Experimental Writing: Part 12

This is the last installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year.  There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out.  The story proper starts here.

Esther and Owain crouched low behind some rocks that were the least worst option that they’d found for cover.  Owain tried to watch the lake where Meredith had disappeared and the path up which a group of people were coming.  Hard to tell from this distance, but the words ‘thug’ and ‘disgruntled’ sprang to mind.  Esther was similarly trying to split her attention, but she was watching vicariously through the HUD’s relayed imagery from the drones.

Whilst the thugs looked dangerously muscled, Owain and Esther were surprised at how out-of-breath they looked when they finally reached the edge of the lake.  Esther zoomed in and was amazed at the details she could see, down to beads of sweat forming on foreheads and dribbling down the side of red faces.  Zooming back out she watched as their leader directed them to fan out.

Nothing much happened for several minutes.  The muscle visibly relaxed as they got their breath back, but with each passing second the head honcho became more worried, more irritated, more tense.

The geyser of water took everyone by surprised, and completely soaked the men standing at the edge of the lake.  The plume of water topped out at some 150 m.  Esther was fascinated to see the exact height marked in the HUD.  She wasn’t quite sure what she did, but an icon next to the information blinked, opened into a box and informed her that this was taller than the eruptions of the Steamboat Geyser of Yellowstone, currently the tallest known geyser in the world, but not enough to displace the world record of 490 m held by Waimangu in New Zealand.  She blinked and the box disappeared.  The distraction gone, she realised that Meredith was at the top of the column of water – and coming back to earth fast.

Or rather, coming back to water.  Meredith hit the lake at a speed 50 metres per second, bounced, and then sank back below the water.  Esther and Owain looked at each other, and then back at the milling people at the lake edge.  There was a lot of shouting and gesticulating, but it was difficult to work out what was going on.  They deduced that people were being ordered into the water by the fact that heavy-duty jackets were reluctantly being shrugged off, and boot-laces were being untied.  You could tell that their hearts weren’t really in it though, until the point that the leader pulled out a pistol, then they started moving a bit faster.

It was at this point that a second geyser erupted.  This was not quite as impressive as the first, but worth watching all the same for at the centre there was some kind of wrestling match occurring.  Meredith seemed to be grappling with something: an indeterminate number of tractomorphic arms were attempting to get the upperhand.  Esther, with the benefit of the HUD, realised that not all the arms were Meredith’s.

“Miss Esther?”

“Bunter?”

“Yes, miss.”

“Oh – just call me Esther.”

“I couldn’t possibly do that, miss.  Is everything well, miss?”

“Hard to say.  There’s some kind of wrestling match going on and there’s a load of gangsters getting ready, but I don’t know what for.”

“I see.”

“Are you another alien, Bunter?”

“That doesn’t really matter right now.  At the moment I’m at the heart of the operations of Rhys Probert’s operations.  My orders are to shut them down at the appropriate psychological moment.  Would you say that’s now?”

“Errm…I really don’t know.  What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to going to sequester his computer system and call the police in.”

“That sounds like it might take a while.”

“It’ll certainly take a while for the police to sift through everything, but I can send Probert a message to tell him what’s going on.”

“Alright…Do it.  Send the message when I say.”

“Very good, miss.”

The geyser of water subsided again and the combatants sank below the water.  A moment later something appeared to rise above the surface.  Was it an arm?  What was it holding?  The men on the shore were looking at it intently, one or two pointing, and the man with the pistol started gesticulating furiously again.  He seemed to reach fever pitch when the arm or whatever it was got dragged back down much more quickly than it had risen.

“Ok – now!”

It was not the man with the pistol that reacted, but one that Esther had not noticed so far, one that appeared to be unaffected by the dramas unfolding out on the lake and on the shore.  He pulled out a mobile phone from the pocket of his suit, and glanced at the screen.  Hard to tell from this distance, but his body language suggested an increasing interest in the phone and increasing tension.  Bad news, clearly.   He called to the man with the pistol, and when that gained no response, he bravely grabbed at the man’s arm and shoved the phone into his face.

***

Rhys Probert was not a happy man.  The entity in the lake was under some form of attack, and it wasn’t really clear from what.  His family had called it ‘The Lady’ since time out of mind, and several legends had grown up.  It wasn’t really a blood ancestor, but it’s help had shaped his family’s fortunes for generations.  His whole operation depended on the tech that it had provided, and his continued existence relied on the the medicines that it gave him.

And now the Gardeners had some fit of the collywobbles and didn’t want to get involved, and Jenkins was pushing a phone at him saying there was a problem.

Probert was about 30 seconds away from shooting someone.

***

“It’s not working, bach, he’s just getting more angry – he looks fit to burst!”

“Not to worry, miss, I have an idea.  Can you give me control of one of the drones, please?”

“I could if I knew how to!”

“Nothing simpler, miss” Bunter was relishing the role.  He talked her through it and took control.

The drone flew closer and lower.

“Rhys Probert!” A strong Cardiff accent boomed out of a speaker on the drone. “Rhys Probert!  Attention.  This is Superintendent Brydon.  Put your weapon down, return to your car and await the arrival of officers who will be with you momentarily.”

This was too much for most of the group who broke and scattered.  Probert was practically frothing at the mouth now, and he shot at the drone, emptying the entire clip in an attempt to bring it down.

Jenkins, unflappable as ever, waited until the shooting stopped then grabbed Probert’s arm and dragged him away.

Peace returned to Llyn-y-fan Fach.  So much peace, in fact, that Esther began to worry.

“What’ll we do, Owain?  How are we going to get Meredith out?”

“Look, bet!” Owain said, pointing. Meredith was oozing out of the lake, pulling something behind them.

Owain and Esther broke cover and ran to their fallen friend.  What on earth would they be able to do?  How did you do first aid on an alien?  How could you tell what was wrong?  How could you tell if they were still alive?

“Bunter!  What do we do?”

***

Owain and Esther watched from a safe distance as the spaceship took off.  Meredith was barely conscious, but Bunter had managed things admirably, and had ensured that Owain and Esther had been suitably reassured.  They had gently transferred the limp form back to the Landrover, attached the medi-pack under Bunter’s direction and secured all the equipment.  While they were getting sorted, Bunter had sent one of the drones off.  It came back just as they were getting ready to leave with a vial of something that Bunter directed that they pour into the lake.  The thing that Meredith had recovered turned out to be remarkably disappointing, but apparently this was just a control-nexus or something, and there was a lot more at the bottom of the lake that should be left just lying around.  The vial contained a programmable liquid robot that would dismantle the operations that ‘the Lady’ had built up over the time spent on Earth.

Bunter directed them to place the used equipment into the bay on the side of the craft.  Meredith had just about managed to get themself into the cockpit, with a little help.

“I guess we’d better go and get Nerys then,” Owain had said.

“Hopefully she hasn’t rung Ma and Da” Esther giggled.

***

A few days later, Owain and Esther began to wonder if they’d dreamed it all.  That was, until a letter arrived for their parents.  Apparently Bunter and Partners, representing a distant relative needed to arrange for a legacy to be paid to them.

