Excerpts from my novel.


By popular demand–yes, I constitute popular demand all by myself–I present the following excerpts from my novel Leaves In The Sky. Don’t let the title fool you–it’s completely descriptive, but it tells you absolutely nothing about the story witthout context.

Leavesis an epic novel–a euphemistic way of saying it’s long. It is a science fiction/fantasy story, a war story…but most of all it’s a love story. Everything builds upon everything else, right from Prologue 1–the parts I’m posting here are some of the very few exceptions. In that sense they are not representative of the novel as a whole–the story is character-driven, but you will meet no continuing characters here.

WARNING: Leaves In The Skyis a love story, as I said, and it’s very uplifting in the end, but it is also a story about pain and loss. In effect, the reader has to pass through some pretty dark places before finally coming into the light. Though there’s some humor, what I’m posting here is part of the darkness…and I don’t pull punches. Other people have read this stuff, and a couple of them have told me that the section from Chapter 8 is as horrible as anything Stephen King puts out. If you can’t handle horror, you might be best off not reading this thread.

(Of course, I’d like nothing better than to give someone the screaming meamies for the rest of the day–that would mean it worked, even out of context. But it’s only fair to warn you.)

I’m posting two chunks of Leaveshere–a section from Chapter 8, and Chapter 35 in its entirety–and preceeding each with necessary background (which will be minimal–that’s why I chose them for this). I have converted this stuff to the vB format, and separated paragraphs for clarity. I have tried to catch extraneous hyphens resulting from the conversion, but some may remain. The three diamonds <> <> <> indicate perspective or scene shifts.

I’m doing this as four different posts because of advice I received in ATMB, not because I’m trying to pad my post count. If you read this before I get all of them in, I’d appreciate it if you’d withhold comments until I’m done–it won’t take long.

I hope you enjoy it…if “enjoy” is the word. Let me know what you think. (And if, despite rewrites and spell-checkings and proof readings, you find misspelled words, let me know that too.) If there’s any demand for it, maybe I’ll post something cherrier from it at some point.

Chapter 8


On Friday, March 19, 2100 there is a secret meeting held at the White house, at which time it is announced that astronomers based at the United States Lunar Territory have observed what may be alien ships around Pluto–this causes a certain amount of consternation, since it’s an election year. Everyone involved agrees to keep this a secret.

On Friday, June 11, 2100 US space probes around Jupiter get pictures of what are absolutely alien vessels–probe data goes to a number of different places, including universities and a British observatory, so the secret is blown. The President announces that aliens are in the system that night. The Attorney General has warned that aliens wandering in towards Earth is liable to provoke all sorts of criminal activity–a lot of people will see it as the end of the world. He is all too right.

(Note: the people on the scene aren’t aware of it yet, but we as readers are told in Chapter 6–the aliens are from the Cranangulan Empire, and they are here to absorb Earth and its colonies. The Cranks (as they will come to be known to the humans) are hairless and gray, and have three of everything–arms, legs, fingers, toes, eyes, ears, etc.)

**From Part Two
The Waiting

From Chapter 8
“They come”
Tuesday, June 15, 2100 to Wednesday, June 30, 2100**

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Between Sunday, June 20 and Friday, June 25 a gang of six individuals, masked and dressed in black, created their own crime wave. The robbery spree in Eastern Indiana, Western Ohio, and Southern Michigan drew national attention, because the robbers weren’t knocking over liquor stores and taking money-- it was much, much worse. They were invading hospital newborn wards and taking babies at gunpoint-- 21 in all after the last raid in Jackson, Michigan. In the tri- state area, the overblown term The Terror really did apply.

The FBI, Indiana and Michigan State Police, and the Ohio Bureau of Investigation frantically investigated the crimes, with no success-- the criminals and children apparently vanished into the countryside. The FBI Special Agent in charge of the investigation told the press they were looking into the possibility of an illegal adoption ring. Law enforcement was also looking into other, much darker possibilities-- everyone knew it, but even the press wouldn’t say it, as if saying so would make it come true. Such things were nowhere near as common as at one time, but the stories were out there. All the public and the shattered parents could do was wait.

Late on the night of Monday, June 28 several travelers noticed a crew working in a field beside the northbound lanes of Interstate 280 south of Toledo, Ohio. Nobody paid any attention; Thursday was the beginning of Union Week, and they were apparently trying to get things done beforehand. This was the view of the Ohio Highway Patrol officer who passed them early Tuesday morning-- she just glanced at them as she roared by on her way back to the barracks. That was a great pity.

At 7:05 AM EDT Tuesday a dozen Highway Patrol officers converged on the field, followed less than a minute later by four FBI agents and three OBI people. The ranking OHP officer later publicly stated the arrival of the feds and staties was all that prevented the uniformed officers from exterminating the six perpetrators on the spot. The FBI and OBI issued a joint statement protesting they certainly hadn’t intendedto prevent the public- spirited members of OHP from cleansing the gene pool, heavens no, but that was later. For the time being, it was clear the bogus work crew was the kidnapping gang. They’d brought the children with them, and it was worse than anyone had thought.

