Aphelion Issue 218, Volume 21
June 2017
 
Editorial    
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Poetry
Features
Series
Archives
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Forum
   

Nightwatchghtwatch Series Bible
 (Version 2.0)

Series Created by Jeff Williams

Developed by Jeff Williams and Robert Moriyama


Introduction

At one time or another, the idea of a multipart story written using the "round robin" format has been suggested, and while the idea is intriguing, the logistics behind it (coordination between writers, heavy oversight to see that plot and character development are proceeding normally, etc.) make this a very difficult proposition. Because of this, I have devised--to borrow a phrase from Blackadder--a cunning plan!

What if the idea is adapted to something more akin to the Mare Inebrium stories or, for that matter, to episodic television? A set of characters is devised and parameters defined, but each writer can provide his or her own "script" for this shared universe.

Listed below is the idea for the series along with some basic character breakdowns, possible recurring characters, etc.

Nightwatch Introduction

The time is the near future though we will never pin down exactly when in the stories.  (When you read what has been written so far, however, there are clues such as the number of Popes since the last Polish one, the name of a Pink Floyd song you might not recognize, some paintings by an artist you’ve never heard of, etc.)  In the Georgetown suburb of Washington, DC, a think tank and NGO known as the Nightwatch Institute for Strategic and Economic Studies turns out ideas for everything from world peace to humanitarian issues to allocation of funds for scientific projects, etc. 

The institute is founded on the idea that if you can think it, and it is for the common good, then it can be done.  A strong sense of idealism is present in every aspect of the institute’s workings, at least in theory, and the institute is involved in projects throughout the world (reconstruction of war torn regions; humanitarian projects such as irrigation, food distribution, etc).  Nightwatch is also an NGO and has some presence in many of the world’s hot spots.

Nightwatch also has a thriving consultancy business as well, providing advice and strategies for various public and private entities.

Political realities have, however, worked their way into the matrix of thought at the institute, including a strong (idealistic) desire to right perceived wrongs and injustices, to prevent technological and ecological disasters, etc.  Those behind this darker arena of the institute have set up what amounts to a covert operations force, which secretly works to solve whatever crises this branch of the institute perceives.  While rumors of this group do circulate, very few know that it actually does exist.

The Nightwatchmen

  • Dr. Simon LitchfieldDr. Simon Litchfield is a civil engineer by training but in reality is more of a jack-of-all-trades, with a great interest in many things and a talent for pulling together disparate threads to (eventually) see the big picture and arrive at a course of action.  He is very well read and has a great appreciation for music of all kinds.  Dr. Litchfield is officially associated with the institute’s various committees on the rebuilding of infrastructures in war torn or economically neglected regions.  Unofficially, he is the head of the “covert operations” team that is dispatched to solve the problems.

    Litchfield is in his early to mid-fifties with silver hair and brown eyes and a penchant for comfortable khaki suits and hats (and occasionally tan cloaks if he is feeling particularly ostentatious) though he is not above “dressing or acting the part” if the situation requires it.  He has been married twice, and his ex-wives tended to be very much like him (which was probably the problem).  He refers to his second wife, Morna, as his “precious ghost” or “my darling phantom” or some similar combination of words.  Simon is also a bit of ladies’ manLitchfield was originally born in England but moved with his family to Baltimore, MD at the age of twelve.  He has degrees from Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, and University of Illinois—Champaigne-UrbanLitchfield is far more pragmatic than many of the idealists who populate the official arm of the Institute, which in part left him amenable to the plans of the “unofficial” arm.  He has extensive martial arts training including ju jitsu and akido.  However, he is not above using “street” tactics either (learned during the long walks home from piano lessons in Baltimore).  (See “The Kindness of Strangers” and “Jigsaw Creek”).

    Litchfield is generally healthy though he does suffer from arthritis.  The arthritis can be painful, particularly in cold, wet climates, but it is not, at this point, debilitating

    Simon drives a gray Saturn VUE when he is home.

    There does appear to be a certain element of coercion involved in motivating Simon to action at times, implying that there is more to Litchfield’s past than meets the eye.  (A good example of this can be seen in Part I of the “The Kindness of Strangers.”)

  • Stephanie Keel works heavily with computers (though she adamantly does not do secretarial work or word processing beyond the articles she publishes about computers, drag racing, etc.).  Stephanie is one of the major computer gurus at Nightwatch and is also a wizard at finding information, particularly if someone does not want it to be found. 

