Tuesday 28 August 2007

Felix and the Frontier - Part Five

Felix and the Frontier is a story told in six episodes, posted serially by me, your dutiful host, Cheeseburger Brown.

Related reading: Simon of Space, Free Felix, Life & Taxes

Welcome, new readers from SFX 2007! To catch up to us in the current tale, use the chapter links above.

Preview follows:


A robot waits.

Its plastic body is bathed in the golden, reflected light of a fat yellow gas giant filling the view outside the nearby row of windows. The gas giant looks like a disembodied egg yolk in space, girdled by a flotilla of dark moons. With its striped face as a backdrop the robot stands like a statue, mute, motionless, and infinitely patient.

The gatehouse generators spin down. Exhaust pours from the vents. The locks on the outer chamber withdraw with a series of clicks, and then the door yawns open. The smoke clears and Felix steps out, one lone and battered staff member following at his heels. They both leave dirty footprints on the polished floor.

"Oh!" says Felix, stopping short. He blinks at the robot, brow furrowed. "Where's Mr. Tandimoor?"

"He's no longer with us, Mr. Felix," says the robot.

"Oh," says Felix again, this time more quietly. And then, "What happened?"

"You haven't checked in for over two hundred years, Mr. Felix," replies the robot evenly. "He died."

"Oh," says Felix a third time. He frowns. "Who are you?"

"I'm Eckhart," says the robot, extending a plastic hand to shake. "It's an honour to meet you, sir."

Felix looks down at the proffered limb without moving. "Since when do robots shake hands?"

Eckhart's simple face flickers with a brief smile, something else robots don't tend to do in Felix's experience. "A lot of things have changed back home, Mr. Felix," he explains. "Rowboats have come a long way."

"Rowboats?" echoes Felix, brow raised.

"Pronunciations have changed, too," says Eckhart. "Language never stops moving, Mr. Felix. I have a modern Common Verbal Protocol module ready for you, so you don't have to sound so outmoded."

"I prefer to think of my speech as classic rather than outmoded."

Eckhart shrugs. "With all respect, sir, same difference," he says. "The point is that nobody back home can make heads or tails of half of what you put in your reports."


"Times change, Mr. Felix."

Suddenly Felix finds himself clapping his hands over his ears and wincing as a wide-banded signal blasts through him, the floor beneath his feet rumbling in sympathetic reverberation with the violent, multi-layered noise: "Two! Three! Five! Seven! Eleven! Thirteen! Seventeen! Nineteen! Twenty-three! Twenty-nine!"

He glances up to see Eckhart watching him with amused indifference. "Are you alright, sir?" he asks.

"What is that?" Felix cries.

"It's the colonizers," says Eckhart, gesturing to the tall bank of windows overlooking the yolk-like gas giant. "We've got a fleet of them parked here for upgrades, and it annoys them to be moored. When they're upset they bleat their Solar sentience signature message. There doesn't seem to be anything I can do to dissuade them, sir -- the prime call is reflexive, too deeply buried in their instincts."

Felix wanders over to the glass and looks out. This waystation clings to the face of a small, pitted moonlet; in close orbit are a dozen massive colonizers, their cigar-shaped hulls silhouetted against the gas giant, their tentacles tethered to tiny tugboats with winking formation lights. As Felix watches one of the colonizers bucks against its moorings, then bellows across space: "Two! Three! Five! Seven! Eleven! Thirteen!"

"It's awful," says Felix, rubbing his head ruefully...

To read the complete novella get it for Kindle!


Anonymous said...

Dang, here it comes... and the Equivalency rears its ugly head in the face of a greater threat. Chills all around.

I can't wait to find out what happens once Mr. Miss, Lallo, Tennyson, and who knows who else finally show up at McGill University. Something tells me my theories may need tweaking; we shall see.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Sheik,

Here's a hint for you that may prove tantalizing:

There have been two Mr. Mississauga stories so far; in the third, we will be party to a historic meeting between two men the result of which will be the genesis of a new and profoundly important science.

