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The Antpod Faction
The Antpod Faction
The Antpod Faction
Ebook373 pages5 hours

The Antpod Faction

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Alex James’ debut novel is a science-fiction spy story inspired by his experience with Asperger Syndrome. His character, Mase, embodies social differences and represents a force for change because of her unique blend of talents and weaknesses.

An eccentric female antpod who lives alone in Gosper Town, Mase spends her time immersed in her own world. One day she witnesses a massacre opposite her apartment, and becomes the target of hostile agents. Mase goes into hiding, and seeks help from a bizarre old antpod called Ethbert.

Agents continue to target antpod civilians in a series of ‘hits’, and Mase’s family, friends, and fellow antpods may all be in danger. Mase can’t hide forever, she must fight back! If she is to survive then she must learn what makes her unique.

(2nd Edition)

PublisherAlex James
Release dateMay 28, 2013
The Antpod Faction
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Alex James

Alex James was the bass guitarist in the nineties band Blur, a life he chronicled with great success in his first book, Bit of a Blur. He now lives on a farm in the Cotswolds with his wife and five children, makes cheese, writes for both the Sun and the Spectator and has his own show on Classic FM. In September 2011 he hosted the ‘Harvest’ festival at his farm, combining the best in British music and food.

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    The Antpod Faction - Alex James

    The Antpod Faction

    Alex James

    2nd Edition


    Smashwords Edition

    Copyright 2015 Alex James. All rights reserved.

    2nd Edition.

    First published in November 2012.

    The moral right of the author has been asserted.

    Discover other titles by Alex James at Smashwords.com


    This book is available in print at most online retailers.

    Cover art by Jake Neal

    Smashwords Edition License Notes:

    This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

    Table of Contents

    Stories by Alex James

    Praise for The Antpod Faction

    The Antpod Faction: 2nd Edition



    1. Virulen Mainside

    2. The Open-Vid Store

    3. Hotpoki Mainside’s Other Side

    4. Faulty Receiver

    5. A Metasource Deal

    6. Family Visit

    7. A Dangerous Path

    8. New Metasources

    9. Open-vids Again!

    10. The Funding Organisation

    11. The Alternative Command Policy Institution

    12. Missing Chips!

    13. Close Involvement

    14. The Emergency Services Centre

    15. The Ugly Report

    16. Prisoners

    17. The Intelligence Department

    18. The Resource Venture Department

    19. Shaking Foundations

    20. Rordon’s True Colours

    21. The Emergency Bunkers

    22. The Interrogation Room

    23. Revenge

    24. The Western Assault

    25. Two Motives

    26. News of Ethbert

    27. The New ACPI

    28. Bait

    29. Trolik’s Escape

    30. The Co-ordinator

    31. The Security Division Station

    32. Operation Command

    33. The New Head Officer

    34. A New Home

    35. Faulty Chips

    36. The Big Picture

    37. Trolik’s Town

    38. The Society Board

    39. Revelations

    40. Surprise Visitor

    41. Protocol Conflict

    42. Unexpected Raid

    43. Trolik’s Hostage

    44. Expert Designer

    45. The Invasive Probe

    46. The Forward-Drive-Ware

    47. An Obsession Too Far

    48. The Transport

    49. Retreat to South Base

    50. The War

    51. Disillusioned Command

    52. The Ship Confrontation

    53. The Antpod Faction

    54. The Provisional Antpod Authority

    55. Mase’s New Life



    Note from the Author

    About Alex James

    Connect with me Online

    Roc Isle: The Descent

    Roc Isle: Tempest

    Marcellus: The Mantle

    Stories by Alex James


    The Antpod Faction (1st Edition) (2012)

    Roc Isle: The Descent (2013)

    Roc Isle: Tempest (2014)

    Marcellus: The Mantle (2015)

    The Antpod Faction (2nd Edition) (2015)

    Please see the back of this book for more details on my stories!

