Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Crisis at Garmil's Gate - 09

Sir Ramsey began a countdown in a corner of his helmet's viewscreen, letting him track the estimated arrival of the enemy as he went about preparing the courtyard for another battle. He pushed wrecked mecha and other vehicles into the breech of the outer wall, prepared traps using loose ordinance, and set up killzones where the enemy's numbers wouldn't benefit them. Once ready, with some minutes to spare, Ramsey got to the compound's media center and put himself on the comms.

He first opened a channel to directly connect to Solar Guard Headquarters on Earth.

"Priority Transmission to Palatine Hill from Garmil's Gate. Authorization: Sir Ramsey Hennipen, Seat of Roland."

The screen read back "Access Granted".

"Inform Court of Stars. Insurrection in progress. Lord Fang and Mining Master Iser in league with Red Eyes pirates. Iser slain. Lord Fang's location unknown. Gatewatch status unknown. Situation is in hand. Recommend Lord Fang's liege intervene."

The screen read back: "Cast in the name of God. Ye Not Guilty."

"Acknowledged. Sir Ramsey, over and out."

Then Sir Ramsey got on the channel used by the rebelling workers.

"This is Sir Ramsey Hennepin, Paladin of the Solar Guard. I hold the High Justice. Those that surrender shall receive mercy. Those that resist shall die condemned of heresy and treason."

Ramsey saw Dashing Jack's face appear before him. "If, Paladin. If you can enforce it. You are still just one man."

"I an not just one man, villain. I am never just one man. Observe--I know you are--and you shall see this first hand before you go to Hell."

"Indeed. Entertain me, Papal Puppet. Dance! Dance for my amusement."

The sounds of artillery fire blowing apart the improvised barricade prompted Ramsey to cut the comms. The timer ran out; and the enemy arrived right on time. As Ramsey ran to his first position, he saw in another window on his viewscreen a perspective from one of the working security cameras of rebel mecha and infantry rushing into the courtyard. He saw them stop after the first bomb exploded and took out the leading infantry platoon as well as the armed worker mecha they escorted.

By the time he got into position, the enemy cleared away their wrecked unit and swept clear what remained of the infantry. He put up a shoulder-fired missile launcher, took aim, and launched at the foremost unit. He didn't wait to see if he hit; he immediately tossed the launcher and ran back under cover. The return fire tore apart his former position while the impact on the leading unit stymied any attempt to track him long enough to thwart it.

"I can't move!" the unit's pilot said, confirmng Ramsey's hope of a mobility kill. As he got into his second position, where another launcher awaited him, he heard the order from the rebel commander: "Reduce the upper floors and force him to the ground." Ramsey smiled; someone there wasn't a complete moron. He fired his second missile, again running back under cover, and this time switching down to the ground floor. The enemy mecha fired upon the compound's buildings, leveling their upper floors, before sending infantry into the now-reduced remains aiming to force Ramsey into the open.

But this meant going into close quarters, where Ramsey again held the advantage, and he ambushed the first squad he found with beam sword and blaster. He erupted from a side room into a hallway, appearing in the middle of their single-file formation, cutting down one man while shooting a second in the chest with a double-tap technique. Caught unawares, they attempted to respond.

"You're not fast enough!" he declared as he cut and shot them down in their confusion.

Soon he flushed them out of the buildings and back into the courtyard, quivering in fear. Their leader emerged from on of the armed workers, and he shot one of them to get their attention.

"One! Man!"

Ramsey strode into view, standing in the doorway of what was the compound's main building- formerly Master Iser's headquarters. He took aim at the rebel commander with his blaster.

"Paladin!" Ramsey said, and shot the commander dead with a clean hit to the man's forehead.

The infantry broke and ran, fleeing before the golden-armored knight, only to to stop before the sight of a giant-sized man-like robot.

"Go on!" its pilot said, "We've got this."

Sir Ramsey let the rabble flee. Instead, he took notice of the mecha now arriving. These were the House Fang units, repainted black with red accents and red eyes. His viewscreen identified them as basic Oni-class models, though they had to have undergone some modification by now.

