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Chapter 2 – Rise of the Dragons – Rewrite

Check out chapter 1 here

 

He was up late four nights later as rain pounded the roof of their home. Outside a drip was keeping an awkward beat on a metal bucket and inside Drake was restless and would nervously pace at every clap of thunder.

Seth, however, was shaking for other reasons. He had read through almost all of his mothers journal and was up to the last few entries. He had learned that most of her jobs were in the north and the one time she had gone south she had troubles dealing with King Agnos, in spite of the fact that he had called her down there.

He had also learned that the goo creature was known as a gellaco which his mother had learned from Wise Willie whom apparently lived in Forge.

Forge was just north of where Seth lived though he had only remembered being there once. In spite of it being relatively close it was still hard to get there, being on the other side of the mountain range he lived on, even though there was a set of cave systems that led to it.

He also learned about other creatures, some that his mom had tamed for people to keep as pets and others that his mother had learned to just stay away from. One of which, a large bear creature with spiky quill like poisonous fur known as an ederentian, was apparently located in the forest valley of Rahn that his mountain range surrounded.

He flipped the page in the book as another clap of thunder rocked their home and Drake walked around before finding a ‘safe’ spot under Seth’s blanket. He found a one page entry about trying to buy gear in Forge for another trip up north. She states she wasn’t sure what she needed she was only told the trip would be dangerous.

He had learned that anytime someone told his mom something was dangerous she normally didn’t think it would be, so when she made any comments that she thought it would be dangerous it usually indicated that she was going to encounter something fantastically bad, like the ederentain bear.

He flipped in anticipation to the next page and read what would be the last entries she would make.

Jan 21 – 476: I have arrived in Anchorton and met with Tiny Tom who has filled me in with some exciting yet scary news from the caves to the west. It appears someone reported seeing a dragon.

There has not been mention of dragon sightings in more than two hundred years and the thought that one is possibly still around has me more excited than I could ever imagine. But of course, the other side of that is what will be done with it.

The talk of dragons has already spread across the entire village and many people are already calling for it’s head. The last mention of dragons in this area were those that constantly attacked the town and ultimately destroyed it so many years ago that it wasn’t rebuilt until 402.

But I’m not so sure. If a dragon had survived this long without causing any harm who’s to say it would do anything now? Of course rushing in and attacking it would set it off anyway so I wonder if attacks did take place originally, who started them? Just as any creature is prone to attack if provoked, maybe it was our own hubris that caused us to prematurely fear something large, scary, and misunderstood.

On the other hand, I have to remember to keep my own feelings aside. I have to curb my deepest wishes and desires that want this to not only be real but also friendly. I have to remember that while I want this to be the discovery of my lifetime it could be a nightmare and quickly turn into my demise.

Still, I wish Seth were here. He has wanted nothing more than for dragons to be real since he was able to say the word. The experience that this would be for him would make my own pale in comparison. I know my decision to start bringing him along next year is correct and I wonder if I should even bring him with me next time. With work keeping me away more and more often I feel I barely know him anyway.

Seth sat the journal in his lap and cried for a few moments at the lost opportunities. She had wanted him to be with her and he would never get that chance. What would his life have been like had she been able to? And what would he do now that he couldn’t?

He had never been handy with tools like his dad, which was because he never really took an interest in it. It wasn’t that he wasn’t impressed by the things his dad and Crazy Joe made, he was, but the act of actually creating them just didn’t get him excited.

Creatures, however, had always interested him. Being in such a small village the idea that there types of creatures in the world that had not even been discovered yet made his mind spin. It was an even sweeter thought since he had a natural talent for it. He wiped his face, attempted to push away the thoughts, and read on.

But for now I need to stay focused on the current task at hand. What to do if it really is a dragon? Tiny Tom has agreed to go with me and I feel safe with him as he is a skilled warrior, even if he is afraid of a ball of goo. I also trust him to not run in attacking without giving me a chance to learn how the dragon might behave.

I have also gotten various herbs and potions from the local apothecary. A lot of the normal items for healing wounds and sedating animals, but also a drink that is supposed to calm aggressive animals without knocking them out. I have never used anything like it before and even the apothecary admitted it was pretty much untested however I know her to be very talented and have faith that, if needed, it will work.

I have also looked through what few books I have with me on the subject of dragons which, of course, are basically useless. These are the same stories I read to Seth when he was growing up and it is hard to tell if any of them actually happened. Most were written anonymously and the one that I know to have been written by someone who had been a creature handler is vague on what he did to try and tame the dragon, only pointing out that he ultimately failed.

It is really just down to my own instincts at this point and what I know about how dracons behave. I can only hope that dracons behave in any way similar to their distant relatives.

 

Jan 22 – 476: Tiny Tom and I have arrived at the mouth of the Lacerta Caverns where the reported dragon had been seen. This cave system is immense and believed to be two thirds larger than the most detailed map we were able to buy. We are sleeping just inside the mouth of the cave entrance today and have decided to go down the right fork first. Even it forks a number more times on the map we have however it appears most of them are dead ends. We have chosen to explore a path that has been only partially explored.

Tom is making a stew right now which makes me think of David’s everything stew he makes when I’m not feeling well. I miss my husband and son and want to take time off when I get home.

Tom has also insisted that I wear some sort of protection which, while I resisted, I have appeased him by wearing the lightest armor mesh he had. Even that is weighing me down and slowing our progress but I can appreciate that he wants to keep me alive.

Jan 23 – 476: We made it to the unexplored portion of the tunnel system we had chosen however it did not get very far before it also dead ended. It took us a day to get here and will take us a day to get back to the entrance to head down the other forked path. Then it will be a toss up deciding which paths to take from there as many of them seem to be unmapped.

One note on today’s journey is that we saw no signs of life on our way down. A few bugs, yes, but no rats or snakes or anything else you might expect to see living in here. Did something eat them all or scare them all out?

Jan 24 – 476: We are once again camping at the mouth of the caves. It is raining outside and we got to clean ourselves up a little. Leftover stew and stale bread for dinner. Going to bed early as I’m already exhausted from navigating these burrows.

