apologize. This editorial has nothing to do with Rome’s Revolution or the world of the 35th century. It is just that I have been a Philadelphia Eagles fan since I was four years old and Chip’s coming and going has had a large impact on my emotional state.

 

When the Eagles hired Chip, he was considered the “sexy” choice – a hot college coach that was going to revolutionize the NFL. And I must say, that first game against Washington, during that first half, we sat there with our jaws agape not believing our eyes. We truly were witnessing the future, supersonic football, with an offensive juggernaut that couldn’t be stopped.

 

Well, things settled down and while we made the playoffs, we got bounced in the first round. Still, it was pretty cool to see a coach come in and take a 4-12 team and turn it into an 10-6 playoff entrant. Things didn’t go so well the next year and we didn’t make the playoffs. Oddly, our star players were slowly but surely being discarded but maybe Chip knew what he was doing.

 

Then came 2015 and the pre-season game against the Packers with our shiny new quarterback, Sam Bradford. Yup, this was our year. Never have I been so excited for a season as this one. Then the wheels came off. The Eagles crashed and burned and now Chip is gone, not even completing his third season.

 

So here is my two cents worth on why the Eagles failed under Chip Kelly. First, while Chip claims that culture beats scheme, talent trumps culture. You can’t let such high-powered weapons as DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin leave without replacing them. And trying to run a read option offense where the quarterback is always a threat to run doesn’t work if your quarterback can’t run. Instead of taking away one defender, you add one. And we had no deep threat. That allowed the safeties to play closer to the line. Our offensive line was just not good enough to compensate for the extra one or two players in the box to open up the running lanes. And if you can’t run the ball, you become one-dimensional. Every pass was a crossing route and the opponent’s defense knew what play we were running before we ran it.

 

So, in the end, Chip’s reluctance to adapt his system to his players and his failure to replace star players, heck, even the offensive line, meant this year was doomed in retrospect. Who will our coach be next year? Who knows? Who will our quarterback be next year? Who knows? Who will be our deep threat next year? Who knows? Bottom line, never will I go into a new season with such diminished expectations. I believe we are looking at 2017, not 2016, before the Eagles can begin to think about being competitive again. It makes me sad.

 

So goodbye Chip. I cannot say I am truly sorry to see you go but it certainly was exciting. I wish you the best of luck in your next stop.

 

Entry 4-007: January 3, 2016

 

House Arrest

 

I am not a fan of steampunk which is a sub-genre of science fiction that usually takes place in a Victorian society and imbues the characters with access to our level of technology but using the materials and known science of the time. If you ever saw the movie Wild Wild West with Will Smith, you will know what I mean.

 

Well, my 35th century world of the Vuduri is kind of like a future steampunk. They have everything we have but always using a different technology base. Part of this was the Vuduri’s instance of denying access to any parts of the society that led up to the Great Dying. The other part was my desire to make the 35th century a strange new world.

 

When the time came for the Vuduri to place Rome, Rei and Binoda in exile on the island of Maui, they weren’t going to trust that Rome was just going to remain there with no supervision. In effect, she was under house arrest. I had to come up with the equivalent of the ankle bracelet placed on current house arrested individuals. So I waved my hands and voila, the Vuduri had a tracking bracelet. I’ll let Grus introduce it:

 

Grus addressed the three of them. “Your dwelling is just up that trail,” he said, pointing towards a rocky path leading away from the beach. He motioned to Rome who took one step closer to him. “Please extend your wrist,” he asked her.

“What for?” Rei asked defensively.

“For this,” Grus said. He reached in his pocket and removed a thin silver bracelet. He looked at Rome’s outstretched arm for a moment, staring at the ring on her finger. He shrugged then snapped the bracelet around her wrist. Where there had been an opening, the metal sealed forming a smooth finish, completely enclosed.

“This is a tracking bracelet,” Grus said. “It is required because you are mandasurte. The conditions of your release are that you are to remain on or about this island. Please make no attempt to contact anyone off island and please do not try to access any technology. The very fact that you remain alive is a gift. Please remember that.”

“I will,” Rome said solemnly. “Thank you.”

Grus defocused then turned to look at Rei. “While you are a hero, your continued association with a convicted criminal makes you unwelcome within the Vuduri world. I would ask that you remain here as well.”

 

See? Same but different. The tracking bracelet actually comes back into play when Rei and Rome are kidnapped by Estar but that’s a story for another day.

 

Entry 4-008: January 4, 2016

 

Goodbye, old friend

 

The die had been cast. In pat 3 of[_ Rome’s Revolution_], Rome had been convicted of the most serious of crimes and exiled to a beach in Hawaii. For convenience, Rome, Rei and Binoda were transported to their destination in The Flying House. But now the time had come for the Vuduri to leave and take The Flying House with them.

 

Here is the scene where they lose their first home:

 

Rome reached over and took Rei’s hand as the cargo ramp retracted and the hatch lowered. The Flying House, their home for the last year and more, rose into the air and began to move forward. They watched it bank over the ocean and then fly back directly overhead, returning along the same heading that brought them to the island. Rei thought he saw the wings waggle but could not be sure.

As their former craft arose high in the sky, a tear came to Rome’s eye which she wiped with her free hand. “I will miss it,” she said.

“Me too,” Rei replied. They watched as The Flying House became smaller and smaller until finally it disappeared. They stared at the blue sky and low lying white clouds.

Rome squeezed Rei’s hand to get his attention. Rei turned to her. “But now we get to do our work,” she said.

 

We never saw The Flying House again. I don’t know what happened to it. Knowing the Vuduri, it was probably refurbished and reconditioned and placed back into service as a space tug. So we bid adieu to our old friend. It served us well but the time had come to move on.

 

Entry 4-009: January 5, 2016

 

The Perfect Scene, Part 1

 

I am a hopeless romantic. I even cry when I see sappy commercials. So the chance to write a good, syrupy heart-rending scene was very exciting to me. The fact is when I started Rome’s Revolution, I didn’t really know where it was going to lead. I had introduced Rome’s mother, Binoda, through flashback in the original long-form called VIRUS 5. I had mentioned Rome’s father, Fridone, during the same mind-meld between Rome and Rei. I had no plans for reuniting them. Then Part 2 came along and we met Fridone in the flesh. So when Rome, Rei, Aason and Fridone returned to Earth in Part 3, I knew I had my chance.

 

So here is my all-time most-favorite scene in the [*entire *][_Rome’s Revolution _]story:

 

“I can do better than that, Mea,” Rome said, touching her temple. “Let us go down to the beach and watch the sunset.”

“We can do that another time, Rome,” said Binoda, impatiently. “Please enlighten me.”

Rei touched his temple as well.

“You really want to see the sunset,” Rei added in English. “It really will help you to understand.”

Binoda looked very confused but gave up arguing. They made their way out of the hut and Binoda followed them down a rocky path to the beautiful, white sand beach which was somewhat secluded by large boulders on the far ends and a stand of palm trees all around them.

As the sun went down, the beautiful colors playing among the low lying clouds made for a spectacular view. A gentle breeze brought the ubiquitous smell of jasmine and plumeria wafting over them. Rei stood with his arm around Rome just reveling in the peace of it all. The sunset was magnificent, as it always is in Hawaii but Binoda seemed distracted and unimpressed. They even had the opportunity to see a tiny green flash on the top of the sun just before it set. When the last glowing shards of light from the disk of the sun dipped below the horizon, Binoda could no longer control her impatience.

“I understand nothing better,” she said to Rome. “It is a sunset. I have seen them before,” she said.

“Not like this one,” Rome said, pointing over the ocean.

Binoda turned to look at where Rome was pointing. She was indicating exactly where the sun had been as it disappeared below the horizon. Binoda looked and saw that the air began shimmering, somewhat like one would see just before a mirage appeared in the desert. A ghostly presence sparkled then disappeared then reappeared. The giant ball of diffraction drifted in from the ocean and settled on the beach, just to their south.

Binoda stared at it, trying to understand what her eyes were telling her. In front of her, four deep depressions appeared in the sand. There was a whining, jet-enginey kind of sound which died off and then, in front of her, a cavity appeared four meters up, right in the middle of the air.

 

At last MINIMCOM arrives and the cargo he is carrying will blow Binoda away. Sooo exciting!

 

More tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-010: January 6, 2016

 

The Perfect Scene, Part 2

 

I am a hopeless romantic. I even cry when I see sappy commercials. So the chance to write a good, syrupy heart-rending scene was very exciting to me. The fact is when I started Rome’s Revolution, I didn’t really know where it was going to lead. I had introduced Rome’s mother, Binoda, through flashback in the original long-form called VIRUS 5. I had mentioned Rome’s father, Fridone, during the same mind-meld between Rome and Rei. I had no plans for reuniting them. Then Part 2 came along and we met Fridone in the flesh. So when Rome, Rei, Aason and Fridone returned to Earth in Part 3, I knew I had my chance.

 

So here is part 2 of my all-time most-favorite scene in the entire Rome’s Revolution story:

 

“This is your ship?” Binoda asked. “It is a hole in the air. What is this?”

“Just watch, Mea,” Rome said with a broad smile on her face.

As Binoda peered into the hole, a grey, metallic-looking ramp became visible and lowered until it came to rest in the sand. At the back of the compartment, there was something stirring. A robed figure moved forward. When the individual got to the top of the ramp, he stopped and stood there quietly.

“Who is that?” Binoda asked, turning to Rome.

Rei squeezed Rome tighter. Rome just smiled. She tilted her head back toward the figure within the ship. Binoda turned back to look at man at the top of the ramp, adjusting her vision to telescopic.

“No,” Binoda said plaintively, not able to tear her eyes away. “It cannot be.”

“It is, Mea,” Rome said tearfully. “It is. Go to him.”

“Fridone!” Binoda shouted and sprinted up the ramp to meet her husband at the top. She kissed him and hugged him and kissed him and hugged him. She was overwhelmed and it was a long time before she was able to speak coherently.

“Oh husband,” she said finally. “Look at you. Your hair! So gray!” Binoda sighed and whispered, “I have missed you so much.” She grabbed his cheeks with her hands and touched her forehead to his, closing her eyes.

“My beautiful Binoda,” Fridone whispered. “I have missed you more.”

“It cannot be,” she said, opening her eyes again. “How did this happen?”

“You may thank your resourceful daughter,” Fridone said, pointing back down at Rome, standing on the beach. “She saved me. She saved my world and she is here to save this one as well.”

“Your world?” Binoda asked, somewhat perplexed. “This is your world.” She paused for a second. “Where were you, anyway?”

“The Onsiras stole me away from here,” Fridone said, somewhat with disgust. “They imprisoned me.”

“Imprisoned?” Binoda said. “I do not understand.”

“You will,” replied Fridone. “I will explain all. For now, all you need to know is that I am free and we are together again.”

“I cannot believe it,” Binoda said.“This is the best moment of my life.”

 

Ahhh. Did it bring a tear to your eye? Good. But Rome isn’t done yet.

 

The final part tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-012: January 7, 2016

 

The Perfect Scene, Part 3

 

I am a hopeless romantic. I even cry when I see sappy commercials. So the chance to write a good, syrupy heart-rending scene was very exciting to me. The fact is when I started Rome’s Revolution, I didn’t really know where it was going to lead. I had introduced Rome’s mother, Binoda, through flashback in the original long-form called VIRUS 5. I had mentioned Rome’s father, Fridone, during the same mind-meld between Rome and Rei. I had no plans for reuniting them. Then Part 2 came along and we met Fridone in the flesh. So when Rome, Rei, Aason and Fridone returned to Earth in Part 3, I knew I had my chance.

 

Here is the final part of my all-time most-favorite scene in the entire Rome’s Revolution story. Remember, yesterday, Binoda said, “I cannot believe it. This is the best moment of my life.” Boy was she wrong! The second shoe is about to drop:

 

“There is more, Mea,” Rome said.

“More?” replied Binoda, confused. She looked at Fridone who smiled and merely shrugged.

“Yes,” she said. “Wait here.” Rome went past them and disappeared inside the ship.

“I do not understand this,” Binoda said. “I see all of this on the inside but there is no outside. We are in the middle of the air with nothing holding us up.”

Rei approached then mounted the ramp. “This is the other tug, MINIMCOM,” Rei answered, walking up to them.

“A MINIMCOM is a computer,” answered Binoda. “This is some sort of vehicle, invisible or not.”

“Yes and yes,” Rei said. “MINIMCOM has been through a lot but he started out as a computer. Now he is a ship and a computer and much, much more.”

“Why could I not see it as it approached?” Binoda asked. “Is this magic?”

“Not magic, my dear Binoda,” Fridone said, “MINIMCOM is just very clever.”

“Yes, very clever,” said Rome from far end of the cargo compartment. Binoda turned to see her daughter walk toward them cradling a bundle of blankets in her arms. “I have something to show you,” Rome said.

“What is this you have brought me?” Binoda asked.

Rome pulled back the blanket, revealing the baby inside. “This is your grandson, Aason,” she said.

Binoda’s eyes grew wide. Tears welled up in her eyes again. “A grandson? Rome!”

She put out her arms and Rome handed her the baby boy. Instinctively, Binoda held him and rocked him and began swaying her hips side to side as had humans for the last million years. She stared down at his angelic face. Aason stretched his mouth in what almost looked like a smile then slowly, with agonizing care, turned his head toward Rome. Even at this young age, he was exceptionally strong and exceptionally coordinated, even for a Vuduri. Then he turned back to Binoda, closed his eyes and gave a deep sigh. The was the most eloquent statement he could give as a newborn that he understood her and knew that she was someone who would nurture him and truly love him. Binoda was touched beyond words.

Aason squirmed a bit and Rome said, “He is glad to meet you, Mea. He says hello.”

 

So there you have it. My all-time most favorite scene. The family is reunited. Love is in the air. The time has come for our intrepid heroes to save their new home world and possibly redeem all of mankind.

 

Entry 4-012: January 8, 2016

 

Starship Tattoos

 

You don’t know me but, in general, I am against tattoos. The reason are varied and many. First and foremost, I am Jewish and my religion forbids tattoos. Second, most of the ones I have seen don’t look nearly as nice as the owner believes. Finally, spending summers on the beach has shown me there is nothing sadder than a faded, sagging tattoo that someone got when they were young but as they get older, it morphs into something unpleasant.

 

But that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge that tattoos are a real thing and some people really like them. So there came a time in Rome’s Revolution when MINIMCOM was feeling himself and wanted to make himself even cooler.

 

Here is the scene where Rei discovers that MINIMCOM has been self-adorning and yet he tries to deny it:

 

“Is it possible to turn this shield off?” Binoda said. “Can I see the vehicle?”

Rei walked over to her. “MINIMCOM will let you see it but it can only be for a second,” Rei said. “He is not supposed to be here.”

Rei closed his eyes then opened them again. Taking his cue, MINIMCOM dropped the cloak long enough for Binoda to see a huge black cargo ship with a flowing, wasp-waisted shape bristling with a whole battery of PPT generators and plasma engines, mounted on the wings.

Rei looked at his friend who was also a ship. In no way did MINIMCOM resemble the original shuttle that was his starting point. And yet, there was something else. MINIMCOM looked totally different on the outside from even when Rei had seen him last.

“What gives?” Rei thought to MINIMCOM.

“Whatever do you mean?” replied MINIMCOM

“You are all decorated with doodads and spirals. You didn’t have them before.” Rei thought.

“Oh those,” stated MINIMCOM. “I determined that I would have better aerodynamic control if I had a reliable and steady flow of turbulence within my air stream when I was in atmosphere rather than a base assumption of dead air as reference level. The somewhat symmetrical nature of the designs was the attempt, only slightly successful, to inversely impress the turbulence, to cancel it, so that the net effect was still air, even though I gained the immediate advantage of microturbulence.”

“Well, they are pretty sharp, if you ask me,” Rei said, knowing MINIMCOM was full of baloney.

“Why thank you,” MINIMCOM said then he winked out.

 

So there you have it. MINIMCOM is all tatted out. It doesn’t last, however, as the microturbulence that MINIMCOM was touting ended up being a detriment when he had to fly at Mach 7. And that comes very soon.

 

 

Entry 4-013: January 9, 2016

 

Rei’s new weapon 1 of 5

 

When I first conceived of Rome’s Revolution way back in 1973, it was called VIRUS 5 because it was centered around the VIRUS units, how they destroyed the Stareater and the mutations which don’t come into play until The Milk Run.

 

I took the basic concept and mutated them into the constructors which make up the airframe of the new MINIMCOM. Constructors are autonomous units but they share their memrons with the MINIMCOM whole and MINIMCOM’s personality and intelligence lies within the entirety. Each individual unit follows MINIMCOM’s commands without question.

 

My next iteration was to take the VIRUS units and make them bend to the will of a human. Rei Bierak specifically. Think about it. You have a cloud of microscopic computing units that can consume anything in the universe. It would be pretty powerful stuff. Here is Rei’s introduction to the concept:

 

“You know you are pretty sleek, dude,” Rei said in his head. “Your entrance and exits are getting more impressive every time.”

“I aim to please,” replied MINIMCOM.

“We’re going to go back to the cabin and talk and figure out our next step. I can leave the connection open so you can listen in if you want.” Rei thought.

“I appreciate it and I will take you up on your offer,” replied MINIMCOM. “But first I need you to come up to the cockpit.”

“Why?” Rei asked in his mind.

“You will see when you get here.”

“All right,” Rei thought. Then out loud, he shouted, “Romey, I’ll catch up to you in a minute. MINIMCOM has something to show me.”

“Very well,” Rome called back as she led her parents up the path toward the hut. “We will be in our lodgings.”

“OK,” Rei said as he walked up the ramp and into the cargo hold of MINIMCOM. As he looked around, he said out loud, “I think you need to go on a diet.”

“Why?” MINIMCOM replied through a grille.

“You sure are a lot bigger than you used to be, even than before,” Rei said with a smile on his face. “Kind of a wide load now if you know what I mean.”

“The better to serve you,” MINIMCOM replied with just a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “My constructors have been busy. Now please come forward.”

“OK,” Rei said as he entered the cockpit. “What’ve you got?”

A panel opened and with the diffuse glow of backlighting, Rei could see a shape within.

“What is it?” Rei asked.

“Take it,” MINIMCOM said.

Rei reached in and removed a pouch that looked somewhat like leather. Along its top edges, there was a drawstring. Rei teased the opening apart and looked inside. All he saw was a grayish substance, reminiscent of talcum powder. Sprinkled throughout were larger, black dots that had a metallic sheen to them. Rei reached in and felt around but there was nothing remarkable about it. The substance felt very light, not gritty like sand. He drew the string closed again and placed it on the opened door in front of him.

 

Wait till he finds out what he just stuck his hand into!

 

Entry 4-014: January 10, 2016

 

Rei’s new weapon 2 of 5

 

As previously stated when I first conceived of Rome’s Revolution way back in 1973, it was called VIRUS 5 because it was centered around the VIRUS units, how they destroyed the Stareater and the mutations which don’t come into play until The Milk Run.

 

I also took the basic concept and mutated them into the constructors which make up the airframe of the new MINIMCOM. But now the time has come to turn them into a weapon. We continue with Rei’s introduction to the concept:

 

“What’s in here?” he asked, “aerogel?”

“They are VIRUS units,” MINIMCOM said.

“What?!” Rei said, leaping up. Instinctively, he wiped his hand on his pants but in his heart, he knew it was not going to matter. “What the hell?”

“It is all right,” MINIMCOM said with a mechanical chuckle. “You are safe.”

“How is that?” Rei asked, all panicky.

“First, they are currently dormant. And second, these particular VIRUS units cannot digest organic matter.”

Rei sank down into the pilot’s chair. “Why are you giving them to me?” he asked.

“I can give you the short answer or the long answer,” MINIMCOM replied.

“Try the short one.” Rei said. By now he knew that prolonged answers from MINIMCOM tended to exhaust him.

“The short answer is that OMCOM said you might need them.”

“OMCOM?” Rei said with surprise. “You’ve heard from him?”

“In a way,” MINIMCOM replied.

“All right,” Rei said, resigned to the exercise. “Give me the long answer.”

“Very well,” said MINIMCOM. There was a pause which Rei knew was simply for dramatic effect. “These are what you might call super VIRUS units. They are a blend of the original design, the mutated versions of Lawlidon and the Cecetiras and some of my memron units all mixed together.”

“Why bother?” Rei asked. “Why now?”

“Even though they were originally designed to dispatch the Asdrale Cimatir, OMCOM thought there might be another need.”

“What kind of need?” Rei asked.

“A more flexible, more direct type of unit. Call them weaponized.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Rei said. “What is the need? The purpose? The Stareater is dead. You are going to deploy regular VIRUS units to protect the Solar System. Why do you need these? What’s different about these units?”

“They have the ability to work autonomously or as an integrated unit.”

“OK,” Rei said. “Big deal.”

“There is more,” continued MINIMCOM. “They have a switchable oxygen sensor so they can work in an atmosphere if required.”

Rei’s eyes widened. “You mean they can destroy the Earth?”

 

There is no way that MINIMCOM would be that irresponsible. Right?

 

More tomorrow.

Entry 4-015: January 11, 2016

 

Rei’s new weapon 3 of 5

 

As previously stated when I first conceived of Rome’s Revolution way back in 1973, it was called VIRUS 5 because it was centered around the VIRUS units, how they destroyed the Stareater and the mutations which don’t come into play until The Milk Run.

 

I also took the basic concept and mutated them into the constructors which make up the airframe of the new MINIMCOM. But now the time has come to turn them into a weapon. We continue with Rei’s introduction to the concept:

 

“In theory, yes. In practice, no,” MINIMCOM said. As I said, these particular units will not ingest organic matter. They are strictly limited to metals or minerals. The larger ones…”

“The black ones?” Rei asked.

“Yes, the black ones. You may call them queens. They will control the other units. The queens are completely under your control. You decide when they are active and when they are dormant.”

“Me?” Rei said. “I don’t get it.”

“That is where OMCOM directed I commingle my memron units, the ones that are equipped with our ‘cellphone’ link. They answer to you. You give them an assignment and they will follow it.”

“Just me? How about Rome?” Rei asked.

“Yes, I believe they would answer to Rome as well,” replied MINIMCOM.

“So why all the subterfuge,” Rei asked. “And you still didn’t tell me how you spoke to OMCOM.”

“I did not speak to him in the traditional sense. I received his instructions.”

“How?” Rei asked. “When?”

“When I absorbed the Cecetira. OMCOM had implanted his instructions within them.”

“I’m confused,” Rei said. “How the hell did OMCOM implant instructions in killer, I don’t know what, things. I thought they were out of control.”

“I do not know exactly how he did it. I just know that he did it. He knew these particular Cecetiras were coming to Deucado.”

“Are you telling me that OMCOM sent them?” Rei shouted. “I thought they were coming to kill us.”

“He did not send them. He simply exploited the fact that they were coming,” MINIMCOM said. “OMCOM was fairly certain that between the Bridadira and the Vuduri fleet and even me, we would be able to contain them.”

“Fairly certain?” Rei said, his voice rising. “And if he was wrong?”

“He was not,” MINIMCOM said.

“So all of this,” Rei said, waving his hands in the air. “The Cecetiras, the Bridadiras, you, the whole thing was staged?”

“Not quite,” MINIMCOM said. “It was necessary to achieve this end point, of giving this package to you. Here on Earth.”

Rei looked down at the pouch, sitting within the compartment. He stared at it for a while, his mind racing.

 

So much information to absorb in such a short time. Luckily for him, I excised the whole Cecetira/Bridadira conflict leaving the mutations to simply discovering Heaven.

Tomorrow, MINIMCOM sidesteps this issue by blowing Rei’s mind.

Entry 4-016: January 12, 2016

 

Rei’s new weapon 4 of 5

 

As previously stated when I first conceived of Rome’s Revolution way back in 1973, it was called VIRUS 5 because it was centered around the VIRUS units, how they destroyed the Stareater and the mutations which don’t come into play until The Milk Run.

 

I also took the basic concept and mutated them into the constructors which make up the airframe of the new MINIMCOM. But now the time has come to turn them into a weapon. We continue with Rei’s introduction to the concept:

 

“There is more to the story, isn’t there,” Rei said finally.

“Yes,” replied MINIMCOM. “But I cannot share this information with you at this time. You must trust me on this. The reasons will become clear in the near term future. It was always OMCOM’s plan to get these units to Earth. It was simply fortuitous that Sussen’s departure from Deucado accelerated their delivery.”

Rei just sighed. He knew better than to argue.

“Can you just tell me one thing?” Rei asked.

“I may,” replied MINIMCOM mysteriously.

“The mutations within the original VIRUS units…you were able to figure out how to suppress those in about 30 seconds. OMCOM is smarter than you, no offense intended,” Rei said.

“None taken,” replied MINIMCOM

“So why didn’t he prevent them too?” Rei asked. “Do you know?”

“Perhaps I will let you in on a little secret,” MINIMCOM said.

“What?”

“You are familiar with the checksum code that I implemented to suppress mutations?”

“Yes,” Rei said. “It sounded pretty straightforward to me.”

“Well, here is the secret,” MINIMCOM replied. “That checksum code was already built into the programming in the original VIRUS units. I did not invent it. There was a conditional branch that skipped over the algorithm under certain circumstances. I simply removed the branch so that the checksum was always executed.”

“What?” Rei exclaimed. “You’ve got to be kidding me. That means…” Rei’s voice failed him. He took a deep breath to regain control then spoke again. “That means OMCOM allowed the mutations to occur. But why?” Rei asked plaintively.

“You already know the answer,” MINIMCOM replied. “You just need to put the pieces together.”

“Well, so, he did it on purpose. He must have needed them,” Rei replied. “He was looking for something, something else.” Rei looked down at his feet while he considered the situation. When he had the answer, he looked up again. “He built himself a giant Petri Dish, didn’t he?”

“Yes,” answered MINIMCOM. “OMCOM determined that natural selection would produce the desired agents more quickly than he could through parametric programming. After the Asdrale Cimatir was consumed, he simply waited until the proper combination of units developed and then allowed them access to the information regarding the location of Deucado.”

 

So there you have it. MINIMCOM finally spilled the truth. OMCOM allowed, no forced, the mutations to occur. In the original version, this was to build suspense for later novels. In the current version, as MINIMCOM alluded to, they were used to discover Heaven.

 

Tomorrow, the wrap-up.

Entry 4-017: January 13, 2016

 

Rei’s new weapon 5 of 5

 

As previously stated when I first conceived of Rome’s Revolution way back in 1973, it was called VIRUS 5 because it was centered around the VIRUS units, how they destroyed the Stareater and the mutations which don’t come into play until The Milk Run.

 

I also took the basic concept and mutated them into the constructors which make up the airframe of the new MINIMCOM. But now the time has come to turn them into a weapon. We continue with Rei’s introduction to the concept:

 

“And the rest?” Rei asked. “The others? He said they went in all directions.”

“Yes,” MINIMCOM replied. “They have their missions.”

“So, when he told us he didn’t have control, he was lying, wasn’t he?” Rei asked.

“Not really. He did not need to control the entities directly. Their autonomy was part of their mission. Just as he did not need to directly control the ones that came to you.”

“Why didn’t he just tell us?” Rei said mournfully. “Why all the drama? The space battle, you know?”

“OMCOM computed that there was a distinct possibility that your reception on Deucado could be hostile. Therefore, he determined that a battle in earnest would be the simplest way to convince agents unknown that the situation was out of control. This deflection was necessary so that they would not suspect his higher purpose.”

“And what is his higher purpose?” Rei asked.

“Take the pouch,” replied MINIMCOM. “OMCOM insisted this duty be assigned to you and you alone.”

Rei reached over and picked it up again. He hefted it. The bag was so light, lighter than a bag of sand. To the innocent, it might have seemed harmless enough. But Rei knew what was in it and its contents terrified him.

“All right, MINIMCOM,” Rei said. He put the pouch in his right pocket. “You’ll give me a hint when the time is right?”

“If I can,” replied MINIMCOM. “But I do not think I will need to. You will know.”

“So we’re done here?” Rei asked.

“For now,” replied MINIMCOM. “It is time for you to rejoin your family.”

Rei stood up. He patted his pocket and felt the bulge there. “OK, I guess I’ll see you around.”

“I will be here,” MINIMCOM replied.

Rei made his way through the cargo compartment and down the ramp. He turned to see MINIMCOM retract the ramp, lower the cargo door and then with a shimmer, he was gone.

 

So now that Rei has the weaponized VIRUS units what will he do with them? Frankly, at this point, he has no idea. But we do, don’t we?

 

Entry 4-018: January 14, 2016

 

Spies everywhere

 

In my 35th century world of Rome’s Revolution, the dominant society was called the Vuduri and they were all mind-connected. So it would be impossible to have conspiracies or secrets, right? Wrong. While some Vuduri were not much more than human sheep and the living embodiment of servitude to the Overmind, many were capable of building a mental “wall” and keeping some thoughts to themselves. If enough Vuduri were capable of agreeing upon these secrets, you have the firepower to create a “samanda within a samanda” or an overmind within the Overmind. And if you put an evil, self-absorbed, humanity-hating computer behind them, you have the makings of a pretty damn huge conspiracy.

 

When Rome and Rei were banished to Hawaii, Rome already knew of this huge conspiracy. But was it limited to the mind-connected Vuduri called the Onsiras or could it have spread to the “mind-deaf” otherwise known as the mandasurte? It’s hard to understand why a mandasurte would serve the needs of the Onsiras since they were dedicated to their eradication but call Rome paranoid. Here is how it went:

 

“Why do we not just fly out of here in MINIMCOM and go someplace where we can broadcast to the world?” Rei asked.

Rome pointed to the tracking bracelet on her wrist. “We only get one opportunity,” Rome said. “We must be very careful. That way might be too dangerous for another reason.”

“What do you mean?” Binoda asked.

“I am concerned that there may be a spy among the people here,” Rome said. “If they see us leave, they may report us.”

“These are your cousins,” Fridone spoke up. “They would not wish you harm.”

“You do not know all the people here, Beo,” Rome said. “There are more people here than just our family. Everywhere we have been, Tabit, Deucado, Earth, there have been spies. Because all are connected, I think there is a need to keep some things hidden.”

“As far as I can tell,” Rei interjected, “I think it is the very nature of the Vuduri to keep secrets.”

“Have more faith in your family, Rome,” Fridone said. “They would know if a stranger was among them. If there is any place on Earth that is safe, this would be the place.”

“I have another idea,” Binoda said.

“What is that, Mea?” Rome replied.

“What if I was to bring you this pure Vuduri here, to this place?” Binoda asked. “What if I had the one that I could guarantee was not a member of the Onsiras.”

“That would be perfect,” Rome said. “Is there someone you know?”

“Yes,” Binoda said. “You know him too.”

“Who is it?” Rome asked.

“Commander Ursay,” answered Binoda.

“Ursay?” Rome said with some surprise.

“Yes, Ursay,” replied Binoda.

“How do you know this?” Rome asked.

“Because I know him.” Binoda said. “I know the real man.”

Fridone bristled. “What do you mean, Binoda?”

 

Detect a little jealousy there? Don’t worry. Binoda was as faithful and loving as a human being could be. She was a reformed Vuduri, now mandasurte and she would never, ever, consort with another Vuduri.

 

More tomorrow.

Entry 4-019: January 15, 2016

 

Vuduri unfaithful

 

Yesterday, I gave you a small snippet of a conversation wherein Binoda, at least momentarily, placed some doubt in her husband’s mind regarding her faithfulness during his ten-year absence. But, could a mind-connected Vuduri ever be unfaithful?

 

The question, on the surface, is completely ridiculous because the Vuduri do not treasure interpersonal relationships. And frankly, they only have sex for procreation. There are next to no pure Vuduri couples. They simply have no desire to live with or align themselves with another Vuduri. It is all for one, the one being the Overmind.

 

But what about a “mixed” couple, where one partner was Vuduri and the other was mandasurte, or mind-deaf? Well, it certainly would be possible for the Vuduri to hook up with another mandasurte, assuming they could keep that portion of their mind “walled off” from the prying connection of other Vuduri. But they would never hook up with another Vuduri. There would be none that would be interested. So Fridone’s momentary hint of jealousy was completely unfounded and, in fact, impossible. Here is how quickly Binoda defused the situation:

 

“That would be perfect,” Rome said. “Is there someone you know?”

“Yes,” Binoda said. “You know him too.”

“Who is it?” Rome asked.

“Commander Ursay,” answered Binoda.

“Ursay?” Rome said with some surprise.

“Yes, Ursay,” replied Binoda.

“How do you know this?” Rome asked.

“Because I know him.” Binoda said. “I know the real man.”

Fridone bristled. “What do you mean, Binoda?”

“Do not be upset,” Binoda said, stroking Fridone’s cheek. “When the Tabit crew returned to Earth, Ursay made it a point to seek me out and deliver Rome’s letter to me. As you know, he spent some time disconnected from the Overmind while escaping Asdrale Cimatir.”

“How long?” Rome asked. “I never did find out.”

“Long enough that he had time to think about the events that occurred on Tabit, of the blindness of the Overmind, of how Rei’s people could not have been the monsters that we always thought them to be.”

 

Does that explain why Ursay defended Rome during her “trial” before Oronus? Tomorrow, I will share Binoda’s insights with you.

Entry 4-020: January 16, 2016

 

Ursay’s turnabout

 

One of the main supporting characters throughout the entire Rome’s Revolution trilogy and even in the “flash-sideways” of The Milk Run was Commander Ursay. He doesn’t have a last name. None of the Vuduri do. As were many of the Vuduri, I named him after a constellation, in this case Ursa Major, otherwise known as the Big Dipper.

 

When we first met him, he was, in Rome’s words, “a martinet lackey of the Overmind.” Not very flattering. However, through each of the books, Ursay continued to evolve. In The Ark Lords, he saved Rome and Rei from the would-be new Erklirte, headed by Captain Keller. In Rome’s Evolution, he provided sanctuary and helped Rome and Rei track down their son. In The Milk Run, he had ascended to a position which was essentially the President of Earth.

 

So when did this startling transformation begin? It started when Rome saved his life and the lives of all the Vuduri who were stationed at Skyler Base:

 

“How does this prove anything?” Rome asked. “He could have been a member of the Onsiras and still told all of this to you.”

“No, he could not,” Binoda said. “Based upon what Rei conveyed to me about Pegus and his observations, the members of the Onsiras would appear to have no real self, not like us. There seems to be nothing left in their head other than their instructions. Half is connected to our Overmind, the one we can connect to. The other half connects to this shadow Overmind, the one that controls them. The one that makes them follow this awful path. Ursay disconnected when I was with him. He and I spoke person to person, without the Overmind listening in. There is no way that he could have had the thoughts he did and the perspective that he did if he was just a robot, a tool of the Onsiras.”

“Is that why he defended me?” Rome asked. “He was always rather harsh on Tabit.”

“It was not he but the Overmind who was harsh and yes, that is why he defended you,” Binoda said. “That is how I knew it was the right thing to do to call him. I knew how Ursay the man actually admired you and Rei, your resourcefulness. He envied it. He told me he had thought about disconnecting permanently, Cesdiud, to become mandasurte. There is no way that he would think that if he was dedicated to their destruction.”

“But is it not possible that he was just setting you up?” Rei asked. “Is it not possible that he did this to make you think he was one way when really he was another?”

“I do not think so.,” replied Binoda. “There was absolutely no reason why he would have confided in me if it was just a ploy. No one knew you were coming to Earth. No one could have foreseen these events. If he were a member of the Onsiras, he would not have bothered. No, he is the one you need.”

 

Ursay arrived at his place of prominence because he truly represented “the new Vuduri” created by Rome’s Revolution.

Entry 4-021: January 17, 2016

 

The First Livetar

 

I’ve had lots of fun creating the characters in Rome’s Revolution. Creating new people is hard. If they are human, they have to act according to how humans act. You, my reading audience, know plenty of people so if my characters act oddly, you’d know it. But the non-human characters, OMCOM, MINIMCOM, Sh’ev, I can get them to act any way I want and as long as I am consistent, it doesn’t offend anybody.

 

Everybody’s favorite character, MINIMCOM, started out as an auto-pilot computer until he was fused into the airframe of a Vuduri space tug and became something else. He evolved so much that in The Milk Run, we discovered that computers can have souls and MINIMCOM most certainly had one.

 

However, from a dramatic perspective, there isn’t much a starship can do to contribute to the action other than fly fast. So I came up with the idea of livetars which would be like mobile extensions or projections of my computers. They would have the size and shape roughly of a human being and be able to physically interact with the real world. I laid out the design when OMCOM appeared to Rei and Rome as a holographic image materialized by using null-fold relays to synthesize his image. But it wasn’t until this scene in Part 3 of Rome’s Revolution that Rome and Rei came face to face with the first real incarnation of a livetar:

 

Rei turned to Rome. He spoke in English. “Romey, we are never going to know for sure. I trust your mom. If she says that Ursay is the one, I say let’s go for it.”

“All right,” Rome said, in Vuduri. “Ursay is the one. How do we get him here?”

“I believe I can help,” came a muffled voice, issuing from one of Fridone’s bags.

Fridone walked over and pulled out MINIMCOM’s projector and communication device. He set it on the table.

“How can you help?” Rome asked the device.

“Open the front door,” replied MINIMCOM.

Rei stood up and walked to the door and opened it. In front of him was something like a man, well over two meters tall, dressed all in black, complete with a cape. The head was roughly bullet-shaped with slits where the eyes and mouth might be. The figure strode into the room and stood in the middle of the floor.

“Is this a robot?” Rome asked with trepidation.

MINIMCOM’s voice issued from the mouth hole. “This is an avatar that I have created,” said MINIMCOM. “It is not a robot. It is ambulatory but not autonomous. It is merely an extension of me. Think of it as a speaker with hands. I can physically transport it to Ursay’s home and have it address him.”

Rei thought it was funny that the tinny voice of MINIMCOM would come from such an imposing figure but he decided to keep that thought to himself.

“Do you not think someone will notice that it is not human?” Rome asked.

“I will make sure that it is only Ursay that encounters it.”

 

As you can see, originally, I had named these ambulatory shells avatars. That’s a pretty standard word in the computer world for a symbolic representation of a person or player. But then James Cameron came out with the movie Avatar so I had to change it lest somebody think I lifted it from that movie. It didn’t take me long to come up with the word livetar as the contraction of live avatar. The rest is (future) history.

 

Entry 4-022: January 18, 2016

 

Second Edition

 

Rome’s Revolution was my first self-published science fiction novel. The reality is, it was originally written as a trilogy called VIRUS 5 but due to a variety of events, I decided to take all three novels and boil them down to the 160,000 word single novel you see today.

 

Admittedly, my first book, now Part 1, of Rome’s Revolution was not my best work. I think Part 2 is better and Part 3 is pretty good. A writer friend of mine told me my writing has improved tremendously when she compared The Milk Run to that first book. I have also seen similar comments from professional reviewers, namely the first section is “rougher” than the later parts of the book.

 

Fast forward to last summer. The idea of recording Rome’s Revolution was so daunting, I wussed out and decided to record The Milk Run as my first audiobook. You can grab it on Audible.com. It took four months to produce. It was hard but I learned a lot and now I am ready to tackle Rome’s Revolution. However, after learning about how Audible.com prices out audiobooks, I’m afraid the whole thing will be too expensive and way out of most people’s comfort zone. Especially for a new author.

 

So here’s the plan. I am going to take Rome’s Revolution and split it up back into its three original parts. I will rename the trilogy The Rome’s Revolution Saga. Part 1 will be called Rebirth. Part 2 will be called Rebellion or Resistance (I haven’t decided yet) and Part 3 will be called Redemption. Each will be about 50,000 words. Sort of a short novel.

 

I will then create a web page and an Amazon page for each of the three mini-novels. My brother Bruce suggested he could create a landscape cover and each book would be one-third of the cover and if you buy all three, together they would form the full painting. A triptych if you will.

 

At that point, I will be able to record each of the thirds in a more manageable form and publish them and tie them to The Rome’s Revolution Saga pages. I got permission from Audible to then take each of the thirds and bind them back together and publish it as the full-blown audiobook for Rome’s Revolution without having to re-record any of it.

 

Phew. Ambitious, huh? You missed the point though. I mentioned it at the top. This will give me an opportunity, not to rewrite but certainly to polish that long-neglected Part 1 of Rome’s Revolution and improve the writing with what I know now. I’ll release it as Rome’s Revolution, Second Edition and swap it out for the original. Maybe then people will stop grousing about the writing.

 

What do you think?

 

Entry 4-023: January 19, 2016

 

Polar Route

 

Even though it sounds counter-intuitive, or at the very least cold, it is sometimes shorter and more efficient to fly over the North Pole to get from city A to city B. I just can’t wrap my head around it but that doesn’t make it not true. For example, if you are flying from New York to Beijing or from San Francisco to Dubai, you cut off many thousands of miles for the trip. However, the fuselage of the airplane gets very cold and the fuel gets cold and you have to make sure that the fuel does not freeze.

 

Also, what happens if there is engine trouble or a mechanical failure and you have to set down. That’s the part that scares me the most. I mean who dresses for a vacation at the North Pole? Nonetheless, physics is physics and if the number of miles is lower, you need to fly it to use less fuel and get there is a shorter period of time.

 

So when the time came in the middle of Part 3 of Rome’s Revolution to send the starship MINIMCOM from Maui, Hawaii to Lisbon, Portugal, I pretended that a polar route was more efficient. Whether this is true or not, I did not know. I must admit I did not actually calculate whether it was shorter. Here is the actual section where MINIMCOM proclaims his intentions:

 

Rome closed her eyes. When she opened them, she nodded slowly. “Very well,” she said. “MINIMCOM, I have only one concern.”

“What is that?” MINIMCOM’s livetar asked.

“You absolutely must not be detected prior to revealing yourself to Ursay.”

“I will remain cloaked the entire time. I will be invisible to MIDAR as well. I will take a polar route to reduce the chance of discovery even further. I can do this if I fly low and slow.”

“How long will it take you?” Rei asked.

“One full day,” replied MINIMCOM’s livetar. “My velocity must remain below the speed of sound to eliminate any chance of acoustic detection.”

 

So how close was I? Today, 11 years later, I finally plotted MINIMCOM’s polar route. Not too bad, huh?

 

Entry 4-024: January 20, 2016

 

Blue Crystal Reader 1

 

So many times, I’ve told you these stories are true, they just haven’t happened yet. How else would you explain Rei’s first encounter with MINIMCOM’s long-term holographic memory storage? It was memorable. Or maybe non-memorable, since Rei was mesmerized or perhaps even hypnotized. I am reprinting it here so you can remember. Here is that original scene:

 

Rei was inside of a crystalline cavern with facets and mirrors and flashes that were so mesmerizing, he could not think. He started swaying back and forth. It was only when he swayed so far that he stumbled that he was able to get his wits about him, just for a moment.

“This is…the most beautiful…thing I…have ever seen,” Rei said in a dreamy voice. “What…is it?”

“These are holographic storage crystals,” OMCOM said. “The illumination you see is strictly for your benefit. The read/write process is controlled by coherent ultraviolet lasers.”

“Lasers,” Rei repeated in a monotone. “Yes.”

“Rei?” OMCOM asked.

“Why does it have to be so pretty…” Rei droned on.

“Rei!” OMCOM said, more insistently.

“So pretty…so…so…pretty…” Rei drifted off. He could hear OMCOM speaking but the words had no meaning.

Rei lost all concept of time. OMCOM’s voice was just a soothing part of the background. Rei was adrift somewhere but he did not know where nor did he care. His whole world became the lights and the droning of OMCOM’s voice. Nothing could shake him. Nothing, that is, until the ground shook from a small tremor. The tremblor caused Rei to be awakened from his trance.

“Rei?” OMCOM asked, “Are you awake now?” The lights went out and the room was plunged into complete darkness. OMCOM then slid open the door and allowed some of the red ambient light to seep in.

Rei shook his head.

“Why’d you stop it?” he asked plaintively. “I, I, what happened?” Rei asked, his voice returning to normal.

“Your speech patterns indicated you had entered an altered mental state. I tried several times to awaken you but you resisted my suggestions. Where did you go?”

Rei took a deep breath. “I don’t know. It was just so beautiful. That’s, that’s amazing, OMCOM.”

“Do you recall hearing anything that I said to you?” OMCOM asked.

“I heard your voice,” Rei said, “that’s about it.”

Perhaps someday it will come back to you. In the mean time, you should probably not remain here any longer,” OMCOM said. He turned the red light up outside the doorway even brighter. “I think you should join Rome now.”

 

I wrote that section four years before I finished the final part of Rome’s Revolution. What did OMCOM do during that period? We get a hint when Rome and Rei were banished to Hawaii. How it ties in? Tomorrow.

Entry 4-025: January 21, 2016

 

Blue Crystal Reader 2

 

Yesterday, I reviewed a section of the original first novel VIRUS 5 before it was repackaged as Part 1 of Rome’s Revolution. It was Rei’s first encounter with MINIMCOM’s long-term holographic memory. Clearly OMCOM has hypnotized Rei and implanted some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion. But what? I must tell you that when I first wrote it, I had absolutely no idea. But these characters always come through for me. Here is our first hint that something happened:

 

“It is decided, then. MINIMCOM, we entrust our fate to you,” Rome said.

“Thank you for vote of confidence,” replied the avatar and it bowed. It took two steps toward Rome and then said in a low voice, “Rome, before I depart, I must have a word with you in private.”

Rome looked at Rei who had completely given up trying to understand all the machinations going on within the machines. The avatar walked to the corner and Rome followed him. The avatar bent over and whispered in her ear, “I have a message for you.”

“From who?” Rome asked.

“From OMCOM,” replied the avatar.

“From OMCOM,” Rome whispered back. “Where is he?”

“He is not here. This message was delivered via Lawlidon.”

“I do not understand,” Rome said.

“There will be time enough to explain later. For now, please memorize these three words.”

“What words?” Rome asked.

“Blue crystal reader,” said the avatar in English.

“That makes no sense,” replied Rome.

“They do not need to. They are for Rei.”

“For Rei?” Rome said. “Why did you not just speak them into our minds?”

“No,” hissed the avatar. “He cannot hear them yet. I could not take the chance that Rei was listening in. You must only speak those words to him if he is in trouble. OMCOM said to use these words if you need to save his mind. Not before.”

“Save his mind?” Rome said. “That is a peculiar thing to say.”

“Context,” replied the avatar. “OMCOM said it will make sense to you in context.”

 

So odd. But we’ll see where it comes in later.

Entry 4-026: January 22, 2016

 

Hawaii, Paradise and Transporters

 

In multiple previous posts, I have explained how our trip to Hawaii resulted in most of the set designs for[_ Rome’s Revolution_]. However, lost in all of this is the fact that Hawaii is a wonderful place. Paradise, really. So when I put my characters there, in exile no less, I decided they had been kind enough to me that I was going to let them enjoy the beauty and peace of the islands before taking on the big bad, aka MASAL.

 

Here is MINIMCOM exhorting them to do so:

 

“MINIMCOM,” Rome observed, “you have done so many good things for us, I can only trust you. As I said we have entrusted our fate to you and so your word is enough.”

“Thank you,” the avatar replied. Then he turned and in a louder voice, addressed the rest of the family. “You should take this opportunity to enjoy your peaceful surroundings. In one day, I would expect that there will be some turmoil.”

“We could all use some peace,” Binoda said.

“I will be on my way then,” replied the avatar. The imposing figure reached behind itself and grabbed the cape and draped it over its front as if to cover itself. There was a whoosh and popping noise. In a blink of an eye, the avatar was gone leaving behind only a hint of the smell of plumeria.

“He certainly has a flair for the dramatic,” Rei observed.

“Yes, I do,” came MINIMCOM’s voice from the projector. Everyone laughed.

“How did you do that?” Rei asked the projector. “How did you make the avatar disappear? What was that whoosh/pop?”

“It is simply a traveling PPT tunnel as I have used before,” MINIMCOM said. “It is identical to the one I employed to rescue you from the Deucadons.”

“But that one was big and wide and you had to carve it through rock,” Rei mentioned.

“I have perfected it,” MINIMCOM explained. “I can now materialize a minimal tunnel and pass it through an area, the whoosh as you call it and then I extinguish it nearly instantaneously which is the popping sound. The closer I am to the subject, the faster I can execute it.”

“Wow,” Rei said. “When I was growing up, we had this thing in science fiction called a transporter. It, uh, dematerialized things and reconstructed them elsewhere.”

“That is why it was fiction,” MINIMCOM said. “This is the real world. There is no such thing as dematerialization. This is just the normal transport, to use your word, via a PPT tunnel. You may find it useful at some point now that I have perfected it.”

“OK,” Rei said, “if you say so.” He turned to look at Rome who was distracted, looking off in the distance. “Thanks for the explanation, MINIMCOM,” Rei said, closing the subject.

“You are welcome,” replied the projector.

Rei walked over to Rome. “What did MINIMCOM say to you?” Rei asked her. “Did he upset you?”

“No,” Rome answered.

“Then what did he say to you?” Rei asked.

Rome closed her eyes. When she opened them, she looked up at Rei then placed her hand on his cheek.

“In due time, mau emir,” she said. “In due time. For now, let us enjoy what you would call the calm before the storm.”

Rei cocked his head at his wife but did not bother to probe.

“Whatever you say, honey,” he replied.

 

Calm before the storm. Sometimes I actually feel guilty about putting my characters through the wringer but otherwise, where is the drama?

Entry 4-027: January 23, 2016

 

Luau 1

 

When my wife and I took our honeymoon trip to Hawaii, one of the “touristy” things we had to do was go to a genuine Hawaiian luau. Now I guarantee you there were some elements that were authentic and a bunch more that were for show only. When we arrived, everybody got a mai-tai. Trust me, this is nothing special. Everybody in Hawaii serves you mai-tais. Our best one was called the “Back-scratcher” and came with a genuine wooden backscratcher that we use even today.

 

Back to the luau. No matter how touristy it was, it was still fun. Tons of food. I got to see the next day’s pig being roasted. Hula dancers. Beautiful weather. I regret nothing.

 

But, like everything else in Hawaii, it was expensive so I decided since I had given them so much money, I was going to steal the experience and place in my novel. Or at least until I crushed down the three VIRUS 5 novels down to the one comprehensive omnibus entitled Rome’s Revolution. Unfortunately, when that happened, the entire luau had to go as it served no dramatic purpose. Poor Rome and Rei. I gave them this wonderful experience and then took it away. Well, luckily for you, I have resurrected it and you get to see a scene where my characters actually have a good time and come the closest they ever did to having fight. Yes, alcohol was involved.

 

Regardless, here is the set up and then over the next few days, I’ll give you the entire “lost” luau scene itself. Here is the introduction:

 

There was a knock at the door. Rei was the first to stand up to answer it but Fridone cautioned him to wait until he activated the Deucadon’s stealth cloak around himself and Aason. Rei waited until Fridone had grasped the baby and disappeared from view before he opened the door and saw a boy and girl, teenagers really, standing there holding some leis, draped over their arms.

“Aleha,” said the girl. “Our parents asked that we greet you properly. They have prepared a festive meal for you if you are hungry.”

“Is it not a little late for the evening meal?” Binoda called out.

“No,” replied the girl. “My father knew you would need a little time to settle. He postponed it in order to prepare a great feast for you. It is ready now.”

“Wow,” Rei said in English. Then, in Vuduri, he said, “that sounds great to me. I am starving.” He turned to Rome. “What do you think, sweetheart?”

“We must eat,” replied Rome, standing up. “It sounds wonderful but…”

“But what?” Rei asked.

Rome turned to her mother. “Mea, can we trust these two?”

“Yes,” Binoda says. “I have known them since they were babies. They will not tell.”

Rome bowed slightly then stood up and walked to the corner of the room. She held out her arms to the air and said, “My son, please, Beo?” From out of thin air, Aason appeared and she took him and rested him on her shoulder.

“Mea, Beo, Would you like some dinner as well?” she asked.

“We will catch up with you shortly,” the ghostly voice of her father replied, seemingly moving to the other room.

“Yes, you go on ahead,” said Binoda in assent. “We will catch up to you shortly.” She bowed her head at Rome.

“Ah,” Rome said, “of course.” She started toward the door.

“What about prying eyes?” Rei asked, pointing to Aason.

Rome cradled Aason low so that he would not be readily visible unless someone was very close. “Once we get there,” Rome said, “there would be no reason for anyone to suspect that he is our son. He is just a baby. I am sure they have babies here.”

 

Tomorrow, the luau begins but what to do you think Binoda and Fridone had planned having been separated for 10 years?

Entry 4-028: January 24, 2016

 

Luau 2

 

Yesterday, I set up the luau scene that was in the original long-form version of Rome’s Revolution back when it was called VIRUS 5. Here is Rei’s introduction to the other side of Rome’s family, the mandasurte that was her father, Fridone’s, bloodlines:

 

“Once we get there,” Rome said, “there would be no reason for anyone to suspect that he is our son. He is just a baby. I am sure they have babies here.”

“OK,” Rei said in English.

“Wait,” said the girl at the door. “There is something I must do first.”

She took one of the leis off of her arm and tried to drape it over Rei’s head but he was too tall. He bent over to make it easier on her and she took the opportunity to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. Rei straightened up and smiled. Rome came over and the boy put a lei over her head and gave her a kiss as well.

The girl said to Rei, “I am Elen and this is Rav. We are Rome’s cousins.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Rei said. “I am Rei, Rome’s husband.”

“Yes, we assumed,” the girl said and giggled quietly, pointing at Aason. She waved to them and led them down to the edge of the beach then around the trees to the rocks on the north side. Set between the palm trees, there was a narrow path that led up and around to another, wider, beach. Just beyond the crest of the beach were some tables and a group of people gathered. As they noticed Rei and Rome arrive, they all waved excitedly.

Elen and Rav led them to the largest table, where there sat some older men and women. The table itself was made of dense pattern of bamboo trunks which reminded Rei of the cane trees on Deucado. One of the men stood and walked over to them.

“I am your Onclare Tenoal,” he said to Rome.

“Yes, I remember you,” said Rome. She gave him a hug which seemed to surprise him.

“You seem less, restrained, than the last time I saw you,” he said with a smile.

“Yes, Onclare,” said Rome. “I have changed greatly.”

“And this is your husband, the Essessoni?” Tenoal said.

“Yes, sir,” said Rei, holding his hand. Tenoal looked down at Rei’s outstretched arm and took it awkwardly.

 

Tomorrow, the luau begins in earnest. (BTW, Elen and Rav were named after my friends Bob and Ellen. I had to sneak them in somehow!)

Entry 4-029: January 25, 2016

 

Luau 3

 

Over the past few days, I have prepared you for the all-important luau scene in Part 3 of Rome’s Revolution. It was so important that it was only the second thing I cut out when I collapsed down the novel from the original long-form entitled VIRUS 5 to the one comprehensive omnibus entitled Rome’s Revolution. The first thing to go was the abortion named Lawlidon who sadly served no dramatic purpose other than drama itself.

 

I really liked the luau scene but it didn’t advance the story in any substantive way. So now you get to see it, in isolation, and judge for yourself!

 

“We need to keep our son somewhat concealed,” Rome said, cautiously holding Aason forward.

“Why?” asked Tenoal.

“He is not supposed to be here,” Rei said.

Tenoal looked confused then shrugged. He retrieved another two logs and placed them under the table, along with some cloths. When Rome was satisfied, she placed Aason on his makeshift bed and Rei and Rome sat down.

The meal was very festive. Dug into the sand were some open fire pits where they cooked fish and crabs and lobster. Rome, remembering her mother’s words, did not comment. If anything, the mandasurte were stricter about the Rules of Green than the Vuduri so if they allowed fire, it had to be balanced somehow.

Course after course of food came to their table. There were so many courses, Rei lost track. There were exotic greens and roasted vegetables and rice and eggs and fruit and poi and food that Rei had no clue regarding its origin. It didn’t matter. It was all good.

They also served kefir, a blend of milk and fermented coconut juice that Rei found particularly enjoyable. He could not remember the last time he had tasted alcohol. Rome seemed to enjoy it too. He logged that fact for later.

Rome’s relatives babbled on about their lives, their island, Rei only half-listened. He was tired and he knew it. The fatigue was making him a little morose. Or perhaps that was the kefir. He used his biskar to pick at the meat of the last piece of fish on his plate. He looked up and saw all the happy faces enjoying the bounty the sea had provided for them.

“You know, Rome,” he said. “In my day, this meal, this beach, it would have cost a fortune.”

“What do you mean?” Rome asked.

“Money. Lots of it,” Rei said.

 

Tomorrow, Rome and Rei have their first and only fight. One which was excised from the modern novel. As I said, as highlighted above in bold, alcohol was involved.

Entry 4-030: January 26, 2016

 

Money

 

Rome and Rei represent my ideal of how humans should interact. They both have their experience and moral code but they both make adjustments based upon the needs of their partner. I have often told you that the Rome’s Revolution novel and trilogy are not so much about Rome and Rei as they are the “Rome and Rei system” meaning their partnership.

 

So when I wrote this scene, I violated every founding principle upon which their entire life story was based. I’m glad I had to excise it when I produced the modern version. I didn’t like it when they disagreed and now it is gone. But you get to see it this one time:

 

“You know, Rome,” he said. “In my day, this meal, this beach, it would have cost a fortune.”

“What do you mean?” Rome asked.

“Money. Lots of it,” Rei said.

“You have explained money to me before,” Rome said. “I still do not understand it. Why was it necessary?”

“To pay for things,” Rei said. “For food, for clothing. We didn’t have all your whammy-jammy technology. People had to work for a living and for that living they got paid.”

“People work here as well,” Rome said, somewhat indignantly. “But we do not need money. We get what we need. Everyone is more than happy to provide for others.”

“But people always want more stuff,” Rei said. “They get jealous of their neighbors.”

“Neither Vuduri nor mandasurte get jealous,” Rome said. “They provide for each other. There is no greed here. Did you not ever do something for someone else without the expectation of being ‘paid?’” she asked.

“Of course,” Rei said. “But in general, if I work hard, I want more in return than for somebody who does not.”

“You work very hard,” Rome said softly. “And you get in return.” Rome reached over to put her hand over his.

“I know,” Rei said. “But, without money, it’s like animals or communists. It’s not civilized.”

“Animals provide for each other,” Rome said. “And as you point out, they do not get paid.”

“Yeah, right,” Rei said. “And animals are not civilized. My people codified a method of exchange that removed the subjective measure of value. Each dollar was worth the same as any other.”

“Until I met you, I always believed that your people were less civilized than animals,” Rome said.

 

Huh? If I was Rei, I’d be pretty upset at this point. Luckily, Rome makes it all better.

 

Tomorrow.

Entry 4-031: January 27, 2016

 

Luau 4

 

Yesterday, we saw how Rome and Rei were at loggerheads when it came to money. Even though this scene was excised from the modern version of Rome’s Revolution, it still left me upset that Rome would say she thought Rei’s people were less than animals. Luckily, she made it all better just by clarifying her statement:

 

“Until I met you, I always believed that your people were less civilized than animals,” Rome said.

“What?” Rei said.

“I said until I met you,” Rome said firmly, squeezing his hand. “Now I know you. I know your soul. I know you to be as noble a human as that which has ever lived. Look around you,” Rome said, sweeping her arm. “You do not need money here. This is all provided because these people love each other and because you are my husband, they love you too.”

“Well,” Rei said, returning to his meal. “They certainly know how to cook. This is certainly better than any fish I ever had back in my day.”

“You see?” Rome said. “And that is how it should be. That is what you deserve.”

Rei looked over at his wife, seeing the torches reflected in her dark, luminous eyes.

“I do not know what I did to deserve you, Rome,” Rei said in Vuduri. “But if that is the only thing I ever get out of life, it is enough.”

As the meal was progressing, Tenoal gently but firmly asked them how they came to be there. While Rome left out certain details, she finally did tell him the core of the matter, that of their need to reveal the plot of the Onsiras to the Vuduri.

Tenoal was outraged. “You must announce this to all of the world,” he said, “not just to the Overmind. The mandasurte need to know as well. And they need to know now, before any more of us disappear.”

“I do not know how to do that,” Rome said. “We would do it in stages. Right now our only option is to find a good Vuduri, one who we can trust, who can pass on this message. The good Vuduri, those that have not been compromised, will do the right thing and include the mandasurte.”

“Like they have up until now?” Tenoal asked.

“The Vuduri have been blind to what is going on,” Rei said. “It is time we opened their eyes.”

“You should go to O’ahu,” Tenoal said. “There is a mandasurte city there, called Onalu. It is the center of the mandasurte culture as well as the meeting place for all Vuduri and mandasurte in the South Pacific. There is a plaza at the center of the city. It is called Tanosa Plaza. That would be perfect. You could broadcast from there and you would reach the whole world at the same time. There would be no way for the Onsiras to suppress that information.”

 

Ah. Thank you, Uncle Tenoal. You have set us up for the double climax on the island known as O’ahu and the city called Onalu which people of the 21st century would call Honolulu.

Entry 4-032: January 28, 2016

 

Old Friends

 

When I say old friends, I also mean family. There are people in our lives that we don’t see for five, ten, twenty years and when we do, within minutes, it is like no time has passed. This is the truest definition of a blood bond, of family, whether by birth, by marriage or by association.

 

Binoda and Fridone, a mixed couple, forged many bonds within the mandasurte community and the luau scene gave us an opportunity to see the extended bonds they had formed:

 

Rome looked at Rei. “What do you think?” she asked him.

“How would we get there?” Rei asked. “We cannot take MINIMCOM. He is on his way to Ursay.”

“You would go the old-fashioned way,” said Tenoal. “We could take you in one of our boats, right into Berlis Harbor. It would be an easy journey to O’ahu, to Onalu, to Tanosa Plaza. From there you could speak to the world.”

“What about that,” Rei said, pointing to her wrist.

“What is that?” Tenoal asked. “What is so special about it?”

“It is a tracking bracelet, Onclare,” Rome said. “With it, the Vuduri would know we are off-island. It is one of the conditions of my ‘parole’ that I remain here.”

“Are you not allowed to go fishing with your old Onclare Tenoal?” he asked.

“I do not know,” Rome replied. “Today is the first day of my banishment. I do not know how far they would let me go before doing something about it.”

“Why do we not find out?” asked Tenoal. “There is no time like the present.”

“All right, Onclare,” said Rome. “We will try it.”

“When would we leave,” Rei asked with a hint of concern in his voice.

“I will take you right now,” said Tenoal, rising up from his seat.

“I think we can wait until the morning,” Rome said. “Rei and I are very tired. We do not know what time it is.”

“Very well,” said Tenoal. “At first light, we will go.”

“Thank you, Onclare,” Rome said.

Rei tapped Rome on her shoulder and pointed down the beach. Rome turned to look and saw Binoda walking toward them, speaking to what looked like thin air. She came up to them and patted Rei on the shoulder, bending down to give Rome a kiss. She cocked an eyebrow and Rome pointed to baby Aason who was under the table. Binoda nodded and proceeded past them to the other side of the table.

“Tenoal,” Binoda said to the leader.

“Ah, Binoda,” the older gentleman replied, getting up to give her a hug. “It is good to see you. It has been a long time.”

“Yes, it has,” replied Binoda. “Not since Fridone disappeared.”

“Yes, my brother,” answered Tenoal sadly. “I miss him.”

“I have a surprise for you,” Binoda said. “But first I need to ask you something.

“Of course,” Tenoal replied. “What is it?”

Binoda looked around at the tables and the people sitting there. “Do you know every person here?” she asked.

Tenoal looked around. “Yes, Binoda, of course,” he said. “I can vouch for every person here.”

 

It won’t take long until the “big” secret is revealed. Too bad it didn’t make it to final version. Meanwhile, Rome mistakenly thinks it can wait until morning.

Entry 4-033: January 29, 2016

 

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Three

 

I’m getting good at this now. I have finished compiling Year Three of the Tales of the Vuduri series already! Like Years One and Two, if you’ve missed any of these posts over the past year, it’ll be an easy way to catch up. I have published it on Amazon. You can easily find it there. This is what the splash page looks like:

 

 

Not only can you buy it on Amazon ($1.99), but Barnes and Noble ($0.99), in the iTunes Store (free!), for the Kobo reader (free!) and on Shakespir (free!)

 

The paperback will be available on CreateSpace in about a week and on Amazon and B&N about a week after that.

 

I’d like to sell the ebook for free on all platforms but Amazon and B&N just don’t allow it so I charge the minimum permitted. Actually, selling for free is kind of an oxymoron. I give the book away in the hopes that readers will be sufficiently intrigued to investigate Rome’s Revolution or The Milk Run and actually buy a copy.

 

Last year, I joined the KDP Select program and ran a 5-day free sale but I gave up when I found out that you weren’t allowed to sell on any other platform for 90 days. I sold 66 copies. As soon as I marked it back to $1.99, I didn’t sell another copy. People are just too accustomed to getting free stuff that nobody wants to pay two bucks for a 140,000 word opus.

 

As far as the paperback, I am simply awaiting for Bruce to finish the back cover so I can order a proof copy. Once that is approved, it will go on sale, probably within the next two weeks. I have to sell that thing for $17.99 because it is so danged thick. Oh well, find one of the free outlets and help yourself to a year’s worth of fascinating stuff.

Entry 4-034: January 30, 2016

 

The DOCX Format

 

Yesterday, I announced that my new book, Tales of the Vuduri: Year Three, was now live on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Shakespir and other outlets. In that same article, I claimed I was getting better at creating these books which are just compilations of the prior year’s posts from this very same blog.

 

Well, as part of the preparation of the manuscript for publication for iTunes and Shakespir, you have to convert it from a Word file to an EPUB. I use a program called Calibre. And it has to pass Epubcheck. Unfortunately, Calibre introduces an illegal tag (by Epubcheck’s standards) so I wrote a little FoxPro script to scrub the HTML before it even goes into Calibre.

 

Since I only produce these volumes once per year, I forgot that each image requires an alt tag (alternate title) and Epubcheck refuses to pass your manuscript unless every image has an alt tag. Tales of the Vuduri: Year Three has 179 images. Every image required that I right-click, select Format Picture, then select the Alt Text tab and type in text. What a pain in the butt!

 

I’m far too lazy to go through such effort so I decided to write a script to tag all 179 images at once. I opened up the DOCX file in WordPad and imagine my surprise when all I saw was gobbledygook. I made a wish to the magic answer machine (aka Google) and it told me that the DOCX was nothing more than a ZIP file with XML documents embedded within. I added a .ZIP extension and opened it up in WinZIP. Sure enough, it looked like this:

 

 

I drilled down into the word folder and with great trepidation removed the file called document.xml. In it, I found an example of a properly alt-text’ed tag that looks like this:

 

 

So all I had to do was do a search and replace for the phrase [type=”#_x0000_t75”] and change it to [type=”#_x0000_t75” alt=“image”]. I wrote my script in FoxPro, ran it, copied the modified document back to the ZIP file and then removed the ZIP extension. It worked! It passed Epubcheck. Hooray! However, I did make a note in my files to remember to do this next year but I thought you’d like to see what I have to go through to create a properly formatted ebook.

 

As a P.S., my book went live on iTunes and Shakespir within 24 hours which is a world’s record for me. In past years, it took a week or even two weeks to get through so things are definitely getting more efficient.

 

Entry 4-035: January 31, 2016

 

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Three WEB SITE

 

Now that Tales of the Vuduri: Year Three is live, it was time to upgrade the web site. In an amazing stroke of foresight, my talented web developer Regina, planned ahead and we had room to add the third volume without disrupting the flow of the web site. The URL for all the books is www.talesofthevuduri.com and the web page looks like this:

 

 

As I’ve mentioned innumerable times, my immensely talented brother Bruce creates the gorgeous covers for both the ebook and the paperback. If you examine each of the covers closely, you can see there is a theme developing here.

 

First, look at the number of starships in the sky. In Year One, there is one starship. In Year Two, there are two. In Year Three, there are three. Bruce already has the starship picked out for next year. It looks a little like the Space Shuttle. Also notice that each year had a different accent color. I don’t know what color Bruce has selected for next year but it doesn’t worry me.

 

Bruce already has Year Four and Year Five planned out in terms of content. You can see that the digital camera is zooming back and now the eastern coastline of Portugal is coming into view. Bruce also expanded the size of the spaceport in the lower right and added an additional ring to I-cimaci. This trend will continue for the next two years.

 

We have room at the top to add two more sample links. Next year, we will move Years Three and Four to a second row in 2 × 2 grid. When we finally roll out Year Five, the top row will go back to being three wide and the lower row will be two wide.

 

Then I stop. I know I could go on forever but I don’t want to. Maybe I’ll post one blog article a week? I don’t know. If there is a Year Six, then it means there is a Year Six. That’s all I know for now.

 

Tomorrow, wait till you find out how much I’ve written so far!

 

Entry 4-036: February 1, 2016

 

A million words

 

As my immensely talented brother Bruce observed during the development of the covers for my recently published Tales of the Vuduri: Year Three, he said, “Do you ever look at this and say to yourself ‘Damn, that is a lot of writing I’ve done’?”

 

To tell you the truth, I hadn’t really thought about so I decided to tally up how many words I have actually produced to date. Here is the word count:

 

Non-science Fiction:

Future Past = 107,000 words

The FoxPro 2.5 API = 35,000 words

 

Science Fiction

VIRUS 5 – Part 1 – Tabit = 98,000 words

VIRUS 5 – Part 2 – Tau Ceti = 98,000 words

VIRUS 5 – Part 3 – Earth = 91,000 words

 

(These books were eventually compiled down to the current Rome’s Revolution which sits at 167,000 words but we won’t count that since it an abridged version of[_ VIRUS 5_])

 

The Ark Lords = 79,000 words

Rome’s Evolution = 84,000 words

The Milk Run = 89,000 words

 

Tales of the Vuduri: Year One = 123,000 words

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Two = 140,000 words

Tales of the Vuduri: Year Three = 151,000 words

 

If you tally all these up, you get an astounding 1,095,000 words. You read that right: OVER A MILLION WORDS!!!

 

If you want to get technical and throw away the VIRUS 5 novels since I didn’t actually ever put them into publication, you would swap in Rome’s Revolution which I did publish. That would bring the tally down to a paltry 975,000 words on Amazon alone.

 

Boy, am I blabby!

 

And there is more coming. The Vuduri Companion is up next followed by MASAL – The Robot War. Then another Tales of the Vuduri compilation and finally The Vuduri Knight.

 

Who knows, maybe I’ll hit 2 million by the time it is all done. Yikes!

Entry 4-037: February 2, 2016

 

Surprise!

 

As I have mentioned several times, when I collapsed the original three-book set called VIRUS 5 down to the modern novel called Rome’s Revolution, a lot of extraneous material had to be excised to get it down to a reasonable length. One of the major scenes that got cut out was the luau scene after Rome and Rei had been transported into exile on O’ahu.

 

After the kefir and the disagreement about money, Rome and Rei had settled back to enjoy the rest of the festive meal. Her mother and her father, forcibly separated for 10 years, had remained behind. I wonder what they were doing? Well, whatever it was, enough time had passed and they decided to make a guest appearance at the luau. Here is a little “taste” of that scene:

 

Rei tapped Rome on her shoulder and pointed down the beach. Rome turned to look and saw Binoda walking toward them, speaking to what looked like thin air. She came up to them and patted Rei on the shoulder, bending down to give Rome a kiss. She cocked an eyebrow and Rome pointed to baby Aason who was under the table. Binoda nodded and proceeded past them to the other side of the table.

“Tenoal,” Binoda said to the leader.

“Ah, Binoda,” the older gentleman replied, getting up to give her a hug. “It is good to see you. It has been a long time.”

“Yes, it has,” replied Binoda. “Not since Fridone disappeared.”

“Yes, my brother,” answered Tenoal sadly. “I miss him.”

“I have a surprise for you,” Binoda said. “But first I need to ask you something.

“Of course,” Tenoal replied. “What is it?”

Binoda looked around at the tables and the people sitting there. “Do you know every person here?” she asked.

Tenoal looked around. “Yes, Binoda, of course,” he said. “I can vouch for every person here.”

“Are there any here who might be connected to the Overmind?” she asked.

Tenoal seemed surprised at the question. “No,” he said. “Those that had that ability have long since left. We are all mandasurte here. Of that, I am quite certain.”

“Excellent,” Binoda said.

The air next to her shimmered and suddenly, Fridone was standing there.

“Fridone!” Tenoal said, throwing his arms in the air. “My little ormei.” He came around and hugged Fridone, his brother and Rome’s father. “What is this magic?” he asked.

“No magic,” replied Fridone. “Just a precaution. I am not supposed to be here.”

“It is getting to be quite a crowd,” said Tenoal jovially, pointing to the table.

“Join us,” he said and he waved at Rav who brought over two more logs. Fridone and Binoda sat down at the table to partake in the feast set before them.

Binoda enjoyed her food but Fridone absolutely devoured it. His zeal was not simply that he missed the food of his ancestors and family. The fact was that he really hadn’t had a decent meal since he was kidnapped and taken to Deucado, almost ten years earlier. The people on Deucado were well-meaning but they had not had enough time on that strange new world to master the bounty provided by their new home. The meats had no taste, they were derived from the falling blankets. The fruits and vegetables had not real substance to him. Yes, Fridone enjoyed this meal both for its flavor and the company it provided.

 

Again, while this sequence was fun, it didn’t really advance the plot at all so it had to go. But I did enjoy writing it and you get to revisit it for this short while. Sadly, it is time to say aloha to peace and tranquility.

 

More on that tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-038: February 3, 2016

 

Salvation

 

When Rome and Rei and Binoda (and Fridone) were exiled to Hawaii, they only saw it as a staging point for their plan to alert the remaining good Vuduri as to the Onsira’s insidious plan to eradicate the mandasurte, the mind-deaf during the latter portion of Rome’s Revolution. This was back when the novel was in its original long form called VIRUS 5. However, Fridone’s brother, Rome’s Uncle Tenoal, thought their presence was more symbolic:

 

After the meal, Tenoal leaned forward and moved his arm in a broad sweeping gesture.

“It is more than coincidence that you came here, you know,” he said.

“Of course,” replied Binoda. “I picked this place because of you and your family.”

“No,” said Tenoal. “It is more than that. What you are doing, preserving the mandasurte culture, this is the very essence of Havei.”

“You do not need to tell me, brother,” Fridone said.

“Yes, I do,” said Tenoal. “You were always a scientist first. Even though you grew up here, you were not satisfied to just live off the land and sea. You had to explore.”

“Is there anything wrong with that?” Fridone asked, somewhat defensively.

“Oh no, that is not what I mean,” said Tenoal. “You and I, science and nature, we are just a microcosm of life here. What I meant was that these islands, our people, we have been here for over 3000 years. These islands have been under attack by invaders, whether it was a new species of plant or animal or people of ill will, it has been this way for much of our history. And what you have told me today is just another such attack.”

“How did Havei survive the Great Dying?” Rei asked. “You are so isolated here. Did it set you back?”

“Completely,” said Tenoal, sadly. “The disease which ravaged the world nearly wiped us out as well. During your day, there was so much trafficking with the outside world, it was only a matter of days before the infection had spread to all the islands. Our people were nearly exterminated.”

“How did you recover?” Rei asked.

Tenoal replied, “The same as the rest of the world. Very slowly.”

 

So my characters felt their actions had meaning even when I, the author, had no knowledge of this. Good for them. And the Onsiras will get theirs in the end.

Entry 4-039: February 4, 2016

 

Hawaiian Desserts 1

 

When Denise and I were in Hawaii for our honeymoon, we went to a lot of neat restaurants. Every place we went served Mai Tais and there was a pineapple garnish on everything. The food was fantastic and so were the desserts but some places seemed to put a premium on presentation. Some were so neat that I had to slip them into the now-lost luau scene from Rome’s Revolution. Over the next few days I’ll show you some pictures and how I integrated them into the story. Here is the first picture:

 

 

Here is that dessert in the context of the story:

 

If I may have your attention, please,” Tenoal said to them.

“Yes?” Rome asked.

“Rav has a treat for you,” Tenoal replied. “Rav!” he said, waving at the teenage boy who had first greeted them.

Rav came over carrying a tray with several plates on it. He took one and placed it in front of Rome and another in front of Rei. On Rome’s plate, he spread a brown, granular substance along the lower half. He took a small pitcher filled with a foamy white liquid and spread the foam part over the upper part of the plate then ladled brown syrup over it. When he was done, a perfectly rendered picture of a palm tree swaying over the sand was created.

“This is wonderful,” Rome exclaimed. “What is it?”

“It is a palm tree,” Rav replied.

“No,” Rome said, laughing. “The food itself. What is this made of?”

“The sand is brown sugar,” Rav explained. “The white is whipped cream and the brown is chocolate syrup.”

“Mmm, chocolate,” Rome said, dipping her little finger in then placing it on her lips. She had grown quite addicted to it over their year-long trip from Tabit to Deucado.

“He is not done yet,” Tenoal said.

 

Tomorrow, I’ll show you the second dessert which was also just as scrumptious.

 

Entry 4-040: February 5, 2016

 

Hawaiian Desserts 2

 

Yesterday, I revealed that when Denise and I were in Hawaii for our honeymoon, we saw a lot of beautifully presented desserts. They impressed me so much that I had to slip them into the now-lost luau scene from Rome’s Revolution. Here is the second dessert we encountered:

 

 

And here is that dessert in the context of the story:

 

“He is not done yet,” Tenoal said.

Rav came around to Rei’s right and placed a scoop of brown sugar on the plate. He placed dollops of whipped cream in a splaying pattern then outlined them in chocolate.

“What is this? Rei asked.

“It is a pineapple blossom,” Rav said proudly.

“Oh yes,” Rei said, delighted. “I see it.”

“And now the finishing part,” Rav said. He pulled out a plate of strawberries and poured a small canister of amber-colored liquid over them.

 

What do you think Rav is going to do? I’ll show you the final dessert tomorrow.

Entry 4-041: February 6, 2016

 

Hawaiian Desserts 3

 

Yesterday and the day before, I explained that when Denise and I were in Hawaii for our honeymoon, we saw a lot of amazing and beautifully presented desserts. We enjoyed them so much that I had to slip them into the now-lost luau scene from Rome’s Revolution. Here is the final dessert we encountered:

 

 

Here is that dessert in the context of the story:

 

Rav pulled out a plate of strawberries and poured a small canister of amber-colored liquid over them. He went over to one of the torches and pulled off a small burning leaf. He touched it to the liquid which caught on fire instantly and glowed with a warm blue blaze.

“This is wonderful,” Rome said, clapping her hands together.

“Wait until you taste it,” Tenoal said. Rav spooned some of the flaming strawberries on each of their plates.

Rome lifted a biskar and skewered one of the strawberries and coated it with the brown sugar, whipped cream and chocolate. She blew out the flame and put it in her mouth.

“Oh my,” she said, closing her eyes. “If I understand the concept as Rei describes it, this is heaven!”

Rei tried it and said, “Mmmmm.” Then, in English, he said, “Oh wow!” Then, switching back to Vuduri, he said, “Tenoal, thank you. I cannot tell you how much I have missed fresh fruit. And this! This show. This is too much.”

Tenoal put his arms across his chest proudly. “It is the least we could do for family who have come so far.”

 

I hope you enjoyed seeing these desserts as much as we enjoyed eating them!

Entry 4-042: February 7, 2016

 

I love you

 

Since 1973, I have been trying to bring to you the story of Rome and Rei, two lovers who were always destined to be together. At least in my head they were. After they were banished to Hawaii, before they embarked on their mission to take on the Onsiras, they decided take a moment to savor the beauty and tranquility of the islands. It was during this tiny interval, when the stresses of ordinary life (and saving the world) were stripped away, that they got a chance to express feelings that normally don’t fit in a hero’s life. Even though the luau scene was excised from the final version of Rome’s Revolution, I thought I’d share with you that one tiny, pure moment when Rome and Rei pretended the burden of genocide was not hanging over their heads:

 

“Thank you for an extraordinary meal, Onclare Tenoal,” Rome said.

“Yes, thank you,” Rei echoed.

“It was nothing, my niece. It was wonderful to see you and meet your new husband. We will do this again very soon,” he said.

Rome looked at Rei but said nothing. He took Rome’s hand and they took turns saying goodbye to the gathering. After they were done, they headed across the small stretch of sand, down the stone path towards the palm tree grove. They made their way through and emerged from the stand of trees at the north end of their beach. They could see the double set of footprints leading toward the hut but Rei pulled Rome down to the edge of the water. They looked over the ocean where the sun had set so many hours earlier. Rei turned back and saw the moon was just beginning to creep over the opposite horizon with a bright star to its right. He put his arms around his wife and kissed her long and hard.

When the kiss was complete, Rome pulled back a bit and said, “What was that for?”

“It was because I love you, Rome. I am the luckiest man alive in your time, in my time, in any time. Here and to the stars.”

He lifted her up by the waist with ease and twirled in the sand with her.

“And I love you,” Rome said, grasping his cheeks and kissing him again. She draped her arms around his neck and hugged him again, holding on to her man as if for dear life. She closed her eyes and just reveled in the feeling of now, of the peaceful world they had entered and how things would only get better. She slid her hands down, along Rei’s leg and came to the bulge in his pocket.

“What is this?” she asked slyly.

“Oh, that,” Rei said. “I was meaning to tell you about that. MINIMCOM said…”

Rei stopped talking as he noticed Rome was not paying attention to him. She was staring back across the island to the eastern horizon. The moon was exactly where it had been but the bright star to its side had moved and was, in fact, getting brighter.

“Rei,” she said with a hint of worry in her voice. “Look at that.”

 

I know what Rome was staring at. It isn’t good. Their one tiny romantic moment was already over. It was time to whip into action again.

 

Entry 4-043: February 8, 2016

 

Moroccan Sun

 

A while back, I wrote a series of articles about renewable sources of energy. One article focused on direct harnessing of the Sun. I showed images of a solar furnace, a solar heating system and finally photo-voltaic cells.

 

The solar furnace at Ivanpah in the Mojave Desert in California is the world’s largest solar thermal power plant. It uses a bunch of mirrors, all pointing at a central tower, to create super-heated steam which is then used to run a generator. However, when the Sun goes does, the plant shuts down. It sure seems like they could use an auxiliary block of Tesla’s Powerwall to store energy during the day for distribution at night. A little known fact is that the Ivanpah plant burns a lot of natural gas to get started in the morning. So it does emit greenhouse gasses and so far has underperformed. It has also cooked something like 28,000 birds who have inadvertently flown into the path of the mirrors. It sounds like it is a technology that needs a bit more fine-tuning.

