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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Clockwork Girl: Chapter V

Posted by Charles Gray on May 29, 2018

Terri had never handled a gun before, nor had she worn armor.  Mike had found some old suits armor and had modified them for his own frame. Terri was close enough to wear it, even though she had to cinch in the waist.

“It won’t protect you from getting shot,” Mike cautioned. “But it may stop fragments—we’re tougher than humans, but not that much tougher.”

Our internal body is made up of inorganic metals and ceramics, covered by the flesh mask. More and more thoughts like that had been filling Terri’s mind, as if now that the secret was out, a switch had been thrown. She knew why she didn’t eat that much now, since her advanced fuel cells provided her with all the energy she needed, using the food as fuel, while the rest of it went to the internal stem-cell reservoirs that were used to regenerate her outer surface. According to her memories, her inorganic parts were capable of “limited self-repair to counter regular wear.”

Terri decided she wasn’t about to see if “regular wear” included getting shot. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Post Apocalypse Writings, The Clockwork Girl, Uncategorized, Writing, Young Adult | Leave a Comment »

The Clockwork Girl: Chapter III part 1

Posted by Charles Gray on May 16, 2018

It didn’t take very long for Terri to realize something was seriously wrong with her memories. She knew where the road led, after all. It curved around the slopes of the low mountain that divided their neighborhood from the mall and city where she’d lived most of her life before moving to the new place with mom.

She had expected to see the mall in ruins—the fact that neighborhood had been destroyed had prepared her for that…

But hadn’t prepared her to find out that the mall and town seemed to have vanished. There was just the small two lane road, its asphalt pitted and partially covered by leaves and soil.  A few cars lay abandoned on the side of the road, some looking like they had crashed, others looking like their occupants had pulled them to the side and ran off.  Terri stopped and looked in a few, finding nothing but old luggage, long since ruined by the rain that had come in through the shattered windows. One car had bundles of hundred dollar bills in the passenger seat.  Terri reached in and lifted one bundle of money, frowning as it fell apart in her hands.

Why?  That was a fortune, so why did the driver just run off. All he had to do was reach down and…  Terri pulled the jacket closer to her slim frame.  Nobody would leave a fortune behind, not unless they were so terrified that they weren’t thinking of anything other than how to save their lives…

A little further down the road, she saw another van, only this one was surrounded by scattered, half buried bones. The driver’s seat still had the remains of the driver in it, the skull having fallen down into its lap, the moss stained skull grinning up at the girl. Terri staggered back, looking around wildly.

Who did this? What did this?

Shivering, Terri kept walking down the road, no longer bothering to check the occasional car.  She didn’t want to see what might be in them. Empty or occupied by the bones of the dead, they were just as disturbing.

As was the forest.  Terri heard the occasional sound of birds, but even in the daylight, it seemed… deserted. Empty. Not like the parks she remembered. There, you knew there were people around.

But not here. The road, the woods around it, the empty sky, without any aircraft in it… it screamed that it had been a long time since anyone had been there. Terri had slept, and the world had gone away.

When Terri next checked her watch, she realized that over six hours had gone by. The sun was now descending into the clouds that marked the horizon, its rays turned blood red. She stopped and stretched for a few moments, but didn’t bother to rest.  She would walk until it got dark and then find some place to sleep.  Terri wasn’t about to keep walking at night. She could see her way, that was true, but on the other hand, the road was creepy enough right now. She didn’t even want to think what it would be like at night.

Come to think of it… I don’t even know there will be a moon up tonight. I need to find a place to hide out!

It was then that Terri came around another turn and then stopped.

There was a city in the distance.

And she had never seen anything quite so completely destroyed.

The city wasn’t anyplace that Terri recognized.  Even though it was within walking distance of home, she’d never been there. Standing there, staring at the dead city, Terri ran a hand over her dark hair, tugging on her braid in a quick, worried motion.

How could I forget about an entire city? 

The city was centered on a central core of skyscrapers, or it had been centered on a central core of skyscrapers. Now it looked like only a few were still standing, the rest collapsed, with one battered skeleton of steel leaning drunkenly against its slightly more intact neighbor.  Terri saw birds circling around the tops of the ruins. Around them were smaller buildings, intermixed with spaces of completely collapsed rubble. Peering into the afternoon haze, Terri saw a freeway, the lanes choked with cars, save for the areas where something had blasted great craters into the reinforced concrete.

