Frigid February folks! I hope everyone’s doing fine with all these snow dumps and deep freezes. It’s been a wildly productive winter on my end! A little over halfway through my “write-bernation” and I’ve rolled over the 50k mark! A whole novel’s worth of writing in the past 7 weeks. Mind you, it wasn’t all in the same project, but that’s okay. I’m about a week away from finishing ‘The Mud Fisher’s Catch’, and then I’ll dive into edits and corrections. I’ll have Advance Reader Copies going out in March. If you’re interested, let me know, and I’ll try to accommodate.

I did poke my head out to attend this year’s first Collector Con. It’s always a fun time with a great crowd of people. The next one is April 13th, at the legion in Sackville. Swing by if you want a great dose of childhood nostalgia. I guarantee they’ve got some toy there that you used to love, but have long since forgotten.

In other news, I finished final edits on The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven #2. Art is progressing well and Griot Enterprises will be launching the book sometime this spring.

I had four stories accepted into a horror anthology, ‘Don’t Read This Book After Dark: Volume 3’. Publication is underway, I may also get Advance Readers of this one soon, so if horror is your bag, lemmie know. It should release late spring or early summer. My 4 stories that made the cut are:
~ Hot Dog Man
~ The Lumberers
~ Regarding Security
~ Squishfoot Dummy

I received acceptances from three different conventions, all happening this spring/summer.
First is Geequinox on May 4th-5th. Had a ball there last year. New venue, but should still be a great time.
Next is Capercon, way up in Sydney, on May 24th-26th. That’s a long trip, up to the top of the province. It’s my first time attending and I’m excited to see how it goes.
After that is Y-Con, from May 31st – June 2nd. From one end of the province to the other, all in the same week! Last year was so much fun and this year looks to be even better. They’ve got a new venue too, and there’s a good possibility I’ll be hosting a writer’s open mike night and doing a panel on creativity. Super stoked for Y-con!

I have a lot of prep before this year’s vendor season. On top of getting ‘The Mud Fisher’s Catch’ finished and printed, I’m hoping to add stickers, bookmarks, prints, and mystery envelopes (we don’t talk about those though). I’ve designed about half of it so far. Still lots to do. I’ll get there.

That’s it for the update! On to the next chapter of Patchworld Nova! Again, this is a “working draft”. It’s gone through a couple rounds of editing, but don’t expect this to be the final version. I have swatted most of the typos, and any that remain are simply a mark of my humanity. Also, if you’d prefer to read a .pdf version of this, you can find one, free for download in the Chapter 2 post on my Patreon at: 

I hope you enjoy Chapter 2: The Photo!

Celestia was waiting on the dock behind the house, gazing over the lake. She didn’t turn around as Troop joined her. Back to him, she spoke as the old boards creaked with his approach.

“It’s calm. Lotta trees,” she said

Troop was relieved it wasn’t his mother, but also annoyed that she’d sent Celestia. He’d never gotten along well with his half-sister.

“Yeah. Except for the force field over there, it’s a nice view.”

She shrugged. “I don’t see the appeal.”

“That’s why you don’t live here,” said Troop.

She shook her head. “That’s one reason. You get food out of it, at least?”

Troop shrugged. “No, Cel. I don’t really like fishing.”

“So, it’s even more useless then.” She turned her back on it with obvious disdain, smiled at Troop, and opened her arms wide for a hug. He accommodated her.

The two were very different. He’d been fifteen when she was born and had already moved out before she was in grade-school. Most of his memories of her were visits with a snot of a kid, not the woman before him. By the time she’d grown up, he’d already had his blow-out with their mother, done his time, and left the scene. Like everyone, Celestia had fallen firmly into ‘Team Mom’. He sometimes wondered how much of his dislike was just splashed down because of that.

But then he’d spend some time with her, and it would clear up any misgivings he had.

“So, is she dead?” he asked.

Celestia scrunched up her face. “What? No! Of course not! That’s a stupid question.”