    Praise for The Antpod Faction

    Essentially I found this to be a spy story with the obligatory battle between good and evil. It happens to involve a race of robotic entities with several characters taking centre stage. The main protagonists are Mase, Trolik, Roune and Zeika. Mase turns out to be the most accomplished of the antpods who, despite my misgivings along the way, I wound up liking and caring about. Science fiction stories are often written around either technological devices (robots, rockets, weapons etc), or conundrums of human interest (dystopia, morality, love, loyalty etc) and this is a brave attempt at combining both. It puts me in mind, as I stated previously, of Asimov, and also of Frank Herbert's Dune

    GJ Griffiths (www.gjgriffithswriter.com)

    "Okay, so I absolutely loved the world that was created with this book. It definitely had a science fiction feel to it, maybe not the clean and streamlined science fiction that some write about, but the grungy, kind of back alley science fiction that I adore wholeheartedly. That kind of science fiction is just so much more interesting to me because there is so much more contrast. There is so much more of a chance for characters to grow.

    Also, I must add that I was quite surprised with the spy/political aspect of this entire thing. It's obviously not a new concept for science fiction, but one that probably is not used as often as it could be in this genre. So a round of applause to the author.

    Kayla West

    I found the characters to be deep enough to draw me in and make me care for them, which can make reading portions of this story somewhat emotional (that is a good thing). The main character in particular was a whole person, full of sufficient contradictions and internal conflict as to be definitely real". I enjoyed getting to know her very much.

    "The story itself was full of conflict and the plotline pulled me along, without too much effort. There was never really a moment that I wanted to put the book down. I think, the deeper I got into the book, the more that the detail of the setting and the depth of the characters made me want to go on. The plot is interesting and demanding enough that it keeps the reader wondering what is around the next corner. I won’t give any spoilers except to say that the climax and the build up to it was excellent.

    If you like thrillers or sci-fi, I think you will like this book. I did. Please take a read.

    JP Wilder

    The Antpod Faction: 2nd Edition

    Several chapters that were in the 1st Edition have been removed:

    1. The Bio-Filter

    2. Liquid Shopping

    3. Metasource World

    4. Decomfubulator

    5. Survival

    Some scenes within the following chapters in the 1st Edition have also been removed:

    1. Virulen Mainside

    2. Hotpoki Mainside

    The following chapters have been edited to accommodate the removal of Survival:

    1. Trolik’s Escape

    2. The Co-ordinator

    The 2nd Edition is therefore an abridged and improved edition of The Antpod Faction.


    Thanks go to all those who joined the facebook online launch for this book, and those who continue to support me at book events, on social media, and by being on my mailing list. Your support is invaluable!


    What are antpods?

    Antpods are cybernetic organic beings; bipeds able to see, hear, touch, and consume. Despite the apparent physical differences, they think, explore, and also interact with the environment in a similar way as humans do.

    What are metasources?

    Metasources are unique objects with special functions that are designed from resource. They are derived from the Ship, specifically from the resource bank referred to as the Core-Complex.

    For a complete list of terms please see the glossary!

    1. Virulen Mainside

    She put the decomfubulator back and checked the time. Woahh, she had been on there for hours. It only felt like half an hour but the straight red letters on her clock couldn’t have lied. She sighed and looked around at the other things she could have done, but failed to see anything more to do and then decided that she could go to town and perhaps visit a few places. Her metasources were occupying her less and less these days and she was finding it very tedious to find something else to do, despite the quantity of metasources she had in her room. She started trying to get a few things together and to put them in her case, which was a rectangular shaped hard-edged carrying box for carrying items on her back.

    She grabbed it and started shoving things in which she knew she didn’t want anymore; small pieces of junk that could easily be traded, despite not being highly valuable. Re-organising her room would also help her find what had to be traded, and if they were worth exchanging for some other important things she could acquire in the future. For the time being her job was to visit stores rather than to acquire anything new; she knew she couldn’t afford to do the latter and had no space for it. After the past few weeks she started to think that she had somehow matured past the silly phase of mass acquisition and trading, holding herself back from trading in some of the metasources which she liked and had gotten used to, while also having a wild impulse to put them in her case to get a better deal on anything new.

    After packing the loose metasources in and clasping the lid shut, she put it on her back and proceeded out the door, remembering to lock it, through the corridor and then down the steps into the entrance lobby. Now outside in the alley she decided to look more closely at some of the stores opposite, trying to get a better understanding of them and their purpose. Society could be so exciting sometimes, she thought; the freedom to just enter the place of choice and learn about it. Plus it enabled her to ignore the huge mess she had just left behind her. She had already thought through whether there was anything that she might have needed to acquire. She resolved to keep her thoughts limited so that she would not be allured by anything new she saw.

