Wayne Cole

Writer Podcaster Geek

Old Friend

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story was inspired by a dream. Essentially much of the first paragraph was directly in the dream, but there were no details. It was a vivid enough memory that I just started with that scene and let it take me where it would. Integrating a bus into the story came from another dream. I often have extremely vivid dreams and wake up thinking they would be good concepts for fiction. I don’t often capitalize on them. This time I did. Enjoy.

  My best friend from High School sat next to my bed in the emergency room with a broken nose. As I looked over him, I realized that time had not been kind. Where my hair was still a bright red his was now mostly gray despite us being the same age. There were wrinkle lines all over his face and he looked tired. He held an icepack against his nose, but I could still see a trickle of blood running down his face under it. The look of annoyance was evident, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the nose or the hour we had been sitting here in awkward silence waiting to talk to a doctor.

  I hate going to the emergency room. I’m sure no one loves the experience, but I am particularly impatient. You check in and then wait to be called. They take you to a room, get your vitals, and then you wait for someone to come talk to you. They run tests and then you wait for results. I glance up at the sign on the wall and see they have an average wait time of four hours to see a doctor. I certainly hope that is not the case for more serious emergencies. The silence has gotten to me, so I finally speak up. “Hell of a day huh?”

  “Yep” He nods but does not go on.

  “You know you don’t have to wait. I’m fine really. You have more reason to be in here than I do.”

  “Not leaving til I get some answers. Haven’t seen you in over twenty years. You step on my bus and all hell breaks loose in a matter of minutes. I find you passed out with blood running from your eyes and ears. That ain’t normal.”

  He isn’t wrong. Minutes after I got onto the bus that morning someone fired a damned rocket launcher at it. Thank god I saw it coming, but still it took all my telekinetic strength to shield the bus and the force of it still tipped us over.  The bus was laying diagonally propped up against the cars it fell onto when the hit squad opened the back door and pointed a flame thrower in. I didn’t have enough strength to make another shield and even if I did my shields don’t hold back heat. Instead, I telekinetically pulled the fuel line and sprayed the man with his own gasoline. He lit up like a Christmas tree. I can still hear the screaming and smell the scent of burning flesh. It sends a shiver down my spine that does not go unnoticed.

  “You, OK?”

  “Yeah, I’ll be fine. I was just thinking about that guy with the malfunctioning flamethrower. I know he was trying to kill us, but still he was a person and that was pretty gruesome.”

  “Yeah, that was messed up.  Pretty sure he was just trying to kill you though.” 

  “Even if that’s true and I’m not saying it is. Flame throwers aren’t exactly precision weapons. Not like the fire would have safely passed by all the other passengers.”        

  “True enough. There’s a lot of things you ain’t sayin though. The guy that came through the front window called you by name.”

  A man armed with the biggest pistol I have ever seen in person had climbed through the busted out front window and yelled for me by name to give up.  That was how Bobby Joe recognized me after all these years. When he tried to grab the man from behind, he got an elbow to the nose for his trouble.  I was exhausted, but there was no way I was going to be captured and taken to some lab to be cut up. They wanted to see how my powers worked I would show them. I held my hands up in a placating gesture at first, then I thrust my right hand forward and with it entered the mercenary’s mind.

  Every mind is unique and has its own defenses.  A normal person typically has defenses I can tear through without any trouble. Someone with strong will might be exceedingly difficult, but I can still generally brute force my way in. This man had training. His defenses presented themselves as walls with mounted guns topped with barbed wire. It was a metaphor, but the way defenses look can tell you a lot about the person. This man believed in power through structure and defeating the enemy with overwhelming firepower. I saw the value in that, but I can also think more subtly. I condensed my mental image as small as possible too tiny for the guns to target. Then as I approached the wall, I looked for cracks. There are always cracks. Finding one I climbed in. I got mental images of this man’s family back home. They didn’t know what he did for a living, and he was terrified that he would lose them if they found out.

  I took his fear and used it to create a scene. He was living out his biggest fear in his mind. His wife calling him a monster. His kids crying and running from him. His own pet dog growling trying to defend his family from him. The crack grew like it was filled with water expanding as it froze. The tiny crack soon burst, and the wall had a huge hole in it. Allowing myself to expand to my normal mental presence I stroll through the breach and into my victim’s mind. In his mind it felt like a half hour of mental combat. In the outside world I thrust my hand up and he almost instantly collapsed to the ground. I could hear the sirens coming in the distance and knew it was time to move. Everything was spinning though. I was so nauseous I threw up there in the bus. I had pushed myself too far and everything went dark as I lost consciousness.

  “Knowing is dangerous,” I say to him. It is true. Everyone I have shared my secret with has been hurt in one way or another. Whoever is hunting me has resources and not just guns. In this day and age hackers are just as powerful at destroying a life as armed soldiers.  They could make you disappear, empty bank accounts, and create evidence of you performing the most heinous crimes. Those were the people that they didn’t just outright kill. I could not let another friend even one I hadn’t seen since high school get involved.

  “I already know somethin. I saw what you did.”

     “No, you didn’t.”  I thrust out my hand and went inside Bobby Joe’s mind. I saw his life over the past twenty years. The ups and the downs. Three children, two marriages, one divorce. Losses, stressors, and joys. There is no better way to know a person than to see inside their mind. There was a stubborn determination to him, and I was still very weak. He had no major defenses though and at this I had become a precise instrument. I left his mind knowing he would be dazed for a few minutes as things came into focus. “Goodbye old friend,” I said as I got up and slipped out the door. I slipped the hospital band off and slid it into my pocket before entering the waiting room. As I walked out of the hospital, I had a moment of regret. It would be nice to have a friend again. Maybe someday. Maybe.

Grandma’s Stories

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s fiction fragment Friday is special. As of this story I have been doing these for one year. That is a big milestone for me and I’m proud to have reached it. I figured I would share some stats from that time.