He pulled from their embrace and headed back down the dock. “Then the answer is no.”

She threw up her arms in exasperation. “You didn’t even hear what she wants!”

“I don’t need to. Unless I’m being arrested again, I want nothing to do with it.” Once they’d directed him to her, the men with guns hadn’t followed him closely, but he knew they were still keeping an eye out.

She kept pace as he walked toward the barn where he’d left Scally. “It’s important. She said she needed you! She wouldn’t even tell me what it was about.”

“That’s because she’s manipulating you, little sister. If you don’t know what she’s doing, you can’t disagree with it.” He went inside, took the horse’s bridle, and led her over to a table where he started unloading the saddlebags.

“I’m not a child, Troop. I know how mom works. I’m telling you, something’s up and it’s important. I’ve barely seen her for weeks now. You know she wouldn’t ask you to come if it wasn’t a big deal.”

It was true that she’d never offer an olive branch. Not after what had happened. For her to want this, something was forcing her hand. But it didn’t matter. Nothing was forcing his.

“No means no. So, unless you brought those guys to drag me back, I’m sorry.” He slid his hand along the breast collar on the saddle and unclipped it from the girth. He gave Scally a pat on the chest as he did. “It’s not happening.”

Celestia looked at him with sympathy. “C’mon, man. Don’t make me do it.”

He switched sides on the horse, flipping the gear up onto the horn, and reached down to release the back cinch. “You wouldn’t,” he said.

“Grandpa’s dying.”

He stopped, mid-way through unlatching the girth. “Well, of course he is.”

She folded her arms. “He’s been askin’ for you. Mom wasn’t going to tell you. She doesn’t want you to see him. I don’t know why. She told me to drag you back, and, yeah, she sent some goons along with me. But I don’t wanna do it that way.” She came up and put her hand on his arm.

“I want you to get to say goodbye to Grandpa.”

Troop finished removing the saddle in silence and heaved it onto the wooden stand. He led the horse into into her stall and shut the door. He didn’t like it, but if there was a chance she wasn’t lying…

“We’ll have to make a stop on the way. I need to get Mike to mind Scally while I’m gone.”

Celestia beamed a wide smile. “Good choice, Troop. I’m glad you’re coming.”

He blew out an exasperated sigh. “Piss off already.”

There wasn’t much discussion during the five hour drive from Troop’s place to Halifax.

Despite the root-laced and potholed road, the car accelerated when they pulled onto the Keji Bypass. Troop could tell the goons in the front were tense, and the guy on the passenger side kept his handgun up and his rifle across his knees, both at the ready. Celestia watched the windows, eyes scanning.

“Really? If you’re that worried about the Mi’kmaq, you should have taken a horse, like everyone else.” He reached up and took hold of the handle by the roof to keep from being bounced around so much. Celestia did the same.

“I would have, but apparently we don’t have time for that. Mother’s orders.”

If it hadn’t been for Enler’s warning, Troop wouldn’t have believed their pace was on account of anything real. Forcing an old tech combustion engine, manned by soldiers, straight through the Mi’kmaq Abidance’s turf was his mother’s style. Respecting others wasn’t something she let impede her goals.

Although he wasn’t a part of it, Troop liked the Mi’kmaq Abidance and their philosophy. He wasn’t the only one.

The abduction from Earth had been a boon to nature and the climate. As synthetic as the seasons were, the weather was stable and disaster free. They’d been modeled on a time before the Earth had started to experience drastic fluctuations from human emissions. Without the rest of the world as consumers, and the separation of foreign investors, the vast majority of logging and other extraction industries in Nova Scotia had fizzled. Coal from Cape Bretton was gone, along with Cape Bretton. Gasoline stopped arriving too. Most of the standards everyone relied on for power had vanished on their arrival.

