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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Rewriting History in Stone Soldiers: 9/11

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the cowardly attack on America by Muslim terrorists financed at least in part by Saudi nationals. It was a horrific act of terrorism that left thousands of noncombatants--including children--dead. And while we should never downplay the horror of this day, or forget how it revealed how far the evil in the middle east will go, we can choose to take away the terror of it that those behind the attacks wanted. 

On the Fox TV Show Fringe a peek into an alternate universe revealed that the Attack on the Twin Towers failed. William Bell had his office in the South Tower as he fought to preserve his world from an even greater catastrophe. Visually, that final reveal in the last episode of Season 1 was clear and powerful--it showed without a doubt this was indeed an alternate reality Olivia Dunham had traveled to.

Technically, most fiction takes place in an alternate reality--very few pieces of science fiction or fantasy or horror take place in the real world. They almost all require a subtle suspension of the laws of reality, or some event that didn't happen in our real-world. The Stone Soldiers universe is no different, and even addreses the issue of alternate realities in its upcoming successor series Shadow Raiders. But how about 9/11? Where does it fit in the Stone Soldiers' universe?

Called "the September Conspiracy" in Stone Soldiers, the events of 9/11 are only briefly mentioned (Mythical) along with a failed attempt to kill JFK in the 1960s. But what does that mean, exactly?

The Stone Soldiers rely in part on the Oracles--psychics able to see events in the future (Shades of War, Stone Soldiers #4). The more people affected by an event, the stronger the psychic backlash from the future. In this way, events can be stopped. Such was the case with 9/11.

With psychic predictions of a terrorist attack on America, the Detachment simply used their AI, MAX (Infernal Machine) to collate data. Here in our world, we know that agencies had an indication about the conspiracy, but as it was compartmentalized and isolated from one agency to another, the attack was not stopped. Identifying the threat and plan, MAX was able to direct conventional forces to intercept those planning to crash the planes that killed so many in our real-world timeline. 

For the Stone Soldiers' world, the events that followed were very similar. Americans would have been horrified by this brazen, coordinated attack on our soil. And estimates of casualties might have been in excess of those that did happen. A military response to the situation would have followed in the Stone Soldiers' world, as it did here. A restructuring of Law Enforcement agencies also would have taken place--the government couldn't acknowledge the existence of MAX or the Oracles, so they had to take steps top ensure conventional law enforcement would prevent any future attacks. 

And that was it--in just a few moments of typing, I took away the Taliban's victory, and saved fictional, alternate reality lives. Stone Soldiers is all about the good guys defeating evil, and I felt this fit well in their universe. 

But in our real world, I'll take a moment today to pray for those lost on 9/11/2001. And for their families. I'll also pray that my fellow Americans don't forget what was done in the name of Islam, and the sacrifices being made daily by our military to fight the same kind of evil in the middle east, rather than let it once more reach our shores. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Lesson in Military Jargon, Lesson 1

If you're a vet, you no doubt have used a ton of phrases and words with your civilian friends that makes them wonder what you're talking about. Jargon is a military tradition going back centuries.

This week on Stone Soldiers, we're going to talk about WMDs and the USAF.

Sometimes it's easier to spit out a couple of words over the radio, then a long explanation of what's going on. When it comes to WMDs and Priority Resources, the USAF has a whole series of mini phrases to use to explain the seriousness of a situation, quickly. 


Broken Arrow 
More than just a John Travolta/Christian Slater movie from 1996, the term Broken Arrow is used for any accidental event that involves nuclear weapons, warheads or components. And which doesn't create the risk of nuclear war. In the aforementioned movie, a Broken Arrow happens when a bomber crashes with two live nukes on board--causing a serious pucker-factor throughout the chain of command. 

Covered Wagon
Not just confined to Nukes, a Covered Wagon covers an event when there's an unusual incident affecting protection level one two or three resources. The USAF classifies resources as Priority 1, 2 or 3, with 1 being the most rare, special of resources. If Christian Slater caught John Travolta messing with their bomber before taking off, he might have declared a Covered Wagon
 
Dull Sword 
This one is for reports of minor incidents involving nuclear weapons, components or systems, or which could impair their deployment. Maybe when a runway is unoperable? Or there's no pilots for an alert bomber?

Bent Spear 
For nuclear weapons, warheads, components or vehicles transporting nuclear material that are of significant interest, if there's a violations or breaches of handling and security regulations. I guess this would be like a NEST team transporting nukes cross-country in one of those unmarked semis stopping at Bestbuy to pick up a copy of Broken Arrow to watch in-transit. 

Empty Quiver 
The seizure, theft, or loss of a functioning nuclear weapon. E.g., when Travolta stole the two nukes with the help of Howie Long and his team of traitors. 

Nucflash 
The neutrons have hit the fan, or at least the Uranium. Nucflash refers to a detonation or possible detonation of a nuclear weapon which creates a risk of an outbreak of nuclear war. Like when Travolta triggered his stolen nuke underground. 

