An overview of the Quantum Series (as told by Christina Engela):
“Imagine, if you will:”
This is how I start all of my stories. It’s my signature in a way. It’s like saying ‘long, long ago’ or ‘once upon a time’, and I really do enjoy my writing. I love my characters, and I pour my passion and my heart into the words I smith, as in the worlds I create.
I started writing stories almost as soon as I was old enough to grasp a pen. I grew up wanting to be a writer, and being around my father (who was also a writer) made me realize that nothing is as impossible as you think it is.
The Quantum Series is marked by my own special warped and twisted sense of humor and irony. It also includes some elements of the fantasy and horror genres, such as vampires. The series is set in the same ‘universe’ or timeline as the Galaxii Series, but considerably later.
What really crystallized my vision of the Quantum Series was the process I went through while writing “Black Sunrise” – because that is where I hit upon the PERFECT setting for my characters and the scenarios and adventures I wanted to create!
No longer would my characters need to be confined to the same old setting of a starship as I had done in the past! I found that far too limiting, and when I created the Terran colony Deanna, I found I had the freedom to do anything I wanted with them!
Buckle up – this is where we’re going:
Deanna, the spotted cow of the galaxy!
Destination address: 6327B2B.04.00 (System: 6327B2B, Star: Ramalama, Planet: 04 (Deanna), Colony Class 3).
Deanna, is a third rate colony world on the borders of civilization, (System 6327B2B) on the Imperial Star Charts) where strange things can happen and often do. This planet has been described (perhaps most famously in the Galactic Tourist Guide) as ‘the center of the universe as far as weirdness is concerned‘. One of the contributing factors toward this unenviable reputation might have something to do with the fact that it has a small moon (called Ding) that falls down occasionally. The other moon, Dong, is much bigger, just sits there and doesn’t do much.
Ramalama is the star at the heart of this particular system. The reason for its peculiar name has been blamed on the whimsical sense of humor of the early colonists who arrived on Deanna and reportedly found nothing much to laugh at. As a result, local inhabitants would drink Ramalama-downers after work, and eat eggs Ramalama-side-up. The reason for this may have something to do with Ding and Dong – Deanna’s two moons – hence Ramalama-Ding-Dong (this is a local joke).
Deanna is becoming an increasingly favored tourist destination, with numerous attractions – although these are mostly geared at outdoors activities such as ‘game fishing’ (the local cocka-snoek are extremely challenging to fishermen, who have perfected a technique of dynamite fishing as a result).
At the time Cindy-Mei Winter lands on Deanna, at the start of Black Sunrise, the colony is well-established and is already just over 50 years old. Being a relatively young colony world on the outskirts of Terran civilization proper, Deanna is, perhaps because of its unique eccentricity, a new favorite destination for all sorts of people looking for a fresh start – which is what brings Ms. Winter here.
There is a significant number of friendly aliens, non-humans (including supernatural life forms) present on Deanna. There are more visible minorities than in the beginning, and for example, in Atro City, there are several small neighborhoods which are generally preferred by some of them for settlement and business activities. That aside, there are also less visible minorities, whose existence is virtually unknown, but who nevertheless co-exist with humans and aliens alike, sometimes without their knowing.
A touch of history…
At the outset of colonization, the raw Deanna had promised the early colonists nothing but hardship and lean years at first, until they could get things going properly. Employing the resolve, stoicism and determination of frontiersmen in all manner of times and places, the colonists simply got on with the business at hand – making a life here in the outblack, where at first, everything had to come from the supply ships.
As expected, there was little in the way of entertainment, aside from everyday life – so they looked up into the night sky, saw the two mad little moons and named them Ding and Dong. Dong has been described as ‘a huge lump of nothing much, about one kilometer in diameter’ while Ding is only about fifty feet around, consists entirely of titanium and is a known navigational hazard to approaching ships. (This is where the popular term ‘you’ve got a Ding in your fender’ comes from.) Naturally, the impact would result in Ding either being shunted into a different orbit, misplaced, or watching it fall down – usually at awkward moments, such as in the middle of a Ruminarii invasion, or when fascist revolutionaries decide to take over Atro City (that really is the name of the capital city).
On average, it would usually take about four heavy-duty space tugs to get the spherical lump called Ding out of its crater and put it back in orbit where it belonged – prolonged by the usual administrative delays as the Tourist Office had it polished up again first.
An entire early warning ‘Falling Moon’ detection and deflector system, designed to prevent Ding from landing on anything important (like say, a local pub) had been developed. Ding had become such a popular feature of Deanna that it had a whole page devoted to it in the Galactic Tourist Guide.
Three decades on, Deanna is still just another small colony in the Terran Empire, although it is growing steadily and healthy on all fronts.
…A little geography
Deanna is in System 6327B2B, the fourth planet in orbit around its star, Ramalama – putting it firmly in the habitable zone as far as requirements for habitation are concerned.
In terms of size, Deanna is average-sized, being roughly the same size as Earth. It has a land-sea ratio of only 35 percent – which means that if you’re a tourist looking for a great place to surf – then dude, this isn’t it. Deanna has only one ocean, the Landlocked Ocean – which is fresh, shallow, non-tidal and – as you could probably tell by its name, landlocked.
Because of the small ocean, there is plenty of arable land surface which is just as good for farming and building as it is for mining (and in certain cases, snorting). Many minerals are prevalent in the geography on Deanna, most especially Lantillium. Deanna is rich with arable land, plenty of fresh water in the Landlocked Ocean and in the many rivers that flow to it. One of the origin theories of the Landlocked Ocean is that an asteroid impact created a large crater (described as “more of a dent, actually” in the initial survey mission report), and filled up by rivers fed by melting ice caps at both poles.
Deanna has many small rural settlements and larger towns. There are also several cities – and the three largest are Atro City, San Fedora and Fortitude, all of which are within a few hundred kilometers of each other.
Deanna is a good place to farm either with crops or livestock, and there’s enough Lantillium to last a lifetime or two. Consequently the two biggest industries (aside from tourism) are farming (crops and livestock) and Lantillium mining.
Agriculture provides a variety of crops, grown by independent farmers on Deanna, especially on the plains surrounding Atro City. Most of the crops on Deanna are sold and traded locally and are not for export, unlike livestock, which consists primarily of red-horned wildebeest ranching. These curious lab-bred creatures, oddly reminiscent of some kind of blend between cattle, llamas, goats and some kind of buck, are considered a very valuable commodity.
Mining, which focuses almost exclusively on Lantillium, is almost on a par with the agricultural contribution to Deanna’s local economy. Lantillium is a kind of nonferrous, nonmagnetic (apolar) metal used to line warp cores in stardrive engines – and also the inside of blaster emitter barrels, and is a rather valuable commodity for the export market.
Tourism is the third largest contributor to the local economy, and this is fed by a booming trade in transport. The only spaceport on Deanna is at Atro City, and is a port of call for passenger liners, loderunners and private shipping. Ships from Beljan Interstellar regularly visits to offload and take on diverse cargoes, including mineral ores from local mining companies. Deanna is also a regular stop for big space liners like Ossifar Distana, one of the largest ships of that type with the Red Star Line that traverse the Terran Empire.
Deanna has at least one Hawaiian-themed seaside tourist resort in Atro City – on the western head of the Bay. The beautiful Bottlenose Bridge – a suspension bridge – crossing Atro City Bay, provides a scenic backdrop for sight-seers cruising the Bay to watch the cute local braking-dolphins swim backwards through the tour boats propellers. Further afield, the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club offers fishing tours to paying clients at select times during the year. These tours take place along the course of the Whatoosie River in Skegg’s Valley, guided by (very) experienced game fishermen, many of whom have 30 or more years experience (in the Imperial Space Fleet or Starmarines). The tours are open to paying clients (providing the appropriate waivers are signed) and several special services are available, including discount rates at local dentists and emergency rooms.
Of the many natural attractions on Deanna, (aside from the highly entertaining little moon ‘Ding‘) Craptacular Falls, on the lower course of the Whatoosie River, is truly breathtaking. As a matter of interest, up to seventy-three people are known to have perished there in the previous fifty years. Likewise, Goodbye Point – on the eastern head of the Bay – has powerful rip-currents which have claimed perhaps as many victims.
