Free Story Friday (11-23-18) – That Last Step

Free Story Friday – 11-23-18 (That Last Step – A Mimic War Story)

Sorry this has been so long in coming. It has been many many sleeps since I last posted a short story here. This one has been rattling around in the brain-pan for a few months, and I finally decided to get it done and put it up for free. At the last minute, I decided to tie it into an existing universe that I had created for a submission earlier in the year. It was born from a joke I made in a Facebook post involving the planet Uranus, hentai, and Space Mimics. That story is still floating in submission limbo, and if it doesn’t get some traction soon, will get yanked back and turned into a novella… because I gots idears!

Anyway, Enjoy the story! Stick around for some research stuff at the tail end of the post, and leave me some comments!


That Last Step – A Mimic War Story

© 2018 by J.D. Beckwith

The sound of his shoulder and helmet slamming into the rock face echoed eerily around the chasm walls. Valentine struggled to regain the breath that had been punched from his lungs while straining to hold his place on the belay line. He swung in a wide curving arc on the end of his rope. The narrow view of the sun-lit valley blinked past his vision in an ever slowing pattern as he spun. The adrenaline pumping through his system was the only thing keeping him from a full-on barf as the gray-brown of the rock face swirled around him. He looked down to try to get his bearings, but the height itself—jagged rocks jutting from below and along the sides of the narrow chasm—made him dizzier.

He closed his eyes and focused on drawing in a slow deep breath. The oxygen in the air at this altitude was thin enough without struggling to make his diaphragm remember how to do its job. Once it did, he forced himself to inhale as deeply as possible before letting it out. Soon he was feeling less like he was about to pass out or throw up.

Climbing the peaks of the Davis Mountains back home had never been this interesting. And Valentine, Texas—the source of his moniker—was nothing like rural China. Someone had to dig the last of those godforsaken shape-shifters out of the planet, though, so that’s why they were climbing this peak. Or, at least they had been, before the mountain decided to fall down on their heads. Everyone else had retreated down to the valley, but he was the Ranger Team’s Corpsman, and he had a man to save.

He opened his eyes again. He was still spinning and swinging, but he could finally focus on what was left of the ledge below him. “Aww, crap.”

The voice of his sergeant, Gil Martin, squawked in his ear. “Valentine, we have eyes-on from below. What’s your status? Do I need to turn the chopper back?”

“Negative, Sarge!” Valentine gave a grunt a he lunged for the trailing line still attached to the crumbling mountain-side above. A large-ish stone smacked the side of his helmet loudly as his efforts shook it loose from the pile that now covered the perch from where he had begun his descent. “Everything just fell in up there. There’s no place to even offload anymore. It’s too dangerous to try that updraft again anyway.” He used the second rope to stop his swinging spin.

“Copy that, Valentine. How’s Andrews looking? We can’t see him from here.”

Valentine looked down. Rubble now covered the outer portion of the ledge he was headed for. He could see the prone form of Ranger David Andrews where he lay just inward of the jutting flat spot. He had crawled away from the crumbling edge where he’d landed when the first rock slide had knocked him off the side. He had been unresponsive for the last few minutes, and Valentine could see the newest debris had landed on his legs.

“He hasn’t moved, and it looks like he took some hits from that last rock fall. I’ve got to get down there fast.”

“Roger that, Valentine, but don’t be stupid. I don’t want to lose both of you.”

“Aww, Sarge! You DO care!” Valentine hoisted himself upward on the ropes, placed his knees under him, then his feet. With a bouncing push he stood horizontally from the overhang once more. Small stones from the ledge above continued to bounce past him. He looked down to gauge his position one last time. “Hear that, Andrews!? The Sarge really does love us, man! So you can’t die until you give him a big ole hug!” There was no response.

Valentine bounced sideways a fraction then took three deep breaths. One last look down, and he sprang outward with as much force as his legs could exert, letting the rope sing through his gloves as he sailed into empty space. The freefall lasted only a split second before he judges that enough rope had played out. He gripped it hard below his crotch and applied the gripping brake to the line above him. The heat through his gloves was just noticeable as the rope stopped sliding.