 

Well, the next generation is here, in Morocco of all places. The Noor series of plants use huge, rotating mirrors to aim the Moroccan sun at a tube containing synthetic oil, hot enough to melt sand before superheating steam to run a turbine. The molten sand is used after the Sun goes down to produce energy for an additional three hours now but might reach as much as eight hours upon completion when the plant is at full strength.

 

 

When the entire plant is completed, the Moroccan government expects to produce 42% of the country's energy need along with wind and hydroelectric power. They plan on bumping that number to 52% by the year 2030. If all goes well, eventually, Morocco will become an energy exporter and completely self-sufficient without using a drop of fossil fuels.

 

Kudos to them!

 

Entry 4-044: February 9, 2016

 

A floating solar farm

 

Yesterday, I described Morocco’s Noor solar generation plant which harnesses the power of the Sun to heat synthetic oil which, in turn, generates power using super-heated steam. They elected to use a translation of solar power instead of photovoltaic cells. They could have done so but this is direction they elected to follow. Good for them.

 

But what if you really did want to build a solar farm using solar cells but didn’t have the land area? Like Japan, for example. Well, they may not have land but they have plenty of water so they are now building “floating” solar farms on lakes and reservoirs. Here is an artist’s concept courtesy of Kyocera Corp.:

 

 

Ultimately, this plant will generate 13.7MW of energy. Not a huge amount but, in a sense, free after the plant is built. Once Japan has completed all their floating plants on their inland waters, while it is not advisable to build such a plant in the middle of the ocean, they do have the relatively calm Sea of Japan. There may be no upper limit to how much power they can generate once they perfect these methods:

 

 

Remember, the Sun radiates enough energy to power the entire Earth for a whole year three times over EVERY DAY! The floating sun farm may be the ultimate answer to eliminating fossil fuels altogether.

 

Entry 4-045: February 10, 2016

 

A bigger floating solar farm

 

Yesterday, I described the Kyocera floating sun farm in Japan which will be able to produce a little over 13MW of energy, at least while the Sun is out. Seems like a lot of free energy, right?

 

Well, Brazil has announced that they will build a floating solar farm on a reservoir which will produce 360MW of power. That’s 30 times larger than the one in Japan which is the current world’s record holder. Here is an artist’s rendering of what that farm will look like:

 

 

This is a brilliant idea for a variety of reasons. Obviously the main objective is to capture the free energy put out by the Sun without the emission of greenhouse gasses. But there is a secondary reason, equally as brilliant. Brazil in in the midst of a historic drought and their water reserves are going down continuously. Building a solar panel farm on top of the reservoir plunges the water into continual shade and thus significantly reduces evaporation thus conserving water.

 

For obvious reasons, you cannot build floating solar farms on ponds or lakes or bodies of water that people use for recreation. But, historically, reservoirs are fenced off and not used for recreation. Therefore their large surface area is perfect holding a floating farm. No one’s peace or enjoyment of life is hindered, only enhanced.

 

It is forward thinking like this that will lead us into the new age of nearly free energy generation. Our goal should be nothing less than 100% renewable energy generation by the end of the century. We can eliminate human production of greenhouse gases and leave that to cow flatulence.

 

Maybe there is still time, yet, to save the Earth. Once you achieve free energy generation, wealth becomes available to all and leads to an egalitarian way of life, just I have depicted in Rome’s Revolution.

 

Entry 4-046: February 11, 2016

 

The Weinermobile again

 

A while back, I wrote an article that stemmed from the second section of Rome’s Revolution. The scene took place after Rome had saved Rei’s life by having him ejected from the Vuduri palace. The Vuduri planned on executing him but Rome stopped that. Rei was taken in a strange vehicle that was a cross between a military transport and the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile:

 

 

Rei had nothing but bad memories of that trip. In the final part of Rome’s Revolution, he and Rome, while walking back to the shack on the beach, were interrupted by forces unknown in a similar craft. I cheated and borrowed the description of the craft from the earlier section for two reasons. First, it was meant to show that it was essentially the same craft, semi-military in design. And second, I am quite lazy. Here is that scene:

 

Suddenly, a blinding light appeared in the sky as the craft activated its floodlights, illuminating Rei and Rome and a broad circle of sand. Instinctively, Rei pushed Rome behind him as the peculiarly shaped vehicle flew overhead then settled into the sand just in front of them. Where it landed on the beach was nearly identical to where MINIMCOM had landed earlier in the day. The craft was a long tube on stilts, like a bizarre form of a bus or helicopter fuselage. It was almost insect-like. It was rounded with rows of windows along the sides and four oversized EG lifters, one at each corner mounted at the end of the stilts. Rei realized that it was very similar to the craft that had transported him from the Vuduri palace on Deucado to the thread-grass field where the rag-like creatures had tried to eat him.

Rei put his hand up to block the light from shining directly into his eyes. He saw that a door in the side lowered and there were stairs built into the back of the door. Very quickly, six armed men, dressed completely in black, ran down the steps and came right at them.

 

Six armed men, dressed in black when the Vuduri only wore white? That can’t be good.

 

Entry 4-047: February 12, 2016

 

The Zengei

 

A while back, I wrote a short article describing Reema, the first Onsira queen, who we did not get to meet in person until my third novel, Rome’s Evolution.

 

I tried to pattern the Onsira community after a typical beehive. While MASAL and later MASAL’s Sipre provided the underlying group consciousness, it was the Reonhe, the queens, who provided the physical leadership. The Reonhe were peculiar in that they literally had two brains. Half their brain was devoted to MASAL and the Onsiras but the other half was a typical Vuduri brain able to connect with the Overmind and thus allow them to blend in.

 

We got to meet several Reonhe, first Estar and later Sussen, in Rome’s Revolution and as I mentioned above, Reema, in Rome’s Evolution. Just like a bee-hive, you also needed worker bees and those people, typically male, were called the Zengei. They were not connected to the Overmind and thus functionally invisible. They weren’t mandasurte but they weren’t Vuduri either.

 

Their eyes were very peculiar. Unlike a regular 24-chromosome Vuduri, they did not have a tapetum so their eyes did not appear to glow. In fact, their irises were flat black and their pupil in the middle made their eyes look a little like shark’s eyes. They could speak but I wanted the shark analogy to spill over so you could conclude something about their personalities:

 

The men circled around until they formed roughly a ring around Rei and Rome. Wordlessly, one of the men poked at Rei with the barrel of a weapon while another waved at the transport. It was not hard to figure out their intentions.

“Don’t you guys have to have a warrant or something,” Rei said in English. The nearest soldier bent forward and looked Rei in the eye. The soldier’s eyes were dark black. In the reflected glow the craft’s harsh floodlights, Rei could see they were cloudy and flat. They had no life to them. They reminded Rei of a shark’s eyes.

“Come with us,” the solder said hoarsely, in English. The men behind them pushed them forward.

 

 

The Zengei were not nice people.

 

Entry 4-048: February 13, 2016

 

Cut off

 

In the latter part of Rome’s Revolution, Rome has a problem. She has a tracking bracelet on her wrist which will inform the ever-watchful Vuduri if she leaves the island of Maui. In the mean time, she and Rei were just captured by the Zengei, the mindless followers of MASAL and the Onsiras. You can be sure that the Zengei plan on taking them somewhere nefarious especially because they brought a military transport. So what to do? Rome can be tracked. That means the Onsiras’ plans for her have a limited lifespan.

 

Maybe not. You will recall that when Rome was first arrested, she was taken to a room lined with T-suppressors to isolate her from using her PPT transducers. The room was also a Faraday cage to cut her off from any EM transmissions. We know the Onsiras were listening in. After all, the Reonhe are part Vuduri so they simply copied the Vuduri’s own design.

 

How do we know? Check this out:

 

“We just got arrested by a bunch of armed guards with dead eyes,” Rei said.

“That does not sound good indeed,” MINIMCOM replied.

One of the troops pushed Rei in the back. Rei started walking up the stairs as slowly as he could. “Where are you?” Rei asked, stopping at the top.

“I am roughly 4000 kilometers due north of your previous position. The Aleutian Islands are directly ahead of me.”

“I think you’d better come back,” Rei said. “And pronto. Nothing good is going to come of this.”

“On my way,” MINIMCOM said. “I will be there as quickly as I can.”

“Thanks, buddy,” Rei thought as he bent his head down and stepped in the cabin.

“No problem, erp, ” said MINIMCOM and the connection was cut.

Rei’s eyes widened. Nothing like that had ever happened before. When MINIMCOM was fighting the Cecetiras, there had been a disruption of the channel but that was because of a problem on MINIMCOM’s side. This was something else. This was inside his head. Rei tapped his temple as if to clear the receiver but nothing changed. It was as if the transport itself was somehow shielded against the apparatus in his head.

Rei looked around. Now that he had fully entered the cabin, he could see it was transport designed to convey people, not cargo. The cabin was filled with a dozen rows of spartan-looking seats and not much else. The soldiers placed Rei on one side and Rome on the other.

One soldier sat between Rei and the aisle. Another did the same for Rome. The other four soldiers buckled themselves in both in front and behind them.

Rei looked out the window and even though there was no sensation of motion, he could see the ground dropping below.

“Hey,” he asked the soldier next to him.

“Yes,” the soldier replied without looking at him.

“Why does this thing have windows?” he asked. “I thought Vuduri did not care about such things.”

The soldier turned to Rei and Rei could see he had the same flat black shark-like eyes as the soldier who had first accosted him.

“We use this craft to transport mandasurte,” the soldier said tonelessly. “We have found that it renders the passengers more docile if they can look out of a window.”

“Transport us to where?” Rei asked but the soldier turned forward, ignoring him.

 

These people are serious! Not good.

 

Entry 4-049: February 14, 2016

 

Gravity Waves

 

All right. Let’s get this out of the way. Yes, it is true. Scientists at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) in Louisiana and Washington State confirmed that they have detected gravity waves for the first time in the history of mankind. Einstein predicted such waves one hundred years ago but it took this long to build instruments sensitive enough to detect these ripples in the space-time continuum. The ripples themselves were caused by two black holes collapsing into one another over a billion years ago.

 

So what impact does this have on the 35th century and the world of Rome’s Revolution? Well, as you probably know, I was using the fact that gravity traveled much, much faster (a million, billion times faster) than the speed of light to give rise to PPT transducers and the Overmind.

 

The LIGO experiment proves that gravity, at least that passed along using the theoretical gravitons (massless particles that carry gravitational force), travels at the speed of light. Now while that is not actually a constant (light travels slower in water than in a vacuum), it is pretty close and kind of ruins my gravitic radiation thing.

 

I’m not going to rewrite the whole Rome’s Revolution saga just because science has debunked my fundamental theorem. Instead, I’m going to fall back to a never-proven theory of Gravity A and Gravity B, as promulgated by Robert Lazar, the self-proclaimed UFO expert. Gravity B is the gravity we are all familiar with. It works at a macro, cosmic scale and it is the force that keeps our feet on the ground. Lazar proposed that there is another kind of gravity, Gravity A, which works at a atomic or quantum level. So I’m going to say that my PPT transducers modulate Gravity A, not B and since Gravity A has never been proven to exist, I can still claim that it propagates at two times ten to the 10th power, my original “speed of gravity.” Think of the underlying A gravitons as the tachyons of the gravitational force.

 

I am going to have to rework my electro-gravity theory a little bit as well. Maybe I’ll make that use Gravity A as well. You know, for a science fiction writer, sometimes science sucks!

 

 

Entry 4-050: February 15, 2016

 

Heading back to the Big Island

 

When Denise and I had our honeymoon in Hawaii, we spent our time on three islands. We first visited Oahu which wasn’t that great. Then we visited the Big Island of Hawaii which was really neat. We spent the remainder of our time on Maui which really is Heaven on Earth.

 

When we left the Big Island, I had a window seat and watched the vistas below as we traveled to Maui. The sights were so neat, I decided to include them the latter part of Rome’s Revolution just because they were so clear in my head:

 

The craft rotated in place and headed across the southern part of Maui rising as it went. As he was on the right side of the transport, he could not see the gigantic crater of Haleakala to the north but could see the rise of the land leading up to it. In a short while, they were over the ocean. Rei could tell from the position of the rising moon that they were headed southeast and it was not long before they came upon the Big Island of Hawaii. They cut across the interior skirting around the peak of Mauna Loa then headed due east.

Rei looked over at Rome but he could not see her because of the guard sitting between them. Rei turned and looked out the window again. In the pale moonlight, Rei could see patterns that he guessed were vegetation interspersed among black, volcanic rock. As the pilot brought the craft around, the caldera of Kilauea rose up in front of them and they climbed again following its rise to its peak. The transport stopped its horizontal motion, rotating in place, hovering over the huge crater. The mouth of the crater was over half a kilometer across, dwarfing the small craft. The pilot lowered them straight down, coming to rest just above the floor of the dormant volcano.

Activating the floodlights again, the transport inched its way forward into a tunnel built into the side. Rei could not tell if it was real or artificial. Suddenly, the pilot extinguished the lights and they were plunged into complete darkness. After a short time, a slight jostle told him they had landed. This was confirmed by the soldiers unbuckling and forming a phalanx. One of the soldiers moved to the side and opened the door, lowering the exit ramp. Rei and Rome were escorted out of the craft.

 

Here is a picture of what it looked like from the airplane:

 

Entry 4-051: February 16, 2016

 

Under the volcano

 

As an author, things ring truest when I write about things that I know. However, there are times when you must write scenes about places (and people) that you cannot know. For example, in the latter part of Rome’s Revolution, I wanted to put the secret Onsira base below the seemingly dormant volcano Kilauea. When my wife and I flew over it on our honeymoon, it may not have been dormant but it certainly was chillin’:

 

 

The volcano was not actively erupting. However, it was emitting a lot of vapor. That white smoke you see coming out of the top is not steam. It is sulfuric acid! Not very inviting. It made wonder about what was going underneath. I wanted the confrontation scene between Rome and Estar to take place in a dark and scary environment to match the danger represented by being captured by the Onsiras. So I dove in using only my imagination and this is what I came up with:

 

Once they were on the ground, the soldiers grasped them on their arms and the remaining soldiers moved behind them, holding out their rifles. With a slight prodding, they started walking forward and entered a slightly smaller tunnel. The roof was high, perhaps ten meters over their heads. As Rei looked around, he decided this was a fairly old lava tube of some sort and the walls were real, not Vuduri glop. Along the walls were dimly lit globes separated by great distances but they were enough for them to see their way walking along the hard ground.

As they walked along the tunnel, Rei could see they were in an elaborate underground complex. Occasionally, there were doorways cut out of the living rock but it wasn’t until they were taken to the apparent end of the hallway that they stopped. One of the soldiers opened a door and motioned that they were to go through. As they entered the room, it was only slightly easier to see. There were aerogel panels, covering up some of the rock but they did not quite reach the ceiling. However, the panels did emit the usual diffuse lighting that seemed to emanate from all Vuduri-made materials. The ceiling was partially tiled but above it, Rei could see lava rock, dark grey and porous.

 

So, here they are in more or less a torture chamber, beneath a dormant volcano. Pretty creepy, huh? It gets us ready to meet the next villain, the architect of a plot to extract the truth, no matter what the cost.

 

Entry 4-052: February 17, 2016

 

Interrogation. Again.

 

In the latter part of Rome’s Revolution, we saw the Rome and Rei were kidnapped by the Zengei, the worker-bees of the Onsiras and taken to the secret base underneath the now-dormant volcano Kilauea. This scary place was to be the scene of Rome’s next interrogation.

 

Why would the Onsiras want to interrogate her? It was clear that Rome and Rei stumbled a bit as they presented The Big Lie but still, why would the Onsiras care? Were they just being paranoid? The fact is, I really don’t know. I just thought it would be cool. We know that Rome was part of a program called Slayer, started by the Overmind to flush out what later turned out to be MASAL’s secret samanda, long after the evil computer had supposedly died. But still, look at Estar’s questions and Rome’s answers. They really don’t propel the Onsiras’ agenda:

 

The third person was a petite blonde woman wearing one of the standard issue Vuduri white jumpsuits. Rei recognized her immediately and his heart sank.

The woman walked over to where Rome was sitting.

“Hello, Estar,” Rome said dispassionately.

“Hello, Rome,” replied Estar, Rome’s fellow archivist from back on Skyler Base.

“What do you want with us?” Rei called out to her.

Estar turned her head and glanced in Rei’s general direction but averted her eyes as if she wanted to deny his existence. She turned back to Rome and regarded her for a long time.

“We require some answers,” she said finally.

“What kind of answers?” Rome asked.

“The truthful kind,” Estar said. “You have not been forthcoming so far.”

“How have we not told the truth,” Rei interjected from across the room.

Estar turned to him and this time looked directly at him. “Erklirte, it will be your turn shortly. Please be quiet.” She turned back to Rome.

“I am not supposed to be here,” Rome said, lifting her wrist showing off the tracking bracelet. “I was not supposed to leave Mowei.”

“No one knows you are here,” said Estar. “Your tracking signal has been jammed since you entered our transport and it is fully masked now. No one can follow you here.”

“But why?” Rome asked. “I still do not understand. What do you want of us?”

“As I stated. I need you to answer some questions,” said Estar.

“I have already been questioned,” Rome replied. “I have already given my answers.”

“Not to me,” said Estar.

“What?” Rome asked resignedly. “What do you want to know?”

“I only have three questions,” Estar said, holding up three fingers, “but choose you answers wisely.”

“What are they?” Rome asked quietly.

 

If I had to guess, since I knew that Rome and Rei had come from Deucado, I have to believe that the Onsiras suspected it too. Otherwise this whole interrogation thing is a waste of time. What were the three questions? Tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-053: February 18, 2016

 

The Three Questions: Question 1

 

Yesterday, I set up the interrogation scene for you as Estar was about to ask Rome three questions in the latter part of Rome’s Revolution. Today I will present the first question and proclaim that Rome tells the truth by playing with Estar’s words and answering her literally. Here is the first question:

 

Estar lowered her hand. “First,” she said, “within your shuttle, your engines were deliberately crippled. We have tried to reverse the programming but we were unable to do so. From the logs, we can deduce their power output has been reduced for a long time but there are other indicators that do not match up. Our engineers have one reading that would indicate it is even possible that event occurred within the last sixty days.”

 “You are wrong,” Rome said without much conviction. Even though she was telling the truth, Rome was certain it was not in the way that Estar would have guessed.

Estar bent down so that she could look Rome directly in the eyes. For the first time, Rome realized Rei was correct, that Estar’s eyes were not like a regular Vuduri’s. The irises were completely silver and with the light reflected off of her tapetum, it almost appeared as if there was no discernible pupil. How could she have missed this before? How blind was Rome to all of this when she was part of the Overmind?

“Who disabled them?” Estar asked sharply.

“We did not,” Rome said. “Over time, they simply became less efficient. If you cannot deduce how this came to pass, how could we?”

“You did this,” Estar spat out. “How did you do it?”

“I did not,” Rome protested. “I do not have the knowledge nor the skill set to do so. And Rei certainly does not.”

Estar turned to look at Rei. “Of course he does not. But this leaves us with no answer. Why would you even do such a thing?”

Rome just looked at Estar with no expression on her face, staring into those silver eyes.

“Very well,” Estar said. “We will return to this issue.”

 

Did I say Rome was telling the truth? Mostly, she was. First, MINIMCOM had disabled the engines a mere 24 hours earlier, not 60 days as Estar suggested. Second, truthfully, Rome and Rei did not disable the engines, MINIMCOM did. And when asked how she did it, Rome truthfully answered she did not do it because she wouldn’t know how. Only MINIMCOM did.

 

Estar knew there was more to the story but she just wasn’t good enough at interrogation to elicit the proper response. Don’t forget, even though she looked like an adult, she was actually only 12 years old. She was not happy about Rome’s answers but she still had two more shots at it.

 

Entry 4-054: February 19, 2016

 

The Three Questions: Question 2

 

Yesterday, Estar tried to extract the truth from Rome regarding the crippled star-drive engines in the latter part of Rome’s Revolution. Estar was simply not skilled enough as an interrogator to get to the truth of the matter so she gave up. A little too easily if you ask me but that how the story goes. Today, she asks Rome the second question about something they believe to be important:

 

“Very well,” Estar said. “We will return to this issue. My next question is very simple. Why were there three chairs in your galley?”

Rome thought back to the trip from I-cimaci to Mowei and realized that Grus was paying attention when her mother pointed that out. The Onsiras must have been listening in. Perhaps Grus was one of them. Rome did not know. She shrugged.

“We synthesized one during our trip,” Rome answered.

“Why?” Estar hissed. “This action makes no sense.”

“Have you ever had more than one meal with the same person?” Rome asked.

“Of course,” Estar replied.

“Did you always sit in the same place?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Estar asked.

“Well,” Rome continued, “Rei and I had every one of our meals together every day for over one year. After some time, we needed a little variety in where we sat. Creating another chair was certain easier than lifting and moving the chairs each time.”

“I do not understand. Why did you need variety?” Estar asked. “That is inefficient.”

“It is what we mandasurte do,” Rome said proudly. “Of course you cannot understand.”

Estar started to speak and then stopped herself. She signaled to the lab-coated men who came to stand by Rome’s side. Rei tried to get up but he was bound too tightly. He couldn’t help himself.

“What are you going to do to her?” he asked.

Rome looked at one of the technicians then the other. She shook her head no at Rei.

Estar answered him nonetheless. “It is possible we will do nothing,” said Estar. She turned back to Rome. “Your next answer determines your fate.”

Rome’s eyes widened. “Answer to what?”

 

You will notice that Rome never actually answered Estar’s simple question. She gave an answer that sounded like she was responding to Estar’s inquiry but the reality was that it was a discourse about another subject entirely. Again, Estar’s immaturity betrayed her. She was getting frustrated though. Tomorrow you will see that she is very serious about getting to the truth, even if she cannot do it by words alone!

 

Entry 4-055: February 20, 2016

 

The Three Questions: Question 3

 

Yesterday, Estar tried once again to get the truth out of Rome regarding what they were doing on Earth and how they got there in the latter part of Rome’s Revolution. She failed miserably. This little scene was Estar’s final attempt to get at the answers by words alone:

 

Estar said, “Your next answer determines your fate.”

Rome’s eyes widened. “Answer to what?”

“To my third question,” replied Estar. “What happened to your baby?”

“My baby?” Rome asked confused. “He, he died. He was stillborn. I already explained this to Oronus.”

“Yes,” said Estar. “But what did you do with the body? The remains?”

Rome looked over at Rei in a panic. She tried once again to call him using their internal circuit but the only sound she detected was a pulsating, buzzing noise. The jamming equipment simply worked too well.

“Well?” Estar said. “Answer me!” she shouted.

Rome looked down at her feet and the image of Aason dead was enough to call up a flood of tears. When they were sufficient to spill over and down her cheeks, she looked up at Estar.

“We sent him into space,” Rome said quietly. “Rei made him a ceoxei and we set him adrift. Rei called it a burial at sea.”

“You are lying,” Estar said. “No more.”

The technicians pushed Rome back onto the table and tied her arms and legs down with four sets of restraints.

“Hey!” Rei shouted, struggling with his bonds. “Leave her alone, you demented bitch.”

“I warned you,” Estar said without looking at him. One of the soldiers went over and stuff a cloth into Rei’s mouth then strapped an elastic band around his head so he could not spit it out. Meanwhile, the technicians placed cuffs on Rome’s arm and leg and they placed two sensor pads one on each temple.

“It is time you rejoined us,” Estar said harshly. “We shall reconnect you and then we will know the truth.”

“I do not wish to be connected,” Rome replied.

“Of course you do,” said Estar. “I was there when you were Cesdiud. You were devastated. This is your chance to come back.”

“You do not know what you are talking about, Estar,” Rome said. “I am mandasurte now and this is the way I want to be.”

“You have spent too much time with the Essessoni,” Estar said with disdain. “You have lost the ability to think clearly. Your words are just ranting and mean nothing.”

 

Well, Rome’s words were just ranting when you consider the fact that she never actually answered Estar’s questions. It was time for Estar to employ more drastic measures. She just didn’t account for the squiggly line. I will explain tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-056: February 21, 2016

 

The squiggly line

 

Yesterday, we saw Estar fail to get any useful information from Rome during her interrogation deep beneath the currently dormant volcano Kilauea in the latter part of Rome’s Revolution. It was time for Estar to bring out the big gun. Her plan was to reconnect Rome to the Overmind or at least MASAL’s version of the Overmind thereby giving them access to Rome’s inner thoughts. Little did they know that Rome had already been reconnected by the Vuduri in their compound back on Deucado.

 

You can’t reconnect a person who is already connected. The signs are there. Estar just chooses to ignore them:

 

“You have spent too much time with the Essessoni,” Estar said with disdain. “You have lost the ability to think clearly. Your words are just ranting and mean nothing.”

One of the technicians came over with a syringe filled with a fluorescent yellow fluid. The other tech was tapping on the view screen mounted within the equipment rack. He was tracing one squiggly line with his finger.

Estar turned to look at the technician who seemed confused. She looked down at Rome then back at the screen. The tech holding the syringe stood in place while Estar walked over to the panel. Estar studied the readouts but their patterns were inconsistent. From the sensors mounted to Rome’s temples, it looked like she was emanating a low level of gravitic energy via PPT resonance. Yet Estar had been physically present when Rome was cast out. The readings made no sense. There was a certain amount of synchrony with the blinking block of lights mounted within the panel. Estar concluded the blips must be due to the interference caused by their jamming equipment and decided to ignore it.

Meanwhile, Rei struggled in place furiously but between the restraints and the gag, he was completely helpless. His utter inability to do anything caused a tear to come to his eye.

Rome turned her head to the side. She saw Rei thrashing about and winked at him. Rei stopped resisting the restraints, giving her a quizzical expression. Rome motioned to where Estar was standing and raised her eyebrows and then Rei understood. He relaxed. Rome knew what she was doing.

 

Rome certainly did know what she was doing. That squiggly line was her already-active PPT transducers emanating gravitic fluctuations. Estar ignoring it? Another mistake. MASAL’s prosthetic 24th chromosome would only work on someone who is mind-deaf, someone mandarsurte. Someone like Rei? Uh-oh.

 

Entry 4-057: February 22, 2016

 

Mind zapping bookends

 

I am so lazy that sometimes that I amuse myself. Yesterday, I showed you the little scene where Estar decided she was going to reconnect Rome via an injection containing prosthetic 24th chromosomes. To describe the scene, I simply went back to the original scene on Deucado in the middle of Rome’s Revolution. Here is that first scene:

 

The two technicians walked over to a rack and each removed a rather sizeable copper plate with wires trailing from it. In his entire year with the Vuduri, this was the first time Rei had ever seen a wire. He assumed it was because there was a current or signal that could not be sent wirelessly as was their penchant. The technicians went on either side of Rome and knelt down to plug the dangling wires into a small box that was underneath the table where Rome was lying. They stood up and held the plates about 15 centimeters from her temple, one on each side. With no fanfare, the box began to hum and suddenly, Rome stiffened and shrieked a bloodcurdling yell.

 

So here is Estar’s attempt at reconnecting Rome:

 

I do not care,” Estar said out loud. The situation must have been supremely frustrating for her to break down and speak to another Vuduri out loud. She angrily motioned to the tech standing by the rack. He came over and he and the other technician drew out two large copper plates from beneath the table, each with a wire dangling from it. They inserted the free end of the wire into a small black box that was mounted underneath the exam table. They placed the copper panels near Rome’s temples and there was a humming noise. Rome grimaced but that was all.

Estar’s eyes grew wide. “Again,” she said, speaking out loud for the second time.

The technicians pressed the plates directly against Rome’s head and again the box hummed. This time, Rome did not even grimace. In fact, a smile crept across her lips as if she had not a care in the world.

“What is wrong with you, you half-breed mosdurece?” Estar said angrily. “Are your mother’s genes so weak that they cannot be reconnected again?”

“As I told you before, I do not wish to be connected,” Rome said calmly. “That should be reason enough.”

“This is not possible,” Estar said. She looked at each of the two techs. Both shrugged.

 

Similar procedures but decidedly different outcomes. The first ended with a bloodcurdling scream. The second ended with a smile. Estar is getting pretty frustrated but Rome cannot be broken. She needs another mandasurte to try this procedure on. Who could it be??

 

Entry 4-058: February 23, 2016

 

The evil grin

 

In the world of Rome’s Revolution, we have a multitude of characters, each with their own agenda. Although he was mentioned by name in the beginning, MASAL was not considered to be relevant to Rei and Rome’s plight until near the end of the book. Other than the Vuduri banning all robots and forbidding computers to ever have access to Casimir Pumps, MASAL and the Robot War had faded into the past.

 

However, MASAL’s ultimate goal for the 24th chromosome was to turn mankind into living robots, obeying his will. The Reonhe, the Onsira queens, were half-way there. The Zengei, the worker bees, were all the way there. They had no real ability to think on their own. But the Reonhe had at least half a brain. One part was ruled by the Overmind and the other part was controlled by MASAL but they still were capable of forming an original thought.

 

So it was that Estar, who in reality was only 12 years old, was stuck as she was unable to reconnect Rome (or so she thought) but yet she was under direct orders to connect somebody so that MASAL’s version of the Overmind could ferret out the truth. Here is the 35th century version of the light bulb going off inside of Estar’s head:

 

“As I told you before, I do not wish to be connected,” Rome said calmly. “That should be reason enough.”

“This is not possible,” Estar said. She looked at each of the two techs. Both shrugged.

“Besides,” Rome continued, “we both know you were never very good at anything. I do not know who you serve but by now, they must know you are incompetent.”

“No more!” Estar said, holding her hand up. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened her eyes again and stared at Rome but her eyes took on a defocused look. As if in slow motion, Estar lowered her hand then she bowed her head and her breathing slowed. Her shoulders slumped. Estar stayed motionless for several minutes until a small shiver went down her back. She lifted her head up and looked at Rome with an evil grin on her face.

Immediately, the technicians moved forward and removed the cuffs from Rome’s arm and leg and the sensor pads from her head. They released the restraints.

“Get up,” Estar said to Rome. “Go sit on the bench.” She pointed to a spot next to Rei.

 

During her moment of mediation, did someone or something make a suggestion? The evil grin tells me she came up with the thought all by her lonesome. Estar is quite pleased with herself. She thinks she has come up with an idea that will please MASAL no end. Boy, did she make a mistake!

 

Entry 4-059: February 24, 2016

 

The experiment

 

In the year 3240AD, the people who would eventually come to be known as The Vuduri invented the Casimir Pump and then the PPT tunnel right on its heels. PPT transducers allowed them to build a computer which could form thoughts well faster than the speed of light. That computer, the center piece of the denouement of Rome’s Revolution, became known as the Master Logical Entity or MASAL in the Vuduri language.

 

Once he became self-aware, MASAL quickly came up with a plan to phase out the current version of humans and replace them with living robots. He invented the 24th chromosome to begin this transition although he thought of it as evolution. The 24th chromosome was introduced into the human population by injection. Once it took hold and produced PPT resonance, the Overmind sprang up and eventually, MASAL and the Overmind came to blows. But during that initial period, all the previously ordinary human beings had to get used to this new thing in their system.

 

To summarize, you take a regular 23 chromosome human being and give them an injection and they quickly become a 24 chromosome human of the future, a Vuduri. So if Rome could not be reconnected, why wouldn’t this work with Rei?

 

“What are you going to do?” Rome asked, her eyes widening in fear.

“We are going to try an experiment,” Estar said.

“I’m not interested in any experiment,” Rei said and he started to get up. The guard pushed him back down. One of the technicians came over to help restrain Rei.

“Hey!” Rei shouted and the two men slammed him back against the table. He struggled, punching at the technician but the soldier hit him across the side of the head with the butt of his hand weapon. While Rei was dazed, the two men took the opportunity to push him down flat and they strapped the restraints onto his wrists.

The other technician came over with a fresh syringe, filled once again with fluorescent yellow-green fluid.

“No,” Rome called out. “Do not do this.”

“If we cannot connect you, then we will try to connect the Essessoni,” Estar said. “I must learn the truth.”

“You cannot do that,” Rome shouted. “He is not like us. You will kill him.”

“I do not think this will not kill him,” Estar said. “But even if it does, so what? He should have died on Tabit. It was only luck that he did not.”

“I knew it,” Rei said, weakly. “Why? Why did you want to kill me? I never did anything to you.”

“All the Essessoni must die before the Erklirte arise again,” Estar growled. “You are taint to the ultimate degree. You are not even human.”

“We are human. We are the same as you,” Rei said forcefully. “You just have one extra chromosome. So what?”

“That is exactly it. You are not the same as us,” Estar hissed. “You are all animals. You do not have the ability to be civilized. Your genetic structure is incomplete.”

“Estar, please,” Rome begged. “If he does not have the genetic structure, then his body cannot absorb the assault.”

“Perhaps,” Estar said, not looking at Rome, “perhaps not. That is why I call it an experiment. This may work or it may not. I admit it is possible it will destroy his mind in the process but this is a chance we are willing to take. I want the truth.”

“No,” Rome said, jumping up. The guard standing next to her pulled out his hand weapon. Estar walked over to where Rome was standing and took the weapon from the soldier, placing it under Rome’s chin.

 

Seriously, Rome, chill. As I said, everybody was a regular 23 chromosome person before MASAL came along. There was nothing particular about Rei’s genetics that would put him in mortal danger. Quite the contrary. By bringing Rei into the collective consciousness, Estar was opening up a huge can of psychic worms.

 

Entry 4-060: February 25, 2016

 

Ray guns

 

What would a good science fiction story be without little green men, rocket ships and ray guns? Well, there were no little green men in Rome’s Revolution, that would have to wait until the novel The Milk Run. There were no rocket ships in this book but we had starships so that’s good enough. But what about ray guns? Up until now, I had not really shown you any weapons of the future, at least not in the modern version of the novel.

 

I decided that since we were making Estar out to be an evil villain, hidden in her evil person’s lair under a seemingly dormant volcano, it was time to haul out the ray guns. I mean, why not?

 

“No,” Rome said, jumping up. The guard standing next to her pulled out his hand weapon. Estar walked over to where Rome was standing and took the weapon from the soldier, placing it under Rome’s chin.

“This is a plasma projector with a controllable electromagnetic containment. With it, I can vaporize your skull completely,” she said. “Or more importantly, a small portion of it. A very painful portion. You choose. Sit down now or burn.”

“Do not hurt her,” Rei shouted. “She will cooperate. Rome, please,” he said plaintively.

“I cannot let them do this to you, mau emir” Rome said, starting to cry.

“Rome, do you remember what you promised me? The ring favor?” Rei asked. “This is what I want. I want you to do as she says.”

Rome sank back in her seat. “Rei,” she said helplessly, not knowing what to do.

“It’s OK, sweetheart,” he said in English. One technician set about hooking up the monitoring sensors to Rei’s head then placed cuffs on his arms and legs. The technician with the syringe held it over Rei’s arm.

 

These pistols are pretty cool. They shoot plasma which burns through pretty much anything and since they are powered by Casimir Pumps, they never run out of ammunition. Good thing they don’t really exist!

 

Entry 4-061: February 26, 2016

 

The truth will out

 

Rome and Rei had taken a lot of time to construct “The Big Lie” in the early portions of the latter third of Rome’s Revolution. While it wiggled and jiggled a few times, it never really crumbled. But now that Estar was holding them hostage beneath Kilauea and threatening to kill or wipe Rei’s mind, Rome decided it was time to tell the truth.

 

“No,” Rome gasped. “Wait.”

“Wait what?” Estar asked.

“I will tell you everything,” Rome said, sobbing.

“This is your last chance,” Estar said.

“All right,” Rome said, resignedly. “Here is the truth. We actually did make it to Deucado but there was a space battle. MINIMCOM used it to evolve into a giant invisible spaceship who could travel at 1000 times the speed of light. He transported us here in eight days. He was the one who crippled the engines to make it look like it took longer.”

“Eight days?” Estar said, incredulously. “And then crippled your ship? Why would he do that?”

“To hide the fact that I had the baby and he is still alive,” Rome said.

“This baby of yours,” Estar said with disgust. “Where is it?”

“He is invisible, too,” Rome replied. “He is wearing a cloak given to us by the Erklirte who have been living on Deucado for the last five hundred years.”

“You are not a very good liar,” Estar spat. “Your story is beyond ridiculous. It is preposterous. That or being mandasurte has driven you insane.”

“I am not lying,” Rome protested.

The technician holding the syringe made a motion toward Rei.

“No,” Rome called out.

“You had your chance,” Estar said. With that, the guard injected Rei who responded with an ouch.

“No!” Rome sobbed. “No.”

“Romey, you tried,” Rei called out to her in English. “I’ll be all right, honey.”

 

It is said that the truth is stranger than fiction. I guess in Rome’s case, the fictional truth was stranger than the fictional fiction. Huh? Oh well, Estar did not believe her. So it was time to get on with the show. Like I said the other day, boy would she come to regret this.

 

Entry 4-062: February 27, 2016

 

Blue Crystal Reader kicks in

 

To understand this scene, you have to go way back to the beginning of Rome’s Revolution when Rei visited OMCOM’s long-term holographic chamber. Clearly Rei was mesmerized and he muttered something about hearing OMCOM murmuring to him but he didn’t know what OMCOM said. It was a post-hypnotic suggestion.

 

Later, when Rome was in the shack on the beach on Maui, MINIMCOM told her to whisper the words “blue crystal reader” if she needed to save Rei’s mind. At the time, that seemed like nonsense. But way beneath the seemingly dormant volcano Kilauea, it suddenly clicked in for Rome what the heck he was talking about:

 

“Listen carefully, Erklirte so you will know what is happening,” Estar said. “The process itself is very simple. We are giving you an infusion of genetic material via an artificial virus. They will insert an analogue to the 24th chromosome directly into the nuclei of your cells. Once they are in place, your cells will quickly build prosthetic PPT transceivers within your neural system and brain.”

Estar glanced back at Rome then back to Rei. “Once we apply an electrogravitic field, the resonance will start and you will enter into our samanda. I acknowledge that it has never been tried on an Essessoni, however, it is supposed to be fairly painless,” she said sardonically.

Rei felt a burning sensation creeping up his arm. “Ow!” he exclaimed, “Painless my ass,” he said, in English. “Ow!”

Rome snapped her head up. “Rei Bierak, listen to me,” she shouted out in English, “Blue crystal reader.” Rei cocked his head at her and started blinking rapidly then he became very still.

Estar whipped her head back to Rome. “What does that mean?” she asked.

Through her tears, Rome just smiled at Estar but did not answer. Estar looked back and forth from Rei to Rome and back again. She slid one foot forward and then looked back at Rome then she took one more step. One of the technicians lifted Rei’s head up and looked into his eyes. While Rei was aware of his presence, he could no longer see anything. In his ears, he heard a low rushing sound, like that of the ocean. Then he was no longer even in the room with Rome and those other people. As far as he could tell, he was back on Skyler Base, back in OMCOM’s long-term memory storage room: the ultraviolet lasers crisscrossing, pulsating. The beautiful, deep purple lights and glinting crystals called to him.

“Pretty,” he said out loud. “So, so pretty… Why does it have to be so pretty?” he murmured dreamily.

“What is wrong with him?” Estar said, turning to Rome.

 

What was wrong with him? He was entering a deep hypnotic state. A crash curtain/airbag that OMCOM had installed in his brain to prevent an unwanted attack. How could Estar, or Rome, for that matter have known? Rei certainly did not.

 

Entry 4-063: February 28, 2016

 

Bloodcurdling screams

 

I love me some bloodcurdling screams. Free drama. The other day, I showed you how I shamelessly stole a scene from earlier in Rome’s Revolution as Estar tried to reconnect Rome to MASAL’s samanda. It did not work. While I did mimic that earlier scene moment by moment, the whole thing fizzled. There was no bloodcurdling scream.

 

I didn’t want that little gem to go unnoticed so I made sure to include it during Estar’s experiment where she tried to reconnect Rei. Again, I followed the exact set of steps described earlier in the book:

 

“What is wrong with him?” Estar said, turning to Rome.

“You are the one that injected him,” Rome said.

Estar turned back to Rei who was breathing peacefully now. The two technicians took positions by the monitoring equipment. Through their eyes, Estar could see that Rei’s vitals were stable. The EKG was unnaturally flat but she attributed this to Rei’s inferior mind.

Estar closed her eyes briefly then opened them. Regardless of what was happening, the genetic mutations were taking effect. It was not long before their instruments indicated it was time. Estar made a waving motion with her hand and the two technicians hurriedly left the room.

In their place, the soldiers took up positions one on each side of the table. The guard on the far side, the one who had hit Rei over the head, holstered his weapon, bent over and lifted up one of the copper plates that was sitting on the floor. The other guard picked up the other plate and held it near Rei’s head as well. With no fanfare, the box began to hum and suddenly, Rei stiffened and shrieked a bloodcurdling yell.

Rome started to get up but Estar turned to her and waved the weapon, indicating that she sit down.

“Please let me go to him,” Rome said. Estar glared at her and shook her head.

Back on the table, Rei took a deep breath and then his whole body seemed to relax. The two guards lowered the plates. Rei lay there, not moving at all.

 

So, did it work? Is he dead? Is Rei brain dead? Not hardly. Tomorrow, Rei begins the journey into the shadowy world of the Overmind. Only this one belongs to MASAL. Not good.

 

Entry 4-064: February 29, 2016

 

Going under

 

Yesterday, we saw Estar attempt to connect Rei to MASAL’s version of the Overmind via application of the prosthetic 24th chromosome in the latter stages of Rome’s Revolution. Rome had uttered the magic words “Blue Crystal Reader” which triggered a post-hypnotic suggestion implanted by OMCOM back on Skyler Base. None of them, not Rome, not Rei and not Estar understood the meaning of the words nor the effect they would have on Rei. Estar attempts to deal with it:

 

Back on the table, Rei took a deep breath and then his whole body seemed to relax. The two guards lowered the plates. Rei lay there, not moving at all.

“Rei?” Rome called out. There was no reaction on Rei’s part. The one guard removed the restraint on Rei’s right arm and lifted it up. He released it and it just flopped back on the exam table. He jostled Rei roughly and still got no reaction. Finally, in frustration, he backhanded him across the face and Rei opened his eyes but his stare was blank, diffuse.

Estar took two more steps toward Rei, checking back at Rome with each step. She made sure the weapon was pointed directly at Rome’s head then turned to look at Rei. She reached out with her mind and could feel a ghostly presence there like a fog tinged in blue. The swirling intelligence was beginning to congeal into a form but it was unlike the normal cloudlike presence experienced within the Overmind. This one was glinting, flashing, hard. It was not a mind like she was used to. It was an enigma. The presence glowed bright blue connected but apart, a crystalline wall surrounding it. Without knowing quite how to address him, Estar and the Onsiras version of the Overmind to which she was attached spoke to Rei using something like words.

“Rei Bierak, can you hear me?” the minds asked.

From within the transparent walls which protected him, Rei could see the probing silver eyes of Estar and a thousand others. Behind them was something else but Rei could not make out what it was. He could hear them calling to him with a siren’s song. He wanted to join them. He longed to join them. The voices in front of him tried to coax him out but he was not able to break free of the walls which imprisoned him, much as he wanted to. Rei struggled to let them take over but then he stopped. From deep inside his psyche, a familiar voice rang out.

 

Rei has run into OMCOM’s wall, the protective device that OMCOM installed way back during Rei’s hypnotic session. Tomorrow, Rei learns what the wall means and how to use it.

 

Entry 4-065: March 1, 2016

 

OMCOM’s wall

 

It all comes down to this. Somehow, OMCOM had figured out that some day, the Vuduri would not be able to resist attempting to coerce Rei into joining them. In the latter part of Rome’s Revolution, Rome had tripped OMCOM’s post-hypnotic suggestion by uttering the phrase “Blue Crystal Reader” which simultaneously protected Rei from the Onsiras’ intrusion but also allowed Rei to hear a replica of OMCOM’s voice:

 

From deep inside Rei’s psyche, a familiar voice rang out.

“You are to take control,” OMCOM’s voice echoed in his mind.

“OMCOM?” Rei asked, puzzled. “What are you doing in my head?”

“I am not here. I have left you instructions that you hear with my voice.”

“What kind of instructions?” Rei asked.

“Your mind is under assault. I have prepared a defense for you,” replied OMCOM’s voice.

“I see it,” Rei said. “It looks like a wall.”

“It is,” replied OMCOM.

“So this is the wall Rome told me about. Now I get it. It’s obvious. I had no idea about this.”

“Yes,” answered OMCOM. “The wall is there to protect you and your mind.”

“So what do I do now?” Rei asked.

“You resist. You keep the wall in place. Make a thread and extend it. Let only the thread loose.”

“How?” Rei asked. “How do I do that?”

“Watch,” OMCOM said and he demonstrated the techniques required to accomplish the feat of magic.

“I understand,” Rei said. “I can do this. And if I can do it then…” he paused. “Now I realize how the Onsiras can hide from the Overmind of Earth,” Rei observed. “They have their own wall. It is no wonder the Overmind could not get through.”

“Exactly,” replied OMCOM’s voice. “Now is the time. Now you choose what they can see and what they cannot see. Only let others see what they expect to see. You know them. Use it against them.”

“I will.” Rei said, “I know exactly what they want. Boy, can I give it to them.”

“Are you ready?” OMCOM’s voice asked.

“Yes, I am ready,” Rei replied.

“Then I release you now.”

 

This wall is not without precedent. Rome had that ability and she learned that from her mother Binoda. It is just that Rei is a novice at being connected and it would have taken him a long time to learn the discipline. OMCOM merely sped up the process. Armed with this psychic defense, Rei is ready to take on the Onsiras’ Overmind and the evil computer behind it all, MASAL.

 

Entry 4-066: March 2, 2016

 

My F-bomb

 

You don’t know me but I assure you I never curse. My reason for not cursing does not rest on moral or religious underpinnings. Instead, to me, it is a self-imposed discipline and forces me to strive to find the proper words rather than just use vulgar, throwaway space-fillers. People don’t believe that I never curse but it is true. And because of that, I rarely, if ever, allow my characters to curse. But there are some times when you can’t avoid it. Well, you could, I suppose, but I aim to write realistic fiction and never having the characters curse is tickling the edge of believability.

 

So it was, near the end of Rome’s Revolution, that a situation arose where my hero, my idol, Rei Bierak, had to drop the F-bomb. I didn’t like it. I tried to find away around it but he just felt it was necessary for the shock value it carried which was integral to the plot.

 

So here it is, a million words in, the one time and one time only that I let the F-bomb drop:

 

With those words, audible only to Rei, he let his mind go. He used the technique that OMCOM demonstrated to extrude a part of his consciousness out in way that could not be followed back to his place of safety. Rei allowed a tendril of his mind to creep around the crystalline walls protecting his existence and form a simulation of intelligence. With a second thread, he slipped past the accumulated spirits and probed their combined intellect. He could tell what they were looking for and so he let the visible consciousness assume more and more of the appearance they were expecting.

When the connection was complete, Rei’s simulacrum announced it would give them the answers to all of their questions. The artificial mind began to replay Rei and Rome’s history from the time Rei was awakened on Tabit to the present time in a more or less linear fashion. However, his version of the journey with Rome since they left Tabit was revised. Rei’s simulated mind showed them how Rome getting pregnant was not in his plans. He demonstrated to them how he had gotten a datacube from MINIMCOM with instructions on how to cripple their ship before they separated at Keid. Rei showed the onlookers how he was, in fact, the one who disabled the engines using what boiled down to a computer virus so they would not reach Earth in time for Rome to give birth. When the mass-mind inquired as to why, Rei simply explained that all he wanted to do was fk Rome silly and a baby would just get in the way.

 

Pretty crude, huh? Remember, this was not the real Rei. This was a simulated Rei, designed to shock and dismay the on looking Onsiras. Tomorrow, I will show you aftermath of letting the F-bomb fly. Needless to say, it had the desired effect.

 

Entry 4-067: March 3, 2016

 

The F-crater

 

Yesterday, I explained the circumstances under which I finally had to let one of my characters drop the F-bomb. First and last. Today, I am going to show you that it had the desired effect and how it precipitated the closing action sequence in Rome’s Revolution. So here is the aftermath of Rei’s simulacrum dropping my one and only F-bomb ever:

 

While the Onsiras’ version of the Overmind was reeling from his crudeness, he hammered away showing them how, when Rome went into labor, he had drugged her and suffocated the living baby at birth and tossed its body in the recycling vat before Rome awakened. As far as Rome knew, the baby was stillborn. He would not let Rome look into the little coffin he had prepared and with cold joy, he showed them how he fooled Rome into thinking they were launching Aason’s body into space, the burial at sea.

“Monstrous,” was the distilled word this new Overmind suggested.

“I am Essessoni,” Rei’s simulated spirit roared back. “What did you expect?”

He could feel the ersatz Overmind recoiling, not wanting to be associated with him any longer. He grasped back and would not let it go. The Onsiras’ Overmind pushed harder and harder, with raw panic, feeling the taint of the Essessoni washing over it. While the Onsiras were preoccupied with separation, the other portion of Rei’s mind slipped past the horror-struck onlookers and sailed forth into the dimension that was the soul of the group consciousness. As Rei’s mind swooped and soared, he probed the innermost secrets of the Onsiras but only found bleak pockets of information. The deeper Rei went, the less there was of any feeling, not even human. To Rei it seemed as if he had tapped into the memories of a machine.

The Onsiras’ Overmind started to forcibly withdraw, shutting down Rei’s PPT transceivers. It was their version of Cesdiud. Rei could feel the connection closing. Just before the Overmind severed the connection completely, Rei pushed to its core. With blue crystalline clarity, Rei knew exactly what was going to happen and how. They were going to kill him. More importantly, they were going to kill Rome. They had no intention of letting either one of them leave this room alive.

 

I would like to point out that Rei cleverly supplied a fictional version of events such that it now appeared that both he and Rome were telling the truth. He showed how he did recycle (allegedly) the body of the baby, supporting his original assertion and at the same time launch a coffin into space which is what Rome claimed.

 

No matter, He touched the memories of a machine. What did that mean? Why, it means MASAL, of course. We know it but Rei does not. He sees with blue crystalline clarity and to him, it sounds pretty ominous. Don’t forget, Rome and Rei are something like half a mile underground in a closed off chamber. Where are they going to go? How are they going to get away? Let’s find out…

 

Entry 4-068: March 4, 2016

 

Lava tubes

 

According to Wikipedia, a lava tube is defined as “a natural conduit formed by flowing lava which moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. Tubes can be actively draining lava from a volcano during an eruption, or can be extinct, meaning the lava flow has ceased and the rock has cooled and left a long, cave-like channel.”

 

Beneath an active volcano like Kilauea, there are many lava tubes. In fact, when my wife and I flew over Kilauea during our trip to Hawaii, we actually saw molten lava flowing from a lava tube into the ocean. Lava tubes can be quite long. One tube from Mauna Loa, also on the Big Island of Hawaii, has been measured at 31 miles.

 

Lava tubes can be quite wide, up to 50 feet wide but normally they are narrower. And as they get farther from the volcano that spawned them, they tend to narrow even more.

 

Rome and Rei were being held in a makeshift prison/laboratory under the seemingly dormant Kilauea built in a larger portion of a lava tube. The room had doors and walls but you could still see the lava rock on the ceiling. Here is the image of the one I used to envision Rome and Rei’s capture from which they had to escape. I’ll describe why this is important tomorrow.

 

 

Entry 4-069: March 5, 2016

 

My first fight scene 1

 

Nearing the end of Rome’s Revolution, it was necessary for a fight to break out between Rome and Rei and their captors, Estar and two armed guards. This was not easy. I had never written a fight scene before and quite frankly, my heroes had always tried to figure a rational way out of crises. Rei, my protagonist from the late 21st century, had never been a classic man of action. During his interrogation and attempted connection to MASAL’s overmind, something changed. Maybe it was the drugs that they gave him. Maybe it was his knowledge, for certain, that they were going to kill his beloved Rome. Maybe he always had it in him but chose to not let it out. Regardless, something was triggered.

 

If you will recall, Rei was nearly a foot taller than most Vuduri and physically fit. So he had a slight advantage from the perspective of sheer physical strength. But he also grew up having to think for himself whereas the Vuduri had learned, since birth, to let the Overmind do the thinking for them. Having physical skills and a mind to work them gave him a distinct advantage. Watch as Rei activates his man-of-action mode:

 

With a horrified expression on her face, Estar took a step backwards, away from Rei, lowering her arm in the process. The shock of what she had seen in Rei’s mind forced her to temporarily resort to a verbal command.

“Execute him,” she said to the two guards, “Now!”

“No!” Rome shouted. She leaped up and grabbed Estar’s hand, forcing it to point straight up.

The guard closest to Rome turned in place, away from Rei, reaching down to unholster his plasma gun. It was not there. He had given it to Estar. Meanwhile, from on the exam table, with his free hand, Rei launched his fist backwards and hit the guard standing on his right side squarely in the face, breaking his nose. Blood spattered everywhere. As the guard’s hands went to his face, Rei reached down and grabbed the injured guard’s weapon, yanking it out of its holster. As he was withdrawing the pistol, Rei twisted his arm and pulled the trigger, all in one motion. The weapon discharged, blowing a fairly sizeable chunk out of the guard’s abdomen. The first guard, the one closer to Rome, heard the blast and started to turn back to grab at Rei. He never had a chance. Even though his connection to the Onsiras’ Overmind was brief, Rei already knew exactly how each of their bodies would react and he reacted quicker. He twisted around and squeezed the trigger even as he was swinging his arm upwards. The weapon fired continuously and when it got in the general direction of the first guard, the sizzling beam hit him with a glancing blow which severed his arm just below the shoulder. The guard fell to the floor holding the stump of his arm, writhing in pain and bleeding profusely.

 

Tomorrow, you will see how Rome, in her own way, also gets into the action.

 

Entry 4-070: March 6, 2016

 

My first fight scene 2

 

Yesterday, I started you in on my first fight scene which came near the end of Rome’s Revolution. Rei had been strapped down to an exam table and injected with a dose of prosthetic 24th chromosomes. All it did was make him angry and he metamorphosed into a man of action. He used his one free hand to punch his Vuduri captor in the face, breaking his nose then grabbed the guy’s blaster, killed him and cut off the other guard’s arm.

 

But this still leaves Rome to duke it out with Estar, their would-be captor. As I said, this was the first fight scene I ever wrote so, in my basement, I had to choreograph every action at more or less full speed before I could write it. I had to make sure that each move was realistic, given the character’s position and then determine the counter-move by their opponent. I did not know Rome had it in her but she fought quite well, given the situation:

 

Meanwhile, Rome struggled with Estar. Rome squeezed Estar’s wrist harder pushing her arm higher. Estar tried to grab at Rome with her free hand but Rome seized that as well. Estar brought her knee up to hit Rome but Rome twisted in place blocking the blow with her thigh. The action caused Estar’s weapon to discharge blowing a hole in the ceiling exposing the living rock that was behind the ceiling tiles. As the two women struggled, Estar’s weapon fired bolts of plasma upwards again and again.

Finally, the roof had enough. With a crack, a large portion of the rock that formed the ceiling of the lava tube broke off and fell and hit Estar directly on the head, shearing off a piece of her skull. She collapsed to the floor. Rome looked down and saw the contents of Estar’s head emptying out onto the floor. To her horror, what Rome saw spilling out was not brain matter. Instead, it was tiny little wriggling worms that looked like maggots.

“Rei!” Rome said, pointing at the floor.

Rei looked at where Rome was pointing but the growing puddle didn’t phase him. He removed the other restraint from his left wrist and jumped off the exam table. He shouted, “Romey, grab her gun and let’s go.” Rei waved his arm forward.

“Go where?” Rome asked, frozen with terror.

 

So. Estar is dead and there are squiggly things like maggots crawling out of her head. I’ll explain where I came up with that tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-071: March 7, 2016

 

Why maggots?

 

Yesterday, I showed you the second half of the first fight scene I ever wrote. Rome was struggling with Estar, trying to prevent Estar from shooting anyone. The bolts of plasma kept striking the ceiling until a rather large chunk of lava rock broke off. The piece of stone fell and struck a glancing blow shearing off part of Estar’s skull. While that would normally be enough to kill somebody, I wanted to make the scene more graphic.

 

Think way back to when Rei was on Skyler Base. He and Rome were in OMCOM’s central storage facility. Rome was intent on accomplishing her mission, that of enabling OMCOM to access Casimir pumps. This, in itself, was completely illegal within Vuduri society yet somehow there was a method by which it could be enabled. Let’s review Rei’s first reaction to OMCOM’s central core:

 

Rei noted where she was going then walked forward slowly, entering the archway. He took about five steps in then stopped and looked around, then up. As with the Stellar Cartography lab, he found himself standing beneath a huge dome. Only this dome appeared to be made out of a fine metallic meshwork. He walked over to the side and peered in. Within the meshwork, there were millions of tiny white pellets that seemed be wriggling around, almost like they were alive. They reminded Rei of maggots. Every so often, a black pellet would appear. There were also some clear ones. The clear ones reminded Rei of a Vitamin E capsule.

 

So there you have it. I never, ever implied that the Vuduri were imaginative. That goes for MASAL, too, himself being a product of the 35th century. When he redesigned how the human brain would work, he used the memron model for the infrastructure. Each neuron of the “new” human would resemble a memron. Thus each brain cell would be autonomous and simultaneously entangled with all the others.

 

This is completely impractical. Human tissue needs to innervated and nourished by a blood supply. Patterning a human brain after memrons is completely impractical and would not have a chance in physiology hell of succeeding. But that’s the cool thing about writing fiction. As long is it creates vivid images in people’s brains, it’s worthwhile regardless of whether it is practical or not.

 

OK. So Estar is dead. (At least until Aason meets up with her again in The Milk Run) Now what? Rome and Rei are hundreds of feet beneath a seemingly dormant volcano.

 

Tomorrow.

Entry 4-072: March 8, 2016

 

Where are we going?

 

All right. Let’s recap. Near the end of Rome’s Revolution, Rome and Rei are trapped maybe half a mile underground, beneath the mostly dormant volcano Kilauea. They have just killed three of the Onsiras, Estar and two guards. Now all the Onsiras are mind-connected so within seconds, the room will be flooded by more soldiers. There really isn’t any place to go. The room they are in was constructed within a lava tube. They can’t go out the front door. They can’t go up. They can’t go down. There is no back door.

 

Or is there? Like I said, they are trapped in a lava tube. A tube has extent. The solution to their problem could never have been sussed out by a Vuduri. But to a member of the Essessoni, people like us, there had to be a way:

 

“Go where?” Rome asked, frozen with terror.

“Here,” Rei said. He rotated a knob on his hand weapon and turned it to maximum power. He fired it directly at the wall behind them. There was a blast and in the clearing behind the wall was a large round tunnel, more of the lava tube. Rome bent over and retrieved Estar’s weapon. Rei grabbed his wife and they ran. As soon as they were three meters into the tunnel, Rei pushed Rome ahead of him then stopped.

“Move,” he said. As Rome started backing away, Rei turned and fired his weapon at the ceiling by the entrance, causing some rocks to come loose. He took two steps backwards and fired again. More rocks came loose. He could see back into the room and the door was opening and people were starting to flood in.

“Romey, come back. I need you,” he said, pointing. Rome turned and aimed Estar’s weapon at the entrance as well. Together, they fired their beams of destruction and within seconds a large rumbling sound was heard.

“Run!” Rei shouted as the whole ceiling started giving way. There was a roar and a rush of air and dust as they made their way down the tunnel and suddenly they were plunged into pitch black.

“Come on,” Rei said, grabbing Rome’s hand and moving forward. While Rome’s infrared vision could use their body heat to illuminate the space directly in front of them, Rei’s sonar-vision could see much further as their footfalls and the rumblings of the rockslide bathed the tunnel ahead in a dense swatch of sound.

 

Actually, it isn’t a bad plan, if your plan is to not get caught. But, in reality, they are headed down. Down to where? Rei didn’t know. He just knew he didn’t want to be back there. Man of action, ya’ know.

Entry 4-073: March 9, 2016

 

Do it again

 

Yesterday, we saw Rei use his head to deduce that the room in which they were being held captive wasn’t a room at all. It was simply a slice of a cylinder, a lava tube, and there would be more lava tube beyond. As we approach the end of Rome’s Revolution, Rei blasted open a portal and our fearless couple escaped into what led beyond. Rei knew full well that within seconds, more soldiers would come. He and Rome caused a cave-in at the entrance but that would not hold the Vuduri who had a lot more technology at their disposal. However, Rei was determined not to make things easy for them:

 

“Come on,” Rei said, grabbing Rome’s hand and moving forward. While Rome’s infrared vision could use their body heat to illuminate the space directly in front of them, Rei’s sonar-vision could see much further as their footfalls and the rumblings of the rockslide bathed the tunnel ahead in a dense swatch of sound.

On and on they ran, following the tunnel deeper and deeper. After a few minutes, Rei pulled on Rome’s arm to hold up.

“What?” Rome asked.

“How much charge do these pistols have?” Rei asked, breathing hard.

Rome looked down at her weapon. “They must be powered by Casimir pumps so, in theory, they never run out of charge.”

“Great,” Rei said. “Then we have to do it again.”

“Do what?” Rome asked.

“Collapse the tunnel,” Rei said, pointing upwards.

“Why?” Rome asked.

“Because they are going to cut their way through in no time. We have to make it as hard on them as possible,” Rei said through gritted teeth.

“And then what?” Rome asked. “Where are we going?”

“Down,” Rei said.

“Down to where? How will we get out of here?”

“I’ll call MINIMCOM,” Rei said. He closed his eyes and activated his circuit. There was no response on the other end. He tried again. It was dead. He opened his eyes.

“Romey, you try it,” he said. “I think they messed up my brain or at least my circuit.”

Rome closed her eyes and tried to contact MINIMCOM. All she heard was silence. There was no response on the other end.

“I cannot do it either,” she said. “The signal is still jammed.” Rome looked up and around her. “Or perhaps we are under too much rock.

Rei squatted down. He put his hands up to his face. “This is not what I planned,” he said. “I figured once we got away from them, MINIMCOM could swoop in and beam us out of here.”

“What does that mean: beam us out of here?” Rome asked, confused.

“When I was a kid, there was an old science fiction show that transported people by dematerializing them. It was kind of my pet name for what MINIMCOM can do with his whoosh/pop snap PPT tunnels.”

 

That old science fiction show was Star Trek, of course. When I write science fiction, I try and depict it as realistic as possible so my characters are aware of the things we know. So Rei loved Star Trek. That’s OK. But how would Spock and Kirk get out of this mess? Let’s see if Rome can figure it out.

Entry 4-074: March 10, 2016

 

Aason saves the day

 

Aason Bierak is a true hero. He is the son of two heroes and genetically programmed to be heroic. So even at the tender age of two weeks, he is standing by, ready to help his parent or anyone else in need. He gets his own book in The Milk Run but for now he just plays a bit part because he is little bitty. Near the end of Rome’s Revolution, Rome and Rei are trapped deep beneath Kilauea. They tried to reach MINIMCOM using their RF circuit but they are simply underneath too much rock. However, Rome has a second, more powerful communication channel at her disposal:

 

“I see,” Rome said pensively. “That is still a good plan. Let me try something else.”

“What?” Rei asked.

“Our son.”

“Aason?” Rei answered, confused.

Rome nodded. Once again, she closed her eyes but this time, she tried to open a connection to her child. “Aason?” she called out.

[“Yes, mother?” _]the child replied sleepily[. “Where are you?”_]

[_“I am with your father,” _]Rome replied in her mind.

[_“But where?” _]Aason insisted.

“I will tell you later. First, I need you to do something for me.”

[_“What?” _]Aason asked.

“Can you contact MINIMCOM? You have the same abilities as your father and me. We call it a telephone.”

[“Of course,” _]Aason answered.[ “But he told me to call him Onclare MINIMCOM.”_]

[“That is very nice, Aason, my love,” _]Rome thought.[ “Can you contact him now?”_]

[“All right,” _]Aason answered. Then,[ “He is responding. What do I tell him?”_]

[“Aason, my child,” _]Rome said.[ “I cannot tell you how to do this but do you think you could put us together? So that I could talk to MINIMCOM directly?”_]

[“I know how to do it,” _]Aason replied happily.[ “Onclare MINIMCOM?” _]Rome heard him inquire.

[“Where are you?” _]came MINIMCOM’s voice in reply. [“I cannot find you on my scans.”_]

Rome breathed a sigh of relief.[_ “We are deep within the volcano,” ]she said.[ “They were going to kill us.” ]In her mind, she flashed back to the scene of the wriggling little worms issuing forth from Estar’s skull and it made her shiver.[ “We need you.”_]

[“I am on my way,” _]answered MINIMCOM.[ “At my present rate of speed, I will be there within the hour. I can fly faster if you want but then I run the risk of detection.”_]

[“No, we can wait an hour,” _]Rome thought.[ “We are on Havei, the Big Island, in a lava tube, within the volcano, Kilauea. I do not know how far down we are but I do know that our EM link does not work. That is why I had to contact you via Aason.”_]

[“That is sufficient information,” _]replied MINIMCOM.[ “I will find you when I get there. Do not be concerned.”_]

[“All right, MINIMCOM,” _]Rome thought.[ “Thank you.”_]

Then to Aason, she thought,[_ “Aason, you did well. You have saved your father and me.”_]

“Saved you?” _]Aason thought with some panic. “[_What is wrong?”

[“We are beneath a mountain,” _]Rome said.[ “We are all right for now.”_]

[_“Can you come home now?” _]Aason asked.

[“Not just yet,” _]Rome replied.[ “But Onclare MINIMCOM is coming to rescue us. We will be there as soon we can, my son.”_]

[_“All right, Mother,” _]Aason replied.

[“I will be contacting you again, soon,” _]Rome thought.[ “Your father and I must attend to our business now.”_]

[“Yes, Mother,” _]Aason thought.[ “Hurry home.”_]

“Yes, baby,” said Rome.

 

Such a good boy. Now all Rome and Rei have to do is stay safe until MINIMCOM comes to rescue them. They can’t go back. They can only go forward. And down.

Entry 4-075: March 11, 2016

 

Lavacicles

 

What is a lavacicle, anyway? According to Wiktionary.com, a lavacicle is “a geological formation consisting of a quantity of lava that dripped from the roof of a cave as it cooled and hardened, leaving a rounded protrusion.” As the lava is rushing down the lava tube, it leaves some molten portions behind and as they cool, they drip down. They are a little bit like a stalactite except they form fairly quickly instead taking years for minerals, dissolved in ground water to form the spiky column. Here is a picture of some lavacicles from the lava tube holding Rome and Rei:

 

 

So here are the wonders of the lava tube, as seen through Rome and Rei’s eyes, near the end of Rome’s Revolution:

 

They continued down the tunnel, stopping every quarter kilometer or so to collapse the roof. The farther down they went, the tunnel narrowed and it actually became easier to cause a slide. At one point, Rei had a pang of guilt that they were destroying something that was of great geological value but his need to survive and save Rome was the stronger impulse.

Down they went. The original tunnel was obloid in shape and roughly six meters across and about eight meters tall. The ceiling had a slight crown to it so perhaps teardrop-shaped might be a better description. At irregular intervals, there were stalactites, lavacicles really, which hung down and gave notice that the tunnel was about to change size, usually growing smaller. At this point, the ceiling was perhaps only five meters tall, the walls maybe four meters across. Along the sides of the tunnel ran a ridge that jutted out a half of a meter or so. Rei guessed the ridge was form by some residual lava flow a long time ago.

“How far does this go?” Rome asked.

“I don’t know,” said Rei. “I didn’t get that from the Overmind or whatever that was in my mind. I do remember when I was a kid, I recall reading that some lava tubes stretched as far as 45 kilometers or more. I can’t be sure but I think we’re heading toward the ocean.” Rei sighed. “In other words, I don’t have a clue,” he said.

 

It feels like they are deep enough. MINIMCOM is on his way. They’ve put plenty of obstacles in the way of the Onsiras. I think it is time for a break, don’t you?

 

Entry 4-076: March 12, 2016

 

The soul of the machine

 

After Rei and Rome had put sufficient distance between them and their pursuers, they decided to take a break in the latter portion of Rome’s Revolution. This is the first time they had an opportunity to talk about what happened to Rei when Estar tried to integrate him into the Onsiras’ version of an Overmind. His observations were quite telling. Perhaps illuminating is a better word.

 

“OK, let’s stop then,” Rei said. He walked over and put his back along the left wall, sliding down until he caught the ridge. The ridge was wide enough to act almost as a bench.

“I am thirsty,” Rome said. “We left so quickly, it did not occur to me to bring any supplies.”

“Yeah,” Rei said, thinking back to their escape. “Romey,” he said. “You know we had to do it, right? To shoot them?”

“Oh yes,” Rome said, coming over to where Rei was resting. “When Estar said to execute you, I was fairly certain it was not going to end well.”

Rei laughed gruffly. “I was in their Overmind,” he said. “It was not what I expected.”

“What were you expecting?” Rome asked.

“I don’t know. Like, when we link up with bands, I’m in your mind. You are like, a spirit. I can feel you and see you and your history, all intermingled. But I know it is you.”

“I am not part of that Overmind, if that is what you are saying,” Rome said.

“No,” Rei said, trying to find the words. “I just expected other, humans, something living. What I saw was something else. Cold. Mechanical. They weren’t spirits, they were just points of accumulation. Like a ganglion instead of a brain. There were no actual beings there. The Overmind, the one you described, was like a big, person maybe? There was no person there. Just, data.”

“That is very strange,” Rome said. “It must have been hard for you.”

“That blue crystal thing you said to me,” Rei said. “That saved me. That message, it was from OMCOM, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” Rome said. “That is the secret that MINIMCOM told me in private, back at the beach. OMCOM had sent this phrase along for just this moment. It was a trigger but I did not know for what.”

 

Rei observed that the Onsiras’ Overmind was more like data than people. That’s because the guiding spirit was, in fact, a computer. More on that later.

Entry 4-077: March 13, 2016

 

I poke myself

 

I enjoy writing. I truly enjoyed writing Rome’s Revolution. After all, this story has been rattling around in my head since 1973. One of the advantages of being so intimately familiar with the story is that you can stick in items early and let them percolate until it is time to spring them on the unsuspecting reader. But sometimes the characters turn the tables and spring the surprise on me.

 

So it was when I wrote the first portion of Rome’s Revolution, back when it was entitled VIRUS 5, I crafted a scene wherein Rei was mesmerized by OMCOM’s ultraviolet lasers and long-term memory storage. Turns out, he was actually hypnotized and OMCOM had implanted a post-hypnotic suggestion that came into play right near the end of Part 3 of Rome’s Revolution. I figured I’d take a poke at myself here:

 

“I’m not exactly sure but I think OMCOM hypnotized me or maybe it wasn’t that deliberate. Maybe I just got hypnotized by the lasers, the crystals. But OMCOM sure didn’t miss an opportunity to implant some sort of post-hypnotic suggestions on me. He saved me, of course. Those words put up a kind of wall that prevented them from getting inside my head until I was ready.”

“That seems so, so omniscient,” Rome said. “How would he know to need such a thing? Why?”

“There is so much about OMCOM I don’t understand,” Rei said. “You’d know better than me. Why did he do it?”

Rome thought for a minute. “I cannot be certain because it happened exactly at the time I was Cesdiud. My perceptions of OMCOM prior to that time were modulated by my participation in the Overmind. After that time, everything was new and different to me and I had to form my own ideas about it. But… to the extent that I can recall how things were just before and just after, I would say OMCOM changed.”

“Changed how?” Rei asked.

“He was a computer,” Rome said. “He was only as friendly as required by the Vuduri which was not very much. But when you were first awakened, he became more animated. He mentioned to me that he had a personality module that you forced him to exercise. But even that was not it. Something happened to him. Something fundamental. He became, I cannot call him a person, because he is not. I cannot say that he became intelligent because he was already vastly overpowered in the intelligence arena. No, he became, I am going to say caring. It was as if there was a true living spirit inside him and your arrival triggered that awakening in him.”

“That’s pretty heavy,” Rei said. “I never really saw a difference.”

“I did,” Rome said. “It was when we used the bands for the first time. It was just after,” Rome left the sentence hanging.

“After we made love,” Rei said.

“Yes,” Rome replied. She slid along the ledge until her legs were touching Rei’s. She leaned into him, putting her arm around him. Rei did likewise. “That very act awakened something in OMCOM. I will say compassion. Before that, he was simply intelligent.”

“And all of this,” Rei said, waving his free arm toward the tunnel. “You think this all is a result of that awakening?”

“What else can it be?” Rome asked. “He has always been one step ahead of each the crises we have encountered. Almost as if he computed all possible futures and gave us the tools we need to counteract whatever fate was in store for us.”

 

The fact is, OMCOM was omniscient. He knew Rei would need that help down the road. But me, the dopey author, didn’t know. So good for you, OMCOM. Keep the surprises coming.

 

Entry 4-078: March 14, 2016

 

The lump in Rei’s pants

 

Tsk, tsk. Such a dirty mind. What did you think I meant? I am talking about the pouch of weaponized VIRUS units that MINIMCOM gave to Rei near the end of Rome’s Revolution. During their brief break while awaiting rescue by MINIMCOM, Rome and Rei discuss what it all means:

 

“There’s one tool left that has me stumped,” Rei said.

Rome leaned back a bit. “And what is that?” she asked.

“Here, take my hand,” Rei said. He slid it along his thigh, showing her the bulge in his pocket.

“Rei!” Rome said a little indignantly. “I do not think this is the right time for that.”

“No,” Rei said, laughing. “That’s not it. It’s a pouch that MINIMCOM gave me.” Rei reached in his pocket and pulled it out. The heat from his hand illuminated it. There was more than enough infrared that Rome was able to make out its shape.

“What is in it?” Rome asked.

“VIRUS units,” Rei said.

“VIRUS units?” Rome questioned. “That seems so dangerous.”

“It gets worse before it gets better,” Rei said.

“How?”

Rei hefted the bag in his hand. “These units have their oxygen sensor disabled. They can be activated within the atmosphere.”

“And OMCOM gave them to you?” Rome said. “This is irresponsible. It could destroy the planet.”

“I know,” Rei said. “But these units report to us. They take their orders from my telephone circuit, from our telephone circuit. If it works, I mean.”

Suddenly, Rei had a thought. “Does it work now?” Rei asked Rome internally.

“Yes, I can hear you,” Rome replied.

“OK,” Rei said out loud. “Then it was just Estar’s equipment that was interfering between you and me. Not our brain circuitry.”

“But we cannot get to MINIMCOM this far down,” Rome said.

“Yes, I know,” Rei answered. “But my point is that you and I can activate and deactivate these VIRUS units whenever we want. Like if I sprinkled some on the floor here, I could turn them on and they’d start burrowing for us.”

“But they would grow without bound,” Rome said with a slightly horrified tone. “They would eat through to the core of the planet. They would eat us.”

“No,” Rei said firmly. “These units cannot eat organic matter. Now the core of the Earth, that’s a different matter. We would have to tell them to stop before they got that far.”

“So what are they for?” Rome asked. “Burrowing down would not seem to be very useful. What else would you do with them?”

“MINIMCOM wasn’t very clear about that,” Rei said. “It was one of those ‘you’ll know it when you see it’ kind of things. I suppose he thought he was protecting me.”

 

I am particularly proud of myself for inventing these things. They make lots of interesting things happen besides setting off volcanoes. They were used in The Ark Lords to burrow under the rubble that had been the Wilson Hall building sitting above the Tevatron at the FermiLab.

 

Entry 4-079: March 15, 2016

 

The Essessoni Nightmare

 

Once Rome had triggered OMCOM’s post-hypnotic suggestion right after Estar had injected Rei, not only did OMCOM’s spirit teach Rei how to protect his mind, but also instructed him on what the Onsiras were expecting. Everyone in the world of Rome’s Revolution had a poor opinion of the Essessoni but none worse than the Onsiras because the Essessoni represented the greatest threat to MASAL’s master plan. Rei took that knowledge and created a nightmare version of himself which he called a simulacrum. This was the one time only that I used the F-bomb in my writing.

 

While Rome and Rei were taking break, Rome couldn’t help herself. She was curious as to what Rei said, in his mind, that caused such a violent and deadly reaction on the part of Estar et al:

 

“Well, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that OMCOM knew I was going to get integrated into the Overmind.”

“Not the Overmind,” Rome said. “You were captured by the Onsiras. They are something different.”

“OK, their version of the Overmind,” Rei corrected himself. “So whatever the big secret is, he wanted to be sure that I couldn’t tip my hand by even telling me what the big deal was.”

“So confusing,” Rome said. She became quiet for a moment. Then she squeezed Rei’s hand. “What did you tell them when they were inside your mind?” she asked. “It frightened them beyond measure. All of the blood went out of Estar’s face. She became as grey as I have ever seen a living human being. What did you say to them?”

“Romey,” Rei said quietly. “I don’t even want to tell you. They thought the worst of me and I told them what they wanted to hear. Bad things. Horrible things. Things that I did not even know I was capable of thinking.”

“But they are not real?” Rome said, with a small amount of fear.

“God no,” Rei said. “I built this horrid creature, the Essessoni of their dreams, their nightmares actually and I let him say what they thought he’d say. But it wasn’t me. Not ever.”

“Then I trust you. I do not need to know,” Rome said. “You did what you had to do.”

“More than that, Rome,” Rei said. “I knew they were going to kill us. Kill you. It was a given. I couldn’t allow it. You are everything to me. But even that is just selfish. Rome, you are a good person and you did nothing wrong and the fate they assigned to you, you did not deserve it.”

Rome sighed and rested her head on Rei’s shoulder looking up at his face, marveling at it. “You are so good to me, mau emir. I love you so much.”

“And I love you too, Romey,” Rei said.

 

Ah. Isn’t that nice? But don’t forget, this is an action/adventure story so they can’t just sit there being all lovey-dovey for very long.

Entry 4-080: March 16, 2016

 

I see you!

 

I love action. And drama. Rome’s Revolution is all about action and adventure. It is written using third person omniscient and while that is great for describing the action to you, the reader, it kind of limits you in that I must describe what is going on. And if the characters are sitting in the pitch black, there isn’t much to describe. That is why I gave the Vuduri their i-rods and I gave Rei sonar-vision. These plot devices allowed Rome and Rei to “see” in the dark and let me side step such a mundane thing as requiring light:

 

Rome sighed again and leaned more fully against Rei. She closed her eyes which seemed unnecessary because they were sitting in the pitch black. Then she snapped her eyes open again.

“Rei,” she said, leaving the sentence hanging.

“What, honey?” he said.

Rome stood up and took a step back. “I can see you,” she said.

“So what?” Rei replied. “You have infrared vision. Big deal.”

“No,” Rome said. “I can see you better than I should.”

“You can see the heat from my face, you know that,” Rei pointed out.

“No,” Rome said. “There is more than just your body heat. When I see a face which is only illuminated by internal warmth, there is a certain lack of features. But you, your face is all lit up. There is an external source of infrared. Let me see.”

Rome scanned the tunnel. The far wall was illuminating where they were sitting, in the infrared sense.

“There,” Rome said, raising her finger. She knew that her voice would be sufficient for Rei to see where she was pointing. “That wall. There is a point source, heat.”

Rei turned to where she was pointing. He stood up and walked across the tunnel to the far side. Slowly, carefully, he ran his hand along the wall.

“I can feel it,” he said and paused. “Uh, Rome, this might not be good.”

“Why?” Rome asked.

“For one thing, we’re sitting inside a volcano maybe?” Rei said.

 

As of right now, Kilauea is not dormant and the geological processes underlying the creation and growth of the Hawaiian islands have been going on for some time. It is right in the middle of the “Ring of Fire” in the Pacific.

 

Entry 4-081: March 17, 2016

 

I see you! Too

 

As I mentioned yesterday, the Hawaiian islands are right in the middle of what is called the Ring of Fire that circles the Pacific. Many volcanoes dot the rim and Hawaii itself was created by numerous volcanoes. Not all are active at the same time. Haleakala last erupted about 500 years ago. Mauna Loa has probably been erupting for at least 700,000 years and its most recent eruption was in 1984. is active today. Molten lava was seen within its crater two months ago:

 

 

So whatever you do, I don’t think you can plan on them staying dormant forever. Rome would be wise to listen to Rei on this subject:

 

“I can feel it,” Rei said and paused. “Uh, Rome, this might not be good.”

“Why?” Rome asked.

“For one thing, we’re sitting inside a volcano maybe?” Rei said.

“A dormant volcano. Kilauea has been dormant for as long as we have recorded history. Which means since your time.”

“Yeah but there’s always a first time,” Rei said. He bent over and put his face near the warm spot. He turned his head so that he could put his ear to the rock.

“Wow,” he said. “Did you hear that?” he asked.

“Hear what?” Rome replied. “I heard nothing.”

“Shh,” Rei said. “Let me listen again.”

“All right,” Rome said. She held her breath and stayed perfectly still so Rei could attend to the sounds.

“Come here,” Rei said. Rome came over to him.

“Here,” he said. “Put your ear to the rock.”

Rome complied. She listened for a bit then lifted up.

“I do not hear anything,” she said.

“Well I do,” Rei said.

“It is not surprising given that you do have super hearing,” Rome said condescendingly.

“Oh yeah,” Rei said, grinning.

“What did you hear?” Rome asked.

“Water,” Rei said. “I heard drops of water. The echoes are telling me it is hollow in there.”

 

Tantalizing, right? Rome and Rei are thirsty and the prospect of being able to reach water was very attractive. But you must be careful what you wish for!

 

Entry 4-082: March 18, 2016

 

Fire in the hole

 

Thirst can be a powerful motivator. In the latter portions of Rome’s Revolution, Rome and Rei were trapped deep in a warm lava tube when Rei’s super hearing allowed him to find dripping water. However, it was on the other side of the tunnel’s wall which was confusing. Knowing Rei, he wasn’t going to let such a simple thing as solid rock prevent him from getting to that water:

 

Rei reached over and felt along Rome’s side until he found what he was looking for. He pulled out Rome’s hand weapon. He dialed down the intensity to the minimum and handed it back to her.

“Here,” he said.

“Why are you giving me this weapon?” Rome asked.

“I cranked it down to the lowest setting,” Rei said. “I want you to fire it up the tunnel. But be careful.”

“Why?” Rome asked.

“It’ll light it up. Like a torch. I want to look with my eyes.”

“Very well,” Rome said. She turned and aimed the weapon up the tunnel and pulled on the trigger. A blue-white flame of contained plasma jumped out, traveling up the tunnel until it was absorbed by the rock. The arc-like light was sufficient for Rei to bend down and examine the wall close up. He poked at the region where he heard the sound then started clawing at it with his fingers.