    She also is a big fan of Junkyard Wars (though she decries the damage done to it by Junkyard Megawars) and often goes on challenges devised by her friends to build items inspired by the series.  Because of her talents, she is more than capable of improvising in the field, of modifying/building/jury-rigging equipment in the field (though not ridiculously so), etc.  Stephanie could modify the software on a computer to make it run more quickly and perhaps do some things it couldn’t do before, but she could never build a bomb with a road flare, some copper wire, and a russet potato!

    Perhaps because of her background in programming, Keel enjoys challenges to be overcome, and if she is truly engrossed by a particular problem, reaching her can be quite difficult.

    Stephanie has black hair and hazel eyes.  Stephanie’s normal wardrobe tends towards to the “slouchy comfortable” end of things though she is quite striking when she wants to be and has a rather impressive collection of formal wear if the situation calls for it.  While she is very feminine, she is not so in a stereotypical sense.  She is ferociously opposed to any suggestion that she use her “feminine wiles” to gain information or access and tends to resort to their use only if no other alternative is available.  She is, in fact, very good at finding extremely viable alternatives!

    Stephanie, at heart, is also the bravest of the group, or at least the most willing to take necessary risks.  She is not foolish, but she also does not believe in holding back unnecessarily.  She is also quite opposed to killing people and seeks to avoid deaths.

    Stephanie spends most of her time working as a computer goddess and as a writer on various subjects for various publications.

    She is also the least sentimental of the group, which doesn’t mean that she isn’t a sucker for cats, babies, or the love life of the narwhal.  (There is no great significance to the latter.  She just loves that particular type of whale!)

    There is, however, a much darker side to Stephanie as well, stemming from a horrible episode in her past.  She was held prisoner and experimented upon by a man named William Gryphius.  The first meeting, in fact, between Simon and Stephanie occurred when he came to rescue her from Gryphius’ chamber of horrors.  This tragic time in Stephanie’s life is covered at length in Kate Thornton’s “Cardenio.”  While Stephanie has moved on and has in many ways thrived since then, her time in Gryphius’ dungeon has left its psychological wounds.

    Because of her drive to never go through such treatment again, she learned krav maga and small-arms skills from a female Mossad agent.

    Both Stephanie and Simon are avid racquetball players. 

    Stephanie owns a thoroughly exciting (and thoroughly impractical) small sports car.

  • Tom Weldon is a psychologist, though as with Dr. Litchfield he has a variety of interests, including body-building.  If a situation calls for “muscle,” the others can certainly hold their own, but Tom is the best suited for the role.  Weldon wears black suit pants and jackets but with a black t-shirt and a Wild Turkey belt buckle.  His hair is brown and his eyes are blue.  He is also stocky though not truly overweight,

    Weldon is not officially associated with the Nightwatch Institute.  He is the senior counselor at Arlington Counseling Group in Arlington, VA.  Arlington Counseling Group and the building where it is housed are discussed in “Alconost.”  Weldon does, in fact, have a doctorate, but either through humility or a dislike of pretension, he does not like to be called Dr. Weldon.   Tom acts as the unofficial counselor to both Simon and Stephanie. Tom suffers from Claustrophobia- the fear of small, enclosed spaces -which tends to keep him out of caves, dislike elevators, etc. He can over-ride this fear, but it is always there to nag away at him.

    Weldon claims to not be involved because of any particular idealistic bent though he sometimes accuses himself of being somewhat “Quixotic.”  In fact, his reasons for involvement are up for discovery, and there certainly seems to be some very mysterious elements to him (a penchant for travel to odd locales, the ability to speak fluent Russian, his out-of-town trips on “personal business”).  Ian Callow, described later in this document, dislikes Weldon and dislikes the fact the portions of Weldon’s past can’t be adequately researched

    Weldon, by the way, is the most likely of the three to be overcome by sentimentality and emotion.  He has never been able to make it through the ending of Casablanca without crying!  He also has a great fondness for poetry.

Simon, Tom, and Stephanie form the core of the Nightwatchmen--a jack-of-all-trades and engineer with a keen, analytic mind; an observant psychologist who can also kick in the doors if required; and a computer confident junkyard improviser who can prod the others along if they need a kick in the pants.  There is no need, by the way, to include everyone besides Simon in a story, particularly if the story doesn’t call for the talents of either Stephanie or Tom.

