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Tales from the Borderlands, Part One

The Lobanhaki’s Profile
Some among you will remember a fictional experiment I did a little while ago, one that took a sci-fi invasion of a planet and posed the real world question of what supporting our troops really means. This time, perhaps we can talk about homeland security from a different direction. The borders here aren’t between nations alone, though…

"Would you pronounce that for me, please?"
"LO-buh-Knock-Key." John Taylor rattled off phonetically. This had been a bad day. It had just gotten worse.

He looked young, was built like a boxer. He wasn't particularly handsome, but he had a rare face. If he hadn't told the FBI agent what to call him, the poor guy wouldn't have known where to start. He might have guessed middle east with the olive skin and dark curly hair, but then the crystalline blues and the shape of his face would have thrown him, maybe to the west, maybe to the east.

It was perhaps the carry-on luggage that concerned them. A collapsible staff about three feet in length. If you knew where to press, it would go to six feet. If you knew it real well, you'd know which button would give you nice sharp things to stick into bad guys with. As it was, though, it was broken.

One could say the same about John. He was battered and bruised all over, ribs wrapped, probably a few broken bones here and there that hadn't been noticed in the initial exam.

"You really shouldn't have me in these cuffs. Agent Leonard." John told him.

The Young FBI agent looked at him as if he'd grown another head.

"We can't be sure of your intentions, Mr. Taylor." Agent Dominic Leonard stated.
"Captain." John corrected. " I earned my rank, just like you. And no you can't. But if I were not in a cooperative mood, these wouldn't last a second. And I won't be the last unusual person you get in here."

Again, that look.

"You should order some from our supplier. They're warded to increase the strength of the metal at the restrainee's expense when they try to break them." Taylor suggested.

Again that look.

"Do you know why you're here, Captain Taylor?"
"A bureaucratic glitch, I imagine. I was told I had the proper papers to transport my weapon."
"No, we flagged you because of this."

The agent laid down a photo. Taylor only had to take a glance to know. Mikhale. A longer look would have shown him the strange armor, the almost twin-like resemblance, the broad, scimitar like sword that had torn through so many of this assassin's victims. Former assassin, actually. But they weren't up to speed on developments. The photo was already outdated, John knew.

The Mask. He remembered that confrontation, after they had defeated the creature in Hamilton City. He remembered his brother raising his sword, against his will, to strike at the flesh and blood he had almost killed all those years ago. He knew, looking in his brothers eyes, that what his brother had wanted was suicide by cop, his brother to use what was left of his weapon to put him out of his misery.

Then Jacob Riley intervened, almost like a Deus Ex Machina. The powerful young soldier had shaken the enchantment that Morningstar's other agent, David Sheffield, had placed on him. When he arrived, even John, who had witnessed the wonders of his power before, was floored. His brother, perhaps compelled by the evil of the mask, perhaps by the deathwish, had attacked Jake. When he struck with that strange sword of his, he thought Mikhale's death-wish had been granted. Then the mask fell off (strange since it had seem set directly in his flesh), and he was free again.

The battle in that city had seemed like a dream. Even now, the figures didn't seem to have any real world sense to them. Eight buildings had been totally wiped off the map. twice that many had been damaged beyond repair, and most of the rest of the skyline had sustained some kind of damage. John knew what had done that damage, what had gutted the skyline of that major American city.

The Sachoridoth.

That's probably what really had this agent freaked. Before the battle at Hamilton City, the big worry of the regular folks had been the Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jacob Riley, in fact, had gone to fight in that well-intentioned but screwed-up war. Riley's foster father had sent him after the young man, more or less to baby sit him. It turned out to be more interesting of a job than he thought it was going to be. He still had the burn scars on his hands to prove it. He had ripped the door off that burning humvee and brought what was left of Jacob Riley out. The Menders took it from there, brought him to Sarah Cordell and their unit. From that would come the inevitable, unstoppable series of events that would leave thousands dead and tens of thousands wounded in an American city.

