Roland the Chronicler Part 4

monticello_west_aerialOld Virginia is charming in a way, but the signs of humanity are everywhere. I’d spent a vacation in this area on my thirtieth birthday; it’s much different now. These days’ people live in widespread communities of a few thousand. The forests, rivers and meadows surrounding the enclaves team with animals and plants. The Virginians lived on vast tracts of land just to support a few hundred people. I only saw domesticated animals and farms. It’s not fair to compare past-time to our time, after all their sustenance depends on organic materials.

My musing halted when, “Buzzy to heel,” roared from the porch above our resting place. A handsome 6’ 2” man strode down the steps. Buzzy jumped to his heel before Jefferson’s feet settled on the ground.

“Let’s take a walk, fella. This could be a momentous day. James Monroe and Robert Livingston are bringing a document from our old friend, but potential enemy, France. How I wish Spain could have resisted Bonaparte’s pressure. I’d feel much better dealing with her. We could have turned her to our way of thinking, but France is strong and wants power. We’re at a crossroads, Buzzy. If Napoleon refuses to let us warehouse and export goods through New Orleans, he’ll strangle our country’s economy and force us into a treaty with the British. I cannot abide that if we are to remain the empire of liberty.”

He kept his thoughts to himself while patrolling his plantation. Jefferson was cordial to his workers and often asked about children or the health of a loved one, even using names. His workers liked him as far as I could tell. Our path through lush fields of grain ended at a road. Jefferson paused and then turned right. We had gone a few paces when he stopped and reversed direction. Buzzy sat on his haunches and watched him walk away. I can’t read my merge partner’s mind, but I’d bet I know what he was thinking—make up your mind.

“Come on fella,” Jefferson said with a smile. Our new direction led to the great house along a road bordered by six one-room homes and several workshops. Small black children in tattered clothes played near the houses under the watchful eyes of a few older children—they looked to be ten or so. I saw no adults or adolescents until a large, decently dressed black man approached from one of the shops.
“Master Thomas, may I speak?”

“Yes, Joseph. What do you want to say?”

“Master, your cook’s son tried to run away last night. I stopped him, but I thought you should know,” Joseph said hesitantly.

“Well done, Joseph. Do you know why Michael did this? Has he been mistreated by an overseer?” Jefferson asked obviously concerned.

“No, master, nothing likes that and he’s a good boy. The fool eyed a young kitchen girl when he delivered vegetables to your sickly neighbor, Miss Rush, and wanted to court the girl.”

“I can’t let this go unpunished,” Jefferson said calmly, “but, I don’t want to lose his labor either. Give him one lash this night, in front of as many as you can assemble. I want it made clear that I won’t tolerate runaways. Find him a good match among my slaves. That should temper his ardor.”

“Yes, master,” Joseph said respectfully and then bowed deeply.

“Do not bow to me Joseph; I’m no English lord!” Jefferson said indignantly.

I was flabbergasted—nothing in my study of the Brito-Franco culture referred to slaves. Indentured servants were common, but they earned their freedom at the end of their contract. I had assumed the AmerCan culture would have the same standards. Jefferson kept slaves. I had read his eloquent declaration about the inalienable right of man to be free of oppression. How could he justify his own slaves? It’s one more way in which humanity changed since the Eruption and why we are a different species, homo pacificus.

“Buzzy! Leave that chicken alone, to heel.” I had been lost in my own thoughts until the dog barked at the bird. “We best be afoot, fella. Our guests will arrive soon. I’m most anxious to see what they bring me.”


Roland the Chronicler Part 3

MonticelloI couldn’t feel the heat from the fire, but that didn’t stop me from leaping away when the sight of flames triggered a flight response. My primitive mind said singed bottom coming, although I was non-corporeal and not at risk. Pots and pans came into view, and I could see a dark-skinned woman enter the room. She’d wrapped her hair with colorful cloth and a white apron around her ample waist. A shaggy dog followed her. Buzzy, I assumed and immediately merged.