© David Jesson, 2019


Ok  – a slight fib.  This was the last installment of the story proper, but there will be an epilogue, of sorts to round things out.  This will be posted on the 31st December and will close my writing experiment that I’ve been running this year.

 

Experimental Writing: Part 11

This is the latest installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year.  There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out.  The story proper starts here.

Meredith got out of the Landrover and looked around.  Llyn y Fan Fach was not quite as impressive as they had expected – the legend that Esther had recounted had built up the place somewhat and the body of water did not live up to it.  A small lake, by virtue of the fact that small rills tumbled down the mountainside as some kind of watery sacrifice, and because, when the lake was high enough, excess water fed into the arteries of the land.  It was these two features that technically made this a lake rather than a large pond.  The lake lurked at the bottom of steep sided mountains.  Bunter being busy elsewhere, the AI took it upon itself to tentatively offer that the shape of the lake was a bit like that of the island-continent Australia, and that the general setting was reminiscent of a a volcano, or an impact crater, that had tumbled down and worn away preferentially on the northern side.  In fact, the AI said, the small U shaped mountain range was the result of glaciation.  Meredith made a note to find out what glaciation was at a later date.  Maybe.  It didn’t seem to have any direct relevance at the moment.  Meredith caught themselves reflecting on how the lake didn’t look anything like Australia: too rectangular and the point bit was in the wrong place entirely.  A speech bubble might be a better analogy.  Meredith ruefully reflected that Bunter would probably have gone with speech analogy option, avoiding the distraction of overthinking things.  Trying to ignore the sensations of missing the sentient sub-routine, and of hoping that it was ok, Meredith gave a virtual shake of the head and returned focus to the tasks at hand.

Owain, by virtue of unmarked farm roads, sheep-tracks, and dry stream beds, had managed to bring the Landrover to the foot of the Picws Du peak, a few hundred metres from the edge of the lake and half a kilometre from the point at which the footpath up from the carpark reached the demesne of Llyn y Fan Fach.

“Owain, just tuck the Landrover back to the edge of the hillside would you?”  Meredith said whilst rummaging in their backpack for something.  Owain obliged, and then hopped down from the drivers seat.  By this time Meredith had found what he was looking for: a small package, the size of teabag.  Meredith issued an instruct/authorise code and the package began to unfold, and unfold, and unfold.

“Esther, Owain, quick!  Grap hold of an edge before we lose it entirely!”

“What is it?” Esther gasped as she grabbed at the proffered edge, reacting to the tone of voice.

“Invisibility cloak…” you could almost hear the smirk.  “Right lets pull it over the Landrover.  Yes, that’s right.  OK, Esther, you make sure that it’s tucked in round the wheels at the front.  We don’t need to worry so much about the back, because nobody will see it, but we do need to make sure that it can’t flap lose or something.

They stood back to admire their handiwork.

“I thought you said it was an invisibility cloak” Owain said critically.  “I can still see the Landrover.”

Meredith attempted to snap his fingers in a grand gesture, and failed due to the lack of sufficient tension between the two fingers.  They both looked at the little alien at the crucial moment though, the moment when the activation code was sent, and that was what mattered.   Looking back to where the Landrover was parked, Esther let out a little squeaking gasp, and Owain gave a low whistle.  He was surprisingly calm and collected, and didn’t walk towards the car, but instead circled around it, wolf-like.  He stopped, shock showing on his face and then he started laughing, beckoning Esther over.   His sister joined him, although in the few moments that it took her to reach the spot where he stood, he was laughing so hard he could barely stand-up.  There, hanging in the air, she saw the part of the Landrover that hadn’t been covered by the cloak.  the back door, the rear wheels, just appeared to be standing there.   She moved her head slightly.  It was impossible to see the Landrover from any other direction, and because they had folded the cloak around at the back, there wasn’t even a tell-tale one dimensional line.

“Come on you two – we’ve got work to do.”

“Coming” Esther said.  BY this time Owain was weeping and practically doubled over.  She couldn’t see the joke herself, but that was boys for you.  She grabbed his sleeve and gently pulled him along, he stumbled slightly but took a deep ratcheting breath and tried to get himself under control.  Esther walked slowly, with many backward looks at the empty patch of ground and the steep slope of the mountainside behind it.  By the time they reached Meredith, Owain was almost master of himself again.  When he finally took in the scene before him, it might have made him hysterical again, but instead his eyes went as wide as saucers.

Whilst the siblings had been distracted by the novelty of the hidden vehicle, Meredith had taken the opportunity to flow out of the clothes that formed the disguise and to tuck the clothes into the backpack.  Space had been made for these by the removal of several items.  The largest Meredith picked up and placed in Esther’s hands.  He took out a couple of plaster-like patches and gently slapped them on the back of Esther and Owain’s necks.

“Right, it’ll take a couple of minutes to synch, but this is my support AI, and I’ve given you both access privileges.  The AI will help you if things go wrong, and will also help you to stay in touch with me.  Esther has priority, because right now she seems the more sensible of the two of you.”

“Hey!” Owain said.  Meredith would have loved to raise an eyebrow at this point, but lacking eyebrows chose to ignore the comment.  Instead, he handed Esther the sunglasses which immediately gave her a heads-up-display of the location.

“Cool! Thank you!”

“So unfair” Owain muttered.

“They’re a better fit for you” Meredith said looking at the girl, “although they’re so easy to use that even Owain could use them.”

“What is this?  Pick on Owain day?  And I did get you here!”

“Ooooh!” Esther gasped, as the patch on her neck tingled.  She wondered if the events of the morning were starting to catch up with her, as a whispering sensation prickled across her brain.  It felt a little like the sensation of having thought of something for a split second, forgotten what it was, but being left with the ghost of the thought.

“And what are they for?” Owain was asking, pointing at the other items on the ground.

“Watch” Meredith said.  Again, an activation code was sent, but this time Esther felt it inside her head, and saw a number of icons appear on the HUD.  On the ground, the packages opened and unfolded like flowers, to reveal small drones which immediately took off and flew up into the sky to give some coverage of the foot-path up to the lake, the carpark and the rest of the Llyn y Fan Fach area.  On the HUD, one of the icons blinked and Esther worked out how to look at it and cause it to maximise.  The video stream from the drone showed some serious looking black cars pulling into the car-park.

“That doesn’t look good!” she exclaimed.  “There are some more of those cars like the ones at the cafe, and one that looked expensive and unsuited to the countryside.  From this one emerged a figure who straightened his jacket and immediately began gesticulating in an authoritative and peremptory manner.

“OK.  Looks like we don’t have much time.  You two find somewhere to hide.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.  I’ll try and stay in touch, but don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a bit.”  And with that the little alien bounced down to the water’s edge.

Just as they bounced higher, preparatory to diving into the lake, Bunter made contact.  Through her link, Esther heard a voice say “It’s me, Bunter.  I’m in.”

“Initiate phase 2.  Esther’s in charge for now” and the spherical alien disappeared into the water.

Esther looked at Owain who said “Who’s Bunter?”

In their minds, a voice said, “Who’s Esther?”

© David Jesson, 2019


During 2019, I’m undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of the story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.