What would it matter to tell this guy? That the culture of magic users was varied, with all kinds of different interests and positions? This poor fellow likely didn't know enough to understand what most of the Crafters and Talents knew was the case. Few in the so-called real world knew much of anything. For years the people that John had guarded had hid around the ancient gateways, using the energies that poured off in surplus to hide their presence. Agent Leonard would not understand that the real target of Morningstar's use of the Sachoridoth had not been Hamilton city itself.

What Morningstar had unleashed was a new planar gate,a portal between worlds. Only this one hadn't been bound and confined like the numerous gates they used, but had been unleashed in a wildly destructive explosion of energy. One consequence was the destruction and likely transport of much of the city into another world.

But something else had happened. The pulse of energy from the opening made its way through each and every other gate. whole towns and enclaves that had been hidden to the world had been suddenly and brutally revealed to a globe already reeling from what seemed like a terrorist attack in a United States city. The secret that people like him, known to their communities as the Huntsmen, had protected for centuries, was out in the open, and everywhere at that.

The world of this young FBI agent had likely been turned upside down. The news reports seemed to indicate a general pause in world events. Iraq had gone from a number one trouble spot in the world to dead calm in the matter of the week as nearly a hundred gates had opened up in just that nation alone. Saudi Arabia had to deal with fewer, but their clustering around the Holy Cities had the Muslims unnerved. Europe was no less on edge, as a criss-crossing network of gates had opened up there, too. China and the countries of the Far East had their share of them, and rumors from that last great bastion of Communism indicated that their government was in a state of panic. After all, magic was just some superstition, and yet five gates had burst out of the ground itself in Bejing alone.

John was likely right about what this agent could expect to see. For the worlds that these gates were connected to were inhabited. John had to smile. The agent would have his hands full. But he would not have to deal with Mikhale any time soon.

Morningstar, Mikhale's former master, was dead. The mask was off. Mikhale Talderwis had left him, after that discussion on the roof, and returned home. Home was a place that not even the gates could lead, not without the device that Mikhale had taken with him. The Sachoridoth had been the key.

But could he tell this guy that? He knew in his heart that Mikhale had changed, that he wished to go home and face his reckoning, as he called it, but it would be tough convincing this guy, especially considering the carnage that Mikhale had left behind in his pursuit of John and Jake, at the gate to Darshiaro. It'd be tough telling him the truth, especially about the forces behind the attack, and those who had defended it.

He looked down at the photo, likely a news camera photo from after their fight, given the bruises on Mikhale's face.

"That's my brother." John admitted. No point in lying about that.
"We know. We thought he might have told you where he was going," Agent Leonard admitted in turn.
"I'm afraid I don't know. We weren't exactly on good terms." John said. At least it was partly true.

Agent Leonard sat back and smiled. "Someone told me recently that I should watch myself with you Huntsmen. He said, you're born liars."

John shrugged listlessly, sat back in his chair, his hands cuffed behind him. Then he looked up at Agent Leonard, smiled devilishly. SNAP! The chain broke. Leonard jumped backed and drew his pistol. John just smiled at him.

"Oh, we're great liars, actually. We had to be. That's how people like me kept people like you in the dark." John explained. Still the agent held the gun on him.

"Will you put that away? First, I could be within arm's reach before you could fired a single shot. Second, I had plenty of opportunity to shake you loose, or if I was really going to be rude about it, kill you and your men."

Still, the gun.

"I don't know why you have me here, Agent Leonard, but it's got nothing to do with my brother, and you really don't seem like the sort of person who really wants to kill me. So put the gun away and tell me what you've really got me here for." With that John motioned towards the other side of the table.

Still, the gun...

To Be Continued

Tales from the Borderlands Omnibus

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 16, 2006 7:55 PM
Comments
Comment #141125

Let me be the first to tell you that you have absolutely no future as a SciFi or Fantasy Writer.

That said, I suggest you include clipnotes in this story so the rest of us won’t sleep in the middle of the day.

Posted by: Aldous at April 16, 2006 11:09 PM
Comment #141126

Apologies if I caused offense…

Posted by: Aldous at April 16, 2006 11:11 PM
Comment #141136

Don’t worry. This is sort of the “throw you in the pool and hope you’ll swim” style of writing. I think I’ll clear this up with further episodes.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 16, 2006 11:41 PM
Comment #141142

While I’m not a sci fi fan particularly, it sounds alright to me. I’ve often thought I’d like to write but have never felt particularly inspired.

