23. Light in Dark Corners

September 27th, 2016 § Comments Off on 23. Light in Dark Corners § permalink

Chapter twenty-three of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


Security had been tightened at Bransen Labs and the patent for the Circadia X had been secured—one of the benefits of working for Bransen Labs was how much speed in bureaucracy his money could buy. Unfortunately, there was also talk about an emergency session of Congress to pass legislation regarding the use of any such device—a move for which Uncle Sam could not be blamed. If the experiment hadn’t been so fruitful, historical, and globally important, the whispered chatter contended that PISA would have been shut down and the Mars team arrested. After all, had some unfortunate airliner passed through the beam and instantly been whisked to a barren, airless planet, there would have been trouble. Big trouble.

Instead, PISA negotiated a sort of plea bargain that awarded Bransen Labs the patent but demanded that NASA would be given equal (and free) access to the design and related trade secrets, and would serve as an oversight committee to its use. Bransen’s attorneys assured him that accepting the offer was his only real option, so Bransen put on his best smile and announced at a press conference the joint NASA-PISA venture to explore Mars. Contracts were signed, loopholes were closed, and in the end the world suddenly had Circadia X1 and Circadia X2, and two wholly separate teams intent on exploring the red planet. » Read the rest of this entry «

22. Body of Light

September 18th, 2016 § Comments Off on 22. Body of Light § permalink

Chapter twenty-two of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


Hiram McKenzie was nervous. R’dau had told him that Ana-loop was making real contact with several people from Earth, but he’d had no idea the contact was connected to a project so scientific and high profile as PISA. She’d also mentioned that someone had been traveling to the Lands Below, and this had concerned Hiram more. The Lands Below were the domain of the Golgantry, and the Light Beings rarely went there.

He wondered how much of his concerns he should share now. It was his first daily end-of-day team debriefing, when they could all get together and share their day’s work, and so far they were treating it all exactly as he’d anticipated: Like a perfectly controlled science experiment.

What was of immediate concern to Hiram was that, while he was sure Bransen had read Unknown North, he feared the team Bransen had assembled was blissfully unaware of their Radiance. And if one didn’t understand their Radiance, one should not dangle at the end of their silver cord. Even more unnerving to Hiram was that he knew they would go ahead with their mission anyway, even if he spelled everything out in plain English, because people often mistake comprehension for understanding. » Read the rest of this entry «

21. Debriefing Dreams

September 11th, 2016 § Comments Off on 21. Debriefing Dreams § permalink

Chapter twenty-one of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


“Jesus, it was beautiful, Luce,” Mouse said later, during the team’s private debriefing. Of all of them assembled, Henry and Sophie seemed the most enrapt. “I was in, like, a jungle or something. Swear to God, man—huge trees and all these ferns and lots of strange noises. I assume they were animals…”

He shrugged and trailed off; Howard adjusted his glasses and lent in.

“I told you!” Henry declared.

Lorna gave him a stern look—the kids had been invited to the meeting because their dreams and remote journeys seemed eerily similar to what Mouse had experienced, but it was still a scientific business meeting first.

“Are you sure you were on Mars?” Howard asked Mouse quietly, offering Henry a sympathetic wink that told him he’d get his turn soon enough.

Mouse shrugged again, “That’s where you sent me, right?” » Read the rest of this entry «

20. Mouse on Mars

September 5th, 2016 § Comments Off on 20. Mouse on Mars § permalink

Chapter twenty of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


The media didn’t change its feelings about the PISA Mars mission until Bransen labs sent a monkey to Mars and back—alive. Now they could adjust the spin of their stories into an animal-rights arena, where clicks and visits sadly outnumbered the previous spin of children in danger. It didn’t matter that Bransen treated the first Earthling on Mars like a hero—and better than most zoos—because the question of the animal having a choice about the risks involved was still there. But even then, the interest didn’t start to peak until NASA admitted that PISA appeared to have beaten them at their own game. The naysayers no longer had a leg to stand on, and the spin started to right itself to what Bransen thought was the real issue at hand: A creature from Earth had finally visited another planet. If the Moon had been the bronze medal, then this was the silver, and the gold—visiting another planet in another solar system—was finally imaginable, with PISA pulling ahead. » Read the rest of this entry «

19. Circadia X

August 22nd, 2016 § Comments Off on 19. Circadia X § permalink

Chapter nineteen of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


John Fobell, as luck would have it, knew breathing systems, and he was more than willing to pitch in to keep his mind off his missing father—another synchronicity that made Bransen smile.

