Category Archives: Netwalk Sequence

WIP–Valentine Disruptions

Just a few of the words from today. Diana and Will were supposed to get away from the kids on a much-needed Valentine’s date. But, well, stuff happened.

*******************

Two hours later, Diana followed Will up the draw, Brenda’s team fanning out to the sides with weapons locked and loaded. Will concentrated on his tablet’s tracking device while Diana and Brenda handled the comealongs for both the X-57 and the Disruption Machine. Diana also monitored the local transmission networks. She’d tried to send a personal message to Chen but the EMP, while localized, had taken down the Mei-lein networks in this section of Northstar. She had to settle for text over voice and hope that Chen picked up the careful nuances.

Someone will be out to check soon. They had to get to the X-57 and the Disruption Machine before Mei-lein. Diana wanted that data. For safety’s sake, they needed to reach the X-57 before anyone else did. The war machine still carried netspiders and despite Will’s best effort to teach it otherwise, its programming often reverted to defensive mode when deployed in capture and retrieve mode. Usually their contracts explicitly stated that either Will or Diana needed to be on the retrieval team.

But this wasn’t a retrieval job, and if there was one thing that Diana knew about how Chen Ti?rén thought, she knew that he wouldn’t overlook the sudden disruption of a local network. Nor would he let the presence of a Landreth war machine stop him from claiming the prize that the Disruption Machine represented. Besides the stated multi-figure award for capture, there was the information that this device must be carrying. She wanted that information for Do It Right. Not to give away to Iron Man Chen.

“Halt,” Will said as his tablet pinged loudly. He scowled. “It’s up there.” He pointed to the top of the twenty-foot cliff they stood under.

Brenda signed to the Security team. They moved in. “We can climb this cliff.”

“No.” Will scowled. “We’ve got to go around. The X-57 got damaged in the capture. I don’t trust it not to attack anyone but me and Diana, and we don’t dare pop up abruptly. We’ve got to backtrack and come at it on the level.”

“We can do that,” Brenda said.

One of the local networks taken out by the EMP quivered back into life. Diana ignored Will and Brenda as she traced the connection.

“Got to do it fast,” she said, interrupting Will. “Chen himself is on the way out to investigate. I’d say we weren’t the only one who IDed that Disruption Machine trace.”

“Okay, it’s a good thing we’re still in shape,” Will sighed. “Let’s go. Diana, can you com with Chen yet?”

She shook her head. “Not down here.”

“Take point,” Brenda told Red Morley. “Let’s hustle. Will, Di, let’s have you in the middle.”

“You’ll need us in front as we get close.”

“Not sticking you out there until then,” Brenda said flatly. “We’ve got to go, then let’s get going.”

Will nodded. Red wheeled, Brenda at his side. Diana and Will fell in behind Brenda and they headed back down the draw at a jog trot, Security tight around them.

“We’ve got a big problem,” Will said to Diana on their private com. “The X-57’s stats are veering toward rogue. That EMP stripped out some of my most recent programming.”

“How much have we lost?” God, she hoped it hadn’t reverted completely to the old Landreth structures.

“Won’t know until I get my hands on it. I’m thinking the crash didn’t help things, either.” He switched coms. “Brenda. Let’s go up here.” He waved at the steep hillside.

Diana looked at it and groaned inside as Brenda and Red smoothly swung around to angle up the slope. Hope my bum knee can keep up. Fortunately, Brenda slowed the pace and she didn’t twist her leg too badly as they climbed.

Her com buzzed as they reached the top. Diana checked her messages. One from her mother, another from Chen. She took Chen’s message.

Advice taken. Will follow your direction. Good. He still remembered her discreet codes from Vietnam. She’d referred back to the incident with failed Landreth chips which had turned bioremediation bots into netspiders.

But that message had come from too close a location for her comfort.

