Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker
Quality Without Compromise
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I started writing "Imaginary Spaces" back in the mid-1990s. My goal was to write a powerful poly-faceted techno-thriller, blending coming technologies with ancient culture, a fusion of biology, physics, and computer science with fresh, intuitive characters emotionally enrolling the reader in throat-grabbing action set in the southwest.
Like most writers, I edited, changed, and rewrote the novel over 13 times in the years since I first started it, so it bears little resemblance to the first draft. I would keep rewriting it over and over as my life and writing style changes and I mature, but sooner or later you have to let it stand and move on. Just like a knife, an artist could keep working on the same creation for the span of his life, and never be completely satisfied.
Tom Clancy (the world-renowned author) said about me:
"Jay Fisher is a guy who knows how to use the modern to serve the past."
I've tried to honor that and Imaginary Spaces builds by illuminating the powerful conflict of technological progress and human sensitivity and drama, inspiring questions about our directions. The foundations of the human past building forward to the technological future may ultimately be in conflict with our ancient natures.
When I tell people I've written a novel, the first question they ask is, "What is it about?"
There is no easy, simplified way to describe Imaginary Spaces. I won't give a synopsis here to spoil it, but here are some highlights:
You can call Imaginary Spaces a literary techno-thriller, but that wouldn't encompass all of the facets of this work. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and look forward to sharing it with others. Then, in the beginning of 2015, I received this email:
I guess I am violating the number one rule of only writing you about "serious knife purchase inquiries only," and while I certainly don't want to wind up on your "Letters, Emails, Testimonials, Funny Pages" section I feel that I must take that risk.
I have been reading and enjoying the contents of your site for quite some time now, and though I can't afford to have you make a knife for me, I have really came to appreciate your writing style and wonder if there is an update on the status of any of your books?
Please consider some sort of self publishing, or maybe even making your novels at least for sale here in some form on your site. I know I would gladly purchase a copy.
Thanks for reading.
I decided to start offering the novel via a read request, and gathering input and feedback about the piece from the very people who requested it. It's been great; many of them have offered tremendous feedback and helped me to improve not only plot, detail, and direction, but grammar and spelling! Many of these edits are minor, and I incorporate and tweak each suggested edit to make it a better novel overall, and I am deeply grateful for their generalized or detailed input. I won't include every little edit suggestion they made in the email excerpts below, just know that I considered and adjusted, tuned and retuned, based on their input. I'm honored that these people have taken the time from their very busy days to offer to read and comment!
How it works is I present the novel in sections (8 total), one at a time, and they comment as they read.
Spoiler alert! If you are going to request a reading, please do not dive too deeply into these comments; I don't want it to spoil the plot for you! I'll try to leave out the important points, but some readers want and empty slate when they consider a reading.
Remarkable, hard to believe you do something other than writing full time. It is just as good as I thought it would be from the blurb. I don't usually praise things this much either being that I come from a technical background and spent more than a decade reviewing computer related technical items (motherboards, CPU, video-cards etc.) and am usually somewhat jaded by my experiences there and more muted with my praise.
I actually read it twice I enjoyed it so much, which I rarely do, and never do I do that in the same day. I am also on-board in feeling it is nearly impossible to pigeonhole, at times it felt like I was reading early Tom Clancy, then Michael Crichton, then Elmore Leonard, and once or twice even Stephen King, but most of all Philip K. Dick. So if I had to characterize it I would call it "One Piece at a time" after the Johnny Cash song from the 70's, it is truly your own creation and even though I would be hard pressed to pick a genre it belongs in, that is no bad thing.
The only honest criticism I can direct at Imaginary Spaces is the opening sequences, while enthralling are somewhat confusing, while the initial scene with Charlie in the race car is obviously VR, you don't do quite as well answering the present day, VR, or past timeline of the other opening sequences. For instance I was unsure whether The Vietnam scene was live or Memorex (VR) so to speak, the same thing goes with Toquaxtl shaman in the cave, while it didn't seem VR I initially thought it might be current as I didn't know the Geography well, or more likely somewhat recent history. I think a little more guidance in these scenes would be helpful to keep readers from getting lost at the start. Not a whole lot mind you just a little nudge, say a sentence or two somewhere in the description.
