“Imagine, if you will:
In as much as it was unwise for any time-traveler to attempt to explain a television screen to a Grand Inquisitor of Medieval times – unless he had either a big gun handy, or a guaranteed running head-start with a fast horse waiting at the end of it – it would be particularly difficult for Johnathan Scrooby, a time agent, to explain the precise workings of the device he was using at that particular moment to someone from the twenty-second century.
It might be less risky perhaps, but just about equally as difficult. As an agent of the Time Saving Agency, a clandestine and inevitably mysterious and generally unknown super-secret organization charged with policing Time, it was his job to observe historical events in a completely different timeline in – er, real time. That way, at least hopefully, Time would turn out the way the curiously yet somehow accurately named Anals of History said it would.
Scrooby skipped back a thousand years, stopped, fine-tuned the time-stream, and zoomed in.
In the blackest veil worn by the night sky, a diamond shone – a solitary tiny sparkle lost in an ocean of faint tiny sparkles, a tiny orb of light in the immeasurably empty blackness of space: a star… but not just any boring old star. This star was special, and its name was Ramalama.” – from Underground Movement (book 7 in the Quantum Series).
There are six titles of the Quantum Series by Christina Engela available already – each of them recently revised and standing at a word count over 50 thousand words, and with beautiful new covers. All of them feature more-or-less the same characters embarking on one or other adventure, with some overlap or cross-over between different groups of characters.
Most of these stories are set on the planet Deanna, a small backwater Terran colony in the outback part of the mighty Terran Empire. The characters aren’t superheroes or powerful politicians or gung-ho action heroes. They’re all unusual, quirky, regular folks caught up or drawn into something bigger while trying to just live their lives and get on with things – some of them happen to be aliens, gay, time travelers, straight, transgender – or in the case of Fred the Arborian, a 1.8 meter tall plant that walks about carrying his own pot. There’s a medal riveted to it, but as to why, that’s another story.
“Marla de Bris – who despite looking unusually youthful, healthy (and alive) for someone who had nigh on 205 years’ experience in being a secret vampire – brushed a few errant strands of hair out of her face. The night air billowing through the side window of the electric powered jeepo as it tore along the road back to the city had playfully adjusted her hair until she now resembled something like either a haute couture hair model, or a chimpanzee that had been dragged through a bush backwards. She had companions in the vehicle, Fred the Arborian and Peg.
Fred piloted the jeepo on the road back to Atro City quite well for only the second time he’d ever piloted a land vehicle – and Marla found herself admitting a lingering discomfort… on some primal level… about an actual plant sitting in the driver’s seat, and operating the controls with prehensile branches. The fact that he was whistling a tune – and that she couldn’t figure out where from – didn’t make it any easier to process.” – from Underground Movement (book 7 in the Quantum Series).
While the Quantum Series is undeniably sci-fi, there’s more to it than just the tech, the space travel, the warped humor, wit, comedy, irony and sarcasm, and more than the action, adventure and tension – it’s also a story about people and how they relate to each other.
“It was early evening, warm and balmy – perfect for an ice cold drink and a chin-wag about the latest social or work-related events in the small isolated farming community that existed outside the Atro City limits. The mood was relaxed and even jolly, with an occasional round of laughter and back-slapping rippling across the small crowd under the veranda – which consisted of farmers of mixed genders wearing an eclectic mix of green and brown khaki fatigues that varied between full-length to actual short pants – and a variety of cowboy hats in different styles and colors and stages of droopiness. Occasionally one or two of them would seem to tilt to look skyward and then tilt sideways again, as if to ponder the reason for there being only one moon again that night. Bets were taken, again, as to where the smaller moon, Ding had landed this time. Jokes were told about Ding, that included all the usual terms like ‘insurance’, ‘crater’ and ‘red-horned wildebeest’. For some reason, most local jokes included ‘red-horned wildebeest’ somewhere along the line, although nobody really could say why. Also the word ‘fuck’ which many locals tended to use as a kind of punctuation mark.” – from Underground Movement (book 7 in the Quantum Series).
