For the rest of the episode, Tendi keeps trying to make it up to O’Connor, which just pisses him off more. Rutherford tries to convince Tendi to back off, but she is determined to help him ascend, dagnabbit. When the ship falls apart, Tendi and O’Connor both save each other’s lives, and O’Connor reveals his fraud, and they bond—
—and then that gives him the final bit of serenity he needs to ascend. Turns out that he faked sincerity a little too well, and all the playacting he did really did prep him for ascension. But—and I have to say, I loved this part—the actual process of turning into a being of pure energy is slow and painful and horrible and agonizing, and apparently involves a smiling koala.
Dragon Con has many many many tracks of programming. I participate in many when I go — writers, military SF media, horror, urban fantasy, Star Trek, SF & fantasy literature both, YA, the Brit track and so on — but I have to admit that my favorite has to be American Sci-Fi Classics, which is a magnificently goofy and delightful exercise in geeky nostalgia and silliness run by the hugely ridiculous Gary Mitchel and Joe Crowe.
Since the pandemic started, the Classics Track has been doing “quarantine panels,” as a preview for the upcoming virtual Dragon Con.
The latest is a perfect example of why the track is my favorite. It’s a panel called “Novelization Readings,” in which a bunch of us — including me, who’s written tons of novelizations — discuss these prose adaptations of our favorite movies and TV shows, and then do dramatic readings of favorite bits.
Besides me, Gary, and Joe, the panel includes Women at Warp‘s Sue Kisenwether, filmmaker John Hudgens, Fortress of Baileytude‘s Michael Bailey, author Alison Sky Richards, and convention organizer Darin Bush.
The absolute high point of the panel is Sue reading one of the more turgid passages from Gene Roddenberry’s hilariously overwritten novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (I, by the way, read from my novelization of Serenity.)
When I put together my 2015 short-story collection Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido, I had a hard time deciding which Dragon Precinct and Cassie Zukav stories to include, so eventually I decided to just write a new story in each setting.
For the “Precinct” series, I did “Partners in Crime,” which teamed up two detectives who despise each other, the half-elf Danthres Tresyllione and the full-blooded elf Aleta lothLathna, on a murder case. Check out my reading of it below, and please subscribe to the channel!
In addition, I have put up a ton of content just in the month of August:
For all supporters in honor of reaching 50 patrons: a review of Moonshadow: The Definitive Edition by J.M. DeMatteis, Jon J Muth, et al
For $1/month and up: a review of Project Power
For $2/month and up: 17 cat pictures
For $5/month and up: a review of Foyle’s War
For $7/month and up: excerpts from “Unguarded” (in the upcoming Horns and Halos anthology) and Pigman (my collaboration with Munish K. Batra, MD)
For $10/month and up: the vignette “Prophet and Loss” featuring Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet
And I’m planning to do more TV reviews (I’ve got Avenue 5 season 1, The Night Manager, Prime Suspect 1973, Queens of Mystery season 1, Scott & Bailey, Slings and Arrows, What We Do in the Shadows season 2, and You’re the Worst season 5 in the queue to review) and another vignette at the very least this month.
Neelix’s neuroses also have not abated despite Janeway’s reassurances at the end of “Fair Trade” that he’s still a valued part of the crew. He exaggerates his experience to Tuvok in order to prove he’s valuable to the away team, and he wants Tuvok to like him and respect him, neither of which are coins Tuvok is likely to part with, well, ever. Their closing scene is a bit too much of a callback to “Journey to Babel” and McCoy’s glee over getting the last word, but Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips sell it beautifully. Phillips is always better when he’s not being over-the-top goofy, and it’s good to have the Neelix of “Jetrel” and “Fair Trade” who’s an actual complex character.
In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “In the Pale Moonlight,” we were told that Betazed fell to the Dominion. In the 2004 Trek anthology, Tales of the Dominion War (which I also edited), I wrote “The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned,” which dramatized Betazed’s fall, from the perspective of Lwaxana Troi.
I’m doing a push to get more support on my Patreon, specifically to get to 60 supporters, and to that end, I’m running a sample from each of the six support tiers I have.
The highest tier is $20 per month, and the reason it’s so much is that it gives you something very rare and exclusive: a look at the first draft. It’s a peek into the writer’s process, seeing things as they first come spewing forth from what passes for my creative brain.