There was energy from the Drip, but it hadn’t been available at first. It was a decade before the grid was fully converted. When it finally happened, the Mi’kmaq didn’t want to rely on that particular feeding tube. Plenty of people agreed with them, not trusting the strange alien supply. They’d blocked the expansion into their land, claiming what was left of the Annapolis Valley and more, for themselves. The Abidance pushed for a return to a simpler time, with limited energy needs and a focus on natural living. A whole lot of folks joined them. About one in five people lived either in, or according to the tenants of, the Mi’kmaq Abidance.

After more than a quarter century of stubborn independence, they’d begun work on the Bakudabakek Turbines. Taking advantage of the largest tidal swell in what used to be the world, they managed to generate a goodly amount of clean, reliable, energy. It was metered out in limited capacity, for important things like heat and hospitals and whatnot. They kept to themselves, separated from the Provincial government, and pulled off an honest living just fine. They created a healthy and stable community, apart from the rest of the province.
But now that the Drip had stopped, and there were people in need. Desperate folks that the Nova Scotia government couldn’t keep fed and sheltered were turning to the Mi’kmaq Abidance for aid. It was a food and housing burden they were having difficulty matching. A problem they blamed on the province for choosing reliance on their alien captors. Tensions between the two groups were frayed, and rolling a well-armed, gas-chuggin’, provincial SUV across their lawn was a dick move.

Troop didn’t like being a part of it.

When they finally hit the cracked remnants of Trunk 8, by Caledonia, he was able to release his white-knuckle grip on the handle and relax. From here on out, there were old roads and little possibility of trouble. There was one detour, that ran along the blue force-shield of the Vapora Zone, but it was well-worn and free of obstacles.

It was sunset in their world as they approached the blue-edged wall. Daytime in the other. They concluded that whatever planet the Vapora Zone had been taken from didn’t rotate, like Mercury, it was locked in place. It was always an eerie daylight in there. The entire barrier gave off an indigo glow from their side, swirling with blue and purple fog. It was very different from the crimson wall Enler lived behind. Troop stared at it as they passed by, looking at the ethereal white shapes that were a form of hyper-dense miasma foliage. The dominant species in there, the Thecirru, were made of a protean crystal dust. They could shift their particulate bodies into a series of different shapes when they needed. The humans had managed to establish the basics of communication with them, but not much more than the fundamentals. The wispy Thecirru weren’t interested in extended conversations with the meaty bone-bags next door.

The humans had gotten mixed results with most of their attempts to establish relationships with their neighbors on the puzzle board.

The spider things in the Spindle Crag had been the easiest to translate. Of course, they didn’t have anything relevant to say. They were territorial predators, lived in small communities, and had a pre-industrial tech level. Stones and spears. They eagerly shared hunting techniques for catching critters the displaced Earthlings had never heard of.
Although they shared the shortest border, the Megarodentia out by Half John were the most like homo-sapiens. They were mammals and resembled upright ferrets with twice the number of legs. When the barrier had gone up, part of a place called New Brunswick had come along. It was all Nova Scotia now, but at the time, it had been run by different people. In one fell swoop, the city of Saint John was chopped right in half, just east of the river. On the other side of the barrier, a different city appeared. Stacked layers of rounded clay, dozens of stories high, in an earthy dirt metropolis. Curved wooden half-tubes, busy with spherical vehicles, coiled and looped around the structures in a nightmare of engineering that put even the most complicated cloverleaf off-ramps of old Earth to shame. The population density in Megarodentia was nothing like Nova Scotia. When Troop’s mother learned to talk to them, they discovered that their entire fragment was urbanized. Every bit of it was densely packed city. Though they shared a similar land area, their population was three thousand times that of Nova Scotia. Fantastic engineers. Poor scientists. They enjoyed looking from their side into the primitive “hovel” of Half John and built a series of viewing platforms for an endless parade of furry tourists.

The water creatures in the Tank were flighty. The flying creatures in the Patravale Zone were, surprisingly, not. The origami language of the two dimensional beings in the Paperflat Zone was interesting, but the creatures themselves were deeply religious and only interested in evangelism. The Brick was a cliff so high it almost extended to the false sky. Troop had not enjoyed the months spent bobbing around in a tiny boat, studying the bare rock face with his mother. They never found anything living, but they suspected a subterranean species somewhere deep within the rock.

