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  • Introducing Peter Irwin Kyle

    P.I. Kyle (he likes to be called P.I. when we talk about his professional achievements) is the latest addition to Spinneyhead’s publishing arm.  Whilst you won’t be seeing any of his work for a couple of months, P.I. already has a couple of projects under way.

    P.I. is our science fiction and fantasy author, and some of his stories will bounce back and forth between the two genres. At present he is working on the first tale of Kam the Wanderer, a steely thewed adventurer in the Conan mould who shall be discovering the strange devices, abandoned cities and bizarre creatures left behind on his world by the Ancients. Mr Kyle’s other project is an updating and expansion of the Heavensent tale which was serialised here on Spinneyhead several years ago. The dieselpunk tale should become a three novella long alternate technothriller taking place on a planet with one giant continent split by a massive mountain range.

    That’s enough about P.I. for now. I’ve got to go and lock him in the cellar and force him to keep typing.


  • Sea Hunters discover pykrete

    I’m watching Sea Hunters, Clive Cussler’s marine archaeology TV series, and they’re looking for the Habbakuk prototype built in a Canadian lake from an ice/wood pulp mix called pykrete. I’ve been fascinated by this project for a while, stealing the concept for the eponymous carrier in Heavensent.

    Sea Hunters has a blog with behind the scenes pieces about the Habbakuk episode.

    Habbakuk links via Beamjockey.

    More Habbakuk information, and Wikipedia on Habbakuk. Habbakuk of Ice, a radio play about the project.


  • Heavens End

    Yes, today’s instalment of Heavensent was the final one. I decided to leave it quite open. As they cast off and head up river you don’t really know what the future has in store for them. Also, the main mystery of the whole thing was just how they got to be there, what the Silver Tower really was and where the two groups of travellers came from.

    Plus, I no longer wanted to do the whole Heart of Darkness trip upriver I’d originally envisioned for the third part of the story because the revelation of the Seeds made it more or less redundant.

    I’m working on a new story at the moment, at work. It’s great. Because it’s my job to answer the phones there are periods when I have nothing to do, and they don’t seem bothered that I scribble loads of notes into a notepad during those periods. Yesterday’s simplicity post was a result of downtime scribbling and there has to be a few thousand words of novel waiting to be transcribed as well. I’m working slightly differently to normal in that I’m composing scenes and sequences that I think will be important but not in the order they will appear. Everything gets to be stitched together later. It seems to be working better than charging in and trying to get it all down in the order I want it to appear, continually stopping for inspiration.

    When this fortnight’s work is over I’m going to have to head out during the day to find quiet places to scribble where there is no distraction from always-on internet.

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  • Heavensent 11.11

    “There is claim of a holy man in the city of Reff, and a rebellion on the Plains that should draw attention away from the river.” Aylo passed on the latest intelligence from the quayside.

    “We will try to contact him.” Bobb was at the top of the gang plank. “Thank you for the vessel.” A sweep of his hand took in the medium sized river trader. “And the crew.”

    “You could have had a full river battleship, and enough crew to man it twice over.”

    “This will be enough. We do not want to draw attention to ourselves.”

    A horn blew on the bridge. “It is time to go.” Bobb raised the gangplank. Crew members threw off the lines that held the boat against the quayside.

    There were few people in the crowd that saw the six strangers and their twenty five volunteer crew off. All made the sign of the Silver Tower.

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  • Heavensent 11.10

    “And you set out seven generations later to see where the Seeds went?”

    “We set out to track one particular Seed. It had been beaming signals back, weakly, to Earth. Other teams are tracking down other Seeds.”

    “You are clones?”

    “Yes. And we are augmented with computing power and weaponry. Our ships are far less grand, there is just enough space on each to house two shuttles and our sleep pods.”

    “What is your mission?”

    “To find out what happened and send a message back. Then to see what we can do to bring a world government, or any sort of civilisation, to the planet’s inhabitants.”

    Jayn laughed, harshly and humourlessly. “Do you think peace is a possibility?”

    “Not in the near future, no. However the Silver Tower is a religious symbol across most of your cultures. Once its secrets are revealed, peace should be much more likely.”

    “Maybe.”

