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30 October 2017 @ 09:29 am
_Nowhere Man_ part 1  
 

Chapter One

The big white suburban careened out of nowhere, across three lanes of traffic. Lily hit the brakes and crowded the shoulder as far as she dared. The fender of the suburban retreated from the inches-from-her-nose side pass, barely ticked her front fender as it crossed in front of her, got itself onto the shoulder and screeched to a halt. Lily made a more controlled stop, a few car lengths behind it.

The rest of the traffic recovered from their various more successful attempts to avoid the SUV and kept going. Smart people. Maybe she ought to have as well. Technically she'd made contact with it, but it had been more sound effect than bump . . . She moved her Nissan further onto the shoulder and stopped about ten feet away from the suburban. Braced her shoulders and got out. The suburban was covered with minor dents and scratches, a few old enough to be showing rust. Lily walked to the driver's window.

There was a man in the front seat – sort of sprawled. Not wearing a seat belt, he must have slid out from behind the wheel. Hairy; long pale blonde hair, unkempt beard halfway down his chest. Somewhere between tanned and 'ethnic' in skin color.

"Are you all right?"

The man wiggled around, getting his butt back in the driver's seat, disentangling his right foot from a blanket. He rolled down the window with an old fashioned hand crank. Cheap fleet vehicle.

"Yeah, t'was, umm, kind of unexpected. T'speed, not to mention actually popping out on a road. Huh. How about you? I was a bit busy, but I think I would have noticed a serious crunchah, y'know?"

His words were sort of accented, a bit fast. He cracked open the door and practically fell out of the big vehicle. "Sorry, no experience at reentries like that."

Was he drunk? Stoned?

He walked a bit unsteadily to her little Nissan, and bent over the front bumper, where they'd barely kissed metal. Well, plastic, in Lily's case.

"That doesn't matter, we barely touched and, well, I messed up the bumper big time yesterday." The other corner of the bumper was pushed back, the metal supports under it all bent, the plastic scrapped, gouged and torn a bit here and there. Lily looked down on it, resignedly. "I, umm, rear ended a neighbor yesterday. They put this new stop sign in my neighborhood, and I haven't gotten used to automatically stopping there." And neither has she, but she's not going to admit that she backed up into me. Hard.

He rubbed his head as if it ached. "Oh yeah, doncha hate that?" He leaned over and rubbed the little roughed up spot their contact had left on the plastic.

Lily stepped back to her car and grabbed her purse. Fished around and pulled out paper, found a blank half of a sheet and filled out her information on the upper part. "Can I get your name and driver's license number?" She moved around to where she could see the license of the SUV, then and stopped.

The license plate quite definitely claimed to be valid until June 2245. Issued by the State of Jefferson. "Ha, ha. What's your real license?"

He got still for a moment, then walked further around the car, trailing fingers over her car's injured bumper and fenders. He glanced at her license plate. "Oh, here in California, of course." He leaned over and stuck his hand way under the car, and pulled on something. She winced as something gave. Although he couldn't hardly make it any worse, could he? Then he straightened and ran his hands over the fender, crumpled behind the replacement headlight.

Lily shifted to where she could see. It didn't seem as pushed back as it had been. . .

With a protesting crump the fender popped outward. The man rubbed his fingers over the remaining folds and dents and they flattened out like putty. He backed away from it and gave it a critical look from a distance. "That's better. Dunno how well t'paint'll hold up." He leaned back down and started rubbing the largest tear in the plastic. “I hate doing plastic. Weird stuff, not rock or metal, isn’t really biological . . .”

Lily shut her mouth and gulped. Looked out at the highway where, between cars, the sideways skid marks were quite clear. They started between lanes. Four tires, moving at about thirty degrees off the centerline of the car at high speed. The black tracks lightened as the driver – or perhaps the man in the passenger seat – grabbed the wheel and turned the car into the skid. He'd been going damned fast when he passed her. She sat down carefully on the now immaculate bumper and looked at her shaking hands. Looked at the man. What skin she could see under all the hair was darker than one would expect with the blonde hair. Not quite African dark, and the nose was rather high bridged, like an Iranian friend of hers. Blue eyes. He wasn't quite right. Lily cleared her throat carefully. "Reentry, you said? Like from outer space?"