Faded Giant 
An event involving a military nuclear reactor or other radiological accident not involving nuclear weapons. For example, McClellan AFB in Sacramento, California had a cool neutron imaging machine back in the 1990s. An airplane would be rolled into a hangar and basically x-rayed, to determine the internal structure of the wings. They were looking for rot in the honeycomb, I was told. The imager was fed by a small, four-rod reactor that fit inside a building not much larger than your average high school gymnasium. Say the water shielding the rods all drained out, allowing radiation to spill out onto the base--that would be a Faded Giant




Got some military-speak you want defined? Got one you'd like to define, email us at DETACHMENT1039 [AT] GMAIL [dot] COM.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Coming Soon: SPECTRAL OPS


Eastern France, April 2017... the small town of Moyenne has gone dark. No sign of life can be detected. Police and military forces sent to investigate are never heard from again. Storm clouds hang low in the sky, obscuring the small, idyllic village from the peering eyes of satellites, and thick static prevents any drone from being sent in. Detachment 1039, America's Preternatural Combat Operations unit is inserted from the air, a small squad of supernatural soldiers enters the town, quickly discovering France has been invaded by a spectral army that cannot be killed. A battle between the living and the dead must be won, and quickly, as the spirits in Moyenne are increasing their numbers, one soul at a time, and nothing seems able to stop them...


All good things must come to an end, and that includes the Stone Soldiers... series. Book 12, Winters' Fury will release Winter 2016-17, wrapping up the 12-book story arc about a girl meeting a grandfather she never knew she had, getting superpowers, and joining the fight against the forces of evil.

But the story doesn't end there. Shadow Raiders is in final edits now, to release hopefully this Fall. This new twice-a-year series will follow Detachment 1039 as they battle monsters off Earth, visiting other planes of existence where evil lurks.

The Detachment then returns to once-a-month duty in December, with Spectral Ops a series of shorter, but more frequently released tales of supernatural warfare. As a sneak peek of the new series, Book 1, Spectral Ops is up for pre-order NOW, releasing September 2016. The regular series should then start releasing in time for Christmas, with one new battle per month.

If you don't want to pre-order Spectral Ops, you can get it for free... how? By joining the Mailing List of Stone. Just email "Put me on the Mailing List of Stone" to Detachment1039 AT GMail DOT Com and you'll be added and receive your PDF shortly.

But you better hurry! This offer ends September 6--get your entries in before Spectral Ops is available for sale.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Outlaws of Olympus

As work continues on the upcoming Shadow Raiders, and research begins for Stone Soldiers #12, Winters' Fury, we take a moment to look back--way back--to the late 1800s and the state of paranormal warfare in America during the heady days of the Wild West.


1881, Utah Territory. Immigrants continue to flood into the Wild West, bringing with them their customs, cultures, and legends from the Old World. But it isn't just men that have come to the new Frontier. Darker beings have come as well, intent on once more terrorizing mankind in a Godless land. Can a cursed cavalryman and a mysterious priest work together to stop a supernaturally-fast gunslinger, or will the old gods claim the land and souls of men for themselves?


So what is Outlaws of Olympus, and how does it relate to the Stone Soldiers?

Way back in Stone Soldiers #5, Black Knight Down, readers were introduced to Father Lee Schuler, who turned out to be Hercules, the son of Zeus. Schuler assisted the team in battling the Titans trapped in the Black Knight. He showed up again in the end of One Dark Step (Stone Soldiers #11).

In the recent Shadow Detachment series of prequel short stories that showed the history of Detachment 1039 since the Korean war, another character was revealed: Bartholomew Black, a special operations Army Officer who seemed very at ease in dealing with the supernatural. Black remained in most of the Shadow Detachment tales, rising through the ranks and guiding Mark Kenslir in the war on evil. 

Both of these characters now have their own series: Outlaws of Olympus

Hercules, as Father Sergio "Ercole" Morricone is dispatched to the Utah Territory by the Church in 1881, to investigate reports of a man who can't die. Along the way, he meets the mysterious John Smith, a black cavalryman left for dead by a supernatural gunslinger "faster than lightining". 

Together, the duo face off against this adversary, who is revealed to be the Greek god Hermes, the half-brother of Ercole and the fastest gun in the West. Hermes reveals that he is not the only Olympian to descend on the Godless frontier--others have come along...

So begins the adventures of Father Ercole and Bartholomew John Black--a man cursed to live the lives of all the men he's ever killed. Together, this mighty duo will do their best to save the West from the dark grip of monsters and immortals alike.




Outlaws of Olympus releases every three weeks on Kindle, and on print through Amazon.com. Look for audio releases as well, with the first round of the series culminating in thirteen tales of Weird Western wonder!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: Zulu Time

Another A to Z Challenge finally closes out, with a little peak at something from the real world that often shows up in fiction:


ZULU TIME

When you operate around the world, in different time zones, coordinating activities can be problematic. For that reason, some military forces use something we in America call Zulu Time. But what is it?

The primary time zone in the modern world UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). But to understand that, you need to go back before 1972, and look at GMT--Greenwich Mean Time, named for the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London.

GMT was a standardized time used by British Mariners of the past of purposes of navigation. This had to do with the Greenwich Meridian (0) adopted in 1884 at the International Meridian Conference.

Basically, sunset is determined by the distance from the equator and time of year. To calculate it, you need a starting point (Greenwich). By having a clock set to GMT, mariners could determine their position on a map, by observing the position of the sun with an Astrolabe.