    “You should sleep.”

    “There is so much I need to know.”

    “In good time. Now, you should sleep.” His touch was light, but it eased her into sleep. He placed a blanket over her and went to find his companions.

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  • Heavensent 11.9

    The silver arrow head streaked the whole length of the continent, trailing thunder across a clear sky. An S-curve manoeuvre decelerated it and it dropped out of the sky above its target.

    No man-made runway was yet big enough for the shuttle to land on. But this expanse of flat hard packed earth was smooth enough. The nose wheel still collapsed, but not until the shuttle had almost stopped.

    Vehicles under various forms of propulsion raced across the plain. A section of the fuselage fell away and crashed to the ground as askew steps. Three figures faced the collection of junk that greeted them. The two men descended first. The woman followed at a distance, arm locked tightly by her side.

    “No-one has shot us yet.” the short man commented.

    “Give them time. Maybe we’re just not in range of their weapons.” his companion answered. The taller man glanced back at the woman, walking sideways so they wouldn’t be between her and the main group of vehicles. “How badly would this mission go if she killed the first batch of natives we met?”

    “Try not to think of it.” They raised their hands as an armed group advanced on them.

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  • Heavensent 11.8

    “What must it be like to live without a ceiling?” Sayeed mused. The man who had once been BoyChild floated in front of the viewing screen and studied the land mass he believed had once been called Africa. There were scars on the land that might once have been cities, each ringed by settlements of shining salvage.

    Sayeed’s two wives, their spare husband and his male companion studied the screens and oversaw the orbital alignment. “We can go down and see. After we’ve adjusted to Earth normal and screened for disease and toxins. And when MareeSelst has given birth, of course.” The former YoungLady was spreadeagled upside down, relative to the others. The freefall was her idea, to alleviate the discomfort she remembered from her last pregnancy.

    “We’re getting messages at last. Translation is working on it, but it looks like equal numbers of threats and invitations.” SeelYa, previously GirlChild, announced.

    “No open hostility? No weapons active?”

    “Not that we can detect.”

    “Let’s send in the clones.”

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  • Heavensent 11.7

    “You are not one of the ones who found this mysterious ship are you.” Jayn was getting used to the way the tale was being told.

    “No. That was seven generations ago. Seven generations before we set out, at least. Our journey will have taken another two or three.”

    “This giant space ship. Was it one of the ‘Seeds’ that didn’t leave the solar system?”

    “It was. They stripped it of technology and learnt everything they could from it. Thousands of years had passed from the days when Earth’s civilisation collapsed. They learnt all about the water wars, the resource wars and finally the space wars. There were other Rocks in the asteroid belt, and they joined forces. Explored all the other planets and found survivors on them as well. It was a bit easier to survive in a dome on a planet’s surface than in a cave cut in some piece of rock.

    “Eventually, they decided they had to go back to Earth, to see what had become of the civilisation that had stranded their forefathers out in space millennia before.”

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  • Heavensent 11.6

    There was only one suit on the ship, but that didn’t matter. They had passed through an airlock and been dragged down to a docking platform. The external sensors were deployed and detected a steadily rising oxygen concentration. There was the slightest shudder and a growing sense of something pushing them back into their seats. The detritus and discarded odds that they’d stopped noticing arced to the floor.

    “It’s starting to rotate. We’ll have gravity soon.” YoungLady announced.

    “I hope it doesn’t go higher than we can take.” JonPaul replied, “Rock normal is a bit lower than Earth.”

    After a while BoyChild stood, wincing at the extra effort. “What’s the atmosphere like?”

    “A little thin, but breathable.” GirlChild answered.

    “I’m going out.” The others shrugged. After a moment they followed him.

    The airlock was cramped for four. They held their noses and blew to keep their ears from popping. When the outer door opened they were greeted by dry, oily air. The step had to be hand cranked. JonPaul did this as quickly as he could, because BoyChild was leaning out and ready to jump.

    The hangar was huge. A greater proportion of lights worked inside the ship than on its hull, but still they couldn’t illuminate all the dark corners. JonPaul felt a strange agoraphobia. They’d just crossed vast empty distances in space, but when he was inside anything he was used to it being a small packed box.

