29 April 2013

Saving a planet while managing a teenager

This may be the last post including excerpts from THE DREAM LAND Book III for a while as I turn to promoting THE DREAM LAND Book I in print and my literary fiction book AFTER ILIUM also in print. In addition, my early summer plans include making THE DREAM LAND Book II available as an ebook with print edition coming later. No rest for the overly-napped, as usual!

In our last excerpt, our heroine Gina (a.k.a. Jinetta-d'Elous) was tasked with inspecting the toilets that would be used aboard interstellar spacecraft. That's one of her many hassles as head of the International Aerospace Council. Ironically, she's not even from Ghoupallesz, but she'll never tell. They need her and she likes to have a purpose in life, no matter where life takes her.

Now, however, disaster has struck the Evacuation Program in advance of the approaching comet, with great set-backs. Add to that the onset of menopause and a rebellious teenage daughter and you know she is ready for a vacation....

When Gina returned to Kobarêl, making her way wearily from the airship terminal through the dirty streets to her high-rise apartment in the Third Ward compound where many administrators and scientists lived, guarded and safe from the mindless masses sucking bôb and laboring for a steady fix, she was surprised to find her daughter Zaura lounging at home. Gina was also surprised to find her sitting naked on the learning chair, wearing only the white scarf that marked her status as an approved fertility club member with a seat on a vessel.
“You really must wear some clothing, my dear,” said Gina, dropping her bags on the floor.
“Nobody was here,” Zaura replied, not looking up from her tablet, quickly dabbing the stylus on colorful buttons on the screen. The learning chair was more like a chaise-longue with embedded computer interfaces. They had been allowed for space cadets whenever the environment was on alert for high pollution levels or there was a riot of the mindless hordes; school lessons could be maintained that way. “Besides, it’s the trendy thing for us youth to do.” She glanced back over her shoulder at Gina. “Headmistress Dero says there’s no harm in looking. We need to get used to it for such a long journey. Besides, it’s only Latol. You already said he was allowed to sit in our family one day.”
“I did?” She regarded the screen set into the wall and saw there a naked boy, sitting on his own learning chair, playing with his stylus and apparently unaware that Zaura’s mother had returned home. “Hello, Latol.”
He startled. “Greetings to you, Mother of Zaura,” said Latol, not at all embarrassed.
“So formal?”
“Yes. You will be a grandmother for us someday, true?”
Gina grinned. “Not too soon, I hope.”
“Mama, we’re discussing the coupling specifications for the residential pods’ docking assembly and we discovered that if they started Design Protocol 431 precisely when Design Protocol 394 was 55.5% completed, the teams could save 14.33 peth in time, which translates into 1,815 merin in cost savings—and that would allow purchase of 45 more food processor units, for example, enough to outfit 86.2% of one V-100 military cruiser—”
“I’m relieved you are actually studying.” She laughed for the first time since she had left for the conference in Debrêk. “I worried about pre-marital sex, like my mother always did, yet I know there’s no marriage now, only state-authorized coupling to maximize fertility and produce the best of the species. Eugenics returns. I approve if only ten-thousand can be saved from doom.”
“Mama, you are so dour. Did the conference go well?”
“No, it certainly did not.”
“I have sorry feelings.”
“You didn’t learn the latest news?”
Zaura looked up. “We have been manning the Calculus orb, Mama, not slinking the news channel.”
Gina pursed her lips, amused at the youthful slang, then took a seat by the dining loft.
“My dear, there was an accident.” She tried to laugh. “I mean, after my keynote address. The launch of the first residential capsule from the Debrêk spaceworks went bad. There was an imbalance in the chemical rockets which sent the capsule off trajectory and it crashed nearby. There were five crew aboard. Fortunately. They were only sending it up to dock with the transport frame already in orbit.”
“That’s horrible!” Zaura turned to Latol poised on the screen. “Did you hear my mother?”
“Yes,” he said. “Let me eye the news channel for video food. Communicate after an interval.” He blinked out and the screen returned to a static picture of a green valley that could be somewhere in Switzerland—or Sogoê.
“We stood on the observation platform,” Gina continued, “and everyone was happy, excited, waiting to see this momentous event. I cheered for them when the engines ignited. It was only a little way into the air when it spun sideways and went nose-first into a rocky hillside. The fire was horrible and everyone ran. Someone threw a fire-cover over me and held me down. When it was clear, two medical staff helped me up but I was not injured in anyway.”
“I feel pain in my chest for you. What an experience!” Zaura went to her mother, embraced her. “Take a black-bôb.”
“Then everyone began accusing me of setting them up! I did not make the vessel crash. I had nothing to do with it, nor the Debrêk spaceworks. They have an outstanding work record. They said I wanted everyone to go onto the vessels so they would be killed and I and ‘my friends’ could take over the planet. How ridiculous! Evacuation is the only way to survive the coming catastrophe. I even offered to take a seat on a vessel, if they wished it, so they would know I had not booby-trapped it.”
“Buubii-turapt?” asked Zaura with a smirk. “Who would want to design a trick for breasts?”
“An English word,” said Gina in English and continued in that archaic language: “Like if a bomb were set to go off. Ah, daughter, you must not forget the language of your ancestral homeland.”
“I was born in Kipzon,” she replied in English. “You said it like a truth.”
“But your mother and father were born on a planet far, far away and long, long ago. The planet is called Earth. Well, some call it Terra. Others no doubt call it Shithole. It doesn’t matter unless we go back to it.”
“It exists still?” asked Zaura.
Gina wiped a tear from her cheek. “I think it does. We need to find it. Staying here is not a good idea. Going aboard a spacecraft for the rest of your life isn’t much better.”
“You feel distraught, Mama,” said Zaura, returning to Ghoupallêan. “Pop a black-bôb and sleep deep.”
“I don’t need any drugs!” she snapped in English.
She threw her hands to her face as the tears came fast. Many years ago she was happy to take drugs—purely for recreational purposes, of course. Anything to get through the days and nights of college life, hanging out with other druggies when it was all so counter-everything. Now the drug culture had gone mainstream and she was the old-fashioned witch-mom denying the youth their pleasures.
“You need a vacation, Mama.”
Gina lowered her hands, her eyes red. “I certainly do. So I quit the council. I promised to stay on to the end of the year but I did resign at the conference. Right before we watched the residential capsule crash. If it had launched full, there would have been five hundred people dead instead of only five.” She teared up again.
“Mama, cut an interval.”
“You should come with me. I don’t want to go alone.”
“I have cadet training. I cannot quit or cut an interval from the schedule.”
Gina nodded, realizing that she had little control over anything now. Only herself. And that was becoming so maddening as the planet was trying hard to turn its years over into months. They would soon be under a decade until the end.
“I’ll go then,” she said. “Be good. Resist the bôb. Stay as happy as you can. And dream. Everything is perfect in your dreams, daughter.”