  • 51 Total Stories with only one week being missed.
  • Over 40,000 words across all stories.
  • Three settings with multiple stories

I have gone through success and loss during this time. This process started when my father’s health issues gave me a reality check and motivated me to start doing something with the time I have. The first year has been about building a catalog of material on this site and pushing myself to make writing a regular part of my week. It has accomplished that.

My goals for this next year will be a bit more lofty.

  • Start submitting stories again to try and get further publishing.
  • Edit and self-published my Ricochet novel.
  • Write another novel during NaNoWriMo.
  • Continue Fiction Fragment Friday without missing a week.

  “Jenni dear, what a pleasant surprise.  Come in.”  The old woman had a genuine smile on her face that extended all the way to her eyes. 

  “Hi, grandma.”  Jenni held up a tiny paper bag.  “I just got back from China, and I have your favorite tea.”

  The old woman reached up and took the bag glancing in it.  “Oh this is so wonderful.”  She pointed a finger to the couch.  “Go ahead and sit down while I make this.  I want to hear all about your trip.”  Jenni moved to the couch and stretched out while her grandmother shuffled off to the kitchen.  She looked around the room at all the pictures on the wall of her grandmother’s own travels.  The constant need to see and experience anything was definitely a trait that she had inherited from her.

  “Grandma how many times did you go to China?”

  The older woman came back into the room with two steaming mugs of tea.  She handed one to Jenni and then sat down in her worn comfy chair.  “Oh dear, it is hard to keep track.  Let’s see I went to Hong Kong twice, I’ve seen the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Three Gorges. So at least five times.”  She took a sip of the tea and let out a contented sigh.

  Jenni took a sip of her own mug.  “That is so amazing.  I bet you have so many stories from your travels.”

  “Oh I do dear.  I’ve met so many interesting people and seen so many sites in my time.  It’s never quite enough though.  You always find yourself wishing you had just a little more time.”

  “Yeah, I can see that.  When I left it felt like I had just gotten there.”

  “You remind me so much of myself at your age Jenni.  I really wonder sometimes how your father turned out the way he did.”

  “Don’t tell me you two are still fighting.”

  “Of course, not dear.  We’d have to be talking to fight.”

  “Grandma!”  She stretched the word out and there was a whining inflection to her tone.  “You need to call him.”

  “No, I don’t.  He has never forgiven me for remarrying after his father died and I can’t forgive him for the way he treated your mother.  She is a good woman, and she deserved more respect.  I raised him better than that.”

  “I’m not going to give up on you two, but I’ll let it go for now.  No need to ruin the whole visit with family drama when I have a vacation to talk about.”

  “I wholeheartedly agree.”  She sat the mug down on top of a saucer on the coffee table.  “Now tell me everything.”

  The conversation went on into the night and it was midnight before Jenni finally headed home.  She was so tired when she got home that she just collapsed in bed without checking any of her messages. Since getting back into the country her phone had synced and there were 23 new voice mails and more texts than she cared to count.   She had not adjusted back to her home time zone well and it showed the next morning when she found herself rushing to avoid being late for work.  Once she was in the office, she had two weeks’ worth of piled up work waiting for her.  Every time she looked at her phone the number of messages made her feel overwhelmed, so she put it off a little longer.

  “Grandma with all your travel how did you adjust to time differences?”  Jenni had gone from work straight over to her grandmother’s house for dinner. 

  “Oh you get used to it, or at-least you get used to not getting used to it.”  She chuckled a bit.  “Something I learned from the Europeans is take naps when you are tired.  That can really help you get through the day.”

  “That’s kind of hard to do in an office.”

  “I suppose it would be.  As a writer that was never a problem of mine.  I spent more time worrying about what male pen name I was going to use to get my books published.  It was a different time back then you know.  My agent couldn’t get my manuscript on a publisher’s desk if they didn’t think I was a man.”

  Jenni shook her head in disgust.  “I don’t know how you put up with it.”

  “Because it was more important to me that people read my work than know who I was.  It’s all about priorities dear and what is truly important to you.  Sure, it bothered me that none of my books had my own name for years, but they were being enjoyed and I was being paid.”

  “Tell me about Grandpa.  Dad always talks about him, but he died when I was too young to remember.”

  “Gerald was a wonderful man.  He was far from perfect though and had plenty of faults.  Your father puts him up on a pedestal and remembers him only through the tinted lenses of love.  That’s where he gets his pigheadedness from.  When Gerald decided he was right about something no amount of arguing or evidence would ever change his mind.  Your father is the exact same way.  Why when he was a boy…”   The night went one with Jenni’s grandmother telling her story after story about her father and grandfather.  When she finally left to head home, she felt like she understood her family much better than when she had arrived.  As much as she had been pressuring her grandmother to make up with her father, she herself had not spoken to him in over a month.  He had not supported her decision to take a job at the law-firm that he represented her mother in the divorce.  He felt like she had betrayed him, and not having his support hurt her in ways she didn’t want to admit.

  Jenni went to her grandmother’s house each night that week.  They shared tea and stories.  Jenni would tell her grandmother about work and the few trips she had taken.  When she finished grandma would share stories of the family.  It made Jenni feel closer to her family than she had felt since her parent’s divorce and she cherished the feeling.  She was starting to understand herself more through the stories as well.  She saw herself in her grandmother, father, and even learned a few things about her own mother.  Finally on the fourth night she got up the courage to listen to her messages.  She started with her friends, but finally hit play on the first message from her father.

  “Hi Jenni, it’s dad.  Give me a call when you get this, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.”  She started to get worried as she hit the next message.  “Hey Jenni, it’s dad again.  I don’t know if you are screening your calls or what, but I really need to talk to you.  It’s about your grandmother.”  She hit the last message from a week ago.  “Jenni, I didn’t want to do this on a message, but you aren’t giving me any choice.  Your grandmother had a heart attack. She passed away in her sleep.  I’ll text you the funeral arrangements.”  Jenni switched over to her text messages and found not just details, but a link to her grandmother’s obituary on the funeral home website.  The funeral was the day before she came home from China. 