Part 11: to borrow from Terry Pratchett, not quite the final frontier, but pretty penultimate…  Again, no poll, because I know what I want to do to finish off, but if you’ve got any special requests do make sure to let me know!

See you next month!

 

Experimental Writing: Part 10

This is the latest installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year.  There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out.  The story proper starts here.

“A map?”  Owain exploded.  “We don’t need a map.  I know these hills like their the back of my hand, isn’t it.”

“Is it?” Meredith asked, confused by the idiom.

“Definitely,” Esther chipped in.  “Owain’s been back and forth over the Brecon’s on foot, by bike, and in the Landy.  Llyn-y-Fan Fach’s a favourite place to visit.”

“OK…but we need to keep off the main road, whilst getting there as quickly as possible.”

“Easy – and you can keep your map!”

Owain guided the 4×4 along narrow country lanes, back on to the main roads, more side roads, cut through fields across rivers.  Inexorably they closed in on Meredith’s target.  As he drove, the alien told them why they were heading to an obscure, beautiful lake in the Welsh countryside.

“Up there, out there amongst the stars, there are uncountable numbers of alien species.  Some you would call civilizations.  Some are not.  Some are as chimpanzees are to you.  Some are just different, and they wouldn’t give a squirld for what you call civilization.  I guess that doesn’t really matter.  I guess the key thing is that no-one has really noticed that you’re here, and there’s nothing important enough in this part of space to attract people to come and look at you…except…”

“Except what?”  Esther asked, eyes sparkling with excitement and interest.

“Except that something got lost.  It happens more often than you’d think.  Wars can start sometimes – or end.  Sometimes no one notices, and sometimes it doesn’t matter either way.  In this instance…well…  Thousands of years ago, a piece of alien technology got mislaid and no-one noticed.  No one even really knows how it went missing.  No one noticed it had gone missing for quite some time.  And then they did realise, and then they went looking.  It took them a while, because somehow it ended up in this cul-de-sac of the galaxy, where nothing interesting happens, and so know had bothered to look before now.  They picked up on some of the signals that you’ve been throwing out into space and discerned that against all probability you guys were here after all.

“I’m not sure, how I feel about that,” Esther said, frowning slightly.  “It doesn’t paint us in a very flattering light does it?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  Anyway, the aliens hired me to retrieve their tech for them.  They can’t come down to the surface of a planet like this.  It was supposed to be…covert…but someone seems to know that I’m coming.  I’m not sure what that’s about.  But I need to start making some preparations.”

“OK…but do you know anything about where we’re heading?”

“This Llyn y fan fach place?  No, nothing.  Well, not beyond what I’ve been able to glean from your Internet.”

“Huh.  Well there is a legend that three brothers lived around there.  They were famous herbalists, and physicians, and they were supposed to be born of woman who lived in the lake and rose from the water.”

“Well, well, well…that’s interesting. But that’s not the whole story is it?”

“Well some say it’s a version of the story of the Lady of the Lake from the tales of Arthur, but the one we know dates back around a thousand years, and was first written down in one of the most ancient books of Wales.   Supposedly there was a farmer who spotted this beautiful woman down by the lake.  He proposed marriage and she agreed, but said that if he struck her three times, she would leave and go back to the water.  They had a happy life for several years and had three sons.  But over that time there were three occasions where she became hysterical.  The story says he tapped her, whatever that means, and on the third time she ran back to the lake.

“And there’s the lake now, look you” said Owain.  “We’re here!”.

 

© David Jesson, 2019

During 2019, I’m undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of the story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.

Part 10.  Part 10!  Nearly all the way through.  Slightly shorter one this month, and no poll, because I know what I want to fit into those two episodes.  However, if you’ve got any special requests do make sure to let me know!

See you next month!

 

Experimental Writing: Part 9

This is the latest installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year.  There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out.  The story proper starts here.

Owain had parked as he’d been taught, front facing out for a ‘quick get away’ – this was probably not what his Father had in mind all the times he’d said it whilst teaching his son how to drive.  After ensuring Esther and Meredith had their seatbelts, he started the engine, which come to life with a throaty roar.  Even as he was pulling out of the space, Meredith was providing directions, courtesy of the AI.

“Turn right out of here, onto the A40.”

A warning message popped open on Meredith’s heads-up-display.  There was some kind of tracker system on the car, and the circuitry was not of Earth origin.  The diagnostic package determined that it had been stuck to the inside of the back near-side wheel arch.

“We’ve been tagged” Meredith said to Owain.

“What?”

“Just keep driving! Whatever happens next, just keep driving away from here – don’t go too fast though, and look out for a van or something ahead of us.”

Once again, Meredith oozed out of the disguise.  This time, instead of forming into a perfect sphere, a thin tentacle like protuberance extended.  The tractomorphic ‘limb’ reached out and wound down the window – conversation with Owain and Esther in the front of the vehicle was now almost impossible over the noise of the air flowing into and around the 4×4.  Meredith oozed more of themself into the appendage which was creeping its way along the line of the window frame of the rear cabin. When the limb was directly above the wheel hub the limb made a sharp right turn and made its way down towards the wheel arch.

Owain was concentrating on the road, with the occasional glance to see what was coming up behind.  Esther had no such distraction.  Initially she’d try to see what was going on in the side-mirror, but disbelieving this reflected image she’d tried to squirm round in the seat.

“What are you doing, bach?” Owain bellowed over the noise of the air rushing through Esther’s open window. “Get your silly head back in before it gets tangled in the hedge or something!”

Quickly Esther pulled her head in and did the window back up, before trying to find a spot that would enable her to look through Meredith’s open window.  She gasped as she say the tractomorphic limb develop some fine, finger-like features.  The tip of the limb made her think of a star-nosed mole, and she struggled not to gag at the thought of the little wormy features wriggling on the front of the mole’s face.  She watched as the weird, slightly freaky ‘hand’ pulled its way to its target.  Somehow the limb was stuck to the side of the Landrover.  She surprised the desire to be sick, again, as she watched pulse waves travel along the limb, as it thinned out and extended further.

She kept up a running commentary on everything that she could see until her brother let out an exasperated “Shhh!”  In a more kindly tone he said “Put a sock in it, bet, I’m trying to drive us away from whatever’s back there!”

The ‘hand’ had now reached the rim of the arch, and Esther held her breath as the hand disappeared under the arch, so close to the rotating wheel that she thought that it must be dragged away from the electronics package that it was seeking, pulled down and crushed between the wheel and the road.

A moment later the hand came back into view carefully retracting, bulky now, with something held in its grip.  The hand eased passed the wheel with only millimetres to spare.  As it came up, the arm came loose from the side of the Landrover, as if the tracker was too heavy, and peeled away, dropping towards the road.  Even as it do so, Meredith retracted and the hand came whipping back around, up and into the open window.

Two more appendages extruded from Meredith.  One reached out to the little box and with the original hand started turning the tracker over and over.  The other one extended out towards the door and, almost absentmindedly, wound the window shut.  The immediate reduction in noise was almost startling.

“Is that it?  Is that the tracker?” Esther had turned round in her seat and was looking into the back.

Meredith reformed into something approximating a human being.

