The following excerpt is from Chapter 8 entitled "Purple Haze." Previously Dirck and Win had departed from the Caverns and reported to the Clique's primary military outpost at Apoca Canyon. Creena, her mother, Sharra, and her little brother, Deven, remained behind to continue researching the crystals Deven had discovered that so far demonstrated amazing properties. Dirck didn't like the idea due to the likelihood of discovery by Integrator forces, but the others dismissed his concerns by insisting they could teleport to safety using the Think Tank.
As Dirck feared, the Caverns are discovered and he and Win set out to retrieve the others. By the time they arrive, commandos have already raided the Caverns. So far the others have evaded capture and are gathering in the Think Tank so they tell Dirck he can leave. He doesn't, insisting that they wait a while to make sure the other make it to safety. The following sequence is what he and Win observe.
8. Purple Haze
DIRCK CLEARED A SMALL PATCH of condensation from the shuttle’s window with a gloved hand, startled yet again by how frigid it was. He’d never dreamed anything could be worse than dual suns at Peak Opps, but Dead Drop Winter offered stiff competition. The bone-chilling cold was as lethal as heat, draining resilience from everything, be it batteries or people but, as the season dragged on, what gripped him most tightly in the icy fingers of gloom was the darkness. He stared past his own troubled reflection to the frozen waste beyond, unable to see anything save the distorted image of Nifeir, stars long lost to a persistent haze as the atmosphere’s moisture precipitated from sub-freezing temperatures. The window fogged anew then flash-froze to etched crystal.
It didn’t take long for the cold to penetrate the vehicle’s conductive structure then move through the interior in icy waves that threatened to suck the will from Dirck’s weary body. He folded his arms close, the black, navy and grey shadowed fatigues well-insulated against normal temperature inversions, yet didn’t protect against those invading his heart. The transport shuddered as Win activated the fuel cells, both to charge the batteries and throw some heat to defrost the window. The defogger cleared a small arc that edged upward by millimeters then reached steady-state just below eye level, refusing to progress any further.
He didn’t know what he was watching for, only that something wouldn’t let him leave. Deven’s directive had made sense, that they’d use the Tank and meet at Apoca Canyon, but something wasn’t right. He couldn’t identify it, only knew a deep and ominous fear churned inside.
The past week or so had been rough. With all the resources they had his predominant impression of Apoca Canyon had evolved to that of acute entropy. There were too many people that didn’t know what to do. On top of that, there were different opinions, different cultures, different languages and even different equipment incompatible with the rest.
There were plenty of Cliquers, such that they should have been a formidable opponent but instead it was a covey of confusion, contention and contradictions. Even he and Win had been swept into it, disagreeing more than ever before, primarily over the weapons issue. Nearly two-thirds promoted the development of offensive weapons, the others preferring an emphasis on defensive. Dirck could see the necessity of both, and was thus in trouble with everyone, more often than not. The constant arguing had driven Igni to distraction and he hadn’t seen the Arcturian in days. Storm did well supervising operations yet lacked the ability to instill unity within the troops, something his father had done effortlessly.
“What are you beating yourself up over now?” Win asked, arms slung behind his head.
“Nothin’,” Dirck replied, not moving his eyes from their distant focus. “I’m just worried, that’s all. I should have never let them stay, alone like that.”
“They wanted to, remember? As I recall, they refused to leave. If anything goes wrong, it certainly won’t be your fault.”
Dirck didn’t answer, the issue of blame far removed from his greatest concern. What had really gotten to him lately was loneliness. He’d never thought much about it before, but he’d never been away from his family like this, ever. There’d always been someone there, either ‘Merapa or ‘Merama and Deven, and for the first time he had a glimpse of what Creena must have experienced when she’d jettisoned in the pod. No wonder she couldn’t accept the fact ‘Merapa was gone. A deep and poignant longing had begun shortly after his arrival at Apoca, one he’d dismissed previously by telling himself they’d be together again soon. Now he wasn’t so sure, loss creeping through him like the frigid air beyond the window.
He couldn’t stop thinking about Creena. He’d never made peace with her, as ‘Merama had requested, which nagged him constantly. What if he never saw her again? His excuse that he’d been too busy and distracted preparing for the move fell flat, not even enough to convince himself. Then, during that brief flash when she’d first contacted him with whatever she’d finally come up with, it was as if a part of her had implanted itself in his heart. For the first time he realized how badly he’d misjudged her. He’d always known it with his mind but now he knew it with his heart. He’d actually felt her eagerness to make contact and share her success.