And now, a dash of biology
Unlike most other colony worlds settled by the Terran Empire, Deanna was already breathable and had plenty of indigenous life that still lives on the planet in company with the settlers. This is one of the key elements of the series, since the quirky, whimsical and often downright eccentric creatures really help things along in the humor department.
Animal life on Deanna includes land, aquatic, and avian life forms. Some of the more endearing local animal types include obsidian crows, cocka-snoek, ha-ha birds, braking dolphins, flatular canaries and strato-penguins. One of the more ‘endured‘ species on the planet is known as ‘crabby-grass’, and if you stepped on it, you would know all about it.
“When pigeons fly, they can flock all they want, but on Deanna, when they’re on the ground, they’re a herd.” – The Galactic Tourist Guide, page 2013.
Flatular Canaries are another odd species of bird on Deanna. These little feathered oddities are small, about the size of a tennis ball, and covered in light gray feathers. The head is topped with longer, looser, much darker feathers that give the creatures a frazzled, ‘blown-up’ sort of appearance. Their beaks are short and sharp, and they tend to favor Ribold Berries and Rabid Beans in their diet – which goes a long way to explain their name.
Flatular canaries have no vocal chords, so the origin of their name should not be too hard to guess! During mating season, flatular canaries are known to swell to twice their normal size and their unique mating calls have been recorded by amateur birders from all over the Terran Empire.
Florpavian Flame Birds are a rare sight – at least anywhere other than on their home world Florpavia. For a while, several specimens were visible in the Atro City zoo, shortly before the Exotic Birds Wing had to be rebuilt for the second time. Aside from their appearance, they tend to remind people of the stories about dragons they hear about as children.
This comparison runs deeper than mere appearance however, since the creature tends to be extremely deadly. It has raw acetone for blood and walks around the surface of its home planet, Florpavia, eating raw chemicals and crapping crude plastic explosive everywhere it goes. Its breath is noxious and has been known to strip paint from nearby walls. It’s hiccups could be deadly. Its coughs are feared by even the hardiest and most athletic cargo-master or zoo-keeper. To say nothing of the um, flatulence.
Florpavian flame birds resemble giant lizards on two legs, and are even reminiscent of Terran ostriches, and are of a similar size. Their bodies are covered with bright blue feathers which tend to be a little singed around the nostrils and beak and other more delicate places – which are usually bright pink. Small scrawny wings sit high up on its back and seem to serve little more purpose than to fan the flames than anything else.
It’s a long-standing bit of good advice on Deanna, that if you ever happen to see a zoo-keeper running you should try your level best to keep up. Silent and deadly has nothing on it! When angry, the bird could incinerate a full-grown man in seconds at a range of twenty feet. Sometimes even on purpose.
And that’s just the female of the species. The males just tend to mope around, looking for females and suffering acute indigestion and passing gas. For the most part they do nothing more menacing than sleeping all day and blowing smoke-rings from both ends. Trouble is, these creatures are far too nervous and, due to the digestive problems, have a dangerous tendency to explode without warning. According to the Industrial Safety Council, the male birds can explode with the force equivalent to ten kilograms of C4 plastic explosive. Luckily, Florpavian flame birds are generally docile and peaceable. Mostly.
One would think that, being so dangerous to be around, these nobody would want one of these creatures as a pet, and with very good reason. Unbelievably however, some idiots get it in their heads the creatures made good pets. Kind of in the same way that other idiots keep lions and leopards as domestic pets. It’s an image thing, being in apparent control of such a large powerful creature with an aura of inherent fatality about it. They would invite friends and prospective business partners round to show off their power and affluence – and be the envy of their friends, associates and business partners. Then, one bright sunny morning the maid comes in to work – to find the big cat lazing on the couch looking well-fed, and the only bit that she can find of the boss is something that might be used as an ashtray. But in the case of the Florpavian Flame bird, the maid would be sweeping what was left of the boss into a dust pan while swearing under her breath about the extra-terrestrial bird crap eating into the lounge tiles. That, or she would open the front door and fall into the crater that used be the lounge. Florpavian Flame birds don’t eat people, but they certainly have developed a deserved reputation for killing them none the less.
Haha Birds are named after their piercing cry, usually made while soiling themselves (and everything else in their surroundings) in full flight. Standing approximately two feet tall and covered in yellow and orange plumage, the species is viewed as ‘unusually accident prone‘ (described by esteemed local Ornithologist, Dr. Peter A. Dactill in his final book on Deanna’s local bird life “Appalling Avians of Deanna”) as *ahem* “fucking psychotic space chickens!” Animal behaviorists theorize that their odd behavior is a result of the stress of being flying creatures with an in-born fear of heights, having to deal with the profound insanity of throwing themselves from perfectly good rooftops every morning just to find breakfast and a good place to crash. If you think Red-horned Wildebeest are funny, wait until you see a haha bird.
Perhaps first and foremost, Obsidian Crows are a known road hazard on Deanna – the planet central to most of the adventures in the Quantum Series. While they rarely get more than a mention in any single book in the series, they are one of the elements which help distinguish the setting. If you ever do visit Deanna, please ensure you have a spare tire when traveling. (You might want to read “Dead Man’s Hammer” to understand why.)
Obsidian Crows are green, heavy (full-grown birds average around ten kg) and are quite possibly the laziest birds anywhere. It is perhaps ironic then, that the Obsidian Crow appears on the flag of this Terran colony, which is called “The Crow” by locals, and generally flown alongside the Imperial Terran standard (“the Jack”).
These alien birds are natives of Deanna, the small third class Terran colony world on the fringe – and some say the lunatic fringe – of explored space. Their feathers had over millennia of evolution adapted to form pseudo-scales. The creatures are flightless since the hard-bodied creatures are far too heavy to fly, or run – or even to move at anything faster than an annoying modest shuffle.
Obsidian Crows are generally fearless since they have no known natural predators on the planet, and it has been said the only thing that can frighten an Obsidian Crow is quicksand (which does not occur naturally on Deanna).
Obsidian Crows have been a major road hazard on Deanna for many years because they tend to walk straight, as the crow fl – er, walks, more-or-less. Obsidian crows frequently get run over, but are rarely harmed in the process – usually they just shake the dust off their stony scales, before climbing out of the shallow crater in the road surface and wandering off again.
Because of the damage caused to vehicles by these frequent meetings between vehicles and crows, a small but strong industry arose, which manufactures the safety bars fitted to Deannan vehicles – and which are named after them. “Crow-bars” are today some of the most well-known and appreciated automotive accessories (and some would say necessities) on Deanna!
Strato-penguins are the only high-flying native Deannan bird species. These unusual creatures fly using a remarkable natural rocket propulsion (that the author hasn’t quite figured out yet – but it’s likely caused by a diet of Rabid Beans or high-octane beetles or something). They are known to explode if they stray too high up in the outer atmosphere. Strato-penguins were named for their uncanny resemblance to Earth penguins, but with two main differences: Strato-Penguins are a good deal faster, and penguins don’t explode like that at high altitude.
There are many flocks of strato-penguins on Deanna, which for many generations have been on a perpetual high-altitude journey around the globe. These flocks fly westwards as a rule, and are seldom if ever known to land. In fact, the birds are permanently airborne. They absorb water from the air, catch food in the air, and even mate while airborne – in fact, their young are carried internally and ejected from the father’s brooding cavity as soon as the egg shell begins to crack. The chick is essentially – er, air born – that is, dropped into the world like a very small feathery bomb shedding shell fragments.
The chick immediately turns to face the correct direction, more by aerodynamic design than intention, and then instinctively opens its beak (most likely to scream in terror as it sees the vast new world from a few thousand feet up). The opened beak allows the air-stream to enter its complicated network of organic plumbing and start up the creature’s natural pulse-jet engine. If the process fails to start, then the chick would plummet to its death, essentially eliminating weak genes from the species. Sometimes, on rare occasions, something might go horribly wrong with a strato-penguin chick’s plumbing – and on its first go, it would mark its passing with a bright fireball above the clouds, followed by a small thunderclap. If it does fire, and after a few minutes of figuring out how its beak, stubby wings, those flappy things at the end of its legs, and its tail control surfaces work, the new-born strato-penguin soars back up to rejoin its flock – more often referred to as a ‘squadron’.
