This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Clayton Barnett will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
Do you have a favorite scene? If so, what was it?
The Fourth Law: B-Company. 2nd Battalion. Corporal Sean O’Rourke, her boyfriend, was confirmed as missing in action, presumed dead. The incinerated crater in the midst of Texarkana was his cenotaph. Lily did a few minor searches here and there when the power was on. She tried not to be entertained when a Texan patriot stabbed the last American President to death as he gave the Medal of Freedom to a serial rapist in the rump state of Pennsylvania.
Love was gone. Life was gone.
No point. No life.
Her Charge Nurse told her she was very close to failing her apprenticeship. Lily had laughed in her face.
When the power was back on, she wanted to divert herself on a game site. Find something engaging, she thought. After that, keep playing, and stop eating. Then the pain will stop. Ah, kinetic novels. Maybe get lost in one of those… like how noble Romans opened their veins in a hot bath when there was no more point…?
This one had an interesting review: ‘I don’t think the writer really knows what it means to be alive.’ Lily almost choked at that. How can you be so STUPID! Life is nothing more than death! Piqued, she clicked on the reviewer. ‘Ai.’ Lily spat onto the floor of her room.
“Love?! To Hell with you and love!” She clicked the icon to write a reply.
To her amazement, someone’s CG avatar exploded onto her screen. Lily reached down for the power button before a virus took hold…
“Hi there! Thanks for reading my review! My name’s Ai! Can we please be friends!?”
Echoes of Family Lost: “Here we are! One of our portable machine shops, so we’ve a diesel generator to use as we need.” Carell waved to a man in overalls walking out. “Hey, Brinkman! I need some juice!”
Brinkman came up and shook Carell’s hand.
“Morning, barely, John,” he said. An older man, with all-white hair. They took someone like that through the badlands? Then again: Orloff.
“This isn’t another of your wild ideas that comes to nothing, is it? There’s not that much fuel left.” Brinkman said.
“Not at all! And all my ideas come to something!” They both laughed at some private joke. Carell gestured at the box held by Fausta. “Just need to help these folks out with whatever’s in there.”
Brinkman now took a good look at the three of them. Lily tried to suppress a twitch as he did.
“And just what is in there?” he asked. No one moved; no one spoke.
“Well, hell!” Carell said. “And we were all doing so well this morning! Brinkman, go fire up the generator, please!” The older man moved off, muttering.
He could have detained us or shot us by now. He knows we know something, but he’s giving us all the rope he can…. Lily closed her eyes, please, God… please, Ai… help me!
She opened her eyes, took the box from Fausta, and set it on the ground. She took Fausta’s left hand.
“Will you promise me you won’t tell anyone about this?” Lily asked Carell
“So very interesting!” His smile grew. “No, I won’t.”
“What?!” Lily was staggered.
“I don’t keep secrets from my wife; too dangerous. But I do promise to not tell anyone, except her,” he said. “But, she won’t be bound by my promise to you!”
Lily thought for just a second. “Fine. Fausta? Please take off your glasses.”
She easily pushed them up onto her head. Her array flashed in the noontime sun. Lily was secretly pleased that something finally shut Carell up. He took two steps toward them but stopped as he heard the generator start. He pointed at Orloff.
“Cybernetic?” he asked.
“No,” Fausta replied. “This is an android.”
“’This is…’” he mouthed. “So, you are not?”
Lily was shocked he caught that. He was clever.
“You’re an AI.” A statement, not a question. Lily squeezed her hand when she growled at him.
“We do not like that term.” She saw Brinkman just coming back and lowered her sunglasses. “We are machine civilization.”
Brinkman ambled over to find them just standing there. Slowly, the smile came back to Carell’s face. This time, it even reached his eyes.
“’Machine Civilization,’” he said, tasting the words. “Wonderful!”
Cursed Hearts: “I… I’m looking for my Brother.” Maya spoke without turning.
“In San Diego?” Clive Barrett asked.
“Yes. Your child?”
Now she stared at him. She was not used to being surprised by prey. She recalled what she’d learned at Neuroi about the Breakup of the US.
“The US is a battleground; millions are dead, millions more dying. How…?”
“What would you do to find your brother, Miss Maya? Yes, your look is my answer.” He turned back to the city.
No one moved for some time. The ship was slowly eased next to the dock. The mist was strengthening into a light rain. Maya allowed her left hand to come up, her index finger just touching the man’s exposed forearm. There was the faintest spark.
“Hmm?” Barrett looked at her. She wiped the rain from her face.
“I wish… I had had a father like you.”
Friend & Ally: She watched as the men at the hanger at the Columbia Gorge Airport – just across the river – jumped as she started the motors of the two drones. She ‘saw’ the black patch of encryption in Hess Park where Blaine kept his hole card: three M199A3 105mm Howitzers, with men and ammunition. She climbed the Wall but did nothing. Yes: she would leave that in his hands… as long as she could.
