UP THE TOWER
by J. P. Lantern
Disaster brings everybody together. A cloned corporate assassin; a boy genius and his new robot; a tech-modified gangster with nothing to lose; a beautiful, damaged woman and her unbalanced stalker—these folks couldn't be more different, but somehow they must work together to save their own skin. Stranded in the epicenter of a monumental earthquake in the dystopian slum, Junktown, there is only one way to survive. These unlikely teammates must go...UP THE TOWER.
“This kid comes in, okay? Starts doing all this stuff with Wallop's tech fists. Powering them up and such. You know, they can bend steel, they can punch a man so far a distance, all of that. At first, I think the kid's pretty young, but then I see his eyes—they're old enough. I seen his eyes, they're about my age, those eyes. And it’s important, okay, how old he is. Because this kid? He looks a hell of a lot like me.”
“So what? Lots of kids look like you.”
“Yeah. So do Georgeson. So do Jonesboy. So do Figueroa.”
“What are you saying?”
“I'm saying…” he palmed the side of his head. “I’m saying, it ain’t no secret that you got yourself a certain type of person that you pick up. A type of boy. I sort of thought I knew why. Last night I found out for certain.”
Konnor was right. Ore was angry.
“The hell are you saying to me? Just say it.”
“You said you had a brother. His name was Samson. He was good with tech, you said. Well this kid? The one tailoring Wallop's new fists? Samson. That's what Wallop called him. ‘Samson, touch here.’ ‘Samson, look at that, is that right.’”
Ore didn't say anything.
“He's alive. Your brother. In The Tower. He’s maybe been alive this whole time.”
Silence, then. Even the eyebots outside seemed to get quiet.
That goddamn Wallop. Her job, her Haulers, and her eye. Now he had her brother, or near enough. Everything. Would he take everything from her?
Konnor stood up and headed to the door. The shack squeaked beneath him.
“If it was any other sort of job…if it was a job that maybe wouldn’t have gone against the Faces…”
“Shut up, Konnor. It’s all against the Faces. It’s under ‘em or it’s with ‘em. You know that.”
“All right. All right.” He opened the door. An argument had started down the street; someone lit a fire in a barrel on the balcony above her shack; an eyebot stopped, scanned the two, and then zipped away. “It’s a hell of a plan, though, Ore. A hell of a plan. And maybe I won’t get around to telling Wallop what’s what for a little while.”
~Buy UP THE TOWER at Amazon.
AN INTERVIEW WITH J. P.
-What made you want to write?
Honestly, I can't stop myself. If I could, I would probably do something else. I think it's in the genes. I think it's like my receding hairline or my pale skin. I'm not sure I have too much of a choice in the matter.
-What draws you to science fiction?
I really like science fiction for its ability to give an audience believable, different worlds to operate their minds in. I think also it's valuable for understanding humanity, because science fiction is one of the genres where it's most obvious that plot devices and characters and settings are analogues for real life things; like for example, in UP THE TOWER, the system governing the gangs in Junktown is pretty obviously an analogue for the corporate structure of today. Or alternatively, to use a famous example, the replicants in DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? are a way to examine to what makes humans human. That sort of philosophical thinking, tied with searching into the future at where we might end up as a species, is too lucrative an area to mine for me to ignore.
-Name a fun fact you learned researching this project.
Oh god, that's hard. It's science fiction; I made up most of the facts.
Here's one: the idea of St. Louis being affected by an earthquake is founded very much in reality. It sits on the San Madrid fault, which is this enormous faultline under the Mississippi River, and like most big fault lines, scientists believe it's only a matter of time before another massive earthquake hits.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
Oh god, I write about too many alcoholics for this to be a good idea. I think probably Samson, from UP THE TOWER? He's a kid, so he likely won't want to get crazy. Probably he would just want some ice cream, and while we were waiting for it, he'd probably turn our spoons into some kind of satellite laser array.
-For aspiring writers, any tips?
Write a lot; read a lot. Learn your genre's market, and write to it. You're creating art, but you're also creating a product that people will potentially buy, so make sure you're supplying the thing that people want.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
I'm not sure. Maybe mysteries? Like straight-up detective mysteries. It's not that I don't appreciate them: I love them to death. I regularly watch Columbo to unwind, because it's such a low-stress show. For me, they're sort of like music. I know that if I knew more about music, it would probably be a much richer experience for me as a listener. But at the same time, it's one of those things that is incredibly pleasurable and which I get to be totally ignorant about. So yeah, not to be all smart-alicky about it, but I just don't want to ruin the mystery of mysteries by figuring out how to put one together.
ABOUT J. P.
J.P. Lantern lives in the Midwestern US, though his heart and probably some essential parts of his liver and pancreas and whatnot live metaphorically in Texas. He writes speculative science fiction short stories, novellas, and novels which he has deemed "rugged," though he would also be fine with "roughhewn" because that is a terrific and wonderfully apt word. Full of adventure and discovery, these stories examine complex people in situations fraught with conflict as they search for truth in increasingly violent and complicated worlds.
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