Cocka-snoek are a local freshwater fish species renowned for being tasty but yet incredibly hard to catch – as well as for being unusually resourceful! The creatures live virtually everywhere in Deanna’s freshwater ocean, and in rivers and streams. Most adult specimens vary between 20 and 50cm, depending on the variety – of which there are many. The best-known way to catch cocka-snoek is to dynamite them, then scoop them up while they’re mildly stunned and floating on the surface. Droves of experienced fisherman come to visit Deanna annually just to hunt these elusive creatures – just to return home with naught but an empty fish-box and bits of shrapnel in their butts. There is something disconcerting about a fish so tough that it has to be stunned with a hand-grenade before you can catch and eat it.
Braking Dolphins are small pseudo-marsupial dolphin-like aquatic creatures that live virtually everywhere in Deanna’s freshwater ocean. Most adult specimens vary between 30 and 60cm. Being pseudo-marsupials, braking-dolphins have skin pouches on their underside surfaces, whose openings face forward, sometimes resulting in them being pulled backwards by the strong freshwater currents. Their pouches tend to slow them down quite a bit due to water resistance, hence their name.
Sand Orcas are small aquatic creatures resembling something like a hybrid of an Earth orca and a piranha. They can be found in the deeper waters in the shallow seas on Deanna, especially in the Landlocked Ocean.
Red-horned Wildebeest are lab-bred, genetically engineered cattle, sporting cute little red horns and rabbit-like ears on top of their heads. They have a tendency to fall over on even slightly uneven terrain because of their top-heavy build. They are extremely rectangular in shape, which makes them easier to pack together while in transit. Unfortunately this shape also results in steaks with corners and square ribs instead of spare ribs. The milk variety is known as ‘milk cartons’ because of their shape.
Most cattle on Deanna are somewhat jittery and suspicious of any innocent looking clumps of grass, which might turn out to be crabbygrass – which has a tendency to bite back. In fact, the majority of farmers have their red-horned wildebeest so hopped up on sedatives they usually don’t even notice they’ve been to the abattoirs until the day after.
…but, of all the above species, it is crabby-grass which is viewed as being the most dangerous.
Crabby-grass is a native plant-like animal form native to the planet Deanna, being essentially an animal which has developed remarkably plant-like characteristics. These characteristics enable crabbygrass to blend in remarkably well with ordinary grass and help it to all but disappear into wild grass and even urban lawns.
Crabby-grass has stalk and leaf-like appendages, and even grows seasonal flowers, by which it reproduces by means of wind or insect pollination, and sometimes, even by direct contact with its partners. The creatures generally resemble clumps of thick, green grass – making them appealing, unfortunately, to herbivorous creatures. The creature’s flowers develop into seed-pods, which can be made to rattle when the creature becomes angry and shakes them, usually as a warning.
Crabbygrass has an interesting composition, and underneath its shaggy grass-like covering, its body resembles a sort of stick-insect, but which has eight segmented legs, and the front two end in sharp pincer-like claws. The body, which is remarkably hard and strong, grows a covering of fine leaf-like structures not entirely dissimilar to hair, which gives the creature its grass-like appearance.
Crabbygrass is naturally highly aggressive and tends to attack anything regardless of size with piranha-like vigor, biting and snapping at herbivores that try to eat it – causing havoc for the local farming community on Deanna. Nervous disorders in livestock is fairly common as a result, and most ranchers on Deanna put anti-depressants and sedatives into the water supply to keep their animals calm.
Crabby-grass generally subsists on its natural diet of small bugs living in the Deannan soil, but since the arrival of Terran colonists, it seems to have grown to favor the pigeons inadvertently imported from Earth as its staple diet. Domestic animals running free and unsupervised tend to vanish mysteriously. Crabbygrass is known for attacking Humans also, although mostly they cause injuries to the parts they can reach, mainly feet etc. Crabby-grass might not be able to actually eat a human, but if someone were to accidentally step on one (which happens fairly often) it would certainly try – which is why a lot of people on Deanna tend to favor safety shoes.
Plants: In terms of plant life, Deanna’s own diverse biosphere has been enriched by the introduction of plants from other colonies, but many native species have endured and continued to thrive.
Cherebub Bushes occur naturally on the grassy plains of Deanna, producing thousands of small red or purple berries that are sweet to the taste, but – containing zero calories – have absolutely no nutritional value. These bushes are named after the odd little shapes their flowers make, which were said to resemble cherubs.
The largest native tree, the Thudding Ploplar, commonly known as ‘the Ploplar tree’. This tree has adventurous roots and thick upright stems. The leaves are green-brown chlorophyllated, and fast-growing – why the tree is favored for wood for making boards for building or furnishings. The tree reproduces by growing big fruits near the top of its apex branches – which are how this tree got its name. When the fruit is ripe, it drops to the ground, either making a ‘thud’ as it lands and rolls away, or a loud ‘plop’ as it bursts. The fruit is inedible to humans.
Rabid Bean Trees are short, stunted trees that grow only about two meters in height, and produce a great many small fruits. These fruits closely resemble beans, having four cotyledonous lobes internally, and have the effect of causing gas in the digestive system of any creature that consumes it. Although the gas itself is harmless in make-up, the amount of gas they generate can create a lot of discomfort, and is believed to be the main food favored by flatular canaries.
Ribold Berry Bushes produce stunning blue flowers that look – according to a famed local botanist in his journal (the last, before he went mad) – “…something like a cross between a double hibiscus, a rambling rose and a corpse-flower!” These form berries, which are eaten by many local species (such as flatular canaries and even crabby-grass). While these fruits are eaten by indigenous species without ill effects, the berries are toxic to native Earth species, and also contain trace-amounts of hallucinogenic compounds. There aren’t many (surviving) hippies on Deanna, but if you see a strung-out, disoriented pigeon strutting about on Lupini Square, bumping into things and challenging the crabby-grass lurking on the verge to ‘come an’ geddit’, chances are, it’s been at the ribold berries.
Aliens: While many aliens can be found living on Deanna, most of these are non-permanent residents, migrant workers seeking a better livelihood, and individuals with diplomatic status.
Jim-waians have made themselves so much at home on Deanna – particularly in Atro City, they have built a religious temple (on Green Street) and have small businesses all over the cities. Jim-wa is a planet far from Deanna, and not part of the Terran Empire. It’s a semi-desert world friendly to the Empire, at least officially, with trade-agreements and so forth. The Jim-waians are easily identifiable by their unmistakable gray skin tones, even if they aren’t wearing their traditional seri-pha (a kind of woven head-scarf). Jim-waians are not even remotely human, despite their human-like appearance which suggests some kind of likely remote common ancestry, but they have almost nothing in common with humans on the genetic level. Jim-waians tend to provide small diverse services, such as shoe-makers and repairs, cafe’s and coffee shops, and all manner of vendors and peddlers. The largest Jim-waian community on Deanna is to be found in Atro City – and the most popular of these small enterprises is most likely the Insug’h Bahss – the Jim-waian café on the corner of Lupus and Grain streets in the lower down-town city center.
Ruminarii – One of the lesser-known aliens living on Deanna – er, illegal aliens, is the Ruminarii now living on a modest ranch near Skegg’s Valley – or rather, in the basement under the kitchen of the homestead. Mark, a.k.a. Half-Lieutenant Marsh’k Kluss’ta is the former commander of a Ruminarii warship – a hammerhead – that had visited and bombed Atro City! His ship destroyed by a mysterious super-keg of Falling Sherry, the marooned and hunted alien fled into the countryside, where he found sanctuary with the Grauffis family.
Arborians – the only known example of an Arborian on Deanna, travels under the name ‘Fred the Arborian‘, and is perhaps one of Deanna’s strangest residents. The planet Arboria’s dominant life-forms are plants. While they may appear to be quite ordinary, these plants are sentient, intelligent and also very mobile. As some unfortunate individuals have discovered over time, Arborians are hard to see – as hard as not seeing the wood for the trees, as it were. Most people do not expect a plant to walk past them in the street, carrying its own pot, perhaps whistling a tune and politely wishing them a ‘good day’. This has come in very handy for Fred, who has often moonlighted as a security guard to pass the time and to get to try understand humans a little better.
