I’ve only published Summoning Empire, to date. In truth, of the seven or so manuscripts that are lying around only that and this one are fully typed…I love writing and hate typing! This was the first novel that I ever wrote. It’s a bit of a whopper, weighing in at over 200,000 words. That equates to over 600 pages in paperback. The sheer size of the book was one reason that I chose to publish Summoning Empire first. The other reason is that I have refined my style and technique over the years and there are parts of this novel that need a lot of work. That’s not to say that it’s a bad story, far from it. It’s just that I got far too technical in places. As an engineer, I’m fascinated by all science. Sometimes I forgot that other people would be bored stiff by the detail. I’m still putting part of the prologue on here, because I like it.
I won’t say too much about the plot, because I will publish Biform Solution when I’ve sorted out the technical glitches. See what you think. I can put more on, but only if I’m asked nicely!
9th September, 2013. I will be updating this page shortly. Biform solution has now been split into two and together with Dreamscape will form a trilogy. I have edited the book quite extensively and the extract below has changed somewhat. for a start, the title is now Fire Triangle, Book one of the ‘Biform solution’ trilogy.
With luck, I’ll have that published on Kindle by November.
“Fair lady, do you not fear the rabid wolves in their lair?””Sir, the lady before you is but a construct of your shallow mind. The only beast that I fear lies within me…and I am anything but fair.”
‘The shield-maiden’, Sophie Broughton, 2534.
The word cavernous is used to conjure up images of vast underground spaces. Caves are seldom like this. More usually they are a mere widening in some dank claustrophobic fissure, where a potholer can at least stand upright. This was a cavern in every sense of the word. Once a natural cave, it had been carved out by the action of water over thousands of years to the size of small house. It had been hugely enlarged to the size of an ice hockey rink in a matter of days by the machine that now lurked within its depths. Arc lights strung around the jagged walls brilliantly lit the subterranean hangar. The cave faced onto a granular beach but the current occupants could not admire the view, obscured as it was by a massive pair of blackout curtains across the entrance.
The machine concerned was no industrial excavator; it was a starship and a very special one at that. It belonged to Stuart McIntyre, more notoriously known as ‘Mac’. Above the bridge windows an argent skull and crossbones motif glinted in the strong artificial light. Elsewhere the craft was ebon and seemed to absorb all radiation that struck it. The only other thing to break the matt black monotony of its skin was a logo on the lowered nosecone which read; ‘Say Hello To The Reaper’. The decoration of the sleek vessel was no joke. It also explained why they were all holed up on a deserted planet. The lifestyle was solitary and harsh but worth it; piracy was still big business.
Set into the external rock face and also on top of the bluff, were a number of specialised sensors. On an upturned crate in front of a battered settee was an advanced holographic projector, which constantly displayed any changes in the vicinity of the lair and far beyond that, even into space itself. Watching the display was normally tedious and one of the least popular chores among the pirates. On duty this evening was Josh. He was also clairvoyant and was using this talent to relieve the tedium by watching the native wildlife way beyond the cavern. Behind him he heard Mac cursing roundly and he chuckled. At least he had avoided the messy task of sorting out Reaper’s sanitation system.
“Who used this fuckin’ toilet last?” Josh twisted around to see Mac peering angrily out from the open nosecone of the ship. He was about to reply that his leader was wallowing in his own ordure, when a loud and undulating wail from the holo made him jump and set his heart thumping.
Nineteen men and women hesitated for only a second or two in shock and then began to race across the stone floor to join Josh. Somehow Mac got there first. “False alarm?” He shouted the question before he even reached the dais. His voice sounded hopeful. Occasionally the system made mistakes. Josh shook his head but by then Mac could see for himself that this was no computer glitch.
A woman was walking purposefully along the shoreline. She was still some way off but heading directly towards them. “What the hell…” Whacker looked astonished like the rest of them. “Who’s that? How did she get here?”