When I started out writing Prodigal Sun (book 5) in 2016, I knew I was embarking on an epic journey – and it’s ever lived up to that initial assessment! It was also something of a first for me – this is the first time I’ve ever told a single longer story across several individual books, for a start – but also in terms of the depth I’ve found myself going into while writing certain characters, whether hero, victim or villain. Some of the events I’ve described in detail in Prodigal Sun and its sequel High Steaks (book 6) – and more so in the upcoming book 7, “Underground Movement – have been truly upsetting to me.
“The smashed gate yawned under the sign that would achieve for itself the same kind of infamy as “Arbeit Makt Frei” – “Welcome to Xanadu Re-education Facility”. The hushed mass of Smythe’s soldiers parted before him as he hesitantly walked up to it, and peered inside. The whole place was rank with the stench of vomit, feces, urine – and the unique scent of death. A woman in Militia uniform – a tough-looking old bird with the ranks of a warrant officer on her sleeves retched against the side of the still-standing tower, and nodded a greeting to him.
“General.” She said tersely, and wiped her forehead and then her mouth on her sleeve. Smythe nodded a wordless, empathic acknowledgement to her in return.
“I don’t care what you said about acceptin’ surrender, Sarge,” the voice of an old soldier said softly in the background, “After this what I seen, I’se killin’ every one o’ them fuckers ev’ry chance I gets!”
At that moment, Smythe didn’t care a hoot about petty facetious morality or conventions of war or about the correctness of saving the monsters that engineered this from the wrath of their victims so they could be put on trial later, whole, intact and unspoiled. He felt sickened – too sickened by Human depravity to say anything to correct that soldier. Right then, he felt the same.
The D.R.A. – a small group of foreign imports – and its even larger corps of local volunteers stood firmly behind the atrocities at Xanadu. He felt sickened by it. He turned abruptly and walked away from the mass-grave, stepping over a fascist corpse – noting internally that the only reason he’d stepped over it and not actually on it wasn’t because of a lingering respect for dead bodies – it was because in his lifetime of experience, bodies were sometimes booby-trapped by the retreating enemy – and he really had no intentions of giving them the satisfaction!
Around him, he heard the shouts of NCO’s calling for the medics and voices indicating where to set up tents and place supplies, and the roar of the trucks as they started rolling in.
When General Smythe first saw the survivors face to face, he stood transfixed by their haggard appearance, his eyes glistened, and while his immediate subordinate officers smoked cigars to celebrate their success and animatedly debated recent events, he went off on his own and wept bitterly.
“Oh Deanna,” He cried. “What have you done?””- from Underground Movement (book 7 in the Quantum Series).
As a human rights activist for many years, I’ve always had a strong sense of justice – and of course, injustice. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that when I tell a story about a gross injustice, there is going to be a rectification and a reckoning.
“Although he was armed, Francis’s heart sank with the realization that there were too many of them for one man to fight, and there was no escape! Panic overcame him. He froze.
The figures began to approach in uncanny silence, walking towards him in a slow steady wave, faces cold and stone-like, showing no discernable emotion. He turned to run, but there was nowhere to run to. Somehow there were more behind him, emerging from other alleys and standing there in silence, cutting off his escape. The crowd stopped a short distance from him, holding off, so that he stood at the center of a small clearing. Francis stumbled on legs like jelly, sensing the mass of people pressing up at his back. Too many of them, too many – ! It was so quiet, he could hear their breathing! No, wait – that was his breathing…
“All you fucking freaks!” He ranted, fists clenched, “You’re freaks, all of you! Freaks! Come on – I’ll show you how a real man can fight!”
This seemed to draw no reaction from the crowd. Then he turned to look at the others behind him. One at the front stood out. He remembered her face, she was a student in the same class as him… anthropology, perhaps? A lifetime ago it seemed. She looked at him coldly, blankly, with the same look of… sorrow? Despair perhaps? Anger, definitely. Though she seemed serenely motionless, there was a hint of something in her eyes. He recognized it for what it was. Cold steel.
“Danielle?” He ventured.
She was beside herself, she was in the others around her, and they were in her – she was a mouthpiece of justice, one quiet voice in an instrument of reckoning and vengeance – the first feint whisper in the leading edge of what promised a roaring, raging tsunami.