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Oh hey. Look what’s free just for Christmas week.

christmas shadows

Now free on Amazon for Kindle.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RDLBSBE

For the first time in years, Diana Landreth is looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home with her family. Or can she? Her mother, a leader in the new Third Force government, has become strangely uncommunicative. The random, disruptive attacks by rogue war machines on cities worldwide may call both Diana and her husband, Will, out to capture the machines. Then Diana learns that her mother’s ex-lover may be involved in the mechanisms that created the Disruptions.

It’s going to be one heck of a Christmas Eve dinner.

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Plot noodling on Andrews Ranch

So I seem to be heading up to a climatic scene where Dan drags himself from his deathbed to see what all the commotion is about (this is the scene after the scene I posted today, with Diana and Will going for a little jaunt on the 9572). He knows his ex-wife Sarah, Diana’s mother, is already out there and loaded for bear. He’s dying of cancer. He figures out pretty dang fast that Parker Landreth landing armed, shooting at Diana and Will, means trouble. And we’re talking about someone who is a cattleman–progressive cattleman, okay, but still, a cattleman. A rancher, albeit, in the future. A former military man (Afghanistan). He knows his daughter’s father-in-law (Parker Landreth) means trouble, and….well, if you’ve been following my occasional Netwalk Sequence natterings, you know that Sarah doesn’t walk away from a fight. And she’s come to much the same conclusions about her daughter’s father-in-law. Diana’s parents don’t agree on much, any more, but a threat to their daughter and her husband…they understand that one very well. Keep in mind that Sarah comes from a timber production background, she’s a lumberman’s daughter with the lumber version of Dan’s cattle background.

Dear God, what I’m visualizing is more a cyber-Wild West Shootout at the OK Corral. Only Sarah and Dan both take out Parker and the other threat to Diana and Will’s continued happiness. Dan takes the fall this time.

Is this a cliche or what? Nonetheless, it resonates nicely with me.

Then again, that could be the absinthe talking–except that this was the thought process that kept tugging at me during the quiet times while proctoring tests this afternoon.

Needs careful scripting to stay away from cliches.

Comments? And if none of this makes sense, that’s okay, too. I’m putting this down as much for my thought process as much as anything else.

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Today’s Andrews Ranch

I swear I didn’t know that the 9572 could do this until today’s writing session….

******************************

“Warning,” a mechanical voice that sounded vaguely like Will’s droned, 9572-MAIN flashing to identify it as the speaker. “Incoming skimmer arming up.”

“We’ve got to get shielded!” Will snapped. “Dad’s coming in shooting. Di, we’ve got to get out of this skimmer, now! Francis, Sarah, get shields up fast!”

The 9572 glided forward, Will resting his hand on it as it flew through the cabin. Diana scurried to catch up.

“My hand too?” she asked Will as the skimmer door opened.

“Yes!”

The skin erupted and a claw closed around her wrist as she slammed her hand down on the 9572’s skin. She didn’t have time to yell before the 9572 shot forward, yanking her off of her feet.

“Grab it!” Will bellowed at her. “Clamps!”

She struggled to wrap herself around the 9572 like she saw Will doing, gasping as it sped out of the skimmer. Clamps cranked down around her arms and the one leg she’d managed to snake around the 9572 but her other leg whipped free as the war machine dodged a shot from Anne’s Third Force team. Diana managed to wrestle her leg awkwardly onto the 9572. As it made contact, more clamps wrapped around the leg. She was grateful for the support as the war machine shot straight up, wobbling as her body strained against the fastenings.

“Flatten yourself!” Will yelled. “You’re throwing the balance off!”

“I’m trying!” she yelled back.

Diana managed to brush her midriff against the 9572. Yet another clamp wrapped around her torso and snugged it close to the war machine. The irregular flight steadied, and the machine arched into a tight parabola. Diana struggled for breath against the gravitational pull as a blast whipped past them. From the skimmer. From Parker Landreth’s skimmer.

Will growled something she couldn’t hear. The 9572 trembled under them.

Something detonated over Parker Landreth’s skimmer.

“Will! You didn’t!” she screamed.

“Disable only!”

She lost sight of Parker’s skimmer as the 9572 snaked around.