Particularly impressive to me was the female characters, they actually seemed three dimensional, a hard thing for any male author to do. I have also lived in the South all my life and you didn't do too bad there either, while there are not many Southern Ladies left (of course there were a few more 20 years ago) most of them have morphed in to the "Cowgirls", you hear about in country music today. There wasn't any ridiculousness caricatures either, which is fine if you are writing comedy or satire but not serious adult fiction.
The other suggestion I have is one of marketing, that you feature your writing more prominently on your site, as it is IMO ever bit as impressive as your knives. I would personally prominently link it from the front page of your site. Failing that I would at a minimum link you novel in your "Who is Jay Fisher" Bio page. I would certainly buy Imaginary Spaces, in paper or .pdf form. In fact it pains me that it is not currently for sale on your site.
What an honor! I'm so happy he liked the beginning. And the confusion he detailed in his third paragraph? That is exactly what I wanted him to feel at this stage, so I don't mind if he's uncertain. All will be revealed...
From another reader:
I have read part A.
Criticism is easy, so that first.
The word “fiberglass” (the Virtual Reality chamber) somehow sticks out like a sore thumb in the story, it doesn’t paint the right mind picture for me. It reminds me of an old canoe I repaired that always made me itch. When I got immersed in the story I pictured it as something more metallic.
A neutral comment next.
At the moment It feels like there are too many stories for one book. The fungi, the VR and the Codex could each be a book in its own right. On the other hand this makes me all the more curious about how it all ties together later on, so it is not necessarily bad, I probably just need to read on.
The first 2 pages started out too loud and harsh for my taste, but it blends into the VR part of the story beautifully.
The Fungi part of the story particularly intrigues me, I am hoping it doesn’t turn out to be a VR program.
I am hooked and need the rest, part B please?
Another great response! I'm seeing a trend here; the multiple story lines are leaving my readers puzzled, and that is exactly where I want them at this point!
Wow, you really had my adrenaline pumping right from the first story! Raw energy, evocative, thought-provoking.
I really liked the way you wove the stories in and out of each other, they really kept my interest.
You're a really good writer! Can't wait to read more :)
As to the second part of the book. No Act II let down here, just as enthralling as the first section.
Only minor criticism here is it still seems that I am reading three different stories in one novel. I am
still happy though since all three are individually interesting, and as promised a few connections of
commonality are beginning to emerge.
One of the main reasons I read for entertainment is because when the source material is really good like this "I fall through the page" as I call it, my hearing and other senses shut down and I am there in the story like some ghostly spectator actually watching the events unfold in person. Well this time I had to hit the pause button so to speak as has only happened once or twice before and step away for a while when one of the scenes got uncomfortably personal and real (Julain speaking to his father after the death of his school friend).
I can sense that the stories are getting somewhat close together but it still makes me wonder how they will tie in.
I am still not sure which characters I are the heroes/heroines and who I think will survive. The tension is
currently high but not overdone.
The story is drawing me in further, almost like the VR machines, I need to read on please!
This is another great installment to you book! I can really hear the different voices in your characters.
I just love it! Horrifying, the pace just zooms by. I can't wait until someone invents a way to download my dreams into VRT, so I can relive and expand on them whenever I want.
Can’t wait for the next installment. How did you learn all about these things?
I read part B all the way through before every happened on my end. I
am still as enthusiastic about the book (if not more) after reading it
as I was after part A.
...this is one of those books though that I would have to make a conscious decision to
put down. I do that sometime when reading something that I am really enjoying. I think to
myself, look if you read the whole thing in one day then you are kinda cheating yourself out
some of the anticipation that goes with reading.
I cannot find any new flaws, or I am just too absorbed in the story to notice them.
Sometimes there are spelling mistakes but they appear to be on purpose, the way people sometimes talk in a humorous or tender way. It is something I don’t often see in books, which made it stand out a bit, but it is not out of place, it makes the interaction between the characters seem more realistic.
I figured out what it is about your writing. It punches you in the gut, shoves you face-first
right into the action. It’s exhilarating. This is so not like anything I normally read, but
I can’t wait to read more!