“Yep.  Give me moment.”

Bunter? How would you like some more responsibility in this organisation? Meredith woke up the AI sub-routine.  I’ve got a job for you…a couple of jobs actually.

“There’s a van up ahead” Owain said, to no one in particular.  “It’s indicating.  Look’s like it’s going to turn right onto the A479.”

“Can you close up on it a bit?”

“I’ll try…what have you got in mind?”

“You’ll see!  Don’t worry too much – look it’s just turned, quick carry straight on past the turning, but speed up quick, at least until we’re the other side!”

Meredith gave the tracker a last caress and, in something that was halfway between a lean and a slump, reached over to the other side of the vehicle and opened the window behind Owain.  As they continued past the turning, the tracker shot out of the window, propelled by a peristaltic pressure wave emanating from inside the alien.  The lorry was perhaps ten yards away and accelerating off down the road, but the tracker arced upwards and came down on the roof, where it stuck.

Release the hounds…

Bunter wondered if it was possible to change names.  In the virtual reality of the AI interface, Meredith caught an image of a man of average height in pin-striped trousers black jacket, black tie, well shined shoes, holding back a pack of large dogs that were straining at the leash.  At Meredith’s command, Bunter let go of the leads, and the dogs ran off down a gravel driveway, seeming to discorporate in mid stride.  Bunter swung itself onto a motorbike, which bore the legend “Triumph” in curly gold lettering on the black paintwork of the fuel tank and set off in pursuit of the hounds.  He too disappeared leaving nothing but a spurt of gravel.

“Right, I definitely owe you two an explanation, or at least as much of one as I’m able to give.  First off, Esther, you’d better take this.”  Meredith handed forward a piece of what looked like a thin film of plastic, but which was as rigid as a piece of glass.  The edges were lipped to prevent accidents.

“What is it?”

“A map.  We’re heading to Llyn-y-Fan Fach, and my computer reckons this is the best route.”

© David Jesson, 2019


During 2019, I’m undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of the story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another.

Good grief!  Three quarters of the way through the year already.  Three installments to go, so time to start wrapping things up.  Apologies for missing-out the poll last month – life got a bit hectic.  As ever, I’ll put this up on Twitter as well, or you can leave a comment.

What sort of ending do we want?

1 – A happy ending e.g. everyone gets more than they deserve.

2 – A tragic ending – Meredith is ultimately unsuccessful, people day

3 – Somewhere in the middle – Meredith wins through, but not without a cost.

4 – Other – Let me know!

See you next month!

 

Experimental Writing: Part 8

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, a mere 26 miles away for a theoretical crow, the retreating Landrover made its way off one giant TV screen and onto another, as it left the field of view of the art gallery’s external security camera and was picked up, briefly, by a traffic camera.  The Landrover disappeared from view completely: the coverage out in rural Wales was less than complete.

A withered hand reached forward, fighting the cocooning embrace of the large leather chair, and picked up a phone handset.  An extended finger pressed a single button, and two floors below a phone rang.  The duty supervisor picked up the receiver.

“Hello, sir, how may I help?”  There was only one person who had this number.

“Are you tracking the car?”  The quavery voice matched the liver-spotted and boney hand.

“We’re doing our best sir.  There’s no visual at the moment, but Maddox planted a device, the signal is very weak though.”  A bank of plasma TV screens filled an entire wall some 20 metres in length.  Five people watched intently.  Three were dealing with other matters, whilst the other two were flicking through various camera views trying to locate the Landrover. On a single screen a map showed a large-scale map of Brecon and environs.  A red pin had been placed where Meredith’s spaceship had landed.  A blue pin marked the art gallery.  A dull ruby red dot pulsed faintly as it moved along the A40.  The dot suddenly became a lot brighter.

“Ah, the signal seems to have improved.  They’ve turned off the A40 and onto the A479 towards Talgarth.”

“What’s that?”

“They were heading North-West, ish, and are now heading in a more Northly direction.”

“Pah.  You’ve lost them.  That fool Maddox must have put the device somewhere it could be found.  They’ve put it on another vehicle to try and fool us.  Get a visual – NOW!”  The phone slammed down as hard as an elderly hand could manage it.

As the supervisor pondered options, directing the two operators to find cameras on likely routes and wondering on the feasibility of getting a drone in the air, the old man returned to watching the art gallery.  The muscle were starting to pull themselves together and were being shooed out by the tea lady, assisted by an expertly flicked tea-towel that was adding further insult, not to mention pin-point accuracy injury, to that already suffered.  They shuffled outside quickly and discovered the damage to their car.  They would not be going anywhere in a hurry.   He watched as one pulled out a mobile phone and –

Ring ring!  A phone on his desk chirped to life.

“Er…boss… bad news…we…er…lost the alien…”

“I can see that you idiot.  Wait there for further orders.”  Again, the phone was returned forcefully to its cradle.

A desk drawer was pulled open and a little glass bottle of tablets was brought out.   There were only a few in the bottle, rattling madly as the palsied hand tried to tip one into the other hand.  He would have to ask for some more, he reflected, and soon.  He washed the tablet down with a glass of water and slumped back in the chair.  Five minutes later, his eyes snapped open, and he sprang to his feet.  He gazed at himself in a large mirror with a garish gilt rococo frame.  The age had dropped away from him: he pulled out comb from his jacket pocket and placed a ruler straight parting into thick black hair which he swept back into place.  The chocolate eyes were no longer rheumy, and anyone could see for themselves the hard glint that was a characteristic of one of the hardest gangsters in Wales.

“Jenkins!” There was no infirmity in the bellow that summoned Rhys Probert’s right-hand man.

“Jenkins!”

Colwyn Jenkins was surprisingly average for someone who’s name was a byword for efficiency in the criminal community and was also known to be the only person that Probert would listen to straight away.   Jenkins was average height (although an inch or two taller than Probert), had an average face with no distinguishing features to hang a description off, and had the kind of average build that comes from not going to the gym, but rarely giving into temptation either.  He eased into the room, neither noisily nor oleaginously – just average.

“Yes, Mr Probert?  You called?” There was no inflection to indicate irony, obsequiousness nor any other emotional response that might be expected from an assistant when peremptorily summoned.

“Get them to get the car ready, and get the Gardeners on the road too.  We’re going to take charge of this ourselves.”

“Do you think that’s wise?”

“Yes, I bloomin’ well do!  It’s been a thousand or more years, but they’ve finally sent someone to collect their lost belongings and we can’t let that happen.  We’d lose all of this, for a start -” he gestured taking in the whole of the room and indicating somehow the whole of the elderly tower block that had been refurbished to modern standards. “It’s not what She wants either.”

“As you wish.  We’ll need to be careful though.  I’ve been interrogating the database on the basis of the information that we’ve managed to collect so far.  The agent that has been dispatched is actually of another race entirely to the original owners.  Shorter life span for a start so much more intent on the here and now.  Also, the database suggests that the agent is likely to be…tricksy…It won’t want to force a confrontation but will try and do things…elliptically.”

“Whatever. Tell the Gardeners to take it alive if they can but not if its going to cause too much trouble.  I don’t care what happens to the kids.  I want to be on the road in 10 minutes.”