Maybe that was where his own loneliness originated, in that longing he sensed in her for everyone to be together again. A longing that with ‘Merapa gone could never be fulfilled.
His stare focused back to a slight depression occluded by shadow where their ballome had once stood. He’d never imagined that those horrid days of sweat and hard labor when he and ‘Merapa had been building the water distiller would rank among his happiest memories. But they’d been together then, most of them, anyway, and there was hope that Creena would join them shortly. So what did he do when she got back, but immediately start in on her again. What was the matter with him anyway? The energy sink deepened with the ominous feeling he’d never see anyone again, period.
As he stared outside wracked by premature grief a ghostly purple haze formed above the ground about a few hundred meters away, at first seeming no more than another air pocket traumatized by cold. It gathered intensity and crept outward, the brightening glow an apparent chemical reaction or energy field.
The location was where he thought the Think Tank should be, yet ‘Merapa had insisted that there were no visible emissions, only magnetometer disturbances. The wave continued its radial motion, edge aglow as it swept frozen ground.
“Hey, what’s that?” he asked, pointing.
Win straightened in his seat and scowled, reaction abrupt and decisive.
“We’re outa here, man,” he said, not even taking time to warm up the vector disks before throttling to full power.
“What is it?” Dirck asked, holding on as the vehicle screeched in protest then entered a sharp climb and banked toward Apoca.
“There’s only one thing that moves like that,” Win answered, a rare edge in his voice.
“Radiation from a lasoclear weapon.”
Dirck buried his face in his hands as the implications consumed his mind.
Oh, ‘Merapa, I’m so sorry. . .
Win’s hand rested sympathetically on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, man,” he said quietly. “I’m really, really sorry.”
As the initial shock ebbed, denial drove hope to a vain surge and, by the time they got back to the Canyon, Dirck had convinced himself that it had been no more than Tank blooms ionizing hypo-chilled air.
Not wanting to contradict Win or set himself up for an argument he was sure to lose, he’d kept his theory to himself, fully expecting to find Creena, ‘Merama and Deven at the outpost awaiting their return. After all, when Deven had told him to go back, he’d described his quarters so they’d have a reference for the Tank’s telekinetics. They’d be there, waiting, that was all there was to it.
Win had barely docked the transport in its sling when Dirck flew out the hatch and raced down the winding passages, by now certain he’d find a welcoming committee in his room. He slapped the palmlatch and fairly dove through the opening, his presence activating low level lighting. He stopped and spun around, frantically seeking any sign of their arrival. His sleep cyll, comcon, scattered clothing and a few packages of dehydrated fruit stared back from their repose, the configuration identical to how he’d left it, comcon still set to the channel which had alerted him to the raid. He turned again, unwilling to accept the truth, then slowly sank down on his cyll, staring at the door.And thus he spent the entire sleepzone, drifting back and forth between grief and denial, eyes open but unseeing, until Win came to get him in the morning. His friend said nothing of events recently passed, only made a fast stop at the messhall where he insisted Dirck eat then each returned to what they’d been doing when so rudely interrupted by the contingency at the Caverns.
Q: What was your first impression of the Brightstars when they walked into the Supply Depot (SD) where you worked as a clerk?
WS: It was like being hit by a lightning bolt. I felt I'd either known them before or that they'd be important to my life in some way. That first time I looked Laren in the eye I knew we were bonded in some way. I sensed his intelligence and importance immediately and that we'd do something big together. Of course much later, when I discovered we were both in the Ledorian Order, it made even more sense. Dirck immediately felt like an old friend. I could see he felt a little lost and having been there myself I could empathize.
Q: You seem to know a little about just about everything, perhaps what is referred to on Earth as "a jack of all trades and a master of none." How did you learn so much more about life than most people your age?
WS: Going through the Academy on Mira III helped me develop a good memory. If I read something once, it sticks. When I'd get bored, which was a lot, I'd pick a subject at random and learn all I could about it. It was almost weird how often those things would eventually be something that got me out of a bad situation. I'm also good at learning vicariously from other people's experiences, especially their mistakes. When I'd watch Concurrency Reviews, which we call CRs and you Earthlings call "the news," I'd always put myself into the situation and think about what I would have done that would've resulted in a different outcome. When people got out of line on Mira III they always got caught and then the Directorate made an example out of 'em. I would always ponder why they got caught and how they could 've gotten away with it, whatever it was. That fault tree exercise Dirck and I went through for the prison rescue was a natural process for me. I just never knew it had a name.
Q: Were you fully aware of how much trouble you would have been in if you'd gotten caught helping the Brightstars?
