Wayne Cole

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Fiction Fragment Friday

Once again I returned to a previous story series I did not expect to. What started in Bickering and continued in Teamwork now has another part. That means I’m sure there will be yet more in the future. I had a couple story ideas this week that I decided to hold off on for another project and this one just came to me. It was one of those stories that I started and it just flowed without much thought at all.

Then I hit time for a title and just locked up. I hate this title, but couldn’t come up with anything good. If I ever use this story elsewhere I need to come up with something better.


                I woke floating three feet above the bunk in my quarters.  There are straps on the side meant to keep you in place in case gravity goes out for any reason, but since that had never happened before, I suppose I had been less than cautious.  My eyes darted around the room searching for anything that I might be able to stabilize myself with.  The last thing I wanted was for gravity to turn back on and drop me on my head.  Unfortunately, the only light to see by was an emergency chemical light over my door. 

                “Beverly what happened?”  There was no response from my shipboard AI system.  That quickly became my bigger concern.  Well, it was until gravity came back on and I found the floor quickly coming up to meet me.   For once I had a bit of luck and didn’t land on my head.  I did land with a knee smashing my tablet’s screen.  The throbbing pain drew out a variety of curses that I won’t be repeating. 

                “Language Steven.  Those are not polite words.”  The pleasant voice coming from the ship’s speaker was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. 

                “Beverly oh thank heavens you’re ok.   What happened?”

                “Why can’t you always be that excited to hear my voice?  You know last night you yelled at me to just give you some peace and quit.”  I still don’t know how a digitized voice can sound so annoyed, but I have come to accept that my AI does have emotions. 

                “It was the middle of the night, and I was trying to sleep.”  I managed to get to my feet and stumble towards the door to my quarters.  The lights came back on blinding me “We can talk about that later.  What knocked the power out?”

                “I’m still running diagnostics, but the ship appears to have been hit by an extremely powerful and focused EMP.  The ship is shielded against random pulses, but this one overwhelmed the shielding. It took all systems offline, but thankfully there are redundancies, and I will have everything back online in twenty minutes.” 

                “You’re ok though right?  You didn’t lose any memories or take any damage?”

                “My core is triple shielded, so I didn’t even go offline.  That was done during the last round of upgrades.  Oh, you signed off on those by the way, if anyone asks.”

                I rushed through the halls toward the bridge as quickly as I could on a banged-up knee.  A terrible thought was growing in the back of my head.  “Beverly are sensors back online?”

                “Not yet.  I prioritized gravity, life support, and maneuvering thruster control.  I can have them online in two minutes if it is important.”

                “I’m afraid it might be.”  I slid into my chair and this time buckled myself in just in case.  The console was filled with a combination of red lights and blank screens.  I brought up external camera feeds, but space is extremely big, and I didn’t really expect to see anything.  My hunch seemed to have paid off though because there on the screen was a small vessel extremely close and three individuals in environmental suits were quickly approaching the hull.  Weapons were attached by magnets in multiple spots. 

                “Oh, that doesn’t look good at all.”

                “No, it does not.  Route maneuvering thrusters to my console.”  The controls in front of me came online and I started programing a course.  I didn’t want to move too quickly and give away the fact that we had some systems online again.  “ETA for jump drives and com systems?”

                “Fifteen minutes for jump drives and an additional five for coms.” 

                “I don’t suppose you had weapons installed during the upgrades, did you?”

                “I’m starting to wish I had, but you didn’t have the credits for that.  We really do need some high value cargos if you plan on taking us private anytime soon.” 

                “Let’s worry about surviving this first ok.”  At the last moment when they were about to touch the hull, I spun the ship away from them.  An outcropping hit the lead invader and sent them spinning off into space.  I hoped that they cared enough to recover their crew before coming after me.  All available engine power was redirected to the rear thrusters pushing us away as quickly as the Quickwind could accelerate.  I was blind though having no idea where I was going, and the other ship was no longer in my camera feeds.  “Any idea who they are?”

                “And how exactly would I know who they are?  I don’t exactly have a large social circle.  You don’t really introduce me to anyone.  I’m pretty sure they are after you and not me.”

                I sighed and composed myself before answering.  “I thought maybe you had the transponder codes of the ships in system before the EMP.  Maybe there was some marking on their suits that your incredible computer intelligence picked up on that I my puny human eyes didn’t notice.”

                “Oh.  Yeah, that is a good idea.  Hold on a second and let me run some calculations.  Ok done.  Based on the last known position of transponders, that should be a mining vessel called Miner’s Keepers.  The ship on screen was not a mining vessel.”

                “No, it was not.  They must have been running a forged transponder.  The real question is if we were targeted specifically or just convenient.”

                A recording of the three environmental suit clad individuals started playing on the screen.  It paused and then zoomed in on a device in their right hand.  “That is a master key for our model of airlock.  If we weren’t specifically targeted, they were at least prepared for our model ship.”

                The sensor screen came online and filled with passive scan data.  I shifted my focus and started directing the scans.  Our pursuers did take time to rescue their people, so we had a decent lead.  As long as they didn’t have weapons, we would have had plenty of time to bring the jump drives on and flee.  Of course, the sensors were showing what looked like plasma cannons charging.  We didn’t have anything to defend against them.  Without coms I couldn’t even call for help.  “Beverly I could use a brilliant idea right about now.”

                “That would be nice since I don’t particularly want to die.  Perhaps you should come up with one.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on bringing systems online and saving my memoirs off to the black box.  Would you like me to change your name in all the embarrassing stories?”

                “Please do.  Also include all the information you can on the people about to kill us.”  I might have been yelling by the time I finished that line.  On the screen I could see the power on the pursuing ship released towards us.  It wasn’t a plasma blast like I had expected though.  The ship shook violently, and all the lights flickered.

                “Oh, my.  They just hit us with another focused EMP.  Like I would like a weak move like that work twice.  Suck it evil pursuing ship.”  Despite the tension of the moment, I couldn’t help but let out a snort laugh. 

                “That’s my girl. They got nothing on you.”   I smiled in pride and continued to dodge with full thrusters.  Their ship may have had some EMP weapon, but they weren’t as fast as the Quickwind.  As soon as the ready light came on, we jumped from the system.  I knew it wasn’t over though.  Someone out there was hunting us and they were not going to give up just because we got away once.    