    There were other ships in the hangar, larger and sleeker than their little Search vessel. However, they also had the dead look of abandoned technology. Large square pillars stood beside each craft, no doubt conduits for power, fuel and information when the hangar was properly functioning. The Search ship had been put down next to a free pillar. A section of the pillar detached itself and swung out. Everyone jumped and emitted cries of surprise.

    The flat panel swivelled out and down to their level on a ball-jointed arm. There was a slight buzz, then the panel went a flat grey, casting an odd light on them. Symbols started to appear on the screen.

    “More Old.” BoyChild pronounced.

    “Can you read it?”

    “No…. No…. Yes. I can read that bit there.”

    “What does it say?”

    “Welcome.” BoyChild tapped the screen on the word he recognised. The other symbols faded away and another message appeared in the dialect BoyChild had recognised. “Welcome to… the sayeed number… Umm, I was never much good with numerics, err, one.. three… three. Tetra… forming and colour… nigh…. sayshon ship.” BoyChild tapped the screen again. The message scrolled upwards and another appeared. “Please. Go after… the… guide.”

    There was a beep. They looked down at the floor below the screen, where a small box on tracks had quietly placed itself. The screen folded back into the pillar and a light started flashing on the Guide’s back as it rolled away.

    JonPaul scratched his head. “You know, children, I think you’re going to deserve real names before this day is out.”

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  • Heavensent 11.5

    Note Two updates today because I forgot to post yesterday’s.

    An hour out, the hulk said hello. YoungLady detected vibration in the rubbish accreted on its surface, dislodging dust and rocks. Then lights began blinking on and off. So many had been incapacitated over the years that it took some moments to discern the pattern- a ripple of light converging on a point where a section of the hull was sliding open slowly.

    “I think it wants to invite us in.” JonPaul commented.

    “Should we? It could be a trap.”

    “GirlChild, we’re not returning to the Rock unless there’s something in there worth returning with. If we don’t go in we’re doomed. If we do, who knows?”

    The ship only had the most rudimentary of automatic navigation aids. It pulled them up a set distance from the huge vessel, close enough that it more than filled the forward view, and JonPaul had to edge it along and into the bay opened for them. The youngsters shut up whilst he nudged the control stick and reoriented the craft.

    “What’s that?” GirlChild asked, pointing out of a side window.

    “It’s…… Not random.” YoungLady asserted, twisting around to view it from another angle. “I think it’s markings. A name or affiliation.”

    “It’s in Old.” BoyChild said, “One of the dialects of Old. I was best in my class at Old.”

    “Can you read it?”

    “No.”

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  • Heavensent 11.4

    The object was almost as large as the Rock. BoyChild had seen something in the shape that didn’t seem normal. It wasn’t until they were five hours out that his suspicion was justified. “That’s a ship, under all that.” GirlChild announced.

    “I thought it was another Rock, an abandoned habitat, maybe.” BoyChild crowded into the monitor. She pushed him away a distance. Recent intimacy was no reason to hog her space. “I’m going to tell JonPaul.”

    “I’m on open circuit. I can hear you. Tell me more.”

    “It’s like a big…. thing.” A dark look from GirlChild shut BoyChild up.

    “It’s about twenty measures shorter than the Rock. There’s asteroid accretion on the surface but you can see a metal skin below it. We haven’t managed to get any indications if it’s hollow or where there might be locks or entrances.”

    “Have you tried messaging?”

    “Well, erm, no.”

    “Try it. I’ve heard of long dead hulks lighting up at a simple ‘hello’.”

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  • Heavensent 11.3

    “We’re not going back are we?”

    “Not unless that shadow of yours holds oxygen or scrubbers.”

    “It’s not fair! The Search was gonna make me rich!”

    JonPaul examined his navigator. The boy was only sixteen adjusted, he had every right to be upset. But JonPaul wasn’t in the mood to be consoling. “BoyChild, the Search is about keeping life on the Rock going. As we’re not returning with technology to keep the system working, we’re going on and out and we’ll never waste any more precious oxygen or nutrients.” The boy didn’t reply, merely slouching deeper into his seat. “So you didn’t get relocated to another Rock. You could have chosen to take the sleep and be recycled.” The boy winced at the thought. “Look, why don’t you go and talk to the twins. They like you, y’know. And we’ve got nothing to do for the next day until we rendezvous.”