The Lucas County Medical Examiner’s office would shortly have to autopsy 21 tiny bodies, and there were some interesting things discovered. There were no signs at all of sexual molestation. The children had been well fed and cared for, right up to the time they died. And the time of death for all of them was between 6:30 and 6:45 AM Tuesday morning–no more than 35 minutes before the Highway Patrol officers arrived at the scene. The OHP officer who passed the kidnappers by without checking committed suicide with her service pistol after the time of death was made public, but that took awhile. The pathologists performing the autopsies had a tendency to start crying so hard they couldn’t see to continue.

The gang had been digging post- holes in the darkness. Then, just after 6:30, they put up a large stenciled sign:


Twenty- one wooden crosses were produced from the van. The babies were laid on the crossplanks and crucified, small spikes driven through their little wrists and ankles, socks stuffed in their tiny mouths to muffle the screams. Then the instuments with the pitiful bodies were erected in three neat rows of seven; it was this unspeakable sight which prompted the hysterical phone calls which finally brought the Law. The four men and two women surrendered without incident-- they had fulfilled their mission, so no need to get anyone hurt.

The appalling story hit the horrified public late Tuesday morning. It created an immediate backlash against the aliens, though of course the aliens hadn’t a thing to do with it. Closer to the scene of the crime, the “Toledo Six,” as the press took to calling them, were arraigned and remanded to the Lucas County Prison without bail. The legal firm of Yayy and Verily, seeking publicity, announced they would represent the suspects. Joanna Yayy urged everyone to remember her clients were innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Kimble Verily, meanwhile, talked to the press about the obvious deleterious effects the alien ships at Jupiter were having on the mental health of humanity in general. Legal observers said if ever there was a legitimate insanity defense, this was it. More than one predicted the Toledo Six would avoid the death penalty for this reason, which idea made a lot of people very unhappy.

Maybe the predictions of a not- guilty- reason- of- insanity verdict provided the spark, or maybe they just added fuel. Shortly after 10:00 that evening a crowd began to gather at the Lucas County Prison. They egged each other on for about an hour, then broke down the gate and headed for the cell blocks.

There was a large collection of law enforcement personnel at the Prison-- guards, Lucas County Deputy Sheriffs, OBI and FBI people-- many of whom were there specifically to beef up security on behalf of the Toledo Six. Instead of resisting, or even protesting, all these folks surrendered immediately. The head guard told the leaders of the mob he couldn’t tell them the Toledo Six were housed by themselves in Corridor B-2; another guard dutifully told them she couldn’t give them the cell keys from the cabinet right over there. . . no, not that cabinet, thatcabinet. The ranking FBI Special Agent told the mob they were all under arrest just as soon as he was finished going to the bathroom; then he grabbed a magazine and retired from the fray.

At that point most of the mob withdrew and went home on the advice of an OBI guy. Nine of them, equipped with lengths of pipe and jack handles, went to Corridor B-2; there they opened the cells one by one and beat the Toledo Six to death. The ÒNine Avengers,Ó as the press would dub them, didn’t stuff socks in the Toledo Six’ mouths-- the Toledo Six were free to howl as much as they liked. After it was over the Nine Avengers surrendered peacefully.

They were guilty of a whole slew of state and federal crimes, including six capital offenses each, and under ordinary circumstances would have ridden the gurney by July or August of 2101. But these were by no means ordinary circumstances, and polls suggested the legal destruction of the Nine Avengers might cause civil war in Northwest Ohio, Southeast Michigan, and Northeast Indiana. Before Wednesday was over, the Governor of Ohio would issue a blanket pardon for all of the Nine Avengers; on Friday the Justice Department in Washington would announce the President had done the same. Between these events would be another-- the the firebombing of the law offices of Yayy and Verily early Thursday morning.

But none of these stories were going to receive more than passing notice outside the region. The national press would have something much bigger to concentrate on by then.

Chapter 35 (part 1)


The Cranangulans open hostilities on July 4, 2100 (I picked that date before I ever heard of the movie *Independence Day,*though of course I have to give the movie a nod in the novel now) by attacking the small colony on the US Martian Territory. After that, for reasons I won’t go into here, they declare a truce for one year–ideally the humans will figure out that they’re badly outgunned and surrender. The humans do no such thing–every nation on Earth declares war, having decided that being run by three-armed aliens doesn’t sound like much fun.

The truce expires on July 4, 2101, the militaries of the world go on alert…and the Cranks don’t do anything. This continues until Sunday, August 14, when the aliens bypass the US and Russian lunar colonies and launch an invasion of Earth. Readers know (as does the US government, which fails to mention the fact to anyone else) that the invasions are not meant to be permanent–they are meant to break human morale. The Cranks don’t want to kill humans; they just want political control. (As readers have already discovered by this point, the Cranangulans aren’t such bad people–they are by no means vicious or bloodthirsty; they just have their own agenda.)

A few other points:

=Home Guard & Local Defense Forces: American organizations made up of local people–militias in the traditional sense, designed to deal with the fact that the Cranks can land anywhere with little notice.

=Alpha: 2101 US terminology for maximum military alert.

=For reasons I won’t go into here, there is a communications failure at the beginning of the invasion–the Alpha alert is not transmitted to everyone it should be.

=The US government is currently being run from huge bomb shelters underneath Utah and West Virginia.

=Uuyupsand Uuyuprs: Cranangulan space fighters.

=Cranangulan military grades and positions are translated into US equivalents.