 

Jan 25 – 476: We spent a day exploring various forks and paths and have gotten nowhere. Most were dead ends and we are sleeping at the mouth of the cave yet again. We both noticed how warm it was down that side of the caverns. When we had gone down the right side it had been cool and damp, however today every path was dry, muggy, and hotter than the last. It was easy to see why that side was largely unexplored as it made travel slow going. We were happy to see that it was still raining outside and have cooled off.

I’m starting to lose any hope that a dragon was actually spotted and wonder if the whole thing wasn’t a hoax. This whole trip has been a bust so far and I’m more and more ready to go home with every step. But we are getting paid well so we need to have a definitive report when we get back, hopefully we can finish exploring these caves within the next couple of days.

Jan 26 – 476: We are now deep in the caverns and have yet to find an end to the current tunnel system. It was the first one we chose and have been walking it all day. It has gotten so warm that we are having trouble breathing and have had to remove most of our clothing outside of undergarments. Even our armor has now been set aside as it is too much to bear and we are contemplating leaving some of our things in this spot tomorrow when we continue on.

Which also has us discussing just how far we can continue in such conditions. If we are having this much trouble enduring these caves it is highly unlikely anything would actually live here, let alone for hundreds of years. There are not even any bugs to be seen anymore and we are running low on food. If we don’t find a water source tomorrow we will have to turn around and head back lest we run out.

My head is starting to hurt so I am going to lie down. I pray for an easier day tomorrow.

Jan 27 – 476: We have yet to find an end to this tunnel however we have found a water source. It is a bubbling lake in the middle of a vast open area. Around it walls ramp up from our level to another tunnel exit high above us. If we are to go on we will have to climb up to it however we are not sure we will be able to go on.

While we have found water we are as of yet unable to even try to drink it for it is just too hot. Tom has put a large amount inside his helmet where we hope it will cool however after what we think has been an hour it is still bubbling. We are also wondering, if it does cool enough to drink, will it be safe?

Beyond that we are also almost out of food. We have some dried meat and old bread left that may get us through tomorrow. With so many things against us, how can we keep going? Who could have even come this far to see a dragon if one even is down here? With our spirits all but broken and everything against us, we will most likely be heading back up tomorrow.

Jan 28 – 476: We awoke this morning and found the water in Tom’s helmet, while still warm, was cool enough to try and drink. I told him I would try it but he insisted that he do it instead as he had no family to go home too. While I argued that that was no reason to be ok with dying he eventually took a drink anyway. To our benefit he did not get sick and to our surprise, he felt a lot better.

He told me to try it and upon the water even touching my lips I felt stronger immediately. We have not eaten anything today and do not feel hungry. The heat has not bothered us and we have stopped sweating. Whatever is in this water it is unlike anything I have ever encountered. We have set more aside to cool so that we may fill up our water skins and head deeper into the caves tomorrow. If we can carry enough of it we may just make it to the bottom of this cave system. God willing, we will find that end tomorrow.

Jan 29 – 476: Another day traveling this winding tunnel has gotten us another day away from the entrance and no closer to an answer. The one bright side is that the water we retrieved from the lake yesterday has not only kept us going but made us more optimistic than ever. We have strength to keep going and the heat, in spite of making anything metal we carry too hot to touch, has not bothered us at all. I look back at what I wrote over the last few days and can’t even remember why I ever wanted it too end.

 

Jan 30 – 476: Today we encountered our first problem and it is again something neither of us have ever seen. We reached a tunnel that narrowed to the point where Tom had to hunch over and walk sideways to even fit through. It then opened just enough for us to stand next to each other however the path was covered with what looked to be a set of vines. They were covered with red and yellow leaves and some kind of dark fruit was growing on them. We immediately decided not to try the fruit however when Tom went to slash a clearing for us the vines fought back.

From the wall beside him a vine rose up and grabbed at his sword before he could swing it forward. From my side a vine grabbed my arm and another went for my leg but I jumped out of the way. Tom took a dagger and cut his sword free before getting me.

We have back tracked to the last open area we had been through and are resting before deciding what to do tomorrow. We have come so far I am not ready to give up but I don’t know what Tom is thinking. He’s never been much of a talker and has been less so these last few days. Still, the idea of seeing any life down here at all is exciting and gives hope that something could survive.

Feb 5 – 476: I am back in Anchorton and apparently have been unconscious for a few days now. When we woke up the next day I was able to talk Tom into trying one more time to get past the vines. While he was concerned of what may lie beyond the vines if we did get through I was very adamant about at least trying since we had come so far.

When we got to the opening where the vine lay in our way it seemed there was less of it than the day before. We thought this was in our favor and he swung at the portion covering the opening.

One vine snapped apart and we looked to make sure nothing was trying to grab us again. He then took another swing and yet more vines snapped apart. At that point the ground shook and a loud roar filled our ears. From beyond the vines we saw the tunnel light up with flame and my skin began to tingle with excitement.

I told him to keep going as I could almost fit through the portion he had cleared but before he could take another swipe the vine suddenly grew and doubled in size. It quickly recovered the tunnel and Tom started to back me away.

Yet when we turned around to head out we saw the vines had covered our exit and all the surrounding walls. We were trapped.

He started swinging at everything that came towards us while attempting to clear our exit in between. That’s when vines started to come towards me. Tom handed me his dagger and I swung as best as I could towards each one. One grabbed my wrist and I cut it free. I ducked under another one as Tom struck it.

With my heart racing I started swiping at our exit with him until a new vine appeared. It was at first as black as night before showing itself the same red and yellow color of the leaves that adorned it. At first I just thought it was another vine with different colors however as it got closer I saw it had a tiny mouth and little eyes.

I stood, a bit stunned by what I was seeing, and then tried to hit it. I missed and it lunged at my stomach where it met the light armor mesh that Tom had convinced me to wear again today. Then Tom attempted to strike it down but failed and it this time came for my arm.

It bit in hard and I felt a sting run up into my shoulder and then my neck. I dropped our torch and the lights went out, for me at least, and I was left unconscious.

Tom says he was lucky to cut us free and then carried me out over the next few days. He says we are lucky to be alive and I have to agree with him on that one.

