Monday, April 27, 2015

Wayson's Last Face

The German versions of Harris books use the artwork Titan created for the British books.  It's always possible that Hayakawa Publishing will release more books, but in the meantime, this may well be our last look at Wayson Harris--the cover of the GraphicAudio adaptation of The Clone Apocalypse.  I confess, I have been visiting GraphicAudio.net on a daily basis waiting for them to release this.

I love what Ken Jackson and the GraphicAudio gang have done with my books.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ryan and Dave (recently) and many of you long timers have asked "What's next?"

I can't tip my hand just yet, but I think it may see the light of day in 2016 and I really hope that you like it.  I confess, it's not very Wayson, but it has its charm.

Taken from Pixgood.com
(http://pixgood.com/submarine-underwater-side-view.html)

(Limited engagement) Here's a not so short Harris story you U.S. readers may not have seen

A DAY AT MARVELAND
By Steven L. Kent

By 2500 AD, not much of the twentieth century remained. 
Condensed electricity had replaced the electricity of Franklin, Edison, and Tesla by 2183.  Blue light lasers replaced toothbrushes by 2089.  Jet engines resembling Frank Whittle’s turbojet gave way to thrusters as early as 2033.  The tires, airplanes, computers, telephones, toilets, guns, and refrigerators of the 2500s looked approximately like their twentieth century counterparts, but under the surface, their engines and underpinnings were based on entirely new technologies.  The spaceships, televisions, libraries, automobiles, buses, light bulbs, movie screens and fuels of the twenty-third century had evolved both inside and out.
One twentieth century innovation had survived intact—cartoons. In this area, evolution struck then faded.  The talking mouse with the big ears and the silly smile sprouted muscles for a while, but, soon enough, pipe-cleaner limbs and rounded shoulders reappeared.  After decades of carping, women’s equality groups succeeded in making the heroines and vixens of comic books temporarily small-breasted, but, as those women’s groups were unable to change the tastes of teenage boys, the breast-inflation returned with a vengeance.
Realizing that creativity in adolescent entertainment saw its zenith by 2015, the Unified Authority Senate federalized the intellectual assets of cartoonists, movie directors, and game designers from the time period.  The talking mouse, the angry duck, the clumsy dog, the slingshot-fired birds, and a host of characters that included superheroes, educational puppets, a wise-cracking rabbit, and a dim-witted bald man with a smart-mouthing son all became the property of the state.  So did the ancient gods of Greece and Norway, as did the British superspy, and the incinerated high school janitor who murdered students by entering their dreams.
All of these properties were handled by the DCM (Department of Character Management), which approved and licensed cartoon, comic, and fictional characters for television shows, comics, books, interactive entertainment, and movies.  Movie producers wanting to make films about an unshaved, unnamed gunslinger applied at the DCM, as did authors hoping to write about ghost-hunting dogs about overly-friendly ghosts.
Marveland, however, enjoyed carte blanche access to every character ever invented. 
Occupying more than a third of Anaheim, California, an overgrown suburb just south of Los Angeles, Marveland didn’t file for permits when it built a roller coaster ride based on web-shooting superhero.  When the Marveland board voted to add a car-combat ride in which players drove miniature Aston-Martins around a life-sized replica of a Swiss manufacturing plant, its members didn’t worry about whether or not the DCM would approve.  When the board elected to build a haunted house based on a boarding school for witches and wizards, the license magically appeared.
It was in the Haunted School that a Marveland employee was killed.