She changed the azimuth of some of the dishes. Satellite connexion established! She thought of home…!
A pleasant, green meadow. Some insects buzzed here and there. Birds chirped. Nichole sat on a wooden bench. She looked down at herself: a yukata with some light blue floral pattern. Abruptly, a slightly older woman in a white and red kimono sat beside to her, her hair done up in a formal, classical Japanese style. She did not turn to look at Nichole.
“Thank you for coming to see me, Hajime,” Nichole said softly. “Before, you were the eyes of a warship. Next, an active participant.” The woman made no movement, staring out at the field. “Now, you are to be CIC, combat-information-control, in the middle of a battle.”
“Hundreds. Thousands may die.” “Yes.”
The bugs moved about, leaving them alone. “Do you like it?”
Nichole clenched her hands into the fabric of her yukata. “I hate it!”
Hajime gave a tiny nod.
“Imagine: what if one of us comes to like it?”
In the second silence, a dragonfly came to land on Nichole’s head. She knew nothing of religion or faith. But, for just a moment, it was as if the ground split open at her feet and she had a glimpse of Hell.
The image passed.
“Thank you for speaking with me, Hajime,” Nichole said. The other nodded.
She was back in the office – and perceiving all she could. No, I won’t like this at all.
Foes & Rivals: “I’ve TOLD YOU! I don’t care about – !” Teresa stood, her fists on the tabletop.
For the nth time, Nichole noted her breathing, blood pressure, eye movements. She will lie again.
“I don’t want – !”
Nichole stood, too. The tone in her single word stuck her friend like a physical blow.
“There are too many centripetal forces at play: democracy is a lie and too many chafe under your father’s barely veiled dictatorship. Monarchy is the only way out.”
Nichole slowly reached for Teresa’s hands, giving her plenty of time to shy away.
She took them.
“There is no question of your loyalty and respect for your family… and your friends.”
The human’s hands shook, just a little.
“But the world now is not that of two years ago. Two more will be unimaginable. You are my dear friend…”
Their grips tightened.
“… and now you must be my ally!”
Raising her face, the look in her friend’s face was that of another friend of hers; on the other side of the ocean: trapped in a golden cage.
“Do,” Teresa paused to lick her dry lips. “Do you really think we can do it?”
In her peripheral vision, Nichole noted the barely illuminated scrawl on the parchment a few yards past her friend’s left shoulder. Of course. She paraphrased.
“’She either fears her fate too much, or her desserts are small, who dares not put it to the touch, to win or lose it all!’”
A bit more than a minute passed. Their eyes never left one another’s.
“That wasn’t you; you were quoting something,” Teresa accused, to buy time.
“Yes,” Nichole wouldn’t let her. “It’s called ‘Montrose’s Toast,’ from the English Civil War. A great leader of men.”
“They hanged him.”
“All right,” Teresa said, shaking loose of Nichole. “Let’s do this.”
When you’re not writing, what are you up to?
I’ve my day-job working in a hospital pharmacy. I am rather uxorious and enjoy home time with my wife and two daughters; it’s usually me making dinner as it’s another creative outlet, just as writing is.
Any tips to share with someone who wants to be published?
Self-publishing these days is ridiculously easy so I won’t bore the audience with that. My strongest recommendation is to get a copyeditor. No matter how many times you’ve read your manuscript, no matter how many times your friends and family have, it is still filled with flaws. Trust me. Get on something like upwork.com and find yourself a copyeditor. I’ve used the same person for all of my novels, which has given her enough of a feel for Machine Civilization that she’ll make editorial suggestions as well. A good copyeditor is worth every penny and will make sure that a reader doesn’t toss your book aside in disgust, vowing to “never read that guy’s trash again!”
How long have you been a writer?
It really had not occurred to me before, but when I was participating in a Local Author Fair at our county library last November a nice old lady was looking at my books and asked the same question.
“Four years to the month,” I replied.
“Six books in just four years! That’s amazing!”
As she walked away I reflected on her words… having never considered what I have accomplished in forty-eight months. In hindsight, it is something of a miracle!
THE AMAZING UNFOLDING WORLD OF MACHINE CIVILIZATION SERIES
by Clayton Barnett
A history beginning in our near future, these stories are set in a world where the US dollar has been displaced as the world’s reserve currency, prompting its economic and political collapse, with a few areas able to hold onto civilization.
At the same time, across the Pacific, under a resurgent economy brought about by the implementation of new technology and deregulation, three Japanese companies produce breakthroughs in both artificial intelligence and robotics. These newly made people exhibit an odd interest in the goings-on of the former United States.
To-date, my chronicling of this interest of theirs has led to stories that populate five novels, which I would like to share with everyone now!
