Welcome to Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press! We are a publishing company dedicated to bringing new quality speculative fiction to your bookshelves and e-readers, from stories set in Eric Flint’s own 1632 Universe, to brand new worlds created by new talent up and coming talent.
Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press is proud to bring you The Muse of Music! This is the second title since our relaunch under are new redesigned logo and brand. It is written by Enrico Toro and David Carrico. Cover illustration and layout by Emily Mottesheard.
The Muse of Music is an expanded version, with new material, of the stories originally published in the Grantville Gazette, the magazine of the 1632 Universe, the Ring of Fire. Continue reading “NEW 1632 Book Release! “The Muse of Music””by
Words from Eric Flint
Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 20 “I would never have seen them,” said Basil. “How did you . . . ?” “You’re a scientist,” answered Tabor. “I’m security. Spotting things like that is part of my job.” They followed Shenoy … Continue reading →
Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 20
“I would never have seen them,” said Basil. “How did you . . . ?”
“You’re a scientist,” answered Tabor. “I’m security. Spotting things like that is part of my job.”
They followed Shenoy through the passage into the jail, where a newer, less-rusted robot behind a desk told them to leave their weapons with it. Tabor turned his over, and then another robot, far smaller, without appendages but rather with half a dozen wheels pointing in all directions, approached them.
“Hello,” it said with an accent Tabor couldn’t quite identify. “I am your guide. Your request is to inspect both the prison cell in question and the security holograms. Is that correct?”
“Yes, it is,” said Shenoy.
“Then if you will follow me, I am at your service, and can answer any questions you may have.”
“That is quite satisfactory,” said Shenoy. “And what shall we call you?”
The robot was silent.
“Are you all right?” asked Shenoy.
“Yes, sir,” said the robot. “I am fully operative.”
“I was wondering, since you didn’t answer my question.”
“I don’t have a name.”
“How awkward,” said Shenoy. “Will it annoy you if I give you one?”
“Certainly not. That response has not been built into me.”
“Fine. Then I shall call you H. P., and you may call me Lord Shenoy.”
“H. P.,” said the robot, and then repeated it. “H. P., I like it, Lord Shenoy.”
“Then proceed, H. P., and we will follow you.”
“This way, gentlemen,” said the robot, wheeling off down a corridor.
Most of the cells were empty, and all of them were bleak and depressing. Finally the robot came to a stop.
“This one?” asked Shenoy.
“Yes, Lord Shenoy.”
Shenoy stared at the robot for a moment. “Lord Shenoy seems a tad formal, now that we’re friends.”
“We are?” said the robot.
Shenoy nodded. “Yes. You may call me Sir Rupert from now on.”
“Thank you, Sir Rupert From Now On,” replied the robot. “I have just unlocked the cell. You are free to inspect it.”
They entered the cell, which had three cots, a sink and toilet in one corner, and not much else.
“And all three were incarcerated in this cell?” asked Shenoy.
“Yes, Sir Rupert From Now On.”
“Just a simple Sir Rupert will do.” Shenoy looked around. “How many cells have you got in this place?”
“Two hundred and thirty-six, Sir Rupert.”
“And how many prisoners?”
“When the incident in this cell occurred?”
Shenoy frowned. “With all these empty cells, why lock all three in just this one?”
“I cannot answer, Sir Rupert.”
“Cannot or will not?”
Shenoy stood there with his hands on his hips, looking slowly around the cell.
“Hard to believe,” he muttered. “Very hard.” He turned to the robot again. “And the cell was never unlocked?”
“No, Sir Rupert.”
Shenoy looked around again, frowning. “Even if something like an alien snake got in, there’s no way it could get back out.”
“Forgive my ignorance,” Tabor said, “but why not?”
Shenoy blinked his eyes very rapidly for a moment, then sighed. “That’s right,” he said at last. “You don’t know what happened here, do you?”
“Well, it’s probably time we all took a look at it.” He turned back to the robot. “H. P., we’re ready to view the security holograms now.”
“I will take you to the conference room, which is set up to display them,” answered the robot, leaving the cell and heading off down another corridor.
They arrived at a room that was somewhat larger than the cell they had just left. The walls were plain and unadorned, there were half a dozen armless chairs made from some alien hardwood, and at one stood a projection unit.
“Please be seated,” said the robot.
“Thank you, H. P.,” said Shenoy, sitting down and trying to ignore the chair’s total lack of comfort. Tabor and Basil followed suit.
“Are you quite sure you want to see this?” asked the robot.
“It may have . . . unfortunate . . . side effects,” said the robot.
“I would expect nothing less,” replied Shenoy. He turned to Basil and Tabor. “You’ll be staying, of course,” he said to his assistant. “But there’s nothing vital for you to watch, Russell. You can wait outside this room if you prefer.”
“What do you think you’re going to see?” asked Tabor, unimpressed.
“Something that no technology known to humankind will explain,” answered Shenoy.
“You sound like you’re about to tell a story to frighten kids at bedtime,” said Tabor.