Catatians (Specifically species 42709A from Catatia) are remarkably cat-like creatures. They are so remarkably cat-like in fact, that the only way you could tell the difference between a domestic house-cat and a Catatian, would be by means of a DNA – er, cat scan – or if the ‘cat’ actually told you. Consequently, it is hard to say exactly how many Catatians are currently living on Deanna. The Imperial star charts describe Catatia as orbiting a star called the Cat’s Eye. Any resemblance to the feline species is purely co-incidental. Catatians are unusually sly creatures, although mostly harmless, and usually content with finding warm, happy homes to
invade settle down in. Catatians tend to dislike people screaming around them.
Meanwhile, in Atro City…
Atro City is the capital city on Deanna. It is a medium-sized city by the standards of the time, consisting mainly of smaller settlements and towns that sprawled into each other as the number of colonists increased over time.
Situated on the shore of a large bay off the Landlocked Ocean, Atro City (pronounced At-row / City), is a diverse cosmopolitan settlement, and the largest on Deanna. The name as you might imagine, is a point of contention to locals. This curious name was derived from the designated landing zones (Alpha, Tango, Romeo and Oscar) of the original settler landings in the immediate vicinity. Numerous studies into the mindset of the early colonists have been commissioned by various departments of Atro City University over the years, including Anthropology, Psychology – and even recently, Toxicology.
There are shopping malls (the largest being The Plaza), businesses and various types of formal housing that span the many districts of the city. Among the more well-known suburbs of the city, are Lugaluru (best known for being the home of Deanna’s most famous bounty hunter, Beck the Badfeller), Wickering, and Central – the heart of Atro City (sometimes known as the spot where all the assholes are) where you would find Lupini Square, which is surrounded by Atro City University, The Governor’s Palace, and various governmental buildings. It is for this reason that this part of Atro City has on occasions been referred to by critics and politicians alike as ‘the Crapitol’.
Atro City Univeristy (ACU) is the only university on Deanna. ACU may not have a very long history – in fact, if once all the waffle is filtered out of the four ‘About’ pages in the ACU prospectus – it comes down to ‘We started this University on the Deanna Colony forty years ago basically because there were finally enough young people around to make sending them to universities on other planets far away, impractical.’
The current Chancellor of ACU is Professor Barry Fielding, himself a graduate of ACU. His picture in the ACU prospectus is that of an older man with graying hair, clean-shaven, wearing a dark blue academic robe over a neat charcoal gray suit. ‘ACU is today an academic force in the sector, and many graduates already in the workplace owe their academic start to ACU as their alma mater. [See page 45 for our who’s who gallery].’
Lulu Penitentiary, is a large prison complex in the wilds surrounding Atro City. Sometimes, for fun, the Warden would let the odd prisoner out for a little air, just to give the guards – and the dogs – some real exercise. Deanna being what it is, you can be sure that Lulu has – well, several very odd prisoners.
The Vampire Underground is not a quaint night club scene, or underground occult movement, but it is definitely a secretive society on Deanna – made up by a segment of what can only be described as ‘supernatural creatures’. Living human vampires (a.k.a. Lesser-spotted night-time neck biters) do not hunt humans for blood, and haven’t done so for centuries – at least since the advent and perfection of the process of blood transfusion. Non-vampires (called ‘mundanes’ by the vampires) give them what they need through a network of blood banks and clinics. Their kind long ago decided it was far wiser to live in the shadows and to co-exist with ‘mundanes’ in peace, rather than to prey on them – it’s far better to have willing supporters and friends than terrified victims and superstitious enemies.
The vampire community on Deanna is secretive, and largely self-sufficient. Its members secretively co-exist with the general population of Deanna without incident. Many even hold important positions in Terran society organizations. The vampire community of Deanna is led by a council of Elders, which handles the internal affairs and interests of their community behind closed doors.
San Fedora is a city about fifty kilometers south of Atro City, on the other side of Skegg’s Valley, smaller than the capital of Deanna. It is the second largest city, and mainly a fast developing industrial center. There are several factories there, mostly automotive and related industries (they have a very interesting mortuary at the local public health clinic that features in Dead Man’s Hammer). The local hat factory is of prime note, as is the local Jeepo factory, which is situated right next to the Crow Bar factory which has a stylized obsidian crow as a logo on a big billboard just inside the fence beside the main road.
Fortitude is the third largest city on the planet.
Flort is a small planet inhabited by humanoids at about the same level of development as Earth in the 1950s. To Terrans, the Flortians resemble the ‘little green men’ they know from old fashioned cartoons, and this makes any dealings with them extremely complicated – because Flortians are unbelievably bad-tempered, warlike little beings who didn’t like being laughed at after every other sentence.
To make matters even worse, the two largest tribes on Flort – the Idet and the Soluut, are almost always in a state of war with each other. Mainly, the causes of these frequent wars are fairly simple to explain – neither tribe likes the other, and neither would like other to gain any kind of advantage, which implies a certain jealousy and also a great deal of difficulty and frustration for any envoys sent to negotiate with Flort. The two tribes simply don’t get on at all.
The Idet are known – erm, Flort-wide – as proud, fearsome warriors, while the Soluut have a reputation as cattle-stealing, back-stabbing cowards who would make you run your legs off chasing them, then turn back and gut you when you had run out of steam. A state of genocidal all-out war has existed between them for centuries. The Idet all seem to be shorter and dumpier, and the Soluut all seemed to thinner and slightly taller than the Idet. There are clear differences between them, and not just in physical build and appearance, but also in terms of culture and technology. The warlike Idet carry shields, swords, axes, spears and armor, while the allegedly peaceful Soluut wear no armor and seem to be using some kind of technology involving muskets, compressed air and metal projectiles.
…more coming soon!
Characters & Plot Devices
These are some of the characters and other plot devices used in the Quantum Series of novels, including minor characters, and some characters or objects featured in short stories that form part of the Quantum universe. Characters and objects are listed separately and in alphabetical order.
- Adriano Lupini – according to Deannan history, Adriano Lupini was the very first colonist to set foot on the surface of Deanna. He was also credited with discovering crabbygrass, the distressing grass-like life-form that dislikes being stepped on – and consequently, also simultaneously setting the record for being the first person to actually swear on Deanna. He still lives on Deanna and regularly attends Founder’s Day Ceremonies held at Lupini Square every year, in safety boots.
- Albert McIntyre-Smythe (General, ret) officer in charge of the Imperial Officers Reserve on Deanna, which consists mainly of retired military types. Smythe is often described as a spry young man for his age (74 years), having retired only twenty years previously after a career spanning 36 years in the Starmarines. Decorated with various – um, decorations – including among others, the Silver Cluster (Gold) with bar and several other good attendance medals – which he humbly dismisses as “it just means I was at work most days without screwing up badly enough to get fired“. Smythe saw action in several incidents in the Terran Empire’s history and had been an accomplished soldier in his time. He’d got the purple-heart thirteen times – along with the nickname of ‘Fucking Bullet Magnet’, which he received early on in his career, from what was left of his platoon.
- Bartholomew Farrow – The Managing Director and majority share-holder/owner of Mace-Polythorp Inc. At 47 years Farrow rode the crest of his wave of success. His company had controlling interests in the local mining industry on Deanna, including construction, er – destruction, information technology, stationery and medical supplies production etc. The whole Mace-Polythorp office building in Atro City belonged to him too as a matter of fact, and his office formed part of his penthouse right at the top, from where he had an excellent view of the surrounding city and the bay, which was laid out before him and created the impression that he could just reach out and take something if he wanted it. This may have contributed in a small way to his sticky end.
- Brad Xyl, one of the founding members of the Time Saving Agency and a co-inventor of time travel. He is a really bad man who managed to escape from the Limbo Practicale, a really, really escape-proof para-dimension where Time Offenders are sent by the TSA on a permanent basis to teach them how not to mess with Time again. It took about twenty years for the TSA to capture him in the first place, while he merrily romped through Time and Space, setting himself up as Absolute Dictator here, and Emperor For Life there, sparking a few minor cases of genocide and wantonly declaring unnecessary public holidays. Sorting Time out again took some, well – time. He finally appeared on Deanna in the past – er, present, disrupting a Puritan church service as well as Atro City traffic, all while brazenly inviting fines for Walking While Shedding Sparks and Leaving Smoking Footprints In Public. Although his misguided plan to blow up Deanna and the Universe failed, he did finally find his long sought-after little place in the sun – er, Ramalama. Right at its center.