He sniffed. "Nah, nothing like that! Just parallel worlds. I'm from Earth, same as you, it's just, my Earth had a little different history."

Lily cleared her throat again. This was either a good idea, or a monumentally bad one. "So, you probably don't have any local currency? Umm, would you take two hundred dollars to fix my neighbor's car? Umm, in a sort of sneaky fashion?"

The hairy man blinked those blue eyes at her, then the corners crinkled into smile lines. "Only if it comes with an offer of a shower, laundry, and dinner."

Chapter Two

"I'm Eldon Denison, by the way."

The hairy man had cleaned up very . . . frighteningly? The curly blonde beard was now trimmed to about an inch long, the wavy blonde hair in a neat pony tail, contrasting with his dark skin. The strong bones of his face showed now, masculine to a high degree, symmetrical enough to not be ugly. But he was still tall, broad, muscular. Probably part Arab, maybe a little African. Or even oriental, the shape of those blue eyes. A stranger she'd let into the house. If her mother ever found out she was going to be dead meat. The Chesterfield's Mercedes was bad enough.

She set the lasagna down in the middle of the table. Served the first hunk to Eldon, the second to herself.

She sat and looked at him hopelessly. "This was such a bad idea. They're bound to have all sorts of alarms. And I expect you're an explorer, not a thief."

"Err, well. Umm, my training is extensive. I'm sure I can deal with security measures." He looked around. "You must be awfully well paid. What do you do?"

"I'm a college student. This is actually my parent's house. They're off on a cruise and didn't want the place empty. So I have to drive fifty klicks to classes every day."

Eldon scratched his beard. "If the traffic I dropped into is any indication, they owe you big time."

"Well, it's only for another three days, then they'll be back" Oh, why don't I just give this huge hulking stranger all the information he needs to rob the house and ravish me, unmolested?

"So, why don't we take a walk around, I can get a feel for the region and maybe you can point out these neighbors with the dented car?"

"Okay. The neighborhood isn't really set up for walking, but we could take the bridle trails that wind through."

"Oh, you have horses?"

"Well, not me, but a lot of the neighbors do."

He grinned. "As it happens, so do I."

Pulling horses out of thin air convinced her all over again.

Her parents' place was half of an acre tucked into an awkwardly shaped flat spot up a canyon. They'd bought the lot after the previous house had burned down in one of the brush fires that regularly swept these dry hills. The prior owners had had horses, and the little two stall shed had survived the fire. Eldon got something from his suburban, carried it to the back, and popped it like a soap bubble. A wagon, lots of leather straps that were probably harnesses, one saddle, four horses.

"Blazer, Muffin, Banana and Star. Let's take Banana and Star." Eldon grabbed the blue roan with the blaze and the speckled brown roan with the white splashes on her belly, and locked them in the stalls.

Banana was a golden chestnut pinto and Star a dark chocolate pinto. They weren't draft horses, but they were big and well muscled. Banana looked flashy in the dark leather and silver conchoed tack. Star got more rope tied to her rope halter for reins, and Eldon vaulted on bareback. Lily patted Banana, hiked up her jeans a bit and hauled herself aboard. It was a long way up, and the stirrups were adjusted for someone Eldon's size.

He slid off and helped shorten them, then vaulted back onto Star. All this and athletic too. Lily hadn't ridden for years, and never regularly enough to be really good at it. But Banana walked quietly along looking around with alert, but not alarmed ears.

"Looks like it burned, here." Eldon urged Star up beside her.

"Yes, it's a real hazard of living in the hills up here. My parents built that house on the foundations of the previous one." She eyed him. "What is your world like? Are you way ahead of us, with your dimensional travel and all?"

"Nah, not home. See, what year is it here?"

"2036."

