Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Recipe for Disaster

"You're not coming back," he said. His voice rippled out among the crowd and they looked at each other in confusion.

"That's what I said. You're not coming back, and neither am I," he told them. His voice was a nearly a whisper but the microphones relayed his words throughout the crowd, hundreds of thousands strong. "This will be the last time we see this world again. This is the last time we will breathe the air as we know it. This is the last time we will see our loved ones. In this world." His words died out and here and there from the older of the soldiers, there was nodding.

That was it. That was the point of the speech. That was what he thought. Not to lie to them, but to tell them the truth, that this would be the last time any of them would be alive. But now he was there he knew it wasn't enough. Oh they would fight and die, sure enough, to secure tomorrow, but somehow that wasn't enough. Not now.

As the officer walked forward to relieve him, he suddenly spoke up. "If that's what you want," he said.

There was a confused murmur among the crowd and as the seconds ticked by it turned angry. "What's that supposed to mean?" someone yelled from the front row.

"If you want, we can fight, and win. If that's all you want, our children will be safe, and perhaps even their children," he said.

"Aye, that's what we want," the soldier from the front yelled back.

"Is it?" he asked. "Is what you want just for your children to be safe? For your country to be safe for a time? For the survivors to be old and decrepit by the time the next war arrives?"

"What else is there?" another soldier at the front called.

"Seventy-five years ago world war two ended. Seventy-five years is all it took for us to repeat our mistakes. They said there would never be a war as terrible, that we would never let it happen again. Seventy-five years ago to this day our forefathers swore never again." His words were powerful as they washed over the crowd, but he wasn't really talking to them he realised, but himself. "When is it going to end?" he called. "This is the largest group of people ever in the history of mankind to work together, the largest movement that the world has ever seen. And tomorrow we just go home? Who's home? Where?"

"I don't know about you mate, but I'm going to my own bloody home," someone called and a laugh followed.

"Exactly." He snapped his fingers and pointed at the man. "We go our own separate ways and leave the world to fend for itself. The same world, repeating the same mistakes over and over. No one ever thought a nuclear deterrent wouldn't be enough, but now we know different. How many hundreds of years will our cities be uninhabitable? How many holes are we going to make in mother earth before we realise?"

"What are you getting at, lad?" An older soldier called out.

"Humanity lost hope long ago. Long before this war started, we had lost direction. We had lost faith in our future. We had lost our dreams. And what I want to say is a dream, and I'm sure you'll all laugh at me for having it, but if there was ever a time for dreams it is today. The day before our long sleep."

"Say your piece then, boy, I've no plans tomorrow." Another veteran, tough and grizzled, told him.

He bowed his head. "This may be the last time we gather. The last chance in our lifetimes to really try to change the world for the better. And it is a good thing we are doing, a noble thing, finally for the right reasons. But is it enough?" He sighed, the breath rushing from his body as he panted. His heart felt tight, as though he was about to say something forbidden. The crowd hung on his words unsure, as he was, as to what he would say.

He opened his mouth, and somehow the words poured out of him as though he were merely a conduit. "Why can't we change the world? Why can't we make it better? Why can't we make it different instead of fighting the same battles? Why can't we come home tomorrow to not the same world, but a new one? One where the old distinctions do not exist, black, white, brown, bronze, we are all in this crowd, together. Old and young, rich and poor, knowledgeable and ignorant, the bombs didn't care. European, American, Asian, African, we all stand together here." He took a deep breath.

"And who says we can't change the world again? We had peace before and will again, but the world hasn't changed, we are still the same, the same hate, the same divisions. We never really learned to embrace our differences. We never saw ourselves as a world." He spread his arms. "But if this isn't the world, I'm not sure what is. All people fighting as one." He laughed. "Aye, and fighting another one people." He shook his head. "The only thing we ever agree on is killing people. Can't that end? Can't we just say enough is enough, and when all is said and done we're all...human?"