- Bran Johannsen – The 25 year old captain of the TR74 Duval, a Bannor class loderunner belonging to the Beljan Interstellar Mining Company. (This ship is the one that brought Cindy-Mei Winter and Fred to Deanna in ‘Black Sunrise’.) He has a slight aversion to plant life in general ever since a certain potted passenger was awarded a medal for intervening in the Ruminarii invasion of Deanna. Consequently he also harbors feelings of resentment for having slept through probably the only really interesting thing that would happen in his career as a merchant starship captain – and he missed it.
Cindy-Mei Winter, an ex-Colonial Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative (and former male). She has much in her past she would prefer to forget and write off to having happened to someone else, instead of her. She wants to start over in life and is just looking for her own little share of happiness – but the rest of the universe just keeps getting in her way. As a man she was a go-getter, ambitious and effective in her work. Now she prefers to live and let live, preferring to remain anonymous and live under the radar. She is fairly financially independent, thanks to some wise investments she made during her clandestine career and manages to live rather well off them. She first appeared on the scene in ‘Black Sunrise’, as a sort of tourist-cum-holiday maker while recovering from her surgery. When she arrived on Deanna she stumbled into all kinds of strange situations and adventures.
- Danielle Grauffis, a young 19 year old, also a transgender character, who is virtually a complete opposite to Cindy-Mei, in that she has always lived as Danielle, has had understanding parents and friends and has had an ‘easy feminine’ life. Where Cindy-Mei had a good deal of hardship and danger in her past, Danielle is an innocent, who also just wants to be happy as her true self. She first makes her appearance in ‘Black Sunrise’. In future stories, she and Cindy-Mei become good friends. Cindy-Mei takes her under her wing as a protege. Later, in ‘Dead Mans Hammer’ she has an unfortunate encounter with the assassin Villainessa Tittel, but survives.
- Doktor Heinrich Septimus Gleichstein speaks with a heavy German accent. He is the only quantum physicist to ever come near Deanna, possibly because the planet has a quantum factor of 220.67 out of 10 (which quite honestly, was just too good to pass up) and to almost blow it up as well. He lives in a run-down house where even the mouse holes should have blast doors. At any rate, the mice gave up and moved out years ago. He conducts experiments in the lounge, having already blown up the garage. Several varieties of mutated cockroach have been discovered there by Interstellar Geographic in recent years. He spends a considerable amount of time putting off visits from ‘Interstellar Geographic’. His favorite advice, given quite seriously, is that “in a controlled environment it is far more difficult to lose your eyebrows”. His companion is Vluffy, a grumpy little black dog of uncertain breed who wears a flame-proof doggie jacket for safety reasons. Dr Gleichstein is most notably remembered for inventing the Luminous Paperclip and also the Self-Cleaning Mouse Trap – which isn’t saying much.
- Dorian Wintermuller (Dory), a pre-op transsexual romantically involved with Timaset Skooch, the lead character of ‘Loderunner’ for more than two years. Dory has lived most of her life trying to find her place in the gay world, under the impression she needs to be a drag queen until she realizes she wants to really be Dory all the time. Described as ‘good with a frying pan – and I don’t mean cooking’, Dory has her own part time home and interior decorators consulting agency. She spends much of her time trying to explain the subtle differences between lilac and cerise to her clients.
Fred (the Arborian), an alien sentient plant that can move and talk. Watching him walk on his lower branches and carry his own pot is indeed a sight to behold. When he’s around, people who don’t know him tend to scream or faint for no apparent reason, or to study the labels on whatever it is they’re consuming. He provides comic relief in subtle ways.
Fred has in the past been a passenger/occupant of the potted plant rack in the rec-dec aboard a loderunner, and has since moonlighted as a security guard (under-cover – er, camouflage division) at a shopping mall in Atro City. Fred, as a member of the species Sapiens flora silicae, doesn’t seem to be burdened by many of the moral dilemmas or materialistic hang-ups the Human characters seem to have. As a result, his approach is far more direct and pragmatic – and unusually effective. He is also a singular wit, dropping bad puns like well, dry leaves. His main talent though, seems to be camouflage… and often, vengeance.
Gary Beck a.k.a. Beck the Badfeller, a good looking and talented bounty hunter with a legendary reputation for always getting his man. Er… except in that other case where his ‘man’ turned out to be a woman. His reputation claims he’s so good he could find the missing day in a leap year. He is a resident of Lugaluru (a less-affluent lower-class suburb of Atro City), living in an immobilized mobile home in – well, these days we would call it a trailer park. He becomes involved with Cindy-Mei Winter towards the end of ‘Black Sunrise’.
Gary is the kind of good guy who values a clear conscience and likes to have a peaceful night’s sleep while affording his “clients” the same luxury. He believes in principle that a live man is far easier to carry than a dead one (and could be worth more in the end because in theory he could always need to be caught again in future – thus generating more income for him.) He is fundamentally opposed to the idea of killing – unless it’s in self-defense or by complete accident. He is supposed to be the “knight in shining armor” in the story, the wholesome good guy any girl would love to take home and introduce to Mama.
- Giggling Harry – an underworld figure on Deanna, what some might call a big fish in a little pond, a small-time crime boss. A leader of a small enterprise that dabbled in this and that. Giggling Harry dabbled in shady imports. (Which co-incidentally, happened to be the name of his largest business enterprise. Shady Imports Inc.) And Giggling Harry was called Giggling Harry on account of what he did most of the time. He giggled. It was sort of a nervous tick. One that would suit any self respecting mad-scientist or any person on the verge of potential insanity. And yes, his name really was Harry.
- Horst van der Ku (Captain), commander of the (Imperial Star Ship) I.S.S. Antares. He is a man who takes pride in his achievements and decorates his office walls with them. Along one part he has a set of chrome and glass shelves decorated with defunct old weapons and other items of interest, is a heavy-looking flintlock pistol which lost pride of place after it cost him a fingernail when he accidentally caught his left thumb under the hammer.
The current pride of his collection is a curiosity, a thing that reminds him simultaneously of both human ingenuity and stupidity and the inane ability of an entrepreneur to – no matter how good an idea may seem – find a way to blow his head off with it just to make a quick buck. Horst van der Ku is a single-minded martinet who spends his spare time dotting t’s and crossing i’s. He succeeded Captain Mykl d’Angelo as commander of the starship Antares after thirty years of service and is somewhat resentful of his predecessor’s happiness, having served aboard the ship with distinction in the company of his mate, Commander Riple Jones all that time.
- Jaymie Vallantdorf a young pre-op transsexual girl kidnapped by a dastardly group headed by Jones, his family’s former butler who turned out to work for the Olduvai Trust. Frederyck Vallantdorf, the mayor of Mars City is her father. She is rescued by Timaset Skooch and his crew in ‘Loderunner’.
- Johnathan Scrooby, is often described as a man more out of time than a one-handed drummer. One of the best agents the Time Saving Agency has, had or will ever have. (Their core business being Time Travel, we should assume they know what they are talking about.) He is the kind of man who will drop an apple out of a tree onto Isaac Newton’s head just to make sure gravity gets invented. (After all, people would sort of silly just floating around in mid-air.) His favorite advice is to “never ever try to explain Ursa Minor to anybody wearing a uniform.” He appears in a story every now and then just to bail the author out of difficult corners she has written herself into (Like for instance, when Bobby died and then one day months later, it was all just a bad dream.) He also shows up for those somber occasions when a man in a yellow polka-dot dress is just what the doctor ordered.
Johannes Albrecht – An immigrant who originally hails from New Excelsior Colony, Albrecht is the owner-operator of Albrecht’s Takeaways, a modest yet popular coffee shop set up in an old shipping container on Lupini Square in Atro City. The small enterprise has become well known, especially for his famous family recipe Hot Dogs and Cold Cats – which according to him – are made “the way his a’mamma showed him back in the Old Country” (New Excelsior Colony).