The swing inward began. The ledge sprang toward him as if he had been shot toward it from a cannon. As he curved inward, he saw that he had misjudged. He was going to hit below the ledge instead of land on it. A split second’s thought of breaking a leg made him tuck up into a ball. His speed increased as he flew over the ledge into the shallow cave mouth. He let go of his grip on the rope and hit the rough surface, bouncing to the rear and colliding with the in-sloping rear wall. His helmet smacked against it, deflected him backward. Off balance, he fell backward and smacked his head against the floor as well.

Prone and panting, he took stock of himself. His bell had been rung, but other than that, he didn’t seem any worse for wear. Panting, he forced himself to roll over onto all fours and slow his breathing. The cave-like ledge was dim compared to the outside, and it took his eyes a moment to adjust. A small crack running through the ceiling above projected a jagged pattern of light from the noon sun above through to the floor of the cave. Valentine followed it toward the outer edge right up to the prone form of his fellow Ranger.

“Valentine, report!”

“I’m here, Sarge. Eight ball in the side pocket!” He moved toward Andrews to begin assessing his condition. He couldn’t stand in the tight space, so he crawled. His pack snagged on a small stalactite almost immediately, so he shrugged it off and pulled it behind him. Once he reached the other man, he quickly checked for a pulse. It was present but weak. “Sarge, I’ve got Andrews. Weak pulse. I’m unpacking the kit.”

“Copy that. We’re setting up the PUMP, now. Relay vitals when you can.” The PUMP—Pop Up Medical Post—was a rapid deploy, light-weight, hardened cloth facility with built-in instrumentation for detailed medical diagnosis and surgical needs. Each deployed Ranger Team had one with them, thanks to their alien benefactors. They could be unrolled, set up and tied down in a matter of minutes. They had seen routine use since the clean-up effort in China began. Mimics were nasty critters, and if they weren’t dealt with quickly after latching onto a victim, they were invariably deadly.

Valentine was zoning in on his patient, so he didn’t spare much brain activity for a distracted reply. “Roger that, Sarge.” He cleared away stones that had piled up around Andews’ legs and ankles, tossing them over the edge. Rocks continued to clatter down from above, so he pulled the man back into the cave, cradling his neck as much as possible. He sat up, cross-legged, and began unpacking his kit.

Frist, he slapped a velcroed wrist-band onto his left arm which began beeping and calibrating itself as it took vitals like BP, heart rate, body temperature, etc. Next, he hauled a gray two-handled device about the size of a small briefcase out of his pack and swept it over Andrews’ body from head to toe. The screen on its side lit up with a display of Andrews’ muscular system, skeletal structure and internals. It linked with the wrist band and immediately began to highlight trauma areas. It showed a skull fracture, a broken ankle, two broken fingers and a dislocated left shoulder. It also began to beep urgently that the patient had internal bleeding somewhere in the lower abdomen, but could not pinpoint it.

“Crap. Sarge, you got a copy on these vitals?”

“Roger, Valentine. Can you stabilize?”

“No clue. I’m going to go for the Gut-Leak foam. You better send the rescue UAV. There’s no way we can wait for the slow ride down via rope.” Valentine pulled out a Y-shaped syringe from his kit and two vials. He popped one vial into each side of the syringe and then pulled back Andrews’ tack vest to expose his midriff.

“Copy that. RUAV will be on its way in five.”

Taking care to get his angle just so, he pinched the upper side of his belly-button and sank the needle into his abdomen. Once in, he slowly forced the central plunger downward, injecting the contents of the two vials to mix together internally.

Valentine monitored Andrews as the skin of his stomach begin to tighten and crawl as the foam activated and expanded. It would flow around all his internal organs—intestines, liver, kidneys—then hardening into a stiff plate-like shield that would hopefully put enough pressure on the location of the bleed until surgery could be performed to fix it. Val had to get him off the mountain first though.