    She moved toward the beige buildings. They had arches underneath that revealed nothing but darkness and she couldn’t remember what the place was actually called, but she had thought it was a store of some sort, its other side visible on Virulen Mainside. She entered, taking note of the square patterns on the surface of the inside wall, which were imprinted in a dark pink colour that didn’t make the place attractive. Walking in, she saw a few antpods drinking, and started to relax. It was not as strange as it could have been then! Antpods were sitting on tables that didn’t appear to be logically arranged; long rectangles dumped in the middle of the room and with the bartender’s counter somewhere in the middle. It was dark in there despite it being very bright outside, and she needed to walk quite some distance to see the antpods drinking. These antpods must like to drink in the shade.

    Two other arches on her right led to the Virulen Mainside but did little to make the place more visible. She sat down at the table nearest to her and then observed what some of the antpods were drinking. They mainly had tall glasses full of lime-green glowing liquid, though there were few glowing blue or red. These were just like the liquids she acquired every week from the hyper-market for her bio-filter, though in here they were consumed through the lower part of an antpod’s face-plate instead. She had never tried to drink before and had little inclination to start. It seemed to be addictive to those who did; antpods tended to spend all their time at bars like this. She was also a bit confused at how the liquids went in. Was there a correct place below her face-plate for it? Or was it just consumed anyway? Were there any health problems for those that ingested its contents in this way? She didn’t know but didn’t want the added complications. Soon a male antpod approached her and folded his arms in a stern way. He didn’t look pleased.

    ‘Hey, you’re here to drink! If you want to stay, I suggest you get one!’

    Mase looked at him dimly.

    I suppose I need to move.

    She exited through the front archways leading to the Virulen Mainside and tried to avoid making visual contact with the many turning face-plates that seemed to regard her in a hostile manner. She had maybe gone to the wrong place. Just opposite her apartment, she didn’t expect this place’s occupants to behave like this to her. If she was unknown, out of town, and out of her depth then perhaps she could expect a little hostility in a typical drinking saloon.

    Now on the Mainside she decided to have a little adventure and explore as many places as possible. Some of them were familiar but most were not. She didn’t really know her own town too well and now seemed as good a time as any to start exploring and learning about the different places, however infrequently she did this or even liked it. She never usually went anywhere new other than to the more attractive trading stores or to go to the hyper-market. She also used to visit her family, but that had been a while back now as contact with them slowly seemed to have ended.

    As on every pathway, there was the usual selection of antpods going back and forth; some talking and hanging around stores, others walking in groups or travelling on personal-transports. Small drones bobbed around as usual, getting under antpods’ feet and heading in and out of buildings. She headed straight to the most familiar local trading stores, which she went to most often for her local metasources. The first trading store had a big white sign on it that read Derren Wickers; an old trading store that had been around for a long time and traded in older and less valuable metasources. There were big stalls outside the store; itself being some sort of mass junk-pile collection.

    It was a pity her room wasn’t on the ground, since then she could have tried the same thing!

    She approached the stall to the right of the store and saw the owner, a decrepit antpod with old rusty grey-plates and an unclean face-plate, perhaps because of the type of work he did. His inner suit in between the plates was almost non-existent. He was one of the older generation antpods who had lived a long life and had a wasted body. Soon his body would be a piece of scrap, much like what his store behind him was full of, but for now it was still functioning in some way. She picked up some of the odd bits and bobs; some circular and others small chips which were used for all sorts of purposes. She didn’t see much she fancied really but that wasn’t the point, she reminded herself. She was here to look, not acquire. She looked at the other wide stall on her left and picked up a few glowing chips that looked new.

    ‘What are these?’ She asked the owner.

    The owner looked at them, picked them up, and seemed to hesitate.

    ‘Micro-hazard chips ... you don’t want to know what they’re for. They’re rare and were difficult to acquire. Forget them!’

    Her curiosity had heightened. They’re rare, dangerous perhaps, and she shouldn’t be looking at them. She wanted them!

    ‘What would I have to trade for them?’

    ‘Your home probably, and all the metasources in it.’

    ‘How many of them are there?’

    ‘Just the three you see, more of them don’t exist.’

    ‘How do you know?’

    ‘Because it’s my job and I’m pretty sure you’d have a really hard time finding any.’

    ‘How do you know I haven’t anything of value that can be its equivalent?’

    ‘I know where you live, Mase.’


    ‘You’ve been here a few times and I’ve overheard somebody saying that was your name. You don’t have the most valuable of homes and your trading experience here and along this part of the mainside doesn’t give me confidence that you have anything of equal value to offer, so forget about them.’

