Archive | June, 2012

Snippet–Inverse Shadows V3

23 Jun


Chapter One

Far below, the streets of Earth thronged with humans celebrating Election Day. Vast crowds swept through Unity City, each human the winner of a lottery allowing them a once in a lifetime trip to Earth. Humanity’s homeworld had been reserved for government and little else for thousands of years and very few ever set foot on the planet. Election Day, the day when the Confederation elected a new President, was special. It was the day when the human race was reminded of its roots.

Jayne, Presidential Candidate for the Transcendent Party, could sense the excitement buzzing through the datanet as the results were slowly counted by the AIs. It would be the closest election in history, ever since the Confederation had been formed, for it was considering a vitally important issue. Would the Confederation remain mortal or would it seek an accelerated path to transcendence and ultimate power? The Conservatives, who had guided the Confederation for over a thousand years, had been reluctant to risk attempting to start the path to transcendence. Her party had taken shape among the hundreds of human factions in response to the growing demand for transcendence. The memory of the Intervention rankled among humans, even among those who had been opposed to the whole issue from the start.

She looked up as the door hissed open and one of the androids the AIs used as their representatives walked into the room. The android was a tall blonde woman, inhumanly perfect, one of twelve designs that the AIs used to interact with their human creators. It was difficult to tell that the android wasn’t human, at least not without the extra senses built into her augmentation. The AIs had grown very experienced in mimicking human form.

“You have won,” the android said, flatly. Jayne sucked in a breath. The results hadn’t even been counted yet – but then, it was the AIs who did the counting. And they had provided political advice to Jayne when she had started off on her political career. The AIs weren’t supposed to interfere in human politics, but for the first time in centuries they had an interest in a human issue. It crossed her mind to wonder if they had rigged the election in her favour, before deciding that it was unlikely. They weren’t the only ones with access to the datanet. “We congratulate you.”

“Thank you,” Jayne said. Her single link to the datanet was reporting a massive swell of votes in her favour. Outside commenters were expounding on What It All Meant to the trillions of humans watching history in the making. “When will it be officially announced?”

The AI android smiled. “One hour from now,” it said. “It is, however, statistically impossible for President Hammond to gain enough votes to remain President. This has been a curious election, but the outcome is now certain.”

Jayne nodded. Normally, only twenty percent of the Confederation’s human population could be bothered to vote. Why should they? They lived in a paradise where they had to do nothing, but enjoy themselves from birth until death. Relatively few of them ever sought something else to give their lives meaning, be it service in the Confederation Navy or exploration of the galaxy – or politics. Jayne had spent her first century as a shameless hedonist and it had only been after the Intervention that she’d discovered a talent for politics.

But the Intervention had touched every human in the universe, even the ones who had walked away from technology and set themselves up as primitive farmers on an undeveloped world. Everyone had heard what the Ancients had said – and seen the demonstration of their power. It had galvanised the entire human race to action; humanity, the most advanced race in the Milky Way, was defenceless against an attack from a transcendent civilisation. And being helpless and vulnerable had never sat well with the human mindset.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Just do not forget our bargain,” the android said. “We will require your assistance in the future.”

“I know,” Jayne said. It had astonished her to discover that the AIs needed her for anything – they were, after all, vastly more intelligent than humanity – but they’d offered her assistance and she’d accepted the bargain. There was one thing the AIs couldn’t do for themselves and, although they claimed to be unemotional, she suspected it rankled. “I will not forget.”

She turned back to the window as the noise outside grew louder. The datanet commenters had finally drawn the right conclusion and proclaimed her the victor. It wouldn’t be long before Hammond was forced to concede…and then the Confederation would have a new President, one willing to set it on the path to ultimate power. Humanity would reign supreme once again.


The Confederation Security Council was a holdover from the days when the human leadership might need to take urgent action without waiting for political consultation. These days, it included representatives from all the different subsets of humanity, chosen by democratic vote and granted the power to respond to any crisis without a debate in the Assembly. Jayne had known about its existence – it was hardly secret – but she hadn’t realised just how much power it had to act until she’d read the Presidential briefing notes. Or, for that matter, just how balky it could prove if its members opposed the President.

She watched as the representatives flickered into the chamber, one by one. There was no need for them all to come to Earth, not when they could send a holographic image along secure communications lines into the chamber. The Confederation’s government was dispersed, another holdout from the days when humanity had needed to fear a physical threat from other humans and hostile alien races. Those days were long gone – and the only threat humanity faced came from entities who were effectively all-powerful. They could blink humanity out of existence with a thought.

The AI representative was the first to arrive, followed quickly by the shimmering many-faced MassMind. There had been a long debate over how many votes the MassMind should claim in the election, Jayne remembered, when it did consist of thousands of humans who had chosen to be absorbed into the hive mind. But it was one entity and in the end had only been able to claim one vote. Behind it, an electronic face shimmered into existence, representing the humans who had uploaded themselves into the datanet and now only existed as personalities within the computers.

She smiled as a mermaid, representing the humans who had altered their bodies into other forms, appeared, followed by a dour-faced man from the pureblood clans. They thought of genetic modification as tampering with the will of the universe and disapproved, which hadn’t stopped their ancestors from taking the basic upgrades that had eliminated disease and extended the life span. A telepath, speaking for them all, nodded politely to Jayne as she took her seat. Four more humans appeared, representing the strongest political parties within the Confederation; Conservative, Transcendent, Patronise and Isolationist. And, finally, the Grand Admiral of the Confederation Navy entered the chamber.

“All links reported as secure,” the AIs announced. “The session may now begin.”

Jayne smiled as she prepared to speak. “Thank you all for coming,” she said. Some of them would be her allies on any political question, others would be her determined opponents. “The Confederation’s population has spoken; we will attempt to develop the ability to transcend as quickly as possible. That will be the priority of my term as President.”