"Right, see, once worlds split apart, time goes differently for them. It's like their rate of time splits, too, so the more splits, the slower each world goes. Your world is in this . . . We call it a book, and all the almost parallel worlds are pages. And this is a big thick book, and almost all the Worlds are going really slow, in comparison to the worlds that split away before the book. So . . . there's this other Earth, going faster than you. They got into genetic engineering, and then when they saw what the engineered people could do, they just freaked out. Now, there were more splits. Some times the Engineered were just left alone, some times they were forcibly sterilized, sometimes killed, and on one Earth, they discovered dimensional travel, and they exiled all the engineered to some rather dangerous worlds. That Earth, the one that had dimensional travel and one of the worlds they sent the engineered to, have both had about fourteen hundred years pass. But that Earth had so many wars and shit that they aren't really advanced at all. I'm from the Exile world – we call it Comet Fall now. We sorta dropped back to early industrial, worked our way back up, got hit by a comet, started over at about medieval and worked our way back up again. But we've only made it to early industrial. Water wheels, small steam engines, and the weird stuff our engineered genes let us do. We call it magic."

"Like pulling four horses out of thin air?"

"Right. There's a perfectly good scientific explanation, involving lots of dimensions. We ignore the science and just do it. Those few of us who can see the dimensions." He fell silent as both horse perked up their ears. A cavalcade of teenagers riding bareback rounded the curve, and Eldon shifted Star nearly off the trail to let them gallop by.

"There's a little reservoir up at the top of the hill, they ride up to it and swim, even though they aren't supposed to."

"Why not? It's not like they can get it any dirtier than birds pooping in it. Or do you not have ducks and geese here?"

"We do. It just that the sides are steep; it was built to hold water for firefighting, not to be easy to get in and out of. They keep collapsing the sides as they go in and out."

Eldon grinned. "Unless your kids are different than ours, you ought to just make a couple of easy in and out spots for them. Save frustration on both sides."

Lily snorted. "It isn't safe." The trail crossed a street, and once behind the houses again, split. She led them further uphill.

"So, what's a common name around here?"

"Here? Umm, Smith, Jones, Garcia? My best friend in grade school was Cindy Brown. There were eight other Browns at the school, not a single one related to her. Err, am I going to regret asking why?"

"Well, I'll need to get ID if I stick around here very long. Common names make a lot of things easier. How big of a town is this? According to that newspaper I read, it looks like it's what get called everything from SoCal to the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area, Orange County and things like that."

"Oh, no. We're all broken up into little bitty towns. All packed together. This is Altadena. You're going to steal someone's identity?"

"Some one dead, so don't worry about it."

"Huh." She rode across a hill and pointed down. "See my house, with the red tile roof? And out back a steep slope, a hundred feet up to the next street? The big house in the middle of the block, with the driveway bricked in like a big compass? That's the Chesterfields. Their daughter-in-law is sponging off them, and I swear she . . . oh never mind. I don't believe she has whiplash, I think she just wants money."

She watched carefully for the Chestefield's. No one outside. It was one of the biggest houses in the canyon. "See the red car? That's the one. Oh, and there's Sindara walking out the back. I don't believe either the name or the hair color is original."

Eldon snickered. "I see you two are good friends."

"Well, her sister-in-law, Margo, and I are school chums. Were. She's gone and married an actor. Her mother thinks she's insane, especially since she's started taking acting lessons."

"How many people live there?"

"Just the parents, Harold, their son who is Sindara's husband, Sindara and their two kids. Oh, and a maid." She waited until Eldon had taken it all in, then sent Banana on her way with a squeeze.

Back at the house, Eldon dug out buckets and watered, and then fed the four horses. "Why don't you do all the things you'd usually do on a lovely evening, and I'll slide uphill and take a look at the car, while it's sitting outside. I'll take my time, do it now if I can get to it, or wait and fix it tonight after everyone is asleep."

 
 
 
Zan Lynxzlynx on October 30th, 2017 04:06 pm (UTC)
Oh I like Eldon. Thanks for snipping one of his stories again.
matapampamuphoff on October 30th, 2017 04:20 pm (UTC)
He's got about half of _Last Merge_. The half that's done.

