Hack the Future Part 8 ( Steven Schaufler & J Dark )

A near fifteen centimeter long ear, curving upward and out, tapering to a needle like point. He tried eyeing Blade again, just in time to see one of those pale hands grip his partner’s, and as her father’s old S&W was almost gently pried from her fist, his own P7 was pried from his. Her face twitched in discomfort as her hands held the steel weapons. She tossed them underhanded into the kitchen. „We have to take the children’s toys from them, lest they hurt someone.“ She glanced at the two then intoned, „I have come, to discuss with you a job.“

Blade sat as still as she could. The magic was a mental command, one that she’d practiced herself when her mother was still alive. She knew the spell, and had mentally focused on its brittle link, and taken it down a few seconds after she was hit. The problem was not the mage, but the two other elves behind her. They were dressed in military style fatigues, with olive drab shirts and pants. Their black boots worked halfway up their shins, and the green belt had knives and bottles hanging in small web-like pouches. Each carried a stick that was about thumb-sized in thickness, and as long as her forearm. Each wand was graven with runes for energy and flight. Missile mages.

Missile mages were the magic world’s answer to guns and bullets. The wands had to be carefully made, using the caster’s own life force. The wand would not work for anyone other than its creator. One of her mother’s extended family had been a missile mage for an infamous kingpin back in Belfast. Blade thought she remembered that he’d been killed in a shootout with local police during a riot in the slums where most elves had been relegated to.

Her throat began to itch. Blade kept herself as still as possible. The mages were alert, and primed to fire. She had no doubt that any movement would get her lungs blown out of her chest and through the sofa to decorate whatever would be left of it after the mage blew her to smithereens. Her heart was hammering in her chest as she did her best to appear trapped by the spell. If any looked at her with mage sight, it’d be all over.

Elves loathed half-breeds, seeing them as an affront to their racial purity. She was a half breed that could cast spells, which was doubly reprehensible. The elves valued their magic as their religion, and that a half-breed could wield it would go against all the talk of elven superiority. Half breeds were not supposed to do magic, their blood was too mongrel for magic to exist in them. That was what the elves had told the world.

The elf priestess gestured, and a dark green bottle appeared in her right hand. The low coffee table slid back a half step from the sofa where Blade and TJ were currently sitting. Five glasses of different sizes and colors floated free from a small cupboard in the open kitchen by the wrecked doorway, then dropped soundlessly onto the coffee table. The woman upended the bottle, and five streams fell from the mouth, and filled each glass precisely. It was an amazing display of control to Blade. She risked a glance over at TJ, whose eyes stared at the woman like she was simply a target. She’d have to watch him to make sure nothing happened when the priestess dropped the compulsion.

Despite his mild paunch and unkempt appearance, she knew he was a lot faster than his looks might imply. She knew about his Mettinger reflex upgrade. Twice the reaction speed of a human, half again faster than an elf. She was certain there was more to TJ beyond that, but he’d been very closemouthed about anything to do with upgrades. Her cybernetics were easy to see. A nest of cables for a left hand that were used for system hacking and charging. Her left arm and shoulder had been fully replaced with cybernetics with a open lug roughly where her wrist used to be to mount a pistol.

Hack the Future Part 7 (Steven Schaufler & J Dark)

Even at home, Blade went about her business with uncharacteristic silence, and it was only after she came back into the living room, with traces of the same substance he was applying to his wound visible on her lips, that he cursed himself for a fool. She probably can’t talk after that crazy spell of hers… he thought. He also knew that she wasn’t just smart when it came to hacking into things. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least if her mind were treading a few of the same avenues as his; trying to figure out how something as straight forward as this particular job could get so horribly FUBARd.

He shook his head slightly and sucked in a thoughtful breath through his teeth -something that looked almost comical with that old fashioned and silver streaked Van Dyke he chose to adorn his face with- then he chuckled „Hell of a mess. Wonder how our patron’s gonna take all this?“

Blade grinned at him and shrugged, then opened her mouth to respond but, whatever she said was lost in an explosion of splinters, as the door to their flat disintegrated not unlike the one at Dayner had. However, even as both he and his partner went for their weapons, what came walking -no, not walking, more like sashaying through the erstwhile door wasn’t a Vampire. Though he couldn’t quite be sure what it was, either. Well, aside from the fact it was clearly female. And a good head or two taller than even his 185 cm.

„Sit!“ She said in a voice that sent shivers down his spine. …and not in a good way.

This person hadn’t meant it as a suggestion. That one word was uttered as a command. A command spoken with the same casual, if not contemptuous annoyance one might use for an over-eager puppy. Still, even while his mind tried to come to terms with what just happened, his body simply /obeyed/, and he found himself sitting on the couch next to Blade, both of them still with their guns pointed at the hooded intruder. It was only once they were seated, that he noticed two more hooded figures standing just outside the ruined door. Though where the two -guards, obviously?- wore simple brown, the woman who stood before them wore a robe of such a dark red that it almost appeared to be black.