If you pledge at this level, you not only get these first looks, you also get monthly movie reviews (sample here), regular cat pictures (samples here), one to six TV reviews a month (sample here), smaller excerpts from my works in progress (samples here), and a monthly vignette featuring my original characters (sample here).
The frequency of this tier is the only one that’s not really set, as it depends on several factors: how fast I write, when things are due, and also there are certain cases (like when I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement about a project) where I’m not comfortable posting any of it on the world wide web, even if it’s in a restricted post. (As an example, I did not provide chapters of my Alien novel Isolation.)
Anyhow, here’s one of those first looks: Chapter 21 of my collaboration with David Sherman, To Hell and Regroup, due out soon from eSpec Books…
first look: To Hell and Regroup Chapter 21
Admiral’s Bridge, Battleship NAUS Durango
The notion of orbital bombardment with simple projectiles dated back to the twentieth century. The theory was that, from a high enough orbit, simply letting go of an object and letting it fall, the kinetic energy building up as it plummets planetward so that by the time it hits its target, it’s with the force of a bomb.
The best part was that you didn’t need any kind of special equipment. You could just use rocks, and it would work just as well. No need for explosives or dangerous materials needed to manufacture such.
The most efficient projectile was quickly determined back in the day to be a twenty-foot metal rod that was about a foot in diameter. That much length was there to provide a wide surface area to absorb the kinetic energy that would then be discharged on impact. The small diameter was to minimize friction and maximize speed.
NAU Navy capital ships were all equipped with a complement of so-called “Rods from God” that could be used for bombardment. (Several military and civilian ship designers had tried to find a way to equip smaller fighter craft with them. Unfortunately, while most bombs could be dropped from a horizontal position, the Rods from God really needed to be fired vertically to be at their most effective. The only way to equip fighters properly would be either to give them a twenty-foot rod mounted vertically on the side of the craft, which was spectacularly awkward and complicated maneuvering, or to have the pilots only be able to fire the weapon while diving toward or climbing away from the target, neither of which was optimal.)
Avery watched the big board as Durango moved into geo-sync orbit over the forest where the Dusters were hunkered down.
“Verify position of Marines,” Avery said.
Captain Huse immediately opened a comm channel. “Bridge, CAC, verify position of Marines.”
A moment later, Chief Verney’s voice came over comms. “Marines in position three miles from forest perimeter.”
Huse sighed. “The Dusters aren’t at the perimeter, Chief.”
“Radar can’t penetrate the forest, Sir, perimeter’s the best we can do.”
Avery snarled. “Davis, call the Marines—they must’ve sent Force Recon in to get the Dusters’ position. Find it.”
Minutes later, Davis reported back with specific coordinates.
Huse sighed. “Send that to CAC. Chief Verney, based on coordinates Lieutenant Commander Davis is sending you, position of Marines relative to the Dusters, please?”
“Stand by, Bridge.” Verney muttered something Avery couldn’t make out, then: “Estimate Marines at four-point-seven miles from Duster position.”
“Chief Finkenbiner,” Avery said, “give us a firing solution for the Rod of God that will give us a blast radius of three miles or less, and send it to navigation.”
“Aye-aye, Sir.” Finkenbiner turned to consult with the weapons techs.
While waiting for the weapons techs to do the math on what orbital position Durango would need to take up in order to drop a rod that would provide a blast radius big enough to wipe out the Dusters in the forest but small enough so it wouldn’t take the Marines with them, Avery stared at the big board.
The space around them was clear. There’d been no activity at the wormhole.
He was sure that he and his people were right, that the Dusters’ last “fleet” was a last bit of desperation. There was no way anyone else was coming through.
But every time there was a pause in the action, he stared at the readings of the wormhole.
Sure, he was ninety-nine percent sure that no more Duster ships were coming through. So were his tactical people, so was General Bauer, so was General Purvis.
Still, there was that other one percent. What if we’re wrong?
“Firing solution received,” said the navigator, Lieutenant Henry Brutsche.
“Plot a course, Lieutenant,” Huse said.
Avery nodded in approval.
“Aye-aye, Sir,” Brutsche said. Seconds later: “Course plotted and laid in, Sir.”
The helm officer, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) John Mihalowski stifled a yawn. He was usually on the second shift, but he had traded shifts at Captain Huse’s recommendation once it became clear the Rod of God was being used.