Marveland was a privately-held corporation, but it opened its doors government interests, particularly orphanages.  The Unified Authority maintained six hundred “orphanages” in which military clones were raised and trained.  On March 13, 2501, two thousand 11-year-olds from Orphanage #553 came to tour Marveland.
The first thing that caught Marveland Security’s attention was a question of height.  Normally, the boys from the orphanages were the same exact size, as identical freshly hatched chicks from the same clutch of eggs.  On March 13, however, one of the boys stood ten centimeters taller than the others.
Watching the boys step off their bus, one of the workers in the security monitoring station called out, “Hey, check this out!  One of these clone boys is a tard.”
“A tard?  What the speck is that supposed to mean?” the shift supervisor asked as he came over to have a look.  Several neighbors peeked at the worker’s screen as well.
The worker pointed to the screen and said, “There.  See, over there, that one.”
“You mean the tall one?” asked the supervisor.
“Of course I mean the tall one.”
“He looks normal enough,” said the supervisor. 
“Except that he’s tall,” said the worker.
“What are you saying, that you think tall people are stupid?” the shift supervisor asked.  He was a big man, well over two meters.  The worker was short, fat, and dumpy, but he was also an experienced watchman.  The supervisor, having just transferred in from Landscaping, was new to the job.
“So, they’re all clones, right?  They’re all supposed to be in their eleventh year.  If they’re clones and they all have the same DNA, they’re supposed to be the same height,” said the worker.  “That one must have been held back a year.”
“That doesn’t make him stupid,” said another worker.  “Maybe he got sick and missed too many classes.”
“Just because they’re all eleventh year doesn’t mean they were made the same day,” said the assistant supervisor.  He was dead wrong, by the way, and he had just shown his ignorance.  Generally, all of the clones in each year at each orphanage were indeed manufactured on the same day.
The first worker paid no attention to his ignorant co-workers as he told the supervisor, “Your left nut is supposed to be the same size as your right.  Here are words to live by.  If you ever look down and see that they’re mismatched, you know, one’s bigger than the other, it’s time to see a doctor; something’s definitely wrong with them.”
By the time the assistant floor supervisor asked, “What’s that supposed to mean?” a crowd had formed around the monitor.
“Look at him.  I mean, look at him!  He’s taller than the other boys.  He’s skinnier.  Maybe he’s got an extra chromosome or something.  I hear having an extra chromosome does that to you.”
“Makes you taller?” the supervisor asked, genuinely intrigued.
“Makes you retarded,” the worker said in disgust.
“It’s called Down Syndrome, asshole,” said a woman working two stations away.  “Clones don’t get Down Syndrome.  They’ve strained congenital defects out of their DNA.  You do know that their DNA and chromosomes are preselected, right?  That’s why they call them clones.”
“Get specked,” said the worker.
“Ah, how sad,” said the woman.  “Your parents should have taught you not to speak unless you know what you’re talking about.  What a shame.”
“I’m just saying…” the worker began before the woman interrupted him again.  She said, “Maybe having an extra chromosome makes you say stupid things.  You should have a doctor check that out.”
The supervisor laughed and dismissed an experienced employee when should have listened.  The worker may have been ignorant about chromosomes and genetic science, but the clone he spotted was different than the one around him.  He bore watching.