He tried to turn his head to see if Blade might be faring better than him but, the only thing he could move were his eyes, and from the grimace on his partner’s face, she was in the same situation.

„Good!“; their uninvited guest all but crooned. „Now that I have your undivided attention, we may begin. But first…“ The woman paused and two bone-white hands reached up to pull back her hood, and he was pretty damned sure Blade’s strangled gasp was even louder than his own. Long, blonde hair spilled down from one side of her head, while the other side was shaved so short as to almost be bald. And he was pretty sure he had ascertained why, for there were several runes adorning the side of her head; both tattooed and branded, with even more, smaller tattoos along her high, angular cheekbone. He knew runes, but he had never seen any like these. Not that he really paid much attention to anything else, after he noticed the most distinguishing feature. What was hidden by hair on one side, was blatantly presented on the other.

Hack the Future Part 3 (Steven Schaufler & J Dark )

Blade watched as TJ lurched sideways, spinning in a grotesque pirouette as the bullet took him high in the shoulder. “SHITASS IDIOTIC DUMBJIZZ ASSHAT!” She dropped to her back, and aimed her heel at the shooter. He stood partially covered behind a cream-colored Cadillac. The high powered rifle nestled against his shoulder in a classic upright stance. He saw her movement and dropped behind the car, rolling away as fast as he could. Blade pulled a break dance move, swiveling up and back to her feet. She ran as fast as her bare foot and booted one would let her.

Three seconds was all it took to reach him. He was prone, eyes glassy from shock. Blood pumped a bright scarlet rope from his shoulder, arcing to land three feet away in a splash of crimson under the harsh fluorescent landscape. Oh god the blood, his artery got cut. He’s bleeding out! What do I do? I can’t stop this. I can’t… She tore off a strip of cloth, and viciously poked it into the wound. He gasped like a fish out of water, weakly flailing at her hands as she gritted her teeth and pushed more of the ragged strip of cloth into the open wound. I gotta stop it, pack it so tight the bleeding slows. I

“We surrender! We surrender! Help me! He’s bleeding out!” she held up one hand as the used the other to keep pushing the cloth into the wound. The gush of blood had stopped on this side. The exit wound still bled, but sluggishly. She’d pushed her metal finger full length into the wound to pack the cloth in. He wouldn’t bleed to death soon, but he would bleed out without some kind of help, and soon. She couldn’t leave him behind, and she couldn’t carry him out. He was the one who’d made the deal, and hired her to do the hack. “We surrender! Help us! Help him, please!”

The guards slowly advanced, weapons out. The nearest one had a nameplate Blade could barely make out. ‘Hanson’ was spelled out in white against the black of the badge. The huge four limbed star that made up the Dayner logo on his left chest below the badge. She held one hand up, the other resting firmly on the bleeding gunshot wound of her partner.

“On the ground, face down. Spread your arms and legs wide.” ‘Hanson’ punctuated his commands with an aggressive pointing of his rifle at Blade. She lowered herself slowly to the ground spreading her limbs out as the guard asked. One of the other guards stepped forward and put a heavy knee between her shoulder blades. He pulled both arms back, and placed a zip strip around her wrists, locking her arms behind her. Another guard flipped her partner over with a boot. He groaned painfully as he was rolled to his stomach, his long brown trench coat spattered and soaked with blood.

“Some professionals. First sign of blood and they quit. Spuds.” The speaker laughed harshly and another voice Blade could hear joined in. What’s next? Will we be turned over, or tortured and killed, or just killed? I don’t like the odds, but keeping him alive was more important. We were screwed the minute he got shot. They were waiting for us. To get in place they had to have advance warning we were coming, or we got spotted right off the get-go. I didn’t see any spotters, my sniffers didn’t spot any active surveillance. I didn’t miss anything. We had to be set up. Why though? Why us?

Blade kept quiet, unwilling to be subjected to any kind of abuse. She was close to panic. Her hands were restrained and she had no way to free herself. The helplessness threatened to overwhelm her mind. “So, we shoot ’em now, or find out what they’re doing here?” Blade’s mouth was dry. She tried to swallow, then tried to roll over. The man’s foot pressed down harder as she shifted. “Uh uh uh, no moving. Not unless you want to get hurt.” She froze in place, her breathing shallow and rapid. “Looks bad. I think the artery got nicked. Lookit how far he shot blood.” She heard shuffling behind her near TJ. “Can you clean him up a little, Hash?” A few more shuffles. She could see him walking slowly around TJ, sizing him up. “Yeah, not a big problem. I can’t do anything about the blood loss. He’ll be out for a day or two.”

Interviewing the Father of ‘Building Baby Brother’ part 2

Here is the second half of my interview with Steven Radecki, the author of ‘Building Baby Brother’.

Here’s a question about choosing a topic to write about. Do you feel that a story needs to have relevance in society?

I think that having some kind of social relevance helps to deepen a story. The trick, though, is to do it in such a way that it doesn’t feel preachy or pedantic to the reader. That can turn them off to the message (and story!) very quickly.

