For NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I am making additional posts to blog. I will be posting excerpts from “The Recruiting Matter”. First , I have a lot of new followers many of whom have started the story “in the middle” and are catching up. They might want to know about earlier history. Second, I really am planning to monetize (sell) this epic (sprawling monster) for whatever the market will bear (a pittance on Amazon and Kobo). I have started a serious edit of “The Recruiting Matter”. What I post will have gone through some of that editing. And what I will post will be the parts I think are the best ruthlessly chopped from their literary length (sprawling mess) to less than 2000 words (not counting rambling introduction). I will provide links to the unadulterated versions for those are willing to bear longer versions with interesting, subtle, stylish but meaningless details. Third, it is a shameless and self indulgent effort to get people to read my earlier stuff.
The first entry is a prologue that documents Jason’s parents experiment and abduction. Later chapters indicate the significance of this event. With great reluctance I removed scenes of the parents interacting with their child, a detailed description of their lab and Martha’s difficulties in cooking. On the plus side, I added some details that made the abduction scene a bit more coherent and a bit more believable. This was written a bit later than some of the earlier chapters and is “steam punkier” than most of the early chapters (lots of flashy electronics and aliens).
For your enjoyment – The Recruiting Matter Prologue
Dunstable, UK 1840
It was evening at the two story house on the corner of Third Avenue and C Street in Dunstable. Sean, Martha and Jason McNeill were finishing dinner. The house was white and was surrounded by a porch. Inside was fine furniture and many gadgets that the owners had built over time. There was a water pump in the kitchen. Each room had a voice pipe. There was a dumbwaiter for transporting laundry from the second floor to the first. The lot was also large and had a garden that was the envy of all in town. Martha McNeill had spent significant time choosing plants, cultivating, caring for and even hybridizing the plants in the well-ordered lot. She had a disdain for her agrarian upbringing, but the garden showed there was still a bit of farm in the girl.
Martha had started to recognize that her expectations of people were frequently unreasonable and unfair. She was learning that people were happier if she could let those go. And people being happier mattered to Sean. He had made it clear that his boy would not be subject to her unreasonable expectations and his boy would be a farmer if that was his heart’s desire. The thought had appalled her (as was intended), but Sean was insistent and persistent and she had learned to love seeing Jason play in the garden and messing with his food (as he was doing now). Jason was happy and she had decided that was important.
The meal was finished and they enjoyed the last of their glasses of wine. Sean said in a strong Northern accent full of rolling Rs and short on hard consonants, “I thin’ we should be able ta’ isolate the matter tonight. Your theory ha’ been solid from the beginning and the electronics are holding up. The storm tonight ‘ll help us get over the edge.”
Martha’s accent was Southern working class from the farmlands of Dunstanble. “Then here is to success tonight,” she said and raised her glass. Jason gurgled happily at the clinking of the glasses. “I need to tuck Jason away first. “ She turned and called into the kitchen, “Moira, please clear the dishes. I will see to Jason. Sean and I will be working late in the lab so try to take care of any matters with Jason on your own. Ring the bell only if you must.“ Martha cleaned the baby’s face and gathered him up as Moira cleared the dishes. Mother and child headed up the stairs to the nursery. Sean helped move the dishes and then followed upstairs.
After a bath, Sean put Jason in the crib. Each parent kissed the child good night told him to be a good boy for Moira and they left him when the maid arrived with a book and a chair. Moira would take the boy out of the crib and let him play a bit after the parents had left. He would be ready for sleep then.
In the Basement
The couple headed down the stairs and left the house through the kitchen. The rain and wind were significant now with trees bending to the wind and sheets of rain coming down. There was a pathway to a locked work shed that was perhaps 20’ by 20’. Most would have thought that it contained garden tools. There was another shed for those. The inside of this shed, lit with gas lamps, had tables lining the edges as well as a large work table down the middle. Along the outer edge benches were laden a variety of devices that had nothing to do with gardening or wood working. Microscopes, burners, and even a telescope sat on the table next to experiments that were in progress.
The couple proceeded to the end of the shed where a spiral stair case led to a basement. Before they descended, they donned safety equipment. Besides the standard lab coats, there were leather aprons and leather head coverings. Each had smoked goggles with adjustable iris to protect their eyes from fragments and from light. They entered the main experiment chamber and closed a large and heavy wooden door behind them.
Martha moved to a console behind a thick glass screen and commanded, “Power up.”
Sean responded, “Goggles on. Raisin’ lightin’ rods,” and he began to turn a series of hand cranks. A tall metal pole was rising above the shed. One already was attached to the house and a third was attached to the garden shed. Heavy wires would transmit the lightning charges to Leyden cells. Those would regulate the flow of electricity to the batteries. She read the gauge and shouted “75% charge” over the din of the storm.
“Venting chamber,” Sean shouted back and a hand crank created a vacuum inside a large bell jar. Inside the jar was a complex of intertwined brass and silver loops. “50% evacuation”
“85% charge.” The bolts of lightning continued hitting the rods and charging the batteries.
Then she said, “95% charge – start the rotation sequence”
“Tha’ chamber han’t finished venting,” Sean shouted in protest.