    “Which one?”

    “What?”

    “Which one likes me?”

    “They both do. They’re twins, they think alike.”

    BoyChild pondered this. With a self concious grin he released his belt and floated out of his seat. He paused at the hatch. “They’re not, you know. Not twins.”

    “No?”

    “They just look similar and dress the same. The Rock wouldn’t risk losing a bloodline by sending both of a set on a Search.”

    “Of course not. I knew that.”

    BoyChild launched himself from the hand hold at the end of the corridor. He tapped the wall once to adjust his trajectory and rotated to land in the free seat of the monitor room.

    The one thing the Rock had in abundance was old spaceships to cannibalise. Even old Search engines had a homing instinct, in case the crew found something interesting before expiring. This particular vessel was on its third time out. The few working screens in the room were clustered around the twins’ seats. The empty spaces at the other three stations had been converted to storage.

    “Hello ladies.”

    “Hello BoyChild.” they answered in harmony.

    “JonPaul says we’ve got a day to go. We should get some down time.”

    “Did he tell you to spend it with us?” GirlChild was the younger twin.

    “I…….”

    “Because that’s what we told him to say.” YoungLady was shorter, but not by much.

    “I….. Errr…..”

    “Come on, BoyChild. Have you never had a Search fantasy?” GirlChild released her belt and floated to his seat.

    “This is ours.” YoungLady flicked switches and the monitors shut down.

    “Oh. Okay.”

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  • Heavensent 11.2

    “You are from one of these ‘Seeds’!” Jayn exclaimed. All the space fiction she had ever read was coming true before her eyes.

    “No.” Bobb shook his head, smiling.

    “Oh.”

    “You are.”

    Jayn’s mouth moved, but no sound came out. Bobb had been treating her as his main audience for the tale. She was certainly the only one who remained attentive throughout whilst others drifted off for food and grog. Keeping her occupied pushed the trauma of ditching at sea out of her mind. “But I was born here.” she said after a while.

    “As were several generations before you. But humans arose on this planet because a Seed landed here thousands of years ago.”

    “But then, where are you from?”

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  • Heavensent 11.1

    The Earth was lit by fires.

    Byrne was the only one in the room who studied the projection. But then, he was the only one who’d been born there. Even he hadn’t been back in a hundred years. He frowned, the globe spun around and a hex of map zoomed out.

    His birthplace was dark in the penumbra of approaching dawn. No feeds were coming up to the station from or about the island and the satellites saw no movement. He could zoom in and do a house to house search, but he wouldn’t remember which one had been his home.

    “Mister Byrne. The last of the Seeds reports it has passed the point of possible interception.” The young man smiled as he passed this on.

    A thousand Seeds had been built in shipyards all over the solar system, launching nearly a hundred a year. A dozen had been destroyed early in their flight, six had gone silent far ahead of schedule and twenty of the most recent ships had been boarded and ransacked by pirates claiming allegiance to one warring faction or another.

    Nine hundred and sixty two manned time capsules had been cast out into the universe in the hope of finding new homes for the human race. Byrne worried it wasn’t enough. “One last launch.” he announced.

    The artificial gravity dwindled as the ring slowed. The jets fired to align it with a carefully planned trajectory.

    Byrne watched the Earth projection as the control room buzzed with pre-flight noise. The surface was becoming blocky as feeds went down. Some areas were hazy because the satellites watching them no longer functioned. He might see the planet again, but it was unlikely he’d ever touch the soil.

    The noise fell off. They awaited his command to launch. He nodded. A button was pressed and there was a deep rumble. The space station became a space ship and commenced a journey that would bring it back to spitting distance of Earth every ninety seven years for the next two millennia.

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  • Heavensent 10.15

    There were fires. The worst were along the Straight, but smaller pyres marked other battles. “Is this good or bad?” Aurile wondered.

    “The Straight is a loss. I hope the fire does not spread, or there will be no city to defend.”

    “Do you have any intelligence about conditions to the North? We plan to head that way as soon as possible.”

