Cretaceous clay and the.., p.1
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       Cretaceous Clay and The Black Dwarf, p.1

           Dan Knight
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Cretaceous Clay and The Black Dwarf
Praise for Cretaceous Clay!

  “a science fiction-fantasy thriller with an added dose of murder, mystery and mayhem …” – Wendy, Goodreads

  “funny, witty dialogues were enough comic relief in all the strange and sometimes scary crime scenes … if the saying of starting with a blast is true, then this series is bound to become a hit!” – Lydia P., Goodreads Top Reviewer

  “a very vivid imagination and I would definitely read another one of his books …” – Angel S., Goodreads Best Reviewer

  “the Black Dwarf takes what we expect from the fantasy genre and reforms it into something new and exciting. …” – C. P. Bialois, Author of The Sword and the Flame, Call of Poseidon, and Skeleton Key

  “a wonderful imagination in the life-and-death situations …” – Erlinda C. N.

  “a nonstop read. It took me three hours without putting it down to read from front to back! This book kept me flipping the pages wanting to know more!” – Misty A., Goodreads

  Cretaceous Clay

  & the

  Black Dwarf

  ~~~~~~

  Dan Knight

  ~~~~~~

  Stonewald, LLC

  Greenville, Texas

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  CRETACEOUS CLAY AND THE BLACK DWARF

  Copyright 2013 ALAN BROOKS.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without the express written permission of the author. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

  Publisher’s Acknowledgements

  Cover Designed by Stonewald, LLC

  Cover Art: Copyright 02-28-13 Yevgen Timashov / Vetta Collection / iStockphoto.com / Standard License