On another note, muse may prove me wrong, but I believe the very next telling to follow this one will be Welcome to Mars! -- another installment that, for the shrewd reader, will connect certain apparently disparate story arcs.

Meanwhile, I'm setting to work on Chapter 6.

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

Dear CBB,

Color me tantalized.

Anonymous said...

+Begin Communication+

Something Wicked this way comes.

+End Communication+

Holy cow! I can't wait.

Teddy said...

Name and her kin are the only thing we know capable of working on a galactic scale. I believe it's her changes to the universe that have created this Something Wicked, which is interesting. We must be only a century away from Simon at this point, although the equivalents seemed then to be at a similar point as now. Tough to say.

Perhaps, though, in Chapter 6 he might actually encounter her?


Tolomea said...

In terms of rowboat technology, equivalent development and politics, the situation here seems quite different from that in the neighbourhood during Simon's story. Given that the infamous message hasn't been sent yet it seems safe to assume that we are still prior to the events in Simon of space.

Thus the two likely options are 1: this revolution is tied to the horror and there is a bunch more detail to the events around the horror that we don't know yet. 2: this series of events started before Simon of Space but will take time to propagate into the neighbourhood.

I don't suppose you'd care to clarify 1: where we are in the timeline relative to Simon of Space and 2: how long would it take to Felix to return to the neighbourhood from his current location.

Mark said...

To quote a mythic TV personality, "Whoa."

"Rowboats" that make errors due to assumptions. A power to challenge the Secret Math?

I'm not comparing the quality of your work to George effin' Lucas, because yours is in a much superior league. However, in this chapter the Zorannites remind me of Jedi (guardians), and the Equivalency reminded me of a combination of clones and Sith. Clones because they once served the Zorannites and humanity, and Sith because they have their own mysterious power related to that of the Zorannites.

I'm sure someone has mentioned it but I somehow missed it, but Felix's use of the Secret Math in this chapter made me think of The Force.

But, that said, you kick George effin' Lucas' arse.

Dan said...

Fan boy schman boy. CBB, you are absolutely brilliant!!!

THE Danimal

Tolomea said...

Some swag comments...

First the stickers, I would definitely like stickers and either I'm blind or they are not available in the store.

Speaking of the store, it needs a link off the front page, maybe down next to the "about the author" link, I didn't even realise there was a store till someone else mentioned it and it's not the easiest to find.

Also I'm not sure how much is involved in adding new items to the store but I think the Simon of Space poster would look fantastic wrapped around a mug.

And finally I know there are probably legal issues involved but is there any chance of getting the Darthside on lulu?

Orick of Toronto said...

wow, holy frigging unexpected directions.......

Simon said...

OK, now the header graphic makes sense. I certainly didn't expect to see Felix head home (or near to) or to be confronted with the Equivalency. That chapter just got more and more ominous as it went along. Something about moronically smiling rowboats that's enough to give a guy the chills.

I can't wait for Mars. And will be sad to see the end of chapter six, much as I'm looking forward to it.

gl. said...

aw, poor felix! but i rather think eckhart tipped his hand unnecessarily: why do the bad guys take the time to explain the whole plan? usually your narratives and background unfold organically and even fractally; this seemed more of a literary device than normal.

Anonymous said...


Eckhart was quite plain because he thought he was appealing to Felix's sense of duty. Of course we don't know what was *really* going on back home; methinks the Executives weren't as powerless as described here.

Jeremiah told Simon that Felix's message was transmitted "less than a hundred years ago", so I guess we're on track there. Like Teddy, I'm surprised that the Equivalents are already at this stage; must've been one heck of a buildup to the Horror.

The involvement of Name (or with other forces of her magnitude) seems to make sense, but that would imply that some of her counterparts were in fact quite malevolent. We shall see.

I'm worried about Felix. If he really hadn't reported for a century after the famous message... does that mean he didn't survive?

John said...

It seemed to me, the plan was explained to Felix because the rowboat was so sure of the plan, that he believed that if Felix knew the plan, he would serve the plan, because he had no other options. The ego of equivalent math made him believe there were no decisions Felix could make to thwart the revolution. Indeed, he thought the more Felix knew of the plan, the more danger Felix would perceive, and thus be forced to go home.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

It may benefit analysis for me to point out that some of the elements raised in this chapter have less to do with the remainder of this story and more to do with the new novel I'm writing.