"Come out, Paladin. Let's see you fight against us."

"Don't be so hasty." Ramsey said as he took in the full view of the enemy mecha--both the new arrivals and the armed workers remaining--before him, "I will not deny your request, or to hear your regrets for making it."

Friday, February 23, 2018

When Barnes & Noble Goes, Only Then Will Most People Notice The Game's Changed

The news of Barnes & Noble laying off key senior staff is the signal that this bookstore giant--like Borders about a decade before--is now on its deathbed and will follow its former competitor to the elephant graveyard. This means that the bookstore chain world, for all intents and purposes, is now all about used books that sell new books. (e.g. Half-Price Books)

It's not the 1990s. The world's business environment is different now. Barnes & Noble, being tied to Traditional Publishing, failed to adapt to an environment that favors convenience- something the online business world does far better, which is why Amazon and other online retailers and publishers are eating B&N's lunch.

On a related note, the authors who are also tied to this sinking ship are now discovering that they too shall be pulled under due to the lack of business skills and acumen that they have due to letting the publishers handle it (or not, as most of them find out too late).

Meanwhile, the indie world has its many actors furiously attempting to fill those gaps and spread the knowledge of what does or does not work and why; they share because one of the first things they discovered what that there was no competition per se between authors- a fact further elaborated recently when Nick Cole & Jason Anspach found out via data review for their sales: readers follow genres, not so much authors, as they seek to scratch specific itches. (This is true for film, TV, and games also.)

The collapse of Barnes & Noble, and its disappearance from the world, is what it will take for the majority to realize that the world in publishing is now very different and that they must adapt or die. When those stores are gone, their spaces empty, only then will it really hit them that this is not the days when you have to get on your knees and abased yourself before an agent in hopes of getting a standard two-book New Author deal that may not pay out its advance.

It's the old pulp days once more, only we don't have to worry about Street & Smith losing its way (or any of its competitors) as we are now all of us Street & Smith. The Pulps Are Back, and it turns out that--like old-school D&D--it really was the true path all along that should never have been abandoned.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Crisis at Garmil's Gate - 08

Master Iser and Sir Ramsey clashed their beam swords together, crossing red-on-gold with sparks and discord.

"How does it feel, Master Iser? To get so far in your schemes, only to have someone come along who can tear it apart inside a day?"

Iser broke the clench and made a cut at Ramsey, which the Paladin easily blocked. "I wouldn't know. I've not had a scheme fail so far."

"You think you can turn this around?" Ramsay said as he hammered at Iser's guard, knocking the traitor off-balance and flailing to stay on his feet, "You have no idea how many times I've been in this exact situation, Iser."

"Oh," Iser said with a mocking gesture, "do tell."

"Fool!" Ramsay smashed aside Iser's blade. "I am 30 years old, and a Paladin of the Solar Guard. What does that tell you?"

"That you had friends shower you with prestige?"

Ramsey cut Iser's hands off, and then cut his beam sword in half. "Try again."

Iser stood there, looking at the cauterized stumps where his hands used to be. Ramsey didn't need to see Iser's face to know his mind at that moment.

"There, Iser, is your answer. When you reach Hell, go look up the other villains I'd sent there previously. They'll tell you just how wrong you were."

Ramsey's tone brought Iser back to the moment. "What do you mean, 'were'? Are you arresting me?"

"By right as Paladin of the Solar Guard, and confirmed by the Court of Stars, I hold the High Justice. You are condemned, Master Iser, for treason and heresy."

"Condemned? What idiocy is this?"

Ramsey shut off his blade, turned his back, and walked away. "You are already dead."

Iser, beneath his crimson helm, looked on astonished. "What?"

"Sibley." Ramsey said, ignoring the man, "What's the situation?"

"You can't be serious!" Iser said, disbelieving, when he attempted to step forward. His legs did not move, but his torso did and fell forward off his waist and hit the floor. The clang and thump of the now-lifeless corpse of the traitor Master Iser didn't so much as get Ramsey to look over his shoulder.

"The courtyard is clear of hostiles, Sir Ramsey, but heavier mecha and the main forces are on their way here from the elevator. They have it under their control."