(Note to any non-US posters reading this: as an American I concentrate on the US in this novel, but there are some good parts for other folks too. Part Five, which deals with this invasion, makes it clear that other countries have been hit as well–indeed, the only human air victory over a Crank ship is scored by a Dutch fighter pilot over the North Sea. But none of this is evident in these excerpts.)

**From Part Five
Alpha Alpha Alpha

Chapter 35
Amazing Grace
Toledo, Ohio/Rochester, New York
Sunday, August 14, 2101 to Tuesday, August 16, 2101**

When the Air National Guard squadron based at Toledo Express Airport went to Alpha, it was caught by an Army National Guard company nearby and relayed up the chain-- the Home Guard and Local Defense Forces in Northwest Ohio found out considerably earlier than most of their counterparts. When the aliens landed southeast of Toledo and cut the Turnpike at Interstate 280, the humans were at least somewhat prepared.

The Cranangulans destroyed the portion of the Turnpike they’d occupied, then spread out and split up. Their orders were to destroy the major highways and junctions in the area-- I-80/90, I-75, I-475, and US-23-- and to wreck the bridges over the Maumee River. Two battalions advanced up I-280 towards Toledo itself, breaking up the road and generally making a big hairless nuisance of themselves.

Brigadier General Paine Paulson wasn’t very happy; he wanted air support, but the aliens had already destroyed most of the fighter planes on the planet. Helicopter support was also not available-- the choppers had been grounded for the moment by somebody or other in Utah-- so he was going to have to be satisfied with ground movement. He could be grateful the aliens weren’t attacking with fighters-- the Uuyupsand Uuyuprswere guarding the transports and suppressing the remains of the human air forces.

Colonel Robyn Peters, who led the blocking force which was supposed to halt the drive on the City, had a different worry. The Home Guard and Local Defense Force people under her command were exhibiting definite signs of psychosis.

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South of Rochester the invaders did much the same as their counterparts in Ohio-- they landed on top of the junction of the New York State Thruway and Interstate 390, and spread out from there. There was only a single regiment to do the same job as was allocated two regiments in Ohio, but Regimental Commander was confident he could pull everything off. His plans were for much smaller detached forces to accomplish the tasks-- the ruining of Interstates 90, 390, 490, and 590, the cutting of New York Routes 104 and 531, and the destruction of bridges over the Genesee River and Irondequoit Bay. In dribs and drabs of threes and nines they flew off in their jumper ships to get started.

Most of the projects went well-- the scattered human forces were brushed out of the way or killed, and handy- dandy explosive packs used to ruin the physical plant. But as in Pike Township, there was a navigational error which caused a change of plan. The problem affected the Three assigned to destroy the junction of I-390 and I-490, west of Rochester in the Town of Gates. The threes were flying their own ships, and on this one somebody managed to disengage the autopilot by accident. The trooper designated as pilot did his best to recover, and came fairly close; he brought them down on Lyell Avenue inside the City.

The Lyell Avenue area was the sort of place that police wouldn’t patrol without partners; hookers, drugs, and untraceable weapons were the main economic bases for the place, and the participants in these activities tended not to be especially pacific. The people in that part of town hated cops, but they hated alien monsters more. The three Cranangulans were in serious trouble as soon as their jumper ship appeared in the sky.

Ignorant of the danger they were in, the aliens landed, came out of their ship. . . and were shot to pieces by the pimps, prostitutes, and pushers.

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Colonel Peters was a Regular, and prior to December the closest she’d ever been to Toledo was when she once changed planes in Detroit. She’d heard about the mass child- murder more than a year before-- it was impossible to miss at the time-- but it hadn’t made much impression. It never occurred to her there could be a problem with her staging area and roadblocks.

There was indeed a problem. Directly across the Interstate, easily visible, was where the crucifixions had taken place. The 21 wooden crosses had been put back as memorials, each with a name on a small plaque. Their bases were always covered with bouquets of flowers and other small items, these monuments to humanity’s savagery. It was possible, looking at them, to wonder if the human race might not be better off with keepers. It was possible to wonder what on Earth the purpose was of a life that could generate such monstrosities.

As they waited, as the aliens advanced closer to the human position, the Home Guard and LDF people kept staring at the crosses as if in a trance. Peters found it unnerving as hell, but then she had bigger problems-- the Cranangulans swung their troop carriers to act as fortifications a bit over a kilometer from the humans and deployed. Everyone stood around and stared for a few minutes–the Cranangulans stared at the humans, some of the humans stared at the Cranangulans, and the rest of the humans stared at the crosses. Peters wondered if she should have some of the heavier weapons fired. . . but no, the aliens’ weapons would completely outclass the humans’ small arms at this range, so better to let them get in closer. It sure as hell wasn’t going to be the humanswho closed the gap, though that seemed to be what the Cranks were trying to entice. That would be suicide.

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There was another detached mission around Rochester that went awry-- that three also ended up where they weren’t supposed to be, but it was for a slightly different reason than the unfortunates on Lyell Avenue. The Three’s mission was to destroy the junction of I-390 and NY-104, but the troopers had a better idea for a rainy summer afternoon-- they went to the beach instead.