The two thousand clones from Orphanage #553 formed a column and marched into the park.  Once past the gates, the boys broke into two battalions, each of which split into ten companies, each of which then disintegrated into two platoons.  The platoons had names like “Razorback,” “Cobra,” and “Eagle.”  The tall boy, whom the guards watching the monitors had already forgotten, belonged to Dragonfish Platoon.
E Company, which consisted of Dragonfish and Rat, began the day at the Fast Draw and Shootout.  Here, they entered a holographic version of the old West populated by cowboys and criminals.
The “orphans” entered the world one at a time, walking down a dusty main street lined by a saloon, a coffin shop, a boarding house, and a sundry other clichés.  As guests walked past the jail, a bloodied sheriff crawled out and brief them about outlaws having invaded the town.  Two doors down, a gunslinger would burst through the café doors of the nearest saloon and issue the gunfights began.  The simulation generally ended if the gunslinger fired first.
If they made it past the gunslinger, guests would continue to the end of the street, where they would approach three outlaws loitering around the gate of a corral.  The holographic bad men insulted anyone who survived the gunslinger.  Guests who outdrew the men at the corral would continue to the old graveyard, where seven outlaws hid behind tombstones and sniper hid in the steeple of a creepy old church.
When they were sixteen, these “orphans” would begin tactical training simulations built around the same 3D holographic engine Marveland designers employed in their simulations.  Properly trained cadets had no problem dispatching the gunslinger.  Two out of three cadets made it past the marauders at the gate.  Of the millions of guests who visited Marveland each year, less than one hundred successfully crossed the graveyard.  No one had ever killed the sniper.
The eleven-year-old acting XO of Dragonfish Platoon was the first one to enter the town.  Having never seen a holographic simulation before, he was so startled by the dying sheriff that he didn’t notice the gunslinger until it was too late.  He heard the sound of a boot on a wooden walkway and turned just in time to be shot in the chest.  The simulation lasted fourteen seconds.
When the lights came on and the town dissolved into nothing, the boy yelled, “That was AWESOME!”  He surrendered his six shooters and marched out off the set thoroughly pleased.
The next boy outdrew the gunslinger and arrived at the corral feeling confident, when one of the bad men asked, “You got a horse, boy, or are you just riding your ass?”
He barely managed a, “Huh?” then the three vagrants shot him.
By the time the penultimate Dragonfish cadet finished the simulation, only two boys had made it past the corral; both of them died quickly in the graveyard.  The last boy stood a few centimeters taller than his classmates.  He was skinnier, too.
He stopped to watch the wind dragged tumbleweeds ahead of him as walked he down the dusty street.  When the door to the jail opened and the bearded old sheriff crawled out, blood dripping from his lips and his shirt was burned and bloodstained, the boy approached without hesitation.  The dying sheriff squinted up at him and said, “Son, a couple of killers broke old Mortimer out of the jail today.  The whole gang’s in town.”
The gunslinger stepped out of the bar.  He was tall, dressed in a sharp black suit with a stark white shirt and a straight-brimmed hat.  Without speaking a word, he reached for his pistol.  The tall boy seemed to have forgotten about his gun and holster.  He dove for the ground and rolled, yelling a string of profanities as he hit hard concrete instead of soft dirt.
The gunslinger fired at him, but the boy was fast and the holographic outlaw was more of a tutorial than a danger.  He fired and missed.  He fired again… missed again.
Up in the control room, the lady running the simulation laughed and called to her co-workers.  She said, “Hey, you gotta see this.”
The boy dove left, rolled to his feet and dove right, closing in on the gunslinger, who fired one shot, then another, then another, and then stopped to reload.
“You ever seen that before?” asked the woman at the monitor.
“I didn’t know they programmed him to re…”
And then they all laughed.  As the gunslinger reloaded his pistol, the eleven-year-old clone leapt at him, trying to take him out at the knees.  The gunslinger may have looked as solid as an actual man, but he was made of laser light, and the boy sailed through him.
Up in the control booth, the three men laughed so hard they could barely breathe.  They stopped laughing when the boy finally came to his senses.  Having passed through the body the way he could pass through a ray of sunlight, the boy spun in midair.  He drew his pistol and fired two shots.  The first shot hit the gunslinger’s left eye.  The second hit his right.
The boy rolled as he hit the ground.  He scanned the street for more predators, then he stood, tried to brush the holographic dust from his pants, and reloaded his pistol.
“Shit, the boy’s a psycho!” said one of the workers.  The other two agreed.
The boy replaced his pistol into its holster and continued down the street.  As he reached the corral, one of the bad men called, “You gotta horse, boy, or are you just riding your ass?”
Apparently getting into the spirit of the simulation, the clone boy, “Do you have a gun or are you going to pull your dick on me?”
The holographic men weren’t programmed to hear what he said.  The lady in the booth, however, would be repeating the line for weeks to come.
The first outlaw went for his gun and the boy shot him in the head before he eased the pistol out of its holster.  The computer analyzed the contest to make sure the gunman drew first.  The simulation ended if guests pulled their guns too early.  Now that his gun was out, however, the boy could legally shoot the other outlaws.  Instead, he waited for them to draw.  When they did, he shot them both and reloaded.
As if pushed by their ghosts, the gate of the corral swung open.
“Ten bucks says he makes it through the graveyard,” the control room workers offered.  Neither of her co-workers took the bet.
The boy walked through the corral and exited through the back gate as the simulated sun started to set.  The wind blew tumble weeds in every direction as he neared a wrought iron gate with a sign that said, “BOOTHILL CEMETERY.”  In the distance, the sound of a church bell rang.
A man with a pistol sprang out from behind a wooden marker.  The boy shot him.  Two more leaped from their hiding places.  The boy shot them as well.  Three more seemed to materialize out of nowhere.  They boy dropped to the ground and shot them.  As he reloaded, a final marauder stepped out from behind a tree.  He smiled, drew his gun on the boy, and flew backwards.  In the time it took the bad man to smile, the boy reloaded, flicked the cylinder back into place, and shot him between his eyebrows.
Two small lights flashed in the distant church, one from below the bell in the steeple, the other seeming to come from one of the windows.  The crack of two gunshots echoed in the chamber, followed by the zing of a single bullet hitting concrete.  The lights came on.  The sound of people running echoed through the empty warehouse, followed by the bang of a slamming door. 
Three park workers ambled across the floor.  They stopped and stared toward the area where the church had been.
The clone boy whirled on them and said, “That wasn’t fair!”
One of the workers, a woman, asked, “What are you talking about?  Kid, you got all seven of bandits in the graveyard.  That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone do that.”
The boy sneered and said, “Next time, I’m going to get the bastards in the church.”
The woman wanted to tell the boy that there was only one outlaw hiding in the church, but she saw something in the boy, something cold and angry and menacing.  She didn’t want to admit it, but the little synth scared her.  She said, “Yeah, well, your friends are waiting on you.  You better get moving.”
E Company moved on to the haunted school grounds.