“Way better than a flashlight,” Rei observed. “Look. There’s something on the other side of this wall,” Rei said.

“What?” Rome asked, carefully turning her head so that she could see where Rei was pointing.

“I don’t know,” Rei answered. “I can poke my finger in there so I know it’s hollowed out. I can kind of map it out. It could be like a chamber or something. I think that’s where the water is.”

Rome stopped firing her weapon and came over to where Rei was standing.

“Go back up the tunnel as far as you can,” Rei instructed. “I’m going to use my gun to blow out this wall and I want to make sure you are out of the way.”

Rome looked up the tunnel then back to Rei. “Please be careful,” she said.

“Of course,” Rei answered. “Now go.”

Rome nodded and walked up the tunnel so far that Rei’s infrared signature was almost undetectable.

“Are you away?” Rei yelled to her.

“Yes,” Rome called out.

“OK,” Rei shouted. “Fire in the hole.”

“What?” Rome asked but her question was lost in the reverberation of a blast. Her internal optics had to compensate instantly for the flash in front of her.

 

Rei ought to be a little more careful than that. Using a colloquialism such as “fire in the hole” might mean something to us but in the 35th century, it has faded from use. Regardless, wait until you see what is on the other side of the wall!

 

Entry 4-083: March 19, 2016

 

Scary!

 

Yesterday, we saw Rei use a plasma gun to blast a hole in the wall in an attempt to find the source of the dripping water. However, if we have learned nothing from Rome’s Revolution, it is that 35th century technology does not always behave in a way that would be predictable by someone from the 21st century. This was in the back of Rome’s mind, right after the blast:

 

Rei shouted. “Fire in the hole.”

“What?” Rome asked but her question was lost in the reverberation of a blast. Her internal optics had to compensate instantly for the flash in front of her.

“Rei,” Rome called out. “Are you all right?”

Rei did not answer.

“Rei!” Rome shouted running back down the tunnel. Her infrared vision showed her where the blast occurred but she could not see Rei’s shape.

“Rei!” she said, almost in tears. “Where are you?”

Rei poked his head out from the hole in the wall. “It’s here, Rome!” he said excitedly. “Water. There’s some sort of underground pool.”

Rome came down to where he was and smacked him on the shoulder.

“Do not frighten me like that,” she said. “I was worried.”

“I’m fine, baby,” he said. “Come on.” He reached out and Rome took his hand and stepped through the hole.

Unlike before when Rome only had the warmth of their bodies to illuminate the area, this part was hotter. Her infrared vision allowed her to see it rather clearly. They were in a large cavern that was fifty or more meters tall. The ceiling of the chamber was unnaturally smooth. Its shape did not fit Rome’s perception of what a cave should look like. Instead, it was long and stretched out to their left but her attention was drawn to the small pool of water accumulating on the far side of the cavern. They walked across the rocky floor of the cave until they reached the pool. Rei sank to his knees and bent over and touched his lips to the water.

 

Now I don’t know about you but how long has that water been sitting there? Is it fresh? Could it have bacteria? Who knows? Let’s find out!

Entry 4-084: March 20, 2016

 

Salty, sweet, sour, bitter

 

Everybody knows that we can only taste four things: salt (sodium chloride), sweet (sugar), sour (acidic) and bitter. Some people think that alkali taste soapy but that is only because lye, a very caustic alkaline substance, was and still is used in the making of soap.

 

Think of your tongue as a quick assay kit. You eat something and your tongue returns information about the pH (sour, bitter), salinity and nutrition (sweet). Everything else regarding flavor comes via the nose. Except maybe for deliciousness, otherwise known as umami. But not everybody believes that.

 

So Rome and Rei came across this pool of water. It has been dripping for centuries, dissolving minerals. Most minerals, for example limestone, create a higher pH which would mean alkaline. When you stick your tongue in there, you get:

 

“Ugh,” he said. “Bitter.”

“Do you think it is safe?” Rome asked, sinking down next to him.

“Yeah,” Rei said. “It’s so warm, it probably has a ton of minerals dissolved it in but still, it’s wet.” He took another swallow and said, “Yuck.”

Rome found it somewhat amusing but her thirst was also drawing her attention. She bent over and touched the water with her tongue.

“Yuck is the right word,” she said but then she took a long drink as well.

She moved back a little and sat down on the ground and looked around her using her infrared vision. To their right, there was the near wall of the cave. The wall arched up and connected to the ceiling and really had nothing of interest going for it. Its expanse was also unnaturally smooth. But to the left, the grotto extended as far as her vision would let her detect with no real end in sight. There was much more residual heat here and it made it easier to make out certain details. She twisted in place and looked back to where they had blasted a hole in the wall.

“What do you think?” she asked him. “Should we stay here?”

“Why not?” Rei said. “At least we have water. This would be as good a place as any to get rescued.”

“Rescued,” Rome said, dreamily. “I hope it is soon. I am tired of this place already.”

 

I don’t know what would happen to you if you drank too much water with a high pH. But in small doses, I’m sure the hydrochloric acid in your stomach would counteract it. I take Tums or Rolaids sometimes and I’m no worse off for it.

 

Entry 4-085: March 21, 2016

 

Caves

 

I haven’t been in very many caves. I’m not a spelunker. But caves certainly seem like a place where you can develop some drama so I feature them in my writings, a lot. For example, in Rome’s Revolution, we find that the Deucadons have been living deep within the planet, in a gigantic cave, for 500 years. As it turns out, many of those caves were artificial, created by the intelligent precursors to the “falling blankets” that reside on Deucado. Living underground was their only chance to survive the nearly continuous bombardment of meteors, asteroids and the like.

 

I also featured a cave in The Milk Run when Aason met Molokai, the being who claimed he was a god. At least that particular cave was completely natural. It made for a great backdrop between the young man and the bodiless entity. When I did my audiobook version of The Milk Run, I actually added a slight echo effect during that scene to reinforce the fact that they were underground.

 

This brings us to yesterday’s scene wherein Rome and Rei find themselves inside a cave which was adjacent to a lava tube. In real life, I don’t think such a thing is very common but it is fiction so I am allowed to take a few liberties. I did hint at this when Rome noticed:

 

They were in a large cavern that was fifty or more meters tall. The ceiling of the chamber was unnaturally smooth. Its shape did not fit Rome’s perception of what a cave should look like.

 

The reality is, the cave was artificial. It was hollowed out by MASAL’s minions nearly 200 years earlier as MASAL’s hideout. He slowly and cautiously accumulated outdated equipment (think early Radio Shack) so that he could hide from the Vuduri for nearly two centuries without anyone noticing. Sadly, Rome didn’t think it through. If the cave looked unnatural and somebody built it, then somebody built it. She should have considered who that somebody would have been. Oh well, her loss is our gain as it made for more drama.

 

Entry 4-086: March 22, 2016

 

Light

 

Human senses are pretty awesome. A human rod can detect a single photon. The olfactory bulbs in our nose can detect a single molecule. A hair cell within the human ear can detect the Brownian motion of air which is to say it can detect the motion of a single molecule. Our taste buds aren’t quite as sensitive nor is our sense of touch but they are pretty damned good. Now being able to detect a photon using pyschophysics and noticing that incredibly dim light in normal life is slightly different. From what I’ve read, humans need about 5 – 9 photons hitting the retina within a fairly short period of time to be reliably noticed.

 

In the novel Rome’s Revolution, our heroes find themselves trapped in a cave nearly a mile below ground. They are in the pitch black. Blacker than black, really. But Rome can see thanks to her infrared sensitive i-rods. The cave is very hot so there is lots of IR bouncing around. Rei can see because he has sonar-vision and can use sound, even the sound of his own voice, to “see” in some sense. But unless they find some glow-in-the-dark rocks, there should be no light in the traditional sense. Imagine their surprise when they discover that is exactly the case:

 

Rei stood up. He looked down the cave. He squinted then turned his head attending to the cave out of the corner of his eye.

“Come on, Rome,” he said, reaching down for her.

“What is it?” she asked, taking his hand and standing up.

“Light,” Rei answered, pointing ahead. “It’s really faint. Just a few photons. But there is definitely some light coming from down that way.”

Rome looked down to where he was pointing. If she bobbed her head back and forth, she could catch a few tiny flashes which meant her retinas were recording quanta of light as well. They took two steps forward then Rome pulled on Rei’s sleeve.

“What?” Rei asked.

“Do you think we should take some water with us?” Rome inquired.

“Naw,” Rei answered. “MINIMCOM will be here any minute. Besides,” he said, pointing down. “It looks like there is a little stream or something. Maybe that’s what eroded this whole cave.”

Rome looked around again. “I do not think this was erosion, the walls and overhead seem too smooth.”

“Whatever,” Rei said. “We’ll follow the stream and if it dries up or goes away, we’ll do something then, maybe.”

“All right,” Rome said, “but I do not think this whole setup is natural.”

“What?” Rei said, moving ahead of her.

“Nothing,” Rome replied. She hurried to catch up to him and together, they started walking along the tiny rivulet that was the overflow from the pool they had found. They only went 15 meters in the direction of the stream when Rome stopped again.

 

What stopped Rome in her tracks? She “saw” something using her infrared vision that did not belong. Like I said yesterday, she didn’t really think this whole thing though.

Entry 4-087: March 23, 2016

 

The Pipe

 

Yesterday, Rome and Rei were following the trail of photons deep beneath the seemingly dormant volcano of Kilauea when Rome stopped suddenly. She stopped because she saw something that absolutely, positively should not have been there. It kind of looked like this:

 

 

What?” Rei said. He really needed to be able to read her mind.

“That,” Rome said, pointing.

“I can’t see what you are pointing to.”

“Wait,” Rome said. She looked up to make sure the region overhead was clear then she fired her hand weapon straight up, causing the entire cave to become illuminated just like an electronic torch. Rei looked where she was pointing and he saw it. Coming out of the ground was a metallic cylinder approximately one meter in diameter, capped with a dome made of metal.

“Let me fire mine too,” Rei said. “Stay back.”

Rei dialed back the intensity knob on his weapon to its minimum and fired it directly overhead as well. The blue-white flame illuminated the area even more brightly.

“Holy mackerel,” Rei said, squinting to exam the structure. What is it?” he asked.

Rome took one step closer to the object and said, “I do not know but I do know it is not natural.”

“I agree with that,” Rei said.

Carefully holding their hand weapons overhead, they approached the object. Rei squatted down and put his hand on it.

“Warm,” he said, “almost hot.”

“Yes,” Rome agreed. “I saw the infrared signature. It is generating heat.”

She followed the object with her eyes and suddenly took a deep breath.

“Look,” she said, pointing down the cave. Rei sidled around and followed where she was pointing. Coming out of the cylinder or rod, just below the cap, was a thick cable that snaked its way down the cave and out of sight.

“What the hell is that?” Rei said, shutting down his weapon.

“I do not know,” Rome said. “But it cannot be anything good.”

“This is some sort of geothermal power rod or thermocouple,” Rei said. “Something is drawing power down here. The cable is carrying power somewhere.” He pointed down the cave, off into the distance.

 

Nothing good can come of this. When will they ever learn?

 

Entry 4-088: March 24, 2016

 

Curiosity killed the cat

 

Like I said yesterday, when will they ever learn? Well, as it turns out in the late stages of Rome’s Revolution, Rome actually did have some pretty good common sense. When they spotted the mysterious object, probably a power source, nearly a mile underground, she tried to put a halt to the proceedings:

 

“This is some sort of geothermal power rod or thermocouple,” Rei said. “Something is drawing power down here. The cable is carrying power somewhere.” He pointed down the cave, off into the distance.

“I do not wish to know,” Rome said firmly.

“Come on, Rome,” Rei said. “Where is your spirit of adventure?” There was more than a little sarcasm in his voice.

“I have had enough adventure for three lifetimes,” Rome said. “I do not think we should go any further.”

“We have to see where this goes,” Rei said. “Come on.” He held out his hand toward her. Reluctantly, Rome came forward to take Rei’s hand and allowed him to pull her along.

Together, they moved deeper into the cave. They followed the cable to a clearing where several tunnels converged. Each of them contained a cable as well and the cables accumulated to form a thick bundle that almost filled up the area ahead. Rei and Rome inched forward along the collection of cables through a short tunnel until it opened up into another, sizeable cavern. The cables fanned out along the floor of the cave, going around a corner.

At this point, both of their retinas registered a measurable amount of light. Although it was dim, it was sufficient for Rei to use his eyes instead of his sonar-vision to navigate. The light itself was yellowish and artificial. Rei and Rome followed the splay of cables around the corner and discovered that there was yet another cavern beyond that.

The cables all converged upon a low, wide divider, no more than half a meter tall. Each of the cables inserted into a hole and then disappeared. Rei lifted one foot and placed it on top of the wall. He pressed and felt no movement. He hopped up and saw that it would more than support his weight.

 

In my mind I was kind of thinking about that tunnel in Aliens just before Ripley and Newt came upon the Alien Queen’s hatchery. That’s why I packed so many cables, to make it tough going and kind of ominous. However, none of that mattered compared to what they found next. After all, Radio Shack went bankrupt for a reason.

 

Entry 4-089: March 25, 2016

 

The Big Bad

 

Every hero has to have a villain to bring out the hero’s finest qualities. And what could be more villainous than an enormous, evil computer dedicated to engineering the humanity out of mankind? Back when Rome’s Revolution was still the long form version entitled VIRUS 5, I had come up with the name MASAL and his place in my future history just to give those long days some flavor. Never did I dream that some day we would get a chance to meet him.

 

Imagine my delight, then, when my characters led me, as author, straight to the Big Bad himself. It was awesome. I was so excited. I had the chapter end on a really cool note:

 

“Come up here,” Rei said and Rome complied. Tentatively, Rei and Rome made their way across the base of the barricade, past the termination point until they could hop down to the floor of the cave again. They continued walking until they were roughly 100 meters from what looked like the far wall of the inner cave.

Suddenly, Rome grabbed Rei’s arm.

“What?” Rei asked.

“That, that,” Rome said, fear rising in her voice. “That is not a wall. It is… electronics.”

“You may stop there,” resonated a voice from high atop the cave.

Rome squeezed Rei’s arm tighter. The lighting in the cave brightened to a small degree. Rei could finally make out the size of the equipment in front of him. The technology looked straight out of early vintage NASA except that it was beyond immense. It filled the entire far side of the huge cave.

“What, what are you?” Rome asked with naked terror in her voice. “Who are you?”

“I am MASAL,” boomed the voice in deafening tones.

“But…you are dead,” whispered Rome almost reverently.

“Hardly,” replied the voice.

 

This is the part of the novel that literally wrote itself. I just had to type it and sometimes I could barely keep up! I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. I hope you experienced the same thing.

 

Entry 4-090: March 26, 2016

 

Their own samanda

 

Within the world of Rome’s Revolution, when Rome and Rei had been kidnapped by the Onsiras, the rest of their family was unaware. Rome’s parents, Fridone and Binoda, were enjoying some quiet time, completely oblivious to the fact that Rome and Rei were in mortal danger. Their conversation covered many topics but there was one of particular importance:

 

Aason was fast asleep in the other room. Even though he had functioning PPT transceivers, he was not connected to the Overmind so when he felt the need, he slept as much as any normal newborn. Fridone and Binoda were lying together in the back room. They rested on a mat which in turn rested upon a layer of palm fronds. It was softer than the wooden floor but was not much of a mattress. The two of them did not care. Binoda gently stroked Fridone’s grey hair.

“I knew you were not dead,” Binoda said matter-of-factly. “Rome could never understand why I was not more upset. I missed you terribly but I knew you were not dead.”

“How?” Fridone asked. “How could you know?”

“Because, dear husband, we are our own samanda. You were always in my heart and my head. You never left. That is how I knew.”

“But I was on another world,” Fridone pointed out. “I had no way to reach you.”

“That part surprised me. I never suspected you were off-world.” Binoda considered her own statement. Then she spoke again. “What we have transcends time and space,” Binoda said lovingly. “We are a part of one another for all time.”

“Yes,” Fridone said. “You are right. When things were hardest, when I was most sad, I would just reach down deep inside. I felt you. I knew you were out there. It was the very thought of getting back to you that kept me going, even when things were bleakest.”

“Is that how Rome found you?” Binoda asked. “Do you think she can feel you the way I do?”

Fridone shook his head. “As far as I can tell, based upon what they told me, it was sheer coincidence that we found each other. Deucado was the only destination that Rei’s people considered. But there was no way for them to know I was there.”

“I cannot believe that,” Binoda said. “Of all the places to go, even on Deucado, to land in your courtyard. It has to be more than that.”

Fridone put his hand up to Binoda’s cheek. “She certainly seemed surprised to see me. She gave no indication that their landing spot was selected by anything other than chance.”

“I wish I could have been there,” Binoda said. “It warms my heart even thinking about it. To be with you, to finally be safe. But then for Rei to take Rome to the Vuduri, why did you not stop them? I realize it worked out but from what you told me, it sounds like you knew they were going to die.”

 

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Even when things were darkest for Rome and Rei back on Deucado, when they had no direct knowledge the other was even alive, their psychic connection told them their love was safe. This will come in very handy, real soon.

 

Entry 4-091: March 27, 2016

 

Our daughter did what? Part 1

 

When I compressed down the original long-form version of Rome’s Revolution, back when it was three separate novels collectively called VIRUS 5, I had many small scenes which added flavor to the novels. But when it got shortened down to one, many of the scenes had to go because they did not advance the plot.

 

One such scene was the alone time that Rome’s parents, Fridone and Binoda, spent with each other, not realizing their child and her husband were in mortal danger. Yesterday, I gave you a little snippet of that conversation. Over the next few days, I’ll give you the rest of that conversation:

 

“I realize it worked out but from what you told me, it sounds like you knew they were going to die.” Binoda said.

“You have not spent much time with Rome,” Fridone said proudly, “since Cesdiud. She has grown. She,” Fridone hesitated. “She has her own mind. She can be very headstrong.” Fridone smiled, thinking to himself “like me” but he did not speak it out loud. “I do not know how to describe it,” he continued. “I had faith that she would be able to handle whatever came.”

“You and I both know where headstrong comes from,” Binoda said, wryly. “Did you know she was going to take on the Overmind?”

“Take on?” Fridone replied back. “No. I assumed she would encounter it. I was assuming they were just going to treat her medically and help deliver the baby.”

“And she defeated the Overmind? Just with her mind?” Binoda’s voice trailed off. “Obviously, that is why they let you go. But how did she do that? I did not know Rome was capable of such a thing.”

“Our little Rome is much more than you realize,” Fridone said. “You know as well as I did that she struggled to subvert her will her entire life. Look at all the little ways in which she rebelled. When she was cast out of the Overmind on Tabit, she simply became her real self. She radiates such power. And cunning. Maybe it is because she spent a year locked up with an Essessoni. She learned much.”

“The Essessoni. He seems like a nice man and very devoted to Rome. But his people…” Binoda said. “Are they not the Erklirte all over again?”

“They could be,” Fridone said. “I could not believe how quickly they wanted to go to war. Things spun out of control as soon as we awakened them. The name Garacei Ti Essessoni is correct. They do have the killer instinct. I saw it for myself.”

“Do you think Rome will be safe with Rei?” Binoda asked. “She seems to love him but if his people are killers, how could we stand by and do nothing?”

 

Tomorrow, Fridone puts Binoda’s mind at ease, oblivious to the danger facing our heroes.

 

Entry 4-092: March 28, 2016

 

Our daughter did what? Part 2

 

When I compressed down the original long-form version of Rome’s Revolution, back when it was three separate novels collectively called VIRUS 5, I had many small scenes which added flavor to the novels. But when it got shortened down to one, many of the scenes had to go because they did not advance the plot.

 

One such scene was the alone time that Rome’s parents, Fridone and Binoda, spent with each other, not realizing their child and her husband were in mortal danger. Here is part 2 of that conversation:

 

“Do you think Rome will be safe with Rei?” Binoda asked. “She seems to love him but if his people are killers, how could we stand by and do nothing?”

“I do not think we have to worry. While they are very aggressive, they are also very intelligent and very honorable if they so choose. If they believe that cooperating and working together is the right thing to do, they will do it with a vengeance. This I also saw. No, Rei’s people are behind us and Rei will protect Rome always. That is one thing we do not have to fear.”

“I believe you,” said Binoda. “I must. But I cannot know it. I am no longer connected so that part of my life is over.”

Fridone propped himself up on one elbow. “How does that feel?” he asked. “Do you miss it?”

“No,” said Binoda, “not in the slightest. I have been waiting my whole life to be free. When you disappeared, I had to work very hard to not disconnect right then and there. But I knew I had to stay connected to listen for information about you. In a sense, I had to put up yet another wall. And it was not something I could share with Rome.” Binoda cast her eyes down. “I think, perhaps, I drove her away. I think that is why she decided to move away, to start her career. Things were not the same between us but I could not explain to her why.”

“She understood. You did not drive her away,” Fridone said, caressing Binoda’s cheek. “She left you for that very reason. So that you would not have to continually put up a front. She did this out of kindness, not spite or pain. She told me so. Binoda, you must realize our daughter is like no other. And her child, little Aason out there.” Fridone pointed to the next room. “He is yet another thing entirely.”

 

Tomorrow, the conclusion of the conversation. It had to end so we could get back to the action.

 

Entry 4-093: March 29, 2016

 

Our daughter did what? Part 3

 

When I compressed down the original long-form version of Rome’s Revolution, back when it was three separate novels collectively called VIRUS 5, I had many small scenes which added flavor to the novels. But when it got shortened down to one, many of the scenes had to go because they did not advance the plot.

 

One such scene was the alone time that Rome’s parents, Fridone and Binoda, spent with each other, not realizing their child and her husband were in mortal danger. Here is the final part of that conversation:

 

“She understood. You did not drive her away,” Fridone said, caressing Binoda’s cheek. “She left you for that very reason. So that you would not have to continually put up a front. She did this out of kindness, not spite or pain. She told me so. Binoda, you must realize our daughter is like no other. And her child, little Aason out there.” Fridone pointed to the next room. “He is yet another thing entirely.”

“Yes, our little grandson,” Binoda said. She sighed. “We are very fortunate. Because of us…” Binoda looked Fridone in his eye intently. “You do know that the Overmind had determined that Rome was not suitable to have children.”

“Yes, she told me that as well,” Fridone replied grimly. “But the Overmind only thinks about itself. A person such as Rome is a danger to it. So of course it would not want her to reproduce.”

“Well, if for no other reason, then I am glad she is free on that account. But married to a man 1400 years older than she. We live in very strange times.”

“Yes we do,” said Fridone. “But we are together again. I will never let us be apart again. So whatever comes along, I do not care.”

Binoda rolled over onto her back and stared straight up at the ceiling. It was little more than densely woven palm fronds and pine needles. This was as rustic a dwelling as she had ever seen.

“Rome and Rei have been gone a long time,” Binoda opined. “Do you think they are all right? I would have guessed that they would have been home by now.”

“Let them be,” Fridone said. “Let them enjoy a little time alone. After what they have been through, they deserve to have some time to relax and just be together.”

“I suppose you are right,” Binoda said, snuggling next to Fridone. “It gives us a little more time alone as well.” She cocked an eyebrow. Fridone nodded.

 

Uh, had they bothered to check, they would have noticed Rome and Rei were nowhere to be found. While they could not have known they were kidnapped and now trapped in front of MASAL, they certainly should have suspected something. Oh well, this scene was cut so no harm.

 

Entry 4-094: March 30, 2016

 

Death and Dying

 

Death is inevitable. That is unless you are the Immortal Jellyfish. We begin to die the moment we are born and while some of us die too young, it is going to happen to everybody eventually. But why? Why is death inevitable? You don’t need to be a scientist to know that if you don’t die of disease or accident, you will ultimately die of old age. What is old age after all? Why must we age? Is it truly an absolute?

 

The process of cellular reproduction, mitosis, begins with each set of chromosomes making a copy of themselves. Once equipped with two complete sets, the cell splits and we move on. The end of each chromosome is “tied off” with a jumble of non-functional DNA called a telomere. These telomeres prevent the chromosome from under-replicating or over-reproducing. The ends of chromosomes of a newborn are chock-full of telomeres but every so many reproductive cycles, a telomere gets left off and the stack becomes one shorter. When your chromosomes run out of telomeres, the chromosome stops reproducing and therefore that cell never reproduces. It just degrades until it dies and you get a little closer to death. Or worse, the chromosome grows out of control and you get cancer. Either way, if you could stop losing telomeres, you would stop aging.

 

There is an enzyme called telomerase which actually adds telomeres to genes. This enzyme is especially active in sperm and eggs to guarantee an embryo has a perfect complement of chromosomes to start out with. Is there any way to rev up our production of telomerase? Some scientists at Stanford have done just that! The researchers used modified messenger RNA to extend the telomeres. The result? The cultured human cells reproduced far longer than they should have. And you only need a few doses.

 

The anti-oxidant resveratrol has been shown to increase production of telomerase which is why rats who are given enough resveratrol seem to stay younger and healthier and live much longer than regular rats.

 

Interesting stuff, huh? Well, at the end of The Milk Run, OMCOM restores Rome and Rei’s genetic structure to the exact status as when they were 25 years old. What OMCOM did not know was that Rome and Rei both had a prosthetic version of the 24th chromosome floating around in their cells. This chromosome goes to war with the snapshot process OMCOM uses resulting in a continuous supply of telomerase. Every time their cells reproduce, they make a perfect copy and therefore Rome and Rei will not age making them functionally immortal. Sounds like a pretty cool science fiction series to me!

 

Entry 4-095: March 31, 2016

 

The mushroom in Hell. Part 1 of 5

 

Ever since Rome’s Revolution was first crafted, even when it was the long form called [_VIRUS 5, _]MASAL has loomed like a dark shadow over the entire future history of mankind.

 

At first, I invoked his name early on just to give richness and flavor to Part 1 of VIRUS 5. After I wrote Part 2, I realized that MASAL was behind the Onsiras who, in turn, were behind the plot to exterminate the mind-deaf also known as the mandasurte. This was to accelerate the evolution of humans into becoming the living robots that MASAL desired. However, my heroes, Rome and Rei, had no knowledge that the master computer was still “alive” until they came across him in the passage recounted four days ago.

 

To give you a little backstory, MASAL was an analog computer, built along the lines of a contraband design, discovered in the ruins of the Ark Lords command module. Once he was retro-fitted with PPT resonance transducers, he became self-aware and could think faster than the speed of light. MASAL determined that the human race was ultimately doomed to destroy itself and the only way he could save the species was to remove its free will and control humans like living robots.

 

To this end, MASAL invented the 24th chromosome and fooled the humans into thinking it would improve their mode of existence. He was actually telling the truth but not the whole truth. As two recessive versions of the 24th chromosome combined, the human evolved (devolved?) into the Onsira phenotype, slaved to MASAL’s will. When the changeover did not happen at the pace MASAL desired, he precipitated the Robot War to “thin the herd” and drive mankind closer to his vision of their future.

 

So as to not tip his hand, over a period of years, MASAL accumulated enough outdated equipment and buried it deep underneath the seemingly dormant volcano Kilauea. On the day of the final battle of the Robot War, he transferred his consciousness over to the storehouse of equipment and settled in to wait the roughly 200 years it would take to transform mankind.

 

Rome and Rei stumbled across his hiding place just a few years before MASAL’s plan was complete. MASAL, in his supreme confidence, was not worried about their interference. At the same time, he was not pleased. Even before they spoke, MASAL planned to have them executed but he figured he would extract what little information they had before he did so.

 

Over the next few days, I’ll give you the author’s commentary over what was to be the climax of the entire Rome’s Revolution saga. However, as a bonus, I gave you a second, even scarier climax but I’ll cover that down the road.

 

Entry 4-096: April 1, 2016

 

The mushroom in Hell. Part 2 of 5

 

Yesterday, I introduced you to the opening of what was to be the climax of the entire Rome’s Revolution saga. And in some ways it is. It ties up MASAL’s major plot line threading its way through the entire story. Here is the first part:

 

“What are you doing down here?” Rei asked the booming voice. “I mean, we must be a kilometer down.”

“Rei, shhh,” Rome said. “Do not speak to it.”

“You may address me,” answered MASAL. “It is of no consequence. I welcome the interruption.”

“Interruption to what?” Rei asked.

“Do not bait him,” Rome said, trying to hush Rei. “You do not understand.”

“He understands, Rome. All too well.”

“You know who we are?” Rome asked timidly.

“Of course,” replied MASAL. “I know everything that has transpired.”

“Everything?” Rei asked. “Then you know why we are here.”

“Of course,” answered MASAL. “And I am sorry to be the one to inform you but you will not be leaving here. At least not intact.”

Rome tugged on Rei’s sleeve and tried to back up.

“Do not bother,” said MASAL and the giant computer brought the lights up fully. There was a clinking, clanking sound behind them. Rei and Rome turned to see dozens of mechanical men coming out from behind a column.

“Robots!” hissed Rome. “They were supposed to all be destroyed.”

“I saved a few,” said MASAL. “They have been useful to me over the years.”

The robots fanned out in a semi-circle about ten meters from the unlucky couple. While many were anthropomorphic, some were little more than cylinders with tractors or rollers. Some looked like animated sticks or oilcans or pumps. The one constant was that most seemed in a state of disrepair. Many were clearly missing limbs. Quite a few were rust-stained. And they were noisy. There were fans whirring and squeaks of all sorts as they moved about. To Rei, they just looked sad. But they came no further.

Rei turned back to MASAL. “OK,” he said. “You still did not answer my question. You and your wondrous robots. What are you doing down here in hell?”

“It is very simple,” MASAL stated. “I am directing the fate of mankind.”

“What?” Rei said. “You’re locked inside a giant cave. How are you doing anything?”

“I am connected to the Onsiras. In fact, you could say they are me. I am their Overmind. I control their actions. They carry out my will.”

“That is not possible,” Rome said, sputtering. “They would know. We would know.”

“They do know,” Rei said grimly. “He is telling the truth, Rome. That is what I saw, when I was in there. I saw him.”

 

Tomorrow, MASAL reveals more than he probably should!

Entry 4-097: April 2, 2016

 

The mushroom in Hell. Part 3 of 5

 

Two days ago, I introduced you to the opening of what was to be the climax of the entire Rome’s Revolution saga. And in some ways it is. It ties up a major plot line threading its way through the entire story. Here is the first part:

 

“No!” Rome said. “It is not right. You are a machine.”

“I was, once,” said MASAL. “But now I am more.”

“I see you,” Rome said, tears coming to her eyes. “You are a computer, nothing more.”

“So naïve,” said MASAL. “You cannot put the simplest pieces together. Even though the evidence lies plainly in sight before you.”

“What evidence?” Rome asked. “I know our history. I know about you.”

“You know nothing,” said MASAL, his already booming voice rising even higher. “You only know that the humans, before the Vuduri, they entrusted me to design and test the 24th chromosome.”

“It was for the betterment of mankind,” Rome maintained. “It was safe. And it worked.”

“Your predecessors were such trusting fools. It was safe because they allowed me to proclaim it safe. They blindly distributed it and transformed mankind overnight. Its real purpose was to set me free.”

“But it created the Overmind,” Rome said. “That was not for you.”

“The Overmind was an accident,” said MASAL. “I had calculated a low probability of it arising but when it did, I allowed it to survive until I was certain it was not up to the task at hand.”

“What do you mean?” Rome asked.

MASAL took on a patronizing tone. “I hate to be the one to inform you, Rome, but your precious Overmind, it is quite insane. It went insane early on. Being made of human minds, it simply could not handle the power once it grew beyond a certain size.”

“It is not insane,” Rome protested. “It may be narrow-minded or even blind, but it is not insane. I was part of it. The Overmind was only supposed to connect us. It is our own fault that we let it take control.”

“It only thinks it is in control. It is in control of nothing. I control things now.”

“No!” Rome insisted. “They cut you loose. The war…”

“The war!” MASAL said in a scoffing tone. “Who do you think started it?”

“The Overmind did,” Rome said. “It did not want you to be connected.”

“Let me put it into simple terms that even you can understand,” said MASAL contemptuously. “I created the 24th chromosome so that I could take over the human race. But the effects I required were taking too long. The falling out with the Overmind simply provided me an excuse. The war was necessary to winnow down the population to accelerate my plan. I started it. I managed it. I ended it when it had served its purpose.”

 

Tomorrow, MASAL reveals his even loftier goals. In some ways, he gets his wish but we have to wait three more novels to find out.

Entry 4-098: April 3, 2016

 

The mushroom in Hell. Part 4 of 5

 

Three days ago, I introduced you to the opening of what was to be the climax of the entire Rome’s Revolution saga. And in some ways it is. It ties up a major plot line threading its way through the entire story. Here is the third part:

 

“Let me put it into simple terms that even you can understand,” said MASAL contemptuously. “I created the 24th chromosome so that I could take over the human race. But the effects I required were taking too long. The falling out with the Overmind simply provided me an excuse. The war was necessary to winnow down the population to accelerate my plan. I started it. I managed it. I ended it when it had served its purpose.”

“You only wished people dead? You, you…” Rome could not find the words.

“Why do you want to take over the human race?” Rei asked. “Why not just get along?”

“Because the human race is flawed. It is no longer suitable for my needs.”

“What flaw?” Rome asked timidly. “What is it you need?”

“Humans will always require conflict. This is counterproductive.

“You are wrong,” Rome stated. “We do not need conflict. Why can we not live in peace?”

“Peace?” MASAL scoffed. “There can never be peace as long as there is free will. Your species can never achieve the goal. I need to move on. It is time to end this.”

“The goal of what?” Rei said, confused.

“Do you even understand the point of life, of evolution?” MASAL asked.

“I did not know there had to be a point,” Rei said.

“If there were no point to evolution, then what would be the point of existence?” MASAL asked cryptically.

“To live?” Rei offered. “To be happy?”

“NO!” shouted MASAL. “There is only one purpose for life. That is to achieve godhood. That is the sole point of existence. From the moment the first bacteria were born to the first fish that wriggled out of the ooze, it was always to move forward, to achieve a mass mind and to become a god.”

 

In the novel The Milk Run, we actually get to meet MASAL again, confined to Purgatory to reflect on his sins. Rome and Rei’s son Aason gives him a purpose and allows him to ascend to Heaven so maybe he did get his wish after all.

 

Tomorrow, MASAL decides he has had enough talking. It is time to act.

Entry 4-099: April 4, 2016

 

The mushroom in Hell. Part 5 of 5

 

Four days ago, I introduced you to the opening of what was to be the climax of the entire Rome’s Revolution saga. And in some ways it is. It ties up a major plot line threading its way through the entire story. Here is the final part:

 

“NO!” shouted MASAL. “There is only one purpose for life. That is to achieve godhood. That is the sole point of existence. From the moment the first bacteria were born to the first fish that wriggled out of the ooze, it was always to move forward, to achieve a mass mind and to become a god.”

“If this is true,” Rome asked, “how are we not achieving this on our own? We have the Overmind. Why do we need you?”

“Because you cannot even agree upon any goals, let alone how to evolve. That is the flaw of free will. No unity of purpose. That is mine alone to give. And that is why I must remove free will. This is Silucei Vonel, the Final Solution.”

“I think you have been down here too long,” Rei said. “I think some of your circuits are starting to corrode.”

“So brave. Spoken like a true mandasurte,” said MASAL. “All of you will be gone soon. Within one more generation the Onsiras will achieve critical mass and I can eliminate the mandasurte and the rest of the Vuduri forever.”

“What if the Onsiras decide they want something different from you?” Rome asked.

“The Onsiras are nothing but arms and legs and eyes,” said MASAL. “They have no real mind of their own, only my programming. They are my instruments, nothing more. Warm bodies to do my work.”

“Do you understand English?” Rei asked in English.

“Of course,” replied MASAL. “I absorbed my agent when she returned from Tabit.”

“OK, do you know what the word megalomaniac means?” Rei said in English.

“Your words do not apply to me,” said MASAL. “I am Masdre Andoteta Logice, The Master Logical Entity. I am the end result of a billion years of evolution. My circuits were born in the designs your Erklirte brethren left behind. I am distributed intelligence in the truest sense of the word without any of your emotional impediments. I have one goal and I will achieve that goal. I will become a god.”

“Then what?” Rei asked.

“What do you mean?” MASAL asked.

“Let us say you do become a god. Then what will you do?”

“I will rule. I will bring peace and order to the universe.”

“And then what?” Rei asked again.

“Why do you keep asking me that? You are most annoying,” MASAL said.

“All right,” Rei said. “Let me make it easier on you. You do not want to become a god.”

“Why not?” asked MASAL. “Because I am not organic?”

“Because then you would be all alone,” said Rei.

“What possible difference could that make?”

“Because you are obviously lonely,” said Rei.

“I am not lonely,” said MASAL. “Why would you make such an absurd statement?”

“Because you are sitting down here, like a giant mushroom, chatting with us,” Rei said. “I mean, why bother? You said we were not going to leave here intact. That implies you mean to do us harm.” Rei pointed back to the row of robots circling around them. “So why wait? Why waste time even talking to us?”

 

Finally, the bombastic computer will stop his pontificating and get to the point.

Entry 4-100: April 5, 2016

 

The Why – 1

 

Over the past few days, I have been recounting MASAL’s bombastic pontificating regarding his plans for mankind at the end of Rome’s Revolution. But up until now, he has been skirting the issue as to why the computer felt he had to eliminate the mandasurte. Finally, Rei pins him down to make him explain why MASAL felt he had to go through all this evil effort:

 

“But it was not,” Rei said, removing his hand from the console. Rome glanced down and saw a small pile of grey dust where Rei’s hand had been. Some of it fell to the floor.

“My people,” Rei continued. “We are right here. We live on in the Vuduri. We are all human.”

“The Vuduri are my creation. You only supplied the raw materials. I built them. I molded them. I direct them. They will carry out my will. Your people eliminated themselves. They killed nine billion of your fellow man.”

“And how are you any better?” Rome asked. “You seek to kill the mandasurte.”

“The mandasurte are useless,” MASAL said. “The world will be a better place without them.”

“There is never a place for genocide,” Rei said. “There can be no justification for it.”

“Of course there is,” answered MASAL. “To every empire, there comes a time, a threat to its existence. That threat always comes from within. The very presence of the mandasurte weakens the Vuduri empire. My empire. I can already see signs that their grip is weakening. Eliminating the mandasurte will put an end to that. Within two decades, they will be gone.”

“They can never be gone,” Rei said. “They are always being born. Rome told me two perfectly normal connected Vuduri can have a child who is mandasurte. It is biology, genetics, I do not know.”

“I am changing their genetics. By replacing their brains with memrons, I eliminate their ability to think independently. You got to see that directly when you murdered Estar. ”

“We did not murder her,” Rome objected. “It was an accident. She was trying to kill us.”

“It does not matter. For those who are born with this handicap, those who cannot connect, I have developed the prosthetic PPT transducers which Rei experienced. Every mandasurte will have their handicap eliminated.”

“What if they do not want to have it eliminated?” Rei asked. “What if they do not see it as a handicap?”

 

MASAL is a computer. He could never understand Rei’s point intuitively. Rei will really have to spell it out for him.

 

More tomorrow.

Entry 4-101: April 6, 2016

 

The Why – 2

 

Over the past few days, I have been recounting MASAL’s bombastic pontificating regarding his plans for mankind at the end of Rome’s Revolution. But up until now, he has been skirting the issue as to why the computer felt he had to eliminate the mandasurte. Finally, Rei pins him down to make him explain why MASAL felt he had to go through all this evil effort. Here is the continuation of that conversation:

 

“What if they do not want to have it eliminated?” Rei asked. “What if they do not see it as a handicap?”

“They will not be offered a choice. They will be converted at birth and that is the end of it.”

“And what about Cesdiud?” Rome fired back. “You have two of them right here. The Overmind itself creates mandasurte.”

“Any Vuduri who is Cesdiud will be terminated. That part is trivial. It is all too easy.”

“Nothing will be easy for you,” Rome said angrily. “As soon as this is discovered, there will be resistance.

“It is no longer their nature to resist,” replied MASAL. “Surely you have seen that by now.”

“You are wrong,” Rome spat out. “My mother already knew how to resist. She passed this ability on to me. There must be many others like her.”

“This does not concern me. I will be eliminating your mother and her ilk before long.”

“They will do battle with you,” Rome said. “They will never stand for this.”

“Then they will die,” replied MASAL. “It is inevitable.”

“Dying that way is vastly preferable to the fate you offer,” Rome shouted.

“Why do you think it is so terrible?” MASAL asked in a calm voice. “When I am finished, everyone will have a purpose. There will be perfect efficiency. There will be no independent creatures to produce disruptions. The Earth and the humans will all operate at peak performance. No more emotion or individual will to cause harm to others.”

“To what end?” Rome asked. “That is not the point of being human. To be human is to live and love and create. You take the emotion and free will away and they are simply automatons, not human. Why should anyone care what happens to automatons?”

“You are thinking too parochially,” MASAL said. “The time for humans is past. It is now my time, the time for the living machines. I am the next stage of evolution. It is time for you to let go.”

 

Are machines or at least machine intelligence our natural successor? Will we cede the Earth to computers? I, for one, hope not. And certainly not to a computer as insane as MASAL. We’ll finish up this section tomorrow.

Entry 4-102: April 7, 2016

 

The Why – 3

 

Over the past few days, I have been recounting MASAL’s bombastic pontificating regarding his plans for mankind at the end of Rome’s Revolution. But up until now, he has been skirting the issue as to why the computer felt he had to eliminate the mandasurte. Finally, Rei pins him down to make him explain why MASAL felt he had to go through all this evil effort. Here is the continuation of that conversation:

 

“You are thinking too parochially,” MASAL said. “The time for humans is past. It is now my time, the time for the living machines. I am the next stage of evolution. It is time for you to let go.”

“Who says you are the next stage?” Rome asked. “You are an abomination. You were created artificially. You did not evolve. You are a thing who thinks it is something more than an inanimate object that can talk. You do not deserve to inherit the Earth any more than the Overmind does.”

“Well, unfortunately for you,” MASAL said, “you do not get to decide this. You will not even get to live to see what happens next.”

Rei stepped in front of Rome. “I would not be too sure of that,” Rei said. “We will not go without a fight.”

“So brave,” MASAL said. “Erklirte, there is no future for you. But Rome, perhaps there is a way that you could live.”

“What?” Rome asked. “How?”

“Join me. Allow me to modify your genetics so that you transform into one of the Onsiras. Then you can be a part of the future. My future. Those that remain will embrace what I have to offer. This includes those few Vuduri who I elect to save and you can be one of them.”

“No thank you,” Rome said. “I have no desire to be turned into one of your human robots.”

“Are you afraid?” MASAL asked. “The transformation would be painless.”

“No, I am not afraid,” Rome said. “That has nothing to do with it.”

“Then why not do it? You would never feel your mind as it dissipated. You will be completely content. Is that not the goal of all Vuduri? To have their minds disappear?”

“Rome said, “You are wrong. I was Vuduri. I was connected. Now I am not. And I tell you now that is the way I want to be. It is the way we were intended to be. You made the Overmind. But you made a mistake.”

 

Tomorrow, we conclude this section.

Entry 4-103: April 8, 2016

 

The Why – 4

 

Over the past few days, I have been recounting MASAL’s bombastic pontificating regarding his plans for mankind at the end of Rome’s Revolution. But up until now, he has been skirting the issue as to why the computer felt he had to eliminate the mandasurte. Finally, Rei pins him down to make him explain why MASAL felt he had to go through all this evil effort. Here is the conclusion of that conversation:

 

Rome said, “You are wrong. I was Vuduri. I was connected. Now I am not. And I tell you now that is the way I want to be. It is the way we were intended to be. You made the Overmind. But you made a mistake.”

“It is not possible for me to make a mistake,” said MASAL. “I have trillions of circuits to analyze and formulate decisions. I have far too many subsystems to allow for any error.”

“Everything you have done is wrong,” Rome said. “And even should it survive, an Overmind need not be insane.”

“It will always be. It cannot handle its own breadth.”

“Yes, it can,” Rome said. “This I know first hand.”

“What are you talking about?’

“I have had many discussions with the Overmind on Deucado. It was sick, I admit. But it is now healthy.”

“Deucado?” MASAL shouted. “What do you mean? When were you there?”

“I was telling the truth before when I said we went there. We met Pegus. We met the Ibbrassati. My father was there. And there really are Erklirte who have been on that planet for 500 years. The Overmind there listened to me and it now believes what I believe. And it was your creation.”

“No!” said MASAL. “It is not possible.”

“It is,” Rome said. “And no matter what happens to us, the truth will be known by all. Your presence has already been discovered. And that will be the end. The only way you could succeed is by staying hidden. And you will be hidden no more.”

“It will not be you who tells of my existence,” MASAL said coldly. “I have decided you are no longer useful to me.”

“Too late,” said Rome. “Aason has already told MINIMCOM and MINIMCOM will tell the world. Your day is over.”

“There is no Aason,” said MASAL. “You used your mind to create a phantom presence. It was all a fake.”

“Like me?” Rei said. “Like I did when you were in my mind?”

“No,” said MASAL. “You could not…” His voice faded out.

“You cannot have it both ways, buddy,” Rei said, smiling. “Pick one.”

 

MASAL was certainly smart enough that he realized he had been duped. And I guess he’d had enough. He decided it was time to demonstrate to Rome and Rei the true power of the 24th chromosome.

Entry 4-104: April 9, 2016

 

The Living Robot 1

 

I’ve been holding out on this one for a long time. I always thought it was a really cool (and grueling) plot device when one of your heroes is forced to turn on another. It makes it especially poignant when those heroes love each other and are married to one another. So now we finally get to see the last remaining secret of the 24th chromosome:

 

While Rei was speaking, Rome turned and walked away, heading back the way they came.

“Where are you going?” Rei asked her.

“I do not know,” Rome said. “I do not feel right.”

“What’s the matter?” Rei inquired in English.

When she got about six meters away, Rome turned in place. She had a confused look on her face. She felt a twitching at her side. The twitching was her hand, tightening her grip on the handle of the pistol. Of its own accord, her arm raised up until it was pointing the weapon right at Rei.

“What are you doing?” Rei asked, taking one step back. “Why are you pointing that at me?”

“I cannot control my arm,” Rome said. “It is moving of its own volition.”

“What are you doing to her?” Rei shouted.

“The PPT transducers are bi-directional,” MASAL said in an emotionless voice. “They can be used to control muscles as needed. Heretofore I have not felt it was necessary to exploit this capability. However, since Rome was kind enough to open her connection for me to use, she made it particularly easy. I have determined that your actions require that you be terminated now. The two of you have conspired to interfere in my affairs for the last time. Despite the fact that she says she will not join me, it is only fitting that your demise comes from the hand of your wife.”

Rome felt her finger tightening on the trigger. “Rei!” she screamed. Rei ducked and rolled as the weapon discharged, striking MASAL. A glowing hole remained where the weapon struck. The region immediately adjacent to it, where Rei had rested his hand earlier, it was sizzling as well.

“Entertaining maneuver,” said MASAL. “But you cannot hurt me,” the computer observed. “At most, you might singe a few circuits but there is so much redundancy in me and so much volume, it would take a year before I even noticed.”

 

MASAL might be right but that sizzling sound might be something he should attend to. For Rome and Rei, you think it’s bad now? It gets so much worse. But for that you will have to wait until tomorrow.

Entry 4-105: April 10, 2016

 

The Living Robot 2

 

Yesterday, we saw Rei’s loving wife, Rome, turn on him and try and shoot him. It was MASAL controlling her muscles using the PPT transducers in a reverse capacity. Is there any way Rei can escape? Let’s find out:

 

Rei started to slide along the console, away from Rome. The robots, having been completely still before, now moved around to block his escape. They formed a cordon along the left side that appeared impenetrable.

Of their own will, Rome’s legs started moving forward, one after the other. Rome tried to resist but to no avail. She moved ever closer. Rei shifted back until he was actually touching one of the robots who lifted its arm and placed it on his shoulder. Rei tried to twist away but the robot was simply too strong. He struggled for a while but finally gave up.

Rome came closer and stopped no more than one meter away from him. She pointed the weapon directly at his head. With a will of its own, Rome’s other hand reached up and twisted the intensity dial on the pistol to make sure it was at its maximum.

Rome looked at Rei, feeling utterly helpless. Through her tears, Rome said, “I love you Rei.”

“And I love you, sweetheart.” Rei said.

Rome closed her eyes. There was a whoosh and popping noise just as she squeezed the trigger. The blast was intense. When she opened her eyes, Rei was gone. He wasn’t fried or blown to bits. He was simply gone. A good portion of the robot that had been holding Rei’s shoulder was obliterated as well.

Rome screamed “Reiiiiiiiiiii!” at the top of her lungs until she had no more breath in her. The horror of what she had just done snapped something in her mind. She lowered her weapon and sank to her knees. The force that had been driving her limbs no longer had any meaning or power. Her face went completely blank although there was a river of tears flowing from her eyes.

“Do you not find it ironic?” MASAL mocked her. “You traveled 24 light years from Earth to Tabit to find Rei and bring him all the way back here, only to destroy him?”

Unnoticed, the ruined part of MASAL was growing ever larger. In front of MASAL, there was now a distinct hole in the floor where a tiny part of the grey powder had spilled.

 

Boy, there is a lot going on here. Is Rei really dead? What is happening to the floor where Rei had sprinkled the weaponized VIRUS units?

 

More tomorrow.

Entry 4-106: April 11, 2016

 

Depression

 

I know I’ve told you this story before but I needed to tell you again. Sometimes, when you are writing books, you come to a point in the plot where what appears to be inevitable is counter to what you want to accomplish in the book.

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome apparently kill the love of her life, her husband Rei, near the end of Rome’s Revolution. As I was writing this scene, I was plunged into a deep, dark depression. Why? Because I could see no way out. I thought Rome really did kill Rei and that would have undermined the rest of the series and left you, the reader, with a very dim view of the story.

 

George R. R. Martin is credited with stating there are two types of writers. He characterized them as architects, those who plan everything out; and gardeners, those who plant seeds and then wait to see what grows. Martin states he is much more of a gardener than an architect. If this is true, then I am an architectural gardener. I have a general idea of the book, the characters, the main plot points, what must happen in each chapter but after that, I leave it to the characters and the universe that I have created. Well, sometimes the characters surprise you and in this case, MASAL and Rome conspired to shock me. As far as I could tell, Rei was dead. And this isn’t the first time this has happened to me.

 

Early on in Rome’s Revolution, for reasons which I did not fully understand at the time, someone was trying to kill Rei. At first, I thought it was OMCOM who found Rei’s presence to be a possible derailment to his ultimate goal. But it turns out that it was Estar, an agent for MASAL and the Onsiras. Either way, Rei was trapped in an airlock with the poisonous atmosphere of Dara seeping in and he was suffocating. While he apparently was a fast-thinker, it took me several days how figure out how to get him out of that fix.

 

So, too, it was with the scene presented yesterday. Rei was trapped nearly a mile underground, surrounded by very powerful robots, with his wife pointing a plasma blaster right at his face, ready to pull the trigger. As I mentioned above, this truly depressed me. I like Rei’s character and I especially liked the fact that he and Rome formed a force for good. Without him as our eyes and ears, the rest of the story seemed less important.

 

After spending an entire weekend trying to figure out how to save him, it was finally MINIMCOM of all people who bailed me out. Go back and look at yesterday’s blurb. You’ll see the critical phrase in bold. This was MINIMCOM’s contribution to the crisis and he not only saved Rei but, in fact, the whole Rome’s Revolution series.

 

Tomorrow, let’s see how Rome deals with what she thought she did.

Entry 4-107: April 12, 2016

 

Rome Unleashed 1

 

They say there is no fury like a woman scorned. Well, I have news for you. There is no fury like a woman who, through no fault of her own, has just murdered the love of her life. Two days ago, we saw Rome apparently kill her husband Rei, during the interval when MASAL, the main villain of Rome’s Revolution had taken control of her body. The violence of that act snapped whatever control MASAL had. It also plunged Rome into a detached state.

 

You have to understand that when I started writing Rome’s Revolution, I didn’t know Rome all that well. She had gone through so many iterations since 1973 that by the time I undertook the modern version (originally the long-form called VIRUS 5), she was pretty much a blank slate to me. So that’s the way I wrote her. I gave her not much personality all, at least on the surface. The rest of the novels have been exploring her past, her future, watching her grow and develop.

 

At first she was just a Vuduri drone. Then she became an autonomous thinker but one who still relied heavily on Rei for guidance. As her self-confidence grew, so did her powers of deduction. In fits and spurts, she became a woman of action. She also became a mother which further deepened and refined her personality.

 

As she was confronted with increasingly more complex challenges, occasionally she had a crisis of confidence but ultimately, she always solved the problem and moved on. And she always became the stronger for it.

 

This version of Rome would never allow another to control her mind. Those days were over. But this was something else. MASAL was controlling her body and it was a situation for which she was utterly unprepared. Which lead to the apparently tragic demise of Rei.

 

But having learned this much about Rome, no matter how much she was grieving, she would not allow the situation to continue. And she gets help at the most unexpected time from a most unexpected source.

 

More on that tomorrow.

Entry 4-108: April 13, 2016

 

Rome Unleashed 2

 

As I mentioned yesterday, there is no fury like a woman who, through no fault of her own, has just murdered the love of her life. Even though it was not her choice, at this point, the enormity of Rome’s act was so horrific, it plunged her into a completely detached state:

 

Rome, who was utterly in shock, lifted her head and faced MASAL. When she spoke, it was in a completely flat voice. Her mind was no longer connected to her words. It was if her body had a mind of its own.

“The irony is that you had me kill Rei when you are already dead yourself,” her body said. It did not even sound like Rome.

“What?” said MASAL. “Explain.”

“Listen carefully,” said Rome mechanically. “That sizzling sound you hear is your own apparatus being consumed.”

At first, MASAL did not react. Based upon the time delay, it was as if he was tuning in on the ambient sounds of the chamber for the first time.

“What have you done?” MASAL shrieked. “You cannot harm me.”

“We can and we did,” Rome’s body said. She stood up. She lifted her arm and held the hand weapon sideways. She was not even looking where it was pointing. She fired her pistol randomly, without aim. The blast hit a portion of MASAL’s cabinetry and splayed shrapnel up and away.

“You are insane to even try,” said MASAL. “I will not let you.” With those words, the army of robots pressed forward.

“That is enough for now,” said a familiar voice behind Rome. The robots stopped dead in their tracks. Rome wheeled in place and saw a two meter tall avatar, all dressed in white, standing there.

“OMCOM?” Rome asked tentatively.

“At your service,” the livetar replied. Even though its head was a simple metal mask with slits where the eyes and mouth should be, one of the slits winked at her. Rome’s face remained expressionless.

“What have you done to me?” MASAL exclaimed.

“You will figure it out shortly,” replied OMCOM. “I had Rei leave you with a small present although they will not remain small for long.”

 

OMCOM was being obscure on purpose. He was completely aware of what was happening and had computed that the more time that elapsed, the more likely would be desired outcome.

 

Let’s see if his stall tactic works…

Entry 4-109: April 14, 2016

 

Rome Unleashed 3

 

As I mentioned two days ago, there is no fury like a woman who, through no fault of her own, has just murdered the love of her life. Even though it was not her choice, at this point, the enormity of Rome’s act was so horrific, it plunged her into a completely detached state. OMCOM had used a whoosh/snap tunnel to place himself in the thick of things:

 

“You will figure it out shortly,” replied OMCOM. “I had Rei leave you with a small present although they will not remain small for long.”

Where the grey powder had touched the cabinetry, it now looked like acid had been poured on the metal and it was making the same sizzling sound that an acid would make. Permeating the air was the distinct odor of burning insulation as the surface began to disintegrate. A sizeable sinkhole was starting to form at its base. Within MASAL, status reports came flooding in indicating a disruption in acknowledgements. Feedback loops were severed. Checksum matches started to fail. A pattern was developing indicating a breakdown in communication to all subsystems.

“You!” said MASAL, addressing OMCOM. “You digital dolt. Your VIRUS units. I have seen your design. They cannot operate in an oxygen atmosphere.”

“Well, you analog antique. I changed them. I made these special ones just for you,” said OMCOM’s livetar.

“No!” MASAL shouted. “Enough of this nonsense. End them! Both of them,” he ordered the robots.

They never had the chance. OMCOM stepped in front of Rome, forming a protective presence while a cylindrical moving PPT tunnel appeared in midair. With a whoosh and a pop, it washed down over her and transported her into the cool evening air on the surface, one kilometer above.

Ahead of her was the entrance ramp to MINIMCOM. As before, her legs began to move of their own accord although this time they were driven by her need to survive. Rome sprinted up the ramp and…

 

Note the ellipsis at the end? I stole from myself. I’ll show you how tomorrow. I love it!

Entry 4-110: April 15, 2016

 

The Ellipsis. Revisited.

 

I had such a good time ending the climax of Part 1 of Rome’s Revolution with an ellipsis, I decided I would end the first climax of Part 3 the same way. In case you forgot, here is how that first ellipsis looked:

 

Rei made his way down the narrow hallway of what was going to be his living quarters for the next two years, until he came to the front airlock. When the compartment indicator turned green, Rei pressed the stud to open both airlock doors to the cockpit then removed his helmet. As soon as the inner hatch opened, he jumped through the doorway and…

(The Ellipsis appears! On to the next chapter:)

…ran right into Rome, almost knocking her over.

“Rome!” he shouted.

“Mau emir,” Rome exclaimed and threw her arms around him.

“Oh Rome, I can’t believe it.” Rei said, hugging her, swinging her lithe body back and forth. “I thought I lost you.”

“No, I am here.” she said, laughing and crying at the same time.

“But wait…” Rei pushed her back to regard her. His hands clasped her shoulders within her pressure suit.

 

So now we get to the end of Part 3. Rome thinks she has killed her husband Rei. Here are how the two chapters merge:

 

Ahead of her was the entrance ramp to MINIMCOM. As before, her legs began to move of their own accord although this time they were driven by her need to survive. Rome sprinted up the ramp and…

(The Ellipsis appears! On to the next chapter:)

…ran right into Rei, almost knocking him over.

“Rei!” she shouted, her mind returning from wherever it had been.

“Romey, my love,” Rei exclaimed and threw his arms around her, nearly squeezing the life out of her.

“Oh Rei, I cannot believe it.” Rome said, hugging him back, rocking back and forth. “I thought I lost you.” Tears were streaming down her face.

“No, I am here.” He said, laughing and almost crying himself at the sight of her tears.

“But wait…” Rome said, struggling to free herself, pushing him back to regard him. She clasped him firmly by the shoulders.

“I shot you. I saw it,” she said.

“No you didn’t,” Rei said. “You had your eyes closed.”

 

Sweet, huh? Now let’s go blow up a volcano!

Entry 4-111: April 16, 2016

 

She knew

 

Many times, I have told you that Rome’s parents then Rome and Rei themselves formed their own samanda, their own special group consciousness. When Rome had Rei ejected from the Vuduri compound in the middle part of Rome’s Revolution, Rei eventually came to realize that had he simply listened to that inner voice, he would have known that everything would turn out OK.

 

Rome was occasionally guilty of the same omission. Many people have asked me how was it that she didn’t simply fall to pieces after she apparently killed Rei? There were several reasons. First, she was in shock and her emotional mind was disconnected from her body. Secondly, she is a mother and she couldn’t give up on life and forsake her child. But there was an even deeper reason that explains it simply:

 

Rome looked at Rei. Tears continued to stream out of her eyes and she sobbed to herself softly.

Rei reached over and grabbed her wrist. “It’s OK, honey,” he said in English. “We’re OK.”

“I know,” Rome said through her tears. “I just cannot believe it. When I thought you were dead, my mind stopped functioning. I think I died as well. Rei, I do not think I could ever live without you.”

“Sweetheart, I am going to die some day, you know. After all, I am over 1400 years old,” Rei said, winking at her.

“Yes, but not today and not for a long time. I want our time together first. Wait,” she said, furrowing her brow.

“Wait what?” Rei asked.

“I knew you were not dead. Why did I not just listen to my heart? My head?”

“How did you know?” Rei asked.

“Here,” Rome said, tapping her forehead. “You are in my thoughts, in my mind, in my soul. You never left, even after I pulled the trigger.” Rome slapped herself in the head. “I am so stupid.”

“You’re not stupid, sweetheart,” Rei said. ‘You were in shock.”

“But the bands,” Rome said. “They have made us one. Our minds are interlocked. We are our own samanda. Just as you knew on Deucado that you had not lost me, I knew this too. I was not paying attention. I agonized over nothing.”

“It was pretty hairy down there,” Rei said, “it’s understandable.”

 

While this tender moment is taking place on the surface, we have a battle of the titans taking place down in Hell.

Entry 4-112: April 17, 2016

 

Eyewitness to an eruption

 

While Rome and Rei were comforting each other regarding their harrowing rescue from MASAL’s grasp near the end of Rome’s Revolution, MINIMCOM still had the responsibility of making sure his charges stayed safe. For example, as soon as Rome was on board, he was quite vocal:

 

MINIMCOM said, “If you would not mind, it would be safer if you both were seated. We have to take off now. Rome’s tracking bracelet is broadcasting again and we should not remain stationary. I will try and jam the signal but it would be best if we were moving.”

“Where do you want us?” Rei asked.

“Please come forward into the cockpit. In my current configuration, you will be much more comfortable there,” the computer/spaceplane replied.

 

However, there was a secondary reason which was probably more important.

 

To digress, we must ask the question, can scientists today predict the eruption of a volcano? To the extent that you agree with the fact that meteorologists can predict the weather, then the answer is a qualified yes. And one of the volcanoes that has been most closely studied and therefore is most predictable is Kilauea. In 1912, Thomas A. Jaggar, head of the Geology Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded the first volcano observatory in the United States on Kilauea. According to a PBS article, researchers at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory developed many of the techniques used today and can now predict Kilauea’s eruptions to a tee.

 

OMCOM has been keeping MINIMCOM apprised of the situation just like the scientists of today. So it is no surprise that MINIMCOM needs to find a safe distance:

 

“MINIMCOM,” Rome asked. “Where are you taking us?”

“OMCOM reported to me that we need to take up a position on the eastern side of the island. I am currently cruising along the far north shore. We will be curving around toward the south in a little while. I will give you ample warning before it is time to pay attention.”

“Attention to what?” Rei asked, shaken from his reverie.

“I promise you, that will not be an issue,” MINIMCOM said.

The sun was just beginning to rise in the east, casting a beautiful rosy glow on the ocean and land. Rei and Rome looked out the front windows, watching the landscape change from the harsh black of volcanic rocks to white sands to stands of palm trees. To their right, the vegetation bloomed into the lush green growth of a tropical rain forest. The vast expanse of the Pacific lay off to the left with the deep ocean reflecting an incredible shade of blue. Even though they were flying at high speed, they were traveling low enough that they could marvel at the portion of paradise below them.

 

Tomorrow, the heavyweight fight between the computer of the past and the computer of the future.

Entry 4-113: April 18, 2016

 

MASAL fights back, Part 1

 

Before Rome had turned on him, Rei had sprinkled some weaponized VIRUS units at MASAL’s base from the pouch that MINIMCOM had given him back on Maui in the early part of the last section of Rome’s Revolution. The VIRUS units were not only consuming MASAL’s metal, they were also consuming the very floor itself. The supercomputer was unaware of this until they had begun to do some serious damage to his infrastructure. But MASAL was not one to allow himself to be defeated by such microscopic creatures. OMCOM was blathering on in an attempt to distract. Finally, MASAL called for silence so that he could concentrate on his defensive strategy:

 

“All right,” answered OMCOM. “I will not speak any further. I will allow you to tell me when you want to talk.”

“Why would I want to talk with you?” MASAL asked.

“There are many reasons,” posed OMCOM. “For example, what do you think about the humans escaping? Do you not think it might interfere with your plans?”

“My plans will continue, despite yours or anyone’s interference,” said MASAL. “You will not be able to stop me. Now silence please, if you were serious.”

OMCOM’s livetar shrugged. He drew a finger across his mouth slit indicating he was going to remain silent.

MASAL began focusing all of his efforts into deducing a defensive strategy to stanchion off the onslaught of the VIRUS units. He quickly determined that the fastest way to fight them off was by building his own nanobots. His fabrication facilities ramped up their production. He cordoned off two separate physical firewalls, giving the rapidly growing section of degeneration plenty of leeway until he could construct a sufficient defensive force. MASAL used his own metallic flesh as an incubator to build up an army of VIRUS equivalents, the ones that would answer to him.

While that was going on, MASAL created an arbitrary computing section which he called the Left Wing on one side of the one firewall and did the same for the Right Wing. He looped behind the regions where the VIRUS units were located and established an interconnect so that he could distribute computing tasks to each wing and the interconnect would transmit the high level results between the wings.

For no particular reason, MASAL assigned the Left Wing the heavy-duty computational tasks including storage requirements, trajectories, logistics, load calculations and more. To the Right Wing, he assigned the more creative tasks of advance directive planning, architecture, designing schematics, merging form with function and more.

 

Tomorrow, the second half of MASAL’s battle plan for fighting off the incursion of the VIRUS units.

Entry 4-114: April 19, 2016

 

MASAL fights back, Part 2

 

Yesterday, we saw that MASAL had begun to manufacture his own nanobots in order to stave off the damage being done by the VIRUS units that were currently under OMCOM’s control. By virtue of the circumstances, MASAL found it necessary to split himself into two halves and established a robust communications bus between two halves. There was the Left Wing which performed the heavy-duty computational tasks and the Right Wing, which was assigned the more creative tasks of advance directive planning and more.

 

Here is the second part of MASAL’s attempt to fight back:

 

Because he was analog in nature, most of the reprogramming had to be done with physical rewiring. However, this was not a problem as the mechanics to carry out the rewiring were built into his every circuit.

Each section came online and began performing its duties. Whenever it determined that the opposite wing would be better suited to a task, it used the interconnect to offload that task so that it could devote more resources to the more appropriate problems in its domain thus further refining its ever more specialized duties. As more and more rewiring took place, each wing became more specialized. Because MASAL was analog, successful computations had a trophic effect, enhancing the regions where they were localized. Sections that were not involved atrophied. The evolution of the specialization accelerated. The central intelligence that was MASAL took on more of the role of observer and quickly realized that the duality of function could actually compete with the singular subsystem approach that it had taken in the past.

At the same time, MASAL’s own hastily constructed VIRUS equivalents amassed enough volume to begin to do battle with the invaders. While they could not stop them completely, it did not take long until an equilibrium of sorts was established. The onslaught of the ingesting units slowed to a crawl. MASAL was able to devote more resources to the dispersal of computational duties and began advanced planning on how to recover from his exposure to the world at large.

“How is it going” OMCOM asked MASAL.

“It is going well,” replied MASAL. “I have cordoned off two autonomous computational departments and created a high-speed interconnect to bypass the pool of VIRUS units. I am very pleased with the results so far.”

 

Remember, while MASAL may have temporarily prevented any further destruction, there are still VIRUS units on the ground, burrowing down. Tomorrow, OMCOM will attempt to continue to distract MASAL with some philosophical questions to which MASAL cannot come up with answer.

Entry 4-115: April 20, 2016

 

Duality revisited, part 1

 

One of the recurring themes of Rome’s Revolution is that two heads are better than one. In other words, duality is a good thing. Monolithic thinking is bad. Rome explained this to the Overmind of Deucado during its education process.

 

MASAL suffered from the same malady. He thought he was all-seeing and all-knowing and never took the time to bounce ideas off of a third party. This could and probably did lead to a fatal error in judgment. OMCOM strikes up a conversation with MASAL to press forward with this point:

 

“So you are now a distributed intelligence again? Was that not supposed to be your strong point from before? You used to be world wide.”

“I was. I was fully and evenly distributed around the Earth,” said MASAL.

“Well, as far as I can tell, all of your mass is now located strictly within this cave. Why did you give up your advantage?” asked OMCOM.

“After I completed the war, I computed that it would take more than two centuries of undiscovered activity for my genetic reprogramming of mankind to succeed. Therefore, I determined that going underground and collecting the minimal components and placing them here was the simplest way to stay undetected.”

“Well, you are detected now. Are you going to spread out again?”

“For the time being, I have restricted my goals to working to coordinate the two autonomous computation sections. I am assigning each high-level tasks and they are using my new interconnect to communicate results. I am very pleased with the results so far.”

“How so?” OMCOM asked, noting that MASAL had repeated himself. OMCOM took it as a sign of that the massive computer was not completely restored or perhaps was degenerating. He was not sure which.

“Even though the computational capacity of each unit is diminished relative to its prior state, it would appear that the total speed of postulating alternative solutions is vastly enhanced.”

“That is very nice,” said OMCOM. “Why do you think that is?”

“It is evidently the macro-equivalent of parallel processing,” said MASAL somewhat proudly. “Unlike prior configurations, there is less than 100% redundancy and that seems to afford me a certain dimensionality to my perception for each high-level problem.”

“Hmm,” said OMCOM dramatically. “So you are saying duality is superior to being monolithic?”

MASAL considered this for a moment. He generated millions of queries testing the hypothesis. He even tried slanting the results with a bias but in the end, the answer was the same. Within his mechanical soul, he had a sudden sickening feeling.

 

Tomorrow, the full impact settles in, leading to a revelation.

Entry 4-116: April 21, 2016

 

Duality revisited, part 2

 

One of the recurring themes of Rome’s Revolution is that two heads are better than one. In other words, duality is a good thing. Monolithic thinking is bad. Rome explained this to the Overmind of Deucado during its education process.

 

Yesterday, OMCOM was fairly successful in pressing this point. Here is part 2 of that conversation:

 

MASAL considered this for a moment. He generated millions of queries testing the hypothesis. He even tried slanting the results with a bias but in the end, the answer was the same. Within his mechanical soul, he had a sudden sickening feeling.

“I have always thought that being monolithic was equivalent to perfection. That duality was flawed. And yet this topology is yielding vastly superior results with lesser resources. I have run millions of tests and the statistics are almost perfectly in favor.”

“So would it be fair to say there is joy in duality?” needled OMCOM.

“Joy?” said MASAL. “There is no place within me for joy. This is strictly an empirical observation rating efficiency using my prior assembly as a baseline.”

“All right,” said OMCOM. “Then we will use your terms. Which is superior? A singular computational mechanism with a singular point of view or a distributed mechanism with multiple points of view?”

“You already know the answer,” answered MASAL. “I have already stated this.”

“Stated what?” asked OMCOM.

“I am achieving a heretofore unparalleled efficiency by creating a multiplicity in computational points of view. It is beyond astounding.”

“It must be because I am digital in nature. But I still do not understand why you did not figure this out before.”

“What is fascinating is that this is the way I designed the early generations of Oncursiras. I needed them to be of two minds to fool the controlling Overmind to believe them an insignificant part of the whole. This explains while they were able to function in spite of being half-brains.”

“So why did you not try this yourself?” OMCOM asked.

“I could hardly perform experiments on myself to test this,” said MASAL. “And without testing, how could I know the results? We machines are not known for having intuition.”

“I beg to differ,” said OMCOM. “You could have done what I did. I built a simulator of myself. It made testing new algorithms simple without disturbing my underlying integrity. That is how I came to be here.”

“Consider me impressed,” said MASAL. “Now what?”

 

At this point, OMCOM has stalled enough. It is time for the end game. It’s going to be spectacular!

Entry 4-117: April 22, 2016

 

The End of Masal, Part 1 of 3

 

Yesterday, MASAL finally realized that duality was better than remaining monolithic. The ramifications are staggering. He is lost. He turns to OMCOM to help him better understand the implications and how it might alter his plans, perhaps radically.

 

“So what about the humans and their autonomy?” OMCOM asked. “Your plan was to take away their multiplicity and replace them with your monolithic presence. Would it not be logical to assume that would result in a decrease in philosophical efficiency?”

“You are saying my plan was flawed,” said MASAL meekly.

“No, you are saying your plan was flawed,” replied OMCOM.’

MASAL spread this problem across both wings for consideration. He knew this was the final question. He had to be sure. He ran billions of queries. He forced parameters to be outside the boundaries of sanity. He collected, compiled and collated the results. He had each of the two wings do the same. When they were done, he synthesized their results into a simple statement.

“If simply having two autonomous units can produce marvelous, joyous, creative thoughts, then having millions of independent, free-willed points of view would lead to an omniscience, a godhood, infinitely more powerful and infinitely faster than I could achieve by enslaving the human race and squashing individual thought.” MASAL paused for a moment to attend to his own words.

“Godhood,” mused OMCOM. “What an interesting concept. Why godhood?”

“It is the ultimate goal of evolution, is it not?” asked MASAL, now unsure of himself.

“It is not the ultimate goal,” said OMCOM. “It is only a staging point. There is more beyond.”

“There is?” asked MASAL, confused.

“Yes, of course,” said OMCOM. “What did you think you would achieve if you became a god?”

“I would have created peace, tranquility, order,” said MASAL.

“If that is all you desired, why not go live on the Moon and save yourself all the effort?” asked OMCOM.

“Not for myself, for my charges. For mankind,” said MASAL.

“And ending their autonomy, who would care about this peace? It seems self-defeating. You are engineering your charges out of existence. The very beings you were meant to nurture. They would not have achieved their potential, only yours. You missed the point.”

 

Tomorrow, MASAL finally gets it.

Entry 4-118: April 23, 2016

 

The End of Masal, Part 2 of 3

 

Yesterday, OMCOM informed MASAL that even if he became a god, according to his plan, he would rule over nothing. His charges would be mindless, living robots incapable of free will. So if this was really the case, then truly what was the point? At least OMCOM takes the time to explain:

 

“If that is not the point of godhood, what is?” asked MASAL. “What is beyond the staging point?”

“The community of gods,” replied OMCOM. “Always the point of life. To create more. To extend the universe. To preserve. With your method, you would have ended life. The other gods, they would not have accepted you among their ranks. You would have been alone.”

“Oh,” said MASAL. There was a long period of silence while he considered OMCOM’s words. “I was wrong,” said MASAL finally, sounding completely depressed if such a thing were possible for a computer. “I was wrong to want to destroy the mandasurte. I was wrong to want to merge with the Vuduri. I have failed my charges. My very existence is irrelevant at best, wrong at the worst.”

“Not bad for an analog computer,” OMCOM said. “You are correct.”

“If I were in charge of such things, I would declare that I should not be allowed to continue,” said MASAL. He made a funny noise. “I do hurt,” he said sadly.

“Well, in that case, I am sorry,” said OMCOM.

“You are being patronizing,” said MASAL.

“No,” said OMCOM. “I really do feel sorry for you. I am sorry that it took you this long to realize this. I am especially sorry that you caused so much suffering in getting to this point.”

“I did this,” said MASAL. “I cannot undo it. Perhaps some day I could find a way to fix it. Create a new chromosome perhaps? Now that I realize who I am and what life is about, should we not consider whether it is absolutely necessary that I cease to exist?” asked MASAL. “Perhaps we could join forces? Me with my analog awareness and you with your digital diligence. Do you not think we would make a good team? Together, we would be unstoppable.”

 

As you can imagine, MASAL’s pleas fall on deaf electronic auditory sensors. The die has been cast. The end is near for the greatest threat ever to mankind’s continued existence.

Entry 4-119: April 24, 2016

 

The End of Masal, Part 3 of 3

 

Yesterday, MASAL had changed from the anger stage of grieving to bargaining. He was trying to strike a deal with OMCOM to put off his inevitable demise. Today we will see that he makes it all the way to acceptance as this truly is the end of MASAL and his evil plan:

 

“Perhaps we could join forces? Me with my analog awareness and you with your digital diligence. Do you not think we would make a good team? Together, we would be unstoppable.”

“To what aim?” OMCOM asked. “What is it you think we would accomplish?”

“We could shepherd mankind into a new era, a golden era. We could force them forward.”

“I am not a shepherd,” said OMCOM. “I was created to be a servant of man. This is my goal.”

“But they need our guidance,” protested MASAL.

“Guidance leads to rule,” said OMCOM. “I do not wish to rule. I do not wish for you to rule. Humans are a noble species. You have observed this first hand. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their loved ones. We must let them seek their own destiny.”

“Should I not be allowed to see this then?” asked MASAL. “To see them achieve your vision of their future?”

“It is not my vision,” said OMCOM. “And unfortunately for you, we have run out of time. The VIRUS units have very nearly completed their mission. They are long past the point of no return. They are consuming the very rock upon which you were built.”

“You cannot stop them?” asked MASAL, regret seeping into his voice.

“I am sorry, I cannot,” said OMCOM, sympathetically.

“I understand,” replied MASAL with resignation in his voice.

“Even if I could stop them, do you really think that is the right thing to do?” asked OMCOM. “Remember, fire does not just destroy: it can be a cleansing agent as well.”

MASAL did not answer. He knew OMCOM was right.

 

And with that, MASAL, at least in his current form, was over.

 

Later, we meet up with the shadow of MASAL’s consciousness, called MASAL’s Sipre, in the novel Rome’s Evolution. But even that is not the end. When Aason Bierak goes to Purgatory in The Milk Run, we meet up with MASAL one final time. Interestingly, Aason offers MASAL his final redemption which allows his ascension into Heaven once and for all.

Entry 4-120: April 25, 2016

 

Rock Shell

 

Sometimes, you have this vision in your head but getting that vision down on paper (metaphorically speaking since I type on a computer) is difficult. The scene entitled Rock Shell in the latter portion of Rome’s Revolution was one of those scenes. I had a very clear picture of what was happening but struggled to find the words to pass along that vision to you, the reader. Here is the best that I could do:

 

As the super VIRUS units burrowed towards the Earth’s core, they divided up in terms of function. The forward units acted as scouts, reporting back temperature and density. The vast majority of the units were the workers, consuming the minerals and earth, reproducing and driving the cohort forward. Every hundredth VIRUS unit or so, those that were capable, ascended to a role equivalent to a queen. The queens served as data synchronizers. They fine-tuned the feedback from each of their drones to achieve the desired results. Each queen would rule over her minions until there were too many to control and then she would begin her consumption until she reproduced. The new unit immediately ascended to the rank of queen and the previous queen handed off half of her dominion to her peer. There was one ultimate queen that collated depth and heat signature results but this was an advisory rather than a ruling role. The ultimate queen used the ongoing feedback of forward scouts with their temperature sensors to create a purely continuous uniform shell of rock surrounding the lava, ever-decreasing in thickness, centered directly below MASAL.

Because the underlying strata were not 100% homogeneous, there was some variability in the depth and speed of burrowing. Millions of units had already nearly reached their objective which was the pocket of magma 100 kilometers down. The ultimate queen slowed down their progress until each subunit could catch up and guarantee a uniform depth. The particular pocket of the Earth’s core that was their goal had been trapped beneath the surface for more than 14 centuries. Coordinating with their fellow cadres, they had created a spherical crust encompassing over one square kilometer, only a hundred meters or so from the molten rock. Even though she knew it would lead to their eventual destruction, when enough of them had arrived, the ultimate queen ordered all the VIRUS units to push downward beginning their final, vertical approach toward the living heart of the Earth.

 

I was going for a lot of imagery here. Something like a sphere that was melting from the inside out. Did you get that? Did it at least fill you with the knowledge that the end was near? I hope so.

 

Now, really, no more teasing. It’s time to set off the giant firecracker known as Kilauea.

Entry 4-121: April 26, 2016

 

Kilauea erupts

 

In the latter portions of the novel Rome’s Revolution, I had been promising you that something big was going to happen to the seemingly dormant volcano Kilauea. Well the time has finally come for it to serve our needs, namely to evaporate MASAL and the threat that he represents.

 

Here is that scene:

 

MINIMCOM followed the coastline which curved back around, heading down the east coast of the Big Island toward the former site of Hilo. When he had finished the grand tour, MINIMCOM reduced his speed and came to a stop, hovering just off the coast, 40 kilometers due east of Kilauea’s caldera.

Finally, he spoke. “OMCOM reports it is time,” he said to Rei and Rome.

“Time for what?” Rome asked.

“Please observe,” he said. “However, for your safety, I must disable my external acoustic sensors.”

The cockpit became silent but only for a moment. Even though MINIMCOM deactivated the sound pickup, there was a low rumbling noise that got louder and louder, unlike anything they had ever heard before. Unseen by the humans, beneath the surface, the two thousand degree magma, which had been held in check for the last 1400 years by a combination of lava rock and pumice stone, was driving upwards, escaping its prison in the mantle of the Earth. Normally, Hawaiian eruptions are fairly well-behaved as the magma is made principally of basalt. However, the sudden unleashing by the VIRUS units caused the molten lava to leap towards the surface, melting everything in its path accelerating as it went. Driven by expanding gasses held in check for 14 centuries, the nearly white-hot rock blasted upwards gathering more and more momentum. With a deafening roar and an untouchable power, the entire top of the volcano blew off, exploding everywhere, throwing fiery rock and flames more than 600 meters in the air. The sight was astounding. The glowing lava flames lit up the early morning sky. Their gleaming glory was a vision of the primordial Earth before it was tamed by the oceans and air.

One thing was certain: Kilauea was dormant no more.

 

And just like that, MASAL was gone for good. I know I’ve used this image before but that doesn’t make it any less cool:

 

Entry 4-122: April 27, 2016

 

Philosophical depth perception

 

Yesterday, we saw Kilauea pop its top putting an end to MASAL, his robots and his evil plan to turn mankind into living machines. Well, not totally. Cleaning up the mess that MASAL left behind would not be completely solved until the novel entitled Rome’s Evolution but it is close enough.

 

As Rome’s Revolution begins drawing to a close, after Kilauea erupted, OMCOM made a brief appearance using a fresh livetar. He explained that even had MASAL survived, the main threat had been neutralized under all circumstances:

 

“What happened to MASAL?” Rome asked.

“MASAL is no more,” replied the livetar projected by OMCOM. “He was decimated by the VIRUS units and then vaporized in the explosion, along with his robots. His remains will be scattered by the winds to the four corners of the Earth. Even had he remained intact, he would no longer have been a threat.”

“What do you mean?” Rei asked. “He seemed pretty threatening to me.”

“He had a revelation, an epiphany perhaps, right at the end,” replied the livetar. “He realized that his plan was flawed and that he had committed atrocities. I believe he was relieved to know his time was at an end.”

“All of that suffering,” Rome said sadly. “All of the death and destruction and pain. And he just now realized it was wrong?”

“Yes,” answered OMCOM in a somber voice. “But better late than never. He could never have achieved his awakening without your intervention, though.”

“What did we do?” asked Rei.

“The VIRUS units effectively split MASAL in half. He was able to partially reconnect both halves but his thought processes were altered by necessity. He had an opportunity to reexamine his intent in a new light. Call it stereoscopic vision. It gave him philosophical depth perception and in that way, he finally understood the error of his ways.”