It had been a long time since he’d left the area around his home. It was natural, on a long ride like this, for his mind to drift to past trips. But he found it made him uncomfortable. He hadn’t enjoyed the vast majority of time he’d spent doing it. It felt like someone else’s past, distant as it was. So much had happened between then and now. He was relieved when the car crested the hill and they finally approached their destination.

Halifax, in many ways, wasn’t too different from what it had always been. At least, that’s what they said. The massive alien obelisk, rising straight out of the center of Citadel Hill, hadn’t been part of the original fort, obviously. The monument beat out the trio of Tuft’s Cove smokestacks as the tallest freestanding structure when it arrived, by a fair margin. Being perched on top of the hill, rather than down by the waterfront, made it impossible to ignore. It was smooth white, banded with rings of colored words, now in English, that slid horizontally along the surface.

A message from the beings that had taken them.

Troop hated the thing. Hated what it said, most of all. He stopped looking out the window, avoiding the reminder. He kept his eyes on his knees for the remainder of the trip. Mother, of course, lived in the penthouse of a building that afforded her the best view of the Monolith. He only looked up when they pulled into the parking garage.

Even then, he regretted it.

He’d wanted to visit Grandpa Paul first, even if it meant waiting until morning. He needed it to be clear that he wasn’t coming at his mother’s whim, just because she was forcing him, but because he had his own reasons. As the vehicle pulled to a stop, he knew he wouldn’t get the chance.

She’d anticipated his defiance and was already there, lit up by the headlights. A long maroon dress, silky purple scarf, and big copper earrings, the size of eggs. His mother didn’t wait for him to get out as she came around to open the door for him. She had a smile that carried more admonishment than welcome. Somehow, without even saying a word, her face managed to deliver a whole conversation.

“Look what you made me do.”

“This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t left in the first place.”

“You might as well do what I want, because I’ve got you now.”

“You should have known better.”

All those years of learning to read Enler’s body language, and all the complicated ways the Ancervin spoke, and it didn’t hold a candle to how well he understood this woman’s manipulative tells. Despite the cruel messages of her subtle expression, her voice was bright and cheerful.

“Oh, my little Trooper! I’m so happy to see you.”

The penthouse Troop’s mother lived in was a far cry from the tents and hovels where they’d spent his youth. It was open, supported by concrete columns, and more resembled a fancy museum than someone’s home. There were dioramas of the neighboring biomes, displays of the alien species, and replicas of their strange objects and tools. A labyrinth of track lighting made sure each glass enclosure had their own spotlight. These brightened and darkened on proximity sensors. One large table contained an artistic map of Nova Scotia carved from wood, with accurate layers of topography, and little hand-made city and town sculptures. As they passed it, his mother spoke back over her shoulder.

“Do you want me to have some food brought up? I imagine you’re hungry for real food.”
Troop didn’t want a damn family dinner. “No. I’m not staying long. I’ll get some on my way back.”

She laughed. “You think so, do you?”

He knew the city was struggling to feed itself, but he wasn’t worried. He was no stranger to days without food. As a habit, he fasted one day a week. Sometimes twice in the winter. His body could take it, and if it helped reduce the need for others, he was happy to do it. He was a repairman in a place that had been falling apart for half a century. He had no intention of taking anything from his mother. As long as he kept his identity to himself, it wasn’t difficult to barter services for food. He could get passage on a ship to Soushore if he helped tune a few engines. He’d be weeks before he got home, but he knew that when he’d climbed into the SUV. It was why Dave was minding Scally.