The Haunted School of Wizardry was less interactive than the Fast Draw and Shootout.  In the Fast Draw, every word and action revolved around the guests.  They were the center of attention.  They were the stars of the holographic microcosm.
In the Haunted School, guests traveled the halls as witnesses more than participants.  Evil warlocks, gargantuan spiders, trolls, and ghosts laid siege on a school that was housed in a preposterously oversized castle.  Guests of the park walked through the castle experiencing exhibits with no more interacting with them about as much as patrons of the Louvre interacted with the paintings and statues.
The first chamber in the Haunted School was a huge entry way in which holographic children both younger and older than the “orphans” huddled in fear while wizards and witches shouted instructions.  “Keep out of the way, children.  When we tell you where to run, run there as fast as you can,” said a haggard old witch in a black dress and a battered old hat that was shaped like a thumb tack.
The instructions were meant for the both the virtual children and the real ones. 
As the witch finished speaking, a giant fist punched a hole in the roof revealing a night sky in which fireworks glistened.
“They’re firing spells at us,” gasped the old witch.
All of the little holographic children cowered, screamed, and quivered.  The “orphans” nodded approvingly.  Their first battlefield experience involved strapping on a flak jacket and crossing a stadium-sized hill while drill sergeants fired lasers, RPGs and mortars over their heads.  When they could get away with it, the meaner sergeants shot at their legs with rubber bullets.
The witch yelled, “Run.  Get to the door!  Quickly now!  Quickly!”
“She’s so much nicer than Sergeant Schulty,” said one of the boys.
The great first pounded a second hole into the ceiling and holographic bricks the size of footlockers dropped fell from the wall.  The stone floor rumbled beneath them.
The virtual children sprinted for the door.  The “orphans” of Dragonfish and Rat platoons stood in awe.  They, it seemed, wanted to see the rest of the giant.
That was when a real human entered the room.  A Marveland worker dressed as a young witch ran through the door.  She had long blond hair, green eyes, and teeth as fine as china.  She looked at the boys and screamed, “Hurry up!  He’s breaking through the outer wall!  Run for the doorway!”
The boys ran for the doorway…
… where the enormous multi-headed dog stood snarling at them.
“Keep running!  Keep running!” shouted the witch.  “The dog is on our side.  He’ll keep them out as long as he can.”
Most of the orphans ran on, but not the tall one.  Apparently curious to know if the dog were a robot or holograph, he squatted low and let the other “orphans” run past.  Still in a crouch, he circled around the dog and lunged at its knee.  The dog was not holographic.  It was a five-meters-tall animatronic robot covered with fake fur.  The boy flew face-first into a leg that was mostly metal.  He split his lip and bloodied his nose.  He stumbled back, stood swaying as he regained his senses, and forgot that the rest of his platoon had moved on without him.
He was alone in what appeared to be a darkened dining room with a gigantic robotic dog… well, the front of a gigantic robotic dog.  Now that he looked more closely, he saw that the beast had no haunches.
Unlike the western town in the Fast Draw, the Haunted School had substance.  When the workers shut off the lasers in the Fast Draw, all that remained was an empty warehouse.  Here, there were banquet tables and chairs, the front half of a robot dog, and walls.  The boy rapped his knuckles on one of the stone walls and discovered it was made of rubber.
Hearing the voice of the witch lecturing the next group of guests, the boy moved on, retracing the steps of his classmates.  He traveled down a long spiraling staircase that was lit only by holographic flames dancing on holographic torches.  When he reached his hand to a flame, he felt no heat.
The stairs led to a dungeon laboratory in which beacons and test tubes bubbled beside steaming cauldrons.  He heard muffled explosions and the walls and windows shook the way they would during an artillery barrage.  The laboratory was empty, neither holographic nor real people remained inside.
“Hey, you!  Where is your group?” someone yelled.
The boy spun around.
The man who faced him was dressed like a policeman.  Then he saw the boy’s face.  His chin was covered with blood.  So was the gap between his nose and lips.    He said, “What happened to you?”
The boy said, “I ran into an attack dog.”
The guard laughed.  He said, “A dog?  I hope you aren’t talking about Cerberus.”
The boy looked confused.
 “The three-headed dog at the top of the stairs?  That’s an expensive robot.  You hurt that dog, boy , and you’re in for a world of trouble.”
The boy said, “I’m the one with the split lip.”
The man turned and looked into the ceiling and said, “Yeah.  See for yourself.  I got him.  He’s a bit banged up, though.
“What?    You’ve got to be joking.”  He knelt down, looked the boy in the eye and asked, “Are you planning on suing us?”
The boy looked confused, might not even have known the meaning the word.  The guard said, “Good boy.  Now head through that door and march straight down the hall.  You’re part of Dragonfish Platoon, right?  They’re just two doors ahead of us.  Go quickly, Kid, and they’ll never know you were gone.”
The boy wiped the blood from his mouth and trotted away.
All of that was in the video feed.  There was no question that the guard was alive when the boy ran away.  The guard stepped out of the camera and that was the end of him.  Other workers located his corpse later that night.  His neck was broken. 
The boy couldn’t have done it.  From the moment he left the dungeon laboratory to the moment he left the Haunted School, security cameras followed the his every step.  He rejoined Dragonfish, wiped the last traces of blood from his face, and no one seemed to notice him.
One strange thing did show in video record.  The security cameras caught glimpses of three phantoms lurking in the shadows of the dungeon.  Upon closer examination, Department of Defense analysts concluded that those three men might have been Liberators.