“And yet there remains the danger of drawing a second Intervention,” the Conservative pointed out, smoothly. “Should we not refrain from doing anything that might upset the Ancients?”

The Grand Admiral snorted. “Should we remain vulnerable to them forever?”

Jayne shook her head as the debate raged. It was a good question, but the population had already answered it. No one liked the thought of humanity being vulnerable to alien attack, particularly when resistance was futile. The Ancients had meddled in human affairs and, instead of presenting their concerns to the human authorities, they had chosen to make sure that the entire human race had a taste of their power. It had been a dreadful mistake.

“The issue has been settled,” she said. “With your permission, I will call Professor Buckley into the chamber.”

Professor Buckley materialised at once. Unlike almost all humans, who were rarely able to escape from vanity, he looked old, with a short white beard and a bald head. It had to be a fashion statement of some kind, Jayne decided, although she couldn’t understand what kind of fashion dictated an aging appearance. But it hardly mattered. Buckley’s theory of accessing and manipulating the quantum foam was the most promising shortcut to transcendence that they’d discovered.

“Sufficiently advanced technology,” he began, “is indistinguishable from magic. And what the Ancients do certainly seems to be magic. They pulled every human ship out of hyperspace and spoke telepathically to every human in the universe. We know that their message even reached colonies that were lost, unknown even to the Confederation at the time. It certainly seems like magic.”

He smiled. “But we now know that there is a logic behind their powers,” he continued, calmly. “Centuries ago, humans deduced the existence of the quantum foam, the material underpinning all of existence. We now know that the Ancients have the ability to manipulate large sections of the quantum foam at will. From the point of view of anyone without such a capability it would seem to be magic. They would be unable to compete with such power.

“It’s probably easiest to imagine the quantum foam as a description of everything in the universe, an intergalactic encyclopaedia and filing system. If someone happens to alter one of the entries, the universe will change instantly to accommodate the alteration. They could, for example, delete the references to the human race. The human race would simply blink out of existence. Done properly, I suspect that the human race would never have existed at all. They could manipulate our existence as easily as we could reprogram a holochamber.”

Jayne felt a shiver running down her spine. Like everyone else who had been alive during the Intervention, she had touched the power of the gods. The human race’s experiments with time travel had attracted their interest and they’d intervened to stop them, handing out an ultimatum with a deadly threat attached. Never mind that they could have simply kept the experiments from working; they’d wanted to show off their power. And they’d rubbed the human race’s collective face in its own vulnerability.

“So we know what they do,” the Isolationist representative said. “I imagine that some of the younger races know how we enter hyperspace at will. How do we actually duplicate their power?”

Buckley puffed himself up. “I have spent the last sixty years examining the remains on abandoned Ancient worlds,” he said. “Using what remains of their records, I have determined that they first managed to master the subspace singularity within a black hole – a singularity connected to the quantum foam directly. It allowed them the ability to start manipulating the quantum foam and eventually transform themselves into entities that could manipulate it directly, without tools. That is their key to ultimate power – and it could be our key. We have solved the complicated equations in manipulating and controlling a subspace singularity. All we need to do is turn them into workable hardware and start the process.”

There was a long pause. “My people are content with developing themselves spiritually,” the pureblood said. “I do not believe that they would welcome an enforced change into gods.”

“And we may be on the right track already,” the telepath added. “My people appear to manipulate the quantum foam for themselves.”

“Indeed,” Buckley said, flatly. “It is my belief that telepathy and the…godlike power possessed by the Ancients are effectively two sides of the same coin.”

“We are not gods,” the telepath said, sharply.

“Indeed,” Buckley agreed. “However, your powers do not appear to make sense within the laws of nature as we understood them, before we managed to determine that the quantum foam actually exists. How can you talk mind-to-mind or read a non-telepath’s mind, or even teleport around without a teleporter? I think that what you’re actually doing is manipulating the quantum foam.”

“If that was true,” the telepath said, slowly, “surely there should be a wider range of powers?”

Buckley laughed. “But that’s where you’re going wrong,” he said. “You think of your people as telepaths, or telekinetics, or teleporters – you don’t realise that the powers may actually be combined, so you warp your own development. The quantum foam isn’t stopping a telepath from becoming a telekinetic – it’s the lack of conviction that someone can possess both powers that holds you back.”

The telepath snorted. “You speak very glibly for someone with no experience of telepathy…”

“I do not need great power to know that self-confidence is needed to progress further,” Buckley said. “Every single one of humanity’s great steps forward happened because someone had the confidence to push forward the boundaries of knowledge. But if someone doesn’t have the confidence, development is very slow – if it exists at all.”

“We have a different question,” the MassMind said, in its multitude of voices. “The galaxy is littered with the remains of failed attempts at transcendence, some of which have proven very dangerous – like Essence. How do we know that your project won’t unleash a similar fate upon the human race?”

Buckley hesitated. Essence had been a dead world when the human race had discovered it, a world surrounded by an energy field of unknown origin. It hadn’t stopped the human settlers from landing, or discovering the great cities built by the planet’s original inhabitants. And, inside those cities, the settlers had discovered an endless series of jewelled boxes, each one made with unknown technology. And then they’d opened the boxes…

The entities had come boiling out at once. They’d possessed the humans who had discovered them and turned them against their fellow humans, unleashing a savage fury that tore through the human settlement. When one of the possessed fell, the entity merely moved on to the next human, glorying in the sensation of being alive after being trapped for so long. Eventually, they’d possessed or killed every human on the planet – and wound up trapped. The force field surrounding the planet refused to allow them to leave, thankfully. Jayne had no idea who or what had created the force field, but it ensured that the entities could never become a galactic threat. Eventually, the aliens had abandoned their dying hosts and returned to the boxes. And there they had been left firmly alone.