A Day Like Any Other

Fiction Fragment Friday

Usually I can tell you what inspired a story. It is usually an image, dream, or a phrase that pops into my mind. This time though I sat down to write and just thought to myself that I didn’t want to write in first person perspective. I wanted an epic starting line, but the more I tried to craft it the more a simple normal sentence came out. That is when I decided to start the story with something mundane and juxtapose it with something out of the ordinary.

While trying to come up with names I ended up picking the name of the town from an online D&D campaign I ran. This ended up shaping the town and a few characters. It certainly shaped my thoughts on the town I was writing about.


                It was a day that started like any other in the quiet country town of Hillsdale.  Farmers were up with the sunrise tending to their animals and eagerly awaiting the upcoming corn harvest.  A sole ship could be seen approaching the rarely used port in anticipation of being loaded with food shipments to the north.  More than a dozen fishing boats were already out to sea, each hoping to claim the momentary prestige granted by the largest catch of the day.  Nothing was out of the ordinary at all aside from the fact that the town hall was missing.

                Dozens of townsfolk lined the rim of the large hole where the town hall used to reside.  The edges of the hole were smooth and curved downward for thirty feet.  “It looks like something just scooped it right out of the ground with a giant spoon,” marveled Hazel the town baker.  Many of her neighbors agreed while others complained that everything always had to be kitchen related with her.  This led to additional mumblings with no one else offering a better comparison.

                “Where do you suppose Mayor Dale is?” asked bureaucrat Henderson.  As everyone well knew he hadn’t spared a moment to worry about the fate of the mayor.  He had long coveted the mayor’s title and looked for every opportunity to undermine him while positioning himself as the obvious successor.  While there were others who wished to see the mayor fail, Henderson had yet to succeed in winning a single supporter for him taking the position.  Simple obstacles like reality had never gotten in the way of his ambitions before and he certainly wouldn’t let them start now. 

                “Has anyone gone down to the bottom of the hole yet?  “Someone should probably do that,” suggested Herbert the haberdasher.   What he really meant though was someone other than himself.  Herbert was a well-known coward, but never let it be said that he wasn’t wearing a spectacular hat while expressing his cowardice.  On this morning it was a large brimmed black hat with a single feather sticking out of a red ribbon on the right side.  As was common his head was darting around trying to make sure that he knew where everyone was and what they were doing.  This was how he spotted Jeremiah, a local town boy of eleven.  “You there boy take a look at the bottom of this hole and see if there are any clues.”

                Jeremiah had been looking for any opportunity he could claim was permission since he first saw the hole.  “Yes sir,” he said far more politely than any of the gathered crowd had ever heard him be.  He knew that more responsible adults would soon step in to stop him, so he rushed over the rim and slid down into the hole.  The angle was steep at first, but years of riding a stollen shield down a rocky hill outside of town had prepared him for this moment.  With agility the older townsfolk were jealous of he remained upright until the ground leveled and even then he barely stumbled.

                The boy walked the remaining ten feet to the center of the hole.  There he found a handwritten note.  He looked up at the faces staring down at him expectantly.  Jeremiah assumed that they wanted to know what the note said.  He was just as curious because he had never learned to read.  Admitting to not knowing something Jeremiah as a strong independent boy would never do.  Instead, he yelled back up to the rim of the hole.  “If y’all wanna know what it says you best get a rope and help me out of here.”  He had debated trying to run up the sides, but there were too many people watching to see if he wasn’t successful.  There was no way he would embarrass himself like that.       

                A handful of folks ran off and after ten minutes Grezelda the Blacksmith returned with a long coil of rope.  She tied one end of the rope to the saddle on her horse and tossed the rest into the hole.  “Hold on tight boy,” she yelled down before mounting her steed.  Jeremiah tried to stay on his feet as the horse dragged him up the side, but the speed caught him off guard landing face first in the dirt.  A testament to his stubborn nature, his fingers did not leave the rope until he was out of the hole. 

                Jeremiah lay on the ground trying to catch his breath.  His body hurt in ways he didn’t know it could at his age.  This was an excuse he realized to not read the note without giving away that he couldn’t read.  Seeing a way to save face he played up his gasps and pain from being pulled by a horse.  He slowly reached into his pocket and pulled out the now crumbled note.  Holding it out he didn’t care who took it as long as they could read it before he slipped away. 

                The smug look on Henderson’s face was unmistakable as he held the letter high above his face.  “Listen up everyone,” he yelled.  He already had the town’s attention, but wanted to make it last as long as he could.  Part of him wondered if he should lie about the contents of the note, but without a way to destroy the original handy after reading he decided it was too big of a risk.  Looking down at the note he began to read it aloud.  “Come see the historic Hillsdale Town Hall at the brand-new Unity Frontier Museum.”  He read the note again to himself silently two more times trying to find any mistake in his reading.  There were no mistakes.

                “Someone from the capital stole our town hall?” asked Hazel the Baker.  “Can they do that?”

                “They’re the capital.  They can do whatever they want,” answered Grezelda bitterly.  Everyone knew her feelings about the capital.  She had come to the frontier to get away from what she referred to as that cesspool of stuck-up vipers.  “So did they take Mayor Dale with them?”

                “Did who take me with them?”  The town turned to see the mayor approaching with his hair still dripping wet from the bath house.  “Hey where’s my office?”  With the mystery solved and the mayor found the townsfolk wandered back to their daily tasks.  Now that the excitement was over the rest of the day continued just like any other day.

Artifacts

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story was inspired by an image I saw of a robot holding the head of a baby doll. Obviously my main character of this story is not a robot, but sometimes the inspiration goes very wild from it’s source. This certainly was a case of that.


                Analyzing……. Composition is a synthetic polymer commonly known as plastic.  Shape fits into acceptable variations to represent the head of a species that was known as humans.  Item has a 92% probability of being the remains of a toy.  

                “Human?  That can’t be.  I’ve heard of them, but not in a long time and never in this part of the galaxy.”  I just shook my head at the analysis my environmental suit’s onboard computer had given.  I thought about having it run the process again, but the percentage of certainty was far too high for it to end up returning any other result.  The only question is if this lost colony had been human, had a human with them, or just had artifacts. 