They’d seen it during the earliest briefing-- on the charts was a featureless blue expanse north of the human city. Three Leader hurriedly did some research; sure enough, it was water. Bigwater. The three troopers all shared a love of bodies of water; they also shared lives that had never taken them off the dry desert world of Zchhpllb, where they toiled as guards for the House of Nrplb. On Zchhpllb water was rationed even among the wealthy and powerful, and severely rationed among those who were neither; it was a criminal offense to use water in such a way it didn’t go back to the recyclers. The largest above- ground body of water on the planet was the triangle- shaped pool in front of the Governor’s Palace, which was three fffklalson each side-- a little over eleven meters-- and not very deep. Lake Ontario was pretty modest as far as a Great Lake went, but on the charts it looked like an ocean to the troopers. They determined they had to see it, consequences be damned.

The plan worked perfectly, and they landed on the stony sand at Hamlin Beach State Park, well to the northwest of where they were supposed to be. The place was deserted; thereÕd been a suspected untreated sewage leak to the west two days before, and the State had ordered beaches closed. The three Cranangulans exited their jumper ship and looked out in wonder. It was the most beautiful sight theyÕd ever seen-- water that reached to the horizon. The three aliens waded into the lake and floated for awhile-- they couldn’t feel the water through their suits, but it was the thought that counted.

Finally, reluctantly, they climbed out. Since they decided to make this trip, there’d been an issue they hadn’t addressed; now Three Leader cast his vote: “I’m not going back.” There was no debate; the other two agreed the Empire, Zchhpllb, and the House of Nrplb could all go to hell. There were Imperial planets which were even more watery than this one, but they’d never been to those worlds-- they were onthis world, and they were staying. Looking around, they spotted a building and headed for it.

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Ida Hope had two notable characteristics. One was an enormous rear end-- “an ass the size of Pluto,” her husband was wont to say about it when she wasn’t around, his point being that Pluto was a small planet but still a planet. Mr Hope had a beer- belly the size of a major asteroid, so he really should have held his tongue.

Mrs Hope’s other outstanding characteristic was the ability to sing like an angel; she’d been the featured lead in her church choir for many years. It wasn’t at all unpleasant to the ears when she began singing “Amazing Grace” in her sweet soprano, and Peters ignored it. But then the song was picked up by dozens, then hundreds, of the waiting Home Guardsmen and LDF troops, and the Colonel didn’t like it. “Quiet!” she shouted. “There’s a war on-- you can’t sing during a war!” But Colonel Peters was wrong-- you couldsing during a war-- and the singers didn’t stop. Ida Hope instinctively realized many of her comrades in song had only ever heard the first verse, so she led them in repeating it over and over.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
was blind, but now I see.

They went through 11 repetitions, which drove Peters nuts. “Can’t you insubordinate idiots do something else?” she bellowed in frustration-- when she didn’t have her waballs in, she wasn’t a very nice person. It turned out they coulddo something else; most of the singers flowed around the personnel carriers they were using as barricades. They reformed in the middle of the road and slowly walked towards the alien positions, tears streaming down their faces as they kept singing. “Are you people crazy?” Peters screamed. “The Cranks’ll kill all of you!” There were hundreds of others present who resisted the siren- song but understood what Peters didn’t. They saw them in their dreams and they saw them while awake-- the crosses, and the children who died on them. This had gone on for over 13 months, and some of them needed peace now.

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Vaugn Stanley was fast asleep when the rumble woke him. The 19- year- old lifeguard assumed it was thunder-- there’d been scattered showers moving through the area since before daybreak-- but supposed he should get up and at least pretend to work for awhile. He stretched, went to the bathroom, and then started putting stuff away; they were always supposed to clean when the beach was closed. He yawned and wished for a little excitement.

The door broke open and three aliens waltzed in. Stanley froze for a moment. Oh fuck oh shit oh shit oh fuckran through his mind, and I didnÕt really need this much excitement. He was carrying a four- foot- long plastic paddle-- as the aliens brought weapons up off their chest straps he raised it defensively, as though it would do any good.

Three Leader had studied one human word for just this situation, and now he carefully used it: “Surr-en-der.” The human dropped his paddle on the floor and raised hands over his head. The aliens dropped their blasters on the floor and raised hands over theirheads. Everyone stood and stared for a few minutes, all having surrendered to each other.

Eventually the Cranangulans had to pick their weapons back up and force the human to accept their surrender at blasterpoint. Stanley reluctantly disarmed the aliens, but only because they made him.

Chapter 35 (part 2)

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“What the hell are they doing?” Company Commander demanded of Second Commander.

“It looks like it could be an attack, sir.”

“We have cover, they’re on foot, and they’re going slow to begin with. What kind of an attack is that?”

“Perhaps it’s a trick,” Third Commander suggested.

“Perhaps.” If so, it was a stupid trick-- the humans could have been killed with no trouble at all any time after they came out from cover. The Captain wanted to figure this out before he did anything irrevocable. “We’ll hold fire for the moment.”

The humans kept coming on, as other humans back behind their vehicles kept yelling. The marchers were chanting as they came:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
was blind, but now I see.