While I wanted to confirm there was a dragon Tom was quick to point out that as hot as it was it simply could have been a volcano. With no other evidence to say otherwise that is what we’ve told everyone here.

I still hold hope that what is down there is a dragon however I don’t know how we could ever prove it. All I know is I am heading home tomorrow morning and I am excited to see my family. Tom has agreed to work with a map maker to update the cavern maps and we told them all about the magical water yet we had none left to show.

I have seen things on this trip that I have never seen before and while that is all exciting, I just thank God I am alive.

 

Feb 5 – 476: I’ve made it to Forge but I’m afraid I’ve had more problems. The bite on my arm has become infected and I feel very weak. I am going to have a healer observe it tomorrow.

Feb 8 – 476: I have felt too weak to continue home over the last few days. The healer has cured the infection and it is almost completely gone. Hoping I feel better tomorrow so I can get home to my family.

Feb 10 – 476: Feeling much better today, heading home. Can’t wait to see David and Seth. I have decided to never leave home again without Seth. It is time he followed in my footsteps as he has always wanted to do. But mostly, I don’t want to die with us being as apart as we have been. I miss my son. I am so happy I will be able to hug him in a couple of days.

I also want to share with him the graces that God has shown me through this whole ordeal. I could be gone now, but I’m not, thanks to Him.

Seth closed the journal and shut his watering eyes. These had been the last words she had ever written. Two days after this she had gotten home and was already feeling worse again. She hadn’t gone into details over what had happened only that she had run into trouble and she just wanted to sit in her chair by the fire. By the second day she was back she was too weak to speak. A week later and she was gone.

Seth felt the anger at losing her rise up again. Everything he had just read about her last trip swirled around in his mind. He wanted to scream at her for going in the first place. He wanted to scream at Tom for not protecting her. He wanted to scream at God for letting her die. In his head, he did the last one.

His mother had often spoken of her faith and he had always felt that he also had God on his side. When she was home they often went to the temple in their village and prayed and she would read scriptures at meal times.

Now though, after she thanked God for keeping her safe He had let her die and this made Seth angrier than anything else. If she could have so much faith in God and get betrayed what was the point?

He wanted to curse God for letting this happen but instead he simply asked over and over until he fell asleep that night, “Why?”

Chapter 1 – Rise of the Dragons – Rewrite

Drake wrapped his tail around Seth’s neck and shoulders forming a scaly blue scarf catching the tears of his friend. His leathery wings stretched across his shoulders and his long neck and head nuzzled against Seth’s as if to hug and comfort him.

But nothing was going to comfort Seth today as he looked down at the body in front of him. He was dealing with the overwhelming sensation that he would never speak to his mother again which was something he had never contemplated in his 14 years of life. That is, not before she grew deathly ill a week before.

Drake too, felt an immense loss and looked as sad as any dracon ever could. Drake was a baby when he was given to Seth as a gift by his mother just over 4 years before she died. She taught Seth everything she could about handling and training Drake, as well as other wild creatures when the situations would arise.

He tried to make these situations arise as often as possible because he enjoyed these moments with his mom more than anything else. She would always compliment his abilities with the animals and say he had a gift with them that she had never seen before.

Now these moments were gone forever and he struggled to sort through the reality of what lay before him. His mind raced and jumped from memory to thought and thought to memory. For a few seconds he would remember something about his mom that would make him smile and another second later he would be overcome with sadness. The constant ebb and flow of emotions were affecting him so deeply he was getting nauseous.

But he just stood there staring at her as everyone passed around him. He vaguely noticed when people offered their condolences and occasionally picked up whisperings of other people saying, ‘poor boy, they were so close’. People offered food and gave little bits of wisdom such as, ‘everything happens for a reason’ and ‘it will get easier.’ Everyone had something to say about what had happened, everyone except for his dad.

His dad was not standing next to him which didn’t really offend him. What did offend him was that his dad wasn’t standing beside him frozen speechless and in tears over the loss.

‘How could he be chatting it up over there,’ Seth wondered in between the train of emotions he was riding, ‘when mom is laying here?’

Eventually he was pulled away and his mother was covered. He was vaguely aware of people talking about his mother and praying over her. He watched the covered body as more people came in and laid flowers beside it, only occasionally thinking the flowers being laid down were not extravagant enough to be a real offering for someone as great as his mom.

And he watched the body while the preacher spoke the words that he assumed preachers speak at everyone’s memorial. He watched the body and had fleeting thoughts that maybe this was some elaborate prank being played in him and his mom would suddenly jump up and surprise him.

These thoughts stuck with him for days after the funeral. He really had a hard time adjusting to the idea that she was gone. In some ways he would occasionally forget she was dead and just think she was on another trip away. His thoughts would wander in this way until he’d think about her coming home which would drag him back to reality, hitting harder each time.

At the end of the funeral his other was taken into the cave used for such situations. He had seen the process before when a local villager his dad was friends with had passed away. That had been shocking but seeing his mother go atop the pyre full of wood was making him want to scream out loud. As the fire was started he started to step forward to yell at them to stop hurting his mom.

But they weren’t hurting her, it was what they always did with their dead. This was the cycle of life and it always seemed to end abruptly. His dad took him home and they sat in their living room not talking to each other. They continued not talking to each other for a week. Here and there would be a grunt to indicate dinner was ready or something needed cleaning.

Seth caught his dad crying the second night they’d been home and finally saw that his dad was struggling just as he was. It was everyone else who didn’t seem to understand. It was everyone else who only knew to offer food so they wouldn’t have to cook and to say it would get easier and they were sorry. No one understood what they were going through except his father and what his father understood was that neither of them really knew how to handle the situation.

Seth’s dad was the first person to break the silence.

“I have to go do some work for Crazy Joe.”

Seth looked at him, slightly stunned as though he had just been woken from a deep sleep. After a short moment he finally worked some words out, “Oh, ok.”

“Do you want to come with me? Might do us good to get out of the house.”

Seth thought about it and for no reason he wanted to yell at his dad but wasn’t sure why, instead he answered, “No, I’d rather stay here.”

Seth’s dad didn’t know how to handle the situation or what to say or do to make his son feel better. All he knew was that nothing was making HIM feel better, so he didn’t figure anything would help Seth. He simply gathered his things and walked out the door saying, “If you need anything, come on down to Joes.”