Then at least one more story on that world before he gets entangled in the Cyborg War.
ekuah on October 30th, 2017 05:52 pm (UTC)
Monologue warning:
"Nah, not home. See, what year is it here?"
"2036."
"Right, see, once worlds split apart, time goes differently for them.

That's a large chunk of rehashing, again.

Imho that big monologue feels a little bit uncalled for.

Let Lily ask him out.

(Anonymous) on October 30th, 2017 07:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Monologue warning:
If this intended to be an easy entry point into a series of Eldon stories, even for those who've not read the other tales in the universe, I think at least some of the rehashing should remain.

--TheOtherSean
matapampamuphoff on October 30th, 2017 07:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Monologue warning:
I have to put in _some_, to help the new reader. The trick is to figure out where it becomes tiresome, and not really necessary.
matapampamuphoff on October 30th, 2017 07:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Monologue warning:
I just had a crit group who were completely unfamiliar with my stuff read the first two chapters of Shadow Zone/Rescue Mission.

They were totally lost. As in didn't realize there was magic, thought Ajha was the Bad Guy, "Across? Huh?" and so forth.
(Anonymous) on October 30th, 2017 08:56 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: Monologue warning:
Now that's useful feedback.

I love your writing. You have quickly addicted me.

Thank you for Nowhere Man. And apologies if this post appears twice. I have no idea why that's happening. Gremlins are being weird.

I'm Jane from Australia. Cheers.
(Anonymous) on October 30th, 2017 10:30 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: Monologue warning:
Now that's useful feedback.

I love your writing. You have quickly addicted me.

Thank you for Nowhere Man. And apologies if this post appears twice. I have no idea why that's happening. Gremlins are being weird.

I'm Jane from Australia. Cheers.
matapampamuphoff on October 30th, 2017 10:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Monologue warning:
Live Journal got bought by a Russian company last year, and their soft-or-hardware does dups a lot. If it gets too irritating, I'll migrate to another platform. But so far it hasn't been worth the effort.
(Anonymous) on October 30th, 2017 11:12 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: Monologue warning:
Now that's useful feedback.

I love your writing. You have quickly addicted me.

Thank you for Nowhere Man. And apologies if this post appears twice. I have no idea why that's happening. Gremlins are being weird.

I'm Jane from Australia. Cheers.
ekuah on October 30th, 2017 11:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Monologue warning:
I'm completely aware of the necessity of such rehash.
My point is that is a long UNINTERRUPTED data dump.

Honestly, would you start several minute monologue when you were asked what year you are from?

I would be much more readable if that rehash would be a dialog. When Lily prompting the answers.

Caution:
Very crude edit to show what I mean:

"Nah, not home. See, what year is it here?"
"2036."
+"What year do you come from"
+"Well technically 3500(input right year here). But right, see, once worlds split apart, time goes differently for them. It's like their rate of time splits, too, so the more splits, the slower each world goes. Your world is in this . . . We call it a book, and all the almost parallel worlds are pages. And this is a big thick book, and almost all the Worlds are going really slow, in comparison to the worlds that split away before the book."
+"Technically?"
+"Yeah, actually we are counting the year 1400(input right year here) after exile"
+"Wait exile?"
-" . . . there's this other Earth, going faster than you. They got into genetic engineering and discovered dimensional travel. When they saw what the engineered people could do, they just freaked out. So they exiled all the engineered to some rather dangerous worlds. That Earth, the one that had dimensional travel and one of the worlds they sent the engineered to, have both had about fourteen hundred years pass. But that Earth had so many wars and shit that they aren't really advanced at all. I'm from the Exile world – we call it Comet Fall now."
+"So you are ahead of us?"
"We sorta dropped back to early industrial, worked our way back up, got hit by a comet, started over at about medieval and worked our way back up again. But we've only made it to early industrial. Water wheels, small steam engines, and the weird stuff our engineered genes let us do. We call it magic."



