Spear Gate — Power Core

Tasina stood at the edge of the skydock, staring out into the fog below that always crept up when it started getting late. In the distance, just at the edge of the horizon, she could make out the few hazy spires that marked the Needled Flats. Lex and Neda had left just after sunrise, and there had been no word. Neda was only supposed to borrow her son for a few hours, yet the entire day had passed. Some time ago, a hulking mass of a Third Empire battleship flew overhead, straight for the Needled Flats. It would have cast an enormous shadow if there were no clouds, but there were always clouds. She just hoped that it didn’t signify anything bad for the two of them.

“Hey, Booker,” she called, glancing into the power core that functioned as a house. Where was he? “Booker?”

“Optimal Efficiency, ma’am!” The robot’s voice startled her as he replied from directly behind her. She held a hand to her chest to catch her breath.

“You really have to stop doing that.”

“[STOP]. Command received. Powering down.” Booker’s arms tucked into his chest as he bent down, collapsing into a ball.

“Gods above, Neda said she fixed that,” she muttered as she manually turned the robot back on. A few small blue flashes of the systems rebooting as Booker’s limbs extended once more, his headpiece scanning the immediate area.

“Greetings, friend Tasina. How may I be of service?”

“I need you to run diagnostics on Tink. Neda’s scanning drone. Designation M-80.”

“[RUN DIAGNOSTICS]. Command received. System link initiated. Would you like me to send it’s compacted data?”

“Just the most recent two hours. But I’d like the audio, too.”

“Affirmative.”

Tasina climbed into the power core and turned on the water heater. She had barely gotten anything done today. With the combination of the expedition Neda and Lex went out on this morning and the ship that had flown over head, it was hard to stay focused. Besides, she needed Booker for her current project, but he wasn’t as reliable as he used to be. Maybe all that rust was finally getting into his head. Neda was supposed to fix all that. She was much better at programming than Tasina, anyway.

As the water heated up, she started brewing coffee, then ascended the stairs to the second level and laid onto the bed. The reactor at the core’s center gave a soft orange light as it hummed and warmed the room. That was one perk to the tiny room, at least. You were never cold. She smiled as she remembered the time when she told Lex what the power cores really were: the dead hearts of Centurions, the first generation mech to be mass produced in the Third Empire’s army. As much as Lex hated the scrapyard, that had brought a smile to his face. They quite literally slept in the hearts of giants.

A harsh explosion came from outside. Tasina bolted up. No time to think, just move.

She vaulted over the ledge and onto the first floor of the re-purposed core. Rushing outside, she saw Booker standing stock still. Another explosion sounded, but its source was much closer than she had expected.

It was the sound of the audio file Tink had recorded. A sigh of relief was followed by an immediate inhale of panic. Tink? Explosions? What of Neda and Lex? Were they alright?

“Pull up a visual of Tink’s data storage from today.”

Booker didn’t respond, as it would disrupt the audio feed, which was mostly static and more explosions. Occasionally, though, a human shout could be heart saying something indistinguishable. At recognition of her command, a blue, holographic screen appeared before him. There was a short list of data samples. It didn’t take long for Tasina to find it. The answer she was looking for.

A confirmed reading of a specimen that weighed over 700 cubens. 96% of it was aenendium.

At least she had some answers. But the fact that she now knew exactly where that behemoth of a battleship was headed was no comfort.

“Booker, stop the audio file.”

The sound cut out. “[STOP]. Command received.” Again, Booker folded back into a ball with little ceremony. Tasina scooped him up and headed towards their spare hoverbike.

 

Prompt:

Life — Spear Gate Web Series

I’ve recently changed my website up a little bit, rearranging the categories in the sidebar. Most importantly, I’ve given the Spear Gate story it’s own category, because I update it at least once a week. I’ve also made the change because I’ve started thinking about the story in a new light.

I don’t really know what I find so appealing about considering the Spear Gate universe a constantly updated “web story” rather than a book. Maybe it’s the implied lack of editing. Maybe it’s the distinctive lack of a conclusion, and therefore no pressure to constantly increase the tension. Whatever the reason, my handling of the story has been much more conducive to periodic increments anyway, since a lot of webcomics don’t necessarily have an ending in mind, and therefore the artists get to tackle things in the moment.