Comics are used at times to offer controversial subjects in stories. In ‘Civil War’, the idea of registration comes up. Do you feel ‘Building Baby Brother’ has touched a subject that could become more important as robotics and Artificial Intelligence become more sophisticated?

I think it raises the point that we probably need to re-examine our preconceptions about AI, much of which is driven by popular science fiction films, television, and literature.

It’s been said that all great stories like BBB are built on previous works the writer had read. In that vein, who, influenced your vision of the story?

There are several influences to this story, some of which are even subtly referenced during the course of the story. One of the inspirations that kept coming to my mind as I wrote and edited it was David Gerrold’s When Harlie was One. (I still prefer the original edition. Sorry, David.) Other conscious influences were the movie A.I. and, of course, Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m certain that there were many, many unconscious influences as well, such as Mycroft Holmes from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but none I specifically set out to emulate.

Were there any books that helped solidify your idea, or an author you enjoyed reading that might have given you ideas on style and presentation?

As mentioned in my answer to your previous question, I think David Gerrold with When Harlie was One was a major influence, both thematically and stylistically. Finding the right voice for this story was definitely a challenge—and one of the reasons that I very rarely tell a story from a first-person point-of-view. I felt that this story, though, demanded a first-person narrative perspective. Other than that, I can’t say that any specific storytelling style influenced the one used in this story. I’m not saying that it isn’t there, just like that I don’t recall using any other author’s particular style as an inspiration or template.

Interviewing the Father of ‘Building Baby Brother’

Hello all!

I’m J Dark, author of ‘Best Intentions’, book one of a series I’ve come to call ‘Glass Bottles’.

I’m here to interview the author of a story I really have wanted to see in print since I first critiqued it. That story is ‘Building Baby Brother’ ( BBB ), by Steven Radecki. What we’re going to do today is a little Q&A about his story.  This is a two-part series, with the second portion tomorrow.

I’m really honored to be the one to do this interview. So to jump right in, thank you Steven for sharing your time with the readers.


My first question is probably the one all authors get at least once every time your promoting a book. That question is: Where did you get the idea for BBB?

To be honest, I don’t remember where the actual idea for the plot came from. The story itself started as part of an exercise that, well, kind of got out hand. My son’s charter had planned to sponsor an event to help foster reading and writing skills by asking students and willing family members to write a short story and then read it out loud at this event. Always willing to write, particularly for a good cause such as that one, I started pondering possible story ideas. I knew I wanted something kind of “Twilight Zone”-ish—something short, entertaining, but with a fun twist at the end. From there, the basic concept of the story was born.

Every author develops their stories differently. In your case, did you create an outline first, or just choose a direction, or something else?

I rarely work from an outline for a short story. They are usually based on some concept I want to explore and I kind of see where the characters involved take it. In case, since it was originally only supposed to be 2,000 words, I felt a full-fledged outline might be overkill. As a result, though, the last third or so of the story went a direction that surprised even me.

No story ever flows smoothly as it’s created. What parts, or scenes were the hardest to develop?

I always have trouble with the middle. They say that maintaining the story and pace in the second book of a trilogy is often difficult, and I think the same thing is true about the middle of any story. I usually know how to start my stories and have a pretty good idea how it will end either when I start it or before I get a quarter of the way through it. In this story, probably the most difficult scene was scene with the police because I needed something that would transition the story from its setup to exploring the implications of the actions performed in its first half. I had a really tough time coming up with a scene that would work that would get me to where I wanted the story to go.

Another question I’m sure authors get asked all the time is, what made you decide to be a writer? With all the professions around, why get into writing?

Why not? I’ve always wanted to create—whether it be writing or filmmaking. There’s immensely satisfying about “putting on a show” and presenting it to an audience. With writing, perhaps even more than with filmmaking, you can have full control over your production: all the way from set design, costuming, and casting. Of course, when you sell the movie rights, you tend to lose those.

My last question for this series is, where and when do you like to write? I know that David Weber has said that he prefers the evenings, as it allows him to relax and concentrate. What are your favorite conditions for writing?

Peace and quiet—and good luck getting that! My preferred writing environment is where were I’m unlikely to be interrupted. I prefer to be able to get mentally lost in the world that I’m writing about. I find that the characters tend to be more vivid in my mind and are more to behave as they should so that mostly all I have to do is transcribe as they take whatever action the story requires of them. I’ve written in a lot of places: home, work, coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotel rooms…I’m pretty good at tuning out external distractions. Still, a quiet environment is my preference. Also, I don’t write with music on in the background; I find it too distracting.

How fast things can change

A fiery crash ended a life today, one that had such promise.
Drugs, rebellion, and anger tore it from that path.
The woman stole a car, then tried to run away.
The police didn’t let her go, and neither did her despair.
The wreck killed her quickly, her body crushed beyond hope.
The promise in young eyes is gone.
The promise of youth is wasted.
The future is gone, and the memories are oil spattered dust
on a faceless road where no one will remember what was taken
by the choices, and the cost of them.