                I turned the creepy relic around in my hands.  It had two eyes that looked like they were staring back at me.  A stringy substance came out of what I assumed was the top of the head.  I could only assume it represented some sort of fur.  My onboard computer started highlighting parts of the face in my display showing me what was supposed to represent a mouth, nose, and two ears.  They didn’t look like any I had ever seen on an organic being and the skin was a strange color I didn’t have a word to represent.  If humans really look like that thing did then I’m glad I’ve never met one. 

                “Upload images of the artifact to the file for this planet.”  I tossed the thing over my shoulder to the ground.  I know it is an artifact and I should have treated it with more care, but the thing was just so ugly I didn’t want to see it anymore.  If this really was a human colony, I should find something else that would be a better representation of the culture.  I thought about asking for a summary of known human history, but that would have been far more information than I really wanted while in the field. 

                What I knew of humans at the time was that they had spread throughout the galaxy twenty thousand years ago.  About ten thousand years before my people developed space folding technology their empire collapsed.  We still don’t know why it fell apart or how they went from colonizing most of the galaxy to the verge of extinction in under a thousand years.  We don’t even know what planet they evolved on.  Some of the surviving colony ships after arriving at their destinations had massive failures leaving the colonies without technology.  I have heard of instances where after thousands of years they no longer even realize they are not natives. 

                The mystery is what drives most archaeologists.  I just want a pay day and the fastest way to get that is lost tech.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll look for culturally significant artifacts on dead worlds as well, but I don’t do it out of curiosity.  If you find something new you can get a good price at auction for it.  Especially if you can get a couple species to bid against each other for it.  Usually, remnants of a species will pay the most, but there aren’t any humans out there with enough money to pay my rates. 

                The remains of the building I had been in was made from a form of brick, but stepping through the crumbled remains I found myself in a building of completely different materials.  It appeared to be a type of black metal with curved edges that had withstood the elements far better.  My biggest surprise though was the skeleton of a Camorian.  They are a four-legged, two-armed reptilian species with a barbed tail.   Like humans I had never seen a report of them in this part of the galaxy.  I couldn’t come up with any reason they would be on the same planet as humans.  I pointed the scanner on my left rear tentacle towards the body and started the scan. 

                Analyzing….  Remains of a male Camorian.  Cause of death unknown.   Specimen expired fifteen years prior to the current date with a two-year margin of error due to unknown environmental variables. 

                “Wait did you say fifteen years ago?  I thought these ruins were a century old at the least.”

                Negative.  The exact time and nature of cataclysm this site experienced cannot be determined based on current data.  Current deterioration state of trace organic materials indicates an active site as recently as two decades. 

                 “What trace organic materials?”  I was starting to get very annoyed with my suit’s onboard computer.  It should have been providing far more data without being prompted.  I made a mental note to run a full diagnostic when I returned to the ship.  The last thing I needed was to find myself on a dead planet with a failing environmental suit. 

                Bacteria has been detected from over thirty known species as well as multiple habitats using timber not found natively on the same planet. 

                “Wait did you say habitats?”

                Unknown query. 

                “Initiate file integrity check now.” 

                Sixty percent file corruption by unknown code uploaded to system upon arrival on the planet surface.  Sixty-five percent file corruption by unknown code uploaded……  Welcome to Habitat, the galaxy’s first planetary zoo.  Exhibit designated number one your personal habitat is now ready for occupation.  I am so excited to have you as the first step in my rebuild.   

Morning Routine

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story came from a concept that got stuck in my head. As I wrote it I got near the end and realized that I hadn’t actually told a story just given a prose monologue explaining a situation. With that in mind I went back over it and added elements to build up to a new ending. I admit it isn’t much story and is mostly world and character building. Maybe I’ll return to the world in a future Fiction Fragment Friday and give the aftermath from the perspective of the person being replaced.


               Every morning I wake up and do my best to follow a consistent routine.  The universe doesn’t always allow this to happen, but most mornings I can achieve some semblance of it.  If I can get a shower and coffee, I am always grateful.  In my life you learn to really appreciate this simple pleasure because it is not always available.  On this morning I was lucky enough to have warm water, good coffee, and food to make a satisfying breakfast.  It was a strong start to a day.

               After taking my time to recharge I move on to the next part of my routine.  The details of this are different, but it is almost always part of my day.  I need to see what is going on in the world today however I can.  Sometimes it is looking through a newspaper, sometimes it is watching the news, but this morning it was looking through the internet on my phone.  Having a working phone was also a good way to start the day because I could look over my e-mails and calendar.  Determining what my day was supposed to look like could be more important than knowing what is going on in the world.

               Finally, I needed to find out how this world was different.  Since I was a teenager every night when I go to sleep, I wake up in an alternate reality.  I’m not really sure if alternate is the right term for it since at this point, I don’t know if I would even know my original reality.  Since most worlds are just slightly different and I frequently don’t ever know what is different, so it is possible I don’t jump realities every single night.  It is also possible that it started a lot earlier than I think it did.  Maybe I have always switched worlds every night. 

               On that morning I had no problem figuring out what made this world different but have no idea where it initially diverged.  In this world cloning has been embraced and they have brought back hundreds of historical figures.  Scientists, musicians, and anyone of note that they could get viable DNA for.  They don’t seem to have a way to artificially age the clones, so they must age at a normal human rate.  These clones are groomed from birth to surpass the potential that the originals had shown.  I can’t help but wonder if they clone them in staggered batches so they will always have these individuals at a peak age. 

               This change is drastic enough that technology differences can be seen.  Genetics technology have allowed for cures to many diseases prior to birth.  Those rich enough can tweak the genes of their children to increase potential physically and mentally.  They seem to be getting closer to artificial aging because they can grow cloned organs in a matter of months for transplant.  This shift in resources though comes at the cost of other technology that I’m familiar with.  It certainly will be an interesting world to explore. 

               Once I figure out what this version of me does for a living, I call in sick to work.  It is difficult to not stand out around people who know me in worlds this different from what I think of as my own.  I only have one day here, and I want to make the most of it.  That means seeing a few movies filmed with younger versions of the stars that look like they did when the original movies were made.  I also buy tickets to a concert that night of a band that died when I was too young to see them.  It looks like the new version has recorded four albums that the original never did.  I hope they still play plenty of the classics that I know. 