Seth did not go to Joes and did almost nothing all day. Twice he let Drake fly around outside for a moment but even Drake tired of it quickly and flew back to be by his friends side. And once Seth got up to look for something to eat in the myriad of food that had been brought to them.

It was later in the day when Seth started to look through his mom’s book collection in the living room. His mom loved books and loved reading. When he was young she would read to him at night while he was falling asleep. She collected books from all over Agnos when she went on her travels and he would hear the most fantastic of stories.

His favorite stories were those of dragons, Drakes very distant cousins. While she had let him know many times that she had never seen a dragon and believed them to be long extinct, he always held out the childish hope that they were real.

When his mother brought Drake home he had first said, “you got me a dragon!” But she corrected him explaining that it was a ‘dray-cone’ and would never get larger than a hawk. His favorite story was about a man who was studying a large dragon in the north that had the ability to make itself invisible. He attempted to ride the dragon by throwing a rope around it’s neck, however since it was invisible at the time he had accidentally roped around it’s tail and was subsequently tossed into a tree.

Seth ran his finger across the various spines sticking out like a kid running down a picket fence with a stick. He stopped on a ratty worn spine with words that were unrecognizable from years of use. He pulled out the book and sat down in the big chair by the fire. He ran his fingers over the leather cover and felt the stitched in symbol on the front. It was an ornate circle of interweaving lines with two letters “S” in the middle that crossed each other. When he was younger Seth had thought them to be snakes giving each other a hug.

He opened the book and started flipping through it’s pages carefully. The paper was old and brittle and the smell that wafted out of it reminded him of winters that his mother would set reading the book to herself by the fire in the very chair he was now sitting.

Most of the book had always seemed rather boring to him what with it’s lack of pictures and dragons. In fact, it lacked wild creatures entirely which was odd for her collection given that she was a creature handler. No, most of the book was about a group of people who had a secret society of fighters and adventurers. While that part was always interesting to him most of the book was sets of rules that the group held themselves to. There was hardly anything about actual adventuring or fighting anywhere to be found in there.

He stopped on one page marked by a piece of paper stuck rather haphazardly into the book with a bible passage scrawled across it in rough handwriting. He recognized his mother’s writing immediately as she had never learned the art of calligraphy like his dad had. Hers always looked hurried as though if she didn’t get it on paper quick enough the thought would leave her forever. The paper read, “We love, because He loved us. John 1 4:19” He held it for a second in a clinched fist before easing and setting it beside him.

He started looking at the pages it had marked, skimming the words and trying to focus, something that had been hard since his mother died. The pages spoke of a charter that the group was to hold itself to. Most of it, again, was rather boring to him and he was about to flip some more pages when a sentence caught his eye.

‘It shall be at the forefront of our constant thoughts that the group never grows stale. When we see the world changing, we must change with it, yet when the world does not change sufficiently we will create change ourselves.’

Immediately Seth’s mind was driven back in time to when he was just 7 years old. He had been growing taller and was thrilled to show his mother just how tall one night when she came in to read to him.

“LOOK MOM!” he nearly yelled in excitement as she came in. He was touching his head to the top of his bed and stretching his toes just as far as he could, just barely touching the foot of the bed. “I’m almost too big for my bed,” he added with a big grin on his face, proud of growing tall.

His mother, however, didn’t smile at this but rather retorted without missing a beat in a peculiarly serious tone, “You know, when you grow up and you get too big for your bed you have to build your own.”

She had then gone on to read to him though he wasn’t able to concentrate and indeed didn’t get much sleep that night. He was kept up wondering how he would ever be able to build a bed. Would his dad teach him? Would he be given wood or instructions? Would he be able to ask for help? What if he got too big tomorrow? He was only seven and couldn’t imagine being able to build a bed by himself.

He had forgotten about it a few weeks later until he had looked at that book. Reading those lines he realized what she had actually meant. The bed was not a bed, but the world around him, and building it meant he had to change it. Tears started to stream down his face as he realized his mother was still teaching him things, even after she had gone.

Drake stood up on the ottoman where he had been laying between Seth’s legs. He stretched a bit and then walked in a circle a few times before settling back down. Seth closed the book and held it close for a few minutes before scanning the shelves for another one to look at.

His eyes dropped their gaze closer to the fireplace where the books were overflowing off of the shelves and into small stacks around the room. He picked one up that was right beside the chair. It was one he had seen before but had never seen his mom actually reading. Opening up he found out why. The first page had more of her scribbles on it and read, “Nita Bakers Journal: 475-”. Seth realized this was recent, started just the year before, and got goosebumps at all the possible things that could be written in these pages. He was not disappointed when he flipped to the next page and saw that it was a journal entry from one of her jobs away.

It read:
Feb 2, 475 – The trip north from Forge was uneventful despite all the talk of bandits on the highway. When I got into Anchorton and met with Tiny Tom he was frantic over something that had shown up in his yard the week before. I asked him what it was but he continued to say I just had to see it. When we got to his house he directed me to the back but then didn’t follow. Cautiously I walked over the fence and looked around. I was about to let him know whatever had been there was gone when I saw the bush in the far corner of the yard move. Only it wasn’t a bush, and it kept moving towards me.

I jumped over the fence and watched as it got closer. It’s shape changed as it moved in a blob-like rolling fashion. It had no legs and no arms that I could see. Really, it just looked like a pile of green goo, about three feet tall, with two enormous eyes. It got to the fence and stopped I saw that it’s eyes were sad longing for attention and I realized it was not trying to be aggressive but just wanted out. However it had gotten into his yard it had not been able to find a way back out.

Slowly I reached my open palm out to the goo-ball, stopping just a few inches away from it. It bent forward, or shifted itself, or whatever it did it came closer to my hand and decided I was no threat when it surrounded a portion of it’s goo around my hand. The sensation was scary yet amazing and unlike anything I’d ever encountered before. Like 10 dog tongues licking my hand at the same time it seemed to caress my hand and explore it. It lasted a few seconds and the creature let go. When my hand came out it was not covered in goo or sticky, though it did have a feeling of having something new on it as though I had just washed my hands and not quite gotten all of the soap off.