The best thing about this is that it doesn’t actually change anything, really. I’m still writing it on a chapter by chapter basis, and if it gets long enough, nothing is stopping me from shuffling some words around and publishing it as a book (series?) anyway. If that happens, I wouldn’t even take down the original chapters, because the ones in the book are bound to be a different read anyway. If that’s the case, somebody can enjoy the Spear Gate story, then buy the book for a new experience because the story will be slightly different.

Here’s pretty much the only con I can think of about this process. It means if I did eventually put it into a book, I would be hard-pressed to make big edits, because I would want the book to be an enhanced experience rather than a fundamentally different one. I’m not sure how webcomics get turned into published books, but I can’t imagine it’s all that different. But really, regardless of what happens, this isn’t even something I would have to worry about until at least a year down the line, so there’s no point in dwelling on it!

As a side note, I started this blog to get more writing done. I’ve more than achieved that goal. I can always get more writing in, of course, but I think at this point I should start trying to bring in more people. Everyone that’s been keeping up with Spear Gate has told me how much they love it, and it makes me wish that more people kept up with it. It’s barely 1,000 words a week, but I can definitely see how webcomics would inherently be more appealing than walls of text. That said, I’m not sure how to go about gaining more of a following. It’s not like art where you get following from being awesome. For me, that’s how I’d retain audience, but that person has to to take a leap of faith and trust I won’t waste their time on their first read-through. Maybe if I get somebody to work on the art for the universe I can draw more people in…

Life — Struggling With Writing

I’m starting to find myself in that position again: the one where I just have this underlying feeling of exhaustion. The one where sleep isn’t a factor, or if it is, it’s where you feel even more tired because you’re sleeping too much. As a writer, it’s a feeling I’m very familiar with.

It’s the first red flag that says my writing isn’t getting anywhere.

So far, the Spear Gate project has been going swimmingly. I started back in May and as my main focus of fiction writing, I’ve already put nearly 20,000 words into the universe. This isn’t a huge amount by any margin, but for me, it’s pretty rare to be that focused on any one thing. Even Dreamscape, my latest attempt at a novel before this one, took five months to hit that many words. It’s mostly because I’m always doing a myriad of other things simultaneously.

I’ve had a blast writing the Spear Gate book. But this past week, I’ve been having a really tough time pressing onward. Between rewriting a big chunk of Chapter Four, and starting off Chapter Five with a slow opening, it hasn’t written itself like previous chapters have.

Usually, this just means I’m getting bored of the project. Things aren’t turning out how I want to, and so it gets harder and harder to write until one day that threshold of “Achieve Writing” is too high for me to hit.

But this time, it’s not because I’m bored. It’s because two things are happening right now. First and foremost, the Fall semester started. I’m taking more classes right now than I have in years, and all told, I am at the school for nearly twenty hours a week. (For the sake of simplicity, let’s also pretend that the amount of time spent doing “homework” is zero hours.) Add to that my time spent at the high school teaching improv (another six hours), subtract an hour every day (minus one) for writing these blog posts, three hours dedicated to my writer’s group, and on average six hours a week set aside for Dungeons & Dragons related activity, and that’s over forty hours of time that isn’t really mine. Now, you could make the argument that D&D and the writer’s group is my time, but I really do consider that “Hobby/Personal Improvement Time”, where I socialize and practice bettering myself as a person. Either way, it is definitely not time spent relaxing and recharging.

Add to this a messy pile of things I need to do. Coordinate with people about future plans, arrange dates, schedule and organize personal matters and goals, help out friends with personal projects, etc.

I realize this sounds like whining compared to people that work a tough job sixty hours a week, so let me amend this. I salute anyone that works harder than me, which I imagine is well over half the working class. I do consider myself hard working, as I’d guess probably most people think that about themselves, but I can safely say one thing: I feel my writing is suffering because of it.

But I mentioned two things happening, and only brought up one: a lack of time. The second thing is an elephant I don’t even like to acknowledge, and it’s something I realized very recently. The Spear Gate book is still being written. I’m not even close to being done with the first draft. That means that literally any feedback I get on the book right now is useless.

