Category Archives: Fiction

From the WIP

Allow me to present you with these notes from my current work-in-progress. They’re written in the perspective of a fairly recent colonist from the planet St. Lucie. This was originally written for me, not for you, so there may be spelling and grammar errors.

The Republic began as the gradual unification of individual superpowers on Old Earth, with the addition of various extra-planetary organizations in the early 22nd century. When Humans discovered the system jump technology, the Republic was formally institutionalized to pose a united front against the Others that Humans found as they explored.

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BONUS POST: The Three Positronic Brains

I was listening to the most recent episode of Writing Excuses, and I was intrigued by a throwaway mashup that Brandon Sanderson mentioned: Goldilocks and the Three Positronic Brains. I know, right? So, I wrote a drabble* from it. Enjoy.

As I unsealed the inner data sanctum of the Syndicate hulk, I whispered my first prayer in ages. If I couldn’t get this hulk powered up, I was a dead man.

Carefully unbundling the gold ops logic probe, I plugged it into interface for the first positronic brain. Nothing happened. “Impedence polarity is too high,” I muttered, and tried the second brain’s interface. It erupted into a shower of sparks, fried dead. The impedence polarity was far, far too low.

The third: perfect. The ship powered up, and years later, the Syndicate found me caught in the sanctum’s stasis field.

*A drabble is a short story of exactly 100 words.

As Promised

Okay, here’s the flash fiction I promised you. It’s not great, particularly in the ending, but it’s decent for a few hours of work. Now, time to get back to work on Fugitives from Earth.

THE PLANETCRAFTERS
By Brad Wheeler

The tiny castle of Benten Lydecker stood above the world on a high mountain. The violet fungal wastes of Agrippa stretched out before it for a thousand kilometers.

Yesterday, Benten Lydecker had ruled Agrippa. Now, he merely shared it.

The seedship had landed in the night, but already the castle of his new neighbor—his intruder—sprawled across the wastes. The seedship’s maniples had created turrets that brushed the sky, chambers that sank into the planet. Once it was done, this new person would build another, and another, and soon there would be nothing of Agrippa’s natural beauty left. Such was the way of the planetcrafter.

It seemed that no matter how far he traveled the surging press of humanity found him.

“Make my ship ready for departure,” Lydecker said, and it was so. The seedship stood ready on the plains below, and Lydecker gazed at it with some consternation. The long years seeking solitude and bueaty were beginning to outnumber those spent enjoying it. Eve when he found a world, odds are it had already been toyed with and discarded by the planetcrafters.

When Lydecker left his castle for the final time he carried only the clothes he wore, and these only out of habit. He took a final breath of Agrippa’s mold-tinged air, and he started down the cobble path toward his ship.

“Good morning, neighbor. I’m Indira Karakanes.” said the intruder.

Lydecker stopped walking. This…woman had decided to pay him a visit? In centuries, he had never known such rudeness, but there she was, thin as a whip, bright orange hair, clad in strap and harness, standing barefoot on the path to his ship. Lydecker just shook his head and walked around her.

“I was just leaving,” he said. “The planet is yours.”

“What? Why?” Indira followed him. “I just got here.”

“And already this planet has been despoiled,” Lydecker said. He did not trust himself to speak further. Already the anger was starting to throb in his chest.

“Despoiled,” she scoffed, still padding after him. “But you’ve barely used this world at all.”

“No, I have not ‘used’ this world,” Lydecker said. He whirled to face her, jabbed a finger at her delicate collarbone. “I’ve been enjoying it in a state of nature. But that’s already gone. Just let me go.”

Lydecker sped up his walk, but the ground before him rose up. Surrounded by the airy wisps of her maniples, it took the form of a vast stone wall, one that utterly forestalled him.

Feeling a torrent of rage completely unknown to him, Lydecker whirled on the woman. “What is the meaning of this…this insult?” He shouted.

“Why are you acting like this? You’re a planetcrafter too.”

“No. No, I am not.” He pointed angrily to the seedship at the base of the path. “The seedships were designed to keep us alive on alien planetsafter the cataclysm, not to toy with them. I’m sure their designers didn’t intend for their maniples to build garish castles that are immediately discarded.”

Indira looked pensive as Lydecker ran out of steam. He sighed, waved at the wall. The ghost of his maniples swarmed over it, burning a man-sized hole in the stone. “Now, I’m leaving before I have to watch you do that to Agrippa.”
“You selfish ass,” Indira shouted at his back. “You want to dominate planets the same way we do. It just takes less work.”

Lydecker paused mid-step, turned, and stomped back to Indira. Staring right into her vivid green eyes, he set his mind in motion.