Mac urged her to silence while he surveyed the approaching stranger. He had been asking himself the same things. Nobody crossed half the galaxy without a ship. Matter transporters were so rare, even they had not managed to steal one. There must be a shuttle somewhere. Josh answered both the spoken and silent questions before Mac even opened his mouth. “The scanners show no ship but military cloaking can explain that. There’s no sign of a shuttle either. Even cloaked, it should have shown up on the mass scanners if it stayed still long enough. We’re dealing with high tech here.”
“Shit!” Mac studied the approaching woman carefully. She was wearing a one-piece combat suit with boots to match. She had a pair of simple pistols strapped to each thigh, a daisho of samurai swords about her waist and a shuriken stuck into one boot. If she knew who they were, the woman was seriously out of her depth unless she had support close by.
Josh shook his head in bemusement. He was using his wireless neural interface to rapidly access all their systems. “I don’t get it,” he muttered. “There’s nobody else with her. This close, troops couldn’t evade our scanners even with suits in chameleon mode. The bloody woman isn’t even wearing her helmet. What’s she playing at? One thing’s for certain, she’s no threat on her own.” He sat back and looked expectantly at Mac.
“Alright people,” Mac picked up a tin of beer and opened it, jumping over the back of the settee and landing heavily on the middle cushion next to Josh. “Let’s kill the lights and get comfortable. He drew his own revolver, flicked the safety catch off and placed it next to the monitor in front of him. The others followed his lead, grabbing an assortment of weapons from laser pistols to full automatics. In seconds they had joined him on the ragtag selection of chairs and sofas on the platform.
The cavern was then plunged into near total darkness, lit only by the homely flickering glow of a small fire which burned in a brazier to one side of the platform. It gave off a small circle of subdued reddish light. Mac was not stupid; none of them suffered total blindness when the lamps went out. They all had implants that could be mentally switched to night vision mode. They used them now. Mac turned to a tall, rugged blond man. “Iceberg, you’ve been itching to prove yourself. Any funny business from her and you sort her out.” Knut Arlberg nodded fiercely. Mac’s face now sported an enigmatic smile.
The heavy curtains moved sluggishly as the stranger pushed her way through into the cavern a couple of minutes later. Mac had hoped that she would be unable to see for a while, giving them an edge. He was disappointed. The woman walked confidently towards them over the uneven rock floor. She stopped a few meters away from the dais and waited in silence.
“The bloody doorbell can’t be working again,” Mac said jovially. “We don’t often have guests, especially not ones with great big swords. Sit yourself down, lass. We’re all itching to know what you have to say.”
The ‘guest’ moved closer to them but didn’t take the offered seat. “I’ve come to give you a choice. Offer you a deal, if you’d prefer it that way. You might even be able to afford some soap afterwards.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste but smiled to let Mac know that she was joking.
Mac licked his lips, not out of nervousness but simply to remove the residue of beer from them. Whoever she was, he admired her style. “Go on. I’m listening. Just don’t talk crap. As you’ve noticed I’ve had enough of that for one day.”
“You have a lot of pretty valuable stuff that you recently acquired from Nova Star. We both know what I’m talking about. I would be interested in taking it off your hands. In exchange, I would offer cash and information that you would find invaluable.” The woman smiled disarmingly.
“No can do.” Mac shrugged as if it didn’t matter. “We’ve already passed it on to a valued client. It was obtained to fulfil an outstanding order.” He grinned amiably. “It’s all part of the fast and efficient service we like to provide, isn’t that right, comrades?”
Nods and smiles greeted the question. If it had not been for the fact that each and every one of them was nursing or fingering a weapon, the scene would have looked relaxed and friendly.