cnmckenney on October 31st, 2017 01:23 am (UTC)
Re: Monologue warning:
Maybe what is needed are 2 intro chapters, one for the Wine line and one for the One line. About 2 pages at about the level you would find in a 3rd-4th grade history book. And a reading list in order with couple of entries such as 1st connect with One world here, CF first reconnect with origin Earth here, One reconnects with origin Earth here, along with comparable dates eg. 3250 oE, 1401 OW, 948 CF. This would cut down on the needed info-dumps and give first readers some basis for what's going on. And some incentive for If you REALLY want to know what's going on read these in this order.
matapampamuphoff on October 31st, 2017 04:30 am (UTC)
Re: Monologue warning:
This is what I've been putting in the front of the Directorate books, just updating the last bit for the book in hand.

I may need to do the same for the WotG books.


Genetic engineering lifted psychic powers above the random background of coincidence. Backlash and prejudice against 'Magic' and 'Satanism' resulted in the exile of all genetically engineered people to dangerous worlds; not-quite-parallel earths they weren't expected to survive.

Fourteen centuries of turbulent Earth history later the exiled "magicians" have been forgotten, rediscovered, clashed with . . .

The Empire of the One grew from the accidental stranding of an early cross dimensional exploration party of the genetically engineered, two years before the Exile. They arrived in the middle of a war, where the three great powers, China, the Islamic Union, and Greater Argentina vied for possession of the no-longer-radioactive ruins of Europe and North America. The marooned explorers used their special talents, and a lot of flimflam and fast talk to place themselves on the top of the Islamic Union as the New Prophets of the One True God.

Fourteen hundred years later, their descendants are still the elite of a united world with twelve cross-dimensional colonies.

After several deadly clashes between Dimension Age civilizations, the newly fledged Department of Interdimensional Security and Cooperation is attempting, with fair success, to keep the peace among the growing number of worlds exploring the Multiverse.

So Exploration Teams from the Empire of the One can explore new worlds, support science projects and . . . find things they hadn't expected.


ekuah on October 31st, 2017 08:19 am (UTC)
tl:dr
Well a recap in front of the book is all well and good, but putting in a rehash INTO the story makes also sense.
Lily (the story character) will not read the preamble of your books. (I haven't seen your stories break the forth wall yet)
So my guess is that she would demand a fair bit of explanation from Eldon.
Eldon on the other hand can't know what his interrogator wants to know.
Pam just imagine you would have to summarize the last 1400 years of your homeland's history.

I wouldn't be sure were to start and what to include.
matapampamuphoff on October 31st, 2017 04:19 pm (UTC)
Re: tl:dr
From roughly 600 ce?

"Meh, we all ran around farming and fighting with gradually increasing tech, so the "tribes" turned into nations and the wars got bloodier.

"My local area had a revolt, throwing off the inherited nobility and king nonsense. To this day we still vote for our leader in a stupidly complex system that enables two party dominance and still have stupid wars.

"Right now we've got these religious idiots acting out violently. I expect we'll give up trying to be nice about it pretty soon and just nuke the areas they come from.

"Oh, and Commies. Worse philosophy ever, including the aforementioned religious nutcases. Evey time they try it, they wind up with tyrannical governments that kill million of their own citizens. We've even got them out trying to whip up riots to shut down free speech in my nation. Blithering idiots. Maybe we can nuke them, too."
ekuah on October 31st, 2017 05:18 pm (UTC)
Re: tl:dr
Good comeback, but still not complete.

From my perspective you forgot the big argument you had about the 'forced immigration' of 'NO-WAGE' workers from another continent. (a.k.a. your civil war)

Or the 'relocation' of the natives who were there before you threw out "nobility and king nonsense"

You see, I'm German.
There is basically no way to not get reminded of the genocide my ancestors did two generations ago.

All persons have different background. And this will be exacerbated when the people come from different dimensions and different eras.

Eldon would have to read her thoughts to guess what she wants to know.

My whole point was (again) to turn the fact dumps into dialogs.

P.S.
To see her growing befuddlement would be also a great plus.

Edited at 2017-10-31 05:20 pm (UTC)