Magic Circles Series
Genre: Sci Fi
Publisher: Common Deer Press
Date of Publication: April 5, 2017
Number of pages: 373 pages
Word Count: 100k
Cover Artist: Common Deer Press
Tagline: A mystery thriller set in the second half of the twenty-first century, MOM is the first novel in Collin Piprell's darkly comic and always thought-provoking MAGIC CIRCLES science-fiction series.
A GOD IS BORN!
TOO BAD ABOUT THE PERSONALITY DISORDER
So reads the graffito.
MOM is the mall operations manager â the greatest intelligence in history, a machine awakened to self-awareness at a time when the last few human survivors have withdrawn to the last two remaining refuges on Earth. Quarantined from the global nanobot superorganism outside the malls and from each other inside, the mallsters are utterly dependent on MOM for everything â including the ever-more suspect information they're getting about the world Outside.
Now the malls are crumbling.
TOOT HAS SCUTTLED ahead into the dark passage. Dee Zu follows far behind in the dark. She has stopped to gently smear more of the soothing muck over herself. Try to avoid infection, her WalkAbout is telling her. She laughs.
Part of the ï¬ushed feeling could be medibots at work, but the damage is too general to be sure. Whatever. This might be too big a job for the in-house crew. But thereâs good news, compliments of the WalkAbout: she hurts so much that these must be only second-degree burns; third-degree burns destroy the pain receptors. She stops, manages to focus. She opens herself to a swell of anxiety, letting it dissipate before it can erupt into full-blown panic. At the same time she relegates the pain to a bearable distance.
Itâs hard to judge, but she thinks they must have already penetrated at least two hundred meters into this limestone labyrinth. So far they have simply kept to their right. She must remember this, which choices they have made, in case they have to retrace their route. This particular tunnel has tapered to the point that, should they decide to return to their start, Dee Zu, at least, will have to back out.
Another choice presents itself. Which way to go, which fork to take? This time, Dee Zuâs ears tell her, Toot has trotted off down the leftward tunnel. Dee Zu feels the faintest of breezes issuing from that direction, which means it might offer a way out. Anyway, the return would be right, left, left, left. Dee Zu repeats it to herself. No problem.
She humps along on elbows and knees, taking care not to bang her head, trying to spare her scorched skin, conscious of Toot somewhere in the dark ahead. The passage continues to narrow. Finally she can nolonger hear her companion. She calls out, âToot. I donât think I can go this way. Toot?â But thereâs noanswer.
Now she encounters broken ground, a fresh fall. The rocks are slime-free, and sharp edges tear at her. With much painful contortion she makes her way over and around it; then she finds she can go no farther. The passage is too narrow.
âToot!â she calls. Again thereâs no response. Deciding itâs better not to wait, she starts inching backwards towards the last junction. She has just started when thereâs a great thud. More than a thud. The concussion pounds at her from all directions, pummels her innards. The very earth groans; this is followed by a quick rumble. Dee Zu lies still for a good ï¬ve minutes. She thinks of times past with Cisco, she thinks about Tor, and she tells herself to relax. Eventually, she resumes her backward journey out of this dead end. She proceeds only a few meters before her feet kick against broken ground. She feels all around with her toes for the passage, but there is no passage. Only the fresh rockfall. She also senses that sheâs missing toes, two or three digits. Was it the satrays or the blurs that took them? If it had been blurs, they wouldnât have left her the remaining toes, or anything else either.
Dee Zu weighs this option, then she weighs that one and she realizes that they are both the same: lie here in the dark and wait to die.
A scrabble to the end of the road, and Dee Zu is left alone with the sound of her own breathing. She feels a faint breeze against her face coming from the dark ahead, cruel suggestion of an escape route. She never did find her water. Her skin is tightening. Maybe itâs the muck drying in the breeze. Sheâs thirsty. And light-headed. She hears an occasional grate and clack where the rocks behind her shift to a more stable conï¬guration. Water drips, tantalizingly, but the acoustics are bad and she canât tell whether itâs ahead, the way Toot went, or behind. And thatâs it. Thatâs her world. No bail button.
Without much hope, but lacking anything better to do, Dee Zu tries wiggling through. She dislocates her shoulder joints. Normally this would be easy, but in this conï¬ned space it isnât. It feels like her skin is tearing. Thereâs no chance.
One of her shoulders refuses to pop back into joint. Dee Zu shifts into shutdown mode, reducing both metabolism and cognition to minimum maintenance levels. Her last thoughts are of Cisco.
About the Author:
Collin Piprell is a Canadian writer and editor resident in Thailand. He is the author of four previous novels and a collection of humorous stories, now out of print, as well as four books on national parks, diving, and coral reefs, which are also out of print. *MOM* is the first novel of Magic Circles, a science-fiction trilogy in progress. Visit www.collinpiprell.com to learn more.