Kids, those future days! I can reveal and hope it is no spoiler that Zaura gets herself into trouble, thus adding to Gina's grief. Will all work out in the end? Will she stay on the doomed planet or grab the last seat aboard the evacuation spacecraft? Only THE DREAM LAND Book III will tell!

Hey, check this out: a report of an approaching comet! Freaky!

AND this one on impact craters!

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

21 April 2013

Are you ready for [ahem] evacuation?

April 22 is Earth Day, a day for...well, at least being aware of the fragile beauty of our world and perhaps, for the more ambitious among us, doing something tangible to maintain or improve the world around us, like planting a tree, starting a garden, mowing the lawn, going vegan, whatever strikes your fancy and doesn't hurt anyone. (I know that's a long sentence, but it is grammatically correct and syntactically plausible, so I'll let it stand.)

On the theme of Earth Day, what could be more closely related to the Earth than earth itself? More specifically soil. Yet more specifically, night soil. And what we do with it. Still more specifically, what we do with it when we have left the Earth for the void. That's a clever segue to a discussion of space toilets. And THAT is a clever segue to an excerpt from THE DREAM LAND Book III.

The final act of the novel involves the preparations for a planet-wide evacuation and thus the construction of interstellar space vessels. Our heroine Gina (a.k.a. Jinetta-d'Elous), having studied rocket science back on Earth before she found the interdimensional doorway that has led to her lifelong adventures on the planet Ghoupallesz, was appointed to oversee the evacuation program. At that time there were only 31 years remaining until a comet would strike the planet. Not everyone is in agreement on what to do but most are going along with the evacuation plans.

Needless to say, having no direct experience or knowledge of space toilets, research was required to be able to present a plausible case for one particular design I'm now offering to NASA free of charge. (Some, though not all, of the follow excerpt benefited from my reading of Mary Roach's book Packing for Mars, which quite adequately [or more than adequately, depending on how squeamish a reader might be] covered the problems of defecation in zero-gravity, as well as other things nobody with a standard plumbing system ever ponders.

Excerpt from THE DREAM LAND Book III "Diaspora":

In Sanduu the toilets were coming along very well. That was something to be pleased about, at least.
Gina was walked through the plant for the inspection, even got to test one of them—without an actual deposit.
“So I just squat on top of this pipe?” she asked, removing her green and blue kaftan. One of her assistants held up the opened kaftan as a kind of curtain.
The space toilet consisted of a long tube rising like an elephant’s trunk from the floor of a closet-sized capsule barely large enough for a normal-sized adult to stand upright within. The upper end was open and featured a slightly wider lip coated in ceramic. The person using the device lowered his or her back end directly down upon the ceramic ring. The oblong opening in the center of the ring, being less than the width of a human hand, made precise placement crucial. A tight seal needed to be maintained because of the suction involved. As the exiting material was released from the body, the suction within the tube would remove it completely from the person’s orifice and the tube. Jets of disinfectant would follow down the tube from the underside of the ceramic ring. For urination, the reverse position was to be used. However, that presented problems when the same device was switched on. Suction! Gentlemen needed to be cognizant of the g-forces applied to their family orbs. Ladies needed to be aware of the possible stretching effects of the suction upon their fleshy nether regions, as well.
“Can it be adjusted according to a person’s tolerance?” Gina asked quite seriously once she had hooked up her kaftan again.
“There is only one setting,” said First Director of Aerospace Toiletry Services Rogar-Tolourus. “We expect to give lessons on the proper way to sit on the device. As you can see, in the forward-facing position, a male would not have the capacity there for the orbs to slip into the tube. Not even width for accidental slippage. Females would be more at risk since...because of their...parts.”
