One in a Million: Chapter 1

Everyone remembers where they were when the Spiral Hegemony star cruiser first appeared in orbit. It was visible out the window of the International Space Station, and soon the images were beamed to every phone and television across the planet. It happened at 2:06 PM Eastern Standard Time, so most of the Western world was either at work or school, settling in for dinner, or heading out for a night on the town. People would talk about it for years to come, regurgitating the same stories of fear, awe and wonder over and over again, embellished by time and the natural tendency to want to tell a more compelling story than their friends.

Caleb Farnsworth did not remember. In his defense, it was because he was unconscious, because he was drunk, because he had been broken up with, fired and evicted all at once the night before. Free advice: do not start screwing the landlady while working as a menial repairman in the apartment building in which you live.

He woke to the buzzing of his phone. He fumbled with it and denied the call. It buzzed again. He threw it across the dingy apartment. It kept buzzing and he kept ignoring it until he felt more awake than dead. Finally Caleb rolled off the couch and crawled to where his phone lay. He looked at it: 43 missed calls, at least one from pretty much everyone he knew. He opened the messenger and looked at the first text.

ALI: Look out the fucking window!

He did, and he basically shat. By then, the cruiser had sent its fleet of contact vessels to every major city on Earth. These ships looked essentially like large blimps and the underside appeared to be a massive screen. In massive illuminated letters, the screens read — and I shit you not — “We come in peace.”

Chapter 2

The Ring Makers: Afterword

The Ring Makers started out as a necessary exercise. I was suffering from some pretty tough writer’s block and imposter syndrome. I had written some game material in the last couple years but had not been consistent with even that, and was totally bouncing off every piece of fiction I tried.

 

I knew I needed to do something. I had to get my groove back. A therapist told me “It doesn’t matter how much you write, but if it is important to you, write something. Write a hundred words a day if that is all you have in you.” This was in response to my usual caterwauling about the Elger and Moon sequel, of course, but it managed to somehow stick with me this time.

 

I still was not ready to go back to that work yet, so instead I decided to just engage in an exercise with two foci: to write every day, and to write exactly 100 words. Both are a little harder than it sounds.

 

Writing every day is tough, even when you are only talking 100 words. First, you have to actually “put ass to chair and fingers to keyboard” as the great JMS once wrote. It sounds easy until that day you realize it is 11 PM, you are more than a little drunk, and you can’t remember your Google Docs password. In the end, I only missed three days: Christmas Day and two days recently while I was away at TotalCon, all due to exhaustion. But, 97% is still an A so I’ll take it.

Writing exactly 100 words is also hard, but in a fun and challenging way. You may not know this, but I tend to go on a bit. Forcing myself to be concise helped me reign in my worst excesses as a writer and made me really examine the words I was using. Also tense: you can eliminate a lot of unnecessary words by avoiding the passive voice, FYI.

 

Finally, I want to mention this concept of the “micronovel.” I do not remember where I discovered the term, but what I tried to do with the Ring Makers was not write a novella or novelette, but an actual novel in brief. In other words, I wanted the characters, subplots, and complexities of a novel told in brief. But that brevity could not simply be an outline. My 100 word chapters were not intended to serve as a sketch of a 1000 word chapter. Instead, I wanted to tell the story through flashes, moments that told you the overall story without having to tell you everything. I feel like I was generally successful.

 

So, what is next? I am going to leave The Ring Makers “in the drawer” for a little while while I work on my next daily project (upping my daily word count to see if I can maintain it). When I revisit it, the goal will be to polish it and publish it via Amazon.

Thanks everyone that followed along this process with me. More than once, your readership, likes and comments kept me going when I might have abandoned The Ring Makers. You’re the best.

Chapter 1

The Ring Makers: Chapter 100

The Inquisitor was again the Envoy and had reabsorbed most of its Engineers, leaving only a few to maintain the Great Ring.

The vehicles carrying humans through the Great Ring to the Sentinel Station always asked the Envoy.

 

Is it safe?

 

It is safe.

 

What of the Enemy?

 

The Sentinel guards.

 

Forever?

 

For now.

 

What waited beyond the Sentinel Station, the Envoy did not know. There were so many other worlds, other species, whose own worlds had been cleansed prior to the opening of their Rings.

 

For the Envoy, this one world, this one species, was enough to worry about.

 

THE END

Chapter 99

The Ring Makers: Chapter 99

“The election is tomorrow,” said Miss Ryu. “You should get some rest.”