Mihalowski, according to Huse, was the best pilot he’d ever seen. “The lieutenant could land Durango on the head of a pin,” the captain had claimed, never mind that Durango wasn’t designed to land on a planet’s surface. But it also had the spatiodynamics of a brick—it wasn’t meant for precision flying, but if you wanted the Rod of God to hit a precise target, as opposed to just a general pounding of the surface, you needed your ship to be in a specific spot in geo-sync orbit. That took a pilot with icewater for blood, and Huse believe Mihalowski was that pilot.
“Helm,” Huse said, “put us into position.”
“Aye-aye, Captain,” Mihalowski said through another yawn.
“We keeping you awake, Lieutenant?” Huse asked.
Mihalowski grinned. “Just barely, Sir.”
The helm officer manipulated the thrusters in tandem in order to get Durango into the position dictated by Brutsche’s course.
“Too much, Mihalowski, you’re gonna overshoot,” Brutsche muttered at one point, and Mihalowski heard him.
“No I won’t, Hank,” Mihalowski said, “it’ll be fine.”
“It better be,” Avery said.
Mihalowski swallowed. “Yes, Sir, Admiral!”
Brutsche shook his head. “It’ll only be okay if you go the way I told you go to—and don’t call me ‘Hank.'”
“Soon’s you pronounce Mihalowski right,” the pilot said with another grin. Avery noted that the helm officer said, “me-uh-LOV-skee,” as opposed to Brutsche, who pronounced it, “me-ha-LAU-skee.”
Another thruster blast and then Mihalowski said, “In position.”
Finkenbiner said, “Confirmed, Durango at optimal position for orbital bombardment.”
“Ready projectile,” Huse said.
With a nod, Finkenbiner said, “Readying projectile.”
Avery glanced at a corner of his big board, which showed the external camera by the bay door that was now opening. The Rod of God levered out until it was pointing straight downward at the atmosphere of Troy below them.
“You’re drifting, me-ha-LAU-skee,” Brutsche said.
“I see it, I see it,” Mihalowski muttered, firing another thruster.
This type of drift was common for so large a vessel as Durango, and also normally wasn’t any kind of cause for concern, except during a docking maneuver—or when trying to fire the Rod of God to a precise target. Half a degree off course, and the projectile would hit the Marines four miles away—or the clearing four miles east—or the farms four miles west.
So Mihalowski had to keep this large, ungainly ship that was subject to minute course changes from micrometeors heading toward Troy or from the gravitational pull of the planet itself from drifting, at least until the Rod of God was fired.
Finkenbiner said, “Firing solution not optimal.”
“Hang on, Chief, just got hit by a micrometeor,” Mihalowski said. “Compensating.”
“That did it,” Finkenbiner said. “Firing solution optimal.”
Avery turned to nod at Huse, who nodded back. “Fire projectile.”
“Projectile away,” Finkenbiner said.
On the screen, the Rod of God disengaged from its mooring and started to lazily fall toward the planet.
Checking his console, Finkenbiner said, “Projectile is on course for target.”
“What’s the time to impact, Chief?” Huse asked.
“Three hours, forty-eight minutes, Sir.”
“Projectile on main screen,” Avery said. They all should see this.
“Putting projectile on main screen, aye,” Davis said.
The cameras on Durango‘s outer hull were able to follow the Rod from God as it fell toward the stratosphere.
“Good work, people,” Avery said.
Huse added, “Lieutenant Brutsche, plot us an orbital course that will bring us back over target three-and-three-quarter hours from now.”
Brutsche smiled. “Already done, Sir, and sent to me-uh-LOV-skee.”
Mihalowski turned and stared at the navigator in shock. “We been serving together six months, you finally get it right?”
“You finally earned it.”
That made Brutsche’s smile fall. “Excuse me, but as everyone on this Bridge is a witness, you said you’d stop calling me Hank when I pronounced your name right.”
Mihalowski shrugged. “I lied.”
Chuckles went around the Bridge.
Normally, Avery and Huse would shut down such side talk, but they’d just performed an intense maneuver successfully, but the results of which wouldn’t be known for almost four hours.
More to the point, it was a planetside engagement, one that helped all the Marines and soldiers dirtside. It had, Avery knew, been a source of frustration to many of the sailors under his command—and, when the admiral was willing to admit it, to Avery himself—that the losses his own forces had taken had combined with the need to be vigilant against more spacebound attacks from the Dusters to make the Navy a non-factor in the terrestrial parts of this engagement. The loss of Task Force 7 meant that naval resources were stretched thin.