The cars… Terri thought. They had all been driving in this direction. Maybe they had heard the explosions and then had abandoned their vehicles.  Maybe whatever had destroyed the city had come upon them so quickly that they hadn’t had a chance to get very far.

Terri was suddenly very certain that the bones of the drivers and passengers of those empty cars she had passed earlier were probably lying hidden in the forest near where they had abandoned their vehicles.  If any had survived, they would have come back.

But they hadn’t.

Looking out over the city, Terri was struck by how silent it was. She could hear the dim sounds of birds, but no cars, no people.

The city was dead.

Terri sat down on the ground with a thump and put her head in her hands.

What am I supposed to do!” she moaned out loud. Mom was gone, Doctor Simmonds was gone, there was nothing left.  Terri had been hoping that she could find someone, someone to tell her what to do and how to find mom.

But there isn’t anyone in the city.  Terri grimaced at that, running her fingers along her thick braid of hair. She was only twelve.  Why was this happening to her!  Terri took a deep breath. Even if there wasn’t anyone in the city, there was probably information about where they had gone.  There had to be.  She could find it, and then either walk there or if she could find a phone or a radio, or something she could call for help with!  Everyone else couldn’t be dead!

Could they?

But she had to move fast. The sun would be down in a few hours.

Terri hesitated.  She didn’t know where it would be worse to spend the night. The deserted road or the city that looked like a tomb.

At least in the city, I can find a place with a door I can close… Terri thought. The last thing she wanted to do was to spend the night in the open.

But as she got closer to the city, she started wondering if she had been wise.  The people in the city had not been able to get away, at least not most of them, and she started seeing more and more bones.  A bus, yellow paint flaking off, had a pile of skeletal remains trailing out of its exits, evidence of a last, frantic, hopeless run for safety. The remains of a gaudy banner was strung across the rear of the bus.

“Something… cheer…”  Terri squinted. “Cheerleading trials.” She finally said.

But… Terri fell silent as the realization filled her. The jammed streets, the skeletal remains…

Whatever had happened, had happened fast. The people had decided to flee on their own, or had been told to flee too late to escape whatever had happened. As Terri kept walking, she started to see signs of battle. A barricade with skeletal forms wearing armor beside it, some still clutching their weapons.  An object that looked like a giant made of metal, lying where it had fallen and crushed a small car. Its cockpit was open, revealing the skeletal form of the pilot.  Another flying machine, partially embedded in the upper floors of an apartment complex…

But all silent. Everywhere there were bones, but nothing alive, save for the sound of birds and the occasional rustling sounds made by small animals going about their business in the ruins. No sign that anyone had ever returned to bury the dead or check for any survivors.

Why didn’t they? Is… Terri closed her eyes for a moment, but she couldn’t banish the thought. Is everyone else dead? Terri had a vision of every city on earth, looking just like this.

It was then that she heard the skittering sound.

Terri stopped in her tracks, licking her lips nervously.  She slowly turned in a complete circle, trying to locate the sound.

No luck. Everything was still, perhaps it had been a—Terri heard it again.

But from a different direction. Then on its heels came another skittering sound, this one in front of her. Not an animal’s sound. The sound of metal striking on metal.

And it sounded like there was more than one of whatever was making that unnerving sound.

Terri didn’t move for a long moment, and then turned and started walking back the way she came. Maybe they were just rats or cleaning robots or something like that. Something harmless. Maybe they were—A sudden sound of falling debris echoed from one of the shattered buildings. Terri turned and stared…and saw something gleaming in the darkness  beyond the smashed storefront windows.

Terri bit her lip and took one step back… and then it emerged into the light.

It looked like a man-sized metallic spider, its gleaming metal body marred here and there by scratches and gashes, while one of its legs had been amputated close to the body, giving it an odd, drunken walk.

It didn’t have any fangs, just a cluster of cameras on its “head”.