Probert opened another desk drawer and pulled out a small pistol which he placed in one pocket and a taser that went into another.

© David Jesson, 2019

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another.

I’ve been a bit pushed this month, so haven’t thought of what to poll on yet.  Will update when I know!  In the meantime, feel free to let me know if there is anything that you’d like me to expand on/any characters that you’d like to see more of.  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

 

Experimental Writing: Part 7

Owain and Esther sat open mouthed staring at the creature before them.

“What…what just happened?” Owain stuttered.

“I’m afraid that my employer’s Security clearly isn’t as tight as they believe it to be and my mission has been compromised.  What is incredibly disconcerting is that whoever was behind this attack is clearly working with someone local.”

What are you?” Esther exclaimed.

Meredith slipped the beanie hat back on, followed by the dark glasses.

“It’s probably best if I go now, and if you forget that you ever saw me.  Go and get your sister.  Go and do something fun – away from here.” The alien slipped out of the door, leaving the two conscious humans gaping at each other.

Esther pulled herself together first.

“Quick!  After him Owain!  We can’t just leave him!”

“I don’t know, bet.” He took in the muscle entangled with furniture and sprawled on the floor in a localised disaster zone around their table.  “This looks like it could be serious – and we don’t anything about Meredith really.  Maybe he deserved this?”

“Owain Rhodri Griffin!  You ought to be ashamed of yourself!  I hope Ma and Da never hear you say such a cowardly thing.  Meredith is clearly in trouble and we should do what we can to help her.”

Before Owain could react, Esther had slipped round the tables after Meredith, and out of the door.

“Wait! Come back!” Owain’s shoulders slumped and he ran a hand across his face.  The gesture turned into an unconscious imitation of his father as he tried to make his adolescent fuzz rasp like a day’s worth of stubble – without success.  It suddenly occurred to him that there might be more of these jokers outside.

“Hey!  Come back!” he repeated, as he followed the path his sister had taken moments before.

*****

The lady on duty in the cafe came from the kitchen behind the counter, carrying a plate, chattering away.

“I’ve just made some pice bach*, cywion, would you like a few?  The Director likes us to have some on the counter all the time, but they much better fresh.”

She looked up and took in the scene of devastation.  A goon spread-eagled over a table, head hanging backwards over the edge, twitched.  Another, contorted around a chair, groaned.

“Ach-y-fi!”

*****

Esther burst through the door of the Arts Centre and into the car park: Meredith was not there.  How could she have moved so quickly.  The girl ran to the pavement and looked up and down the road.  There!  There was the strange creature hurrying along, whilst still somehow looking unobtrusive.

“Meredith!  Meredith, bach!  Wait!” Esther ran after the alien, as Meredith looked over a shoulder and did a double take.

“Meredith!” The girl panted; youth was on her side, but she was distinctly bookish, not completely hopeless at PE, but it was not her forte.  “Meredith, I want to help, if I can.  But I need to know why you’re here, and why people are after you.”

*****

Owain fumbled the keys to the Landrover from his pocket as he cannoned down the corridor from the tea room to the main entrance.  He nearly dropped the bunch as he barrelled through the door.  He regained control on the fourth attempt, having looked like he was juggling a hot potato, the keys slipping, sliding, falling, up again, begin again, as his hands tried to hold on.

“More haste, less speed” he muttered under his breath as he finally caught the bunch, having turned the clumsiness around and caught the bunch with the ignition proud of the rest and ready for action.

As he came through the door, he could hear Esther calling Meredith, but the majority of his attention was taken with the two shiny black SUVs that were parked-up outside the Arts Centre.  The two cars looked like sinister twins, and were the sleeker evolution of his own vehicle.  They had certainly not been there when he, Esther, and Meredith had arrived some thirty minutes before.  As he ran to his own Landrover, he started thinking that perhaps he should do something to slow these monsters down.  He had some thought of sticking a screwdriver from his tool kit through some tyres, but as he passed the SUVs, he noticed that the tyres were already flaccid and in fact seemed to be dribbling and flowing.

Owain shook his head and climbed up in to the driver’s seat of his car.  He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, started the ignition and put the Landrover into gear.  He pulled out of the car park and set out in pursuit of his sister.

*****

“Why are you here?  Why now?”

Meredith was just drawing breath to reply when Owain pulled up beside them.

“Get in quick, then, and we’ll be off.”

Meredith looked up at Owain and back at Esther and was trying to work out what to say when Esther grabbed an arm in one hand and pulled open the door behind the driver with the other and pushed Meredith in.

“Well done, Owain!”

“Right-o.  I’m just going to drive for a bit and then you can tell me where we’re going.   If I don’t know just yet, then I won’t give anything away by my direction.  But Esther asked you a question, several questions, and I’ve got one of my own: what have you done that’s got you into trouble?”

“Hmmm…it’s probably best if you don’t know everything, but you’ve probably worked out that I’m not from Earth.  I’d don’t know who those people were, but they’re obviously trying to stop me.  As for what I’m here to do….it’s a…it’s a…well let’s call it a rescue mission.

*****

*I’ve slipped in some Welsh here and there, and hopefully I’ve got it more or less right.   If I revise this story, I might add in a few more “in a minute now”s, “ti’n iawn”‘s and “shw mae”‘s…we’ll see. Perhaps I should put in a guide for the words I have used.  On the other hand, most of the terms I’ve used are exclamations and terms of endearment, that don’t really need a lot of explanation.  Pice bach though might need some description beyond the context: essentially these are what the Welsh call Welsh cakes, although there are a couple of synonyms as well.  If you’ve not come across Welsh cakes before, these are a little flat, round cake, cooked on a griddle or stone.  They are lightly spiced – nothing too exotic – and contain dried fruit like raisins and sultanas.  They are delicious, moreish, slightly crumbly, and best enjoyed with a cup of tea.

© David Jesson, 2019

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another. We’re over half way now and I know where we are heading but there is still some way to go.  I think that we’re due for some plot exposition, so…

Option 1: Straight Q&A between Meredith and friends

Option 2: Flashback, from Meredith’s perspective

Option 3: Cut to Antagonist…

Option 4: Other(?) – Please comment!

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

 

Experimental Writing: Part 6

Meredith hopped into the back of the Landrover.  Bunter chipped in with a prompt to put on the seat belt: clunk click every trip [smiley face].  There was also a social cue:

“This is so kind of you – thank you.”

“Oh, no trouble, bach, we’re heading that way anyway.”  This from the driver.  A sub-routine of the AI – one that hadn’t achieved sentience and independence – tagged this individual as male.  A warning flag appeared: the driver was adolescent, albeit coming to the end of this development age, and hence prone to naturally occurring chemical fluctuations that could cause risk-taking.

“I’m Owain, by the way, and this is my sister Esther.”  Meredith could see Owain using some kind of primitive mirror to look into the back of the car.  The boy had his attention on the road, but he couldn’t help being intrigued by his passenger’s outfit.

“We’re going to pick up my sister.  She went to a party there.”  The sub-routine labelled the person in the passenger seat as an adolescent girl, but just coming into this stage.  “Why are you heading there?”