I came up with this analogy the other day. Somebody reading my story might finish a chapter and say “Huh, this doesn’t look right. You kind of threw this out of the blue.” or “I don’t see why X character would jump to this conclusion. This conversation doesn’t flow right.”

Imagine my book is a person. running, leaping, sitting, whatever. The sort of critiques I mentioned would be equivalent to saying “This person is running weird. They aren’t bending their knees enough.”

But here’s the thing. I’m still drawing the skeleton. If anything, I’ve barely made a rough framework of where the knees would even go on this picture. It’s not fair to say the picture doesn’t look right when the artist isn’t even done drawing it. At the same time, it’s not fair to have somebody look at it and expect them to give feedback that works. In this analogy, I need a reader to tell me if I correctly drew a skeleton, not whether or not the picture looks good.

This leads me to conclude that nobody should look at the Spear Gate book until I’ve written the ending. People can help me draw the muscles as I’m working on major rewrites for the second draft, but before that, I’m just getting disheartened. And I don’t know if that’s healthy for the book.

I’ve been thinking lately that all of this is too much, and I should just take a break from writing, to focus on school. But that leads me to consider: I recently became the leader of my writer’s group. I need to bring them something. I can show them several months worth of short stories, but what good would that do me?

Answer? I don’t know. I’m a thinker. I can identify the problems, and I’ve gotten really good at that over the years. But historically I’ve been awful at finding solutions that actually work, so I really don’t know.

Life — One Year Ago (450)

When a lot of people look back one year, they don’t see a lot of changes. For the most part, life rumbles on slowly. Usually only one or two big things will have happened throughout the year to make it memorable, and often one can’t say how a year really went without first coming up with a general emotion to describe it. In my experience, a lot of people will say they had “a bad 201X”. It could, of course, be boiled down to universal culprits, such as the bad economy, or a number of other issues many of us have to deal with.

But when I look back at my year, I try to look specifically at where I used to be and who I am now. Especially with my blog, I can now precisely track where I was in life at specific dates.

365 days ago, the blog was sort of a mess. It was organized, but it was mostly compiled into a lot of information that nobody cared about, not even me. Two reviews, two ‘Me’ posts, and two ‘Life’ posts every single week, wrapped up by a segment of Dreamscape, my second serious attempt at long form fiction. I remember back then I would occasionally write useless blurbs just to get my five hundred words in, and while I tried to avoid it, this ended up happening a lot. (You can only talk about yourself so much before you can’t even think about what to talk about anymore.) A lot of those older posts are thinly veiled vats of useless information, and while that is infinitely better than my zero writing output the year prior, I’ve grown a lot since.

Now, my blog is more refined. I’m down from four Me & Life posts a week to one, giving me much more breathing room to talk about life events that are more substantial. I introduced the Improv 101 and Learning! posts to add more variety. I also added a second fiction day, which is always great.

I think it’s important to look back constantly to make sure you’re going in the right direction. A year ago, I was super proud of the writer I had become. I was finally somebody that wasn’t afraid of putting the ideas on the page, and even when I inevitably got bored of them (as seems to be my curse with longer works,) I still stuck with it for months. A year before that I couldn’t even rely on myself to write five hundred words a week, let alone per day.

So while that jump was about changing the person I was to better fit the writer I wanted to be, the jump from this past year is more about sacrificing quantity for quality. I still have quite a long way to go before I hit that million word wall, but these days I’m not worrying about that as much as I am enjoying the words that I’m putting on the page. I was afraid to give up on Dreamscape because I wanted to at least finish the first draft, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, there were road bumps from the beginning. Problems I ignored because I couldn’t find solutions. I ended up spending the next few weeks being uncomfortable with what I was writing because I knew there were issues with the piece. I told myself it was just to get my “trunk novels” done before I work on real pieces of art.

But really, the art comes first. The very first step on the writer’s journey is to enjoy what you write, and while I’ve known this for several years, it’s a lesson that must be learned and relearned, at least for me.

I’m not the best writer in the world. The stuff I’m working on now probably doesn’t have the most interesting characters, or the most cohesive plot. But you know what?

It’s fun to write. And that’s all that really matters.