My intrusion distracted Buzzy; he didn’t see the swat coming. “Get out of my kitchen, you flea mop. You’ll get fed when I’m ready,” the cook yelled, a wicked looking broom in her hand. Buzzy and I bolted through the door and took off for parts unknown.

Before I knew it, trees were all around us and I’d completely lost my bearings. Thankfully, Buzzy’s nose could smell coffee from the kitchen and I knew we hadn’t exceeded my safe range by much. The broom hadn’t done real damage, however it struck where the arrow had hit my former merge partner and for some reason triggered a sharp pain that put Buzzy to flight.

Feeling pain sustained by a partner is an unpleasant side effect of merging for the mana. Receiving pain from the mana can be an unpleasant side effect for the partner also, as Buzzy now knew. Worried we might get too far from the portal, I urged Buzzy to think about food. He froze. His shaggy head rose up, and his snout swept the air for a scent. He caught one that I couldn’t identify. To me, it was musty like an old sweater. Buzzy saw the world in smells as much as light. I couldn’t do it, even merged. He trotted toward the smell, which wasn’t in the direction of the coffee and portal. The trees thinned and I could see a split-rail fence. The nature of the smell became clear to me when a small herd of ewes and lambs came into view. Buzzy bound over the fence, ears back and head down; he headed for the nearest lamb.

Oops, too strong of an urge, it overrode his training. I had to think fast and couldn’t plant an image of his master, because I hadn’t seen him yet. The cook’s image was out of the question. Experience with male canines taught me that three things ruled them: pack, food and sex. I planted a sexual desire. He stumbled as if someone had yanked his tail. Confused for a moment, he recovered his footing and sniffed the air. We took off running, towards the coffee this time.

The object of his desire was so near, but so far. I felt sorry for Buzzy. He pawed the shed door, drooling with anticipation; her ripeness was palatable to him. The shed kept him at bay. One crisis averted, and not wanting another, I suggested food again, but less intensely. Buzzy resisted, but hunger finally won out, and he rambled to the kitchen door.

“There you be,” the cook said. “Where’d you get to? Now, you stay and I’s get you some vittles.” Relieved to be near humans, I let Buzzy do his own thing for the rest of the morning. He found a shady spot near the front door of the magnificent home designed by Jefferson and kept a lazy watch over the grounds. But, so far, I hadn’t learned much about my when-where. It seemed idyllic, but I wondered how long that image would last.


David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

Roland the Chronicler Part 2

Chroniclers Badge“Is your helmet comfortable?” Neetang asked.

“Yes. It’s comfortable, but why do you ask me that every time I past-travel?”

“Because one day it may not be comfortable and you might get hurt. Don’t fight me, Roland. I’m a chrono-tech. It’s my job to protect you, and bring your stubborn self home alive.”

“I’m sorry. I get antsy before each mission. It isn’t you; it’s my fear of the unknown.”

“You told me the unknown is what attracted you to past-travel,” Neetang said, while his raised eyebrow added, ‘Didn’t you?’

“Yeah, I did. What can I say? I’m a complicated guy full of bravado and self-doubts. Do you have information on my merge target?”

“It’s a male dog named Buzzy. He’s the offspring of a Briard that Jefferson acquired while the ambassador to France. The breed is known to be intelligent, good companions, and rarely a problem.”

Rarely a problem, sounds ominous, what aren’t you telling me, Neetang?”

“The breed’s killed livestock under its protection.”

“Surely, not if they’re well fed and cared for?”

“Perhaps not, but if Buzzy develops a taste for livestock, I suggest you get your complicated self through the portal. Jefferson’s been known to execute dogs that he blamed for livestock losses.”

“Okay, and thanks for the heads up. Anything else?”

“The portal will open in a kitchen near its fireplace. The flicker of flames should hide it, but more importantly, we expect Buzzy to be close. Look for a large shaggy canine.”

“Got it. Big dog.”

“Don’t get farther than a light-microsecond from the portal before you merge.”

“You’re such a tech-nut, why don’t you just say 300 paces like a normal person would?”

“Because a chrono-tech is precise in all that he says and does.”