Time zones then were designated in hours before or after GMT. For example, Washington D.C. (at this time of year) is at -4 GMT. Meanign the sun rises four hours after it does in London.

As stated above, in 1972, GMT was replaced by Coordinated Universal Time in some countries...

Back to Zulu Time. It's basically one time (GMT/UT) that the military expresses things in. For example, if you wanted to launch an attack on opposite sides of the world, you might issue orders for it to take place at 0600 Zulu Time (GMT). Neither of those actual sites are actually in GMT however, so the local units can either do the math, or use a watch with dual time zone capabilities (showing both their local time and GMT).

So why call it Zulu time?

Since around 1950, nautical time zone (GMT) has been denoted by the Letter Z. Different time zones were designated by letters. GMT got the Z because it was the point of origin for determining time zones. It also refers to the time zone of "zero" hours, used since 1920ish.

Z becomes "Zulu" because of the Phonetic Alphabet...

The Phonetic Alphabet is something used by people broadcasting over radio. In the early, pre-digital days of radio, static, noise, and distortion could make it hard to understand someone. Things could b misunderstood. To prevent this confusion, the military adopted the phonetic alphabet to clear things up, assigning seldom-used words to the letters of the alphabet. To spell out BLOG, for example, you'd say "Bravo, Lima, Oscar, Golf". Most police departments use a similar phonetic alphabet, but use first names instead. And, you guessed it, "Zulu" is the phonetic call for the letter Z.


So there you have--"Zulu Time" is just GMT/UT, but spoken in military style.

BOOK OF STONE: Yggdrasil

As April draws to a close, we wrap up the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge with a glimpse into the future of the Stone Soldiers universe...



YGGDRASIL

First Appearance:  Shadow Raiders

Description:  Wyrmhole Generator/Nexus

Summary:  Norse mythology references Yggdrasil as the Tree of Life, a Mighty Ash growing in the heart of Asgard, with its roots reaching into other realms and its branches supporting many of the nine realms. 

In 2016, an ancient doorway was unearthed in Greenland, sealing a Wyrmhole that led to the alternate reality of Asgard. This portal was the none other than the true Yggdrasil.

Carved from an obsidian plain, Yggdrasil is a series of canyons, cut in the shape of a tree, fed by the river Hvergelmir. The "tree" itself is a massive Wyrmhole nexus, with each of its eight paths leading to different planes of reality, including Earth, or Midgard, as the inhabitants of Asgard call it. 

Presumably created by the Fallen Angel Aurg-el, Yggdrasil connected the world of Asgard to other alternate Earths, awaiting the day that Aurg-el's horde of Fell warriors could unleash the apocalypse across all of reality. 

Following the Battle of Asgard, the gates to Earth were secured by US Armed forces and a team of thaumatologists continues to examine Yggdrasil--although opening any of the other sealed passages is strictly prohibited. 


Author's Notes:  Shadow Raiders has been in the works for two years now--fleshed out from notes I started back in 2014. The concept for a spinoff line of books from Stone Soldiers, taking the battle to the monsters where they live, has evolved over that time, but the core principle of Yggdrasil as a portal between worlds has remained. 

As a plot device, Yggdrasil is invaluable--a magic gateway, much like the wardrobe in Narnia, allowing exploration of other realms. Unfortunately, seeing as how Midgard and Asgard have no been established, there are only seven other worlds I can explore in the series--assuming it does well enough to go that far. Only time will tell... 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: XM82G

As April draws to a close, we wrap up the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge with a glimpse into the future of the Stone Soldiers universe.





XM-82G Assault Rifle 

XM-82G assault rifle and multishot grenade launcher 

Description:  Experimental .50 caliber Assault Rifle

First Appearance:  Shadow Raiders (Summer, 2016)

Current Status: Currently being Field Tested by Detachment 1039

Summary: Developed for Detachment 1039's Stone Soldiers, the XM82G is a modified Barrett M82A1, with a shortened barrel. The rifle can be outfitted with custom drum magazines or triple-stacked straight magazines carried in leg holsters or on a special backpack, extending the normal 10 round capacity to 120 (drum) or 60 (magazine). The rifle further comes with an improved "China Lake" grenade launcher or a twin-barrel mortar launch tube, enabling the user to engage targets at tremendous distances and behind conventional cover. Further, the polymer pistol grip has been replaced with a cast-iron grip for increased durability. 

The XM82G is a semi automatic weapon, not capable of automatic fire in its current configuration. However, the weapon will fire as rapidly as the user can squeeze the trigger--testing has produced six shots in one second. The rifle has a maximum effective range of 1800m and weighs slightly more than 43 pounds empty. 

The underbarrel grenade launcher (UBGL) or mortar tubes (UBMT) are electronically fired--by means of dual-mounted switches; one on the forward grip of the rifle and another on the left side of the weapon, ahead of the trigger. 

The UBGL uses a standard shotgun tube action, similar to that found in the M870 shotgun, storing three 40mm grenades in the ammunition tube and another in the firing chamber. A variety of grenade types can be chosen and reloading the weapon is done through the bottom of the weapon. 

The double-barreled mortar tubes fire standard US 60mm mortars, enabling the user to engage distant targets behind cover, or to direct fire the rounds into obstacles for demolition. 