  Confused she left work early to head to her grandmother’s house.  Jenni had her own key and let herself into the house.  It was quieter than she could ever remember.  As she wandered from room to room she found boxes everywhere with her grandmother’s personal items.  Some were labeled to donate, but others had the names of family members.  One box had her name on it.  Jenni nervously sat down and opened the box.  Inside were collections of photographs from her grandmothers’ travels, a travel journal, and various trinkets she had always liked as a kid.  She felt the tear run down her cheek. 

  “I hope I picked the right things for you.”  Jenni was startled by the sound of her dad’s voice from the door.  She rushed to him and hugged him tightly.  The tears turned to sobs as he patted her back.  “There, there baby.  I’m so sorry.  I know you two were close.”

  In her head she heard the words her grandma had spoken again with new light.  “You always find yourself wishing you had just a little more time.” 

  Jenni looked up at her father’s face and could see the pain in it.  He didn’t want to admit how much he was hurting.  “You feel guilty for not patching things up, don’t you?”

  He fought to keep control of his expressions.  “You always think you have more time.  That you can fix things later.  Remember this baby-girl, you don’t always have a later.”

     Jenni pulled away and went into the kitchen.  The plain paper bag of tea was still on the counter and when she opened it, she found that only enough was gone for the portions she had drunk.  She got to work and soon walked back into the living room with two mugs of steaming tea.    She handed him a mug and sat down on the chair.  He sat on the couch in her grandmother’s spot. “Ok dad, I think we have some things we need to talk about.” 

One Bad Morning

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story can be read entirely on it’s own, but it is a sequel to the previous Fiction Fragment Friday Monster Hunters which is noteworthy because it was the very first Fiction Fragment Friday. Next week it will have been a year since I started doing these. I did not set out to write a sequel to that story when I sat down to write this one, but after I got a few paragraphs in I decided that was the direction I wanted to go in.

I plan to proved a year in review post next week with some stats, updates, and plans. I will want to do something special for the story as well, but I have not decided what yet. For this week enjoy One Bad Morning.

  I woke up gasping for air in a state of complete panic.  Pressure pushed against my eyes and ears from inside my head.  With great effort I dragged myself out of bead and stumbled to the bathroom.  Opening the medicine cabinet, I fumbled with the boxes and dropped the one I needed into the sink.  With a frustrated sigh I picked it up and grabbed a pill swallowing it without any drink.  Sinuses, allergies, and recurring nightmares are not a good combination for a restful night’s sleep.  Unfortunately, I had quite a bit of experience dealing with this combination.  The sinuses and allergies I had struggled with my whole life, but the nightmares were a recent development.

  Normally I remember my dreams, but these nightmares fade quickly.  I had a sense that it was the same dream recurring every night, but the only thing I could recall after the panic subsided each morning was a number.  The first night the number was seven and each night after it lowered by one like a countdown.  That morning as I looked in the mirror at a tired miserable looking reflection, I didn’t get a number.  Instead as my thoughts cleared, I got a strong sense of the word today.  While the panic had faded with the adrenaline the general anxiety was only growing. 

  Throughout the morning a headache grew that pain killers couldn’t seem to touch.  It started as the pressure behind my eyes migrating to a low throbbing sensation in the front of my head.  As the hours passed the throbbing became a stabbing pain coming in waves of increasing intensity.  My coffee mug fell to the floor and shattered into tiny pieces as a particularly intense wave hit me.  I found myself doubled over on the floor as the pain ebbed and decided it was time to go to an Urgent Care.  With the waves coming faster I didn’t feel that it would be safe to drive myself, so I started downloading a ride sharing app to my phone while cleaning up the mess.  That was when the strongest wave yet hit me and I lost all sense of time as I hit my kitchen floor.

  My doorbell echoed through the house.  I briefly wondered why no one was answering the door before remembering that I lived alone.  The pain was too intense to get to my feet, so I just lay there curled up in the fetal position.  A loud crack came from the living room as my front door was kicked open.  I hoped that whoever it was would pay for the repairs because I didn’t have enough money saved for a new door.  A woman with green hair wearing some sort of brown work jumpsuit strolled into my house.  Behind her came a tall dark-haired man.  They each held what looked to me like a 1950s inspired ray gun in one hand.  The woman also held a tablet of some sort in her left hand. 

  “Alright James the strongest readings are in the kitchen and the bedroom.  I’ll take the bedroom you take the kitchen.”

  The man nodded and headed towards me.  “So help me Lilly if I end up covered in green goo again I’m picking the missions from now on.”

  “Quit your whining, it’s not my fault you waited too long to shower last time.”

  The man whose name was apparently James finally saw me on the kitchen floor and rushed to my side.  My vision was blurring from the pain, but I could hear him muttering, “Please let me be in time for once.” I felt a needle press into my arm.  “Stay with me.  Focus on my voice.”  I tried to do what he said but the pain was so intense.  It felt like my head was going to explode.  “Lilly get in here his head is about to burst.”

  I heard the female voice from my bedroom.  “It’s a nightmare parasite.  Came in through his dreams.”

  “Hold on just a little longer.”  I could feel him squeezing my hand.  “I need that frequency, Lilly.”

  “I’m working on it.  Ok, got it.  7.48325 wavelength so frequency of 41.2”

  I could just barely make out the man standing and pointing his ray gun at me. The pain was too intense for my fear to take the form of words, but a part of me was just grateful that it was about to stop.  A wave of heat washed over my head and I let out an involuntary scream.  Something wet was leaking from my ears and I wondered if my brain had been liquefied.  “Die you bastard,” was the last thing I heard before everything went dark and I once again slipped into unconsciousness.

     Sunlight burned my eyes as I struggled to open them.  My throat felt raw like it would the day after a really good concert when I was younger.  While my head was sore it was a minor pain.  As always, my sinuses and allergies meant that waking up was going to be a miserable process.  Still, I forced myself up and into the bathroom to go through my daily routine.  By the time I made my way to the kitchen I was convinced it had all been a dream.  That was when I stepped in a slippery green goo on my tile floor.  I found myself painfully planted on my floor with my head turned towards my front door.  It was broken and just sat in place at a slight angle to block the entryway.  “I really hope my homeowner’s insurance covers that,” I said to myself.  As I lay rubbed my now sore back, I couldn’t help but notice that where the green good touched my bare foot it was starting to itch.    


Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story was inspired by thinking of various enchanted items I have used in gaming. I like to have weird effects and sometimes attribute those effects to mistakes by the wizard creating the item. I started thinking about why items might turn out the way they do and in doing so came up with a whole system in my head for how enchanting could work. This led to the story you are about to read. Enjoy.

  “Well, my young apprentice today we shall begin your enchanting lessons.”  The old wizard pushed open the large wooden door to his lab and stepped through. 

  “Yes Master Arnax.  I’ve been looking forward to it.”

  “Now my girl the first thing to remember is that enchanting is difficult work with many variables.  No matter how good you become you will not always get the result you want.”  He approached a chest in the corner of the room that his apprentice had never seen before.  “This is my personal box of items that came out wrong.  For now, you can have a shelf in it, but we will need to get you your own.”

  “Shelf?  I don’t understand master.”  To Marigold’s surprise the wizard swung his leg over the open lid of the box and started to climb in. 

  “Come now, don’t dawdle.”  The wizard disappeared into the chest.

  As she approached the box Marigold noticed a ladder just inside it.  The chest itself looked like any other treasure chest but opened up to a dimensional pocket.  As she climbed down the ladder everything was dark at first until she was completely inside.  Marigold found herself in a large warehouse with shelves as far as she could see.  Items of all shapes and sizes filled the shelves and she could feel a low pulsing of power.  Her eyes darted everywhere in awe impressed by the sheer magnitude of what she was witnessing.  The dimensional pocket warehouse contained inside the box was easily the largest room she had ever been in.  On the walls and ceiling bright blue crystals as bright as daylight lit the room.  “This is magnificent.”

  “Yes, a magnificent monument to failure.”  He lifted a book from the shelf, and she could hear it purr as he petted it.  “Or in some cases happy little accidents. Come your shelf is down here.”  He walked down one of the aisles to an empty shelf with her name on it.  “You have seen my many successes.  I show you now my failures so you will not get discouraged at your own.  Magic sometimes has a mind of its own and despite your strong will it will express its own desires as you craft.”

  “But master I feel so much power in these items.”

  “Yes, but they do not do what I intended.  That does not mean however that they do not do anything.”  He picked up a chalice.  “Items that have been serving a purpose want to continue that purpose and will defy your will.  I picked up this cup with the intention of enchanting it to provide an unending supply of water for weary travelers.  I did not know that the previous owner only drank wine from it.”  He ran his finger across the rim of the chalice and it filled with a red liquid.  “Instead of water it fills with wine.”  He sipped from the cup.  “Not the effect I was intending, but useful none the less.”

  “I see so if you wanted to enchant a sword for combat you would be better off finding a well used sword than one that had just been freshly forged.”

  “Not necessarily.  Intent is put into a sword at forging.  It has a purpose.  If you had to pick between a sword that had sat in storage for years or one that had seen battle then the sword that had seen battle would likely be your better choice.  Assuming the enchantment is one of combat.  If however you wanted a sword to glow brightly to provide light in dark caves the sword that has sat in storage without purpose would be your better choice.  You must always think about what the item has been used for and what your intended purpose it to select the best item for your specific enchantment.:

  “Master if you know to do that why are there so many items in here?”  She turned red for a minute realizing that she was pointing out her teachers failures.  She expected to be chastised but instead he just smiled at her.

  “Because item selection and intent are just two of the variables.  Time of day, your mood, the whims of spirits, and the chaotic nature of magic all play a part as well.”  He picked up a sword and weighed it in his hands.  “Take Gladimeir here.  I enchanted this sword to end a war.  I intended it to be powerful and cut right through armor.  It does exactly that, but it also makes the wielder feel the pain they are inflicting on their enemy.  This weapon could kill a dragon with a single blow, but the wielder would feel the pain the dragon felt as it died.  That makes a man think twice about fighting.  It’s last wielder became a diplomat negotiating many treaties in an effort to not use the sword.”

  Marigold held up a beautiful ballroom dress.  “What about this?  It’s so beautiful.”

  “That it is.  That dress was enchanted for a princess that wanted a dress so beautiful that everyone would be jealous of her.  She did not tell me that was the purpose of the dress when she asked me to enchant it to improve her dancing.  When she took to the ballroom floor all of her potential suitors became overwhelmed with jealousy over her.  The dance became a battlefield as men and women began fighting to the death for the chance to dance with her. 

  “That’s horrible.”

  “That it was, but the princess enjoyed every moment of it.  The dress fed on the jealousy in the room and channeled it into her vanity.  The more violent it got the happier the princess was.  If she were given the choice she would have never taken off the dress.”

  “How did you get it back then.”

  He picked up an arrow and turned it over in his hands.  “A stray arrow struck her.  Strangest thing they never did find anyone carrying a bow among the fighters or guards.”

  She looked at her mentor.  “And what does that arrow do?”

  “Oh this,” he said.  “It always hits its target but misses anything critical.  This arrow will never strike a killing blow.  Also, it can be thrown and will act as if shot by an arrow.”  He smiled at her again.  “Always remember that just because an item doesn’t do what you intended does not mean it does not serve a purpose.”         

Ricochet: Bored

Fiction Fragment Friday

I decided I wanted to write something about my Superhero character Ricochet this week. As someone who cannot sing I have always enjoyed having him sing his own theme songs, but do not see him as being particularly creative. That was all I had going into this story. He had a song stuck in his head and didn’t know why.

“Ricochet, bouncing here and there and everywhere.  I am the Ricochet.”  As I bounced around the city on patrol I hit the button on my communicator to call the man who was my friend, tech support, and president of the Ricochet fan-club. “Lester, how do I have the theme for Gummy Bears stuck in my head when I’ve never even seen the show?”