“You’re helpless. Let’s start the checklist. My when-where date is July 14, 1803 Pre-Eruption Time.

“Check.”

“My when-where place is the presidential office of Thomas Jefferson.”

“Negative. It’s the home of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello in old Virginia.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. A chrono-tech is precise in all that—”

“Never mind, I shouldn’t have asked. What time of day will I arrive?”

“It’ll be just after dawn. We expect Jefferson to receive guests before noon. Your job is to merge with Buzzy and chronicle the interaction between them.”

“You expect me to merge with a dog hours before I chronicle. What are you thinking?”

“Look, it’s not my call. Our intelligence predicts the best time to merge with the dog is in the early morning before the household is active.”

“I see your point, but what am I going to do while I wait?”

“Stop whining and be glad you’re being sent to a safe environment. Here we go. I’m closing the stasis chamber now and will open the portal in ten, nine, eight, seven…”

I couldn’t hear Neetang once the chamber sealed. But, I didn’t care. I was mentally preparing for the disorientation that came with past-travel. I knew what to expect from the transfer, but I never knew what would actually happen.


David P. Cantrell is an author and a member of the Edgewise Word Inn staff.

50 Ways to Keep Your Job – #10

10. Be sensitive to your supervisor’s mood.
Angry-lion 2-8-15

                                                                                                                                                      David P. Cantrell is an author and is a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

Meet Vera Rubin

Writing a novel requires an author to make many decisions. Where a scene is set might seem like an easy one, but can actually be difficult and require a good deal of research. I once spent two hours trying to find the right location for an amateur astronomer’s perfect home-based observatory. The mountains of New Mexico near Las Vegas were my choice. Las Vegas, NM, not NV. I didn’t know there was another Las Vegas. It wasn’t an earth-shattering discovery, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Even character names can require research. Let’s say you’ve set your murder mystery in a quaint up-state New York village. It wouldn’t do to have your serial killer share a name with the village’s mayor. I researched Korean names to make up a name for a sinister corporation. Did you know Young, also Yeong, means brave, and Jang Young Sil was a 15th century scientist and inventor? Well now you do.

Scientific and technical subjects require a good deal of research for me. I don’t want my novels to reveal how ignorant I am. While researching Disturbance: The Vetting, I met a very fascinating woman, Vera Rubin.

vrubinVera was born in Philadelphia at Temple University Hospital in 1928. She was the second daughter of immigrant parents. Her father immigrated as a young boy from Lithuania and became an electrical engineer. Her family moved to Washington, D.C. when she was ten. By eleven, she was fascinated with stars. She watched them from her bedroom window intrigued by how they rotated during the night. She learned to recognize meteors and could draw maps of their paths; by the time she was in middle school, she’d built her own telescope. She didn’t care about the constellation names; it was their movements that captured her attention.

In high school, she got a dose of the macho nature of science. Her physics teacher, Mr. Himes, barely recognized her existence and rarely talked to her. He certainly didn’t provide a nurturing environment. When she shared her joy at getting a scholarship to Vassar, he said she’d do okay if she stayed away from science.

She didn’t stay away. She declared for astronomy at Vassar and received her degree in three years. She applied to Princeton’s master program in 1948, but received no response, not even a catalog. Women weren’t admitted to Princeton’s astronomy program until 1975. She enrolled at Cornell and completed her masters in 1951, and received her doctorate in 1954 from Georgetown.

During her studies, she made observations of galactic movements and noted they weren’t distributed randomly, which was the accepted belief at the time. Her PhD thesis argued that galaxies clumped together and rotated around unknown centers. Her thesis was controversial and not well received. She, and a talented instrument maker, Kent Ford, made hundreds of observation regarding the motion of the Milky Way. The Rubin-Ford Effect is named after them.

Rubin moved to the less controversial topic of galactic rotation and again up-ended accepted belief. Her work showed that galaxies were rotating much faster than traditional physics predicted. Ultimately, her noted discrepancies led to the concept of dark matter.

