This New World

Below is a thing I started writing this morning. Maybe one day it will become an actual thing, but I have other things I need to make into actual things, I also have work in an hour.

***

In many ways she was deeply unhappy, but she didn’t mind that so much as she guessed most people were pretty unhappy, those that weren’t were probably in denial. It had been fifteen years since the Rift, as people had taken to call it. Scientists referred to it as, a flux in the temporal membrane, but Rift just sounded better.

The world thought it was in a sorry state of affairs before. Right wing politics on the rise, regular terrorist atrocities perpetrated by confused, fascist fanatics, rising sea levels and climbing global temperatures, a flimsy economy and severe over population. Now, well… it’s mostly the same issues just taken up a notch or two.

Emma put on her jacket, an army camouflage affair, dull green and occasional brown. She bought it because it was cheap, not because it helped her blend into the background of the city, which was mostly grey, occasionally beige. Marketing departments would have you believe London was the epicentre of culture, a point from which all modern history was made. A diverse hub celebrating art, science and industry. In reality it was just a tangled mess of apartment complexes and the occasional bridge.

Ortha House was about as cheap as you could get within the city limits. That was probably because it was built as part of an initiative to allow the Others to integrate themselves amongst the human populace, granting them a place to live at low cost whilst they find themselves in this strange new world. Of course, the fact that they were referred to as the Others rendered the whole exercise pointless.

Emma left her flat and strolled down the cluttered corridor. Half full bin bags lay strewn all over the place, strange stains marked the walls and all sorts of noises drifted through the various doors.  Baldus was leaving his flat to start his day too. A dwarf many called them, though those who suffered from dwarfism complained that that was offensive. The dwarves referred to themselves as the Blendring, which to a human was just a noise, especially for the average English human, who thought any other language sounded ridiculous.

‘No axes Baldus,” said Emma, noticing herself how bored she sounded. Baldus clenched a fist and shook his head, his rigid Mohican wobbling a little. A shimmering, double edged battle axe was slung across his muscular back.

‘A blandring without an axe or hammer is no blandring at all!’ he lamented, hiding his face in his meaty hands. His black skin had been marked with red dye, criss-crossing his face in an elaborate and quite frankly ridiculous pattern.

‘No axes, thems the rules,’ said Emma.

‘Rules!’ Baldus spat, ‘what about the rules set down by the Great Sculptor? It is the duty of every Blandring to carry an axe or hammer, ready for war at all times!’

‘You’ll be arrested as soon as you leave the building. Just take a pendant.’

 

Following the Fifteen Minute war, the more reasonable of the

Blandring decided that the Laws of the Great Sculptor were

Very much open to interpretation. Whilst it cannot be denied

That all Blandering are expected to carry an axe or hammer

The scriptures never state how large said axe or hammer

Need be. Therefore, a blandring can still keep to the scriptures

By wearing a pendant sporting a tiny axe or hammer, which

Conveniently relieves it of its status as an offensive weapon. As

for being ready for war, it is said that it is a state of mind all blandring

Should be permanently in, rather than a physical readiness.

–          Blandring and Belief – pg 75 2nd edition.

 

Emma had thought a degree in Rift Cultures and journalism would be a good idea in the current environment. The world was changing, the Others were here to stay and the only way to live with such extreme difference of culture (and in many cases physicality) was to understand said cultures.

As it turned out, it had rendered her almost unemployable. Her ten thousand word thesis on the Fifteen Minute War and its effects had been a waste of time. How she managed to get ten thousand words out of such a brief period was beyond her. Like most conflicts, it could be summed up in a handful bullet points.

–          The Rift happened.

–          The blandring dutifully carried their axes and hammers and were ready for war at all times.

–          The blandring were told by the human government that they could not carry axes and hammers and should probably only be ready for war a few times a year.

–          The blandring decided they would not stand for such oppression and will not be ruled by a blasphemous government and gathered their forces and marched on parliament.

–          In the classic game of rock paper scissors, it is well known that assault rifles always beat axes and hammers.

–          The Blandring uprising was quelled in 14 minutes and 52 seconds. 58 were killed, 34 injured and many arrests were made.

Baldus went inside his flat grumbling audibly. Emma waited for him to return, when he did, a crude stone hammer hung from his neck. In her opinion it was still large enough to be considered a weapon, but decided to let that be decided by the police. There was always a police presence outside Ortha House, just to make sure the locals were integrating properly, and to arrest all those that weren’t.