He took another deep breath, but his voice was quiet when he spoke. "A long time ago, Christmas came. Soldiers crawled out of the trenches and realised the truth. They laughed, drank, and shared gifts with each other. And then the next day, cried as they shot each other."

"They cried because they took a human life. They cried because they realised it was wrong, but the only thing any of us understand is a bullet, is a gun. They realised that that sometimes doing the right thing requires doing the worst thing. And they knew it was the worst, because it hurt, inside. These weren't their lovers, their loved ones, they pals, mates, or countrymen. These were the enemy. They only had two things in common; they were human, and they were there to kill each other."

"Today, we re-enact that war a thousand-fold." He looked across the crowd as the tears streaked down his face. "Shouldn't it be the last time?" he asked. "Don't we owe it to our children and our dead, to try to do things a different way?"

A gruff soldier removed his had and sighed. "The words are good, but how would we do that? In practice it's impossible, the world just doesn't work like that." Many heads in the crowd nodded at his words.

The speaker sighed in an echo of the soldier, then he blinked. "We do it the hard way," he said. "We don't leave it to the politicians, to the leaders, to the orators." Here he pointed to himself, then his hand spread across the crowd. "You do it. You all take charge. You vote on everything. You run the world just as you would run the countries, each and every one of you. You be responsible. You take the burden on your backs. You lift the world on your shoulders. You join hands with every other human on the planet, and piece by piece you come to decisions together."

He laughed, it was ridiculous as he said it, but somehow he couldn't help believing it was possible. "Who cares whether there is a god in heaven or not? That's your business. Your individuality doesn't end if we work together, it will always be what makes you unique. But instead of joining all these tiny clubs across the globe, you'd be part of the biggest community from birth. Not just in name, this time Human will mean something."

"This time Human will mean everything."

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


A little excerpt from my Nano "Filler" (wip title! :-p) that I had fun writing...reaaally slowly, because I'm behind again. As always.
The door swung open violently and Swansong slid through, two flintlock pistols trained on the warrior. "As a rule, I don't like people getting shot on my boat, so kindly put down your weapon before my cabin gets dirty," she said coolly.
The warrior looked around quickly, searching for a way to escape. Finally she sighed and uncocked her pistol, handing it to Ceres. "It's not loaded anyway, I lost my powder pouch on the way down."
Swan nudged her head in the direction of the bed and the warrior reluctantly moved over and sat down on it. "So what now?" she asked.
Swansong shrugged. "I don't have a small boat for you, so you're just going to wait until we hit a place for repairs. Then you get off."
"That's it?" the warrior asked.
Swansong shook her head. "That's the easy way. The other way is I shoot you in the foot and have the boy lying there like a plank bind it, and then we drop you off somewhere you won't make any noise for a while." She smiled. "Your choice, of course."
"I think I'll take the former," the warrior said wryly.
"Good, because these aren't loaded either," Swansong said, uncocking her pistols and holstering them.
The warrior raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You just expect me to stay here and play nice?"
"Hell no!" Swansong dismissed that idea with a wave of her hand. "This is my cabin."

Monday, 2 November 2015


It's very cool how things work out sometimes. I'm writing a steampunk fantasy for Nano, and my airship features sails, levitation magic, and a combustion engine, instead of the more traditional balloon and propellers model.

Just now I'm writing them passing through storm clouds. Their engines are spent, their sails are shredded and they're moving on inertia alone. I decide to make the craft have some kind of lightning channel to direct the damage away from the ship, and possibly stored as energy for later.

Debating what role that much electricity would play on the ship, I realised that generally speaking a jet engine needs a charge to jump start it. The kind of charge my combustion engine (which makes up part of a jet engine - if I got this right) could well make use of.

All of a sudden I realise that the situation feeds perfectly into the circumstances of the story. And while I couldn't understand quite as much as I wanted in my engine research, it sounds close enough to fudge. After all, although I have magic for buoyancy, I still want some things to be grounded in reality. I mean, I can't pretend a ley line is a superconductor, can I?

Can I?