Breathe in. Breathe out. She fought to keep her breathing steady against the pull of gravity, and wondered just how often Will had done something like this in the PAZ. I’m glad I didn’t know about this capacity.

And then their flight slowed.

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And Andrews Ranch continues….

I’ve been trying to be diligent and mindful and eke out at least a few hundred words on Andrews Ranch every day. The climax in rewrite is so completely different from the original story that I have to feel my way through the story, almost on a frame-by-frame basis in the scene sequences. Diana does this, Will does that, and the conspiracies are mounting.

So yeah. Some of today’s words put down.

**********************

“Red?” she said.

Red steered Lakely past them to the door. “Yes.”

“You need to talk to my mother, Francis, and Anne. Promptly. You need to tell them to hold the military back. We’re activating the 9572 because Parker Landreth is coming in fast. We need to talk. Safely. We need the military to stand down and leave Will alone. We believe Parker Landreth wants to take me, Will, and the 9572. We need to activate it for our own safety.”

Red nodded. “It may take a moment.”

“You don’t dare waste time. Tell them I’m Landreth bloodbonded. They’ll have to take me with Will, as will Parker, and–I won’t let anyone take Will without me. You make sure my mother hears that.”

“Got it.”

The skimmer door opened and Red left, pushing Lakely ahead of him. Will stared directly at Diana, though she could see the bleak emptiness lurking behind his focus on her.

“It’s not too late for you to split off from me and avoid this,” he said. His voice wobbled as he continued. “I–I wouldn’t blame you if you did. You’ve still got a future. Your mother would protect you.”

Diana deliberately took his bandaged hand in her matching bandaged hand. “It was too late five years ago, when we made our wedding vows. God damn it, Will, we’ve got a future. We’ve got Do It Right. Maybe kids someday. I’m not leaving you alone to face–whatever. We’re in the right here. Either your father or Lakely put that war machine here. We didn’t have a god damned choice but to use your skills to defuse it. If that’s a violation of your interdiction, then those motherfuckers need to not be planning on using you for their purposes.”

A faint smile crossed Will’s lips as his hand tightened on hers. “Damn it, Diana, I love you. I don’t want to see you go through this, but damn it, I’m glad you’re staying.”

“I love you too. And we’re going to face this–together.”

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More on Andrews Ranch

This story section is damnably hard to write. Figuring out the tech and…yeah.

Here’s an example, from yesterday and today’s work.

********************

The side of the device had opened as she joined Will. Long, slender, metallic claws with scythe-like talons extended from the opening as the first netspider grappled for a purchase to pull itself out. Will muttered codes but the netspider lurched onto the side of the device, raising itself high on its eight legs, preparing to leap. Diana’s skin crawled over old scars as she imagined those sharp claws digging into her skin. She still bore the marks of a Stephens soil sampler bot gone rogue in Vietnam, suddenly acting like a Landreth netspider.

“Stop, stop, STOP!” Will yelled. The netspider crouched. “Damn it, the thing isn’t listening to my overrides!” He yanked off his armored gloves and grabbed the netspider with his bare hands as it ignored him and launched itself at Diana. He screamed as the netspider dug into his palms.

Diana lunged to knock the netspider off of Will but he shook his head, moaning and gasping.

No,” he said, his voice low, quivering with agony. He continued, speaking through deep, painful-sounding gulps for air. “No. Bloodbond. Have. To. Bloodbond. My. Control. Overridden. Shouldn’t be!

Bloodbond? What the hell?!

Red lights began to flash less intensely in her overlays. Two turned yellow, then three, then all were yellow, as Will writhed in the grip of the netspider. Diana reached for Will but he shook his head again.

“Others. Watch. Use. Vocals. Stop.”

She stared at the device as a pair of claws waved from the opening, grappling like the first one had. Two yellow lights started to flash on the left side of her visual overlays.

“Left red!” she barked. It was similar to what she would have started to do to control a Do It Right or Stephens rogue bot.

The claws stilled but did not retreat back into the device. The yellow lights stopped flashing.