Satisfied with the progress of the foam, Val took out two induction plates and put them on Andrew’s temples. Once activated, they would keep him asleep. Waking up right now would be most unpleasant. He adjusted the wrist-band and synced it with the induction plates.

The next order of business was that leg. Val turned to get a splint for Andrew’s ankle pack, but before he could the mountain began to shake again. The crack that let in the narrow jag of light suddenly widened, and the ledge titled sickeningly before stopping. He swung himself over Andrews, acting as a body shield for the loose rocks that fell from the ceiling.

“Valintine! I just got word from the captain! Those damned Shifters booby-trapped the mountain! They set off three nukes under our asses, and that last one collapsed the surface. We have fall-out incoming! Repeat! Fall-out imminent!”

“Copy, Sarge! I’m afraid I forgot my lead undies this trip, so I sure would appreciate some expeditiousness on that RUAV!”

Valentine tapped out a few commands on his wrist-comp, activating the built in Geiger counter. The Squids—Hexapoids being the official designation—had really done wonders for the human tech infrastructure since they arrived. That include the Medi-Blade he had used before, and his wrist-comp. Sub-micro-miniaturization had made life much easier for the survivors of the human race to haul all the tech they needed to take the fight to the Mimics around the globe.

The tell-tale click of rising radiation levels told Val that his time was extremely short. He had to get Andrews and himself down to the PUMP and its radiation-proof walls ASAP. The rocks stopped bounding through the widened cleft above, so he shifted back to the side and continued to hunt for the splint. He hurried to get Andrews ready for the incoming ride as the sound of clicking grew more and more insistent.

The humming electrical-powered rotors told him the RUAV was getting close. There was no place to land it, so he was just going to have to slide Andrews into the unit’s maw as it hovered. To do that, he needed to spin him and get a board under him for the retraction winch to pull inside. By the time he managed to do both, the unit was floating just outside the ledge with its hatch lowering like a hungry dragonfly. The six rotors growled like a planet full of angry hornets as it wobbled back and forth in the gusty updraft.

“Sarge, keep the controls until I get him hooked up.”

“…K, but… getting a lot …ferrence from the …diation.”

“Copy choppy coms boss. That’s OK, I’m in a hurry myself.”

Val scooted sideways toward the far end of the ledge pulling the strapped down body of Andrews behind him. He grabbed a cable from the inner lip of the RUAV’s ‘jaw,’ released it, and pulled it to the small hook on the portable travois. A sudden gust blew the craft sideways, sliding Andrews outward to hang off the edge. Val grabbed the travois handle with one hand and a stalagmite with the other. “No you friggin’ don’t! You still owe me fifty creds, Andrews!” He pulled, straining harder than he ever remembered, possibly tearing something in his shoulder in the process. Still, he managed to hang on until he finally won the life-or-death tug-of-war as the craft swung back into position.

He wasted no time hoisting Andrews’ travois up onto the tracks in the vehicle’s mouth and hitting the ‘load’ button. He guided the rear until the RUAV’s engines revved even higher as they took the full load of the man’s weight.

“Alright, he’s on, Sarge! RTB is all you!”

“…gative… too much …control to you… opy? Re….t… Vehicle control…. you!”

“Crap! Copy, Sarge! RUAV control to me!” Val tapped his wrist-comp and requested linkup to the RUAV. It quickly synced, and Val sat and guided it away from the ledge. He was worried about more falling rocks. As he moved it away from him, the signal strength rapidly decreased. He instantly knew the reason as his wrist-comp began to flash a radiation warning at him. He had less than ten minutes at current levels before decontamination was going to become an issue for both himself and his patient.

“Only one thing left to do then.” He started unzipping seams along the insides of the thighs of his jumpsuit, exposing rolled up flaps of cloth which he quickly zipped together along a central seam. He repeated the procedure with seams along his outer thighs and inner arms. Next, he split his medical pack into two pieces. One he strapped onto his chest, but the other when onto his back. All this took him about three minutes, a record even for him. Finally ready, he stood at the ledge and put the RUAV to follow mode.