“Could a supplemental panel be added to the ceramic ring or held in place by the user so as to restrict the area that is submitted to suction?”
“Most definitely,” said Tolourus. “Nobody wants bodily materials floating about the cabin area willy-nilly.”
Gina had to smile. She instantly translated in her head his phrase as ‘willy-nilly’ and was amused at her choice of words. Sauresk meant ‘haphazardly’ in Ghoupallêan, which was the word he had spoken, yet somehow discussing bodily fluids was better served using ‘willy-nilly.’ Poor willy. All the poor willies subjected to that suction, she thought. And the poor nillies of each female crew member!
“So each crew member must place his or her fleshy parts directly against the ceramic ring to maintain the suction area?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
“Is there any provision for disinfecting the ceramic ring between users?”
“Oh, yes. We thought of that.” Tolourus grinned like he did when she first removed her kaftan to test the toilet. “After the user has exited the cubicle and confirmed the closure of the hatch, there is a switch he or she presses which starts a process of irradiation. That kills all life forms within the cubicle.”
“I understand.”
“The irradiation takes about a pon so no one may use the toilet until the irradiation process is finished.”
Tolourus seemed quite proud of their product. It did the job, took minimal space, was self-cleaning, and could be fitted into any model of vessel.
“And where does it all go?” she asked, returning to a straight face.
“The suction prevents the material from escaping into the cabin environment, of course.”
He waved his hand in front of his face as though trying to expel a bad smell. She was momentarily offended. Never mind that she had boldly squatted before them to test the device.
“The materials are pulled down the tube and remain in a holding tank. From there, they are treated with appropriate chemicals and can then be used as fertilizer in the on-board garden units.”
It was beginning to make sense to her why the Sanduu facility was charged with constructing both spaceship toilets and food production units.
“If the holding tank should become full,” Tolourus explained, a little giddy, “the excess can be jettisoned into space.”
“Such a welcoming card,” she muttered with a smirk. She regarded the others in the inspection team. None were amused. “However, it is necessary. Better the feces and urine burn up being bombarded by gamma rays than staying aboard to freshen the air.”
They chuckled.
“Speaking of gamma rays,” Tolourus spoke, “I read your report. It was news to me—indeed, to many of us in the toiletry science community—yet we know the seriousness of preventing...that kind of radiation. So...given our work with various kinds of fecal matter, I believe we may have a solution.”
Gamma radiation, with its highly charged photons, could easily penetrate the walls of a spacecraft and over time do great harm to the humans inside. Building stronger vessel outer skin did not seem to be the answer. She had always considered a layer of lead in her vessel designs. Nor could she imagine a crew living inside lead-shielded flight suits for many years. The best that could be done was to reduce the effect of gamma radiation by half. Granite or concrete seemed to work well, but she could not believe a granite spacecraft would get off the ground. Right now, her job was less about how many people survived to reach their destination than getting them off this planet in time.
“There is an empty interval between the outer and inner walls of the vessel, right?”
She nodded.
“We can pack it with ordinary soil. In fact, we have a unique clay here in Sanduu that would be perfect for that purpose. And when it shifts or a gap becomes detected, it can be filled with run-off from the toilet holding tanks.”
“You want to fill the walls of our space vessels with shit?”
“According to your calculations—most impressive, by the way, for someone who is not an expert in the field of fecal properties—such organic materials should absorb the radiation, thereby reducing it. When the material should be deemed saturated, it could be flushed out into space and restocked with fresh...”
“Fresh shit.”
“So we will be out there cruising in our spaceshit?”
It wasn’t complicated. She took the word for ‘shit’ (ush) and added it to the word invented for ‘spacecraft’ (xænafi) to form the word xænush.
“Yes, ma’am,” said Tolourus and everyone laughed.
Then someone broke wind.
“Don’t worry,” said Tolourus, “there will be adequate ventilation on board the vessels.”