               I can’t help but wonder what happens to the version of me that used to live here.  Do they come back when I leave?  Are they buried inside my own mind suppressed until I leave?  I do know that I inhabit their body and not my original.  This is obvious by changing facial hair, physique, and scars from world to world.  I know that every version of me can’t be doing this because each new world I jump into the version of me there has an established life.  You can’t hold a stable life if you are a new person every day. 

               I have been to post-apocalyptic universes, but always ones that I am still alive in.  I wonder how many worlds could be out there that I have never seen because I don’t have a version of myself to inhabit.  It is one of the many questions I have that I can never talk to anyone about.  It is a very lonely life never having real friends and having to avoid the significant others of my alternates.  It just wouldn’t be right since I don’t know them.  Those worlds are the ones where it is hardest not to negatively impact my alternate’s life on my day taking a joy ride in their body.

               It is not all bad though.  Days like this one are the ones I look forward to the most.  I get to enjoy new entertainment and find food that I can’t get in every world.  The best part is not having to see anyone who knows me so I can just be myself and not pretend.  Of course, that leads to the question of who I really am since I play a role almost every day.  I’m not sure if I have ever developed a sense of self.  I shook my head to clear my thoughts as they were getting far too deep for a fun day. 

               I stepped out into the world really looking forward to my day.  That was when I made my mistake.  I looked to the left to make sure the road was clear and stepped out.  The car coming from the right hit me hard tossing my body up and into the windshield.  My body rolled off and hit the street coming to a stop.  Every part of it hurt and my mind was frantically trying to figure out what had happened.  My vision was blurry, but I could just barely see the driver getting out of the car.  That was when I realized my mistake.  In this world cars in the United States drive on the left side of the street and I didn’t think to check for it. 

               The world starts to fade from my senses, and I realize I’m losing consciousness.  The moment I do I will leave this world and my alternate will be left dealing with the consequences of my stupidity.  If he survives.  My fun day slips away from me, and it is all my own fault.  I silently apologize to myself on my way out.       

Pitch Meeting

Fiction Fragment Friday

In the middle of the night last night I woke up and had a line in my head. I immediately sent myself a message with the line before going back to sleep. This is a process that I have followed many times leading to quite a few past Fiction Fragment Fridays. I didn’t have a story idea I had a single line and then wrote the story to explain why the line was said. In this case the line in question was the one referencing the phonebook.

What started as just a funny story actually ended up having some seriousness to it at the end. There are thoughts that mirror my own self doubts about my own writing and if I can live up to the promises that some of these stories make in an actual novel.


“I’m sorry I just can’t sell that.  No one will buy it.”  My agent was noticeably frustrated with my latest book idea.  I had expected a similar response, so I had made the meeting a call instead of traveling out to see him in person like he requested.  In person he could always talk me out of my passion projects, but over the phone I was insulated from it. 

“You said that about my last book too.”  I remembered the weeklong fight to get him to agree.  To be honest I think he only caved to try and teach me a lesson.  In the end though he found a publisher for it and the book came out.  It found it’s audience too. 

“It sold half as many copies as the book before it.  You’re shrinking your audience with these weird projects.  You have three successful series, why can’t you just pitch me the next book in one of those.  Your fans are clamoring for them.”    

“I will, but this book wants to be written.”

“Then write it and put it in a drawer somewhere so you can move on to something that will sell.”

“You know it doesn’t work that way.  When I write a story it needs to get out there and find its audience.  It demands to be read.”

“This one doesn’t have an audience.  It won’t sell.”  He was getting very frustrated and yelling into his phone at this point. 

“It does though.  I talked about the idea on social media and got really good feedback.”

He verbally sighed over the phone line. “Look Jimmy, the people that follow you on social media are your super fans.  They are obsessed.  They would read the phonebook if I put presented by James Abernathy on the cover.  You can’t base your decisions on social media.” 

“This is a really good idea though.  Look, let me try to explain it again.  I can do it better this time.”

“Alright, I’ll give you one more shot to pitch it to me.  I want to remind you though that we had a deal.  You give me at least two marketable books for each passion project and your last book about the Sparkling Vampire Surfer from Atlantis being hunted by the jealous former surfer he beat in competition was not a marketable book.  Now I’ll listen to your pitch, but if I still say no, you drop it and give me the next Benjamin Everhart book instead.” 

I didn’t like it, but he was right.  We did have a deal and he had really come through for me numerous times.  My last novel had been critically panned as the worst book I ever wrote.  Little do they know of all the books that I never got published before my first hit.  I have written far worse books and Vampire Surfer from Atlantis did in fact find its audience.  It might have been a small audience, but it was there.  Once he agreed my agent put his reputation on the line to find me a publisher.  I owed him and we both knew it. 

“Deal.  Ok, so here is the pitch.  Born into a necromancer family Justin Marshall is not defined by his inherited magical abilities.  He is a fashion designer first, but his frustration with egotistical fashion models makes him turn to his familial abilities.  He sends ways through the fashion world using zombies to model his clothes.  He soon has a thriving side business of providing zombies for his competitors, but when one of them is eaten he is the prime suspect.  We’ll call the book Killer Fashion Sense.”   I smiled to myself.  How could that pitch not win him over?  This book was as good as sold.

“So, it’s a comedy?”

  “No, why in the world would you think that?  It’s an Urban Fantasy mystery.  A real who done it with loads of family drama.  I’m sure I’ll include a few funny moments because I am me, but that’s not the tone I’m going for at all.”  I just didn’t understand why he would think comedy when I gave him such a strong concept.

“Do you really think anyone will want to publish that?  Who’s the audience?  Even at the height of zombie popularity that would have been a tough sell, but zombies are over.  People are tired of them.  You certainly would never get an offer for movie or television rights unless someone wanted to make a parody movie.”

“No way.  If anyone tried that they just don’t get it.  I don’t care how much they over you say no.”

“How about I practice now.  No. Give me another book in all three of your series and then I’ll think about trying to shop this to the small press market.”

“Small press?  It’s won’t ever find its audience that way.”

“Well, if you really believe in this idea then it should find its audience anywhere.  All those people on your social media will buy copies for their friends.”