She hid her disappointment commendably well but Josh, who was studying her carefully, noticed the flicker of irritation that crossed her mind; that and a hint of dark rage that made him widen his eyes slightly in surprise and concern. He hoped that his mental probe had gone unnoticed. The woman folded her arms across her chest but gave no outward sign that she had noticed Josh’s mindreading. Her right hand was loosely clenched into a fist. Something small was concealed in it. She did not even bother to question Mac’s assertion that the goods had been sold. “We can still deal,” she said, as if the first matter was of no consequence. “That was only one of the things that I came to see you about. There’s other business left to discuss.”
Tendrils of smoke from the little fire curled up towards the naturally vaulted roof, high overhead. Mac watched them for a few seconds while he made up his mind how to proceed. “I like deals,” he said, looking back at the black-clad woman, “but only if I come out on top. You don’t seem to have any back-up with you. You’d better be careful how you go, lass. What’s your name, by the way? It seems rude to keep calling you ‘lass’.”
“It’s good enough, Mac and I don’t need to be careful.” Mac ignored the use of his name and she explained further. “You want what I have, so you won’t harm me. I’ve brought you something to whet your appetite. Call it foreplay if you like. The climax comes later, if you think you can handle me.” She unclenched her fist and tossed a small memory crystal towards the pirate leader. Barely taking his eyes from her, Mac caught the crystal. He inserted it into the projector and the machine checked it for viruses.
“Watch it please Josh,” he instructed, as the crystal automatically began to play back. Mac and their unwelcome guest remained with their eyes locked together, like two kids playing the staring game. Mac blinked first and the merest hint of a smile played around the woman’s lips and eyes.
“Whoa, boss. This is hot stuff,” Josh said some time later.
Mac had still not taken his eyes away from the new arrival. He had been listening to the audio, though. “I agree. This isn’t free, lass. What’s the price, I wonder? Young lady, you appear out of nowhere, no ship, nothing. That stuff looks genuine, but who are you? Why should we trust you?”
“Like you, I’m one who knows what I want and how to get things done.” She made this cryptic reply as if it ought to suffice.
“What’s the price?” Mac insisted, ignoring the wordplay and sticking to the basics.
“I just need a small favour…Or maybe two.” The woman replied vaguely.
Iceberg surged to his feet from an easy chair on the dais. “I’m sick of this shit! I say kill her.” He had raised a Kasimatu rifle menacingly and looked eager to use it. The weapon was not the most accurate but at this range he could hardly miss. There was a snick as he released the safety catch. On the high power setting that he selected the weapon had a noticeable delay on the trigger action but he did not think that the woman could draw her pistols and fire before he cut her down. Nor could she close with him enough to use the wicked looking katana.
“Sit down, Iceberg!” Mac ordered, “I’ll decide who gets killed.” There was a hint of ambiguity in his tone. If the giant blond had been sharper he would have realised that Mac’s threat was aimed at him. Knut Arlberg was not that quick off the mark and did not take the hint. Mac knew this but made no attempt to clarify his remark.
Iceberg turned slightly, but something in his body language betrayed his homicidal intent. The woman bent, rolled and sprang up again, all in one slick movement. She had retrieved the black, six-pointed shuriken from her boot in the process. As she rose, she hurled it with unerring accuracy and considerable force. It pierced the man’s arm and lodged there. He still raised the rifle, more out of reflex than any conscious wish. He was staring at his unresponsive arm in astonishment. The woman took no chances. She was fast and had already closed the gap between them with her forward roll. Iceberg heard the steely hiss as the katana slid from its scabbard. Horror was only just starting to show on the rifleman’s face as the sword removed his head cleanly. Perhaps it had done so many times previously in the hands of some samurai warrior. Its previous owner would have been impressed by the use that the woman had made of his most treasured possession.
The rest of the group were on their feet now, with the exception of Mac who still lounged in his chair. They had an assortment of weaponry trained on the stranger but held their discipline and their fire. It was deathly quiet. Mac began a slow round of applause. “Bravo! You may have sorted out a problem for me there. That scumbag didn’t fit in with the rest of us around here. What is the price please?” The tension eased slightly but a decapitated body in the middle of the floor tends to keep people on their toes.
