Movie Review, Update, and Closer to Home.

Spider-Man, Far From Home

Prepping for my flight tomorrow, I realized that I couldn’t go off to a convention without meeting people who were going to ask me what I, as a writer of superhero fiction, thought of Spider-Man: Far From Home. And I hadn’t seen it yet…

Have no fear! I ran out and caught a matinee showing. My thoughts? I can’t discuss it much without spoilers, but 1) it was an excellent movie, very much in line with Spider-Man: Homecoming, and 2) it does a very good job of providing an epilogue for Avengers: Endgame.

Seriously, this movie sets us firmly in place for the next stage of the MCU, showing us how the Great Snap–what they’re calling The Blink, because that’s how it felt to everyone who got snapped away and then back again–affected people like Peter, Aunt May, MJ, etc., were affected by it. The MCU Spider-Man story has been about web-slinging and teen angst, and  Far From Home sticks to that formulae; if you enjoyed Homecoming as much as I did, you won’t be disappointed.

So, where am I flying to? I’ve decided to attend a convention that wasn’t on my schedule, Connecticon! Well, Bards’ Tower called and said, “Hey, want to come to Connecticut?” I said “Sure!” So that’s where I’ll be from Friday to Sunday this week. (And I just got news I’ll be sharing the booth with Jim Butcher of Harry Dresden fame. Very cool. Last time I got to meet Mercedes Lackey, so it’s all a fan-boy experience.)


And next week, I’ll be at the San Diego Comicon!


I’ll be attending with a writer friend also from Vegas, Maxwell Alexander Drake. He’ll be there to teach a few genre-writing classes, and they give him a table for his stuff. He said “Marion, would you like to put your stuff at my table this year?” I said . . . well you get it. Really this is just an excuse for me to finally attend THE biggest comicon in the US at least once. I won’t be spending the entire time at the table, but I will be around if someone attending wants me to sign stuff or just chat.

So, what does all this mean for Repercussions?

I’ll not lie, it’s going to slow me down a bit. But I’ve bought a new laptop, and am committed to writing during the conventions. Actually not so much committed as obsessed; I hit a major stretch of writer’s block earlier this year, which put me way behind. The block overcome, I can’t not forge ahead.

Meanwhile, just to prove I have written more words than the ones you’ve seen so far, this takes place before/after the An Inn in Oz scene. Enjoy.


Earlier and closer to home . . .

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art long and dry.”

Shelly snorted, slapping a hand to her mouth before a full-blown laugh could escape and sink her. If Shell had been virtually present in the conference room instead of just whispering in her ear, she’d have glared at her quantum-twin. Instead she turned the snort into a cough and supported her cover by taking a sip from her water bottle.

Not that she fooled anyone around the table—her fellow Ouroboros all felt the soporific power of Dr. Hall’s “summations.” Usually she stayed awake by subvocalizing moves in a verbal chess game with Shell, but today wistful daydreaming of fun with the team on Littleton’s beach made even focusing on chess moves impossible.

“In short,” Dr. Hall concluded way too late, “with three years since the final ‘future-history’ update from the Teatime Anarchist, the emergent property of causation has reduced our predictive abilities to close to parity with that of other think-tanks that have no access to our library of formerly likely potential futures.”

The Big Book of Contingent Prophecy has pretty much passed its expiration date,” Shell interpreted needlessly. Shelly’s last sip nearly came out her nose.

On her right General Rajabhushan politely ignored her coughing fit. “We’re still ahead of the game with our future-actors watchlist,” he pointed out, Vivian and Kelly nodding their agreement.

“Yes, and no,” Leiman launched smoothly into his next point as Shell blew a raspberry only Shelly heard. “We’ve observed that breakthrough triggers are hugely contingent. Most post-California Quake breakthroughs our future-histories recorded have not been experiencing those triggers and breaking through as they previously would have. A very few have experienced different triggers, with the same or divergent results, but most post-quake breakthroughs have been new superhumans not seen in our future-histories. Since most threat vectors of our time come from superhumans and organizations that make use of them, this means that fresh threats are increasingly unanticipated as our future-actors watchlist also loses its predictiveness. We’re still able to better read constellations of events and predict repercussions, but—”

Shelly nearly jumped out of her seat when the alarm went off and the conference room’s lights went red.

The alarm tone meant Urgently Bad News-Feed Crap Coming In, very different from the Incoming Threat Prepare for Immediate Institute Lockdown alarm—as if anything could reach them in Littleton without more warning than that—and she got a few be-cool points back by not joining in the four-expert stampede from the conference room to their group workroom. “Shell, what’s happened?” she asked as she followed in the wake of her senior Oroboros.

Her quantum-twin wasn’t allowed anywhere near the Oroboros Group’s data systems, but she had her own newsfeeds and now she appeared beside her, wearing beach shorts and a printed top that read Life’s a Beach and Then You Die. Shelly almost returned her twin’s earlier raspberry; Shell’d made her virtual image a copy of the gynoid drone-body she was wearing down at the beach—a twenty-one-year old version of them, one that looked their mutual chronological age. Experientially only eighteen due to the three-year gap between her death and “awakening,” Shelly’d been a living, breathing girl for only sixteen of those years and she was so ready to be done with her protracted teens, which meant she’d look old enough to drink by the time she was twenty-five. But Shell, more than half a year younger than Shelly experientially, could just virtually age herself out of their teens or pilot a more mature looking drone-body. She liked to rub it in.