A quick search of "space toilet" yields more than enough pictures of, for example, the Space Shuttle apparatus (above). Note the two grips for the constipated astronaut to keep his or her balance in zero-gravity. Note the plethora of hoses and tubing for complete transportation of the evacuated materials. There is plenty of ceramic surface for minimal buttock comfort, too, far more than the Sanduu Toiletworks is producing.

Not too sure what this device would leave behind, however, one wonders just how one could resist giving up anything and everything once fixed into the position. Oh, the imagination of sci-fi artists!

For short trips of the up to orbit and back variety, astronauts need only a reliable pair of diaper pants. Very similar to the smaller sized "big boy" pants marketed by diaper companies. They are undetectable beneath spacesuits, to prevent embarrassment, of course.

Watch what you eat!

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

15 April 2013

The Social Side of Annihilation...

Most science-fiction writers I've read deal with the hardware. You know, the spaceships, the propulsion systems, environmental issues, hydroponic gardens, and so forth. Or they deal with the possibilities of finding and settling inhabitable planets, with or without native inhabitants to deal with. Few, it seems to me, deal with the social issues. In this day and age of social networking, especially, it seems natural to try to understand how people might react when the news hits the fan that Mr. Comet is coming soon and he is not happy.

Excerpt from THE DREAM LAND Book III:

Our heroine, Gina, has been appointed to oversee the international project to construct interplanetary vessels, yet not everyone is in agreement with the plan....