Equipped with picatinny rrails, the rifle will accept most standard rifle accessories, including a variety of optical and thermal imaging sights, laser designators, and illuminators. 

With each Stone Soldier able to carry up to four spare straight magazines (one each leg and two in a harness on the back), it is hoped the XM-82G will offer a distinct advantage on the Preternatural battlefield well into the mid-21st Century. 


Author's Notes:  When you fight monsters, you sometimes need a big gun. When it comes to big, the Barrett M82A1 Anti-material rifle definitely fits the bill. Firing the same .50 caliber rounds as the venerable M2 machine gun, the M82A1 is capable of taking out vehicles--the Browning .50 round was designed to be an anti-armor round, as Burt Gummer so eloquently told us in Tremors 2: Aftershocks. But But was firing a L.A.R. Grizzly, single shot, bolt-action rifle. The Stone Soldiers need something a little more combat ready...

In my ongoing quest to find off-the-shelf weapons suitable for superhumanly strong soldiers, I've come up with many a find: the USAS-12, the OA-93, the Desert Eagle in .50... but a true assault rifle has always been at the top of my wish list. Not that the M60E2 used thus far is bad. A heavy squad-level light machine gun, the M60E2 with its belt-fed, 7.62mm ammo is more than a match for many monsters--Burt wished for something "belt fed" in the Tremors franchise for dealing with Shriekers and 'Blasters. But a 7.62mm, or rather a volley of them, while capable of stopping unarmored vehicles and most natural wildlife, seems a bit light when hunting dragon, giants, or Fellish superhumanoids. I wanted something with more punch... and a grenade launcher. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: Wyrmhole

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.



WYRMHOLE




Description:  Connection between two non-contemporaneous points

Summary: Unlike the hypothetical Einstein-Rosen bridge connecting two points in space, compressing the distance between them, Wyrmholes (so-named by Dr. William King) connect two points with no space between--an impossible connection made possible by magic.

In 2013, Detachment 1039 discovered a wyrmhole generator within Mount Olympus, Greece. The antediluvian Ring Portal enabled the prehistoric Titans to leave Earth and journey to Mars. In the aftermath of this event, the United States seized the remains of the broken Mars Ring Portal and began a project to unlock the secrets of Wyrmhole travel. Several months later, another Ring Portal was found in Antarctica--this one successfully manipulated by the Ahnenerbe decades before. With this final piece of the puzzle, Project Flare was launched with the goal of producing modern-era Ring Portal to create wyrmholes for tactical military use. 


Author's Notes: It's true, I'm a Stargate fan. The Ring Portals started out as my homage to one of my favorite shows, but the portals just kept working their way into more and more stories. Now I'm launching a new series, focusing on Wyrmhole travel. So of course I had to name it...

One of my few gripes was the fact that they teleported through the wormhole the gates made. What happened to stepping through an opening to somewhere else, like Star Trek's Guardian of Forever? Wyrmholes--named to sound more magical--do just that. They don't "compress" space to shorten the trip (wouldn't anyone passing between them be compressed too?). Instead, there is NO space between the two points. Magic. 










Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: Valhalla Station

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.




Valhalla Station

First Appearance:  Seven Deadly Sons (Stone Soldiers #7)

Description:  Prehistoric Fallen Ruins/Research Station

Summary:  At tome time in the ancient past, the Fallen--hybrid human-Malakh-- used their advanced knowledge to build what modern man would describe as technological wonders. Among these were sites used for traveling off Earth, via Wyrmhole Generators. 

In the early days of World War II, the Wehrmacht and SS, under the guidance of Himmler's Ahnenerbe, explored the mysterious continent of Antarctica, eventually locating a Fallen site buried beneath the ice. Digging into a nearby mountain ridge, the Nazi war machine expanded the site into a full-fledged base at the bottom of the world, unlocking the secrets of the Wyrmhole generator there. 

At the close of he war, many Nazi officials fled to Argentina and Antarctica, and the Weiss Gewolbe became host to a number of projects with one goal in mind: Restore the Reich. 

By the 21st Century, the remnants of the Reich had all but abandoned Antarctica and many of their secret bases in South America, the mid-20th Century leadership dead from old age or Israeli agents. The prehistoric base beneath the polar icecap was all but forgotten, its inhabitants abandoned. 

Free from teh control of their masters, a band of experimental Wolfsoldaten began to seek revenge for the Reich, striking around the world using the Wyrmhole Generator in their home. This alerted Detachment 1039 to their existence, and the base and its terrible secrets were at last found and conquered by the forces of freedom. 

Today, Valhalla Station serves as a research facility for Thaumatological studies and as a transport hub for Detachment 1039. 

Author's Notes: What kind of series would Stone Soldiers have been, featuring prehistoric beings, but not featuring prehistoric buildings? The glowing white stone base beneath the ice took up a great deal of research time and would have featured even more prominently in Seven Deadly Sons,  had I not exercised some considerable self-control. As it is, the mysterious structure has many more secrets to reveal in upcoming installments of the series. 

Originally, Valhalla Station (named by Dr. King) was going to become a secondary base for the Detachment. But the storyline of One Dark Step opened up Groom Lake as a far better base of operations. For now, the antarctic base remains in the background, appearing periodically, as needed... 








Monday, April 25, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: USAS-12

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.



