One in a Million: Chapter 4

Caleb moved quickly, securing the cables together with zip ties every few feet and separating out cables as necessary. They were not marked, he simply knew which ones were which. It started as a thick rope of dozens and ended up with a single plug at the end. Along the way each of the workstations was tethered to the network.

“You’re not going to write down which cable goes where?” asked the fat, balding middle manager that hovered entirely too close to Caleb as he worked. “What if I need to do something with them?”

“You won’t,” said Caleb.

“Sure, you say that, but what if you messed it up.”

Caleb clipped the tail off the last zip tie and stood. “I did not,” he said. “And if I did how would it help you for me to write it down? It would still be wrong.”

The man gaped for a moment then said, “Hey, I was just saying. This is my office. I might have to fix–”

“You won’t. You couldn’t anyway. You aren’t smart enough.”

The man’s face flushed. “Wait a second. You can’t talk to me like that. You’re just a contractor.”

Caleb sighed. He knew what he was supposed to do in these situations: apologize, get the work order signed and leave as quickly as possible.

“Yes,” he said, ignoring his own internal advice. “I am a contractor. That means I do not work for you, which is good, because I am not sure I could take eight excruciating hours of your useless micromanaging and inane yammering every day. You are obviously talentless and very probably the cousin, brother in law or nephew of someone far more important than you, otherwise you would be failing at managing a MacDonald’s.” He held the work order out to the exasperated man.

Purple jowls trembling with incredulity, the man signed the work order while muttering something about Caleb’s future on the unemployment line.

Chapter 3

Chapter 5

One in a Million: Chapter 3

Allie flexed her thighs and pulled Caleb deeper into him. He grunted. She grunted. They moved. Moments later, she released him and they were lying side by side, sweaty and out of breath.

“Isn’t it kind of weird that your booty call has the same name as your best friend?” asked Allie. She reached down and started rubbing herself.

“No,” he said. “Why would it be?”

“I don’t know,” she said. She caught her breath then continued, “I think it would be weird is all.” She made a hungry sound.

“It’s not.” Caleb sat up on the edge of the bed and stretched.

“So, aliens,” said Allie. She bit her lower lip.

“Yeah.” Caleb went into the bathroom. He left the door while he pulled off the condom and urinated.

“Think they’ll eat us?” she asked and then came again.

“I don’t think so,” said Caleb. He started collecting his clothes from the floor. “If they were going to do that, why would they be signing trade agreements?”

Allie exhaled. She turned on her side to face him while he dressed. “Does it bother you?”

“The aliens?”

“No, when I get a second after we’re done.”

“No. Why would it?”

“It bothers some people. Guys, I mean.”

“It doesn’t bother me.” He was dressed except for his shoes.

Allie sat up suddenly. “Do you like me, Caleb.”

Caleb considered her. Her skin was the color of mahogany. Her breasts were perfect teardrops. Her hips were narrow but her ass was nicely round. “I like it when we have sex,” he said, then added, “and I don’t find you annoying.”

Allie blinked. “Okay.”

“Okay,” he said and left.

Chapter 2

Chapter 4

One in a Million: Chapter 2

Ali was talking fast but somehow still managing to shove hunks of fried, sugar dusted dough into his mouth. When he intended to breathe, Caleb had no idea.
“Can you fucking believe it, man? I mean, aliens making contact. Like, for real. And not coming to blow us up or turn us into chicken nuggets or any of that shit. They just want to, like, do business or whatever and humans get to, like, skip a thousand years of bullshit. I mean, holy shit, right?”

Caleb sipped his coffee and let Ali continue to rant between bites. Finally, when the last of the fried dough was gone, Ali paused, breathed, and said, “Fuck,” over and over like it was the most sublime of mantras.

“You know,” said Caleb when he calculated enough time for reflection had passed, “it’s not really going to be that big of a deal.”

“Of course. Yeah. I– wait, what?” Ali looked at once incredulous and something akin to angry. “How is it possibly ‘not going to be that big of a deal,’” he added in his ‘this is Caleb being Caleb’ voice.

Caleb shrugged. “Look, it’s going to be big when people read about it in a hundred years. And it’s probably going to be big for people that live in third world countries or totalitarian states. But they are buying water from Europa and paying for it with technology we won’t even be able to use for decades, let alone master. Sure, some rich assholes will get richer selling us alien iPhones but nothing is actually going to change in our day to day lives.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Ali, “you really are an asshole.”

Chapter 1

Chapter 3

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