I jumped back over the fence and, well I guess I took it’s hand. I held my hand out and took a few steps forward to show my intention. It sort of leaned into it and engulfed it again at which point I started slowly walking forward. To my amazement it not only started ‘walking’ with me but also gave some amount of pressure to my hand, almost squeezing it, much like Seth did when he was little.

I led it to the gate, opening it to lead the creature out. When I let go, however, it just continued to look at me with sad eyes. I walked around the yard to find Tiny Tom and the creature followed. I don’t know who was more freaked out, Tom or the creature. It was rather funny to see the 6’7” tall Tiny Tom scream at me to get rid of it while the creature seemed to hide behind my legs. I assured Tom I would make sure it didn’t come back into his yard and I walked back behind his house again, looking into the woods that were there.

Going on the assumption that the creature had to have come from somewhere I started walking it into the forest. The little creature stayed close to me and as we got into the more dense part of the forest it actually reached out for my hand which I gladly gave. It squeezed tighter than before and shook at the littlest of noises.

I was actually getting worried that I’d made a mistake. While I was sure the little guy had come out of the forest I had no way of knowing exactly which direction to head. As it started getting dark I reached a clearing in the woods. In the middle of the clearing was a large felled tree stump that looked to be mostly hollow. At the sight of it the creature let go of my hand and ran, or rolled or whatever it does towards the tree.

I started to yell out to it when out of the log another goo ball twice it’s size came out. It was also green with two big eyes and these eyes were not sad but worried turned to joy when it saw the little guy coming towards it. I had found mommy goo. I was absentmindedly walking towards her to get a better look when her gaze turned towards me and it was a look of anger. She obviously assumed I had interfered and she started towards me at a strong pace.

I reeled backwards but tripped and fell as she started to overtake me. That’s when the little guy jumped in front of her. She stopped and looked at him and they just stared at each others eyes for a few moments. She looked at me again and her gaze softened and suddenly, four more little goo balls emerged from her, separating themselves out and surrounding their little brother.

The mother came towards me and reached out as her child had done before. I reached my hand out and she squeezed and rolled backwards, pulling me up. She gave me a sort of bow and I bowed back to her as she started to ‘walk’ back towards their home. Her children all followed except for the little guy I had bonded with. He came up to me and wrapped his body around my leg. His goo warmed my leg and I reached down and patted his head. His mother turned around and looked toward us for a moment before he finally let go and walked back towards her.

I must remember to talk to Wise Willie and see if he has ever heard of such a creature. I hope to come back soon and study them closer but for now, I am needed back in Forge in two nights.

Seth looked over the pages and wanted to know more about the creature his mom had seen. This was one she had never told him about but then, she had been busier than ever over the last year and was home less and less. He wondered who Wise Willie was as he couldn’t think of any Willie in their small village.

The sound of the front door opening startled him back to reality and he quickly closed and tucked the book away. He didn’t want to share what he’d found with anyone, not even his father who walked in covered in dirt and grease.

“So Crazy Joe is making something I think you’d be interested to see,” Seth’s dad offered to his son.

“Oh yeah?” Drake got up and stretched again and upon seeing Seth’s dad walked over to him and began sniffing whatever smells he may have picked up while he was away.

“Yeah, you wanna go with me tomorrow? He needs some more help and is paying pretty good,” he asked hopefully.

“I don’t think so.”

Seth’s dad lost the hopeful look and gained a defeated one. “Alright, well I’m going to get cleaned up. Why don’t you get us something for dinner ready?”

Seth got up and looked through the foods that people had brought again and settled on a pot of chili which he threw over the fire to warm. He then went and hid the journal in his room so he could read it later. This was how he would spend the next few days, struggling to stay close to his mother and learn about her last days.

NaNoWriMo Update

If you’ve been following along with my NaNoWriMo posts you’ll know a lot has happened. I still plan on writing today yet may not post until later tonight or tomorrow so I thought I’d do a quick synopsis and let people get caught up who may enjoy Science Fiction/Dystopian stories.

Here’s links to each chapter followed by a short synopsis.
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

–          President Hope took office over 9 years ago and through some clever law enactments was able to seize control of America in the name of Homeland Security.

–          Nelson is a War Routine/Router in charge of a brigade of more than 1000 troops. He’s from a rural part of Arkansas which is where he has been assigned to clear out any runners who may be defecting from the government or have refused to give up their guns for the new laws that were enacted. His troops recently raided a large camp of runners around a lake and learned they were looking for a man named Jonah who was leading this group of dissidents.

–          Sarah is a Medical Routine and is stuck in the same small town Nelson was from. She, and some locals, respond to the raid at the lake and find 2 children alive. One of them is a 12 year old boy named Jonah that doesn’t speak and has a routine implant that is said to have been made before the technology even existed.

–          Kimberly is the daughter of Echo Corp CEO Kendrick Keys, whose company first created Routines. She was the first ever routine to be created by the company but has moved away since the government take over. She lives in a neighborhood full of other private citizen routines who tell her they have heard of a group in Oklahoma City who is building an army to fight back against the government. They need her help to get into Echo Corp to speak with Mortimer, the original designer/programmer of routine implants and friend of Kimberly.

So there we have it. Some good questions so far, I think.

–          What more does the president have in store for his new America?

–          It’s hinted that Nelson is headed in the direction of Oklahoma, will he find the underground resistance?

–          Is this boy Jonah that Sarah found the same Jonah that Nelson is looking for?

–          Will an entire neighborhood up and leave without raising suspicion?

These are questions I’m asking and I’m the WRITER! It’s an exciting adventure and any comments are welcome. Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Are you reading along? Are you just glad it’s Friday.

Me too… Happy Friday everyone.

NaNoWriMo: Routine Wars – Chapter 4

Kimberly stood in line to get through the security checkpoint. They weren’t typically slow however it was Friday night and the bars downtown had just closed. While she was against what the government was doing she had never felt safer traveling alone at night in any part of the city. Downtown alleys could still be bad with homeless people who had nothing to lose, but there were even less of them than before.

