Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 38)


Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 7.05.37 PM.pngThen the silence ended. Somewhere in the distance an ocean crashed against rocks; salt carried on the air filled my mouth and birds swooped and dived above me crying like children to each other. The rose was lying on the ground at my feet, its petals already fading.

Touch the rose and you will be there

I was surrounded by miles and miles of gold that glinted in the sun as far as the horizon; corn or something like it, gently swaying in the warm/cold breeze. I should have been afraid but I wasn’t. Instead, for the first time since Lila had been taken from me and the whole crazy parade of people who weren’t people at all, killing and being killed, had thrown my life into chaos, I was calm.

There was no sign of Sinistrus though I sensed him in everything. Suddenly a voice I recognised as his spoke to me. Not a sound. A knowing. Sinistrus was speaking to me without words.

“Welcome, Caleb,” the knowing said for the second time.

“Welcome to where? Where is this?”

“A place of safety – for a while.”

“But where?”

“Another world. Very different from your own.”

“Not so different. The sky is blue.”

“If you say so. The sky is whatever you wish it to be. That is the power you possess. The power of the nanites. Growing stronger within you.”

“No they aren’t inside me, not anymore.”


“Okay. A few. Most of them have been removed.”


“So what about the brain cancer? What about…”

He interrupted me. “Everything you’ve been told, all you have ever believed about yourself, is a lie. Your whole life as you understand it is a fantastic invention to keep you from discovering who you really are until the moment comes when you are needed. You asked for peace, Caleb. I brought you here. To this peaceful world.”


“To allow you to fulfil your destiny.”

“And what is my destiny?”

“To save your species.”

“Save it from what?”

“From itself.”

“I’m lost, Sinistrus.”

He – whatever he was – whispered inside me. “Close your eyes. Close your eyes and dream, Caleb.”

I did as I was told. Gradually the ocean, the sea birds, the voice inside my head all faded and I was a boy again, on a beach with my parents. My father was talking to me, telling me things beyond my understanding. My mother stood behind him, smiling. Tears were running down her face. My father lifted me and started to walk. I buried myself against him, feeling his warmth. Perhaps I slept, but I woke on a bed with both my parents leaning over me. My mother fussed with my hair. “It’s alright, darling,” she said. “Daddy won’t hurt you.”

The images drifted and became smoke. Sinistrus returned. “You asked where you were, remember? I told you another world.”

“Where I would be safe.”

He sighed. “Just one more lie I’m afraid. You can never be safe. They will come after you. They are already coming. I can hear them tearing at the veil.”

“The veil?”

“The invisible wall that separates this world from your own.”

Other worlds. Veils. Clones. It was too much. I said, “But what do they want from me? Why am I so important to them? I would’ve been happy to spend my life with Lila.”

Sinistrus shook his head. ‘Lila was one of them.”

I reacted. “No! No! We were in love. Lila put the nanites in me.”

“Wrong again, Caleb. She didn’t put them in.”

“But her kisses…”

“She was trying to suck them out of you.”

He turned his red eye on me. “Listen,” he said. “There isn’t time to explain. They have broken through. I will tell you only what you must know. Nothing more. Your father was a great scientist and an even greater human being. He was the one who created the nanites using your blood. And they killed him for it.”

“My mother?”

“Your mother too.”

Sinistrus gave me a second to take in the murder of my parents.

“Your father was wise as well as brilliant. He foresaw his own death. But before they got to him, he planted – maybe I should say replanted since they were born of you – the nanites deep inside his son. Inside you.”

I stared at him unable to comprehend the fantastical things he was revealing.

“Nanites are the single most important creation in the history of mankind. Used well they can do anything. Anything. Think for a moment what that could mean. No more hunger. No more poverty or illness. No scarcity of any sort.”

He paused.

“No need for conflict. World peace. Can you imagine? A perfect life made possible.”


He guessed my question. “Not everyone wishes for peace. Hatred is a drug and there are those who are addicted. Dark forces that prefer the world as it is. Those people cannot be allowed to control the nanites. What they would do with them is beyond evil.”

He held up a hand and turned his head. “Can you hear them? Can you hear them, Caleb? The pretence to being human has been abandoned. When you see them again you will see them as they really are. Savage souls without disguise.”

Sinistrus led me towards the distant sound of the sea. “Are you ready?’ he said.

“Ready to do what?”

“Own the power in you. Or destroy it. There is no other choice.”

“How? Tell me what to do.”

“Assume the terrible responsibility given to you by your father. Become who you really are.”

I was close to tears. It was too much. I was going insane. “You talk in riddles, Sinistrus. Just say it. Say it out loud.”

“Be. Be … Caleb.”

The tears came; I couldn’t stop them and I didn’t want to.

“Be who? BE WHO?”

“The Master of the Nanites. The most powerful man in this or any world.”



Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 26)

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I gathered my thoughts and exited with Julia, who communicated with me through her thoughts.  The bio-nanites are melting your synapses. You must not stay in this unnatural state too long. If you do, no scientist in the world can bring you back. The hatch protected the location of some secret place I couldn’t fathom. We journeyed down another corridor. We moved silently and swiftly to a new door with a triple set of bolts. We unlatched the lever, opened the door, and a man in a white coat with thick black glasses awaited us.

He held some piece of equipment with a nozzle pointed at us and a hose hooked up to a large machine bolted to the floor. A couple examination beds were behind him.

Before we could react, he blasted electricity at us. I did everything I could to protect her and with everything I had I cloaked her in a bio-nanite shield. I blacked out and didn’t know if I was dead or alive or in a form of bio-nanite hell.

I didn’t understand until I awoke.

The apartment was fortified for a reason. It protected a secret lab and we had walked into a trap.

