A note from the author

•June 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Hi there. It’s almost two months since my last installment, and I think it’s time to admit that Danny’s Story is on hiatus.

This story — and the series — is a work in progress, and the on-line format is an experiment for me. In a way, it’s been successful. Having an audience was a much-need incentive to write what I did, I learned a bit about publicity, and I received some very helpful feedback regarding the story and its on-line format.

As is possible with any rough draft, I’ve reached a point where I feel something is wrong. Many plot elements just don’t seem to be working, and I think it’s time to dismantle what I have and take it back to the drawing board — again. I like Danny and the crew too much to give up on them. Anyway, I have too many business cards that I don’t want to waste (plus that nifty flyer that my friend created for me), so I can’t give up. Good news is, since deciding to put this story to scrap, I’ve already got some new ideas percolating.

Thank you very much to everyone who’s read, and to those who commented or reviewed. Your feedback is priceless.

I don’t know when the Danny rewrite is going to happen. I do hope to finish editing another novel — this one already completed! — so please check back for a link soon.

Thanks again, everyone!

–Iamba

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39. in which danny is surrounded by dragon

•April 20, 2009 • 4 Comments

After Danny landed, it was many long moments before she lifted her head to survey the damage. The tall silhouettes of trees still loomed in the fading smoke. Ferns still curled near her on the ground. They were blackened with a film of soot, but green with life nevertheless. She stared around herself, but there were no signs of the dragon. No signs of movement at all.

At length, Danny’s attention was taken by globs of black that had hardened against the ground and the trees. Several were on Danny herself. She poked and scratched at one on her arm and found that it had the texture and consistency of charcoal. Flakes and chunks fell away under her fingers.

The dragon. She broke an entire glob off of her leg and examined it. This is where the dragon had gone: its flesh had exploded in flaming chunks, landed, and hardened into char.

As Danny pondered the dragon’s demise, the smoke that obscured the Heart from her view settled. She tossed the chunk of charcoal to the ground and strode toward it. The trees around Danny were whole and alive, and so was the Heart.

Not for long, thought Danny, grimly. With its guardians defeated, she only had to destroy it to slay the forest.

Danny stood among the swirling haze, staring at the immense tree that was the Heart and contemplating how to kill it. While she did so, a form appeared in the haze and began to approach her. It was tall and massive, with an incredibly long, sharp…lance!

For a moment, Danny was dumbfounded. Staring her down was the wooden knight that she thought had perished in the dragon’s flames. The yellow eyes of its mount smoldered at her.

Then, the knight kicked its horse against the flanks, the lance came down, and they began to charge toward Danny.

“Oh, shit,” she swore.


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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

38. in which the dragon, in a word, explodes

•April 6, 2009 • 1 Comment

Suddenly, Danny’s feet were being swept out from underneath her. The tree bough seemed to rise swiftly to meet her, but her stomach told her that she was really dropping. Her wrists cracked against the bough, and the cannon clattered from her numb grasp and was gone.

Branches whipped against her face and limbs, and then she was flying upward by her ankles, whisking past a green whirl of trees. After a second, she switched the ocular input from the Suit so that the world appeared right-side up. She was traveling quickly through the trees and a thinning cover of smoke – straight into the dragon’s grasp. It was the dragon’s tail that had her by the ankles. With a flick, it tossed her into the air. Danny broke through the canopy. Her vision somersaulted. Trees-sky-smoke-shadow. She descended toward an image of wide open dragon jaws.

As she descended, she could smell the stench of burning sulfur. Smoke trickled from the dragon’s dark throat. She began to make out the details of the scales that rimmed its lips, the blackened gums and yellowing teeth. She extended her arms in front of her and launched three of the goo nets with which she had recently defeated the cyborgs. They hit the dragon’s mouth wetly, filling its maw like a massive piece of chewed-up gum. Half a second later, Danny landed against the soft mass. Immediately, the goo began to harden – with her in it.

“Danny slipped free of the goo and dropped to the ground,” Danny said. In a moment, she was tumbling to the ground. She rolled to her feet and looked up. The dragon was shaking its head again, this time while making a muffled, moaning roar. It recoiled its head, leaped backwards, scuttled sideways, pawed its face, worried its head, lashed its tail, and cried. The ground underfoot vibrated with its efforts. Thick, grey smoke poured from its nostrils.

At first, Danny wasn’t sure what was happening. Flashes of orange flame licked out from small holes in the matrix of hardened white goo that filled the dragon’s mouth, covering it and keeping the jaws open. Smoke billowed up from the nostrils. A peculiar rushing noise filled the air between the dragon’s bellowing. When Danny realized that the dragon was blowing fire, and that the pressure was building against the wad that blocked its escape, it was too late. With a sudden, concussive explosion, dragonfire burst outward like a nova. The force of the explosion picked Danny up and threw her through the trees.