WS: [Expletive deleted.] Yeah. I totally knew. When I worked for that creep at the Territorial Tower I saw what those people with even a little political clout could do. I not only saw it but it was my job to enter it into the records, which would set supposedly appropriate consequences in motion, deserved or not. At first I thought these people had done something horrible and deserved it. Until I knew one of them personally and was fully aware the charges were fake. That did it. I got so reeked it's a good thing my boss was on TDY to some other planet because I know I would have done something stupid like demand an explanation. After I calmed down and thought it through, I understood I could do more to undermine it by keeping quiet. He'd check on my work from time to time, though, seeing if the person he'd targeted had been arrested or whatever, so I had to put the stuff in there like he said. When the billet opened for that position at the SD I knew that was a place I could make a difference. I knew I'd be doing a whole lot more than handing out plumbing supplies. But to answer your question, while I knew what would happen if I got caught, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be, that I knew enough to operate covertly and get away with it. I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference, not a risk.
Q: What about that wild ride through Guipure Canyon? Any comments on that?
WS: [Laughs] I've never told Dirck, but there were a few moments I doubted we'd survive. But that's one thing about being Ledorian, you're not afraid to die. Death is just a threshold to another plane of existence. If Dirck had died it would have been really bad, though, leaving his mother and brother on their own with his father an eppy in the Epsilon lockup. And that made me feel that somehow we'd be okay. Sometimes you get in a situation that's so bad it has to be fate and all you can do is hope you didn't make a huge mistake. It was really the turning point for Dirck. He started to get it after that and really leave Mira III and all its culture-based compliance crap behind. I think it takes looking death square in the eye before you really understand life.
Q: So now that things have settled down, at least on Cyraria, what are your plans? Find a nice girl and settle down? Or more adventures?WS: [Smiles.] I don't know, maybe both. To be honest, I'm getting a little bored. Things are too quiet. And while things have settled down here for a while, I don't think it'll last more than a cycle or two. There's still a lot of crap going on out there galactically. They'll be back, especially now that this place is turning into a halfway decent planet. Laren promised Sharra he'd stick around, at least 'til Deven's raised, but he's pushing for me and Dirck to go to Esheron and really get into this Order thing. And I gotta tell ya, I'd love to meet that gal, Antara, who stood up to Spoigan. That's my kind of woman. So let's just say only time will tell.
Q. How did you get the idea for Star Trails Tetralogy books?
A. I suspect that a lot of science fiction stories which have come out in the past few decades were inspired in some way by the original Star Wars. My original story was inspired by the escape pod sequence and I know of at least one other sci-fi author who likewise used that for at least part of their story. The first thing that popped into my mind was "What if a rebellious teenage girl accidentally got fired off in one?" That got the story started but of course her family, specifically her father, would have to go looking for her. As the characters developed the story became much more complicated to the point it expanded into four books instead of one while originally I thought it would be no more than a short story or novella. That's what happens when you characters take over.
Q. If you could spend a week in your book's world would you? Why or why not?
A. Yes, I would love to. The weather extremes on my planet play key roles and I have lived in places that have extreme cold (Utah) and extreme heat (Texas). What I would like to visit would be the domed and underground cities developed to withstand the elements and personally observe the dynamics of the paths of the two suns, especially when the planet passes between them in its lemniscate-shaped (figure-8) orbit. I had all sorts of fun figuring out how that would look using a globe and two flashlights, especially since the planet also has a nearly horizontal axis of rotation.
Q. How did your cover for Refractions of Frozen Time come about?
A. I had a great cover designer who did the covers for all four books. I wanted to capture the environments as well as the characters. In "Refractions of Frozen Time" the crystals play such an important role that we decided to include them as well. It took a bit of tweaking to figure out where to place it when we already had three of the characters on the cover. It finally became obvious to have it reflect its role in the story of being the means for bringing back their father who was onboard a spacecraft headed for permanent exile.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing Refractions of Frozen Time?
A. The hardest part was tying everything together and making sure there were no conflicts with the previous books. Things got pretty complicated and I had to make sure everything was consistent, which meant rereading the previous books. While doing so I was able not only to find areas I needed to match but also a few things I'd forgotten that tied in beautifully with the story and its conclusion.
Q. Who is the hardest character for you to write for?
A. I can't think of any. I didn't create them, per se, they revealed themselves to me through their actions and dialog. I just let them go and recorded what they said and did. Often I was surprised myself.
Q. If you could co-write with any author who would you want to write with?
A. I would love to co-write with Ceri London. We did a beta exchange for this book and her latest, "Destiny Nexus." We have similar ideas and I had a lot of fun working with her.