    ‘Can you at least tell me what they are and why they are presented here like everything else?’

    ‘That’s my business, sorry.’

    What an impossible antpod! Couldn’t tell her anything, yet said exactly what would make her want to have the chips. They were rare and there were no more of them; a collector’s treat, yet also a great metasource to have as some sort of compensation against frenzied competition and the exchange of metasources.

    Do I have anything that is valuable and rare?

    No. The valuable things she had were widespread and available in stores everywhere.

    Forget about them Mase, you can’t be acquiring anything, remember.

    She left the stall in a depressed mood, heading off to the jazzier store next door. She failed to comprehend the searching look of the old owner whose pondering gazed lingered in her wake.


    Walking down Hotpoki Mainside was much more enjoyable and full of greater attractions and meaning for the whole society. She had just entered and was met with an onrush of differences. The first things to notice were the huge hyper-markets and trading stores, where newer items had just been placed onto the shelves. Huge signs and stalls lined the street, with hundreds of antpods picking out what they wanted, and others cramping up the spaces inside stores. She saw bottles of liquids lined up everywhere inside, and weapons on shelves, packed neatly or in boxes. She saw experimental metasources in their own space performing demonstrations, and a great number of other metasources from years gone by. Smaller markets had pads; a vast variety of different colours, and all in different sizes.

    A bit further on she saw the Communication-Link; a store and a town-wide communication network that looked official and elegant with its vertical holes as open-windows, and its assortment of grey colours. Then there were the trading stores that didn’t hold a monopoly on traded metasources, there from the efforts of countless individuals and their private initiatives. The owners scurried about everywhere trying to get good deals on metasources while tens of antpods stood around looking and touching everything. She had walked a distance now but was only just starting to realise the number of antpods walking here compared with the Virulen Mainside.

    Mass groups walked by, some on personal transports while square cargo transports interrupted their travel patterns to make the latest delivery. It was all chaotic. Colourful representations hung in the air from exotic metasources; representations of strange creatures and beasts the size of many antpods together confused what she was walking toward; their bright yellow and swirling pink patterns getting larger as she approached the antpods responsible for their presence. There were some newly-mades in a group who had only just been introduced to the wonder that was society and its accompanying metasources.

    On her right and left were bio-filters placed in big openings on the mainside, all neatly arranged in rows where complete strangers soaked and restored themselves. It was a bit too close for Mase’s comfort but she was fascinated by their antique decorations which looked as if they were hand-designed to represent strange bestial creatures with large jaws, rows of sharp spiky teeth and glowering eyes; some protruding from the base of the bio-filter tub and others as mere patterns on some of the ornately styled pale-gold bio-filters.

    There was also a fountain nearby on her right with a moderately sized statue close to it, while obstructing antpods moved through the mainside. The statue was a tribute to those who had first landed on this planet; a thin male antpod with elongated dull-grey-plates pointing to the sky with his right finger, arm uplifted; from whence this statue had come from. He was stood on a flat perfectly circular platform that was an astounding height up from the ground. The splendour reminded her of the chips sold opposite her apartment building that were apparently too rare for her to trade for.

    Antpods were currently sat on the much wider circular base of the statue, drinking liquids and speaking to one another. Mase didn’t even know that drinking had become popular enough to be done outside; though doubtless it must be now that there were new bars propping up everywhere. Mase suddenly felt she was wandering about and decided to walk past the statue to a store full of colourful small rectangles, all being a light blue colour which glowed and lit up the dark brown inside.

    2. The Open-Vid Store

    When opening the door, she found that it was very quiet, and after closing it the sounds of outside voices were shut out almost completely. Large long brown shelves containing the rectangles were lined down the middle of the small store, the place itself being a small rectangle. A dishevelled very rusty antpod was sat down with one of the rectangles open, watching what appeared to be nothing. Maybe she was disturbed. Mase soon found that the place was silent because it was empty. She went down the centre aisle and started looking at the light-blue colourful representations and at the glowing-green ones as well, intrigued why they were different colours, though there might not have been a reason. She started to approach the old antpod, wondering if she would regret it.