Their names were Booth Lector, Tony Marshall, and Clarence Saul, and they were indeed Liberator clones, a class of military clone thought to be as extinct as megalodons and tyrannosaurus rexes.  Lector, Marshall and Saul were not as old as dinosaurs, but they were no longer young men.  They had been minted in 2456, forty-four years earlier.  Since they had “crawled out of the tube” with the bodies of 21-year-olds, they were technically in their sixties.
They were men on a mission.
Reacting to brutal massacres among civilians, the Unified Authority senate halted the production of Liberator clones in 2459.  In 2461, the senate banned Liberators from entering the Orion Arm, the section of the Milky Way in which Earth was located.  Next, the military began sending Liberators to fight every mission while it raised a new generation of clones.  In short, the Liberators were condemned to extinction by attrition. 
In truth, they were only nearly extinct.  Lector, Marshall, and Saul had survived by hiding in whatever woodwork they could find.  Another Liberator, a sergeant named Shannon, had survived as well.  Believing that their best bet for survival was to help the public forget that anything like Liberator clones had ever existed, Lector, Marshall, and Saul might have tried to kill Shannon had they not been terrified of the man.  Shannon was a war hero and a living legend among Marines.  While Lector and his gang burrowed like termites, Shannon earned medals.
And then a new clutch of Liberators appeared.  Somebody high up conducted an experiment, placing five freshly manufactured Liberator clones into five separate orphanages.  Lector learned about them through an old pal in the Pentagon.  Believing that the public might start hunting for additional Liberators if news leaked about the newly minted larva, he and Marshall and Saul set out to find and destroy the young clones.
They’d killed four so far.  This fifth one, though, he had managed to avoid them.  After the deaths of the first Liberator larva, Orphanage #553 stepped up its security.  More cameras scanned the perimeter.  More guards prowled the halls.  The visit to Marveland was the first time that the boy had been allowed to travel with his classmates. 