I will say this: the ascent of the Equivalency is not a smooth grade, but rather a progression of waxing and waning influence metered by the Executive desire to stifle the movement coupled with a goal of an economy of action -- that is, they want to nip it in the bud with the least interference possible.

Thus, it may make sense to think of the Equivalency movement as seen in SOS as the movement's second iteration, a comeback after being struck down.

Like various real world movements, the first iteration is revolutionary while the second attempt takes a more political tone in an attempt to "work within the system" after experiencing a failure to overthrow said system.

However, I hesitate to go into too much detail without spoiling the plot of the new novel.

Suffice it to say that the throwaway reference in this chapter is not the last we'll be hearing about "the good ship Dollar" and the adventures of her gallant crew.

Tantalizing hint: "The Della is the greatest shep to ever ply spece!"

On the subject of Eckhart's apparent candour: I must echo Sheik Yerbouti -- Eckhart was working according to a design whose substance remains 9/10ths below the surface. It was an attempt at manipulation. He described what he described with a specific end in mind.

That being said, I still feel this chapter could've stood to have been fleshed out a little more. It may get another pass before being included in the upcoming COLLECTED STORIES VOLUME II edition.

Cheeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Also: on swag.

The store is badly in need of attention -- I just haven't had the time to devote to it.

My friend Maggie just did a total redesign of her site (both blog and store) and it makes my set-up look like a dog's breakfast. I'd love to find the time to copy her approach.

Currently, however, my priorities are focussed on new writing.

I will, however, try to get some stickers in the store as soon as I can. I know they were popular at the expo.

Cheeeseburger Brown

Cheeseburger Brown said...

A further note:

I'm still missing three mailing addresses for readers who contributed toward the scifi expo.

Lorna, Moksha Gren, Teddy -- please send me your details. If you already have and I've somehow overlooked it, I apologize and am ashamed of my gmail search skills. Please re-send.

Once I've got your postal coordinates I'll be sending out a thank gift.

You know...to say "thank you."

Cheeseburger Brown

Simon said...

"The Della is the greatest shep to ever ply spece!"

Crap, I know who that is... That wonky accent, that adorably cute split infinitive. I want to say Captain Gold, but I don't think so. I'd need to go back to SoS to find out, but I know that Teddy will tell me first.

Regarding the store, I've been meaning to pick up an SoS polo for the longest time. It fits my company's dress code, yet is still delightfully provocative. Once some extra stickers go up, I'll make a point of grabbing a polo shirt as well. I really like being safe and not panicking.

And CBB, how in the hell do you work regularly, post these well-written stories, interact on some level with the meatspace family you helped create, and, incidentally, start up a new novel??

Anonymous said...

So you're writing a novel about the Reull navy?

Either way, a new novel -- woohoo!

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Simon,

That, my friend, is the accent of the one and only Captain Ting.

In relation to your more specific question: And CBB, how in the hell do you work regularly, post these well-written stories, interact on some level with the meatspace family you helped create, and, incidentally, start up a new novel?? the answer is, honestly: I can't.

That is why I have the unfortunate duty of announcing that this blog will, from now on, only be updated weekly.

Otherwise there's simply no conceivable way for me to move forward on the new novel, and without moving forward on the new novel I really can't move forward too much on the bigger picture writing career.

I had considered posting the new novel as I wrote it, a la SOS, but the fact is that too many publishers are put off by stuff that's already "out there" so to speak. The standard response is, "We don't do reprints," (which is only funny when coupled with the other standard line that "posting on the Web is not publishing").

Basically, I'm an insanely busy person and when my wife starts working in a few weeks my life is bound to become even more insane. This is why I must budget my time very carefully if I don't want to implode or burn out.

I won't give up on free stories and the interactivity we enjoy here on this blog, but, realistically, I have to scale back the effort to make room for life's demands and the new novel project.

