Stranger Aeons: The Armed and Thinking Men
By Jave Harron
Appendix: Author's Notes
I'd like to thank you for reading Stranger Aeons! One thing I find annoying is how most "action" stories tend to be either shoddy fantasy and scifi (not even worthy of being called "pulp") or half-hearted attempts to make an "action movie" type feel. (This includes published novels, as well.) For SA, I wanted to remedy both of those. While a "happy ending" is another such cliché, I did want to leave the story open ended. If you want a happy ending (for the primary narrator), JC recovers. If you want a sad one, he dies from his injuries. Many people have died from blood loss even after being taken to a hospital. Likewise, the human body can sometimes continue to function when large amounts of blood has been lost.
The bit about the twins in the finale is a teaser for a follow up series to SA. A largely different cast will be involved, and it will be stand alone. The Network and Brigade are both elements from my "I-War" and its sequel, "Infoduel," novels. A few characters and technologies also made an appearance. Nemo was a primary character in "I-War." Kimura and Scarecrew were first mentioned in "Infoduel." Morphium darts were a prominent weapons technology in both. More information on Holy Cross Ministries is in "I-War." Mjolnir in the novel is based on real life electrified water cannons, and was used to show JC's inventiveness.
Many novels often forsake realistic professionalism of a lot of jobs for drama. I tried to counteract this as much as I could, but a few changes were made for a heightened sense of drama. I tried to incorporate more realistic tactics, weapons, and technologies than most fiction. The main characters are not action heroes, but largely successful since most of their foes are normally untrained or unprepared for many of the things they find.
The characters are more professionals, viewing their mercenary work as a job. As much as character development was something I wanted to try out more, I wanted to ensure I got the format of writing semi-stream of consciousness narration of each of the action scenes. I find the idea of a non-state actor (such as the Network or Brigade) to be a far more interesting patron for mercenary work than common stereotypes and political strawmen. While some political ramblings in SA appear, they are more of a technoprogressive and technolibertarian sort (given the ideals of the Network). Some low-intensity warfare and occasional small scale firefights (especially in urban areas) are likely to be the future of war. Handfuls of non-state actors facing off with each other behind the scenes is far more interesting than yet another Tom Clancy clone full of political rambling.
I always try to pull the curtain back at the end of a longer story, and explain some of the realism behind the fiction. Now, a bit of information on each of the areas, areas, and groups involved:
-Somali Pirates: Piracy is something that has never truly died out. With the collapse of its central government and many foreign ships over-fishing its waters, many fishermen began arming themselves and taking vessels. Recently, the pirates have used motherships to allow themselves to operate much farther offshore. Many vessels have used novel ways to defend themselves, from a sound weapon that deafened pirates to hiring mercenaries armed with pistols and fire hoses.
-Hong Kong Triads: The Triads are secret societies in Hong Kong that eventually became criminal organizations. Made famous in Hong Kong action cinema, the Triads held significant influence in Hong Kong and abroad. Due to the difficulty of getting guns, most used cleavers, machetes, and blades as their weapons of choice. While the HK police force is one of the least corrupt in the world, their task of dislodging the Triads is often a hard one.
-The Zetas: Los Zetas are a group of former elite Mexican soldiers who became mercenaries for the powerful drug cartels along the border. They are believed to be the most technologically advanced, organized, sophisticated, and violent group in Mexico now. They are also believed to be expanding operations internationally, from the USA to Italy. Many of them are training recruits and operating as a clandestine army.
-Urban Exploration/Infiltration: Many history fans risk life, limb, and arrest to enter old and often unsafe areas of cities and towns. In NYC, the abandoned subways and sewers provide many temptations for exploration. The building and train station were fictional in case of the story. Many old subway stations were often ornately decorated, though.
-Biohacking: Biohackers and open-source geneticists are a real life movement. Some make their own transgenic organisms (although these are more often glow in the dark algae or something of the sort). Some have been using them to make biofuels and transgenic plants for their own gardens. With Big Business ensuring they hold a monopoly on certain organisms, open source genetics may be seen as a way to challenge this.
-Opium in Afghanistan: Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium in the world. While the Taliban suppressed growth of opium, the war and occupation allowed plenty of room for opium farmers to make a comeback. Smuggling of the opium does indeed go into China along its short border with the country. The information regarding Soviet bombs shaped like toys is true, as are the sad fact that the Taliban destroyed many of the country's fine works of art (such as two massive Buddha statues).