Emma couldn’t blame them really. The pair exited the lift and passed through the cluttered and half destroyed foyer. She could see the unmarked police cars on the perimeter of the grounds already. Whilst the majority of those that lived in Ortha House were law abiding citizens just trying to make an honest living, some were level three shadow demons from the Realm of Darkness that occasionally consumed human souls, so precautions had to be taken. That and a Blandring who lived on the third floor had taken to selling drugs. It only took one idiot to ruin everything for everyone else.

They made it past the police cars without incident. Baldus lingered longer than necessary, in the hope of provoking a bored looking officer, but thankfully the officer in question didn’t look up from his phone.

‘Little boxes have stolen your souls!’ He grumbled as they moved on. The street lamps were beginning to flick out of life as the sun rose beyond the grey blanket of cloud. The factory wasn’t too far away. After months of unemployment Emma had secured an admin role at a meat packing company that prided itself in providing opportunities to ‘the Others’, almost 80% of their staff was made up of Rifters.

‘With your degree, you’ll be able to keep the rabble in line,’ the overseer had told her at her interview.

‘As long as you pay them, they’ll keep themselves in line. Most aren’t that different from us you know?’ she replied. The overseer nodded, grinning a broad and self-satisfied smile.

‘Oh yes, except none of them are unionised and have no concept of minimum wage. The ogres… they only need to sleep every four days and the little tasks we give them keep their simple minds occupied.’

‘So, you’re treating them like slaves?’

‘You could say that, but…’

‘But what?’

‘Oh nothing, just a figure of speech.’

 

Advertisements

Extract From a Thing

I have literally nothing to write, but it’s been a while since I wrote a post. So I’ll use this as a moment to share some of my other writings.

For a bit of fun I’ve been writing a blend of fantasy and science-fantasy (as in Game of Thrones, mixed with spaceships n shit). Ordinarily, I try and write interesting social critiques, or profound novels involving complex characters – but they’re not very good so I gave this a try.

****

Cutter ducked under his doorway, thick fingers fumbling in a leather pouch at his Tinuch Weed. The night air was fresh, damp even, but the star dotted sky clear. A half-moon hung in the centre of it all, making a commendable effort to keep the world lit. Cutter nodded his head in respect to Ardvurn, sitting up there in his cold marble prison.

A few grullets were hopping in and out of the muddy puddles, their stumpy little legs caked in brown ooze. Strange little creatures, would almost resemble children, were it not for their squashed, angry little faces and five little horns. That and they were incredibly stupid.

Cutter squashed a pinch of Tinuch into his pipe and began to dampen it.   The torch light about his door flickered, setting shadows dancing across the floor as he scooped over his kindling box. He pulled out a serviceable twig and put it to the torch. Once it was ablaze he set about lighting his pipe. He liked the ritual of readying the pipe for a smoke more than the smoking itself. Though he did enjoy that to some degree. It left a tangy taste in his mouth and relaxed his muscles. The ache in his back seemed to mellow after one or two puffs.

Two of the grullets started to fight noisily in the sodden grass, growling and spitting at one another. The others hopped about excitedly, yelping their support. Pursing his rough lips through his tangled black beard, Cutter let out a thin trail of yellowed smoke. He watched it rise into the air, twisting and spiralling towards the trees of the great forest. Aside from the squabbling grullets, there was a pleasant tranquillity to the evening, foretelling of a quiet night. Cutter could already hear the rumbling snores of Big Dog, in the hut by the fire. The smoke was taken by the wind and was no more. Cutter put the stem of his pipe back to his lips, eying the multitude of stars that winked at him.

Strange though.

He eyed one star, feeling his bushy eyebrows descend of their own accord. Perhaps he used a touch more Tinuch weed than he thought. After all, with his big hands most things looked smaller than they were. Yet… yes, it was. One star was getting bigger. Or was it getting closer?

Cutter, felt what he assumed to be unease creep over him. Having spent the majority of his life living by the Great Wood – The Hungry Forest as some called it – his ability to be uneased had been dampened over time. He searched his hazy memory for a story. A story that told of a falling star. He was sure there must be one, it sounded like the sort of thing that would be in one of the stories. Like a sign… a sign for something… probably not good.

The star was falling. It was plummeting, and as it plummeted it made an awful noise, like a cackle. Like the cackle of a Hag. It was engulfed in flame, or perhaps it was flame. Flame was not good for trees, that Cutter knew, and it was headed right for them. He managed to tear his gaze away long enough to glance at the village at the foot of the hill. It was mostly obscured by darkness, but he could see a few dots of fireplaces peeking through windows, or the occasional wavering torch.