Good,” Will groaned. “Secondary. Controls. Stable. Just…need…gain…primary–there!”

As all of her lights turned green, the netspider in Will’s hands crumpled into a glittering ball and he flung it back into the opening. Hands shaking, he brushed the other two claws back inside. Diana cried out as she saw his bloody palms. Will ignored her cries and placed his hands on the device, muttering code phrases as he left crimson smears of blood on the device’s skin.

As Diana watched, the blood faded away.

Will growled inarticulately. “Not enough.” He fumbled at his armored pants pocket and yanked out a knife, popping it open and slashing across the blood vessels across the back of his left hand.

“Will!”

He looked at her, grimacing as the blood spurted and he pressed the back of his hand against the device. “I need more blood to make the bond.”

“No. Will, there’s got to be a better way!”

There is no other way, Diana.” The desolate, empty look he gave her chilled Diana to the bone. “Not with the 9572. Damn it, this one was supposed to be mine only!” Anger and anguish mixed in his voice. “But that bastard took her and twisted her, she doesn’t know me. Yet. But she will. Sooner or later, with enough blood, she will!”

“You’re talking about a machine as if it’s alive,” Diana breathed, staring as Will kept bleeding. Was it her imagination or had the device’s skin bulged to form a mouth? The skin rippled and a metallic fang extruded, plunging into Will’s hand. Helpless, Diana stared at Will and the device. “Oh god, Will. God.”

“What do you think I meant when I said Landreth Technologies required a blood price?” Will groaned and sank to his knees beside the device. “This is bloodbonding, Diana. This is interdicted LT tech.” He whimpered and leaned his head on the device. “It wants me back. Body and soul. Oh God. Oh God.”

“Will. No.” She wobbled to kneel beside Will, taking his other hand. It tightened on hers as hard as the armored glove would allow.

“Help,” Will moaned. “Secondary. Web. Activate. Novice. She’s going to take me, Di!”

No she’s not.” Diana gulped. She pulled her hand free from his and yanked off her glove, grabbing Will’s dropped knife and slashing her own hand.

Will grabbed at her bleeding hand, but she yanked it away. “Di, no! Not like this!

“It’s the fastest way, isn’t it?” She slammed her bleeding hand down hard on the device’s skin.

Will screamed as another fang extruded and plunged into her hand.

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Some thoughts on Andrews Ranch and a snippet

Last night I had one of those revelations about a story which sent me scrambling out of bed to take notes. I’ve been working on a difficult rewrite section of the Andrews Ranch novella, and what I figured out was another major missing piece of the Netwalk Sequence backstory and the Gizmo arc. It explains why the Landreth Technologies weapons were so exclusive, so prized, and why Will was so instrumental in the development of Netwalk. And why Bess is the way she is.

This has been one of the most difficult stories of the whole Sequence to write. I started it years ago, even before I knew I was writing the Sequence, and even then it was missing something. This was the missing piece, and it takes the story beyond being just the backstory for Will and Diana’s relationship and why the ranch became what it was.

But the idea’s only twelve hours old, and it needs more fleshing out. Nonetheless, I’m grateful to the backbrain for coming up with it just in time for the crucial scene. I didn’t quite get there today (have to go back and lay the breadcrumbs to make the scene work).

Tomorrow. Maybe.

Anyway, have a taste of what’s about to happen…

************

As she spun uphill, a buzzer sounded in her ears.

HUMAN. FRIEND OR FOE?

God, she didn’t know this cue!

The heat signature was by a rock. She couldn’t see the person. Diana tried to whistle, but only soft air passed through her lips. She licked them and tried again, pursing her lips more tightly. A very faint note leaked out. She crouched low, lower than she already had to do to scramble up the steep, rocky slope.

Where the hell is Red? Surely she hadn’t gotten through this brush faster than he had?

She tried a single, soft cluck to zoom in on the rock, even as she heard a faint whistle in response. The rock suddenly popped out in stark detail. No rock, but a cleverly designed shelter of some sort. And the human using it was focused uphill, most likely on Will–

Then, faster than she could have anticipated, the human gathered itself up and launched toward Diana.