                “Oh, sorry that might be my fault.  You know how you passed out on the couch last night holding your half-eaten burrito against your chest?”

                “I’m not sure how the burrito part is worth mentioning but yeah.”

                “It’s not I just thought it was adorable.  I took pictures if you want to see I can text them to you.”

                I landed on a roof and walked over to the ledge surveying the town below.  Things had been strangely quiet on patrol lately and I was starting to get stir crazy waiting for something to happen. “I think I’ll pass.  Please don’t upload those to the website.  Could you please get back to why I have the theme for a cartoon I have never seen in my head?”

                “Oh, yeah right, sorry.  I watched a marathon while you were sleeping.  You must have heard it in your sleep.”

                I looked down and saw three armed men in some sort of high-tech armor hop out of a van and rush the front door of C&D Laboratories.  The van seemed to let out a sigh and lifted a bit when they jumped out so I had to assume the armor was heavy.  Their guns looked to be some sort of lasers.  I heard Lester’s voice in my head correcting me that they would be particle riffles and the laser is just for aiming.  We have had that conversation enough times that I think it was finally starting to sink in.  Thinking about Lester I pulled out my phone and took some quick pictures of the trio as they entered the building.  “I’m sending you some pics.  Do these guys look familiar?  I’d really like to know who I’m about to be punching.”  With that I leapt from the building doing a somersault and landing perfectly if I do say so myself and I do since I’m telling this story, in front of the lab.

                “Sorry Ric I ran the pictures through the computer and there are no hits.  They must be new.”

                “Well then I guess it’s time to meet the neighbors.  Ricochet out.”  I hit the button to turn off the communicator.  I needed to focus and that was hard enough as it is.  See when I use my powers, they do something to me.  Kinda like the ultimate sugar rush I get hyper and scatterbrained.  In some ways, it’s kinda like I’m drunk.  Lately I’ve been trying to remind myself to think things through before acting because I’ve jumped in one too many times and made a mess of things.  Sometimes it feels like all I can do is make a mess of things.  It had been two weeks since I had hit anyone though and I needed some action.  With all that in mind I yanked open the door and said, “Hey honey I’m home.  What’s for dinner?”  Then I dove out of the way as three particle riffles turned towards me and destroying the front door.  I glanced outside and saw their getaway van explode as the blasts hit it.  If anyone asks, I totally did that on purpose, and it wasn’t in any way a happy accident.

                “You just made a big mistake hero.”

                I bounced around the lobby dodging the blasts as they pretty much destroyed everything.  “You know that really isn’t surprising.  I kinda make a lot of mistakes, but at-least I look good doing it.  I mean come on grey.  Couldn’t you even spray paint your armor?  A little splash of color or a logo or something?”  I dove towards the guy that seemed to be their leader and hit him in the chest with both feet sending him flying across the lobby.  Jumping around wasn’t just a way to dodge the guns and annoy them.  The more kinetic energy I absorb the stronger I get.  Bouncing helps me do that.  Getting hit really hard does it much faster but isn’t nearly as much fun.  Plus, these guys were using guns that don’t really generate kinetic energy.  I did a backflip and landed between the other two immediately dropping to the ground under their blasts.  As I expected they shot each other trying to hit me and went flying backwards.  I was relieved to see that their armor seemed to have taken the blasts. 

                I picked up one of the guns and snapped it in two over my knee.  The releasing energy tossed me through the air spinning until I slammed into the wall leaving a Ricochet shaped dent in it.  Pulling myself up I let out a groan of pain, but on the positive side I absorbed a ton of kinetic energy from the impact.  Glancing over at the scared receptionist hiding behind her desk I said, “Uhm, I meant to do that.”  She shook her head, and I knew I was not filling her with confidence.  Before I could reply the guy that I had kicked wrapped both arms around me from behind and started to squeeze.  If he had done this moments earlier he might have broken my ribs, but I was stronger after the explosion and my arms were pushing back giving me a bit of breathing room.  I couldn’t quite break the grip though. 

                “Really the hug is sweet, but I just don’t feel the same way about you.”  I pulled my head forward and then slammed it back against him.  The pain from hitting his helmet was intense, but it was also more kinetic energy, and I felt the rush deaden the pain.  More than once, I have been surprised by how hurt I am after a fight because with the adrenaline flowing I don’t feel the pain.  The head butt didn’t do any damage to him, but it did catch him off guard enough for me to slip free.  I dropped to the ground and kicked out sweeping his legs out from under him.  The linoleum floor cracked under the impact of his fall.  I moved not giving him a moment to regroup and pulled off his helmet.  My fist stopped an inch from the teenage face in front of me.  I have punched plenty of teenage gangbangers in my time, but I always feel horrible doing it.  Instead, I reached down and pulled what I assumed was the power pack off of the armor.  Since he stopped struggling, I assumed I was correct.

                I could hear sirens approaching so it was time to head out.  I found myself conflicted.  On one hand I got to fight and was riding the high that my powers provided.  On the other hand, I had to fight teenagers again.  Someone needs to reach out and help these kids before they become cannon fodder for villains.  That isn’t really something I’m qualified for though.  I’m just the guy that punches the bad guys.  Most days that is enough.  As I leapt onto the roof across the street, I had to admit that today was not one of those days.      


Fiction Fragment Friday

This is one of those weeks where I really examine my inspiration for the story and don’t really know where it all came from. I had the initial dialogue about mosquitos pop into my head and just started writing. That established this as a team doing a stealth mission. From there the rest just grew organically. I was at the hospital with my dad the day before writing this for a test that was a medical procedure needing to be done in an operating room. I can definitely see some influences in the story from that.

This story feels like a world building exercise. An establishing feel or an introduction to something that could be developed further and be something larger. I have no plans for that at the moment, but you never know what the future may hold.

  “Are mosquitoes supposed to be this big?”

  “Aw that ain’t nothin.  Back home they get twice that size.”