She took a step forward into the small circle of empty space that surrounded him, so that from above, the circle evoked the ancient symbol of yin and yang. She looked him in the eye, slowly stepping towards him, and as she did so, she said almost absently:
“No. Not Danielle… I am Greg Roberts, and Toby Flintock, and Sarah Grimm and Timmy Stansfield and Shaun Hicks…”
Michael Francis swallowed nervously. The tsunami surged forward and the mass of bodies constricted around him like a dark iris, shutting out the light. Michael Francis screamed until they smothered the life out of him. At least, in that plane of existence.” – from Underground Movement (book 7 in the Quantum Series).
Since there are more villains, there will be more reckonings 😉
“Underground Movement” will tell the story of the first half of the Deannan Uncivil War, the rise of the Resistance (led by the Vampire Underground) and the rise of the Loyalist Militia consisting of retired military veterans raised in support of the deposed Planetary Governor (Thomas Landry). Broadly speaking, the story relates how the revolutionary coup led by the fascist Deannan Service League and its military wing, the Deannan Republican Army, also recruit a militia of its own and set about trying to retain its grip on the colony. In the meantime, the Loyalists work to delay the rebels as much as they can until the Terran Space Fleet can arrive to restore normality – before the fascists can wipe out everyone they don’t like. Their first goal is to liberate Xanadu concentration camp, and thereafter the city of Fortitude. The rest of the story is told in book 8 “Moon Jockeys”.
It’s not all doom and gloom however, since that really isn’t all there is to life!
“Ahead, a lone pedestrian dressed as a hiker was walking the rough path steadily toward him. The man abruptly stopped in his tracks. The space between them quickly narrowed, and the astonished hiker quickly stepped aside to let D’espise and his unbelievable mode of transportation trot unsteadily past.
“Th-e va-mp-ir-es ar-e co-mi-ng! Th-e va-mp-ir-es ar-e co-mi-ng!”
“What?” The hiker called out to him in passing. “Say again?”
Raul D’espise disjointedly repeated his warning, waving an arm this time as if to emphasize the urgency of his staccato message, but without daring to risk looking back – he might fall off this lurching nightmare, and that could be fatal! The hiker just stared at his back, mouth-agape until the apparition vanished behind the vegetation around the next bend. Silence returned and the hiker, perhaps uncertain of what he’d just seen – or heard – or if his medication had any side effects that could cause hallucinations, turned this way, and then that, and then the other way indecisively, before pausing to launch a careless kick at a clump of grass beside him. It instantly revealed itself to be a growling, snapping clump of crabby-grass that immediately began to attack his boot, making for his ankle. Still too distracted to really care while the thing growled and poked and snapped at his boot, the hiker wondered if the fellers at the Lame Duck had seen that pass by! The rider had come that way. Would they believe him?
‘Hey guys’, he imagined the scenario, ‘You’ll never guess what I just saw!’
‘What?’ The guys would ask, unimpressed as usual.
‘A fella ridin’ on the back of a wildebeest! He jus’ rode past me on the track!’
The hiker shook his head to clear the mental image of his drinking pals laughing at him. The crabby-grass snapped and growled at him again, still attacking his left boot. He kicked at it and it flew a short distance, then retreated, chittering and scampered away into the undergrowth. In the renewed, calming evening silence, the puzzled hiker continued to ponder the strange happening. Then he stroked his short brown-gray salt-and-pepper beard thoughtfully – it was easy to think he’d imagined the whole thing. Perhaps he had? No, he thought again, he hadn’t.
‘The vampires are coming!’ The apparition had told him.
“Well, bugger me!” The hiker muttered, and set off again. “Lucky vampires!”” – from Underground Movement (book 7 in the Quantum Series).
Work on Underground Movement is progressing steadily, and I will be posting more updates. There are plenty of loose ends still to tie up – for instance, Luciferus Krant’s obsession and hatred for his estranged father, Governor Landry and whether or not Prince Justin will ever be see again (aside from re-runs of his assassination on DNN
If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.