Life — July Update

Summer is in full swing at this point, and I must admit, the heat is hitting me harder than I would have guessed. I am still a little disappointed in myself at my failure to adopt a full time writing schedule, but at least it hasn’t come at much of a perceivable cost, as I’m still updating and writing pretty regularly. As a side note to this, I apologize if my fiction blog posts just fuse into continuations of the novel I’m working on. I do prefer publishing standalone short stories once or twice a week, but I do want to make sure I’m focused on my longer projects for the time being. So, let’s dive in with the usual the order of a monthly update: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Like last month, I have no changes I plan on making to the blog. It’s functioning quite well for now. I do, however, have some inklings of things I’d like to change soon. For one, I’ve been having an increasingly difficult time coming up with topics for the Thursday ‘Learning!’ posts, and often I don’t tackle those until late Wednesday night (or in the early hours of the next morning, as the case may be). I honestly don’t feel like I have a whole lot to teach people, or at least nothing that I haven’t encompassed earlier on in this blog. So, I do feel a change is on the horizon, but I still don’t know what I’m going to do about it for now. We’ll see if I come to a conclusion next month.

Writing plans are pretty simple. At this point, I’ve completely abandoned my other projects to focus on the “Spear Gate” novel I’ve been working on this last month. I love the world I’m working in, and it’s enticing because, for the first time, I’m writing this novel with virtually no plans as to what is going to unfold. I’m adopting one of Stephen King’s strategies here: put characters in a situation and make them into real people. What would that real person do in that situation? It suits me because I loathe outlining, and this way can conceivably make for a compelling story both as a reader and as a writer. There’s less chance of me getting bored of the piece if I figure it out as I go, after all.

As for my other projects, I don’t know what to say. Rise of the Riftguard is still very much on the agenda, but I wasn’t really satisfied with the way “Windcaller” was turning out, so I lost heart. If and when I get bored with this “Spear Gate” thing, I plan on jumping back in, as well as finally getting to work on that SPARK story I still have the framework for. Lisa Stenton’s story is still at a dead end, and I don’t expect to return to that until something new and interesting finds its way into my idea-collector. I apologize for that, especially since I like her character so much.

What am I playing? I’m still playing the same games. Heroes of the Storm is still occupying the most of my attention, and Starcraft II after that. I have, however, been playing some games on Steam with friends lately, most notably Iron Brigade, a tower defense game where you’re in a big mech. It’s by no means a Triple A title, but it’s loot system feels pretty rewarding. I also bought Rise of Iron, the latest expansion for Destiny, in preparation for the sequel in October. I don’t really find it very fun alone, but I thought I should familiarize myself with what the game is as well as the latest pieces of lore before the next one comes out.

Having finished On Writing, I’m returning to the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the hopes of (finally) finishing it. I’m currently about a third of the way into Two Towers, and it’s much more enjoyable now that I’ve forayed into plot I’m unfamiliar with. Knowing Tolkien’s personality, I found Fanghorn and the whole bit about the Ents especially amusing. (Did you know he would often spend the better part of an hour looking at trees on his daily walks?)

I’m also catching up on Critical Role, the weekly Dungeons & Dragons adventure hosted by Geek & Sundry. Having started from the beginning, I’m only a few episodes behind where I stopped watching. It’s unfortunate, because I’ve still got nearly seventy episodes to go before I’m caught up. Which is over two hundred hours. I doubt I’ll be caught up by the end of the year, but it’s a lot of fun, so I don’t mind.

There isn’t much to say about school, of course, since I’m not taking any classes for the summer. I did, however, register for my Fall semester of classes. It sucks, because the way my schedule is oriented, I’ll be going to school four days a week as opposed to two, and on two of those days I only have the one class. I’m excited, though. A lot of the classes I’m taking should be a lot of fun.

I do have some miscellaneous things I want to point out before I go. First, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on new Google Docs recently. I’ve been organizing a spreadsheet of my Steam library of games (of which I am not the original or sole owner), and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. It’s a daunting task, as the point of the Doc is to help you find something to play even if you know nothing about most of the games. I’ve set up several columns, such as “how many players”, “how much does it cost”, and “what are the reviews like”. It’s a lot of work, given that the account has over two hundred titles, but it’s very useful.