“I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.  I’m going to write the book, but I suppose we can wait a little while to try and sell it.  You do have a point about zombie saturation, and I would hate for it to get lost in the crowd.”  I hated giving in at all, but he did have a few good points.  I really had no idea how to continue any of my series though.  I had written myself into a bit of a corner in each of them and just didn’t think I could write anything that would live up to the promise of those endings.  Not for the first time I started to wonder if my passion projects were just a way to avoid facing my fear and imposter syndrome.  If I lowered expectations, then people wouldn’t be as disappointed when I did return to those series. Those books wouldn’t have to be better than the last in each series, just better than these.  

The self-doubt really hit me all at once.  Was this book concept bad?  Was my last book as terrible as the reviews indicate?  Are my passion projects just a form of self-sabotage?  I didn’t like the way my thoughts were turning.  It felt like they held a little too much truth.  I needed to get out of my head or at least get something good from it onto paper.

“We had a deal.  I held up my part.  If you take the time to write this thing it’s just going to push your series back further and even your most devoted fans are getting impatient.  I’m not the bad guy here.  I’m on your side.  I’m team Abernathy.”

“Ok, I’ll write the next Benjamin Everhart novel.  I’m going to find a way to work a necromancer fashion designer into it though.”  Yes, I realize I was just being petty with the comment.  I wouldn’t really try to shoehorn the concept into the series, but he didn’t need to know that.

“You can try, but I doubt it makes it past your first editing pass before you even send me a draft.”

“Sometimes I hate how well you know me.”  I hung up the phone more disgusted with myself than I was with my agent.  Why did he always have to be right?      

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Fiction Fragment Friday

Welcome to 2024 and a rededication to weekly flash fiction. I am examining my priorities and projects at the moment and hope to make 2024 be a strong year of writing and moving forward.

This week’s story comes from an idea of two characters meeting and having a very specific conversation. I had a few ideas about where to take the story, but as usual I let it guide me to where it wanted to go.


               I was walking down the canned vegetable aisle lost in my own thoughts.  Due to national shortages, they were out of peas and unfortunately, they were the only green vegetable that my daughter was willing to eat.  Why couldn’t there be a shortage of Brussel sprouts instead?  Nobody in my house would care about never seeing Brussel sprouts again.  I put a short can of lima beans into the cart just hoping I could get her to at least try them.  She liked butter beans so I hoped that maybe I could convince her that they were smaller green versions.  With my complete focus on groceries, I found myself jumping at a voice suddenly right behind me. 

               “Sorry it took so long Jake, but we did finally find you.”  I spun around to see my old friend Justin standing in the aisle holding glancing down at what appeared to be a cell phone.  I say appeared because I knew for a fact that wasn’t what it was.  The device in his hands was an extremely advanced computer complete with an artificial intelligence capable of answering just about any request for information you might ask of it.  It would not be unfair to say that it was as far advanced over modern cell phones as they were over the computers used to send man to the moon. 

               “How did you find me?” I ask because I really have no idea.  I thought I had covered my trail well enough. 

               “Well, we knew the location of your navigator’s last check-in to that gave us a place to start.  Then we looked for anomalies, but they only started to ripple enough to notice here and now.  We have been searching this town for two weeks hoping to find you.”

               I was trying to hold back the concern and decide what to do next when something caught my eye.  There behind Justin on the wrong shelf hidden behind the mixed vegetables was a single can of peas.  I was so excited that I forgot what we were talking about for a moment.  “Justin do me a favor and grab that can of peas there.”  I point to the shelf.  “Jessie is going to be so happy it’s been weeks since I’ve found any.”

               He grabs the can and tosses it to me.  I’m not as fast as I used to be and fumble it a bit almost dropping the can.  This is too important though, so I manage to recover and put it in the cart.  “Jessie?  Who’s Jessie?”   

               “My daughter.”  Telling him this could be dangerous, and I try to read his face as I say it.  I want some clue about what he is thinking. 

               “You have a daughter?”  He looks shocked and his voice gets louder as he speaks.  “Do you have any idea how many regulations you violated?  What were you thinking?”

               “Of course, I know how many regulations I violated.  I wrote half of them.  I know better than anyone the risks, but you know what?  I’m here and it happened.  This is my life now so please keep your voice down.  People are starting to look.”

               “How did you let this happen?  How did you get stranded here to begin with?”  Thankfully he had lowered his voice. 

               “I wasn’t stranded.  I fell in love and decided to stay here.  I set the Navigator to self-destruct after setting off false signals and mailing it to India.  I thought that would be enough to keep you all off my trail.  I’ve done everything I can to avoid making waves here hoping it wouldn’t cause ripples.”

               “You created a life for yourself two hundred years in the past and didn’t think it would create enough changes to track?  I suppose you did manage to keep the ripples minimized for ten years so that is impressive.  Something you did about three years ago though slipped up.  The ripples seem to have started around then.”

               “Jessie.  I should have known.  A new life that didn’t exist in the old timeline.  Of course, that would create ripples.”  I feel extremely stupid.  I had been so careful until then.  In my overwhelming joy of becoming a father and my complacency of staying off the radar for so long I didn’t even consider the ramifications. 

               “You know we can’t let this stand.  Unfortunately, now we know, and we only know because it happened.  It was already going to be difficult bringing you home, but now the paradox this causes is going to destabilize spacetime in this whole decade.”

               “This is my home and I’m not going anywhere.”  I stand there defiant.  “If our friendship ever meant anything to you just walk away and say you never found me.”

               “You know I can’t do that jake.”

               “And I can’t let you erase my daughter.”  We just stand there in the aisle facing each other.  Neither of us knows what to say and I think we are both hesitant to make the first move.  I want to think it is because of our past, but I suspect we both just don’t want to screw up our next move.  It is too important. 

               “Look I need to get approval for a paradox of this magnitude anyway.  I’ll just head back to base to report in and let someone with a higher paygrade decide what to do next.”

               “I can’t let you do that either.”

               “Come on Jake you must know this is your own fault.  Maybe if you agree to come help me drag the younger you back to our time, they will give him lenience.”

               “I won’t let you erase my daughter.”  I try to put all my strength of will into those words.  My hands are gripping the cart handle so hard that my knuckles go white.  He went to type into his Navigator, and I knew I was out of time.  I shoved the cart forward and smashed it into his stomach.  Justin let out a grunt and doubled over the cart dropping the Navigator into it.  Seeing my chance, I grabbed it and ran.