He placed a set of goggles on his face and took one last deep breath. “God, if you’re there, don’t let me screw this up!”

He jumped.

##########################

“Rads are still climbing, Sarge. Should go wait in the entry hall?”

Sergeant Martin watched the dust plume—originating from the venting of the underground explosion to the west—slowly grow closer to the mountain in front of them. The orange material of the PUMP with the red cross on its top and sides fluttered noisily in the rising winds. “Negative, Ranger Dawson. Hold here. When he hits ground, we’re going to have to get him and Andrews hustled inside PDQ.” He shot a quick grin at the woman at his side. “You’re not gonna lose that pretty hair of yours, don’t you worry.”

He put his binoculars up and focused on the ledge where Valentine stood just in time to see him leap away. He watched him fall a short distance before spreading his arms and legs to reveal the web-like materials of the wing-suit conversion of his tac-suit. As the updraft of the narrow cleft caught him, he shot upward and outward away from the sheer face he had been standing on moments before.

“Here he comes. Hell, he might even have a minute to spare before he can’t have kids anymore.”

The ground shook again, and everyone swayed. The entire side of the mountain shifted and began sliding downward. Gil could just see the yellow-green tint of the wing-suit webbing against the backdrop of dust and rock that roiled like thunder down the side of the shrinking mountain face. The RUAV matched the form of Valentine motion from motion as he rode the churning air. Then the dust plume overtook the craft, and eventually Valentine as well.

Gil held his breath as he waited for a glimpse of the man. The dust from the mountain slide billowed toward the encampment at a rapid pace. He wasn’t certain if the RUAV could handle that much debris through its turbines. And Valentine was still nowhere to be seen.

Gil mumbled under his breath as he continued to scan the skyline. “Come on, Valentine. Don’t you make me have to tell your wife you died out here.”

“Yeah, she’d probably kick your ass, Sarge.” Valentine’s voice sounded clear over the comms, even though it had a harried tinge to its usual smartass tone. The bright colors of the wing-suit flashed as Valentine cleared the dust cloud. He glided toward them hanging from beneath the expanded canopy of a red-white-and-blue parasail chute with a huge Texas Ranger star showing clearly in the afternoon sun. Behind it, the RUAV with Andrews burst forth as well. “Any chance you could get them to stop setting nukes off under me, boss? I’m starting to feel a bit put upon.”

Martin hid a grin, but didn’t bother replying, he just ushered the other Rangers forward toward the probable landing site. He turned his head toward the PUMP tent and yelled inside.