Another Doc I’ve recently made is one I’ve had in my head for a while now. I call it the “Hype Tracker”, and it’s a spreadsheet tracking the dates I’m counting down for. With it, I can keep track of all the things I’m waiting for as well as get an idea of what time frame things will be happening in. For example, Dragon Quest XI releases on July 29th, and if I hurry I might be able to beat it before my life gets bogged up with school two weeks later. Super neat, because I love being organized and having information readily available! Somewhat related, I’m also in the process of compiling some Dungeons & Dragons ambient music playlists using the soundtracks to games, movies, and TV shows. It’s going to take quite some time, but I’m really enjoying it.

Lastly, the organizer of my local writer’s group is moving to Alaska very soon. Within days, if I’m not mistaken. He’s passing the torch to me, so to speak, and I’ll be heading the group before long. It’s not really a responsibility, as there isn’t much to begin with, but it’s a little surprising. I’ve been going nearly every week (save two or three) for over a year now, and I’ve learned quite a bit. I’ve grown quite fond of a lot of those people, and while some come and go, I hope it won’t falter in my hands. I’d feel pretty guilty about that. So we’ll see what happens.

Also, I really need it to cool down soon. For the sake of my sanity and sleeping schedule, I need the heat to go away.

Spear Gate — The Hands of Aeneus Pt. 1

(Legacy story: This is no longer canon, as I’ve reworked this scene entirely.)

 

Under the table, Varra clenched her fists in annoyance. It was like talking to a brick wall. “Look, I’m not saying we give the people free roam of the city. I realize nobody in Upper Terrace would agree to that. But we have to do something. We need a more defensive presence in the primary city.”

“No, we don’t. We’ve done it this way for hundreds of years. Trust me, it has always worked. No substantial threats have come to the kingdom, so there is no reason to change things.”

She looked down into the courtyard of the palace, and the stone, spear shaped obelisk in the center. The single most dangerous object in Tebrein. Right in the center of the capital. And the only people who knew what it was capable of were the Hands of Aeneus and their seconds.

“I realize this is a lot to take in,” Elodrus explained, grabbing his wine glass as a Tenshari servant refilled it in passing. “But what you’re proposing would be a tactical blunder. If we pull troops from Lower Terrace into the inner city, people will ask questions. We can’t tell them honestly why we would make such a seemingly useless decision, and it will draw attention to the wrong places.”

“But what if the Spear Gate activates and we are invaded from the inside?”

Elodrus shook his head. “There is no need for concern, darling. The Gate has been dormant for decades. In fact, I hadn’t been the appointed Hand of Ceremony for three weeks before it opened.”

She tensed at that. “So what’s stopping it from opening again, now that I’m a newly appointed Hand?!”

“Relax, relax,” he soothed, gesturing for her to sit back down as he lowered his voice. “The answer is nothing, but as I’ve said, there’s no reason to believe it will open any time soon, either. Do sit down, you don’t want to draw attention.”

Varra glanced about the scarcely populated dining hall as she sat back down. It was more of an immense open corridor, really. She had often eaten here as a child, but knowing what that obelisk was now changed everything. It made her feel vulnerable. As if it was staring at her. Tasting her fear.

“I admit that I’ve lost sleep since I’ve relocated to my new chambers in the palace. It is customary that a Hand’s bedroom has a window facing the Spear Gate, but I find it unnerving. I’ve had the servants cover the window, but it stares at me just the same.”

“It does have that effect on people,” Elodrus nodded. “And, allow me to say that I do admire your willingness to take action. You are so like your mother in that regard. In many ways you’ve taken your duties in stride. I find that remarkable, but rest assured that everything we do is for a very good reason, and taking drastic measures out of fear is political suicide.”

“I’d much rather commit political suicide than tactical suicide,” she murmured. “We could have an entire army in the palace within minutes at any point in time and there would be nothing we could do. All five Hands and each of their seconds could have their throats slit during the night and then both Terrace and Tebrein would be left with no government. What good is my ‘willingness to take action’ as the Hand of Defense if I am not allowed to take defensive action?”