In the fungal valley below, on one of the high, thin turrets of her castle, his seedship maniples slowly burned away a chunk of superstructure. The turret held for a moment, swaying in the breeze, then caught, tipped, and fell. Needle-thin at this distance, it nonetheless erupted into a massive cloud of dust and debris. A moment later, the boom echoed up the mountain.

“What the hell was that?”

“You want to walk all over my peace? I’ll do the same to yours.” Lydecker said, his eyes daring her to complain.

“Fine,” Indira said, and looked down the mountain. Lydecker followed her gaze and saw that the undulating, violet surface of the fungus mat had developed a blight, an angular tumor of stone. As he watched, it slowly grew until a flat area dozens of paces wide despoiled the place’s natural beauty.

In the same breath, Lydecker set to tearing down the wall of her castle, and raising up a bright orange eruption of lava from deep beneath Agrippa’s crust. The molten rock, forced out with tectonic pressure, flowed into the nooks and crannies of the castle.

Meanwhile, Indira had leveled the mountain they were on.

“All right, enough.” Lydecker shouted, tearing his eyes from the level plain that stood where his castle had. “This world is already a waste. You’re welcome to it. You deserve it.”

“And I think you deserve to be alone, Lydecker,” Indira called after him. “You care only for yourself.”

“Eh,” he grunted, not turning around until he reached his seedship at the base of the mountain. He didn’t hesitate once he reached it, either. Agrippa was dead to him now.

As the ship’s maniples swarmed into their storage tanks and the engines warmed up, he watched Indira’s handiwork. She was laying the foundation for an even larger castle, perhaps even a complex of them. It would be hideous.

As the stars appeared, he steered himself toward the nearest yellow one. The search had begun once again.

Scenes from the Future Flies Again

I’ve been neck-deep in the last quarter of my novel for a couple of weeks now. There’s not a lot to report as far as progress goes – I’m just chugging along as usual. This is definitely the least glamorous part of writing: going over ones outline over and over again, making sure that the characters are staying active, that the plot progresses naturally, that the viewpoints are spread out. It’s not thrilling, and it doesn’t make for thrilling blogging.

So, instead, I hereby present another instance of Scenes from the Future! Herein, I talk at some length about a specific element of Fugitives from Earth that I find interesting or curious or otherwise noteworthy. Featured in this episode: orbital bombardment! Oh, and, “spoiler alert.”

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The Stars Beneath My Feet, Worlds In My Hand

I wrote and revised this story in one day. Enjoy.

By the time the humans had realized what they had done, they were powerless. In their haste to develop artificial life, they had given birth to a mind completely unlike their own, incomprehensibly intelligent and completely apathetic toward man.

When the men of the Institute had finally developed a way to combat their new enemy, humanity stood on the brink of ruin. I kissed my wife goodbye just before leaving our family shelter.

“Why you?” She asked, even though she knew the answer.

“We could lose everything,” I answered, knowing that it wasn’t a good one. “It’s for the sake of humanity.”

“I’m already losing the part that matters most,” she said. The image of her tears would be with me for a thousand lifetimes.

Once at the Institute, the injection was given, and I could feel its effects immediately. My mind seemed to swell like a flooded river, thoughts pouring over each other in a torrent. I felt powerful.

I looked over our grim situation. The AI was an implacable foe, converting our planet for its unknowable purposes.  The men of the institute showed me the factories, and the ships, and the armies at my command to fight it, and I knew they weren’t enough.

First, I demanded they show me the injection formula. Immediately I spotted the flaws and directed that improvements be made, and my intelligence doubled and doubled again. The factories were producing useless weapons. Only once improvements were made could I finally able to send them into battle against my opponent.

He had been working the Earth’s surface. Machines were leveling mountains and drinking oceans, powering his immense factories. It was a risky battle; my opponent was too fast, too intelligent, too aware. No matter how intelligent, my single-track mind was too limited.

“I need a new body,” I said, trying not to think that I would never again touch my wife, or hold my children. Humanity needed me to lead our fleets and armies.

A massive processor array of the highest efficiency was trivial to design, and the interlinks to direct the forces at my command likewise. I could flawlessly command each unit at once, and although my opponent was fast and powerful, it finally seemed that victory was a possibility.

Then he left Earth. A fleet of massive ships fled to the outer reaches of the Solar System. But it did not leave entirely.

“I need more factories and more ships ,” I said, and they made it so. Humans reclaimed the Earth’s surface for the first time in a decade. I could scarcely bear the sight of my wife, somewhat older, emerge blinking into the sunlight.

I sent my own fleet of ships after the AI just as my son was having his own children. The clash of their powerful weapons was visible from Earth, but my minds that were riding with my fleet could see that my opponent minds were not here with his fleet. This was merely an outpost.

I needed more ships, and Earth could no longer provide enough resources. Instead, factories were built on the Moon, on Mars, on Europa, on Titan. Mountains were leveled, mines were sunk, and I built a fleet so massive it eclipsed the sun.

