Saturday, October 17, 2020

Shopping in My SF Stories for One Item to Bring Home

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the item from your books you most want to own and why.

Hmmm, let me think. The first item which came to mind was the blaster – I’ve always wanted a blaster. There’s a lot of fun technology in my Sectors scifi romance series but the more I thought about it, the more I decided…no. These items don’t exist outside of their own ecosystem, as it were. I wouldn’t be able to recharge the blaster (although I do seem to have given it a pretty limitless capacity. I don’t remember anyone reloading during a battle in any of my books.) The high tech medical tech needs support systems as well. And besides, importing an item into our current time doesn’t always work out well. Lots of classic science fiction tells that tale! “The Little Black Bag” by Cyril Kornbluth comes to mind…

I can just see the Twilight Zone-esque unintended consequences of me importing some Sectors tech into present day Southern California.

Now I would enjoy having Midorri the alien pet…but she’d be hard to explain. Jake the Cat would probably object to sharing his house, cat tree and litter box with an alien interloper. Not to mention his cat treats! Moby the Nebula Zephyr’s ship cat likes Midorri and they get along very well but Jake isn’t as collegial. He won’t share my lap for sure.

Moving on to my ancient Egyptian novels, I’d love to have some of the jewelry. I’ve craved a pair of those elaborate, intricate earrings since the first time I saw the King Tut exhibit way back in the 1970’s. BUT, where would I wear them? I’m known for wearing elaborate and fanciful jewelry, especially earrings, anytime, anywhere but actual ancient Egyptian trinkets of the kind I’d like would be over the top at the grocery store, even for me.

And in my Magic of Claddare series, I haven’t really created much in the way of ensorcelled or powerful objects, although there was one pendant but it belongs to a goddess and I’d rather not risk upsetting her and bringing her into our realm on the trail of her necklace.

(Hmm, I do seem to be mostly about the jewelry, the pets and the weapons, don’t I?)

The last thing I considered was MARL, the ancient alien Artificial Intelligence from my Badari Warriors scifi series. He’s pretty self-sufficient, has infinite capabilities and between us we could probably figure out all kinds of nifty stuff to work on. He can be condescending and cantankerous as well and he accepts only one Authority at a time. I don’t think he’d react well to my removing him from Jill Garrison’s vicinity since she rescued him from (MILD SPOILER) ten thousand years of waiting on standby after his actual owner died.

I guess I’ll leave the goodies in the worlds I’ve created and allow my characters (and my readers) to enjoy them!

The scene where Jill discovers MARL, from the first book in the award winning series, Aydarr:

Her light made the mineral deposits in the walls and the stalagmites and stalactites twinkle with variegated colors as she swept it across the huge room in front of her. She stumbled and checked herself again as the beam crossed a figure lying huddled next to a large stalagmite.

“Hello?” Jill was ready to duck for cover but the person didn’t move and, as she played the light over him or her again, she realized she was gazing at a corpse.

Slowly, she walked to the spot where the other had spent their last moments. The figure was humanoid, dressed in some kind of flight suit, wearing a helmet obscuring her view of the face. One leg was bent in an awkward position that made her wince in sympathy. The body could have been there for millennia, preserved by the minerals and atmosphere in the cave. The entire form was encased in a layer of sparkly limestone, or whatever the predominant mineral dripping down the cavern’s walls might be.

With a pang of regret, Jill knew she was never going to see the face of the ancient. “I wonder what happened to him,” she said, rising and glancing around the cave. The sound of her own voice was reassuring. “I didn’t see any wreckage from a crashed ship outside.”

“Are you the rescue mission?”

Startled into a scream, Jill leaped sideways, into the shelter of a stalagmite, and aimed her weapon in the direction of the voice. “Who’s there?”

“You’re not the rescue mission.” The tone was oddly singsong, as if tasting the sounds, playing with the sentence structure. “Give me more language samples. I can only infer so much.”

Jill peered around the edge of the stone formation. There was an ovoid metallic unit which she’d ignored initially, sitting a few feet away from the corpse. Now the device displayed blinking blue and violet lights. “Who are you? What do you want?” she asked.

The lights moved faster, adding colors. “This would be easier if I could have direct access to your brain waves.”

“Uh-uh, not happening.”

“Your kind is unknown to me, although similar to many beings encountered on missions in the past. Where does your species originate?”

