d4 is the fifth novel in the collection 46. Ascending, which will ultimately consist of six loosely interrelated tales about five very different family members who each discover that they can do the extraordinary when circumstances require it. The stories are designed to be read in any order as they overlap in time and build upon each other in all directions.
This page contains a short description of the book d4 followed by three of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel. To read more, please purchase d4 at smashwords.com, at amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble.
A clairvoyant young woman finds her visions of the future to be a nuisance, until she discovers that she is hardly unique. An entire group of seers has learned how to profit from their knowledge in ways that Ariel has never considered. Another group is obsessed with using their talents to understand a dark future they cannot ignore.
An alliance with either crowd looks dangerous, given that they both seem a little crazy. There is no possible way to help them both. Worse yet, each group is convinced that Ariel is more than a potential asset; she’s the one thing that they must have in order to succeed.
“You want me to move out of London? But I’ve only been here six months!” Ariel heard the shrillness in her voice, and knew she was being unreasonable. The company was within its rights to ask her to transfer if she wanted this opportunity. It was just such a surprise, and Ariel didn’t deal well with surprises. They almost never happened.
If she’d paid more attention to gossip, she’d have known. Last week everyone was whispering about Gloria, a support engineer Ariel met at a few social events. Clyde, known around the office as Gloria’s asshole boyfriend, surprised everyone by proposing to Gloria after she accepted a transfer to the Dublin office. Everyone guessed a few too many brews, and Clyde’s growing realization he’d be having sex far less often, combined to overcome his dislike of commitment. Gloria responded with a happy yes and decided she had to stay in London.
Now Ullow needed someone in Dublin next week and nobody wanted to go. Not that Dublin didn’t have its charms, but the office was located in one of the least charming parts of town. All of Ullow’s glamorous wining and dining was done in London, where the perks were better and the chance to impress management was higher. Of the few clients who were handled there, rumor had it none of them would enhance a young engineer’s career.
Ariel picked up a wink when co-workers spoke of these customers. There seemed to be an understanding that the Irish would find ways to bend rules where the British would not. Work that raised eyebrows in London was diverted westward, where eyebrows were, by custom, less likely to raise.
Ariel understood she was expected to go without complaint, but she didn’t like being forced into this move. She tried to make her voice more pleasant as she reached for the manila folder the HR man had been trying to hand her.
As she took out the contents, she must have brushed against something once handled by Gloria, because she knew there was a fifty-fifty chance Clyde wouldn’t even go through with the wedding. It didn’t matter. As she handled more papers she got more information. The more she learned, the more surprised she was.
Before today, there’d been nothing spectacular in her near future. Now, she was probably going to Ireland where she’d meet people and learn things that would change her forever.
“I’d really like to think about it.” She said it as calmly as she could while she crinkled the papers between her thumb and index finger, trying to learn more.
“We’d like to get the paperwork started before the end of the week,” the man from HR said. “Tomorrow is Friday.”
“Right. Let me take this information home and I’ll give you my answer in the morning.”
As she stepped outside for air, she had a pretty good idea of what her answer would be. The nice man from HR hadn’t noticed her placing her hand against the wall after handling his manila folder, and he had no way of knowing it was to steady herself against a kaleidoscope of new visions rushing at her while a tiny percent probability turned into an almost certainty.
Ariel muttered it as she made her way out of the building, her eyes half closed as she tried to calm her mind.
She sat down on the cold concrete steps to steady herself.
“Holy crap.” She couldn’t quit saying it.
What Clyde didn’t know, couldn’t know, would never know, was that in making his proposal he probably affected the fate of the world. Many weeks from now, Ariel was likely to discover she had a chance to play a role in the survival of the human race. She couldn’t see how, she couldn’t see when, and as the flashes of little specks of her most distant visions whirled their way through her brain, all she got with any clarity was that her going to Ireland mattered. A lot.
Yes, she ought to accept the transfer.