"Nothing from Gatewatch?"

"Not a word. Something's wrong."

"The usual something, Sibley. Go with Creton and handle the elevator. I'll deal with the main force."

"They've got proper military-grade mecha in the main force along with more of their modified workers. You'll need more than your sword and blasters."

Ramsey reached into a boot sleeve and retrieved the baton that Creton gave to him previously. "Your boy made certain that I'd be ready for that scenario. Go on now. I'll be fine."

As Sir Ramsey made his way out from the hole in the wall and down into the courtyard, he saw in his faceplate a viewscreen from the perspective of the Baden-Powell: a squadron of mecha, backed by a company of rebelling workers on foot, rapidly converged on his location. Four of them seemed to be proper military models, resembling those stolen from a mothball facility run by House Fang several months ago.

"I see." Sir Ramsey said, "The matter is clear to me now. This treachery ends, here and now."

Friday, February 16, 2018

Learn From The Failures of Mouse Wars: Writing is a Business

If you write for anything other than a hobby, then you are in business. If you are in business, you had better prioritize doing good business first and foremost. Crazy Culty Kathy Kennedy thinks that Mouse Wars doesn't have to obey the laws of business, and she's now learning the hard way that she's wrong. The video below gets into this, from a business perspective, and you can do this over your lunch break.

That's why it's here, and not at the Retreat: this is directly applicable to writing as a business. Don't fuck your writing business up like Culty Kathy fucked up Star Wars. The better indie authors already figured this out (see Nick Cole, for example), so for the rest of us it's catch-up time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Crisis at Garmil's Gate - 07

The dozen red-armored men formed a circle about the gold-armored Sir Ramsey and Sibley. Standing back-to-back, the duo denied their enemies an easy opening. Iser stood just outside the circle, waiting for his men to do his will for him, turning now and again to look outside when something exploded.

"A good response, Paladin." Iser said, "But even your skills are hard-pressed to overcome superior numbers, especially when they hold a superior position. Once my men secure your ship, even that will not avail you."

"Did you hear that, Sibley? They haven't secured our ship yet."

Sibley laughed. "Well, that settles this now, doesn't it?"

* * * * *

Creton ran through the takeoff sequence, recognizing what was certain to come next. Following long-drilled instructions, he spun up the Baden-Powell's engines. As he did so, markers appeared on the viewscreen revealing the locations of his father and Sir Ramsey, followed by an update describing the rioters as hostiles as well as Master Iser and his guards.

"It's a trap! Just like Father said it would be." Creton said as he spun up the guns and lifted the ship off the landing pad.

Three of the armed worker mecha sped up the ramp to the landing pad. "Attention ship! If you resist you will be shot down. Give up and prepare to be boarded." they declared over their speakers, and one of them fired a warning shot to show they meant it.

Creton rolled the ship on its horizontal axis to bring the turret to bear, and then he returned fire. The lead mecha exploded with a single hit, and then Creton fired on the second one behind it. It too exploded when hit, its skin offering no resistance to cannon fire of the sort that a proper military vessel could wield. The third unleashed all of its remaining rockets upon the ship, but did nothing of consequence: the shields held.

"Call up the heavy guns!" the pilot said as the turret's guns fired upon him, "The cannons and rockets do nothing!"

The pilot heard no reply because he died the instant after he cried for aid, his mecha blown apart by the volley of cannon fire, and then the ship rose in the air to bring its guns to bear on the battle below. During this window of opportunity, Creton took a moment to fire upon the location where his father and master stood before returning to the mecha below vainly trying to shoot the Baden-Powell out of the air.

* * * * *

The men probed and jabbed at each other, trying to provoke an opening, but neither the two nor the dozen would drop their guard. The many red-clad men seemed sluggish, or skittish, in their attacks as if intimidated. The few gold-clad warriors soon saw that they held an advantage.

"You lot know that you can't take us." Sir Ramsey said, "If you thought you did, we'd already be dead."

"Aye!" Sibley said, "You're all as good as dead if you don't surrender now."

"And how do you expect to leave this room alive?" Iser said.