 

Hyong looked up from the console and rubbed his eyes. “Soon. I have almost solved–”

 

She bent down and kissed him. “It can wait. Let’s go home.”

 

He smiled then switched off his console and stood. She took his arm.

 

They walked out of the building into the rain. A heptahedron approached them and expanded its carapace. They stepped inside, thanking it politely. Despite the weather the city was bustling.

 

“I hope they aren’t too drunk to vote,” she said.

 

Hyong laughed heartily and then kissed her deeply.

Chapter 98

Chapter 100

The Ring Makers: Chapter 98

Jazarah sat on the balcony and leafed through Genet’s notebook. In the sketches, the city was thronged with pilgrims. Now only small clusters of scholars explored and studied the city and its machines.

 

She saw the flaws in Genet’s sketches now. To the casual observer, they were lifelike renderings. Jazarah recognized his exaggeration of the pilgrims’ joy and the heightened divine majesty of the architecture. She wondered if Genet would have seen it, or, if so, admitted it.

 

Color was returning to the fire-scoured landscape in the form of vivid flowering things. Perhaps Genet was right. Perhaps this was paradise.

Chapter 97

Chapter 99

The Ring Makers: Chapter 97

EPILOGUE

The floater hovered before Ellie and blurted a tirade of colors and textures.

 

“Fuck you, too,” said Ellie.

 

The security procedures are insufficient to handle the rate of immigration.

 

“Yeah, I know, but them’s the breaks.”

 

Incoherent flashes.

 

“Just go back to the Ring and stamp them through. We’ll figure out the rest once they’re settled.”

 

After a particularly rude series of signals, the floater left and Ellie turned her attention to the halftrack.

 

A few minutes later Monica yelled from the house, “Dinner!”.

 

Ellie waved back. “In a minute, lover,” she called, then reached into the engine smiling contentedly.

Chapter 96

Chapter 98

The Ring Makers: Chapter 96

Eberardo chased Lajos. The other man stopped to help a fallen woman and Eberardo tackled him. “Lajos! You live!”

 

Lajos returned his embrace, then pulled the woman to her feet. She fled wordlessly.

 

“Come on!” said Lajos, turning to follow.

 

“Wait,” said Eberardo, pointing at the massive Ring.

 

It sparked dangerously. The bombers bore down. Eberardo saw black shapes drop from their undersides. Lajos pulled but Eberardo held him fast. “Look,” he gasped.

 

The Ring came alive and the field of lightning reached out. It engulfed the bombers and the bombs. A flash of lightning later, the sky was clear.

END OF PART THREE

Chapter 95

Chapter 97

The Ring Makers: Chapter 95

Hyong laughed. Of course the aliens were waiting to talk. What better display of intellectual capacity and the desire to communicate?

 

The bombers neared. He was glad to have witnessed this meeting, however short.

 

His tablet buzzed. He swept across it and Miss Ryu appeared. Her eyes were puffy and red. “Hyong!” she gasped. “You have to go! Namgung–”

 

“It’s okay,” he said. “There is nowhere to go.”

 

“No!” she cried. “I love you!”

 

“I love you, too,” he said and then turned the camera on the Inquisitor and Jazarah. He spoke loudly above the approaching bombers: “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Chapter 94

Chapter 96

The Ring Makers: Chapter 94

Ajit had been a genius. He knew how to communicate with the alien machines. He had also been a man of his culture. He never asked Jazarah for her thoughts. Ajit had saved her, then never stopped thinking of her as a damsel.

 

Jazarh had watched Ajit and absorbed everything. She understood the machines and now, standing before the Inquisitor, she had to prove it.

 

The surface of the robot flashed with color. While technicians hurried to translate, she answered clearly, “I hear you and wish to speak plainly.”

 

“Excellent,” said the Inquisitor.

 

Hyong, Ellie and the other onlookers gaped.

Chapter 93

Chapter 95

The Ring Makers: Chapter 93

Ellie looked at Jazarah with both awe and pity. She had known who she was on sight. Jordan’s conversation with the man Ajit had mentioned her, and of the people fleeing across the snow, Jazarah had stood out.

 

Something in Jazarah felt strong. Even so, Ellie was nearly pissing herself as their snowcat rumbled toward the Giant. Fucking. Robot.

 

The Middle aged Korean man Hyong worried her. Ellie thought he looked distraught, like death was not the worst thing he saw in the approaching bombers.

 

The snowcat stopped. Ellie looked up. Behind the looming robot, the Ring began to flicker.

Chapter 92

Chapter 94