Owned and operated by Albrecht, an entrepreneur who sells exotic coffees and deserts, Albrecht’s Takeaways has grown popular with locals and visitors to Atro City alike. The small enterprise is a popular meeting place for locals, such as Cindy-Mei Winter and her friends, including Danielle Grauffis, Fred and local legendary bounty hunter Beck the Badfeller. The ad-streamer above the serving hatch advertises “Buggers and Chips – only 4.95! Ask about our flavored coffees! TWO for the price of ONE! Specials on Hot Stuff Blend!“
The cosy coffee shop, which consists mainly of a converted former shipping container surrounded by clusters of brightly painted benches, tables, chairs and umbrellas, is something of an open-air street-cafe’. Forming part of a cluster of similar businesses operating on the bustling Lupini Square at the very center of Deanna’s capital, Atro City, the business has achieved an entry in the Deannan Tourist Guide. Albrecht’s comes highly recommended – despite featuring a few quirky and possibly even hazardous items on its menu – such as Hot Stuff Blend – known perhaps as the strongest coffee known to Humankind and which (at least according to his advertising) is meant to be drunk while standing up, preferably while running – which has sometimes had …unfortunate consequences.
“Had some once – couldn’t sit down for a week!” is the average sort of comment from people who have sampled Hot Stuff Blend sensibly.
After a visit from Brad Xyl, who arrived in Atro City trailing smoking black footprints and shedding iridescent blue sparks – and promptly drank not one, but two cups of Hot Stuff Blend – and then asked for something stronger. Alas, the stress was too much for poor Albrecht, who became an inmate of the Willow Gardens Resort For The Temporarily Insane for a little while after that, and even lost his put-on accent entirely for a short spell. It was what some – especially Albrecht – considered the chances of, say, a fella lurching up to the bar and downing two cups of Hot Stuff Blend, and for instance, walking away after that – and not being dead… impossible. Ever since then however, Albrecht has limited customers to a single serving of the blend for health and safety reasons – and because Albrecht, being the perceptive businessman he is, wishes to avoid any potential lawsuits if some unlucky customer stiffens, falls over, and doesn’t get up again. Or in case he doesn’t – and asks for another – he probably isn’t sure which is worse.
Albrecht, who had always been a little highly strung, has fully recovered from his nervous breakdown, and the public is immensely fond of him. He tends to exaggerate his quasi-Italian accent quite a bit, because he believes people like it when he ‘sounds foreign’. According to a recent survey conducted by the Deannean Tourist Office, the general public didn’t care about his accent one way or the other as long as the food was quick and the coffee was good. The survey results showed around 540 for and 120 against, with a few respondents who actually remarked “what accent?“
Albrecht still offers bottomless cups of coffee (and a free doughnut with the 5th cup) but only on Tuesdays and only if drunk while standing up. Then again, who could drink that much coffee and stay sitting down? This is similar to his innovative credit policy: Until recently Albrecht’s offered credit to clients only if customers were over 60 and if accompanied by both parents and grandparents – until somebody actually did that. (Hey, this is the future – anything’s possible.) Although Albrecht is strictly speaking, a small-timer, his business has about twenty small tables surrounding his establishment. His popularity makes him rather unpopular with several other merchants around the square who tend to fill only half that much. This has led to some healthy, if rather frisky competition.
Feel free to pop in to Albrecht’s Takeaways the next time you visit Atro City!
- Jenny Grauffis, elder sister of Danielle. A tough rancher type who keeps running into funny characters even stranger than her younger – um, brother who has far more fashion sense than her. She takes Marsh’k in after he saves their lives when they are held captive by men in the employ of the mines on Deanna.
- Marsh’k (Mark), the commander of the Ruminarii warship, named the “Black Sunrise”. He first arrives in ‘Black Sunrise’ as a member of a warlike reptilian race whose moral values mirror our own, as well as those of every other known species in recorded history. For them evil is good and vice versa, which later leads to some interesting experiments in theology and sociology. He alone survives the botched invasion of Deanna and goes into hiding on the Grauffis farm outside Atro City and begins his education in Human Culture 101. He enjoys cooking, which makes a nice change from eating things raw, bloody and sometimes still living. Called Mark by the Grauffis sisters, because it’s easier to pronounce, the former enemy alien now lives in a storm shelter under the Graufis farmhouse as a literal illegal alien.
- O’Donnell, Maxwell Sullivan (Sheriff) – a man of genuine Irish American descent (with maybe a little Cherokee thrown in). He arrived on Deanna twelve years previously as an over-eager Colonial Deputy with a head full of dreams and a wallet full of zilch. Twelve years later, he is the Sheriff of San Fedora and a man now rich in law enforcement experience. He had dealt with murders, robberies, hijackings and other varied violent crimes that plague Humankind at home before also following him into deep space and has extensive experience with numerous auto accidents and crow-related mishaps on the roads under his jurisdiction. He is no newbie when it comes to death.
- Peggy-Ann Muller (Peg), Sheriff in charge of the Atro City Sheriff’s Office Deputies (S.O.D’s). A tough girl who has had a secret crush on Gary Beck for quite some time, completing the quintessential love triangle. She sometimes acts as his agent in finding him bounties. When she inadvertently introduces him to Cindy-Mei (under the impression that she is in fact a CIA agent) and they fall in love, she is somewhat distraught. She becomes a little bitter towards her, but they eventually settle down into a fairly comfortable friendship, even assisting each other in a professional capacity from time to time.
- Ramsley Valcovar The Third (The Very Reverend), a minister in the Reformed Puritan Church of Deanna. He is based in The Chapel Of St Lucienne The Prostrate in an upper class suburb of Atro City, where he passes his time comforting widows and making the name of the girls’ youth choir (Virgin Snow) into a complete – um, fallacy. Ramsley Valcovar graduated from the Puritan Secular School on Uripides with honors, top of his class in ’69. Born into a wealthy family, he always wanted the kind of posting where he could settle into a routine of comfort and class, where he would have three services every Sunday and be invited round for dinner by the well-to-do members of his congregation. He enjoys the reputation for having once performed a wedding ceremony in pig-Latin, just to see if anyone would notice. After an odd disturbance in the chapel he spent a good deal of time in the Willow Gardens Resort For The Temporarily Insane, where he now has a chair reserved in the Group Therapy Room with his name on it. He likes sitting in the garden listening to the Flatular Canaries in the Ploplar trees. The nice doctors also let him play with clay there.
- Timaset Skooch, the man you want to hire if Beck the Badfeller is otherwise occupied. A private investigator by trade, this former cop decided he had enough of getting shot at for not much and went to work for himself. Lately he even gets shot at for free.
- Villainessa Tittle – if poets write about Helen of Troy as the face that launched a thousand ships, then they would write about Villainessa Tittle as the bitch that sank them. She started out as a professional assassin in the employ of the Terran Colonial Intelligence Agency. Ever since she turned professional and went freelance she’s been making a killing. She thinks of her profession as a form of frontier art and considers it her true calling in life. She likes to read books from the back because she prefers endings instead of beginnings. She displays a deeply sadistic streak and innovation in nail fashion. She takes on slightly too much in ‘Dead Mans Hammer’ when she comes after Cindy-Mei and Gary Beck.
- Astroplex, The – a theme park on Earth all about space travel and the colonies. Most of the important colonies are represented there. The simulations are very accurate. Their representation of Deanna shows everything from crabby-grass to strato-penguins and features a simulation of one of Dings’ many visits to the surface.
- Atro City (sometimes hyphenated: “Atro-City”) The capital city on Deanna. It is a medium-sized city by current standards, consisting mainly of smaller colony towns that sprawled into each other as the number of Deannan colonists increased over time. The place name was derived from the designated landing zones (Alpha, Tango, Romeo and Oscar) of the original settler landings approximately fifty standard years previously.
- Atro City University – In recent years, Atro City University had become quite an academic force. Graduates from this institution were becoming well-known across the Terran Empire – heading blue-chip companies, holding prominent government positions, winning Laureate Awards and sometimes, on rare occasions, even getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar. It is a place where people from all walks of life mingle more-or-less as equals. (Recently, some scholars anonymously drew unwelcome parallels between the University and prisons based on this similarity.) It is said that ATU teaches everything from Quantum Physics to Advanced Stamp Collecting.