Sir Ramsey glanced outside and saw the Baden-Powell's guns turn their way. "This!"

The first blast shocked the red-armored enemies, and that's when Sir Ramsey and Sibley pounced. In a split second, they cut down three men each without so much as a cry out in pain from the slain. In the moment after that, the two gold-armored warriors thrashed through the weakened guards of the other three enemies each faced, pushing them back to the edges of the room and smashing through those guards to hack them down in turn.

Two more blasts blew open a hole in the wall and exposed the room to the elements outside. Now Sir Ramsey and Sibley stood against Iser alone. "Are you satisfied with my answer, Master Iser?" Sir Ramsay said.

Iser went on his guard. "I underestimated you, Paladin."

"Go on Sibley. I have this." Sir Ramsey said, "Put down this revolt."

"Aye, Sir Ramsey!" Sibley said and he leaped out the hole in the wall to the ship waiting just outside. As he entered through a hatch, Sir Ramsey and Iser crossed swords.

"You can't respond fast enough to turn this around." Iser said, "Even with your experience, you haven't the means."

"I've heard that before, Iser."

Friday, February 9, 2018

"You Write Like John Woo!" Is the Goal, Not an Insult

I've laid down the basics for Galactic Christendom by now. I can go into more details on related stuff, but little of it matters to the setting or the stories I want to do here, so I'll hold off for now and come back to it when I decide to shift my focus and write stories in these earlier eras.

For the immediate post-Azure Flames era, read the backlog here. A lot of those stories are in that time, featuring the progenitor of the the race of Men known in the future as "The Sons of Ken" (who still exist in Galactic Christendom; many find useful work with the Knights of Saint George- the Monster Hunter Order). I even get into the shadow war and its penumbra of the pre-Azure Flames era, using pre-changed Ken, and I'll come back to that down the road also.

But there is a constant. With Galactic Christendom, I adopt wholesale the motto of R. Talsorian's Mekton Zeta: Action, Romance, Giant Robot Combat. The other eras swap out the giant robots for something else (most of the time). I want heroes, and I want heroic action and adventure, so I'm going to deliver it good and hard. If I err, it's on the side of delivering the goods; I've long been a fan of things like Larry Hama's famous "silent issue" of G.I. Joe, and being able to do that in prose is my sort of challenge. I like my plots to move, dammit, and at speed.

If the worst said about my stories are that they are too much like John Woo movies, then I did well. That's where my aim is at.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Crisis at Garmil's Gate - 06

Sir Ramsey Hennepin and Sibley stood across an open room from Master Iser as the alarm klaxons sounded.

"That alarm is your workers rising in revolt against you, Master Iser." Sir Ramsey said, "They acquired arms and ordinance, and they are intent on seizing all ends of the Guild's operations here."

Master Iser looked out over the courtyard as the attack commenced on the gate to the Guild's compound. "And what, Sir Ramsey, shall you do about it?"

"Let your men handle it. This is, after all, a Guild matter. Do you not agree, Master Iser, or have your superiors in the Guild mislead me? We are but guests, as you are keen to remind us, fulfilling a courtesy requested of the Guild by the Court of Stars."

Iser watched the revolting miners blow the gate down and massacre his men manning its defenses. Now pouring forth into the Guild's compound, the miners poured forth fire from men and machine alike indiscriminately into anything that wasn't themselves. The screams of the slain reached far up to where Iser stood without need of amplification.

Sir Ramsey kept his eyes on Iser, but Sibley scanned the room around them. The elder warrior caught sight of several of Iser's men quietly coming in and moving around them.

"Your guards seem to be handling such an event as well as expected." Sir Ramsay said, "Don't you agree, Master Iser?"

The armed worker mecha made quick work of the powered armor troops deployed against them, and the infantry then stormed the buildings where more fire echoed forth followed by the screams of the dead and dying and explosions as hand grenades and stolen mining explosives broke open hardened portals.

Master Iser turned away from the scene below to face Sir Ramsey. "I do, Paladin."

Sir Ramsey saw Iser's hands drop to the man's sides, and he put his own to his hips. "What did Red Eyes offer you?"