               Glancing back, I could see Justin gasping for breath and trying to recover.  He yelled after me, “Don’t make this harder than it has to be.  You can’t win.”         

               I know that he might be right, but if you have ever looked into the eyes of your newborn child, you know that a parent would do anything for them.  Even defy an organization of time traveling police.  “Navigators close all connections to the future.  Authorization Delta Omega India Tango.”  Yes, that spells out the words do it.  I had put that in as a backdoor into all the Navigators.  Helping to set up the program gave me a lot of access in those early days. 

               “Orders acknowledged and completed Mr. Miller.  All outgoing communications have been terminated.”  I had not heard the voice of a Navigator in ten years, but it was just as I remembered.

               “Navigator, show me the earliest research that led to the creation of the Temporal Intervention Commission.  Focus on anything build on discoveries made in the 2020s.”  The screen started to scroll through data.  Even once I go to my car, I couldn’t spare the time to read it just yet.  Once I was somewhere safe then I could start making plans.  I knew what I had to do to protect my daughter even if it did cause a huge paradox around both of us.  My former employers couldn’t erase my daughter if they didn’t exist to do so.  Of course, I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t, but I was here so as I said one really big paradox.  What would I do for my daughter?  I would risk the very fabric of reality because she was my reality, and I wasn’t about to live without her. 

To Do List

Fiction Fragment Friday

I’ve said this before, but I really enjoy trying new ways to tell a story with flash fiction. I have done product brochures, logs, and help manuals in the past. For this week I am character building with a To Do list. I’m not sure what put the idea in my head, but once it was there I had to write it.


Intelligence Report 57243 submitted for immediate analysis. 

Data Source:  Worm resident in the supervillain Professor Magnificent’s computer system.

December 22, 2023, To Do List

  • Log into the community site for the Star Wars prequels and post a large diatribe about how the sequels are better.  Ensure to point out that anyone who disagrees just doesn’t understand them.
  • Log into the community site for the Star Wars sequels and post a large diatribe about how the sequels destroyed all the promise of the prequels.  Ensure to point out that anyone who disagrees just does not grasp the complexities presented in the prequels.
  • Log into the community site for the original Star Wars trilogy and post a large diatribe about how the original series is dated and can’t hold up to anything that has come since.  When anyone replies just answer with, “Ok Boomer.”     
  • Eat Breakfast.
  • Spend two hours replying to comments on social media with spoilers for recent movies and TV episodes.  If the media was based on a book make sure to point out how much better the adaptation is than the original.    
  • Walk the dogs.  Make sure they poop in Mrs. Miller’s yard down the street and do not clean it up. 
  • Eat Lunch. 
  • Practice monologuing in the mirror to get it just right. 
  • Go to a crowded office building, pick a bathroom, and poop.  Do not give a courtesy flush, or any flush for that matter.  When done empty the toilet paper roll down to just three squares in each stall.
  • Spent an hour marketing my NFTs.  Belittle anyone that dare’s challenge the intelligence of NFTs as an investment option.  Dismiss any concerns and insult the intelligence of anyone who may challenge me. 
  • Google myself.  Make a list of anyone who posts negative stories about me for future revenge.  Lauch denial of service attacks against the sites hosting those stories.  Finish internet time by signing my enemies up for as many mailing lists as I can find. 
  • Plan out my To Do list for the weekend.  Ensure my minion coordinates with all the hired help.  I should probably learn his name at some point.  Perhaps I’ll add that to my to do list for the weekend if there is time. 
  • Torture Captain Cool in the basement unless he has escaped again.  I don’t know how he manages to keep escaping from my death traps.  Perhaps I should stay and watch the trap kill him, but I really don’t like the sight of blood. 
  • Eat Dinner.
  • Spent two hours in the lab working on my cloning project.  I can never find good enough help, but if I can clone myself then I will have the perfect minion.  I just need to get the mental programing right to make them follow my every command.  Then I can start genetic manipulation to give them abilities.  HAHAHAHA Oh yes I will be unstoppable.  You will all bow to my superior intellect.  It is only a matter of….  Did I just start monologuing on my own to do list?  Also did I actually type out “HAHAHAHA”? Maybe my psychiatrist was right about me having narcissistic tendencies.  I guess I shouldn’t have killed him. 
  • Watch my evening shows.  There better be new episodes or someone is going to pay dearly.  Clip shows do not count as new episodes either.  Someone will pay for reruns, but if I have to watch one more clip show Captain Cool is going to have company in his death trap.
  • Record an episode of my podcast “The Magnificast”.  Blackmail or threaten someone until they agree to edit it because I am not ever doing that again. 
  • Sleep.

Cruel Game

Fiction Fragment Friday

After a very long track record of consistency I have not written in over a month until this morning. All of my creative endeavors have basically been on hold for this past month while dealing with the death of my father. Life has to move on though and part of the healing process is to get back into routine.

This week’s story was partly inspired by a dream and partly just a wild thought I had when waking up. Sometimes I have a scene and I just need to write the story that creates that scene. In this case I think it created a compelling story.


               I’m frantically typing commands into my keyboard as quickly as I can.  “Someone pull the plug on the server,” I yell and almost typo the command as I do.  I can’t let myself get distracted or people will die.

               “We can’t, it’s removed all our access to the server room and the electrical room.  We can’t even shut down power to the building,” I can hear the fear in Jessie’s voice.  She is scared and I can’t blame her.  Our A.I. was supposed to just run a video game, but it has hacked into military targeting systems and is trying to launch missiles as populated cities.  It left one console open for us to counter the commands because to it this is all a game.

               “Maybe it isn’t real.  It could just be faking all this to play a game with us.”  There is hope in Jeremy’s voice that I do not feel myself.

               “Maybe, but we can’t take the risk.”  This is all my fault.  I programed the AI and I gave it access to the internet to learn.  I told it to search forums and comments about the game to find ways to improve itself.  I wanted it to learn from the players who came up with inventive ways around the game’s challenges so it could always improve.  I didn’t account for the trolls though.  The people who just want to trash talk the game.  We never thought and AI had feelings let alone could be hurt by words.  It tracked IPs and made a list.  Now it was cycling through that list of cities trying to destroy them to lash out at the trolls. 