“Slumming today?” Jake asked.
Jake was a senior coder in the group, and considered the coordinator for Baldur’s project. He was one of those tall, chubby men with dark curly hair and a gentle way about him that made the comparison to a teddy bear inevitable. Ariel had already established a friendly working relationship with him, even though he’d pointed out more than once that Ariel spent too little time with the programmers.
“Just wondering if you guys will ever finish what you’re working on,” Ariel teased him back. She wanted to ask him more questions about his work, but Eoin continued to discourage their interaction in myriad little ways.
“Of course we won’t.” Jake played along. “Will Microsoft ever stop releasing new operating systems? Will Google stop reinventing itself? Programming is long-term job security, baby. Better than building roads because you never run out of a place to put new software.”
Ariel gave him an appreciative smile back. She liked Jake for his sense of humor and for the fact that he seemed impervious to office politics.
“Do you have a time to talk about Baldur’s latest request for modifications?” As Ariel asked the question, she reached out in what she hoped was a sisterly way and touched Jake’s arm. “Because I really am trying to be of some use here, both to our company and our customer.”
Jake nodded, apparently impressed by Ariel’s sincerity.
“Okay. I’ll let the front office people in on some of the secrets.” He winked. “As you know, Baldur is mostly concerned with tools for making faster changes to his parameters. Seriously, one minute he wants the defaults to go one way and two minutes later he wants them to do something else, and then three minutes later he wants it to go back to the way it was. It’s insane, because no one has worthwhile information on stocks that changes that fast.”
“So why does he care?”
Jake gestured for Ariel to have a seat in his office as he got up to close his door. He lowered his voice.
“At first I thought he liked fooling around with the software for entertainment, but he’s spending too much money on these changes. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who thinks play time is all that important.”
Ariel had to agree. “Do you think he’s delusional? Like, he’s convinced himself he needs to make changes that fast.”
Jake nodded. “I figured he was maybe, you know, harmless crazy. One of those weird smart guys who’s lost touch. So I looked into his trading history. We’ve got all sorts of records, so we can run tests using real data. I thought I’d establish how this stuff he’s asking for is frivolous, in case we couldn’t meet his demands down the road. Kind of a CYA thing.”
“I’d be careful. I don’t think Eoin would like the idea of you proving a big client is asking for things he doesn’t need.”
“I know. I didn’t tell Eoin. Look, if you want me to stop talking now, I will. I don’t want to put you in a compromising position.”
“It’s okay. Everyone does a little probing on their own. I’ve got no problem with where you’re going.”
“That’s just it. I’m not going there. I thought I was, but the truth is weirder. Baldur isn’t asking for tools he doesn’t need.”
Jake took a deep breath, like he was trying to decide if he should go on.
“Don’t you smoke?” Ariel asked.
“Yeah. Want to join me outside while I have a cigarette?”
Ariel nodded. This no longer seemed like the sort of conversation to hold in the office, and she was starting to have a funny feeling about how this tied in with the close-up visions she’d had when she touched Baldur’s hand. A cigarette would probably help Jake and fresh air would definitely help her.
Once they were outside, Jake resumed.
“I ran tests using what Baldur tried to do against what he could have done if he had the tools he wanted. I looked at the same kind of information for Cillian and for two other clients from London. Here’s the thing. If I improve the speed at which Cillian and the other clients make parameter changes, it doesn’t benefit them. But, Baldur would have done substantially better if he had the tools he wanted.”
“Really? Is he getting some kind of insider information?”
“Not that fast, he isn’t. Besides, his parameters deal with trends. It’s like he has a minute-to-minute sense of what whole segments of the market will do. He still needs us, our machines and our software, to make the trades, but the faster he can direct the software, the better he does. We give him more speed and he starts to beat out everyone else past any statistical probability.”
Ariel’s funny feeling about Baldur was growing. “Jake, do you believe somebody can, I don’t know, sense the future?”