In the back of her mind, she observed wryly that she had probably broken her record for the amount of times she’d been gone airborne without wings in one day.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

37. in which danny fights fire with plasma

•March 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The charging horse and rider were at least a hundred feet away. Danny stood her ground and raised the cannon. She felt she had run enough for one day. She sighted the horse and released an air-splitting round of plasma fire.

The air in front of her exploded in a fury of heat. As the explosion spread and dissipated, she had but a moment to note that the horse and rider were gone, but there was the dragon’s head, pinning her with its gaze. Through a frame of spreading plasma, she watched its jaws part. Blue flame erupted in the darkness of its throat. For a heartbeat, everything seemed to stop as she stared, agape, at the vivid display of fire and plasma. Then, she gasped and raised her arms to her face just as a white-blue jet of dragonfire blasted her. She dropped to the ground, was knocked violently backwards, and tumbled like debris until she slammed into a tree.

Another heartbeat passed, in which the heat and vertigo and shock swept Danny up in a swirl of confusion and disorientation. When the inferno faded, she was still alive and whole, sprawled against the base of a tree. Underneath the Suit, her body was steaming with sweat. As the shock cleared, she became aware again of her optical input. She realized that it had not turned off at all through the dragonfire. She found herself staring into a haze of grey smoke.

Two red lights glowed spectrally in the smoke. As they drew closer to Danny, they resolved themselves into two enraged dragon’s eyes. Suddenly, the two eyes became a face that split into a wide, toothy maw. Danny started and flopped like a fish in an effort to leap to her feet. But she was too late. The jaws snapped shut around her chest and shoulders with a crunch.

Danny knew brief, crushing pain and a loud screeching sound like metal rending. The dragon chomped on her, then recoiled like it had been stung. It wailed and shook its head wildly. On the ground, Danny grabbed at the earth and wheezed for breath. She had a brief brush with the black unknowing of unconsciousness, but her mind swirled back into reality. The initial impact of the dragon’s teeth turned immediately into burning pain that began in her lungs and spread outward. While protecting her from the piercing damage of the teeth, the Suit could not fully protect her from the blunt force – which, if not for the Suit, would have killed her on its own.

Danny forced herself to sit up. Every breath brought pain. The dragon still shook its head with pain and shock. Biting into the Suit had apparently not been a pleasant feeling for it. She hoped it would learn from the experience. The crushing pressure of its jaws may have been just enough to squeeze the life out of her if it tried biting her again.

Danny wheezed out words to heal herself. The pain disappeared, and a pressure was lifted from her lungs. She stood. The dragon gave its head one last violent shake, then looked down at her and hissed. The sound unnerved Danny.

Another blast of dragonfire roared toward Danny. Though she was on her guard, she still narrowly leaped from its path. The forest once again was filled with hot, grey smoke. She stood on a stout lower branch of a tree and trained her cannon into the haze.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

36. in which danny underestimates the Heart of the forest

•March 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

Chapter Six

The mystery of the forest fell away around Danny like a veil dropping. It had remained virtually indestructible simply because Danny and the people of Circuit Runner had not been targeting the correct part of it. They had been attacking parts of a single, humongous tree – a magical one, to boot. Danny knew well enough that if you killed parts of a tree, you did not kill the whole thing.

It seemed so obvious to Danny now. The simplicity of the solution was almost ironic: kill the Heart to kill the entire forest.

The objective would be entirely too easy. Every piece of deadly technology in Circuit Runner was at her disposable – which included a dizzying selection of plasma, laser, nuclear, nano, and quantum weapons. Like an executioner rolling out her leather roll of tools, Danny laid the possibilities out in her mind and examined them with cool intensity.

Plasma. Plasma would do. Laser could slice through the trunk and topple the Heart like a piece of timber, but only if it could pierce all the way through the tree’s girth. Nuclear was too messy. Nano took too much creativity; there was an overwhelming variety of microscopic machines and functions they could perform (metabolize the tree from the inside out, dessicate it, interrupt individual cells’ chemical pathways). And quantum was just too confusing for Danny.

Danny conjured a handheld plasma canon and spent a moment studying her target. One blast to the top and one to the bottom would do it, she thought. One to destroy the roots, and the other to destroy the vast head of leaves.

It would be too easy. She raised the canon, targeted the base of the tree, and squeezed the trigger. A peal of thunder accompanied the fat gob of plasma that shot toward the tree and exploded at its base. Wet sparks splashed in every direction. That shot was followed rapidly by another, aimed at the tree’s top.

The moist green leaves and succulent living wood of the Heart went up in white flames and thick, black smoke. A loud sound of splitting, creaking wood accentuated the roar of the fire. The earth trembled, sending a shudder up the tree in which Danny perched.

In only moments, the flames had burned themselves out. The base of the tree was blasted black, but still whole. The burnt leaves of the tree’s top were merely char atop an otherwise healthy, green head. The tree should have been reduced to ashes. Instead, it was only burned around the edges.