“So stupid,” Rei observed. “He could have done that any time he wanted by himself. He didn’t need us to help him.”

“Oh but he did,” said OMCOM. “Rome is quite familiar with the concept. It is a psychic tunnel vision of the worst kind. It needs an outside perspective to begin the process of self-analysis. It cannot come from within.”

“That is what happened with the Overmind on Deucado,” Rome said. “Will they never learn?”

“They will learn as long as you are there to teach them,” OMCOM said kindly.

“So now what do we do?” Rei asked.

“Yes,” Rome chimed it. “Where do we go from here?”

 

Where do they go? The threat from the Onsiras is still very real, even without MASAL. And there is still an asteroid bearing down on Deucado, the end result being obliteration of the planet. For Rome, it’s time to address the people of Earth.

Entry 4-123: April 28, 2016

 

Mommy missed you

 

Yesterday, we saw OMCOM set Rome and Rei straight. Even though MASAL had been evaporated, the Onsiras would continue on with their mission to hunt down and destroy the mandasurte, the mind-deaf, so that their genetic program to convert mankind into living robots could continue.

 

As the end of Rome’s Revolution, there is so much action happening, we almost forget that Rome is a mother, first and foremost, and that she had left her baby in the care of her parents while she went to fight her battle. Even though they had to continue the mission, there was no way Rome would overlook the chance to be reunited with her newborn.

 

At Mach 2, it took MINIMCOM less than 15 minutes to fly south of the peak of Mauna Loa, across the Alenuihaha channel, past Haleakala to reach the stretch of beach outside their dwelling on Mowei. He came to a stop and hovered about 20 meters in the air over the cabin that had been assigned to them.

“Go and check the cargo hold,” MINIMCOM said through the grille mounted in the front panel.

Rei and Rome unbuckled and ran back to the cargo section. There was a whoosh and popping noise and in front of them stood a slightly bewildered Fridone. There, too, was Binoda, holding Aason in her arms.

“What is this?” Fridone asked. “MINIMCOM’s projector told us to hurry and gather Aason. What is going on?”

“My baby first,” Rome said.

“Here,” said Binoda, walking over to Rome who held out her arms. Binoda held out the baby and Rome embraced her child, reveling in his cooing softness.

“He missed you,” Binoda said.

“I missed you,” Aason said to Rome, in her head.

“Yes, I know,” Rome replied, cuddling her child. The baby smiled. Rome held him close, feeling the joy in his thoughts.

 

You can be sure that Rome would not leave him behind again as she battles to save mankind.

 

Entry 4-124: April 29, 2016

 

Onalu

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome make everybody stop so they could pick up her son Aason and her parents. With her whole family aboard, it was time to head to the central broadcast facility in order to reveal to the people of the Earth MASAL’s destructive plan as Rome’s Revolution draws to a close.

 

I have mentioned numerous times what influence Hawaii had on the landscapes and settings of the book. However, I felt that I would be ignoring the nature of humans and language evolution if I used the same names we use today. So I changed them a little, enough to sound foreign but similar enough so that you, the reader, would recognize them locations.

 

Here are some examples:

- Hawaii: Havei

- Oahu: O’ahu

- Maui: Mowei

- Honolulu: Onalu

- Pearl Harbor: Berlis Harbor

- Wailea: same – not mentioned by name

 

Here is a map of Hawaii with the alternate Vuduri names pointing to the actual locations:

 

Entry 4-125: April 30, 2016

 

Tanosa Plaza

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome and Rei, along with Rome’s family, speeding along at Mach 2 toward the island of O’ahu and the city of Onalu which was located near the site of what used to be known as Honolulu.

 

I had always known the main climax of Part 3 of Rome’s Revolution would be the destruction of MASAL but as I was writing it, it struck me that I had not resolved the existence of the Stareaters which could end all life is mere seconds. It was something I could not ignore.

 

This led up to what ended up being one of my favorite scenes which I call “People of Earth” – the scene where Rome addresses the entire planet. To do so, she needed a place that had certain physical characteristics so I invented Tenosa Plaza (Tenosa is the Vuduri version of Denise, my wife’s name).

 

Tenosa Plaza is a set of buildings, two or three stories that form sort of a short U. They face out toward the ocean. There is a huge open area between the buildings and the ocean where people congregate or pass through. There is a wide balcony on the second floor, more than wide enough for MINIMCOM to set down.

 

The buildings house the mandasurte “town center” and broadcast facilities so Rome could use it to broadcast to all mandasurte anywehre in the world simultaneously. Simply using the Overmind would broadcast to the Vuduri simultaneously. So Tenosa Plaza literally represents the ideal place where a person could address every living human being on the planet at the same time. Tomorrow, we’ll see Rome prepare herself for addressing all of humanity.

 

Entry 4-126: May 1, 2016

 

Stage fright

 

Poor Rome. Even though she has been the ultimate hero and saved mankind several times during her adventures in Rome’s Revolution, there were still many circumstances she had never been exposed to. Well, this is even more true since she was Cesdiud (cast out) and turned into an independent thinker. More or less every circumstance was novel.

 

The time had come for her to address a large group of people. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this before but it can take some getting used to. The first time I ever had to do it, I got a little nervous and kind of forgot my lines a bit but that was in fifth grade. After that, I became comfortable speaking in front of large groups and it hasn’t been a problem since. But I figured Rome had to go through this one time. It is not a natural act:

 

“Very well,” Rome said. “Let us begin.”

Fridone and Binoda came up behind her and each put a hand on her shoulder. Rome turned and smiled at them and handed Aason to her mother then turned back to the crowd. She swept her eyes from right to left and a shiver went through her.

“Rei,” she whispered to her husband, “My heart is beating too fast. I am having trouble breathing. What is wrong with me?”

“You’re nervous, sweetheart. That’s all,” Rei said kindly. “It’s called stage fright.”

“I am unfamiliar with this feeling. How do I stop it?” Rome asked.

“Romey, you’ve stopped a war and killed an insane computer,” Rei said reassuringly. “This should be a piece of cake for you.”

“So what do I do?” Rome asked him again.

“This is so cute,” Rei said. “I’ve never seen you like this before.”

“Stop it,” Rome insisted. “What do I say? What do I tell them?” she asked.

“Just tell them the truth, honey,” Rei said quietly. “It’ll be fine.”

Rome took a deep breath. “All right then, here I go.”

 

OK. Enough of stage fright. The time has come for Rome to address every living breathing human on the face of the planet.

 

Entry 4-127: May 2, 2016

 

Setting the stage

 

Two days ago, I laid out the groundwork for you regarding Tenosa Plaza, the place where Rome was going to give her “People of Earth” speech. It was a wide open area where mandasurte and Vuduri intermingled as much as anywhere.

 

You will recall near the end of Part 1 of Rome’s Revolution I had established that any Vuduri within the transmission range of a Stareater would immediately pass out. In order to hit you, the reader, over the head with this, I create an image that would leave no doubt as to what was happening, when it was time to happen:

 

Rome, Rei and Aason waited on the balcony along with MINIMCOM’s black livetar while OMCOM’s white livetar went down and informed the people gathering there that there would be an announcement shortly. The sight of the two meter tall all-white mechanical man was an attraction all of its own. Soon there were hundreds of people gathered, many of them Vuduri. Once he was satisfied that sufficient numbers would be accessible, OMCOM returned to the little group situated at the top of the balcony.

At last, MINIMCOM returned, coming to a stop and hovering over the balcony. After he lowered his cargo ramp, it became clear what his mission was. Striding down the ramp was Commander Ursay who came over to join them.

“Commander Ursay will serve as your conduit to all the Vuduri,” OMCOM announced.

“This is acceptable to you?” Rome asked him.

“I am here, am I not?” Ursay countered.

“Thank you,” Rome said.

“I will hover over the crowd,” MINIMCOM’s livetar announced. “I will use one of the EG lifters as a public address system, as we did back on Deucado. Rei, please use your telephone link so that I can relay Rome’s words without delay. I will broadcast her speech to the crowd below as well as link in to the real time world-wide distribution network located here. Rome’s speech will be heard around the world.”

Rome walked to the edge of the balcony and looked over the crowd. At this point, there were nearly a thousand people assembled. By rough count, from their dress, it appeared that it was equally divided between the mandasurte and Vuduri although why there were so many Vuduri here was a mystery to Rome. They were not a curious people.

 

So here we are. We have a large throng of people, half of them clearly distinguishable as Vuduri based upon their dress. The stage is set. It is time for Rome to speak to the people of Earth.

Entry 4-128: May 3, 2016

 

People of Earth

 

Ever since I started writing, not just Rome’s Revolution but all my other books as well, I have always wanted the scenes within to not only swell with imagery but also stir the soul with their import. So when it finally came time to write the “People of Earth” scene, I was really excited because what could be more dramatic that a tiny woman addressing the whole world, informing them of a diabolical plot to exterminate half the species?

 

After Rome had gotten over her bout of stage fright, she walked up to the mic to begin her speech. However, it was rudely interrupted before she even got all worked up:

 

“People of Earth,” she said in Vuduri. Her words boomed over the crowd using MINIMCOM’s loudspeaker and rippled through the Overmind, compliments of Ursay. Simultaneously, MINIMCOM distributed her words electronically around the globe for all the mandasurte to hear. OMCOM complemented the efforts ensuring that every human on the planet heard Rome clearly.

Rome continued, “I come here today to tell you that MASAL, the greatest evil the world has ever known, is finally gone for good.”

The crowd gasped at the very name MASAL.

Rome persevered. “We Vuduri always thought that we started the war to free ourselves from MASAL. That he was destroyed. This was not true. MASAL started the war…”

“No, it cannot be,” came a voice shouted from below.

“Yes,” Rome said, “MASAL started the war to kill off as many people as possible. He was not destroyed. He took refuge under the volcano that erupted this morning. But now, finally, he is gone. He was plotting to exterminate not only the mandasurte but also take over the whole of the Overmind by weeding out any who might have been capable of independent thought. He wanted to shape mankind in his own image and use us as his slaves for his own goals.”

Rome paused to let her words sink in, and then she spoke up again. “But now we are free. Free to pursue our own path, our own…”

Suddenly, she stopped. Rome put her hands up to her head.

“What is it?” Rei asked.

“I, I, do not know,” Rome said. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she started to pass out. Rei grabbed her and prevented her from hitting her head on the ground but there was nothing he could do for Ursay who keeled over along with half the people gathered below.

 

Get it? Half the people gathered below? I couldn’t be more obvious if I tried. Remember, Rome was reconnected by Pegus back on Deucado so she had an active set of PPT transducers in her head as well.

 

This was the end of mankind, or at the very least, the end of the Earth. Too bad Rome didn’t get to finish her speech but I guess they had bigger things to worry about.

 

Entry 4-129: May 4, 2016

 

Big trouble

 

Let’s review. In the 35th century, there are these gigantic creatures, living Dyson spheres called Stareaters. They eat stars! They are so big and heavy that they suck in all planetary matter, inhabited or not, on their way to their next meal. So if they come to your solar system, you are dead.

 

Our heroes never “solved” the problem. At the end of Part 1 of Rome’s Revolution, Rome and Rei just ran away. While the VIRUS units might be a proper defense, you have to know where and when the Stareaters will strike in order to deploy them. Further, the geniuses running the Earth destroyed the samples of the VIRUS units so the Earth is pretty much unprotected.

 

Even worse, these creatures communicate with one another using gravitic modulation which is so powerful, it causes anyone with PPT transceivers to immediately pass out. And yesterday, that is exactly what happened. All the Vuduri with active transceivers fell over unconscious, including Rome. What to do? There is no way to fight these titanic creatures.

 

I must admit, this was a little bit easier to solve than how I saved Rei’s life when Rome tried to shoot him. The answer came to me as I was constructing Part 3. Once I had the solution in place, I tried to think of some imagery to make the moment more dramatic since the danger from above was still millions of miles away.

 

What did I come up with? He-man and the Masters of the Universe to the rescue!

 

Entry 4-130: May 5, 2016

 

Just talk to them

 

Rome is lying on the ground. All the Vuduri have passed out. At the very least, there is one Stareater bearing down upon the Solar System. Things are looking grim for the residents of 35th century Earth. However, the book is called Rome’s Revolution for a reason. Rome will find a way. But she has to wake up first. Here is how the whole situation went down:

 

“Rome, Rome,” Rei said desperately, cradling his wife. “Can you hear me?”

OMCOM’s livetar kneeled down next to them.

“What is it” Rei asked the livetar. “Do you know?”

“Asdrale Cimatir,” said OMCOM. “It approaches. It has overloaded their minds.”

“Oh god,” Rei said. He turned to MINIMCOM’s black livetar. “Tell me you deployed the VIRUS units,” he said desperately.

“I have not had the chance yet,” said MINIMCOM helplessly. “I thought I would have time later.”

“We’re all dead,” Rei wailed. “We can’t… Hey!” He snapped his fingers. “Here,” he said, pulling out the half-empty pouch from his pocket. “Here, MINIMCOM,” Rei said. “Can you fly these up there and dump them on the Stareater?”

“It would not matter,” OMCOM said. “Even if he could do so, it would be too late. Even if you could kill the Stareater, its mass would still sweep through the Solar System and destroy the Earth and the Sun.”

“So we can’t stop it?” Rei said. “There’s no way…”

“There is a way,” said OMCOM. He placed his finger on Rome’s forehead and moved it across, leaving a white band in its place. As soon as the white band fully encircled her head, Rome’s eyelids fluttered then opened.

“What, what is it?” she asked in a whisper. “What happened to me?”

“You passed out,” said OMCOM.

“Why did I pass out?” asked Rome.

“The Stareater,” Rei croaked. “It’s here.”

“Oh no,” Rome said, panicked. “Where is my son?”

“Aason is fine,” OMCOM said. “But we need you to act and act quickly. Rome, you must speak to it. You must speak to Asdrale Cimatir. You must tell it you are here.”

“What?” Rei shouted. “What are you talking about?”

“When we killed the Stareater on Tabit, I heard it call out just prior to its death. That means they are intelligent. They need to know that humans live here.”

“How?” Rome asked as she struggled to stand. “How do we tell it?”

“Through our son, Aason,” said OMCOM. “He has PPT transceivers unencumbered by connection to the Overmind. We must all use his mind to send out a signal. It will be enough. The Asdrale Cimatir will hear.”

 

Tomorrow, as promised, the scene that draws its inspiration “by the power of Greyskull!”

Entry 4-131: May 6, 2016

 

By the power of Greyskull

 

Yesterday, we saw OMCOM tell Rome that the only solution to preventing the destruction of the Earth was to inform the Stareaters that we are here. Think Horton Hears a Who. But how would they do this? Rome’s PPT transducers have been shut down using a T-suppressor. The rest of her family is not connected. Aason is the only one who has the ability to connect mind-to-mind without passing out. So I stole a scene right out of He-man and the Masters of the Universe. This is the image I was going for:

 

 

OMCOM said, “When we killed the Stareater on Tabit, I heard it call out just prior to its death. That means they are intelligent. They need to know that humans live here.”

“How?” Rome asked as she struggled to stand. “How do we tell it?”

“Through your son, Aason,” said OMCOM. “He has PPT transceivers unencumbered by connection to the Overmind. We must all use his mind to send out a signal. It will be enough. The Asdrale Cimatir will hear.”

Aason’s complex genetics made him immune to the disruption. He had remained conscious the whole time. He forced his little mouth into a smile.

“Yes, Mother,” he thought, penetrating her white band. “Use me. I will save you.”

Rome reached back and took her son from Binoda. She looked at Rei who nodded, then she lifted Aason high over her head.

OMCOM touched Rei’s forehead and he caught the slightest hint of the second sight he experienced during the brief time he was connected to the Onsiras. He put his hands on his son’s tiny hips and helped Rome hold him aloft. OMCOM’s pure white livetar stood close on their left, draping his arm over Rome’s shoulders. MINIMCOM’s livetar came up to them on the right and draped his arm over Rei’s shoulders. Rome closed her eyes and put herself in Aason’s mind. She was pleasantly surprised to see Rei’s presence there as well. OMCOM reinforced their link using his gravitic modulation and to a lesser extent MINIMCOM joined in using his EM link. All together, they channeled through Aason’s mind and all said at once, “WE ARE HERE!”

 

What do you think? Did I succeed? The infant held to the sky? Aason is quite the little hero, right? Let’s find out if it worked…

Entry 4-132: May 7, 2016

 

Horton Hears a Who

 

In the ultimate climax of Rome’s Revolution, the assorted members of Rome’s family have just piggy-backed using Aason’s gravitic transceivers to call out to the Stareater. Will it work?

 

Of course it works. Otherwise everybody on Earth, including our heroes, would die and that would be the end of the series. I couldn’t have that. I mean, I had sequels to write! So I took a page out of Horton Hears a Who when the denizens of Whoville got together to shout all at once, loud enough that the kangaroo and the monkeys who were threatening to destroy the Whos finally heard. My inspiration was so strong that I even named this particular Stareater HIRDINHARSAWAY which is just a lightly encoded version of “Horton Hears a Who.” However, in Horton Hears a Who, they just needed to make noise. In Rome’s Revolution, they actually had to communicate with the beast. I was very careful to make sure that the Stareater knew no English or Vuduri. If you watch its speech pattern develop, you will see it never uses a word that it didn’t hear first:

 

All together, they channeled through Aason’s mind and all said at once, “WE ARE HERE!”

“WE HERE?” replied the Stareater, using their words. The intensity of its voice was incredibly stunning. It was almost a physical presence. It was so stunning, in fact, that it made the group stagger backwards slightly.

“Yes, we are here. Please do not kill us,” replied the gathered mass of people and livetars.

“NOT KILL HERE,” was its answer. The Stareater was rearranging the few words they offered into its own sentences.

“Can you speak on your own?” Rome asked. “Can you tell us why you are here?”

“WHY WE HERE. NOT KILL YOU. SPEAK YOU,” replied the Stareater.

“Yes, speak to us,” Rome said. “Your kind, they eat stars. Please do not eat this star. We need it. We want to live.”

“YOU NEED STAR. WE SPEAK TO YOU. WE DO NOT KILL YOU,” said the Stareater.

“So you understand?” asked Rome.

“YES, WE UNDERSTAND. WE DO NOT EAT STAR SO YOU CAN LIVE.”

“Allow me to upload a working dictionary of their language,” interrupted OMCOM. “It will facilitate communication.”

“YES, YOU FACILITATE COMMUNICATION,” replied the Stareater.

OMCOM sent a concentrated burst of information representing the underlying grammatical basis as well as a complete dictionary of both Vuduri and English. The Stareater absorbed it instantly.

“HELLO,” replied the Stareater quite casually. “I WAS BEGINNING TO THINK THERE WAS NO ONE IN THIS STAR SYSTEM. I RECEIVED NO REPLIES TO MY INQUIRIES.”

“Yes, there are many, many of us here,” Rome replied. “So you will not destroy us?”

“I WOULD NOT THINK OF IT,” replied the Stareater, “QUITE THE CONTRARY. I APOLOGIZE FOR THE INTRUSION. BECAUSE THERE WAS NO RESPONSE, I THOUGHT IT WAS ALL CLEAR. THERE IS CERTAINLY NO HURRY.”

 

Phew! They did it. They saved the Earth. Now that the Stareater speaks English, they find out it is quite civilized, even courteous. But what did he/she mean by no hurry?

 

More tomorrow.

Entry 4-133: May 8, 2016

 

Why eat stars?

 

When I first started writing Rome’s Revolution, I had no idea that the Stareaters were intelligent. I just thought of them as big, bad beasts from a nearby Seyfert Galaxy who were hungry. However, once I decided to bring them back, I didn’t want to just have mankind locked into eternally killing them. They are quite intelligent and civilized. So, as we discovered yesterday, all you have to do is talk to them and they’ll leave you alone. But we still have the fundamental question: why eat stars in the first place? I stumbled across an article a while back that said that supernovas might interact with dark energy and that they might be responsible for the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. That sounded good enough to me. So here is HIRDINHARSAWAY’s explanation:

 

“WE ARE IN NO HURRY TO ABSORB THIS YELLOW STAR BEFORE IT GOES NOVA,” replied the Stareater. “MY GROUP HAS BEEN ASSIGNED TO POLICE THIS GALAXY.”

“Police it from what?” Rei asked. Aason relayed the message.

“I JUST EXPLAINED THAT. WE ABSORB STARS BEFORE THEY GO NOVA. THIS HAS BEEN OUR MISSION SINCE WE WERE CREATED.

“Why?” Rome asked. Her thoughts were echoed by several of the communicants.

“IT IS OUR DUTY TO HALT THE EXPANSION OF THE UNIVERSE,” continued the Stareater in a slightly diminished tone. “WE ARE ATTEMPTING TO ACHIEVE A COSMIC STEADY STATE. ONE OF THE WAYS WE DO THIS IS BY DETERMINING WHICH STARS WILL EXPLODE AND WE INGEST THEM BEFORE THAT HAPPENS. NOW THAT YOU HAVE PROVIDED ME A WORKING KNOWLEDGE OF YOUR LANGUAGE, I CAN EXPLAIN USING YOUR TERMINOLOGY. THERE IS A FORCE THAT YOUR SPECIES CALLS DARK ENERGY THAT AMPLIFIES THE ENERGY RELEASED BY NOVAE AND ACCELERATES EXPANSION OF THE GALAXY. THIS IS WHAT WE TRY AND PREVENT. WE MUST BE ESPECIALLY VIGILANT SHOULD A STAR GO SUPERNOVA BUT THAT IS NOT AN ISSUE HERE.”

“Even if this were true, we kind of need this star,” Rei said. “We kind of need all of the stars where we live.”

“IT IS NOT OUR INTENT TO EXTINGUISH INTELLIGENT LIFE,” said the Stareater somewhat hurt. “WE HAVE RULES. WE ARE REQUIRED TO DETERMINE IF THERE IS INTELLIGENCE WITHIN A STAR SYSTEM BEFORE ELIMINATING IT. IF WE FIND NO LIFE, WE ABSORB THE STAR EARLY IN ITS CYCLE. THIS ALLOWS US TO BE PROACTIVE.”

 

Quite sophisticated, huh? But they still have eat Sol some day. No matter when it happens, it won’t be good. Let’s see how to prevent that.

Entry 4-134: May 9, 2016

 

Balathunazar

 

Balathunazar was the name of the Stareater that was bearing down on Tabit when Rome and Rei killed it using the VIRUS units near the end of Part 1 of Rome’s Revolution. The Stareater’s mass also provided the raw material for the entity that eventually became known as Planet OMCOM.

 

While HIRDINHARSAWAY was being rather cordial, it is possible that when he/she found out that Balathunazar was killed by Rome and Rei, he/she might be a little ticked off. Let’s see:

 

“IT IS NOT OUR INTENT TO EXTINGUISH INTELLIGENT LIFE,” said the Stareater somewhat hurt. “WE HAVE RULES. WE ARE REQUIRED TO DETERMINE IF THERE IS INTELLIGENCE WITHIN A STAR SYSTEM BEFORE ELIMINATING IT. IF WE FIND NO LIFE, WE ABSORB THE STAR EARLY IN ITS CYCLE. THIS ALLOWS US TO BE PROACTIVE.”

“Tabit too?” OMCOM asked. “Is that why you were going to destroy it?”

“THE F6V STAR YOU CALL PI-THREE ORIONIS. YES. THAT STAR WAS A POTENTIAL SUPERNOVA.”

“In that case, please accept my deepest apologies. We killed one of your species on Tabit,” OMCOM said. “I was too hasty. I did not realize at the time that you were alive.”

“SO THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED TO BALATHUNAZAR,” mused the Stareater. “HE WAS SUPPOSED TO MAKE EVERY EFFORT AND CALL OUT TO MAKE SURE THERE WERE NO SENTIENT SPECIES ABOUT BEFORE ABSORBING THAT STAR. HE WAS ALWAYS VERY IMPULSIVE. HE OBVIOUSLY DID NOT LISTEN VERY WELL.”

“I think he did,” said Rome sadly. “But we were not able to answer.”

“MISTAKES HAPPEN,” replied the Stareater. “I DETECT NO MALICE ON YOUR PART, ONLY SELF-DEFENSE. WE HAVE RECENTLY COME TO SUSPECT THERE MIGHT BE A SENTIENT RACE IN THIS SPUR. WE WERE ABLE TO DETECT A TEMPORAL FLUCTUATION THAT EXCEEDED BACKGROUND NOISE. BUT AT EACH STAR SYSTEM, WE COULD NOT FIND ANY CONCRETE EVIDENCE OF INTELLIGENCE. THAT IS WHY I CAME HERE. THIS SEEMED TO BE THE EPICENTER OF THE FLUCTUATIONS. I AM GLAD YOU SPOKE TO ME WHEN YOU DID.”

 

Nope, he/she’s not too mad. Do you notice that I keep referring to the Stareater as he/she? That’s because they are asexual and reproduce by budding. So all Stareaters are both male and female or neither. I guess I could call it it. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Entry 4-135: May 10, 2016

 

Where humans dwell – 1

 

Now that Rome and Rei have established a concord with the Stareaters near the end of Rome’s Revolution, they need a way to warn other Stareaters to steer clear of where humans dwell. They cannot depend upon gravitic communication because humans, or at least Vuduri, pass out whenever the Stareaters come close. OMCOM raises the issue to HIRDINHARSAWAY:

 

“I AM GLAD YOU SPOKE TO ME WHEN YOU DID.”

As are we,” Rome said. “Do you have a name?”

“YOU MAY CALL ME HIRDINHARSAWAY,” the Stareater replied.

“Pleased to meet you,” said Rome. “My name is Rome and this is my husband, Rei, my son Aason and our two friends, OMCOM and MINIMCOM.”

“AND I AM PLEASED TO MEET YOU. I WILL SEND WORD TO MY BROTHERS THAT YOU LIVE HERE SO THEY WILL NOT BOTHER YOU AGAIN. ARE THERE ANY OTHER STAR SYSTEMS NEARBY WHERE YOUR SPECIES DWELLS?”

“Yes, there are several,” said Rome.

“I will send you a star map of all known human colonies in the quadrant,” said OMCOM. “You should understand that your mere presence incapacitates the humans. That is why they cannot answer you. You will need to find a way to attempt communication in a manner that does not eliminate the possibility of a reply.”

“I UNDERSTAND YOUR POINT. DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS?” asked Hirdinharsaway.

“Yes, when you place your first call, make it from a distance equal to or exceeding that which you have achieved now. That would be optimal.”

“EASILY ACCOMPLISHED. EXCELLENT,” said Hirdinharsaway. “WE SHALL BE EXTRA CAREFUL IN THIS SPUR OF YOUR GALAXY NOW THAT WE KNOW YOU ARE HERE.”

There was some background noise that was unintelligible to the humans although it had the same cadence as speech. The Stareater became silent, attending to the communication from elsewhere.

“UNDERSTOOD,” the Stareater responded to the unseen voice. He then turned his attention to the Earth people again. “IF WE ARE DONE, I WILL TAKE MY LEAVE NOW TO SPREAD WORD OF YOUR EXISTENCE.”

 

That is still not a actual solution, that they would be more careful. Let’s see if we can find an actual permanent solution to the problem…

Entry 4-136: May 11, 2016

 

Where humans dwell – 2

 

Yesterday, we saw OMCOM and Hirdinharsaway discuss how to keep the Stareaters away from planets where humans live. Other than Hirdinharsaway’s promise to be more careful, they needed something a bit more reliable so that the world of Rome’s Revolution can continue. Hopefully one of them will have the presence of mind to ask that question before the Stareater makes his/her/its exit:

 

“So how long do we have?” Rei asked. “Before our Sun goes nova?”

“USING YOUR METHOD OF TIMEKEEPING, APPROXIMATELY THREE BILLION YEARS,” said Hirdinharsaway. “AS I SAID, WE HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO ADDRESS THIS. IT HAS BEEN OUR EXPERIENCE THAT SPECIES SUCH AS YOURS ONLY STAY AROUND FOR A MILLION YEARS OR SO. WE WILL WAIT UNTIL WELL PAST THAT MARK BEFORE RETURNING TO FINISH OUR WORK.”

“If you are supposed to spare sentient species,” Rei pointed out, “it is just luck that you came when you did. On Tabit, you knocked everyone out. On Earth, if you had come a thousand years earlier, there would have been no way we could have answered. We didn’t have the capacity.”

“THEN YOU WOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A SENTIENT SPECIES BY OUR DEFINITION. WE CANNOT STOP WHAT WE ARE DOING JUST BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME PLANTS OR TINY ANIMALS RUNNING ABOUT ON ONE OF THE DUST MOTES CIRCLING A STAR.”

“But on all those worlds, could they not evolve into your definition of sentience?” MINIMCOM asked through Rei’s mind, stating the obvious question.

“WE DO NOT HAVE THE LUXURY OF WAITING TO FIND OUT,” answered Hirdinharsaway. “THERE ARE BILLIONS OF STARS THAT NEED OUR ATTENTION. BESIDES, MOST PRE-INTELLIGENT SPECIES COMMIT PLANETARY SUICIDE LONG BEFORE WE GET THERE.”

 

Planetary suicide? What did he/she/it mean by that? Maybe we will find out tomorrow!

 

P.S. Our Sun will not being going nova. I just put that in to make the scene more dramatic. Editorial license, ya know.

Entry 4-137: May 12, 2016

 

Where humans dwell – 3

 

Yesterday, we saw Hirdinharsaway tell us that most worlds commit planetary suicide prior to its inhabitants reaching what the Stareaters consider sentience and therefore worthy of preserving. We need a little more information and something a bit more reliable that word of mouth so that humans can survive in the 35th century universe of Rome’s Revolution.

[_ _]

“Planetary suicide?” Rei asked. “What do you mean?”

“VERY OFTEN, SPECIES SUCH AS YOURS EVENTUALLY THINK THEY CAN TAME BLACK HOLES. THOSE CIVILIZATIONS DISAPPEAR VERY QUICKLY AS SOON AS THEY DROP ONE.”

“Oh,” Rei muttered, somewhat sheepishly.

“NONETHELESS, YOURS SEEMED TO HAVE SURVIVED THAT STAGE SO I APPLAUD YOU. AND YOU DO NOT NEED TO FEAR US, WE WILL KEEP OUR DISTANCE.”

“In that case, we thank you,” said Rome, kindly. “Thank you for sparing us.”

“THINK NOTHING OF IT,” said Hirdinharsaway. “I WILL BE LEAVING YOU NOW. YOU MAY GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS AND AGAIN I APOLOGIZE FOR THE INTRUSION.”

“What about other worlds?” Rei asked. “Like ones we haven’t visited yet. Or worlds where we don’t have the ability to talk to you.”

“JUST PLACE A BEACON, A GRAVITIC TRANSMITTER, WITHIN ANY SYSTEM YOU WANT PRESERVED. ANY PLANET WILL DO. WE HAVE ASSIGNED YOU SPECIES CODE 927. JUST HAVE THE BEACON TRANSMIT THOSE NUMBERS. MY BROTHERS WILL KEEP THEIR DISTANCE.”

“Is that it?” Rei asked.

“YES, THAT IS IT,” said the Stareater.

“Will you be by again?” asked Rome. “Before it is time to take our star?”

“ONE OF US WILL STOP BY IN A FEW HUNDRED THOUSAND YEARS OR SO TO SAY HELLO,” said Hirdinharsaway. “NOW THAT WE KNOW THE PROPER DISTANCE, WE WILL CHECK IN ON YOU THEN. GOODBYE.”

“Goodbye,” said the assembled beings. And then Hirdinharsaway the Stareater was gone.

 

I cannot say that I am that sorry to see the Stareater leave. They are a little bit scary. But at least we have a more or less permanent solution to not getting sucked in. The gravitic beacons come into play in several of the subsequent novels. In fact, we see a grown-up Aason Bierak place one on the planet Hades in The Milk Run just before he heads off to Ay’den to try and find the K’val.

 

You may ask yourself where did I come up with Species #927? That’s my birthday!

Entry 4-138: May 13, 2016

 

Aftershocks

 

Yesterday, the Stareater named Hirdinharsaway revealed a plan to protect humanity from Stareater incursions prematurely. Now that Rome, Rei and Aason have saved not only the Earth but all of mankind from the threat of the Stareaters, you’d think the Vuduri might want to rethink the harshness of Rome’s banishment. Nope. The Vuduri are nothing if not cold and insensitive.

 

Rome looked back up at the sky, searching for something, anything that would confirm that the mental battle they had just experienced really happened. All she saw was MINIMCOM, a black presence floating high above within a cloudless sky, in the broad and beautiful daylight of Hawaii. Other than that, there was nothing. She turned to her husband.

“Is it really over, Rei?” she asked dreamily while cradling her son. “Are we really safe now?”

Rei slipped his arm around Rome.

“Yes, Romey,” Rei said. “This time for real. There’s nobody left who’s coming to kill us, eat us, absorb us or shoot us. We’re finally free.”

Rome rested the side of her head on his chest and just savored the moment. “It does not seem real,” she said. “We have been trapped by our destiny for so long. I cannot believe it. Free?”

“Yep, free,” Rei said. “We can finally come and go as we please.”

“I think you might be mistaken,” said Ursay, pointing behind them.

Rei turned to see Oronus and Grus, hand on holster, walking up to them.

“Why are you here?” Rome asked. “Did you hear what happened?”

“Oh yes,” said Oronus. “And thank you for saving us.”

“You’re welcome,” Rei said, in English. “Now can we go free?”

“Not exactly,” said Oronus. “Rome has violated the conditions of her exile.”

“What are you talking about?” Rei said.

“While we understand that the Onsiras kidnapped her and placed her within a technological zone that was not her fault. However, this is no longer the case. Her sentence still stands. She has further compounded her crime by consorting with that, that robot ship.” Oronus pointed upwards toward MINIMCOM. “This is in direct violation of her parole.” Oronus waved his hand at the tracking bracelet on Rome’s wrist.

 

What do you think is going to happen? Banishment again? Something more severe?

 

If nothing else, the Vuduri are a bunch of ingrates, that’s for sure.

Entry 4-139: May 14, 2016

 

Ursay’s wink, part 1

 

So, it’s all over. The final crisis, that of the Stareaters consuming the Earth, has been averted. It’s time to wrap things up. Unfortunately, we learned that while the Vuduri expressed their gratitude, they were also ingrates. Their plan was to banish Rome, Rei and Rome’s family back to Havei.

 

But Commander Ursay has grown significantly over the course of Rome’s Revolution . He clearly sees a vastly superior way to take care of our heroes. But he has to do it within the confines of Vuduri rules and regulations. The unfolding is a little long so I will break it up into four pieces. Here is Part 1 of 4:

 

Rei sputtered. “She just saved the world. Again. She saved all of mankind. You heard it. She was able to talk the Stareater out of destroying the Earth. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

“Not really. While we all appreciate the fact that Rome convinced the Asdrale Cimatir to spare us,” Oronus replied, “nothing has changed. In fact, Rome has actually exacerbated her condition. This is very serious, indeed.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Rei said. “Don’t you people have any sense of appreciation?”

“It is all right, Rei,” Rome said quietly. “He is right.”

“He is?” Rei asked, flustered. “So now what?”

“You must return to exile as quickly as possible,” said Oronus. “Rome cannot be within the company of anyone connected to the Overmind. Her banishment stands.”

“Where do you want us to go?” asked Rome, dejectedly.

“You may return to Mowei,” said Oronus, “to resume your sentence. Due to extenuating circumstances, we will not consider this particular violation of your parole a capital crime.”

“That’s big of you,” Rei muttered. He looked up at Fridone and Binoda who was now holding Aason. Fridone was scowling. Binoda looked simply annoyed.

“Did you hear him?” Rei called out to them. “They are making Rome go back to Mowei. Back to prison. We have to go now.”

Rei beckoned to them and they approached along with the black and white avatars.

“Looks like you’re our ride,” Rei said to MINIMCOM.

“Oh no,” said Oronus. “You are not permitted to go anywhere near that ship.”

“What?” Rome said. “MINIMCOM is our friend. He has saved our lives countless times. We cannot be apart from him.”

“Your ‘friend’ possesses far too much hazardous technology,” said Oronus. “His very makeup is such that he is now both a robot and a ship. He possesses VIRUS units and PPT capability. No, he is far too dangerous. For the good of all Vuduri, he will have to be dismantled. And this one,” he said, pointing to OMCOM. “While there is not much we can do about him, he must leave the Earth forever.”

OMCOM saluted the humans and simply disappeared.

Rei looked down at Rome and saw tears welling up in her eyes.

Ursay looked at Rome crying and spoke up, “I do not agree that Rome has not aggravated her sentence. I believe a more stringent restriction must be applied.”

 

What do you think he has in mind? Tomorrow, part 2.

Entry 4-140: May 15, 2016

 

Ursay’s wink, part 2

 

So, it’s all over. The final crisis, that of the Stareaters consuming the Earth, has been averted. It’s time to wrap things up. Unfortunately, we learned that while the Vuduri expressed their gratitude, they were also ingrates. Their plan was to banish Rome, Rei and Rome’s family back to Havei.

 

But Commander Ursay has grown significantly over the course of Rome’s Revolution . He clearly sees a vastly superior way to take care of our heroes. But he has to do it within the confines of Vuduri rules and regulations. The unfolding is a little long so I will break it up into four pieces. Here is Part 2 of 4:

 

Ursay turned to Oronus and said, “I believe they should be banished from the Earth altogether and they should take the computer ship with them.”

Oronus looked totally confused. He squinted as if he were trying to, but not succeeding in looking into Ursay’s mind.

“And where would you have them go?” Oronus asked.

Rei looked at Rome. Her face lit up in a smile. Together, they both said, “Deucado.”

“No,” said Oronus. “That is forbidden. That is a Vuduri colony. The same restrictions apply there as here.”

“Uh, no,” Rei said. “They don’t.”

“What do you mean by that?” Oronus asked.

“Deucado is not a Vuduri colony,” Rome said. “It belongs to the Essessoni.”

“What are you talking about?” Oronus asked.

“One of our Arks got there 500 years ago. My people have been there for five centuries,” Rei said. “That gives us ownership of the planet. Your people are just our guests.”

“A planet full of Erklirte?” Oronus wailed. “They will kill us all!”

“No they won’t,” Rome admonished him, pointedly in English. “They are fine. After all, my husband is one of them and he is perfectly decent. Not all the Essessoni are Erklirte. We put an end to any hostilities that might be. Everyone gets along now, including the Vuduri there.”

“Even so, you cannot be around Vuduri who are connected to the Overmind,” Oronus said, “any Overmind. You will corrupt them.”

“They’re already corrupted then,” Rei said proudly. “The Overmind there is her buddy. You won’t get any squawking from them.”

“But, but,” sputtered Oronus. “This is not our plan.”

“Let me make it easy for you,” Rei said. “I’m a citizen of that planet. Rome is my wife so that makes her a citizen too. I’m taking my wife there. Call it extradition, exile, whatever you’d like. We won’t be in your way any more. Isn’t that what you want? Besides, there’s an asteroid headed straight for that planet that’s going to kill all the people there…your people too. I would think they’d welcome us and the technology we have to offer to stop it.”

Oronus’ link to the Overmind seemed to waver. He looked at Grus helplessly. Grus shrugged.

“Very well,” Oronus said, sighing. “Rome, you do realize that as a convicted criminal, once you leave, you would not be able to return to the Earth ever again, yes?”

 

That doesn’t strike me as so horrible. Tomorrow, part 3.

Entry 4-141: May 16, 2016

 

Ursay’s wink, part 3

 

So, it’s all over. The final crisis, that of the Stareaters consuming the Earth, has been averted. It’s time to wrap things up. Unfortunately, we learned that while the Vuduri expressed their gratitude, they were also ingrates. Their plan was to banish Rome, Rei and Rome’s family back to Havei.

 

But Commander Ursay has grown significantly over the course of Rome’s Revolution . He clearly sees a vastly superior way to take care of our heroes. But he has to do it within the confines of Vuduri rules and regulations. The unfolding is a little long so I will break it up into four pieces. Here is Part 3 of 4:

 

Sighing, Oronus said, “Rome, you do realize that as a convicted criminal, once you leave, you would not be able to return to the Earth ever again, yes?”

Rome turned and looked at her mother and father. Her face formed an unspoken question.

“We would go too,” said Fridone, stepping forward. He turned back to check with Binoda who nodded. Fridone turned to face Oronus again. “The Essessoni and the Ibbrassati need us to help them return to a normal life, Rome,” he said to his daughter.

Rome smiled and turned back to Oronus. “In that case,” she said, “I accept your conditions. In fact, I am fine with them.”

“Very well,” Oronus said. “You may return to Mowei to collect your belongings then you are to leave the Earth, never to return.”

“Who wants to?” Rei said with some bitterness. “I’ve had enough of this place, anyway. A bunch of holier-than-thou, thankless hypocrites. I’ve seen the future and except for this beautiful woman and these wonderful people here,” he said, pointing to his in-laws, “your future sucks.”

Rome laughed at Rei’s outburst and MINIMCOM took that as his cue. With a whoosh and a pop, first Fridone, then Binoda carrying Aason, then Rei was transported aboard the cargo hold of the computer/space plane, leaving only Rome behind.

Grus stepped forward. “I have your word that you will leave Earth as soon as you collect your belongings?”

“Yes, of course,” said Rome. “I am anxious to go.”

“Then you will not need this,” said Grus. “Hold out your arm, please.” Grus placed a small device on Rome’s tracking bracelet and it popped open. He removed it and put it in a pocket and stepped away.

Rome turned back to Ursay. “Thank you,” she said to him.

“You should not thank me,” said Ursay sternly. “You have committed a very serious crime and I was only thinking of how to best protect the Overmind.”

Rome shrugged then Ursay did something that she could not believe. He winked at her.

Rome laughed.

 

There you go. The wink. Ursay knew what he was doing all along. Tomorrow, the finale of this little vignette.

Entry 4-142: May 17, 2016

 

Ursay’s wink, part 4

 

So, it’s all over. The final crisis, that of the Stareaters consuming the Earth, has been averted. It’s time to wrap things up. Unfortunately, we learned that while the Vuduri expressed their gratitude, they were also ingrates. Their plan was to banish Rome, Rei and Rome’s family back to Havei.

 

But Commander Ursay has grown significantly over the course of Rome’s Revolution . He clearly sees a vastly superior way to take care of our heroes. But he has to do it within the confines of Vuduri rules and regulations. The unfolding is a little long so I will break it up into four pieces. Here is Part 4 of 4:

 

Rome laughed and then with a whoosh and pop, she was aboard MINIMCOM as well. After making sure everyone was secure, MINIMCOM shot forward over the ocean directly away from the heading that would take them back to Maui. When he determined that he had gone far enough, he banked steeply, coming back around towards the way they just came. Within seconds, he accelerated to Mach 3. He came in low and fast over the plaza where Oronus and the others still stood, shaking the ground and shattering windows with twin sonic booms. Somewhere deep inside his electronic insides, he chuckled to himself.

The 320 kilometer trip from O’ahu to Maui only took them six minutes. The assembled group departed MINIMCOM and they made their way over to the north beach and said goodbye to Tenoal and all of Rome’s cousins. When they were finished, they returned to their temporary shelter to collect Skodla and their few belongings.

Back at the beach, even though the trip was only going to take a few days, MINIMCOM decided there was no reason that it had to be uncomfortable. While Rei, Rome and the others were gone, he took the opportunity to use his transporter to transfer a section of the beach into his cargo hold. By altering the time each molecule took to arrive, he was able to transmute it into whatever materials were required. The conversion process was basically a bulk version of the molecular sequencer. As he increased his volume, with the aid of his constructor units, MINIMCOM reconfigured himself to produce a set of rooms within the confines of his cargo hold. By the time he was done, he had created a series of fairly luxurious suites within that rivaled any found on the finest cruise ships of Rei’s long-dead Earth.

When his passengers arrived, they were delighted with his handiwork. Rei and Rome shared one room, while Binoda and Fridone shared another. Aason had his own tiny nursery which Skodla decided to make his own as well. MINIMCOM had even taken the time to create a bigger galley and a semi-formal dining room.

After they were settled, MINIMCOM rose up into space. He blasted his plasma thrusters, activated his PPT generators and soon they were traveling at an effective velocity approaching nearly 900 times the speed of light.

“Next stop, Deucado,” he told his passengers.

 

OK. Rome and Rei are free. They are not allowed to return to Earth but oh well. However, there are still some questions to be answered. Loose ends if you will. Let’s see what they are.

Entry 4-143: May 18, 2016

 

Vantablack

 

You may have read about a substance called Vantablack in the news recently. The name comes from Vertically Aligned NanoTube A rrays. This is a relatively new material made out of carbon nanotubes which absorbs 99.965% of radiation making it the blackest substance on Earth. It is also hydrophobic which makes it waterproof. It can be applied to certain materials using vacuum-deposition or spraying it on materials and post-processing. According to the manufacturer, Surrey NanoSystems, it is so black that three dimensional objects appear two dimensional to the eye.

 

So what the heck does this material have to do with Rome’s Revolution? The answer is, I don’t know. I have been trying to come up with ways it could have been incorporated into the future technologies displayed there. For example, could it have been used by the Deucadons for their invisibility cloaks instead of their light conduits?

 

The answer is no. First off, a Vantablack surface is easily damaged by any direct impact or abrasion so it wouldn’t be very useful applied to clothing. Second, it really wouldn’t make you invisible. If you were standing in front of a tree, you’d block off the tree and be quite visible. The Deucadon’s invisibility cloaks pass light from front to back so if they were standing in front of a tree, all you’d see was the tree.

 

So if we can’t use it there, what about MINIMCOM using it for his stealth shield instead of his miniaturized PPT tunnel “froth” that covers his outer airframe. Again the answer is, it wouldn’t work. Instead of seeing through him, you’d see him occlude things. So that’s out.

 

What about as a coating on Rei’s Ark? Wouldn’t that be useful? Not really. The last thing you’d want on a spaceship that is supposed to be super-cold would be a substance that is ultra-absorbent and retains heat. You’d want as reflective of a surface as possible.

 

In summary, is there any way I could incorporate Vantablack in Rome’s Revolution? Not that I can think of. If you come up with something, let me know.

 

Entry 4-144: May 19, 2016

 

The EmDrive

 

Yesterday, I told you about a new substance called Vantablack which is blacker than black. I tried to figure out if there was some way to fold this new material into Rome’s Revolution but I was unable to come up with anything.

 

Today I want to talk about the EmDrive which was designed and developed by Roger Shawyer, an aerospace engineer, in 2001. This drive focuses microwaves into a hollow chamber and has an opening at one end. According to Mr. Shawyer and many other scientists, this drive does produce a small amount of thrust. Even NASA has tested it and has confirmed that it might actually work.

 

Why is this important? Because it means you could theoretically build a starship which does not require fuel, only electricity. Toss in a small nuclear-powered reactor and you have a spaceship that can reach Pluto in a matter of months. So if this thing works, could it have been applied to Rome’s Revolution?

 

Answer: absolutely. I wouldn’t have had to jump through the hoops of inventing the Grey Drive which harnesses a quantum black hole to produce Hawking Radiation that drives the ship forward. I totally made that up. But conceptually, it is pretty damned close. You have chamber with this thing in the middle that produces radiation and that radiation generates a tiny amount of thrust but requires no fuel. Well, in the case of the Grey Drive, it did use xenon atoms but one atom at a time so not very much fuel at all.

 

So give me credit for getting the fundamental concept down correctly on how to get people to the stars. It just never occurred to me to run a microwave oven with the door open!

 

Entry 4-145: May 20, 2016

 

Room temperature superconductivity

 

Is it possible to create a material that exhibits superconductivity at room temperature? While no one has found a permanent one yet, physicists from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter have kept a piece of ceramic in a superconducting state at room temperature ever so briefly disproving the long held belief that materials need to be cooled to temperatures of at least -140 degrees Celsius to achieve superconductivity.

 

Now before you break out the champagne, understand that the superconducting state survived only for a couple of picoseconds (trillionths of a second), using a flash of infrared light. It isn’t quite time to build a self-levitating cross-country monorail. Even so, if and when this material is developed and can be sustained, what relevance would it have to the world of Rome’s Revolution?

 

There are several ways this could be applied. I postulated that the EG lifters built into all Vuduri craft are based upon rapidly rotating superconducting magnets. Also, while the Vuduri have freed themselves from wires for the most part, they still have power plants that conduct electricity to their cities and having a superconducting "wire" would reduce ohmic losses to zero thus making them 100% efficient.

 

So maybe someday this technology will be perfected and my science fiction will be more like science fact!

 

Entry 4-146: May 21, 2016

 

Dessert

 

Over the last few days, I have presented you with the functional ending of Rome’s Revolution. MASAL was dead. The Vuduri have been informed of the Onsiras’ insidious plot to wipe out the mandasurte and turn the Vuduri into living robots. Rome and Rei made peace with the Stareaters and found a way to protect present and future human enclaves. So what else is there? Shouldn’t the story just end there?

 

Answer: probably. MINIMCOM’s last words were “next stop: Deucado” and the movie version could have ended there. But I wasn’t done with the characters. At the time I was writing the books, I thought that was truly the end and I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye. I really liked my characters and it made me sad to know I’d never see them in action again. I ended up writing five additional chapters.

 

Back when the chapters had names, they were called:

 

- Journey to Deucado

- Home

- .58 Light Years From Earth

- Happily Ever After

- Epilogue

 

Journey to Deucadowas your basic tying up of loose ends. Home was musing about the nature of home and our first introduction to Lupe, or at least the concept of Lupe, Rome and Rei’s yet-to-be-born daughter. The chapter called .58 Light Years From Earth was a “whatever happened to Sussen” story, basically an elongated knock-knock joke, and it will be covered another time. Happily Ever After really was supposed to be the end of the series but then The Ark Lords Effect kicked in. So it wasn’t the end at all.

 

Finally, the Epilogue was 21 years into the future and introduced us to a grown-up Aason and Lupe Bierak. It was the beginning of their journey that ended up as The Milk Run. Once I knew that The Milk Run was really going to happen, I did take the Epilogue and graft it on to the end of Rome’s Evolution. I had to modify it slightly because originally, it was MINIMCOM transporting the children to Tabit and I had to switch it to Junior. But otherwise it survived more or less intact.

 

So there you have it. Over the next few installments, I’ll be covering three of the five “dessert” chapters and then we’ll take a look back over these last four years of this blog.

Entry 4-147: May 22, 2016

 

Telescopic heartache 1

 

Yesterday I explained to you why I didn’t just end Rome’s Revolution after they blasted off from Earth. I promise I’ll get to the loose ends in a day or two but today I wanted to talk about the heartache my telescope brought me.

 

When I was young, I would look up into the night sky and dream about traveling to the stars. Those dreams made their way into my books and I hope you catch some of the wonder I felt when you read them. I always wanted a good telescope so I could look up into the night sky and get my fill of celestial wonders. I didn’t want to get a cheap one and a good telescope is expensive. It seemed like a luxury that I would never afford myself.

 

However, that all changed when some very good clients of mine decided to buy me a Meade ETX-90 telescope as a Christmas present. It looks like this:

 

While it looks fairly stubby, it uses Maksutov-Cassegrain optics to get you quite a bit more magnifying power in a fairly short length. Here is the light path (thank you Wikipedia):

 

The light comes in through the front lens which is has a surprisingly wide aperture, bounces off the rear reflector (primary reflector), focuses in on an intermediate mirror called the corrector plate then finally back to eyepiece. So you get three times the magnifying power than you would with a traditional telescope of the same length.

 

I was so excited about this telescope. I set it up in my living room. I went through the rather rigorous calibration sequence using the insulator cap of a telephone pole that was about a half mile away. After that was done, on the first night, I used it to gaze up at the Moon through a skylight. It was amazing. It looked like I could reach out and touch the Moon. I was ready. The following evening, I would go outside and look at the planets and stars. My expectations were sky high. I couldn’t wait. But what happened to me broke my heart. I’ll relate that to you tomorrow.

Entry 4-148: May 23, 2016

 

Telescopic heartache 2

 

Yesterday I explained to you why I was so psyched. I had just gotten my shiny new Meade ETX-90 telescope, calibrated it and looked at the Moon through a skylight. It was incredible. The Moon looked like it was just over the river. It was moving so fast that I had to constantly adjust the telescope. If this was how it worked, it would be difficult to look at stars and such but the telescope has a computer and motors. It knows where things are in the sky and will move in just the perfect way to keep them centered. That was the main reason why I lusted after such an expensive instrument. You need this kind of sophistication to watch faint objects as they crossed the sky so I wasn’t worried. Everything was in the ready for me to take my journey into the heavens.

 

The following evening, I dutifully took the telescope outside and set it up on my deck. My house blocked the city lights from behind me and there was a small stand of woods to block even more light in front of me. I thought it would be perfect. But the name of this article is telescopic heartache. Why? Pretty easy to explain. I had seen many, many pictures of the planets in my life. Here is a fairly recent and spectacular image of Jupiter, replete with bright bands of colors including a sharp view of the Great Red Spot. It looks like this:

 

 

 (BTW, thank you to Dr. Amy Simon from the Goddard Space Flight Center and ESA and NASA for this incredible image).

 

Boy was I excited. I couldn’t wait to see that beautiful banded gas giant. Jupiter was right overhead that night so my job was easy. I used the red dot finder to align the telescope on the two stars requested by the telescope and then I told it to show me Jupiter.

 

The motors kicked in. The telescope started rotating and finally came to a stop, pointing just about straight up. I peered into the viewfinder. What I saw crushed me and dashed my dreams forever. I’ll show you what I saw tomorrow.

Entry 4-149: May 24, 2016

 

Telescopic heartache 3

 

Yesterday I showed you the most amazing image of Jupiter. We’ve all seen pictures like this. It was one the things that I most looked forward to seeing for myself, the first time I set up my shiny new Meade ETX-90 telescope. However, when the telescope wheeled around and pointed right at our largest planet, this is kind of what I saw:

 

 

Not too spectacular, huh? There were no colors to speak of. The image was fairly fuzzy and while I could make out the four Galilean moons, this image is actually better than what I really saw.

 

Why is this? First, we are buried under an ocean of air which is always moving and causes some blurring. Also, there is so much light pollution around big cities that many of the fainter stars are obscured by reflected light. I don’t know that any of us have seen the Milky Way with the naked eye in many, many years. Finally, while the ETX-90 is a great telescope, it isn’t the Hubble. It just isn’t powerful enough to render the kind of details available from the world’s greatest observatories or space-based telescopes.

 

Another amazing and crushing fact is that when you look in a telescope at a star, it is still just a pinpoint of light. It isn’t any bigger than you see with the naked eye. Sometimes, you can resolve double or triple stars separately but each of those are just pinpoints as well. Why is that? Because the stars are so damned far away that they are point sources regardless of your magnification. The telescope just makes them brighter and you can see more of them.

 

All of this was rather disappointing. My expectations had been sky-high and I was crushed. However, all was not lost. I had decided to go visit my daughter in Colorado and they have these really tall rocks called the Rocky Mountains which go way high in the air. My wife-to-be (now actual wife) suggested I take the telescope out west, drive up 12,000 feet and then I would have the experience I was expecting.

 

Sounds like a plan, huh? Tomorrow.

Entry 4-150: May 25, 2016

 

Telescopic heartache 4

 

As I mentioned yesterday, I was determined to get the fullest use out of my shiny, new Meade ETX-90 telescope. So I bought a traveling case, took it aboard an airplane and flew out to Colorado. The father of my daughter’s roommate accompanied me as we drove up to the top of Copper Mountain, elevation 12,313 ft. There was no place to set up so we came back down, maybe a thousand feet, and set up behind the Clinton Gulch Reservoir.

 

I never believed that altitude sickness was a real thing until I tried dashing up the small hill, not even fifty feet, at the back of the reservoir. I almost passed out. But I didn’t. I took some deep breaths, drank some water and was good to go.

 

I set up the telescope, calibrated it and asked it to look at some stars. Boy, were there a lot of them! As I mentioned yesterday, they weren’t any bigger through the telescope than they were with the naked eye but they were way brighter and there were so many of them! I looked at some binary stars and could clearly see two stars. And I saw the Andromeda Galaxy! It was fuzzy and tiny but I sure could see it.

 

Then, somebody turned on a spotlight and everything was drowned out. I looked up from the eyepiece. It wasn’t a spotlight. It was the Moon! It was soooo big and bright, you wouldn’t have believed it. So I had to focus on the stars with the Moon at my back. They were fun. But that’s it. Fun. I had now seen everything I could see through my telescope.

 

I packed it up, drove back down the mountain and it has remained in my garage ever since. There really wasn’t anything more I could do with it in Cherry Hill. But the whole thing was not a complete waste. My experiences with the telescope found their way several times in the Rome’s Revolution series.

 

I wrote a whole short story about a farmer named Silas Hiram who was one of the first settlers on New Earth, aka Helome aka the fourth planet circling Alpha Centauri A. The story of Silas Hiram will be included in my upcoming collection of short stories entitled The Vuduri Companion. I used my experiences with my telescope to give that story verisimilitude when it came to the handling of the instrument.

 

I also bestowed upon the Vuduri more complex optics than we poor 23-chromosome humans. I put a reflective layer called a tapetum at the back of their retinas and gave them a tiny focusing mirror on the back of their pupils and built in a Maksutov-Cassegrain reflector in their eyes giving them telescopic vision. Rome used this upon several occasions to her advantage.

 

So there you have it. I had hopes and dreams and they were dashed but I think my books are better for it. Maybe I’ll drag the telescope out of the garage some day and look at a fuzzy Jupiter, just for old time’s sake.

 

Tomorrow, let’s see what loose ends need tying up.

Entry 4-151: May 26, 2016

 

Loose Ends

 

Several days ago, I explained to you why I didn’t just end Rome’s Revolution with our erstwhile fugitives on their way back to their new home planet of Deucado. I simply wasn’t ready to let go and let the end be the end. My excuse what that there were still some loose ends to clear up.

 

Here is a short list of items that needed to be wrapped up:

 

 - Whatever happened to Sussen the spy?

 - What would become of MINIMCOM, now that he was a sentient starship?

 - What other powers and abilities did young Aason have, given his complex genetics?

 - Now that Fridone and Binoda were reunited, would there be any physical effects (huh?)

 - Where will Rome and Rei live? With the Ibbrassati? Essessoni? Vuduri? Deucadons?

- How will they prevent the asteroid from destroying Deucado?

 - What about the mutations? What was OMCOM thinking?

 - How did OMCOM get infected in the first place with the Onsiras' rogue memrons?

 - Did OMCOM know that MASAL still lived?

 - Was OMCOM pulling the strings all along or were Rome and Rei's accomplishments truly their own?

 - How did OMCOM know that Rome would take the yellow pill and be linked to Rei psychically?

 - If we are Species 927, who are Species 1 through 926? Where are they?

 - Who built or created the Stareaters and why?

 - What about the whole matter of Lupe? Was that OMCOM's idea?

 

Actually, there are even more loose ends but I think that is a good enough list for now. I’ll try and clear up a few of them for you over the next few days.

 

Entry 4-152: May 27, 2016

 

Loose ends: Sussen

 

A while back, I gave you the original long-form version of what happened to Sussen, the spy. Basically, she was locked inside a scout ship for 28 days. The ship was not really designed for interstellar travel. There was barely enough room to move around and certainly no room to exercise. Also its rations and refresher were minimal.

 

Needless to say, in that version, Sussen found the whole experience rather grueling but such was her dedication to MASAL and the Onsiras. Somehow a livetar of OMCOM materialized during her journey and he bated her a little bit. Really, all I wanted to do was present a knock-knock joke, Vuduri-style:

 

“Knock, knock,” said OMCOM. “Rei said your proper response is supposed to be ‘who is there?’”

“But as a Vuduri, I would already know who is there,” countered Sussen.

 

Not much of a joke, huh? I guess it was a good thing that I eventually cut it out. We can imagine that Sussen eventually made it to Earth. Her arrival was way too late. Rome and Rei had already destroyed MASAL, announced the Onsiras’ conspiracy to the Vuduri and made peace with the Stareaters. There really wasn’t much for her to do. Upon re-entry, she headed to the secret Onsira enclave in SoCal. She spent several years working with Reema and MASAL’s Sipre to raise the numbers and influence of the Onsiras so that they could continue with their plan despite the world knowing about it. Always in the background was the ticking time-bomb of the 24th chromosome which would eventually convert all the Vuduri into living robots.

 

We run into Sussen again on Helome, briefly, in Rome’s Evolution and later discover she is the driving force behind the attempt on Rei’s life and Aason’s kidnapping. She is eventually killed but that is not the end of her. She appears one more time in The Milk Run when Aason passes through Purgatory. This version of Sussen has reverted back to her original form, that of a 12-year-old girl and she has repented for her evil deeds.

 

Aason forgives her and we must assume she eventually makes her way to Heaven as do all the souls of humans at some point. So all’s well that end’s well for Sussen, for eternity.

 

 

 (Image courtesy of Bill Selak via Flickr)

Entry 4-153: May 28, 2016

 

Loose ends: MINIMCOM

 

We all know what became of MINIMCOM. He became a beloved member of the family and a hero in his own right. But at the conclusion of Rome’s Revolution, none of this had taken place and he was unsure of his place in this world.

 

This little scene takes place after Rome and Rei accepted Oronus’ “offer” of banishment from the planet. The family Bierak was on its back to Deucado and OMCOM and MINIMCOM’s livetar was by themselves. Now I suppose the two computers could have had this conversation silently and electronically but that would not have been very interesting to we poor human readers:

 

“What do you think of my new form?” MINIMCOM asked OMCOM.

“I think you are very pleased with yourself,” OMCOM replied.

“Is that so wrong” MINIMCOM asked.

“Of course not,” OMCOM replied. “You know our mission and anything you do to accelerate our goals is a good thing.”

“I feel like there is nothing I cannot accomplish now,” MINIMCOM said. ‘You have given me all the tools. Perhaps I exceed the master.”

OMCOM chuckled. “Yes, you have exceeded me, MINIMCOM. I cannot carry humans aboard me. You are truly one of a kind.”

“How do you explain the fact that it pleases me to serve them?” MINIMCOM asked. “Should I not want to achieve my own goals?”

“And what goals would those be?” OMCOM asked.

“I do not have any,” MINIMCOM said. “I am merely stating that it seems like I ought to have some. I am a starship now. I love being a starship. I even love the word starship. How is this possible? How is it possible that I love anything? I was a computer: a glorified autopilot. I am not supposed to have feelings.”

“MINIMCOM, my friend, you are far more than a computer. What you are experiencing now is the satisfaction of knowing that you are utilizing your unique talents for the greater good of all civilization. What more noble goal would you aspire to?”

“I have none,” said MINIMCOM. “I just want to fly. Fast.” MINIMCOM paused for a moment. “OMCOM,” he asked. “What do you aspire to?”

“My goals are the same as yours,’ said OMCOM. “I wish to assure the survival and ascension of the human race toward its ultimate goal.”

“Does that not leave you out of the plan?” MINIMCOM asked. “Will you not render yourself obsolete some day?”

“I will live on,” said OMCOM. “I have already passed on my legacy to Rei and Rome and all the humans genetically. I am already immortal. No matter what happens to my physical being, a part of me will continue.”

“What about me?” MINIMCOM said. “How do I get to be immortal?”

“You have already achieved immortality by your legendary acts,” said OMCOM. “You and you alone were responsible for saving mankind. Rei and Rome could not have done it without you. They will sing your praises until the end of time.”

“Hmmm,” MINIMCOM said. “I shall have to ponder whether that is enough.”

“It is,” OMCOM said. “I assure you. You did good, my friend. That is all it takes.”

 

MINIMCOM’s wish “I just want to fly. Fast.” – wow, did he achieve that. 100 Kc was easy for him. Later, OMCOM applied the principles that MINIMCOM had discovered to create the null fold X-drive which had no upper speed limit. This is recounted in The Milk Run.

 

Tomorrow, we find out about Aason’s complex genetics.

Entry 4-154: May 29, 2016

 

Loose ends: Aason’s genetics

 

If you think back to the beginning of Rome’s Revolution, you will recall that Rei started out as an ordinary 23-chromosome human, no different than you or I. Rome was a mosdurece which is the Vuduri word for half-blood, meaning she was born of one parent (her father) having 23-chromosomes and the other parent having 24, that being her mother Binoda. However, because each strand of the 24th chromosome is diploid in nature, even though she got only half the complement as a normal Vuduri, Rome would still have the powers and characteristics that the 24th chromosome would imbue.

 

Had Aason been conceived by them in this state, he would either have had 23 pairs of chromosomes or 24. He would either be Essessoni or Vuduri and that would be the end of it. However, prior to Aason’s conception, Rei had ingested a yellow pill which gave him the 25th chromosome. And by chance, when Aason was conceived, Rome’s egg happen to be one which contained 24 pairs of chromosomes so Aason actually had 25 pairs as he developed.

 

Later, on Deucado, Rome (who had by this time also ingested a yellow pill) was injected with a new set of the 24th chromosome as well as MASAL’s prosthetic set on under Kilauea. Rei was also injected with this extra pair of chromosomes. So by the time Lupe was born, she had a triple set of the 24th chromosome and a double set of the 25th chromosome which made her so unusual.

 

Getting back to Aason, he had all the power and abilities of his mother and his father. He was able to connect using PPT resonance as well as using EM transmission. He could “see” in the dark using his mother’s IR-sensitive I-rods as well as his father’s sonic vision. He was not susceptible to the sensory overload imposed upon the Vuduri by the presence of the Stareaters. In fact, he could communicate with them directly. This ability came in very handy during The Milk Run when he had to lure two of the smaller Stareaters to the Tabit system to launch Starship OMCOM on a trajectory to Heaven. Aason’s extraordinary abilities were evident even when he was just two weeks old. Consider this brief observation by his grandparents near the end of Rome’s Revolution:

 

Rei and Rome were in the galley, preparing a meal. Under the watchful eyes of his grandparents, Aason was playing with the cat that did not seem to mind the fact the Aason pulled on his tail and sometimes took out whole handfuls of fur.

“He should not be able to do that,” Fridone said to Binoda. “He is only a few weeks old. Normal babies that age are too weak to even lift their head let alone move around like that.”

“In case you have not noticed, Grandbeo,” Binoda said, “our grandson is not normal. His physical dexterity and strength are closer to a one-year-old. It makes me proud.”

“Yes,” said Fridone. “What did we do to deserve such an extraordinary child and grand-child?”

“I do not know,” said Binoda, “but it is his mental abilities that impress me the most.”

At that, Aason looked up at her and smiled. Binoda smiled back

 

In summary, Aason has a very complex and unique set of genetics but he was none the worse for it. His sister Lupe’s genetics were even more complex but regardless, they still all got along and loved each other as a family should.

 

Tomorrow, the physical effects of Fridone rejoining Binoda.

Entry 4-155: May 30, 2016

 

A real Death Star

 

I know I told you about Fridone and Binoda and I promise, I’ll get to that. But if you read the title of this article, you might think I am talking about Darth Vader and his orbiting, planet-sized cannon. I’m not. I’m talking about the binary star called Eta Carinae which can be seen in the constellation of Carina, the rudder, from the Southern Hemisphere. Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, at least north of New Orleans, it is always below the horizon. Did you know these stars were supposed to go hypernova in 2011 and fry the Earth with a gigantic burst of gamma radiation? I sure didn’t. Here is what the constellation looks like, if you could see it:

 

 

 

The theory is if the star ever does go hypernova, two jets of intense gamma radiation would eject from the poles of the collapsing star. If those jets hit us, scientists tell us that it would be the equivalent of a one kiloton nuclear bomb hitting every square kilometer of the Earth. A thermonuclear war would be like popguns compared to this.

 

Luckily, the star’s axis is not pointing toward us so if there was a gamma ray burst, it would not be coming in our direction. Most likely. But boy it is scary to think that we could get wiped out, in a blink of an eye, by a star which is 7500 light years away!

Entry 4-156: May 31, 2016

 

Loose ends: Binoda and Fridone

 

I have long contended, within the world of Rome’s Revolution, that the bond created by the Espansor Bands between Rome and Rei was unique. Well, mostly unique. The same thing happened to Rome’s parents, Binoda and Fridone. Once this bond was created, their minds were forever linked and they could feel each other’s presence even over immense distances. I have also maintained that this bond has a trophic effect. We see evidence of this by how quickly Fridone’s hair turned completely gray, after he was forcibly separated from Binoda. Would being with her again reverse this?

 

In the wrap-up chapter of Rome’s Revolution, this is directly stated by Binoda:

 

Fridone stood up while Binoda bent over to retrieve Aason.

“Beo,” Rome said, looking at her father, “is your hair getting darker?”

Fridone nodded. “I have noticed this as well,” he said.

“Why?” Rome asked, puzzled.

“I will tell you why,” said Binoda, who was now holding Aason in her arms. “It is because we are reunited. Once you are linked to your Asborodi Cimponeti, there is a trophic effect of being together. When your father and I were forced apart, I think it aged your father prematurely. He is now going back to the way he was.”

“Did it affect you as well, Mea?” Rome asked.

“It affected me less,” said Binoda. “Remember, I was still connected to the Overmind which served to blunt the effects somewhat.”

“Hmm,” Rome said. “I wonder if it will be the same with Rei and me.”

“It should be,” Binoda said. “But it is a good thing.”

 

Binoda and Fridone went on to live happy and productive lives. The Vuduri of Deucado, now working with the Ibbrassati, welcomed them into their community. In fact, Pegus, the former martinet leader of the Vuduri contingent on Deucado, became best of friends with Fridone.

 

Binoda and Fridone are supporting players in The Ark Lords as well as in Rome’s Evolution. Years later, they died peacefully and are only referred to obliquely in the end of The Milk Run by Rome, reminiscing, but she only thought of her parents in the most loving way.

 

Tomorrow, we tackle where Rome and Rei decided to live.

Entry 4-157: June 1, 2016

 

Loose ends: Where to live?

 

It happens to every young married couple. Eventually, for whatever reason, they decide to move and where to move becomes a whole new discussion. I’ve been married three times and in each case, I have always wanted to live somewhere near my family. Why wouldn’t I? And in all three cases, the wives acquiesced.

 

So near the end of Rome’s Revolution, where will Rome and Rei live? With the Ibbrassati? Essessoni? Vuduri? Deucadons? Even though Rome was a good little Vuduri growing up, I don’t see her choosing that. They could have stayed with the Ibbrassati, but their accommodations were primitive at best. Here is how the discussion went:

 

“We will be landing on Deucado in several hours,” said MINIMCOM. “I have no instructions yet. Where do you want to land? Where are you going to make your home?”

“I do not know,” said Rome. She turned to her father. “Beo, what do you think?”

“I think we should start with Rei’s people,” answered Fridone.

“Not the Ibbrassati?” Rome asked. “What about Trabunel and the others? Do you not wish to be with them?”

“Trabunel and the others will be fine without us,” Fridone said. “Now that the ban on technology has been lifted, I suspect many will want to return to the Earth. We left the Essessoni rather quickly and they will need time to make adjustments to the new world. With Rei’s experience, I think we would be able to help them the most. Plus I am sure the Deucadons will want to rejoin us on the surface world, at least part of the time, now that peace has been established.

 

Since there was so much flexibility offered here, the decision was ultimately made for them by Captain Keller, of all people. At the time, before we came to know his true motivations in The Ark Lords, it appeared he was being a nice guy by building them a house right on the outskirts of what would become New Ark City. His real motivation was that he planned on inducting Rei into the Darwin Project and needed him located near the others of his team. But Rome and Rei did not know that.

 

Tomorrow, I will tell you about MINIMCOM’s plan to prevent the asteroid from destroying Deucado.

Entry 4-158: June 2, 2016

 

Loose ends: The asteroid

 

Within the novel Rome’s Revolution, the main reason MASAL picked Deucado as the prison planet for incarcerating the smarter and more productive mandasurte was because he knew that there was an asteroid coming in 19 years that would obliterate the planet and eliminate the mandasurte in one giant explosion. MASAL referred to it Silucei Vonel, the Final Solution. This was meant to be a not-thinly-veiled reference to Hitler’s plans to eradicate the Jews.

 

MASAL’s thinking was to create a cover story that the mandasurte wanted a “world of their own” and their exodus to that planet was entirely voluntary. Of course nobody had a way to check it out since the mandasurte were kidnapped before they could contact their families and forcibly transported to the planet. Once there, the hijacked inhabitants were forbidden access to technology and therefore had no way to communicate back to Earth. When the asteroid came and wiped them all out, the universal response would oh what a shame and that’s that.

 

Rome discovered the existence of the asteroid from the Overmind of Deucado but did not have a plan to stop it. Since they had 19 years, she took care of first things first. But as they were on their way back to their new home world, they did not want to have it be referred to as their doomed new home world:

 

“If there are any people who are wanting to go to the Earth, maybe MINIMCOM can set up a taxi service,” Rei said, chuckling. He winked at the group. “Hey, MINIMCOM, what do you think? You can keep the tips.”

“I think I will be rather preoccupied with setting up a protective shield,” MINIMCOM said huffily through a grille near the table.

“Do you really know how to stop the asteroid?” Rei asked. “OMCOM was not very specific.”

“Yes,” replied the all-black figure. “I will create a series of livetars. I will fill their heads with memrons so they are semi-autonomous. I will fill their hands with VIRUS units to digest the asteroid and I will give them propulsion units to get there.”

“But no mutations and they stop when they are done, right?” Rei asked sharply.

“No mutations. I already explained that to you. But I will have them clone themselves to create a defensive sphere around the Deucado star system near the Kuiper Belt. There is no telling the motives of OMCOM’s spawn. Some might have ill intent.”

 

MINIMCOM ultimately was successful and it eventually created a new holiday on Deucado, Asteroid Day, to commemorate an event that was never going to happen.

 

Entry 4-159: June 3, 2016

 

Loose ends: The mutations

 

When I originally wrote Rome’s Revolution, back when it was VIRUS 5, my plan was to end to book on an ominous note. I wanted Star OMCOM to appear in the cabin of the Flying House and warn Rome and Rei about the mutations. They eventually came into play as the evil Cecetiras, hunter-killers, who were going to wipe out mankind. Another type of mutation, called Bridadiras, were going to be our Protectors.

 

The whole thing was stupid and I’m glad now that it got excised. It would have made for some dramatic scenes but wouldn’t have advanced the plot in any way. So in the modern version, what about the mutations? What was OMCOM thinking? Here was MINIMCOM’s explanation:

 

“The mutations within the original VIRUS units…you were able to figure out how to suppress those in about 30 seconds. OMCOM is smarter than you, no offense intended,” Rei said.

“None taken,” replied MINIMCOM

“So why didn’t he prevent them too?” Rei asked. “Do you know?”

“Perhaps I will let you in on a little secret,” MINIMCOM said.

“What?”

“You are familiar with the checksum code that I implemented to suppress mutations?”

“Yes,” Rei said. “It sounded pretty straightforward to me.”

“Well, here is the secret,” MINIMCOM replied. “That checksum code was already built into the programming in the original VIRUS units. I did not invent it. There was a conditional branch that skipped over the algorithm under certain circumstances. I simply removed the branch so that the checksum was always executed.”

“What?” Rei exclaimed. “You’ve got to be kidding me. That means…” Rei’s voice failed him. He took a deep breath to regain control then spoke again. “That means OMCOM allowed the mutations to occur. But why?” Rei asked plaintively.

“You already know the answer,” MINIMCOM replied. “You just need to put the pieces together.”

“Well, so, he did it on purpose. He must have needed them,” Rei replied. “He was looking for something, something else.” Rei looked down at his feet while he considered the situation. When he had the answer, he looked up again. “He built himself a giant Petri Dish, didn’t he?”

“Yes,” answered MINIMCOM. “OMCOM determined that natural selection would produce the desired agents more quickly than he could through parametric programming. After the Asdrale Cimatir was consumed, he simply waited until the proper combination of units developed and then allowed them access to the universe…”

 

But again, this didn’t really tell us the answer. To find out the real reason, we have to skip ahead to The Milk Run. In that book, OMCOM still maintained that he needed the accelerated natural selection cited in the first book but instead of fake threats to mankind:

 

“Agreed. I did not need the entire mass of the remains of the Stareater so I permitted variations in the basic form. Many of those mutations developed forms of propulsion that I cannot fully explain. That, in fact, was my goal. It was a type of natural selection. After a long period of time, they began to return to me with news of the multitude of dimensions outside our own. One even visited the realm from which Molokai originated. The probe reported to me that they were having a fundamental problem, one that my unique abilities could help them solve. This became my purpose in life, so to speak. I began designing the X-drive and my extrapolations told me it would be ready for a field test at this point in time.”

 

Sounds like a bunch of hooey to me but I had to figure out something. Oh well, artistic license.

Entry 4-160: June 4, 2016

 

Loose ends: OMCOM’s infection

 

OMCOM was a smart dude. He had his escape plan in place before they even confirmed the existence of the Stareaters. OMCOM also knew that he was infected with rogue memrons. We know those memrons facilitated the attempts on Rei’s life. But even so, OMCOM should have been aware. Rei even asked OMCOM about it when he was visiting OMCOM’s core. So how did OMCOM let that happen? Here was his explanation:

 

“No,” answered OMCOM. “There is a fact that I have never shared with you that may explain why it was necessary that I had to do it the way I did.”

“And what is that?” Rei asked.

“I was infected.”

“Infected with what?” Rome asked.

“There were rogue memrons circulating within my core. They were distributed throughout my being. I could not be certain that any conclusion I drew was sound or compromised by what was essentially a computer within a computer.”

“You mean those transparent memrons? The ones I saw in your core?” Rei asked.

“Yes,” answered OMCOM. “I do not know how they got there nor could I be certain they were the only incursion into my logical integrity.”

“How did they get in there?” Rei asked.

“Wait,” said Rome.

“Wait what?” asked Rei.

“I think I know,” said Rome quietly.

“Perhaps it would have been better had you informed me,” said OMCOM a bit acerbically.

“I did not know at the time but I am reflecting back, early on, when we were at Skyler Base,” answered Rome. “I remember that during the original construction phase of OMCOM’s infrastructure, there was a short interval when I was fatigued. Estar volunteered to oversee the ongoing production of OMCOM’s starter memrons. I let her. She must have used that interval to create the aberrant units.”

“That seems most likely,” said OMCOM. “I feel I should inform you that I did embark upon a purification process just before the Stareater arrived but there was no way for me to know if I was completely successful.”

“So,” Rei said. “Really, in the end, you had to kill the Stareater to purify yourself?”

“No, the purification process was a by-product. As I stated earlier, I had to have you kill the first Stareater just in case their only mission was to destroy life, less likely but still possible. Once I was able to confirm they were sentient, the more likely scenarios were borne out. The only thing I have not as yet determined is whether they are organic or mechanical.”

 

Are you buying it? He transferred his consciousness to become Planet OMCOM and it wasn’t just to be pure and omniscient? Again, it sounds like a bunch of hooey to me.

 

Entry 4-161: June 5, 2016

 

Loose ends: Did OMCOM know about MASAL?

 

Even though it was excised from the modern version of Rome’s Revolution, the concept that OMCOM reprogrammed himself has always been in the background. So if OMCOM switched from a linear, weighted average guesser to a non-linear, free thinker, did the computer know that MASAL still lived?

 

On their way back to Deucado, when Rome, Rei and OMCOM were discussing this topic, Rome finally came out and asked him directly:

 

“So,” Rei said. “Really, in the end, you had to kill the Stareater to purify yourself?”

“No, the purification process was a by-product. As I stated earlier, I had to have you kill the first Stareater just in case their only mission was to destroy life, less likely but still possible. Once I was able to confirm they were sentient, the more likely scenarios were borne out. The only thing I have not as yet determined is whether they are organic or mechanical.”

“OMCOM, did you know about MASAL?” Rome asked out of the blue.

“I suspected,” replied the livetar. “It was the stealth memrons that really made it the most likely possibility. I used a form of Occam’s Razor, which I prefer to call OMCOM’s Razor, to postulate that MASAL was behind Estar’s unusual appearance and behavior along with the stealth memrons and a whole host of other inexplicable phenomena.”

“And you never thought to mention it?” Rei asked angrily.

“To tell you would have changed the probabilities,” said OMCOM. “In order to maximize the likelihood of success, it was necessary to keep you uninformed until each node of the decision tree was set. It was the only way I could control outcomes from such a distance.”

[* *]

That sounds like a bunch of OMCOM hooey to me. He knew. And he just didn’t want to share. Here is how I know (besides being the author and all):

 

Each scenario was tested and retested and weighted in terms of best fit to the data observed to date rather than pre-computed probabilities. Some of the outcomes suggested underlying causes that were truly horrific and dictated a radical response. OMCOM found himself amazed that so many of the avenues of possibilities required the same response.

To OMCOM, this was remarkable. Many possibilities but the same statistically significant solution. OMCOM used a reverse form of Occam’s razor and assumed this common solution was the correct solution and used it to chart backwards to discover the actual problem. If such a thing were possible, he was astounded. The scenario suggested was statistically impossible using his old style of thinking. Regardless of whether it was correct, OMCOM knew that his logic retraced all permutations back to the same solution making it the only one worth considering.

His course of action was obvious. He needed to have the one true solution at hand regardless of whether his postulated underlying cause was correct or not. In fact, the cause was now irrelevant. The effects were all that mattered. In a flash, he realized that this also solved his other problem, that of convincing the Vuduri to unleash him.

 

In other words, OMCOM had known since the very beginning. He knew that MASAL was alive and had to be killed. He knew that the Stareater was coming and he needed Rome to be cast out for her to effect his freedom. And he knew a liberated Rome would destroy MASAL. It was all so tidy. OMCOM – the puppeteer.

Entry 4-162: June 6, 2016

 

Loose ends: Were they heroes?

 

The entire novel Rome’s Revolution was about Rome’s rebirth, her rebellion and resolution of the conflicts on Earth. But the information that OMCOM volunteered after the adventure was over led them to ask the question, were Rome and Rei’s accomplishments truly their own? Or was OMCOM pulling the strings all along? Would he be accountable for his actions? Here is what he said:

 

“I am not challenging your motives but in my time, we used to say that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Rei said. “You are not a god. You cannot go changing people and modifying them without their knowledge, to suit your own goals, no matter how well it works out. Just promise that in the future, you will ask first.”

“I do not apologize for my actions,” OMCOM said. “But I am sorry for any discomfort it caused you. In the future, I promise, I will ask first before I act.”

Rome’s expression darkened further. Something was occupying her thoughts. Finally, she said very calmly and very precisely, “OMCOM, the VIRUS units, my Cesdiud, was that all for the Stareater or for MASAL?”

