The Empyrean Gate: Part I
Z. Rockward
Publication date: November 28th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Science Fiction

In space, no one can fill your awkward silences for you…

At the turn of the 23rd century, Liam Boyer’s parents led the construction of the Empyrean Gate, an intergalactic spaceway to an advanced civilization with the technology to fix Earth’s environmental crisis. But when an extremist named Kin sabotages the Gate on opening day, he tears apart the two worlds—and Liam’s family. In the three decades since then, Liam has dedicated his life to bringing Kin to justice and seeing the Gate rebuilt.

Yona Kabul works on one of Earth’s trash satellites, assigned to salvage and recycle anything she can from the landfill before it’s fed to the sun to be disposed of forever. Just before her satellite’s suncineration, Liam arrives in pursuit of Kin, who has come to dig up a long lost weapon with the intent of using it to destroy the Gate once and for all.

When Yona is recruited to work with Liam, he has no intention of letting her slow him down. But the more she proves herself, the more he begins to see her value, in more ways than one. Soon they find themselves on a path with unpredictable twists, dangerous turns of the heart, and unimaginable stakes. Can they stop Kin before he shuts the door between the two worlds forever and dooms Earth to environmental disaster?

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EXCERPT:

Liam fought back up, thrashing as a cord tightened around his arm. He slipped out his limb in time and climbed through the landslide to the mouth of the cave, closing before him. He managed to clear the rubble when his leg jerked back. A vine of cables coiled around his knee and up his thigh, while a layer of netting reached around his other foot, pulling him under like a monster swallowing its prey.

He tried to claw his way out but a wave of debris came over him. The pressure bore down on his physical armor, his last line of defense as his forcefield flickered out. He fought to take a breath, gasping against the crushing of his chest. A plastic sheet unfolded above him like the wings of a suffocating angel. The pit collapsed in a slow fold above him, obscuring his view of the stars.

He couldn’t die here. Not now. Not yet.

A woman shot out from behind the plastic sheet, shredding it with a bright laser machete. She slung aside clumps of plastic and sliced through the web tangling him.

She extended her hand to him. “Come on!”

Liam grabbed her hand and she fired the boosters on her boots to hoist him up. They whipped back, dregs of plastic clinging to his armor.

“Your armor,” she yelled. “Take it off!”

He hesitated. Her gaze was bright but steady under her helmet, her eyes hot pink. She was as if from another world. On a fantastical whim his mind wondered if she was an Empyr, somehow on this side of the universe—but he knew that wasn’t possible. She could only be human, and her request was inconceivable.

He kicked his feet, his limbs straining with the pull. “I’ll get torn apart!”

“You won’t make it out otherwise.” She tightened her grip. “Trust me on this. I’ve got you.”

He was now pulling her down with him, but she held on, steady and strong. She’d taken the risk to follow him down here, into the jowls of death. He realized that if he could trust anyone, he could trust her in this moment.

He released his armor, keeping his helmet but shedding the rest like molted skin. She pulled him free as the plastic crushed and swallowed the human-shaped shell he’d left behind. They vaulted above the crest of plastic, the pit stretching below them, an irregular, jagged landscape alive with agitated hunger.

He couldn’t see his ship—or Kin’s—anywhere.

They cleared the perimeter and descended near a hoverbike, the woman setting him delicately on his feet before landing herself. Her helmet unfolded into her collar, revealing a bun of purple hair atop her head.

“Second rule of the plastic pit,” she said, guessing his thoughts. “Always park out of its reach.”

His contacts scanned her face and identified her as Yona Kabul, the steward assigned to this satellite.

Liam retracted his helmet. He brushed away the bits of plastic stuck to his person. She was untouched.

“What’s the first rule?” he asked.

“Never enter the plastic pit.”

 

 

The Empyrean Gate takes place in the mid-23rd century, when humanity has begun colonizing space, with man-made cities orbiting Earth as well as settlements on the moon and Mars. One of the most fun parts about writing in a future setting is imagining how technology would develop by then. Humans, at their best, can truly imagine and accomplish remarkable things. Below are some of the technological dreams that have become a reality in the world of The Empyrean Gate.

Hovercars and more

Need more be said? The 21st century is already clamoring for hover technology. Humanity wanted hovers and in The Empyrean Gate our dreams have come true with hoverships, hovercars, hoverbikes, and hoverboards; hovering workstations, chairs, tables, and beds. You get the idea.

When hover technology hit the market, it rapidly took the wheel out of circulation—literally—in common transport. Earth-bound vehicles became increasingly limited with city streets expanding dozens of floors up from the ground and the more humanity looked to settle in space. Tires fell out of use and grounded cars went the way of antiques, until they could only be found in junkyards, museums, trophy collections, and eventually trash satellites. Yona’s trash satellite has mountains of castaway cars and rubber tires.

Holographic projection

By the era of The Empyrean Gate, holographs are fully integrated with human life, similar to screens today but without the physical bulk. Holographs can be projected from the head of a pin to any point in three-dimensional high definition. Most rooms have multiple holographic menus, idling until they’re called upon by a gesture or command. Holographic movies immerse the viewer in the middle of the action. Video games play interactively with no manual controllers necessary. Instead of video chats, holos make it possible for multiple people who are miles apart to project themselves sitting in the same room.

Food replicators and nutritional engineering

Not only can you get anything you’d like instantly out of a food replicator, you can also customize it for optimal nutrition. How about a cheeseburger loaded with protein, vitamins, and antioxidants, with all of the taste and none of the carbs or fats? Yes, please!