USAS-12


First Appearance:  Brothers in Stone (Stone Soldiers #2)

Description:  Automatic Military Shotgun


Summary:  A gas-operated, selective fire combat shotgun, the USAS-12 a South Korean-made weapon, based on the Atchisson Assault Shotgun, first developed in 1972. The rifle fires .12 gauge rounds, held in either 10 round magazines or 20 round drum magazines. The USAS-12 has an effective range of 40m, and weighs a little over 6kg, thanks to a number of polymer parts. 

Capable of firing variable types of .12 guage ammunition, the USAS-12 is Mark Kenslir's preferred long arm for combating supernatural threats. Customized with an underbarrel M203 40mm grenade launcher, the rifle has served him well in a number of encounters. 

Author's Notes: Equipping a supersoldier with the appropriate firearm is a challenging task. Over the four years the Stone Soldiers series had progressed, a number of weapons have come up in my research. the USAS-12 seems to be the most versatile, given its use of .12 gauge ammunition. Kenslir has fired flechettes, White-Phosphorous and even silver buckshot. 


Saturday, April 23, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: Tyche's Temple

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.


TYCHE'S TEMPLE



Description:  Las Vegas Casino

Summary:  Located at the North end of the Strip, a gleaming tower of black glass and steel looms 68 stories into the sky, luring gamblers from far and wide with promises of wealth and fortune...

Tyche was a deity governing fortune and prosperity in ancient cities. The daughter of Aphrodite and Zeus (or Hermes), Tyche was believed to be the source for floods, droughts or frosts by the Greek historian Polybius. 

In 2014, an abandoned hotel construction project on the Strip was bought by an unknown group that quickly renovated the ground floors, turning the massive building into a casino. Construction on the upper levels continued after Tyche's Temple opened, purportedly to expand the building's hotel capabilities from the ground up. But the Temple hid a much darker secret unveiled by Colonel Mark Kenslir of Detachment 1039...

Run by a mysterious lone witch calling herself the Lady Antousa, Tyche's Temple actually hid a factory of sorts--harvesting and torturing the souls of the greedy to boost Antousa's powers. Utilizing a reversed Dante's Inferno theme in the upper levels, the building tormented hapless gamblers before murdering them and imprisoning their souls.

After Antousa's defeat, the hotel was quietly transferred to new owners while the torture chambers were dismantled under careful supervision of the FBI's P-Division. 

Author's Notes: Die Hard was an epic action movie who's contained mayhem formula has been used over and over again. For the Stone Soldiers universe, I wanted to join this copycat flattery train and come up with my own contained-action setting. At the time, my wife was watching the Ocean's Eleven series of movies, again, and inspiration struck... A magical tower, in the heart of Vegas, filled with monsters...

A Lucky Day to Die brought a lot to the series, showing a new way for a witch coven to work, and introducing one of the Deatchment's best weapons to date: the etheric-absorbing Bowie knives. A radical departure from the regular books in the series, where the team is sent on missions from higher ups, this adventure revealed more of Marc Kenslir's past, and put him and members of the team on their own time, without any Detachment support or assistance. And it resolved something I'd been teasing for several books: the birth of Kenslir's son. 




Friday, April 22, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: The Sprocket

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.



THE SPROCKET




Description:  Trans Dimensional Wyrmhole Generator

Current Location: Groom Lake AFB, Nevada

Summary: Relics from a bygone era, Ring Portals are ancient artifacts capable of connecting two distant points, allowing instantaneous travel between them. 

In 2013, Detachment 1039 discovered a Ring Portal in Greece, deep within Mount Olympus. A golden metal ring, nearly nine feet in diameter, the device was activated by the Titans that had been in a state of suspended animation in the Black Knight satellite. According to Father Lee Schuler (Hercules) the portal allowed travel to and from the home of the Olympian "gods"--on Mars. 

This ancient interplanetary ring was destroyed by Colonel Mark Kenslir, presumably severing the connection between Earth and Mars and preventing any Titan or Olympian from ever returning.

Some short time later, the Detachment again located an ancient Ring Portal, this time at the South Pole. Hidden deep beneath the ice in the remains of some kind of antediluvian city discovered by the Nazis in the mid-Twentieth Century, this Ring Portal had been altered by German scientists, and was capable of opening a point anywhere on Earth by connecting with the blood of a target in some kind of ancient dark magic. This portal, and the base it was located within, was seized by U.S. operatives and continues to be investigated (Seven Deadly Sons, Stone Soldiers #7).

In 2014, a rogue Chinese General used another pair of Ring Portals (called "chang de mien", or Long Door) to launch a surprise invasion of the United States in Colorado. Using the portals, General Zuo rapidly moved a strike force of soldiers from China, catching the military completely off-guard. Fortunately, Detachment 1039 was able to stop Zuo's force and pursue the General back through his Ring Portal to Shamballah (Terrorcota, Stone Soldiers # 8). 

In the aftermath of the Chinese invasion, plans were immediately set in motion to begin developing American-made Ring Portals capable of moving not just individual soldiers, but entire aircraft. Project; Flare was launched.

The Sprocket, named for its gear-like appearance, is a steam engine-rotated Ring Portal measuring over fifty feet in diameter. The Sprocket is large enough to accommodate a Harrier AV-8B or even an F-35, as well as most US Army land vehicles, including the M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. 