“Oh, I’m just doing some walking around here.  I camped up on the mountain last night and when I came down this morning I realised that I’d gone a bit off course.  There’s no where to get anything to eat in Llangynidr, and Crickhowell looked to be the closest place to sit down and have a bit of a think.  Is there anywhere you’d recommend?”

“Hm. Well, I quite like Number 18 –

“Oh, you would!  Trying to be trendy!”

“You be quiet, or I’ll not give you a lift again!”  The boy’s words sounded serious , but Meredith was beginning to get a feel for tone, and accompanying facial expressions and realised this was not the case.  “I suppose you’d recommend Bookish!”

“Nothing wrong with having a read at the same time as getting a drink – you should try it sometime.”

“Courtyard Café?”

“That’s always so busy – lots of families with little ones.”

“How about that new one – down by the art centre.  I know it’s a bit out of the town, but it would put us in the right place for picking up Nerys.”

“I don’t want to put you to any trouble.” Meredith tried to decide if it would be better to part company sooner, and avoid the complication of an extended contact, or to stick with the encounter and gather further information.

“Oh, no trouble.  We’ve got a little bit of shopping to do, but that’ll keep.  Be nice to check out the new place.”

They drove through the town centre, passing a mix of shops that seemed like they’d been there forever, or that they’d popped up yesterday.  It was still quite early really, but the town was definitely waking up, and starting to get busy.  On through the town centre and out the other side.  The road took on a more residential feel, and after only a minute or two they came upon a stone building that looked old, but not ancient.  It was a large, single story building, with gabled rooves.  It was set back slightly from the road and had its own small car park.  Bunter informed Meredith that it was an old school, approximately 150 Earth cycles old.

No one noticed as a CCTV camera followed the small group across from the Landrover to the front door.

They entered the building: to the left was the gallery and a sign pointed to studios and the café to the right.  Owain opened the door and led the way into a short corridor.  Here there was one door at the far end and a couple of doors on the left.  The door into the café was open and they walked straight in.  The space was light and airy: the walls were painted white and pictures for sale hung on three of the four walls.  The high ceiling had a couple of skylights that let in lots of natural light.  Sturdy tables made of a light-coloured wood and of various sizes were scattered around in no particular pattern, grouped with chairs in twos and fours.  Subtly, Meredith tried to steer them to one of the larger tables which was as much in the shadow as it was possible to be – at least it wasn’t in the direct light coming from above.

A cheery soul was behind the counter and welcomed them in; she was alone, and the party were clearly her first three customers of the day.

“What can I get you my dears?”

Owain started the proceedings by ordering a large latte and a large slice of bara brith, complete with butter and marmalde.

“Oh! You are greedy Owain,” Esther exclaimed, “you’ve only just had breakfast!”

“Breakfast was hours ago, and I’ve been working on the car for Nerys.  Unlike you, I spend more time doing things than with my nose in a book.”

Esther gave him a nudge in the ribs with the boney of elbow of gangly 12 year old.  She went for a fruit tea and piece of short bread.

“It looks so good, I don’t know what to go for,” said Meredith, gazing at the counter and trying to work out what everything was.  Bunter immediately popped up with several suggestions, including one for a drink with a big pile of sculpted white stuff, topped off by a scattering of multicoloured strands and a small red sphere.  Meredith muted the programme.

“I’ll think I’ll just have a filter coffee, please, and a piece of the toffee blondie.”  Meredith saw that Owain was pulling out his wallet.  There was no need for the cue here: “No, please let me get this, as a thank you for the lift.”

There was gentle back and forth as Owain accepted, with grace, but not too easily.

“I’ll bring everything over to you, cywion” said the lady behind the counter, the term of endearment clearly an automatic reflex.

They sat down at the table and started talking about life in the valleys and rebuilding the car and so on.  Neither Owain nor Esther noticed that Meredith was adept at steering the conversation away from anything to do with their purpose here.  The drinks and cakes were brought over with a “there you my dears” and “have you got everything you need?” and “just shout if you need anything”.  They tucked in: Meredith had never tasted anything like this before and was wondering about the feasibility of getting some coffee plants to take back home.  And a cook book…

“So where are you heading next then, bach?” Owain asked.

“I’d quite like to see Llyn-y-Fan Fach, but I don’t know if I’ve got enough time.”

“Hm.  Well, it’s about an hour’s drive from here, I guess, depending which way you go, but I don’t think that you could walk it in a day.  I’d be tempted to get the bus from here to Brecon, stay in the youth hostel or something and then walk up to the lake from there.  Are you planning to camp there?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it.  I’d like to do some…sketching there.”

“Have you got a map?  I’ll show you the roads.”

It was at this point that Meredith started to feel uncomfortable.  The AI hadn’t flagged there being a problem with any of the food and drink, but it was not settling lightly on what a medical person would describe as Meredith’s stomach.  Things were taking a decided turn for the worse, and rapidly.  Meredith was just about to excuse himself when a group of men burst through the door.  They did not look friendly.  They threaded their way through the tables raising pistols to point at the three at the table.  Owain’s chair scraped back; Esther looked on with open mouth.  By chance the lady behind the counter had stepped out to a back room, so it was just Meredith and friends surrounded by half a dozen gunsels.

“Just stay where you are sonny, and no ones gonna get hurt.” It was not a local accent.  He pointed at Meredith “You’re coming with us.  Now.”

Meredith stood.  The term ‘technicolour yawn’ was unfamiliar to Owain and Esther; it was a phrase that was more familiar to their grandparents.  But if they had known it, it would have been perfect for the current situation as rainbow coloured liquid burst from Meredith’s mouth and sprayed over the gunmen.  Unknown to Meredith, the coffee contained trace amounts of dimethyl disulphide and butanediamine, and it was these that had reacted unexpectedly with the alien’s digestive system. Even AIs make mistakes.  Still, every cloud has a silver lining: the spectacular outcome of this natural chemistry was the perfect distraction.  Fighting to overcome the effects of losing everything consumed in the last 24 hours, Meredith jumped and simultaneously changed shape, shedding clothes in the process.  Initially the shape became a long thin cylinder, but as the tip of the cylinder touched the ceiling, Meredith’s body contracted into a sphere: from here it was a question of playing the angles.  At this point the gunmen were still concerned over the vomit that had landed on them, and were discovering that the liquid was starting to eat holes in clothes.  Incipient panic boiled over as they tried to react to the sudden movement through the fog that fear of chemical burns and disgust of wearing someone else’s stomach contents had created in their minds.  Before they could start stringing coherent thoughts together, the men were bowled over by what appeared to be an oversized basketball.  Somehow the alien managed to miss all of the works of art and all of the other furniture, bouncing off wall, ceiling, and heavies, to create a highly localised zone of carnage.

The sphere rolled to a stop by the small pile of clothes that had crumpled to the floor during the unconventional disrobing; Meredith put the clothes back on as he had the first time, shaping the body to suit the clothes from the inside.