The Lower Echelon

This is the name, or at least the only name ever used, for the “activist” branch of the institute, and the group seems to include some very influential people since the Nightwatchmen have very little trouble obtaining needed funds and certain types of relatively hard to come by equipment.

  • The primary representative of the Lower Echelon is Callow (first name Ian, though no one besides Litchfield ever calls him anything other than Callow or Mr. Callow).  When the Nightwatchmen are needed, Callow summons Litchfield to the institute’s library, specifically the popular culture section (which the others hardly ever visit).  It is also sufficiently blocked from the view of the security cameras.  (Not every story has to begin with this library scene though a great many of them will.)  Some good examples of library scenes can be found in “Dragon’s Egg,” “Alconost,” and “The Orion Affair.”

    Callow believes very strongly in the Echelon’s mission, enough that if the situation calls for it he will threaten to blackmail Litchfield, damn the consequences.  He does have a decided affinity, however, for the trappings of cloak and dagger, which irritates Litchfield.  Very often Callow provides computer disks or CD Roms, passports, false identities, etc.

  • Melvin Squibb is the institute’s Inventory Control Manager, and in addition to being a wiz at obtaining paper clips and copier paper, he also can get for the group more specialized toys.  Squibb is not ‘Q’ by the way.  There are just some things he cannot get no matter how hard he tries, and he cannot simply invent needed gadgets.  Squibb also should not be portrayed as a “geek” or “nerd,” partly because this is too convenient a plot device and partly because I would like to see stereotyping kept to a minimum.  Squibb is seen most prominently in “Alconost.”
  • Bill Starsmore is one of the pilots employed by Nightwatch, and he is usually assigned to flights where hazards are expected.  He is a top-notch pilot, a former Top Gun winner, and he probably wishes that the aircraft he flies were equipped with everything found on an F/A-18 SuperHornet.  Starsmore is seen for the first time in “Dragon’s Egg.”

  • Ed Wendell is another Nightwatch pilot, first featured in the story “Alconost.”

  • Allison Corwyn is a Nightwatch co-pilot and former Air Force crew chief.  She was primarily responsible for F-15E Strike Eagles.  Allison also appeared in “Alconost.”

Within reason, you are free to create other minor characters for the institute and for the Lower Echelon.

Nightwatch Aircraft

Nightbird One is a converted Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) equipped with an opulent passenger cabin at the front followed by a large fuel tank (which has tripled the range of the plane) and a modified cargo bay allowing the transport of oversized and specialized items for Nightwatch.  The plane is also equipped with a significant number of goodies including extra shielding, extensive defensive capabilities, military-quality communications, and engines that are definitely not commercial standard.  The plane is kept at Manassas Airport about 30 miles south of Washington, DC.   The plane is described in greatest detail in both “Dragon’s Egg” and “Alconost.”

Nightwatch One is a standard CRJ for more routine flights.  It is safe to say that Simon and company normally will not fly on this plane.

Nightwatch Two is a Boeing Business Jet used for more routine business.  Simon and company rarely if ever use this plane.

Nightbird Five is a highly experimental stealth plane that is very expensive to operate and Nightbird 5maintain. NB-5 is a variant of the SR-51 design, combined with elements of the Soviet stealth MiG and the US F117A. The cabin has room for the pilot, co-pilot, and a maximum of four passengers.  Cargo space is less than the average minivan. There are no weapons, but electronic countermeasures are state-of-the-art.  The aircraft is supersonic (Mach 3 at altitude) and has limited VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) and limited water landing capabilities.

NB5 (so named because it was the fifth aircraft of its type built) was described by Tom Darby in “The Orion Affair” as being a white elephant.  The fuel, JP-88, has to be specially ordered, an expensive undertaking in itself and a process made more expensive by the fact that it has to be obtained surreptitiously through “back channels.”  For lengthy flights, refueling stops or in-flight refueling is required.  Tanker service for this type of craft is limited under normal circumstance and, again, is made more limited by the need to obtain it through “back channels.”  Flight time at subsonic speeds and without in-flight refueling is 4.2 hours, absolute maximum.