- Battle of Atro City, The – When a Ruminarii Hammerhead arrives to invade the tiny third-rate Terran colony of Deanna, bombs the city and then makes a landing at Atro City Space Port, a mixed group of people arrive to welcome them with open arms. Make that exposed arms. Civilians, SODs (Sheriff’s Office Deputies) and the Skegg’s Valley Dynamite Fishing Club – and Fred, in orbit. The battle takes at least an hour – and the poor Ruminarii don’t really stand a chance.
- Beljan Interstellar Mining Company. Said company specializes in deep space mining operations. They are the largest, having a fleet of mineral survey ships and loderunners almost an eighth the size of the Imperial Star Fleet. If there’s a demand for it, they’d be out there digging it up. TR74 Duval, the carrier Cindy-Mei Winter and Fred the Arborian arrive at Deanna on, is one of their ships.
- Blood Diamonds – referring to Nubian blood diamonds. In the short story “Death By Vampire“, Terran secret agent Lirian Nimah trades ten blood diamonds to an enemy agent for the lives of a hundred Terran hostages. Each one valued at a hundred thousand credits, each one for ten Terran hostages. Of special note about the value of these particular blood diamonds, they couldn’t be forged or copied, not even by a transmatter replication device – something about the atomic structure interfered with the process. This made them even more valuable. Mined on the planet Nubia, they weren’t called ‘blood diamonds’ because anyone died mining them… they had that name because they were the color of the blood of several species – green blood – like the Jim-waians… which, Lirian Nimah – secret agent and even more secret vampire – found less palatable than the red blood of Terrans!
- Braking Dolphins, cute little marsupial dolphin-like marine creatures, about hand-sized. The strong freshwater currents pull the creatures backwards because of their pouches, which tend to slow them down quite a bit, hence their name.Tourists come from everywhere just to watch them as they accidentally swim backwards through the tour boats propeller.
- Buffer, The , a device which protects the TSA temporarily, from what they call UTE’s (Unforeseen Time Events), or in other words, screw-ups. It provides a grace period to sort out the timeline before it catches up.
- Cocka-snoek, a local fish renowned for being tasty but yet incredibly hard to kill as well as for being unusually resourceful. In fact, the best known way to catch cocka-snoek is to dynamite them, then scoop them up while they’re mildly stunned and floating on the surface. Droves of experienced fisherman have come to visit Deanna just to hunt these elusive creatures, just to return home with naught but an empty fish-box and bits of shrapnel in their butts. There is something disconcerting about a fish so tough that it has to be stunned with a hand-grenade before you can catch and eat it.
- Colonial Intelligence Agency (The) – (known as ‘the CIA’) a clandestine Terran government agency involved in law-enforcement, counter-terrorism, intelligence gathering and possibly even stamp collecting.
- Crabbygrass, the native semi-plant life form on Deanna. It is naturally aggressive and tends to go for anything living with piranha-like vigor. It is a well disguised animal form that bites and snaps at livestock that tries to eat it, causing havoc and nervous disorders for livestock farmers to worry about. Crabbygrass generally subsists on small bugs living in the soil but it seems to favor the pigeons inadvertently imported from Earth as its staple diet. It has been described as “it looks like grass, it smells like grass, it even feels like grass – but just you step on it!” As a result, most of the poorer population, who actually walk outdoors, wears safety shoes.
- Deanna, a third rate colony world on the borders of civilization, where strange things can happen and often do. It has been described as the centre of the universe as far as weirdness is concerned. (It has become famous throughout the Terran Empire because it has a small moon that falls down occasionally.)
- Denosius Gulf, a treacherous dog-leg piece of space that used to be part of what was known as the Omegan Quadrant. Not terribly long ago, this used to be a very, very dangerous place. Ships would go in and never come out. People would disappear in its black empty space. The cause of this phenomenon? The Corsairs. Probably.
- Ding and Dong, the two mad little moons of the planet Deanna. Inspired by Mars’ Phobos and Deimos (Fear and Panic). Dong is a chunk of rock about a kilometer around, while Ding is made of solid titanium and is only about 50 feet around. Ding has a tendency to get knocked out of its low orbit by visiting ships every now and then. The Tourism Office keeps polishing it and having it put back again.
- Duval – Loderunner, Bannor Class. Civilian Freight Carrier. Registration: TR-424. Crew: 10. – The ship that brought Cindy-Mei Winter and Fred to Deanna.
- Editor – a Time Editing Tool similar to a Projector, but with features the other device doesn’t have. It can make changes to a particular timeline such as cut, copy and paste – and of course undo.
- Haha Birds, a native bird from Deanna, about two feet tall. The species is unusually accident prone and psychotic, having to deal with the profound insanity of throwing itself from a perfectly good rooftop every morning just to find breakfast and a good place to crash. (Showers of yellow feathers are not uncommon.)
It is the only known bird species with an inherent fear of flying, and has been described as the only birds that could “actually crap themselves in full flight” and often do. If you thought Red-horned Wildebeest were funny, wait till you see a haha bird.
- Hot Stuff Blend – the strongest nonalcoholic concoction known to humankind. It contains well, coffee naturally, but the kind grown by a mad scientist who might’ve added various outlawed chemicals. (This could be likened to say, taking LSD for a headache.) It’s excellent for fixing hangovers, if you didn’t mind losing your sense of taste or not sleeping for a week. It could prove fatal if taken on top of certain medication for heart conditions or chronic depression. Generally it is accepted that nobody can drink more than one cup in a single day. The effects of two or more could be described as unknown, ‘what?!’ or most likely fatal.
- Japp’s Saloon and Speakeasy’, a small bar in the northwest corner of the only legal red-light area of AtroCity (Lugaluru). (The S.O.D.s believe in crime management.)
- Jeepo, a cheap and common form of transport on Deanna. A typical off-road vehicle designed for a frontier environment. It can be described as a cross between a low end 4×4 and a beach buggy. Usually they are electric powered as more expensive SUV’s are hydrogen fuelled and much more fun.
- Loderunner, a name for a freighter or freight carrying star ship.
- Lugaluru – a suburb of AtroCity populated mostly by trailer parks and low simple wooden buildings mostly left over from the early days when colonization just began on Deanna. It is most famous for having Beck the Badfeller as a resident.
- Limbo Practicale. No, not a badly named Latin style dance, it is in fact a chrono-spacial phenomenon where time runs in short loops and everything happens over and over again in different combinations of upside down, backwards and inside out. The TSA use it as a prison for time offenders. It is considered a just punishment and an ironically satisfactory one by TSA agents (who face the same risks on a daily basis). It is a one-way trip (which is just as well because anybody would be certifiably insane after a lengthy exposure to the Limbo Practicale) and would teach the bad guys to mess with Time in the first place.
- Lulu Penitentiary – A large prison complex in the wilds surrounding AtroCity. Sometimes the wardens would let the odd prisoner out for some air, just to give the dogs some real exercise, that sort of thing.
- Martian Quail – When humans began terraforming Mars, Martian Quail was one of the native Martian species that awoke from prolonged hibernation. Martian Quail roughly resembles Earth quails except they are the size of a bull and slightly more aggressive. Apparently it can take a high explosive shell from an elephant gun to bring one down.
- Obsidian Crows, are possibly the laziest birds known to Humankind. The hard bodied creatures are far too heavy to fly, or run or even to move at anything faster than a modest shuffle. They are a major road hazard because they tend to walk straight, as the crow fl – walks, more-or-less. In any case, they will usually just shake the dust off their stony scales and climb out of the crater in the road and wander off again. It has been said the only thing that can frighten an Obsidian Crow is quicksand. The safety bars on Deannan vehicles are named after them (“Crow-bars”).
- Olduvai Trust, The, a major interstellar crime syndicate based in Mars City, Mars.
- Ossifar Distana – one of the most luxurious deep space liners of its kind. It ferries the cream of society across the void in opulence and style. Only the wealthiest could afford an apartment on this ship for a trip of any duration, even a short one around the proverbial block and even the crew is obliged to pay rent. On any given day this gargantuan ship of the Red Star Line, the largest and most successful Star Line Company in existence, carries 5000 passengers, the actual figure varying slightly depending on where she is on the vast elliptical cruise that takes her around the Terran Empire.