    “There are forces primarily along the river. That is the main way they have been moving supplies, after all. It is the easiest and fastest way to head North, but there are others. The railway heads up the East of the plains, but it keeps getting attacked by guerillas. A wagon train across the plains themselves might be an answer. They have fortresses and outposts, but they are very localised. As their supplies are cut off they are going to fall one by one.”

    There was a commotion beyond the walls, gunfire. Yet it was punctuated by cheers. “I believe these may be the first of the liberators.” Aurile observed.

    “We should go to them. They will want to meet the heroes, after all.” Aylo suggested.

    They headed down the main staircase. In the foyer on ground level Boran was at a table map of the city, marking out weapons stashes. He looked up as they passed, staring at Aylo.

    The young spy was red faced as they left the building. “He is very thankful that you saved him.” Shara smirked.

    The large gates had been swung open and a crowd led a softskin in. “That must be all of our men for blocks.” Aylo sighed, “I hope there is no counter attack.”

    The crowd parted and the softskin rumbled to a halt at the foot of the entrance steps. The driver stepped down, then turned to help down a woman in an Air uniform. Behind the flyer was another woman. Aylo turned and stared at Shara, then back. “Twins?” he squeaked.

    Aurile nodded at the last man out of the softskin, a tanned, leaner version of himself. “More complicated than that I am afraid.”

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  • Heavensent 10.14

    They had camped in a factory compound, an easily defensible position if the expected counter attack came. The morning brought something completely unexpected. There was a welcoming committee outside the gate. Shop keepers offered food from their stock, families had come to cheer and youths of both sexes wanted to join up- and if they couldn’t join up many still wanted to offer their bodies to the cause.

    Sheel, Gimm and Bobb used the confusion to slip away from the force. They couldn’t escape Jayn, but she had a uniform that commanded respect from the liberated. She asked for a street map and was instantly obliged. The old man running the paper stall drew on the locations of all the known occupation bases and the supposed location of the seat of the Resistance- on the other side of the fjord.

    A vehicle came around the corner at speed, screeching to a halt as it saw the crowd down the road. It was a three axled softskin loaded with occupation troops. A few in the rear spotted Jayn’s uniform, even closer at hand. Their weapons were close by, they thought about going for them. Sheel’s gun arm was locked and ready, but they wouldn’t have understood the significance. One by one they raised their hands in surrender.

    With the troops disembarked from the softskin, Jayn gave the old man an autogun, and a lesson in how to use it, and entrusted the prisoners to him. With a grin he began marching them toward the factory. Gimm studied the controls of the softskin. There were two levers, one for forward and reverse and the other for five gear ratios. Gimm only took two false starts to get moving.

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  • Heavensent 10.13

    Boran had been listening to the sounds of battle, unable to judge which way things were going. It was certainly too loud to be just a defence against Janssen’s murder squads, perhaps there had been a full blown rising. The sounds of planes and explosions didn’t fill him with optimism for the rebellions chances. Either way, his chances were slim- rebels would hang him for being part of the occupying forces, the occupying forces would shoot him for helping the rebels.

    There were noises from beyond the cell door. Other cells were being opened and, judging by the happy cries that followed, their occupants freed. The jubilation, and occasional shout of anger, drew closer The door two cells down opened, then the one next door.

    Boran stood and straightened his clothes the best he could, he at least had to look presentable. Hands clasped behind his back he faced the door. A key turned in the lock and the door was pulled open.

    It was dark enough in the corridor that Boran could make out the features of the man before him with ease. “Aylo?”

    “Ah, good, you are still alive.”

    “I….”

    “I have a proposal for you.”

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  • Heavensent 10.12

    With guns taken from dead soldiers and little guidance from their commanders, bands of ‘liberators’ roamed through Cora and Munss. Debts were being settled all over the twin cities as suspected collaborators were rousted from their beds to be lynched and pross houses were looted of their profits. The few teams with a mission could do little to order the chaos. They had their targets, without which the whole exercise would be irrelevant.

    One such target was the central command building. Aylo had pressed for inclusion in its liberation, pointing out his extensive knowledge of its layout. Now he stood with an autogun in his hands, regretting all the bravado. Shara stood beside him. She was his protector, but she looked like she wanted to slap him for his foolishness.