In this time the star smashed into the forest.

He felt the ground shake.

The Hungry Forest had swallowed a star.

Cutter turned about and moved back towards his hut, remembering to tap the ash from his pipe. He placed it on the wooden mantelpiece by the hearth, where he always kept it and snatched up his best axe from the corner. He nudged Big Dog with his booted foot.

The slender grey creature looked up at up at him with an unimpressed expression.

‘Gerrup y’lazy lump. Time t’go t’work.’ Cutter grunted. The dog let out what sounded like a sigh. Cutter wasn’t sure what the purpose of a sigh was when a people did it, let alone the creature before him.

He was more tall than ‘big’ thin coat of fur and a savage looking face streaked with wisps of white. When he moved, Cutter could see the angled shoulder bones protruding from his back. When stood on his hind legs, Big Dog was as tall as any grown man. Cutter shouldered his axe and headed outside. The Grullets had given up their game, startled by the noise. Fortunately, it seemed the damp was working in the trees’ favour.

‘C’mon then.’ Cutter growled before heading into the trees.

 

***

 

It was suicide, of course it was, it had been from the start.

Any military vessel would have been picked up as far back as ninety clicks and treated as hostile. When the Skuriak treat something as hostile, they become incredibly hostile in return. A military vessel had always been out of the question. Azul cursed the Collective, and the Splintered Alliance more so. Idealists, if there’s one thing idealists lacked it was money, equipment and above all else, a logical – well thought out plan.

The pod shuddered a little, he guessed the gravitational pull of the planet was becoming all the more powerful. He had his doubts as to whether the stealth Infiltrator Mk3.2 could resist any amount of gravity anyway. He had laughed when he saw the little white egg, laughed even harder when the General (a ceremonial title if there ever was one) informed him that that was the chosen ship to get them to the ‘uncivilised’ planet. He stopped laughing when he was the one to be flying it.

‘I never really got very far with flying lessons… civilian flying lessons that is.’ He had protested.

‘We’ll send you on your way, just point the front at the planet. It’s a big planet, be difficult to miss it. It’s the one with all the Skuriak vessels around it.’ The General had laughed.

And here he was, edging towards certain death.

“Cloaking is still in its infancy.” He had been told. “Theoretically, bending light around an object would prevent it from reflecting it.”

“Rendering it invisible… however you can’t bend the light around our eyes, as then we’d be blind.” Azul had interrupted.

Precisely. What we have done however, is place a number of cameras around the vessel, which takes an image of the surrounding area (or perhaps more apt in the case of space travel – things very far in the distance).”

“And projects it around the hull, making it difficult to spot with the naked eye.”

Azul hated that woman, she spoke to him as though he was an idiot. Which was something he definitely was not. He was not a soldier, he was not a strong man, nor a particularly agile one. He was smart though, which made him wonder just how he had gotten himself into such a predicament.

“You could get a good job in the ministry Azul, job offers from Lytel… even the academy, yet you keep talking about the Shards.” His mother had said.

“The Splintered Alliance,” he had corrected her.

“Lobby with the Ministry if you care so much.”

“The Ministry won’t do anything, this is the very thing the Collective was set up to prevent, yet they’re just sitting there letting it happen.”

“So you, little Azul, are going to go and save this planet?”

“I have to try!”

“A planet filled with people that no doubt think their world is flat, and when it rains it’s the angels weeping?”

“From what I’ve researched none of their current cultures think that.”

It seemed a rather moot point now. Azul was beginning to think his mother had a point. He may have sold out his morals by staying and working at Lytel, the Qual’karian System’s most prestigious academy of all things science, but at least a fiery death wouldn’t be particularly likely – even in the most extreme failures there hadn’t resulted in explosions for a long time.

The illegal blockade of Skuriak ships was getting larger and larger. Well it wasn’t, it was all a matter of perspective, but perspective aside, they were big ships. It was difficult to tell with the Skuriak which ships were military class and which ones weren’t. It was often joked that even a Skuriak Leisure Cruiser would be loaded with Class A cannons and enough missiles to take out a small planet. The joke being the notion of a leisure cruiser even entering the mind of a Skuriak.

Entering range of sensors, suggest terminating engines and all nonessential mechanisms. Said the pod.

Here we go. Azul hoped to the gods his civilisation had long stopped believing in that the cloaking device was a good one. He killed the engines. As it was, there was no sudden loss of speed, in the vacuum of space there was very little to slow him down. He half toyed with the idea of shutting off life support, allowing himself to slowly suffocate, eventually he’d pass out and be none-the-wiser.