The Fourth Law –
In the near future, 23-year-old apprentice nurse Lily Barrett lives in a shattered time. Following its economic collapse, the US has devolved into a group of a few barely functional smaller states and vast swathes of barbarian badlands. His sister has been missing for years, and her father, after earning the opprobrium of most of the world for running a state terror organization, presumed dead.
Two things keep her going: her live-in job at a small, Catholic orphanage in the city of Waxahachie, Republic of Texas, and Ai, her odd but dear friend, whom she met online; a young woman who only shows herself to Lily as a rendered CG image.
Troubled by her past, haunted by her name, and facing an uncertain future, Lily seems only a quiet, simple life. But, that past and her present conspire against her.
Echoes of Family Lost – Alive! After four years believing her older sister lost and presumed dead in the horrible Breakup of the United States, Lily Barrett gets word from her dear friend, Ai – and Ai’s family of Machine Civilization – that Callie Barrett is very likely alive… but over 900 miles away in Knoxville.
Using the resources of her and Ai’s family, Lily puts together a search party to go find Callie: old, broken, and burnt Orloff – an expert in surviving in the Badlands, Ai’s little sister, Fausta – her machine mind controlling a Combat Android to protect her friend, all together in a cart pulled by their sturdy pony, Clyde.
It’s almost a thousand miles to go, with something very odd trying to limit their ability to communicate over distance and even to cross bridges. A chance meeting along the way in Huntsville, former Alabama, wrecks their plans, and puts all of their lives in danger.
Cursed Hearts – Even with San Diego occupied by the Mexican Army, Katarina Sosabowski pursues her MBA at UCSD, and is happy to welcome and put up her visiting step-cousin from Japan, Christopher Dennou, for a night so he can complete his enrollment the following day.
But a minor earthquake brings a major surprise: Chris’s younger sister, Maya, murders their mother and escapes Neuroi Institute, the research facility that created them.
While Chris and ‘Cat’ grow closer to one another, Maya inexorably crosses an ocean and half a continent to take back her brother, killing anyone who gets in her way.
Friend and Ally – Model 5 is a prototype designed to fit seemlessly into human society. A meeting in Tokyo derails Nichole’s planned training as she is dispatched to Portland, former Oregon; the last working deep water port on the West Coast of the imploding US.
There, under her cover as a Graduate Engineering Student, she is to do her utmost to nurture the people and politics of the City-State into a Friend and Ally of the Japanese Empire. But from the first day in her new home, all of Nichole’s plans go awry.
Beset by those who want this small lamp of Western Civilization snuffed out, Nichole must find within herself the courage and ability to protect her new friends, at whatever consequence to herself.
Foes and Rivals – After residing nearly a year in Portland, Nichole’s life seems to finally settle down: with her classes, friends, and lover. But troubling rumors about secret deals between the City’s master and the savage horsemen to the east reach her ears.
With her own skills augmented by her friends and allies, she sets plans into motion she hopes will thwart those in opposition to her dream of a peaceful future.
Once again denied a quiet, normal life, Nichole is faced to make hard, dangerous choices that will jeopardize her, her friends, and the survival of the City itself.
The Fourth Law
“LILY! You’re not a wolf! Wake up!”
She groggily sat up from her bed. Huh?
“It’s three in the morning… you need to help your kids!” Ai shouted at her from her phone.
She flung the cover aside and pushed her glasses onto her face. Now she could hear the siren. What was it this time? Tornado, airstrike, barbarians… the last was almost a year ago when they lost Texarkana. Wait. She shook her head to try to wake up. This time, she’d an unimpeachable information source.
“Ai. Status.” She said into the darkness.
“A fission weapon was detonated outside San Francisco about ten minutes ago; the weather pattern indicates fallout will travel north of you, into parts of former Kansas and Oklahoma. But, winds do change…”
“Right.” She started pulling her clothes on. “Wake up the Fitzhughs; I’ll be there in a minute.”
She walked from her bedroom through her main room, glancing at the monitors. She suddenly bit hard on her lower lip. On the monitors, Ai stood at attention in a Texas Field Forces uniform. For some unknown reason, she forgot to render her pants. Striped green and white panties? Lily worried about her friend sometimes.
One time engineer, some time pharmacy technician, full time husband and father, Clayton Barnett stumbled into writing a traditional novel November 2014 during National Novel Writing Month. Liking the results, he edited what would become “The Fourth Law” and set about teaching himself self-publishing. In the following four years he has produced four more novels as well as a children’s early reader, all in what is now called Machine Civilization.
Clayton Barnett lives in central Ohio with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.
Find him at his website
Buy all the books in this series on Amazon or Smashwords. Echos of Family Lost and The Fourth Law are only 99c!
Clayton Barnett will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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