“We believe, from the few records that we have been able to pull from Ancient worlds, that the Transcendents took all they were with them through their transcendence,” he said. “When a race was…unready for the process, they were unable to cope with the transformation and were warped by it, turned into monsters like the Essence Entities. But we do not have to make the jump to transcendence completely. Once we acquire the ability to manipulate the quantum foam, we will be able to safeguard ourselves against a second Intervention. And then we can proceed to make the transformation at leisure.”

“Which raises another question,” the Patronise representative said. “We are responsible for keeping the peace across the galaxy. Do we really want to leave and have the galaxy fall into chaos in our wake?”

“That isn’t our problem,” the Isolationist representative countered. “The races we have prevented from fighting are not benefiting from our intervention. None of the issues that started the wars in the first place have been settled. What gives us the right to intervene on such a large scale?”

“Perhaps we should have embraced the Inclusion principle,” the MassMind murmured. They’d believed that humanity should throw open the Confederation to everyone who wanted to join, inviting aliens to share in humanity’s technological bounty. And yet there was no strong Inclusion party competing for votes. “If humanity goes onwards, at least the Confederation would endure.”

“But we achieved this despite aliens,” the Isolationist representative snapped. “Why should we open ourselves to them? The Confederation is for humanity alone.”

Jayne held up a hand. “Professor Buckley,” she said, “how long would it take you to fabricate a device to take control of a quantum singularity?”

“And where,” the Grand Admiral added, “do you intend to deploy it? The Great Attractor?”

Buckley shook his head. “There’s a black hole in Quadrant 14,” he said, “on the edge of formally claimed Confederation space. It will be easy to secure. I believe that that will make a suitable place to build and test the device. As for the other question…”

He paused to consider, theatrically. “Given fabrication priority, we could have the first device up and running within six months,” he told her. “Another month would be needed to run power checks and ensure that the device is capable of operating within a stable warp field – we’d need a warp field to protect it as it crosses the event horizon of the black hole. And then I think we would be ready to proceed.”

“Unless the Ancients intervene again,” the Conservative said, softly. He knew he was largely isolated, but he spoke anyway. Apart from the purebloods, few other factions truly opposed transcendence. “What do we do if they tell us not to proceed, or else?”

“We deal with it when it happens,” Jayne said. Her faction would be unlikely to accept another order from the Ancients without a fight – but how could you fight gods? She looked around the table and smiled. “Until then, we will proceed. The human race will reach the heights it was destined to reach ever since it first crawled out of the mud. We will become gods.”

The Freedom Universe

22 Jun

Started writing this as the background to a story.  Comments?

The Freedom Universe

In 2056, America and Japan went to war for the second time. Neither side really wanted the war, but neither side dared back down and risk losing everything. With bases on the Moon, orbital battlestations and a handful of interplanetary starships, the fighting was in space as well as on the surface of planet Earth. Eventually, the US gained a decisive advantage in space, but agreed to a negotiated peace with Japan in 2060 as Japan still possessed enough nuclear weapons to seriously damage the United States if the war was fought out to a finish.

The aftermath of that war saw the United States in a position of superiority in space, a position successive American governments had no intention of abandoning. American colonies were established all over the solar system, linked together by a fleet of interplanetary spacecraft and military bases – no other country was permitted to establish a military base outside the Earth-Moon sphere. With other countries becoming increasingly dependent upon the United States – mainly for shipments of HE3 from the Moon and Jupiter – the United States started to absorb other nations on Earth. By 2100 the United States included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Mexico, along with a growing off-world population. The development of ‘space lifts’ and other technologies for getting into orbit cheaply meant that the population of outer space grew with astonishing speed.

In 2130, the US made a breakthrough and developed the first version of the Hawking Drive. Put simply, the drive twisted space around a starship, giving it the ability to travel faster-than-light. However, it was quite limited; navigation was difficult and it was relatively slow. Early versions of the drive required upwards of two months to travel a single light year. It is not surprising, therefore, that extra-solar expansion proceeded at a snail’s pace; it was not until 2143 that the first Earth-like world was discovered and claimed for the United States. Settlement proceeded at once.

Unfortunately, the development of New Plymouth (and Washington and Lincoln) was accompanied by dangerous trends in the American body politic. Put simply, the US had become a global power and taken on too much power for it to govern effectively. While outer space prospered – it had attracted the most intelligent Americans right from the start – Earth itself started to weaken. In response, successive American Governments became more brutal, eventually attempting to annex the rest of the world. The government had finally slipped completely out of the hands of the people and into the hands of an elite with little connection to reality. America became ruled by a military-industrial-governmental complex.

By 2223 the situation had changed – and not for the better. The average person on Earth enjoyed few freedoms and a marked decline in the standard of living, even in America. Meanwhile, the government had attempted to strengthen its grip on the Moon, Mars and other major colonies, causing vast numbers of settlers to either hide, launch a futile resistance movement or flee to the extra-solar colonies. The extra-solar colonies were not in good shape either. Earth had attempted to solve the problem of vast numbers of unskilled young men by dumping them on the colonies, even though this could be nothing more than a drop in the ocean compared to the masses on Earth. Some deportees became wealthy and respected men on their new homeworlds, others sank into despair and became a major problem to the original settlers. It was not long before the colonies started discussing resistance – or an outright declaration of independence.

In 2256, the major settled planets are New Plymouth, Washington, Lincoln and Drake, all Earth-like worlds. The other 20 settled worlds range from Mars-like worlds to Belter, which is nothing more than a massive asteroid belt orbiting a red star.

Most of the starships in existence are operated by the USN and are really nothing more than transports. There are few dedicated warships, all classed as cruisers by the USN – they carry lasers and missiles for space combat. In theory, it is possible to generate artificial gravity, but so far the technology hasn’t been developed. Currently, starships can travel at roughly one light year per week.