Like the F-117, there is simply no way for the plane to blend in with other aircraft, so it is limited primarily to night missions and is absolutely forbidden from taking off or landing in public view.  The underground hanger for the plane is also expensive to man and maintain.  The hanger is under a deserted airfield roughly an hour's drive from the Institute.

Finally, the plane is in many ways a mechanical nightmare with balky software and engine turbine problems brought on by the fuel.  Because of the extraordinary difficulties involved with operating the plane, and because of its limited capabilities, its availability is limited to extreme emergencies.  Nightbird Five is described in detail in “The Orion Affair.” 

Physical Locations

The following is some geographical information for Nightwatch:

1.  The Nightwatch Institute is a cluster of buildings off of Whitehaven Parkway (and near 35th Street).  Whitehaven Parkway is on the outer edge  of Georgetown.

2.  Nightwatch also leases some office space in the Foggy Bottom area of  Washington, DC, primarily because of its proximity to the State Department.   Of course, the institute leases (or occupies) temporary working spaces as needed throughout the world.

3.  Simon lives in a townhouse on Reservoir Rd NW near Georgetown University.  It is a two-story townhouse with two bedrooms, a library, a fireplace, a kitchen,  a dining room, etc.  The library is modestly sized but crammed with books, maps, and other items of interest.  His office is part of his bedroom.  The outer  walls and fireplace are a rich deep-red brick.  The interior walls are primarily  crème-colored.

4.  Stephanie lives in an apartment near the Keeger Museum.  The apartment is described in “Cardenio.”

5.  Tom lives and works in Arlington, VA.  He owns a small brick house and lives  alone.  Tom’s practice is in the L’Enfant Building (a slowly decaying structure) near a DC metro station on the Van Dorn Extension.  (The current Van Dorn  area can be found on maps of Arlington and  is located across the river from Washington, DC.)

6.  Because of his training as a civil engineer, Simon, particularly when he is troubled (when he is home, that is), tends to go to the old Chesapeake &  Ohio canal (now a monument).  You can, by the way, still take horse/mule drawn boat trips along the canal.  Actually, the history of the canal is very interesting if you get a chance to research it!  The canal is mentioned most prominently in “Dragon’s Egg” and “The Kindness of Strangers.”

7.  While Simon is certainly at home in the world of fine dining, his favorite place in town to eat is the Cannon Moon Cafe (which is fictional, by the way) on 31st Street, NW.  It has a view of the canal.  While it is not fine dining per se,  it is a lovely place to eat a mean lobster bisque and has an owner--Gillian Eckelberry--who keeps on hand Simon’s favorite wine and has a particularly nice bottle of Black Label if he ever wants it. 

By the way, maps of Georgetown can be found at www.georgetowndc.com  and at www.earthamaps.com.

Nightwatch Organization

  • Dr. Rachel MacMillan is the Executive Director of Nightwatch.  While she is the unquestioned leader, she only becomes directly involved in the day-to-day aspects of running Nightwatch when she absolutely has to.

  • Jared Molinski is the chair of the Major Projects Committee.  Nearly every major activity of the institute branches out of this committee, and many subcommittees report to it.

  • Dr. Subramahnian Divakaruni is the chair of the Asian Affairs Committee.  He also teaches at Georgetown University.  Dr. Divakaruni is, apparently, familiar with the Lower Echelon as indicated in “Dimensions’ Gate.”

  • Dr. Paula Mankiller is the chair of the American Affairs Committee (comprising both North and South America).

  • Nabil Safian is the chair of the European/North African Affairs Committee.

  • Dr. Molly Wilcox runs the Middle Eastern Subcommittee,

  • Dr. Sundaygar Terrell is the Chair of the Sub-Saharan Africa Committee.

  • Dr. Rosalyn Chambers is the Director of Economic Affairs.  Economic Affairs handles the consulting side of Nightwatch.   She also teaches at Georgetown University.

  • George Nathan-Gallecio is the Nightwatch Comptroller.

  • Dr. Willis Eddison is in charge of Nightwatch Analysis and also heads the Special Tasks Subcommittee, which reports to Jared Molinski. Ian Callow, incidentally, is the Vice-Chair.  Special Tasks is modestly budgeted and, honestly, does very little within Nightwatch.  Eddison, in fact, only convenes the committee once a year just after the New Year’s holidays.  There is nothing remarkable about Special Tasks.  Officially.