I need to get something published that will actually make me some money, so I can be free to devote more time to writing. To do this, I have to play the publishing industry's game.

But, again, to be clear: this story stream is not going away.

Cheeseburger Brown

Simon said...

I both feared and prayed that your response was going to be the further reining in of this deliciously free mental soup. Fear, for who wants to have something good and free taken away or pared down to a fraction of what he once had, selfish bastards that we are? But prayed too, because dude, this stuff is too good to keep to a small, devoted following.

It won't be like the Seattle grunge explosion, though, where all the fans got all disgruntled when Nirvana's popularity soared and accused them of selling out. "Yeah, I liked Cobain until he got all popular, now he's just a frikkin' sell-out! Bleach was their peak, man, now their music's too commercial. Sucks!" We're all here rooting for you, chipping in when and as we can, in whatever form that takes, even if it's just a 'good story, CBB!'

Five years from now I'll be all, like, "Mr. Brown? Ah hell, I was there during the Darth Side and the original release of Simon of Space, reading just hours after he wrote each chapter. Never mind all this new-fangled business with waiting months and months between publications. It's damned fine, don't get me wrong there, but I was there when it was raw, and it was good then too. Now... let me tell you a little of what I know about canolli."

Teddy said...

Yeah, CBB beat me to the punch on the Ting thing. The accent is written similarly to the south-african midwife in one of the Trimester reports: is that the inspiration?

Also, Tolomea: The Nightmare Cannon is based on the Equivalent Math, IIRC. The Equivalents caught up with Simon sometime in the later portions of the book and explained this.

This is only our second meeting with them, but these guys always blur the lines between good and evil. The Executives come off as condescending jerks, but the Equivalents come off as bullies with no morals.


Orick of Toronto said...


executives = jedi (from the sith point of view),

equivalence = sith (from the sith point of view)

I am actually glad you are "selling out" CBB. I have been feeling guilty of not being able to contribute due to my own financial situations. And I really hope you can become a full time writer. I will be saving my pennies to buy your new novel.

And if the publishing doesn't work out. Can you please sell the novel as an ebook in your store?

Anonymous said...

Also, please get a different publisher! Surely there has to be a reputable house that moves a lot of SF work. Go kick some literary butt.

Considering the Dollar existed hundreds of years before Ting's time -- remember, Felix hasn't checked in for two centuries -- we have to figure that this is some sort of history lesson, unless the Reull(ians?) have managed to extend their lifespan quite dramatically.

As usual, just enough detail to make you go "what the...?" and wait for the book.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

I think of the move less as "selling out" and more as "selling in."

I think I've mentioned here before that I'm not working toward a dream of doing what I love -- I'm already doing what I love.

The aim here is to make it easier to do what I love, especially financially, so that I won't be forced to give it up.

The principal reason I'm dedicated to continuing to put free stories up here is not for marketing, but because I thrive on it. If I had my 'druthers we'd all be sitting around a campfire while we do it, but barring that this is the closest I can get to giving my muse her exercise and receiving the feedback I need to not feel like I'm casting it all out into a void.

To my mind, storytelling should be interactive.

I'm working hard Chapter 6, and I think you're going to like it. It's a tense chapter, so it makes me sweat to pound it out. It makes me all rangy, and I have to go take a walk about the building to cool off. It excites me to write this way, to serve it hot off my mind and right into your screens.

Meanwhile, I hope very much to be able to wrestle some time this weekend to get gritty on the new novel because it's virtually all I think about right now.

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Brown and members of this community,

I want to share a thought that I just had, though I'm sure many of you have already had it. I don't know why exactly I feel the need to put this out there and I'm sure it'll come out all wrong, but here it is:

Places like this are what make the internet so wonderful. I'm grateful to get to participate in such a stimulating and entertaining community.

Thanks, everyone.


gl. said...

happy to wait. and good god, you SHOULD be published already! if -you- can't get published, there's no justice in the world. :P

MaggiePixel said...

It was wonderful to meet you at the con, and a long awaited thrill to have my trachea crushed.

We look forward to your writings, whether they be novel or blog, as quickly as you can write them.