-Korean Skirmishes: An occasional border skirmish along the DMZ is not unheard of. But at least on land, borders can be a bit more certain. At sea, there are still disputed island and coastal issues both states lay claim to (hence why the Networkers operated near the disputed waters). Many brave individuals smuggle people out of North Korea. This chapter is the only one where SA faces off against the official armed forces of a state. The recent naval skirmish as of writing this has been but one of many in the past.
-Aum Shinrikyo: The placing of the Japanese doomsday cult in Australia was primarily for story reasons, and so SA would have a chance to deploy on all continents (save Antarctica). But the real life cult of Aum Shinrikyo still has spin-off sects existing. During its peak in the 1990s, the cult produced germs and poison gas, and was attempting to acquire and manufacture military hardware. Eventually, these ambitious plans were scrapped in favor of a 'simpler' terrorist attack releasing sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway.
-South African Bioweapons: Apartheid era South Africa had an extensive biological and chemical weapons program, Project Coast. It was headed up by Dr. Wouter Basson, who tried to investigate "race specific" bioweapons to use against blacks. Failing that, he produced drugs and sold them on the black market for money. While he did not perform human experiments, he did leave the country to act as a freelancer after the apartheid era ended, and was involved in several murders. He remains a free man today.
-Ecomercenaries: A number of nature preserves in the developing world are unable to defend themselves against attacks by poachers and warlords seeking ivory or other goods from protected species. So, many have turned to hiring mercenaries to do so. In the Congo and southeast Asia are two locations currently doing it. The fictional warlord, the Condor, was inspired by a real life Liberian warlord nicknamed "General Butt Naked." He's even worse than the fictional depiction of him.
-Minneapolis: The locations in Minneapolis were accurate. I personally visited all the locations in the city shown in the story, from the hotel to the skyways to the airport. It is a very interesting and beautiful city to live in. I selected this because I wanted a chapter taking place in the Midwest, and in a fairly unique location.
-Brazilian Favelas: On the other end of the spectrum are the favelas. Many major cities in Brazil have these. They are some of the most dangerous places to live, full of crime, gangs, poor sewage systems and water, and worse. However, many foreigners and wealthy people live nearby. They often desire the cheap labor of the favelas, but detest having to have them so close. The gangs in them are typically well armed, and they did once bring down a police chopper. The police often are feared among the locals, as law enforcement often goes in with gear similar to a small army. Without it, they'd almost certainly be outgunned and outnumbered.
-Parkour: Called "the art of displacement," parkour was created as a way to move around obstacles in the most efficient manner. The idea is to use an economy of motion. It was developed in France by a martial artist, and son of a firefighter named David Belle applying what he learned on the obstacle course to things he'd find around his hometown. The name "parkour" comes from the French word for "obstacle course." It is more akin to a martial art than to an extreme sport, focusing on non-competitive actions as opposed to showing off. Related is the idea of freerunning, which is more associated with "stunts" than just movement. Practitioners of parkour are called traceurs.
-Unit 731: Unit 731 was an Imperial Japanese biological and chemical weapons research unit established before World War II by Shiro Ishii. All of the human experiments they performed were true, as was the fact they made a deal with the American government at the end of the war to exchange their data for legal protection (despite using American POWs as laboratory fodder). Unlike the German human experiments, there were no trials for any of the evil doctors, nor even any surviving subjects. They did unleash plague-infested rats and dumped poisons into the Chinese countryside at the end of the war for spite. Many members went onto prosperous careers, such as founding academic posts and medical research companies (some sick irony).
-Philippine Inspirations: Pulo Pighati is a fictional island, but the Philippines has plenty of rumors of lost Japanese loot. Yamashita's Gold has lured many would be treasure hunters there, but has produced little returns. No bioweapons were found in the Philippines in a manner shown, but some creative license was used. The information about the Zambales province and NPA was provided by two of my best sources: Bien and Rica C. Thanks, you two! They will be the inspiration for two major antagonist characters in the SA follow up. (Their characters were the 'twins' mentioned in passing a few times.)
I thank you for reading, and hope you enjoy some of my other writing! Feel free to leave reviews and comments.