Episode 29: A Demonstration of Knowledge | Scryer's Gulch

You might wonder why the parts where I talk directly to you are written so different from the story parts. Well, I’ll tell you. I talk into an ethercam, tell the story that way, and my granddaughter in St. Louis transcribes the thing and sends it back to me. She’s an English major at Washington University. She cleans things up for me, makes it sound like more of a story and less a babbling old man.

But she can’t get to it all. There are some parts that I have to tell you on my own. I do my best, and that’s all I can do. You’ll just have to put up with me.

I put up with you, after all.

For instance:

Someone out there asked about etheric guns--how they worked.

I’m not surprised you don’t know. What with gun control, you’ve probably never seen one outside of an EV show or a flicker. If you’re a cop, or if you’ve done a hitch in the military, you’ve probably fired one--maybe even some of the big artillery guns, if you’re good--but now that the draft’s ended I bet not many of you’ve served your country like that. Not like my generation.

I suppose my generation fought, though, so yours didn’t have to. Or that’s what we hoped.

Anyway, this time you’re going to get a little background on the etheric gun.

How etheric guns worked in Annabelle Duniway’s time and how they work today is different, of course. How can I put it in terms you’d understand--okay, try this:

A good analogy’d be the difference between Simon Prake operating his ethergraph, and the spellphone you’ve got in your pocket. The basics of etheric guns are the same as for your spellphone. You reach inside for the hermetauxite, picture the thing you want to hit, just like you picture the person you want to call, and pull the trigger. In the old days, you had to be a pretty strong wielder to send and receive messages ethergraphically, or you had to have ridiculously expensive equipment--a chunk of hermetauxite the size of a Buick might make a weak wielder able to pick up a message or two through the ether, but who had the money for that?

No, you had to have the right combination, the “golden tripod” you probably heard it called at what passes for school these days. You have to have the right ore; the right etheric engineering; and the right wielder. Simon could operate his ethergraph so well because he had all three. He had high-grade hermetauxite; he had the right engineering, from the engineers at New Valley; and he was a strong natural wielder. Simon could have operated the ethergraph with lower-grade hermetauxite; he was a brilliant engineer and could have boosted its strength himself, for example, and he had wielding power to spare. His name’s on a lot of patents for things we use every--

But I digress. We’re not talking about ethergraphs and spellphones, we’re talking about guns.

The “golden tripod” works with guns, too, though. In that canyon shoot-out, you saw the difference: one of John’s legs wasn’t long enough to stand on.

It wasn’t the hermetauxite. Annabelle’s pistols held high-quality mineral, and good-sized chunks at that. “Government issue” was worse then than it is now, believe it or not--most folks had to buy their own gear, and Annabelle was no exception--but being a Treasury Agent she actually got access to stuff most people could never get near. The hermetauxite that went into her equipment and guns came straight from the Treasury’s vaults. The best, and she didn’t have to pay for it.

It wasn’t the engineering. The spelling on those guns was pretty much state of the art, and spelled ore contains the same set of instructions for everyone, unless it’s been set to work otherwise.

No, it was the wielding. Annabelle had it. John didn’t.

To be fair to John Runnels, Annabelle Duniway was one of the best wielders of her day. Couldn’t spell much more than a simple latchkey, but wielding--she was something else. I often think on what she’d do with some of the contraptions we have nowadays. She’d be tops in artillery--probably end up a three-star general, or teaching at West Point, or both.

But she was a woman, and that kept her confined to certain areas of life. Even then, though, she couldn’t be ignored, and when Daniel Howman spotted her--

I’m getting off-topic again. The mind does wander when you get to be my age.

At any rate, the more will you project into the gun, the faster the bullet goes. It’s easier for people to see in their mind’s eye what they want to shoot, and the bullet flies straight at what you picture no matter how you aim the gun if you’ve got the target in mind well enough, but it’s harder to actually hit the target unless you know how to project your will. It can be learned, but some folks are naturals, and Annabelle was that, in spades.

It’s how artillery works, too, though it’s gotten much more sophisticated over the years. For instance, you don’t have to sneak your gunner close enough to enemy lines to see whatever it is he’s trying to shoot at now. Time was, the no-mans-land between combatants used to be crawling with plenty of men, patrols out to give their gunners a good look at the enemy, then get back to their emplacements. It was all about speed, and you risked a valuable asset in your gunner. It’s why artillery wasn’t a major force until the Great War. Nowadays, the etheric engineers have figured out remote EV feeds so clear the gunners don’t have to see their targets in person first. That was a huge technological advance. Combined with the massive improvements in will redirection--the technology that made your spellphone possible--well, it changed warfare as we knew it.

What I worry about these days is that we lose the arms race, that the Russians will figure out how to encode a big gun so that more than one wielder can project his will into it at a time, first. Can you imagine how far you’d be able to send a missile with two or more good gunners wielding it? We’ve been working on it for years--I was involved in the early tests on a prototype cannon, that’s how long. Wish I could tell you about it, but it’s still classified.

What is it the grandson says? Oh yeah: I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. Heh. That's pretty funny.



TheBoy's picture


a history lesson with a plot teaser...Daniel Howman?

Gudy's picture


... of a teaser. Daniel Howman is Annabelle's boss. The one she has... feelings for, which got expressed on paper during that unfortunate hermetauxite incident a while back.

I do love the world building, though. Smile

TheBoy's picture


it is the fail.

Capriox's picture
The Which's picture


Ok, I loved that crabby old man telling off all your readers who don't like him Smile

Do they have Buicks in this universe?

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Buick went under about five years ago in this world. But the Narrator still uses that phrase anyway.

LaCiega's picture

"...It’s why artillery wasn’t a major force until the Great War."

Does this mean they don't use regular gunpowder artillery? I suppose the etheric artillery has advantages, and is so much different that they might be reluctant to have both (bullets that go in perfectly straight lines, and you don't even have to aim the gun? So much simpler), but I'd think gunpowder artillery would have applications too, at least for targets you can't get close enough to to see. Is etheric that much more powerful, that they wouldn't even consider gunpowder weapons?

MeiLin's picture

Most High

He meant etheric artillery. There is gunpowder in this world, and plenty of it.

Kreyopresny's picture


...everyone who love's the Narrator (including myself). Crotchety old folks are the best, and this was rather fun for me to get some tech. info, though it kind of failed to actually address my question from last chapter. Though from what's been said, it appears they use regular bullets and direct them magically.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

The Narrator didn't go into it, but here's how it works:

Etheric guns generally take round shot because they don't need rifling. The "boom" at the other end depends on the force of will of the wielder. More will = bigger "boom." With "modern" technology, someone as strong as Annabelle working an etheric artillery piece would be able to make a very. large. crater.

Capriox's picture


With "modern" technology, someone as strong as Annabelle working an etheric artillery piece would be able to make a very. large. crater.

Full of Win!!!!

Clare-Dragonfly's picture


Especially the Cold War bit at the end. Alternate history, squee!

Amy's picture


I love the voice of the narrator. I can so easily picture a crotchety old military history professor. Two Thumbs Up for this installment.

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