  “Would you two shut up.  This is supposed to be a stealth mission.”

  “Yes sir,” the two men replied far louder than Corporal Sanderson would have liked.  He let out an audible sigh before continuing forward through the forest.  The group moved together with the practiced grace of well-trained operatives who frequently work together.  The Corporal in the lead and one man flanking either side of him slightly back.  They were dressed identically in black tactical gear with their faces obscured by full masks and night vision goggles.  There were no visible weapons, but multiple blades and unique weapons were hidden on each.   

  The Three men approached a ten-foot-tall chain link fence topped with barbed-wire.  Corporal Sanderson motioned to the fence and the man to his right reached up to grab it.  The three men stepped through the fence like there was nothing there and once through the man codenamed Ghost released the fence.  The courtyard on the inside of the fence was very well lit with spotlights roaming across the grounds.  Ghost reached out to take the hand from each of his partners.  With a ripple across them he changed their physical properties to allow visible light to travel through them.  This served to turn the three completely invisible, but also blinded them as light could no longer be stopped by their eyes.  The goggles they wore switched to display infrared and other light spectrum outside of the range of human visibility.  Since the goggles completely enclosed the space between their displays and the wearers eyes they were able to see the displays.  While not a complete picture of the grounds it was enough to safely navigate to the building’s outer walls.  Once there they crouched in a shadow and became visible again.

  The man codenamed AI started to reach out with his abilities.  Under the goggles his eyes turned completely white and the other two had to support him as his consciousness left his body.  He traveled the wireless networks that spread throughout the complex.  First, he searched the databases and building maps to locate their target.  Next, he moved into the security system asking the cameras to loop and unlocking all the doors along their path.  Finally, he introduced a bug into the communication systems to turn the volume down to barely audible.  There were many more direct ways he could have disrupted communications, but they tended to alert the observant to infiltration.  His eyes returned to normal under his goggles.  Turning to his partners he whispered, “Target location acquired and security suppressed.  Ready to move.”

  Ghost reached up and touched the wall.  The three walked through the wall like it was not physically there and once through he released it.  The hallway they entered was lit by bright florescent lights, the walls were a pastel blue, and the tile floor was a bright white with a reflective quality to it. The harsh smell of cleaning chemicals assaulted their noses.  There were signs on the wall providing directions, but the three ignored them following AI’s lead instead as he entered a stairway and let them three floors underground.  The group came out in a hallway that looked almost identical to the one they had come from with one major exception.  This hall had armed guards outside one of the rooms that turned their weapons towards them.

  Corporal Sanderson moved forward fast enough that his movements blurred to both his partners and his targets.  Before either guard could pull the trigger, Sanderson had snapped off the barrels of their riffles with his bare hands.  With precision strikes each guard fell unconscious at his feet with barely more than a grunt.  Lifting each by one hand he carried them through a door that AI was holding open and into a storage room.  Once he left AI closed the door and put his hand over the electronic keypad next to the room.  A clicking sound could be heard at the door locks snapped into place.  He just nodded at the Corporal and together they moved to the door that the guards had been standing in front of. 

  Inside the room a woman lay strapped down on the gurney with an IV in her arm.  The rhythmic beeps of medical monitors filled the room.  The trio could see sutures on the woman’s arms and they suspected there would be more under the hospital gown.  They had been too late to prevent any experimentation, but each swore internally that this woman would not go through more.  AI touched the monitors and after a moment nodded to the others.  They began taking of the leads and sensors, but the monitors continued to happily report consistent and reasonable data as if they were still attached.  Corporal Sanderson wrapped her in a blanket and carefully lifted her into his arms.  Ghost gathered all the physical charts from the room.  There would likely be additional physical copies, but they could only do so much.  AI sat in a chair for a moment and slumped as his eyes turned white again.  After about a minute he sat back up and whispered, “All her records in their systems have been erased. We’re good to go.”

  The trio backtracked reversing all their steps while Corporal Sanderson carried the unconscious woman.  AI undid the security changes he had made and cleared entries from all logs once they were back outside.  The group were soon back in the forest moving towards their waiting extraction van on the highway without any further incidents.  Once on the road fifteen minutes into returning to base the woman finally started to come out of her sedation.  She was groggy and didn’t make much sense at first, but eventually started to become more coherent. 

  “Who are you people?”

  Corporal Sanderson answered her.  “We’re people like you.  We have powers.  Our organization tries to gather and help others like us.  My partners and I had skills that lend themselves to us being a search and rescue team.  There are quite a few agencies and labs out there trying to take people like us apart to figure out how we do the things we do.  When we find out they kidnap someone like they did with you we go in and get you out.  I know this is a lot to process, but the way anesthesia works you might not even remember this conversation and I hate having to repeat it.  Just rest now.  There will be plenty of time for questions later.”

     Jemma was a nurse who could trigger rapid wound healing and immune system reactions in others.  As she glanced at her sutures, she not for the first time wished that her abilities could work on herself.  She knew that the man was right about anesthesia, but when they got wherever they were going she was going to ask her questions and she swore to herself that if she didn’t like the answers it didn’t matter what these people could do, she would not be anyone’s prisoner again.  After all, she thought, a strong immune system reaction against a healthy system would devastate someone no matter how powerful they were.  With that thought comforting her she drifted back to sleep.

Skies of Glass: Metropolis

Fiction Fragment Friday

Today’s Fiction Fragment Friday is a bit longer than usual. This piece is a reworked condensed version of Chapter One from the Skies of Glass Metropolis Novel I wrote years ago. I originally wrote this in serial fiction format releasing part of it each week on the Skies of Glass blog. I have always talked about going back and editing it for release, but thus far have not done so. It was the first fiction writing projected I ever publicly released.

For anyone that does not know the history Skies of Glass is a roleplaying game and setting created by Daniel Repperger. It was the first roleplaying game I ever played and I found myself wondering about how one of my favorite towns Metropolis, Illinois had fared in this post-apocalyptic world. When I asked Dan about it he told me I should write it up. I cannot thank him enough for this comment because it led to a revitalization of my interest in writing fiction. It also made me comfortable enough to run the setting as the first convention game I ever ran. I have since written quite a bit in this world include a published story in the flash fiction compellation Worth a 1000 Words.