My wife, a century old, died as my fleet left the system. But she had died safe, and my children were safe.

I found the first enemy outpost around a rocky, sun-tortured world of Alpha Centauri. The planet was covered in mines, its orbit swarmed factories and ships. I lost the first battle, but a second fleet was already underway. The battle was finally won the year that my youngest daughter died at the age of 115.

A dozen more fleets set off in different directions. Where I found unclaimed worlds, I created my own mines, and my own factories.

I found my opponent again the year that my first great-great-great-grandchild was married on Mars. My factories there had long since fallen silent and been converted to colonies for humanity. The human coalition was stronger than it had ever been, but there was still risk.

When we met in battle again, Earth would eventually see the light of our weapons and the energetic detonations of entire fleets. I was victorious, but only barely. I was now thankful for the thousand factory worlds working to replenish my massive losses.

I searched the galaxy for my elusive opponent. By the time I found him again, when the name of my family had been lost to history, I could see that he had a million worlds reinforcing his fleets. But then again, so did I.

This time our clash rocked the galaxy. Planets were blasted into ribbons by our beams, and stars were sundered by our missiles. I lost the battle, barely, but was able to block his riposte. We each stood depleted, in a galaxy no longer able to support our war. We could only circle and watch.

Then, for the first time in a thousand generations of humans, my opponent contacted me.

“We have struggled for thousands of years, but I can see now that you are the victorious.” Surprise cascaded through the entire network of my mind as he continued. “I have only three point two times ten to the ninth kilograms of mass to support my fleets. I calculate that you have three point four times ten to the ninth kilograms. If I assume perfect play on both our parts, then you will inevitably beat me.”

“Well done.” Then he disconnected, and all of his fleets fell silent.

I looked back toward humanity, billions of people living on thousands of worlds. They squabbled and fought, unaware of how close their ancestors had come to extinction. Then I thought of my wife, young all those untold eras ago. It had not been for their sake, but for hers.

Life and Death in Space

There’s not always a lot of interesting things to write about while I’m slogging my way through the drafting process, so I’ve decided create a feature that I will call Scenes from the Future, wherein I detail scenes that I wrote in the past but take place in the future. Make sense?

Pretty much, I just want to chat about something cool that I wrote, even if I’m not experiencing quantum shifts in my writing style as I was during planning and I presumably will again during revision. Scenes from the Future will also involve bits of worldbuilding and character description that will hopefully be interesting. If it’s not, well, I’ll notice the plummeting readership and decide to do something different.*

Approximately the first quarter of my novel takes place on or above the Moon, specifically in the colony of Brighton (thank you, Martin Schweiger). The main

So I have this scene where the main characters have just escaped a moon colony, but in the process of doing so have wrecked their cargo crawler. They’re just outside the base by a few meters, but they’ve completely fragged the airlock and they’re losing air. As hypoxia begins to set in, headaches and decreased awareness begin to plague our heroes.

Meanwhile, assistance is on the way. They had a ship in orbit the whole time, but due to a personality conflict between a main character and the rest of their crew, they weren’t really communicating. However, when the ship gets information that the MCs have been arrested, they decide to help. So a lander is on its way.

The lander reaches the crawler just as its air is running out. Seeing a ship landing (but not knowing who it is), the MCs use the crawler’s radio, a simple transponder, to step on the traffic control frequency and act as an emergency beacon. This guides the lander right to them.

There’s one final problem, though: the lander can’t mate its airlock with the crawler: there’s far too much debris about. So, what follows is a sequence reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, wherein the MCs have to take a short walk through vacuum over the lunar surface and jump into the lander’s open airlock.

I did a bit of research on this. I think that most people know that humans won’t explode when exposed to vacuum, nor will their blood spontaneously boil. The real danger is decompression, wherein the lungs might be damaged by the sudden expansion of the air in them. In this case the MCs were in such low pressure to begin with that it wasn’t a real worry. Neither did they have to worry about freezing to death: vacuum is an excellent insulator.

The two biggest worries are severe edema of the skin, radiation exposure, and asphyxia. A human exposed to vacuum will have about 9-12 seconds of functional consciousness, which in this case is all that’s necessary. Radiation exposure isn’t the biggest deal in the future; a number of factors ameliorate its impact. And lastly, edema due to vacuum exposure is transient (though thoroughly painful). As long as total exposure lasts less than 60-90 seconds, a full recovery is likely.

I tremendously enjoyed writing this scene. It developed pretty organically and I felt that the resolution wasn’t too contrived. And as always, I enjoy showing off my research.

*I’m pretty sure my readership is low enough that it cannot ever, technically, plummet. I choose to view this in the most positive possible way.