Like the former Wehrmacht Ring Portal recovered in Antarctica, the Sprocket does not need a mated pair to complete the wyrmhole (so called for its magical origins and connection to the astral plane). Rather, the Sprocket locks on to a remote object through a complicated thaumatological machine utilizing the empathetic etheric resonance principal. 

In late 2015, the Sprocket was used to establish a connection to an orbital point over the Farside of the Moon (One Dark Step, Stone Soldiers #11). This allowed a strike team to insert from orbit onto the Moon's surface without having to cross the vast distance between Earth and Moon. 

Further study of the Sprocket and its interdimensional abilities suggests the device could be used not just to reach distant points in space, but points in parallel universes--if they exist. 


Author's Notes:  The original Ring Portal to Mars came about as just an appropriately magical way to move from one point to another. Magical doorways are rampant in fantasy and Science Fiction (The Blue Adept, Stargate, The Chronicles of Narnia). Once the Ring Portal was part of the Stone Soldiers universe, I began to think back to one of my favorites, Stargate SG-1. The Ring Portal made its triumphant return. In a much larger, vehicle-capable size. I mean, can you imagine Colonel O'Neill and Tealc rampaging in Vancouver in a Tank?! That would have been epic...

Is the Sprocket too powerful? There is that possibility. Good fiction has obstacles for the heroes to overcome. Distance isn't a particularly exciting one, so I think the ability to go from any point on Earth to any other doesn't hurt a story at all. In fact, it literally opens up whole new worlds. Worlds you'll see in the future as Stone Soldiers wraps up and spawns a new series Shadow Raiders

Thursday, April 21, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: Ring of He Xingu

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.



HE XINGU'S RING



Description:  Magical Talisman of the Eight Immortals

Current Location: In the custody of Detachment 1039

Appearance and Abilities: He Xingu, the Alchemist Immortal, fashioned her ring as a wide band of golden metal, inscribed with the symbol of the lotus. Like He, the ring possesses incredible, unearthly healing abilities. Wearers of the band are able to heal any wound almost instantly. Disease nor magical curses are able to affect the wearer, even if they had contracted them prior to donning the ring. For Stone Soldiers, possessing the ring (touching it when no one else is) nullifies their petrification, reverting them to mortal form and bestowing them with the same healing abilities as a normal wearer. Removing the ring, any such Stone Soldier will revert to their petrified form.

History:  In Chinese mythology, the Eight Immortals (transcendents) possessed power tools into which their divine power could be channeled. These magical artifacts are revered by Taoists and are popular in Chinese Culture.

In Stone Soldiers, the Eight Immortals were very much real, although possibly mischaracterized over time and many re-tellings. At some point in history, their magical talismans were gathered in the Forbidden City and held in a vault deep underground, deemed too dangerous for any mortal man to own or control.

In 2014, General Zuo Zheng Duan broke into this vault and stole all the Immortals' talismans for his own use. Leading a magical invasion of the United States, Zuo hoped to trigger World War III, believing he could use his artifacts to be the first Emperor of the post-apocalyptic world. Instead, Zuo was killed and his artifacts recovered by Detachment 1039.

In 2015, the Ring accompanied the Detachment to the Farside of the Moon. At one point, the ring was used to resurrect Josie Winters. Unfortunately, the ring also unlocked all her latent abilities and gave her Malakh-like abilities. The ring was confiscated and is back in custody on Earth.


Author's Notes: Yes, the Inferno would be a good place for the ring, but given it's ability to turn stone men to flesh, Colonel Kenslir just can't do that. Additionally, I'd like to come up with a way to make multiples of this ring, allowing all the stone soldiers to appear human at will. But, I'll have to find a way to make that fit into a story. Until then, He Xingu's ring will continue to make appearances here and there.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: QBU-88

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.




QBU-88

First Appearance: Terrorcota (Stone Soldiers #8)

Description:  Designated Marksman Rifle of the People's Liberation Army (China)

History:  Sometimes referred to as the Type 88, the QBU-88 was one of the first of a new generation of modern small arms adopted by the Chinese Army in 1997. Often mistaken for a sniper rifle, the QBU-88 is intended for aimed semi-automatic fire (in proprietary 5.8x42mm ammunition) at targets beyond standard infantry rifle ranges.

Capabilities: Designed for the steel-core DBP87 cartridge, the QBU-88 can also fire standard rifle ammunition, such as used in the QBZ-95. The gas-operated, rotating bolt rifle has an effective range of 400-800 meters (as compared to the US Army M4's 500m range) and features a 10-round detachable box magazine. 88s come with iron sights but can accept optical sights. The rifle has an optional, detachable bipod for increased stability during firing. The QBu-88 weighs 4.1 kg (or 9 pounds).

Author's Notes:  Being a fan of gunfu, it is incredibly difficult for me to resist the urge to go into excruciating detail about the many military weapons seen throughout the Stone Soldiers series. Usually, I forge on, maintaining the breakneck speed of action rather than mire the reader in technical specs. However, I do read an awful lot about weaponry before I utilize it in a story. For the QBU-88, I envisioned this as being the standard longarm of General Zou's elite force that invaded Colorado. Other rifles from the PLA's inventory obviously would have made it along as well but I like to think this was the most common...