Red, blue, green, black this section was a kaleidoscope of emotion not often found in
fiction for me. While being a nerd, geek, dweeb whatever it is cool to call us now days I am
most interested in the tech stuff. Your writing is spot on here, it is obvious this is not
second hand knowledge shoehorned into the book to make it seem authentic, quite impressive
stuff that always leaves the reader wanting more.
Did you study works of Carl Jung at some point in your life? This
book reminds me of his concept of synchronicity the more I read it.
That, and the song "Synchronicity II" by The Police.
After suggested input by my reader and a rewrite of a section:
Excellent rewrite in "Closure". I expected a sentence or two,
heck that is all I think would have been needed, but this reads like
a whole new section turning something that felt somewhat out of
place to perhaps my favorite portion of this whole section. Now Stan
is no longer just a bully and a coward he is vindictive, negative,
shallow, immature, hateful, paranoid, perhaps even a borderline full
blown nut case as well. Much more convincing effort.
I cannot put the book down, the pace is good and the story is captivating.
I did not expect the VR killer to be brave enough to leave his den, even though his career started outside of the VR world. Some of the story lines was appearing to draw to a close, the noose tightening, but with the killer moving outside it opened up again. Looking back I see now that the killer is not a Game Junkie, I should have realized that.
I am still somewhat amazed at the relationships in this book as well, usually if you have
one interesting couple relationship in a book, as a reader you should consider yourself lucky.
In this case though all of the relationships are compelling, on top of that there are two standout
characters (B.C. & David) that are superb either of them could have stood on their own as the
foundation lead of the novel.
I've truly enjoyed the story so much that it's hard to find
anything to critique as content goes. However, I will share
something I've noticed so far. You do a great job of "fleshing out"
your characters. They have their own distinct personalities,
strengths and weaknesses. Your characters all are "real", like
people you could run into at the grocery store in your hometown.
When you introduce and describe a new character, I feel like I know
within a paragraph or two if this character is a good guy or a bad
guy. You do well at getting me to sympathize or resent them. I like
that. It seems like a reflection of your technical writing. When I
first read the pages on your site in 2008, I came away with a
feeling of certainty about the content, despite my complete lack of
knowledge about the topics you wrote about. I felt like I didn't
need to research these topics outside of your site, because it was
(and continues to be) the definitive work on all aspects of custom
knives. This is what I'm getting so far from your characters:
certainty. Of course B.C. is a good guy. Of course Stan is a prick
whose short-sightedness and tunnel vision will be his downfall. Does
that make sense?
Wow, this section was really exciting!
Can’t wait to read more!
I am now all in, I was afraid earlier in the story that a very gripping, enthralling opening was
going to lead to a mediocre middle, that hasn't happened things started strong and has stayed
However, as a reader, I also like uncertainty in a character as
well as a plot. I love that Imaginary Spaces is one helluva ride as
the plot goes. I am excited to see if you introduce a character that
makes me think, "I'm not sure about him. What's his motivation? Who
is he working for?" It may be that one of these characters is not
all you have led me to believe so far.
The pace has certainly quickened here in this section. This whole
novel reminds me of a good piece of classical music, there are many
slow leisurely parts and many frantic spots, and unlike other
fiction I have read it doesn't just start slow and build to a
frantic pace at the end. It is more fast, slow, slow, fast. Most
I get the feeling that you got your hand in with the writing after the first 2 sections, they were very good, but the last 3 sections are world class.
I am really enjoying this book. Your writing is so detailed, and
your descriptions are phenomenal.
Stan- I struggled with his ending for a few days. At first, I was
hoping that his downward spiral would be drawn out for another
section of the book. After thinking about it some more, I agree with
how you wrote him out of the story. His character was a leech,
dependent on Paul's story to be relevant. Paul has since moved on to
"greener pastures" with no room for Stan in the picture. I LOVED
your jab at Hyundai. You had me laughing so hard that I woke up my
wife! Was there a traumatic first car experience similar to Stan's
Hyundai in your past?
Paul- It's nice to see Paul being used for something worthwhile, and his insecurities really add depth to his character. I'm enjoying his development and the NRO storyline.
NRO- This is getting pretty heavy. I enjoy how each storyline is evolving with a sense of purpose. Every sub plot is important, with none of them coming across as filler material. Bravo!