Those in the lead company who knew a little human huddled together to try and figure out the meaning of this. As best they could tell, the humans were hearing something which tasted good, finally knew where they were, and had better vision-- that seemed to be the gist, anyway. Why they would feel compelled to chant this as they marched to their deaths was a mystery. Company Commander peeked around the vehicles with his magnifier on, and noticed the humans seemed to be crying. He was baffled, and it made his head hurt. He was a watch officer for the Imperial Guards, which did not qualify one to psychoanalyze hitherto unknown aliens.

Then came a report that many of the humans were dropping their weapons as they walked. Company Commander had a thought-- could it be these humans wantedto be killed? But if so, why? The questions were unanswerable for the moment, but the conviction came over the Captain that killing these humans would be wrong. Unfortunately, he was going to have to give the order to kill them anyway; he had a duty to his troopers to not endanger them unnecessarily. If the natives kept coming on they’d have to die, and Company Commander didn’t like the idea a bit.

He came to a decision-- he ordered his best speaker of human to tell the marchers to stop over his suit amplifier. “Do not-- will kill. Go away-- not want kill. Please-- not want kill.” This was repeated over and over, but there was no sign the humans understood. Company Commander looked out over the roadway with his range- finder, and chose a green sign about half a *ffklal–*a hint over fifty meters-- from his position. If the leading rank of humans passed that sign, he’d be forced to open fire.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
was blind, but now I see.

At a distance of one *ffklal,**Company Commander reluctantly nodded to Third Commander, who gave the order to stand by-- the troopers prepared for their part in the drama. At two- thirds of a ffklal, Third Commander ordered safeties off. The humans, still chanting and crying, were almost at the sign-- Company Commander ordered a three to fire in front of the marchers, but it made no impression. In despair, he ordered that only the leading rank of humans be shot. A nine of troopers popped up over the vehicles and began firing.

The humans watching back behind their own vehicles saw no flashes and heard no sounds from the alien weapons; the only way of telling from a distance that a blaster had been fired was when the round hit something. The leading humans were mowed down as if with a scythe, blown back with gaping holes in their bodies. In some cases the marchers immediately behind the lead rank were killed as well, the blaster bolts passing completely through their intended targets. “Hold your fire!” Peters ordered grimly; she’d heard the aliens pleading with the marchers to stop.

The marchers were slowed only to the extent they had to step around and over the dead and dying. Company Commander was ready to break into tearless crying, but he had no choice but to order the rest of the humans killed. Eighty- one troopers went to work shooting down over 600 humans. It took almost no time at all to covert them into a pile of corpses.

There was dead silence for a moment after it was over from both the Cranangulan and human positions, and Company Commander prepared to say something to his troopers-- he didn’t know what, but something. Then came a sound from the piles of dead and wounded, a chant:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
was blind, but now I see.

A woman in her late 20s or early 30s picked herself up from where a shot comrade had fallen into her-- she was the only one not killed or mortally wounded. Still singing in a quavering voice, she began to head for the alien positions again, picking her way through the bodies. She was unarmed, and it seemed to occur to her the aliens might not do what she needed; she bent down and retrieved a rifle, then continued forward. She was still crying, still singing.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
was blind, but now I see.

“Hold fire!” Company Commander screamed at his troopers. He hesitated a moment, then took his helmet off and slipped around the vehicles to the no- man’s land between the lines. He began walking towards the human, who was walking towards him. The watching Cranangulans tensed; the watching humans also tensed.

They stopped in front of each other, and the woman finally fell silent. Realizing she wasn’t enough of a threat, she pointed the rifle at the alien. Company Commander didn’t move; he just looked down into her overflowing eyes. She looked back, and perhaps it was simply that she didn’t see a human being-- all humans had become repugnant to her. She lowered the rifle and dropped it on the ground; then she started sobbing harder.

“I don’t know why you wish to die,” Company Commander said softly in a language she’d never understand, “but I will not help you. I have helped enough die today.” Then he put both his right arms around her to make sure his troopers understood she wasn’t a threat, and guided her into his line. Once more under cover, he turned her over to a medic and ordered she be taken to as much a place of safety as was currently possible.

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The Cranangulans around Rochester-- the main body was more or less centered around the toll booths for the Thruway-- pretty much had it their own way. The humans kept attacking from all sides, and they did inflict some casualties, but the aliens inflicted far more. Overall, except for two detached missions which were failing to respond, things had gone very well. Regimental Commander-- he wondered if under the circumstances he was really a theatercommander-- was pleased, so pleased he allowed himself some non- regulation comfort and removed his helmet. In response to inquiries he replied no, no one else was permitted to remove their helmets, just him. As the great 20th Century human philosopher Mel Brooks once said, it’s good to be the king.

But the Cranangulans were about to meet a difficulty they’d never considered. . . .

Around the area were malls and plazas which used ponds as landscape decoration. These ponds had long ago been discovered by large numbers of Canada Geese, who established themselves as year- round residents. The owners and officers of the malls and plazas had been waging a campaign to be allowed to “reduce the flocks,” which was a euphemistic way of saying they wanted to poison the little buggers, but so far Monroe County and the various Town governments had resisted. This year there were more birds than ever.

It was seen by many, or it would never have been believed. In plain sight of hundreds of people the geese all took off, outlying flocks first. They all converged on the big mall in Henrietta, where they were joined by a flight of Mallard Ducks coming off the old Erie Canal. With everyone in place, the birds headed for the Thruway, looking for all the world like B-17 Flying Fortresses escorted by P-51 Mustang fighters on the way to bomb Berlin.