“Start it. We’ll be overwhelmed with power if we don’t start using it.”
Sean engaged a switch and loops of metal in the middle of the room started to spin. “93% evacuation – we need at least 98% if this’ll work.”
“I know dearest, I did the calculations while you watched. Try tuning up the heat on the pump or find a blower to increase the heat exchange,” she shouted back.
“Don’t start the next sequence until we reach my mark,“ he shouted back over the rising din. He turned the heat up and started a mechanized bellows ir on the coils of the heat exchange for the pump. “96% – it’s going faster. Smart idea love. “
“Thank you dearest. 99% charge – the Leydens will start popping soon if we don’t start using it.”
Sean counted as the gauge fell, “98%, 99% start phase II”
Martha flipped a set of switches and the loops started turning faster blending the silver and brass into one color. “Field activity rising, “ she shouted. The loops caused a loud whine in the room. Martha flipped a switch and said “Diverting current through the crystal”. At the center of the now whirring ball was a perfect perovskite crystal.
Sean said, “I am seeing flashes. Add more current.”
She adjusted dials, “90% charged and falling”
He called back, “it’s brighter – it will hold more current. Add it. ”
She adjusted the dials and watched the falling charge indicator with concern. Suddenly the room went bright blue. At the center of the loops floated a glowing orb that seemed to throb. Sean said, “It’s holding – we trapped dark matter.”
Martha looked over some gauges, “Measuring output – heat is rising.” There was a strain in her voice. At that moment, there was a loud bang at the door. Both looked at the door and the banging became more insistent. Sean had a look of concern.
She shouted, “heat is still rising, but the rate of increase is slowing.” She glanced at the door and shouted, “That isn’t Moira. Is there something I should know?” The glowing orb now had an almost rainbow look. Colors were shifting through the spectrum. Sean began shifting shelves towards the door.
He came over, “I’m not sure, but nothing good. There is trouble on the other side of the door. We may need to defend ourselves here.” The bangs had changed and were now large and loud thumps as if someone was ramming the door.
“What the hell is going on?” she demanded amidst the din.
“I don’t know dear. It could be any number of things. I am sure we’ll find out when they break through the door.” He was pushing a large table in her direction towards the control panel.
A shout came through the door, “Mr. McNeill open up the door and we’ll let the woman go. But you owes us a bit.”
She looked at him appalled. “This is over a card game?”
“I very much doubt that dear,” he said shoving the table between her and the door.
“Give us the Omicron devices. The Guild is most upset. There is quite a reward for you and the Omicron devices.” The door splintered a bit.
“Omicron devices?” she asked.
Sean waved both hands frantically to tell her to be quiet and told her, “Something I made before we met.” He shouted at the door, “They aren’t here. Contact me in the usual fashion and we’ll talk.” He rocked a table down forming a barrier to the splintering door.
“The reward for you is almost as much as it is for you and the devices. If we can’t have both, we’ll settle for one. ” A splintered hole appeared in the door. A gloved hand tossed a small spherical object in the room.
“Martha, cover behind the console and cover your ears. “ She was angry, but knew his tone and got behind the console and its glass. Sean moved in her direction when the most unearthly sound erupted. Sean staggered a foot or two and collapsed. Martha held her ears but felt faint. She could see the rings starting to shake and wobble at the noise. The orb was taking a nasty yellow red tone. The door splintered more. She struggled to pull Sean behind the table. She was growing more light headed. The wobble on the captured material was growing worse. Finally, she pulled Sean all the way behind the table.
She reached up and set the dial to full power. The spinning wheels whined in protest. The door banged again in the middle. The light flashed brighter now in blues and violets. The door burst open and three men stepped through. But the disruption of the door was enough to push the spinning device over the edge. There was a squeal and a bright flash and the wheels flew apart in every direction like so much shrapnel. The jar exploded and the energy of the orb blew through the floor and ceiling above. The inch thick protecting safety shield between the couple and the experiment was shoved back hard and grew incredibly hot. The woman passed out from the noise and explosion.
The three men saw the glowing orb briefly and then might have seen its decay. But, when the spinning wheels and containment field collapsed, pieces of glass and wheels sprayed out. They were wearing armored suits that prevented punctures. But it did not save them from the flash of matter from the center of the galaxy. The three were blasted back out the door and against the far wall and fell, burnt beyond recognition.
The heat had triggered the fire suppression device Sean had installed earlier and the room started filling with water. That seemed to be enough to cool the out of control reaction. The falling water also revived Sean who looked up through the hole in the ceiling to see a circle of lights hovering. He groaned as two more people came through the hole in a platform and then pulled him and his wife onto the platform. Too weak to fight, too wet and burned in too many places, he passed out.
The ship gathered as much debris as possible via some magnetic device. But lanterns were approaching from down the street and the operators of the strange floating ship did not want any more attention. The ship shot upwards in a discharge of heat and light. The house broke and caught fire in the ship’s wake. The leaves of the bushes and trees were stripped bare. The water in the basement boiled. In the house a woman could be heard screaming for help and a small baby was crying.