After his parents’ divorce, John had discovered scuba diving—initially to explore the shipwrecks that dotted the Great Lakes like grapeshot—and with it the concepts of rebreathing and various other forms of artificial air. Almost by accident he had then designed his own modified rebreather, twice as efficient and half the weight of its nearest competitor. Howard had glowed with both pride and astonishment at the accomplishments of his son, who had yet to finish his first year of college.

And so, with Mouse, he built a rat-sized pod that could keep its occupant alive for up to six hours, and Mouse and Carlos had added the necessary components for remote control between Earth and Mars. According to the design model (and a brief test of the machine, which Mouse had inexplicably dubbed Circadia X), they would simply drive the pod into the beam of light emanating from the machine and—assuming they pointed it correctly—end up on Mars. This, Ana-loop had assured them, would be accomplished in “too little time for you to measure.” Nobody really knew how this was possible, or even what the pool of extracted psilocybin was for (though it did appear to glow as the beam of light passed through it), but Ana-loop assured them it would work. Her cryptic reply had been “one way for your body, the other for your Radiance.” » Read the rest of this entry «

18. Mouse’s Machine

August 14th, 2016 § Comments Off on 18. Mouse’s Machine § permalink

Chapter eighteen of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


Mouse was getting restless on planet Earth. He’d been hired to get the team to Mars, and he couldn’t wait to go. His only problem was that the machine he’d been cobbling together (via a running tab at a junkyard thirty-fve miles away) didn’t seem like it would do much in that capacity. At least, not in any traditional sense. He supposed he’d been expecting a super-cool sci-fi rocketship of some kind, but when he stood back beside Luci and looked at his machine, he knew damn well it wouldn’t budge an inch under its own propulsion—if it even had any propulsion.

“It’s not right,” he decided. » Read the rest of this entry «

17. Prisms

August 7th, 2016 § Comments Off on 17. Prisms § permalink

Chapter seventeen of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


John Fobell (who was to have been Johannes Fobell, after Kepler, save that his mother thought it sounded “too Dutch or something”—one of the many points in their marriage Howard had not argued) was worried. His father had gone for a walk in the woods before breakfast, but had not returned. It was not unusual for him to take long walks, even doze off under some shade tree or other, but this morning he had explicitly said he was just taking a quick stroll to the creek and back, because he and John were going to take a lengthy hike after breakfast. And now Howard’s breakfast was cold and John was left playing with the remnants of scrambled egg and home fries on his own plate, worried about his father. » Read the rest of this entry «

16. Cimmerian Light

July 31st, 2016 § Comments Off on 16. Cimmerian Light § permalink

Chapter sixteen of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


Carlos sat in a meditative state, feeling light. Henry and Sophie lay on yoga mats near him, napping. Howard fidgeted across from him, unable to get comfortable. He found that one too many hotdogs had taken their toll and his legs were unable to cross, but he wanted to try out this whole calming thing before he headed to Carlos’s house for a couple of days with his son.

“Do you need a chair?” Carlos finally whispered, grinning. “Just go and get one.” » Read the rest of this entry «

15. The Lights Below

July 24th, 2016 § Comments Off on 15. The Lights Below § permalink

Chapter fifteen of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


There she was, zipping down a state route on the back of Mouse’s hog, without a helmet, her thick black hair pulled out behind her on curtains of wind. It felt good to ride without a helmet, just like Mouse had said it would. Really good. But it was ultimately Nate’s fault, she considered with a private grin—he’s the one who’d taught her that a life without risk wasn’t worth living at all. Then the grin faded as she understood the real kernel of her concern: she had never in her life driven to a “lover’s lane” with anyone, and yet here she was, on the back of Mouse’s motorcycle again, heading to an overlook above Bransen Labs.