Ethnic Cranangulans tended to regard creatures which had wings, feathers, and beaks with suspicion-- an inborn reaction to the Vlood Occupation, perhaps-- but the word on Earth’s flying things was that they were just animals. When the birds appeared over their positions the aliens inspected them long enough to determine they weren’t flying weapons, then ignored them.

Then, as later reported by human prisoners released when the aliens withdrew, it became hard to ignore the ducks and geese-- the whole lot dived at the invaders and began excreting. Regimental Commander looked up, open- mouthed, and suddenly had a great honkin’ glob of goose shit score a direct hit on the back of his throat. He swallowed reflexively, turned an amazing shade of green, and commenced vomiting into the nearest receptacle at hand. The Colonel had ceased to have a good day; what he threw up in was his helmet.

The other aliens in the area were spared their leader’s fate, since they hadn’t been permitted to remove their helmets, but very few of them were happy about being covered in bird crap. They sullenly watched as the attackers let out some derisive honks and quacks and flew back to their domiciles. Some of the Cranangulans asked permission to shoot the damned things down, but these requests were passed along to Regimental Commander, who couldn’t have given an order right then if his life depended on it. The ducks and geese were allowed to leave unmolested, having staged the only successful air attack on the Cranangulan ground forces of any species that day.

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The subsequent assault on the human positions on I-280 was a success for the Cranangulans, with the humans fleeing in terror when their lines shattered. Colonel Peters, unable to stop the disintegration of her command, was killed trying to make a last- ditch stand with no more than two dozen troops.

Company Commander was also killed in the assault, which took place less than 40 minutes after what the human press would take to calling Òthe Slaughter of the Mourners.Ó He acted with such disregard for his own life during the attack that some of his troopers wondered if he actually wantedthe humans to kill him. . . but of course they’d never know.

As per orders, the Cranangulans released their human prisoners before withdrawing back to space. Included in the release was the woman Company Commander refused to kill; the aliens explained the situation to three other prisoners as best they could, and suggested she needed help of some sort. In the confusion that followed the alien withdrawal, the three ex- POWs became separated from the woman; the next time anyone saw her was after a shot rang out from inside a wrecked car. Since nobody would kill her, she’d done it herself.

It was later determined she had been Linda- Kate Francisco. Her husband had suicided almost a year before. . . and her baby boy had died on one of the crosses in the field by the road.

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The tension between Ground Forces and Naval Forces mixed with the tension between Regulars and Reservists, and Regimental Commander received no sympathy at all. When it was time for the Ground Forces south of Rochester to withdraw, the Colonel tried to get away with leaving his helmet off. The Naval Forces crew wasn’t about to cut a dirt- eating Regular slack-- the regs said everybody wore helmets for takeoffs and landings, and as far as they knew there was no exception for those stupid enough to barf in said helmets. Regimental Commander was forced to put his helmet on, which caused him to throw up some more. . . and this time it all drained down into his suit. War is hell.

The Naval Forces crews on that and other ships got a bit of a comeupance, however. After clearing the atmosphere, the crews all took their helmets off as usual. . . and then frantically jammed them back on, unable to stand the smell of the Ground Forces’ bird- decorated suits. “You look like a bucket of shit!” a crew member told a platoon leader. Oddly enough, the great 20th Century human philosopher Mel Brooks once said the same thing.

<> <> <>

On Tuesday, August 16, two days after the battle, the County Legislature passed an emergency measure prohibiting the “killing, injuring, removing, frightening, or harassing” of ducks and geese within Monroe County. The owners and officers of the malls and plazas protested vigorously, and discovered the ducks and geese ranked considerably higher in public opinion than they did. Indeed, the owners and officers realized they were in danger of falling below the Cranangulansin popularity-- they were already well below pimps, prostitutes, and pushers from Lyell Avenue, though that might have been true before the battle. They reversed themselves and publicly supported the new law, thinking they would just have to bide their time until after the war. . . or until Monroe County was three feet deep in bird shit.

An educational note for newbies

It is considered bad form at the SDMB to bump your own threads without something worthwhile to say. So unless it’s a matter of great importance–information that somebody needs, something about disaster relief, a piece of fine literature–don’t do it.


I e-mailed this link to myself to read later when I had more time at the computer. I just read it today. I hope you will publish this. I haven’t ever read anything with quite this slant to it, and it would be a page turner I wouldn’t be able to put down until I finished it. I will purchase a copy, and I’m sure many others will too. Let us know!

----:)/ x o x o x

Hi, Spidey. :slight_smile:

Thank you for your kind words. As I said in the intro, this is and is not representative of the whole thing. And I do hope to publish it, but that will still be awhile–I’m just now ready to print the final corrected manuscript.

As I read this, I had the following thought:

“If I were to throw Red Storm Rising, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and The Stand into a blender… well, I’d probably have a broken blender. However, if I were to chuck those books into a wood chipper and then tediously paste the tiny bits of paper back into a single book, then maybe I’d come up with something like this.”

Seriously though, pretty cool stuff. Let me know if you ever get it into print–I’d buy a copy.

You got me, mrblue. King is a definite influence on my horror. Red Storm Risingis my favorite Clancy novel. I like the Hitchhikerbooks, too–there may be an influence there.