"What the Guild never delivered upon: power." Iser said, and a beam sword hilt fell out of the man's sleeve into his fighting hand. "Power, and moreso than that, respect."

Sir Ramsey glanced at Sibley, who nodded in response. "I see, Master Iser. So this revolt is yours then? No wonder you wished us gone."

Bright red lines of light now appeared about Master Iser, drawing into place a suit of form-fitting armor. "And go you shall, Paladin." The light outline solidified into a complete armored shell, a pair of red eyes flashed out the visor slit, and Iser's beam sword ignited with a brilliant red blade.

Sibley and Ramsey noticed the men about them follow their master's lead. Now a dozen red-armored men with red beam swords surrounded them. Sibley and Ramsey reached down to their sword belts, drew their own beam swords, and activated their own armored suits: shining golden shells, with Ramsey's emblazoned with his heraldry, and ignited their sun-golden swords.

"Six to one, Sibley." Ramsey said, "I am flattered."

"I'm disappointed, sir. I thought it'd be at least 20 to one by now."

Iser strode forward and thrust his blade at Ramsey. "Enough talk! Guards, kill them!"

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Apocalypse, the Church, and the City of God

While the arguable Point of Divergence for this setting is well into ancient history, the hard break is already past us in the real world: December 21st, 2012.

That is the day that the cataclysm known as "The Coming of the Azure Flames" began. It was the culmination of a secret war between three conspiracies whose conflict actually ensured the very event they all feared.

The three parties were the resurgent Fallen Angels, released from their prisons starting in the 19th century. They assumed control of an extant pro-Satanic network and set it to the task of bringing their former empire of Babylon back from the ruins of a past now considered mythology. Part of that included the resurrection of their children, the Nephilim. The Angels turned the network into a two-part entity, an outer group of self-interested globalists and an inner group of themselves and the cultists who serve them. Opposing them are a handful of faithful men trying to save Civilization.

All of them failed.

The reason is that the plot for 2012 was a global-scale mass human sacrifice, concealed as a coordiated terror attack upon the ten most populated cities in the world via nuclear weapons. The energy released by such a sacrifice was intended to fuel a ritual work of sorcery whose aim was to shatter the remaining bonds keeping the greatest demons and angels bound, thus making complete the needed elements for a Second Babylon. Most of them were in sacred sites doing the ritual work when the bombs went off.

The globalists thought that this was a covert operation to take out key rivals in the world by crippling them as well as creating pretexts for invasion and occupation. They wanted World War 3, and didn't care about the billions incinerated in an instant that had to happen to make that goal real. They hid in many bunkers and other secured locations when the bombs went off.

Their shared enemies, at this point, had been reduced to a handful of men scattered throughout the world- and only one of them was not convalescing. They had been shattered, and the one able-bodied man left quietly went to Jerusalem to pray for God to intervene.

He did.

The fires were not the judgement. The release of Legion was the judgement. When the Nephilim realized what happened, they panicked and fled to the secured bunkers- abandoning the cultists to their fate. The Angels followed suit, seeing what was undone and how; the few that could remain on Earth did so, while the rest fled the planet entirely and took along with them many subject peoples, settling as close as they dared to prepare for a counter-attack when the wave of annihilation subsided.

Civilization all but perished, as did Mankind. Many nations went extinct over the three days that the Flames burned the world, and then the slain--possessed by Legion--arose as the demon's collective body to consume those that remained. Yoked to the demon's will, the slain and the damned served the fiend if they did not want to cease to exist at all.

While the Angels and Nephilim arose as false saviors, a true one did exist quietly. The Church survived, but not by any obvious evidence on Earth; Rome had its undead problems just like everywhere else. No, the Church survived because the fruits of a research problem begun in the 1970s, and breaking through in the 1980s, went live in 2010 and within that project the nucleus of the Church emerged to begin the long work of reclaiming Man from despair and Creation from the Enemy. This was the City of God.