He’d seen most of his mother’s exhibits in the past, but there was a new piece in the center of the room that took him by surprise. It was enormous, dominating all the others.
It was a model of the ship. It wasn’t even fair to really call it a ship, given the size of the thing. Station? Even that word was far too small. The technical term they’d decided on was a Dyson Plate, and that worked well enough. It resembled a circular tray, impossibly large. Upon this flat expanse were hundreds and hundreds of stolen bits of worlds, all thrown together like the pieces in a patchwork quilt. Most of these were painted in dull colors and had dotted lines to estimate borders. Over 90% of the map was vague and undefined. After all, there was only so much of the surrounding landscape that could be seem from where they were.

Nova Scotia, and it’s nine direct neighbors, were filled out in brighter colors and had solid lines, since their actual borders could be measured. Thanks to years of experiments with telescopes and hot air balloons, the map actually had another three dozen partially defined biomes beyond the adjacent ones. Across the Plate, without the curvature of a planet, it was possible to see further. The limiter had more to do with atmospheric interference, seeing through multiple force shields, and physical obstructions.

Troop stopped to look at it. He’d never seen the whole thing set out like this. At the ends, a huge bevel of a wall wrapped the entire thing. The vessel was like a shallow dish for cupping atmospheres. From the center rose a tower. This focal Spire was much taller than the exterior walls of the disc and had an elliptical structure on the top. He’d been shown pictures of similar sort of buildings on earth, like the CN Tower in Toronto, but this dwarfed them. It wasn’t narrow stalks with a tiny building on top. It was a trunk, a hundred skyscrapers thick, with a city perched on the peak.

The general consensus was that the tower was home to whoever, or whatever, had abducted them.

“It’s impressive, isn’t it?” asked his mother.

He wasn’t going to deny it and nodded in agreement.

“It’s interactive too. Pick up one of those little paddles, point it at something and pull the trigger.” He didn’t like her telling him what to do, but it wasn’t worth a fight. He knew there was enough conflict on the way. Troop picked up a paddle, pointed it at the red colored patch that was the Ancervin Zone, where Enler lived.

The ceiling lit up with a projected display, showing pictures of the aliens, the landscape, and all the atmosphere and weather data.

He shrugged. “Neat.”

His mother pointed at the ceiling. “Click on the sky.”

Troop complied, and the image was replaced with a vista of stars. These were all numbered and had measurement arrows, indicating their direction and speed. Troop squinted, looking at the data above.

“You’re tracking where we’re going?”

She nodded. “Since before your little stunt put you in jail. The smaller dial, by your thumb. Roll it back. Keep an eye on the date.”

Troop didn’t miss the jab in her comment, but didn’t engage the provocation. He shifted the touchpad and the vector arrows changed direction and length. He wiggled it back and forth a bit, watching the time-stamp shift. It allowed him to visually scroll through past star positions. He spun it back, watching the stars move across the ceiling above the model ship below.

Without warning, the directional vectors on all of the stars jumped by 70 degrees and decreased speed. The transition was jarring and Troop clicked the stars, pausing them.

“What the hell was that?”

His mother smiled. “Rewind it again. Go see.”

Of course, she couldn’t just tell him what it was. He hated this game. He’d spent far too much of his youth working to discover answers to things she could have just told him to enjoy playing it. He jabbed it back to where everything shifted and saw the issue immediately.

“That’s when the Drip stopped.”

She nodded.

“We changed course and acceleration, dramatically, in conjunction with when the Drip shut down?”

“Yes.” She turned and continued on her way. “Come on, Trooper. There’s more.”

He put down the paddle and followed her. Her desk was positioned directly beside another display. Unlike the massive model of the ship, he wasn’t impressed with this one.

It was a replica of the Monolith, twice his height. His reaction to it was the same as when they’d driven by the real one; avoidance. His mother stopped and pointed at it. Troop refused to look at it.

“Stop being cruel. I know what it says.”

She shook her head. “No, son. You don’t.”

He didn’t know what she was talking about. Of course he knew what it said. The words had put a stop to his own research on breaking through the barrier. Once his mother had translated it, they’d cut Troop’s funding the very next day and ordered him to stop.

Stop. Do what mother says. Always.