The body was less messy than might have been imagined. The heart had stopped pumping quickly and blood, both the rich thick arterial type and the thinner venal fluid, now oozed slowly from both the collapsed torso and severed head. The head had landed with a sickening thud on the wooden dais, before rolling a metre or so, coming to rest with vacant eyes staring back accusingly at Mac.
“Of course we can. Thank you for your patience. I must still apologise for the mess, though. Can we discuss our deal without further rude interruption?” The woman asked the question very coolly.
“I would say so. Would you care for a drink? We’ve got beer, or if you’re very posh we’ve got cold beer.”
Three of the group cleared away the grisly remains of the dead man and cleaned up the blood. In truth it had been a mistake to vote him into the group and he had caused nothing but trouble since his arrival. This was extremely bad in a team that relied first on trust. Nor could they let him go to reveal their secrets. His ‘untimely demise’ had been the subject of many a discussion over recent weeks. None of Mac’s crew were out and out murderers, though. They would have dispensed with him but not enjoyed it. So there was some shock at the manner and suddenness of his death, but there were no tears shed.
Discussions went well and a deal was struck. The mystery woman, who was no mystery to Mac and one or two of the others, left the cave walking jauntily.
“Track her. I want to know how she got here.” Mac pulled another beer from a nearby fridge. He opened the top which emitted a satisfying hiss and white spume frothed around the rim.
“She’s vanished,” Josh said, looking up from a small screen, “I can’t pick her up at all, not even by body mass. It’ll be that combat suit, I suppose.” He sounded doubtful, with good reason. Their scanners should not have been fooled even by a military suit. “There’s no sign of a ship either. Now they can’t hide a ship from us, for God’s sake. What gives, Mac? Can we trust her? That pillock was right about one thing before he lost his head….we’d be daft to trust her. There’s something odd about her, apart from her magical appearing and disappearing acts. She had something under that combat suit for a start. It was round and hanging around her neck like a necklace. She kept fingering it. It seemed to be active somehow, but not like normal tech. Maybe that was what foiled our scanners. Do you think we should we move base?”
Mac turned to look at The Reaper, his first and favourite ship. “That’s not a bad idea but may be pointless. She’s found us once and she can probably do it again. I’ll think about it. She didn’t bring any ships to attack us, so I suspect she won’t, at least not for now. She needs us somehow but she hasn’t given us the real reason for the deal. We have to figure out why she wants us, so that we’ll know when we’re going to be redundant.” Mac was more concerned than he was letting on. He knew how dangerous their new partner could be, but he also knew how useful such a high-level contact might prove to be. He decided to hedge his bets. “Sorry boys and girls, I think we’re stuck with her. I don’t like it either, Josh. Let’s all think long and hard about this. We need a way out of this deal, more than one if possible. She told the truth about who she is. We need some bloody good ideas!”
“So we’re not doing what she wants then?” Titch asked
“I didn’t say that,” Mac replied looking at the blood stained dais. “We have plenty of money and supplies now but the information she gave us is priceless if it’s genuine. I think we should test it out first on an operation with little or no risk. Then I’ll finally decide. After all, I’m not going to be this young and handsome forever. I don’t mind having a little extra in the pension fund.”
End of prologue
Well, what do you think? A bit grisly, I suppose, but there’s much worse later on, so it’s nice to give people a taste of blood if they’re going to have to get used to drinking pints of the stuff. The woman is important, but I won’t say who she is or why. The band she has encountered are a futuristic version of Robin Hood and his merry men, except that they’re a bit more realistic than that. They’re more inclined to steal from the rich and sell at a discounted price to the poor.
If it looks like standard Sci-Fi at this point, rather than Science Fantasy, that’s because it is. The fantasy part comes later and involves my favourite mythical creatures…dragons. My dragons are a bit different to any others, though. Heres a bit of art that I made up for the front pages of the book.