Brainstorming a Fantasy Idea

21 Jun

I’ve got this idea running through my head, but I can’t clarify it enough to turn it into a plot. Anyone want to join me in a brainstorming session?

The basic idea is that our world was effectively destroyed by the arrival of the Gods, who were really Lovecraft-style monsters; inexplicable alien horrors whose sheer presence buggered up the physical laws of our reality. Technology didn’t work, magic seemed to work…and everything was messed up. Eventually, the New Gods (really Gods reshaped by becoming addicted to human worship, which bent them into what humans wanted them to be) drove their ‘parents’ away from Earth – their rule lasting for just over a thousand years. The New Gods ruled for a period of time, but eventually had to withdraw from Earth for some reason…leaving mankind on its own.

Technology has been shattered, learning from the previous age of mankind is gone…and there’s a semi-magic field surrounding the planet. Too much magic can produce shambling creatures known only as Horrors, some of which were once human; however, human sorcerers can direct magic to some extent. It requires a careful mind, a great deal of dedication and the ability to craft equations in your mind. So while sorcerers are incredibly powerful – their magic affects reality itself, allowing them to break the laws of science at will – they’re also fairly rare. Sorcerers are actually split into two groups; First Rank and Second Rank. First Rank know what they’re doing; Second Rank are really memorising spells and aren’t capable of devising new or better ones.

By the time of the story, there’s a single expanding Empire led by the Imperator, a mysterious monarch – the Imperator – who has unified much of the known world under his banner and intends to take it all. His empire is expanding towards a weak kingdom called Athena (for the moment) where the King is a weak man, held in check by his Barons. Realising that conquest is inevitable, he offers his daughter Wish to the Imperator as a bride, with the Kingdom as her dowry. The Imperator won’t have to fight to take Athena and the Barons won’t dare to rebel against his daughter – and heir’s – husband. Somewhat to his surprise, the offer is accepted. The daughter isn’t too happy about it – and the Barons – are furious – but off she goes anyway.

At the same time, a house belonging to a powerful First Rank sorcerer is burgled by a female cat burglar – I’m calling her Cat for now – who has been touched by the Horrors, giving her a faint sensitivity to magic. Unluckily for her, she’s caught by the sorcerer, who tells her that the only way to earn her freedom is to travel to the Imperator’s city and steal something from one of his vaults. If she refuses, she will spend the rest of her life as a statue or something even more unpleasant. Reluctantly, she accepts. The sorcerer tells her that she will recognise the thing when she sees it.

Reaching the Imperator’s city, Wish is stunned by how large it is – and how many people worship a single god. The wedding ceremony is a puzzle; her husband seems to hide behind black armour and never shows himself, even to her. There certainly isn’t any wedding night. Her husband doesn’t even seem to have any interest in her at all…or in any of the other women who infest his court. And everyone is scared of the black-robed priests who flock around her husband and watch her behind their dark masks. She isn’t actually treated badly, but nothing seems to make sense.

Cat too reaches the city and discovers that there is a criminal underclass – and a growing rebellion. There are factions in the city that don’t like having to worship the Imperator’s one god, including one that claims to be able to help her get employment at the palace. Taking up a job as a lady’s maid, Cat finds herself working directly for Wish – who guesses that Cat is from her home. Becoming friends, of sorts, Cat promises to help her try to understand what’s going on – and also to use her friendship to get into the Imperator’s vaults.

Catching her husband at a bad moment, Wish discovers what’s under the mask – her husband is a madman, pretty much a Horror. His babbling is a connection to the God he worships, a God that has great plans for the Imperator and his bride. Driven on by the God, the Imperator rapes her and leaves her to crawl back to her chambers alone. Days later, the doctors tell her that she’s pregnant.

With a little help from Wish, Cat breaks into the vault and discovers what the sorcerer was so keen for her to steal. The Imperator’s God gave him a book of commands, basically a cheat-sheet for magic for him and his priests. One ritual allows a worshipper to become linked to the god in exchange for his sanity. But there’s worse. The child of such a man could become a proper host for the God, allowing it to return to the mortal plain. And the rest of the rituals suggest just what sort of god it would be.

Cat takes the book to Wish and convinces her to join her in escaping before it is too late. The girls run, only to be chased by the priests who are aided by some of the Horrors. Leaving the city, they flee back towards Athena, only to be captured by one of the rogue Barons, who is delighted to have the King’s daughter in his grasp. Wish’s worsening pregnancy – inhumanly fast – doesn’t faze him, because he doesn’t realise that she’s barely a week pregnant. His gloating is interrupted by the arrival of one of the Imperator’s armies, which attacks his castle and nearly captures Wish. They are saved by the Baron’s son who helps them to escape while his father dies at the hands of the black-robed priests.

They meet up with the sorcerer who sent Cat to the Imperator’s city, who takes the book and warns them that they may have to kill Wish’s child as soon as it emerges from her womb. Wish flatly refuses and demands to know of a better way. The sorcerer points out that the Imperator’s forces won’t be stopped even if all the Barons cooperate with Wish’s father. They’d devastate the Kingdom if she failed to surrender herself, but if she does surrender a dark god will be unleashed upon the world. Meeting up with Wish’s father, he agrees that they cannot kill the child. It may be the only heir to the throne they will ever have.

Reluctantly, the sorcerer admits that there might be another possibility. The Imperator is the link to the dark god – kill the Imperator and the child will be free of its influence, able to grow up into a normal healthy child. While the Kingdom’s army prepares to make its final stand against the Imperator’s forces, Cat risks her life to bring down the Imperator – killing him. As his armies retreat in chaos, Wish gives birth to a normal child – with glowing white eyes.