“I think I should be the one asking the questions,” Jill said. “I have the pulse rifle. What are you?”

“I’ll take input however you choose to provide it, even in the form of questions. I am MARL.”

“Which tells me nothing.”

“I can’t translate the acronym. I don’t believe your language has the capabilities for all the capabilities I encompass. You appear to be a member of a primitive race.”

Stifling a chuckle, Jill gave the blinking lights a sideways glance. “Insulting me isn’t a great way to make friends.”

Green lights added themselves to the blue and violet. After a short pause, MARL said, “No insult was intended, merely a statement of fact.”

“What happened here?” She waved one hand at the calcified corpse. “How long ago did he or she die?”

“Based on my calculations, about 10,000 of this planet’s years have passed since I received my last instructions.” MARL made a humming noise, and the lights blinked furiously, a few red pinpoints among the other hues. “We were trying to get home because my pilot had vital information he hoped might lead to the defeat of the enemy, but they pursued us and damaged the ship.”

“I didn’t see any signs of a ship out there.” Jill gestured toward the mouth of the cave.

“It crashed into the lake when he tried to land.”

“Injured as he was, are you trying to tell me he swam to safety then dragged himself and you up here?” Jill was fascinated by the story but skeptical.

“I am self-mobile and can manifest other, additional forms.” MARL’s hum rose to an ear splitting volume but nothing else happened. After a moment of silence, it said, “Well, if I were at full power, I could. I’ve been in hibernation mode, doing the minimum required, until you arrived. I am in the process of powering up.”

Jill thought the alien AI, if that was indeed what MARL might be, sounded rather grumpy and a bit embarrassed. She decided to think of MARL as a male entity, since the voice was masculine in timber. Maybe MARL sounded like its pilot had in his lifetime. “Are those your manifestations, as you call it, outside the cave? Because one was crushed by a rockslide and the other was half buried in dirt and debris.”

“Yes. The unit you see here is a portable emergency subset of myself, automatically ejected when the ship crashed. Two of my separate selves assisted the pilot in exiting the submerged wreck and brought him here, with me.” MARL levitated off the cave floor briefly before drifting back. “I sent a distress call then I executed the final order from my pilot. Since then, I’ve waited, set to standby status.”

Sounds like a report. Deciding she wasn’t in jeopardy from the ancient AI, Jill walked out from behind the rocks. “What was his final order?”

“To shield this valley from the enemy. Allow no overflights, no scans. I directed all my remaining power to the effort, until or unless contradicted by someone in authority. Are you in authority now?”

Shaking her head, Jill asked, “Why would you accept my orders? I’m obviously not connected to the people who created you.”

“I’m not meant to operate independently, but to support the organic beings in charge of the mission. As no rescue of my pilot was ever attempted, nor any message received, I can only surmise the civilization to which he belonged, and their enemies as well, have passed from the galactic stage. Although primitive, you appear to have the sentience required to make use of my capabilities to at least a limited extent. I was built to serve,” MARL said in a quiet voice. “Ten thousand years is a long time to have no real purpose.”

The blurb: 

Jill Garrison, a maintenance tech at the Sectors Amarcae 7 colony, goes to sleep one night as usual only to wake up in her nightgown stranded in the middle of a forest on an unknown world. There’s no time to think as she’s stalked by carnivorous predators and rescued by genetically engineered warriors calling themselves the Badari. Turns out they and she, along with her whole colony, are now prisoners of the Khagrish, a ruthless race of alien scientists. Working for enemies of the Sectors, the Khagrish have created the Badari to be super soldiers.

Aydarr, the Badari alpha, isn’t sure he can trust Jill but his attraction to her is undeniable. He impulsively claims her as his mate to prevent her death at the hands of the Khagrish.

Can he continue to protect her from the experiments already underway? Will his claiming her put his pack in jeopardy from their alien masters?

As Jill searches for a way to rescue her fellow humans and get them all to safety, she finds herself falling for Aydarr, despite the secrets he’s keeping. She has a few of her own.

The situation becomes dire when Aydarr and his pack are sent offplanet on a mission, leaving Jill unprotected, prey for the senior scientist. Can she escape the experiments he has in mind for her? Will she be able to thwart the Khagrish plans and liberate humans and Badari alike? How will she and Aydarr reunite?

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