She scanned her ID Badge at the gate and a guard waved her through. On a little screen opposite of her another guard watched her picture, finger prints, social security number, and current job pop up. She pushed her thumb on another pad past the gate and the screen confirmed her finger prints matched.

Three gates away a screen flashed red indicating finger prints of the person trying to get through didn’t match the ID he flashed. Instantly and quietly six guards appeared from a little shack and escorted the man away.

Kimberly just glanced his way and then continued towards her home. She lived in a suburb that was mostly filled with routines. Most were pregov, civilian routines implanted before the government buy out. And all of them knew Kim, she was THE daughter. She was THE routine. She was routine zero.

Her implant was the most crude of the lot. Despite all the advances upgrades were still difficult and a change in implant was untested because no one knew what would happen to the brain if it all of a sudden stopped receiving the flow of information provided.

Her spinal implant ran all the way down her spine and connected into her body between every vertebra. It was essentially an exo-spine and only a handful of routines had one. The implant in her stomach was even worse. While other routines had a small device inside their body, her control unit was too big to fit inside. Where the appendix would be covered by flesh, there was a small glowing sphere protruding out with a metal ring surrounding it and connecting to her stomach to keep the unit in place. It was bigger because they weren’t originally sure how much power would be needed to supply the information to the brain. They knew how much power it took to send one piece of information but they could only guess at how many times it might actually be accessed in a given second.

So besides the kinetic recharging system and micro battery pack, it had an additional battery pack that could be removed and recharged if needed. It had not been needed which is when they scaled the design down. They would have been able to upgrade her to a newer unit and graft skin back over but she chose to keep it for the other reason it was bigger.

Her unit, with its larger size in back and front, had one distinct advantage over every other routine implant; it could hold more than one program at a time.

Despite the small devices’ ability to hold two terabytes of information, over eighty percent of that is the program that simply tells the device how to actually communicate to the brain. The base communication program itself covers half of that amount while the rest is allotted to error handling. With so many things the brain can do, Kendrick and the designers felt that taking every possible outcome and providing a way to avoid it would avoid any unforeseen errors.

“You know what every Microsoft Windows release is like? We want to avoid that because we only get one shot at it,” Kendrick had quipped on a talk show.

Also, because she had ready access to her control unit, she could switch out programming as she needed. She left the main program and her initial routine running while she uploaded and downloaded other information. She was the closest they had seen to what removing an implant would look like, and it was scary.

The first time she changed her programming she forgot her name. The second time she forgot her family. The third time, she started having recurring acute memory loss. She could be fine for a month and then forget what she had done the entire day.

“Ever walked into a room and forgot why you went in there?” She once asked her friend, “It’s like that except I don’t remember even going to the house the room is in.”

So she had made it a rule to avoid doing it anymore, but she enjoyed having the option if she needed.

Her original routine was in numbers and calculations. She was the worlds’ fastest calculator and more. She could solve equations before you could ask her to. She could remember numbers she heard years before. She was a casinos worst nightmare. And she couldn’t care less.

She had always been good at math and that was what she excelled at when her dad asked her to get an implant but she didn’t feel she should be defined by numbers. That was when she started adding and changing out secondary and tertiary programs. The first one was on flying. Unfortunately she’d never flown before so despite knowing all the technical aspects she still panicked and downed Echo Corps company chopper.

The second one was in martial arts which she actually did have some experience, when she was five years old. It didn’t translate into expertise, however, and she sprained a leg because her body wasn’t used to moving in the way she knew it should.

The latest was her favorite, however, which was an engineering and design program. She had always tinkered around in the garage with her dad so she had a basis. While she couldn’t build the ten story building she was able to envision in her head, she could build and fix small electronics. Tinkering was not just her hobby, it was her.

Being the daughter of one of the richest men in the world means you don’t have to try too hard to get the necessities in life. He had always given her everything she’d ever wanted and after making her routine zero he felt even guiltier and basically put her on the payroll to do nothing. She had everything she needed but nothing she wanted.

Friends were hard to come by as well. Real friends were anyway. Sure she had plenty of girls and guys who would hang around so they could get a piece of the free pie, but few that actually wanted to stay around her. Guys wouldn’t get too close because of the glowing belly and clanking metallic back. And she would hear the girls laughing about what she looked like when she went to buy drinks.

Routines, however, at least had a genuine interest in something other than money. She could help them fix pieces on older units as long as they were still running and they enjoyed picking her brain about what it was like at Echo Corp when ideas started flowing. Echo was known for hiring people and then letting them come up with anything they wanted. It was that kind of freedom that led to the routine revolution. And she actually enjoyed recalling the story.

“Each month, my dad would gather everyone together in this large meeting hall. You didn’t have to come unless you had an idea and it didn’t matter how small or dumb the idea might be, he wanted to hear it.

“Well he’d hired this young hotshot programmer who had never gone to school but taught himself everything called Mortimer, though he went by Morty. Morty had not been there but that first month, he’d never even seen one of these meetings, when he got up there on that microphone and started trying to tell his idea.

“He was shaking and obviously never been in such a position. And Morty is a big guy but he looked so small on that stage. People were still murmuring about some idea from the guy who’d just gone up about a toaster for frozen pizza. No really, you take a frozen pizza and slide it in vertically and hit the button and then a minute later you have a pizza. The idea was actually pretty good if you take out the vertical part.

“Anyway my dad realizes someone is up there already and trying to speak so he sits back forward and gives his look like, ‘I’m listening.’ Normally when a CEO gives that look it’s just B.S. but my dad always meant it. So people keep murmuring while Morty is trying to speak because no one else seems to realize he is up there either so my dad clears his throat a few times before I stand up, turn around, and yell “SHUT UP, MINIONS!”

“So Morty and my dad start chuckling at this while everyone else just kind of goes to a stunned quiet. My dad finally asks him, ‘what’s your idea, Mortimer?’ Daddy always had a knack for remembering names. So Morty clears his throat and says ‘Brain enhancements.

“Seeing the quizzical look on my dad’s face he went on to say if a brain uses electrical impulses to speak to the spinal cord and computers can use electrical signals to send information back and forth, why couldn’t we build a computer that could supply information to a brain.