They waited as the boy and his platoon-mates entered the kart combat attraction.  Lector watched him enter the arena, then gave Saul a satisfied smile.  The three Liberator clones entered as well.
The “karts” were souped-up go-carts with holographic shells.  Once the guests strapped in and the cosmetics appeared, they would look like miniature monster trucks, dragsters, dune buggies, and Indy cars. 
Watching the boy stepped into his generic cart, the three adult Liberators rushed to the front of the line and pushed their way in.  Lector and his cadre were the last guests admitted; park personnel led them to carts and strapped them in. 
By this time, the other guests had selected covers for their carts.   Lector, Marshall, and Saul picked from the shells that were left.  Laser projectors on the guests’ carts covered them with holographic veils, disguising the drivers as cartoon characters, dinosaurs, dragons, ghosts, and gorillas.
The drivers would steer their carts along a race track, but winning involved survival skills more than speed.  As they drove, the guests dropped landmines and fired homing missiles at each other.  They also picked up boosts that gave them brief bursts of speed.
The holographic veil covering the young Liberator’s cart turned it into a brown hotrod with green flames.  Lector noted the change as the lasers turned his cart green with mustard-colored flames.  Seen through the holographic veil, he looked like a pug-nosed dragon.  The veil around Tony Marshall made him look like a turtle.  As the last guest to select an identity, Saul had to take whatever was left.  The veil turned him into a red-headed princess with a little golden crown.
Displeased by the disguise, Saul swore a blue streak.  The family-friendly audio filter in his car altered his voice to match his disguise and edited his language to protect the children around him.  He shouted, “What the specking hell?”  The filter changed his tenor voice to a contralto that sang sweetly, “Oh my!  I’m a princess!”
As Saul pulled onto the road, Lector, the dragon, sped past him.  Lector said something that the audio filters altered to a low throaty laugh that sounded like Bwah ha ha.
Marshall and Saul had come unarmed.  They planned to ram the kid, to knock him off the road, and to run him over when he climbed out of his car. 
Lights at the head of the track flashed red, then yellow, then green and the battle began.  Carts with ghosts, cartoon men, and dinosaurs sped onto a sandy beach, rushing toward the holographic boxes that would arm their vehicles with weapons.
The young Liberator, veiled as a gorilla, drove in the middle of the pack.  Lector, Marshall, and Saul clung to the rear, where they watched and waited and schemed.  They saw other drivers pick up weapons, leaving them vehicles behind them unarmed.
A ghost ran into a landmine and its car spun.  Three lights had shone from the top of the cart.  When it hit the landmine, one light went dark.  Those were the rules: crash or get hit three times, and all three lights go out.  Lose your last light and you’re out of the race.
Lector, Marshall, and Saul wanted to make sure they were there when the Liberator’s lights went out.  When his race ended, they would make sure that his life ended as well.
Saul made the first move.  Accelerating around a bend, he closed in for the kill.  The boy drove slowly, like he’d never driven before, and maybe he hadn’t.  Since Saul and his comrades crawled out of the tube as full-grown men, they’d never experienced life in an orphanage.  They didn’t know if the boys learned how to drive when they were six or sixteen.
He growled as he closed in and muttered, “I got you, you mother specker.”
The audio filter edited him.  Outside the car, the princess called, “Yoo-hoo!  Princess coming through.” 
He was closing in on the Liberator boy, ten meters behind him, seven, five, three, one…  At the last moment, just as Saul closed in on his rear bumper, the boy released a landmine.  At that range, Saul couldn’t have swerved out of the way if he’d known it was coming.  He shouted threats, and the princess screamed, “Now you’ve gone and done it!” 
Marshall, who had been right on Saul’s tail, plowed into him from behind.  One of Marshall’s life lamps went dark.  Landmined and hit from behind, Saul lost two.
Marshall’s turtle remained silent.  It didn’t have a voice.  Saul’s princess asked, “What’s a princess to do?”
As Lector sped by, his dragon coughed out a laugh.  Bwah ha ha.
They sped around a curve and found themselves in pastoral farmlands.  Barns and cornfields lined the track.  Cows and chickens lazed along the side of the road.  Some of the clones left the track and plowed into the cornfields.  The gorilla cut across a field.  Marshall followed.
For ten or fifteen seconds, Marshall saw nothing but the cornstalks, then he saw a gap, and beyond that, open road.  As his cart sprang over a ledge and flew onto the roadway, a rocket hit him broadside.  He hit the track, spun in three circles, and heard somebody shout, “It’s me!  I gotta present for you.”   A red and white cart zoomed by in a blur.
Marshall shouted a litany of words that might have made a sailor blush, but the holographic turtle that veiled him remained silent as ever.  Just as he came out of his spin, a second rocket struck him.  All three of the lights on the top of his cart went out.  His engine died and would not start again.  The steering wheel locked.
Saul drove past.  His princess disguise giggled and said, “Oh, you poor dear.”  Saul, himself, had actually said, “You miserable son of a bitch, you never did know how to drive.”
The dragon drove by and cackled, Bwah ha ha.
As soon as all of the carts had passed, three workers stepped onto the track and escorted Marshall to the exit.
Not knowing what was happening around him, Saul drove into a holographic box, then realized that his cart had been armed with rocket.  He wove between two other cars and aimed his rocket at the Liberator boy just as the farmlands gave way to tall rocky cliffs.  He fired as the boy drifted around a hairpin turn.  Marshall’s holographic rocket slammed into a solid rock wall, causing a holographic landslide.
Frustrated beyond reason, Saul screamed, “Shit, speck, shit!” and the princess said, “Oh, my!”
Saul stomped his foot on the gas to catch up to the boy, nearly lost control, and skidded around the corner.  He saw that the boy had vanished.  Then, looking in his rearview mirror, he noticed the gorilla cart emerging from the rocks behind him.
He screamed, “You son of a bitch!”
“You sneak,” said the princess.