  Editor: Tina Musial

  Map of Nodlon: Copyright 2013 ALAN BROOKS.

  ~~~~~~

  ISBN-10: 0-9893861-2-0 (Paperback)

  ISBN-13: 978-0-9893861-2-8 (Paperback)

  ISBN-10: 0-9893861-0-4 (eBook)

  ISBN-13: 978-0-9893861-0-4 (eBook)

  Stonewald apologizes, Gentle Reader, for the image size and quality.

  Contents

  Call Me

  Perchance to Dream

  The Apple

  Princess of Nodlon

  Bread and Circuses

  Biots

  Jack and Jazz

  Nimrod

  East of Eden

  The Black Dwarf

  Gumshoe

  Zodiac

  The Sign of the Capricorn

  Witches Brew

  Jazz Calls

  Evan Labe

  A Suicide Pact

  The Blue Lights of Nodlon

  Blueberry Lake

  Stop Before We Run Out of Biots

  Café Des Moulin

  New Gem

  Tipping Your Hand

  The World Inside

  Shotgun’s Findings

  Hot Pursuit

  Why Dwarves?

  The Meddler’s Nemesis

  Rimshot Sees Too Much

  Babel Tower

  Puttin’ on the Ritz

  Rimshot

  Jezebel Steele

  An Unnatural End

  Halls of Industry

  A Bad Mole

  Hear No Evil

  The Prodigal Son Returns

  Goodbyes

  If You Want It Done Right

  Phaedra’s Son

  The Marie Celeste

  Tin-Plated Megalomaniacs

  The Crucible

  Epilogue: On the Beach

  The Adventure Continues

  Acknowledgements

  Call Me

  “Call Me!” laughed the nymph.

  Evan sank onto his couch and watched her on his vid screen. She danced across the screen and bounded over puff balls and spinning flowers. “All your hopes can come true!” Was she real, or was she just a sprite created out of the mind of a graphic artist? “Don’t be blue, dreams can too!” He turned off his vid, but he still saw the nymph and heard the jingle.

  “Call me,” she called.

  For forty nights, he watched. For forty nights, she repeated her rhymes. “Call me! call now! Call me if you want to be alive!”

  The jingle rang in his head. At work and at his apartment, the tune repeated over and over. It would not let go. He stuck his fingers in his ears, and it played. He tried to drown the tune with music, and it played.

  Insomnia plagued him, and the little tune rang when he tried to sleep. The rhyme was magical in its power. It repeated endlessly. It would not stop. He needed help to sleep with the tune playing all the time. He was struggling to stay awake at work, and he needed rest.

  Throwing aside his pillow, he rubbed his face, and sat up. Awake in the dark, the jingle left him alone for a minute. He sighed with relief, and sat in the dark. An electronic glow lit the apartment. He had a computer, a vid, a theatre system, and a clock. His furniture was sparse, but tasteful.

  Curling his toes, he went to the bathroom without turning on the lights. He opened his medicine cabinet and searched for something to help him sleep. He needed to take the edge off. Taking each bottle out of the cabinet one at a time, he read the labels by the tiny power light on his toothbrush. After stacking a small pharmacy on the edge of his lavatory, he found the right bottle. Carefully, he took one pill, sipped some water from the faucet, and swallowed it. Placing all of the bottles back in the cabinet, he relaxed hoping the drug would reward him with sleep.

  He closed the cabinet, and saw his clock reflected in the mirror. Opening the bathroom door wider, he peeked out and looked for his clock. It sat on his nightstand at his bedside facing the bathroom. The cord must have caught in my sheets. I must have pulled the clock away from the bed when I sat up.

  Taking small steps, he walked to his refrigerator, and opened it. Inside was very little, but he was a bachelor, so what would anyone expect. He had the essentials: Pizza and sparkling water. He took a bottle of water and drank a slug. Screwing the cap on tight, he put the bottle back, and closed the fridge. Patiently, he stood in his little kitchen waiting for his eyes to adjust.

  He had just moved in. It was expensive, but he wanted to be noticed. He wanted to show off. He had a good job, and he wanted every dwarf girl in Nodlon to know it. That’s why he moved. He just wanted someone to love him, but he knew it was hopeless, and he wondered why he cared.

  And then he heard it. Something heavy bumped a wall. But he dismissed it. It was just the neighbors next door. Perhaps they were getting up and starting their day early.

  Slowly, with his toes curled, he walked across the apartment to his bed. At the foot of the bed, he climbed in and crawled over the covers. Lying down, he curled up with his pillow. He shut his eyes, and tried to clear his mind.

  The floor thumped below him. He sat up bolt straight, clutching his pillow.

  Nerves! He breathed slowly, calming himself, and he suppressed the feeling. He lived in an apartment building now. He had left the dorms. Dorms were just a place to warehouse biots. But the dorms were quiet. Dorms were just quarters for others dwarves like him
. He was not used to the noise. It was just the neighbors.

  The apartments on the Bio-Soft campus were pre-war. The walls were thin he told himself. The apartment must be over a century old, or maybe two. The dorms were new. But his apartment was expensive and well built. Yes, but the dorms were insulated better. But, then, he had never heard his neighbors in the dorm.

  He pulled up his blanket and curled up again with his pillow. Rolling over, he looked directly at the time. He had not moved the clock. Or had he? Maybe he had moved it when he was startled by the thump on the floor. Or could he? How would he have moved the clock?

