A bit of flash fiction, inspired by the image "Mech on the Move" by Alex Ichim
I was leading a pack of Metal Jacks, heading to LZ-4. We’d been retasked to help secure the area for reinforcements. Easy enough. Getting there was the problem. The whole damn city was hot, and there were at least fifteen blocks between us and the landing zone. It was like running a gauntlet, hostiles were all over the place—on the rooftops, in the alleys and windows, under cars, inside abandoned buses—just every-goddamn-where.
We hammered down the street, loping along at a steady pace—around 30 kph—ignoring the constant ping of rounds bouncing off our armor. Unless they were rocking 50cals, bullets weren’t a concern. RPGs were a different story, though. Everyone had their eyes peeled. It only took a second to make your last mistake, and we all had better things to do that day than die.
Topper was out in front, leading the way. She hooked a left at Foster Avenue, and then made a right onto Central. Hell…even rooks know better than to run a straight line. We had five blocks to go, when we came to an eight-lane intersection. Camden spotted three hostiles as soon as we came into the open. It was too late to turn back.
“Go, go, go!” I sent the others through, while slowing to make myself the better target. It was the right thing to do. I was running rear—no one to obstruct if my Jack went down.
I turned in stride, just in time to see a rocket whiz by. It missed my chassis by half a meter and struck something behind me, something close. I felt the impact from inside the cockpit. Smoke and dust flooded the street. Debris rained down, clanking against my armor. I sighted Camden’s hostiles huddled behind the tail of a car, fumbling with the launcher, trying to reload. They really should have thought ahead.
I zeroed in and let my cannons rip. Turns out, I’m a much better shot than they were.
“All right, we’re clear. Keep moving. Five more blocks. And Topper…? You better keep us out of those goddamn wide lanes, you hear me?" I shook my head and picked up the pace. Rooks…there was always something they needed to learn.
For the past few months, I’ve been building a world for a new novel, tentatively titled Prince of the God Kings. The story focuses on a group of immortals that have been living in secret among humans on Rada, a world colonized long after the collapse of Earth. For the most part, I’ve been focused on the history of this world, trying to understand how things got to the point in time where the actual story takes place. I’ve had a lot of fun developing the characters, as they all have long rich histories and complicated relationships that the story’s protagonist, a human recently turn immortal, struggles to understand and negotiate as she tries to resolve the central conflict.
For reasons explained in the story, the original Radean colony suffered a collapsed, losing most of their advanced technology and knowledge. This caused them to slip into a dark era, similar to the Dark Ages in Earth’s history—but perhaps a bit longer. As I often do, I’ve been drawing inspiration for the characters and locations from concept art I’ve found across the web, looking to gain a better understanding of some of the things these long-lived characters might have seen and done throughout their time, and also how they may have influenced the development of modern civilization.
It’ll be a while before the novel is complete—haven’t even started drafting it yet—but here are some of the images that have been inspirational in the development of both the story's history and present, as well as some of the characters the tale revolves around. Deciding how I’m going morph and merge these ideas and concepts into a new cohesive narrative is definitely going to be fun, and a bit challenging, but I’m excited about the story and can’t wait to get started.
Below are some of the artworks that have influenced the development of Rada and the upcoming novel Prince of the God Kings.
This artwork from Chris Tulloch McCabe, Jean Denis Coindre, and Chirag Tripathy set my mind to thinking about a civilization spawned from a failed colony, wondering what influences the visible wreckage and any monuments built by the original settlers would have had on their development.
I wanted the original colony to suffer a set back, and had several options on the table for the type of disaster that caused it. After seeing these images by Maxime Delcambre and Roman Ignatowski, I began thinking not just about the cause, but also about how the incident would be perceived, and the affect subsequent tales and legends about the event would have on future generations. Religion became a major component in developing the historical rivalries that shaped the story's present.
The actual story begins in a present day society similar to modern Earth and advances to a future where the Radeans have started to colonize their star system and explore deep space. But since most of the immortals were born and raised in the pre-modern era, and have lived longer in simpler times, I used environmental concepts to explore a variety of cultures and locations—past, present, and future—to develop unique characters with personalities that reflect their background and world history.
I imagined the immortals leading humanity out of the dark era, but that rivalries between old houses/factions, eventually erupted into war. Many humans die during a long period of immortal led campaigns to establish dominance on Rada. The suffering brought on by the constant warfare, lead to King Rebellion and subsequent witch hunts that force immortals into hiding, to live in secrecy among humans. Over time, stories of the god kings and the undying become nothing more than myth and legend to modern Radeans.
Looking at artwork like this from Aleksei-Vinogradov, Gabriel-Björk-Stiernström, and others got me thinking about all the ways the immortals could have used their wealth and knowledge to influence the progress of civilization on Rada. Which characters plotted and manipulated events from the shadows, and which were willing to risk exposure, donning various mortal guises through the centuries to help lead humanity into the future with their accomplishments in science, engineering, and exploration? A lot of interesting characters were developed while exploring this idea.
As far as characters go, I want each of the elder immortals to have a strong, yet unique, presence in the story, their individual personalities crafted, bent, and sometimes twisted by the events of their time. Each of them carries their own personal demons and secrets, revelations that will alter the dynamic between characters and leave the reader questioning the motivations of some, unsure where their true loyalties lie.
I like to model my villains after live-action characters and actors—especially the ones I love to hate. I find it helps me keep my antagonist human in my mind, and motivates me to find ways to make the reader look forward to their scenes and arc resolutions, even though they may hate the character. In Prince of the God Kings, Maris is an ancient immortal, known for her religious zealotry. Until recently, she was believed dead, and is regarded by many of the others as being single-handedly responsible for the dominance wars that led to the King Rebellion. I was watching History Channel's Vikings one day and realized Amy Bailey fit the character of Maris perfectly, past and present.
In the near future, war drone technology has advanced and a new weapon has been unleashed—a humanoid drone stronger and faster than any soldier. But in the aftermath of a mysterious incident, damaged battle drone 237 is forced to go on the run with its programmer to try and take down their corrupt commander.