 “I’m surprised,” said Gina, brushing her hair out of her face, “you can be so easily bought with a few hours of such a natural activity as standard intercourse.”
“I would vote for your plan no matter how we spent the night,” said Vazak--Buffalo Bob, the ambassador from Erit who wore the big furry hat.
She had called him ‘Buffalo Bob’ a couple times during the night, when in her ecstasy she could no longer hold back speaking English. He had questioned her about the name, thinking she called him a kind of drug, something called bôb. Then he had offered her a mauve-bôb for her amusement, a rare treat that left her unusually energetic on the qala. Vazak, on the other hand, being broad-shouldered and hairy, made the qala swing dangerously from one wall to the opposite wall. In the morning, when he sat on the edge of the qala, the hammock-style bed tipped down to the floor. Gina had rolled down against him and they had laughed together.
“So it’s not a matter of tricking laborers,” she told him as she lay stroking his curly brown back hair, “it’s a matter of persuasion. We are asking them to deny themselves, to give up their own reward, to give away their individuality not out of hatred or bias or a lack of value, but to accept the full knowledge of what their choice, their sacrifice, means for the entire species.”
“You make sex talk enlightening,” said Vazak with a bass rumble. “I agree with you, Kalmonê.”
“No more Kalmonê, I said.”
He grunted, feeling the pain in his head of a night with no sleep, considerations of regret dragging on his heart.
“It is not about you or me, or any one person, or any one country, as you say. I understand it is about saving something of our species to live on somewhere else.”
“Exactly, Vazak. If we can get everyone to understand they are not sacrificing themselves for nothing, they have nothing to lose, then we have a chance to convince laborers to work for the common good. And the common good is not an ark of salvation for kings and queens and their families, nor even the leaders of industry.”
“Yet we must reward those who lead us and those who put forth the money and resources to realize the creation of these ‘arks of salvation’ as you call them. Some of the other people should be selected for their knowledge and skills, whatever is needed for the flight and for the settlement beyond.”
She smiled at him, finding handsomeness in his rough features, thinking of Beauty and the Beast.
“It’s the ultimate job application,” she said, pulling herself back on topic. “It’s like ‘I am valuable enough, useful enough, that I should get a seat on the spacecraft, yet I know even though I am useful, members of my family must stay behind.’ Right? Complete objectivity. Qualifications only. ‘My family cannot join me simply because it pleases me; no, they will need to stay behind.’ That’s how it must be. Everything we do must be only for preservation of our species.”
“And the fertile females?” There was a twinkle in his eye that made her grin. “We must select the fertile ones, surely: the healthiest of both male and female if we hope to extend our species into other generations.”
“Skills, knowledge, healthy enough for a long journey, and fertile enough to prolong our species.”
“A lottery?”
“No, we cannot choose at random. We should let them apply. Let them tell us their skills and knowledge. If they pass that level, they will be tested for health and fertility.”
“Should be young, too, yet not so young they do not know anything and have no life skills however. And old people should not go, even if they are wise. That leaves me off the list.”
“And room for archives of all knowledge gathered from around the world, too.”
“Will these delegates accept such a plan?”
“If we present it this way, they will realize that most of them would not get a seat aboard the vessels and they would vote against the plan.”
“Then you must convince them of the greater good, as you said, Kalmonê. Their action, their choice, their vote is for the future of our species. Nothing less than that will survive. For what is a single person but a bag of cells and a will to keep reproducing itself? It is not our minds or our unique lives that has meaning in the calendar of the universe but the special blob of juice which is the pattern for making us anew. Or returning us to the furnace of creation.”
“You, Vazak, should give the speech. You have the words I cannot pull from my head.”