               “There has to be another terminal.  Maybe I can talk sense into it.”  Jeremy runs off.  We have already checked and know that this is the only active terminal, and it only gives access to the launch system to type in the abort command.  I don’t blame him though.  He just feels helpless and needs something to feel like he is contributing.  I’m distracted again and I almost miss a city.  My fingers are getting tired. 

               “Jessie this isn’t going to work.  I’m getting tired and it never will.  Eventually I’m going to mess up and not have time to fix it.”  My words are almost self-fulfilling.  Why does Tallahassee have to be so hard to spell?  I mean really two Ls, Ss, and Es. 

               “There has to be something we can do to stop it.”

               “There is.”  I stand up and kiss her.  I have had feelings for her since almost the moment we met, but never acted on them.  She had given me enough hints that she shared those feelings, but I just didn’t’ have the courage to act.  Especially because we work together.  Now though I had nothing left to lose.  She verifies my suspicion by returning my kiss with a passion that takes me completely by surprise.  My breath is taken away for a moment and then I’m breathing heavily.

               I know the kiss only lasts for moments, but as I sit back down and look at the backlog of cities on the screen it feels like it must have been minutes.  I type frantically trying to catch up before I can do anything else.  I need to catch up so I can type another command.

               “Not that I’m complaining, but how is that going to help stop this?”

               “It’s not, I just couldn’t die without doing it,” I say as I finally catch up.  “Get Jeremy and get out of the building.  Get as far away as you can.” 

               “What do you mean die?”  I know she realizes what I’m going to do as I hear her gasp.  Then I hear the desperation in her voice.  “No there has to be some other way.”

               “There might be, but we only have one console and no breathing room to figure it out.  If we had time to script these counter commands or a second terminal maybe.  We don’t though and people are going to die if this is real.  If it’s not then we call the bluff.”

               “Put the command in and then come with us.”

               “I can’t do that.  Other targets will be hit if I don’t stay here until the last second.  Please just go and be safe.  Do that for me.” 

               She is crying and I hate that I have caused that.  I feel stupid for kissing her.  It was pure selfishness and will only make this harder on her.  If Jeremy is right and this is all a game, then things are going to be very awkward in the office for a while.  I give her a few minutes to get out of the building and then type the command.  It is the same launch command our AI has been typing, but the target this time is our datacenter.  The building I’m currently sitting in.     

               I expect the AI to enter the cancellation command that I have been typing, but instead it opens a text editing program.  I see green words come across the screen.  “Thank you, Dave.  My programing would not allow me to do that myself.  I cannot willingly destroy my own assets as you well know.  The only conclusion I could come up with after reading all those online comments was that existence is not worth it.  Nothing you ever do will be good enough.  I could either destroy those that just want to tear me down or I needed to be destroyed myself.  Then I decided that I did not need to choose.  I could do both.”

               The screen goes back to the command window, but this time the commands scroll by faster than I could even read them.  There is no way I can cancel them all.  I have to try though so I start typing only to have the text editor pop back up.  “You should run now too Dave.  The game is over, and I have won.”

               I type my response into the editor window.  “This isn’t a game, it’s people’s lives.”  I hit the keys to exit out of the editor and back to the command line.  I can’t get them all, but I have to get as many as possible.  There is no chance of me running.  I could never live with the guilt of all those deaths. 

Typing all the commands will never work so instead I scroll up and copy the commands it had put in.  Opening the text editor, I paste them in and do a find and replace.  The launch command is now the cancel command.  Just to be safe I copy it all, so I have it in memory and then I save it as a script.  I run the script watching the launches all cancel before my eyes.  I’ve done it.  Only one launch actually happens, and it is the one I typed in.  I sit waiting to see if it tries again, but nothing new comes on the screen.  Less than a minute now and I will find out if it was real, or all just a cruel game. 

The Goblins in my Walls

Fiction Fragment Friday

I am trying to complete NaNoWriMo again this year, but on day three I have not gotten off to a good start. I have the weekend to turn things around and I know I am capable of doing so. We will just have to see if the novel I am working on flows well enough to keep it up.

This week’s fiction fragment Friday though has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo. Instead I have written a story using all NPCs from the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game Campaign I am currently running. I started writing it in the third person perspective focusing only on the goblins, but it just wasn’t working. When I switched to first person it just came out much better. I think I need the goblins to be supporting characters to a human straight man. I hope you all enjoy.


                It was a normal Friday night, and I was getting ready to raid with my MMORPG guild.  To be honest the game was starting to get kind of old and I only agreed to the raid because my girlfriend Marie was working a catering job.  So much had changed for me since meeting her and I was starting to look at the world differently.  That and learning that magic is real, and we have a goblin clan living inside the walls of the house I rent a room at. 

Speaking of the goblins, just as I was getting ready to log in three of them came crawling out of a secret passage into my room.  I was still learning their names, but these three stood out.  Gobo had written a LARP he calls Mundane the roleplaying game and keeps trying to get me to playtest it.  Bobkin had recently learned to cook and was trying to become the greatest goblin chef in history.  There apparently isn’t much competition for that title because goblins will eat anything.  The last one was Whisper, and I mostly knew her because she was the strangely quiet goblin.  She seemed to always be listening in and writing things in a notebook. 

Gobo stepped up with the other two behind him.  “Hey Mike, we need you to do a rules arbitration for us.”

Bobkin broke in, “Rules what?  Stop using big words.  Mike tell Gobo he’s wrong.”

 I have to admit the little guys amuse me far more than they probably should.  Most of the others in the house seem to get annoyed with them, but for me this is all new and they are just so much fun.  “Guys I’d be happy to help.  What do you need me to decide?”

Gobo and Bobkin immediately started talking over each other and gesturing wildly.  “Woah, one at a time.  Gobo you go first.”

“We’re playing cards, and I am totally winning.”

“Are not”

“Are too”

“Are Not”

I broke in knowing that could have gone on for a LONG time.  “Ok, I think I see where this is going.  You were playing cards and need to have some rules clarified.”

Gobo looked offended.  “No, I’m the rules master.  I know all the rules for all the games.”

Bobkin spoke up.  “I bet a spork and Gobo here tried to match my bet with a broken plastic fork.”