- Plaza, The – the main shopping mall in the central area of AtroCity. It is a five story high building laid out in a triangle pattern with glass sides, and it’s a very busy place. It’s a hub of social life in AtroCity, and consequently, Deanna. There are close to a thousand shops within its five tiered levels, arranged round the triangular courtyard and the garden at its center. Among these are boutiques, café’s, jewelry stores, restaurants and all sorts.
- Polymetric Life Ender – a rather intriguing device, even to agents of the TSA. This is mainly because it comes from the 30th century and strictly speaking, hasn’t been invented yet. It is, as its rather straightforward name suggests, an instrument of death. It has two distinct advantages, being both silent and virtually instantaneous. It applies compressed sound waves, which at close range (i.e. when pressed up against a human body), sends a single pulse of sound energy through the body cavity which instantly ruptures the internal organs. It is for this very reason that the Polymetric Corporation deemed it prudent to print ‘Keep Out of Reach of Children’ in very small letters on the inside of the battery cover. It was the weapon of choice for most common or garden Time Terrorists, because aside from the previously mentioned reasons, it is also easy to conceal and makes no visible mess.
- Projector – a Time Editing Tool used by the TSA agents for scanning the time stream. To cut to the point, agents use it when searching for an event or person in a timeline, skipping through the DVD of Life – or ‘fast-forwarding the video machine’. It isn’t quite a DVD player or video machine, but it’s a fitting description to use when trying to explain the idea to a Time Native. To people of the earlier 20th century it was a Flick or film projector. Natives of the 18 and 19th, having less developed understandings of technology find it more difficult to understand such complicated explanations. (Sometimes these involve drawing little pictures.)
- Ramalama, the star of of the particular star system which is home to the – er, unusual Terran colony of Deanna. The name of this star coincides with the two moons of Deanna – Ramalama-Ding-Dong. (This is a local joke.) Local inhabitants drink Ramalama-downers and eat eggs Ramalama side up.
- Red-horned Wildebeest are lab-bred, genetically engineered cattle, sporting cute little red horns and a tendency to fall over on even slightly uneven terrain because of their top-heavy build. They are extremely rectangular in shape, which makes them easier to stack while in transit. Unfortunately this also results in steaks with corners and square ribs instead of spare ribs. The milk variety is known as ‘milk cartons’ because of their shape.
Most of the creatures are somewhat jittery and suspicious of any innocent looking clumps of grass, which might turn out to be crabbygrass – which has a tendency to bite back. In fact, the majority of farmers have their Red-horned Wildebeest so hopped up on sedatives they usually don’t even notice they’ve been to the abattoirs until the day after.
- Reformed Puritan Church – something like the old Puritans, except they tend to be a little more camp and colorful. Rather pretentious too. They stand high on ceremony and ritual. There are ceremonies for everything. There is a ceremony for lighting candles, one for walking safely under a ladder and another for those possibly about to fall down stairs. It borders on the ridiculous. There is even an absolution ritual for committing adultery – except in the case of minors – for which there is another. Weddings and funerals are performed often and with full ritual, lasting several hours. Weddings pay better than funerals and they are far more numerous, whereas most people only die once. Anyway, it is an internal joke that the funerals last longer than some marriages. The standard divorce ceremonies are small private affairs and there are even more of those. Nobody attends the divorce ceremonies, but there is usually a small retinue consisting of two lawyers and a pair of big burly men and one or two trauma counselors who hang around in case any brawls broke out. (Paramedics usually wait outside in the ambulance.) The mothers-in-law often attend, looking rather pleased and self-satisfied and wearing smirky ‘I told you so’ expressions.
- Ruminarii Hammerheads – Cruiser, Hammerhead Class. Ruminarii Space Navy. Registration: Unknown. Crew: 500. The main warship of the warlike Ruminarii, so named because of its peculiar hull shape. (The current advice in general circulation would be ‘if you see one, look for a hole – crawl into it and then pull it in after you.’) A hammerhead is about a kilometer long and is a dark shiny black, as black as space and – as some whisper, as dark as the souls of the Ruminarii themselves.
- Ruminarii, The, a warlike reptilian race. In four short centuries they had managed to lay waste almost a thousand star systems, enslaving their populations and stripping them of all they wanted. It has been said that if the Harrt’shisk Hab’arr’oun (Empire of the Golden Sun) ever had any allies; it would’ve been a short-lived alliance indeed. Their ferocity was matched only by their boldness. They display only the negative emotions. How a race founded purely on hate, spite and evil managed to flourish as they did is a question on which few civilizations have survived to speculate. The Ruminarii are bipeds. They are a reptilian species (which probably goes a long way to explain their cold bloodedness.) Suitably shaped is the best non-offensive description I can find. Otherwise, they’re f***ing ugly. At least by most standards.
- San Fedora – a small city about fifty kilometers away from Atro City, on the other side of Skeggs Valley, smaller than the capital of Deanna. An industrial center that is fast developing. There are several factories here, mostly automotive and related industries. The local hat factory is of prime note. The Jeepo factory is here somewhere too. Right next to the Crow Bar factory which has a stylized obsidian crow as a logo on a big billboard just inside the fence beside the road.
- ‘Shock Diamond’, The – a neat little night spot in downtown Lugaluru, a rather average suburb in AtroCity. Average clientele, just your average Jane or Joe having an after work drink with a few mates or a few losers drinking alone. The place was named after the intense little blue diamond shape that would appear in the flare of a rocket engine at lift-off. Quite interesting, he thought, taking a seat at the bar. Not many people knew that. Not many people even cared, really, since the only rocket engines they still saw were in old movies or one or two surviving relics of the rocket era. Antigrav and warp drive were the current modes of propulsion for all things vehicular and spacified. Except for Jeepo’s of course. Often frequented by famous bounty hunter Beck the Badfeller who would pop in for a ‘cold one’ or two.
- Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club, is made up of retired former military personnel, from the Space Fleet as well as the Starmarines. They congregate every few weekends to go dynamite fishing on the Whatoosie River in Skeggs Valley and blow the crap out of cocka-snoek.
- Slipped Disk, The, the wildest club on Deanna. Need I say more? The Slipped Disk is in the basement parking levels of The Plaza, the biggest shopping mall in Atro City.
- S.O.D. – Sherrif’s Office Deputy, the law enforcement agency on most Terran colonies. Most of the vehicles and badges bear the abbreviation ‘S.O.D.’ much to the amusement of everybody with a sense of humor.
- Solus Gratuiti Award, The – A medal, which (aside from commuting a death sentence) is the highest honor that the Empire could bestow on anyone.
- Strato-Penguins, a high-flying native Deanna bird species. It flies using some remarkable natural rocket propulsion that the author hasn’t quite figured out yet. Perhaps it’s caused by a diet of Rabid Beans or high octane beetles or something. They are known to explode if they stray too high up in the outer atmosphere.
They usually fly in a ‘c’ formation in their eternal east-west migration. Strato-Penguins were named for their uncanny resemblance to Earth penguins, but with two main differences: Strato-Penguins are a good deal faster, and penguins don’t explode like that at high altitude.
- Targa 800 – a hydrogen powered sports car capable of achieving speeds around 250kph, although on Deanna’s’ roads, you wouldn’t want to go much over 100 – there are a few pot holes here and there, to say nothing of what might happen if you hit an obsidian crow. Good night. And anyway, if you’re in that much of a rush, you can travel by airtaxi.
- Time Saving Agency, The – An organization from some distant future that that polices Time travel and whose agents went around fixing screw-ups, rectifying things that weren’t really supposed to happen – either because of meddling Time Terrorists or UTE’s (Unforseen Time Events, ie screw-ups.)
- Typhus Bay – a wealthy part of Mars City, where many professionals live.
- UTE – Unforseen Time Event; ie. A screw up. Usually when this happens time agents have to Go Back or Try Again Later to undo the damage done to Time by Time Terrorists, who alter the timeline for their own devious purposes, i.e. MG (Material Gain) or PM (Plain Malice). History is very, very susceptible to UTE’s.
- Wertle soup, which is made from the yellow wertle, a tri-cotyledonous bean-like plant which grows wild on the plains of Mars. It goes well with a twist of lemon, which gives it a salty taste.