Other influences in the overall story would be Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and a little H. Allen Smith. It can be an odd mix–much as Chapter 35 is kind of an odd mix–but I think it works.

MysterEcks, do you live in Toledo or Rochester or something? 'Cause I have to wonder why aliens would go for minor population centers otherwise. :smiley:

As a Toledo resident, I can tell you that where I-280 exits Toledo, it immediately enters Rochester, which is in Wood County and not Lucas County. Thus, if the travelers were in the field off I-280 south of Toledo, they were in Wood County and it would be the Wood County Coroner’s Office who would take care of the autopsies.

I can’t say for sure that the Toledo Six would be remanded to the Wood County Jail rather than the Lucas County Jail, mainly because they presumably had kidnapping charges outstanding in at least a dozen counties. I assume the murder charges against them would fall in Wood County, though, the actual site of the murders.

And US-24, US-20, State Routes 2 and 25, all of which are major arteries especially for truckers avoiding the heavy traffic (and, on the Turnpike, tolls) of the Interstates.

Other than geographical nitpicks (which are important, dammit!) I do have a few things to say:

I do see the influence of Clancy, Adams, and possibly middle Heinlein (The Puppet Masters comes to mind). However, I have one major complaint, and that’s lack of characterization. You’ve introduced three or four characters in Chapter 35–and because of the way they’re introduced I have to assume they weren’t introduced earlier–yet not developed them significantly, or in a way that makes us care about them. (This is, quite frankly, also a complaint I had with Red Storm Rising, which had too many characters and not enough development of them.)

The entirety of Ch. 35 also has a pulpy feeling to it which makes me feel like–well, like it’s middle-50’s Heinlein.

For 2100, things don’t seem very futuristic. That Toledo and Detroit haven’t merged into one larger metropolis by that point is easier to stomach than having air battles with aliens. I mean–humans have a colony on Mars, but they don’t have fighters that are usable in space?

The mix of comedy and drama in 35 is incredibly stark, as well. It’s hard to go from a scene that’s supposed to make you cry directly to a scene that’s supposed to make you laugh (the first two scenes in part two of 35) without believing that the author is playing with your mind.

Finally, at some point, one of the Cranangulans must say to a human leader-type: “All Your Base Are Belong To Us.”

<ducks and runs>

Other than that, you have some good material here. Good luck with it, and remember these are only my opinions. I’d be happy to critique further, or happy to have you critique my stories (one of which will soon be out in the Best of Jackhammer E-Zine (Yay!!)).


LazarusLong42 said:

They are places I’ve spent time in and am failiar enough with to picture where I’m writing about. In the case of Toledo this is mainly from passing through on my way to Michigan–I actually lived in Toledo from ages 6-10, but that was over 25 years ago.

As for why…the Cranks have their own way of doing things–this invasion is meant to break morale rather that do anything strategic. They don’t really want to kill any large number of humans, and they would prefer to avoid larger area where they would be more likely to run into stronger concentrations of firepower.

You’re right, in terms of state jurisdiction–if the Toledo Six stood trial under the laws of Ohio, the trials would be held in Bowling Green. (Or not–I suspect they’d have to move venue as far away from the crimes as possible to receive anything approaching fair trials.) But this is also a federal case–it’s multi-state, kidnapping is a federal offense, and the resulting murders would also be federal–and federal jurisdiction would trump state jurisdiction. Toledo is closer to the scene than Bowling Green, and Lucas County is three or four times the size of Wood County (I’m assuming the ratios will more or less hold in the next 100 years)–so it’s my feeling the feds would concentrate everything in Toledo.

The Cranks have limited troops, and limited time in which to work. Also, the Crank troops are reservists–they aren’t going to have the training and abilities if regular troops. (This is one of the problems with presenting something from the middle of the story–you don’t get a feel for the background.) This being the case, they are going to have limited tasks to perform, and thus concentrate on the largest of the roads.

I hadn’t considered any Heinlein influence in this chapter. Doesn’t mean there isn’t any; just means I never noticed it.

Actually…you’re not really supposed to care about them. You see…or no, you don’t see, because I didn’t explain it. Part Five chronicals the invasion of Earth–there are actually 27 separate alien ground attacks. We are following one battle in particular, which involves the heroine (I dislike the term “protagonist”) of the story. Chapter 35 separates two important chapters, and is there primarily to slow things down. It’s really a throw-away–it has no continuing characters, and other than one sentence towards the end of the story the events will never be mentioned again. In effect, it’s a breather from following people we docare about.

The truth is, I downplay much of the future aspect. Leavesis written as three connected story arcs–the War Arc (of which these excerpts are an example), the Girl Arc, and the Tree Arc. The War Arc is the big-picture stuff, and the one which required that the story be set in the future…but despite that it’s really the least important of the three, though it’s the easiest to explain and show examples of.

Here we run into the problem of showing you stuff from the middle of the story again. The United States and the Russian Federation both have substantial Lunar colonies, and the US has a small colony on Mars. Both have military forces on the Moon and, yes, space fighters–the implication is that there has been something of a space arms race. But these space fighters are expensive suckers–it’s mentioned at one point that the US space fighters, the SF-6s, cost over $900 million each–and most general military applications are going to be on Earth rather than in space, so even the two space powers will have most of their money in atmosphereic fighters.