In the time of The Empyrean Gate, replicators have practically solved the issue of hunger in modern society and cured metabolic diseases such as diabetes. They’ve also eliminated many of the issues around the food industry, such as the waste involved in global production and the mass slaughter of animals. Some traditional farm practices remain, but at a local, sustainable level. Meanwhile, anyone with a replicator can download any one of the millions of recipes on the net. You can also indulge on synthetic alcohol, for a buzz without the hangover!

Responsive clothing and gravity-adjusted footwear

As someone who is almost always cold, I’ve long wondered why no one has gotten around to inventing heated clothing. And as stretchy as the fabric may be on your most comfortable yoga pants, it’s still not as magical as a garment that shapes itself to your exact dimensions and supports you without pinching your soft bits or restricting your movements.

Similar to food replicators, modern clothes are designed digitally then woven on the spot by closet modules. In The Empyrean Gate, Yona’s upgraded suit is temperature-regulated, self-cleaning, waterproof, and tear- and pressure-resistant. On its sleeve is a holographic menu that displays its various functions along with her vitals. It’s the ultimate combination of utility and comfort.

Yona also sports a pair of gravity-adjusted boots, which makes it possible for her to walk comfortable on her satellite and allows her to boost her weight in leaps and bounds when needed.

Atmospheric domes

Atmospheric domes are actually Empyrean tech. The Empyreans gifted the technology to humanity to save some of Earth’s most vulnerable areas from the effects of climate change. These engineered domes create a separate atmosphere from their surroundings—a bubble that protects the covered area from storms,

extreme temperatures, or suffocating pollution. They can even maintain their own climate and weather patterns.

Humans have also engineered domes to expand their settlements in space, building safe, robust, breathable atmospheres on satellites, space stations, the Moon, and the Mars colonies.

Smart contacts

Forget glasses. Smart contacts not only correct vision but also carry enhancements beyond natural human limitations, bringing distant objects into focus, clarifying haze, saturating colors, and brightening shadows. They need not be removed or replaced. The option to change your eye color comes standard—always wanted blue or purple eyes? How about feline or serpentine? Go for it.

Smart contacts map a virtual experience over a person’s vision, with customizations and add-ons including night, infrared, or thermal vision. They come with facial recognition; tooltips and pop-ups with profiles and menus; rulers and grids; calculations of trajectory and the time it takes to get from point A to B; transport options with guides and arrows to show you the way. Smart contacts can record andjournal your entire life, from your live point of view. In The Empyrean Gate, Yona and Liam regularly record their time in the field for later reference.

What technological advancements would you love to see in the future? Check out The Empyrean Gate for food replicators, responsive clothing, gravity-adjusted footwear, atmospheric domes, and more!

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Q & A

What are some of the inspirations behind The Empyrean Gate?

One of the most inspiring science fiction movies for me was the 1997 film Contact. To me, it portrayed a realistic, grounded vision of what extraterrestrial contact might actually be like for Earth. I loved how the movie covered both the global and the profoundly personal consequences, and I loved how it wrestled with the idea of faith and how religion would fit into this new order. In some ways I think The Empyrean Gate could be viewed as a continuation where the film Contact left off.

I also find inspiration in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I like the idealistic, advanced vision of the future under the Federation, where the economics of the world (such as the lack of necessity or money) have allowed for a peaceful, almost utopic civilization to evolve—of course not without its own conflicts. Star Trek also appealed to me because of how it tackled difficult moral questions and explored scenarios that challenged our understanding of the universe.

How long did it take you to write Part I of The Empyrean Gate and what was your writing process?

Part I of The Empyrean Gate is a novella, the first of four parts in a series to complete a full novel. This part took me three years to write, starting about the time I moved to Los Angeles. I work as an attorney, so I didn’t always have as much time to write as I would’ve liked. Also, since moving to LA, I went through a period of exploration and self-actualization that I later realized was absolutely necessary to be able to create something that felt genuine to me.

Because I self-published, I knew that I had to invest in my own editing to put out a good product. One of the best decisions I made in my writing process was to hire editors. I found a content editor who would work with me on a monthly basis, where I would submit a certain word count to her each month. This helped me stay on track, and her notes and feedback were invaluable; I learned so much from her comments and my story grew stronger as a result. I also hired a copy editor and proofreader before I released the final product.

What helps you move forward when you get writer’s block?

I’ve learned that having a creative outlet separate from writing helps with writer’s block. For me, that would be drawing and also pole dancing. I don’t consider myself as skilled at drawing as I am at writing, and this allows me to not be as invested in the outcome. The stakes aren’t as high. My ego is less wrapped up in my drawing, so it allows me to be a little looser with what I create, a little less critical. This helps me shake off some of the doubts and insecurities that may slow down my writing.

Pole dancing as a creative output and a way of expression also helps me get in touch with my sensuality and my confidence. It’s a very empowering activity, especially when you’re surrounded by a community of strong women who are pushing

themselves and supporting you. It’s a great feeling to finally nail that trick you’ve been working on, and to bring that energy back into other areas of your life.

Did you do anything to celebrate your first release?

I vowed to get a tattoo that read Bravado when I published my first book. It was inspired by the lyrics of Lorde’s song Bravado. Sometimes when nothing else could motivate me, the tattoo would be my carrot. I designed it months in advance. It held a lot of meaning for me because I struggled with confidence in my work. I think for artists, putting our work out there requires bravery and even a bit of self-delusion; we have to believe that our voice is worth being heard, that our work is worth being seen, even if we have no evidence to back up that belief. It was very satisfying to finally get the tattoo when the day came.

Author Bio:

Z lives in the wild west and marvels at the weather every day. She likes pole dancing, drawing, and feminism. She tries to avoid cliches but sometimes can’t resist.

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