Again, the ground shuddered, this time strongly enough to shake Danny from the tree. She allowed herself to drop to the ground, and landed easily on her feet. She looked up toward the Heart in time to see a huge shape appearing out of the smoke. Two hot, red embers of eyes appeared atop a narrow head. A great flap of wings quickly cleared the thickest smoke away, revealing the form of an immense black dragon. It regarded Danny with those ember eyes, framed by a crown of horns.

Something moved in the haze at its feet. The thick root there stretched and enlarged. Two legs reached forward, caught purchase on the ground. A barrel-chested horse stepped out of the wood and stood beneath the dragon, smooth and eerily steady. A silent, wooden knight sat atop it, lance resting at his hip.

Danny’s skin prickled. All three entities stared at her silently, and she stared back. Just as she steeled herself to act, the dragon’s eyes flared. It stretched its neck and opened its maw in a roar that made the leaves of the trees tremble. The horse reared and charged, and the rider leaned forward, bringing the lance to bear.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

35. in which danny makes a profound discovery

•March 9, 2009 • 1 Comment

Danny slipped into stealth mode. The world wavered, and Danny had the peculiar feeling of being disembodied as her Suited body disappeared from view. Only a faint trembling of the air – like heat waves – betrayed her presence when she moved.

She climbed up into the tree behind which she’d been hiding. There she perched, unmoving.

She ran an analysis on the energy signatures emanating from those lifeforms that showed yellow on the bioscan – those that the Suit’s computer could neither categorize as plants or animals. The edges of her vision blurred with an array of tiny, rapidly-changing numbers. After only several seconds, the numbers came to a halt, and the computer spat its results back to her. All of the alien lifeforms shared a similar energy signature, in the same manner that all plant life shared a similar energy, or all animals.

Next, Danny increased her sensors’ sensitivity to this energy and banished all other lifeforms from her scan. Her world came alive with yellow light. Every tree glowed solid with it. Each branch sparkled with the quick movements of tiny yellow forms – sprites, fairies, forest spirits. And the goliath tree at the center of the forest – it pulsed with yellow. Danny’s suspicions were confirmed in her mind. This was the forest’s heart.

Danny’s gaze followed the line of the Heart’s trunk downward. The unmistakable form of a huge, serpentine dragon coiled among its roots. Her gaze hesitated on it for only a moment.

The roots. Her attention focused in on these. The yellow lines of the Heart’s roots curled underneath it, spreading outward and downward. Intently, she followed the line of one set of roots. She found that they connected seamlessly with the roots of a neighboring tree. Gaze flicking back and forth, Danny quickly ascertained that all of the Heart’s roots connected with those of the trees around it. Indeed, all of the roots of all of the trees that she could see connected underground, like an impossibly complicated mesh of Celtic knotwork.

A flush of adrenaline shivered through Danny as she was rocked with a sudden realization. Quickly, she ordered her computer to isolate the Heart’s individual life signature, and dropped everything except it from the bioscan.

The ambient glow of spirits went dark, but the entire forest remained lit.

Every tree in the forest was one, single entity. The Heart was the forest.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

34. in which three dryads sleep, nestled in the tree

•March 4, 2009 • 1 Comment

So enthralled was Danny with the magic pulsing from the tree that she almost missed the pad of hooves along the ground. She ducked behind a normal-sized tree just in time to escape detection from a small guard of centaurs — real centaurs of flesh and fur. The muscles under their horse pelts rippled as they walked. Their human hair was a mess of matted dreadlocks and braids. Each gripped a spear.

Danny had already faced the centaurs’ cyberpunk brothers. She was all too happy to avoid the real things. She remained hidden until they had passed, then glanced back toward the goliath tree. No doubt, the centaurs were guarding this. Even those that had been transformed into cyborgs had carried out their duty with single-minded ferocity.

She performed a quick bioscan of her surrounding area. It was teeming with life. Green plant life, red animal life, and bright yellow unknown lifeforms. The guard of centaurs were red forms moving away from her. At the ground near her feet scurried little red shapes – mice, rats, insects. She glanced back at the humongous tree. It was a blazing, brilliant green. Nestled in the core of its trunk glowed several slim yellow shapes. Yellow, because her sensors could not recognize them.

Danny puzzled over this, and zoomed in closer with the Suit’s telescopic vision. The three shapes resolved into three slim female humanoids, bodies still and heads bent, their backs pressed against each other. They seemed to be asleep. Dryads? she wondered.

On closer inspection, Danny noticed that the tree itself had a yellow tinge in the bioscan. It was highly possible that her cyberpunk technology recognized the presence of ephemeral life forms – of spirits – but could not categorize them. To the world of Circuit Runner, such creatures did not exist. It was a wonder the Suit could sense them at all.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey