One of the things about working in such close proximity with my altered ego, the Ark, is the inevitability that certain traits are bound to rub off. Not all, thank goodness, but some. For instance, I could never be as harsh towards some of the visitors to his blog. Using language like ‘dickhead’ just wouldn’t feel right. Not right at all. Yet, this is him. It is an essential part of his character and one has to respect it I guess, even if I squirm hearing him use such terms. And he’s not shy around the office either. But for all his brashness I have managed to learn things. Not least to be one’s self and never take no for an answer, especially when pursuing something close to one’s heart. But we approach things from different angles. He will invariably bang around the office effin and blinding, grabbing books, client files, bank details and what have you and he will fight tooth and nail until he gets what he wants, leaving many on the other end of the phone with burning ears, I shouldn’t wonder. But it seems to work. And the clients are the important ones in the end. I prefer to approach things more slowly-slowly. Read, digest, mull, stew and then take action. It was during our first encounters with each other that I discovered his leaning toward atheism. I was pretty much non-committal in those days, but he was already tearing into encyclopedias, devouring biblical text, scouring internet sites. It was like I imagine Dan Brown went about researching his Da Vinci code novel. When he was on one of benders as he would say it was best that everyone in the office kept their heads down and especially me. And it was during this period that I began writing. I didn’t tell anyone, and certainly not Ark. But I always had a fascination with Science Fiction and with Ark’s penchant for religion I began to wonder if the two could be successfully blended into a novel. It was during one of the very rare moments when Ark seemed contemplative; he was reading some speculative nonsense about a potential relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and he looked up and said out loud, ‘Imagine if Jesus had kids.’ And this was the spark that sent me on a twelve month journey writing my first novel. Eventually I had completed my first draft, all 121,000 hand-written words. This was reduced to around 100,000 after the first edit and then it went to a person who gave it what I would call a ‘’professional once over’’. She deemed it was a page turner but would never get published because it mixed religion, and noticeably direct reference to Jesus, and science fiction. I was stoic. It was either that or burn the manuscript. But I shelved it and went and wrote other stuff. I knew this woman from a bar of soap but her judgement was like a knife thrust. Be careful what you say to your children…killing dreams is one of the crueler things a parent can do, even if unintentionally. When I mentioned this tale to the Ark he was not happy. Aside from some very choice words for this supposed professional he waded into me, bestowing the title ‘dickhead’ and a few other demeaning titles. Well, he suggested I get the story out, dust it off and see what’s what. On his ‘advice’ here’s an excerpt. This hasn’t seen the light of day so for a while so….
Wormhole for the Devil. Douglas Pearce
Admiral Tonn Kolag was lost in thought once more. Since the destruction of the Rim battlecruisers, fresh orders had arrived. Instead of moving directly to Earth, they were now to stay hidden behind the moon and await the signal to attack which would now come directly from the planet. When these fresh orders had been issued, he questioned them immediately. There must be a mistake. Who in hell’s name had they managed to plant on the planet? And why bother anyway? It did not make sense. He sent an urgent transmission querying the orders. All he received was confirmation and a terse message that he would receive further orders once the attack had begun. They launched a mobile then moved the fleet behind the moon. Instinct told him that something was not right. But it was their party. If they want us to wait then we wait, he thought. Kolag was sitting in his chair on the bridge of the huge command ship quietly drinking a cup of his favourite herbal tea. He was dreaming about making love to his wife. It had been such a long time. If he included the time spent in preparation on Jennifer then this ridiculous campaign had kept him away from home for nearly four years.
‘Admiral Kolag, sir? Are you all right, sir?’ Kolag turned his head lazily in the direction of the voice. His eyes met with those of an eager young officer who had an extremely worried look on his face. Kolag did not recognise him. So many new faces. This one could not have been much older than his youngest grandson. They were fresh out of academies from all over Krotor and drafted into service for this campaign. On second thoughts they probably volunteered, he decided. All the glory and honour. Never mind the death and horrific maiming that might occur. Or even the sometimes permanent psychological damage. Of course not. That only happened to others. Well, as easy as this campaign was supposed to be they would have to send down ground assault troops to the planet surface at some point. And he had never faced an enemy that did not fight back. No matter how technologically unsophisticated they were. This young officer may well become one of those ‘others’. Kolag smiled at him.
‘What’s your name, son?’
‘My name, sir?’ the young Krotor replied, as if it was the most amazing question he had ever been asked.
Yes. Your name. You do have one I presume?’
‘Of course, sir. My name is Dolk.’
‘I mean your first name,’ Kolag insisted.
‘It’s William, sir.’ Dolk answered awkwardly.
‘That’s a human name, isn’t it?’ Kolag asked with interest.
‘So how is it you have a human name, William?’
‘I was named after the Rim philosopher William Carn. My late mother had an ancient copy of one of his books. The book had been in our family for generations. She knew the authorities actively discouraged reading human literature but she would not part with it. You know how sentimental old people are, sir.’
‘You’re right there, son. We are!’ Kolag chuckled.
‘I…I… didn’t mean you, sir.’ Dolk stammered. He flushed.
‘That’s all right, son. You will be an old person yourself one day.’ ‘
Yes, sir. I suppose so, sir.’
‘Did nobody ever question the illegal name you were given?’ He was beginning to enjoy this conversation.
‘They did, sir. Especially when I was young. (Kolag had to smile at this.) My mother always said it was a spelling mistake that some short-sighted official had made on my birth registration form. She told people it was supposed to be Zollun. But no one ever called me that. After a while people seemed to get used to it. Including me. By the time I entered school no one ever bothered with first names. I was just known as plain Dolk.’
‘How old are you Mister Dolk?’ Kolag asked.
‘Twenty seven, next birthday, sir.’
‘Well, if you want to see that birthday you had better learn to relax a bit more. Especially in battle situations. Now, what was it you wanted?’
‘Excuse me, sir?’ Dolk answered a little confused.
‘I got the impression that you had an urgent message for me.’
Dolk came back to his senses and snapped to attention. ‘Sir! We have an emergency. A wide beam signal was intercepted only a few moments ago. It was transmitted from a moving spacecraft, possibly of Rim origin.’
‘I see,’ Kolag said, unmoved by Dolk’s serious manner. ‘Did you manage to get a fix on it?’
‘No, sir. Unfortunately not, sir. The transmission lasted less than two seconds. We believe it originated from a vessel flying under cloak. However, we were fortunate the signal was unguarded.’ Dolk seemed quite pleased and apparently filled with a sense of self-importance.
‘Mmm. Under cloak, you say?’ Kolag sounded mildly interested.
‘And do you think that signal was picked up by anyone else?’
‘I do not believe so, sir, no. We think it was intended for the Rim battlecruisers, sir.’
‘So we have one lone, localized transmission, sent out by one lone vessel, in all probability a Rim vessel as you have surmised. We have not been fired upon and are not even sure that they know we are here. Do you still believe it is an emergency, Mister Dolk?’
‘Er…No, sir. I suppose not, sir.’ Dolk felt more than a little deflated at this apparent dressing down by the Admiral. He was acutely aware that by now all eyes on the bridge were focused on himself and the Admiral. ‘Have a seat, William,’ Kolag indicated that vacant first mate’s chair next to his.
‘Sir?’ Dolk frowned. This type of familiarity was unheard of.
‘Sit down, son, please. Stop worrying.’ Kolag insisted. Dolk moved to sit next to the Admiral but found there was no way he could relax in the presence of such a high ranking officer. Kolag could not care less. ‘Now, let me tell you what a real emergency is. Firstly, on a star cruiser of this size, running out of toilet paper is an emergency.’ There was a short, quickly stifled burst of laughter from someone. ‘Also, someone forgetting to pack my favourite wine is an emergency. And last, but by no means least, a message from my wife telling me her pain-in-the-arse sister is coming to stay for a month when we get back home is an emergency. No. On second thoughts, this is a disaster.’ Dolk almost laughed at this remark himself. ‘So, ease up, Mister Dolk. We may have a long wait ahead of us.’
Kolag handed him a cup of tea that he took with shaking hands. ‘Have some tea, Mister. You look as though you need it.’
Wormhole for the Devil. Copyright©Douglas Pearce