Shenoy shrugged. “Go. Stay. At least you were warned.” He turned to the robot. “I think we’re ready now, H.P.”
Tabor expected the room to darken, or music to start, something to make him feel like he was watching a holographic projection, but nothing happened. Then the cell door opened and three prisoners were ushered in by a pair of armed guards, who left without saying a word.
The three men began speaking to each other in low tones. The one of them jumped up and cursed.
“Goddammit!” he yelled.
“What is it?”
“Something bit me!”
“Must be a mighty hungry bug to make you yelp like that,” chuckled the third man — and suddenly he wasn’t chuckling any more, but was screaming.
“What’s happening?” whispered Tabor.
“Just watch,” said Shenoy.
Suddenly the first man’s body began jerking, not as if he was having a seizure, but as if some huge carnivore had grabbed him around the midsection and was shaking him vigorously. Blood started spurting our from half a dozen wounds that hadn’t existed seconds earlier, the man screamed just once, and suddenly he no longer had a face with which to scream.
The second prisoner raced to the door and began yelling for the guards, but was soon pulled away by some unseen thing or things, and was literally torn limb from limb, one leg flying against a wall, an arm rolling under a cot.
The third prisoner backed into a corner and crouched down, terrified. That lasted about ten seconds. Then he, too, was torn apart, his screams echoing down the corridor.
“What the hell happened?” whispered Tabor. “Some kind of force field?”
“You’ve never seen a force field do anything like that,” replied Basil.
“Then what was it?”
“Quiet!” said Shenoy sharply.
“Why?” demanded Tabor. “It’s all over.”
“Not yet,” answered Shenoy.
“But they’re all dead,” said Tabor — and even as the words left his mouth, he saw the first body vanishing a huge mouthful at a time, though there was nothing there, nothing he could see, devouring it.
Soon there were the sounds of inhuman growls, and the other two bodies began vanishing in the same way.
They watched the strange, sickening scene for another ten minutes, and then the robot shut down the projector.
“What the hell did we just see?” said Tabor, frowning.
“The deaths of three prisoners.”
“I know that,” replied Tabor irritably. “But what killed them, and what happened to them after they were killed?”
“Clearly they were eaten,” answered Shenoy. He turned to the robot. “May I have a glass of water please, H. P.?”
“You don’t seem surprised by any of this,” continued Tabor.
“Men died,” said Shenoy, accepting the water from the robot. “It happens all the time.”
“Not like this it doesn’t,” said Tabor. “And if it did, we wouldn’t have come all this way to watch what happened.”
“True,” agreed Shenoy. “But you’re missing the most important part, the reason I came all this way.”
“I’m all ears,” replied Tabor sardonically, “Some men were killed and then eaten by some kind of invisible beasts. What’s to miss?”
“Why does one creature eat another?” asked Shenoy.
“To sustain its own life force,” said Tabor. “It’s true everywhere in the galaxy.”
Shenoy smiled. “Is it?”
Tabor nodded his head. “Some die and become food so that others can live.”
“So much for universal truths,” said Shenoy.
“What are you getting at?”
“If I’m right, those men were killed and devoured by the Old Ones,” said Shenoy. A grim smile crossed his face. “And how do you sustain life when you yourself have none?”
Darkship Revenge – Snippet 20 Lost Boys Je Reviens Let it be noted I much prefer traveling in a comfortable flyer than on broomback. So did Eris, who fell asleep as soon as I secured her in a seat which … Continue reading →
Darkship Revenge – Snippet 20
Let it be noted I much prefer traveling in a comfortable flyer than on broomback. So did Eris, who fell asleep as soon as I secured her in a seat which had special adaptations for children. Since this was Lucius’ flyer, it merited a side long glance at him, while I fumbled with the infant-adaptor module, which was sort of a pull-out crib.
He looked amused, and I got the impression he enjoyed puzzling me. After a while, he reached over and set the proper adaptor. “Nat has siblings,” he said, in the tone of voice one uses when trying not to laugh. “And often I’m the only family member who can work with them around, since most of my work is writing things and appearing in hollo casts. I do a lot of my work at parks and zoos.”
He waited till Fuse and I were strapped in, on either side of the pilot seat, then pulled up at least three screens worth of info before programming a route into the flyer. I said, “Difficult route?”
“No. I just don’t like to find myself in the middle of a shooting match. And some of the things used… could bring us down. So I check what is happening on the route. A lot today, apparently.”
“I just flew,” I said. “On the broom.”
“Yes, but Nat says that angels protect you. Or something. Which considering some of the things he survives…”
“It’s safe with Athena,” Fuse said. “She’s always safe. Because she’ll kill anyone who tries to hurt those with her.”
“I don’t normally mean to hurt anyone,” I said. Though it wasn’t precisely true. I’d tried to hurt people with malice aforethought several times before. And sometimes even managed it.
Lucius was programming our course, and spoke without turning around, “It’s not a bad idea, or a bad thing to hurt people when they’re trying to hurt you or those you love. It’s something I had to learn.” His voice had the sort of slow, thoughtful cadences that betrayed he had put deep thought into the words.