But this last engagement with the dregs of the Duster fleet indicated that that had changed.
The ground-pounders may think they can do it all themselves, but it goes a lot better when you’ve got your guardian angels in orbit, and we’ve got your backs now, Avery thought toward the surface.
Brutsche and Mihalowski were still going at it. “Damn pilots. No respect at all for the people who tell you where you’re supposed to go.”
“I’m glad after six months you finally figured that out.” The cheeky grin Mihalowski said that with fell as he added, “Sir, orbital position now eighteen hundred miles and holding steady. ETA back at this spot is three hours, forty-one minutes.”
Huse nodded. “Excellent work, both of you, which is why I’m going to forgive you squabbling like teenagers on the Bridge of a Navy boat.”
Both lieutenants swallowed audibly.
“Yes, Sir,” Brutsche said quietly.
“Thank you, Captain,” Mihalowski said in a more subdued voice than Avery had ever heard him use.
Avery gave Huse an approving nod and then said, “Captain Huse, come with me to my office, please.”
Getting up from the center chair, Huse nodded to the watch commander, Lieutenant Commander Rufus Z. Johnston, who replaced him in the chair.
Upon entering the admiral’s office, Avery went straight for the drinks cabinet and pulled out a bottle of single-barrel Jack Daniel’s.
“Sir?” Huse prompted.
“It’s almost four hours before we know what’ll happen dirtside, Captain, and after all that, I need a damn drink.”
“I see, Sir.”
Avery then smiled as he pulled out two thick-bottomed glasses. “Drinking alone is a sign of depravity. So you’re drinking with me.”
“Understood, Sir.” Huse wasn’t about to turn down Avery’s quality booze.
The admiral poured the amber liquid into each of the glasses and then handed one to Huse.
“To the Rod from God.”
“To the Rod from God,” Huse repeated and waited for Avery to sip his drink before he did likewise.
The alcohol burned pleasantly in both men’s throats.
Here’s another version of “Gimme Shelter” that combines one piece of the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger), two pieces of Black Eyed Peas (will.i.am and Fergie), and all of U2 to perform “Gimme Shelter” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary concert in 2009. It’s to the credit of The Edge and Fergie that they fill in superbly for Keith Richards and Merry Clayton (two incredibly difficult pairs of shoes to fill to say the least), but the truly amazing thing to watch here is the 66-year-old Jagger easily keeping up with the 34-year-old Fergie in terms of stage antics and sexy charisma.
I’m doing a push to get more support on my Patreon, specifically to get to 60 supporters, and to that end, I’m running a sample from each of the six support tiers I have.
One of my favorite things that I do in this Patreon are the vignettes. It’s been tremendous fun to do little scenes and bits and pieces involving my various original characters, including the epic fantasy setting of Dragon Precinct, the modern city filled with superheroes of the Super City Cops stories, present-day New York full of supernatural creatures in the adventures of Bram Gold as well as a more mundane New York occupied by Shirley Holmes and Jack Watson, and the Key West of the tales of Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet.
If you support at $10 per month, you get a new vignette every month, along with monthly movie reviews (sample here), regular cat photos (samples here), one to six TV reviews a month (sample here), and weekly excerpts from my works in progress (samples here).
Here’s one of the many vignettes I’ve done, this one focusing on Torin ban Wyvald from the Dragon Precinct series.
Lieutenant Torin ban Wyvald of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard had requested this day off, as he had this day every year since he joined the Castle Guard a decade previous.
He hiked out into the Forest of Nimvale, eventually finding a clearing near a large oak tree. The carving he’d made on this day nine years ago was still on it. It had eroded somewhat, but he could still make out the symbol that was also on the cover of his favorite book.
And under it, written in the language Myverine, the name “Mardeth val Tianni.”
He gathered branches and rocks and then started a small fire. Once the fire caught, he fell more than sat against the large oak.
And he remembered…
“How was your day, Torin?”
“Fine, Mother. The professor assigned us a reading.”
“She gave us a choice of any book we wish—but once we have read it, we must compose an essay explaining what meaning the book has for us.”
“There’s only one problem.”
“What is that, my son?”
“What if the book has no meaning for me?”
“Well, then, we must make sure the book has meaning, won’t we?”
“Good evening, my love.”
“Good evening, my darling, how was your day as Chief Artisan?”