Mouse hadn’t called it that, of course—he hadn’t used the words “lover’s lane” and he never insinuated anything beyond an innocent ride to see the lights—but Luci knew better. Actually, Luci began to realize that the ulterior motive may be hers. Luci didn’t know better… she wondered if she hoped better. » Read the rest of this entry «

14. Normal Lives

June 26th, 2016 § Comments Off on 14. Normal Lives § permalink

Chapter fourteen of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


Carlos Resua was a people watcher, a habit that had got him accused of making people uncomfortable more than once. It might be closer to the truth to say that Carlos was a people studier—he didn’t just casually observe those around him, he watched them intently, taking in every nuance of motion and expression and dialog. People said he could read minds, but Carlos always countered that you didn’t need to read minds when everything we felt and meant came through in body language. » Read the rest of this entry «

13. Deep-Space Ops

June 19th, 2016 § Comments Off on 13. Deep-Space Ops § permalink

Chapter thirteen of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


Despite outward appearances, General Rauchbach was quite disturbed by Dr. Fobell’s resignation. Not because he worried the government would be outed—the nice thing about the “crackpot” projects Dr. Fobell had worked on was that no one who blabbed ever fared well under public scrutiny—but because he realized that Howard Fobell had no intention of going to the media with what he knew. Instead, the scientist who believed in intelligent light had gone to the competition, and in this case, that was even worse than going to another country’s government.

Fobell had entered the private sector and was continuing his studies unabated. » Read the rest of this entry «

12. Faith and Consequences

June 12th, 2016 § Comments Off on 12. Faith and Consequences § permalink

Chapter twelve of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


“Thanks again for watching Sophie last night,” Luci said appreciatively. “I know it’s not your job.”

Lorna smiled across the lab at her, through the matrix of tubes and machines that made up their workspace. Lorna Jacobs had been compiling Luci’s notes and ghostwriting her papers for a decade, the job having saved her from an unrewarding career as an editorial assistant at the local rag.

“I don’t mind, you know that,” Lorna replied. “Henry loves her company. Besides, if the namesake of Bransen Labs calls you for dinner, you go.” » Read the rest of this entry «

11. Caduceus and Fear

June 6th, 2016 § Comments Off on 11. Caduceus and Fear § permalink

Chapter eleven of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


“Tell me about these dreams,” Luci whispered, pushing her daughter’s hair back over her ear.

Luci was perched on the edge of Sophie’s bed, a night light the only illumination in the room. Beyond their apartment, the city was always active, but here it was quiet and dark. Sometimes it seemed almost too quiet. Sometimes Luci could hear Sophie breathing in the next room or—as in the case at hand—whimpering quietly.

“They aren’t scary,” Sophie replied dreamily. Her eyelids blinked heavily; she wasn’t sure why her mother had woken her up. » Read the rest of this entry «

10. The Smart Creatures of the Wood

May 29th, 2016 § Comments Off on 10. The Smart Creatures of the Wood § permalink

Chapter ten of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


Henry Jacobs and Sophie von Embers, like all kids their age who spent a lot of their time around adults, felt the need to keep their own secrets. It was nothing conscious. There was no children’s summit at which it was decided that certain things would not be shared with their parents or their parents’ friends, but every night when they were supposed to be in bed, they’d Facetime each other. Neither of them had siblings, but they saw each other often enough that they had developed that brand of kinship over the years, and if the virtual world had done one thing for them, it allowed them to have whispered, conspiratorial meetings in the virtual hallway outside their parents’ bedrooms even as they were tucked into beds miles away from each other.

Only now they whispered about more than jerks at school and mean teachers and new video-game theories. Now they planned what they were going to do later, when they met in the forest. Because every night since the Star Event, they’d had dreams—distinctive dreams that were vivid and entertaining and, they’d discovered, exactly the same as each other’s. They both remembered the same conversations from the dreams, the same locations, the same landmarks, and the same overwhelming sense of dread and awe. » Read the rest of this entry «

9. Ladder Logic

May 23rd, 2016 § Comments Off on 9. Ladder Logic § permalink

Chapter nine of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.


General Rauchbach was quite proud of the message they intended to send back. You couldn’t assume any amount of intelligence, so pictures were certainly the way to go. He wasn’t entirely convinced that whatever received it would be able to use the circle and representative equation to establish that they, the Earthlings, understood pi, nor that they could use the same equation to establish the average height of a human being (or would care), but Dr. Angelo Moore had assured him it was the best way, and it certainly made more sense to General Rauchbach than the near-lunatic ravings of Dr. Fobell.

“That’s the problem with genius,” the general had commiserated with Admiral Thomas when they’d read Howard’s letter of resignation. “They’re one tiny stumble away from insanity.” » Read the rest of this entry «