Q. What is it about SciFi that draws you into writing about it?
A. I have loved sci-fi since I discovered the genre when I was in grade school. When I was in 6th grade I was writing science fiction stories about where the teachers we didn't like originated. My affinity with it was such that being a writer drove my decision to pursue a physics degree more than anything else. I knew that authors should write what they know so I obtained the education and then pursued a career in aerospace so that I would have the tools to be a science fiction writer.
Q. What do you do to get over writes block?
A. I usually discuss it with my characters and ask them what they're going to do. I may set it aside for a few days or even ask the Universe to give me the inspiration I need when I go to bed at night. I often get ideas with or without writer's block while doing mindless chores like vacuuming, washing dishes, weeding or mowing the lawn. I have more writer's block when it's time to write book blurbs or query letters, actually. LOL.
Q. What is your favorite book?
A. That's a tough one because I love so many. There are a few nonfiction books that changed my life and would be at the top of the list. There are others about physics, astrology or other esoteric subjects that I likewise loved. I've read so many wonderful novels I don't think I can name only one there, either. I know that's a bit of a cop out but the list would be horrifically long.
Q. Do you have any odd writing habits?
A. I think all authors have their own way of doing things. One thing I do which may be unique is when I get an idea for a scene, whether or not it's planned or in sequence, I go ahead and write it. These usually flow and often bring in new characters and plot twists. These are the ones that my muse, Kalliope, dictates and often contain my best writing which requires little if any editing later. In other words, I don't start writing at the beginning and go chapter by chapter until I reach the end. It's more like putting a puzzle together which even keeps me guessing sometimes regarding how situations will work out.
Q. Have you always been good at English?
A. Reasonably good. My mother corrected my grammar from when I was a little child so I was always aware of it. I hated diagramming sentences and quite honestly never entirely understood the concept. I do have a minor in English which provided some useful background but I think I learned the most about writing when I was a technical writer at NASA. Up until then I'd written for newspapers and various newsletters where I received essentially no editorial guidance. When I started recording the minutes of technical meetings which had to be signed by the engineers as well as myself was my first experience with true editing. At first it was annoying but when I got past all the red ink I would realize that the product was better for it. It helped me to get past my pride and realize that others can often improve your work which was a good thing. I have several blogs in a four-part series entitled "Confessions of a Reviewer from Hell" which chronicles my journey as a writer. You can find the first entry here: https://marcha2014.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/confessions-of-a-self-admitted-reviewer-from-hell/.
Q. What is the hardest part of publishing a book?
A. For me it has been the marketing side. I've been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, but I'm also relatively shy and was raised that it was impolite to brag or promote yourself. Obviously that doesn't work very well if you want to sell books. I live in the country where the nearest town, which is small, is 15 miles away. It's at least 50 miles to any actual cities where I could probably hawk my books, have book signings, etc. So between being fairly introverted and the physical distance, this part is difficult for me.
Q. What is it about space that interests you?
A. Any subject, earthbound or otherwise, for which we don't have all the answers, interests me. It's great fodder for the imagination and a lot of fun to learn about and put your own spin on what information is available. The peace and isolation has a philosophical appeal as well as the science.
Q. Do you know how Star Trails Tetralogy will end?
A. Definitely! "Refractions of Frozen Time" is the conclusion for the four-part series and it does indeed end. That is not to say there won't be subsequent spin-offs or prequels but this particular saga which largely entails getting the Brightstar family back together does at last conclude.
Q. Is it hard writing a book series?
A.It's harder for me to write something short. When I try to write a short story it tends to become a novel and when I try to write a novel it becomes a series. I get into the characters too much and all the other plot details. I figure if I wonder what or why something occurs in a story then my readers will, too! I never intended for Star Trails to become four books but that is what it took to wind things up and cover the story.
Q. What is your favorite site to talk to your readers?
A. I like Goodreads or my blog site. They're all set up for comments which work great.
MARCHA FOX GUEST BLOG POST
I ♥ Sci Fi
I've been a science fiction fan for as long as I can remember. It started when I was in grade school and discovered H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Robert A. Heinlein. I couldn't even begin to name my favorite sci-fi books. The list would be far too long, though I did attempt to include a few on Amazon's Listmania which you can find here: http:/www.amazon.com/Favorite-Science-Fiction-Stories/lm/R2ZY3ZD3AXZJXG/.