“Alright, folks, I’m going to need your A-game! We got incoming hot and bothered Rangers, and it looks like the sunset’s going to be just beautiful!”

~~~~ THE END ~~~~


Some of the research for this story came from…

Numerous wingsuit flight videos… and then I ended up not putting the swooosh in the story… sorry. But watch this and you’ll get an idea of what Val ends up doing.

The RUAV was originally thought of when I read about the Dubai police getting some new hoverbikes.

But looking for ‘rescue drones’ brought up a more practical design for moving a disabled person.

And then, in case you doubted it, the internal bleeding foam really does exist and is currently undergoing clinical trials in the U.S. in 2018. It is called ResQFoam.


If you like this story because new technologies mixed with adventure is your thing, you should really check out my Science Fiction Space Adventure anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.

Oh, and if you happen to like intrigue mixed with high tech and a good bit of humor, you can also get my techno-thriller novel, eConscience Beta on Amazon.

Until next time, Happy Reading!

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State of the Wampuscat – November 2018 (Week 46)

State of the Wampuscat

Week 46 of 2018

I don’t do this often enough. Blog about myself, I mean. I will attempt to correct that by forcing myself to type up some BS each week from now on.

If any of you have looked at my bio, you may remember that I’m an Engineer by trade. That’s the day job. By night, I’m a creator of elaborate schemes for writing books and becoming famous and then finding ways to avoid doing any of the actual things it requires to accomplish that. Procrastination is my favorite hobby, and I’m good at it!

However, I know that my dreams of being a writer with a legacy of well appreciated word-smithing that spans the generations is not going to happen without some buckling down. I’m turning 45 in a few days, so the clock is ticking if I want to get that bibliography nice and plump. It would also be nice to eventually see money flowing a direction other than AWAY from me in regards to the publishing of my stuffs. That means creating more stuffs, talking about stuffs, and doing marketing (yuck!) for my stuffs.

So, with all that in mind, I invite you to see the man and peruse the plan, as it were, of what I’m working on at the moment.

If you’ve followed the blog this year, you have seen mention of my anthology, Horizon’s Unlimited, as well as the 3 Planetary Anthologies from Superversive that were released with stories of mine in them. The summer was long and work went mostly full-time again–I do contract Engineering currently–so there was not a lot of new creation happening. The work schedule recently went down again though, so I have some free days now, but I’ve been playing catch up on postponed (pronounced procrastinated) projects around the homestead. Those are almost done(ish).

Between catch-up projects (and weekly D&D games) I have had some recent accomplishments. I was working on a submission for an anthology in Daniel Humpreys’ Z-Day series for a long while. [I just posted my review of book #3 in that series, A Place For War, on Friday, go read it!]. When I finally got some free time I managed to finish it. It suffered from the same struggle I always seem to have with short stories… keep them short! I submitted a whopping 22,099 word missive for that and hope that it can, and will, be used. Fingers crossed!

At the same time (first week of free time), I got word that my story submission for the Jupiter Planetary Anthology was on the ‘we like it’ table. I did some tweakage on that one, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be part of that anthology.

Earlier in the year, I did manage to write a few other short stories. I have a submission out for the Uranus (snicker) Anthology that I have not yet heard back from anyone about. It’s a funny one, and if they decline it, it may just get expanded into a novella and put on Amazon. I also have one submitted for the Luna Antho that I actually managed to keep short. I also have one that was rejected for the Saturn anthology that I plan to expand into a full novella for Horizons Unlimited Volume 2 or 3, and one that I wrote for Pluto that I plan to make a stand alone novel, possibly with a sequel/prequel setup that is still TBD.

So, there are ideas and plans. I do not have a shortage of things to write about. Unfortunately, I keep locking myself into a rut. I feel that I need to continue with the Horizon’s Unlimited series. I have several ideas and partial story plots in my mind, but they are for Volume 3 or even later. The part I need to write NEXT (Earth based events after Xolotl Ressurrected, but long before Quicksilver & Escaping Aurora) are just not fully fleshed out. I COULD finish writing the stories planned for much later in the timeline, but I’ve found that keeping track of what happens later and making sure what happens before doesn’t interfere with it are a bit of a challenge. For me, it’s better to write things in chronological order so that I don’t get confused or contradict myself by accident. So…

While I hate unfinished projects, I think I’m going to have to let those rest a while and just jump into something completely new until I can think the idea out.

The one thing I need to do at least once a week is post something here. This post was supposed to be done on Sunday, but I got side tracked with a Veterans Day picture post on Facebook (I do genealogy and have lots of military pics from family members that I wanted to share). So here I am in the early AM of Monday finishing out this thing.