And so Vazak-Mixerran, ambassador from Nouvê, resident of Erit, half Jêpolissan, one-quarter Zetin, one-quarter Ghoupalle, beefy in a rugged, handsome way, stood on the stage and with thick arms gesturing, gave the speech of his life as Jinetta-d’Elous stood in the front row cheering him on. To the greater good of all humanity, he insisted, though he did not use the word ‘humanity’—ghoumæ was the Ghoupalle word referring to all peoples of a planet. That tactfully smoothed over endless conflicts between the major races and ethnic groups: Ghoupalle, Rouê, Zetin, Danid, Sogoê, Tigu, Jêpolissa, Kobareli, Lapugê, and the Dikondran and Bæro people on the continent of Bæronak. Instead of addressing the congregation as ‘fellow-Ghoupalles’ his word choice had the effect of calling to ‘fellow humans’ and won their attention. He outlined the plan in eloquent words Gina could only imagine being able to speak.
Sebastian could’ve done it, she mused, but he was nowhere in this time zone far into the future from the days of glory and savagery and romantic love and children who grew into heroes and goddesses—no, he was left long ago and far behind. She was on her own and could not leave. Even if she had found the right tangent to escape Kobarêl safely with her children, now there was Vazak, her buffalo-man, her lover.
The vote went as she expected, yet she never considered that she would be elected to oversee the preparations, a kind of Queen of Aerospace Industry, as it were. She would macro-manage and coordinate the various spaceports to be sure maximum efficiency was maintained through conformity to the models approved by the science council. In short, one model for all construction efforts. So everyone agreed—or enough of them to form a solid majority—that the construction of spacecraft was paramount and the resources of the planet would be put forth toward that goal: to have as many vessels ready as possible in the 31 years remaining.
Of course, not all agreed. The main refutations came from the religious legions and the optimistic hordes. The religious believed they should welcome the comet as their punishment; to attempt to avoid it would be an affront to the seven gods and nine goddesses. The F’eng followers were the worst, choosing a masochistic lifestyle full of self-inflicted pain. The most extreme of them would cut their faces to the bone in sympathy with the prophet F’eng who had no face. Their horrible blood was found everywhere they congregated, spotting park benches, street corners, door handles, and trees. They were forbidden on public transportation. All Gina knew was that their leader, a mystic named F’eng, had supposedly gained enlightenment from surviving a severe disease which left him disfigured and in perpetual pain. She thought he might be glad to end the pain as soon as a comet strike could be arranged, but he lingered on. Now his disciples carried forth his message.
The optimistic denizens of the planet believed the comet would miss them, fly right past without so much as a wink. Or, barring that, a few well-aimed rockets with explosives could be launched at the comet to break it up and send the smaller chunks harmless away. Some at the conference had proposed the idea. The scientist who stood and answered their concerns had posed the question What if we miss? If that were the case, they would have no time left to build the fleet of spacecraft in order to evacuate. Go ahead and build them, he said, so we have them if we need them; and if we do not need them then we have them available for interplanetary exploration at leisure.
The degree of error in calculating the comet’s trajectory had been accounted for, leaving the target on track, as feared. A shallow  trajectory could sweep a continent off the globe, one scientist warned. A more straight-on arrival might set in motion destructive forces which would split the planet apart. The odds were not good for buying property thirty-two years in the future.
Gina gazed at the schematics of the proposed vessel, the R-10 Transport Frame and the V-7 Residential Capsule, on easels positioned to the side of the stage. She thought of Buck Rogers, decided the gold surface would be pretty, and the tune “Ticket to Ride” came into her head, causing her to smile. Better safe than sorry. Better a tangent to escape through than a rocket. Or a blue police box.

Therefore, let us say we need 50,000 workers to build 1 spacecraft that would carry 1000 of us to a new world. None of the 50,000 workers have a seat on the spacecraft--although a few may get on it by lottery or an application stating their usefulness to the journey.

How to persuade them to work, yet give up their lives? How many administrators does such a project need? Would you work for the common good, the survival of your species? Will you get a ticket to ride?

 (C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

08 April 2013

Addressing the problem of total annihilation... THE DREAM LAND III Excerpt

What is it going to take to get people off the couch and learning some engineering and astrophysics? Time is wasting.

The U.S. went from Alan Shepherd 's up and down Mercury mission in 1961 to landing on the Moon in 1969. All without the aid of steampunk sensibilities! So how can these folks go from airships to interstellar multi-generation residential spacecraft in 36 years in order to evacuate the planet before the comet arrives? (And how will they get laborers to build the craft who will not get a seat aboard them?)