As for their not being any reference to the ongoing fighting in space, it’s over–the US and Russian space fighter forces were wiped out before the Cranangulan troop transports ever came near Earth. I’d draw the analogy that the humans are using the equivalent of Sopwith Camel biplanes (or maybe even Snoopy’s doghouse) against the aliens’ F-15s–unless the Cranks screw up (which they do manage occasionally), the humans are mostly just target practice.

As for Detroit and Toledo, another part you haven’t seen makes it clear that birth control has been refined to the point that almost all pregnancies are planned; very few couples have more than one child, and many have none. The days of high population growth are over. Also, existing cities have grown downward rather than sideways.

The author IS playing with your mind–I like to keep readers off balance. This is by no means the only place I use stark contrasts like this–at one point I cut from a tender love scene directly into a war scene in a segue that’s supposed to make your head spin.

I believe Leavesis a wonderful story…but it is not a comfortablestory.

If it’s any comfort, at one point I have a Cranangulan say “Instantaneous hemorrhoidal relief!” to the Governor of the US Martian Territory. (Maybe you have to be there.)

Thank you, Lazarus, and no problem at all. I appreciate the opportunity to defend my assumptions and background.

Cool. I assume you’ll let us know when it comes out.

Author! Author! Well written. It had my interest
immediately. Please let me know when I can pick
up a copy of the whole book.

Runadoc said:

When you can bench press at least 50 pounds–it’s a big sucker. <<<drumroll>>>

Thanks for your kind words. I will certainly announce it if and when Leavesis published–it’ll be hard to get me to shut up about it. (It’s hard to get me to shut up about it now.) But I don’t even have the final copy printed out yet–I’ve been obsessively making corrections–let alone submitted to publishers, so it’s going to be awhile.

but I’m thinking: if I can fill in the blanks, slap on a conclusion and rush the whole thing to a publisher, hey! that could be easy money.:smiley:

Well, having not read any of either Mr. Clancy or Mr. Heinlein’s works, I couldn’t see the similarities, and association with Mr. King’s style and literary construction is, IMHO, debatable. I did, however, find at times a resemblance with James Ellroy’s (an author I very much like) direct, first-person, style. All in all, a more than worthwile effort.

A couple of typos I’ve noticed:

“Between these events would be another-- the the firebombing of the law offices of Yayy and Verily early Thursday morning”

“Maybe the predictions of a not- guilty- reason- of- insanity verdict provided the spark, or maybe they just added fuel.”

(and a few fused words that could have resulted from your transfer)
Also, isn’t there a risk of confusing the reader by using two very similar words (Uuyups and Uuyuprs) for the alien fighters?
And you probably double-checked details like the actual days of the week (e.g. if March 19, 2100 falls on a Friday, so will June 11, etc.)

Hope you bring this to fruition soon.

I haven’t actually read the whole thing yet because I don’t have time right now, so praises are only forthcoming and not present. However, I did notice one thing:

White House should be capitalized.

My own preference would be to put a comma after the year, because it’s a prepositional phrase. Otherwise, in the second sentence, it looks like you have a lot of US space probes. Know what I mean?

Good luck finding a publisher!

omni-not said:

Let me whisper in your ear…Title 17, United States Code, Section 504 (17 USC ¤504 (2000) (remedies for copyright infringement)).

Interesting…as far as I can recall, I’ve never read anything by James Ellroy.

Typos…the “not- guilty- reason- of- insanity” is correct–I was originally going to use the typical abbreviation “NGRI,” but I decided only lawyers would know what it was. But “the the”…sure enough, after all the rewrites and proof reads (a whole bunch), that’s still in the manuscript. Thanks for catching it.

In a way, though it’s not especially important–the second is a heavy fighter (an F-15 as opposed to an F-16, if you will), and never gets into the space combat scenes. The words are similar because they would sound similar.

One of the problems that anyone trying to come up with alien terminology has is that the words are going to be artificial even within the context of the story–a Uuyupisn’t going to be called that by the Cranangulans, since the Cranangulans have a language that has nothing to do with anything on Earth. My convention–which I do explain a few times in the story–is that these words are phonetic renderings into the closest approximate English letters. Sometimes these are pretty tortured–alien speech-sounds aren’t going to follow human usage.

Since these words are based on sounds rather than written language, it’s sort of as if we had two American fighters, one the F-15 and one the F-50–spoken, they would sound very similar.

Oh yeah, I checked and double-checked, and triple-checked that. I used a computer program, and I checked that with a perpetual calendar. I even provide calendars of the three years of the main storyline–2100, 2101, 2102–in the manuscript. And I start the main story in March, which enabled me to avoid having somebody think I screwed up by forgetting 2100 is a leap year…which it isn’t.


“White house” was just me being sloppy when I wrote out the Intro–it’s not in the manuscript like that. (Or at least I don’t think it is–see the “the the” that omni-not caught.)

As for the comma…that’s actually how I write. It has to do with a girl I liked in college who traumatized me out of using too many commas…and perhaps into using too few. In prose I’ve seen both usages, as opposed to legal writing where the convention is to punctuate hell out of everything. If an editor insists on adding commas I won’t have a stroke over it.

Thanks for your input and help, guys–I really appreciate it.