This particular work I am sharing today I reworked to include in the Skies of Glass Roleplaying Game as part of an example settlement setting. This will be released to Fear the Boot Patreon backers with the newest release of the beta ruleset within the next few weeks. It is also particularly timely to release as I was recently in Metropolis for the annual Superman Celebration.

I hope you all enjoy and if I get enough feedback maybe I will rework the whole novel and plan for a release.

“You better hurry up and get moving boy.  You don’t want to be late for your first day of Militia.  Sergeant Reynolds doesn’t have much patience and you DON’T want to start off on his bad side.  That man sure can hold a grudge.”  James chuckled as he watched his son nick his cheek shaving.  “See now that wouldn’t happen if you’d woken up earlier.” 

            Jim was rushing to get ready as quickly as he could, but he had been up a bit too late the night before celebrating his 18th birthday.  Good friends and poor-quality liquor had taken its toll.  Of course, Jim didn’t really have any frame of reference to determine what liquor would be good or bad.  “I know dad, I’m hurrying.  The fort is only a mile away, so I’ve got plenty of time if I run.”  Jim’s words were muffled as he slipped a shirt on over his head. 

            “Yeah, I’m sure you’ll make a great first impression on Sergeant Reynolds if you show up panting and out of breath.”  Jim’s father sighed and all the laughter drained from his face.  “Look in all seriousness son I want you to be careful out there.  I know it’s your first day and you’ll be in training, but it’s a dangerous world.  We’ve had it pretty good here in Metropolis and a lot of people out there are jealous of that.  Keep your guard up because the Ists are always out there waiting to stab you in the back if you don’t.”

            “I’ll be fine, don’t worry so much.  We haven’t heard from Ists in almost six months now.  Besides it’s not like I have a choice in this.  Every male age 18-22 HAS to serve full time in the militia.”  There was a mocking tone to Jim’s voice as he paraphrased the line, he had heard so many times growing up.  The idea of serving in the Militia was something that really bothered him.  The idea of being forced to do anything bothered him.  He took a deep breath to get control of his voice hoping to keep things from getting out of hand.  “I know how dangerous the Ists are.  I may not like the idea of being in the Militia, but it’s important and to be honest I wouldn’t mind getting a little bit of payback for what happened to Mom.”  His father started to speak, but Jim cut him off abruptly.  “I won’t do anything stupid, but I can’t talk about this now I really am going to be late.”  Jim paused at the door on his way out.  “Besides its just training what could possibly happen during training?”  With that parting comment Jim grabbed his bag and was out the door running full speed east towards Fort Massac.

            Jim’s father stood in the door to their house watching him run off into the distance.  “Your mom would be so proud to see this day,” he mumbled to himself.  Memories of all the time both good and bad he had in the militia swam through his mind.  He thought of his old friend Jason Reynolds and broke out into a laugh.  “I’d give anything to see your face when you meet Jason.”  When the laugher stopped James went back into the suddenly very quiet house.

Jim was exhausted by the time he reached the Fort.  It wasn’t that he was out of shape, but the June sun was beating down on him the whole way.  He had forgotten his water at home in the rush to get out the door and hadn’t bothered to eat that morning either.  Dehydration was starting to set in and a nasty hangover certainly wasn’t helping his disposition.  Jim couldn’t help but think of the string of bad decisions that left him doubled over panting inside the supply depot.

        “You look like Hell.”  Old-Man Higgens chuckled.  He was walking through the depot picking out uniforms, basic supplies, and much to Jim’s relief a bottle of water.  “Bet you can use this.”  He was an older man with a full head of grey hair.  Time had begun to catch up with him as he moved slower than he once had.  Despite these signs of wear and tear he was in fairly good shape for a man in his 70s.  The years couldn’t take the smile from his face.

        “Let me guess, you stayed out all night celebrating your birthday with friends and had to run all the way out here from town.  If I had a dollar for every time that happened, well I guess it wouldn’t make any difference at all now would it with the dollar not meaning anything and all.  I just can’t seem to give up those old phrases though.”  He sat a pair of black boots on the counter and wiped a bit of mud off them.

“I can’t seem to give up this building either to tell you the truth.  This used to be a visitors center before the bombs dropped.”  He pointed to the wall behind Jim.  “You can tell by all those pictures I won’t let Jason take down.  He keeps telling me that maps or signs would be more useful.”  A sigh escapes his mouth.    “He’s a good man, but he misses the point.  History is important or we’ll just repeat our own stupid mistakes.  Society has just gotten to the point now where we can start stabbing each other in the back again.”  The man’s face took a much more somber tone as the conversation shifted.

        “You know I was working here that summer.  When the bombs dropped that is.  I wanted a little extra money and was hoping to buy a car before school started up again.  My parents were visiting relatives, and well..”  A hint of pain could be seen on his face.  “They didn’t make it.  All I had left was this place.   Nobody cares about the history here anymore though.  That’s a whole nother world.  They only care about the now and the technology of before.  It’s such short sightedness.  If they would have only looked to history before deciding to blow us all up it might never have happened.”  There was another sigh.  “Ah, but I am rambling.”  He sat the bundle of supplies on the counter and turned away.  “You best get changed and up the hill to report for duty.  Jason’s going to be mighty hard on you for being late.  The way you look now ain’t gonna help your case much either.”  As old man Higgens strolled into the back-room Jim was thinking that he had just finished the most one sided conversation in his life.

        “Well I guess I best get this over with,” Jim sighed as he stepped into what used to be a bathroom to get changed.   The sun shined through the window just enough for Jim to get changed by, but not enough to clearly see all the supplies in his pack.  He was thankful that his own bag was able to fit nicely into the new one.  There was no table to set his bag on while he changed, and he didn’t want his personal items touching that floor.  Enough time had been wasted so he decided to dress quickly and get orientation over with.