Taking its name from the philosophical work of the same name, it was a place without a space, where wonders first manifested and their teachings first mastered. Taking inspiration from past episodes and previous tales, they did not come forth as the believed City at first; they came forth as individual men, spreading hope and showing the enduring nations that they can smite the Enemy and build themselves back from the ruins they fell into- all they needed was to return to the faith of their fathers, and freedom could be theirs once more.

In time, after generations, Legion once more fell and returned to the living death he formerly suffered. The undead wave he spawned subsided. The Angels and Nephilim that survived then turned to warring with each other. These were the Wars of the Damned, which would fuel the return of the Church as the nations rose up once more, unifying Mankind while allowing each nation to remain separate and distinct- a House unto itself, but a House in a neighborhood of the nations of Man.

As the age turned, and the cleansing of the Enemy from Earth--and then from the solar system--spread the Church remains the fatherly institution to guide Man to wisdom time and again. The City of God remained the core all this time, ensuring that no entryism took root and no heresy found fertile soil, and to this day none by those allowed within its sacred sanctums knows the secrets that grant the City its power or the depths of the wisdom and knowledge preserved therein. For most, they know only that the City is responsible for the creation of Faster Than Light travel, Super Robots, and other wondrous technologies that make Galactic Christendom possible.

The Enemy has come to realize the importance of the City. It is now a race to see if the City can attain true security before the Enemy finds a way to seize it for himself, and some suspect that the Enemy is closer than they would like to believe in doing that.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Crisis at Garmil's Gate - 05

Sir Ramsey and Sibley entered the office of the Mining Guild's master at Garmil's Gate, Master Miner Reed Iser. Aside from the crest of the guild, it was a plain--almost austere--room not unlike that of the monks of the many monastic military orders of the Church. The man sat behind a thick desk made from the native woods here. He stood up as the men entered.

"Welcome to Garmil's Gate, Sir Ramsey."

"Thank you, Master Iser." Sir Ramsy said, "This is my Sergeant-at-Arms, Sibley. He'll be accompanying me."

Iser eyed Sibley with a contemptuous look. "As you wish, Sir Ramsey." he said, and Iser walked out of the room. "Follow me. We shall begin the tour immediately."

Sibley leaned in to whisper as they turned to follow. "This will not end well."

"Have Creton at the controls and tell him to stand by." Sir Ramsey whispered, "Our presence will spark an explosion, forcing the schemes to come out against us."

* * * * *

The three of them walked down the hall and towards the storehouse. "My mandate is to keep production going. This sector of the galaxy relies heavily on the raw ore mined here, as the concentration of rare elements required in vital technologies is greater than in many other worlds held by House Far and its vassals."

Outside, worker mecha move massive containers of ore from the vast open pit into bulk freight modules for lifting into orbit via the beanstalk elevator several miles away.

"The reports also mention the working conditions here." Sir Ramsay said, "To the point where they are listed as 'consumables'."

"The Guild struck contracts generations ago to take condemned men and employ them as laborers for the duration of their sentence. It is not surprising to find criminals chafing at their shackles."

"Yet a criminal is intended to complete his sentence. That is why wardens punish prisoners who do violence to others, and by such agreements the Guild becomes the warden for these prisoners."

Sibley kept his eyes looking about them as they followed Master Iser. The security presence thinned as they left the Administration area and into the working spaces outside. He leaned in. "We are surely being lead into a trap."

"Agreed." Sir Ramsay said, whispering, "Let's reverse this game."

"Let's leave the details of this situation for after we escape." Sibley said as he continued to look about them, "I think that our enemies will make their intentions and objectives clear once they come for our lives."

* * * * *

Creton sat ready at the controls of the Baden-Powell when he saw an alert come up on the viewscreen. he punched it up, and the screen showed a massive convoy of worker mecha with men riding atop coming out from the mine pit and advancing on the Guild's complex. Soon some of them split off to the elevator.

"Father said I should watch for a surprise attack." Creton said, talking to himself and he zoomed in on the convoy. The men, attired as workers, had weapons--rifles--in hand and the mecha had cannons and rockets bolted on to their frames. "I think that's an attack coming."

Creaton pushed the alert to his father and Sir Ramsey, and began takeoff procedures. "Father was right, again."