Excerpt from THE DREAM LAND Book III Act IV

Gina is presenting her committee's findings at an international conference....

“It is possible to do this,” she spoke clearly, barely able to contain her excitement. “We have time and we have resources. We have scientists, engineers, and technicians. And we have a workforce. We can do it—”
“Who will be in charge of this project?” cried out a man who stood up in the back of the hall. He wore a large brown hat made of fur. To Gina he seemed like a big, furry bison. “We have everything you said but the workforce! How can we press people into service when there will be no room for them aboard the very vessels they are building? How can we make that choice?”
He lumbered down the aisle and stood before the stage, arms raised and the wide black sleeves drooping almost to his knees.
“You speak of plans to leave the world of our birth and find a new home. We are one billion people on this world and you speak of vessels that will each carry five hundred of us. How many vessels can be built? How many people can be saved? Who will make these decisions? You? Your council?”
“Yes, we need to address that problem—”
“Already,” yelled the ‘bison man’ delegate from Nouvê, “we have riots in the streets of Erit. We fight to keep back the lost legions from our vessel construction zone. They have given up, destroying all they can before the comet can do it. They live all the pleasures they can find and pray for the end to come quickly. And they will not put in any work effort.”
Gina leaned over the lectern. “It’s a difficult point we are at—”
“She will be saved!” shouted another woman in the robes of a F’eng follower. “She has the Miracle Child to buy her ticket.”
“No, I will not be going!” Gina shouted back.
The crowd became boisterous, tossing questions at her so thickly she could not understand any of them.
At that moment, she wanted to reach out her hand and poke the air, then pry open a gap and step through it to any other place in the universe. If it could lead her home, to that forgotten place where her body was born, that could be a nice vacation. The last time she set foot on Earth, she had found a shopping center newly built where before had been a forest, pasture, and stone ramparts. She had browsed the Barnes & Noble store there, leafed through some science magazines and bought a latté. She read about the Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station. With some regret at the end of the Moon program, she was pleased that facilities were constructed as the start to what she expected would be a permanent station on the Moon and then an expedition to Mars. Let someone else make the decisions and she would happily sit back and watch it all on TV. She realized then how much she missed television; not the shows themselves which were poor excuses for time-killing, but simply having the leisure to sit back and watch a device which showed moving images, a machine that sucked out the gloom and eased a fractured mind into some sort of solace—
“Enough questions!” she cried out, swinging her hands over her head. The chairperson was turning the lights off and on until the murmuring dropped. “I want to make this plan a success. I love this world, no matter the things that have happened to me here.” She took a breath, almost saying too much. “I love Ghoupallesz and if I cannot save a planet I will save as many of its living things as possible. In the time which remains I will do everything I can, use all the knowledge and skills I have, all for the hope that you, some of you, and your families, and the animals and plants of this world will be able to survive and reestablish a civilization on some distant world we can only dream of tonight.”
She stared down the angry F’eng woman.
“I will do all I can,” said Gina in a loud, clear voice, “but I will not take a seat aboard any vessel. I will give my seat, my ticket to my daughter. I will trust her to carry my genes to a new world.”
The crowd gasped, then broke into several pockets of discussion. The tenor of the language turned toward duty and sacrifice for the greater good. Heads began to nod. A few delegates hugged each other while others patted shoulders or ran fingers through each other’s hair. Gina saw fingers wiping away tears. She stepped back from the lectern and went to the front edge of the stage, scanning the audience.
“We have thirty-one years,” she spoke over the crowd, wondering if anyone heard her.


I cannot say how enjoyable it may be to write about the end of a world, but I feel strongly that Gina (a.k.a. Jinetta, Queen of Fenula) will find a way to have it all. The weird thing is that I'm working on Act IV now with Acts II and III unstarted yet planned and Act I not quite finished. I have even dabbled on the final scene, which will be the ultimate twist in the entire trilogy! (No, it was not all just a dream....)

Stay tuned! And get a start on the series with THE DREAM LAND Book I, available now.

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.