Troop hadn’t. Of course he hadn’t. The result wasn’t something he like to think about. He winced now, just remembering it, and clenched his fist.

“So what does it say then?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Nothing. Nothing at all. The words vanished when the ship changed course. When the Drip stopped. Oh, we’ve been projecting them onto the surface ourselves. No need to cause a general panic. But they’re gone. The warning no longer exists.”

Troop furrowed his brow. He knew what they had said. The message from their captors that had changed his whole life. He’d practically memorized it.

“Your planet is gone. You have been saved from the destruction. Rejoice in your rescue. You are all that remains. All that will be. Survival needs will be provided. Do not attempt to damage the dispenser or your habitat infrastructure. Do not overpopulate your habitation. Do not attempt to leave your habitation. Violation will result in habitation purge. Live as you wish. Persist.”

But, if the warning had vanished, Troop didn’t know what that meant. Part of him wondered why, or how, it could happen. He also didn’t trust any of the reasons that his mother would be telling him this, of all people. As he was considering the news, a young woman pushing a cart full of food approached. She paused, looked to his Mother.

“On the desk dear, we’ll be eating here,” the older woman said.

The server nodded and placed two settings. There were salads, bread, and a tray of cheeses and fruit. The two main plates were loaded with steak and lobster along with a veggie medley. The woman opened a bottle of wine and filled two glasses. With a pitcher of water she filled two more. She added a tray of tiny tarts and cakes, with a pair of individual sized pies as centerpieces. The extravagance of it was enough to shock Troop out of his pondering. He hadn’t seen a meal like that in… He shook his head. He’d never seen a meal like that.

The sight of it made him angry.

“I told you I wasn’t eating,” he said.

She shrugged off his complaint with a wave and slid into her chair. “If you don’t want it, don’t eat it. I don’t care. Just sit, I have more to show you.”

He looked down at the spread, placed in front of him, and dragged the chair to the other end of the desk. He flopped and glared at her. “What is it?”

She blew out a heavy sigh. “You always have to make everything so difficult, don’t you? You can’t just eat a meal and talk, like a civilized person. Am I such an interruption? You have washing machines to fix, or some other nonsense?”

Troop stood up and walked away.

She called after him. “Fine! Fine! Be an ass. If that’s what you want. But you’ll want to see this before you go.” He stopped when he heard her desk drawer open and then slam shut. She tossed a fat file folder onto the table.

Troop went back to his chair and picked it up. His mother dug into her steak with a knife and left him to it.

It was split into three parts. The first section had detailed, long range photos of the central spire of the Dyson Plate. The thicker section of pages, in the front, was clipped together and had pictures dating back thirty years. It was possible to see light and different types of illumination in the structure on the top. The second section was smaller, had less content, and Troop recognized the date on the first page of the stack. It was the same as when the other two events had happened.

Looking, he could see that the disk-like city on top of the tower had changed. It was smaller. It almost looked like someone had sheared off the top 20% of the thing. It was also dark. Flipping through, none of the pictures from that date forward had lights.
The second section was an analysis of adjacent biomes. The origami beings in the Paperflat Zone, the Chartagami, appeared to have vanished. The entire species was missing, just gone. This time, the event didn’t coincide with the other dates. It came almost two years later. They’d noticed a decrease in sighting ten months ago. In only a few weeks, the creatures had disappeared entirely.

It was unusual. the Chartagami were fanatics. Any time they saw beings through the force fields, they would gather and attempt to convert them in a series of bizarre folding transformations. Despite sending people all along the border, not a single one could be found. Their environment was an endless rolling plane, one of the easiest to see through to other enclosures. Even so, there was no sign of the Chartagami. Either they had all decided to lie down, flat to the flat earth, or they’d left.
The last pictures were the most confusing. They were taken from far away, through a telescope. On one of the force-fields, off on the opposite side, there was a blurry purple-edged gash.

It looked like a hole.

“Is that? Is their enclosure breached?” asked Troop.

His mother popped a bit of lobster into her mouth and wiped her lips. “We believe so. Keep going.”