B.C. and Lee- Though B.C. is my favorite character, I was glad to see that he had his own weaknesses and insecurities. The man is human after all. I assume that your uncle's war wounds were the inspiration for B.C.'s. The dynamic Lee brings is nice. She is the soft spot in B.C.'s heart. I'd like to see her character developed some more. Right now, it seems there is no Lee without B.C. The inverse does not seem true to me.
Randy and Chris- Randy is one of those "good ol' boys" that I knew from the South during my time in the Army. I'm glad he cut Sue's VR fix off so violently. Randy's past is interesting, and I look forward to what you have in store for him and Chris at Randy's grandparents' ranch.
Duncan- Scumbucket. If any character deserves a long, graphic, drawn-out comeuppance, it's this sh*tbag.
Julian- The kid's story is great. I like him almost as much as I like B.C. The depth and complexity of this character is outstanding, especially considering that he is so young. His plot in part C was the most interesting by far.
I enjoy the small quotes from other authors at the start of the
chapters? They seem to frame what is happening in the upcoming
section quite nicely. There is a large variety as well. You are
obviously well read yourself which I have no idea where you find the
time as busy as you seem to be.
If you want to read more of this novel than the excerpts, email me for a request for the novel, available in PDF form by sections, in order. All I ask is that you respect my copyrights and offer some feedback! Please note that it's okay to write me about my writing; if you're reading this, you have my thanks.
Below are some excerpts.; I decided to jump around quite a bit, to pique your interest and hope you'll want more!
"For a short time, therefore, allow your thought to leave this world in order
to come to see a wholly new one, which I shall cause to be born in the presence
of your thought in imaginary spaces."
--A treatise on Light, Rene' Descartes (d. 1650)
Was the profession worth it? She could recite the Lexicon of Mycology, including all verbiage of bacterial morphology, nutrition, metabolism, and control. A lot that meant when she sat alone late at night, listening to the refrigerator hum in her vacant house. There was always another trip: sure, I can go: no family, no obligations, no impending graduations or visits, no life. She would gather up her go-pack, essentials bound for every terrain, moment's notice, catch the flight, find the fungus, make the grade. They would thank her, as always, for her personal sacrifice, sometimes so apologetically it made her wish she had forgone something.
And the moldy growth slid by on the inoculating line, magnifier to her social life.
Was it too late? No one to take the musty old maid with the legendary sterile inoculation procedures? Once or twice she had worked with other researchers, men who were more interested in her sub-bench techniques than her theories. A man should respect- What would Antonio have been like in Peru? It was worth considering-
The bumpy dirt road wound over hills and past cliffs, through dusty washes and dampened stream bed. At every turn were the grimy pump jacks: some silent and abandoned, some bobbing like novelty drinking birds poking at a glass of water. But there wasn't any water two thousand feet below the sand, just nasty crude, hydrogen sulfide, and drip gasoline: fluid, vapors, and revenue.
Michael had mixed feelings about the industry; it was the worst sort of offense to the land and the eye, but it also gave him his job. First a site survey by the archaeologists was necessary to assure minimum impact on any features. Then, a dirt road was carved to the well site, the drilling crews came in with their huge rig, trailers, and equipment sheds and drilled around the clock. They left an acre and a half of wasteland, a pit with nasty sludge, a tank as big as a house, and a noisy compressor that throbbed and hissed like a pissed-off dragon day and night.
As Michael drove, the well locations dwindled and the road became a trail. Soon there was just a path through the scattered sage and cactus. Gradually it, too, disappeared.
They passed an abandoned Navajo hogan: a crude circle of weathered juniper trunks stacked and sealed with handfuls of mud. Its twig and bark roof was caving in, a centuries-paced implosion. Outside, there were tall timber crosses with shreds of cloth like decayed scarecrows moving in the early spring breeze.
"Ghost Hogan," Michael said. "Last landmark."
Michael downshifted and torqued up out of the arroyo, stopped at a flat spot and killed the engine. "Here we are."
The doors opened and everyone stepped out, stretching. Jean took a swig from the last of her coffee she'd been sipping the whole drive. Lee settled a wide-brimmed straw hat on her head and tucked her dark hair beneath it. B.C. took a prolonged 360 degree look, noting the features of the area. Michael opened the back of the Jeep and started unloading. He hefted the packs and boxes while he talked.