“You said Kit was with Simon?” I said.
“Yes, though perhaps I shouldn’t have said it.”
“But Simon is dead. I saw it on –”
Lucius pushed the button to input the route, then turned his chair around. “There have been… issues. There was a revolution in Liberte,” he said.
“I know. I saw the hollos.”
He shook his head. “It’s more complex than the hollos show. Simon… set the revolution off without meaning to, and the only way it could be brought under control was for someone to take charge who was experienced, someone who understood and could control the armies and the loyalty of those who knew how to run the domain. As you must understand that person was…”
“Simon? But he–?”
“Ah, no. What was killed was one of his replacement clones. Acephalus or nearly so. Created as emergency bodies for… for the Good Man.”
“The what?” In Eden it was normal for people to grow bodies, or at least body parts, in order to replace their own in case of injury or accident, as well as to forestall aging. Just not conscious bodies or bodies that moved under their own power. “But it could move!”
“Yeah, the Good Man made them that way. Healthier. It can be exercised and develop muscles of its own.”
“But that’s disgusting. And bioengineering is forbid –”
“And you think that means totalitarian, secretive rulers haven’t done it.” Lucius gave me a look that enjoined me to be my age. “We know they cloned themselves, plus whatever went into creating you. We don’t have much provable knowledge, because we only have one of the doctors who did this, most of the others ran away, went underground or are missing. Simon’s was an Usaian and tried to mitigate what he did, but we do have a clue as to what went on. Anti-bio-engineering laws were and are for the little people.”
I opened my mouth and snapped it shut. I’d seen how much my father cared for rules that hampered or mattered to other people. Lucius smiled. It wasn’t a good smile. Just a mirthless stretch of the lips. “Precisely,” he said. “Anyway, so he had a near anecephalous – without a brain – clone killed, and he … It’s complicated, but we’ll say he had surgery to change his features and he proclaimed himself –”
“The Emperor Julien Beaulieu,” I said. “The rat bastard. I should have recognized the style. Beaulieus as a currency, now. That should have told me it was Simon behind it. Megalomania.”
Lucius smiled, a tight smile. “Precisely.”
“So, we’re going to his palace? Kit is there? With… a hostage?”
Lucius made a face. “It’s not that simple.”
“Nothing ever is.” Honestly, when I die, if I have a grave, and if anyone wants to give me an epitaph beyond Thank all divinities, she’s dead I would like Nothing is ever easy or simple.
“Well, as you’ll probably understand, we can’t go to Liberte Seacity and visit the Emperor Julien. You know that. In fact your husband could not stay there.”
“There is a place,” he said. “And abandoned algae processing platform, in the middle of the sea. It’s far enough from any routes and small enough that we shouldn’t be in danger. Sim– Julien had your husband and the… hostage brought over by submarine. They wait us there.”
“You keep saying the hostage. Who is this hostage?”
“I understand your husband said it’s one of the people who tried to capture him. But that you have to see him to believe it.”
I didn’t know what to even answer. My mind conjured thoughts of tentacle monsters, but I was fairly sure that wasn’t it. For one, if Kit had been captured by a tentacle monster, he’d probably have said so. I mean “I have a hostage and he’s a squid” would be an irresistible line for anyone, particularly my husband. But I also didn’t understand why he wouldn’t have given us a description of any outlandish enough captor. Was this really Kit? Was he being coerced or otherwise under duress?
Luce went back to fiddling with the controls, and scanning a scrolling screen that indicated – as I understood it – the danger spots. He made minor corrections to our course as we went. When he got closer, or at least, I assumed so, he started pressing the link button and saying “Come in Slasher.” It took me a moment to make sense of it, and realize it was Simon’s old broomer nickname, Gutslasher. Frankly, I’d never seen Simon slash any guts, but he had taken a fancy to the name, and I think gave it to himself, which figured.
No one answered. At first I wondered if there was some answer in the screen Luce was staring at, but kept pushing the button and repeating his call, and after a while I said, “No answer?”
He shook his head looking upset.
“Kit?” I called mentally, and got back a sense that he was nearby, but no answer. That had never happened. Unless, of course, he was unconscious. The idea made me want to punch something.
I unbuckled. Fuse and Eris were asleep. I came to stand behind Luce’s chair, where I could look at the other… well, not screen. It was actually a hologram of the terrain behind us and a little to the front, materialized in a cube beneath the dash. The tech had still been too new when I’d left Earth two years ago and it was amazing to see it fully functioning in a normal flyer now.
The hologram, itself, showed nothing but water, except for a structure in the distance.
“The algae processing platform?” I asked.
It was becoming more clear by the minute, as we approached it. These platforms had been cutting edge science a hundred years ago. Built more or less by the same process as the seacities, but more cheaply, they were assemblages of dimatough, ceramite and metal, often with terraces of dimatough underneath to create shallow seas where they didn’t exist, and ideal conditions for the cultivation of food-purpose algae.