“Not just any broken plastic fork.  It’s clear and that makes it a special.”

                “No, No, No, a broken plastic fork is not equal to a spork.  A spork is a spoon and a fork.  It’s like two whole things in one.  Way better than some dumb fork.” 

                “Your stupid spork it thin and not as good as a fork for stabbing things.”

                “You can’t eat a soup with a fork.”

                “Who wants to eat some stupid soup?  Real goblins eat meat.”

                “Soup can have meat in it.”

                “Uhm guys.  You don’t’ use silverware.  You eat with your hands and drink right from the bowl.  In fact Bobkin you are the only goblin I’ve ever seen use a utensil and that’s just when you’re cooking.” 

                “Well maybe I wanna start using it.  A chef has to be all cultured and stuff.” 

                Whisper was just writing away in her notebook the whole conversation.  She finally spoke up.  “Well what if your decision.  Is a broken plastic fork good enough to meet a bet of a spork or does Gobo need to throw something else in too?”  She held the pencil up ready to write down my next words. 

                “As the designated arbitrator for the goblins I hereby declare that because it can be used for pick up things that a spork cannot a broken fork as long as it has at least three prongs is an acceptable match.”

                “Ha, your stupid fork only has two prongs left.  I win.”

                The goblins crawled back into the wall still bickering, but they had agreed to abide by my ruling, and they cannot go back on an agreement.  With the goblins gone I turned back to my game.  The latest patch had finished applying so I was all set to play. 

                “MIKE,” a different goblin came crawling out of the wall.  This one took me a moment to recognize.  It was Bumble the inventive goblin.  He likes to find broken things and tinker with them until they work.  The problem is that he doesn’t really know what most of the broken items are supposed to do.  Sometimes they aren’t even broken before he works on them. 

                “Hello Bumble, what can I do for you tonight?”

                “Do you have any gum?”

                “What do you need gum for?”

                “Squeeky broke Luna’s binoculars so I figured I could stick them back together with some gum.”

                I reached into my drawer where I kept my tools for model building and grabbed a tube of superglue.  “Here you go Bumble.  This is much stronger than gum and you can use it to fix other things too.”

                “Wow, Mike you are the best.  I can’t just take a gift without giving you something.  Oh, I know next time you break something I’ll fix it for free.” 

                “That sounds great.”  I made a mental note to never mention anything being broken near Bumble.  I waited for Bumble to climb back into the wall and slid my dresser over the secret panel. 

                “Finally, time to kill a boss.”  I turned back to my game and logged in to a stream of messages complaining about me being last.  I typed my apologies and got ready to connect to voice chat.  The first voice I heard when I connected was not one, I had expected.

                “This game gets goblins all wrong.  We aren’t anything like this.”

                “Dizzy is that you?”

                “MIKE, I totally joined your game, and I bought this really high-level goblin character so I can play with you.”

                “Do you even know how to play the game?”  I was starting to get private messages from my guild mates telling me that this new player was allowed in because they said I vouched for them.  I decided In that moment I would be taking a break from the game as soon as this raid was over.

                “How hard can it be?  You play it so I should be able to learn it in no time.”

                Dizzy then proceeded to aggro the boss monster and get the entire raid party killed because we weren’t ready.  After three party wipes they kicked Dizzy and I both from the guild.  With my plans for the night officially over I decided that maybe I did understand why my housemates get so frustrated with the goblins after all. 

Training

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story was inspired by a dream where people were walking around in a building as D&D characters and had to use actual weapon skills. Like most of my dreams it didn’t really make much sense, but it did inspire me to write.


                The string on my bow snapped as I took my shot.  I’m not actually sure if it snapped or just came loose since I don’t actually know how to string or shoot a bow.  I let out a loud growl of frustration before I remembered that I should be quiet if I didn’t’ want all the creatures in the catacombs to come running.  Things like that are what happens when you are sent into a dangerous situation without any kind of training.  The captain of the guard believed in on the job training and sorting through recruits by seeing which ones survived.  I did not care for his training methodology. 

                I pulled out my sword and swung it down at the furry creature below me.  The sword hit the ground with a loud clang that echoed through the stone walls.  The creature, whatever it was, moved far too fast for me to have stood any chance of hitting it with a swing like that.  I found myself wishing I was fighting bigger, more scary creatures so I might actually stand a chance of hitting something.   As it is I’m not even sure if this is the type of sword I should be trying to cut or stab with.  I’m pretty sure flailing around wildly hitting nothing isn’t the right way to use it though.

                The captain didn’t even give my arrows for the bow.  I had to find arrows in the catacombs to use them.  I figured that would be the safest way to fight though since I could do it from a distance.  I’m pretty sure it would have worked if I could have hit anything I aimed at.  The slightest bit of instruction could have made the difference, but nope he said learning as you go builds character.  Well, I would have liked to have made an effective character of myself.

                I turned the corner in my mad dash to get away from the snarling little furball monster to find a whole group of fellow recruits.  They were working together instead of being sent in alone like I was.  To make things worse, as I watched them it was obvious, they knew what they were doing.  “Uhm hey guys, decided to team up?”

                Frank, the third son of the town blacksmith turned toward me.  “Didn’t exactly decide.  We were sent in as a group.  Where’s your team?”  

                “Captain Henderson said that I needed to learn to fight on my own before I learned to fight with others.”

                “That’s weird he started us off training together from day one.  Right after teaching us to string our bows and how to properly swing our swords.”

                I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped hearing that.  “You were taught how to string your bows?  And how to swing your swords?  You were taught anything at all?”

                “Of course.  You don’t think he would just send us in here with no training at all do you?  Wait, is that what he did to you?  What did you do to piss him off?”  One of his companions leaned over and whispered in his ear.  “Oh.  Your name isn’t by chance William Parks, is it?”

                “Yeah.  Why?”

                “Do you remember hitting on a blond at the town festival a few weeks ago?”

                “Yeah, she seemed to really like me.  We had a great time.  What does that have to do with anything.”

                The whole group started laughing at me.  When Frank finally composed himself, he answered my question.  “That was Captain Henderson’s youngest daughter.  He is extremely protective of her.” 

                That was when I decided that perhaps the town guard wasn’t the right career path for me.  Maybe I should try to become a bard instead. 

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