  Slowly and gently, he reached across his bed. He felt for the switch on his lamp, and switched on the light. The shadow was on the wall. It was as tall as a goblin, and it was on the wall next to his closet door. He blinked, trying to think. Nothing stood between the light and the shadow. He tried to yell for help, but his mouth would not move. He tried to turn his head, but he was paralyzed.

  He closed his eyes. He wished it to go away. He opened his eyes, and the shadow was gone.

  Composing himself, he tried to make sense of it. He was just tired, he told himself. Sleeplessness was affecting his senses. Slowly, the fear faded, and he could turn his head. He peeked out from his blanket and looked around. His saloon doors were open. He could see most of his studio from his bed. There was nothing there.

  He climbed out of bed. He checked his front door and found it locked. A peek in the bathroom confirmed it too was empty. The closet door was closed. Cautiously, he opened it, and found only his clothes and his bathrobe. He knelt to see if the intruder was hiding behind his clothes. Nothing there except his sneakers, shoes, and his boots. No one was in the apartment.

  He felt tingles run up and down his back, and he closed the door. Looking around again, his clock was just as he had left it. Nothing was amiss.

  “Nightmare,” he muttered, “I was just having a nightmare.” Shaking, he went back to bed, curled up with his pillow, and left his light on.

  Perchance to Dream

  Constellations twirled around Clay. He soared through the stars and he searched for his mother. He called her name. Stars passed him by, and the starry night passed overhead. He could not find her and he fell to Earth. Dwarves surrounded him, and he struck at them with lightning. They fell back until a dwarf warlock appeared. He attacked the foul lord with flames and ice. The dwarf fired a tornado at him. He ducked, and the whirlwind hit a mountain. The mountain erupted, and lava flowed. The dwarves ran, and the warlock escaped. A volcano was beyond his powers. He wanted to fly, but the volcano exploded and sent mountains into the sky.

  “Jack,” called his mother.

  I’m here. The volcano disappeared, and the dream faded. He opened his eyes. Moonlight flooded his bedroom with a pale light. The smoke alarm blinked in the hall. He twisted his head. Struggling to move, he turned just far enough to see his bedroom door.

  “Jack,” she said, “be calm Pumpkin, it’s only me.”

  “Mum,” he mumbled. He tried to call her. A bead of sweat rolled down his brow. Supine, he tried to rise. Cold air settled over his bed, and he saw a shadow in the hall. The shadow moved quietly into his room, and stepped into the moonbeam revealing a woman in a white gown. She was an elf, fair and lovely, and familiar just as he remembered her. In the cool moonlight, she shined snow white.

  “Mum!” his shout gurgled on his lips.

  “Pumpkin,” her blue eyes twinkled, “childhood ends. For a time, you will battle a dwarf, and then you will face the dragon. Many will be lost, but Nodlon will be saved. Afterwards, you will go into the starry night for three days.” Stars and constellations swirled across his ceiling. The Milky Way rolled until it crowned her. “None know with whom you contend. Enmity lies between us and the dragon’s servants.”

  Still frozen, he tried to cry out.

  “None of your questions can I answer now,” she shook her head, and smiled.

  “Be true and brave and you will not fail me. Whatever may come; we shall meet again on a sunny day.” Giving him a simple wave, she left.

  “Mum!” he cried.

  He forced his muscles to move, and gradually he sat up. He searched his condominium, but she was not in the apartment. She was gone. What did he expect? Three years had come and gone since she had passed.

  His patio door was open. He stepped into the cool, morning air. The stars blazed in the clear mountain air. Orion was high and the moon waxed in the east. A low earth orbiter on a red-eye flight to Elysium split the sky with a contrail reflecting the distant sun.

  He tried to clear his head standing in the cold air. He had no idea. He could not be sure.

  Was his interest in the supernatural any more than a morbid obsession with a dark chapter in human history? No, he had to find out why. In all the solar system, he alone was blessed with magic. Blessing or curse, magic was his life. He had studied history, science, and nature. When those offered no explanation to his magic he had investigated the supernatural, the paranormal, witchcraft, alchemy, and the occult. He had learned nothing about himself.

  His mother’s appearance to him was just another strange event in his strange life. He was a magician. Thinking of the supernatural, he wondered, was she a dream, or did I see a ghost? Again a cold tingle ran up and down his spine, and he recalled her words. Then, he remembered his mother. She was so real! Did I really see my mother?

  Willing himself to be calm, he looked down on the twinkling lights of Nodlon. It would be a long day.

  The Apple

  Evan Labe stood in front of his door and looked up and down the hall. Deep in the night, his neighbors slept and, he felt an insubstantial bond with those who watched the late-night vid while others slept. Sucking in a deep breath, he opened his front door. He checked behind the door, in the bathroom, and in the closet. Nothing unusual was in the apartment.