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: P Division

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.



P-DIVISION


First Appearance: Mythical (Stone Soldiers #1)

Description:  FBI Special Task Force

History:  With the revelation of parahumans to the public in 1971, law enforcement began to consider Preternatural threats seriously. Initially, various teams and investigative units dealt with the matter, but too many false reports disrupted operations and limited the Bureau's ability to effectively deal with Preternatural crimes. In the early 1990s, the P-Division was formed, consolidating the investigation of strange events to one investigative team to make a singular determination as to whether or not something Preternatural was involved. By 2000, the Division had grown to include Critical Incident Response Groups dedicated to the apprehension of individuals posing a Preternatural threat to the general population. These early P-CIRGs were augmented by parahuman consultants skilled in countering Preternatural threats. Today, the P-Division continues to investigate the strange and unusual and apprehend the Preternaturally dangerous when appropriate.

Author's Notes: The idea of a government task force of law enforcers fighting the supernatural or unusual isn't new; X-Files, Alphas, Fringe, Heroes, The BPRD. In a series where the military is countering supernatural threats to national security, it only seems appropriate there be a more toned-down, legalistic response force. One that allowed me to parody elements of the best of the previous entries in fictional law enforcement. Initially, the P-Division remained an unnamed element of the FBI, making appearances in early Stone Soldiers novels. But in X-Ponent readers go to go back to the end of the 20th Century and see a slightly more familiar version of the group, headed up by two intrepid investigators of the paranormal. Agents David "Lone Wolf" Mueller (who believed everything was connected to aliens, when it wasn't) and his skeptical partner S. Kelly Anderson dove head first into the investigation of strange goings on involving the military in this expansion of flashbacks from Shades of War (Stone Soldiers #4). A bit more campy than most of the Stone Soldiers/Shadow Detachment installments, this one was particularly fun to write.













Monday, April 18, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: OA-93

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.



OA-93

First Appearance: Brothers in Stone (Stone Soldiers #2)

Description:  Submachinegun 

Summary: Built by Olympic Arms, the OA-93 is a scaled down version of the AR-15/M16/M4 used by the U.S. Military and forces around the world.

Firing a 5.56mm rifle cartridge, and using AR-15/M16/M4 compatible magazines, the weapon weighs in at a little over 4.5 lbs. It has been featured in a number of films and is actually intended as a two-handed submachine gun, rather than a handgun.

Two other, similar weapons were made by Olympic Arms, the OA-96 and OA-98.

In the Stone Soldiers series, the OA-93 is often the primary sidearm of choice for Colonel Mark Kenslir. 



From the Author: What do you give the supersoldier who can kill men and monsters with his bare hands? Guns for supersoldiers is definitely a tough choice that many a writer has faced. In Hellboy, the titular character fires a particularly large-caliber revolver that would make any muscleman's arms sore.



The implication in choosing a big gun is that the reader/viewer sees ho strong the character is. Big guns = big muscles. 



For Stone Soldiers this isn't really the goal. By Book 2, readers know how tough Colonel Kenslir is. Instead of a big gun, the Colonel needed weapons that would make sense. Why would a super soldier need a gun? Well, fists only go so far. Engaging an enemy at distance is a long-standing military concept. One even a super soldier would adhere to.



Rather than go the unique, one-of-a-kind, don't-lose-it-or-Q-will-be-pissed weapon, I opted instead for weapons that could be used in extraordinary circumstances in extraordinary ways.



The two big issues for any soldier going into the field are recoil and weight. No one wants to lug around a heavy gun and heavier spare ammo. A super soldier doesn't have that concern. Of course, 5.56mm is not exactly a heavy round. And the M4 has an integral recoil absorption mechanism built into it, aiding in its accuracy. Of course, even with two hands on a full-length M16, it's hard to fight the recoil and keep the weapon on-target in full-automatic fire.



For Colonel Kenslir, the OA-93 offers a compact, full-sized rifle-calibered submachinegun he can fire on full auto all day long without breaking a sweat. If he's deployed with conventional forces, he doesn't have to worry about one-of-a-kind ammunition. And, in the event he loses or breaks his weapon, while not a common firearm, he can get another OA-93 without too much fuss. 


Saturday, April 16, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: Nordics (Species-5)

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.



Nordics (Species-5)

First Appearance: One Dark Step (Stone Soldiers #11)

Description:  Fell Race 

Current Status:  At large

Summary: Throughout human history there have been tales of tall, otherworldly beings, often slight of build, that approach men and women, professing to only want to help. Often described as having pale skin, piercing blue eyes and long, flowing white or blonde hair, these beings have survived into the modern era, now branded as alien visitors wanting only to help humanity. The truth about these beings is more sinister than most can imagine...

The offspring of Human-Malakh First Borns, the Nordics are a race dedicated to the eradication of humanity. Residing in subterranean bases around the world and even on the Farside of the Moon, the Nordics--so called for their resemblance to Scandinavian peoples--rely on deception and subterfuge to manipulate the nations of the Earth into fighting against themselves. 