Keep it up, it’s a good side bar here.

Posted by: gergle at April 17, 2006 12:09 AM
Comment #141165

Stephen,

I’m sorry…I don’t know whether it’s because I didn’t expect it here, or because I’m not into the genre, but…welllll…it’s kinda like reading d.a.n. You try to get into it, and you feel kinda guilty when you don’t, but about half way you just lose interest. I’ll try harder next time…I promise.?.?.?

Posted by: Marysdude at April 17, 2006 7:04 AM
Comment #141168

Don’t be troubled. This is only a beginning. The rest will make sense as I go along.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 17, 2006 7:50 AM
Comment #141189

Stephen Daugherty,
That’s a very bad sign when people compare your writing to mine.

Posted by: d.a.n at April 17, 2006 10:22 AM
Comment #141193

Stephen,
Good start. This story covers a lot of ground in a short time. As a result, the main character passes on subtlely concealed info dumps in the form of ‘he knew’ and ‘he remembered.’ More often than not, you could probably omit such phrases. Partly because you’re imparting a lot of background info quickly, you use past tense and the passive voice. Find ways to avoid using ‘had’ or ‘had been.’

What color? What smell? What taste? Include sensation to bring the reader into the story. Personally, just as a matter of technique, I’ll reread and make sure at least one color is included on every page.

Final critical comment- would you consider writing in a different tense? That could help make the story jump off the page & engage the reader… Just thoughts, intended to be helpful. Advice is free. This may be worth exactly that.

Posted by: phx8 at April 17, 2006 11:12 AM
Comment #141200

The story that I keep referring to is a 165 page screenplay, of which maybe forty or fifty pages detail the apocalyptic battle that’s referred to here. The stories here are meant to pick up a short time after the battle has been won.

That being the case, It’s not easy to put all the relevant detail in such a short space. I might have been well-advised to take a different approach, but what’s written is written.

I’ve got another screenplay in the writing which occurs about seven years later. I thought, given those years worth of time, and the rich, politically relevant clash of cultures that the last stories conclusion just about guaranteed, that it might be good material for fictional works here.

Stylistically, I was most interested in giving the reader an impression of who John was, and most importantly of him being a minority among minorities. That’s why much of this is told in terms of him recalling events.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 17, 2006 12:26 PM
Comment #141272

My plans on this are to make it weekly. Hopefully I’m not freaking anybody out about having to see one of these near constantly on the front page! I will write in moderation.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 17, 2006 7:06 PM
Comment #141327
…it’s kinda like reading d.a.n. …

:o/

I dunno - there were no Bullet Points…


Posted by: Betty Burke at April 17, 2006 9:37 PM
Comment #141336

In our next episode…

Agent Leonard and Captain Taylor fight the evil bullet points of Solomon’s Mines!

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 17, 2006 10:18 PM
Comment #141391

Stephen, before you start finish writing this work of Science Fiction, perhaps you should read these two very enjoyable books:

Specific to Invasion Science Fiction:
Way Of The Pilgrim
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0312866623?v=glance

Specific to Social Science Fiction:
Stand On Zanzibar
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1857988361?v=glance

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 18, 2006 7:53 AM
Comment #141404

Betty-
I’m already a seasoned Fantasy and Sci-Fi Reader but I might take you up on those books.

The world of Tales from the Borderlands owes much to different secondary worlds in both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I haven’t really let loose yet in these stories, so there’s more to come.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 18, 2006 9:56 AM
Comment #141653


A.) If you haven’t read *ALL* of John Brunner (and, for that matter, of Jack Vance), then you haven’t got your toes wet, yet…

(If you like “Stand On Zanzibar” [which has fuck-all to do with Zanzibar, incidentally], read “The Shockwave Rider” next.)

B.) I specifically listed these two books for a Reason, and the Reason is the sort of story you’re spinning. Not only would you enjoy them mightily (I say with NO fear of eventual comeuppance), but they will help you with this project - I think…

C.) Good on you for Doing It, regardless of all else!

:o)

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 19, 2006 9:07 AM
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