Repulsors! She scrambled and slid backward, but not fast enough as the man tackled her. They rolled downhill, over rocks. Diana wrestled with her captor, yelling inarticulately as she tried to break free from his grasp. They slid to a stop at the edge of a cliff, only the jagged points of a knee-high rocky outcrop keeping them from pitching over the edge.

She kicked and yelled as he pinioned her wrists, doing her best to break free as he tried to restrain her arms, slamming his armored hands futilely against the rocks. She heard the tell-tale click-click of Red’s weapon, and then Will yanked the man off of her.

“You son-of-a-bitch!” Will bellowed.

The other man attacked Will. They wrestled with each other, Will with a silent fury she’d not seen him express before. He viciously kneed the other man in the gut, going for deep body blows rather than wasting his time on the other man’s helmeted head. The other man went down and Will followed him, grabbing the man’s helmet and slamming it hard against the rocks, growling and cursing. Diana froze, unable to move, staring. He’s going to kill that man because he attacked me.

“Will! Stop! Will! Enough!” Red yelled. “Diana, help!”

She unfroze. “Left right red!” she gabbled as she dove to restrain Will.

“Get Will off of him! I’ll take care of the controller!”

Diana tried to wrestle Will away from the man. Strong as she was, despite her greater height and strength, it took every ounce of determination she could summon up to wrench Will away from the other man and push him uphill, away from the controller. Will fought her blindly, trying to squirm free. It wasn’t until she had him almost all the way to the controller’s blind that he finally stopped fighting her, breathing hard, hyperventilating and exhaling deep, sobbing breaths. Her heart pounded and she thought she heard a low, malevolent humming in her ears.

Will kept staring at the man. “Lakely, you mother-fucking goddamn child-raping son-of-a-bitch,” he gulped, his voice somewhere between tears and anger. “You mother fucking son of a bitch!” He lunged forward to attack again, but Diana grabbed Will and spun him around so that he faced away from the man. It took all of her own willpower to shut down the waves of cold fear and dread that made her want to sink into a fetal curl. Lakely. Albert Lakely. Oh God, is this him?

“Will,” she said firmly. She couldn’t give into her own emotions. She had to be solid for Will. She had to get his attention back and off of Lakely, for their own good, so they could defuse the machine. “Will. Will!”

The sinister hum grew stronger.

The controller chuckled. “Landreth, you sure made my job one hell of a lot easier by bringing your wife along.”

The hum escalated into a whine. Yellow lights started flashing. Will startled.

“Oh my God. Diana! The damn thing’s activating!” He darted past her, scrabbling uphill fast.

Yellow changed into red on her overlays as she struggled up the hill behind her husband.

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Rewrite snippet du jour

Diana and her little sister Rita, at the ranch…

BTW, Rita appears in Netwalker Uprising as a cousin. Ulp, no, she’s Melanie’s aunt. Now I’m thinking that Melanie might not know this detail because, reasons.

**************************

“And now we get another look,” Will said. He angled the skimmer around a rocky point and sent the skimmer straight up, paralleling the canyon wall.

“God, it’s bare,” Diana said, shaking her head as she looked at the slope.

“We’re here.” Will throttled back as the ranch buildings came into sight. Diana spotted Rita racing her sorrel pony across the pasture, riding bareback with only a halter and lead rope, as they glided in for a landing.

“I’m sending a request to Stephens to see if they’ve got any access to mineral data,” Diana decided out loud. She quickly drafted a short message to one of her contacts inside Stephens Rec and sent it off as Will settled the skimmer, then moved around it gathering up their things. She packed away her tablet and picked up her own bags. Will opened the door and Diana heard the hoofbeats as Rita galloped up.

“Will! Diana!” Rita slid off of Spooky, quickly unbuckling the halter and setting the pony free before crawling through the fence rails to bounce eagerly outside the skimmer door. “Mom said you were coming!”