    She noticed that this antpod’s chest-plates were disfigured and that her face-plate was cracked in some places. She could have got a replacement if she wanted but it wasn’t easy to secure individual body plates and many older antpods refused to do so with pride, insisting that they would rather allow their original bodies to waste away than to change their physical appearance, which would seem like some sort of treachery to them. The old antpod’s arms kept shaking as well and Mase was inclined to think that she was frightened of Mase’s approach. But the antpod’s calm inner body and apparent lack of awareness testified to a relaxed spirit. Mase would probably be frightened of antpods if she was cooped up in this small place all day long. Business can’t have been good here, but she was curious as to the point: if trading hadn’t gone well then why was this place still here? Usually unsuccessful trading meant that an antpod would try to do something else or the designers would stop designing the relevant metasource, consequently forcing the eviction of the trader.

    Was the objective here to trade? After all of these rectangles disappeared nothing would be left of them if they weren’t traded regularly and successfully to meet designers’ preconceived demands. This was all based on the assumption of course that nobody ever came here.

    ‘Hi, could I ask what these things are?’

    The old antpod slowly lifted her face-plate and seemed to be regarding Mase in a strange way by the tilt of it.

    ‘These are open-vids, they tell many stories. You want to see one?’

    ‘Erm … yes, ok.’

    It was a difficult one to answer; this old antpod seemed to be out of her mind and Mase had no idea what open-vids really were.

    ‘You go ahead and pick one, young antpod, and I’ll show you what to do.’

    Mase went back to the shelves and picked one; eager to grab the largest one and assess the full potential of these rectangles. She had picked up a light-blue one, so large that its swirling colours left black holes in its middle in the form of small dots. The entire colour itself was a myriad of intersecting lines attached together. This one had a dark pink pulsating colour in the middle which looked three-dimensional. In anticipation she plonked the rectangle onto the table in front of the old antpod.

    ‘If you just come and sit on this side of the table then I can show you what they can do.’

    The antpod indicated close to where she was sat and pointed to a small pale crude-looking chair with little back support. Mase felt really uncomfortable about sitting too close to this crazed old antpod, and instantly regretted her curiosity about open-vids. She walked around the dark brown table and sat next to the antpod, feeling diminished and degraded somehow. Behind her were a few extremely thin shelves that didn’t take up much space and held many blue-grey rectangles that looked like instruction manuals and were clasped shut with shiny silver locks. They had worn faded yellow coverings with the title at the top end of each of them. She was claustrophobic and wanted to get out or at least push the table 5km forward; or to push the old antpod’s chair away so that she had space to breath and be comfortable. But that wouldn’t be polite so she had to suffer.

    ‘What you do is press the strange symbol in the middle, in this open-vid, and it opens.’

    And so it did, half of it opening outwards and resting on the opposite side, unfolding just like a manual. Mase was staring at pure colour.

    ‘Place your hand on the left side and activate steady-mode in your system, and you can see the video. It’s as simple as that.’

    Why Mase had to sit over here for this old antpod to tell her that, she didn’t know, but she didn’t want to touch the side of the vid after the old black and dishevelled palms had touched the rippling surface of the open-vid’s inside. Reluctantly she placed her own palms onto the left side and put herself into the faded purple and unaware state of steady-mode, finding it hard to concentrate with this antpod looking at her. All of this must have been some sort of old antpod’s addiction and hobby that Mase was at risk of being forced into by appearing over-curious.

    This can’t genuinely be worth the experience.

    Why else did nobody bother to come in here?

    She only saw the faded purple screen in the background, her thoughts being mostly internal, but some of her external perception systems were still highly active. Still nothing different occurred and she was sure she had her palm on the left side of the open-vid.

    What a waste of time!

    She heard a faded voice trying to communicate with her and so opted out of steady-mode.

    ‘You’re not concentrating properly young one. You need to relax more. You’re not in steady-mode the way you should be. Here! Try again.’

    The old antpod’s palm was right on top of hers now and Mase wasn’t happy about this. If anything she felt more agitated than before and just wanted to get away and to never see this old case again.

    This antpod should have a best before date; she’s like a sour liquid.

    Nevertheless Mase went into steady-mode again, hoping things might be different while believing they wouldn’t be. This time she tried to consciously switch off as many systems as possible to make sure they conformed to steady-mode processes, but found that the more she did it the more alert she was. She was still awaiting the old antpod’s voice to crackle and disorient her, at which point she was getting ready to storm out of the little store. She didn’t hear anything though. Strange: she didn’t often put her system on any other mode while in the presence of other antpods.


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