    They were across the street from the main gates in the walled compound., which were invitingly ajar. Squads of snipers were rushing for the roofs of the highest nearby buildings to look down into the compound and ascertain what was waiting behind the walls. Whistles sounded as they reached their vantage points.

    One whistle, the Western roof, directly above Aylo, had been taken. Two whistles, the Southern roof. Views from the east and north were blocked.

    With the high ground taken, the ground attack could begin. Two groups of four ran across the street, to press against the wall by the gates. Shots rang out from the rooftops, windows shattered in the building. There was return fire, but it quickly died away. One of the teams by the gate pushed it wider and ducked through, covered by the second team. There was more gunfire. The second team pushed the gate even wider and went through it firing in all directions.

    The second wave were at the gate before the firing had stopped, and rushed through to join the melee. The gunshots ceased and the last group, with Aylo and Shara, entered the courtyard. There were surprisingly few dead, one attacker and five defenders. The wounded were being treated and a number of the defending troops were gathered in a corner with their hands bound. Aylo studied the prisoners’ faces. He recognised many of them, though none looked up to register him. Their expressions were hard to read. Relief at surviving the battle was more than matched by fear of what would happen next. Aylo didn’t know either. The fate of prisoners had not been discussed at any of the Resistance meetings. But then, the concepts of casualties had remained foreign to them as well.

    There were several entrances to the building. The main entrance opened onto the first floor, with grand steps either side leading down to ground level. There were barracks entrances to the rear and supply man’s doors in the side walls. Tactically they should probe to find the easiest entry, but the leaders of this raiding party were thinking more of their places in the history books. They had already decided they would enter by the main doors. Guards were placed on the other doors as fresh men appeared from around the city.

    Sniper fire through the windows kept movement inside to a minimum as the squad crept up either side of the steps. Someone tried the handle on the double doors. Locked. They scurried back to safety, but no defensive fire came through the wood. The group were stumped. They hadn’t brought a battering ram and there was no way these heavy doors would give to simple kicking as the interior doors would.

    Shara stepped up to the door. She levelled her arm at the handle, then lowered it slightly to where she estimated the lock was. She gave the familiar jerk and there was a whooshing cough from the door. The handle had given way to a gaping hole.
    Again a team of four, a different four, went in first. There was no firing, so the second and third squads moved in. The entrance hall was deserted. Aylo recognised the security desk where he had signed in every morning. The leader of their force turned to him, “We need your knowledge now.”

    “The barracks are on the floor below. There are two ways in from this level, down the stairs at the rear and through the kitchens, which are on two levels. The kitchen entrance is through the dining hall, which is that room.”

    The commander stopped Aylo. He turned to two sergeants and relayed the information with terse commands and sign language. Resistance fighters were arriving from all over the cities, unable to stop the bloodletting they wanted to be associated with something that at least had a suggestion of glory. The two squads that were sent to clear the barracks level were each as large as the force that had initially attacked.
    “The other levels? And the cells?” asked the commander.

    “The cells are below the level of the barracks, but the only way down to them are stairs that start on the third floor. The second and third floors are the clerical offices, fourth is the commanding staff’s and the fifth is their quarters. I have never been to the fifth floor and only rarely to the fourth, so I do not know their layouts.”

    “That is good enough. you can lead the team that clears the upper floors. You……” The commander had been ready to order Shara as he would any of his own men. He quickly thought better of it. “Can you guard young Aylo? He is a very important part of this uprising after all.”

    “Of course.”

    The commander assigned sergeants to Aylo and told them to assemble a squad from the newly arrived Resistance fighters. Aylo looked over his troops as they fell in. The senior of his sergeants had an old rifle, possibly an antique. Aylo studied his own unfired autogun, the grip damp where he had held it too tightly. He handed the autogun to the older man. “You should take this.”

    “Sir?”

    “I am a spy, not a soldier. This is no use to me.”

    “Sir.”

    “Of course, this does mean that you go first up the stairs.”

    The old fighter smiled, “You could not have stopped me any how.”