Adjusting the glasses, hat, and scarf, there was a realisation that the boy and girl were staring at him.  With the men on the floor beginning to groan, Meredith said “Thank you for your help this morning, I really appreciate it, and I’m sorry if I’ve got you into any trouble.  I’d better get going, and I think you should find some where to lie low too.”

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another. Now we need to work out whether Meredith is going to get some assistance from Owain and Esther, or whether it’s time to part company.

Option 1: Head for the hills!

Option 2: Head for somewhere busy!

Option 3: Part company – Meredith should get a bus out of town or something.

Option 4: Plan B  (Please comment on what you think Plan B is!).

 

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Experimental Writing: Part 5

Meredith began the shlep to Crickhowell by leaving Llangynidr on Cyffredyn Lane, which at this point was wide enough for traffic to flow easily in both directions.  The road was bounded by high hedge on both sides, with a decent verge.  A little further on one of the verges petered out and the other narrowed.  People travelling the road  began to feel hemmed in as trees grew up behind the hedge on one side and the river narrowed; traffic still flowed in both directions but two large things, such as a bus and a lorry had a ticklish time passing.

Meredith groaned.  The sub-routine had indeed developed proto-sentience and had started referring to itself as Bunter for some reason.  Words would be had with the mission controllers and with the AI programmers when all this was over… Still (groan) Bunter was doing a decent enough job.  Whilst the road was not perfect for pedestrians, Bunter advised that the verge on this side did not get narrow; stay on this road, it becomes Cwm Crawnon Road; up head there is a bridge over a small stream, the road kinks, but there is a footpath.  Hang on…recalculating…find a break in the hedge on the left, the stream is the other side and the footpath will be there…

The intermittant sounds of sporadic traffic were dulled by the shielding vegetation.  Meredith made reasonably good progress along the foot path and the traffic noises were muted still further as the stream parted company with the road for a while.  It was surprisingly reassuring when the noise of these backward vehicles increased again: still on track.  The two finally came together at the thing that Bunter had described as a kink. Here, for some reason, the road crossed over the river on a small, rather primitive stone bridge.  The path by the river continued under the bridge and Meredith was confronted by a choice: stay on the path beside the river and head further into the countryside, or stay closer to the road on an uncertain verge.  The river path was certainly the more scenic, and would perhaps provide better cover- the moment of indecision was ended by a large green car pulling over.  Meredith thought the driver looked a bit too young to be allowed out, but he was leaning out of the window and shouting something.  Meredith couldn’t quite make out what it was, but a (thankfully) non-sentient routine picked up the sound and ran a translation.

“Bore da!  Going to Crickhowell are you?  Need a lift?

*****

The Land Rover was a long-wheel base Series I dating from 1957 – late in the production run, but one of the first to be fitted with a diesel engine.  Mostly loving care over the last 62 years meant that it was in surprisingly good condition.  Owain had found it after a relatively brief period of neglect.  A farmer had died, his feckless son had come home from his towny job and tried to make a go of it, but really hadn’t had the first clue about farming.  In then end he’d sold the farm to one of his neighbours for, if not a fraction of its real worth then certainly not full whack.  The neighbour had then proceeded to make quite a lot of that money back by selling off the ancient farmhouse and a small parcel of land to Owain and his family.  They’d moved in when Owain was fifteen, and he’d quickly found the vehicle, quietly mouldering in one of the barns.

His first emotion had been one of delight, and then he’d wondered where the keys might be.  They’d found them a couple of days later when sorting through various detritus clogging up a lovely antique oak dresser in the kitchen.  His da had let him try the engine which spluttered in a rather sick way, but did start, albeit with various unhealthy sounds as the engine cycled. They’d turned it off again, but both had been caught by the dream: despite the inevitable tensions that arise between a teenager and their parents, they commited to the joint project of restoring it.  Neither had any previous experience in this regard, but YouTube had been a great teacher.  On and off it had taken the best part of two years to get it back up and running smoothly.  It had been left muddy in the damp shed and this had done the body no good at all.  It had been left standing for several years and the tyres had perished.

The final job had been to repaint the Land Rover: everyone else in the family had felt they had the right to a say in what colour it should be.  Ma said Canary Yellow; Nerys, two years younger, and drifting towards becoming a goth wanted black; Esther, his youngest sister, pink; even Dylan, the youngest and shyest of the siblings, put forward an opinion – Dragon Red.  Owain and his da refused to listen though, united in a belief that there was only one colour suitable for a car – British Racing Green (although they’d never call it that in front of the neighbours).

Owain spent many happy hours learning to drive in the Land Rover: because he had access to the farmyard, and permission from Mr Kendrick, the farmer who had sold them the farmhouse to use his land, Owain was ready to take his test on his 17th birthday – which he passed with three minor faults.  When he returned home the house was festooned with streamers and balloons and there was a big party.  Afterwards, when his friends had gone home, his da took him aside and had handed him the keys to the Landie.

“It’s yours,” he said, simply, “you’ve earned it.  Now, we’ll have to think about what we can do for your sister.”

*****

Crickhowell was a small town as such conurbations go, but decidedly larger than Llangynidr, and indeed one of the larger communities within the boundaries of the Brecon National Park.  It was something of a focus for tourists, despite the less than imppresive remains of a castle.  There were excellent B&Bs and other hostelries.  Owain was headed that way to pick up Nerys who had been at a sleep over, and since he was going Esther tagged along to go to the book shop (although truth be told she needed little excuse to tag along with Owain, especially if a drive in the Landie was on offer).  Ma, too, had pressed a shopping list into his hand as he picked up the keys, ‘since you’re going, love’.

Esther was carefully pecking out a message to Nerys on Owain’s mobile, to let her know they were coming, when they spotted the strange figure at the side of the road.

“That poor soul looks lost, Owain.”

“Yeah…shall offer him a lift?”

“I’m not sure what Ma would think” Esther said doubtfully, “but they’re only little!”

They pulled over.

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  Every month there is a poll on some feature or another.  Last month’s did not come to a clear decision, but I promise coffee features in the future, I just got a bit carried away with the back story to the random encounter.

Moving on; this moths poll:

Option 1: Aliens love coffee!  Who knew?

Option 2: Coffee does not love aliens – ew!

Option 3: What is all this caffeine nonsense anyway?

Also, if you’re in favour of coffee, let me know what you think Meredith should try in the comments.

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Experimental Writing: Part 4

Enfys?  Eirian?  They both seemed a little too obscure – they were bound to attract the wrong sort of attention.  Meredith was perfect though – the subroutine was doing good work, although it was clear that care was needed if it wasn’t to develop a personality…more information was needed though and time was of the essence.  The sub-routine was given a metaphorical pat on the head and set back to work.  Yes, there – an electronic wagging tail.  Meredith sighed.

Meredith sighed, but immediately decided that this was out of character: a Meredith should be happy, optimistic, light-hearted.  In a word: merry.  Of course this wasn’t the proper translation of the name, but that didn’t really matter.  How many Meredith’s these days had anything to do with sea or were lords?  But a nickame – all this information had been supplied with the sub-routine’s analysis – such as Merry was very much in keeping, and when translated into grzzt, it wasn’t  million miles from the alien’s own nickname – although that was very much meant in a pejorative sense where it came from.  So it goes.