"Hear that?" There was a distant throbbing rhythm swelling and fading on the wind. "One mile due north is the closest rig." He pointed the other direction. "We're heading off that way tomorrow." Jean looked down his tanned forearm past his finger across several juniper-dotted hills to the base of a distant mesa.
Two nasty looking MPs, real soldiers with real guns, moved to secure the gate beyond the rigs. In a glance, they knew he was just a refrigeration technician, a Freon-pumper, made to sling R-500 in broken-down chillers, a sash of manifold hoses slung over his shoulder, vacuum pump by his side. And he felt like an imposter.
A white van busy with faces pulled to a stop in front of the MP that rested one ready finger on the trigger of a black, Teflon coated, laser sighted M16E. His eyes were locked on the cluster, waiting for a reason to fill the glass buggy with screaming slugs. Instead, the driver whipped out a plastic encoded card, and the MP dragged a pen-sized scanner over its face. He handed the card back, and saluted so perfectly it must have been his picture in the manual. The van passed and parked behind the circled trailers.
The side door slid open and Paul Beatty's Ichabod Crane body unfolded, stepped out, and reached a hand back to Carol. Her curvy legs ending in short black pumps that bit into the gravel. Four more scientists followed, wearing just what one would expect beneath long draping lab coats, all of them disappearing into shell 1908-A.
The arrivals shuffled into an open room with bright skylights letting in the color of the day. At each chair around a conference table had been placed a thin publication. They sat down.
A clean-cut young man stood in the doorway at the end of the room. "Coffee anyone? We have tea and decaf, or whatever you'd like."
Requests were murmured and a cart was rolled in while a few of the scientists leafed through the layout of the labs: Containment and Disposal, Supplies, Conference, Generation, even a lounge with several offshoot berths for the protracted study.
"The goal," a big voice boomed from a little man at the head of the table, "is simple."
Stir sticks quit tormenting the coffee.
"No! Tell him I must go up alone . . . to the place, to the altar." She had to shout over the angry wind that clawed at them on the jagged rocks.
The interpreter nodded and leaned over a dark-skinned little man, sheltering their faces with his cloak. The bright colors and jagged patterns were the same as they were four thousand years ago, when the natives couldn’t imagine a white face on their mountain.
Carol Hilbert shivered in her down parka and wondered if the llama wool kept her bearers any warmer. She untied her hood and pulled it down, letting loose her hair, shimmering rusty auburn, in the glaring sunlight of 12,000 feet. She turned and looked up at the god.
Nevado Huascaran was the fearsome northern leader of the cordillera, the Spanish knotted rope called the Andes. His craggy spire pushed up the through the rolling clouds at 22,000 feet. She remembered the Peruvian tales of his vengeance, his power to invoke lightning and storm without mercy.
The curandero gestured wildly with his bony, arthritic hands. Carol understood enough of his words to know the god's demands were simple. She must leave blood.
The interpreter pushed his wire rimmed glasses up on the bridge of his nose and walked up the slope. "He says you go alone, and you must offer." His accent was Spanish, educated.
"And if I don't?" Carol looked down at the knotted little Brujo.
"He says you can't see the altar. You won't find the champinones azul." He glanced up at the towering spires of the gods surrounding them. "Or something worse-"
"But Antonio, is he sure it's up there?"
The interpreter looked over his shoulder at the curandero. "You know he's also a yatiri."
"I'm sorry, I don't know that word." The wind buffeted her and she grappled with her footing on the rock.
Antonio nearly yelled to be heard over the gust. "He's a priest, a specialist. He claims the azul was there two years ago when he left his despachos, his ornaments. He says it was accepting the plata, the silver."
She put her hand on his shoulder. His cloak flapped and talked in the wind. "Tell him it's ok. Tell him I'll offer to Nevado."
"But Senorita Hilbert! Blood?"
They stood outside on the roof of the hospital, buffeted by the draft from the rescue chopper, Paul squinting and holding down a nonexistent hat, Dave wide-eyed and ready, finger touching his Glock 17 inside his jacket. An EVAC team of nurses and physicians waited inside the door, hungry dogs with needles and tape. As the skids touched the concrete target, glass doors powered open under the canopy and the team rushed out. A paramedic and in-flight nurse shouted in the ears of the trauma team, conveying the critical information learned en route. A gurney with patient was downloaded off the chopper while the huge blades wound down.