  Night after night, Evan returned to his studio apartment, turned on his vid and watched the nymph sing her rhymes. Nothing had happened since he had seen the shadow, but he was still worried.

  He flopped in his lounge chair, gazed around his quarters, and he pondered his fate. He had had enough. He picked up his remote, and said, “Vid on.”

  “Call me!” Her refrain echoed. She smiled sweetly, and batted her eyes, “Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Call me! Call now!” she teased. How could she be lying? Smiling from the glowing screen, the nymph swayed from side to side and her skirt shook as she danced. “One can be two, when genes are new!”

  New Gem’s numbers floated across the screen. The nymph dared him to pick up the caster and call her.

  “New Gem will make a new you. New genes! New Gem!” He snatched his remote, and yelled, “Stop!”

  Obediently, the vid screen froze. He picked up his caster, I have nothing to lose. Frozen on his vid screen, the New Gem numbers taunted him. Pressing a key on his caster, he stored the number on the screen.

  “Oh, vixen, you are pneumatic.”

  He dialed the number, and a soft beep warned him the connection was made. A chamber ensemble began playing from his caster, and he waited, helpless to do anything else. How could he pay for gene therapy? Seconds passed, and they seemed an eternity. Thinking he had lost his mind, he almost hung up.

  “A biot you are, and a biot you’ll be. There’s no escaping who you are,” he argued.

  “New genes, New Gem,” a young goblin interrupted a cello, “How may I help you?”

  “Hi, I’m Evan Labe and I saw your number on an infomercial.”

  “Oh, good, my name is Sally, and I just need some information.” Quickly he gave her far more personal data than he wished.

  “Can you come in for an appointment tomorrow morning? I have a nine-thirty or an eleven. Would any of those do?” He agreed to an early appointment, and silently hoped he could get a pass.

  Princess of Nodlon

  Nodlon lay at Virginia’s feet, and its blue lights flickered in the
gathering twilight. Her home was a castle built on the artificial mountain at the west end of the city. At the valley’s other end on the northern spur stood Babel Tower. The tower rose above the mountains and marked the city’s modern edge. Beyond it was the Pale, the abandoned suburbs of a more exuberant, more confident age. The tower was home to Nodlon’s nouveau riche, and to its most enigmatic resident, Cretaceous Clay.

  Soon, she would be off to see Clay perform. He was a sensation. She had seen his show many times, but tonight was different. Tonight, she hoped to enlist him in her scheme to win popular support for the emancipation of the biots. If her father knew what she was doing, he would ground her until she graduated from college.

  She sighed. The city had begun with a dream. She knew the story by heart.

  Thornmocker was a mining mogul whose family had made their fortune carving coal out the roots of the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming. He wanted to create a perfect resort for the planet’s most perfect people. The city’s infrastructure for the staff and industry was built into the mines. The valley became a playground for the elite.

  At the head of a valley carved out of the mountains by an ancient glacier, he built a manna generator into the mines. To hide the cooling towers, he built an artificial mountain, and atop the mountain, he constructed a fairy castle. The frothy mix of architecture was once a hotel for the Solar System’s elite. Now it was home to the King and his family, and since she was the King’s daughter, it was her home.

  The castle was much too big to live in alone. They shared it with Nodlon’s nobility, her father’s bureaucrats, and all of their servants. Among the hundreds of luxurious suites, the King’s family occupied the highest one in the tallest tower.

  No utopia of men is without a price. Someone had to build and maintain Nodlon. Who better to build Nodlon than biots?

  Biots were superior to humans in every imaginable way, and many feared they were the logical successors to humans on the ladder of evolution. Such fears drove humans to demand limitations. Synthetic biological androids were the perfect cogs in Thornmocker’s machine. Human-like creatures with no family and no home besides what the company provided. Less than animal in status, and more than human in capacity, no one dared to defend them.

  Still, they were supposed to be soulless creatures with no complaints. But the pressure of lives spoiled by hopeless loneliness could not be contained. Nodlon groaned with the suffering of biots, and the heart and soul of the city festered.

  To contain the threat, Thornmocker constructed Tollmerak. Tollmerak was a school for biots at the center of the nurseries. There he hoped to chain the hearts of the biot children and harness the only true resource: their mind and spirit. But even his cunning mind had no antidote for the ghosts in the machine.

  Rebellion exploded, and the world burned. The Regressive Wars nearly wiped out the solar system, but Nodlon survived. The city owed its survival to its two chief assets: Its vast underground industrial base and to Tollmerak, the school, which tempered Nodlon’s culture and warded off a rebellion.

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