*****

It was a little after 8 am when Meredith found itself on the outskirts of Llangynidr.  First order of business, find some local currency.   Meredith gave a slight start of surprise when it realised that there was only one cashpoint local to where he was.  This was located at Walnut Tree Stores, which was described as a corner shop.  Clearly this must be some local idiom however, because when it had been located, Meredith found it halfway along the positively rural Coed-yr-Ynys Road.  Thankfully they opened early, and there were even a few cars in the car park, suggesting that there were a few people in there.  Meredith drifted in.  The helpful sub-routine provided a reference picture of the  cashpoint terminal and Meredith spotted it tucked in a corner next to the rack of magazines.

Casually, an arm slipped through one strap and the backpack was pulled round to the front for a quick rummage, which brought forth a wallet.  If anybody had been close enough, they would have just seen a credit card, which was slipped into the machine.  Thirty seconds later and Meredith had complete control of the cashpoint.  It would have been easy just to eviscerate the machine, taking every note that it contained, but the easy course of action would lead to problems sooner or later.  Pursuit problems.  Being remembered problems.  The card was spat back out, and £300 pounds popped out of the machine in a mix of tens and twenties seconds later.  What was left behind was an active programme that was covering Meredith’s tracks – it wouldn’t do for a discrepancy to be noted, so the programme would work its way back into a bank’s database and create a brand new account.  Good enough for the time being.

The card and the money went back into the wallet, save for one £10 note.  The alien navigated the shelves carefully, picking up a fizzy drink, some chocolate bars and something that the wrapper said was a pasty, whatever that was.  On the way to the till, the sub-routine popped its virtual head up again and pointed out something called a ‘pack of cards’,  apparently it had noted something useful, for which a pack of cards might come in handy.

“Bore da!  Will that be everything then?”

“Bore da.” The speech synthesiser managed to match the accent exactly.  “Er, yes, I think so…Oh I’ll just have this as well, diolch.”  A packet of chewing gum, from a rack by the till, was added.

“Very good then.  Do you need a bag with that?  Only I’ll have to charge 5p for that you know.”

“No, don’t fuss yourself, it’ll all go in here.”  The tenner was handed over and whilst it was rung up and change made, the backpack was once again swung round and the goods went into the bag.  A few coins were handed back and Meredith made a pretence of casually checking the change, without overdoing it so much that it caused offence, he selected a small coin and dropped it into the collecting box for the air ambulance that sat on the counter.

“Diolch!”

“Lawn!”

“Bore da!”

“Bore da!” Meredith said over one shoulder whilst walking to the exit.

*****

Meredith stopped for a moment outside as if checking the bag was closed properly.  In reality the AI was providing an update. Llangynidr was small and there was no cafe.  A 6 km or so walk was required to get to the nearest one.  The bus timings were irregular and unhelpful.  Meredith sighed and set out for Crickhowell.  Coffee seemed to be important on Earth, and it would seem to be a good place for a base for a least a couple of hours…and free wi-fi!  Sold!

*****

As Meredith walked along the streets, it didn’t notice that CCTV cameras were turning to follow it…

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.  So for example, you’ve helped me to decide that the story is science fiction, our protagonist, who is a rogue with a dash of ranger,  is an alien, but the story is set on Earth.  Right…what next?

Option 1: Coffee!

Option 2: Random encounter on the road.

Option 3: Coffee rudely interrupted!

Also, the sub-routine seems to be developing its own personality.  Any suggestions for a name?

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Experimental Writing: Part 3

On the homeworld, the pilot would have just bounced down the side of the mountain; the tough, flexible ‘skin’ would have protected it from the bumps, and even accommodated the sharp stones that occasionally peeked through the soil and scrubby grass to catch the unwary foot.  Instead, there were these strange things – legs in the local parlance – to get used to.

The AI embedded in the computer was constantly chattering over the commlink providing information on the locality, mission updates, and health status.  Thankfully it had quit with the reprimands for leaving the sidearm behind.

This was the worst part of these rushed missions: an on the move briefing into the local culture, which kept on being updated as the AI interrogated available information and tried to work out what was significant and what was not.  Not always as easy as it might seem.  There seemed to be a lot about political events half a world away, which was important if you lived here permanently, but which was of no significance at all if you were an alien looking to do a job and skedaddle before anyone found out about.  And there was so much information to sift through, although the AI had already clocked something significant in the local lore and had dedicated a sub-routine to focus on that alone.

The Client had picked up the signal of the thing to be recovered, but considering that it had been missing for more than 2000 years, it wasn’t entirely clear what the rush was about.  At this point, there was no cover story, credible or otherwise.  The local population would just have to be avoided as best as possible.

The creature gave something approaching a sigh combined with a gallic shrug as another sub-routine decided to give it an update: information flowed.  This world had more than 6,500 languages in use…so far, so primitive…and the local indigenous population used two different ones and…yes, oh perfect.  The dominant one was used more widely, and indeed was used world-wide, but would be the mark of an outsider, especially if the accent was wrong.  The minority language was even spoken by the whole population, but the ability to speak even a little would be helpful – still that could be dealt with.  Another sub-routine was assigned to the problem of languages: it was one thing to know the lexicography, but another to use it in an idiomatic fashion.  The AI studied the problem, with an electronic weather-eye, on the mores associated with using either of the two languages.

Various things came to light as the AI tried to deal with the languages.  Further sub-routines were added to deal with issues as they came to light.  Pronouns…that required a significant chunk of processing power to unravel.  Different pronouns for gender…a sub-routine that was starting to develop its own personality chipped in with  an apposite home-grown phrase translated into the local idiom: not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Gendered pronouns! And for that matter only two genders!  The same helpful sub-routine started pushing through information on gender politics, equal rights, LGBTQ+, before it was suppressed by the AI.  The subroutine was allowed to continue collecting information, but an edit was made to prevent the sub-routine pushing through information without checking with the AI first.

What to do? What. To. Do…? The alien was neither male nor female as these…(quick check)…as these ‘humans’ defined them.  A choice would need to be made.  From the creature’s perspective there was little to choose between the two options.  Reviewing the notes on gender politics suggested that this was something to steer well clear of: alien undercover operatives are by definition and inclination averse to becoming involved in public debates prone to descending into acrimony.  Still, on balance, it appeared to be easier if you were ‘a man’ rather than ‘ a woman’.  For the most part it shouldn’t matter, but the pilot knew that it was important to commit to a part and be ready for the worst. This only happened if you got comfortable in the role.

The pilot, decided that it was time to start building a cover. Firstly, a name…  The sub-routine put up a metaphorical hand.  The AI reviewed the sub-routine’s work.  It was pointing out that it might be possible to build a certain amount of ambiguity by selecting a name that was both masculine and femine.  It put forward a few suggestions…

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.  So for example, you’ve helped me to decide that the story is science fiction, our protagonist, who is a rogue with a dash of ranger,  is an alien, but the story is set on Earth.  Now is the time to choose a name for our MC.

Option 1: Enfys (“Rainbow”)

Option 2: Meredith (“great/sea lord”)

Option 3: Eirian (“bright, beuatiful”)

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!