The information above is provided to give you a glimpse at the overall organization of Nightwatch.  The people above (along with anyone else associated with those individuals) need not appear in your stories unless there is a driving reason for their presence.  More than likely, the most you will do with them is bring them up in conversation.

Other Characters

These are some other important characters who have appeared in Nightwatch so far.

  • Alexei Yakonov is a representative of a Russian intelligence agency.  He has appeared in “Dragon’s Egg” and “Ghost Rockets of Sweden.”

  • Morna Litchfield is Simon’s second ex-wife and is a molecular biologist.  Morna is seen in “Rogue Harvest,” and a little of Simon and Morna’s history is also discussed in “The Kindness of Strangers.”

  • Celinde Gryphius is a woman who is hard to kill.  Gryphius’ story is a complex one and is best learned by reading “Cardenio” and “Dimensions’ Gate.”  Suffice it to say that Gryphius often leaves a significant body count in her wake.

  • Gillian Eckleberry is the owner and head chef of the Cannon Moon Café.  She is one of Dr. Litchfield’s closest friends, and there are indications that more, in fact, may be brewing between them.  Eckleberry is seen in “Cardenio” and “The Kindness of Strangers.”

  • Dr. Lyman Eckert is Nightwatch’s resident mad scientist, someone primarily concerned with the mechanics of time travel.  We first meet him in “The Kindness of Strangers” though some additional background material about him can be found in “Dimensions’ Gate.”

You are, of course, free to plumb the depths of the various Nightwatch stories for other characters of interest (except for Tom Darby in “The Orion Affair”).  Dr. Litchfield’s first wife is also unavailable at this time and should not be discussed.

Some Wrinkles

  • Nightwatch has a time machine.  The device was designed and built by Dr. Lyman Eckert and is powered by the egg-like artifact discovered in Afghanistan in “Dragon’s Egg.”  The machine is located in an underground lab beneath the popular culture section of the Nightwatch library.  As stated in “The Kindness of Strangers,” few people know about the machine.  Neither Stephanie nor Tom currently know of its existence.

    The machine has several operational limitations.  First, it cannot currently scan the future nor can it send anyone into the future.  Second, it can neither scan nor send anyone more than 100 years or so into the past.  Finally, it is only capable of scanning and sending travelers to a limited area, an area roughly the size of Georgetown/Washington, DC.  To send someone anywhere else would either require that the machine itself be moved or that the person undertake his or her own travel upon reaching the desired time zone.

    As you can imagine, the time machine brings with it its own set of dangers and operational challenges, so its use is limited to extreme situations.  The machine is first used in “The Kindness of Strangers,” and the currently known properties of the egg itself are discussed in greater detail in “Dragon’s Egg.”

  • The motivations of the Lower Echelon itself may be drawn into question as the Nightwatchmen carry out their orders.  For instance, some of their operations may produce results that on the surface are extremely favorable but carry with them brand new potential consequences.  The benefit of some operations may even be difficult to see at all.

  • Some skeletons are lurking in Litchfield’s closet, and you are certainly free to allude to them if the moment is right, without, of course, being terribly specific…unless being terribly specific is an absolute story requirement, in which case we’ll talk!  J

Story Ideas

I have some story ideas if you need them though, of course, I can’t post them in this online bible. J

Nightwatch, however, is not X-Files.  Strange things can and do happen, but the series shouldn’t dwell on alien and government conspiracies (though if you have a good idea for a story featuring something like that, I’m certainly open to a pitch).  Nightwatch should also not be an ‘alien invasion of the week’ series.

Also, for the time being, writers should not use the old doppelganger device (unless, of course, you’ve come up with a really unique idea for one, that is).

Really, the best way to learn what Nightwatch is about is to read a selection of the stories.

Submissions

Nightwatch is a little unusual in that I’m trying to achieve a series feel.  Because of this, seven new stories will run each year in series format, something analogous to a television season.  The third “season” will run from March 2006 through approximately September 2006.

If you are interested in writing a Nightwatch story, I’ll begin reviewing story pitches and submissions in July and will continue through January 2006.  Potential writers will be given additional series information as needed.

Stories must be at least 7,501 in length.  Submissions and story ideas should be sent to serials@aphelion-webzine.com

NOTE:  All graphics except “The Nightwatch” and “Nightbird Five” created by Robert Moriyama.  “Nightbird Five” created by Testors Modeling Co.