I may not (probably won’t) be able to keep up with this, but here’s my rough plan for writing:

Blog:

Sundays: State of the Wampuscat (this is the first one)
Every 2nd & 4th Wednesday/Thursday: Book Review
Every 3rd Wed/Thurs: Short Story

Novels:

Horizon’s Unlimited Vol #2 – March 2019
eConscience Beta Anthology – July 2019
Horizon’s Unlimited Vol #3 – Nov 2019

In the mean time, inflate my ego and help me make progress by buying & reviewing my existing stuffs!

If you like intrigue mixed with humor, get my technothriller, eConscience Beta on Amazon.

But, if Science Fiction Space Adventure is more your speed, then you should check out my anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.

Happy Reading!

P.S. Please enjoy this random cat pic…

Jinx-in-the-box

Review: A Place For War (Z-Day #3)

Today is the official Release Day for this book. Daniel Humphreys is kicking it off by having a $0.99 sale on his first two books in the series at Amazon.com, so don’t miss out!

A Place Outside The Wild (Z-Day #1)

A Place Called Hope (Z-Day #2)

Now on to the review of Book #3!

A Place For War (Z-Day #3)A Place For War by Daniel Humphreys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A spectacular conclusion to a series that puts the Zombie Apocalypse trope on its head.

I had the privileged of being a Beta Reader for this novel, so I did get a free copy. Nevertheless, the 5 stars are all earned.

A Place Outside The Wild & A Place Called Hope were great ZA books about making the best of the worst of situations and scratching to find a way to live.

A Place for War pushes past the survivor aspect straight to the in-your-face, take-back-what’s-ours, kick-those-zombies-in-their-teeth action of a mil-sf novel. Plot points are resolved, secrets are revealed, and the struggle reaches its climax. You won’t be able to put this one down, trust me.

I highly recommend this book, and the entire series to anyone who likes apocalyptic fiction, science fiction or just some good ole zombie fights!

Get a copy from Amazon. It’s in KU if you are subscribed, and you can read it for free on your Kindle (one book per month with Kindle Owner’s Lending Library) if you have Prime.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.


Oh, and if you happen to like intrigue, you can also get my book, eConscience Beta the same way.

But, if Science Fiction Space Adventure is more your speed, then you should check out my anthology, Horizons Unlimited: Volume 1.

Review: Retaliation (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes, #10)

Hey! Look! It’s a blog post from Words from the Wampuscat! It’s been a month since that happened last!

I am so far behind on reviews and posts that it is not funny. That’s because I’ve been doing things. I need to write an update post on that, but first… a book review!

RetaliationRetaliation (The Frontiers Saga: Part 2: Rogue Castes, #10) by Ryk Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great installment to the series with plenty of fast-paced action. The plot lines are coming together nicely, and we are starting to see both a tipping point and an expansion point for the story. The only complaint I have for this book is a similar one I’ve had before… character waffling, which I’ll explain in a bit. Otherwise, I can definitely give this book four stars and call it an Action Packed Read.

Now, on to the details… don’t read further if you don’t like spoilers. Or criticisms, because I’m about to be a bit critical.

Picking up where the last the book left off, we are dropped right in the middle of a sudden scrap on the new found ally world of… uhm… that place where they went and did the thing. Casaba? Casbon? Where they did the deal for the new-new-new fighter ships. You remember? So yeah, they fight there, then we see them fighting back at the Samurai Planet. Then, more fighting to keep from having to fight more, after which they decide they should go fight more to keep from having to fight more later and also right now.

I know, it sounds complicated, right? But remember, Nathan Scott is a super genius who always know the right thing to do, especially when people who are a lot smarter than him tell him he shouldn’t. But he does it anyway, and it works, so there you go. Oh, and he also Captain Kirk’s the dangerous missions too. That’s because he’s both indispensable to the cause because no one would keep fighting if he wasn’t alive to lead it, and also because he cannot be seen as not fighting in the front lines because no one would follow him otherwise, and… yeah, that all ties right into the problem I’ve been having. Waffling logic explained away as a character flaw… in ALL the characters. It’s getting old.

I love the books. I love the action. I love the plot twists. I love the tech and the tech advances (although I still don’t understand why you have to be pointed in a certain direction to use the jump drive when it’s not based on momentum). And I love the characters too, but they are all flawed in the exact same way… Ignore logic and their own previously stated convictions if it’s in the name of saving a single individual or pursing a really cool idea/goal.

Sigh. Oh well, nothing is perfect. I just needed to vent that, I guess. Besides, writing is hard. I choose to give the benefit of the doubt and suspend disbelief for the sake of an enjoyable story, which this series most certainly is.

Happy Reading!

Buy it on Amazon.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.