Dave stood out of the way, craning his neck to see. The patient's face was covered with an oxygen mask, but Dave could tell it was a woman, forehead strapped to the backboard on the gurney, her legs and arms immobilized with wildly flagging gauze and IV tubes. What little flesh he could see was blue-mottled over ash. The team hustled her through the automatic doors and disappeared into the building.
A nurse stayed behind, reaching in to help a huge brute out of the chopper. Dave shifted his grip to cover the safety trigger of 18 available rounds. Paul, aware of David Moore's hidden appliance, remembered the tale of Goliath. The giant passenger pressed a trauma dressing to the back of his head, yanked an O-2 mask from his face. Dave moved, cocked, toward the helicopter.
Flanking the ashtray where two Rothschilds had gone to meet their maker, a couple of chipped and stained coffee cups squatted on the cluttered desk. They shook and vibrated with the bumping of the table and shuffling of maps.
"Mike, did that bimbo Andrea steal your brain when she left? I just don't see any connections," B.C. said.
"How can we? This is new, unique."
"There aren't any major sites nearby, we don't have any thing to go on."
"Are we sure? How do we know that the area's been covered? The last official survey was in-" Michael shuffled through copies of old maps. "1864."
"Mike, I don't think you realize the magnitude of your find. If we directly connect it to the Anasazi, not only will it deepen ties with the Aztecs, it'll send every pot hunter and treasure seeker there is into prehistoric sites with gold in his eye and a metal detector in the back of his pickup. Just letting it out would destroy countless pristine and secondary sites."
"I know, I know."
"And we don't even know if it has any relation to the Anasazi."
"That's true, I didn't find any definite sign in the cache." Michael paused and thought a bit. "And how did it get there?"
"Historic?" B.C. pondered the word with one eye half open, his big paw scratching his unshaven cheek.
Both men gasped in concert. "Conquistadors!"
Ten thousand years might have passed, and the seed of Metallica would have evolved, filling an essential position in that master scheme that humans are too small to understand. Nitrates might have been its prey, or substrates of humus, perhaps Metallica itself becoming a delicacy of thick French accents at future Andean ski resorts. But now, Tricol’s metal was its taste, and hunger beyond reason and supply beyond limits sent thick-skinned basidiocarps pushing up out of the mycelium. Massive structural steel columns that paid for three-piece polyester thugs in the union shops of Gary surrendered to fungus like bones to the sea.
Bob Weigle stood, manicured hand rubbing bald head, restoring his command of the margins Stan had breached.
Just where the hell is he? Bob asked the reflection in the double-thick glass of his office. The plant was making blue pigment, all right, and soon there would be nothing else. The shareholders would have his ass, he'd be forced to unload his own portfolio to recover. So much for his retirement, another year sailing this ship of stain, another year of backward Little Mexico.
San Diego had been sweet; corporate headquarters a sensuous trickster that led him to believe he was indispensable. But Westside division stared at him through the glass, a dirty, laughing bitch, flapping her grimy dress, teasing the prisoners. You’ll never be free-
"Dammit it Stan, you're fired." He picked up the line to the control room. "Get me the shift supervisor."
He had always hated double-wides, their thin aluminum flashing, substandard studs, inferior wiring, inadequate insulation. No matter what color the vinyl siding, no matter how the faux-gabled entryway roofs were arranged, it was still a trailer. One that was made for one trip, to one place where the axles and tongue were severed, skirting thrown up like a cheap deck of cards to hide the cinder block supports on a cold slab, hoping privately that no one would notice.
But they did. The middle-brows that drudged in the local service jobs or factories would show up to the leveling like a coming out party, singing praises for the raised and sunken bathtub, the raised and sunken living room, the paneled bar, the fleurs-de-lis vinyl flooring. And in a neighborhood of hook-ups, it wouldn't be a hovel, no, it would be a palatial castle by year of manufacture, until the next adoration was eased into the unregulated subdivision on the greasy ball of a truck.
Alan had worked years to conceal the obvious, knotty pine panels graced the entire sheathing, a new hipped roof with real shingles draped over the noisy sheet metal that was previously silenced with discarded tires. The fuchsia carpet was replaced, two porches were built, a few windows were reframed and boxed to flummox the passersby.