That didn’t make Terri feel any better. The ends of its legs looked razor sharp, while a gun that was attached to its back was pointed at her, the muzzle huge to Terri’s wide eyes.

“Nice monster…” Terri took a step back and then started at another sound to her right. She looked around and saw another spider, this one looking far more battered then its companion, missing its gun, the top of its body a mass of torn metal. But Terri noticed that its legs were liberally splashed with some brown substance.

Like old blood.

Terri didn’t wait. Shot or diced up by those razor sharp feet, either would be enough to kill her.

She spun and ran back the way she came, the sound of her feet mixing with the skittering, clattering sound of her pursuers.  She heard another clicking sound and spared a quick glance over her shoulder to see what was making it. The first spider had stopped and was pointing the gun at her, but all it was doing was making clicking noises.


But that didn’t stop them from chasing her.  Fear lent extra speed to Terri as she ran down the wrecked streets, the two robots pursuing her and slowly gaining on her.

I have to find a place to hide… Terri thought. If she could find a building that was too small for them to follow her…

Unless she got stuck.

Unless they were fast enough to get to her before she got inside.

Unless they were strong enough to pry the walls apart to get to her.

Unless, unless, unless…

Trying to find a way to get ahead of her pursuers, Terri didn’t notice an out-thrust chunk of concrete until it caught her by the foot.

She cried out in shock as she fell, flinging out her hands in a desperate attempt to break her fall. Terri felt her breath go out of her as she rolled over onto her back and frantically started to scrabble away from the approaching robots.

I’m gonna die! she thought in terror as the two robots gained on her, the leader raising one leg to stab down, the razor-sharp metal gleaming in the light.

And then there was a flash and roar of thunder.

Posted in Science Fiction, The Clockwork Girl, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Posted by Charles Gray on April 3, 2017

I saw an interesting webpage yesterday, about using containers for indoor farming.


From the company’s website:


What is a Leafy Green Machine?

Also known as the LGM, the Leafy Green Machine is a pre-assembled hydroponic farm inside an up-cycled freight container. It is capable of producing yields at commercial-scale in any climate and any season.


It’s an interesting concept, and one that could be very important in coming years. In terms of society, it’s another example of moving from food as farmed, to food as a manufactured product. You don’t need to find good soil, or a place with decent rainfall/river resources, because you provide all of that inside the container. If you can get water and power, you’re good to go. Take a look at all the places in the city where you can fit a TEU and you’ll see a potential farming site.


“Son, Cabbages are in this year. Better go add some more containers to the back 40…”



Why should we care?


Well, one thing that is likely to be coming for the world is increasingly unstable weather conditions, and understand, I’m not just talking about droughts.  Rain at the wrong time can kill a crop just as effectively as a drought can.  The more we can decouple food production from exterior weather conditions, the better off we’d be.


Even better, using containers lets you avoid the question of “how do we get the money to build a big-ass skyscraper farm?”  This is an incremental solution that could be funded by a trickle, instead of requiring an immense amount of funding from the start. Believe me, that’s more important than a lot of people give credit for— it’s a lot easier to get the government, be it national or local, to fund something that isn’t demanding tens of millions or more for the initial start up. Even better, it makes it more open for private actors.


But since this is a writing and sci-fi blog, let’s ask: what other developments could this see?


Well, the big one is the further marginalization of rural America. Not now, not in the next year, but let’s look ahead to some distant time when A growing percentage of the nation’s food supply is provided by things like these designs. What happens then?  Does big agribusiness go away (note, before people tell me I’m full of it, I do know that the the “profitable price point” for lettuce and things like grain are radically different things. We are, after all, talking about the future.

We’ve already seen how ugly the rural/urban divide can get, so does it get uglier? Or does the ability to decouple a city or a town from larger supply networks see a growth in smaller towns?

I don’t know. After all, sci-fi writers have explored both concepts— the death of the rural society in favor of the megalopolis, and the death of the megalopolis in favor of smaller rural settlements.

And the amusing thing is that many of them have something like our modern day developments in containerized or factory farming as the impetus for the change, or all that they usually fluffed it as “food factories”. It looks like, for good or ill, we may be moving into their future.

Posted in fiction, technology, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

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