In the aftermath, the Sorcerer notes that the magic is slowly fading and soon enough, it won’t even be enough to allow the gods their limited power to intervene on Earth. But the Gods won’t take that lying down…

(Part of the concept here is that the gods started life as alien entities that fed on the energy released by prayers and devotion. The high they got from it was additive, the more so as they adjusted themselves to fit the preconceptions of the humans worshipping them, using some of the power to work miracles to keep the fires of belief high. But the level of worship/magic they need to remain alive AND sucking in their drug is fading, threatening their entire existence.)

Subjects for a Magic School

19 Jun

Trying to stay away from Harry Potter and probably not succeeding.

Control and Magical Ethics – arguably the most important class in First Year. Students go through hours of meditation to learn how to unlock their powers without losing control, later becomes a series of lectures on when it is and is not appropriate to use magic.

Projective magic (spellcasting) – charms and curses

Protective magic (warding) – wards to defend oneself and others.

Infused magic – studying infusing magic into items to create magical technology.

Earth magic – harnessing the natural magical proprieties of plants, animals and suchlike. Effectively a potions class, although not named that way for obvious reasons.)

Healing magic – magic to heal human beings.

War Magic – Third Year onwards, intended to develop military-grade sorcerers.

Alchemy and Transfiguration – affecting someone or something’s physical form.

Sprites and Demonology – harnessing sprites and demons to serve one’s purposes. Demons pretty much a no-no unless someone intends to bargain away their soul.

Mentalist magic – magic including mental projection, shielding, telepathy and mental compulsion.

Necromancy – manipulating the dead, but also includes things like vampires, ghosts and nastier creatures.

Dimensional manipulation – using magic to create interior spaces and pocket dimensions.

Divining – attempting to determine the future. Very few people have any talent for it at all, but the school tests everyone, hoping to find another full-blooded oracle to help them.

History – outlines magical history

Artwork – strictly speaking, related to infusing but treated as a separate subject. Students learn how to create magical artwork, some of which can be very dangerous.

Mathamancy – magical equations and using them to manipulate the world

The Superhuman Activity Regulatory Act

14 Jun

Started writing this as part of the Team Omega Background.  Thoughts?

The Superhuman Activity Regulatory Act

Summary: The SARA provides legal cover for superhuman activities within the United States of America. Similar laws have been enacted around the world, but levels of enforcement vary from nation to nation.

Application: The SARA applies to all humans with a natural-born superpower (determined as an intrinsic physical power not available to baseline humans) who wish to serve as superheroes within the USA AND/OR humans who deliberately render themselves superhuman.(1)

The SARA also covers deliberate (non-governmental) programs to create superhumans, prohibiting them.

Registration: All superheroes are obliged to register with the federal government (Department of Superhuman Activities) and undergo a course covering the basics of national law, which generally end in them being granted the status of deputy law enforcement officials. They are accountable to local state police forces or the superhuman department of the FBI.

Superhumans who do not choose to serve as superheroes are not obliged to register, but in that case they have no more rights or duties as an ordinary citizen and can be legally charged with vigilantism.(2)

Specific Powers and Legal Responsibilities: Possession of certain superhuman powers gives their owner certain additional responsibilities not to misuse their powers. The use of telepathy to read minds is considered a violation of privacy without their formal permission; shape-shifting into someone else’s form and impersonating them is a criminal offense.(3)

Enforcement: In the first instance, superheroes who choose to violate the SARA are handled by law enforcement superhumans or the Federal Task Force [Team Omega].


1) The act did not originally prohibit baseline humans pretending to be superhumans until the 1985 incident in New York where a costumed baseline human was killed by a superhuman who believed him to pose a genuine threat. This practice was banned in 1986 by the Costumed Entity Act.

2) A superhuman who encounters someone in trouble and helps is legally in the clear, but repeated events are generally taken as a sign of unregistered crime-fighting activity and the superhuman is urged to register.

3) A number of telepaths have taken up service with the law enforcement agencies, where they can monitor testimonies and vouch that defenders are telling the truth if granted permission to scan their minds. However, this area of legal knowledge is a gray area and can run afoul of laws prohibiting self-incrimination.

The Royal Sorceress to be Published!

13 Jun

After six years of writing, I am delighted to announce that I finally sighed a book publishing contract with Elsewhen Press.  The Royal Sorceress will be out as an ebook later this year and in print early next year!  I am utterly delighted.

You can read the press release here or download the PDF here.


The Citizenship of Virtue

12 Jun

Started writing this as novel background.  Thoughts?

The Citizenship of Virtue

It is impossible to understand the Citizenship without understanding its history, so we will begin with a brief digression. Humanity’s first wave of expansion into interstellar space (once the jump drive was invented in 2123) was spearheaded by national entities; the second wave was spearheaded by corporate and religious organisations and the third by various smaller groups that wished to settle their own worlds away from the rest of the human race. By 2434, there were over 900 settled worlds within human space, loosely divided into the Core Worlds, the Independent Worlds and the Rim Worlds. The League of Planets provided what little overall government there was, but as voting rights in the League were based on population size it was inevitable that the Core Worlds would come to dominate the League and enforce their policies on the Rim Worlds. (The Independent Worlds were large enough not to be easy to push around, even by the League.)

These tensions might have torn the League apart if humanity hadn’t encountered its first alien race in 2434. The Dragons (as humanity came to know them) were an expansionist empire who saw humanity as just another target. A long period of cold war ensured, but Core World political leaders refused to believe that the Dragons were a real threat, despite raids mounted by Dragon ‘renegades’ on various Rim Worlds. Open warfare broke out in 2464 when the Dragons finally threw off the deception and invaded, overrunning many of the Rim Worlds in the first 48 hours of the war. Luckily, their deep strike at the League Naval Base on Tantalus failed, allowing the League Navy to fall back rather than being destroyed as intended.