But not now. “Somebody just blew a huge hole in the Grand Coulee Dam,” she said. “No idea how, yet, but video-feed of the attack hit the internet right behind the government alert.”

“Bystanders? Tourists?” The rest of the group ignored her, by now totally used to Shelly interacting with her invisible quantum-twin.

“They’re not the source. The video’s too steady and pointed in just the right direction, and it’s a new account.”

“So, totally planned. Crap.”  The Grand Coulee Dam was one of the country’s largest designated infrastructure-security targets. It didn’t just generate nearly seven megawatts of power for the state of Washington, it provided irrigation for more than half a million acres of agricultural production in the Pacific Northwest.

And it wasn’t on any of the Oroboros’ prospective target lists. Shelly’d held out a small hope the explosion was from a new, disastrously manifesting, breakthrough.

In the operations room, she barely looked at the screens the rest grouped in front of; she’d grown taller than Vivian in the past year but she still couldn’t see over any of the men’s shoulders and Shell was feeding her a virtual heads-up display of data anyway. The signal boost her twin got now meant that translating from the Real World into the extrareality pocket that was Littleton barely slowed her down.

“Fast-response capes up and down the coast are scrambling to get there now,” Shell supplied. “Washington State doesn’t have a lot of local capes.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.” So much for the beach. Shell was there now, multi-tasking quantum-ghost computer AI that she was, but she’d be here analyzing probabilities and repercussions for hours as the facts came in and—

“Hoover Dam just went,” Shell said flatly, and Shelly’s blood turned to ice. Hoover Dam, outside Las Vegas Nevada. Her brain kicked into overdrive “General, Hoover Dam’s hit. Get everyone off the top ten hydroelectric dams in the US. Bath County PSP, Chief Joseph Dam, Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant—”

His fingers flew over his station keyboard. “Department of Homeland Security confirms, civil emergency alerts sent, downstream evacuations ordered. Reasoning?”

She took her eyes off the second video-file Shell was playing just for her. “One is an accident or terrorist act, two is a bigger statement and who knows how loud the statement is going to get?”

“Suspects? Nobody in any potential future used this angle of attack before.”

Tell me what I don’t know. “No idea boss, but a coordinated infrastructure attack rules out a lot of maybes.” She kept her focus off the spinning meter ratcheting up the number of estimated dead in the corner of her virtual display. When she’d been Shell, a future-tech quantum-computer AI, she’d had no real adrenal response and could always mute her simulated one; now she missed that useful ability—horrified panic wasn’t helpful.

Who do we know who can do this? And this absolutely ended Hope’s vacation. Dammit.

It was a horrible, heartless thought, but her BF deserved some downtime; between secretly saving the country from a Meteor of Death, Annabeth and Dane’s wedding, and the never-ending training and publicity grind that was just being Astra, she deserved every carefree second on the beach she could—

“The Bath County and Niagara dams just went,” Shell sang out. “Evacuation of the dams was only—” She disappeared.

“. . . Shell? Shell!” Hearing only silence in her head she rushed to her console, ignoring the stares of her fellow Ouroboros as she typed furiously. A password and query of signal security status buried one nightmare and dropped her into another. “General I’ve lost Shell that means quantum interdiction. The interdiction isn’t on Littleton, it’s on Chicago, the city’s being targeted!”

Cool brown eyes stared into her wide green ones for seconds, then the old military man turned away to bark into his console mic. She breathed for only a moment before heading for the door.

“Ms. Hardt!” Dr. Leiman called. “Where are you going?”

“Hope! My team!”

“If there is an unfolding attack they can hardly get from the beach to Chicago in time to do anything!”

“You couldn’t possibly be more wrong! Call Hope, tell her I’m coming!” The door slid closed behind her as she bolted up the hall to the open inner well and took the emergency stairs up, three at a time, calling ahead to Ed. The institute’s head of security didn’t ask why, and sprinting through the lobby Shelly found one of his minions waiting for her outside. Lake Peppas was two minutes away. One minute if they didn’t stop between the institute parking lot and the sand.


Be safe, stay cool out there, later.



18 thoughts on “Movie Review, Update, and Closer to Home.

    1. It *feels* like it comes from within the security services, to go from no inkling to at least four dams and quantum interdiction on Chicago. And with the Ouroboros Group and Shell drawing a blank on likely suspects, I think it’s fair to say that no inkling of this got out until it was full-grown.

    1. The next book is “progressing.” Tantor now has the contract for the first seven WtC books, and I know they’re in production on STH currently.

      1. Do the voice actors get a updated script, or do they use the published version?

      2. They receive the published version, I believe, which with most of the books is the same thing as the “updated script” (only minor editing changes, at most).