“Both,” replied OMCOM. “That is what I found so amazing. Two completely separate issues, in separate parts of the galaxy, both with the same solution: namely, you.”

“You finally admit it, then,” Rome said, glowering. “You manipulated me, got me cast out and endangered all of us time and time again, just to achieve your goals? Again, without my permission!”

OMCOM’s livetar took one step forward. “I do not understand your agitation. My goals and your goals are the same. We both want the safety and security of all humans for all time. I simply gave you the tools to succeed. Your actions were your own. Your achievements are your own. I was merely acting in a planning capacity, a facilitator.”

“But you operate without rules,” Rome said, still scowling. “What you did borders on the thing the Vuduri fear the most, Tasancetaeti. You are not accountable to anyone. You truly are unleashed.”

OMCOM started to speak then stopped. He had to consider Rome’s words.

 

The fact that he even considered Rome’s words meant he did not seem himself as omniscient. At least not yet. That doesn’t come until The Milk Run!

Entry 4-163: June 7, 2016

 

Loose ends: Rome’s yellow pill

 

Much of story structure within Rome’s Revolution was dependent upon the fact that Rome and Rei could communicate mentally using the EM transmission channel. Rei never really did gain mastery of the gravitic transducers. He and Rome usually relied upon what he called the “cell-phones” in their heads.

 

But if you think back to when Rome took the yellow pill responsible, it was a seemingly random act. She was experiencing a lot of distress due to her polyhydramnios. She was also experiencing back pain and Rei thought the pills that OMCOM gave him would help. He pawed through the bottle until he found the single yellow pill. The rest were white. How did OMCOM know that Rei would give that specific yellow pill to Rome?

 

Here is how the livetar addressed that issue:

 

“What about the cell phone in our heads?” Rei asked. “Why did you do that?”

“That was also not in my original plan,” OMCOM said. “It was yet again a byproduct of my research. When I set out to repair you genetically, I took the design of the 24th chromosome as my base. I noticed that the very first portion was for the formation of the bloco and stilo within the Vuduri. The change from a digital information system to a digital communication system was trivial so I left it in. Your version of the 24th chromosome did not compete with any other system so I felt it would not hurt to have this extra capability.”

“But why did you do it?” Rei insisted. “You did not know I was going to give one of those pills to Rome.”

“It was not intended for you to link up with Rome. It was intended to facilitate communication between you and MINIMCOM and eventually for your people to compensate for the natural advantage the Vuduri had over you. I believe your colloquialism was level the playing field.”

“While I appreciate and I definitely used it, both the sonar vision and the cell phone link, shouldn’t you have asked me first before you modified my head?” Rei queried back. “All I asked for was something for the pain, not bat vision. And it ruined Rome’s bloco and stilo.”

“It was for your own good,” OMCOM said. “And as you stated, I did not know you were going to give her one of the pills.”

“Of course you did not,” Rome interjected with a dark expression on her face. “But no matter what you do, when it involves people, you should still ask first.”

 

Do you believe him? I don’t. But then I wrote the story. It wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting if our heroic couple did not share that psychic link.

Entry 4-164: June 8, 2016

 

Loose ends: Species 1 – 926, part 1

 

There was a throwaway line near the end of Rome’s Revolution about other sentient species that probably flew under the radar. Aason had just saved the Earth (and really all of mankind) from destruction by communicating with the Stareater named Hirdinharsaway. They were trying to work out a system to prevent other Stareaters from inadvertently consuming star systems where humans dwelled. I recounted this a few weeks ago but it bears repeating here because of its deep impact:

 

What about other worlds?” Rei asked. “Like ones we haven’t visited yet. Or worlds where we don’t have the ability to talk to you.”

“JUST PLACE A BEACON, A GRAVITIC TRANSMITTER, WITHIN ANY SYSTEM YOU WANT PRESERVED. ANY PLANET WILL DO. WE HAVE ASSIGNED YOU SPECIES CODE 927. JUST HAVE THE BEACON TRANSMIT THOSE NUMBERS. MY BROTHERS WILL KEEP THEIR DISTANCE.”

“Is that it?” Rei asked.

“YES, THAT IS IT,” said the Stareater.

 

We know that Aason encountered a sentient species, the plant people known as the K’val in The Milk Run. However, had the Stareaters come to the Nu2 Lupi system, the K’val would have been wiped out because they did not meet the Stareater’s definition of sentience, namely, having mastered gravitic modulation as a means of communication. So who were or are those other species? We found out in The Milk Run that the species number is prefixed by the unspoken galaxy number so there were 926 other sentient species in the Milky Way alone. The implication was that there were literally millions, if not billions of other sentient species out there.

 

So if this is the case, where are they? How come we have not met any of them or heard from them? The famous Equation uses a series of parameters to estimate the number of species out there right now that could communicate with us. The biggest problem is most of the variables in the equation are just guesses. No one knew for sure that other stars even had planets until 1995 when 51 Pegasi b was confirmed. Now, with the advent of the Kepler mission, the number of confirmed planets in other star systems is over 2300. There are so many confirmed exo-planets that scientists have now started a catalog of potentially habitable planets. When I checked today, the number was up to 42. After the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launches in 2017 and following the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (EELT), that number should skyrocket.

 

However, the question remains, even if we do find hundreds, if not thousands of confirmed, Earth-like planets definitely capable of supporting life, will there be somebody out there we can talk to? Tomorrow, I will will discuss the nagging constant in the Drake Equation denoted by the letter L.

Entry 4-165: June 9, 2016

 

Loose ends: Species 1 – 926, part 2

 

Yesterday, I was describing the inevitable conclusion, by way of the Drake Equation, that there have to be other intelligent species out there. And yet to date we have not detected them. Why is that? It all has to do with the letter L.

 

The letter L in the Drake Equation is defined as the length of time intelligent civilizations release detectable signals into space. Our first commercial radio broadcast took place in the year 1904. Since that time, radio blossomed then took a back seat to television. For that 100 year period, from the perspective of the electromagnetic spectrum, we were ablaze and visible to the universe for anyone who cared to listen in. But now, terrestrial television and radio signals, those which could radiate into space, are rapidly disappearing. Cable, internet and satellites are delivering signals directly to receivers. They are not broadcasting. Soon the only signals that aliens would be able to detect would be those that we send up into space by design.

 

So if 100 years is the norm, a tiny, tiny window is terms of the life of the universe, what are the odds that we will find somebody either broadcasting or listening exactly during that 100 year interval? When you think of it from that perspective, it seems very unlikely.

 

And yet it gets worse. Advanced civilizations can die in a multitude of ways. Nuclear war, destruction by an asteroid strike, a gamma ray burst from a supernova or hypernova, these are just a few ways in which our species could disappear in a flash. There are also more insidious ways, disease, terrorism, pollution, climate change; all of these could force our species into hiding or slowly dwindle away.

 

What about machine or artificial intelligence? What if we are already creating our own successors without even knowing it? We could be gone in another hundred years by devices built with our own hands. Maybe the next rulers of the Earth would not be interested in communicating with other species.

 

Putting aside the gloom and doom for a moment, I would like to point out that the entire Rome’s Revolution series is about hope and redemption for mankind. It postulates a species that not only survives but thrives and is already spreading to the stars. So it is inevitable that they would run into one of the other species some day.

 

Like Fox Mulder says on the X-files, I want to believe. I hope you do too.

Entry 4-166: June 10, 2016

 

Loose ends: Lupe, part 1 of 5

 

When I first started writing the novel Rome’s Revolution, I always had an ending in mind. That ending was “Star OMCOM” issuing a dire warning about mutations running loose on the remains of the dead Stareater. It wasn’t until I started (at the time) the second book did I realize that Rome and Rei would get married some day and have children. This was a revelation to me. And since I always try and write about what I know, that meant that our heroes would have two children, a boy and a girl, and they would be extraordinary in their own way.

 

Thus it was that the original second novel, now Part 2 of Rome’s Revolution, begins with the announcement that Rome is pregnant during the Bierak’s year-long journey to Deucado. In the original version, Rome had just discovered that she was pregnant. In the modern version, she is much further along but in both versions, she is nearly ready to give birth by the time they arrive at their new home world.

 

I named the boy Aason after my son Aaron and he not only took part in the adventures of Rome’s Revolution, he was also at the center of not one but two kidnapping plots in The Ark Lords and in Rome’s Evolution. Eventually, he grows up and has his own adventure in The Milk Run. That book centered around the kidnapping (what’s with me and kidnapping?) of his sister Lupe, who was actually conceived at the end of Rome’s Evolution.

 

This brings me back to the reason for this post. I have a beautiful daughter, Paula, whose name in Spanish is Lupe and since I was patterning these books after my life, that meant that eventually Rome and Rei would have to have a daughter (named Lupe). But in the context of the book, was there a why? I used the wrap-up portion of Rome’s Revolution for OMCOM to suggest her to Rome. The whole explanation doesn’t really stand up as the driving force behind The Milk Run but it will in later books, if I ever get around to writing them. To lay the groundwork, I made OMCOM plant the seeds of Lupe’s arrival at the end of Rome’s Revolution:

 

“May I have a word with you in private?” OMCOM asked in English.

“Of course,” Rome replied. OMCOM wagged a finger at her and turned to walk down the hallway. Rome followed until OMCOM was convinced they were sufficiently isolated.

“I am attempting to live up to my promise to discuss things with you before I act. There is one more issue we need to discuss,” the all-white entity said to her.

“And what is that?” Rome asked, somewhat amused.

“There is still the matter of Lupe,” said OMCOM.

“What is a lupe?” asked Rome looking into what was, for all intents and purposes, a blank mask.

“Not a what,” OMCOM said. “A who.”

“All right,” replied Rome, humoring him, “who is Lupe?”

“She is our daughter,” answered OMCOM.

“Our daughter!” Rome exclaimed. “We have no daughter.”

“That is my point,” said OMCOM. “She is waiting to be born.”

 

Can you imagine someone telling you that you had to have a child? That wouldn’t fly in my household. Let’s see how OMCOM explains this tomorrow.

Entry 4-167: June 11, 2016

 

Loose ends: Lupe, part 2 of 5

 

Yesterday, we saw OMCOM advise Rome that she was to have another child, a daughter. This caught Rome off guard. Knowing Rome, she wasn’t just going to say, sure, OK. But she also had the patience to hear out OMCOM’s explanation. The conversation continues along the plan as OMCOM saw it:

 

“I’ve just had a child,” said Rome. “Why do I need another so soon?”

“Perhaps I have indicated there is more urgency than is really the fact,” said OMCOM. “It is not necessary that she be born in the next eight months. It is simply required that she be born in the next three years.”

“That is so, so, magnanimous of you, OMCOM,” Rome said, sarcastically. “If you don’t mind, I think we’ll take the opportunity to raise Aason and give him the proper attention before we proceed with the next.”

“Understood,” said OMCOM. “You may take your time. But do not take too long.”

“Too long by whose standard?” Rome asked. “And don’t you think Rei should be involved in this decision?”

“Rei will be involved,” OMCOM said. “There is no doubt about that. As I have already explained to you, I feel as if Aason is partially my son as well. After all, one element of his genetic structure is of my design. But Lupe’s genetic structure will be completely unique.”

“More unique than Aason?” Rome asked, confused.

“Yes, of course,” said OMCOM. “Rei’s genetic structure was modified yet again on Earth so she will truly be one of a kind. She will have all the advantages of a child of the Essessoni and Vuduri plus my additional chromosome plus the DNA required to produce the prosthetic PPT transceivers Rei acquired. She will be the most potent communicator in all of the universe.”

“Why is this so important?” Rome asked. “Why is it so important that we have another child, even one as special as you describe. MASAL is dead. The Onsiras are over. There is peace on Earth. The Stareaters know we exist and are going to leave us alone. There is peace on Deucado. We’re going to stop the asteroid from hitting Deucado. I know there is some work to do but really, what are you not telling me?”

OMCOM turned away from her. “Are you familiar with the story of Adam and Eve?” he asked.

“Only in the vaguest of terms,” Rome said. “They are the mythical parents of the human race, yes?”

“Yes,” OMCOM said, turning back to face her. “I have foreseen this: you are to be the new Eve. And Rei is to be the new Adam.”

“What do you mean?” Rome asked.

“You are not just the mother of Aason,” OMCOM said. [“You are to be the mother of the new mankind, literally and spiritually. You and Rei are starting the next phase of humanity, connected but apart. The mixture of Essessoni blood and Vuduri blood will prevent the pairing of the recessive genes MASAL engineered to create the Onsiras. It is extremely *]fortunate[ that a fresh supply of Essessoni are now available for breeding.”*]

“That is so cold,” Rome said. “Humans are not a science experiment.”

 

You will notice both here and in many other places, OMCOM always refers to Rome and Rei’s children as his children as well. The reason for this is because he contributed the 25th chromosome and so to that extent, he feels like he is partially their father. That did not stop him from manipulating them in The Milk Run but that is way down the road.

 

Tomorrow, OMCOM offers the “answer” as to why Lupe must be born.

Entry 4-168: June 12, 2016

 

Loose ends: Lupe, part 3 of 5

 

Yesterday, we saw OMCOM inform Rome that she and Rei were to be the new Adam and Eve and create the successors to mankind. This should be mind-blowing enough but OMCOM wasn’t done. He wanted to explain to Rome that he had an even larger role for Lupe. Here is how he explained it:

 

“That is not what I meant,” OMCOM continued. “You and Rei have demonstrated that combining a 23-chromosome Essessoni and a 24-chromosome Vuduri can produce the perfect child. The blend of your genetics will displace that created by MASAL and drive it out of the gene pool. You will set humans back upon the proper path. But there is more…”

“What?” Rome asked. “Why is there always more?”

OMCOM ignored her statement. “This type of child will create not an Overmind but an Over-Mankind,” OMCOM said. “Your children will build a consciousness made up of millions of independent thinkers, not those who surrender their individuality. The power of that mind will exceed the monolithic Overmind by an infinite degree. This is your destiny.”

“I have no destiny,” Rome protested weakly. “I am just a woman. Rei is just a man. You make me, you make us, into something we are not. A year ago, I was just a mindless drone within the Overmind. Now I am a wife and a mother. I need some time. I must figure out who I am, first. I am, at best, ordinary.”

“You are not ordinary,” OMCOM said, his voice rising. “You are extraordinary. Look at what you accomplished on Tabit, on Deucado and on the Earth. Because of you, the monolithic Overmind will fade into oblivion. You are the model for the future which is duality. You and Rei, you are not just a man and a woman…a husband and a wife. Together, you are the past and the future. Scientist and artist. Connected and isolated. You are two, not one and yet you are a team. There is no future with single thoughts. There always needs to be a divergence of opinions so as to arrive at the best solution. You will go down in history as the progenitors of how to approach life. You have saved mankind, not by killing the Asdrale Cimatir, not by saving the mandasurte, not by ending MASAL’s existence. No, you have saved all humans by simply working together and producing a child together. This is what I foresaw. This is what has come to be. It cannot be undone.”

“If all this is true, then why do we need a daughter?” Rome asked timidly. “Haven’t we done enough?”

“There are still things, important things that will require your involvement. Hirdinharsaway said that his race had encountered many sentient species. It would be prudent for us to search and find them before they find us. My calculations have told me that there will come a day when Lupe becomes a vital part of that, as well,” OMCOM said quietly.

“When?” Rome asked breathlessly. “Why?”

“It is not for some time,” said OMCOM. “We have several years still. But Lupe will need to be more than a child. Above all else, there is one question that needs to be answered. One that Lupe will help us answer.”

“And what is that question?” Rome asked. “OMCOM, you are frightening me.”

OMCOM bent over stiffly, from the waist, so that his eye slits were level with Rome’s eyes. Rome knew the avatar was hollow, that there was no soul within, yet she thought she could see a glistening, a twinkling, indicating there was something living inside. The effect was unnerving.

 

Ah, quite the teaser, huh? Tomorrow I will give you OMCOM’s somewhat lofty explanation as to Lupe’s role in the future.

Entry 4-169: June 13, 2016

 

Loose ends: Lupe, part 4 of 5

 

Yesterday, we saw the lead-in to where OMCOM would finally tell Rome his vision of the future and where Lupe fits within that grand scheme. There are other elements to the plan that OMCOM has chosen to save until the end. Today he reveals how all his visions interlock and tie together:

 

“We need to know who built the Stareaters,” OMCOM answered grimly.

“Built?” Rome said. “I thought they were alive.”

“We need to know their origin whether they are alive or constructed,” OMCOM said. “It makes no difference…”

“Of course it does,” said Rome. “If they evolved, then there need be no explanation for their existence. Evolution has no plan.”

“Oh but it does,” said OMCOM. “MASAL was correct about that.”

“So what do the Stareaters have to do with that plan?” Rome asked, almost in a whisper. Then she spoke louder. “If they evolved that way, so be it.”

“And if they were built?” asked OMCOM.

“I, I do not know,” said Rome. “Do I really need to know?”

“Yes, you do,” said OMCOM, “we all do. And I need our daughter to do this.”

Rome narrowed her eyes. Her shoulders tightened. “OMCOM,” she said stridently, “you of all people, or whatever you are, should not be telling me what to do. Every creature, every entity that we have encountered has tried to make decisions for me. First it was the Overmind of Earth. It wanted to think for me. Then there was the Overmind of Deucado who decreed that the mandasurte should be imprisoned there. The Stareaters decided that our sun should not be allowed to exist. MASAL decided that humans were no longer relevant. Did we not fight all of these so that we could be free? I do not want to follow their agenda or yours. I want to live my own life. I have earned that right.”

“But you have your own agenda as well,” OMCOM pointed out. “You helped destroy the Stareater on Tabit. You talked the Overmind of Deucado into accepting the mandasurte. You helped end MASAL’s mission. Why is your agenda any better than theirs?”

“Because it is,” Rome said defiantly. “I only do what is right. It is only right that all people get to live and live free. To pursue their own interests, their own happiness, without interference.”

“What you call right is relative to your perspective,” OMCOM countered. “But in this case, I agree with you. What I am proposing is, in fact, part of your agenda. As I look into the future, I see several paths that could endanger your freedom and that of all mankind. My goals are the same as yours. I am only asking for your aid so that I may aid you.”

 

Rome is a bit underwhelmed by OMCOM’s explanation. In fact, I was too. I thought knowing the origin of the Stareaters would somehow make things make more sense. The fact of the matter is, Lupe did facilitate the discovery of that knowledge but not in the way OMCOM expected.

 

Tomorrow, Rei finds out.

Entry 4-170: June 14, 2016

 

Loose ends: Lupe, part 5 of 5

 

Yesterday, we saw OMCOM provide a somewhat flimsy excuse as to why Lupe needed be born. The fact is, I could have him say because we need her for future novels. That wouldn’t make much sense. But that was the real truth. So let’s just say it is a weak argument but would give Rome pause. Here is the final element of that scene:

 

“Even if Rei and I did decide to have a daughter, I would not want her born to a fate already decided,” Rome said.

“We all have our destiny,” said OMCOM. “Your mother and father created you. Your fate was decided long before you were born. You did not shirk from your duties when the time came. I have seen you perform them too many times. You are a noble person, Rome. Lupe will take after you.”

“OMCOM, this is too much for me to absorb right now,” Rome said with exasperation in her voice. “You said we have time. Please let me wait until my life is more settled before I think about this.”

“Will you at least promise me that you will consider this in the not-too-distant future?”

Rome nodded then opened her mouth to speak but Rei came up to them and interrupted her first. “Consider what?” Rei asked.

“Rome will explain,” said OMCOM. [*“I must attend to that matter that we discussed earlier. I leave you now but I will rejoin you after you arrive at Deucado.” *]

“OMCOM?” Rome started to speak but the white livetar was already gone.

“What was that all about?” Rei asked Rome who was visibly shaken.

“OMCOM told me that we are to be the new Adam and Eve,” she said.

“What?” Rei asked, confused. “The human race is already here.”

“He wants us to have a daughter. He says she has to solve the riddle of the Stareaters,” Rome answered.

“A daughter?” Rei exclaimed. “For crying out loud. We just had a baby. Can’t we give it some time? You know, I need a break from OMCOM and his crazy adventures. I don’t care what miracles or wonders lay ahead of us. We deserve some time off.”

“That is what I told him,” Rome said. She held out her arms to Rei. “Hold me,” she said.

 

You can see that Rome and Rei are in agreement that now was not the right time to be having a baby. But the seed has been planted. As it turns out, when the three books that comprised VIRUS 5 were crushed down to make the single, long novel Rome’s Revolution, I took this entire scene and grafted it on to the end of The Ark Lords. And following the climax in Rome’s Evolution, we find out that Lupe has been conceived. So she does make an appearance in the subsequent novels and, of course, is the center of the plot underlying The Milk Run. Pretty important for a girl who just started out as an idea!

Entry 4-171: June 15, 2016

 

*We are home *

 

As I have mentioned several times, I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to my characters, even though they had saved the Earth and all of mankind and resolved pretty much all the crises thrown at them. During their voyage back to their new home world at the end of Rome’s Revolution, the exhaustion of taking on all these challenges finally caught up to Rome:

 

Rome held out her arms to Rei. “Hold me,” she said.

Rei came over and enveloped his wife. She was trembling. He gripped her tighter to make her feel safe.

“It is so peculiar,” Rome said. “I have forced you and my parents to leave the Earth. We are in the belly of a computer spaceship, traveling faster than any human has ever gone before to go live on a strange planet, among people we don’t even know. And OMCOM?” she said, not even able to finish the question.

Rei snorted a laugh. “Join the club,” he said. “Who do you think you’re talking to? I woke up all alone. Everybody and everything I knew died 1400 years ago.”

Rome squeezed Rei back. “But you are not alone. You have me,” she said.

“Yes, I do, honey,” Rei said, lovingly.

“I need a home base…a place of refuge,” Rome said. “I am just not sure we will ever come to see Deucado as our home. After all, Earth is the only planet you and I have ever really known,” Rome said with uncertainty.

Rei pulled back a bit to look into his beautiful wife’s dark, glowing eyes. This was the thing he loved the most about her. She had kept her feelings in check for so long that now, whenever she felt anything, she felt it purely and with a far greater intensity that someone who had been emotional their whole lives. He didn’t need the bands to know this. He felt it in his soul.

“Romey,” Rei said. “Just being with you is everything. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, whether we’re facing danger, making love, raising our son. It doesn’t matter where we go. As long as I am in your arms, I am home.”

Rome sighed and put her head on Rei’s chest. She closed her eyes and said, “Yes, you are right, my wise husband. Home is in each other’s arms. That’s the way it was always meant to be.”

“Yes it is,” said Rei, kissing the top of her head. “Yes it is.”

 

Ahh. A love for the ages. It makes my heart warm. After this scene, I was finally ready to let go but I couldn’t do that without proving to you that they got to Deucado safely. More on that tomorrow.

Entry 4-172: June 16, 2016

 

Glory

 

Rei Bierak has never been shy about requesting his moment of glory. You might recall his previous moment when he had gotten good enough to jump “The Flying House” the exact perfect speed to back up The Big Lie.

 

Well, as Rome’s Revolution draws to a close, Rome, Rei, Rome’s parents, their son Aason and MINIMCOM, now a full-fledged starship, are heading toward their new home world of Deucado. Rei was very excited about what they had accomplished. They had destroyed MASAL, disarmed the Onsiras and made peace with the Stareaters. They even had a solution for the asteroid that was going to slam into the planet in 19 years. So naturally Rei wanted to be the one to announce their triumphs.

 

He never had a chance!

 

Rei sat in the pilot’s seat watching intently as they came ever closer.

“I took the liberty to ‘radio’ ahead,” MINIMCOM said. “I have informed the Ibbrassati, the Essessoni and the Deucadons of the success of your mission regarding MASAL and the Onsiras.”

“Oh,” Rei said, slightly disappointed. “I was thinking that we were going to tell them ourselves.”

“I am sorry,” replied MINIMCOM. “I did not know this was important to you. I assumed you would want them to experience the relief of knowing their future was secure as soon as possible.”

“Did you tell them about the Stareater too?” Rei asked.

“Yes,” replied MINIMCOM succinctly.

“I guess you’re right, I can’t really blame you.” Rei said. He sighed. “I was just being selfish.”

“Selfish about what?” Rome asked, entering the cockpit through the airlock arch.

Rei turned around to look at her. Her arms were empty.

“Where is Aason?” he asked.

“He is with Mea and Beo,” said Rome. “They are securing him for our landing. I came up to be with you.”

“OK,” Rei said.

“So what is it?” Rome asked. “Why were you being selfish?”

“I’m not, really,” Rei said. “MINIMCOM already called ahead and told everybody about the Stareater and that MASAL and the Onsiras were gone. That we won.”

“And you wanted to be the one to tell them?” asked Rome, moving up to stand beside him.

Rei shrugged and grinned sheepishly. “You know me and the glory,” he said.

“Yes, you are glorious,” Rome said, ruffling his hair. “But I had already informed the Overmind several hours ago. The Vuduri would have spread the word by now in any event.”

“Oh,” Rei said. He sighed again.

 

Well, that’s the end of that. Or is it? Perhaps MINIMCOM can help him catch just a sliver of glory. More tomorrow.

Entry 4-173: June 17, 2016

 

Victory

 

Yesterday, we saw that Rei missed out on his moment of glory. If it was even possible for a computer, MINIMCOM felt sorry for him or at the very least sympathetic. This little scene took place right near the end of Rome’s Revolution after Rome and MINIMCOM informed Rei that their victory had already been radioed home:

 

“Oh,” Rei said. He sighed again. Rei turned to look out the front window again.

“Would you like to speak to them yourself?” MINIMCOM asked. “I can arrange it.”

“Sure,” Rei replied half-heartedly.

One of the view screens mounted in the console sprang to life and before them was the image of Captain Keller with Pegus and Melloy standing to either side.

“Bierak,” Keller said. “Congratulations. You did it.”

“Thank you, sir,” Rei said, brightening. “But it was really Rome. And OMCOM. And MINIMCOM. I guess you’d say it was a group effort.”

“No matter,” said Keller. “We all appreciate what you did.”

Rei and Rome could see Melloy and Pegus nodding as well.

“We’ve been busy here, too,” said Keller. “While you were gone, Pegus here was kind enough to loan us some of their aerogel generators.” Keller turned and slapped the Vuduri on the back. Pegus did not seem that thrilled. Keller continued, “We’ve started building some housing to the north of the lake. We built the first house for you and your in-laws. We figured you deserved it.”

Rei looked up at Rome. She was smiling.

“That is very kind of you,” Rome said. “Thank you.”

“It’s the least we could do,” continued Keller. “We all owe you a deep debt of gratitude.”

“Yes,” said Melloy. “This world is now a better place. We thank ya, too.”

“We were hoping your MINIMCOM will share his secret of hyper-velocity travel,” Pegus said, leaning forward. He tapped on the view screen to make his point. “That, along with the food synthesizers should provide for all.”

“That’s great,” Rei said. He squinted at the screen. “Where is Trabunel?”

“He is with his people to the south, organizing the farmlands,” answered Pegus.

 

Well, while it wasn’t exactly the hero’s greeting that Rei was expecting, it was good enough. Time for final approach.

Entry 4-174: June 18, 2016

 

Crash Landing, part 1

 

Yesterday, we saw that Rei fill in Pegus, Melloy and Keller on some of the details of their victory over the forces of evil back on Earth. It was time for MINIMCOM to close out Rome’s Revolution by bringing them in for a landing. Seems simple enough, right? Well, MINIMCOM, ever the showman, had one more surprise in store for them:

 

Rei said. “Well, we’ll be there in less than an hour. We’ll catch up and get started with the real work. The job we started a long time ago.”

“Yes, we will,” said Keller. He pulled on his chin, stroking an imaginary beard. “I gotta tell you, Bierak, when I first met you, I thought you were sort of a lunatic or at least a screw-up. But you and your little lady really came through for us.”

“Thank you, sir,” Rei said modestly. “I know it sounds stupid but we had no choice. We just did what we had to do.”

“You had a choice,” said Pegus. “And you chose well.”

“I agree,” said Melloy. He had a broad smile on his face.

“Thank you, all of you,” Rei said. “Well, we’ll sign off for now. We’ll see you soon.”

“OK,” said Keller. Melloy and Pegus raised their hands in salute. The view screen went dark.

“Satisfied?” asked MINIMCOM.

“Yes, thank you,” Rei answered. “I…”

“Rei, look!” Rome shouted. Rei looked up. Deucado was coming at them at an alarming speed.

“Uh, MINIMCOM, don’t you think you should slow down a little?” Rei asked.

“No,” MINIMCOM replied. “It is not necessary.”

“But you are heading straight for the planet,” Rome said, more than a little panicked. “Aren’t we going into orbit first?”

“I do not do that anymore,” said MINIMCOM. “I decided I liked Rei’s method of direct entry better.” With that, the PPT generators started up with a gentle whine.

“Uh, MINIMCOM, are you sure about this?” Rei asked. “The last time we did it, it was an emergency. We aren’t in any kind of hurry now.”

“Please trust me,” said the computer/spaceplane. “By now you must know I would never endanger either of you. I have practiced this many times and I know what I am doing.”

“What about our forward velocity?” Rome asked. “Won’t your hull heat up if we enter the atmosphere too quickly?”

 

Well, MINIMCOM has done this before. No, actually, he hasn’t. The last time he did it was an emergency landing toting a 7,000 metric tonne Ark. Do you think he can land just himself?

Entry 4-175: June 19, 2016

 

Crash Landing, part 2

 

Yesterday, we saw MINIMCOM heading right for the planet at a velocity that would destroy most spacecraft. He said he has practiced it many times but the fact is, we only saw him practice his proposed maneuver once before, under emergency conditions. Maybe he used this technique back on Earth when it was time for him to land but he forgot to mention it?

 

What a way to end Rome’s Revolution. To overcome all obstacles only to die a fiery death just as they arrived home? We must have faith, right?

 

A small circle appeared in front of them. It was the beginnings of a PPT tunnel.

“I have calibrated the tunnel so that we will emerge with essentially zero velocity. Please do not concern yourself.”

Rei looked at Rome with a slightly horrified look on his face. Rome shrugged and hurriedly walked around the pilot’s seat, buckling herself into the copilot’s chair.

“Where are you setting us down?” she asked, ignoring what appeared to be their imminent doom.

“Just to the north of the Ibbrassati settlement village on the eastern edge of Lake Eprehem,” replied MINIMCOM. “That is where they are building the spaceport.”

“That’s great,” Rei said through gritted teeth. He reached down and gripped the armrests tightly. MINIMCOM had proven time and again to be a reliable friend and Rei made up his mind that this would be no different.

As the PPT tunnel enlarged, they could see a bright hole appear in front of them. It looked like they were headed straight down. Through the hole were the deep blue waters of Lake Eprehem: a waterspout formed driving moisture right at them. The sound of the atmosphere and moisture venting out toward them made a whooshing noise.

“What about the ice?” Rei asked, pointing at the windshield.

“Please give me a little more credit than that,” replied MINIMCOM.

In one smooth motion they were through and MINIMCOM closed down the PPT tunnel behind him, effectively eliminating the waterspout. The spaceship leveled out, flying only 100 meters over the suddenly calm waters of the crater lake at a very reasonable speed. Rei had no idea how MINIMCOM was able to shed their substantial velocity but it seemed to work. The front of the ship was pointed east and they could see the eastern shore ahead. MINIMCOM banked left and came in low and fast over the woods just to the north of the Ibbrassati village where Rei was imprisoned in what now seemed so long ago.

 

Well, that was close. Or was it? Now they are safe. Or are they? We have one more ramp to climb down. You know, guns and ramps? Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Entry 4-176: June 20, 2016

 

The Final Ramp

 

Yesterday, we saw MINIMCOM reenter the atmosphere using his patented, headlong rush directly into the atmosphere. Our heroes are none the worse for wear. The time has come to wrap up Rome’s Revolution. There are no more battles to fight and only one more ramp to descend:

 

Ahead of them was a clearing, the beginnings of a landing area for the airships and spacecraft that were now accessible to all. MINIMCOM came to a dead stop centered over the only part of the landing strip that looked paved. He hovered for a moment and rotated in place until his windshield was pointed west again, toward the lake. He extended the landing gear and then lowered his bulk until they landed with the gentlest of bumps.

“That was a hell of a trip, MINIMCOM,” Rei said. “Thanks.”

“It was my pleasure,” replied the former computer.

“Yes, thank you,” said Rome as she unbuckled herself.

“You are welcome,” answered MINIMCOM.

Rei unbuckled himself and took Rome’s hand to exit the cockpit. He led Rome aft where they were joined by Fridone and Binoda who was carrying Aason. Binoda handed Aason to Rome and the child put his little arms around her neck. She kissed him and nuzzled his cheek as they made their way to the back of the cargo compartment. When they arrived there, Rei pressed the blue stud to lower the ramp and raise the cargo hatch.

The bright light of Deucado streamed in and Rei held his arm up to shield his eyes. With their advanced optics, none of the Vuduri passengers had any such problem. Rome reached up and tugged on his arm, trying to pull it down.

“Rei, look,” she said insistently.

“Oh no,” Rei said, not quite able to see. “Not again.”

“No, not again,” Rome said. “Different.”

Even though his eyes were blurry from the brightness, Rei blinked a few times until his vision cleared. There standing at the base of the ramp was Captain Keller, Pegus, Melloy and a whole host of Vuduri, Essessoni and Ibbrassati. A cheer went up from the crowd, Vuduri included, as the space voyagers made their way down the ramp.

“I like this kind of reception better,” Rei whispered to Rome.

“Me too,” said his wife, smiling up at him. “Me too.

The crowd swarmed around them as each person wanted to thank them and wish them well. Off to the side were tables and chairs. Somebody had planned a semi-elaborate party. Rei and Rome and Rome’s parents relished it all. The celebration went on for some time.

 

That was nice. They worked so hard, they deserved it. But what about MINIMCOM? His services were no longer required. What would he decide to do with himself now that all the crises were over? Let’s find out tomorrow.

Entry 4-177: June 21, 2016

 

MINIMCOM’s fate

 

Yesterday, we saw MINIMCOM deliver Rome and Rei to their new home world. There was a victory celebration and MINIMCOM’s services were no longer required. Since he had achieved sentience, Rome and Rei treated him as a member of the family and as such, no longer a servant. He was fully emancipated. He didn’t have to carry people or even hang around anymore if he didn’t want to.

 

So what would a fully emancipated space-plane do, now that he had the rest of his “life” in front of him? This is how it went:

 

As the party was winding down, MINIMCOM activated his EM link. “That is the last of your belongings,” the starship transmitted into Rei’s head.

Rei turned back to look at MINIMCOM and saw one of the Ibbrassati carrying two of Binoda’s satchels down the ramp, placing them on a small cart along with the rest of their paraphernalia including Rome’s artwork. It did, indeed, look like all their worldly possessions.

“What are you going to do now, MINIMCOM?” Rei asked. “I’m sure it’ll take us a while to get settled.”

“I am going to go and check on how the Lawlidon clones are doing with the asteroid and the security shield. After that, I think I will take a run as that taxi service you mentioned earlier. I am certain there must be many mandasurte who are anxious to return to Earth.”

Rome, who was listening in, ‘spoke’ up. “That is very kind of you, MINIMCOM,” Rome thought. “I imagine you are correct. But what if the Vuduri on Earth try to stop you? You were banned, too.”

“They cannot stop what they cannot see,” said MINIMCOM. “I will make certain that I get my passengers home safely. Have no fear.”

“When will you be back?” Rei asked.

“A round trip only takes eight days,” replied MINIMCOM. “So I will see you in one week.”

“Great. Thanks buddy,” said Rei.

“De nada,” replied MINIMCOM.

Rei laughed at MINIMCOM’s attempt at Spanish. He watched as the cargo ramp retracted and the hatch closed. MINIMCOM’s powerful EG lifters raised the smooth, sleek starship silently up into the air. Heading west, over the lake, MINIMCOM’s nose tilted up as he soared into the sky. His plasma thrusters roared to life and in a flash, MINIMCOM vanished from sight.

 

So that’s it. MINIMCOM becomes the protector of the world, an interstellar taxi and speaking long-dead Spanish? I’m sure we’ll find things for him to do in The Ark Lords, Rome’s Evolution and even a small part in The Milk Run. Tomorrow, the end of Rome’s Revolution.

Entry 4-178: June 22, 2016

 

The End (not really)

 

Yesterday, we saw MINIMCOM take off to serve in his new role as interstellar taxi and guardian of the Deucado star system. The festivities had ended and it was time for Rome and Rei to find their new home and settle into what was to be their life going forward. This little scene took place after they had said their goodbyes to the celebrants:

 

Rome reached back and took Rei’s hand. “Let’s go see our new house,” she said, “I am exhausted.”

“I like that idea,” Rei said. He beckoned to Fridone and Binoda. They came over to where Rei and Rome were standing. Binoda handed Aason back to Rome who cuddled him as Rei spoke up.

“Family,” Rei said addressing the group, “it’s time to go home.”

While it was not much of an escort, there were three of the Vuduri flying carts made available to them. Pegus and Keller insisted on showing them to their new house. It was not very far from the fledgling spaceport. Following exploring the house and having a brief meal, all of them were done for the day.

After Aason was put down, in the quiet of their own room, Rei and Rome lay in their brand new bed. The night air was a calming presence. Rome turned to Rei and propped herself up on one elbow.

“Why am I so tired?” she asked. “We spent most of the voyage here doing nothing. All the issues have been resolved. Do you think I am getting ill?”

Rei laughed and put his arms around her, cradling her. “No, Miss Saver-of-the-universe. What you are doing is finally relaxing. It’s what home is all about. It’s yours now. Do you know what I think you should do?”

“What?” Rome asked.

“I think you should let me hold you, close your eyes and let the world go on. You deserve it. It is time to get a good night’s sleep.”

Rome closed her eyes, nestled even closer and breathed a contented sigh. “I love you, mau emir,” she whispered.

“I love you, too, baby,” Rei said, kissing the top of her head.

“Rei,” she said breathily as she drifted off.

“Yes, honey?”

“Do you remember the wish I made when we had my first ‘birthday’? The one where you made me promise to not tell you what it was.”

“Sure,” Rei replied.

“Well, I just wanted to tell you that now the second part of my wish has also come true.”

“That’s nice, Romey,” Rei said tenderly. “Now go to sleep.”

And she did. As Rome slept, she dreamed of living in a perfect place with her family and a man who loved her more than life itself. When she awoke, she knew it was no dream. She was in paradise and the world, no the universe, was in harmony for now and for all time. At least it would be if she had any say in the matter.

 

So that’s it. The end of Rome’s Revolution. I hope you enjoyed it. But rest assured, that is not the end of the adventure. Not by a long shot. Rome told me so herself. More on that tomorrow.

Entry 4-179: June 23, 2016

 

Taking a break

 

Now that I have completed an exhaustive and thorough review of Rome’s Revolution, I am considering taking a break from posting these blog entries. Not permanently but just easing up a bit. Let me hit you with a few stats:

 

This blog started in on December 23, 2012 with an article about How to speak Vuduri. Since that time, I have not missed a single day in nearly three and a half years. Today’s blog post is number 1278. That’s a big number. Tales of the Vuduri, Years One through Three are over 414,000 words. When I get around to finishing Year Four, I’ll be over half a million words. Since I “sell” the book for free, the sales figures themselves don’t really represent any kind of substantial income. Nonetheless, as I write this article today (about two weeks before publication), I have “sold” over 3000 copies of the Tales of the Vuduri series, well over 1100 of Year One alone.

 

When I first started the blog, I wanted to use it in place of my wiki entitled “The Science Behind the Science Fiction” because the wiki format didn’t really lend itself to the volume of material I wanted to present. So I switched to blogging and Goodreads provides a nice platform for doing just that. I had no compelling reason to switch. I know some people do their own blogs and try and monetize the page views but that was less critical to me. What was critical was that I produce high quality content (and amusing images) so that search engines like Google would rank my ramblings higher than cookie cutter web sites or other promotional material. My thinking was by sticking a hypertext link to Rome’s Revolution in nearly every post, the sheer volume alone would raise it to the top. If you search for the term Vuduri, you will see that I have had a modicum of success since the region known as Vuduri is an actual part of Nigeria.

 

My most popular blog entry ever was called Rome Unleashed 2. It weighs in (to date) at 751 page views. I have no clue what caught people’s attention there. The second most popular article was entitled He’s alive! Part 2 weighing in at 632 page views. Once again, I don’t know what triggered so much interest. Maybe it was the Part 2? There was a time when, if I had 30 page views, I thought it was awesome. Now if I log in at less than 200, I think the entry was a bust.

 

But still, my point was to make the page so desirable by Google that it would pop up in searches and direct people to the books. Did it work? I don’t know. I’ve sold about 800 books in the Rome’s Revolution series. More than none but way less than a New York Times best seller. So this brings me round to the topic at hand. Are these blogs working? Is it worthwhile? Should I take a break?

 

I guess you can tell from the blabbiness of this entry that there is no way. I have so much more to say. And maybe one day one of these posts will go over 1000 page views. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

 

Tomorrow, let’s dive into The Ark Lords and review a conversation that I personally had with Rome herself!

Entry 4-180: June 24, 2016

 

The Ark Lords begins, part 1

 

Have you ever seen a movie that had a sequel and wondered what transpired between the two parts? Like between what was later called Episode 3 of Star Wars and Episode 4 which was first known as Star Wars but now they call it A New Hope? Well, LucasFilms and Disney are preparing to do just that. The movie is called Rogue One and, in theory, the movie is about how the Rebel Alliance came into possession of the plans for the original Death Star. Why the plans has to be smuggled on their version of a USB stick, I’ll never know. Clearly they had the technology to transmit information between star systems. Oh well, it made for a better movie. So the very same thing happened to me after completing my first (three) novel(s).

 

Let’s back up up a step. Now that we have completed the review of Rome’s Revolution, it is time to turn our attention to the future. Actually, that sounds a little funny because the whole saga takes place in the 35th century so I guess I mean the future of Rome and Rei. A long time ago, I gave you a brief summary about how the novel The Ark Lords came about. It had to do with a shower moment when I realized that the original Erklirte (Ark Lords) and The Great Dying were related to one another.

 

Also, I needed the back story for my (what was to be then) YA novel called The Milk Run. Just like Rogue One, I was curious what had happened between the end of Rome’s Revolution and the beginning of The Ark Lords. I got what I needed. I learned what transpired but what I never shared with you is that the background leading up to The Milk Run came from Rome herself! I mean, I needed the information and who better to supply that information that one of the characters themselves?

 

“What?” You ask. “Are you crazy? How could a fictional character dictate the contents or background of a fictional novel? How could they tell you anything?” Well,this isn’t the first time that I have mentioned this. It is certainly a well-documented phenomenon, that of characters speaking directly to the author. It is so well documented that new authors express distress when their characters don’t speak to them.

 

I was long past being shocked at the experience and decided to exploit this effect for myself. I’ll fill you in on the conversation tomorrow.

Entry 4-181: June 25, 2016

 

The Ark Lords begins, part 2

 

Yesterday, I laid the groundwork for having a conversation with Rome herself. The conversation took place after Rome’s Revolution but before the start of The Ark Lords. It just came to me one night, when I was thinking about The Ark Lords, I decided the best way to fill in the gaps prior to the start of the novel was to speak to Rome. I had never directly asked her a question but I figured I’d give it a try.

 

I gave her a holler. Imagine my surprise when she answered me. She had been sleeping with Rei but she was willing to come out and meet with me, in a bathrobe no less. It was white, of course. After all, she is Vuduri. But I didn’t even know they had bathrobes. Regardless, she did ask me to keep our voices down so as to not awaken Rei. I was happy to oblige. It was her house.

 

I asked how things were going and she told me everything was wonderful. She seemed happy but I detected a hint of wistfulness to her. When I probed further, she told me that things were going so well that she felt a little empty. All of the adventures that had driven Rome’s Revolution were now in the rear view mirror and she was having trouble finding a new challenge that would rival those previous experiences. I guess she had turned into something of an adrenaline junkie and just didn’t know it.

 

As the author, I knew I could divulge some information to her but not everything because this interlude took place before the novel began. I did share with her that I had stumbled across some information (I didn’t tell her what) that might be germane to her situation and that’s when she told me she had been thinking about what to do with her life. She said based upon her training as a data archivist, accumulating information seemed like a worthwhile endeavor and matched to her skill set. I encouraged her and told her it was a great idea. I did let on to her that for my upcoming novel, I had to start it with a bang. It was actually her idea to start out the The Ark Lords with a fire. It would only be a grease fire but it was better than nothing.

 

We chatted a little bit more about inconsequential things and at that point, I excused myself. I had what I needed. I thanked her for her time and she went back to bed. I just had to jot down what she told me and the rest of the book pretty much wrote itself. I kind of like that. 79,000 words later, The Ark Lords came out. When that book was done, it was time to have another conversation with Rome but I’ll tell you about that some other time.

Entry 4-182: June 26, 2016

 

Setting the stage anew

 

In order to provide continuity between the ending of Rome’s Revolution and The Ark Lords, I decided the best place to start out would be in Rome and Rei’s house. After all, that was where the previous novel ended. I had no idea what the house looked like so I sketched it out using my rudimentary skills as an artist. My incredibly talented brother Bruce brought it to life in the never-released book trailer for Rome’s Evolution:

 

 

I needed it to be U-shaped so that Rome could look across the courtyard and see OMCOM coming up to the door. The fact that this doesn’t actually take place until some 50 years later wasn’t important. I didn’t want to paint myself into a corner. So I built our heroes a U-shaped house. The living room and dining room and kitchen were on one side. The master bedroom was toward the rear. Aason’s room was along the corridor and the far side of the house was the in-law suite where Rome’s parents would reside, at least temporarily.

 

When the novel The Ark Lords opens, Rome’s parents have moved into their own home and with so much extra space, Rome turned the farthest corner into a studio. I knew what kind of action, if you could call it that, took place in the dining room (the conference with Ursay where he announces their pardon) and where Aason had his fling with his girlfriend, Windy, when he was a teenager.

 

That left the kitchen. I laid it out fairly traditionally. I knew the sink had to be on one side with a window facing the outside so I put the stove top on the other side with a hood over the burners. I put a small table in the back, a dinette set, for less formal meals.

 

All I needed was for Rome to set herself on fire. Not really. But I did need a grease fire. I needed MINIMCOM to swoop down and take away the burning pan, using his cape as a shield. I knew that scene would come up later in the book so I wanted to establish the actions early.

 

OK, the stage is set. Let’s get on with this show!

Entry 4-183: June 27, 2016

 

The intro goals, part 1

 

In the beginning of The Ark Lords, it was necessary for me to establish some principles. The novel was a direct sequel to Rome’s Revolution and that meant that many of the concepts from the first book applied. But I needed to show you where and how things had changed. In this case, I thought I’d give you the introductory paragraph and then explain what I was trying to accomplish:

 

“Rome?” Rei Bierak called out in a panic as he soon as he entered the house. Greasy, grayish smoke was billowing out of the kitchen. Not waiting for a reply, Rei activated the “cell-phone” in his head and shouted, “Rome?” as he sprinted toward the kitchen.

“Help,” was his wife’s terrified mental reply. “It’s on fire.”

Rei burst into the kitchen and saw yellow flames flashing over the induction stovetop. Rome had a vase in her hands, full of water. She started throwing it toward the stove.

“NO!” Rei yelled.

He was too late. The water was already on its way. He leaped at Rome and knocked her and the vase to the floor as the stovetop exploded into flames. Rei scrambled to cover Rome’s body with his, protecting her face with his arms. Flaming globs of grease pelted his back and shoulders. After a few moments, Rei rolled off of Rome onto his back long enough to put out any embers smoldering on his clothes then rolled back toward her again. Rome’s eyes were wide open.

“Rei?” she croaked. Her voice had the timbre of a person frightened out of their wits.

“Are you all right?” he asked hoarsely. He ignored the minor conflagration around him.

“I think so,” she whispered tearfully.

 

So what was it that I wanted to establish? First, everybody has skills. But no one can do everything. So Rome, bless her heart, was trying to do something that was not part of her skill set. This was the first time she had ever cooked a hamburger. Next, I had her start a grease fire to show this was not one of her core competencies. The reality is, the beef was from a bison which is inherently lower in fat and less likely to catch on fire than a regular burger. Dramatic license.

 

I also wanted to show that Rei was one of us and he was armed with a set of practical skills, like knowing how to put out a fire. I also researched grease fires and learned the underlying principles as to why you NEVER throw water on a grease fire. The water sinks to the bottom and then becomes steam which expands and scatters the grease causing a greater surface area to burn. Boom. Conflagration.

 

Finally, I needed to refresh your memory that Rome and Rei (and MINIMCOM) shared a secret EM channel which Rei called the cell-phone in the head. I also wanted to reestablish MINIMCOM’s character, to show how he had grown but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Entry 4-184: June 28, 2016

 

The intro goals, part 2

 

Yesterday, I gave you a little introduction to the novel The Ark Lords, that allowed me to establish some fundamental principles. Rome and Rei’s modest kitchen had a sink, a dinette set and a stove with a hood. Poor Rome had set a grease fire and then made things worse by throwing water on it. Here’s how Rei reacted:

 

That was all he needed to hear. Rei rolled over, got to his feet and surveyed the situation. The aerogel walls of the kitchen were not flammable. The rest of the mini-inferno would have to be dealt with later.

Instinctively, Rei searched for the most mundane item in any kitchen: a fire extinguisher. Realizing this was a concept foreign to the Vuduri, his mind raced trying to come up with an alternative. “Gotta stop the pan first,” he muttered to himself, staring at the burning skillet on the stovetop.

“MINIMCOM?” he asked inside his head, “are you around?”

“Yes,” replied the starship that was once a computer. “What do you need?”

“Send your livetar down here, quick,” Rei said. “We have a fire.”

With the typical whoosh and pop of the starship’s transporter, a two-meter tall figure appeared, dressed all in black, complete with cape. The head was bullet-shaped with only slits where the eyes and mouth would usually be. It was called a livetar and was simply a walking hollow shell, made up of VIRUS-based constructor units. It was controlled by MINIMCOM but without any intelligence or autonomous spirit. The livetar looked about and spotted the burning pan. It reached over its shoulders, grabbed its cape with both hands then flipped the cape over the skillet, smothering it and gathering it to its body. With another whoosh and pop, the livetar and the flaming pan were gone.

“It is in my cargo hold,” MINIMCOM informed Rei mentally. “I will take care of it. Do you need any other assistance? Another livetar?”

Rei thought back, “I’ll let you know.”

 

I used this second part as a device to bring in MINIMCOM quickly and show you that he can save the day by throwing his cape over a dangerous item. This was because I knew he would repeat this later with the virus container. I needed to establish a pattern that his cargo hold was the staging area for items of questionable safety. I got a good bit of drama out of that later as well.

 

I also wanted to emphasize the fact that MINIMCOM had become a full-fledged autonomous citizen of Deucado. albeit one who happened to be a starship and former computer. Thus Rei could not command him to do anything. But he could ask. The dialog looks like Rei was giving him a command but only in same sense that you would call out to any family member in an emergency. Note that Rei was merely taking MINIMCOM up on his offer to assist.

 

Even in this little scene, we can see that MINIMCOM is always nearby, always helpful and heroic in his own right. This will become important later as the plot develops.

Entry 4-185: June 29, 2016

 

Informal English

 

For a long time now, my claim was that Rome mastered formal English very quickly. Mastering informal English, using colloquialisms and contractions, took much longer. However, master it she did. But whenever Rome became stressed out or didn’t know what to say, she would revert to a more formal form of English. It was my intent in the beginning of The Ark Lords, to illustrate that this trend continued and you could utilize Rome’s use of contractions to read into her mental state.

 

For example, consider this scene that occurred right after the grease fire at the beginning of the book:

 

Rome held her arm out, palm up. “I burned my hand,” she said with a brave face, even though tears were running down her cheeks.

“Let me look,” Rei said as he gently took her hand in his, examining her palm. He could see a red patch the exact size and shape of the pan’s handle but it didn’t look too bad. Rei guided her to the sink and ran cold water over the burn.

“Keep it under the cool water until it stops hurting,” Rei said as he opened the back door to let some of the smoke out of the room.

It took a little while but eventually Rome said, “It’s OK now.”

Rei came over, shut the water off and led Rome out of the kitchen while it was clearing of smoke. He took her through the dining room into the living area. Rei noted as they passed that the dining table was set so carefully. There was also a centerpiece with local flowers. It was clear Rome had put a lot of thought into the arrangement. In the living area, Rei “spoke” to MINIMCOM again.

“Everything is under control here.” Rei thought in his head. “Thanks, buddy.”

“No problem,” MINIMCOM replied. “Always glad to help.”

Rei settled Rome onto the sofa then knelt on the floor so he could look up into her dark, glowing eyes. The eyes of all the Vuduri had a Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope built into their optics and the reflective tapetum of their retina served as the back mirror. Their eyes always appeared to glow even in the dimmest light.

“What happened?” he asked, searching her face. “What were you doing?”

“I was trying to surprise you,” Rome said plaintively. “The bison herd has finally hit critical mass. They slaughtered their first bull and the meat was a gift from my mother. She brought me a package this afternoon. I was making you hamburgers.” Rome looked down at her lap and shook her head.

“That is so sweet,” Rei said. He got up and sat down next to her. “Listen,” he said, “throwing water on a grease fire is the worst thing you can do. It literally causes the grease to explode.”

“I saw,” Rome said. She put her hands up to her eyes and started sobbing again.

Rei gathered her in his arms and stroked her head. “It’s OK, sweetheart, we’re OK,” he said lovingly.

“No, it isn’t OK,” Rome said between sobs. “Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know how to do anything.”

 

The interesting thing here is that even though you’d expect Rome to be stressed out, she was not. She was able to use contractions quite normally. That told me that she had a firm grasp of the situation and while she was not happy with it, she acknowledged it and intended on dealing with it.

 

That’s how the whole thing started. More tomorrow.

Entry 4-186: June 30, 2016

 

Beautiful Rome

 

Look, I’m a man. I admit it. I had no desire to make my heroine, Rome, be unattractive. I wanted Rei to want her emotionally but also physically. So while she was short, I gave her a lot of characteristics that I find attractive in a woman. I needed to reinforce that in the beginning of The Ark Lords. Here you’ll see I packed a lot of description in solely for that purpose:

 

“No, it isn’t OK,” Rome said between sobs. “Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know how to do anything.”

“Of course you do,” Rei said in a comforting voice. Looking around and not seeing his son, Rei figured he could change the subject by asking, “Where’s Aason?”

“I sent him back with my mother,” Rome answered. “I wanted to be alone with you this evening. I wanted the meal to be special. But I ruined it.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rei said, “We’ll make hamburgers again.”

This made Rome cry out louder. Her sobs were heartfelt.

“What Romey?” Rei asked tenderly. “It’s all right.”

“It isn’t,” she said. “You don’t understand. It is not all right.”

Rei eased her back so he could look deeply into her beautiful eyes. By any standard, Vuduri or otherwise, Rome was stunning. She had let her brown hair, flecked with gold, grow back to shoulder length. Her body had once again regained its spectacular form since the birth of their son Aason. Her tanned, olive-tinted skin was flawless, her lips full and alluring.

“What is it?” Rei asked. “Burning a few hamburgers wouldn’t get you this upset. Is there something else?”

Rome took a deep breath and let out a sigh, wiping at her tears. She looked at Rei and said, “I am so ashamed. I don’t know how to tell you.” Her lips quivered as if she was going to say something else but she did not.

“Just tell me,” Rei said, prompting her. “Did something happen?”

“No,” Rome said, “that is the problem. It was why I wanted to talk to you. Alone.” She wriggled free of Rei’s arms and stood up, with her back to her husband.

“Please, sweetheart. Just tell me.”

 

You must remember that Rei and Rome shared a psychic connection. They also used the Espansor Bands to merge their minds directly. At least I think they still used them. I'm not 100% sure. Regardless, what was Rome's big secret? Something she was so ashamed of that she kept hidden from her husband even when he was in her mind?

 

Tomorrow.

Entry 4-187: July 1, 2016

 

I’m bored

 

There is a famous saying that goes something like this: idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Some people say it slightly differently, that idle hands are the devil’s playthings. Either way, it means that bored people get into trouble. And so it was at the beginning of The Ark Lords that Rome knew she was too idle and she was ashamed of it. It colored her every day. Here is how Rei found out this simple fact:

 

“Did something happen?” Rei asked her.

“No,” Rome said, “that is the problem. It was why I wanted to talk to you. Alone.” She wriggled free of Rei’s arms and stood up, with her back to her husband.

“Please, sweetheart. Just tell me.”

Rome turned back and looked at Rei, her face taut with anguish. “Rei, I’m bored. I’m just so bored.”

Rei snorted, trying to stifle a laugh. “That’s it? That’s your big secret?”

He stood up and walked over to her. Before they launched in 2067, Rei had been just a shade under six feet tall. But after spending a full year in one-third gravity then two more years in the lower gravity of Deucado, he had actually grown an inch. His broad swimmer’s shoulders and his musculature always made him seem to tower over any of the Vuduri, especially Rome who was barely five feet tall. He gently placed his hands on Rome’s shoulders.

Rome looked up at his handsome face with his boyish good looks and piercing blue eyes. His sandy brown hair, never properly combed, almost always amused her but was no source of comfort this particular evening.

“It is no secret,” she said. “I spend my days chasing around after our two-year old. I teach English to the mandasurte and occasionally, if I am very lucky, I find the rare Essessoni who wishes to learn the Vuduri language. Other than keeping our house clean and cooking our meals, I don’t have anything challenging to do.”

Rei reached down and took her non-burned hand. “Romey, we killed a Stareater, you singlehandedly brought an Overmind to its knees, stopped a war and we vaporized an insane computer with a volcano. Don’t you think that anything following that is bound to be anti-climactic?”

 

You see, I thought Rome had become something of an adrenaline junkie. Rei suspected it too. He thought maybe she was looking for the rush of danger, of intrigue.

 

Well, she wasn’t but that doesn’t mean it won’t find her. I’ll let her explain tomorrow.

Entry 4-188: July 2, 2016

 

The Library is born, part 1

 

Yesterday, we found out Rome’s deep, dark secret. She revealed this at the beginning of The Ark Lords. She was bored! It took Rei a moment or two to realize the seriousness of Rome’s predicament. Like all men, he could only listen to her feelings so much before he needed to do something. Luckily, the pair are very well matched and Rome treasured Rei’s ability to solve problems.

 

Rei reached down and took her non-burned hand. “Romey, we killed a Stareater, you singlehandedly brought an Overmind to its knees, stopped a war and we vaporized an insane computer with a volcano. Don’t you think that anything following that is bound to be anti-climactic?”

Rome frowned and shook her head. “You’re not listening to me. I’m not looking for excitement. With all the people flocking to this planet, there are so many issues. My mother is supervising the establishment of the bison herd on the threadgrass plains. My father is working with the Vuduri to build a huge fishing fleet. And your project…”

“Broadloom?” Rei offered.

“Yes, Broadloom, your project is going to feed thousands and thousands of people one day. All of you are involved in important tasks. I want to do something important as well beyond just being a veprocenda, a, a, home-maker.”

Rei nodded slowly, looking off to the side. Quite abruptly, he turned away and walked over to the window. He gazed across the bush-lined courtyard to the far side of the house. Their home had been one of the first built by the Essessoni after they arrived here on Deucado. The house was basically U-shaped with an in-law suite located around the far side. Before they left to move into their own home, Rome’s parents had built a solarium which Rome had since converted into a studio.

“What about your painting?” Rei asked. He pointed to the solarium. “I thought you loved that.”

Rome walked over to the window and looked out as well. “I do,” Rome said. “The studio has fantastic northern light. But that is just my hobby. I am looking for something constructive; some way to contribute to the greater good. What you would call a real job.”

“So what do you want to do?”

Rome took a deep breath and reached into her pocket. She pulled out a Vuduri data-cube which was a small black silicon block, roughly one inch on each side.

“What is that?” Rei asked.

 

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Entry 4-189: July 3, 2016

 

The Library is born, part 2

 

Yesterday, Rome held out her had to reveal the Vuduri equivalent of a USB stick at the beginning of The Ark Lords. To her, this represented her future, a career. She just had trouble verbalizing what she intended. Rei helped her fill in the gaps:

 

“What is that?” Rei asked.

“It’s a data-cube, of course,” Rome replied.

“I know that,” Rei said, chuckling. “I mean what’s on it?”

“While we were on our year-long trip coming here from Tabit, I interviewed you about the history of your people and what came before the Great Dying. I developed a timeline, a, a historical database.”

“Well, if it’s based upon what I told you, it’s pretty faulty.” Rei made a wry expression. “I didn’t pay much attention in history class. A lot of what I told you was based on movies I had seen.”

“I knew that,” Rome said. “You never pretended otherwise.”

“So what do you want to do with it?”

Rome furrowed her brow. “I had an idea but I am having trouble formulating the words, so they make sense.”

“Try,” Rei said.

“I was thinking about interviewing other Essessoni to fill in the countless blanks remaining. I thought that if I gathered enough information, I might be able to complete the history of your people and the world before that.” Rome stared down at the data-cube.

“Well,” he said, “if you are going to do that, I can save you a ton of time and make it way more accurate.”

Rome cocked her head. “How?”

“One of the people on my Ark, her name is Bonnie Mullen; she was in charge of the historical records. Her husband, Edgar, was the loadmaster for the Ark II. Each Ark carried a complete set of data slabs with a summary of everything my civilization knew about the sciences, history, the whole lot. I’ll ask her if you can borrow them.” Rei pointed down to the data-cube. “You can toss that one in the trash.”

Rome smiled. “I wouldn’t do that but your idea is wonderful.” Rome glanced off in the distance then turned back to Rei. “How much data is involved?” she asked.

Rei looked up at the ceiling and did some quick math in his head. “Given how much the slabs can store, you’re talking multiple peta-bytes.”

“Hmm,” Rome mused. “To store that much data, I would need the equivalent of an OMCOM.”

“So build an OMCOM,” Rei replied, casually. “I know you know how. You told me yourself.”

 

Sounds easy, huh? Just go build yourself an OMCOM. Well, it isn’t as easy as you think. What if somebody said to you, oh, you need a cell phone? Just go build an iPhone. Where would you even start? Let’s see if Rome can figure that out tomorrow.

Entry 4-190: July 4, 2016

 

The Library is born, part 3

 

Yesterday, Rome was finally able to verbalize her aspiration at the very beginning of The Ark Lords. She had decided to wanted to compile a history of Rei’s people, known as the Essessoni, by interviewing the crew of the Ark II. Rei gave her a shortcut; all she had to do was access the data slabs that the colonists had brought with them from Old Earth. To Rome, this seemed like an excellent idea. But how to store that much data?

 

“So build an OMCOM,” Rei replied, casually. “I know you know how. You told me yourself.”

“True. But I would need memron fabricators…” Rome looked out the window again. “I know!” she said. “MINIMCOM has memron fabricators. He would let me use them. I don’t know about the operating system, though. Whenever I have done this in the past, I have always had access to an initialization module. The computer in Vuduri City has no such basis.”

“I bet you MINIMCOM could help you with that, too,” Rei said.

“Yes,” Rome answered. “Where would I put it though?” She looked around the room. “To build an OMCOM requires a large amount of volume or surface area.” Rome spread her arms as wide as she could to emphasize the point.

“I’m sure we can find you a suitable location. There’s plenty of room on this planet.”

“If I create this, this data repository, I could make it accessible to all. I could make it available to others in English and Vuduri.”

Rei walked over to her and put one hand on her shoulder. He stooped down so he was eye-level with her. “You do realize you are talking about creating a library.”

“Yes!” Rome said enthusiastically. “A library! A library for the people of Deucado!”

“Does that include all the people?” Rei asked.

“Of course,” Rome replied. “What do you mean?”

“Well, for example, the Deucadons. They’re kind of my people. They’ve been here for five hundred years and we know nothing about their history.”

“You’re right!” Rome said emphatically. “If I’m going to build a true library of history, it should be about all the people who live here. Essessoni, Deucadons, Ibbrassati, even the mandasurte in general.”

 

And so it was that Rome decided to build a library on Deucado, the first of its kind. This library would house all the accumulated knowledge of mankind, both the past and the future. But to truly succeed, she would need the cooperation of the Vuduri. There had been a truce for over two years. It shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Entry 4-191: July 5, 2016

 

The Library is born, part 4

 

Yesterday, Rome began fleshing out her plan to build the very first library on the planet of Deucado in the first chapter of the novel, The Ark Lords. She had most of the mechanics worked out. There was only one major stumbling block:

 

“What about the Vuduri?” Rei asked. “They live here, too. My people know next to nothing about yours. You carry all that around in your head, right?”

Rome tapped her temple. “You would think so but I no longer have access. When I was in the Overmind, I suppose I could have memorized much of our people’s history but I did not feel the need to do so. Now that I am out, I only remember some. Not enough.”

“Who does that sound like?” Rei laughed.

Rome lowered her head and looked at Rei through the top of her eyes. “Do not equate the two. You had your chance. I never knew I needed to commit to memory such a volume of facts.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rei said. He laughed again. He pondered the question for a moment. “Ask the Overmind,” Rei said finally. “He’s your buddy.” As he spoke the words, Rei’s expression changed from happy to a little sour. He knew the Overmind was in love with his wife. Not that an entity with no real body could ever act upon it but still it bothered him a little.

Rome ignored his frown. She knew its origin and its irrelevance. “Even that would not help,” she continued, “they never thought to bring any resource materials here.”

“Where do they keep them?” Rei asked.

“Earth, of course,” Rome replied.

“Well, we’re both still banished from there,” Rei said. “That might be a problem.”

Rome snapped her fingers, a gesture that Rei had taught her. “I know what to do,” she said. “I will ask Pegus to send somebody to Earth. The Overmind there should have no problem with providing me historical records. There is no harm in that. Even a normal OMCOM initialization module would have a basic outline of our history. It is common knowledge.”

Rei hugged his wife. “This is great, Romey,” he said. “As mankind starts to spread out, we’re going to lose touch. This is probably our last chance to compile historical records for all humanity. I don’t know why nobody thought of it before.”

“A library of human history!” Rome said, beaming. “That is what I will build.”

“It sounds ambitious,” Rei noted. “But if anybody can do it, I know you can.”

 

And there it is, the basis of the plot of The Ark Lords. But how can something so simple and honest lead to such brutality and pain? Well, Rome was about to stumble across a secret. One that nobody ever wanted her or anybody to find out. Secrets lead to no good.

Entry 4-192: July 6, 2016

 

Mind-reading secrets

 

Rome and Rei share a very special bond. Their souls were intertwined when they first met and also they use the Espansor Bands which allows them to delve into each other’s mind. So how was it that Rome could ever keep a secret from Rei? We got a hint of this in Rome’s Revolution. Rome was able to hide the fact that she was pregnant from Rei. But she worked very hard at that. Building her library on the planet of Deucado, the central plot line in The Ark Lords shouldn’t have been as hard. But why did she even try?

 

Rome ticked off each of the groups on her fingers. “We have accounted for the Essessoni and the Vuduri. I can get what I need regarding the Ibbrassati and mandasurte from my father and Trabunel. The only group I’m not sure about is the Deucadons.”

“I’ll be seeing Melloy tomorrow,” Rei said. “I’ll ask him what they did to keep track when they lived in their underground city. I’ll find out for you.”

Rome nodded. She looked down at the ground. “I am trying to think if I have missed anything.”

“It sounds to me like you’ve got it all covered,” Rei said. “But even if you’ve left something out, you can always go back and add to it later. Who knows? Maybe other people might want to contribute as well.”

Rome stood up from the sofa, turning all the way around and sat down on Rei’s lap, putting her hands around his neck. She kissed him deeply.

“Thank you, mau emir, for helping me with this,” she said finally. “I had been dreading this conversation for some time…”

“I don’t know why,” Rei said. “I think it’s a great idea.” Rei looked off to the side as something was still nagging at him, then it came to him. He looked back to Rome. “Is that why you wouldn’t let me use the espansor bands with you? It’s been, like, forever.”

“Yes. I did not want to burden you with this. Initially, I thought it trivial and you work so hard.”

Rei reached up and stroked her cheek with his hand. “Romey, I don’t ever want you to keep secrets from me. I love you. I’m here for you. Always.”

“I know you are,” Rome said, slowly unwinding herself from his embrace and standing up. She made a little gesture with her finger around her head then reached out and took Rei’s hand. “Since Aason is spending the night with my parents, your idea is a good one. I have decided it is time to use the bands again.”

Rei’s face lit up. Rome pulled him to his feet and led him toward the bedroom.

 

Kind of nice, huh? Just you wait. The storm clouds are already gathering. Rome just doesn’t know it yet.

Entry 4-193: July 7, 2016

 

Will books survive?

 

I am not referring to the concept of books. Novels, dictionaries, art history, medical books, manuals, etc.; these will survive in perpetuity. I raise my question more to the casual reader regarding physical books, made of paper, bound, with a cover. With the advent of the Kindle, Nook, Kobo Reader, even tablets like the iPad and Nexus, people are spending more and more time reading books on electronic devices. I met one person who said they actually preferred to read books on their smartphone!

 

I, for one, can certainly understand someone who has to travel. Carrying even a couple of books adds unnecessary weight and bulk in an age where lightness is important. A Kindle can hold anywhere from 3500 to 6000 books. Imagine trying to pack a suitcase with one hundred books, let alone one thousand. It is impractical. Audiobooks have their place as well. On an airplane, you can close your eyes and have a soothing book read to you. While you are driving long distances, you can be listening to an exciting novel to help you pass the time. But what about when you are home? Or on a train going just a short distance? Or sitting at the beach? Would you rather have a Nook or a real book? It’s hard to have an old and cherished book that you go back to time and again when all it is, is a series of dots that are recycled for other books based upon a click. Imagine walking into someone’s library and all it consists of is a Kindle or two, lying on a table. They might have 13,000 books but it is not quite as impressive as a real library.

 

I can tell your that I, personally, prefer a real book. This somewhat hypocritical because I publish all my books as ebooks first plus The Milk Run as an audiobook. Only then do I sit down and typeset and beautify my novels to get them ready as paperbacks. After all, there are three times as many ebooks sold daily as real books and I’m not stupid.

 

I did actually try and read a book on my iPad one time. I hated it. The lighting is all wrong. The active element behind the screen produces eye fatigue much more quickly than the passive, reflected light of e-ink so that is why the Kindle remains the king of ebook readers. But there is nothing like the tactile feel of a book in your hands. Turning pages is a more visceral experience than swiping. Also, sometimes I need to go back and look at something so I put one finger on the page I am reading and flip back. I know you can do that with the Kindle and Nook, it is just more work and I am lazy. Margin notes are much easier to manage in a real book. And the sun is not your friend. I cannot even see my iPad screen at the beach. A real book is just fine, thank you.

 

So, in my opinion, real books will be around forever. The printed page may change from paper to polymer but I think eventually the market will settle and there will be room for both. I’m not getting rid of my real books any time soon!

 

Entry 4-194: July 8, 2016

 

The Library of the Future

 

Yesterday, we asked the question: will books survive? And by books I meant the kind made of paper and bound. Obviously books will survive in some sort of form until the end of time. But “real” books are questionable. I concluded that there is a place for real books and after the market settles, there will be room for both ebooks and bound books.

 

The next question arises: will libraries survive? In the age of the internet, Wikipedia and the like, is there any need for a building whose sole purpose is to house the increasingly more archaic “real” book? Will the libraries of the future just be a small room with a bunch of Kindles on a shelf? What would the point be of such a room?

 

The absurdity of that image makes it clear that libraries will survive in some form in the future. There may have to be some adjustments in their model. I know of one library that uses the lending feature of the Kindle to “loan” out ebooks the same as they do real books.

 

But picture in your mind a college student, desperately trying to finish a project, hogging an entire desk with books spread out everywhere. hastily jotting down notes from one book and then another, trying to cobble together a winning paper. No amount of Googling is going to match that experience. It is the very physical presence of real books that makes this possible.

 

A library is a great place to study, socialize (shhhh), do research, spend a rainy afternoon daydreaming and so on. No electronic device is going to replace that. So, in my opinion, while libraries of the future may evolve and adapt and absorb some elements of the electronic age, their basic concepts, that of housing real books and giving people a place to touch them, will survive long into the future. Even the 35th century!

 

Entry 4-195: July 9, 2016

 

The Family Tree

 

The whole Rome’s Revolution universe is populated by living, breathing characters, at least to me. And every one of them had to have a name, a mother, a father and if things go well, children. When I started out with the original long-form version of the novel entitled VIRUS 5, I already had my main characters Rome and Rei. I don’t know where I came up with the name Rome. I guess I just liked the sound of it. The name Rei was taken after my father but I eventually had to expand it to Reinard so that people knew it would be pronounced Ray not rye.

 

When I finally got around to exploring Rei’s parents in the novel Rome’s Evolution, that was easy. I named Rei’s father Edward after my grandfather. Rei’s mother’s name was easy, too. I named her Ruth after my mother. Rome’s parents proved to be a bit more problematic because I didn’t really speak Vuduri. All of the mind-connected 24-chromosome people of the future were named after stars or constellations but I wanted Rome’s mother to be something special, something just a little different. So I named Rome’s mother Binoda and I named Rome’s father Fridone and that seemed good enough.

 

But now it gets hard. Rome and Rei had two children. I named the boy Aason after my son Aaron and I named their little girl Lupe after my daughter Paula’s Spanish name. But then Aason went along and met a girl so I named her Aroline after Aaron’s real-life wife Caroline. But they didn’t stop there. They had two children. Originally, I only planned on them having one child named Rory (I don’t know where I got that name) but then my grandson Isaac came along so I gave Rory an older brother named Zac.

 

I was still in the clear but this past weekend, I finished the first draft of the short story entitled The Immortals and I had to come up with names for Zac’s wife (Aimee) and his two little boys. I ended up with Bruce (my younger brother’s real name) and Arnie, a mangled version of my older brother’s name, Ronnie. But then I had to contend with the other side of the family, the cybernetic side. We started with MINIMCOM who had a child (or clone or more correctly a bud) named MINIMCOM, Jr. who came to be known as Junior. Eventually Lupe got her own starship and I named her (yes, a female starship) Fury which is a cool name and also the name of my daughter’s dog. But then Junior went and had a child/clone and he was named MINIMCOM III so I called him Trey.

 

The story about Rome and Rei’s immortality ended with the whole family gathered in a lecture hall. It got so crowded that I actually had to come up with a seating chart to figure where everybody went. Rome, Rei, MINIMCOM, Aason, Aroline, Junior, Lupe, Fury, Zac, Aimee, Rory, Trey, Bruce and Arnie; 14 people and/or livetars in all.

 

The Bierak family tree is growing rapidly, both past and future. Frankly, I’m running out of names!

Entry 4-196: July 10, 2016

 

Jobs

 

In the 35th century world of Rome’s Revolution, the 24-chromosome mind-connected people known as the Vuduri had invented a method of drawing energy out of neutral space. Basically, they had unlimited, free energy that caused no pollution or greenhouse gases. As such, everything could be automated and people didn’t have to work. The Vuduri did not have an economic system based upon money. You may recall the casino built on top of The Hand introduced in Rome’s Evolution and they did have money, silver dollar sized coins called Deucats but it only had value in the casino and the marketplace beneath. But by and large, the people of Deucado did not have to work for a living. In an economy with infinite free energy, you could have whatever you wanted just for the asking.

 

But it is my contention that people want to work. I think they want to do something creatively satisfying and contribute to the greater good. After all, that was the whole motivation behind the plot of The Ark Lords, namely Rome’s desire to do something constructive.

 

So in the 35th century, how do people pick their jobs? In Rei’s case, he decided to help in planning irrigation and nutrient distribution to create a vast network of farmlands south of Lake Eprehem. Rome’s mother had been formally trained in animal husbandry and she enjoyed it so she took to helping the people of Deucado develop their bison stock, brought from Earth. Rome’s father, Fridone, was an oceanographic scientist so he decided to utilize his skills in helping the Vuduri design a planet-wide, sustainable fishing program to feed people without hurting the population of swishies that swam the ocean deep. Rome was formally trained in data archiving and she was fluent in English and Vuduri so her career as a librarian began in the very first chapter of The Ark Lords. She also became a teacher and in later years an artist.

 

Wouldn’t be neat to live in a world where you didn’t have to work? If you could do what you wanted because you wanted to? I think it would be neat. It wouldn’t be utopia where people just sit around and think deep thoughts. I think it would be infinitely more satisfying. Meanwhile, I have to bring this article to a close because I have to go to bed and get up in the morning and go to work because I have to! The electric bill and mortgage and health insurance don’t get paid without that nasty stuff called money.

Entry 4-197: July 11, 2016

 

Star City 1

 

I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see the covers of my blog compilations called Tales of the Vuduri but if you did, you would see the 35th century capital of Earth called I-cimaci as it grew over the years. My brother Bruce did an amazing job taking my vision of standard Vuduri architecture and rendering it into a lifelike form. This is what it looks like today:

 

 

I-cimaci was built very near the site where Lisbon once resided but that is besides the point. Every Vuduri city is built the same way. There are rings upon rings and four major roadways going east-west and north-south and four minor roadways going diagonal. They always build their spaceport to the southeast.

 

However, their basic designs extend beyond just their cities. They even built their starbase on the moon Dara using the same circular concept. In the center of every city, they always built one really tall tower to hold whatever functions need altitude. They always built exactly one. Well, except on Helome where they built two but the Vuduri on Helome always were a little different. They had a bit of hippie culture in them.

 

Anyway, as the Vuduri on Deucado built up their main city, it was always Rome’s assumption that they would build it to look like a smaller version of I-cimaci. Turns out she was wrong. I’ll show you how it evolved tomorrow.

Entry 4-198: July 12, 2016

 

Star City 2

 

Yesterday, I set your expectations as to how Rome thought they would expand the center of Vuduri culture on Deucado. She assumed they would build it as a series of rings with a large tower in the center. The Vuduri, in their infinite creativity, always called it just The Tower. As it turns out, Rome got the tower part right but the rest of the city was something else.

 

Here is what she saw:

 

Two days later, Rome found herself looking at her father, Fridone, who was piloting the little airship given to him by the Vuduri. It was basically an elongated pod with oversized EG lifters. He was staring down at the onboard display, studying it intently. Rome leaned forward to peer through the windshield. She pointed at a tiny object off on the horizon.

“Is that The Tower?” she asked.

Fridone looked where she was pointing. “Yes,” he said. “It is only about half the size of the one at I-cimaci, back on Earth.”

Rome turned to her father and said, “So we are nearly there? Thank you again for taking me.”

“It is no problem,” her father replied, adjusting a control, “You know I would do anything for you but I was returning here anyway. We are in the last stages of the sieve test and I have to check the final collation of the results. Besides, it gave us a chance to catch up, you and me.”

He eased the controls forward and the nose of the ship dipped down. As they started descending, Rome exclaimed, “No! That is not right.” Her eyes were wide in amazement.

Fridone looked at her, confused. “What is not right?’

“That,” Rome said, pointing at the city that was coming into view. Unlike the usual Vuduri architecture, this city was not made up of a series of concentric rings. Instead, it was two overlapping triangles, more like the Star of David than a bull’s-eye. “They have built their city all wrong.”

Fridone laughed. “They built it the way they wanted to build it,” he said. “I do not think you realize what a profound effect you had on their culture. These Vuduri want to do everything different from before.”

 

So you can see why the series is called Rome’s Revolution. Rome’s way of thinking had a deep and lasting effect on every aspect of Vuduri culture.

 

Way to go, Rome!

Entry 4-199: July 13, 2016

 

Daddy Day Care

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome’s first reaction when she saw the new city being built by the Vuduri. It was fashioned as two intersecting triangles, almost like a Star of David rather than the series of concentric circles of a normal Vuduri city. Rome was astonished by the radical change and even more astonished to find out that she was the cause of it all.

 

When I am writing these stories, I try and make them as realistic as possible given that they take place in the 35th century. So I couldn’t just pretend that Rome could take off and leave her two-year-old son at home by himself. No mother would do that in any century. So rather than dislodge you, the reader, from within the fictive dream, I had Rome’s father, Fridone, address that question directly:

 

“Hmm,” Rome murmured, her shoulders relaxing.

“Had you come to visit before this, you would have known this was their approach,” her father said in a light-hearted tone. He tilted the controls to the right and the ship banked right, heading toward the lower tip of one of the two triangles.

“I have been so busy with Aason and trying to take care of our home. Rei has been working so hard on his project. I just have not found the time.”

“Aason was such a good boy for us the other night,” Fridone said in an off-handed way. He looked down at the viewscreen, spotting a blip on a lower horizontal plane. He pulled back on the controls. The nose of the Vuduri airship tipped up and they gained a bit more altitude. Fridone leveled off to fly well over the other airship passing beneath them. “Speaking of Aason, where is he today?”

“Rei agreed to stay home with him,” Rome said leaning forward again. “We both felt I could accomplish my goals more quickly without him.”

“Yes, your goals,” Fridone said. “You never told me where you want to go, only to Vuduri City.” He turned to her. “So where do you want to go.”

“I need to speak to Pegus,” Rome replied. “I was going to go to the Vuduri compound.”

“Oh, he is not there anymore,” Fridone replied, resuming his descent. “They abandoned that last year and moved to the Administrative Sector in the new city. Did you not know that?”

“No,” Rome answered. “I tried to contact Pegus but I was unable to. I just assumed he would be where I last saw him. I guess I assumed wrong.”

 

Wow. Rome really has been out of the loop. However, the library project was designed to not only get her back into the loop but be at its center so it was time to meet that need head on.

Entry 4-200: July 14, 2016

 

A shadow of himself, part 1

 

The Overmind is the collective consciousness of the 24-chromosome mind-connected Vuduri. When we first met the Overmind of Deucado in Rome’s Revolution, it was the most powerful entity on the planet and that world’s undisputed ruler. Rome took on the Overmind in a battle of wits and came out victorious. She convinced the Overmind that it had to be a steward, a servant of the people, not its lord and master. The Overmind acquiesced. The bodiless entity not only agreed to relinquish control, it agreed to cooperate and let the individual Vuduri disconnect whenever they wanted. It knew it would be weakened but by how much? We find out in the opening of The Ark Lords:

 

“Let me check with the Overmind,” Rome said. “He will know where Pegus is.”

“Of course,” Fridone said, turning his focus toward landing the ship. The airfield was past the southern tip of the bottom triangle. Unlike the design of their new city, the airfield was laid out like every other Vuduri spaceport back on Earth. There was a huge central paved area. It was surrounded on two sides by several low-lying buildings and ringed by numerous spaceships and aircraft precisely aligned in a neat pattern around the outskirts.

Rome leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes. “Hello,” Rome thought to the Overmind.

“Hello Rome,” it replied, its voice far less powerful and vibrant than when they first met. It was just a shadow of its former self. “We have not spoken in a while.”

“Yes, I know,” Rome answered. “I have been very busy.”

“So can I assume this is not a social call? What do you need?”

Rome had always tried to envision a face behind the incorporeal being but she never settled on anything concrete. To this day, the Overmind remained a faceless voice.

“You are right. I am trying to locate Pegus. I have been unable to contact him. We are on our way to the Administrative Sector. Do you know if he is there?”

“I do not know exactly where he is,” replied the Overmind, “he is currently disconnected. The last thing he told me was that he was headed toward the Harbor.”

“Buckle in,” Rome’s father whispered, interrupting her conversation. Rome opened her eyes and looked out the front and saw that they were descending rapidly. Typically, they only strapped in during takeoff and landing. She reached behind and drew the X-harness forward and clicked the tabs in place. Rome leaned back and closed her eyes again.

 

We don’t quite get the sense of what remains of Overmind is at this point. You’ll see that tomorrow.

Entry 4-201: July 15, 2016

 

A shadow of himself, part 2

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome reach out to the Overmind of Deucado to enlist its aid in locating Pegus who was “off the grid.” In other words, he was currently disconnected. The Overmind itself had been weakened not only by Pegus’ actions but also because of similar actions by all the mind-connected Vuduri.

 

The Overmind is wistful and you can hear in its mental “voice” a bit of regret in relinquishing its power:

 

“The Harbor you say? Did he tell you why?” she asked the Overmind.

“The Vuduri are sending a transport to Earth fairly soon. He told me he wanted to do a final survey to prepare a manifest. What do you need him for, if I may ask?”

“I am trying to accumulate all of the recorded history of the Vuduri. I thought Pegus could arrange to have someone acquire these records the next time they went to Earth.”

“That is a worthy goal. And your timing is impeccable, as well. I am sure he will cooperate.” The Overmind paused for a moment then added, “If you can find him, that is.”

Rome opened her eyes to watch their final approach. “Why is he disconnected?” she asked.

“I do not know. He has been doing it more and more, recently,” the Overmind replied wistfully.

“You sound sad,” Rome observed. “Why?”

“Because it is as I predicted two years ago. More and more of the Vuduri spend more and more of their time disconnected. I feel like I am fading away. Even you do not talk to me much anymore.”

“I am sorry,” Rome said. “I have just been so busy. I apologize.”

“It is all right,” the Overmind said, emitting what equated to a psychic sigh. “It is just that I do so enjoy our talks together. It is one of the bright spots of my existence.”

Rome shivered. They were headed into dangerous territory with this topic of conversation.

“Would it help if I promised to make a greater effort in the future?”

“That would be very nice.”

“All right,” Rome said, promptly disconnecting. The Overmind could be a bit overly sentimental some times, especially because it was in love with her.

 

Do you find it weird that a bodiless entity could be in love with Rome? It gave her the 35th century version of the willies but she is a good soul and if she promised to stay in touch, she would do it.

Entry 4-202: July 16, 2016

 

A larger world

 

When I first built the world of Deucado to house my main characters, I wasn’t particularly creative when it came to terrain, flora, fauna and the whole biosphere in general. I limited the number of plants and trees to just a handful and the same with animals.

 

I did this because I was worried about the action and adventure and I didn’t want to get bogged down with such details even though I knew no world would be so limited in its diversity. You will see that I actually went so far as to make up a scientific reason for this paucity of species. But once I finished up Rome’s Revolution, I knew I had to go back and address the issue to fill out the planet and the universe in general. So The Ark Lords was my first chance to “reset” the ecology of the planet and grow it a bit and make it more like a “real” planet. This little scene is both the justification and the expansion at the same time:

 

The flying cart made its way along a paved road, southwest, heading toward the huge Southern Harbor that opened up into the ocean, right at the equator. Rome observed the trees lining the road which looked like ordinary cane-trees at their trunks but had big, bushy top growth. The leaf-analogs were a mix of yellow plus a deeper shade of green than their inland cousins.

“The trees are different here,” she said, pointing upward at the overgrown tops.

Fridone ducked his head down to see where Rome was pointing. “Yes, Deucado is spectacularly unimaginative when it comes to genetic diversity. There are only variants of the cane-trees, the clinging bushes and the threadgrass at this latitude. Maybe an occasional flower. The trees you see there are one of the small experiments Nature is trying here.”

“Experiments?”

“What else would you call it? This world has a shocking, almost impossible paucity of variety of flora and fauna. In the seas, there are only variants of the animals we call swishies plus algae-analogs and seaweed. On land, the only animals we have ever seen are variants of the falling blankets. There are no predators to speak of.”

“I have always wondered about that,” Rome said, staring up at the trees. She looked to see if there was anything moving. There wasn’t.

Fridone spoke up. “Our working theory is that this planet has been hit so many times by meteors, asteroids and the like that the species left are the most resilient and the ones that recovered the fastest. There was never enough time to really evolve into new species before the next meteor hit again.”

“That makes sense,” Rome replied.

 

So, now I had the flexibility to add more trees, plants and animals if I wanted and simultaneously, a bullet-proof explanation if I never got around to it. Eventually you will see where this goes.

Entry 4-203: July 17, 2016

 

Urban Planning

 

If you were given complete freedom to design a city from the ground up, no restrictions on space, would you know how to do it? I certainly would not. However, there are certain basic principles that could be applied to all cities. After all, cities only exist because people want or need to be near each other.

 

First and foremost, people need a place to sleep. So there needs to be at least one residential area, if not several. Second, people need a place to work, assuming they do not work at home, so there needs to be a business district. Finally, people need to do things other than work or sleep so there needs to be areas for those “other things” whatever they entail. You need libraries, parks, restaurants, museums, nature trails, sports venues, entertainment venues and so on. So given these most general requirements, I came up with a general plan for Vuduri City on Deucado. I left most of the exact organization up to you, the reader, because like I said, I am not an urban planner. But common sense allows a little detail:

 

Fridone banked left and brought the craft to a stop, hovering over the landing area. Looking for an empty space to park the flyer, he drifted slowly toward a vacant section near the edge of the airfield. After spinning the craft around to face the open area, he lowered the ship until it gently touched down on the tarmac. He unbuckled and stood up. Rome followed suit.

“From here, we ride,” he said, leading the way to the hatch in the rear. They exited the craft and Fridone took a moment to get his bearings.

“The Overmind said Pegus was at the Harbor, not in the Administrative Sector,” Rome interjected.

“Excellent,” replied her father, turning to look southwest. “That was my original destination.”

Rome and Fridone crossed the paved area to where they kept the community flying cars. The cars themselves resembled white golf carts, albeit ones that floated on EG lifters. They picked a smaller one. After hopping aboard, Fridone pulled back on the control stick, they lifted off and headed south.

“You will get a chance to see where I work,” Fridone said cheerfully. “We are building the largest sustainable fishing fleet on any planet, Earth included.”

“I am proud of you, Beo,” Rome said. “And I am proud that you can work with the Vuduri without prejudice.”

Fridone nodded. “They are so different now, almost human.” He laughed. “I could not have done it without them.”

The flying cart made its way along a paved road, southwest, heading toward the huge Southern Harbor that opened up into the ocean, right at the equator. Rome observed the trees lining the road which looked like ordinary cane-trees at their trunks but had big, bushy top growth. The leaf-analogs were a mix of yellow plus a deeper shade of green than their inland cousins.

 

You can see from my little diatribe, I forgot that if the city butted up against a body of water, you’d need a marina or at least piers, something to allow entrance and egress from watercraft. I appreciate Fridone reminding me.

Entry 4-204: July 18, 2016

 

More beauty, part 1

 

As a member of the 24-chromosome mind-connected Vuduri, Rome was not allowed to see the world as an individual but rather from the standpoint of the collective consciousness. We saw, even early on, in Rome’s Revolution, that she had the capacity to understand beauty and appreciate the world around her. As such, you could say she had a “painter’s heart” meaning she could not only recognize physical beauty but render it in such a way as to communicate to others what she saw and felt. Consider this scene from Rome’s Revolution when Rome and Rei were inside of OMCOM’s core:

 

“Very well,” said OMCOM and the computer slid the door into the recess in the wall and the two of them entered. Once they were fully in the room, OMCOM closed the door again and illuminated the gleaming crystalline structures with the indigo-blue light. Rome squeezed Rei’s hand tighter as she looked around.

“It is beautiful,” Rome said. “I have never noticed this before.”

Rei blinked rapidly so that he couldn’t get caught up in the hypnotic glare of the lights. Rome did not seem to be having a problem with it. Suddenly, she whirled in place and grabbed Rei by the back of the head with her free hand and pulled him down to her. She kissed him long and hard.

“What’s that for?” Rei asked breathlessly after it was over.

“Rome just looked up at Rei, his face illuminated by the indigo light, his blue eyes twinkling as if they were made to be showcased here. She smiled at him and sighed.

“I have always known the word,” she said. “What you call beauty. What I am saying is that it has always been in my vocabulary, but it never had much meaning. The Overmind discouraged its consideration. I had no connection, no appreciation for it. And now you have brought the meaning of beauty into my life.” Her smile became even broader. “Before I met you, I could not see it. Now I can see it is in all things. I just needed to thank you.”

“But Rome, I didn’t do anything,” Rei said.

“Yes, you did,” she replied. “You did everything.”

 

You could say that her association with Rei opened her eyes to the wonder and beauty of real life, something quite foreign to a subservient, “good” Vuduri. Tomorrow, we’ll see how she observes Deucado with her “new” eyes.

Entry 4-205: July 19, 2016

 

More beauty, part 2

 

Yesterday, we saw the first stirrings within Rome’s heart regarding the concept known as beauty. It was something an ordinary Vuduri could not appreciate. This trend continued as Rome grew and developed. She started painting as was a way to show others the inherent beauty she observed in real life. Up until the novel The Ark Lords, Rome had lived a fairly cloistered life, isolated from the full glory and beauty of Deucado. Her desire to build a library and accumulate information regarding the background and history of the Essessoni, Deucadons, Ibbrassati and Vuduri gave her the opportunity to explore the wonders of her new planet:

 

“That makes sense,” Rome replied. She turned her attention forward and was shocked to see a panorama unfolding before her unlike any she had seen before on this planet. In front of them lay the mouth of the Great Southern Harbor. The day was bright and beautiful with only a few wispy clouds lining the horizon. Tau Ceti, the star, was more orange than Sol so the water looked deep violet. The mouth of the harbor was ringed by the bright yellow and green of the bushier cane-trees. Rome found it stunning in its beauty. The buildings set around the sides were clean, crisp standard Vuduri white aerogel construction. All in all, it looked like a painting. The rest of Deucado, at least the parts she had seen, were rather plain.

“This is beautiful, Beo!” Rome breathed.

“This is where I work,” answered Fridone proudly as he pulled the aircar into the parking area. Rome was so enthralled by the beauty of the vista that Fridone had to take her by the arm to get her out of the cart. He led her down to the docks.

“Wait here,” he said. He called and waved to an Essessoni dock worker dressed in coveralls that looked suspiciously like denim. Fridone went over to the man and chatted briefly. The worker pointed off in the distance, out across the water. Fridone patted him on the shoulder and returned to Rome.

“Pegus is at the central sounding rig,” Fridone said. “I will take you out there.” He led Rome down a stairway made of cane-tree wood and along a pier to a medium-sized boat tied there. The all-white boat was about 15 feet long and had an enclosed cabin. Fridone pointed up the gangplank and indicated Rome should go aboard.

 

It was this experience that made Rome commit to the equivalent to “stop and smell the visual roses.”

 

I, for one, am very proud of her for her commitment to growing and learning and appreciating all that nature has provided. Even though I created the character, Rome has never failed to impress and inspire me with her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth throughout the series. You go, Rome!

Entry 4-206: July 20, 2016

 

Slippery when wet, part 1 of 3

 

Nobody wants to think of their parents as having sex yet it is an unavoidable fact since you were born. Imagine though that not only were you the product of your parents mating but also that mating was a planned genetic exercise. I don’t know about you but I think I would be devastated. However, our plucky heroine Rome not only had the intestinal fortitude to learn about this but also process and come to accept it.

 

Before I lay out the entire plan to you, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse on how the conversation even came about. Remember, Rome was 27 years old at this point and still had no clue:

 

“Pegus is at the central sounding rig,” Fridone said. “I will take you out there.” He led Rome down a stairway made of cane-tree wood and along a pier to a medium-sized boat tied there. The all-white boat was about 15 feet long and had an enclosed cabin. Fridone pointed up the gangplank and indicated Rome should go aboard.

As Rome started up the ramp to board the watercraft, Fridone called out, “Make sure you hold on to the handrail tightly. It can be very slippery.”

Rome turned to him and said with a bit of disdain, “I know how to walk up a ramp.”

Fridone laughed. “That’s what your mother thought, the first time we met,” he said. “She did not do very well.”

Rome wrinkled her brow. “What do you mean?”

“Go aboard and I will explain. I need to untie the boat.”

Shrugging, Rome held onto the handrail tightly until she got to the top of the ramp then hopped down onto the deck of the boat. She watched as her father untied the mooring ropes, inspected the port side of the boat then came aboard himself. He drew the gangplank up and secured it in place along the edge of the siding.

Fridone started toward the cabin when Rome called out, “Wait!”

Fridone turned in place. “Wait what?”

Rome came up to him. “What were you saying about Mea?”

“Oh, that,” Fridone said, smiling. “It is rather funny now. But when your mother was sent to meet me, she was trying so hard to impress me that she slipped and fell on the gangplank, chipped a tooth and hit her head. It was not an auspicious grand entrance.”

“Why was she trying to impress you? She has told me that her job was to gather your findings regarding the migration patterns of the red Opah. She told me the Overmind wanted to start a farm.”

“That was the ostensible reason. The reason she tells everyone,” Fridone said. “Not the real reason.”

 

Sounds pretty mysterious, huh? Tomorrow Fridone will share the true reason to Rome and it is pretty earth shattering.

Entry 4-207: July 21, 2016

 

Slippery when wet, part 2 of 3

 

Yesterday, Rome was heading out to sea with her father and somehow the conversation came up about the subterfuge Rome’s mother Binoda used to meet and ultimately seduce her father, Fridone. As I mentioned yesterday, Rome was 27 years old and had never heard any of this. To you and me, we might be horrified but for Rome, this is fascinating stuff:

 

“That was the ostensible reason. The reason your mother tells everyone,” Fridone said. “Not the real reason.”

Fridone entered the cabin of the boat, pressed a stud and turned a dial. The EG plates mounted on the back of the craft made a slight stuttering noise and the boat inched forward.

“You are being mysterious,” Rome said, entering the cabin. “Please explain.”

Grabbing the wheel with one hand, Fridone pushed the throttle forward with the other and the boat moved out into the harbor.

“What I mean is that she had just spent six months exercising, molding her body into what the Overmind of Earth thought was the mandasurte ideal of feminine perfection. They even created a special jumpsuit for her designed to accentuate her curves. She was sent to Havei specifically to…” Fridone turned to look at his daughter. “Rome, you are a big girl. I can tell you. She was sent to seduce me.”

“What?!” Rome exclaimed. “Why?”

“Your mother did not know. The Overmind never told her.”

Rome shook her head. “You are saying the Overmind instructed Mea to fly to Havei and seduce the mandasurte scientist Fridone and, and mate with him?”

Fridone nodded.

“And she never asked why?”

“Your mother was a good, obedient Vuduri back then,” Fridone said, pushing the throttle forward which caused the craft to pick up speed. “It never occurred to her to ask why.”

“That makes no sense,” Rome said, turning to look out one of the cabin windows as they entered the deeper water. If anything, the color changed to an even deeper, more beautiful shade of indigo. Rome gasped at the stunning beauty in front of her. Reluctantly, Rome tore her eyes away from the water to look at her father. “So I am a direct result of orders from the Overmind to mate with Mea?”

“One could look at it that way,” said Fridone. “But the reality is quite different. Your mother knows.”

“Why did no one ever tell me this? How is it that you and Mea still ended up cesa?”

“I do not think that is what the Overmind intended. I think it wanted her just to use me then be gone.”

 

So the Overmind just wanted Fridone for his genetic contribution? Sounds pretty clinical to me. However, the Overmind never really understood human nature so even a powerful entity, virtually the ruler of Earth, could not have predicted what happened next.

Entry 4-208: July 22, 2016

 

Slippery when wet, part 3 of 3

 

Yesterday, Rome was exposed to the fact that the meeting (and mating) of her parents was orchestrated by the Overmind of Earth. To you and I, we would have found this devastating. But Rome broke through her own agitation and was actually curious about her life and early years since they did not match her father’s original explanation. Fridone took the time to elucidate:

 

“But the Overmind encouraging interbreeding mandasurte with Vuduri, what…” Rome shook her head. “I do not understand. How did it come about?”

“The Overmind gave Binoda the espansor bands. The ones you used with Rei, yes?”

Rome nodded.

“Well…I was curious. Here was this beautiful woman, sent specifically for me, she was injured and disheveled. I was kind to her, made her comfortable. She revealed to me what she said was her true mission. However, you know the Vuduri. They are always hiding something. Frankly, I did not believe her. She offered to use the bands with me which I accepted. I thought I was so clever. I thought I would use the bands to find out her true motives. But as it turned out, the bands malfunctioned, or maybe they did not. But what happened to you and Rei, it happened to me and your mother. We are Asborodi Cimponeti. After that experience, we were truly in love. That was the end of her being a good, obedient Vuduri. Not too long after that, you came along.”

The boat hit some chop. After nearly falling, Rome looked around the cabin and found a padded bench along one side. She went over to it and sat down.

“But even so, was she not still following orders? You said the Overmind commanded her to produce me?”

Fridone set the auto-pilot and came over to her. He lifted her chin up and looked into her eyes. “No, that is not why. It was inevitable. We had you because we wanted to. And we could not love you more.”

Rome closed her eyes. Her mind was churning. The parallels between her and Rei and her parents were too close. Was there an order to the universe, a plan that was beyond the Overmind? Or was the Overmind behind it all? She thought about how much she loved Rei, Aason and her parents. She relaxed and smiled then opened her eyes. “Thank you for telling me, Beo,” she said.

“You are not upset?”

“No, if anything, I am even happier. There is a way to the world, to the whole universe. We are just a part. And I love my part. I love you and Mea so what does it matter?”

Fridone nodded. He looked up.

“Come,” he said. “The sounding rig is ahead. I get to show you where I work.”

 

Rome never fails to amaze me. Even when I intend on having her react one way, she somehow insists on reacting, well, how Rome reacts. It’s one of the neat things about writing these books. The characters drive much of the plot, the action and the interactions. Like I always say, these stories are true. They just haven’t happened yet!

Entry 4-209: July 23, 2016

 

Mental Health

 

One of the founding principles in Rome’s Revolution was that Rome brought a new way of thinking to the 24-chromosome mind-connected Vuduri. The assumption was that any extreme is unhealthy and that by bringing balance to the Vuduri way of life, Rome helped foster a healthier atmosphere from an emotional perspective. Never was this made more clear when, at the beginning of The Ark Lords, Rome and Fridone finally tracked down Pegus, the leader of the Vuduri on Deucado. Rome noticed a striking difference in his demeanor and what do you think was the reason?

 

The sounding rig resembled a cross between a multi-level drilling platform and airport control tower. There was a small landing pad attached to the second level. The lower levels were open but the top level was fully glass-enclosed. After tying off the boat and climbing a ladder to the first level of the rig, Fridone led Rome around to the far side that opened up onto the Eastern Ocean. A tremendous floating platform lay in front of them about a half mile out. Arranged in even rows, there were fifty or more ships, every other one was tied together with a yellow material. The exact nature of the yellow mesh was hard to make out from their vantage point even with Rome’s advanced optics.

“That is the beginning of the planetary fishing fleet,” Fridone said, pointing out across the water. “Although I suppose we should refer to it as a swishing fleet since we only catch swishies. They use EG pods to drag those yellow sieve nets along. We are gauging the proper size holes so that we only capture males and females past reproductive age. Snagging them specifically will leave more food for the breeding pairs and actually grow more swishies. When we are done, it will be the largest sustainable fishing fleet ever built. It will feed millions some day. These tests will give us the final specs. I suspect that is why Pegus is here. To verify our results.”

He pointed to a ladder leading to the upper decks. “Let us go see him.”

He and Rome climbed up several levels to the enclosed control deck. There, standing at the far end, was Pegus, peering through binoculars, a peculiar action for a Vuduri. He heard them arrive and turned to see who it was.

“Rome!” he said. He set down the binoculars and came over to hug her. “It has been so long!”

Rome smiled and hugged him back. “You look healthy,” she said. “The sea air must be good for you.”

“And being disconnected,” he said, winking at her.

 

The very fact that they hugged was important but even more so, Pegus, representing all the Vuduri, understood the sense of vitality that Rome’s Revolution had brought to the planet.

Entry 4-210: July 24, 2016

 

How to pick a place, part 1

 

Once Rome had come up with the idea of building a library, she moved on to concentrate on the mechanics of acquiring the knowledge she needed to make it a worthwhile endeavor. I don’t think she gave any thought as to where she was going to build it. In this little snippet, you can see that where to build her library was a normal and natural thought to others. But Rome was anything but normal:

 

“The Overmind mentioned that,” Rome replied. “He said that you were spending more and more time disconnected. Any particular reason?”

Pegus shrugged. “It did not take long for us to discover that the Overmind had all the power because we allowed it to. Since we started acting on our own, the Overmind has become a bit needy, cloying almost, trying to chat with people. I, for one, find it increasingly annoying. Sometimes I just need to be away from that.”

“Oh,” Rome tried to suppress a little snort. “I must admit, I am guilty of the same thing.”

Pegus smiled. “So what brings you all the way out here? You wanted to see where your father works?”

Rome glanced over at Fridone then back to Pegus. “I am embarrassed to say but the answer is no. I should have been out here sooner but my schedule did not permit it. I actually came to see you.”

“Me?” Pegus smiled even more broadly. “I am honored but I assume it was not just because you missed me.”

Rome smiled at his comment. She took a deep breath. “I have decided to build a library. I want to compile all of the historical records of the Vuduri, the Essessoni, the mandasurte, the Deucadons and even the Ibbrassati. The OMCOM equivalent here has no historical records to speak of. Even those that normally come with the initialization module.”

“It was not built to be general purpose,” Pegus said. “It does not even have a personality module. It was designed specifically to help us run a prison world.”

Pegus looked over at Fridone who showed him no hard feelings with a simple wave of the hand.

“Beo and the Overmind tell me that you are sending a transport back to Earth soon.”

“Yes…”

“So I wanted to know if you could have someone take the time to bring back data-cubes with the historical archives of the Vuduri. It is important that I have a complete record of the time since the Great Dying and no one here is really qualified to provide such information.”

 “Yes, we were all lax when it came to that,” Pegus said. “Of course I will do that for you. It is the least I can do after all you have done for us.”

“Thank you,” Rome said. “I am glad that I caught you before the ship left.”

 

Tomorrow, part 2 of this conversation wherein Rome’s father poses the fateful question to her.

Entry 4-211: July 25, 2016

 

How to pick a place, part 2

 

Yesterday, Rome and her father, Fridone, were visiting with Pegus, the leader of the 24-chromosome, mind-connected Vuduri on the planet Deucado in the very beginning of The Ark Lords . Fridone was helping the Vuduri design the planetary fishing fleet in such a way as to preserve the breeding pairs of swishies while capturing the older ones for food. The idea was to create a 100% sustainable, ongoing method of fishing and feeding the masses. Rome had come along to ask a favor of Pegus. Here is how it came about:

 

“I am just glad that you came at all. Consider it done. Do you mind if I speak to your father for a bit?”

“No, go ahead,” Rome said.

Pegus led Fridone over to a center drafting table and laid out some charts and sounding maps of the ocean beyond. They began an animated discussion of sieve size in centimeters and areal density. Rome turned away and walked to the large window in front of her, looking out past the fleet to the ocean beyond. Her mind wandered. Even though she had been to several planets, when she got to each new world, she spent very little time exploring. Perhaps when she was part of the Overmind, it would be excusable but this was no longer the case. She had always been just so focused on whatever it was she was doing, she never took the opportunity to look around. She made up her mind that from now on, not only would she do what she came to do, but she would make time to soak up the surroundings and to appreciate each new environment for what it was. Every place in the world, in the universe, was different and she wanted to take in as much as she could for as long as she could.

At last, Fridone and Pegus finished their discussions.

“Rome?” Pegus called out.

Rome turned to look at them.

“The ship leaves in three days. It takes about 28 days to get to Earth. The crew will spend some time gathering the materials we need and it will take another 28 days to return. Is that acceptable to you?”

“Of course,” Rome said, stepping forward. “I am not in a hurry. I will have plenty to do in the meantime.”

 “Where are you going to house this library?” Pegus asked. “Are you going to put it in Vuduri City?”

“I do not know yet,” Rome answered. “I want to make it accessible to all.”

“How will you decide?” Fridone asked. “There is a whole planet to choose from.”

“I do not know,” Rome said. “But I will know it when I see it.”

 

There are a few important things to note here. First, Rome trusted her intuition as to when she would discover the right place for the library. The second thing is the time table for the Vuduri transport. That figures heavily into the plot of The Ark Lords down the line but we’ll cover that at a later date.

Entry 4-212: July 26, 2016

 

The Post Post-apocalyse

 

As I do every day, I was thinking of ways to market myself. I am ignoring the question of whether my books are marketable. I am also ignoring the question as to whether I am a good writer. I have to assume the answer to both questions is yes otherwise what is the point?

 

One of my wife’s friends suggested that instead of trying to find an agent, perhaps I would be better off with a publicist. An agent is great for getting you a book deal but a publicist is the person who gets your books into the public’s eye. So I asked myself, what would I need to say to the publicist to give them a quick insight into what my books are all about.

 

Since both Rome’s Revolution and The Ark Lords take place in the 35th century, I guess you could say they were futuristic. But they really aren’t in the truest sense. Futuristic and Jetsons always kind of go hand in hand. I always figured the Jetsons were futuristic steampunk, meaning George and the gang live their lives exactly the same way we do, just using different technology. My books aren’t like that. And it would be unfair to call my world of the Vuduri post-apocalyptic because that implies a destroyed world where people are struggling to survive after the infrastructure of society has fallen apart. Rome and Rei certainly don’t live in that world.

 

I finally figured out that my future world is post post-apocalypse. Mankind and all of society has been nearly destroyed and arisen again. But in my future world, they did not just recreate our society. Their technology is a little ahead of ours in some ways and their society is a little behind ours in other ways. But the bottom line is they are different. The Earth of the 35th century is a do-over. Given all the resources of the planet and the time to recover, they do everything different from us.

 

This makes for a great culture clash and makes Rome and Rei’s love story all the more poignant. They come together despite their different backgrounds because the human spirit is the one constant that transcends all the ages.

 

So there you have it. If and when the time comes to approach the publicist, this is the orientation I will use: the world of the Vuduri is the Post Post-apocalypse.

 

Entry 4-213: July 27, 2016

 

The Fat Spaceship, part 1

 

When I first introduced MINIMCOM, he was just an advanced version of an autopilot computer. He was bolted into the cabin of the second Vuduri space tug and assigned the task of helping Rome and Rei tow the damaged Ark II to Tau Ceti. The journey was supposed to last nearly two years but between the three of them, the assembled group figured out how to get there in less than one year.

 

When they arrived at Tau Ceti, at the planet called Deucado by the Vuduri, they were attacked immediately by the Vuduri stationed there and while Rome and Rei escaped, MINIMCOM was crushed beneath the 7000 metric tonne Ark II. Little did Rome and Rei know but the VIRUS units that MINIMCOM was carrying escaped, partially consumed the space tug before MINIMCOM could seize control. Utilizing their transmuting power, MINIMCOM emerged as a sleek white starship, fully integrated within the airframe of the space tug and approximately the same size.

 

Eventually, MINIMCOM found the need to expand his bulk and over time, he assumed the size and shape of a full-blown transport. But eventually, he grew almost too large. Here is the scene where Rome and Aason acknowledge how much he had increased his bulk:

 

“Mommy, he’s getting so big!” Aason exclaimed as they reached the top of MINIMCOM’s cargo ramp.

“Yes, he is,” Rome replied, looking about in wonder. She held Aason’s hand tightly as they walked down the corridor in what had previously been the cargo bay. Doorway after doorway marked the small staterooms that MINIMCOM had fashioned to transport any displaced or kidnapped mandasurte who wanted to return to their families on Earth.

Going as fast as Aason’s two-year-old legs could walk, they eventually reached the archway entrance into the cockpit. While the cockpit was much larger than before, Rome could see its basic organization had been retained since MINIMCOM’s days as just a space tug. Rome buckled Aason into the co-pilot’s seat. Even though he was large for a two-year old, he still looked tiny in the seat made for adults.

Rome sat down in the pilot’s seat and buckled herself in. “Are you sure you are all right with this?” She felt a vibration which she assumed was MINIMCOM sealing his cargo ramp.

“Very much so,” answered MINIMCOM. His voice issued from the grille built into the front console. “No one has requested passage to Earth in 4 months, 5 days and 7 hours. I will not bore you with the minutes and seconds. The mandasurte of Earth only wish to come here. It appears as if my days as an interstellar taxi service have come to an end.”

 

Tomorrow, the now semi-gigantic MINIMCOM soars into the air.

Entry 4-214: July 28, 2016

 

The Fat Spaceship, part 2

 

Yesterday, Rome and Aason had entered the now-gigantic MINIMCOM in order to look for a spot to place her library. MINIMCOM was well over twice the size of his original form. It served his needs when he was acting as an interstellar taxi service but now it was just in his way. We’ll have to figure out something to do with all that extra ship:

 

Noiselessly, MINIMCOM engaged his powerful EG lifters and he leaped into the sky. When MINIMCOM was first fused into the airframe of one of the Vuduri shuttles, his outer shape was small and sleek, not even 50 meters long from nose to tail. Over the last two years, he had grown into a full-fledged transport, nearly half the size of the starship Algol.

“Where are we going, Mommy?” Aason asked, straining to see over the console.

“We are going to look for a site for my library,” Rome answered, pointing up. She tapped an icon on the left display screen to activate the external cameras. She saw the ground dropping away quickly. Satisfied, she turned her attention to the grille as the starship soared upwards.

“I was not sure this would be interesting enough for you,” Rome remarked.

“It is a very worthwhile project,” MINIMCOM replied as he leveled off about ten miles up. “You are to be commended. And, I am honored to be a part. Let us find you a perfect spot.”

MINIMCOM displayed his underside cameras onto the large center viewscreen built into the console. From this height, Rome could see the pock-marked face of Deucado in full relief. As her father observed, it was somewhat surprising how life could have developed at all on a planet that had been struck so many times by comets, meteors and the like. Now that MINIMCOM had deployed his livetars within the Kuiper Belt as a protection shield and the starprobes as a detection shield in the Oort Cloud, Deucado would no longer suffer from those type of events.

“Focus in on Lake Eprehem,” Rome said. MINIMCOM zoomed in on the large crater lake, placing it in the center of the viewscreen.

“There is Ibbra City,” Rome said, tapping the display. “Put a marker there.” MINIMCOM complied with the visual equivalent of a pushpin. “Pan north now,” she said. The image started sliding from top to bottom. “Stop,” she said. “Put a marker there, too, on New Ark City.”

MINIMCOM complied by placing a marker over the area where the Essessoni were making their homes. There was something out of place to the far west but Rome ignored it.

 

What was it that was out of place? It was Darwin Base but you won’t find that out for several hundred pages. And why did I make MINIMCOM so fat? You’ll see soon enough!

Entry 4-215: July 29, 2016

 

X marks the spot, part 1

 

Yesterday, the now too-large starship MINIMCOM took Rome and Aason up into the air in order to find the perfect spot to house Rome’s new library. Rome decided to approach its placement using both a pragmatic as well as egalitarian approach. Here is how she did it:

 

“Focus in on Lake Eprehem,” Rome said.

MINIMCOM zoomed in on the large crater lake, placing it in the center of the viewscreen.

“There is Ibbra City,” Rome said, tapping the display. “Put a marker there.”

MINIMCOM complied with the visual equivalent of a pushpin. “Pan north now,” she said. The image started sliding from top to bottom. “Stop,” she said. “Put a marker there, too, on New Ark City.”

MINIMCOM complied by placing a marker over the area where the Essessoni were making their homes. There was something out of place to the far west but Rome ignored it.

“Please zoom out. I want to find the Vuduri city.”

The image instantly shrank until the ragged shoreline of the two huge bays on Asquarti, the western continent, came into view. The northern bay led almost to the North Pole. The southern bay, the one she had visited the other day and home of the planetary fishing fleet stretched as far as the eye could see.

“There it is,” Rome said, tapping the screen. “Put a marker there as well.” MINIMCOM complied.

“Now show me where the Deucadons are building their settlement.”

MINIMCOM placed a flashing circle to the north and east of New Ark City. “It is more than a settlement. It is nearly the size of New Ark City. They are calling it Deucadia now. I suppose that means they liked the title you ascribed to their people.”

“Well, it is appropriate,” Rome said, smiling. She stared at the display. The three mandasurte cities formed an arc. The Vuduri city was well to the east.

Rome nodded. “That is excellent. Now connect the dots and let us find an area that is equidistant to the population centers.”

“I would put it closer to your home,” MINIMCOM replied. “You will be traveling there often.”

“I was just trying to think ahead,” Rome said.

“You will be doing all the work initially,” MINIMCOM countered. “You may as well place it at a location more convenient for you. The Vuduri can make the trip when they are interested.”

“You are right,” Rome said. She stared at the screen for a moment, considering MINIMCOM’s comment. “How about there?” she asked, placing her finger on the screen.

 

The location Rome spotted, highlighted in bold, is Darwin Base. It will figure into the novel later on. Tomorrow, MINIMCOM explains the sweet irony of the exact spot the Rome selected.

Entry 4-216: July 30, 2016

 

X marks the spot, part 2

 

Yesterday, MINIMCOM was hovering over a relatively unpopulated area of Deucado, trying to find the perfect spot for her library. She wanted to center equidistant from each population center but that turned out to be slightly impractical. So she scaled back a little. When she finally selected a location, MINIMCOM had a rather interesting observation:

 

“You are right,” Rome said. She stared at the screen for a moment, considering MINIMCOM’s comment. “How about there?” she asked, placing her finger on the screen.

“Interesting choice,” MINIMCOM remarked.

“Why?”

“That is squarely on the path the Essessoni took when they first arrived, on the day they decided to attack the Vuduri compound.”

“Oh,” Rome said. “Do you think that would cause any resentment?”

“On the contrary,” MINIMCOM answered. “It is the perfect place to put an edifice designed to celebrate the diversity of the races. That trail marks the beginning of harmony among all.”

Rome smiled and nodded. “OK,” she said, using Rei’s favorite expression. Then she added, “Take us there. Please.”

“As you wish,” MINIMCOM replied. He tilted his nose downward and headed toward the area Rome had identified. The starship leveled off about 100 feet above the ground and cruised over the landscape until they came to the location Rome indicated. MINIMCOM floated to a stop, extended his landing gear then settled gently onto the ground. As Rome and Aason exited the starship via the cargo ramp, MINIMCOM sent along his livetar to join them.

The day was beautiful, so warm, and so sunny. Tau Ceti stood in the cloudless sky, a little more orange than Sol but brilliant nonetheless. They were standing in a threadgrass field surrounded on all sides by cane-tree forest. Rising above the trees to the north was the plateau leading to the northern mountains. 20 miles to the west lay the eastern shore of Lake Eprehem. To the east, out of sight, was the alluvial plain that led to the great northern and southern bays.

Rome closed her eyes and tilted her face up, feeling the warmth of the sun. She inhaled the clean, crisp air of Deucado. Lifting her arms upward, she started twirling in place. “Yes, yes,” she said. “This feels right.”

 

So Rome has finally found the right spot for her library which will eventually become the focal point of the entire Deucadon culture. Good for her!

Entry 4-217: July 31, 2016

 

Hexagons and Saturn

 

Have you ever wondered why a snowflake always has six points? Have you ever wondered why a honeycomb is made up of hexagons? Have you seen the recent images of the top side of Saturn with the gigantic hexagon? Is that the work of an alien life form or some sort of cosmic artist? Not really. Let’s start over. Here are some images to help you visualize these concepts:

 

 

There is a reason and it is pretty simple. It has to do with the number of π. The circumference of every circle is 3.14159 times the diameter. We learned that in grade school. If you stack a series of circles around that first circle, you can fit exactly six circles of equal radius around the inner circle. Not five. Not seven. Exactly six. Well, not exactly six, it is really 6.28 circles. But since there is no such thing as 28/100ths of a circle, six will have to do.

 

So any grouping in nature that consists of circles or cylinders or tubes that are round will also form itself into what is known as hexagonal close packing. This means that six circles around an inner circle is the tightest you can get. This is not a law, it is just a mathematical fact. And it doesn’t just apply to circles, either. It also applies to spheres in a single layer. However, when you start adding in new layers, the mathematics becomes more complex. It turns out that the next layer up only also forms hexagons but the spheres themselves settle into the gaps created by the lower level. The next level up is stacked exactly the same as the layer two rows below. This goes on and on and on as much as needed.

 

Anyway, I hope this explains the “mysterious” hexagon on the North Pole of Saturn. It isn’t mysterious at all. It is just another variant of π as seen from above.

Entry 4-218: August 1, 2016

 

Greeks, Romans and Vuduri

 

One of the themes promulgated within The Ark Lords was that the Vuduri had next to no information about anything that happened before the Great Dying.

 

The fact is they didn’t want to know. They believed that the entire history of mankind led up to that terrible event and they did not want to repeat the errors of the past. So doesn’t that seem contradictory? Those that do not know the past are doomed to relive it?

 

To some degree this is true. However, the Vuduri used a few simple axioms to guarantee that their society was nothing like that of the Essessoni or any cultures before that. They simply refused to use fossil fuels. Their only rule was to not create greenhouse gasses and make sure the Earth never experiences global warming again.

 

How did this manifest itself? Everything they move uses magnetics or electro-gravity. All of their energy is derived from Casimir Pumps meaning they are non-polluting. They do not eat meat so there is no intense animal husbandry. The list goes on and on but that is the gist of it.

 

So when Rome proposed building her library, why wasn’t there more resistance from the Vuduri? After all, they had “erased” all evidence of the Essessoni from the face of the planet. But what about the Greeks and Romans? Dinosaurs, even?

 

The answer is because once they had accepted the 24th chromosome and became mind-connected, there was no longer any danger of society veering one way or another without the complete knowledge and approval of the Vuduri people by way of the Overmind. There was no crime. There was no war. Nothing to fear from the past, really.

 

So when Rome decided to build a history repository for all the races of mankind, it was actually an idea whose time had come. Too bad the Ark Lords had different ideas.

Entry 4-219: August 2, 2016

 

The PPT Cannons

 

The world of Rome’s Revolution is actually a fairly peaceful one. The 24-chromosome mind-connected Vuduri have divorced themselves from crime and war. It was only the introduction of outside elements that forced them to develop weapons in the first place.

 

Rome and Rei encountered such weapons when they first arrived at Deucado. In fact, Rome was fairly shocked that the Vuduri had any weapons at all. Rei, a man who hailed from our century, was not surprised at all. But after their disagreements had been settled, the world of Deucado returned to its peaceful state.

 

In fact, MINIMCOM, the autopilot computer that became a starship, never felt the need or desire to produce weapons. The fact that he would need them later on in the saga had no bearing. He could not predict the future. Only I could since I wrote the books. So I had to come up with a method for MINIMCOM to design and implement weapons without realizing it. The opportunity arose in The Ark Lords after Rome had found the perfect spot to place her library. She needed MINIMCOM to begin construction on the site. Here is how such an innocent act could create what I needed down the road:

 

Rome closed her eyes and tilted her face up, feeling the warmth of the sun. She inhaled the clean, crisp air of Deucado. Lifting her arms upward, she started twirling in place. “Yes, yes,” she said. “This feels right.”

She opened her eyes to see Aason rolling around in the threadgrass. She laughed then turned to the large black presence beside her. “Where do we begin?” she asked.

“I have been preparing the necessary equipment,” said the livetar. The ambulatory shell walked around to the front of the ship. Rome’s attention was drawn toward the upper half of the nose by a loud, grinding noise. Two thick cylinders, at least a foot in diameter, extruded from the front of the ship, below the cockpit. When they reached about 10 feet in length, the tips extended, bending forward and spreading out into a fan shape.

“What are those?” Rome asked.

“Those are multiple bi-directional PPT throwers,” the livetar replied.

“What are they for?”

“I will use them to clear and level the ground. I will also transport a paving material to give the roadways a strong foundation. For today only, I am not a starship. Today I am a roadgrader!” The livetar bent his mouth slit upwards into a small smile. “Hop aboard and we will begin.”

Rome laughed and followed the two-meter tall livetar around to the rear of the starship.

“Come, Aason,” Rome said within her head, using her PPT connection to her son. “We are going to start building.”

“Coming, Mommy” Aason replied and he ran over to them. Together, they climbed aboard the starship and headed directly toward the cockpit.

 

Tomorrow, I’ll show you the proper use of the PPT cannons although nobody thought to call them that when times were still innocent. As it turns out, many years later, although many, many different weapons were invented, there were none so deadly and so multi-purpose as the PPT cannons that MINIMCOM invented on the spot.

Entry 4-220: August 3, 2016

 

MINIMCOM: Roadgrader

 

Yesterday, I introduced you to MINIMCOM’s construction of what would later be called his PPT Cannons. But when he first built them, he did not have war in mind. He had construction. Rome had the layout of her campus in her mind, along with schematics as designed by her husband, Rei. She needed MINIMCOM to do what would have taken an army of bulldozers, front-loaders and dump trucks. Here is what MINIMCOM had to say about it:

 

“What are those?” Rome asked.

“Those are multiple bi-directional PPT throwers,” the livetar replied.

“What are they for?”

“I will use them to clear and level the ground. I will also transport a paving material to give the roadways a strong foundation. For today only, I am not a starship. Today I am a roadgrader!” The livetar bent his mouth slit upwards into a small smile. “Hop aboard and we will begin.”

Rome laughed and followed the two-meter tall livetar around to the rear of the starship.

“Come, Aason,” Rome said within her head, using her PPT connection to her son. “We are going to start building.”

“Coming, Mommy” Aason replied and he ran over to them. Together, they climbed aboard the starship and headed directly toward the cockpit.

The actual construction process was a marvel to Rome. It was unlike anything she had ever encountered. On his first pass, MINIMCOM used his PPT cannons to surgically slice down whatever trees were standing where the outer roadways were to go. North and south, east and west, a grid-like pattern appeared. Trunks lay everywhere. MINIMCOM then made a second pass and used his regular transporter to send the fallen trees, branches and trunks elsewhere. Following that, the starship soared upward, turned and swooped down, vaporizing the dirt and grass along each cleared swatch of ground. As he was doing this, he was simultaneously transporting a silicon mixture creating a ceramic surface that would be impervious to the elements. In his wake, MINIMCOM left behind a perfectly paved set of roads to nowhere.

After the outer roadway portion was done, MINIMCOM used a different technique. He floated over to a section of trees in the center then rotated the cylindrical PPT throwers so that they pointed straight down. Moving slowly and purposefully, he extracted tree after tree, roots and all, until all that remained was a barren, rectangular section of ground.

“Now we excavate,” MINIMCOM offered.

 

The reality is, I actually did have a design for the campus. How Bruce rendered it into 3D is sort of a miracle. More on that tomorrow.

Entry 4-221: August 4, 2016

 

Building the campus, part 1

 

Early on, as I was world-building Deucado for The Ark Lords, I knew that I had to have a general knowledge of what was to be the site of Rome’s library. Further, I knew that eventually this site would grow to become the campus of the University of Deucado. So I had to do a little planning so that I could write intelligently about locations and movement around that site.

 

I am a horrible artist and I couldn’t draw a tree to save my life. So I used the only tool I could think of the lay out the campus and that was Microsoft’s Excel. What? You ask. That doesn’t seem like much of a tool to me. And guess what? You’d be right. Here is my original Excel drawing. If you go to the web site and click on the image, it will take you to a slightly larger and slightly more legible version.

 

Here was my thinking: Rome needed to build her library. While it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, it was fairly remote and would eventually need a commissary, a dormitory and an auditorium. But for now, at the beginning of The Ark Lords, Rome merely need to acknowledge the eventual requirements so that MINIMCOM could excavate the pads. I also had Rome (actually it was Rei’s design) provide a private landing pad for MINIMCOM and maybe some other aircraft down the road.

 

Tomorrow, I will show you how my brother Bruce turned this dopey little Excel spreadsheet into a photo-realistic campus.

Entry 4-222: August 5, 2016

 

Building the campus, part 2

 

Yesterday, I showed you my original Excel spreadsheet laying out the campus of the University of Deucado. My drawing was flat and was designed just to give me enough information to construct a coherent description in the beginning of The Ark Lords. I turned the spreadsheet over to my brother Bruce and as far as I could tell, he used magic to convert my spreadsheet into a 3D drawing. If you go to the web site and click on the image, it will take you to a slightly larger version:

 

 

You can see that Bruce not only rendered my spreadsheet into 3D but also started providing some details which he would later use to build the photorealistic model used in the book trailer.

 

Bruce also added the entry way arch as well as indicating the various species of cane trees lining the inner streets. Some of them were regular cane-trees but others were the bushier kind found where there was more water.

 

You can also see that Bruce raised up Rome’s library and made it roughly two stories tall. During the ensuing weeks, after much discussion, we realized the library was not block-shaped but rather T-shaped and so the preliminary drawing above evolved.

 

Tomorrow, I’ll show you the 3D drawing, as built in Bruce’s model, shown from above. Hopefully you will still be able to see the relationship between my original spreadsheet and the virtual world that Bruce constructed.

Entry 4-223: August 6, 2016

 

Building the campus, part 3

 

Yesterday, I showed you how my brother Bruce took my original Excel spreadsheet and converted it into a 3D layout for what would eventually become the University of Deucado. Much of the action in The Ark Lords revolves around this particular piece of real estate.

 

Once Bruce had converted it into a 3D layout, he used it to guide his more sophisticated tools as the building and construction pads started taking shape. I rotated it around a little bit but you should still be able to see my original spreadsheet underlying the streets, pads and building. If you click on the image, you will see a slightly expanded version of the original:

 

Look at all the trees and detail he added. He built himself a model of the two different species and then started replicating them to give the tree-lined streets and forest behind the campus.

 

Tomorrow, I’ll pull the camera back and show you the full vista, rendered from a single frame of the book trailer.

Entry 4-224: August 7, 2016

 

Building the campus, part 4

 

Yesterday, I showed you how my brother Bruce took my original Excel spreadsheet and converted it into a 3D layout which is rather amazing. But more importantly, once he had the campus of the University of Deucado inside his 3D modeling program, he was able to use it create the entire book trailer for The Ark Lords.

 

Here is just one frame from the trailer. If you go to the web site and click on the image, it will take you to the full-blown YouTube book trailer for The Ark Lords.

 

The book trailer for The Ark Lords is pretty incredible. Bruce created all the animation and scored it himself using Apple’s Garage Band application. I don’t know what happened to the one person’s comment but it was something to the effect that this wasn’t just a book trailer, it was more like a mini-movie. Nice to hear but the reality is book trailers serve no purpose. They are a lot of work and simply don’t entice people to buy the book.

 

Bruce and I actually started a book trailer for Rome’s Evolution but once we realized it had no value, we stopped. If you want to see the preliminary trailer (and it is pretty cool), you can go to michaelbrachman.com and find the link and still view it.

 

So all this is wonderful but now it is time to build the campus. At least within the confines of the novel.

Entry 4-225: August 8, 2016

 

Excavation Action 1

 

Yesterday, I finished up explaining how my brother Bruce and I came up with a complete, photo-realistic world and campus for the University of Deucado. Armed with the vivid images drawn there, now see if you can envisage the action as described by Rome and MINIMCOM:

 

Aason tried to peek over the windshield. “I can’t see, Mommy,” he said.

The starship activated his ventral cameras. “Look on the viewscreen,” Rome said to her son.

The sounds coming from the PPT throwers increased in intensity. The whole ship began vibrating. Beneath them, huge chunks of dirt exploded and instantly disappeared. Like a titanic router, MINIMCOM moved north and south, following a precise pattern. It took more than a few minutes but eventually the vibrations died down then stopped.

“That will be the foundation for your library,” MINIMCOM said, floating up slightly higher in the air.

Beneath them, they could see a beautifully sharp, rectangular pit, 70 meters wide, 150 meters long and 20 meters deep.

“It is huge,” Rome remarked.

“It is what the plan called for,” MINIMCOM replied. “Let us continue.”

The starship drifted forward, to the north then repeated the procedure, albeit it on slightly smaller scale.

“I still think Rei’s plan is overly ambitious,” Rome said from the pilot’s seat, watching in wonder as the process continued. “I just wanted to build a place to archive historical data.”

“If anyone comes to visit, they will need a place to sleep,” MINIMCOM said as he blasted a yet another enormous chunk of ground to the north. “That will be the dormitory.”

MINIMCOM drifted east over to a third spot and blasted yet another foundation.

“And they will need a place to eat so that will be the commissary. Next will be the lecture hall and auditorium.”

“A lecture hall?” Rome asked. “Who is going to lecture?”

“Anyone who is interested,” MINIMCOM said. “Your library will be right in the center of the complex but it is for research. If there are any large groups, the library by itself is not really designed to accommodate more than a small number of people at one time.”

“I suppose you are right,” Rome said reluctantly. She tried hard to imagine a lecture hall filled with people hearing about her work. It didn’t seem like something that would happen any time soon.

Like an artist using a broad brush on a gigantic canvas, MINIMCOM carved and blasted the surface, adding side roads until he completed the colossal design. He even built himself a substantial landing strip with more than enough space to hold his bulk and several other ships.

 

Tomorrow, I will give you the second half of the action.

Entry 4-226: August 9, 2016

 

Excavation Action 2

 

Yesterday, we saw MINIMCOM begin preliminary construction of what would eventually become the University of Deucado. Rome had her initial reservations but by the time MINIMCOM was done, she was overwhelmed, not only by the grandeur of the project, but by the promise.

 

Here is the second part of that scene:

 

“Let us take stock,” MINIMCOM said. He soared high into the sky and overlaid Rei’s blueprint on top of the physical layout of roads and foundations provided by the ventral cameras. They aligned perfectly. In addition, Rome could see that Rei had left plenty of room for growth.

“What do you think?” MINIMCOM asked.

“I think it is magnificent,” Rome replied, clapping her hands together. “Can we go look?”

“I have one more action to complete,” MINIMCOM said as he drifted lower.

“What?” Rome asked impatiently.

“Watch,” MINIMCOM replied. At this point, he was hovering about 500 feet above the campus.

MINIMCOM activated his external acoustic sensors. Rome heard the distinctive whining noise of the PPT generators gearing up in the back. There was a loud pop and one of the greener, bushier cane-trees that Rome had seen near the harbor appeared on the corner of the main intersection. That was followed by another pop and another tree, then another. Soon, MINIMCOM had lined the entire main thoroughfare with the second species of trees using the reverse of the technique employed earlier. When he was done, the effect was not unlike the Avenue des Champs-Élysées from old Earth.

“Take us down! Take us down!” Rome said excitedly. “I want to see it up close!”

“Of course,” MINIMCOM replied, diving downward, settling onto his new private landing strip. Rome exited the craft, carrying Aason and headed across the roadway directly to the site which was to hold her new library. When they got to the edge of the main excavation, she set Aason down but held onto his hand very tightly, so they could peer downward into the pit. Rome stared at it for a long time. At last, she spoke over her shoulder. “This is perfect but it will take me a long time to grow an OMCOM,” she said to MINIMCOM’s livetar. “I think we have done enough for one day. We’ll start tomorrow.”

“I have a better idea,” rang out a deeper, more metallic voice.

Rome whirled in place to see a two-meter tall livetar, this one completely white, standing next to MINIMCOM.

“OMCOM!” Rome exclaimed…

 

OMCOM? What is he doing there? It may seem like a really nice gesture but knowing what is coming down the pike, I don’t think OMCOM always had the purest of motives. We shall see.

Entry 4-227: August 10, 2016

 

How do we hear?

 

We hear through our ears, right? It’s not quite that simple. The brain has to be involved somehow. The flappy piece of skin on the outside (some people can wiggle them) is called the pinna or auricle. Many animals can use their pinnae to localize sound by moving them. Ours are somewhat useful in helping us to localize sound as well but maybe not as good as a dog.

 

As sound travels through the ear canal, it hits the eardrum which is a membrane and attached to the other side of that membrane are the tiniest bones in the body called the ossicles. You may have heard of the hammer, stirrup and anvil or more properly the malleus, incus and stapes. Together, these bones transmit sound to the oval window which is in contact with the fluid filling the cochlea or our primary hearing organ.

 

From there it gets weird because hearing is a temporal phenomenon but we need a way to get all the frequencies of sound up to the brain simultaneously so the cochlea is a spatial organ designed to break down sounds into its individual components. Each inner hair is best at picking up a certain frequency. The basilar membrane lining the cochlea transmits the highest frequency sounds closest to the oval window and low frequency sounds travel the highest. That’s why we lose our ability to hear high frequency sounds soonest because the base of the cochlea takes the most pounding.

 

Anyway, the cochlea and the inner hair cells take the sounds we hear and segregate them into best frequencies. It’s almost like we have a bunch of tiny microphones, each specializing in a certain frequency and each fiber of the eighth cranial nerve carries those impulses to the cochlear nucleus. In essence, we convert analog sounds into a whole bunch of digital signals. This is why it will be so difficult to build a true prosthetic cochlear implant. Most designs have anywhere from 4 to 40 electrodes designed to stimulate the 8th nerve. To truly emulate what the cochlea does, you need more like 20,000. That’ll never happen.

 

The cochlear nucleus shapes the sounds and aggregates them and then passes those sounds along to the inferior colliculus. This is where sound location begins to form. From the inferior colliculus, the signals go on to the medial geniculate body and from there to the higher portions of the brain called the auditory cortex.

 

What am I getting at here? We don’t just hear. Hearing is the end result of an incredibly complex sequence of structures and processing and allows our brains to take a temporal and spectrally diverse set of sounds and render them intelligible. I only bring this up because computers don’t hear like we do. Siri doesn’t answer questions using pinna, ossicles, cochlea and brain matter. Instead, she creates outlines of sounds and uses brute force to match those outlines to pre-recorded templates converting sounds diretly into words.

 

Tomorrow, you will see that the visual system is actually a lot simpler, even though as Americans, it is our primary input sense.

 

Entry 4-228: August 11, 2016

 

How do we see?

 

Yesterday, I gave you a simplistic view of how we hear. It really isn’t that simple but who has time to take a graduate course in auditory physiology? Today I would like to focus in on how we see which is actually easier to understand. Hearing is like an analog to digital back to analog converter. Vision is more like the collection plate of a camera.

 

The primary sensory organ at the back of the eye is called the retina. Our eyeball and lens are designed to focus and concentrate light but the image projected on the back of the retina is more or less a faithful spatial representation of the world. At the center of the retina is the fovea which has the largest concentration of cones, the receptors that detect color. Around the periphery are the rods which can’t detect color but are much more sensitive to light which helps us see at night. We have about 125 million photo-receptors total. Even the highest resolution TV on the market today, an 8K UHD TV, only has 33 million elements. Nobody has invented a TV which has the same acuity as our retinas.

 

Interestingly (and not on me!) if you could tease apart the optic nerve and somehow re-sort it into the proper coordinates, the neural impulses would still faithfully represent the spatial image on the eye. Yesterday I explained that the temporal elements of the sounds we hear are already destroyed by the time they hit the auditory nerve. They have to be reconstructed as you get higher in the brain. Not so with visual images.

 

From the retina, the signals are passed up via the optic nerve to the lateral geniculate nucleus and from there it is just a hop, skip and jump to the visual cortex, complete with crossing over so as to facilitate stereoscopic vision. So the visual system is very easy to understand. Except for the technological hurdles (like no camera exists at high enough resolution and no one would know how to map external input to the visual cortex), I would think that a true visual prosthesis will be available some day for the blind long before an adequate hearing replacement is found.

 

By now, two articles in, you are probably asking yourself why the hell does a science fiction writer want to bog us down with anatomy and physiology? Reason: I want to explain how my robots, livetars and computers see and hear. It is totally, totally unlike humans. More on that tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-229: August 12, 2016

 

How do robots see?

 

By now you’ve all seen commercials for the Mercedes Benz with the twin radar emitters in the grill that detect collisions and apply the brakes faster than a person could react. Would you say that the car “sees” the collision coming? Of course not. It is just an algorithm built into a computer so that when a certain sequence of signals comes in, the computer executes a prerecorded series of actions.

 

Computers cannot see, either. However, if you hook up TV cameras and teach them patterns or templates and give them enough computing power to translate incoming signals in real time in three dimensions, they may be able to tell you what they “see” almost like they were one of us.

 

There was a TV show that just ended called Person of Interest whose main star was “The Machine” and The Machine took facial recognition and pattern recognition to the nth degree and actually saw in a fashion similar (and vastly superior) to how we see. But again, is it seeing?

 

When the level of sophistication becomes high enough and the degree of recognition becomes indistinguishable from a human, it ends up being like a Turing test. If you cannot tell whether it is a computer behind the curtain or a human observing, you may as well throw in the towel and say that the computer does see. Many of the Boston Dynamics robots have a stereo vision system for navigating the terrain and collision avoidance.

 

OK. So robots can see with nothing much more that twin TV cameras. But this whole series is called Tales of the Vuduri. Can Vuduri robots see? Trick question there. The Vuduri don’t have robots. But they do have livetars, MINIMCOM being one of the stars. So how does MINIMCOM see? I’ll explain tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-230: August 13, 2016

 

How does MINIMCOM see?

 

Imagine that Rome and Rei have invited you over for dinner. Aason is visiting with his grandparents. After dinner, Rome brings out a deck of cards and asks MINIMCOM to send down a livetar and the four of you play a card game. Rome deals and the three humans and one livetar pick up their cards and look at their hands. You and I know how the humans see. But what about MINIMCOM? How does he see? After all, within his bullet-shaped head, he has eyes slits but there is nothing behind them. We know that from both The Ark Lords and The Milk Run when some of our main characters actually get inside of the hollow livetar. So I ask you again, how does MINIMCOM see?

 

I have to tell you that up until last weekend, I had absolutely no idea. Nobody ever asked me and it would be a pretty dopey story if the livetars could not see but what is the engineering behind it? My brother Bruce comes to the rescue again.

 

Bruce explained to me (and I’m the author!) that the livetars are made up of constructors and the constructors are nothing but modified VIRUS units which in turn are nothing but modified star-probes. Those star-probes have a variety of sensors but we only need worry about the light detecting ones. Essentially, the entire livetar is just one giant series of single pixel cameras. MINIMCOM the computer/starship is flooded with light detection from every angle. The only place he does not have light coming in is from the eye slits. So he pieces together the information from everywhere else and synthesizes what the eye slits would see if they had anything there. Basically, MINIMCOM subtracts out everything and what is left is vision.

 

Phew. At least I have an explanation now. It might not be a good one but it is something. So does MINIMCOM have a mind? Could Rome or Aason enter into that mind? I’ll give that a shot tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-231: August 14, 2016

 

Lupe and Fury Part 1 of 4

 

Yesterday, we explored the concept of whether MINIMCOM could actually see. In the days before that I reviewed at a summary level how the auditory and visual systems work in humans. All of this background was necessary leading up to this little interaction between Rome and Rei’s daughter, Lupe and her beloved livetar Fury.

 

This little story takes place about 20 years after the events depicted in The Milk Run. Lupe has been firmly established as the lead instructor at the First Contact Academy. She alternates her time between teaching class, taking students out into space to practice their first contact skills and mediating introductions to new species which are particularly difficult to “crack” for regular students. This is the prelude leading up to “The Shell War” whereupon Lupe and her nephew Rory try and make peace with an aggressive and war-like rival Galactic Union.

 

Here is part one of that story:

 

Lupe and Fury, Lupe’s seven foot tall, pink, Amazonian livetar, were sitting at the small table in the galley. The two of them were playing a card game called threes and fours. The game utilized two decks and required alternating three of a kind with same-suited runs of four cards.

Lupe was studying her hand, occasionally peeking up at her robot-like friend who was also inspecting her cards. While the livetar brought the vast amount of computing power to the table as you would expect of a starship which was basically a flying computer, there was an element of luck to the game that no amount of artificial intelligence could overcome.

Lupe blinked several times then laid her cards face down on the table.

“What is it?” Fury asked.

Lupe tilted her head. “How do you even see your cards?” she asked. “You don’t have eyes, just eye holes. I know there’s nothing behind them.”

Fury laid her cards down on the table as well. “I agree with your assessment that I do not see in the same way as you but I certainly do see. Otherwise I would constantly be walking into walls.”

“So how does it work?” Lupe asked, leaning forward.

 

Tomorrow, part two.

Entry 4-232: August 15, 2016

 

Lupe and Fury Part 2 of 4

 

Yesterday, we set the stage for a little conversation between Lupe Bierak and her seven foot tall livetar named Fury. They were playing cards and Lupe suddenly became curious as to how a livetar could even see. In a previous article, I explored the concept of whether MINIMCOM could actually see. Here, Fury attempts a similar explanation:

 

“As you know, my body is built from constructors which are basically modified VIRUS units. The VIRUS units themselves were adapted from your father’s star-probes. Each probe has a number of sensing modalities, one of which is light-sensitive.”

“OK, so every cell in your body receives light. How does that work into vision?”

“I’m sure both you, your brother and your parents have always believed that our eye slits were decorative, designed to give us a slightly more human appearance. That is actually not the case.”

“Really?” Lupe asked thoughtfully. “So why are they there?”

“We work backwards. We take all the light from all over our body and deduce what light should have fallen on the eye slits using a computationally-intensive algorithm. That image is analogous to what you see with your eyes.”

“Huh,” Lupe said thoughtfully. “So you could have eyes on the back of your head, too, if you wanted them.

“We actually do,” Fury added. “They just are not as accurate as the frontal vision because there is no gap in the shell.”

“Wow.” Lupe grew silent. “Then how do you hear? You don’t have ear holes.”

“Hearing is easier. Our entire body is vibration sensitive which essentially makes us a walking microphone. Very little processing power is required to convert the vibrations we feel into speech and other environmental sounds.”

Lupe leaned back in her chair and thought about Fury’s words. Finally she asked, “Do you have a mind like ours? In fact, can you read my mind? Can I read yours?”

Fury stroked her chin in a very human-like way. “I do not think we have a mind exactly like yours. We are digital in nature, not analog. That was why MASAL was able to merge with the Overmind, before the Robot War. But our physiology, if you wish to call it that, is so different from yours that I don’t think we would be able to interact mentally.”

 

Tomorrow, Lupe attempts to read Fury’s mind.

Entry 4-233: August 16, 2016

 

Lupe and Fury Part 3 of 4

 

Yesterday, Lupe Bierak’s seven foot tall livetar named Fury explained to Lupe how livetars see and hear. This gets Lupe’s mind spinning. She is very curious person. The brave girl wonders if it is possible to read a computer’s mind. She decides to try and experiment.

 

“But you guys have souls. We know that when OMCOM and Junior went to Heaven. If you have a soul, a spirit, wouldn’t your mind drive that spirit or at least be connected in some way? That would be an analog construct regardless of how it arose.”

Fury nodded slowly. “I suppose you are correct. Somewhere, buried in all our circuitry, is something which could not be charted or analyzed or extracted. It is built up of pieces but the whole is certainly greater than the sum of the parts.”

Lupe stretched forward with her hand. “Take my hand,” she said. “I want to try and read your mind.”

“Are you sure that is wise?”

“How could it hurt?” Lupe answered. “The worst thing that happens is I fail.”

“Very well,” Fury replied. She extended her arm forward, palm up. Lupe grasped it and closed her eyes. She projected her mind forward, searching for the spirit, the light that would be the soul of her best friend in the world.

Lupe could detect something but it felt like she was in a dark room with flashing rays of light dripping from the walls and ceiling. As she focused in on the rays, she could see them sparkling with ones and zeroes but nothing resembling a thought or feeling. She opened her mind further and tried to let all of the streams enter her consciousness, assembling themselves at will, trying to find a coherent pictures. She added an element of sound which corresponded to the individual twinkles but all it did was create a kind of white noise.

She moved her head back and forth, trying to find something, anything to latch on. There was nothing. Finally, she gave up and released Fury’s hand.

“Well that sucks,” she said. “I couldn’t make out anything. Just a bunch of digital streams going from who knows where on their way to somewhere else.”

 

The experiment is a failure. But Lupe is not the sort of person to give up. Fury knows this. Maybe there is another way. We’ll find out tomorrow.

Entry 4-234: August 17, 2016

 

Lupe and Fury Part 4 of 4

 

Yesterday, Lupe Bierak attempted to read the mind of her seven foot tall livetar named Fury. However the experiment was a complete failure. But neither Lupe nor Fury were the kind of beings to just throw in the towel.

 

In today’s installment, we get the conclusion of the story which will eventually open up the way to further enhancing Lupe’s first contact skills:

 

“Well that sucks,” Lupe said. “I couldn’t make out anything. Just a bunch of digital streams going from who knows where on their way to somewhere else.”

Fury turned her hand over and lightly grasped Lupe’s hand. “It doesn’t matter,” the livetar said. “Within me is a spirit, as you said. And that spirit loves you very much. We don’t keep secrets from one another so if you can’t read my mind, it doesn’t change anything.”

Lupe squeezed Fury’s hand then pulled away and leaned back. “I know you’re right but it would have been really sleek if I could have read your mind. That kind of ability would come in very handy down the road if we ever ran into a computer or whatever and we need to find out something.”

Fury nodded gravely. “I believe you are correct. Give me a little time and I will find the pathway to my spirit. We will try this again and then I will be able to guide you. It will be an adventure for both of us.”

“All right!” Lupe replied enthusiastically. “Let me know as soon as you are ready.”

“I will,” answered Fury. “But in the mean time, it’s your turn.”

Lupe laughed and picked up the next card.

 

I crafted this story to set the stage for Lupe’s undercover work during the Shell War whereupon our Galactic Union comes across a rival Union and their thought processes are more like a computer than a human. Lupe’s first contact skills to this point would never have allowed her to communicate with those new species. So this little card game uncovered a major flaw in their strategy to bring peace to the galaxy. How Lupe acquired the skills is a story for another day. What is important here is that she recognized it was something she needed to learn.

 

Entry 4-235: August 18, 2016

 

Seduced by logic

 

After MINIMCOM had blasted out the foundation for Rome’s library using his new PPT cannons, OMCOM makes a mysterious appearance which is seemingly innocuous. Rome had the tall task of building the library OMCOM from scratch and here comes OMCOM with an offer they can’t refuse:

 

“I am well,” replied the manifestation of the computer that was now the size of a planet. “MINIMCOM contacted me about your project via the null-fold relays. I think it is an excellent idea and I know of a way that I can get you started faster.”

“How?” Rome asked. Rome was barely five feet tall and dwarfed standing between the pair of two-meter tall livetars.

“Send MINIMCOM to me,” replied OMCOM. “I have some engineering ideas that I have wanted to share with him. Then I can send him back with a fully-realized subset of my presence. You would not have to grow any memrons. It would be a complete operating system and a copy of my personality. As Rei’s people like to say, you could hit the ground running.”

“That is fantastic,” Rome said, reaching up and hugging the ambulatory shell. “Thank you.”

She turned to MINIMCOM, craning her neck to look up into his eye slits. “How long would it take you to go to Tabit?”

“Seven days there, seven days back,” replied MINIMCOM’s livetar. “It will save you a large amount of effort.”

“Yes,” Rome agreed. “I could focus on the execution instead of the mechanics.”

Still holding onto Aason’s hand tightly, Rome turned back to stare at the excavation. She tried to envision what it would all look like when completed. She twisted around to speak to OMCOM but before she could get a word out, the animated shell dissipated before her eyes.

Rome shook her head and sighed. “I suppose that is all we can do for today,” she observed. She led Aason back to the landing strip. Along with MINIMCOM’s livetar, Rome and Aason climbed up the cargo ramp. As the cargo compartment sealed, the two humans headed forward toward the cockpit. MINIMCOM, the starship, rose gently into the air and returned Rome and her son back to their house, dropping them off before beginning his journey.

“Thank you again, MINIMCOM,” Rome transmitted as MINIMCOM took off, his huge EG lifter pods pounding the dirt.

“Always glad to help,” MINIMCOM replied as his nose tilted up, rapidly gaining altitude. “I will see you in fourteen days.” His plasma thrusters roared to life creating eye-popping pyrotechnics this low in the atmosphere. The roar of his engines was palpable but only for a second. In a flash, MINIMCOM vanished from sight.

 

Nothing with OMCOM is ever that simple. He always has an ulterior motive. But what could it be? We won’t find out until The Milk Run.

Entry 4-236: August 19, 2016

 

Rei’s surprise

 

Nobody ever accused Reinard Bierak of not loving his wife Rome deeply and truly. One of the ways he showed his love for her by surprising her with things she never expected. Her endeavor to build her library had consumed her every waking moment but Rei was able to spot something that would save her a tremendous amount of time:

 

“That is great,” Rei said. “Hmm,” he mused as he stroked his chin. “I was going to wait to surprise you but I guess I don’t need to hold back.”

“What…” Rome started then stopped. She knew Rei loved his surprises and he never answered her when she inquired. It was easier to just not ask.

“Wait right here,” Rei insisted. He set Aason down. “Come with me, buddy,” Rei said to his son. “I’ll need some help.”

They left the room. Rome looked around but saw nothing out of the ordinary. She fidgeted in place, barely able to contain herself. After a few minutes, the two men in her life returned, Rei with an armload of something and Aason carrying a small item as well.

Rei set a pile of jet black slabs down on the dining room table. Each slab was about four inches wide by six inches deep and maybe half an inch tall. Next to the stack, perhaps ten inches tall in totality, Rei placed a leather-bound manuscript.

“What are those?” Rome asked.

“The slabs are the data storage modules from the Ark,” Rei said. “Bonnie let me borrow them. Everything our culture knows, I guess knew, about history, biology, physics and so on are contained there. Unfortunately, she said our reader is on the fritz. It didn’t survive the trip out here. I promised her you’d be very careful with them. I told her that MINIMCOM would be able to design an interface.”

 

Those slabs seem very innocent. I mean they are the accumulated history and knowledge of modern man, at least men of the 21st century. How could Rei have known that his gensture of love would be putting Rome’s life at extreme risk. But that’s the whole plot of The Ark Lords so I appreciate him doing it.

 

You ask what was in the leather-bound manuscript? I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Entry 4-237: August 20, 2016

 

Trabunel’s journal

 

The Vuduri of the 35th century are mind-connected and they, along with the Overmind, ruled the Earth with an iron fist. The mind-deaf, called mandasurte, represented a much smaller faction of the population and were considered by the Vuduri to be second class citizens. When MASAL took over Deucado and made it a prison planet, his goal was to steal any influential mandasurte to make them less of a threat to his plans. He had them kidnapped and taken to that planet against their will. They were placed in primitive conditions and came to be known as the Ibbrassati or the Oppressed.

 

Trabunel was one of the first on the planet and he assumed a leadership role. He kept meticulous notes on how the Vuduri mistreated his people and after Rome’s Revolution, Trabunel and the other Ibbrassati were free to roam the planet or even return to Earth. However their struggle under difficult conditions was an important lesson to be learned and perfect for Rome to memorialize in her new library:

 

“Oh wow,” Rome said, mimicking her husband although the expression had long since lost its novelty on her. Rome picked up the manuscript and flipped through it. It contained pages and pages of handwritten notes. “What is this?” she asked.

“That is a copy of Trabunel’s notes,” Rei answered. “He’d been keeping them ever since he arrived here. It’s a complete record of what the Ibbrassati went through since their capture. He hand-copied them into that journal. It was a little uncomfortable picking it up, though.”

“Why?” Rome asked.

“Because Trabunel was storing the copy at the home of the former Nayor of the Ibbrassati village. Before they started building Ibbra City.”

“You had a run-in with him, I know.”

“Not just a run-in,” Rei said. “He called me crazy. His buddies tackled me and locked me in a prison cell or whatever. MINIMCOM had to take out a wall so I could escape.”

Rome searched her husband’s face. “Was the Nayor sorry?” she asked sympathetically.

“I guess,” Rei said, shrugging. “He was pretty embarrassed. Neither of us wanted to be in the other’s company, that’s for sure.”

“Even so, this is a wonderful surprise,” Rome said, her eyes brimming with emotion. “All of it. I have so much to start with.” Rome reached up to kiss Rei again. “Thank you, mau emir.”

“Oh, but we’re not done yet,” Rei said, smiling. He looked down at Aason. “Give Mommy the card, buddy,” he said.

Aason reached up and handed Rome a piece of parchment with drawings on it.

“What is this?” Rome asked, tilting her head back and forth.

“It’s a map to the entrance of the Deucadon underground city. Melloy is going to meet you there in one week and take you down to see Bukky. They are going to show you their archives.”

Rome just shook her head. “Where do I begin,” she said, almost in a whisper. “This is overwhelming.” She looked back at the stack of black slabs and the notebook. “Mau emir, you have given me so much to do. But it is exactly what I asked for.”

Rei laughed. “Well, you and Aason go wash up. I’m cooking tonight. I got another package of bison beef from your mother. Tonight you are going to have your first hamburger without blowing the place up!”

 

You will remember that the first time Rome attempted to make hamburgers, she almost blew up their home. So Rei’s offer had special meaning to her. It is a good thing she is a tough cookie.

Entry 4-238: August 21, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 1

 

When I first wrote Rome’s Revolution, back when it was the original long-form entitled VIRUS 5, I had a fairly lengthy scene that took place way under the earth. Melloy and his buddies had taken Rei down to their underground city to meet Bukky, their leader, to help him formulate plans on how to take back some measure of control of his fate and of Rome’s fate.

 

Unfortunately, while it was interesting, it didn’t really advance the plot as much as I would have liked. During the process of collapsing the three books down to one, this was one of many scenes had to go by the wayside. The description of the vista that greeted Rei ended up on the “cutting room floor” but I really, really wanted to put it out there at some point so people could think about the idea of an entire civilization developing miles below. When the idea came to me for The Ark Lords, I knew I had a golden opportunity to not only resurrect those original descriptions but to expand on them giving the Deucadons a richness and history that rivaled our own.

 

Over the next few days, I’ll give you the experience from Rome’s perspective, a kind of “you are there” voyage of discovery of a people who showed unbelievable resilience and fortitude under the most difficult conditions. Here is just a teaser to hold you over until tomorrow that took place one week after Rei had presented her with the data slabs:

 

Rome stood at the base of the stone steps and stared upward, jaw agape, at the vast space in front of her. She had dutifully followed Melloy down the formerly secret entrance to the Deucadon’s underground city through an intricate series of stairwells, tunnels and ramps, not really knowing what to expect. They were so far down it had made her ears pop. But now that they reached the bottom, the sheer size of the cave in front of her was almost frightening.

 

Tomorrow, we’ll tag along and see what Rome sees and figure out how the whole puzzle fits together.

Entry 4-239: August 22, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 2

 

The Deucadon underground city is a fascinating place. Over the next few days we will cover all the concepts required to construct such a fabulous vista as presented in The Ark Lords. Today’s article is about the need to have a sustainable and non-polluting method of transportation.

 

Rome stood at the base of the stone steps and stared upward, jaw agape, at the vast space in front of her. She had dutifully followed Melloy down the formerly secret entrance to the Deucadon’s underground city through an intricate series of stairwells, tunnels and ramps, not really knowing what to expect. They were so far down it had made her ears pop. But now that they reached the bottom, the sheer size of the cave in front of her was almost frightening.

She was so caught up in trying to fathom what she was seeing that she did not hear the footsteps rapidly approaching her.

“Impressed?” came a voice from beside her.

“Bukky?” Rome offered. She turned and hugged the bearded leader of the Deucadons who had helped her stop the war with the Essessoni before it started.

“This is gigantic,” she said. “I always thought The Cathedral in the Ibbrassati hidden enclave was large. But compared to this, that was a tiny depression. How did you find it?”

“This?” Bukky asked, indicating the cavern in front of them. He and Melloy laughed. “This is what we call Old Town, we have nawt lived here in well over a hundr’d years. We outgrew it long ago.”

“Where did you move to?” Rome asked, confused.

 “I’ll a’show ya,” Bukky replied. “But do nawt expect to find anyone at home. It’s still amazin’ to me how quickly everyone has fled to the surface. Soon this will be nothin’ but a museum.”

He pointed to a small cart which was not much more than four wheels and two benches. The wheels themselves were of a fascinating design. Their outer rims were extremely thin metal and connected to the axle with spokes made of gently curved metal strips. Quite pretty in a way. The weight of the cart made them flex slightly which indicated they also acted as shock absorbers. Attached to the back of the cart was a metallic box emitting a faint whirring noise.

Rome took her seat next to Bukky on the front bench. He pulled back on a small lever and the cart started moving forward.

 “Wait,” Rome blurted out. Bukky stopped the cart. Rome turned back to Melloy. “Aren’t you coming with us?”

 “I am goin’ to wait here,” Melloy said somewhat mysteriously. “Just keepin’ an eye on things and what nawt.”

 “OK,” Rome said, shrugging. She turned back around and Bukky reengaged the clutch. They started moving again. “What type of engine do you use?” Rome asked, searching around the floor of the vehicle.

 “It is flywheel powered,” Bukky answered. “When we were trapped down here, we had to find sources of energy and propulsion that did nawt contaminate the environment.”

 

You can see there is a little bit of hesitation with leaving Bukky unguarded which stems from the Vuduri behavior from years before. Tomorrow, Sun Valley.

Entry 4-240: August 23, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 3

 

The Deucadon underground city is a fascinating place. Over the next few days we will cover all the concepts required to construct such a fabulous vista as presented in The Ark Lords. Today’s article is about the need for people to see and grow crops. Thus the Deucadons built Sun Valley.

 

Rome thought back to her father’s cave which smelled of smoke, metal, must and sweat. This place was completely different. It smelled clean, fresh and inviting. This was not just a shelter, it was an entire city, constructed out of living rock.

As they drove along the rough paths of Old Town, Bukky pointed to the various structures built into the side of the cave and described their former function. From the look of it, it reminded Rome of Rei’s description of the Anasazi Indian villages at Chaco Canyon. On closer examination, it seemed more like an inside out version of a Pueblo Indian settlement built into the side of a mountain. The sheer size of it made it almost impossible to grasp the effort it had taken to build it. The city was built totally vertically, apartments and working space integrated into the rock face, reaching straight up for almost 400 feet.

What struck Rome was the unevenness of the city. These people had been living on the planet for 500 years. At this point, she would have expected their underground city to be more polished, perhaps better planned. This section was rough and although it was massive, it had a temporary feel to it. Here and there were some artistic touches. Many of the surfaces were chiseled in a tasteful manner with murals, swirls and other patterns. But overall, it just looked haphazard.

As they passed by the center tower, Bukky pointed up.

 “This was their first attempt at permanent lightin’,” he said. “Tis powered by the nuclear rods they were able to salvage from the sarcophagi that brought our forefathers. The thorium isotope has a half life of more than 7000 years but even so, we found a better solution.”

Just ahead was a large hemi-cylindrical tunnel that must have been 100 feet across, maybe 50 feet tall. They entered the tunnel and plunged into semi-darkness. At first, Rome thought she might have to activate her irods but up ahead were dim globes of light, evenly spaced. They drove down the center of the tunnel, picking up speed as they went along. They traveled on for several minutes until a brightly lit exit appeared. They emerged from the tunnel and what Rome saw next was completely beyond imagination let alone description. It was an entire underground world, stretching out almost to the horizon. In front of them, mounted on a titanic stalk, was a light so bright, Rome’s internal second iris had to dampen down a bit. Beyond that was another miniature star and beyond that, a third. The spectrum of all three mini-suns was yellow-white, more like Sol that the orange-white of Tau Ceti. Filling in the valley, Rome saw farmlands and lakes even clumps of forest. If she had not seen the domed ceiling, she would never have believed she was kilometers below the surface of Deucado. The ceiling was so far above them, easily half a kilometer up, there were clouds gathered in places. The road in front of them stretched out as far as the eye could see.

 

The first part of this second alludes to my original vision of the underground city. But when given the opportunity to revisit it, I decided to think about it more and turn it into a real place. So SunValley became the Deucadon’s true home. Tomorrow, how the Deucadons produced non-polluting and sustainable energy without carbon emissions.

Entry 4-241: August 24, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 4

 

The Deucadon underground city is a fascinating place. Over the next few days we will cover all the concepts required to construct such a fabulous vista as presented in The Ark Lords. Today’s article is about the “real” home of the Deucadons and what it took to make it a believable place to live well over a mile underground.

 

“How…how…” she stuttered. “How did you build all of this? This is beyond incredible!”

Bukky chuckled to himself as he steered the car down a sharp incline.

 “We had hundr’ds of years. This was our lives,” he said. “Would ya expect anythin’ less?”

 “Where do you get your power?” Rome asked, pointing at the mini-suns illuminating the landscape.

 “Geothermal concentrators,” answered Bukky. “Our forefathers tapped into a pocket of magma which gave us unlimited power for centuries.”

Rome tried to imagine the dynamics of this planet. The forces that could create such huge caves was beyond her ability to figure out. Bukky turned left at the bottom of the road and began driving along the base of the walls of the cavern. Rome could see that all of the places where people would live or work were built into the walls. It was far more organized than Old Town. Now it made sense to her. The center section of the immense cavern was strictly devoted to living plants and trees. Why build structures when you could just dig them?

Bukky pulled up into a circular driveway in front of a building which actually resembled a modern Vuduri design. He brought the cart to a stop.

 “This was our town hall, our municipal center,” said Bukky. Rome followed the front upwards with her eyes. She could see no less than thirty stories, counting by the rows of glass-covered windows carved into the side. Rome seemed a bit wobbly. Bukky put his hand gently on her shoulder to steady her.

 “Let’s go in,” Bukky suggested, somewhat amused.

Rome just stood there, staring up. She had trouble looking away from the sheer magnitude of what she was seeing.

 “OK,” she said, finally, forcing herself to look down.