    There were secondary staircases, so they placed guards on them as they went up the main stairs. There were store rooms on the second floor- paper, typers, furniture- the small offices of those dedicated to distributing them. They called the guards up the secondary stairs and went on to the third floor.

    They found clerks cowering in the third office on this floor, hiding as far away from the windows, and the body of a soldier who had ventured too close, as possible. Aylo recognised all of them, and some knew him. “Aylo! You…. You have to save us from these men, for the Tower’s sake!”

    Every gun in the squad was raised on the pathetic huddle in the corner. They were all traitors and they could all die, but Aylo wasn’t sure he wanted to be the one who gave the order. He held up his hand to hold the firing squad. “They should be interrogated before we decide what to do with them. Take them out to the other prisoners.”

    There was no-one on the fourth or fifth floors. Aylo left his men to plunder Janssen’s rooms and took Shara and the old sergeant aside. “We should empty the cells.”

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  • Heavensent 10.11

    It was dark, but they were already at the outskirts of the city. Gimm still had his map and he had been marking off the red military bases as, one by one, they were bypassed or found empty.

    The last camp had been deserted when they reached it. The clear up squad had reported food still cooking on the stove and paperwork unfinished. Some way along the road they had come upon a mass of abandoned and destroyed vehicles, bombed and strafed from the sky. Pathetic erratic tracks led off into the fields. Some, but not many, had made it into the trees, and may have survived. Most were terminated by a pyre or a circle of sooty ground around a disembowelled vehicle.

    The tracks and softskins in the column were marked to avoid similar attacks. Even the horse drawn wagon that Jayn had secured had a large white arrow head painted on its upper surfaces.

    They were moving more slowly now they were in a built up area. The few tracks that had come ashore with the landing party were at the head of the group, crawling along either side of of the road as their support infantry swarmed around them. Every unit was placed to dart down a side alley when defending guns opened up on them.

    Bobb stood on top of the wagon, scanning all around. He dropped back into the bed before any officer could see and reprimand him. “Well?” asked Sheel.

    “Nothing. Well, there are people in the houses, and they are all staring out, but none of them are armed.”

    “How can you tell this?” Out of courtesy they were speaking in a language Jayn could understand.

    “Enhanced senses.” Bobb admitted, “not just sight, but the others as well. Sheel, well, you have seen what Sheel can do. And Gimm has a great store of knowledge, and is storing new data all the time.”

    “You are Silver Tower monks! That must be the explanation.”

    “Silver Tower?”

    “Far in the Northern forests, from where none ever return, there is a Silver Tower in the centre of a perfectly circular lake. It is said that the monks of the Silver Tower send out holy men and women when they feel the rest of us need guidance.

    “You are not from the Silver Tower?”

    “No,” Bobb looked at Gimm, who took up the explanation.

    “It is possible we are seeking the Silver Tower. Several generations ago, our……. forefathers created a great technology, which they then lost. We are trying to find it so it can be used properly.”

    Jayn pondered this for a while. “Several generations ago, you say?”

    “A great number.”

    “And only now do you come to Cora and Munss with a plan to head north?”

    “Yes.”

    Jayn pointed up at the sky. She was remembering the fantasy fold outs she had read as a child. “You are from…… beyond, from space. Aren’t you?”

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  • Heavensent 10.10

    “Sir, we have reports of landings on the beach to the south. We should send artillery to defend the southern suburbs.”

    “My guns and tracks could be in defensive positions by dark.” the artillery commander studied the map and pointed to key junctions, “Here and….”

    “No!” Janssen interrupted, “Carry on with this assault as planned.”

    “Commander, any organised landing force has to be better armed and more of a threat than this rabble.”

    “You can deal with it later. What is the point of defending against attack from outside if we allow this…. this disease to fester in the body of our city.” It was the nearest Janssen ever got to eloquence, but no-one recorded it. Moments later shells from the strafing Cicciles, a combination of tracer and armour piercing, tore through the softskins and command centre. Bombs from the Wasps fell amongst the artillery. Two of the heavy guns were put out of commission. The heavy tracks suffered only minor damage, but most of their crews had been in the open and all of the vehicles suffered casualties. Secondary explosions from fuel and shells caused even more damage.

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