“So my dad cocks his head to the side and looks at Mortimer and says, ‘son, you are either the craziest person in this room,’ and some people chuckle behind us, ‘or the smartest. Why do you think we could ever communicate with the brain. Have you ever studied the brain and how it works?’

“’No sir.’ He kind of stuttered realizing what it’s like to face my dad who is sharp and on top of things, he always knows a good question. ‘Then what makes you think you could do this?’

“’Because no one has ever proven it can’t be done.’ Morty, through all his self-education, had one advantage over every college graduate in that room. No one ever told him what he could and couldn’t do. He simply thought of something and tried it. And that was what he wanted to do now. My dad told him to meet him in his office and after the mice test, he was made vice-president. He was in the right place at the right time.”

Kim had spent many hours with Morty even before she had a real implant during the programming phases. They would hook a series of wires that would flash small electrical pulses through her skin to her spinal cord. It was not as precise as actually connecting turned out to be but it allowed him and the other programmers to perfect everything.

During testing he proved that he could control involuntary movement by making her smack herself at which point she voluntarily smacked him and that they could not recreate muscle memory like playing the piano. A test in her trying to play a piece by Mozart caused him to quip that that had certainly not worked and Mozart was lucky to be dead so he didn’t have to hear it at which point she voluntarily slapped him again.

He got slapped a lot.

But she had not been back to Echo Corp in over two years. Things were different after the government buy out. Her father rarely came to the brainstorming meetings and people were generally less thrilled to be working than before. The company still made innovative products and created more routine implants for the lessening number of people who wanted one but the joy of doing so was gone since they got blamed for creating routines in the first place. All the life had seemed to leave the building.

She moved away from Houston to Chicago so that she could avoid most of that. She inadvertently formed this community of routines who just wanted to live in peace and she was content. Content was better than a lot of people were doing.

As she walked up to her apartment and opened the door someone rushed in behind her and closed the door. There were no lights on for her to see and she couldn’t scream as the intruder had quickly covered her mouth and pinned her against the wall.

“SHHHH. Don’t scream Kim, it’s me.” She relaxed a bit.

“Alex?”

“Yeah, look I don’t have much time but there’s something you have to know.”

Alex was a neighbor of hers and a fellow routine. He was missing an eye that he lost when he’d tried to resist. He’d done it before the education camps were built so he felt pretty lucky to have just lost an eye. He moved back and the glow from her implant shone through her shirt. “What are you doing here? I’ll see you tomorrow at the party.”

“No, you won’t. You won’t see a lot of us but we will want to see you.”

“Alex, WHAT are you talking about?”

“It’s happening Kim. A bunch of us are going to fight back.”

“That’s crazy, how could anyone win against tens of thousands of military? What would you fight for? What would it even prove?”

“Look, it’s all a little crazy if you take the time to rationalize it but that’s life, life isn’t rational. We hear that there is a group of routines building an army under the governments’ radar. They even have weapons they just need more numbers.”

“That doesn’t even sound possible.”

“But what if it is?” Kim considered this for a second before Alex went on. “Look, we’re leaving tomorrow and heading to Oklahoma City. No one wanted to tell you at first because leaving as a big group will raise a little suspicion but nothing really works without you. You’re the key.”

“How am I the key?”

“You can get us into Echo.”

“Echo? What does that have to do with anything? Alex, really if you all want to go off getting killed then…”

“There’s not enough time to explain it but I know you’ll understand when I say Morty can help.”

“You’ve talked to Mortimer? Is he ok?”

“No, we haven’t. We only know what you’ve told us which is plenty to know we need him. We need you! Come with us.”

“I just don’t know.” But Alex was already heading out the door. She stood there questioning everything he’d just said. She agreed Morty was required for any chance to take down government routines, but numbers were needed as well. That was when she knew she would be leaving, she had to see the army that would overthrow the government.

 

NaNoWriMo: Routine Wars – Chapter 3

When Charles Hope was elected into office there were no routines in the White House. That was just over 9 years ago and at that time there was only one routine in the entire world and that was Kimberly Keys, daughter of Echo Corp CEO Kendrick Keys.

When he was a senator, he saw the government folding. There was no bi-partisanship and the republicans argued with the democrats on every issue. The president, the house, and the senate all butted heads constantly while America fell into a recession and faith in democracy hit an all-time low.

He ran a campaign with the slogan “Don’t just hope for change, change your vote to Hope,” and several variations. It was clunky and he didn’t come from a rich background, however he did know what people wanted, and that was an overhaul of the system. And that’s what he did.

It took more than just him of course; in fact it took a perfect alignment of political stars to make all the changes he saw lining out before him. His party had to regain control of the house and senate and he needed them all to be on his side. He also needed people who could spin his proposals into bigger, people friendly proposals. The old trick of putting gun legislature in with school reform was nothing compared to giving more power to Washington while taking other freedoms away as a diversion.

His initial intentions were just a simple change in the ways things were done but coming into power he was told a few key things that skewed his view even more. When any president comes into office they are given a briefing on various things that most people don’t know about. What’s really in Area 51, who has nuclear weapons pointed at us, and what exactly is going on in the war overseas are just a few things that he might hear in his first few weeks. The job itself is enough to feel overwhelming but add onto it information you weren’t even ready for and it can get stressful.

The report that stuck with him though was the list of suspected terrorists living in America at that time. It was basically everyone over the age of 8 and showed how more weapons led to more shootings which led to more security measures in private homes which led to more guns which led to more shootings. It was a circle that they were unsure how to deal with as they all liked their guns a lot, but a circle that President Hope saw an end to. Hope and his friends in the Senate realized that because there were so many guns anyone could have more than one and anyone could have a semi-automatic rifle, great for when you’re deer hunting more than ten deer at once.

He understood that limiting the number of guns in America meant people giving up guns they already owned and that would cause a lot of uproar. And everyone who objected would not only be upset, but armed as well.

He also knew that a large change in gun laws was the only way his future plans would be able to occur. It had been long decided that four years in office is barely enough time to get anything done. Even if you get bills out and laws started a disgruntled congress could hold things up until you were out and someone else would come in and veto everything you’d fought for. Were you lucky enough to get a second four years you had better make something of it because that was the last chance you’d have. Or was it?