The next pictures were even more blurry and distorted, at the limits of the camera’s capability. The image was pixelated, hard to make out. Troop held it up at arm’s length and squinted. There was a dark shape, hunched and hulking, like an ape. The form blended with the tendrils of purple energy near the breach. A triangular shape, that might have passed for a head, was peering back at him with three indigo eyes.

“What the fuck is that?”

“We haven’t named them yet. Dr.Sarason wants to call them the Escapees. Lisa thinks we should designate them with the breaching phenomena and call them ‘The Outbreak’. Whatever we end up calling their species, they’re moving from biome to biome, killing everything.” She took a drink of wine and looked at him.

Troop sat in stunned silence. If these things could fracture the force fields, and they were right next door, that meant they could break in at any time. His heart began to race.
His mother appeared much less concerned about the situation. “The working theory is this. Our ‘hosts’, if you care to call them that, are gone. They left in a smaller ship, a part of the main tower, and that changed our trajectory and velocity. When they went, they turned off the lights behind them, shutting down all the supply systems to the biomes. Some species that were held at bay by their presence are now taking the opportunity to run roughshod all over the damn dish.”

Troop looked down at all the papers, spread out before him. The pieces added up. Her assessment seemed accurate.

“Why are you telling me this?”

She pushed her plate back and slid the tiny pie into place in front of her. “Because I know you’ve never stopped trying to figure out a way to break the barriers. All those conversations, with your little alien friend. We have drones, you know. It’s a mother’s job to keep an eye on her babies. I’m certain you can open a way out, despite how things went last time. We need that now. I have a team of soldiers ready to march across the Plate and get to that Spire. All I need now is someone to open the door.”

Of course she’d been watching him. He’d always suspected his probation surveillance had never ended. It was true that Troop and Enler spent a great deal of time discussing the way they might escape. He’d learned a lot since his last attempt. Since the disaster. They’d developed a way that might work. An expensive way.

“Why do you want to get to the Spire?” he asked.

“I don’t imagine we can fight these things off. I certainly don’t want to bank on it. Whoever was in the Spire had the means of controlling them. If we can get there, maybe we have a chance at stopping this. In any event, it may afford us a place to escape to, should it come to that.”

He scoffed at the idea. “You want to march a million people across dozens of alien landscapes? Good luck.”

She waved her hand. “No, I don’t want to. I want to put the fire out before we have to evacuate. If we can. Troop, for god’s sake! Will you stop being so difficult and just tell me. Can you get us through the wall?”

If she’d asked him three years ago, before the energy from the Drip went away, he’d have been able to answer the question with ease. Now, he wasn’t sure. The modified process that he’d developed with Enler was massively electricity intensive. There was only one place left in all of Nova Scotia that still had access to the amount of power needed; the Mi’kmaq Abidance.

He knew damn well that they would never agree to cooperate with his mother and the Provincials.

He picked up the picture of the Escapee, or the Outbreak, or whatever it was. The three eyes seemed to glare at him from the photo. Even with the low quality, he could sense it.


He had to do something before they turned their attention in their direction. He didn’t like it, but he knew how to make it work.

“I need a few weeks, but I can do it.”

His mother smiled at him. “I knew you could, my little Trooper. You should be happy. You’re finally getting what you wanted; a way out of this cage.”

He stood up and tossed the picture onto the table. Looking at the dark blotch of menace, and thinking about what he’d need to do next, none of it felt like anything he’d ever wanted.

Chapter 3: The Knife arrives on March 29th for free release!

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1. Sign up and become a patron: 

2. Buy my books. For yourself or as gifts for the unsuspecting.

3. Rate and review my books on Amazon or Goodreads. This one is HUGE and wildly appreciated.

4. Comment on my social media posts. Likes and shares are good too, but they do less for the algorithm. Comments are king.

5. Feed me tacos and tequila.

(I’m not sure how much that last one helps with marketing, but I know I appreciate it!)