“Just a moment.” Despite herself, Diana smiled. Her younger sister’s excitement was contagious. She lugged her bags over to the door and Brenda grabbed them, leaving Diana free to step out of the skimmer. Rita charged into Diana, grabbing her in a fierce hug, fiercer than usual. As Diana held Rita, she felt Rita tremble and realized her little sister was fighting back tears.

“Ree-ree, what’s wrong?” she asked in a soft voice, worry rising. Rita wasn’t a crier.

Rita snuffled and buried her face deeper into Diana’s belly, arms wrapping even tighter around Diana. Diana gently stroked Rita’s cheek. Rita moaned something into Diana’s torso.

“I can’t hear you, Ree,” Diana said, dread gripping her as she eased Rita’s stranglehold on her waist. She dropped to one knee so that she looked upward into Rita’s face, twisted as it was with the effort not to cry.

The Andrews’s don’t cry. It had been part of her own indoctrination when growing up.

“Is it Dad?” she asked, her voice even quieter than before.

Rita nodded violently, drawing in a deep, shuddering breath. “He’s really sick today, Di.”

Diana pulled Rita into a big, deep hug of her own. “It’s okay, Ree,” she whispered. “You can cry about this. I–I want to cry, too.” She buried her head in Rita’s shoulder, and they leaned into each other, trembling with partially contained tears. She heard Will, in a low voice, directing Brenda and the rest of Security around them and was grateful for his quiet support. Rita’s reaction brought the fact home even more than ever.

Their father was dying.

She had to save their home, so Rita could charge around on Spooky. If it’s even still safe for her here–I’ll make it safe for Rita.

At last Rita’s shaking eased. She straightened up and blinked down at Diana, rubbing away the dampness that trickled down her cheeks with a grubby hand.

“Let me do that,” Diana said. She used her thumb to brush away the tear tracks.

“This might work better.” Will nudged her shoulder. Diana reached up and he tucked a tissue into her hand.

“Thanks.” She flashed him a quick smile. He nodded, resting his hand gently on her shoulder. Diana gently wiped Rita’s eyes. “We’re still tough Andrewses,” she told Rita. “We can cry but still be tough. ‘Kay?”

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RWIP…a snippet

Here’s a snippet from the Andrews Ranch (Netwalk Sequence) rewrite. Should go live in mid-to-late April.

******************

Diana pressed her lips tightly together. “There’s no way you could advance a partial payment?” Oh, she understood what was going on, all right. No surprise that the Third Force was having problems collecting taxes. Diana had to wonder just how much of the relocation waiver funds were being siphoned off into private accounts.

“Not tonight, I’m afraid.” Her mother’s tone was polite but firm. Still, it held a tiny note of hesitation that hinted more negotiation might find a solution.

“I’d settle for quarterly payments.” Was that a smirk on Peter’s face? Diana resolutely refused to be distracted by her brother, focusing instead on her mother.

“I’d have to check.” Still that faint hesitant tone.

Damnit. She wants me to beg. No. I won’t beg.

And then Diana thought of little Rita practicing the barrels on her ancient pony in the old arena back at the ranch.

For Rita’s sake…I might have to beg.

“I’d appreciate it if you could get back to me tomorrow,” Diana said. She deliberately let her voice waver on the word “tomorrow.”

Sarah arched one brow. “Still, it’s more than last year. Do you need a business loan against what I owe you? Your collateral’s good for that.” Sarah’s mouth quirked in one corner and she looked down, but not quickly enough to hide the predatory sharpening of her gaze.

She took the bait. Now for more delicate maneuvering. Diana shook her head. “That amount’s enough for business purposes.”

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Done!

winter shadows

Just finished the rough draft of Winter Shadows, at about 16,500 words. There’s a few white room sequences, so my guess is that the rewrite will come in at about 20k. A nice short little novella, should be ready to go out about the New Year’s, depending.

But for now, a few tweaks on it tomorrow, and then it rests for a few days (after I compile it in Scrivener, that is). Then I figure out pictures and all that other jazz.

So be watching for the announcement around January 1.

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