But it was still a metal box, and Julian had a hell of a time getting his signal out. He looked up at the shiny housings that squat side by side on the roof next to his antenna, hoping. Inside them was the answer to the murderous plague that gripped the city.
To the boy, the klystron tube was a thing of beauty. It was probably once used by TACAN, the Tactical Air Navigation system for the Navy created back in the seventies, before being deemed obsolete. He acquired the tube from the surplus barn the week before. It. took him several hours to confirm that it was working, but military hardware seldom fails.
He returned to his room and booted his computer. His signal had been selectively constructed, compressed into a format only the Virtual Killer could decode. He took a deep breath and flipped the switch on the power supply. The lights in the house dimmed as eighteen thousand volts were applied to the towering cathode of the klystron and it glowed, emitting a stream of electrons through the resonant cavities in the vacuum tube. The excess electrons were collected at the metal bottom of the tube, submerged in water to keep it cool. He didn't have much time before the device overheated, so he punched a few keys and hit enter.
A super-compressed digital signal left the computer via the coaxial cable to the roof. There, the klystron amplified the signal through an oscillating feedback loop into an extremely powerful burst of dense electrical wave. The resonant cavities of the klystron sang out his message at fourteen gigahertz, it shot down the two foot waveguide and focused through the dish into a tremendous two megawatt burst of highly constructed, multi-layered, terabyte data fusillade. The narrow beam overpowered the standard carrier wave heading for the Intellsat satellite, swamping the signal for l/30th of a second.
Beyond the confines of the atmosphere of the planet, a fifty-five thousand pound hunk of technology received his powerful burst. The super high frequency, fourteen gig west spot antenna almost shook from the hit. The signal was decoded and remodulated onto a broader band that flooded the earth below.
At the numerous transponders on the planet, Julian’s signal was just spurious noise, a short glitch of unintelligible static that represented itself on television screens not unlike a power surge. A small electrical event that was insignificant and quickly forgotten was all the masses experienced. But it meant life or death to a virtual murderer and a vengeful boy.
Superimposed on the frame of the man was the image of a soldier, an infantryman, perhaps a corpsman obligate, his carriage an exemplum of the warrior dedicated by cause. In his voice could be heard the rumble of cannon fire, in his stare the critical judgment of death. He was, had always been in his own eye a military man. Tom was made of the stuff of armies, discipline was his mistress, and he loved her beyond all others. Sure, ladies would swoon at his spirit, but he seldom let it show, it just wasn't what a gentleman did. And there was not yet a beauty who could outshout the call to war, the fury and excitement that was his blood.
The line had gone way back, his great, great grandfather carried a saber and musket in the big war, the real big war that his country had forgotten, when brother fought brother and blood poured over his nation, his America. In that heritage he was studied, knew the dates, visited the battlefields, tasted the sad rows of burin-carved names in America’s own peaceful fields. Sometimes, when quiet let the soldier peek inward beyond his reserved crust, he saw a young boy, little Tommy, clothespin screwed to pine stick laid over small shoulder, pocket full of rubber bands. He had always wanted to be an army guy.
To say army guys don't cry, to say they don't miss their wives, kids, mothers, and lovers is more cruel than any hopeless war ever fought. To know why they serve is to understand. Tom had choked on the smoke of many Desert Storms, ate crates of rations by many names, living as an anachronism on acronyms. Laser guided bombs, smart death, all the techno-killing devices made would never substitute for mop-up, man alone, going into peril, cleaning house.
Times were when Tom wearied of battle, stepped out of the big combat for a bit, and found a home in the city wars of murder, drugs, violence. It was his R&R.
"How was your trip?" Dave asked.
"Fine." Tom plopped his GI butt into the office chair. "Any new developments?"
"Yeah, caught a big one this morning."
"What, fishing again?"
"Hopped right into the boat."
The song was over, the personal prayers done, and Chatixt was ordered to sit by the high priest while the meal was laid out. No more dried fish and powdery maize gruel from the leather bags that could not keep out the moths, though the boy hungered for even them. Tonight it was time to feast, and they gathered at the base of the great cave, just as the prophecy had decreed. Tonight, there would be warm light, fires to the stars forbidden since the journey started, so no other tribe would know their way. And there would be songs, not subdued and aimed inward, but loud, fearless, courageous dancing demands to the gods who surely set their footsteps here.