    1. Marion;

      First I want to say I love your books and am incredibly happy that I was not only able to introduce my wife to your work, but she enjoyed it greatly.

      I work in the power industry closer to thirty years now, and wanted to point out a couple things: Coulee puts out close to seven *thousand* MW at peak output.

      If you took out that plus Hoover, due to the interconnected nature of the electrical grid pretty much everything on the west coast is going to be facing voltage depressions that will likely lead to blackouts and islanding situations, where the Interconnection is broken and areas are now their own mini-grids. Islanding situations can *quickly* lead to electrical frequency shooting past 60Hz due to significant loss of load and also they can go well under 60Hz due to more load than generation. Generating stations generate to keep the grid at 60hz. If the frequency of the system of the generator goes to is too far above or below 60Hz, the unit will trip itself off-system to protect it. So a high frequency can easily and very rapidly become a low frequency. The Atlantic
      On the east coast, the trouble at Robert Moses would cause trouble at Ontario power. This is kinda the source of the huge east coast blackout a few years back. And if too many of those units go at once
      .. That will be felt from the upper Dakotas to Florida, from the east side of the Rockies to the Atlantic.

      1. Thank you for this! I elided over many of the knock-on effects of the dams dropping from the power grids, but I really should include them in any discussion of infrastructure attacks. If you don’t mind I think I’ll even use some of your phraseology.

    1. Plausible…. I could see a strategy where that might make sense…

      Assume that pretty much the entire electrical grid, irrigation grid, bridge-based or water-born transport grid, and maybe even key portions of the water-based heavy industrial production grid are all badly compromised… in roughly that order.

      Assume that any grid which takes more than 20% loss of capacity is effectively forced to undergo regional shutdown, and surviving portions operate only in highly limited, local emergency only mode…

      In theory, that effectively means that most of the United States is now facing a very large, very slow-moving emergency, with a final severity about halfway between that of the California Big One and the Omega Night EMP….

      Which is going to mean several things happen, in rough order:
      1. lots more breakthroughs. a big batch of them when the first floodwaters hit, then a second big batch when personal lack of food, water, or electricity starts to become a problem, then a long, continuous tail of smaller breakthrough batches during the resulting public disorder and deprivations…

      2. a sudden need to use any breakthrough possible, in any way possible, to fundamentally and continuously patch America’s crippled infrastructure. just looking at a list of states with lots of big dams… California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and Arizona…. Hypothetically, an Omega-level super with irrigation powers could probably sell his services to the highest bidder, and wind up as God-King of Washington State by popular acclaim….

      3. a massive emergency retooling of America’s entire set of commercial grids. perfect economic ground for a disruptive startup to take over. If, say, an omega-level Verne-type managed to build a verne-tech flying factory, which was designed to build encrypted automated normal-tech factories at-will, which were then designed to build encrypted automated normal-tech industrial machines for sale to industries damaged by the floods…

      Said Omega-Level Verne would be ideally positioned to become America’s next Oil or Railroad Baron… especially if he included an encrypted kill-switch.

      From the Ascendant’s point of view… if he had just the right roster of Alpha-level, commercial-oriented, criminally unethical supers lined up to take advantage, and if he can boost maybe 10 at a time to omega-levels….

      He could wind up owning most of the critical national infrastructure in under 5 years. Add in generous recruitment policies for any useful breakthroughs created during the emergency…

      Really, the best counter-move would be to do exactly the same thing FIRST, using more numerous and more ethical superheros, but without the boosts…. and either way, you wind up with super-wealthy supers running the entire nation’s heavy industry, so the Ascendant sort of wins anyway…

      And what are the odds that the current in-universe state of American Politics would quietly accept either scenario? if it quickly turns into a civil war of supers-trying-to-rebuild versus norms-trying-to-stop-them… The Ascendant wins that, too. No matter who ends up leading the Rebuilding Supers side of the war…

      I suddenly have two extremely important questions….
      1. What is the exact list of Juvie Supers the Ascendant broke out of Detroit Supermax?
      2. How exactly did previous super-powered civil wars go down, such as Finland?

      1. Addendum: I may have meant Ultra-level powers, not Omega-Level powers. I regret the error.

  1. Wait, if Shell went down because CHICAGO was targeted, does that mean that Shell’s super-secret emergency backup future-tech server is IN Chicago?

    I always figured that logical place to hide it was in the middle of nowhere, somewhere between the Mississippi and the Rockies… maybe a re-purposed buried time-vault somewhere.

    1. I thought it was hidden in someone’s basement without their knowledge.
      Or… They know it’s SOMETHING but may be hazy on what.
      Someone DID mail a Bioseed to The Dome.

    2. The thing about a “secret server” hiding an AI is it’s got to be CONNECTED and things like connections and power sources can’t be completely invisible. Nor can the means of physical access. The best place to hide a needle isn’t a haystack, it’s a needlestack.

      1. Crazy Thought.

        While Hope’s “threats” to Shell aren’t serious, could Hope find Shell’s server under the Dome? 😈

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