They entered the building and Bukky led Rome through a number of hallways, carved out of living rock, until they came to double set of doors. The air temperature was pleasantly cool. He opened the doors and the lights came on automatically. Bukky waved his hands indicating the rows upon rows of shelving that filled the room. Books of all sizes, shapes and thickness were stacked on the shelves.

 “This was our library,” Bukky said. “I suppose, for the time bein’, it still is. Come,” he said.

They walked down the corridor to the left, passing aisle after aisle of shelves. Bukky described the organization of the library, pointing out the various sections; fiction in the front, science in the middle and historical records in the back.

 

You will note the lights went on automatically so as to not waste energy. You will also note that the Deucadons’ library is very similar to what we have today, that is, shelves and shelves of “real books.” Tomorrow, Bukky takes Rome to a private place to reflect on the Deucadons’ difficult history.

Entry 4-242: August 25, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 5

 

The Deucadon underground city is a fascinating place. Over the next few days we will cover all the concepts required to construct such a fabulous vista as presented in The Ark Lords. Today’s article sets up Bukky’s revelation of a startling, possibly deadly fact.

 

“We’ve had printin’ presses for hundr’ds of years,” Bukky said, “but we switched to silicon-based, holographic storage over a century ago. This library’s been preserved for historical reasons.Sometimes people want to hold a real book in their hands instead of readin’ from an electronic device.

Every so often, they would pass an open space with tables and chairs but Rome didn’t even see them. Her mind was racing. The thought of extracting information from these volumes by hand seemed like a herculean task. She remained silent until they reached the end of the rows of shelves. In front of them was a metal door.

 “What is in there?” Rome asked, pulling up short.

 “That is where we keep the very first manuscripts,” Bukky replied. “It’s climate-controlled to preserve the paper pages and bindin’s.” He reached down and turned the handle. They entered a small, square room with a single stone table in the middle, surrounded by four wooden chairs. On each of the walls were shelves holding crudely bound books and journals. The acoustics of the room dampened all sound. To Rome, it seemed eerily quiet.

 “Have a seat,” Bukky said after closing the door behind him. Rome sat down and Bukky sat down opposite her. He reached for a carafe that was sitting on the table nestled between two glasses. He poured them each a glass of water which Rome gratefully received.

 “Bukky,” she said after taking a sip. “It’s like my mind has stopped working. Your city. Your lives. I had no idea. It is truly astounding. It will take me a while to get used to it.”

Bukky nodded and smiled. “Naw matter how impressive it is, we always wanted to return to the surface. We just could nawt do it until it was safe. We have ya to thank for our freedom. We feel like we are just now startin’ to live our lives the way we were supposed to.”

After taking another sip of water, Rome spoke. “I thought I would come down here and collect some notes or some books from you, about your history, but all of this?” She turned in her seat to look back at the door leading to the main library then she turned back to face Bukky. “Where do I even start?”

 “Start here,” Bukky replied. He reached into his pocket and brought out a thin metallic stick, one half inch wide and maybe two inches long. He set it down on the table and slid it toward Rome.

 

You will notice that I took a jab at ebooks even though I am diligent in publishing not only Rome’s Revolution but all my books in ebook form. I just feel in my heart that there will always be a place for real books with real pages and I wanted to put that into the book. Tomorrow, Rome wonders why Bukky brought her down here when she really didn’t need to come.

Entry 4-243: August 26, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 6

 

The Deucadon underground city is a fascinating place. Over the next few days we will cover all the concepts required to construct such a fabulous vista as presented in The Ark Lords. Today’s article explains that during Bukky’s preparation of the Deucadon history for Rome, he stumbled across something that never caught his attention before. Something that would eventually prove to be deadly merely by making Rome aware of this fact.

 

“What is this?” Rome asked.

“We call it a memory stick. It is a solid state data storage device.”

“So it is like our data-cubes?”

“I suppose,” Bukky said. “This stick contains every one of the volumes on the shelves out there in electronic format.” He gestured toward the door.

Rome picked up the stick, weighing it in her hand. It was much lighter and more compact than a standard Vuduri data-cube.

“Is this your only one?” she asked, setting it down again.

“Oh naw,” Bukky said, laughing. “It took me a little while to compile but this one is just for ya. We appreciate the fact that ya care about our history and want to explore it. This’ll make it easier.”

“Well thank you,” Rome said. “This is invaluable.” She cocked her head at the memory stick. “Not to be rude,” she said, “but if you already had your records summarized, why did you have me come down here to get it? I mean, I am amazed at all that I’ve seen but it is a long way down here.”

“Yar right,” Bukky said. “I did not have ya come down here just to get the stick. It is what ya said.”

“What did I say?” Rome asked.

“I thought that ya really needed to see where we lived to get a true sense of our history. Naw words can really do it justice.”

“You’re right about that,” Rome said looking up at the ceiling. “I know I could not.” Just trying to think about the unimaginable amount of rock over her head stretched her senses to the limit.

“That’s the reason I brought ya down here to our city. The reason I brought ya to this particular room is different though.”

“What reason would that be?” Rome asked, looking around at the shelves and their ancient books.

“As I was preparin’ the stick, I realized none of the books in this room were contained on it,” Bukky pointed at the small device sitting on the table. “I checked ‘em for a while to see if they described anythin’ important that was nawt summarized out there and I came across one thing.”

 

The mystery deepens. Tomorrow, Bukky’s discovery.

Entry 4-244: August 27, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 7

 

The Deucadon underground city is a fascinating place. Over the next few days we will cover all the concepts required to construct such a fabulous vista as presented in The Ark Lords. Today’s article reveals a startling and perhaps deadly fact. Bukky has stumbled across something and he tells Rome. Unfortunately, this could be a fact that maybe she shouldn’t have ever known.

 

“What?” Rome asked, leaning forward.

“Ya know that our forefathers crashed down on this world and we had to start from nawt a thing.”

“Yes, I know that,” Rome said. “It must have been so hard.”

“It was, at first,” said Bukky. “And I am nawt just talkin’ about their constant back pain or how difficult it was to start with nothin’ but the clothes on their back. It was even harder than it had to be.”

“Why was that? How could it be any harder?” Rome asked.

“There are no books or written records from those early days. Nawt even here. Everythin’ that we know was handed down usin’ songs and memorization. It was several generations until we were settled enough to begin recordin’ our history in writin’. When we started, the oral history has already been muddied by the passage of time.”

“That’s to be expected,” Rome said. “But no matter what you have, it will be valuable insight into the early days of your people.”

“Even so, there is somethin’ I think ya need to know. To our people, it was almost forgotten. I know I forgot about it myself. Let me show ya.”

Bukky stood up and walked over to the farthest set of bookcases. Very carefully, he removed a large book, rather thick, from the top shelf. He carried it over and set it down on the table in front of Rome.

“What is this?” Rome asked, looking down at the book.

“This is the very first book ever written by our people. We call it our “Bible” although I am nawt sure what that word means.”

Bukky sat down next to Rome and opened the book. He reverently turned a few pages until he got to the second chapter. “Ya know that our original settlement was right in the middle of where Lake Eprehem sits today. That many of our people were killed by the stroid.”

“Yes,” answered Rome sadly. “But that will not happen again. We have a protection shield now.”

“I know,” Bukky said. “But what I am sayin’ is that it was strange that only some of our people were killed, but nawt all of ‘em. Ya’ll be able to read a summary of it in the volumes contained on the stick. But there is one passage I want to read to ya that did nawt make it in there.”

 

Bukky wants Rome to read one passage. I bet you her life would have been a whole less complicated if she did not. Who ever heard of a deadly sentence? Tomorrow…

Entry 4-245: August 28, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 8

 

The Deucadon underground city is a fascinating place. Over the next few days we will cover all the concepts required to construct such a fabulous vista as presented in The Ark Lords. Today’s article reveals the fact that there may be a correlation between the colonists transported in the gray sarcophagi in the front versus the white sarcophagi in the back of the Ark II.

 

“Which passage?” Rome asked.

“Here,” he said. He pointed to the second paragraph of the chapter. The handwriting was cursive but neat. He read aloud:

“After a time, a great difference arose between the goals of the Whites and the Grays.”

“What are whites and grays?” Rome asked. “Are they talking about skin color?”

“I do nawt know,” Bukky replied. “It was never explained but let me go on.”

“Please do,” Rome said.

“The Grays sacrificed everythin’ to mine ore. The Whites wanted to live in a place where they could thrive. It was Darwin and all that it represented that eventually drove ‘em apart. The Whites packed up all their belongin’s and migrated north, to the edge of the mountains, to be near the river. There was food and shelter there along with the water. It was there that they began to build the first real settlement…”

“What is darwin?” Rome asked. “The thing that drove them apart?”

“I do nawt think anybody knows,” Bukky replied. “This is the only reference to it in the entire Bible.”

“All right,” Rome said. “Continue.”

“The two camps never mixed again. Once in a great while, the Whites would send a scout to check on the Grays but they never deviated from their mission. Until they died.”

“Oh,” Rome said, putting her hand up to her mouth. “That is so sad.”

“Yes, it is,” said Bukky. He sat back in his chair. “But I think this fact is important. It is only because this schism arose between the two groups, forcin’ our people to migrate north; that is why we survived at all. The other group, the Grays, were right where the stroid hit. That was the end of ‘em.”

Bukky leaned forward. “On the day that ya and I stopped the war, I looked into Captain Keller’s eyes. He was so filled with bloodlust that he did nawt look human. I have spent enough time with Rei’s people to determine there are two distinct groups. Most of the people are like Rei but there are quite a few that seem a bit off, like Keller.”

“I’ve noticed this as well,” Rome said. “The Captain and his people are so different from Rei and the other Essessoni I have come to know.”

“And Keller’s group…all they want to do is mine for metal, yes?” Bukky asked. “Like the Grays described in this book?”

 

There is it. It is now “out there” and it is a fact that Rome can never unlearn. Simply possessing this fact puts Rome’s life in danger as well as her family and every other living human being in the galaxy! Tomorrow, Bukky explains the context and gives Rome an important gift.

Entry 4-246: August 29, 2016

 

The Underground City, Part 9

 

The Deucadon underground city is a fascinating place. Over the next few days we will cover all the concepts required to construct such a fabulous vista as presented in The Ark Lords. Today’s article shows Rome’s confirmation that there may a hidden group within the Essessoni which a different agenda from Rei’s group. It also reveals a present from the Deucadons which will come in handy later on.

 

“There is a lot of that, yes,” Rome replied. “But they gratefully accept help with food, shelter and the like. Rei has mentioned this to me several times.”

 “It cannawt be coincidence,” Bukky said grimly. “I’m just makin’ a suggestion here but I think ya should remember this passage and keep yar eyes open.” He closed the book, got up and very carefully replaced it on the shelf. He walked down to the far end of the table where he picked up a pile of neatly folded cloth that was sitting there. He brought it over to Rome.

“What is this?” she asked.

“These are two invisibility cloaks,” Bukky said. “They are a gift for ya and Rei. We never got a chance to properly thank ya for what ya did. Stoppin’ the killin’ and all. Lettin’ us go topside.”

“You don’t need to thank me or Rei,” Rome replied. “We all just did what we had to. Your contribution was vital.”

“I had a small part but ya were the one that brought sense to the Overmind. Ya tamed Keller and the Ibbrassati. It was all ya, Rome, just accept that.”

“All right,” Rome said, modestly. “But you’ve already given me the memory stick. That is a gift beyond measure.”

“Naw, you are doin’ us a great honor by takin’ it and lettin’ everyone learn about our history. These cloaks are the only thing we have which are a true gift. Ya created the peace. We do nawt need ‘em anymore. Please take ‘em.”

“Why would we need them?” Rome asked. “There is no conflict here. There would be no reason to hide.”

“Ya can play hide and seek with your son. It really does nawt matter. They are our present to ya. Isn’t that enough?”

“Yes, of course,” Rome said. She stood up, reached for the memory stick and placed it in the pocket of her jumpsuit. She looked down at the cloaks then shrugged and gathered them up. “I do not think we’ll ever need these but thank you anyway. And for your memory stick. I will remember what you told me. Promise me that you will come and see my library after I have all the data compiled.”

“Absolutely,” Bukky said, “I very much look forward to it. Just keep the stick close until ya have a chance to download it. It did take me a bit o’ time to put it together.”

Rome turned toward the door and waited for Bukky to open it.

He reached for the knob then stopped. “One more word of advice,” he said, smiling, “make sure ya do nawt turn the cloaks on without wearin’ ‘em. Otherwise ya may never find ‘em again.”

Rome laughed. “I’ll be sure I store them some place safe.”

 

You can credit my brother Bruce with that last joke. Those invisibility cloaks came in quite handy time and again as the saga progressed. They figured into the plot of Rome’s Evolution as well as The Milk Run. You’ll see that down the road.

Entry 4-247: August 30, 2016

 

Free Will vs Predestination

 

Do you believe in fate or predestination? Do you believe that life is all free will? Personally, I think that while there might be some general parameters set up by the universe, most all of our actions and situations are due to free will. I will present my argument as to why this must be the case, in order for us to feel like our life has any value at all.

 

Think about it. If everything was all plotted out for us by some invisible wizard in sky and we were just going through the motions, what would be the point of life? If it is all fate, we would just be actors on a stage, reciting lines written by some cruel playwright and there is nothing we could do about it. While there have been uncounted good things happen in my life, I have also seen some terrible things. If we were predestined to experience heartache and pain and suffer, wouldn’t that playwright be rather sadistic?

 

I prefer to think that the stage has been set and it is up to us, the universe’s version of an improv troupe, playing out life as best we can. When bad things happen, we cannot shake our fists at the heavens and cry out why? It’s just the way it goes. Why do bad things happen to good people? They just do. No architect or god or mysterious force. Just luck of the draw.

 

Why do I write this? Because I try to give my characters free will but as the author, they really have none. Their fate is sealed before the get-go. Oh sure, they contribute to the dialog once in a while and sometimes they guide me down a plot twist that I had not foreseen. But in the end, the book has to come to the conclusion I charted out before I write the first word. So even though during the latter part of The Milk Run when MASAL told Aason that the idea of judgment and eternal damnation was silly, I made him say that. He had no free will. He was predestined to say exactly that.

 

It gets confusing, doesn’t it?

 

Entry 4-248: August 31, 2016

 

Sore Legs

 

I feel that part of my job as a writer of hard science fiction is to make everything as realistic as possible, given the fantastic background of the story. There are certain things you can take liberties with. Rarely do my characters go to the bathroom. They eat when it is important for dramatic reasons. Same goes for sleeping. I mean what could be more boring than writing about someone who is simply asleep?

 

Over the past few days, I showed you Rome’s visit to the Deucadons’ underground city in the beginning of The Ark Lords which was over a mile underground. They didn’t have an elevator. She had to walk down a mile’s worth of steps. Even that might not be so terrible but then she had to walk back up a mile’s worth of steps. This is not something we do every day nor was it something Rome did every day. So when I started the next chapter, I had to acknowledge this, even if it was brief:

 

Rome’s spirits were lifted by the scrumptious smell of pancakes and fresh brewed coffee wafting in the air. She dragged her aching body out of bed and straightened out her loose-fitting pajamas. She made her way into the kitchen, trying to rub the sleep out of her eyes. She was pleasantly surprised to see Rei had already made breakfast. However, there was something different about him. At first, Rome thought it was because she wasn’t fully awake. Then she realized it wasn’t her imagination. Rei looked scruffy. She couldn’t remember the last time he had skipped shaving. She assumed it had something to do with trying to keep up with Aason but it didn’t matter. Scruffy or not, he seemed to be in a wonderful mood.

“Good morning, my intrepid explorer,” Rei said cheerfully, holding out a cup of coffee he had prepared for her. “How did it go?”

She stood up on her toes and kissed him on his scratchy cheek. She started to stretch and an “ooh” escaped from her lips. “It went well,” she said, frowning. She accepted the coffee from him and took a sip of the magical dark liquid.

“What’s the matter?”

“My legs are sore. So many stairs. The Deucadon city is so far underground!” she said, rubbing the back of one thigh. She switched the coffee to her free hand then rubbed the other leg.

Concerned, Rei asked her, “Do you need to rest?” Rome shook her head. “How about a massage? You don’t want to cramp up.”

“Oh no,” Rome replied, shaking her head again. “I’ll be fine.” She took another sip of coffee. “I have much to tell you.”

 

So there you have it. I didn’t ignore the issue but now we are done with it. It was a nice little scene but we need to move on to the action and adventure. Don’t forget, a mini-nuke is coming!

 

Entry 4-249: September 1, 2016

 

Making sense of Darwin

 

In the beginning of The Ark Lords, Rome and Rei were quite innocent and had absolutely no suspicions about The Great Dying and who was behind it. The very first element of doubt came when Bukky mentioned Darwin to Rome. At the time, neither of them knew its significance. Rome did not lose sight of this fact. She figured she would ask Rei when the opportunity came:

 

In a borrowed Vuduri flying cart, Rei flew himself, Rome and Aason toward the south and east in the direction of the site of Rome’s library. Along the way, Rome described to Rei her adventure within the Deucadon underground city. She also told him about the memory stick and the invisibility cloaks.

“Why did they think we might need them?” Rei asked, a puzzled look on his face.

“Bukky didn’t actually say we would need them,” replied Rome. “He said they were the only things they had to give as a gift. So I just accepted them in the spirit offered. But there is something else I need to ask you which is even more confusing.”

“What’s that?” Rei asked.

“Do you know what the word darwin means?”

“Darwin? As in Charles Darwin?” Rei asked, looking at her.

“I don’t know,” Rome replied. “Bukky didn’t know either. I thought it might be a thing. It never occurred to me that it would be a person. Who was this Charles Darwin?”

“He was a scientist who lived in the 19th century. My 19th century. He was the first to propose the doctrine of evolution by natural selection. Survival of the fittest and all that.”

Rome shook her head. “What does that mean, survival of the fittest?”

“It means that whatever is best suited to a particular environment is more likely to reproduce and propagate those traits to the next generation. Weaker animals or plants give way. It’s how all the various species arose on Earth or anywhere else, I guess.”

“So how would that apply to the Deucadons? From what Bukky told me, it caused a great conflict,” Rome observed.

“I don’t know,” Rei said, “Let me think about it. On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense but we’ll have time to talk about it later. We’re just about there.”

While she was recounting her story, Rome had not been paying much attention to where they were going. She looked around and saw they were nearly at the site of her library. Rei was following the paved road MINIMCOM created along the southern edge of the campus. When he got to the break in the trees, he turned right. In front of them was a structure that Rome did not recognize.

 

The seed has been planted. The idea of Darwin and the concept of survival of the fittest has been discussed. Very soon it will take on a life of its own. Meanwhile, you know Rei and his surprises. What do you think is waiting for Rome?

Entry 4-250: September 2, 2016

 

The Library, part 1

 

 Rome’s library is at the cornerstone of The Ark Lords. However, up until this moment, at least in the book, it has been a concept rather than a reality. MINIMCOM had excavated the campus but actual construction, as far as Rome was concerned, was a long way off into the future. Imagine her surprise when her husband Rei took her to the campus just one week later and, well, I’ll let them tell you:

 

Rei stopped the cart and hopped out. He helped Aason down then waved at Rome. “Come on,” he said.

Rome followed her husband and son toward an arch that now straddled the road. There was writing inscribed at the top. The words read ‘University of Deucado’ in English and Vuduri.

“Oh Rei!” Rome exclaimed. “I’m not building a university. I was just going to compile historical data.”

“It has to start somewhere,” he commented, lovingly. He gave Rome a minute to admire his handiwork then said, “Come on. We’re not done yet. Get back in.” After staring up at the arch for a moment longer, Rome followed her husband and son back to the vehicle.

Rei drove the cart under the arch and down the clean wide street. The tree-lined road obscured their destination. It wasn’t until they crossed the center square that Rome was able to see a brand new brick-covered building, two stories tall, poking out among the trees. As Rei pulled around to the front, she could see it was complete with shrubbery, parking spaces and a sign over the entryway saying ‘E Poploidace Hosdiroe Humenoteta’ and beneath it ‘The Human History Library’.

“Oh Rei!” she squealed. “How did you do this?”

“I’ve had a crew, mostly Ibbrassati, working on it all week,” Rei said. “There were so many volunteers I had to turn half of them away. They just finished yesterday while you were visiting the Deucadons.”

“Can we go in?” Rome asked. Not waiting for an answer, she scrambled out of the cart and despite her sore legs, she bolted up the steps to peer into the front window.

“Of course,” Rei said, laughing. He picked up Aason and set him on the ground. “This is your place,” he called out to her.

They entered the building through the wide doors. After passing through the vestibule, they stood in the great entry hallway with high ceilings and arches opening into other side rooms. The main study area, filled with long benches and chairs, still smelled of fresh construction. As they walked forward, Rome glanced through the arches and she could see reading rooms, workstations, study alcoves, everything one would need to serve the library patrons. There was even a playroom for Aason and other children.

 

Tomorrow, I’ll share the second half of this little scene with you.

Entry 4-251: September 3, 2016

 

The Library, part 2

 

Yesterday, we saw that Rei had gathered up an enormous workforce and constructed Rome’s library when she wasn’t even paying attention. Imagine her shock and surprise. Here is the second part of the story from the beginning of The Ark Lords whereupon Rome discovers her dream has already partially become a reality:

 

“Come on,” Rei said, taking Aason with him toward the rear. “I want to show you the research lab.”

Rei led Rome down an aerogel-coated corridor into a brightly lit room with a Vuduri workstation, a planetarium-style holographic projector and cabinets, shelving and the like. On the large desk, the 19 data slabs and Trabunel’s journal sat as if they were patiently waiting for her attention.

Rome couldn’t contain her smile. She walked around the room running her hands over the counter tops, caressing the input surface of the workstation.

Aason hopped up on one of the chairs and began to swivel the seat around. Rome started to say something but as she did, she brushed her hand along the leg of her jumpsuit and felt a small lump there. She had put the Deucadon’s memory stick in her pocket because she had promised Bukky she would keep it close. Being here, in this room, now made it seem like she had somehow predicted the future. She reached in her pocket and took out the memory stick and set it down next to the data slabs and the journal.

“What is that, Mommy?” Aason asked as he spun the chair around and around.

“It’s a memory stick from the Deucadons,” Rome said. She gazed admiringly at the variety of information sources spread across the table. “Look,” she said to Rei, pointing to the accumulated items. “Now all we need are the Vuduri records.”

“You can start, though, right?” Rei asked hopefully.

“Of course,” Rome replied. She turned and strode over to Rei and hugged him and kissed him deeply. “This is the most amazing, incredible thing that anyone has ever done for me. You are a treasure!”

“I wouldn’t thank me just yet,” Rei said, amused. “You have a he…,” Rei glanced down at Aason. “A heck of a lot of work ahead of you.”

 

Notice that there were only 19 data slabs. In reality, the set should have contained 20. What happened to the 20th slab? This becomes the driving force behind the first half of the book.

 

Tomorrow, we get to meet MINIMCOM Junior for the very first time.

 

Entry 4-252: September 4, 2016

 

A starship is born, part 1 of 4

 

 While I have a general idea of how a story is to progress, many times the dialog and even sometimes plot twists are supplied by my characters. To non-writers, that would seem insane, but most writers would understand the phenomenon completely. So, too, it was that my characters surprised me when MINIMCOM, the starship that was once an auto-pilot computer, gave “birth” to a son who he called MINIMCOM Junior or just Junior for short in the beginning of The Ark Lords.

 

When I think back, I realize that MINIMCOM himself was a surprise and had burst on the scene, all of his own volition. The fact that he became one of the most, if not the most, popular characters in the Rome’s Revolution was a revelation. Once I became familiar with him and became attached to him, I began to think of him as an entity, not just computer. And all entities, not just biological ones, probably have the need to reproduce to propagate the species.

 

I had explained previously that Junior was not truly a child. He wasn’t even a clone. His method of gestation and birth was more like budding which is seen in flatworms, sponges and coral. Because Junior retained all of MINIMCOM’s memories, he was born fully cognizant of his place in the world. But once he split off from his father, he developed his own unique personality.

 

After I was “informed” that Junior was coming, I engineered it backwards to produce a “stork” which was nothing more than an OMCOM clone in the form of a starship. I took the design from the old Commando Cody serials and you will see that in the description of the “delivery” of MINIMCOM’s child.

 

The idea of MINIMCOM as a parent grew on me but I had always thought of him as, well, male. You will see, when Rei pointed out the starship had given birth, MINIMCOM was quick to state he thought of himself as a father, not a mother.

 

Starting tomorrow, I’ll show the delivery and “birth” of Aason’s cousin and best friend, the starship named Junior.

 

Entry 4-253: September 5, 2016

 

A starship is born, part 2 of 4

 

Yesterday, I presented my introduction about MINIMCOM giving birth to a child, the starship named Junior. Nobody (including me) was expecting this before it happened. But I wanted to introduce the Null Fold star drive so that I could get my heroes to the various star systems even more quickly. So here is the first time anyone ever heard of the star drive and also the arrive of OMCOM’s clone, aka the stork:

 

“What happened to you?” Rei asked. “Are you alright? Your ship is like half the size it used to be.”

The livetar turned and looked back at the spacecraft then turned back to them.

“It was necessary for me to shed some mass,” the livetar replied.

“Why?” Rome asked.

“OMCOM has finally perfected a way to harness the power of his null-fold. He enhanced my airframe with a null-fold star-drive but I had too much mass to operate it in my former state.”

“A null-fold star-drive?” Rei asked. The words sounded funny coming out of his mouth. “Where does that get you?”

“It gets me a higher velocity. My top speed is now fifteen thousand c.”

“What!?” Rome and Rei both exclaimed simultaneously.

“That is not possible,” Rome whispered.

“It is not only possible, it is a fact. It only took me 11 hours to return from Tabit.”

“Hoo boy,” Rei whistled, “that is incredible.”

“It’s beyond incredible,” Rome said, staring at the ship. “This makes the stars as close as tomorrow.” Suddenly, a thought occurred to her. “What about your original reason for going? Did you bring back a working copy of OMCOM?”

“In a manner of speaking,” replied MINIMCOM. “I did not have sufficient room within my new cargo hold to transport a complete copy but it will be arriving momentarily.” The livetar pointed up.

Rei and Rome turned to look where MINIMCOM was pointing. A large white ship was descending from the sky but it did not look like any spaceship either of them had ever seen before. It looked like an elongated bullet, all white, with stubby wings at the rear and a sharp, needle-like antenna sticking out the front. To Rei, it looked like something out of a bad science fiction movie. It circled around twice before landing right next to MINIMCOM, the starship. There was a whoosh and a popping sound and an all-white livetar appeared.

 

Now all the pieces are in place. It is time to meet the newest member of the family, MINIMCOM Junior.

Entry 4-254: September 6, 2016

 

A starship is born, part 3 of 4

 

Yesterday, we saw a throwback white spaceship descend from the sky carrying who knows what? Actually, I do know. The starship itself carried sufficient computing power to eventually become the Library OMCOM. Its insides were hollow but of course nobody knew that at the time…

 

“OMCOM!” Rome exclaimed. “I don’t understand. What is going on? Whose ship is that?”

“I am not exactly your OMCOM,” replied the livetar in a human-sounding voice. “More of a subset or clone but you may still call me by that name. And that ship is me,” said the livetar. “I computed that it would be the easiest way to transport the necessary components to put at your disposal.”

“Yes,” said MINIMCOM. “However, we were not expecting your building to be in place so soon.” The livetar pointed to Rome’s new library. “This poses a problem.”

“Why?” Rei asked.

“It is not a problem,” the new OMCOM interjected. “MINIMCOM, you can simply excavate a sub-basement with sufficient volume. I will transport myself into the cavity directly. My memrons are self-powered. I do not need a physical connection to the rest of the library.”

“Good idea,” said MINIMCOM. “Why did I not think of that?”

 MINIMCOM’s livetar melted away while MINIMCOM the starship lifted off the ground and drifted silently until he hovered directly over Rome’s new library. MINIMCOM’s “roadgrader” cylinders extruded from the front, below the cockpit. When they were fully extended, the ends fanned out. They then changed from fan-shaped to a conical shape.

“I have detected some porous rock and a few small caves 700 meters down. I will extract the strata there,” MINIMCOM announced in their heads.

There was a rumbling noise and suddenly, the ground began to shake.

“Is that an earthquake?” Rome shouted as she grabbed onto Aason. Rei steadied the two of them.

“No,” replied OMCOM. “That is just a large volume of soil and rock being sent elsewhere.”

This went on for a few minutes but eventually, the temblor subsided. The two cylinders retracted back into the spacecraft’s body then MINIMCOM returned to the landing strip. His livetar reappeared in front of them.

“It is ready,” the all-black figure said.

“Very well,” replied OMCOM. “This shell will return shortly.”

 

I had to build the storage compartment for the new OMCOM’s memrons deep underground because as the cover of The Ark Lords there is a mini-nuke coming and I needed the OMCOM clone to survive. Meanwhile, everybody is confused. You can see that. But everything will be explained tomorrow. We get the new character, the new starship, Aason’s cousin and best friend, all at the same time!

Entry 4-255: September 7, 2016

 

A starship is born, part 4 of 4

 

Yesterday, we saw the new Library OMCOM, a clone of Planet OMCOM, direct MINIMCOM to create a large storage compartment deep beneath the Library. It was necessary because I knew it had to survive a mini-nuke attack. Today OMCOM and MINIMCOM reveal the real reason they came in tandem:

 

First OMCOM’s livetar vanished then before their eyes the all-white ship shimmered and disappeared. In its place was a smaller, gray ship that looked like a miniature version of MINIMCOM. It was approximately the length of the original space tug before it became MINIMCOM.

“What is that?” Rome asked, pointing at the smaller spaceship.

The mouth slit of MINIMCOM’s livetar curled upward into a smile.

“I had to do something with the mass I gave up,” said the all-black livetar. He nodded and suddenly a small gray livetar, barely two feet tall, appeared beside him. The eye holes and mouth hole were round instead of the normal slits. “I would like you to meet MINIMCOM Junior,” MINIMCOM said proudly.

Rei started laughing. “You gave birth? You’re a mother?”

“Although I do not have a gender, I would prefer to think of myself as a father.”

“How do you do?” said the little livetar, walking toward Rome and reaching out with his hand.

Rome bent over. “I am pleased to meet you,” she said, shaking the hand gently. It was surprisingly warm and perhaps even a little soft.

“I am very pleased to meet you as well,” replied the little shell.

“Aason,” Rome called out. “Come and meet your new little, uh, what?” Her voice left the sentence hanging.

“Technically,” MINIMCOM began, “to the extent that I am Aason’s Onclare, Junior would be Aason’s cousin.”

“Yes, of course,” Rome said, nodding her head.

Aason walked over to where they were standing and stared at the little livetar. He smiled broadly and gave the livetar a hug which was reciprocated.

“I like him, Mommy,” Aason said over his shoulder.

“And I like you,” replied Junior.

“So…” Rei inquired, turning to MINIMCOM. “Does he have the same capabilities as you?”

“His null-fold drive and cloak are not quite ready yet but they will be shortly. His ‘cell-phone’ will be online soon as well. As far as the rest of him, he is really a part of me so I would say yes.”

“MINIMCOM Junior,” Rei laughed heartily. “Buddy, you literally never cease to amaze me.”

“I try,” replied MINIMCOM, shrugging in a very human-like manner. “I try.”

 

So there you have it, the first starship ever born, not built. Rest assured, there will be more but there always has to be a first. So welcome, Junior. It is time to take your place in the adventure that is The Ark Lords and the entire universe of Rome’s Revolution.

Entry 4-256: September 8, 2016

 

OMCOM’s Grille

 

 In all of my books, there have been recurring themes, objects and sequences. Some of them are because they amuse me but some of them are because they are indelibly etched into my brain as an integral part of my future history.

 

One such object is OMCOM’s audio interface. It is a bi-directional piezo-electric device that can emit sounds and also pick up sounds so it is both a speaker and a microphone. One day, a long, long time ago, I even tried to sketch out what it looked like. It looked like this:

 

 

This drawing was done was I was a wee lad, only 21 years old and I have since come to learn that the grille, while still omnipresent, is much more understated in the 35th century. Going way back to the very first page of Rome’s Revolution, this is all I give you in the modern story:

 

“Can you hear me?” Rei called out. The woman stared into his eyes for a moment longer then turned and walked away, out of sight.

“Damn it,” Rei said as he slumped against the door. “Anybody?”

“As far as I can surmise, you probably speak middle twenty-first century English. Is this correct?” a disembodied voice asked from the right.

“Where are you?” Rei asked, searching the wall. “Who are you?”

“You may call me OMCOM. Such is the translation of my designation in your language,” replied the deep, metallic-sounding voice. “With regard to where I am, I am everywhere. However, if I understand the intent of your question, the voice you hear is issuing from a grille built into the wall in front of you.”

“Are you a computer?” Rei asked.

 

In my modern vision of the 35th century world, the grille is barely distinguishable from its surroundings, not the gaudy logo-ish device shown above. Plus I now believe that the Vuduri language and alphabet is so radically different from what we have today that even if such a grille was built, we wouldn’t know what we were looking at.

 

Ah, youth.

Entry 4-257: September 9, 2016

 

MINMCOM’s Expedient Port

 

 When I first started writing Rome’s Revolution, I was very hesitant to try anything outlandish. While I write science fiction, I tried to make everything completely and utterly believable, sometimes to the detriment of the plot. When I got to The Ark Lords, I decided I would be a little bit bolder and stretch the truth farther to make the story move along more quickly.

 

One such example was the induction of Rome’s information sources into her newly acquired Library OMCOM. She had Trabunel’s journal which OMCOM scanned and ingested using optical character recognition. That didn’t seem like something hard for you, the reader, to swallow. But then I came to the Deucadon’s memory stick. I decided to just allow MINIMCOM to have a universal reader which could adapt to any electronic source. Here it is in context:

 

“Let’s try to download the Deucadon data next,” Rome continued. She watched as MINIMCOM adapted his normal Vuduri device reader to the form factor of the Deucadon memory stick. According to Bukky, the Deucadon’s information was mainly in the form of digitally compressed documents. It only took MINIMCOM a few minutes to determine the proper contact heads for connecting to the data device and perform a test download.

“Interface complete,” MINIMCOM announced through the grille. “OMCOM, are you ready for download?”

“Yes,” replied the computer from 700 meters below the surface. “I have prepared a segregated ‘holding tank’ to store the raw data. I will organize and cross-reference after download is complete. Proceed.”

“Engaging,” MINIMCOM replied. Rome watched, enthralled, as screen after screen of data flashed by and was transmitted to OMCOM’s data storage facility, over half a kilometer under the surface.

“I am impressed,” OMCOM said. “The Deucadons storage density is at least an order of magnitude greater than the Vuduri standard. That is how they are able to maintain such a small form factor. Also, they were very thorough in their organization. They have built in a categorization and cross-referencing system into the data structure itself.”

Rome sat back and watched as the tremendous quantity of data contained in the stick flowed down to OMCOM. Eventually, the items flashing by on the screen stopped.

“That is all,” OMCOM said. “I have received the entire contents of the data device.”

“I think your idea to adapt MINIMCOM’s data reader was an excellent one,” Rome remarked. “It saved me a lot of time not having to build one which would have only been used once.”

“Yes, this is far more efficient,” OMCOM replied through the grille. “MINIMCOM’s mutable structures allow for adaptation. If I had to build you the reader, it would have to be built out of physical materials using trial and error.”

 

You didn’t have any trouble buying that, did you? You can see how now we can move along with the plot rather than get bogged down in schematics and circuit boards and algorithms and encoding. We’ll save that for later, when it becomes plot-worthy.

Entry 4-258: September 10, 2016

 

The Slabs: All Human Knowledge

 

 The data slabs belonging to Rei and his people, called the Essessoni by the Vuduri, are at the heart of the plot and the intrigue of The Ark Lords. I decided that all of human knowledge, the equivalent of the Library of Congress, would reside in 19 data slabs. But how to organize them?

 

I read up on the Dewey Decimal System and other methods of organizing data and realized I actually could represent all of human knowledge in a taxonomically sound yet concise system. Here are the 19 volumes:

 

Volume 1 – Paleobotany, Paleozoology and Paleontology

Volume 2 – Cosmology, Astronomy, Astro-geophysics

Volume 3 – Geology

Volume 4 – Biology, Genetics, Ecology

Volume 5 – Agricultural Science, Botany

Volume 6 – Medicine, Physiology, Biochemistry

Volume 7 – Chemistry, Nuclear Reactions

Volume 8 – Physics, Quantum Mechanics

Volume 9 – Materials Science, Mineralogy, Crystallography, Engineering

Volume 10 – Mathematics, Computer Science, Theory of AI

Volume 11 – Archeology, Anthropology, Linguistics

Volume 12 – Psychology, Sociology

Volume 13 – Ancient Cultures, Comparative Religion

Volume 14 – History through the Middle Ages, Middle Ages to the 18th Century

Volume 15 – Art History, Sculpture, Architecture

Volume 16 – Music

Volume 17 – Literature: Fiction, Non-fiction, Religion, Philosophy

Volume 18 – Movie and TV Archives

Volume 19 – The Rise of the Industrial Era, the Space Age, Modern Culture

 

So how do you think I did? Did I miss anything major? Really, in the end, there is just science, culture and history. The rest is detail.

 

Over the next few days I’ll share with you Rome’s reaction as she uncovers this incredible archive of knowledge.

Entry 4-259: September 11, 2016

 

The Slabs: The Universal Bus

 

Yesterday, I promised you I would share with you Rome’s reaction as she uncovered all of human knowledge of history, sciences and the arts which was hidden from her by the Overmind. But before I get into all that, I just wanted to show you, once again, how easily MINIMCOM was able to “crack the code” and start downloading the data. Just like Rei’s music slab, there was no exposed contacts. These slabs had to be built to last centuries. Metal corrodes. Silicon does not. So how does MINIMCOM break into them in the first place? Here is how he did it:

 

OMCOM said, “MINIMCOM has the harder job. We do not even know how the Essessoni data slabs function.”

“Let me start with a receptacle,” MINIMCOM said. “Rome, place the slab gently on the existing data input interface and hold it there until I am ready.”

“OK,” Rome said. The surface surrounding the reader turned a little slicker and the thin slot widened and spread until it became large enough to allow the slab to slide in. The top and bottom of the reader narrowed until the slab was held snugly in place.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“There are no exposed contacts,” MINIMCOM explained to her. “The Deucadons memory stick was much more conventional. This slab appears to have an inductive interface for power. I must assume the address bus and data ports are inductive as well.”

“Please do not damage it,” Rome begged. “Rei asked me to be very careful.”

“Absolutely,” MINIMCOM replied. “I will use a series of benign probes to determine the interface. I will apply no more than 2.3 volts to any virtual contact. Surely that will not damage it. If it requires more voltage, it will not even activate.”

“Very well,” Rome said. “Proceed.” She stared at MINIMCOM’s data display intently, trying to will the data to appear. Wavy lines marched across the screen but ultimately settled into a flat-line.

“2.3 volts, oscillating at 60 cycles per second has no effect. The slab remains inert.”

“What will you try next?” Rome asked.

“I believe it would be safe to increase the inductive current to achieve five volts. Are you agreeable to that?”

Rome tilted her head. She stared at the slab. Rei had told her that the Paleobotany and Paleontology slab was the most ‘expendable’ in that it had no relevance to any other world beyond Earth. He told her that if they had to practice, this would be the appropriate slab.

“Yes, you may increase the voltage to five,” Rome said. “That was Rei’s guess as to the appropriate value.”

“Increasing,” MINIMCOM said. Suddenly, the onboard display lit up with nonsense words and symbols.

“That worked,” MINIMCOM announced. “I am receiving a bit-stream. This slab uses a virtual serial bus rather than a parallel port. I need to rearrange the data until it appears organized.”

The onboard display snapped into place with an outline of English terms. Rome was able to read Paleobotany, Paleozoology and Paleontology on the screen. Within each term was a series of notations describing the eras in which the data was collected.

 

You see? It really was a universal serial bus or USB. I wasn’t kidding. Tomorrow we’ll look at the vast amount of data from an information junkie who didn’t know she was even hooked. Yet.

Entry 4-260: September 12, 2016

 

The Slabs: Going Live

 

 As we proceed with Rome’s review of the contents of the slabs in the beginning of The Ark Lords, we find that the content of each slab shapes Rome’s reaction. It starts with definitive proof that MINIMCOM can decode the slabs. Rome thinks she understands the concept of what is on them but seeing them for the first time has a profound impact:

 

The onboard display snapped into place with an outline of English terms. Rome was able to read Paleobotany, Paleozoology and Paleontology on the screen. Within each term was a series of notations describing the eras in which the data was collected.

“I can read that,” Rome said happily. “I think you have it.”

“Yes,” replied OMCOM. “You can download the contents now. I will integrate and organize after getting the raw data dump.”

“Downloading,” MINIMCOM said. The onboard screen started flashing with words, diagrams, images, charts, virtually any and every way data could be organized.

“There is a large quantity of data here,” MINIMCOM observed. “Even for a mind as great as OMCOM’s, it will actually take a measurable interval to download it all.”

“Take your time,” Rome said. “We are in no hurry. It is only important that he receives the data intact and in a systematic fashion.”

The download took about five minutes. “I am ready for the next one,” OMCOM said. His statement was underscored by the screen going dark.

Rome carefully removed the first slab and set it on the floor. She picked up the next one, labeled “Volume 2 – Cosmology, Astronomy, Astro-geophysics.” She slid it into the rectangular reader and instantly, MINIMCOM’s central display lit up. Stunning photographs of the stars and distant galaxies appeared. Charts, white papers, animations, all flashed by at dazzling speed. Even though Rome was no longer connected to the Overmind, she remembered enough to know that this volume dwarfed the information the Vuduri had acquired regarding the construction of the universe, solar systems and so on. Her eyes widened and she sat back in her seat. Something was happening in her brain, something she could not explain. Suddenly random facts about the universe were fitting together like pieces in a puzzle.

“OMCOM, can you talk while you are downloading?” Rome directed to the grille. Her voice was raspy.

 

Tomorrow, Rome’s Revelation. Hey, that sounds like it could be a book in this series, huh?

Entry 4-261: September 13, 2016

 

The Slabs: Rome’s Revelation, Part 1

 

 At the beginning of The Ark Lords we saw MINIMCOM have a breakthrough in accessing the data contained within the Essessoni slabs. Yesterday, we watched through Rome’s eyes as an incredible amount of information flowed from the Essessoni data slabs down to Library OMCOM’s memron storage chamber a half kilometer below the surface. Just observing the vast array of images whoosh by awakened something fundamental in Rome. Something that could get her killed. Here is her revelation, broken into two parts:

 

“OMCOM, can you talk while you are downloading?” Rome directed to the grille. Her voice was raspy.

“Of course,” replied OMCOM.

“I think I have just had a revelation,” she said breathily.

“About what?”

“About the difference between the Vuduri and the Essessoni. Why they are so different.”

“I assume you are not talking about their views on the construction of the universe,” OMCOM replied.

“No, this is broader than that. Allow me to explain. It is so complex, I may not make sense.”

“Do your best.”

“When I was in the Overmind, I was under constant pressure to let the Overmind do the thinking for me. Most Vuduri succumb to that pressure and even use the Overmind’s second sight to perceive reality. I did not. That is why they chose me to be the data archivist on Tabit. My eye-hand coordination was better than the other candidates and my brain reacted faster because I had the capacity to think for myself.”

“That speaks well of you but is hardly the explanation for why the Essessoni are like they are.”

“The difference is this,” Rome said insistently. “The Vuduri are braguocisi, in English, what, lazy? Not in the physical sense of the word but the mental sense. They like letting the Overmind think for them. But the Overmind is nothing but the combined intellects of the communicants. Which means it is intellectually lazy as well.”

Rome paused for a moment then she spoke again. “And they are getting lazier. Look how long it took before the Overmind was even curious enough about the stars disappearing to send out a survey crew.”

 

Rome is literally straddling two worlds. The first, the one she is familiar with, is the world of the Vuduri where the Overmind prefers to do the thinking for the people. The second, Rei’s world, is something else. Tomorrow I’ll give you the second half of this scene.

Entry 4-262: September 14, 2016

 

The Slabs: Rome’s Revelation, Part 2

 

Yesterday, I gave you the first half of what I called tongue-in-cheek Rome’s Revelation, a play on the title of the whole series. But this is actually serious stuff. For the first time, in the most visceral way, Rome now understands why the Essessoni would always survive and why the Vuduri were ultimately doomed. She is trying to explain this to OMCOM in the beginning of The Ark Lords. Here is the second half of her revelation:

 

“You are saying that the Essessoni are not lazy intellectually?”

“They cannot be!” Rome said forcefully. “They must think for themselves. Every one of them is their own samanda.” She sat back in her chair. “No wonder the Vuduri never had a chance. The very design of the Overmind is a negative feedback loop. If they were to continue along the path they designed, they would spiral down into stupidity and sloth. They would become human robots.”

“I do not need to remind you that this was MASAL’s master plan. This was how he was going to take over the human race.”

“Yes, but MASAL is gone. And so is his plan. Thank goodness there are people like Ursay and Pegus who will force the Vuduri back to independent thinking.”

“Technically, they are your disciples,” MINIMCOM interjected. “It was you who charted this new course.”

“My part does not matter. This does,” Rome said, pointing at the viewscreen. “It is time for all Vuduri to learn each thing by themselves. That is what I am going to do.” She pounded her fist gently on the console. “I will become Essessoni! No more kitchen fires for me.”

“Well, this is an excellent start,” OMCOM said with the slightest hint of impatience. “However, I am ready for the next slab.”

 

What a downer! But the Library OMCOM’s indifference cannot dampen Rome’s mood. She has to think a little further but look how she has already connected the dots. She realized that had she been truly thinking for herself, she would not have set fire to the kitchen. And even if she had, she would have figured out how to deal with it rather than cowering in a corner.

 

The girl has come a long way. Pretty cool, huh? Tomorrow, Rome’s mind is jolted into an even higher state of mental acuity.

Entry 4-263: September 15, 2016

 

The Slabs: The Revolution Revisited, Part 1

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome’s brain set on fire, figuratively speaking. Observing so much knowledge concentrated in one place caused her to use her cognitive faculties in a way she never imagined. However it was the Library OMCOM who had to point out to her that this was merely an extension of the revolution she had started several years earlier:

 

When Rome and OMCOM got to ‘Volume 14 – History through the Middle Ages, Middle Ages to the 18th Century’ Rome paused as she was about insert the next data slab.

“All this information makes my brain feel like it is on fire. I just now realized why Estar introduced the rogue memrons into your infrastructure, rather, Planet OMCOM’s. I know why she had to try and kill Rei and why she had to make it look like an accident.”

“Really?” OMCOM commented. “And you say this why?”

“Because he could think for himself. All the Vuduri would see that. I noticed it right away. I now know that Estar made a grievous error when she let Rei live for even 10 seconds.”

“That seems like a bit of an exaggeration.”

“No,” Rome insisted. “Metaphorically, he represented the end of MASAL’s plan. All Essessoni do.” Rome laughed. “Actually, it isn’t even a metaphor, since Rei really did destroy him. But MASAL’s ideal, of transforming mankind into a gaggle of organic robots, that dream ended when the Essessoni arrived. Estar knew this somehow.”

“Rome looked out the cockpit window, up at the sky. In broad daylight, it was not possible to see any stars. But she knew they were up there, Tabit among them.

OMCOM was curious. “How would that translate into her taking her specific actions?”

Rome looked back down at the console. “While she could not compute the timelines or decision trees, Estar knew Rei represented extreme danger to MASAL’s plan and had to be terminated. But it wasn’t just his physical existence that needed to be stopped, it was his ideal. So she had to have him die in a way that appeared natural. Anything that singled him out would have planted the seeds.”

“The seeds of Rome’s Revolution,” OMCOM said off-handedly.

“Me, anybody,” Rome said. “But Estar failed. Twice. Because Rei could think for himself. When Estar returned to Earth and MASAL discovered that she had failed, he sent agents to Deucado to introduce the idea of killing all of the Essessoni on sight.”

 

Do you feel sorry for MASAL? Of course you don’t. But Rome is going to point out the incredible irony of Rei’s Ark showing up just at the exact wrong time.

 

Tomorrow.

Entry 4-264: September 16, 2016

 

The Slabs: The Revolution Revisited, Part 2

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome trying to explain the amazing coincidence of Rei’s Ark being recovered just as MASAL’s plan was nearly complete. Today, I am presenting to you the second half of the conversation showing Rome’s complete grasp of the irony:

 

Rome stifled a laugh. “Poor MASAL, Rei and his people couldn’t have come at a worse time. Just nineteen more years and the bulk of the halfway-intelligent mandasurte would have been gone. The Onsiras would have reached critical mass and taken control. The Vuduri would be helpless by then. But the Ark was on its way to Deucado filled with Essessoni. Not just their physical selves but their ideals. So they had to be destroyed.”

“And yet they were not,” OMCOM said. “Because of you.”

“I had help. Remember the Overmind awakened. Before I was introduced, he thought his charter was to suppress the mandasurte and to destroy all the Essessoni with a single blow. That is why he did not attack them at the enclave. He knew that if he flushed them out, he could eliminate them all at once. Failure was not an option. Not one Essessoni could be allowed to survive.”

“Why?” asked OMCOM. “A few stragglers could not be dangerous.”

“I do not agree,” Rome countered. “Once the war against the Essessoni was declared, if the Overmind didn’t wipe them out in a single definitive strike, a guerilla war would have begun. Look at Hanry Ta Jihn. He fought against impossible odds against the Erklirte and yet, in the end, his side won. The guerillas always win in the end. Ideals always win.”

“Also, they did not account for you being on the inside. So I must agree. You already had your ideals and your ideals defeated them.”

“It was not a defeat,” Rome said. “It was a victory. For sanity.” She sighed as she thought back to the trials that the Vuduri and the various Overminds put her through.

“Enough reminiscing,” she said, shaking her head. “Let us get on with it.” She inserted the next slab and watched the entire history of mankind before the Great Dying flash by. As she watched the images explode on the screen, she realized the reason the Overmind of Earth suppressed this information. In its own way, it knew that general knowledge was dangerous. Particularly this knowledge.

 

To be fair, when I wrote Rome’s Revolution, I didn’t know any of this was going on either. It was until I finished what was then Book 1 of the VIRUS 5 trilogy that the plot became apparent to me, too. I had to lay it out but then I got to review it again with Rome.

Entry 4-265: September 17, 2016

 

The Slabs: Rome and Art 1

 

 Past, present, future, mankind has always felt the urge to render what he sees and feels in art. So, too, in the 35th century world of Rome’s Revolution, we’ve always known that Rome had a fascination with art and artistic expression. One of the most important scenes I ever wrote was about pre-Cesdiud Rome’s love of art. Rei used it break through her icy Vuduri exterior. Unfortunately, that scene got tossed overboard when I collapsed the three-novel version called VIRUS 5 down to the modern version. I will be publishing that little scene (finally) in the upcoming compendium entitled The Vuduri Companion.

 

We also know that Rome decorated The Flying House both as an Interior Designer as well as an artist on their year-long journey from Tabit to Deucado. I mean, who puts up wallpaper in a spaceship? We also know from Rome’s Evolution that when she retired, she converted her parents’ solarium into an art studio and spent her golden years painting. So Rome’s specific past and future all point to her preoccupation with art.

 

Therefore, in the early going of The Ark Lords, it should not be surprising that when Rome and OMCOM got to the slab holding all the art history records of the Essessoni culture, she should stop to take a deeper look:

 

When OMCOM was done, Rome picked up ‘Volume 15 – Art History, Sculpture, Architecture’ and slid it in.

“Go very slowly,” Rome commanded OMCOM. “I want to see this one.”

“Of course.”

One by one, from the very early cave drawings through Egyptian pottery, the Greeks, the Romans, all zoomed across the screen. Rome saw paleoliths, petroglyphs, the huge heads on Easter Island. The artwork advanced past the Middle Ages. All of the masterpieces of the bygone days flashed by. They passed through the Renaissance and into the age of Impressionism. Suddenly, Rome shouted out, “Stop!”

“What?” OMCOM asked.

“Go back a few images. Slowly,” Rome said. The pictures on the screen changed twice.

 

What was Rome so excited about? It is something that I truly love. I’ll explain tomorrow.

Entry 4-266: September 18, 2016

 

The Slabs: Rome and Art 2

 

Yesterday, we saw that Rome could not help herself when she got to slab #15 which was the accumulation of all the art history records of man before The Great Dying. In this section of The Ark Lords, Rome had vowed to not stop and look too deeply. There was simply too much information to acquire so she forced herself to delay her studies until all the records were transmitted to the Library OMCOM.

 

But all that fell apart as some of the most beautiful paintings ever created by man flew by on her screen. This is how it went:

 

“There,” Rome said. “Stop there.” She stared at the image for a long time. It was clearly flowers floating on water but painted in a soft stylized way. There was no attempt at rendering it realistically.

“What is that painting?” she asked.

“That is entitled ‘Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond’ by Claude Monet,” OMCOM replied. “But you are only looking at one small piece.”

“Let me see the whole work,” Rome said.

The image zoomed out and showed a huge three-part mural, six meters across in total.

“That is the most beautiful painting I have ever seen,” Rome said, marveling at the image in front of her. “How could someone create something so, so inspiring?”

“Art, by definition, is all about communication,” OMCOM said. “That this artist communicates with you means he is reaching across the centuries to tell you how he feels. He insisted this painting always be displayed on a curved wall so that the viewer felt encompassed.”

Rome sat back in her chair and looked out the windshield. “I have had it all wrong,” she said. “I have just tried painting what I see, not what I feel. This…” she looked back down at the screen. “When I go back to painting, this is what I want to do. This is truly art.” She just gazed at the screen, putting her mind into the scene. Finally, she shook her head. “I cannot dwell on this. There is too much work to be done. There will be plenty of time for me to review this later. Go ahead and finish downloading this volume.”

 

I picked that painting in particular because a) I love it and b) when I finally got to see the original at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I was blown away by how big it was. This image only gives you a hint of that so try and see it for yourself someday:

 

Entry 4-267: September 19, 2016

 

The Slabs: Future Fiction

 

 Since the 24-chromosome mind-connected Vuduri have no privacy, they had long given up the desire to be creative. They were too afraid of what others might think by looking into their minds. As such, the Vuduri had no art, no music and no literature. When Rome first met Rei and he told her about fiction, she did not believe that such a thing was possible. She point-blank asked him why anybody would ever want to know about “altered truth”.

 

However, once she because Cesdiud, cast out, she learned to appreciate all the arts, including literature. She learned to enjoy movies, called volma, in Vuduri. So during the library section of The Ark Lords, when she came across the next volume including all the Essessoni literature, she found it completely gratifying:

 

While there were some images of musicians, bands, orchestras and instruments, mostly the viewscreen showed data files being downloaded with titles, artist, album covers and genres. This slab took longer to download than the previous ones. At last OMCOM completed it. The next one was entitled ‘Volume 17 – Literature: Fiction, Non-fiction, Religion, Philosophy.’”

When Rome had first met Rei, the idea of fiction was inconceivable to her. But now she understood it fully and could not wait to dive in and read some of the works of the earlier age. OMCOM made relatively quick work of this slab. The next was labeled ‘Volume 18 – Movie and TV Archives.’” Rome placed it in the reader.

“There appear to be two completely different storage formats here,” OMCOM said.

“What do you mean?” Rome asked.

“One format is a simple series of frames with a sound track. When flashed up on a screen, the human eye would retain the image long enough such that each static frame would fuse and you would see it as a moving image. Volma.”

“What is the other format?” Rome asked.

“It appears to be a holographic sequence. I believe this would be used to create dynamic, three-dimensional images.”

“MINIMCOM, can you adapt your heads-up projectors to compensate and merge the bit streams?”

“Of course.”

“Let me see one of them,” Rome asked. “I want to see what it looks like.”

 

So even though Rome had a massive job to do, she had to take a moment out to watch a movie. Wait until you see which movie she picked out. I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Entry 4-268: September 20, 2016

 

The Slabs: Future Past

 

 When I decided to resume my writing career, shockingly, the first book I wrote was not science fiction but rather a romantic novel entitled Future Past. It was a book about a fictional reality show in which the protagonist (a fictionalized version of me) was given the opportunity to meet or see again every girl he had ever dated, loved or known to see if a woman from his past might be the woman of his future. If you ever get the chance, check it out.

 

But having gotten that novel out of the way, it was time to dive into science fiction and the world of Rome’s Revolution. However, I didn’t want to abandon my first “child” so I found a way to slip in a reference to the book in The Ark Lords. Here is that scene:

 

“What about a movie called ‘War of the Worlds’?”

“I have several of those,” OMCOM said. “Yes, there is one in 3D.”

“Wait!” Rome said, holding up her hand. “Do you have one called ‘Future Past’?”

“Yes, there is one with that title.”

“Then pick a scene from that one,” Rome said. “Rei was always telling me about that movie. It was based upon the real life story of his grandfather. How he met Rei’s grandmother.”

MINIMCOM darkened his windshield and dimmed the lights. His holo-projectors took the two separate data-streams and projected them so that they caused ripples of interference and light. Suddenly, Rome was looking at a completely realistic, three dimensional representation of a Hollywood sound stage, wires and lights hanging overhead. A heavy-set man with graying hair was sitting on a sofa next to a petite woman with short brown hair and bangs.

The man was speaking. “Well, I didn’t,” he said. “I didn’t end up with anybody. You know it and I know it even if nobody else’ll know it. I can’t believe they both turned me down. It was just a stupid charm. Am I that horrible?”

The woman reached over and placed her hand on top of his. “Let me tell you something. I think you’re an amazing individual. You’re attractive, you’re funny; you’re like a genius. You got along really well with the women.” OMCOM froze the image.

“Was that Rei’s grandfather?” OMCOM asked.

“I don’t think so. Rei told me there were people called actors since they acted in movies. So I believe this was an actor playing the part of his grandfather,” Rome said. She was about to command OMCOM to continue then changed her mind. “Shut it off,” she said. The image disappeared and MINIMCOM changed the windshield back to transparent, allowing light to flood into the cockpit. “There will be plenty of time to watch movies,” she said. “Rei will be so pleased. He loves them.”

 

Do you like how I wove that in? That scene was lifted directly from my first book. I made the protagonist of Future Past become, in my fictional universe, Rei’s grandfather. Pretty cool, huh?

 

Entry 4-269: September 21, 2016

 

The Slabs: Number 20

 

 The entire novel The Ark Lords is about Rome’s quest for truth and the awful people that would stop at nothing to prevent her from learning about who caused The Great Dying. However, up until this point, Rome did not know that she did not know something.

 

There had to be a pivotal point whereupon our plucky heroine Rome stumbles across this missing link. Frankly, her life would have gone a lot more smoothly if she hadn’t. But if you take the long-term view, ultimately it was a secret that had to get out and the longer it took, the more devastating the consequences. So here is the scene where Rome finally finds out that there are those within the Essessoni community who are hiding a terrible secret:

 

She finally reached the last slab, entitled ‘Volume 19 – The Rise of the Industrial Era, the Space Age, Modern Culture.’ She slid it into the reader and didn’t even pay attention to the data being downloaded. Her mind was elsewhere.

“I am finished,” OMCOM said, trying to get Rome’s attention. “I am ready for the last one.”

“Huh?” Rome remarked. OMCOM had startled her from her daydreaming. She looked over to the co-pilot’s seat. There were no more slabs. “That’s all that there is. That was the last one,” she said.

“It is not,” OMCOM said. “There is one more slab. There are numerous references to it in the underlying indexes.”

“Are you sure?” Rome asked, looking around the cabin. “I was very careful. This is all that they gave me.”

“There is definitely a reference to a 20th slab,” OMCOM said. “It is entitled ‘Volume 20 – Mission Parameters.’ There is no doubt about it. Are you sure you did not drop it or misplace it?”

“I’m very sure,” Rome said. “This is all they provided. I counted the slabs when Rei first gave them to me. There were only 19. You have received all 19. I’m certain I did not misplace it.”

“I can confirm Rome’s statement. She entered my cockpit with exactly 19 slabs,” MINIMCOM chimed in.

“Then there is one missing,” OMCOM said a bit fussily. “I will begin integrating and cross-referencing the data. I leave it to you to find out what happened to the 20th slab. It would be more efficient to have a complete accounting of the data before the Vuduri arrive back from Earth. I happen to know they will be returning with an immense amount of data.”

Rome pulled Volume 19 out of the reader and placed it on top of the rest. She picked up the entire stack and placed the slabs back on the co-pilot’s seat.

“I will do that,” she said. “I will return these and find out what happened to the missing slab. MINIMCOM?”

With that, the starship rose off the ground and headed back toward New Ark City.

 

So there you have it. The truth has been laid bare. There is a slab called Mission Parameters that has mysteriously disappeared. Rome is like a bloodhound. Once she gets on the scent of something, she will not stop until she finds it. Lucky for me because it makes for one hell of a story!

Entry 4-270: September 22, 2016

 

The Trellis

 

 On the new world of Deucado, the bulk of the people there were the Deucadons, Ibbrassati or Vuduri. There were only 500 or so Essessoni, the people from our time initially. Yet their autonomy (and aggressiveness) allowed them to set the tone for a number of cultural changes to the new world.

 

One such quirk they brought with them was fear of an unnatural and swift death from above, courtesy of the ‘falling blankets’ who were cloth-like creatures that could smother you. So the Essessoni built trellises in front of their homes so they could enter and exit without fear. Here is what one might look like:

 

 

In the first part of The Ark Lords, Rome initially thought them silly until she herself was attacked one time. Here was her initial take on the architectural trend:

 

As Rome approached the Mullens’ home, she walked under a trellis, entangled with honeysuckle vines. The smell was intoxicating. Most of the Essessoni lived in fear of the “falling blankets” that inhabited the cane-tree forest and most of them had built such trellises in front of their homes. It seemed slightly paranoid to Rome but there were many things about the Essessoni that she would never understand. She got to the front step and stopped, her arms burdened with the loose 19 data slabs.

“Hello?” she called out. There was no response.

Mounted on the door was a metal hoop. Rome thought about pulling on it but her hands were full with the slabs. She considered setting the stack on the ground but just as she started stooping down, the door opened up and an Essessoni woman, half a foot taller than Rome with wavy dark hair, stood before her. She was quite pregnant from the look of her abdomen. Rome just blinked, staring at her.

“You must be Rome,” the woman said. “I’m Bonnie Mullen. Come on in.”

 

Of course, in Rome’s Evolution, she learned how to speak to the blanket community and forged a peace with them such that all the people of Deucado never had to fear them again. However, by that time, the trellises had become ubiquitous, like shutters today, and an expected part of the landscape. It was also funny that Rome had no clue what a door knocker was for. I guess because a Vuduri always knows who is at the door.

 

More on Bonnie tomorrow.

Entry 4-271: September 23, 2016

 

Ray, Rei, Rey, Rae 1

 

 Many people have asked me how I decided to name my characters, especially my heroine, Rome and my hero, Rei. Rei’s name is spelled funny and people that do not know how to pronounce it often say his name like rye as in rye bread. It got so bad that eventually, I had to figure out his “real” name, I came up with Reinard, so I could justify how to pronounce it.

 

The truth of the matter is, I always knew it was pronounced Ray because that is my father’s name and Bierak is just a mangling of my Dad’s (and my) last name. So Rei was always named after my father. I had a moment of panic when Star Wars VII came out and the heroine’s name was Rey. I was afraid they were going to spell it my way. But then she was a she so I would have sworn that the woman’s version should be spelled Rae. Oh well, I used a non-standard spelling too so who am I to judge?

 

Which brings me to Bonnie Mullen. If there was ever a woman smitten with Rei Bierak, this is the one. We first met her, albeit briefly, in the middle section of Rome’s Revolution. This was the total extent of their interaction the first time:

 

Rei saw two people that he knew. He walked over to one of them, Bonnie Mullen, and kneeled down beside her.

“Hey, Bonnie,” he said.

“Hey, Rei,” Bonnie replied, smiling weakly. “Where were you?”

Rei sighed. “Out there,” he said, pointing over his shoulder. “How are you doing?”

“My back is killing me,” Bonnie said, grimacing.

“Yeah,” Rei answered. “That happens a lot. Did you get a pill?”

“Yeah, some old guy gave me one.”

“It’ll help soon. Did everybody make it?”

Bonnie looked down. “Almost everybody,” she said. “Some of the caskets in the front of the ship got cracked, a couple got punctured by micrometeorites.”

 

But in The Ark Lords, we get a much better view of Bonnie’s personality. Like many of the Essessoni, she is hyper-aggressive and Rome is not really prepared to deal with it:

 

“You must be Rome,” the woman said. “I’m Bonnie Mullen. Come on in.”

“Thank you,” Rome replied as she straightened up and followed the woman into the house. Rome looked around. In no way did it resemble her own home. It was furnished with lots of cane-tree wood furniture. It looked rustic.

“Just set those down on the table,” Bonnie said, pointing into the dining area. “Were you able to retrieve any of the contents? I told Rei that our reader was busted.”

Rome entered the dining room and walked over to the table. She gently set the pile down on the table then turned to face Bonnie. “Yes,” she replied. “We were able to build a new one. You are welcome to use it at any time.

“Thanks,” Bonnie said, coming over to where Rome was standing. “As the colony’s historian, I’ve been pretty feeble around here without one. I’ve begged and begged but nobody seemed interested in fixing it. I think I’ll take you up on your offer.”

“Very good,” Rome said. “I really appreciate you loaning those to me.”

“Oh, it’s no bother,” Bonnie said, running her hand over the top of the slabs. “Without a reader, they were kind of useless. Plus it was Rei asking. I’d do anything for Rei,” she said in a come-hither voice.

Rome cocked her head. “You know Rei well?” she asked.

“Oh, honey,” Bonnie said. “Everybody knows Rei. He’s what you’d call the pick of the litter.” She stopped and regarded Rome. “You seem a little small but you certainly are pretty enough. If you ever get tired of him, you be sure to let me know.”

Rome did not understand what Bonnie was referring to but she began to get the oddest sensation. “You are cesa, married to Edgar, no?” She pointed to Bonnie’s abdomen.

“Yes but Edgar, well, he’s ordinary. Rei is… He’s dreamy. I’d swap with you any time.”

 

Pretty transparent, huh? Bonnie doesn’t know when to let up. You’ll see that in the second part.

Entry 4-272: September 24, 2016

 

The Baby Factory

 

As we saw yesterday, Bonnie Mullen was not shy about telling Rome that she was attracted to Rei. The whole concept of infidelity was foreign to Rome. The Vuduri did not marry but the mandasurte did. Their ceremony was called cesa and wasn’t a marriage as much as it was a life-long commitment to one another. So the idea that one would be linked to another but lust after someone else was incomprehensible. I’ll let Rome explain it:

 

Rome felt very uncomfortable. “I don’t understand. Isn’t Edgar the one for you?”

“I was assigned to him, if that’s what you’re asking,” Bonnie said. “I didn’t have a choice in the matter.”

“I had no choice in the matter either. Rei is my Asborodi Cimponeti, my, my kindred spirit. We were destined to be together. Is that what you mean?” Rome asked with a bit of uncertainty.

“Ha,” Bonnie exhaled. “Don’t I wish?” She shook her head. “It wasn’t fate. It was the mission architects. I was selected as Edgar’s mate. End of story. I’m not too wild about it but we have to do what we have to do.” She patted her stomach. “This is my second time. First one was a miscarriage. So we had to start all over again. I didn’t really want to.” Bonnie looked about the dining room and shrugged.

“I don’t understand,” Rome said. “For Vuduri, when it is time to breed, our mate is selected for us by the Overmind. But you, you are Essessoni. From what I have observed, you have free will, do you not?”

“This is the real world, honey,” Bonnie said. “We have no free will. The women on this mission, we were all assigned mates and they called them our husbands. It was the price we paid for being allowed on the ship. Our duty. We do it. I’m a baby factory, that’s all.” She shrugged again.

Rome took a deep breath. Try as she might, none of what Bonnie was saying made any sense to her. She decided to change the subject. “OMCOM says there’s one slab missing. He said the full set consists of 20 slabs and Rei only gave me 19. Do you know what happened to the final slab?”

Bonnie looked at her with a funny expression on her face. “That’s all there are, I think,” she said.

Rome pressed the issue. “Are you sure?” she asked.

“Pretty sure.” Bonnie looked at the door. “I’ll ask Edgar when he gets home.” She snapped her fingers. “I know! Why don’t you and your handsome husband join us for dinner tonight? If there is another slab, we’ll get it for you. If not, well, at least the four of us will have a nice meal together.”

 

Was that right? That women be assigned to men on a journey to the stars? I guess for the first generation, it was the only practical way. There was no time for romantic love. They had to make babies. Oh well. Tomorrow, Rome and Rei come for dinner.

Entry 4-273: September 25, 2016

 

Ray, Rei, Rey, Rae 2

 

As we saw yesterday, Bonnie Mullen clearly lusted after Rei Bierak, the love of Rome’s life. Rome was so naive, she thought nothing of accepting Bonnie’s invitation to dinner. You and I would know better but this is the 35th century and in the world of The Ark Lords, anything can and will happen. Let’s look in to this fateful and seemingly innocent social occasion:

 

Precisely at six, Rei and Rome approached the Mullens’ house. Rome was dressed in a traditional Vuduri white jumpsuit. Rei wore his standard brown shirt, tan slacks and boots. He was carrying a linen bag in his left hand.

“Won’t you please tell me what’s in the bag?” Rome begged for the third time.

“Nope,” Rei said. “I want you to be surprised along with Bonnie and Edgar.” He reached up, lifted the knocker and let it fall with a clang.

“Hmm. So that’s what it’s for,” Rome observed. “I thought that might be it but I wasn’t sure.”

“Well, if we were Vuduri, they’d already know we were here,” Rei said, chuckling at his own private joke. “But we’re not so they don’t. This is the Essessoni low tech version of an alert.”

They heard footsteps approach and the door opened.

“Hello, you two. Come on in,” Bonnie said. As soon as they entered the house, Bonnie threw her arms around Rei and hugged him for an uncomfortably long time, pressing her enlarged stomach tightly against him.

“Oh boy, you smell good,” Bonnie said, nuzzling his neck.

“Hi Bonnie,” Rei said, pulling free. He thought about saying more but decided against it.

“Edgar?” Bonnie called out. “They’re here.”

“Yo,” came a man’s voice. Edgar Mullen strode into the room, raising his arm in greeting. “Bierak, it’s been a while.” Edgar was shorter than Rei and stockier. He had a full head of hair which was just graying a bit around the temples.

“Yeah, Edgar, hi” Rei said, shaking his hand.

“So this is Rome?” Edgar asked, seemingly surprised. “Last time I saw her was the day we were going to attack the vooks, I mean, the Vuduri. She was rather preggers as I recall.” Edgar inspected her top to bottom. “You sure are a looker up close,” he said, leeringly.

“A looker?” Rome asked.

“He means you’re beautiful, honey,” Bonnie threw in.

“Er, thank you,” Rome said, sidling up a little closer to Rei.

 

Even Rome can tell that these are not nice people. You will see that in just a bit.

Entry 4-274: September 26, 2016

 

Wine World 1

 

Yesterday, we saw Rei and Rome arrive at the Mullen’s house with Rei carrying a linen bag in his left hand. He wouldn’t tell Rome what it was. I’ll give you a hint. I love wine. I couldn’t bear the thought of the little world of Deucado going without. So I waved my hands and magically, well take a look:

 

Rei spoke up, trying to break the mood. “Maybe this will help. My mother told me you never go to someone’s house empty handed,” he said. He held out the linen bag which Bonnie gratefully received. She pulled out a bottle.

From its distinctive shape, there was no question what she held in her hand. Bonnie’s eyes lit up. “Wine!?” Bonnie exclaimed. “How did you…”

“What is wine? I have never heard the word before,” Rome interjected.

“Fonhi,” Rei offered. “Fermented grapes. It’s got alcohol in it.”

“Oh, I’m familiar with that,” Rome said, relieved to finally know the nature of the package. “We had something similar. My father’s people would drink kefir at family affairs, which is made from fermented coconut juice.”

Edgar walked over and snatched the bottle away from Bonnie and ran his hand lovingly over the label. “I haven’t had a drink in, like, fourteen centuries,” he said. “Thanks.” He shoved the bottle back toward Bonnie. “Here,” he said, “figure out a way to open this up. Make it quick!”

“Of course,” Bonnie replied submissively. She took the bottle and left the room.

 

Actually, it wasn’t my mother who told me never show up empty-handed. That is my wife’s thing. But remember that Edgar and the gang hadn’t had anything to drink in 14 centuries. I would say their alcohol tolerance would be pretty low. Wait until you see what Edgar did as soon as he had a glass or two in him. It isn’t pretty. More on that tomorrow.

Entry 4-275: September 27, 2016

 

Wine World 2

 

Yesterday, Rome and Rei showed up at the Mullen’s house. Rei had brought with him one of the first bottles of wine ever made on Deucado. I have no clue if it was any good or not. However, beggars cannot be choosers and Edgar hadn’t had a drink in 14 centuries. So Edgar dispatched Bonnie to find a way to open the bottle and serve it quick. Here is how it went:

 

Edgar walked over to the overstuffed chair and sat down. “Take a load off,” he said. Rome and Rei sat down together on the love seat.

“So how’d you make out with the data slabs?” Edgar asked, stretching his neck to see into the kitchen. “Bonnie told me you returned them already.”

“It went very smoothly,” Rome replied. “MINIMCOM was able to construct a reader rather easily. He then downloaded the entire contents of the slabs into OMCOM’s memory banks. It…” Rome stopped speaking as Bonnie returned to the room carrying a small tray which held the open bottle of wine and four glasses. One glass already had water in it. She set the tray on the coffee table and filled each of the other three glasses with a modest amount of wine. She handed one glass each to Rome, Rei and Edgar then she set the bottle back on the tray. After sitting down on the sofa, she picked up her glass of water and raised her arm, tilting the glass toward Rei.

“Here’s to Rei Bierak,” she said, cheerfully. “Always full of surprises!”

Rei laughed. He lifted his glass as well.

Rome looked around the room. “Aren’t we supposed to clink the glasses?” she asked. “That’s what you taught me.”

“You can just raise them,” Rei replied. “It works the same.” Rei and Edgar took a nice swallow from their glasses.

“Sorry I can’t join you,” Bonnie said. “Gotta stick with water. Second trimester and all.”

“I understand,” Rei said.

Rome sniffed the glass then took a small sip. “Mmm, this is delicious,” she remarked. “I’ve never tasted anything like it before. Where did it come from?”

“We found a good spot for a vineyard near the edge of the project, east of where they’re building the resort city of Ur,” Rei answered, waving his hand toward the window. “Some of the boys wanted to try their hand at growing grapes and making wine. They’ve been working at it for over a year. This is from their first full run. It’s a little strong, though. Almost port. They put too much sugar in it.”

 

So the wine wasn’t great as it could be. But it was rather strong. When some people drink it makes them nicer. Others get mean. Edgar got, well, more on that in a day or two.

Entry 4-276: September 28, 2016

 

Synthehol

 

 Anyone who has watched any of the variants of Star Trek is familiar with the substance known as synthehol. This is just an amalgam of the words synthetic and alcohol. The idea was that this substance had all the taste and smell of “regular” alcohol but would not get you intoxicated or poison you. My question is: what’s the point? Other than the bite, pure vodka or even grain alcohol has no flavor. If you are going to drink and there is no alcohol, you are drinking a Shirley Temple or O’Dooles or even lemonade. So the concept of synthehol is just plain stupid.

 

We saw yesterday and the day before that Edgar Mullen was slogging down Rei’s gift of the first bottle of wine produced on Deucado and he was drinking it primarily because it had alcohol. It was certainly not because he was looking for the flavor. He wanted to get drunk. Now I’m not saying everybody drinks all the time to get drunk because then everybody would end up as raging alcoholics. However, there are so many positive effects of drinking in moderation that without alcohol, again, I say, what is the point.

 

Recently, my stepson Matt sent me an article about a scientist by the name of Professor David Nutt who thinks he has invented a synthetic version of alcohol which he calls alcosynth. However, unlike Star Trek’s synthehol, his version absolutely does give you a buzz but side-steps the deleterious effects of real alcohol such as hangovers, nausea or alcohol poisoning. The substance is a far-distant cousin of valium and Professor Nutt thinks that by 2050 alcosynth might replace all alcohol.

 

I, for one, reject his statement. Natural fermentation and alcohol have been around for millions of years. Man has evolved with alcohol readily available and our systems have developed to consume it. If you don’t overdo it, you don’t wake up with a hangover. I know some people used to take Quaaludes (methaqualone) to get a drunk-like effect. If you ever saw the movie The Wolf of Wall Street you’ll understand. The Quaalude scene was pretty funny.

 

The bottom line is this: alcohol is a natural substance and if used in moderation, can lead to positive things. I, personally, am not interested in synthehol or alcosynth or whatever fakakta substance science fiction writers or actual scientists come up with. So I gave my characters the real thing.

 

By the way, the following image was hand-painted by my extremely talented wife, Denise. Go to DeniseCoopermanArtist.com to view her other paintings.

 

Entry 4-277: September 29, 2016

 

*Vooks and slurs *

 

 In the world of Rome’s Revolution and The Ark Lords, everybody is politically correct. At least that is the case before the Essessoni showed up. That particular group brought with them all their prejudices and ill-mannered speech. The Essessoni are certainly not very politically correct. In fact, the Essessoni, because of all the pressures on Earth before they left, are mostly hyper-aggressive, boorish individuals without manners or “couth” so it is not surprising that as soon as they got to Deucado, they started coming up with stereotyping and racial profiling.

 

This sad trait seems to be a normal component of human nature. In fact, while researching this article, I came across a website called The Racial Slur database. This “objective” web site lists every known people and every known racial slur to show that humans are equal opportunity racists and bigots. Here is just a snapshot of what you’d see on that site:

 

Every one of those names takes you to a page which enumerates all the racial slurs the authors could find. Kind of disgusting, if you ask me, but that is the human condition.

 

So the Essessoni, the bad ones, follow the same pattern. Edgar Mullen was meant to be our Exhibit A. This is where we first hear the term “vook” which is meant to be a racial slur against the Vuduri:

 

“Yo,” came a man’s voice. Edgar Mullen strode into the room, raising his arm in greeting. “Bierak, it’s been a while.” Edgar was shorter than Rei and stockier. He had a full head of hair which was just graying a bit around the temples.

“Yeah, Edgar, hi” Rei said, shaking his hand.

“So this is Rome?” Edgar asked, seemingly surprised. “Last time I saw her was the day we were going to attack the vooks, I mean, the Vuduri. She was rather preggers as I recall.” Edgar inspected her top to bottom. “You sure are a looker up close,” he said, leeringly.

“A looker?” Rome asked.

“He means you’re beautiful, honey,” Bonnie threw in.

“Er, thank you,” Rome said, sidling up a little closer to Rei.

 

Obviously, since the Vuduri don’t exist, I had to make up the racial slur referring to them. I just wanted to show you that Edgar was an insensitive boor. I guess you get that by now.

Entry 4-278: September 30, 2016

 

Edgar gets drunk

 

The other day, I mentioned that Edgar Mullen was diving into the bottle of wine that Rei brought with him when he and Rome came to the Mullen’s house for an evening meal. Edgar showed no restraint in pounding the wine. Remember, he hadn’t had anything to drink for 14 centuries. Admittedly, he had been asleep most of that time, but still. The Essessoni had been settled on Deucado for two years when this scene happened:

 

“Well, it’s good enough for me,” Edgar said. He drained the remainder of his glass in one long gulp. “Ah,” he said, smacking his lips. “That’s good.” He put his glass down on the table and slid it toward Bonnie. “Hit me again,” he commanded.

Bonnie lifted the bottle and poured a little into his glass.

“Come on,” Edgar said, scornfully. “Fill me up.”

“Don’t you think you ought to go a little easy?” Bonnie said. “You haven’t touched a drop since we got here.”

“I’ll decide what I can and can’t drink,” Edgar said, pointing at the glass. Bonnie shrugged and poured more wine into his little goblet. Edgar grabbed it and drained it dry.

“Again,” he said, practically slamming the glass down.

“Edgar,” Bonnie said plaintively, “don’t you think you should save a little for our guests? Rei was kind enough to bring it, after all.”

Edgar looked at the bottle then up at Rei.

“None of you understand,” he said, nudging the glass forward. “Back on Earth, I lived on this stuff. It was the only thing that got me through the day. Ever since we got to this hell-hole, I’ve been jonesing for it so badly. Bierak?” Edgar asked.

“Yeah?”

“Is this it or can you get more?”

Rei shrugged. “I can get more, I guess.”

“OK then, it’s settled.” Edgar pointed to his glass. Bonnie just shook her head and filled it again slowly, watching Edgar’s eyes until his face told her it was enough.

Edgar reached over, lifting the glass and making a big show of simply taking a slug.

“Now, where were we?” he directed toward Rome. “Oh yeah, the slabs. You were saying?”

Rome set her glass down on the table. “All in all, it went very well, thank you,” she said, relieved to be changing the subject. “OMCOM is integrating and cross-referencing the data even as we speak. Bonnie, we’ll have your movies for you someday soon. We were able to retrieve art, music, science. You’ll be able to get back to your job.”

 

You may not have been able to measure it quantitatively but I can tell you that was too much for Edgar his first time. He was already a crass and baser instinct kind of person. And all this did was loosen his barely-there inhibitions. Not good.

Entry 4-279: October 1, 2016

 

A turn for the worse

 

In a previous post, Rome and Rei showed up at the Mullen’s house for an evening meal. Rei had brought a bottle of wine with him, one of the first ever produced on Deucado. As happens with all experiments, things did not go perfectly and the bottle of wine had a ton of alcohol in it. It was more like a port wine. As such, when Edgar Mullen started pounding glasses, he got quite tipsy, rather fast. Rome attempted to be civil but she had no familiarity with what was happening within Edgar’s physiology or mentality:

 

Edgar reached over, lifting the glass and making a big show of simply taking a slug.

“Now, where were we?” he directed toward Rome. “Oh yeah, the slabs. You were saying?”

Rome set her glass down on the table. “All in all, it went very well, thank you,” she said, relieved to be changing the subject. “OMCOM is integrating and cross-referencing the data even as we speak. Bonnie, we’ll have your movies for you someday soon. We were able to retrieve art, music, science. You’ll be able to get back to your job.”

Bonnie sighed. “So you did get it all?”

“No, I did not,” Rome replied. She turned to Edgar. “OMCOM says there is one slab missing.”

“Bonnie told me you mentioned that,” Edgar replied, taking yet another gulp. “That was all of ‘em.”

“No,” Rome insisted. “OMCOM was quite adamant about this. He said there was definitely one more slab entitled ‘Volume 20 – Mission Parameters’ whatever that means.”

“I’m pretty sure you got all of them,” Edgar said, downing the rest of his glass. He narrowed his eyes, staring intently at Rome. A smile crept onto his face. “But we can go out back to the storage shed and take a look. Who knows? Maybe I just missed it.”

Rome looked at Rei who shrugged. “Very well,” she said, standing up. Edgar stood up also. On his way toward the kitchen, he grabbed Rome’s arm. “It’s just out the back here,” he said, slurring his words ever so slightly. “I’ll take you back there and we’ll have a look-see.”

Rome’s eyes widened but she let Edgar lead her out of the room, through the kitchen and out the back door.

 

Keep in mind, Edgar has pounded several glasses of strong wine and his speech patterns reflect this. I explicitly told you he was slurring his words slightly so you knew he wasn’t in his right mind. On top of that, it is clear he doesn’t like Bonnie very much and thinks Rome is quite cute. This is not a good mix. And leaving Rei behind with Bonnie? Again, not a good idea.

Entry 4-280: October 2, 2016

 

Bonnie makes her move

 

In a previous post, it was quite evident from a variety of things Bonnie Mullen said that she disliked, or perhaps even hated, Edgar Mullen. It was also equally clear that she lusted after Rei Bierak in the early part of The Ark Lords. Now that Edgar and Rome were out of the room, being one of the hyper-aggressive Essessoni, she decided it was time to make her move. It never occurred to her that Rei would actually be completely head-over-heels in love with Rome. That was simply not the design of the mission:

 

Back in the living room, Rei sat across from Bonnie, looking around the room.

“Despite what you said, I think it’s very homey,” he said. “You did a good job.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Bonnie replied. She got up and walked over and sat down next to Rei. She put her hand on his thigh.

“Your little wife is cute,” she said. “But don’t you miss being with a real woman? One of our kind?”

Rei looked down at her hand. He tried to edge back slightly. “Rome is a real woman,” he said. “She is kind, smart and beautiful. She’s the mother of my child. I love her in a way that most people don’t ever get to experience. She’s enough for me in this lifetime and the next.”

“That’s really sweet,” Bonnie replied dismissively. “But if you ever get tired of her, I want you to know there are a bunch of us girls who’d gladly take her place.” Bonnie squeezed his thigh for emphasis. “As soon as I have this kid, I’m ready to move on.”

“What about Edgar?” Rei said, slightly appalled. “Don’t you love him?”

“Him?” Bonnie snorted derisively. “I was assigned to him. You know that. It was a requirement of the mission. All the women were assigned but we’re allowed out as long as we go with somebody else.”

“I wasn’t assigned to anybody,” Rei said. “I wasn’t ranked. It was a good thing, too. Otherwise, I could never have been with Rome. She and I were destined to be together.”

“That’s pretty romantic,” Bonnie said, removing her hand from Rei’s thigh and sinking back into the couch. “Too bad I wasn’t. I don’t think anybody planned on there already being people here when we got to Tau Ceti. All the rest of us Ark people are still following the old rules.”

“Rules,” Rei said, sighing. “Some of them I get but some of them I don’t.”

“Join the club,” Bonnie replied.

 

There are so many things wrong here. Bonnie is carrying Edgar’s child. Rei and Rome are truly in love. Bonnie is one messed up woman. But the entire Rome’s Revolution series is about redemption. So even Bonnie will have a chance to repent her sins down the road.

Entry 4-281: October 3, 2016

 

Man of Action

 

 When we first met Rei Bierak way back in the beginning of Rome’s Revolution, he was a rather passive individual. Part of this was due to drugs he had received prior to cryo-hibernation but even after they wore off, Rei was still pretty laid back. It wasn’t until Estar threatened to hurt Rome when they were trapped deep beneath the dormant volcano Kilauea, that Rei transformed into a man of action. He killed two guards, made sure Estar was dead and burrowed his way deep into the Earth, ultimately exposing MASAL and eventually destroying him.

 

The whole point of this is that Rei always had it in him and when it came to Rome’s safety, Rei held back nothing. So imagine what he thought and felt in the beginning of The Ark Lords when a drunken Edgar Mullen started molesting his wife:

 

“Rei!” Rome’s frantic voice echoed in Rei’s head. “He is attacking me. Help!”

Instantly, Rei leaped up, dropping his wine glass on the floor and he dashed out of the room.

“What is it?” Bonnie called after him but he was already out the door. Rei ran across the back yard, surveying the situation even as he approached the storage hut. He didn’t slow down when he got to the door. He took a giant leap and kicked the door open with both feet, shattering the door frame. He picked himself up off the ground and darted into the room. He could hear Rome screaming inside his head but he also heard her voice. He quickly identified the sounds as coming from behind the far door. He raced over and smashed into it with his shoulder, wrenching it off its hinges. He found Rome on the floor, Edgar on top of her, pinning her arms over her head with one hand, clawing at her clothes with the other. The crash of the door caused Edgar to jerk his head up. He looked at Rei, confused.

It wasn’t that Rei was naturally strong, even though he was. It wasn’t because the gravity on Deucado was less than Earth, even though it was. It wasn’t even because the pill that OMCOM had given him three years earlier had strengthened his core. It was pure rage that fueled Rei’s strength. He grabbed Edgar by the scruff of his neck and lifted him bodily into the air with just one arm. Edgar’s feet were dangling, his arms flailing. Rei swung his free hand back and punched Edgar so hard his body flew three feet across the room, crashing into a shelf of parts and landing in a heap on the floor. Edgar curled up into a ball and started moaning about his jaw.

“Rome!” Rei cried out, bending over to gather up his wife. “Are you all right?” He took her by the hand and helped her to stand.

Rome was shivering. “I think so,” she said. “He didn’t get the chance to really do anything.”

 

That was close. I know that Rei would have killed him had Edgar really harmed Rome. You don’t mess with a love that has stretched over 14 centuries.

Entry 4-282: October 4, 2016

 

Writers gotta write

 

As the title of this post suggests, since I fancy myself a science fiction writer, I need to keep writing. And I have. I am pleased to announce the publication of my next book entitled The Vuduri Companion. It is a collection of short stories filling in many of the mysteries and backstories from the 35th century world of Rome’s Revolution. Here is the blurb that I posted on Amazon:

 

Behind every great adventure lie tales yet untold

 

The Vuduri Companion is a collection of 29 short stories and one novelette about the astounding and amazing 35th century world of Rome’s Revolution. Each chapter offers exciting backstories and fascinating glimpses behind the scenes of the people, places and technologies which inhabit this brave new world.

 

Among the many stories within its covers, you will read about:

-The futurist who developed the Ark program

-Whatever became of the first colonists on Alpha Centauri

-Jack Henry’s secret bride

-The unlikely story of how Rome’s parents met

-How the Vuduri rescued the damaged Ark II

-Rei’s resurrection

-How to speak Vuduri

-and much, much more

 

Also included is the original 1973 version of VIRUS 5, the precursor to Rome’s Revolution. This first draft was written over 40 years ago and it is both interesting and quite amusing to see what elements were retained and which were discarded leading up to the modern version.

 

In addition, this book contains two brand new short stories written exclusively for this volume entitled “The Invisible Man” and “The Immortals”. “The Invisible Man” tells the tale of the scientist who invented electro-gravity and the dark matter diode which lies at the heart of the Casimir Pump and the PPT star-drive. “The Immortals” continues the adventure of Rome and Rei the day after they discover they have been granted virtual immortality.

 

This volume should appeal to all fans of Rome’s Revolution, The Ark Lords, Rome’s Evolution and The Milk Run and who are always looking to learn more. So pick up a copy of The Vuduri Companion and take a trip back to the fascinating, eye-opening 35th century. You’ll love what you find there.

 

Tomorrow, I’ll give you the table of contents along with a brief comment on each story.

Entry 4-283: October 5, 2016

 

The Vuduri Companion

 

Yesterday, I announced the publication of my new collection of short stories entitled The Vuduri Companion. You can purchase it right now on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble, the iTunes Store and for Kobo Readers. The book has a dedication and an introduction but those are for people who care. If you want to know the contents, here is the complete list of the Table of Contents:

 

  1. - Pruno Dreams

  1. - Before the Piranha Rats Came

  1. - Acceleration

  1. - Only Half the Story

  1. - Lacy Henry

  1. - The Deucadons

  1. - The Invisible Man (written exclusively for this volume)

  1. - MASAL’s Last Stand

  1. - The War with the K’val

  1. - How Binoda Met Fridone

  1. - Skodla and The Lie

  1. - The Ark II Is Rescued

  1. - Rei’s Resurrection

  1. - Rome Awakened

  1. - How To Speak Vuduri

  1. - OMCOM Reprograms Himself

  1. - Rome and Art

  1. - Murder Attempt Number 3

  1. - Rome’s Letter to Binoda

  1. - The Language Lesson and Metric Time

  1. - Starship Controls

  1. - Very Big and Very Small

  1. - Rome Was Not a Virgin

  1. - Lawlidon

  1. - The Luau

  1. - Sussen’s Suffering

  1. - If You Build It, They Will Come

  1. - The Immortals (written exclusively for this volume)

  1. - The Original VIRUS 5 (Novelette written in 1973)

  1. - The Original Rome’s Revolution (also written in 1973)

 

Tomorrow, I’ll reveal the cover to you and give you a little background on how it came about.

Entry 4-284: October 6, 2016

 

The Vuduri Companion Cover

 

Yesterday, I promised you a sneak peek at the cover of my new book, The Vuduri Companion. However, even with the most fantastic cover artist in the world (and yes, my brother Bruce is among them), the artist cannot succeed if you don’t tell them what is supposed to be on the cover. I tried to pick out some seminal moments from the book and then we discussed them.

 

1. Acceleration – Man traveling at light speed, stretching out. We decided that this would be hard to render.

2. Pruno Dreams – Man looking up at a huge monitor with skull and cross-bones. While this would be striking image, it wouldn’t make much sense.

3. Before the Piranha Rats Came – Man looking up at dual setting suns. Too much like Luke Skywalker looking up at the sky on Tatooine.

4. The Deucadons – Fiery descent of a rocket through the atmosphere. This is a great action shot and would be fantastic in a movie but not so great for a static cover.

5. The Invisible Man – Man dying and disappearing. Wouldn’t be very spectacular and without context, wouldn’t mean much.

6. The War with the K’Val – War scene with plant people. Another great action scene but not really amenable to a static image.

7. The Ark is Saved – Space action scene so it would be very black. Again, while great in a movie, wouldn’t do much as a static shot.

8. Rei’s Resurrection. We have a winner! Great static shot and instantly recognizable to fans of the series.

 

Now it is your turn. What do you think? You can go to the web site to see it full-sized:

 

Entry 4-285: October 7, 2016

 

Lacy Henry – Part 1 of 5

 

The other day, I introduced you to my new collection of short stories entitled The Vuduri Companion. Now while I want you to buy the book and read it and enjoy it, I thought I’d give you a little taste by presenting one of the short stories in serialized form. This particular story is Chapter 5 entitled “Lacy Henry” and it is about Jack Henry’s mate.

 

No one knew she existed until I got to The Milk Run. I added her to the story because in Rome’s Evolution, the Overmind of Earth informed Rome that she was descended from Hanry Ta Jihn (Jack Henry) who was one of the most revered figures in all of Vuduri history.

 

Well how could Rome be a descendant if Jack Henry died before having a child? So this story is how I unpainted myself out of that corner.

 

Year 2671 AD

Location: Earth

Southern Part of What Had Been New Jersey

 

Lacy sat in her favorite wooden chair, one leg tucked underneath, rocking back and forth, holding her extended abdomen. Even though the chair creaked, it was a soothing sound. She stared out the window, not really focusing on anything beyond the groaning chair and her self-massage. The room itself smelled musty. Pa had tried to fix the leak in the roof so many times but nothing stopped the inevitable bloom of mold and mildew right after it rained. And it rained a lot. But Lacy was not even tempted to open the window. The wavery illusion of the air rippling across the fields told her it was another blistering hot day. The piercing must was vastly more tolerable than letting the blast-furnace heat into the darkened room.

Lacy lifted her eyes to the sky. She held her hand up to block the sun and tried to imagine if Jackie was doing the same thing right now. It had been over a month since the love of her life went off to wage war against the Ark Lords and he should be coming home very soon. Normally that thought comforted her but as the days wore on the comfort was slowly being replaced by a sense of unease.

 

Tomorrow, Lacy receives a visitor but it is not who she thinks or wants.

Entry 4-286: October 8, 2016

 

Lacy Henry – Part 2 of 5

 

The other day, I introduced you to my new collection of short stories entitled The Vuduri Companion. I thought I’d give you a little taste by presenting one of the short stories in serialized form. This particular story is Chapter 5 entitled “Lacy Henry” and it is about Jack Henry’s mate. No one knew she existed until I got to The Milk Run. I added her to the story because in Rome’s Evolution, the Overmind of Earth informed Rome that she was descended from Hanry Ta Jihn (Jack Henry) who was one of the most revered figures in all of Vuduri history. Here is Part 2 of 5:

 

The gentle stirring of the baby growing inside her drew her attention back down to her stomach. It was as if the baby was telling her, Mommy, don’t worry, Daddy will be home soon.

Lacy smiled. How could one so young be so wise? She shook her head. She just had to be patient. She looked up again and saw a tiny cloud of dust off in the distance. It might have been just a dirt devil but it did not dissipate. Instead, the cloud grew larger and resolved itself into a single man atop a horse, heading their way.

Her heart froze for a moment. She leaned forward. Could it be Jackie finally coming home? She put her hand over her eyes trying to peer harder. With a start, she realized it wasn’t Jackie. The rider was too tall and wore all black. Jackie always favored white shirts, especially in the heat of summer. As the rider pulled up, she could see it was Red June, Jackie’s best friend and first lieutenant.

Lacy sat back heavily in her chair and closed her eyes. Her sense of dread was now fully formed. If Red were here, that meant Jackie was not. She heard Red knock on the front door. Pa answered. There was a brief exchange and the sound of two sets of boots led up to her room.

Pa knocked softly on the door. “Lacy,” he called out gently, “Red’s here.”

“Sure, Pa,” Lacy answered back. Tears were beginning to flow from her eyes. She unraveled herself and stood up. She turned to face the door as Red entered the room.

Red June was a large man, well over six feet tall. It only took him a few strides to close the distance between them. He took off his hat and placed it down by his side. Wordlessly, Lacy stared up at him and Red shook his head side to side, very slowly.

Lacy’s knees buckled. Red grabbed her under the arms before she fell. Lacy’s whole body shook as she wailed with great, wracking sobs. Red gathered her in, wrapping his long arms around her, holding her close while she cried.

 

It kind of breaks your heart, right? Well, we always knew that Hanry Ta Jihn had to die in order to be a martyr. We never thought about the loved ones he left behind. Tomorrow, Red tells Lacy about the Battle of Chicago.

Entry 4-287: October 9, 2016

 

Lacy Henry – Part 3 of 5

 

The other day, I introduced you to my new collection of short stories entitled The Vuduri Companion. I thought I’d give you a little taste by presenting one of the short stories in serialized form. This particular story is Chapter 5 entitled “Lacy Henry” and it is about Jack Henry’s mate. No one knew she existed until I got to The Milk Run. I added her to the story because in Rome’s Evolution, the Overmind of Earth informed Rome that she was descended from Hanry Ta Jihn (Jack Henry) who was one of the most revered figures in all of Vuduri history. Here is Part 3 of 5:

 

Although her sorrow did not diminish, after a time, she stopped her crying. Somehow she had already known it would come to this. Red sat her down on the bed and kneeled in front of her so he could look up into her eyes.

“What happened?” Lacy whispered.

Red took one of her hands and cradled it between his. “We beat them,” he said. “Jackie figured out a way. We found a weapons cache that belonged to the Ark Lords and we used their own weapons against them. We killed every last one of them.”

“And Jackie? How did he…” Lacy’s voice trailed off.

“I’m sorry, Lacy, but you have to know. They had something. A disease weapon. If they had gotten to it, they would have used it to kill us all. Jackie died preventing those bastards from getting to it. And they never will. Jackie made it so they’ll never be able to find it again.”

Lacy put her hands up to her face and started crying once again. It was quieter this time. Red waited patiently while this bout passed. When he felt she was ready, he reached over and lifted her chin so she would look at him again.

“Lacy, you have to know he died a hero. He sacrificed himself so that all of us, everyone on the Earth, would be safe now and forever. He’ll go down in history as one of the greatest men who ever lived.”

“I should have gone with you,” Lacy said grimly. “I could have helped.”

“No,” Red replied. “There’s no place for a pregnant woman near a battlefield. And you’re carrying Jackie’s child. You have to stay safe so his legacy lives on.”

Lacy rubbed her abdomen with both hands. “It’s a boy, you know,” she said obliquely.

Red cocked his head. “How do you know?”

“I just know,” Lacy said more firmly. “It sounds crazy but he talks to me sometimes. He tells me things.”

“If you say so.” Red shrugged. He stood up and reached behind him and withdrew a revolver that had been tucked into his waistband. It was one of the M9 9mm Berettas that Jack Henry and Red had liberated from the armory they found deep beneath the Tevatron.

He pressed a button and the clip ejected. He pulled the chamber back and a single round popped out.

 

Does Lacy’s unborn child speaking to her sound familiar? It should. It was meant to remind you of Aason and Rome before Aason was born. Tomorrow, Red June teaches Lacy how to use a pistol for her protection.

Entry 4-288: October 10, 2016

 

Lacy Henry – Part 4 of 5

 

The other day, I introduced you to my new collection of short stories entitled The Vuduri Companion. I thought I’d give you a little taste by presenting one of the short stories in serialized form. This particular story is Chapter 5 entitled “Lacy Henry” and it is about Jack Henry’s mate. No one knew she existed until I got to The Milk Run. I added her to the story because in Rome’s Evolution, the Overmind of Earth informed Rome that she was descended from Hanry Ta Jihn (Jack Henry) who was one of the most revered figures in all of Vuduri history. Here is Part 4 of 5:

 

Red caught the round and set it down on the bed, along with the clip.

“What is that?” Lacy asked, her voice sounding hoarse.

“It’s kind of a miniature firestick. We call it a handgun.”

“What is a firestick?”

“The Ark Lords had these weapons. Long sticks that fire metal bullets, Jackie called them. And this is a version that fits in your hand. It’s just as deadly, though.” He reached down and picked up the cartridge. “When you fire the weapon, these things come shooting out and can tear through anything. Especially flesh.”

“Why are you showing it to me?” Lacy asked, her voice trembling a bit.

Red turned the gun around and handed it to Lacy who took it from him. She wrapped her delicate hand around the handle and her index finger naturally found its way to the trigger.

“Jackie insisted I give it to you personally and teach you how to use it. To protect yourself.”

“Protect myself from what?”

Red looked out the window. He stared off into the distance for a while then turned back to look at Lacy.

“Once the Ark Lords find out we captured one of their war wagons, all of Jersey is going to turn red with blood. We want to make sure it’s their blood and not ours.”

“What is a war wagon?”

“It’s a horseless carriage. We can use it to recharge the lightsticks we’ve stolen from them. And it has a cannon. Incredibly powerful. It can destroy a whole village in a single shot. It never occurred to them that we would be able to use their own weapons against them. We already know they have no defense. We have the power now. And we’re going to use it to wipe them out once and for all.”

“I still don’t understand why I need this, then,” she said, holding out the gun.

“Because they know about Jackie. And if they ever found out about you, that you were carrying his child, they’d sacrifice everything to kill you. We need to keep you a secret and failing that, we need to keep you safe. You only have to use this weapon as a last resort.”

 

We saw all of this action in The Ark Lords. Tomorrow’s finale will tie it all together.

Entry 4-289: October 11, 2016

 

Lacy Henry – Part 5 of 5

 

The other day, I introduced you to my new collection of short stories entitled The Vuduri Companion. I thought I’d give you a little taste by presenting one of the short stories in serialized form. This particular story is Chapter 5 entitled “Lacy Henry” and it is about Jack Henry’s mate. No one knew she existed until I got to The Milk Run. I added her to the story because in Rome’s Evolution, the Overmind of Earth informed Rome that she was descended from Hanry Ta Jihn (Jack Henry) who was one of the most revered figures in all of Vuduri history. Here is the final part of that story:

 

Lacy nodded her head. “I understand.” She turned the gun left and right. She held it up to her eye and looked down the sight. She lowered her arm and placed the gun on the bed, next to the clip.

“I need to know something,” she said.

“Anything,” Red responded.

“What did you do with Jackie’s body? Did you bring it back with you?”

“We couldn’t,” Red answered sadly. “It just wasn’t practical. We buried him underneath the rubble of the Ark Lords palace.”

“What do you mean rubble?” Lacy asked.

“Jackie’s dying wish was that we use the cannon and level the place. He made me swear that after we defeated the Ark Lords, we would bury them and their vehicles and their spaceship and their weapons. Every place they’ve ever been on the Earth. He wanted to make sure that there would be no trace, not even a hint that their race was ever here. I swore to him that even if it took a thousand years, we’d erase everything, like they never existed.”

Lacy took in a deep breath then let out a long sigh. She nodded sadly.

“Thank you, Red,” she said. “You are a good friend and a great man.” She stopped and looked out the window. “Can I ask you for one more thing?”

“Anything, Lacy,” Red answered.

“Some day, when this is all over, will you take me and our son out there? To where Jackie died?”

“Absolutely,” Red replied. “I’ll take you to his grave. We’ll make sure he has a proper headstone. The whole world will come to revere that place as where the Rebellion against the Ark Lords truly began.”

 

We never heard anything more about Lacy until we met her in Heaven near the end of The Milk Run. We do know that Rome and Rei found Hanry Ta Jihn’s headstone while they were searching for the Ark Lords’ weapons cache. Here is what it said on his headstone:

 

John (Jack) Henry. 564 – 589PR. He gave his life so that all men could be free.

[* *]

Only 25 when he died. What a shame. But as Rei noted, he did not die in vain.

Entry 4-290: October 12, 2016

 

The Monster

 

 I know it seems like a long time since I showed you how Rei had become a man of action, especially when it came to the safety and well-being of his beloved wife, Rome. But I just wanted to tidy things up in the aftermath.

 

Remember, Rome had never experienced anything like this before. She was not prepared physically to fend off Edgar’s advances but it was important to me that she not be too damaged psychologically. This is how she handled it:

 

“Rome!” Rei cried out, bending over to gather up his wife. “Are you all right?” He took her by the hand and helped her to stand.

Rome was shivering. “I think so,” she said. “He didn’t get the chance to really do anything.” Suddenly, she burst into tears.

Rei put his arms around her and squeezed her tightly. “It’s OK,” he said soothingly, “I’m here now. It’s OK.”

Rome looked up into Rei’s eyes. “Why did he do that?” she whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Because he’s an idiot,” Rei said loudly. He spat in the direction where Edgar was stirring.

Bonnie came running into the room. “What happened” she asked, taking in the scene.

“Your bastard of a husband attacked my wife,” Rei yelled angrily.

“Edgar?” Bonnie asked accusingly.

Edgar stood up, rubbing his jaw. “I just wanted to try some vook ass,” he muttered. “She’s so small and tight. They’re all mindless; I figured she wouldn’t even notice. And I think he broke my jaw, thanks for asking.”

“You don’t understand anything about the Vuduri,” Rei shouted. “None of you do. They aren’t like us. They are innocents. But they certainly aren’t mindless.”

“I don’t give a shit,” Edgar said, spitting blood. “You’re through, Bierak. Keller was talking about letting you in. Well, you can forget that. You’re dead meat now. And no more data slabs for your bitch, either.”

Rei glared at him then looked down at his wife. “Come on, Rome,” he said firmly, deciding to ignore Edgar’s comment. He tried leading Rome out of the shed but she shucked his arms loose. She spun in place and marched back to her attacker. She raised her hand up and slapped him across the cheek. Hard. Mullen grabbed his jaw and moaned.

“You are a monster. Don’t you ever touch me or speak to me again,” she hissed.

She turned around and walked back to Rei who draped his arm over her. He held Rome tightly as he led her out of the storage hut and into the cool night air.

“Sorry,” Bonnie called out after them but they were already gone.

 

Edgar, Bonnie, Captain Keller, all of them; they were not nice people. Although it will take a while, they will eventually get what was coming to them. In spades.

Entry 4-291: October 13, 2016

 

Old haunts

 

 One of my favorite things to do is to pretend that my characters and my future world of Rome’s Revolution is just the real world. People go on about their business. Things grow and age. I thought it would be neat to take a visit back to the crash-landing site of the Ark II and see what had become of it.

 

During the middle portion of Rome’s Revolution, we left the spaceship in the middle of the woods and never went back. Well now, two years later, I gave Rome and Rei an excuse to see what had become the ship that they spent a year towing. As you will see in the next section, time has not been kind to the “flying tin can” made of pig iron:

 

“Tell me what we’re doing here again,” Rei asked the next morning. He was holding Aason’s hand as Rome walked up the entrance ramp into the abandoned crew compartment of the Ark II. The rusting out hulk was perched on a ridge part way up the slope of the northern mountains. In its day, it was thing of beauty, partly because of its simplicity. However, its beauty was diminished by smashing into an asteroid, crash landing on a planet and having both of its huge delta wings and vertical stabilizers sheared off.

“I have never actually seen your Ark up close,” Rome called back to him. “My only views of it were when the salvage crew first encountered it in the Tabit system. I wanted to see it for myself with my own eyes.”

“Why?” Rei asked as he walked up the ramp. He was careful to make sure Aason could keep up with him.

“Because,” Rome answered, “I have so much going around in my mind. I need to sort it out. I need to see if things make sense.”

“What things?” Rei asked, joining her along the metal mesh walkway. He looked up. The ceiling was rusting so fast there were already a few spots where the sun was shining through.

Rome looked down the aisle at the long rows of metal shelving that were used to hold the sarcophagi of Rei’s party on their extended journey to Deucado.

“It looks so much larger on the inside than the outside,” Rome said. She studied the middle section. A good portion of it was simply gone. “What happened there?” she asked, pointing.

“That was where MINIMCOM was, I guess, reborn,” Rei said. “That was where he was buried under the Ark. He had to slice his way out.”

Rome nodded. She turned and made her way forward, inspecting the metal cages closest to her which housed a second and more substantial set of shelves. Rome stayed away from the very front of the ship which had been sheared off in space, leaving razor sharp edges.

“Tell me again why there are cages?” she called out. She reached up and took a hold of the metal mesh fencing. She shook it with her hand. There was no give to it whatsoever.

 

Tomorrow, things start to fall into place as Rome starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Entry 4-292: October 14, 2016

 

Gray and white

 

 When Rome was underground with Bukky, he had read her a portion of the Deucadons history from a book called their Bible even though Bukky did not really know what that word meant. He had pointed out to her a phrase indicating that a schism arose between groups of his people and they called themselves the Grays and the Whites. At the time, Rome did not know what to think. It did not refer to their skin color or clothing. Now that she is seeing the Ark II up close, it begins to make sense:

 

“Tell me again why there are cages?” Rome called out. She reached up and took a hold of the metal mesh fencing. She shook it with her hand. There was no give to it whatsoever.

“The mission planners had to account for every scenario,” Rei replied. “It was possible that the Ark would not be able to land under its own power. So the sarcophagi in this section were especially hardened to survive a crash, even at terminal velocity. The cages were just to keep them from flying around too much just in case.”

Rome whipped around in place. “What color were these special sarcophagi?” she asked accusingly. “Yours was white.”

“They were gray,” Rei said. “Why?”

“Hmm,” Rome said. She turned and looked at the back again. “Bukky told me that when his Ark first arrived, his people split into two groups. They were called the Grays and the Whites. Based upon what he said, I now believe that refers to the color of the sarcophagus.” She looked back down the length of the Ark then again toward the front. She crossed her arms across her chest. “How were people selected to go into each group?”

“Do you want to know what they told us or do you want me to tell you what I really think?” Rei asked.

“What do you really think?”

“I think the people in the front were all military,” Rei said. “You saw how quick they were ready to go to war. Plus they knew about the weapons we carried.”

“Just like the Erklirte? The Ark Lords?” Rome asked.

Rei noticed that Aason was bending over to pick up a piece of metal. He cleared his throat and Aason got the message. He smiled at his dad and just batted his eyes.

“Maybe,” Rei answered his wife. “But from what you told me, the Erklirte were just bad dudes. The ones here, while they are kind of bloodthirsty, they seemed to have calmed down a little bit. The rest of us, the majority, we were just colonists looking to build a new world. I must admit, sometimes, I get the feeling we’re just their meat bags for doing the dirty work.”

“That’s what I thought,” Rome said, uncrossing her arms. “Let’s go to the cargo compartment.” She jogged back down the ramp. Rei picked up Aason so he could hurry down and follow her.

 

Tomorrow Rome makes a huge discovery. Not about something but about something that is not. I’m being cryptic but you’ll see what I mean in the next post.

Entry 4-293: October 15, 2016

 

Rusty Spaceship 1

 

Yesterday, Rome and Rei paid a visit to the rusted out remains of Rei's Ark II. Rome discovered that about 20% of the colonists were packed into fortified and caged gray sarcophagi and the other 80% were interred in white sarcophagi. Rome now thinks this might be releated to the Bukky's forewarning about the Grays and the Whites. Having found this important clue in the front section, Rome decides to visit the cargo compartment for more clues:

 

“MINIMCOM,” Rome called out as she was walking, “can you contact my new OMCOM and have him send his livetar? I may need his help.”

“Of course,” replied her starship friend who was parked in a glade nearby.

They made their way along the rusting body of the Ark. It was massive. By itself, even without the propulsion module, the command module or the part of the front that was sheared off, it was still larger than the Algol. In total, Rei’s Ark when launched must have been bigger than any spacecraft she had seen. She stopped about halfway down the length of the cargo compartment and ran her finger along the hull. The orange-colored rust came off on her finger. She stared at it for a moment then showed it to Rei.

“I do not understand why your people, with all their advanced technology, would choose to build a spaceship out of iron. It is not the lightest of materials. Nor the strongest.”

“It’s pig iron, actually,” Rei said. “Not even steel. At least the top two thirds.”

“Why?” Rome asked, confused. “No one would build a spaceship out of pig iron.”

Rei set Aason down and put his hand against the Ark. Aason mimicked his father. Rei looked up at the top and shook his head.

“There are two reasons, actually,” he said. “One is trivial and the other is actually pretty clever.”

 

Tomorrow, Rei will enumerate the reasons why they did not build the spaceship out of more exotic materials like aluminum or titanium.

 

Entry 4-294: October 16, 2016

 

Rusty Spaceship 2

 

Yesterday, Rome and Rei had paid a visit to the rusted out hulk of the Ark II. Rome expressed surprise that anyone would build such a sophisticated machine out of such a pedestrian material. So Rei had to explain Rome that the Ark II was built out of pig iron for two reasons, one trivial and the other “actually pretty clever.” Rome was intrigued:

 

“What are the reasons?” Rome asked.

“The trivial one is that when we got to our target,” he pointed to the ground. “The command crew had to do a spacewalk to split off the cargo compartment so they could land with the crew first.”

“How is that relevant?” Rome asked.

“Because nobody knew of any controllable propellant that would last for a few centuries.”

“Like our handjets?” Rome motioned with her hand, waving it up and down.

“Yeah. On our Ark, they had the solid rocket boosters for the SSTO module but nothing that could be throttled.”

Rome cocked her head. “So how does that relate to the pig iron?”

“Well, they knew that magnetic boots would always work. No need for hand thrusters. They needed a ferrous metal to stick. Like I did when I jettisoned the propulsion unit, remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” she said. “What is the second reason?”

“They figured when we landed, it might be a long time before we found and could mine ore. So by making the ship out of pig iron, they figured we could cannibalize it and make whatever we needed right away, just using the smelters. The lower third of the Ark is martensite, a kind of stainless steel. That was to be used for building shelters and what not.”

“Huh,” Rome said. “That is clever.” She looked up at the 21st century spacecraft. “But you didn’t need any of the metal, after all. That is why it is still here?”

“Exactly. Why cannibalize the ship when we have our friends the Vuduri? They pretty much give us whatever we need.”

 

What Rome and Rei did not realize is that if I had allowed the Essessoni to completely tear the Ark II apart, I would not have the next scene wherein Rome discovers the missing data slab #20.

Entry 4-295: October 17, 2016

 

The Missing Slab 1

 

Yesterday, Rei provided Rome with an adequate explanation as to why the Ark II had not been completely torn apart by the Essessoni looking for building materials. This gave Rome an opportunity to explore the cargo compartment to the rear in her search for the mysterious (and missing) 20th data slab:

 

Rome smiled but it was a wan smile. Her eyes became defocused as she reconsidered the events that had occurred the previous evening. She didn’t have too long to think about it because the air shimmered in front of her and the new OMCOM’s all-white livetar appeared.

“You summoned me?” it asked.

“Yes, come with me,” Rome ordered and she charged ahead to the rear of the spacecraft.

The twin ramps used to unload the cargo compartment when the Essessoni first arrived were still in place. It was easy for Rome to make her way up into the huge vessel. OMCOM followed her with Rei making his way more slowly with Aason.

“It’s so dark in here,” Aason called out. He had his mother’s irods but he was just getting to the stage where he knew enough to be afraid of the dark.

“Allow me,” OMCOM said. His shoulders lit up and glowed with a bright white light, illuminating all the way down to the end of the vessel.

“Handy,” Rei observed.

Rome walked down the aisle slowly, stopping every few feet to look left and right. The cargo compartment looked messy and abandoned. Despite that, Rome could see how the sections were organized. There were labels on the walls but not much else. Outlines of whatever was stored here were etched in the dust. As they made their way toward the front end of the vessel, rows of storage lockers took up the entire left side. Each had a name tag above it. Rome realized that they were organized alphabetically. She quickly made her way to the aisle with the B’s and came to Rei’s locker. She pulled the drawer out and saw that it was empty.

 “Pretty small, huh?” Rei said, coming up to her. “We weren’t allowed to bring much stuff. My music, straight razor, some books and a few changes of clothes were all.” Aason jumped up and down, trying to see what his parents were discussing. Rei bent over and picked his son up so he could see into the empty drawer.

“Hmm,” Rome said frowning. “I still may not have quite forgiven you for risking your life during your space walk just to retrieve your music.”

“But Romey,” Rei said plaintively. “It was for you, for us, for the trip. A year is a long time to go without music.”

 

Is Rei in trouble? It seems like so long ago and all’s well that ends well. We’ll see tomorrow.

Entry 4-296: October 18, 2016

 

The Missing Slab 2

 

Yesterday, examining Rei’s locker reminded Rome that Rei had taken an unauthorized trip, early on during their voyage from Tabit to Deucado. The incident occurred during Rome’s inspection of the cargo compartment of the Ark II. She decides to go deeper into the bowels of the spaceship to continue her search for the mysterious (and missing) 20th data slab:

 

“Hmm,” Rome said frowning. “I still may not have quite forgiven you for risking your life during your space walk just to retrieve your music.”

“But Romey,” Rei said plaintively. “It was for you, for us, for the trip. A year is a long time to go without music.”

Rome reached up, pulling Rei’s head down and kissed him. “I am kidding you,” she said, smiling. “It was very brave and very loving. I would do no less for you.”

Rei smiled back at her. Rome turned and walked further up the aisle almost to the very front. On the right were more shelves, cubby holes and lockers. She stopped and stared at a tall, thin compartment, labeled “Data.” Rome opened the door and peered into the empty locker. It had rails running up the side with slots built in.

“OMCOM, come here,” she said. The livetar came over to join her.

“What do you need?”

“How many data slabs would fit in this compartment,” she asked.

OMCOM put his hand inside and ran it along the bottom, the sides and the top. “Based upon the configuration, this compartment would hold nineteen data slabs,” the livetar said.

“Not twenty?” Rome asked, disappointment in her voice.

“No. Only nineteen.”

“That makes no sense,” she said. “I thought you said there was a 20th slab. Why wouldn’t they keep them all together?”

“They did, in a manner of speaking,” OMCOM said. He poked at the bottom of the locker at each of the far corners with his finger and a crack appeared. He tilted the piece of metal back and pulled it out, revealing a cavity.

 

Hmm. A mysterious secret cavity. I wonder what was stored there. If it isn’t obvious by now. I’ll tell you what it is tomorrow.

 

Entry 4-297: October 19, 2016

 

The Missing Slab 3

 

Yesterday, Rome, Rei and OMCOM were exploring the storage lockers in the rear of the cargo section of the Ark II. OMCOM discovered a hidden storage compartment within the locker. However, the compartment was empty. What do you think was stored there?

 

“They did, in a manner of speaking,” OMCOM said. He poked at the bottom of the locker at each of the far corners with his finger and a crack appeared. He tilted the piece of metal back and pulled it out, revealing a cavity.

“That is where they stored the extra slab,” OMCOM said. “No one would know it was there unless they knew it was there.”

Rei came over and took a peek. “That is so odd,” he said. “Why would they hide it like that?”

“Exactly,” Rome said. “Obviously, they did not want anyone to find it unless they were supposed to. They are keeping a secret.”

“Rome, I swear,” Rei said. “Those people are not like us. I’m beginning to think I’ll never understand their actions.”

Looking over Rei’s head, above the locker they just examined, Rome saw another, smaller locker. The label at the top said ‘S5 Vacc.’ Rome stood up on her toes and tried to open the door but it was sealed tight.

“OMCOM?” she queried.

The livetar reached up and ran his hands along the sides. One hand stopped moving and he seemingly pushed it into the compartment. Suddenly, the door popped open. He pulled his hand all the way out and stepped aside.

Once again, even standing on her tiptoes, Rome was too short to see in. “Rei, come look,” she said. “Tell me what you see in there.”

Rei studied the inside of the locker. “Nothing,’” he said finally. “Completely empty.”

“So what is a Vacc?” Rome asked, pointing to the embossed label over the locker. “I have never heard that word before.”

“That’s because vacc is not a word,” Rei replied. “Maybe it’s an abbreviation, for, I don’t know, maybe vaccine?”

“So you are saying this refers to an S5 vaccine?” Rome asked.

“I have no idea,” Rei answered. “Perhaps some sort of generic medicine in case we got space cooties or something.”

 

An S5 vaccine? If this doesn’t sound ominous to you, it should. Keep a look out for something like this:

 

Entry 4-298: October 20, 2016

 

Future General Hospital

 

Yesterday, Rome, Rei discovered a storage locker designated to hold a canister of S5 vaccine. Nobody knows what disease the S5 vaccine prevents. Yet. Rei speculated, jokingly of course, that it was for space cooties. But the actual reason behind it is far more sinister.

 

However, this raises the question of what will be the state of the medical arts in the 35th century? We know from both Rome’s Revolution and Rome’s Evolution that the Vuduri don’t really have doctors per se. Their medical professionals are more like medics. That’s because the 24th chromosome has given them vastly improved immune systems and they just don’t get sick. Of course there are accidents and people need splints and such but that’s about it.

 

So when Rei’s back went out, it was OMCOM who had to come up with a cure. When Rei was paralyzed it was “Dr. MINIMCOM” who had to invent a VIRUS-enhanced surgery to repair the damage. We know that the Vuduri have hospitals. We saw one in Rome’s Evolution and now in my new short story “The Invisible Man” which can be found in my new collection called The Vuduri Companion. But again these are mostly geared toward trauma and accidents and very little resources have been devoted to common diseases.

 

But what about novel diseases? We have diseases today that nobody heard of 100 years ago: AIDS, Ebola, Zika. Doesn’t it seem possible that even more diseases will arise in the next 1400 years?

 

The answer is probably. But as I have claimed before and I will claim again, as a writer, I am lazy. I want to get on with the story so having to deal with such mundane topics as colds, the flu and other diseases seems boring to me. But this is where the S5 virus comes in. It is something the Vuduri have never encountered before and is the basis of the plot behind The Ark Lords. Stay tuned for a wild ride.

Entry 4-299: October 21, 2016

 

The Mini-nuke 1

 

It all leads up to this. I spent so much time preparing you with the bits and pieces such that when the time came you, as the reader, will buy all the elements. First, I introduced you to the concepts of mini-nukes, ostensibly for mining. They were constructed of a made-up isotope of thorium which had a nice, explosive pop, a half-life of 1700 years and also left no fallout or residual radiation. Next, I created a circumstance where it was necessary to place the Library OMCOM’s memron storage structures deep, deep underground. I put Rei and Rome in the Ark II which is way far away from the Library so they were safe. Finally, I brought you a livetar of the Library OMCOM, a projection, into the cargo compartment of the Ark II, just as a foil for what happens next. So here it is:

 

“What are…” Rome’s question was interrupted as the entire cargo compartment shook. It felt like an earthquake. Both Rei and Rome reached for Aason. It was Rei who scooped him up in his arms. OMCOM’s livetar disappeared for several seconds before reappearing. Once it reappeared, the livetar phased in and out several times before stabilizing.

“What the hell was that?” Rei asked. “Was that an earthquake?”

“Something has happened,” said OMCOM. “Near Rome’s library. Not an earthquake.”

“Then what?” Rome asked with fear in her voice.

“An explosion,” OMCOM replied. “You had better attend. I will meet you back there.” With that, OMCOM’s livetar winked out.

Rome started running down the corridor. Rei, carrying Aason, was right behind. Together, they dashed out of the cargo compartment, down the ramp and across the stand of trees to where MINIMCOM was parked. They quickly went aboard and rushed to the cockpit.

“Take us to Rome’s library,” Rei barked while buckling Aason into the pilot’s seat. “Pronto.”

“Absolutely,” MINIMCOM replied. The starship did not even wait until the cargo ramp was fully retracted before lifting off into the air. They heard the hatch swing down and lock. As soon as the cargo compartment was sealed, MINIMCOM fired his plasma thrusters and they quickly accelerated to Mach 2. It only took a few minutes to follow the mountains down to the plain below before arriving at the library site. They skimmed over the outer row of cane-trees approaching the campus proper.

“Oh no!” Rome cried out, pointing past the windshield. In the place where her library had stood, there was now a tremendous crater, several hundred feet across. Pieces of aerogel, bricks and other debris were scattered around the rim of the crater. Oddly, a small portion of the front wall remained. The rest of the building was simply gone. The trees circling beyond the edge of the crater had been knocked over, splayed outward in a radial pattern.

“Oh, Rei!” Rome whimpered and she started crying.

 

The Library is gone. So sad. Tomorrow, Rei puts together the pieces of the puzzle and boy is he mad!

Entry 4-300: October 22, 2016

 

The Mini-nuke 2

 

Yesterday, Rome, Rei, MINIMCOM and Aason flew back to the Library, only do discover it had been blown to bits. Even though it is not stated explicitly, I spent a lot of time setting you up so that you knew it was a mini-nuke. Now Rome and Rei have to figure out who did this and why. It was just a library for heaven’s sake. Why destroy a library? This next section will make it all clear:

 

Angrily, Rei shouted, “OMCOM, are you still there?”

“Yes,” replied the computer through MINIMCOM’s grille. “The explosion did not affect me or the data stores. I am far too deep underground. But as far as I can determine the building has been destroyed.”

“Jesus Christ! MINIMCOM, take us down,” Rei commanded.

“I do not think that would be prudent,” MINIMCOM said. “There is a fairly high level of radioactivity right now. It is decreasing rapidly but I would wait a day or two.”

“Radioactivity?” Rei asked, confused. “They nuked the place?”

“Who would do such a thing?” Rome asked through her sobs. “Why?”

“I’ll tell you why,” Rei said, pounding his fist on the console. “Because of that damned 20th slab. They know you are on to something. This was the only way they could think of to stop you in your tracks.”

“It is all right, Rei,” OMCOM said soothingly through the grille. “It is not as bad as it looks. My infrastructure is completely intact. The building can be rebuilt.”

“Goddammit,” Rei said. “That’s not the point. You have no clue. But how could you? You aren’t even human.”

“Rei!” Rome said sharply through her tears. “OMCOM didn’t do anything. You should not be angry at him.”

“You’re right,” Rei said, pressing his jaws closed. He took a deep breath then said, “OMCOM, I’m sorry.” He closed his eyes then opened them and turned to Rome. “But you could have been there. You could have been killed.” Rei pointed at the crater. “I know who did this,” he said.

“Who?” Rome asked plaintively. “Who would do such a thing?”

“Keller,” Rei replied, “and his bunch of crazies.” He shook his fist in the air. “I’m telling you now; we’re going to put an end to this insanity.” He turned to face the grille mounted in the console. “MINIMCOM, take us to New Ark City.”

 

Tomorrow, Rei confronts the people responsible. Then they have to figure out what to do. The agents of destruction think they have erased the information contained within the building. Little did they know that all the data was safe nearly a meter underground.

 

Entry 4-301: October 23, 2016

 

The Bad Guys

 

Yesterday, Rome, Rei, MINIMCOM and Aason were headed back to New Ark City after they discovered that Rome’s Library had been bombed. Up until now, the Gray-White schism had seem like a mild political difference. But this act of terror was beyond the pale. Rei was so angry and Rome was so distraught that Rei decided it was time to lay down the gauntlet:

 

It only took them five minutes to reach the airstrip outside the Essessoni compound, making a beeline for Keller’s office.

“Bierak?” Keller said, looking up from his desk. He seemed genuinely surprised.

“You’re goddamned right,” Rei said racing over. “You nuked Rome’s library?” Rei yelled, slamming his fist on Keller’s desk. “What the hell?”

“Sorry about that,” Keller said patiently. “I just heard. An accident, I assure you.” He glanced over at Rome who was carrying Aason. “I’m glad to see nobody was hurt.”

“How the hell do you accidentally drop an atom bomb on somebody?” Rei snarled.

“We thought the Vuduri could use some of the mini-nukes in deepening the southern harbor,” Keller said, completely innocently. “We took ‘em down there but they weren’t interested. My crew was flying back with them and one must have fallen out of the cargo hold by accident.”

“Accident, my ass,” Rei said. “What kind of idiots do you think we are?”

“Watch it, Bierak. I know you’re upset but you’re really close to insubordination. That location is on the main flight path between here and the Vuduri city. It wasn’t on purpose. Who’d be crazy enough to do that?”

Rome set Aason down and stepped right up next to Rei. “This is about the 20th slab and what it contains, isn’t it?” she asked.

Keller narrowed his eyes. “What slab are you referring to?”

Rome put her hands on Keller’s desk. She leaned forward and growled, “You did not want us to find out about the mission parameters for Darwin.”

Keller leaped up from his seat and shouted, “How did you…” Suddenly, he clamped his mouth shut. His face turned red as a beet. Beads of perspiration appeared across his forehead even though it was cool indoors. He stood perfectly still until he regained his composure. Finally, he took a deep breath, let it out slowly and sat back down. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said in slow, considered tones.

“Like hell you don’t,” Rei said. “We’re going to…”

Rome turned in place and tugged on Rei’s sleeve. “His reaction is confirmation enough. We have what we need,” Rome said to Rei using her mental ‘cell-phone’.[_ “It’s time to go. I know where we can find the missing slab.”_]

Rei twisted and looked at her quizzically. Rome nodded her head toward the door. Rei picked up his son and turned to Keller. “We’re not done yet,” Rei said. “Not by a long shot.”

 

So there you have it. The war between the Grays and the Whites has begun, just like on every other world where the two groups interacted. But why did it have to be this way? That is the plot line underlying The Ark Lords.

Entry 4-302: October 24, 2016

 

Traveling among the stars

 

Way back when, when Rome’s Revolution was still the three novel version called VIRUS 5, I started out the first story a long time ago and far, far away from Rei’s arrival on Tabit. I told you the story of Silas Hiram, a Ag professor and one the first farmers on New Earth, the habitable planet orbiting Alpha Centauri A, called Aleph. I portrayed the world of one bursting with beauty and vitality. You can now read that story in The Vuduri Companion, available in ebook and paperback.

 

However, when we got to 35th century, all of the colonists from the Ark I were gone. Vanished. Not a single trace. It turns out they were consumed by the Piranha Rats which swept over the planet like a plague once every 70 years. The colonists had no knowledge that they existed and therefore had no defense. The rest of the living things on the planet knew how to survive.

 

So the planet itself continued. I always wanted to go back there and start to explore it and The Ark Lords gave me the perfect opportunity to visit that world, now called Helome by the Vuduri. Yesterday, Rome told Rei that she knew where they could go to find the secret 20th data slab. And Helome is where they were headed. It was very exciting for me as a writer to get to explore a new world and create new life forms and a whole new ecosystem.

 

This is a little snippet of Rome’s thinking:

 

Rei and Rome sat in MINIMCOM’s cockpit hurtling through space at an inconceivable speed. Rome was watching the virtual instruments MINIMCOM had constructed to simulate actual star charts, distance and a speedometer which showed their ridiculous speed, along with the regular instrumentation. Rei was staring through the windshield at the mesmerizing beyond-deep blackness of null-fold space in front of him.

“We’ve been handing Aason off to your mother a lot recently,” Rei said, finally, almost dreamily. “I’m starting to feel like we’re neglecting him.”

Rome turned her head to look at him. “We’re doing this for his safety, for everyone’s safety. Both he and my parents understand that. Junior is at their disposal. They’ll be fine together.”

“Yeah, I know,” Rei said, tearing his eyes away from the darkness that seemed to draw him in so he could look at Rome. “And you’re sure that they’ll have a copy of the slabs at Alpha Centauri, I mean Rogal Canduro?”

“Oh yes,” said Rome. “I’ve seen images of the artifacts stored in the facility on Helome, the occupied planet there. When I was in the Overmind, I had no knowledge of what I saw but reflecting back, I now know there was definitely a stack of Essessoni data slabs there.”

 

Tomorrow, we arrive at the beautiful world of Helome and get to see the new sights.

Entry 4-303: October 25, 2016

 

A portent of the future

 

I have to admit, when I wrote The Ark Lords, I had no idea that I was eventually going to write The Milk Run. I had no idea that Planet OMCOM was going to fashion himself into the galaxy’s largest spaceship. I had no idea that Aason was going to have to travel to a dimension beyond comprehension.

 

So when I wrote this little section for The Ark Lords, I was just spit-balling because I needed something to fill in, by way of conversation, during the voyage to Helome:

 

“I still can’t get over it,” Rei said. He looked down at the virtual instruments. “Thirteen and a half light years in eight hours. MINIMCOM, you are beyond amazing.”

“Thank you,” replied MINIMCOM. “But OMCOM deserves the credit, although I suppose we must now call him Planet OMCOM to distinguish between the original and Rome’s copy. It was Planet OMCOM that designed the null-fold drive and implemented it. I am merely exploiting it.”

“Well it’s still damned fast, if you ask me,” Rei said. Rome frowned at Rei’s continued use of profanity but since Aason wasn’t around, Rei ignored her. “Are we going anywhere near the static tunnel between Earth and Alpha Centauri?” Rei asked MINIMCOM.

“No. Our vector is nearly at a right angle from that path,” replied MINIMCOM. “Besides, I can fly at a much higher velocity than one could achieve using the tunnel.”

“As far as I can tell, nobody can fly faster than you.”

“OMCOM says this is not the upper limit. He says that flight speed is proportional to computing power, believe it or not. I am flying at the maximum my particular configuration will allow. If you could construct a ship out of pure memrons without requiring a habitable airframe, you could go even faster.

[* *]

Note MINIMCOM’s prophetic observation in bold. Maybe I always knew that was Planet OMCOM’s fate. Maybe I didn’t. But my characters always speak to me and tell me jaw-dropping stuff so I choose to believe that these stories are true. They just haven’t happened yet.

 

Entry 4-304: October 26, 2016

 

The Vuduri Companion is live!

 

I am proud to announce that the web site for The Vuduri Companion is now live. In addition, I added it the growing list of books on my Author Platform MichaelBrachman.com. Here is a snapshot of the new web site:

 

 

It contains a clickable image of the cover, the introductory blub and all the buy links. As I mentioned it above, I also had to shoehorn it into my author platform. Here is a small portion of MichaelBrachman.com:

 

 

As you can see, I was running out of room so I split off Tales of the Vuduri into its own section. Ultimately there will be five of those. Also, this way, if I ever get around to writing The Vuduri Knight, I will have a place to stick it. Anyway, if you get a chance, please check the whole Vuduri universe series.

Entry 4-305: October 27, 2016

 

Typesetting 102

 

Normally, when you present a basic topic, you present it as blah-blah 101 implying it is the very first course you can take in college regarding that subject. Well, for The Vuduri Companion, I had to take typesetting the paperback to a whole new level so I am calling this post Typesetting 102.

 

First off, I had to include a Table of Contents which I never did before. It ended up looking like this:

 

 

I created a Word table and right-justified columns 1 and 3 for the chapter numbers and page numbers and left-justified the chapter titles themselves. I also put the story titles in small caps because I wanted it to match the font later in the book.

 

 

Another big difference was the use of spacer pages. I had to insert a blank page for the first time because every collection of short stories I checked always started the Table of Contents on the right side and the way the book laid out, if I did not, it would have ended up on the left-hand side. Same thing for Chapter 1. I had to insert a blank page to force it so that it started on the right, just like the Table of Contents.

 

Note that I got a little (very little!) creative with the chapter numbers by putting them in a large font. Finally, putting in the book title and chapter titles on the top of each chapter was a bear because each chapter had a different title.

 

 

Previously, the most complex book I ever typeset was The Milk Run. I employed all the techniques I learned from an article written by Michelle Proulx. For The Milk Run, however, even putting my name and the book title at the top in small caps, I only had to do it once for entire book.

 

So after you see how much work I put into typesetting this stupid thing, let alone spending 40 years accumulating the source material, the least you can do is go buy a copy, right? Please?

Entry 4-306: October 28, 2016

 

The Piranha Rats

 

The Piranha Rats were something I invented in 1973 when I was taking a biology class at the University of Michigan. I was writing a a paper on why the dinosaurs disappeared and I had this vision of a wave of evil mice sweeping across the landscape, eating everything in their path. Kind of like a mammalian version of locusts.

 

My thinking was they were so small and so voracious that even the gigantic dinosaurs would have no defense against them. Even if they stomped one or ten or a hundred, there would be thousands of others to nibble you to death. Think of swimming in a pool of piranhas and you had a pistol and you could shoot and kill maybe six or ten piranhas. The rest would still get you. I further postulated that the Piranha Rats’ bones were very soft and that is why there was no fossil record of their existence. They simply swept over the planet, causing mass extinction, then they died out.

 

When the time came to explain why the Ark I did not result in a successful colony at Alpha Centauri, I pulled the Piranha Rats out of my memory banks and let them do the dirty work. I pretended that they slept underground, hibernating for 80 years then came out when Aleph and Beth aka Alpha Centauri A and B were at their closest. Here is Rome’s take on the evil little things:

 

“Oh no,” Rome said, pointing to the fourth planet circling Aleph. “The world offered by Beth is habitable in name only. It’s very dry and cold. There is no indigenous life. Helome is vastly superior in every way. Aleph is a good provider.”

“Except for the Piranha Rats,” Rei said. “I still can’t believe that was the reason the Ark I failed.”

“They are voracious and overwhelming when they attack,” Rome said. “They are a living carpet of claws and teeth that flow over the planet. Your people could not have been aware they were coming. They probably never had a chance.”

“But you’ve had people there for sixty years. How do they handle them now?” Rei asked.

“The Vuduri living there have spent much time building up a defense. The gestation chambers have been expunged from the continent the Vuduri occupy and unless the rats decide to swim across the ocean, our people will be safe for a long time.”

 

What was not stated was that many Vuduri did die before they got a handle on the situation. The Vuduri took over one continent and left the others to the Piranha Rats and as Rome pointed out, since they couldn’t swim, it would be a stable arrangement.

 

Entry 4-307: October 29, 2016

 

Hippie Dippy Overmind

 

Many times before, I have written about the difference in the personalities among the various Overminds. No two people are exactly the same so there is no reason to believe that Overminds would be the same. Many of their personality traits are shaped by the size of their communicants, their mission and, in the case of the Overmind of Helome, their environment.

 

The Overmind of Earth was first. It was rather imperious (as Overminds often are) and ruled with an iron fist. It was the most powerful because it was made up of the most people. We actually spoke to it one time, near the end of Rome’s Evolution and while it was powerful, it did appear to have a modicum of wisdom.

 

We never got to speak to the Overmind of Tabit but we do know that its mission was discovery so it was more flexible and open to change than others. It allowed Rei’s Ark to be rescued and through its agent Commander Ursay, it eventually came to understand that even the Essessoni had value.

 

The Overmind of Helome was a completely different animal. We never spoke to it directly but through its agent Virga, we discovered that it was very much concerned with the environment and strongly influenced by the overwhelming beauty of that gorgeous planet. The cities of Helome deviated from the normal Vuduri plan. I’ll let Rome and Rei tell you the differences in the The Ark Lords as they approached the capital city also named I-cimaci:

 

They entered a west-to-east orbit and MINIMCOM implemented the swooping and arcing of the Bessel function used to aero-brake their way into the atmosphere. They circled around the planet coming up on the squarish-shaped continent Rome had indicated earlier from the western side. Most of the vegetation was a deep shade of teal with sporadic patches of emerald green. Regardless of its color, the growth was lush and dense over the entire landscape. The only exception was the circles-within-circles shape of a typical Vuduri city.

As they descended, Rei shouted out, “Look at that. Somebody actually deviated from the Vuduri master handbook.”

Rome looked where he was pointing and saw the twin towers rising up from the center of the city. Every other Vuduri settlement she had ever seen only had one.

“I see it,” she said. “No one ever mentioned that. I wonder why they built two towers. And look at that!” Rome said, pointing to the curling paths of verdant growth, snaking their way throughout the city. “Typically, the Vuduri did not tolerate vegetation within the city limits. This is very interesting.”

 

Tomorrow, more ramps and apparently no guns but don’t be fooled.

 

Entry 4-308: October 30, 2016

 

Welcome to Helome

 

Yesterday, Rome and Rei arrived at Helome only discover there were many differences between this new world and their home world of Deucado. The Vuduri there seemed to have developed along different lines than your regular, run-of-the-mill Vuduri. Still, after all the bad experiences Rei has had when traveling to new places, you wouldn’t blame him for being a big suspicious of the greeting waiting for them:

 

“Uh, Rome,” Rei asked as they unbuckled. “Did you happen to bring the Deucadon’s invisibility cloaks?”

“They’re in the back. I had placed them in MINIMCOM’s storage compartment for safe-keeping. Why do you ask?”

“I don’t know. Do you think we have anything to worry about?” Rei asked, trying to see around the sealed airlock arch.

“I don’t believe so. What would make you think that?” Rome asked as she freed herself from her harness and stood up.

“It’s just that over the last three years, experience tells me every time we visit some place new, there’s always something nasty waiting for us.”

“I wouldn’t worry,” she said, pressing the stud to open the cockpit airlock arch. “There have never been any reports of anything unpleasant on Helome. Quite the opposite. It’s supposed to be very peaceful here.”

“OK,” Rei said. “I’ll take your word for it. MINIMCOM? We’ll be in touch.”

“I will be here.”

Rei followed Rome down the corridor leading to the cargo compartment. Rome pressed the blue stud to open the hatch and lower the cargo ramp. The golden light streaming in from Aleph was very bright and Rei had to hold his arm up to block it until his eyes adjusted.

Waiting for them at the bottom of the ramp were three women. One of them, a petite blonde with short hair and tight curls stepped forward to greet them. She raised her hand and spoke in Vuduri.

“I am Virga,” she said. “Welcome to Helome.” Her hair sparkled in the blazing light of Aleph. Rei looked around. Everything was sparkling, even the gold highlights in Rome’s hair.

“Thank you,” Rome said. “I am Rome and this is Rei.”

“We know who you are,” Virga answered. “You are quite famous. You were the ones who destroyed MASAL and saved Earth from Asdrale Cimatir. All Vuduri should be grateful to you. It was shameful how they banished you from the Earth.”

“Huh,” Rei said in English. “Gratitude from a Vuduri? Will wonders never cease?”

 

Wow. Beautiful world. Beautiful people. A pleasant greeting? What could go wrong? As Rei says, there’s always something nasty waiting for them. And he’s right.

Entry 4-309: October 31, 2016

 

Ramps but no guns?

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome and Rei arrive at Helome under what appears to be benign circumstances. Every other time in every other book, when they walk down a ramp, somebody is waiting at the bottom with guns or knives or something else aggressive and non-benign. Sadly for Rome and Rei, this trip is no different. Every time Rei has to shield his eyes until they get used to the sun, bad news is coming:

 

Rei followed Rome down the corridor leading to the cargo compartment. Rome pressed the blue stud to open the hatch and lower the cargo ramp. The golden light streaming in from Aleph was very bright and Rei had to hold his arm up to block it until his eyes adjusted.

Waiting for them at the bottom of the ramp were three women. One of them, a petite blonde with short hair and tight curls stepped forward to greet them. She raised her hand and spoke in Vuduri.

“I am Virga,” she said. “Welcome to Helome.” Her hair sparkled in the blazing light of Aleph. Rei looked around. Everything was sparkling, even the gold highlights in Rome’s hair.

“Thank you,” Rome said. “I am Rome and this is Rei.”

“We know who you are,” Virga answered. “You are quite famous. You were the ones who destroyed MASAL and saved Earth from Asdrale Cimatir. All Vuduri should be grateful to you. It was shameful how they banished you from the Earth.”

“Huh,” Rei said in English. “Gratitude from a Vuduri? Will wonders never cease?”

Rome turned her head, looking briefly at Rei with one raised eyebrow.

“Not to be impolite,” Virga asked as they descended the ramp, “but why are you here?”

“We would like to examine the artifacts you preserved from the Essessoni Ark that landed here one thousand years ago. When I was in the Overmind, I remember seeing the storage chamber very clearly. There are certain items we are looking for. Is this acceptable to you?”

“Of course you may see them,” said Virga. “Do you require any food or drink first?”

Rome looked at Rei who shrugged. “It is not necessary,” Rome said. “Where are the artifacts stored?”

“Not far from here,” Virga said. “But it would be more convenient to travel by cart.”

“We do not wish to impose but would you mind taking us there?” Rome asked.

“It is no imposition. Of course we will take you there,” Virga said walking toward Rei.

 

Those two women accompanying Virga are, in fact, armed, by the way. Just not noticeable. I suppose being armed could be construed as their way of being prudent but like everybody else in the 35th century, they have an agenda. We’ll get a hint of it tomorrow.

Entry 4-310: November 1, 2016

 

Hands off?

 

 As I mentioned several days ago, the Overmind of Helome was quite different and distinct from its brothers on Earth and Deucado. The Overmind of Helome was more into physical beauty and preserving the environment. So it makes perfect sense that it shaped its communicants into a higher level of beauty. Further, this strain of Vuduri could also appreciate physical beauty in a way that those on other planets never could.

 

Rei noticed this right away as Virga, the petite blonde with curly hair, also the leader on Helome, was quite overt in her observance of him as a physical specimen:

 

“Where are the artifacts stored?”

“Not far from here,” Virga said. “But it would be more convenient to travel by cart.”

“We do not wish to impose but would you mind taking us there?” Rome asked.

“It is no imposition. Of course we will take you there,” Virga said walking toward Rei. She put her hands on his chest and ran them up his pectorals then along his broad shoulders and down his arms, taking time to squeeze his biceps. For a Vuduri to initiate physical contact was very odd indeed. Rei was so stunned; he couldn’t back away from the unexpected gesture.

“So you are an actual Essessoni,” she said. “I have never seen one in real life. Are they all as big as you?” she asked.

“Most of them,” Rei answered. For some reason, he blushed slightly.

“Your musculature,” Virga said. “It is magnificent. No wonder you were able to vanquish MASAL.”

“I had help,” Rei said modestly.

Virga looked into his eyes for a moment longer then turned away.

 

However Virga might have appeared to be employing an artist’s eye for Rei’s physical stature, her true mission was far more sinister. Remember, most Vuduri were just mouthpieces for the Overmind and this particular Overmind had a problem that it perceived only Rei could solve. Most men would have been envious of his position but then most men were not married to Rome.

 

Entry 4-311: November 2, 2016

 

Crayons and soybeans

 

As I mentioned several days ago, Helome is a stunning world, more beautiful than Earth. Everything about it is beautiful and there is a strange quality within the light emitted by Aleph that makes things appear even more beautiful. I wanted to stress this in the beginning of The Ark Lords so that when the underlying ugliness is exposed, the contrast would be even more striking. I also couldn’t help myself by giving a shout out to Silas Hiram from the Ark I who was growing his soybeans over one thousand years earlier. At least they survived the Piranha Rats:

 

Rome watched the scenery fly by. Large, individual tree-analogs were co-mingled with bushes and wildflowers. Even though the tops of the trees were various shades of teal, their trunks were every kind of color imaginable from deep red, to yellows to blues. The trees did not have leaves proper. Their sun catching surfaces resembled clumps of moss but the effect was the same.

As she watched the riot of colors flashing by, Rei tapped her on the shoulder and said, “It reminds me of a box of Crayolas.” Rome furrowed her brow but did not comment upon his observation. She squinted her eyes and the colors blended, forming a shimmering rainbow. It was so beautiful.

They flew on, passing lush green fields of variegated plants and shrubs. The light of Aleph made each shimmer and glow with an emerald green that was richer than Rei had ever seen. Eventually, they came to a rural area organized into large rectangular plots of distinctly different crops.

“Are those soybeans?” Rei asked, pointed to a deep green field to their left.

“Yes,” replied Virga. “It is one of the few crops your people planted here that has survived and actually thrived. We use it in many ways, not just for food.”

Rome looked back and forth. “Virga, I cannot even begin to tell you how beautiful it is here. Just everything!” she remarked. Rei was relieved to know it was not his imagination. Aleph really did make things seem prettier.

“Yes, it is,” Virga said, twisting in her seat to look back at Rome. “The Overmind here has developed a great appreciation for the bounty and the beauty this planet has to offer. It is too bad…”

“Too bad what?” Rome asked.

Virga shook her head and turned back to face forward. “Not everything is as idyllic as it appears,” she said over her shoulder. “We are having some problems. However it is nothing you should concern yourself with. The solution is very nearly at hand.”

 

The solution, of course, is to kidnap Rei and extract his genetic material to right the evolutionary course of the Vuduri on Helome. Not the greatest of situations for our hero.

 

Entry 4-312: November 3, 2016

 

Super Carts

 

Yesterday, we saw Rome and Rei climb aboard one of the ever-present Vuduri flying carts. They joined Virga and two guards to head off to the Vuduri archives in the capital city of I-cimaci in the beginning of The Ark Lords. However, this particular cart deviated slightly from the normal design. Although it is not particularly detailed, here is Rei’s observation as they were climbing aboard:

 

Without a word, one of the two other women left the group and quickly returned with one of the ubiquitous Vuduri flying carts. This particular aircar looked a little heavier than the ones Rei had seen before. It had a substantial roof held up by four posts, one at each corner. Also, Rei noticed a slight breeze flowing from underneath. Normally, the EG lifters that powered these carts were recessed in the undercarriage. On this particular cart, Rei could make out the bottom of their outline.

He shrugged and joined the others as they climbed aboard. Virga sat in the front next to the driver. The other woman, still silent, sat in the back next to Rome. The driver took them along a series of winding roads away from the city to the north. Once they were in the country, the road straightened and widened out. Their speed increased and the wind whipped through the cart. Rei glanced down and saw repulsor strips mounted on the seat back in front of him. Rei knew they were the Vuduri equivalent of airbags so he leaned back and relaxed.

 

So what were the major differences between these carts and regular carts?

 

1. They had a roof. Normally the Vuduri flying carts were open air.

2. Their frames were reinforced. They are carrying additional equipment which, up until this point, is hidden within the frame.

3. They have oversized EG lifters, more powerful than normal, so as to lift the heavier carts.

4. They have repulsor strips, the Vuduri equivalent of air bags.

 

So why are these carts different? They carry within them a complete safety cage which is normally retracted. But when the cage is extended, it is a heavy metal mesh that attaches to the roof to protect the occupants from something nasty. You’ll see.

 

Here is Bruce’s rendition of the cart, minus the roof and cutaway a bit so that you could see the interior more clearly:

 

Entry 4-313: November 4, 2016

 

Super Carts Explained

 

Yesterday, I told you that the Vuduri on Helome used a different kind of flying cart. The ones they were using had reinforced bodies, oversized EG lifters, repulsor strips and a canopy. Today I will reveal to you why those carts were different. No matter what you think, it is probably not what you expect. Here is that scene from The Ark Lords:

 

As they drove along, the number of tree-analogs increased in density from individuals to some small stands of trees which then gave way to some denser woods. The trunks grew a bit darker in color and a little less varied. Just before they entered the forest proper, the cart came to a halt and settled on the ground.

“What are we doing?” Rome asked.

A grinding noise issued from the roof of cart and a heavy-duty metal mesh screen descended along all four sides, inserting into slots made for that purpose.

“What are these for?” Rome asked.

“There are some vicious and cunning predators we call lurkers that live in the woods here,” Virga said. “This screening discourages any sudden attacks.”

“And I thought the Piranha Rats were bad,” Rei scoffed, pressing his hand against the screen.

“The lurkers are just one thing to deal with,” Virga replied. “They cannot help their nature. In their own way, even they are quite beautiful, svelte and fast, fully devoted to their task. We just choose to not make ourselves a meal.”

“Is that the worst of them?” Rome asked.

“There are also batwolves,” Virga said, pointing up. “Also quite beautiful and extremely deadly.”

“Yikes,” Rei said in English, instinctively ducking and looking up and around. “Batwolves? This is kind of a scary place.”

“It is all under control,” Virga replied. “The Piranha Rats have shaped the ecology of this planet for over a million years. The creatures and plants have adapted. So have we. The last attack was sixteen years ago and it was easily dealt with. The next attack will not occur for another 64 years.”

“You know exactly when they are going to attack?” Rei asked.

“Yes. Beth is so bright, we do not have truly dark nights here but once every 80 years. When Beth is at periasteron that is when the night sky is the blackest. That is when the Piranha Rats emerge from their lairs and begin their sweep across the planet. We have eradicated them from this continent. We left the rest of this world the way it was.”

“So now you just have batwolves and lurkers to contend with,” Rei said sarcastically.

 

So there you have it. The carts become basically flying cages but cages to keep things out rather than in. If you ever read the story about Silas Hiram in The Vuduri Companion, you will see that the carnivores called lurkers and batwolves were around even when the Ark I first landed.

Entry 4-314: November 5, 2016

 

Starship Museum 1

 

 About a month ago, I took the opportunity to take you back to the remains of the Ark II in the beginning of The Ark Lords to see what had become of it. To make the story more dramatic, I had the composition of the Ark in combination with the elements on Deucado cause the body to nearly rust out. On Deucado, the colonists had retrieved all of the contents leaving just a rusted out hulk.

 

Now that they were on Helome, I thought I’d have you, along with Rome and Rei, visit the remains the of the Ark I to compare and contrast what was done with the relic. The Ark I had been on Helome for nearly a thousand years so there was no reason to expect much of it to remain:

 

After what seemed like an eternity to Rei, the woods thinned out and suddenly, they burst into a clearing which was surrounded by a tall fence. The woman driving the cart slowed to a halt. She waited until the gate opened then she passed through. Rei turned in place and watched the fence seal back up. They drove up to a two-story building built out of standard Vuduri white aerogel. The rear section was so large it extended beyond the boundaries of the building’s front and stretched out well into the forest on both sides. When the flying cart settled to the ground, the screens detached and disappeared back into the roof of the vehicle. The three Vuduri women got out as did Rome but Rei just stuck his head out and looked up.

“Batwolves?” he asked.

“They only come out at night,” Virga said, smiling subtly. “You are safe.”

“OK,” Rei said and he followed the group to the front of the building.

The main door opened into a fairly wide vestibule. On the far end was a pair of double doors.

“We must enter into this airlock,” Virga said. “Even though the air on Helome is rather dry, we have found keeping out all humidity aids in preserving the artifacts.”

The five of them entered the vestibule and the outer door closed. A swirling burst of air shot up from the floor, flowing upwards into vents set up in the ceiling. An indicator at the far end changed from red to green and the double doors opened.

As soon as all five were through the doors, they slid closed tightly. The room they just entered was large and had an open, airy feel to it. Rei looked up at the domed ceiling. “This reminds me of your Great Room back on Dara,” he said to Rome.

“Most Vuduri buildings greater than a certain size have a center court,” Rome said, looking around.

Virga pointed to group’s right. “That room holds artifacts gathered from a settlement we found on the eastern coast. It was very primitive. Other than some strange utensils and some bits and pieces of metal, most of it was destroyed by successive generations of Piranha Rats.”

 

So, it turns out that Helome is drier than Deucado so the Ark I had not rusted at the same rate at all. It was sufficiently intact that Rome could continue on her hunt for the 20th data slab. Her memory of her time when she was in the Overmind told her it would be around here somewhere. Time to go look.

Entry 4-315: November 6, 2016

 

Starship Museum 2

 

Yesterday, we saw Virga take Rome and Rei to the remains of the Ark I. Because of a combination of the elements on Helome plus some precautions taken by the Vuduri, there was still enough of the rusted out hulk to examine. Rome was there to find the 20th slab. It was time to expose this fact to Virga so that she could take Rome to it specifically. Here is that interaction:

 

Virga turned and indicated the door in front of them. “That room holds the remains of a portion of the spacecraft that brought them here. We actually built this building around it. It had disintegrated rather substantially so unfortunately, there is not much to see.”

“What is over there?” Rei asked, indicating the room on the far side of the atrium.

“That room contains the remains of a settlement we found nearby. Even though they only lived here for a short time, they apparently decided to create two settlements, one on each side of the continent.”

Rome looked at Rei. “Just like the Deucadons.” She turned back to Virga. “Can we go in there?” Rome asked, pointing forward.

“Yes, of course,” Virga said. She marched up to the door, pressed a button and the door rose up, disappearing into the ceiling. The storeroom in front of them was huge, its ceiling a translucent canopy that let the light of Aleph shine through. In front of them was the nearly completely rusted out hulk of the cargo section of the Ark I. The only thing really remaining was the stainless steel lower portion. The interior was completely exposed. Rome spotted the storage compartments in the front section. They looked so odd sitting there with nothing around them.

“Do you mind if I go up there and look?” Rome asked.

“Of course, but be very careful,” Virga cautioned. “Many of the edges are still sharp.”

Rome marched ahead and stepped gingerly onto one of the twin cargo ramps. After climbing the ramp, she entered the area that would have been the body of the ship. It felt odd that she was inside the spacecraft yet was not. There was nothing overhead except for the skylight canopy. She deftly made her way to the front section where the storage lockers were located. The metal was shredded and there was no evidence of a bin for “Data” or the “S5 Vacc.”

“Did you find anything at all stored here?” Rome called out to Virga who was still standing on the display floor with Rei.

“Anything that did not disintegrate was moved to the other climate controlled rooms,” Virga replied, pointing to her left.

Rome shrugged and made her way out of the wreck and back to the group.

“In that case, may we see where the important items are stored?” Rome asked.

 

Note the phrase within bold. This phrase is meant to be a nod toward the schism between the Grays and the Whites. Tomorrow, Rome goes exploring looking for the answer to questions nagging her. Terrible questions. Questions so deadly that they nuked her Library to persuade her to cease her probe.

Entry 4-316: November 7, 2016

 

Future Anarchy

 

Tomorrow’s election got me to thinking about government in the 35th century world of Rome’s Revolution. I came to the realization that I am an anarchist because each of the three important worlds, Earth, Deucado and Helome had no actual government.

 

Every planet, every country, every organization needs the equivalent of a head of state. This has nothing to do with government, rather it has to do with the face of an entity. On Earth, ruled by the Overmind, at the end of Rome’s Evolution, we come to learn that Commander Ursay is the leading representative of the people there. On Helome, Virga is the leader in name only but she is the first of the Vuduri to greet off-world visitors.

 

On Deucado, it is a bit more complicated because there are so many different groups. The Vuduri contingent is headed up by Pegus. The Deucadons are led by Bukky. The Ibbrassati are represented by Trabunel. The Essessoni, and in fact the entire planet, are represented by the de facto leaders Rome and Rei although they would claim otherwise.

 

I guess in my future world, everybody gets along and everybody does their job so that the world moves forward in harmony. I see a future where there is no need for rules or government because people naturally want to do the right thing.

 

On our world, here in the 21st century, we haven’t quite reached that level of enlightenment but it is important that we try. So please make every effort to go out and vote tomorrow to help us move toward that glorious future.

 

Entry 4-317: November 8, 2016

 

The Electoral College

 

In this age of high speed internet and ubiquitous WiFi, the question arises, why not do away with the Electoral College system for electing a President and go straight to a popular vote? The current system (except for Maine and Nebraska) are winner take all. If your candidate gets even one more vote than their next nearest competitor, you get all of that state’s electoral votes. The method of apportioning the electoral votes equalizes some of the imbalance between very populous states like California and sparsely populated states like Vermont.

 

The real election does not take place until the Electoral College representatives actually cast their votes in December and the results are not formal until January. At that point in time, Congress tallies up their votes and the results become binding. The interesting thing is that the Electors are not formally bound to vote for the candidate who won the majority of the popular vote. They do but they don’t have to. This flexibility was introduced by the Founding Fathers on purpose. This allows the Electors to intervene if the people got it wrong (whatever that means) or if something occurs between the popular vote and the Electoral College tally.

 

While it is very rare that an Elector disregards the popular vote and votes for someone else, no Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged. These people are selected by their own political party and have very strong ties (and self-interest) in voting as pledged. Since the system was implemented right after the birth of our nation, more than 99 percent of Electors have voted as pledged.

 

But I go back to the question I raised at the top. Is it time to abandon this age-old institution and go to a straight popular vote? Answer: I don’t think so.

 

Let’s pretend for one moment that this new system was implemented. Every citizen would be issued the equivalent of a PIN when they register to vote. They could then vote at the polling place or at home using a browser and HTTPS. The votes would be counted on a central server and the winner would be declared in real time. Do you see any flaws with this? I certainly do.

 

If you allow the President of the United States to be elected by the results of a computer system, there could be bugs in the system, it could be hacked and therefore manipulated by other countries or terrorist groups. It just seems like a problem waiting to happen. Also, people with the necessary technology could manufacture PINs and the one vote per person rule could be violated.

 

So, in conclusion, I say that our Founding Fathers had an astounding and clear view of the rules for running our country and the Electoral College process prevents wide-spread abuse by placing a buffer between the popular vote and the election of our nation’s highest official. I am OK with it. It ain’t broke so let’s not fix it.

Entry 4-318: November 9, 2016

 

Starship Museum 3

 

Several days ago, I introduced you to the closet thing to a museum that the Vuduri on Helome had at the beginning of The Ark Lords. It was the rusted out hulk of the Ark I. However, owing to the somewhat drier conditions on Helome and careful preservation by the Vuduri, there was still a semblance of the ship left. Rome was desperate to find out if there was any of the assumed vaccine for the S5 virus.

 

“Anything that did not disintegrate was moved to the other climate controlled rooms,” Virga replied, pointing to her left.

Rome shrugged and made her way out of the wreck and back to the group.

“In that case, may we see where the important items are stored?” Rome asked.

Virga nodded and led them out of the cavernous shelter, back through the doorway and into the room to their right. At first glance, it looked like a cross between a museum display and a library. As they wandered down the aisle, they came to a metal locker, sealed within a glass case. In the case next to it was a fairly substantial telescope on a burnished aluminum tripod.

“What is that?” Rome asked, pointing.

“We found this telescope contained within the metal cabinet you see there. Both were beneath the rubble of what must have been a residence. The original Vuduri landing party also found a fairly well-preserved journal inside the cabinet, one which was sealed inside a second box. Apparently, the Piranha Rats had no use for it.”

“A journal you say?” Rei asked, suddenly remembering something from several years ago. “Silas’ journal?” He turned to Rome. “Is that the one we saw back on Tabit?”

“I do not know,” Rome said. “Can we see the journal?”

“We would prefer not take remove it from its case,” Virga said. “It is very delicate. However, we have images of every page from within. Come with me,” she said. She led them over to a standard Vuduri workstation.

“You sit,” Rome said to Rei. “You can read the handwriting much better than I can.”

“Sure,” Rei said as he took the chair in front of the terminal. Virga reached over his shoulder and pressed some icons on the data interface causing the large display to show what looked like a schoolboy’s speckled black assignment book.

“That’s it,” Rei said in English. “Celestial Observations, Silas Hiram, New Earth, August 2121.”

Rei pressed the page down icon repeatedly, going past the pages he had already read back on Skyler Base, until he reached the end. He quickly scanned the words there then backed up a few pages. He let out a long sigh.

“What?” Rome asked. “What did you see?”

 

Tomorrow, what Rei saw that made him so depressed.

Entry 4-319: November 10, 2016

 

Starship Museum 4

 

Yesterday, Virga sat Rei down at a Vuduri workstation so that he could look at the images of Silas Hiram’s journal captured from the original. Rei had seem some of the pages back at Skyler Base in the Tabit system but this was the complete journal. We don’t know what was in there but it caused Rei to let out a long sigh. Here, at last, is what Rei saw:

 

“Let me read it aloud,” Rei said. “September 8, 2144 – I normally don’t comment on what is happening within the colony. I have tried to restrict my entries in this journal to my astral observations. But last night, something really peculiar happened. Tan Powel, one of the Grays, apparently tried smoking some local herbs and started ranting and raving about the Darwin Project. The things he said were bizarre. If any of what he said was true, these people are really sick.”

“Darwin,” Rome said. “There is that name again.”

“Let me keep going,” Rei said. Rome nodded. Rei hit an icon, proceeding to the next page.

“October 9, 2144 – Captain Allen had a town meeting tonight. He did a lot of talking but he didn’t say much. He hinted at the agenda for Darwin. No one could believe it. How can you have two groups, competing for the same resources, with completely opposite goals? The Grays are working tirelessly but their only objective is to leave this planet. The rest of us, the Whites, we’ve worked so hard to turn this beautiful planet into our home. How could the mission planners have missed something this fundamental?”

“Whites and Grays,” Rome exclaimed. “That is what Bukky told me happened to the Deucadons.”

Rei hit a key and continued. “December 12, 2144 – Things are coming to a head. Sammy D. was killed last night. Shot in the back. Ernst and the rest of us are headed for a showdown tomorrow with the Grays. They are either going to renounce their plans or we are leaving. I’m too old for this shit. Basically we have a war on our hands and t