“But why do we accept a system that seems created to keep everything at a standstill?” he had asked when running for office. This had resonated well with citizens who didn’t realize it meant he wanted to be in office for more than 8 years.

He pushed the gun law through in his third year and his approval rating tanked. People in rural areas refused to give up any guns that had since been banned and fought back against anyone who approached them. Crime started to drop but gun lovers didn’t care and just wanted less Hope.

Around this time, routines were becoming more prevalent. Sarah would have had her implant for just over two years and in the last year they went from just under three thousand sold to over seventy-five thousand. Hope saw the power in such technology and started convincing his influence circle in congress as to the authority they could provide a military as well as the need for such power.

The deal was shady and it forced Echo Corp to turn over all patents and technology, as well as over half of their staff. They could keep making routines for the private sector, however if anyone showed an interest in being in the military they had to send them to the government firm that started creating the next big thing in war tech. And it all happened the day before Hope lost his re-election. And that was his day to shine. As the would-be future president took to the podium to thank everyone for voting for him, the major news networks suddenly cut-in and said the President was making an announcement.

It was unprecedented to address the country while your successor was giving a speech and the whole world listened close to see what could be so important.

“Good evening. I would like to start by congratulating my opponent on a great campaign run. When I took office I promised you all change would come and while I have delivered on that promise you have chosen to go yet another way. I tell you the truth when I say that nothing good will ever come from flip-flopping from one candidate to another every 4 to 8 years and constantly bickering about the same issues. The problem is these candidates simply want the power and money and influence that comes with the office of presidency and they don’t care nor even have an idea what it is like to be a working middle-class drone in America.

But there is no need to worry about this mistake as I have had the foresight to fix it before you even made it. A new law, recently enacted, allows a sitting president to remain in office if the U.S. is in a state of disillusion and disrepair. I am enacting this ordinance now and stating that I will remain in office until I feel that America is once again strong and united, and we are again the powerful nation the world once saw us as.

My apologies to Candidate Williams, I know he was looking forward to taking office and had lots of ideas even I hadn’t considered. I will be extending to him an offer to be a top advisor at the White House and I hope to work closely with him, so that when I leave office he can step in and take over without any hiccups.

Changes will soon be coming to the nation, because we can’t fix the world unless we ourselves are not broken. Stand with me, work with me, build a better tomorrow so that today won’t be in vein.”

There was a great backlash at this announcement from most groups. While plenty of people took this as more political shenanigans others felt they had been duped by an already controlling power. The policy allowing Hope to stay in office had been added by him to the Gun Control bill. It was buried deep and used only enough words to make it iron clad while still vague enough to give him more power than any president since the founding fathers.

Under the Emergency Executive Proclamation or E.E.P., the president could enact any law temporarily even if it went against the Constitution, only to be released at his resignation. It also stated that a Constitutional right or amendment could be removed, changed, or overridden permanently if the majority of Congress agreed to it.

There was no voting by the people, there was no debate, there was only presidential power, and Hope now had it.

Hope had withdrawn all troops from foreign soil 2 years prior and they were now deployed to major cities to avoid as many riots as possible but this was only a small band-aid for a gaping wound. His plan had been to do this at the end of his second term but he had to move it ahead before he lost all chances entirely. He immediately charged his new firm with making war routines. The major programming had to remove emotions and political opinions while increasing knowledge of weapons, their usage, and tactical warfare in all environments.

His office started recruiting new military personnel by the thousands. Offering financial incentives and free food for family members of military they started building their routine army and then filling them with steroids to make them as strong as they were smart. Within 6 months, large groups of routines were sent out to every state capital city to start patrolling.

By the end of the year, a large education camp was opened in the middle of the Mojave Desert to help citizens understand how great President Hope was. The first students to attend were non-routine military who had originally been charged with maintaining the streets they grew up in yet instead started and led riots themselves.

By the end of year two, life was basically back to normal. People went to work and paid taxes. They went to grocery stores and movies. They traveled from city to city and could even leave the country, though getting back in was more difficult than ever. People speculated what exactly went on in the education camps and stories would pop up on social websites about family members that had never returned, though these were often taken down and replaced by notes that apologized for overreacting and their family members had contacted them and were doing fine.

And news media continued commenting on news stories including what was going on in Washington. They would break stories of freedoms being removed or people disappearing yet since they had always overreacted and overstated or misstated facts in the past, none of this really seemed to matter to anyone.

The truth was America was numb to drastic and devastating occurrences. Whether it was a natural disaster, a bombing, or political scandal they saw so much negativity spewed through all sorts of media outlets on a near constant basis that they didn’t really pay much attention to what was going on in Washington. There were extremists holed up in rural areas screaming that this was the end of the world and our rights were gone but they had been doing that all along as well. The only difference was there were more of them but no one noticed because they WERE in rural areas.

And the routines were effective. There was less crime in New York City than ever before and no one could really argue with those results, not that people didn’t try. But the routines had a flaw.

The problem with an army of thousands in a small area is getting consistent and concise orders out to the right people in a timely manner. One person couldn’t relay information back and forth with more than a handful at a time. They played the telephone game with information up the chain until it was distorted and useless. But Hope had been working on this problem as well.

He had the acquired scientists and programmers working on a way for a single routine to be able to instantaneously communicate with other routines. What he got was even better, as they created routers who could not only instantly communicate, but do it without using a radio and be able to see what they see as well.

They called them routers, filtering information to and from routines as needed, and they were an upgrade to the existing programming. Communications could happen from across the lands thanks to the infrastructure already being full of cell phone towers, which bounced information around perfectly. They started finding the people who would make good leaders with a large need for the ability to multitask and oversee large battle areas. To their chagrin America had been training such people for years so they started putting a requirement on applications that you would have had to play hundreds of hours of strategy and war video games to be considered.  Applications flooded in.

And so he had his army to squash any negativity to his rule in no time at all. He became a router himself to be able to receive information from all the other routers around the U.S. He was powerful, full of diplomatic information with an army at his complete control, and a nation practically getting out of his way so he could rule it.

Now just 5 years after taking total control of the U.S. he had one thing on his mind, which city would he bomb first?