There was an awful silence as he stared at the blue planet, blue dotted with green. It was much like a number of other’s that existed in the ‘habitable zones’, there was very little to suggest it held anything that couldn’t be mined from the billions of asteroids, dead planets or ‘grade 3’ life bearing planets. From this position, the sphere of rock and water almost blotted out the sun, save for an arching lip of potent orange light. The star wasn’t remarkable. Azul had studied bigger in his school days when he was barely more than a seedling.

Agonising minutes passed before anything worthy of note happened. Azul almost cried as he past under the hulking mass of grey metal that was a Skuriak frigate… or was it a mining vessel? He was very much aware of the multitude of swivelling pulse and flak cannons that could vaporise him in an instant. For the time being, the cloak seemed to be doing its job.

We will be entering the atmosphere in approximately eight point three minutes. Said the pod. Azul hated it already. It was Chellik in design. The Chelliks were childish creatures, obsessed with giving all their tech a voice of its own. ‘we this,’ and ‘we that’ Azul preferred his machines not to talk with him, he certainly didn’t want it to befriend him. Made it all the harder when it inevitably became outdated… for the Chelliks anyway. He had seen chelliks floating about the cosmos in vessels older than some people he knew, simply because the owners couldn’t bear to let go of their precious AI.

Azul was dragged forcefully out of his self-defensive reverie by two one man fighters whooshing past his screen, no doubt on patrol. There were so many! Why so many? Just one undeveloped little planet of whose people were barely out of the iron age… some cultures were still very much in it! Though, come to think of it in the more remote regions some were still in the Stone Age and insisted on eating the eyes of their fallen enemies to give themselves the ‘foresight’.

Was it possible that the Darubians were ever like that?

They couldn’t have been born space-faring and the renown for their terraforming capabilities.

We will be entering the atmosphere in approximately four point five minutes. Please ensure you’re safety belts are secured.

“When we’re on fire plummeting towards a mountain, I very much doubt a few safety belts are going to do much good.” Snapped Azul.

Logically speaking, it will always be more beneficial than not having them secured.

“What if the ship is about to explode? Wouldn’t being flung through the front screen away from the blast increase the likely hood of survival?”

Negative, as you well know the front screen is made from top of the range polymers, hardened to deflect projectiles and treated to with stand extremes of temperature. If you are flung towards it, you will certainly die from blunt force trauma.

“I was being facetious.”

I do not know what that is.

“Of course you don’t.”

Should I do a network search for clarity?

“No.”

We will be entering the atmosphere –

“No doubt very soon. Now shut up!”

I do not know how long Very Soon is, should I do a network –

“Mute AI!”

The monotone voice died upon command. Azul wished those back at the university had such a function. The pod began to rock and shudder as – as the AI had adequately predicted – he nudged his way into the atmosphere. The front screen dimmed to combat the sudden brightness as the hull began to burn red hot. His vision shook as his head was rocketed from side to side. There was such a roar of energy that he almost didn’t hear the ominous warning that sparked through is communications system.

“Chillek craft! You have been found in violation of Skuriak stella space. This is an act of aggression that will not be tolerated! We see through your cowardly cloak.” There was a slight delay as the instant-translator mixed up the words. Though, Azul prided himself on being particularly good with languages. He couldn’t speak Skuriak particularly well as his vocal chords were not adapted for such a language, but he could understand it well enough. Chillek he could speak fluently, along with a couple of Tylanthian dialects, though there were so many and they were so filled with pompous pride that they saw their refusal of a collective language as a good thing.

“You are in violation of Planetary Interference law three-point-nine!” Azul screamed.

“We are merely observing, there is no law against that.”

“With an entire fleet?”

“Hah, this is no fleet. A Skuriak fleet would span a solar system!

Azul would have very much liked to have doubted that claim. First of all, solar systems tended to vary in size. However, true to form it seemed the Skuriak had grown bored of conversation. The words Missile Lock. Flashed on his screen. At such a range Azul didn’t even bother reaching for the controls, he was not a great pilot by any definition. Firing a missile when already travelling through the atmosphere of an underdeveloped planet was a dangerous move, even for the Skuriak. Azul wondered what it was they were trying to achieve, and was bitterly disappointed that he was going to die before he found out. He directed all available power to his aft shields.

The missile struck. He thought his fragile spine was going to snap as he lurched forwards. A red Warning light filled the cockpit. Sparks flew dramatically and he began to spin out of control towards certain death.