So, yucca root is cooked for soap, mud is washed from hair in thick clumps, paint scrubbed from skin, dusty cloths beaten out and cleaned of vermin and placed on the ground to pad the evening.
A feast was laid down on the cloth. First, the prickling spines had been burned off the green-ears, the flesh roasted with wild sage and bitterweed, the reddened plump fruit decorated a wooden tray with split, meaty desert scaly-racers cooked at the center. Some magical sauce, white and vaporous, had been poured over the racers, filling their open guts, making Chatixt dizzy with its tang. It was thickened pulque, his first taste, insisted on by Toquaxtl, sitting next to him, who laughed and pointed at Chatixt's crossed eyes. There were some peculiar round gourd-melons scattered around meat which was carved into thick bubbling rich hunks, and they ate and smacked while the Provider-Hunter used his fingers to replay the scene of the white pronghorn battle. The creatures were fast, like melted gold, and it took all dozen Providers to bark them into a little canyon, where they would not jump and were easy for the bows. There was clear gulping water, not the greasy rank pottery water that sloshed for miles in the heat, but clear spring water, cool and perfect from the earth, and Chatixt drank, most of all to remember what it was like to be satiated. And the smoky vapors of the night for a moment took them all home.
The three a.m. glow of a hundred mercury vapor moons at Tricol confused the shadows along the periphery fence. An arm like a side of beef eased over the top rail of the chain link where a break in the concertina had never been repaired. The Tyrrhenian Hercules that was Tom Harvey posed in relief against the mosaic of iron. He moved through staccato light beams cast like silvery knives. He paused, cast a glimpse from an aventurine eye, then slipped under the liquid ammonia tank supplying the cooling system of the vapor condenser. His freckled hands fixed a device to the discharge valve, scooped grime from the tank footing, and smeared the appliance into obscurity.
He dashed through the knives and slid back over the fence like a raw oyster.
A vigilant eye 150 miles above multiplexed signals to an office building in the city, illustrating Tom's breach of Tricol security, his placement of shaped havoc, his leisurely retreat. Heads nodded, murmurs quieted, permission was asked.
An infrared transmission initiated phase two.
A loud thump hammered the floor. The Tricol control room board operator prayed to the gods of velocity and momentum. "Shit! Now what?"
Two auxiliary operators grabbed their hardhats and danced out the door. The board operator's eyes played all over the annunciator panels searching for the cause.
Anhydrous ammonia spewed from the ruptured line on the pressurized tank, pooling, fogging, boiling, and evaporating. Lighter than the surrounding air, it rose slowly into the early morning sky.
Rounding the corner of the process building high in the pipe rack, the lead AO was abruptly overcome by choking acrid fumes. The second held his breath and closed his stinging eyes while groping for his buddy. Finding his belt, he pulled hard and fast, jerking his casualty to clear air. They stumbled to their feet and staggered toward the control room.
The choking AOs lurched into the control room and collapsed on the floor.
"How much?" the board operator asked.
"All of it!"
"Shit!" He started hitting every red button he could see, dropping equipment all over the plant. Motor operated valves slammed shut, pipes hammered deep in the structure. Equipment whined in rejection of load, pumps deadheaded, air handlers quit, and evacuation beacons cut red light through the night air like blazing spears through hell.
The enormous 130 decibel siren wound up, waking the sleeping city like shoving their heads down the throat of a jet engine. The horrifying banshee hailed to the maniacal demons of catastrophe, begging them to sacrifice all graveyard shift personnel who ran, full speed from the plant.
For a time, I'm making this entire novel available by request. Just email me here, and let me know. I make no money, not a penny, from this, but will ask you to evaluate what you read if you would be so kind. If you offer good, helpful objective points, I may credit you in the preface! I only ask that it's not copied, disseminated, or shared in any way, as that would violate my copyrights and break laws. That's it!
Agents, publicists: If you are a literary agent, please note that my last agent has now passed away, leaving a highly desirable spot open in my framework of professional henchmen and accomplices. Email me if you think you can leave scars on the stream of literary history. I'll furnish the edged weapons to do just that!
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