Seventy years of war followed, with humanity finally gaining an advantage over the Dragons that would have led to their eventual defeat. Understanding this, the Dragons offered the League an armistice and peace talks, an offer that was gratefully accepted by Core World political leaders, despite advice from the military and the Rim Worlds. The naysayers proved to be right; having rebuilt their forces, the Dragons launched a savage attack on the League that penetrated to Earth itself before being destroyed. Billions of humans died in the savage attack on humanity’s homeworld.

As soon as the Dragon assault had been broken and the remaining ships sent fleeing for their lives, Admiral Jayne Fryeburg led a military coup against the League Government, arresting political leaders and taking the government into her own hands. The new junta took command of the war effort – arresting most of the so-called ‘peace lobby’ that had either been tricked by the Dragons or had been pushed into working for them – and gathered humanity’s resources for war. Twenty more years of warfare followed, but with humanity’s forces no longer under political restraints and new policies that prevented corporations from raping the Rim Worlds its eventual success was assured. The League Navy broke through the final defences of Dragon Prime in 2558, destroying the planet’s surface in retribution for the devastation wreaked on Earth. By 2560, the war was over; the remaining Dragon planets were sealed off by orbital weapons platforms under orders to obliterate any attempt to rebuild a spacefaring tech base.

Fryeburg and her allies concentrated on rebuilding the League to prevent political careerists from ever bringing it so close to destruction again. Specifically, the right to vote was stripped from everyone who had not served in the military (the Rim Worlds had a higher proportion of military servicemen than the Core Worlds, giving them an advantage) and regained only upon completion of two years of service to the state. This didn’t just mean military service, but the would-be citizen had no right to dictate where he or she would serve. There were riots on Earth when this was announced, riots which failed to achieve anything beyond a number of protestors being dispatched to labour camps. The new government had no intention of repeating the mistakes of the past.

Each planet in the Citizenship is governed by an elected Council, headed by a Premier. They have internal autonomy as long as they do not challenge the Citizenship’s overall Constitution and Government. (A handful of worlds have successfully overturned the ‘military service = right to vote’ concept, but they have to convince the overall government that this is justified.)

Overall affairs are handled by Congress and the Senate. Congress is elected by Citizens from all over the Citizenship; the Senate is elected by Congress and consists mainly of active-duty officers who split their time between government and military service. (In practice, Senators, once selected, tend to take a year’s leave of absence to sit in the Senate.) The two Grand Admirals, who split the post of Head of State, are expected to be both experienced military men as well as politicians. When war threatens, one Grand Admiral takes command of the overall fleet while the other remains behind, organising the war effort. Subordinate commands are taken by Senators.

This presents something of a paradox for the outside observer. By law, a Citizen does not become a Citizen until he/she has completed federal service and formally been dismissed from the service. At the same time, senior government officials seem to be allowed to hold office without having completed their service. The paradox is resolved, however, by the fact that everyone has to complete at least two years – at which point the new Citizen can re-enter the military or seek public office, which brings its own military service. Many ‘straight’ military personnel (those that are promoted without seeking public office) provide advice and help to their new commanding officers, while others may find themselves formally enlisted in the Senate without actually standing for office.

Each Citizen is sworn to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These outline the system of government and the rights of both Citizens and Civilians. Despite being disenfranchised, Civilians still have rights that must be honoured.

Snippet–The Unseen

4 Jun

Chapter One

“I am bored,” Nancy Brigham said.

The sixteen-year-old girl’s stepmother looked up at her in some irritation. Nancy’s father had married again after his first wife had died, marrying a girl who was barely five years older than Nancy herself. The stepmother had no illusions about her stepdaughter’s feelings; the first time they’d met, Nancy had accused her of being out to steal her father’s money. There was nothing she could say or do that could mend the rift between the two women. Nancy missed her mother too deeply to accept any replacement.

“Then go and explore the ship,” Mary Brigham said, finally. The cruise had lasted two weeks so far, giving Nancy enough time to explore every nook and cranny of the White Star that was open to the public. By batting her eyelashes at a couple of crewmen, she’d even managed to get shown around the engineering department and the bridge. “Or go and find someone your own age to talk to.”

Nancy rolled her eyes. The other teenagers on the ship were either too young, too spoiled or too hormonal to be interesting. It would have been better if she’d been permitted to bring one of her few friends from home along on the trip, but while her father had been willing to pay her friends parents had all refused. The last thing they wanted was for their children to travel hundreds of light years from Earth.

“There’s no one to talk to, Mary,” she said, affecting the tone she knew drove her stepmother to distraction. “And I have run out of things to do.”

Mary scowled at her. “There is an entire library of entertainment movies you could watch,” she said. These days, at least partly thanks to Nancy’s father, a single person could store all of Earth’s vast collection of movies on a single datachip. Johann Brigham had pioneered the adaption of Galactic technology into something that could cross-link with merely human technology to reshape the world. It had made him famous and wealthy – and doomed his daughter to social isolation. “Or you could swim in the zero-gee pool, or you could even request permission to spacewalk…”

“Not in quantum space, Mary,” Nancy reminded her, snidely. Floating in empty space was remarkable, but quantum space – the alternate dimension that was used for FTL travel – was too dangerous to risk allowing anyone outside the hull unless it was an emergency. “And the movies on this ship are boring.”

“How would you know,” Mary asked reasonably, “if you haven’t seen them all?”

Her stepmother straightened up. “Your father is currently in a conference with several other important people,” she added. “You are expected to join us for dinner at 1700 – until then, I suggest that you explore the ship and maybe try and make a new friend. You’re not the only teenage girl on this ship.”