When I awoke again I sat in a new facility dressed in a grey shirt and grey sweatpants. It could have been a basement or prison or torture room. The room was enclosed with wet and grungy concrete walls. Liquid pooled on the floor where water dripped from the ceiling It smelled like burned metal. There was a toilet in the corner with a ripped off seat. Not-Exactly-Lila aka Julie was nowhere to be seen.

It wasn’t until the scientist in the white coat entered the room that I understood.

“Caleb Gregory, very nice to meet you. I’m Sergei Valenkov. You’ve had a rough few days.” He had a thick Russian accent.

“Where am I?”

“In safe hands.”

“You shot me.”

“Oh no, I had to keep you alive,” said Sergei. “I saved you.”

“Where is she?”

“The girl? In a coma. She hasn’t woken in three days.”

I attempted to turn into my smoke form but couldn’t summon anything. Sergei turned his head and shot me a confusing look. I squinted and punched my arm in the air but it didn’t change shape and extend to grab his throat. “What did you do to me?”

“I corrected mistakes.”

“You stole it!”

“We are reacquiring it,” said Sergei. “Who do you think invented it? American ethics surely doesn’t allow for such experiments.”

“It’s a weapon.”

“It has the potential to be a lot of things to a lot of people. You understand this, no?”

“You don’t understand, I have cancer.”

“This isn’t our problem.”

“The Senator wants it.”

“Senator Porter Goldsmith,” said Sergei. “Yes. He has committed a considerable amount of influence and resources to get it. But believe me, the body count is much higher on his side.”

“I saw something … I saw space time ripping apart. I saw other beings from other dimensions.”

“You saw it? Or the bio-nanites had you see it? Did the bio-nanites transfer you the knowledge from their first host? It turned Kersei Palikoff’s mind into a vegetable state. She is in a mental hospital in Moscow. It was really sad to see such a brilliant mind evaporate as if she had a lobotomy. Her secret to inventing the bio-nanites rests inside her dilapidated mind.”

“When will you kill me?”

Sergei laughed. “My employers won’t let me kill you despite my advice. They will be using you as bait Mr.Gregory. While the nanotechnology is being shipped to an undisclosed location for transfer, we will use you as a beacon to draw our enemies off our scent. I hope you enjoy traveling.”


1000 Word Book Reviews: Roko’s Basilisk by Michael Blackbourn


Roko’s Basilisk by Michael Blackbourn

The author was up front in saying the story picks up around 2800 words in. For me, he was right. Much of the first couple pages involves the main character’s daily routine except the character was going through pain. Much focus is spent describing the way his body is feeling and giving sensory descriptions. This continues for a few pages and didn’t quite hook me.

Eventually, the focus of the story became more clear on page 5, which I think is way beyond 1000 words. The story is about a VitaVax shot, which is nanotechnology that repairs cells. This is what was causing much of the issues of the first few pages.

To me, the author should have dived into the plot narrative a little faster. Other than that, I didn’t quite know the time or setting or any background to the story.

Does the first 1000 words show it as edited?

Yes, however some of the formatting was off. The thoughts of the character were not italicized as usual in a third person point of view story. There a couple odd uses of words likeShe looked up from her phone and smiled. Smiling from bed.”  Some of the sentences didn’t have a noun and a verb, which can be fine, but was a little weird in the context. “The VitaVax shot” and “Casual pants and a dark button-down shirt” and “Go” and “Stressed about the Presentation.” None of the sentences were dialogue or part of a POV narrative, so to some, I could see how it wouldn’t be typical. Note: I write short truncated sentences, but mostly in my first person POV stories. Additionally, sometimes stream of consciousness stories almost require the story to be filled with this. 

Do I care about the characters after the first 1000 words?

The first 1000 words doesn’t do enough to get me to care. By the time it gets to the VitaVax shot, I am a little more interested in the story. There wasn’t much to identify with Thomas yet early on. Perhaps it picks up later.

Do I like the world building?

I didn’t gather in the first few thousand words what the world was. So I couldn’t assess this. For me, consider this as not observed.

Overall Assessment: Would I continue reading past the 1000 words?

If reading this on Amazon, the first 1000 words wouldn’t get me to continue past. If it would have started with the VitaVix shot paragraph, and given a single flashback/filler paragraph to get me up to speed on the headaches, it would have propelled me enough to the next plot point. 

One thing I would have liked seeing:

For a man with so much pain, I would have liked to see a little more interaction. We get that Thomas is suffering, but that can be told in one paragraph. He can describe his pain in one interaction with Jane while also establishing the world and the shot he got. It doesn’t really have to be a mystery. Just jump into it and go.

Overall Story Beginning Rating: 1/5 Happy Go-Lucky Red Pandas

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Q&A with Michael Blackbourn
How long did the first draft take to write?
About a year. this was my second story after my kids book and the first ‘grown up’ sci fi I’ve written. Everything seems to take longer than I would like. When I used to jump out of planes and blow stuff up for a living everything seemed to go more quickly. Writing takes me a frustrating length of time to get right.
Did you change the ending in the middle of writing?
I added an entire parallel story inter-weaved with the main plot after I finished. It made the entire concept of the short much much stronger and I couldn’t imagine the book without that element now.
Did you submit traditionally?
No. This story is about to hit amazon as soon I as I have part 2 completely edited. They are going up as a pair. Both have strong endings (no cliffhangers) where I leave no room for a sequel, so I’m hoping the fact that there is more will be a draw to people, wondering how it might go on.
Where do you want to go with the series?
I have a second part that is done and I’m just polishing, it’s 3 times longer than this initial piece. And I have a third part outlined. There is a lot of room in this concept for more.
Favorite author who has influenced your writing?
Howey and Heinlein. One when I was in highschool – he was my into to science fiction, and the other more recently for how well he writes the internal monologue of characters.