Don’t confuse dark matter with the tremendous mass of black holes, they’re not the same. Rubin’s work implies some kind of unknown matter is influencing the orbit of galaxies. We can’t see it; it doesn’t collapse into stars, but we can see its influence. Some calculations indicate dark matter may be ten times more massive than normal matter.

I’m very impressed by the accomplishments of Vera Rubin, particularly given the male dominated environment she’s had to live in. Vera has received numerous prizes and acknowledgements, but not the Nobel. She is still active as far as I know. There is even a grass roots movement to get her a Nobel in 2015 and a Facebook page to like for that purpose. Click here: Grass Roots Movement

Sources:
An Oral History Transcript Dr. Vera Cooper-Rubin, Also see her Wikipedia article.

                                                                                                                                                    

David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

Roland the Chronicler Part 1

Chroniclers Badge“Roland. Have a seat,” said Grover Bostarus, the dean of Chronoanthropology at the University of Greater Terra. “I have a special job for you.”

Special job made me nervous. The last special job almost killed me. “I’m listening.”

“Have you heard about the AmerCan project?”

“No, but I just got back from medical leave.”

“Yes, I’m sorry about that. I had no idea how ferocious the pre-wall Asianese could be, or that they were partial to dog meat. I should have recommended you merge with a horse instead.”

Grover is my boss, and my first instinct was to make him squirm, but the look on his long face told a story of regret and concern. I couldn’t bring myself to tease him, and besides, as a mana, it was my obligation to choose my merge partner.
“It’s okay. I would’ve chosen a dog also. It’s rare that they aren’t domesticated. I have to say, though, I’m glad the arrow pierced our rumps and not our hearts. I wouldn’t have been able to de-merge and get across the portal otherwise.”

Grover ran his long fingers through his short gray hair. His eyes were moist. University deans weren’t supposed to put men in mortal danger. They weren’t generals trading lives for territory, and there hadn’t been a serious conflict among men since the Thaw began, some three thousand years ago. The super-volcano eruption and ensuing ice age changed human nature.

“Thanks for being so understanding. You’re my best Chronicler. I wouldn’t send you on this assignment if you weren’t. Three years ago, we learned that a great culture had arisen on the AmerCan continent prior to the Eruption. Brito-Franco documents indicate the AmerCan territory doubled in size in a short time period. We want to know how it came about.”

“Do you have the “when-where” specs for me?”

“Yes, July 14, 1803 in President Thomas Jefferson’s office.”

***

Manas die in a stasis chamber if their essence is trapped in past-time. There’s no way to anticipate all risks, but knowledge of a when-where is a big help. That’s why I sat in the libraries’ reference room wearing holo-glasses, watching a brief lecture on the Brito-Franco culture.

“The Brito-Franco culture consisted of two sub-groups that controlled the political scene for five hundred years. Their influence waned during the Electronic Age. They shared many characteristics, such as architecture, agricultural methods and technology. Their languages were distinct, but shared many words. A language infusion course is available if you wish to learn more.

“War between the groups occurred frequently during this period, but when not fighting they were civilized—”

I stopped the playback, satisfied it would serve my needs and hurried to the artifacts museum for weapons research. I wanted no surprises like the first time I saw a bow and arrow. They didn’t look threatening individually, but when combined they were.

* * *

“I’m scheduled for a language infusion tomorrow and will need a night’s sleep for it to be effective, so I’ll be ready the next day.”

“What’s this?” Grover said with a twinkle in his eyes, “A Chronicler needs time to learn something. I thought you could absorb infinite amounts of data in that oversized brain of yours.”

“Infinite is a bit much, and my brain’s no bigger than yours. I’ve just learned to use all of it. But, the infusion process requires three sleep cycles to work. It has nothing to do with my Chronicler training.”

“Are you truly ready to go?” Neetang said smiling. “I noticed you limping a little. I find it mind boggling that an injury to a merge partner can cause so much pain and discomfort. If you’re not ready, I understand.”

“I’m okay. The limp’s a lingering neurological effect and should dissipate soon.” I hoped it was true. It’s what the doctors had said, but they weren’t sure, and I knew it. I’d taken enough time off; it was time I got on the horse.


 David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.