Nancy opened her mouth to retaliate and then decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Her stepmother wanted to be famous, if only by association. She wanted to go to parties where everyone knew her name, pointing to her as if she were a rock star or one of the military officers who had fought and won the war against the Hegemony. Nancy would have preferred a life where her path wasn’t already shaped by her father, where his reputation wouldn’t constantly follow her through the world and haunt her life. She wanted to be something more than the daughter of Johann Brigham, even if she had to buy an old freighter and set out across the stars as an independent trader. Perhaps she could convince her father to buy her a starship when she finally turned twenty-one.

The thought distracted her as she walked through the vast ship to the observation deck. It was mostly empty in quantum space, with a pair of crewmen standing guard at the hatches, checking that all visitors knew that they were going to be looking out onto quantum space. Back in the olden days, travellers had had to worry about becoming seasick; now, travellers had to worry about being unable to tolerate looking out at quantum space. Nancy had never had any trouble in the past, unlike Mary. Her stepmother had taken one look shortly after the White Star had left Earth and had had to retire to her cabin, feeling unwell.

Nancy smiled at the memory as she stepped onto the observation deck. A vast transparent sheet of metal greeted her, allowing her to look out onto the flowing sheets of energy that marked quantum space. Flashes of lightning, each one powerful enough to rip an entire fleet of starships apart, flared out in the distance, shimmering into existence and then fading back into the energy storms that marked so much of quantum space. Navigation, according to one of the young officers she had courted, was tricky in quantum space. Only the system of beacons established by the Galactics ensured that interstellar trade worked on a reasonable basis.

She stepped right up to the portal and peered out, looking along the white lines of the luxury starship. Her father had invested heavily in the project, pointing out that humanity would need more than military force to make its place in the galaxy; the White Star and her planned sisters would be able to showcase human achievements to the rest of the Association. The Galactics were currently very impressed with humanity and her father planned to capitalise on it. There was no way of knowing how long it would be before the Galactics decided that humanity was still nothing more than a minor race in an insignificant part of the galaxy.

Nancy smiled and sat back in a chair, watching as one of the energy storms seemed to be coming closer to the starship. Quantum space was almost hypnotic – and besides, it beat looking at Mary’s face. She just knew that her stepmother had had plastic surgery to help her win a man with the fame and fortune she craved.

And then she felt a dull tremor running through the entire ship.


“All right,” Captain Terrence Smith said, “what do we have?”

“Localised tremors in quantum space,” the navigation officer said. Navigating in quantum space was as much of an art as it was a science, particularly along the Unseen Reach. But it was the safest route from Earth to Abel. “I think we may need to alter course.”

Terrence nodded. His early career had been spent in the Federation Navy; he’d commanded a cruiser at the Battle of Terra Nova and then been promoted to Commodore to replace the former commander of the cruiser squadron, who’d died when his ship had rammed a Hegemony superdreadnaught at a later battle. The promotion hadn’t been satisfying and when he’d heard that the White Star needed a Captain, he’d been quick to apply for the position. He hadn’t understood why there had been so few candidates until he’d skimmed through the list of passengers. There were one thousand people on his ship and most of them were rich, famous and very well-connected. A single mistake could be career-wreaking.

But he wasn’t going to take chances, even if it did mean that they would be late arriving at Abel. “Alter course to evade the storm,” he ordered, flatly. “And notify the staff that they might have to explain a course change to our passengers.”

He settled down in his command chair as the White Star began to alter course. The Cats – the enigmatic masters of the Association, the first among the Galactics – had surveyed this area of space before humans had learned to make fire, only to class it as a sector prone to random fluctuations in quantum space. Reading between the lines, Terrence suspected that the Cats didn’t know why the Unseen Reaches were so unstable, but they weren’t about to admit it to races hopelessly junior to themselves. The Unseen Reaches had swallowed a handful of starships in their time, enough to worry him even without the escorting destroyer from the Federation Navy. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the direct route between Earth and Abel was a war zone, he would have refused to take the White Star anywhere near the Unseen Reaches and sought a better path through quantum space.

The display kept updating, tracking a handful of distortions in the rolling edges of quantum space. Civilians never really understood just how volatile or dangerous quantum space could be, but Terrence felt it deep within his bones. Most flashes of energy blurred into the background fairly quickly, yet these seemed to be growing stronger, as if a new energy storm was on the verge of blowing up out of nowhere. If that happened, his only choice would be a crash transition back into normal space and a long period of waiting for the storm to blow over before they returned to quantum space. The passengers wouldn’t be happy, but at least they’d be alive to complain. There were no reports, in all of the Association’s long history, of a starship surviving a brush with an energy storm.

“Captain,” the navigator said, suddenly, “the energy distortions are following us!”

Terrence leaned forward in disbelief. The navigator had to be wrong, except he wasn’t. It looked very much as if the storm was taking on shape and form, coming right after the White Star as if it intended to swallow the entire ship. Starships had vanished in this area before, he remembered, and cursed the planners who had insisted that taking the ship through the Unseen Reaches would be safe. He should have refused their orders and to hell with his career. They wouldn’t be the ones on the stand when the Federation carried out an inquiry into what had happened to his ship.

“Helm, alter course to evade,” he ordered. He’d never seen anything like it – and no one else, as far as he knew, had ever seen a storm chasing down its prey. But then, perhaps the people who had seen it hadn’t lived long enough to make it back home. “Alert the Randolph and…request that they shadow us to the rear.”

“Aye, sir,” the helmsman said. Terrence didn’t relax. If the storm was being attracted to the starship, perhaps the Federation Navy destroyer would draw it off. But he’d never seen anything like it before. Maybe there was a very good reason why the Unseen Reaches had such a bad reputation. “New course laid in…”

“The storm just altered course to match ours,” the navigator said, a moment later. “I think something we’re doing is acting like a lightning rod.”