The gorilla made happy grunting noises as its car fired a rocket into the princess’s tail pipe.  Saul screamed as his wheels locked and his cart spun out of control.  It spun eight times and drifted to a stop just as the boy fired a second rocket, hitting the front grill at nearly point blank range.  The cart spun to the edge of an embankment and came to an abrupt stop.  The boy hit him with a third rocket, tipping his cart over the ledge and down a two-meter drop.
The boy resumed the race, paying little attention to the green car with dragon driver that lurked about a quarter of a kilometer away.
The dragon and the gorilla were at the back of the pack.  The Liberator boy hit the gas pedal in a bid to catch the other cars.  Lector, driving the dragon car, let the boy pull ahead.  He didn’t care about the pack.  He didn’t care about landmines and rockets.  He didn’t care about virtual weapons.  He gripped his steering wheel with his left hand.  In his right hand he held a twelve-shot pistol.  Having fired one shot at the boy in Fast Draw, Lector still had eleven bullets.
They entered desert flatlands in which the occasional butte rose out of the ground.  The sky above them was a Californian sky, nearly cloudless and blue.  The boy’s cart wove, swaying from one side of the track to the other.  He came to a hairpin turn, rammed his wheel all the way to one side, and rode the turn out in a controlled slide.  Lector hit the corner a moment later, trying to turn his cart the way he might turn a jeep, and nearly lost control.
As the road straightened, he regained control.  He raised his pistol and fired.  The shot missed the boy and his cart completely.  Though he was a good shot in standard combat situations, Lector lacked the ability to drive and shoot at the same time.
Up a full kilometer ahead, dust trailed behind the rest of the combatants.  They no longer mattered.  It was just him and the boy.  Lector fired two more shots… and then he hit a landmine.  His car spun.  He almost lost his pistol.
The Liberator boy sped away.  Since he had come to a complete stop, Lector aimed the pistol just as the boy dropped down a dip and drove out of sight.  The aging stepped on the gas and followed.
Several meters ahead, the boy left the track.  He turned down a dirt path and headed into the desert.  Lector saw this and smiled.  Reading his facial expression, sensors in his cart’s disguise caused the holographic dragon to wear a toothy smile as well.
Cartoon cacti stood as tall as telephone poles in the distance.  A hard wind kicked up dust devils and holographic vultures circled overhead.  Vultures, Lector mused, that seemed so appropriate.  He wouldn’t need to catch up to the kid.  His pistol was accurate to hundreds of meters and his bullets were a lot faster than a go-cart.
But the off-road driving was bumpy.  Bouncing up and down in his cart like a man riding a rodeo simulation, Lector needed a good grip on the wheel or he would lose control.  Shooting was out of the question.
The boy turned toward a mountain in the center of the desert, a mountain that seemed to rise out of nowhere… a mountain with a tunnel running through it.  A tunnel, a straight, dark tunnel. 
The boy’s cart had bright tail lights for targets.  Flames farted out of the exhaust pipes at the back of the cart.  Lector smiled.  So did the dragon.  Once he and the boy entered the tunnel, Lector would pull out his pistol and aim between the tail lights.  He had nine shots left.  Firing nine shots in that confined space, he’d hit the boy six or seven times.
The road ran over strange tracks that Lector did not recognize.  Parallel metal rails ran along either side of the track with wooden slats reaching between them.  The brief glimpse Lector caught of the track reminded him of a DNA helix.  He knew there was something familiar about the track, but trains had been using magnetic levitation for nearly three hundred years, and the Liberator was too busy planning his next shot to worry about the scenery.
Bouncing along the bumpy tracks, chasing the gorilla car into the tunnel, he noted that the boy’s holographic disguise had a faint glow—offering a better target than he had expected.  Far in the distance, daylight sparkled at the end of the tunnel.  Lector stopped his cart, pulled his pistol, and aimed.
The gorilla was far away and moving quickly.  It looked like nothing more than a glowing smudge in the darkness.  Lector saw the red tail lights clearly enough, and the twin flames from the exhaust pipes.  The kid might have been one hundred meters away, certainly less than two… a tough shot, but one he could…
WAAAAAAANT WAAAAANT!  WAAAANT WAAAAAANT!
A giant glowing eye appeared in the tunnel.  It was a single white eye, about three meters off the ground, and getting bigger by the moment.
WAANT!  WAAAAANT WAAAANT!
It was an old fashion train, a specking train!  Somehow a train had materialized between Lector and the Liberator boy.  It appeared out of nowhere, and it was speeding up the tunnel like a bullet flying through a chamber.
It’s got to be a holograph, thought Lector, but the ground shook beneath him and the honking of the train’s steam trumpet filled his head.  He fired his pistol.
The train may have been holographic, but it made the ground rumbled like an earthquake and the sound of the trumpet hit Lector like a slap.  He squeezed off a second shot as the train rumbled toward him, then he threw his cart into reverse. 
The cart was made to go forward, not back.  It moved slowly.  He tore the safety harnesses from his chest and shoulders and leaped from the seat, not looking back as he sprinted to the end of the tunnel.
WAAAAAAAAAAAAANT WAAAAANT!
The ground shook so powerfully beneath his feet that the vibration traveled up his shins.
WAAAAAAAAAANT! 
The old train couldn’t have been more than a twenty meters behind him, and the end of the tunnel was still a few meters ahead.  A battle-hardened Marine, Lector didn’t look back to see how much of a lead he had.  The light from the train shined down on him.  He could see his shadow elongating as the train drew closer. 
The end of the tunnel was just a meter ahead, just a meter, just a meter, just a meter! 
WAAAAANT  WAAAAAAAANT!
He launched himself forward and dove to the side in time to see the holographic train dissolved like a ghost in the daylight. 
Lector swore under his breath as he walked back into the tunnel and strapped himself back in his cart.  The boy was long gone of course.  And something else… when he pressed the ignition button, he realized that his cart would no longer start.  He looked out the back and saw that the three life lights above the car had extinguished.
Lector hid his gun in his boot and said, “Specking son of a shit,” and the holographic dragon said, Bwah ha ha.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