“Tiresome—the sculptors’ proposal went on for hours. How was your day as Council Chef?”
“Uneventful—there were no arcane requests for once, though I am sure that will change as we approach harvest.”
“Where is Torin?”
“Is he still reading that ridiculous book?”
“If you mean Tales of Flingaria, then yes. It’s for an assignment.”
“That explains it, then. I wish he’d hurry up and finish it.”
“Why is that?”
“Because it’s full of nonsense.”
“Mother, this book is amazing!”
“I knew you’d like it.”
“Are these stories true?”
“I honestly could not say. I can say that they were told by people from all over Flingaria who have visited the Council of Myverin.”
“I had no idea there was so much beyond our walls.”
“There’s an entire world, my son.”
“Excuse me, Chief Artisan?”
“I’m afraid I have some bad news. Council Chef Mardeth has taken ill.”
“What happened? She was home!”
“Yes, but the injury she sustained has become infected. She’s with a healer and your son now.”
“All right. I must finish my work here, but I will be by shortly.”
“I’m here, Torin.”
“I—I finished the book this morning, Mother. I was coming to tell you that when I found you on the floor.”
“I was coming to tell you—to tell you that I wanted us to leave Myverin. I want to explore the rest of Flingaria, and see all the sites the book mentions! I want to traipse through the Forest of Orven, sail the Garamin Sea, walk the streets of Cliff’s End, explore the caves beneath the Zignat Mountains, view the Nemerian Wastes—there’s just so much! And I want you to come with me!”
“I cannot, my son. My duties keep me here.”
“They can find another chef to serve the Council. Father could come too—after all, there is no need for a Chief Artisan in these modern times. It’s a purely ceremonial duty.”
“That’s not fair to your father’s work—or yours, as it will be one day.”
“Not if I leave Myverin.”
“Is that your wish, my sweet child?”
“It is, Mother. And I wish you to come with me!”
“When I am well, we will discuss it further.”
“I’m sorry, Chief Artisan, Torin—but I’m afraid that Mardeth val Tianni has died.”
“What!? But it cannot be! It was a simple infection!”
“There is nothing simple about an infection, Chief Artisan Wyvald. We were unable to control it, and it spread. I’m sorry.”
“Father, where are Mother’s books?”
“Hm? Oh, I donated them to the collegium library. I saw no reason to keep them around, they simply served as a reminder.”
“But I wanted to keep—”
“Do not argue with me, Torin! I did not wish to keep those reminders of her! The books are at the collegium, and if you wish to read them, you may borrow them from there.”
“But there was one book that I wished—”
“I asked you not to argue with me, Torin! I will not ask again!”
“Ah, yes, you’re ban Wyvald, are you not?”
“Yes, Chief Archivist, and I would like to borrow one of the books. Tales of Flingaria.”
“I’m afraid that one is already out. But I will copy down your name and alert you when Solvier val Lorel returns it.”
“Thank you, Chief Archivist.”
Torin sat at the oak tree for hours, watching the fire, which eventually died down and cooled to simple embers.
Just like the fire that claimed Solvier val Lorel’s home.
While Solvier herself managed to escape the fire, all her possessions were consumed by the flames that resulted from the lightning strike on her house.
In all the years he’d travelled Flingaria—from his time serving in the elven wars to his current job as a lieutenant in the Castle Guard, he had sought out Tales of Flingaria, but never found it. Not in his many travels as a soldier, not in Cliff’s End, and not in Velessa during his visits there during Lord Blayk’s trial.
I lost Mother, and then I lost the book. But I never lost the desire to escape the walls of Myverin.
It all started when Scotty made a remark in The Search for Spock about how he always pads his repair estimates in order to maintain his reputation as a miracle worker. That quickly became the book on Scotty, despite the fact that it was likely written as a joke on the engineer’s part. Nonetheless, it became an integral part of Scotty’s character going forward, including his rebuking La Forge in TNG’s “Relics” for giving an accurate repair estimate to Picard.
What “Temporal Edict” does is take a different look at that notion, and it’s one that leans into the part of that tendency of Scotty’s (and some other engineers) that I always thought was an important component: As a general rule, engineers are being asked how long something will take by someone who knows absolutely nothing about the specifics of what they’re doing. So Scotty can tell Kirk that a task will take two hours—who is Kirk to gainsay him? What the hell does Kirk know about engineering, anyhow?