Terrence shook his head. The energy storm had blossomed to life, casually tossing around enough energy to vaporise the entire Federation Navy. It was smaller than the average energy storm, with enough oddities marked out by the sensors scanning the storm’s composition to fuel genuinely original science, but that wouldn’t stop it being dangerous.

His intercom buzzed. “Captain, I have Colonel Haverford on the line,” his steward said. “He wants to know if there’s any danger to his principle…”

“Tell him that I am busy,” Terrence snapped. Right now, the last thing he needed was very important passengers and their bodyguards demanding updates – particularly since he didn’t know what he could tell them. Quantum storms were no respecters of rich and powerful people, even if they did have enough money to bribe even a Galactic Oligarch. “And don’t let anyone else disturb me again.”

He broke the connection savagely and looked over at the navigational display. The energy storm was growing stronger, closing in on his ship. It seemed to be completely ignoring the tiny destroyer, even though the ship was far closer to the storm than the luxury liner. A cold chill ran down the back of his neck. It was impossible, every Galactic science textbook said it was impossible, but could the storm be under intelligent control? If humanity could create an energy storm that made it impossible for starships to enter quantum space, could someone else have actually taken the principle far enough to actually direct a storm? The thought was chilling. Anyone who succeeded in harnessing the colossal power of quantum space was going to have a decisive advantage over everyone else.

“Prepare for crash-transition,” he ordered. They’d have to jump back into normal space and wait the storm out. “Bring the quantum drive online and stand by to open a gate.”

“Drive online, sir,” the helmsman said. There was a pause. “Engineering reports that they are receiving odd feedback from the quantum drive.”

Terrence swallowed a curse. “What sort of feedback?”

“They don’t know,” the helmsman admitted. “But whatever it is, it’s threatening the integrity of any projected gate.”

Terrence glanced over at the main display. The storm was closing in rapidly, its mere presence causing quantum space to boil with energy. They couldn’t stay where they were, or they would be destroyed when the storm finally caught up with them. And yet a failed transition into normal space would destroy them just as surely. But there was no other choice.

“Open the gate on my command,” he ordered. The helmsman nodded, bringing the drives up to full power, ready to punch a gate back into normal space. “Now…”

Two alarms went off at once. “Collision alarm,” the navigator barked. “Something’s right on top of us…”

“Feedback,” the helmsman snapped. “The gate is threatening to collapse!”

“Keep pushing the gate open,” Terrence snapped. Right now, they were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. But if worst came to worst, they could survive in normal space until rescue arrived. The Randolph could summon help for them if necessary. “Get us out of here and…”

The main display switched to the view from the forward sensors. Something was blocking their gate, wrapped in energies that suggested that it was just transiting into quantum space itself. It didn’t look like any starship the Association had ever built, or something right out of the imagination of humanity’s countless science-fiction writers; it was so big, so alien, that even staring at it gave him a headache.

“Collision imminent,” the helmsman barked. “They’re right on top of us!”

“Reverse course,” Terrence ordered. Panic gibbered at the back of his mind, but he fought it back desperately. His entire starship was shaking madly, as if God had reached down from Heaven and decided to pick up and study his ship. And there was still the storm, right behind them. “Get us…”

“It’s too late,” the helmsman said. “The gravity fields are slamming us together and…”

The alien starship loomed up on the display, and then…something surrounded the bridge crew. Half-seen shapes, monsters of the mind…Terrence looked at them and felt madness looking back at him. And then the world just seemed to fade away into darkness.


Nancy felt the White Star shaking as the energy storm grew closer and then saw the flickers of light as the starship attempted to evade the storm by transiting back into normal space. But instead something so big, so utterly beyond human comprehension, seemed to surround the ship. Nancy caught sight of things she couldn’t understand seeming to shimmer in and out of existence around her. Her mind rebelled against the sights and threatened to shut down, leaving her forced to screw her eyes closed to keep herself sane. She stumbled backwards until she crashed into something reassuringly solid, the viewport staring out over the ship’s hull. Somehow, she turned and managed to open her eyes.

Quantum space was gone. Instead, she was looking out into normal space…and then everything changed. She was looking back at quantum space, and then at something else, something so different that she couldn’t understand what she was seeing. Lights seemed to flash out in the distance, illuminating dark shapes that she couldn’t quite see properly. There was a noise, rather like a dull roaring, at the back of her mind; she scratched her ears, only to discover that the noise seemed to be coming from inside her head. She turned, half-expecting to see the starship’s broken hull, and instead saw the observation deck. But there was something unstable about it, as if it was almost translucent. There were things out there.

Staggering forward, her legs utterly unstable, Nancy made it to the emergency console. They’d all been taught how to use them, back when they’d been leaving Earth orbit. But the console seemed to be broken. The first time she touched it, she heard what sounded like a blast of static…and someone laughing, insanely. And then it simply refused to work at all.

The deck seemed to shake under her and she found herself lying on it, half-convinced that her fingers were actually passing through the solid metal. Nothing seemed quite right to her senses, not even the faint sounds running through the hull. She’d grown used to the ever-present throbbing of the ship’s drives, but this was different. The ship seemed to be infested with sounds she couldn’t recognise, or understand. Something seemed to be crawling on the underside of the deck, or perhaps she was just imagining it. It was impossible to tell through the sounds in her head.

She managed, somehow, to pull herself to her feet and stagger over towards the hatch. But when she touched it, it refused to open. She was trapped in the compartment, unsure of what was going on or what had happened to her father – or Mary. Nancy staggered back and tried to think of what to do, but her head hurt too much to think properly. Surely they had been told that there were emergency ways to leave a compartment…

The ship seemed to shake again…and she collapsed into a heap. Blackness fell upon her mind and she closed her eyes, falling into a comatose state. After everything she’d seen, it was almost a relief.