He took a long sip of wine before responding, frowning as he did. “Much of the things we do is directed by the experience we have. Your being appointed Hand is unprecedented because you are so young, and not even a groomed second. But desperate times call for desperate measures, Varra.  At twenty winters you are by far the youngest Hand to walk the palace grounds in at least a century. Worry not, however. The other Hands and I have discussed this, and we will be more than happy to shelter the burden of your office until you are old enough to really understand your duties.”

Spear Gate — Aenendium

 

“But here’s the kicker,” Lex continued, a wide grin on his face. “When she told him that they were over, you know what he said?”

“No, what?”

“He said ‘Yeah, and so are all your other relationships.’ And then he showed her the Voice he had taken from the night before. He called every other guy she was cheating on him with that morning.” By the time Lex had finished his story, he had already brought himself to tears with laughter.

Despite herself, Neda smiled. “That’s pretty devious of him.”

He wiped away the last of his tears. “Sometimes I’m jealous of how awesome my brother is.”

“And how every relationship he’s in seems to fail within a few months?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Well, maybe not that part. But at least it doesn’t bother him. Plus he gets so many good stories out of it!”

“Alright,” Neda said, setting a serious tone. “We’re here, and you need to focus.”

Lex frowned at the huge, boulder-like object before them. “Why do I need to focus? Your Scanner is going to be doing all the work.”

“Hardly,” she replied. “Tink can only examine the contents and pack it away.”

“You really named it?”

“Sure. Every Scanner has personality. Tink’s front camera is busted, so he doesn’t know when to start scanning until he actually hits the target. You’ll see. But there’s a procedure to mining. First, examine the object.”

Lex rolled his eyes. What a waste of time. “It’s a big rock that’s dark and gray.”

“That’s unusual. Most of the iron in the Needled Flats is red from oxidization. What does that tell you?”

“That we should have ‘Tink’ scan it because it can actually tell us what it’s made of.”

“You’ll never be a miner if you want to have robots do all the work. You have to look at it and know whether or not it’s worth your time before you even scan it. What if it’s just a giant chunk of iron coated in some other material?”

“How many times do I have to tell you people I don’t want to be a miner?!” Lex looked exasperated, using wide hand gestures to help convey his annoyance.

“Not my problem,” Neda shrugged. “Your mother asked me to take you, and I’ll be damned if I don’t take you back without teaching you something worthwhile. Now tell me. What else is interesting about this boulder?”

“It’s sharp. Unusually sharp. The high winds in the Needled Flats erodes the spires and makes them smooth, so even if this was a piece of one it shouldn’t be sharp.”

“And?”

“And it’s all alone. There’s no spire nearby for this to have broken off from.”

“So, what’s the diagnosis?”

“It’s out of place. It might still be iron, like you said, but it doesn’t look quite right. It does look like it’s been here a while, but it seems to have been placed here deliberately.”

Neda nodded, showing some approval for once. “Good! Is it worth a scan?”

“If I say no, can we go home?”

“The sooner you answer my questions correctly, the sooner we can go home.”

“Then yes, it’s worth a scan.”

Neda crouched down to the little rover and activated its scanning mechanism. The robot perked up almost like a small animal being roused from it’s sleep. It started rolling forward towards the boulder, submerging slightly in the small puddles.

It didn’t stop once it got close enough to scan. Instead, the robot bumped against the rock with a soft ‘tink!’, to which Neda glanced at Lex and winked. Backing up, Tink started scanning the boulder, shining a bright, horizontal light against its surface that spanned up and down with a soft buzz.

After a moment, the light cut out, and Neda jogged over to the robot and looked at the screen to examine the results.

“Gods above,” she murmured.

“What does it say?” Lex asked, following behind.

“Ninety-six percent Aenendium,” she said.

“Aenendium?”

“The strangest metal ever discovered. It is only found on Asamos in extremely rare circumstances, and doesn’t fit on the Periodic Table. Our scientists have never been able to manufacture it.”

“What does that mean?”

“With a deposit this massive,” she pondered. “We could change the world. It would destroy the economy.”

Lex frowned. “So what do we do?”

Neda pulled out her Voice and began tapping numbers into it. “I don’t know. This is big. I have to call my administrator.”

It didn’t seem as though Lex would be going home any time soon. But somehow, that was okay with him.

 

Prompt:iron_sea_kuldar_leement_by_kuldarleement-dbbn3l4