In 1954, a delegation of the Nordics attempted to establish diplomatic relations with the United States, as did a small group of Species-4, the Huldufolk. The Nordics claimed the Huldufolk were their rivals in a galactic war and both parties were attempting to convince the U.S. government to allow them to build bases in North America. The Nordic delegates were captured and interrogated for the first time in history, and their true plan was revealed--an invasion of the aftermath of a global nuclear war, eliminating the few survivors remaining on Earth. Further, it was discovered the Huldufolk and Nordics were working in concert, with the Huldufolk actually existing as a slave race. 

(In the aftermath of the Nordic encounter, it has been theorized that this meeting was designed to push the Soviet Union and United States into a nuclear conflict, especially given the fact the Soviets entered into a non-aggression treaty in exchange for advanced technology that was never provided.)

While both the Huldufolk and Nordics were believed to be operating on Earth (and not from the Pleiades star system as they claimed), in the late 1960s, the Apollo space program confirmed the presence of artificial structures on the Farside of Earth's moon. As radar tracking of both Huldufolk and Nordic aircraft continued to improve, it was eventually confirmed both species were operating from these structures, as well as from Earth-side bases. 

In 2015, a U.S. mission to the Moon succeeded in identifying and eliminating the leader of these imposter races, the Fell being identified as Hubal. A simultaneous strike in Iceland (a nation with a long-standing treaty of nonaggression with the Huldufolk), also succeeded in destroying a number of aircraft and inflicting severe casualties on the servants of Hubal.

Physical Description:  Nordics are on average between 7 and 7 1/2 feet tall, with some extreme cases of eight feet or more reported. They have slender limbs and torsos, with little to no body fat. All have iridescent blue eyes, elongated, pointed ears, and white body hair. Nordics have the same advanced, etheric-based regenerative abilities as most other Fellish and supernatural beings, recovering from minor wounds almost immediately, and withstanding what should be mortal wounds with little effort.

Nordics further possess a superhuman strength believed to be bolstered by the same etheric energy they use for healing--the average Nordic male is believed to possess the physical strength of ten human men. Nordics are possessed of an incredible endurance, also believed to be etherically-bolstered. 

As a result of their magical healing, Nordics are vulnerable to silver. Despite this, most Nordics have been found to wear silver-mesh woven clothing, armbands, jewelry and to even carry silver weapons. 

Nordics favor edged weapons in combat but are known to use advanced weaponry, some harnessing etheric energy for ranged combat. Nordic technology is significantly more advanced than human, mixing both scientific and thaumatological adavances. 

Author's Notes:  If you've ever seen any of the UFO shows, you've heard the terms "grays", "Nordics" and even "Reptilians". Abductees are convinced these three species visit the Earth from other worlds. For One Dark Step, I thought it would be interesting to mix it up, by having the Nordics and Grays (Huldufolk) working together. And of course, having them be supernatural. 

In many science fiction stories--Stargate in particular--the opposite is normally done. Things we think of as supernatural are "scientifically" explained. For the Stone Soldiers universe, I like turning that on its head and making the at-first-glance scientific and pseudoscientific to be something literally otherworldly.

For now, the Nordics have been dealt a crushing defeat, but they aren't down and out completely. Look for these modern-day Elves and their Goblin slaves to return in future stories... along with maybe a Reptilian or two...

Friday, April 15, 2016

BOOK OF STONE: MAX/MAXIM

For April, Stone Soldiers.info is celebrating the A to Z Blog Challenge with daily letter-themed entries detailing the people, places and things of the Stone Soldiers universe.








MAX/MAXIM

First Appearance: Brothers in Stone (Stone Soldiers #2)

Description:  Virtual Sentience/Artificial Intelligence Simulation 

Current Status:  Attached to Det. 1039, based in Argon Tower, Florida.

Summary:  A virtual reality simulation of the mechanical construct FIVE, Max is a simulated personality that functions as an Artificial Intelligence, analyzing data and assisting Det. 1039 in their Counter Dark Operations, worldwide. 

MAXIM is a super-computer network of machines built to analyze and decrypt radio communications intercepted from Florida. Conceived, built and programmed by the Emerson twins, MAXIM's abilities grew over time, allowing the hyper-network to decode volumes of data originally undreamt of. In 1987,  MAXIM was hacked via a landline modem connection by the mechanical computer FIVE, which reprogrammed the decryption super network, creating a virtual-reality version of itself. 

To all but a handful of the few that know of MAXIM's existence, the machine continues to monitor and decrypt electronic signals. However, the networked 100+ super computers comprising MAXIM also run the VR simulation that calls itself Max.

Connected to the world via the internet, DARPAnet and even the US Military's network (including satellites) Max is able to monitor and affect most of the world. The VR Sentience maintains its secrecy but actively works with the Detachment where it can and proves to be more and more valuable as the reliance on networked computers grows. 

Author's Notes: K.I.T.T., B-9, Hal 9000... all were pretty cool, but limited in what they could do. I envisioned a character like Max years ago, back in the early versions of Detachment 1039 that still exist only as scribbled, pencil manuscripts. In the early Stone Soldiers books, I laid the groundwork for Max but wasn't sure how soon I wanted to reveal him to readers--the series is already packed with so much. But then, one weekend, I discovered Person of Interest and The Machine. Finally, a super computer, almost done right. (The Machine just needs to talk more). It was time for Max... and his origin story, Infernal Machine