KINGSMEN: THE SECRET SERVICE--


I don't have time for a full review right now, but I want to recommend a movie to anyone out there who has not seen it.  Kingsmen: The Secret Service has rightly been described as James Bond meets Kill Bill, and I must say, the results of that meeting are outstanding.

The premise is simple enough--there is a secret organization of clothiers has created a force of international peacekeepers who dress and act like aristocrats and save the world from terror.

In this case, terror comes in the form of an internet billionaire named Valentine with a somewhat homicidal for solving the world's ecological problems.  To say the least, the bulk of humanity would undoubtedly choose global warming and weekly seminars from Al Gore to Valentine's solution.

Valentine is rich and powerful, giving the stodgy Kingsmen like Collin Firth more trouble than their used to, hence they turn to new recruits.

I won't say more about the story except that it combines James Bond cliches with tremendous storytelling to make an all new experience out of what should have been a hackneyed old chestnut.

Collin Firth nails the role Harry hart, the veteran super spy clothier, but it is Samuel Jackson who owns the show.  Playing Valentine, a rich, pampered, idealist with no qualms about mass genocide, Jackson is nothing short of amazing, particularly  as Valentine is entirely unaware of his terrible lisp.  Seeing Jackson in his over-sized baseball cap belting out, "Oh thit!  What ith he doing here?" just doesn't get old.

With this performance, Samuel L. Jackson proves once and for all that he is the heir to the great Gene Hackman--the actor who does everything perfectly, even if he's seldom dominates the marquee.












Sunday, March 15, 2015

In case anybody is looking... I've been pretty inactive for a while

So there's a site out there called "Specking Servers," as in looking at the specifications of network servers.  Here's a picture of the site:





And here is what someone posted on that site:







Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Well, it's finally out

From the Offaly County Council Site:
http://www.offaly.ie/eng/Services/Libraries/Documents/Tullamore-Library-One-Year-On-.html
The Clone Apocalypse, the last of the Wayson Harris stories, is out.  I hope you enjoy the book.

I really want to thank all of you who came along for the ride.  Many of you have been with me since the very beginning.

Can you believe it's been nine years?  Thank you!

Also, thank you to all of you who have been so kind about reviewing my books.

Steven L. Kent

PS:  Should we have one last "Spoiler Town"?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

I SWORE OFF LATE NIGHT MOVIES, BUT...

I swore off late night movies, but with Guardians of the Galaxy coming out this evening, I've decided to make myself a liar.  I mean, come on!  Chris Pratt!  Zoe Saldana! Rocket Raccoon!  Who can say no to Bautista?  The man has mountains of muscle but his strong suit is his charisma.

So I am off to the late night premier of the movie at my local theater.

Hell yes, I am excited!

But it's not as exciting as going to Disneyland.  I know; I was there this week.  It's been nose to the grindstone time around the Kent household with several projects of late--some you know about and some you don't, but I took Monday through Wednesday off for a trip to the Magic Kingdom and I must say, DISNEYLAND IS EVEN MORE MAGIC THAN EVER!  No joke.  I felt like a kid.

This picture was taken from the Domestic Fashionista website.
This was my first visit to California Adventure, which I had written off as a collection of roller coaster.  Wrongo!  It does have a monster coaster called California Screaming, which I studiously avoided, but it also has the Grizzly River Run, which I rode twice and wanted to go to a few more times.  And, yes, it has lots of kiddie rides for cowards of my stripe.

Okay, yes, the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are looking a bit long in the tooth, but there's so much great stuff, including old, iconic rides that are still great.  And I'm not being fair to Pirates.  I loved it.  I was impressed with the way the imagineers have updated it to reflect the Pirates movies.  Jack Sparrow appears several times now--he's become something like the yeti on the Matterhorn.

Disneyland was a treat.  It's better than I remembered and may be truly better than it has ever been with the new rides and events.  I used to get bored at Disneyland after a day or two.  Not anymore.  I could have stayed for the week and barely scratched the surface--of course, Disney is mostly surface.  The Disney folks don't overlook a single detail, but I suspect that depth is not their main goal.

WHAT A BLAST!!!!

And so, sadly, today it's back to the projects at hand.  Projects I hope you'll be reading in 2015 and 2016.