My love of the genre was further fueled by the original Star Trek TV series (yes, I'm that old), then years later by movies such as Star Wars and its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. I absolutely loved Back to the Future I and III as well as ET: The Extraterrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind,and Alien which all maintain a solid grip on my list of favorites. Needless to say, these movies were popular upon release and continue to live on via cable and satellite TV, Net Flix and, of course, DVDs. Obviously, lots of people at least like sci-fi enough to be considered a fan. After all, the nerd population alone cannot explain the success these flicks enjoyed at the box office.
But there are fans and there are Fans. To be a Fan takes your dedication to the next level. I remember someone cozying up to me one time in church so she could whisper in my ear. I expected her to tell me my slip was showing or I had a massive run in my pantyhose but instead she asked somewhat conspiratorially, "Are you a trekkie?" I'm not sure how she could tell, but clearly it showed, if not my slip, and this otherwise rather spiritual woman recognized me as one of her own.
That alone probably doesn't necessarily qualify me as a Fan, only weird. But I'm sufficiently obsessed with sci-fi that I've actually been to a few Sci-Fi Conferences, or Cons as they're affectionately called. No, I wasn't tromping around in chainmail (and ONLY chainmail) or dressed like Princess Leia, but I definitely understand the humor behind Bimbos of the Death Sun. Surely you've heard of it--no? Okay, nevermind. Let's just say it's a cult classic in the Con crowd. And actually, quite a few people go to Cons, but would the truth be known, there are two different categories of attendees: After all, there wouldn't be sci-fi fans (or Fans) without sci-fi authors.
I'm not saying this to brag, but I've been writing science fiction since 6th grade when I penned (or rather penciled) stories on lined, yellow paper explaining our teachers' origins (at least the ones we didn't like). This has continued, though it's no longer teachers who populate my tales, placing me in the "author" category. This, in turn, takes me slightly beyond Fan and qualifies me as a FAN. Unless you're a total masochist you're not going to turn out over a thousand pages of science fiction, some of which was done on a manual typewriter, unless you're also a huge FAN.
But beyond that there are FANS. These people (mostly) are the ones so totally obsessed with science fiction that they live it. I, my friend, am here to confess that I am one of those. Initiation into this category is not for everyone. At the least, it involves numerous long nights exerting mental effort sufficient to spawn a brain hemorrhage. It's multivariable calculus applied to electro-magnetic theory. Orbital dynamics or reference frame transformations. Deriving Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity as well as General Relativity plus knowing the difference between the two.
These are not problems that the average Star Wars fan or Fan would recognize if they hit them upside the head. These are typical problems that physics majors confront as they attempt to discover exactly what the science comprises behind science fiction. Which is exactly what a person totally obsessed with science fiction is likely to subject themselves to.
Yes, I am that weird. I got a bachelor's degree in physics as part of my obsession for science fiction. Then I was lucky enough to work at NASA for over twenty years. And now I'm retired and finally get to fully return to my first love, science fiction.
You've probably heard the saying, "You don't have to be crazy to work here but it helps." To paraphrase, "You don't have to be a physicist to write science fiction, but it helps." Not only does it help but it provides you a plethora of great ideas because the more you know about this stuff the weirder it gets. It's a total blast. Writer's block? Just read the latest research and you've got more ideas than you could develop in fifty lifetimes.
Surely not all science fiction fans are physicists but I would dare say that the converse is true and the vast majority of physicists are sci-fi fans, Fans, FANS or perhaps even FANS in that sci-fi had an effect on them similar to mine. And I truly hope that my attempt at this genre brings my readers (and hopefully fans) even a nano-bit of enjoyment. Whether I could possibly inspire any of them to become FANS like those early sci-fi genre pioneers did for me I'll probably never know, but I can always hope I run into one at a Con someday or maybe in a galaxy, far, far away. Until then, may you Live Long and Prosper (RIP, Mr. Spock), May the Force be with You, and may you can find me at the links below.
Beyond the Hidden Sky Normal Price: $2.99 Coupon Code: KD23N Price with coupon: $0.99
A Dark of Endless Days Normal Price: $3.99 Coupon Code: TC47L Price with coupon: $1.99
A Psilent Place Below Normal Price: $3.99 Coupon Code: RX52X Price with coupon: $1.99
Refractions of Frozen Time Normal Price: $3.99 NO COUPON NEEDED Promotional Price: $0.99 at all outlets until MARCH 19, 2015
Social Media Links
Other Books in Star Trails Tetralogy Series
Amazon Link to Entire Series
Nook Link to Entire Series
Smashwords Link to Entire Series
Volume I: Beyond the Hidden Sky
Volume II: A Dark of Endless Days
Volume III: A Psilent Place Below
The Star Trails Compendium