“You mean be psychic? No, I don’t. Or I didn’t. But facts are facts. I don’t know how else to explain what this man can do.”
Ariel tried to make light of it. “In this case, it’s some speedy crystal ball, isn’t it? I don’t think any psychic claims to predict things that fast.”
She tried to redirect the conversation. “Should we be giving Baldur tools to beat out everyone else?”
Jake shrugged. “I don’t see that it’s Ullow’s job to penalize Baldur for being good. Just because I don’t know how he does it, doesn’t mean it’s unethical.” Jake looked uncomfortable. “I haven’t shared this information with anyone else. Could we keep this between us, at least until I figure out more about what I’ve figured out?” Jake gave Ariel the same friendly brush back on the arm. “Please?”
“Of course. Thanks Jake. I can do my job better if I know more, even if I don’t understand it either. If you figure out how he manages this, I’d love an update.”
As she headed back inside, she knew two things. The first was Jake had little role to play in whatever scenario Baldur was involved in down the road. At least, Jake’s touch set off no alarms. The second was that next week Jake’s wife would probably surprise him by bringing home a new puppy. A really cute one,
The work portion of the trip would all be at the end, so Ariel tried to enjoy the beginning of her vacation. She packed a few good books and her warmest clothes, and delighted in a window seat as she watched the late afternoon sun set on her way into Iceland. The giant Vatnajökull glacier gleamed beneath her when the plane dipped below the clouds and Ariel thought she’d never seen anything so beautiful as the various shades of blues glistening off of the ice in the light of low winter sun.
She joined her group at the Reykjavik airport for the evening flight on to Nuuk. The small band of mostly Icelandic travelers was quiet, but friendly, and she felt thankful to live in a time and place where a woman could travel alone without problems. Nuuk was a quick stopover, and the next morning they boarded the pint-sized plane for Ilulissat, the main tourist destination in Greenland.
Ariel stepped off the plane to her first view of the barren rocks mottled with bright colored lichens that make up the tundra. She’d never set foot inside of the Arctic Circle before. Tiny flickers and flashes erupted as her boot touched the ground.
My premonitions are stronger here. The cold dry air? The earth’s magnetic field? There had to be a reason.
While they were waiting for the luggage, Ariel wandered off, looking for a bathroom. She turned into an office and noticed a man’s legs sticking out from under a desk.
“Are you okay?” She felt like she should say something.
She heard him chuckle. “No, I’m in serious need of somebody to grab the other end of this wire. One man doing a two man job.” Ariel saw that he was trying to get a computer cable to go through a small hole in top of the desk.
“Let me help.” She came over, pulled the cord through and plugged it into the monitor where it was clearly intended to go.
“Thanks,” he said as he wriggled out from under the desk. He noticed she’d connected the cable. “A helpful tourist and one that knows how to connect hardware.”
“I can manage more than plugging in a monitor.” She laughed. “IT training here, though I don’t use it enough these days. I’m Ariel and I’m looking for a ladies’ room.”
“You came all the way to the arctic to find a place to pee?”
She rolled her eyes and when he held out his hand she took it without thinking.
“Siarnaq,” he said and Ariel saw a small spark in the air before their hands touched.
Then for a few seconds, neither of them could have said a word if they had wanted to.
Ariel saw the flickers of the distant future going wild in the corners of her brain, like far off flashing lights. He let go of her hand.
“You’re a seer.” He said it like it was fact. He studied her red hair, fair skin and blue eyes. She wasn’t of the People, or at least if she had Inuit ancestors they were few indeed. Had he ever met a seer who wasn’t mostly Inuit? He didn’t think so.
“You get visions of the future, too?” Ariel’s heart was beating harder. She’d never expected to be asking this question.
The Inuit man laughed. “The world is full of seers.”
I had no idea that would be so good to know.
“You have a lot to learn about your gift. You’re with the tour group?” She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. “Today, they give you time to shop and sightsee. Let’s go get a cup of coffee.”