        As Jim approached the Fort he got his first good look.  Once it was a replica of a fort built by the French in 1757.  At least that’s what all the plaques in the supply depot said.  Pictures had shown a large wooden structure that only barely resembled what now stood in front of him.  Metal from cars, building, and whatever else could be found had been used to reinforce the walls.  These additions had grown the fort to twice its original size and changed its clean structured appearance into a twisted metal monstrosity.  On either side of the fort were tent structures and buildings that Jim could tell had been constructed after the bombs.  There was a clear style difference in post bomb Metropolis architecture that focused much more on function than aesthetics.  A large drawbridge sat in the middle of the fort’s outer wall, but without a trench or water running around the fort it sat flat on the ground.  It reminded Jim of a mouth waiting to swallow him whole.  His dad had described it, but nothing he had ever seen could quite compare to the site before him.

        As Jim walked across the drawbridge, he saw three other boys slightly older than himself in appearance lined up.  He couldn’t help but be disgusted by how perfectly in formation they stood.  They were so rigid and stern.  In front of them was a fourth much older man who was pacing back and forth.  A sense of dread filled Jim.  The moment had finally come for him to pay for his bad decisions.

        Jim noticed a girl he recognized from school curled up in a corner with a book.  Chloe Reynolds was undeniably cute, and Jim liked how her long blonde hair draped over her shoulders.  He found himself staring a bit longer than appropriate.  Perhaps he was just delaying the inevitable.  Jim quietly approached the older man and with a nervous voice gathered the courage to speak.  “Are you Sergeant Reynolds?”

        “What do you think?  Who else would be standing here pacing because some snot nosed punk can’t seem to wake up in the morning?  Do you think these men have nothing better to do then stand here wasting their morning waiting on you?”  His voice had gotten extremely loud, and he moved to be directly in Jim’s face.  “Well boy don’t you have anything to say for yourself?

            While the run from town had worn him out; the sweat pouring from Jim’s face now came from fear and nervousness.  He knew that Sergeant Reynolds would be a stern man, but he wasn’t prepared for anything quite like this.  He wanted to say something smart to put the man in his place but found himself struggling to form a coherent thought.   “Well, uhm,  sir.  I errr,  I tried to get here on time sir.  I didn’t…”  His mind raced trying to come up with a way out. 

“What’s wrong with you boy?  Do you have some sort of brain damage?  Spit it out. Well uhm, sir.  Are we going to have to teach you English on top of everything else?  You might be the sorriest excuse for a trainee I have ever seen walk through that gate.  Well, are you going to say something or am I going to have to make you run laps around the fort until you remember how to speak?” 

Jim didn’t know what he would have said next, but he was shaken out of his shock by the sound of laughter.  “Sorry Sarge, that look on his face is just too priceless.  Well, uhm, sir.  I err.  He looks like he’s going to piss his pants.” The boy on the end was laughing loudly and barely managed to get the words out.  Once one of them had broken down it was only seconds before the others had joined in.  Soon they were all bending over holding their stomachs as they laughed hysterically.  Jim saw Chloe look up from her book just long enough to give them an annoyed look and then return to reading.       

            “Well damn boys, I had a whole speech ready to go.  I thought I could make this one cry and you have to go and give me away.  I didn’t even get to ask him if Higgens had laced his boots for him..”  Sergeant Reynolds looked annoyed for a minute as his hands waved in the air.  Finally, a smile cracked, and he couldn’t help but join in the laughter.

            Jim stared relieved and confused all at the same time.  “What’s going on here?”

            Sergeant Reynolds managed to regain his composure, but the smile never left his face.  Jim noticed that it made him look significantly less scary than he had been just minutes before.  When he spoke again his voice had a jovial tone to it and Jim could tell that he was trying to hold back more laughter.   “This is a militia, not a military.  We’re just another part of the town and like to have a little fun with our new recruits.  Everyone gets the speech.   Even if they show up an hour early.  I can usually keep up the angry act for at least five minutes, but the boys here just had to be a part of it this time.”

            “Dad warned me about you though.  He said that you were really hardcore and that you didn’t have a sense of humor to speak of.”  

            “Your pop is an old buddy.  We went through training together twenty-five years ago.  There’s no way he’d spoil this joke for me.  We expect a lot out of you here.  Make no mistake; it will be hard at times, but it can be fun too.  Of course, today you’re going to be doing a lot of sitting around and listening to me talk.  For the record, that’s not the fun part.”  Sergeant Reynolds pointed to one of the doors on the inside wall of the fort.  “We best get started.   Head on in there and take a seat.” 

Roadside Attractions

Fiction Fragment Friday

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to post something today, but as long as it is before midnight it counts as Friday. This has been a long week and it is difficult for me to be creative when I’m tired. Over the course of the last two days I have spent about 14 hours in the car driving. Before that I had a severe allergic reaction after doing hard work that required some strong medications because my eye had swollen almost completely shut. There is far more for this week but the point is that I am tired and struggled when I finally sat down to actually start writing.

It is weeks like this that are why I do the Fiction Fragment Fridays. When things aren’t going well it is so easy to just say that I will skip it this week. Then one week becomes two, then three, and before long I haven’t written in a year. I do these and push myself so I don’t let that happen. I hold myself to write something every single week and release it. Some of them I think have been really good, but some of them are not. These weekly releases are not about putting my best stuff out there, they are about just sitting down and writing. Just to keep moving forward.

  There are two kinds of people in the world.  There are the kind that can see a sign on the side of the road that says, “World Largest” and just keep driving.  Then there are people like me.  For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by roadside attractions.  These random things that exist because someone decided that they had a calling to create something unique.  Maybe the attraction is just a freak act of chance, but someone decided that it was worth telling everyone about.  Sure, these things don’t have an impact on the world, but to somebody they meant something.  People that take care of these attractions are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet.  Most people though are just focused on their destination and miss out on these opportunities. 

  I was driving home from a business trip late one night when one of these signs stood out to me.  “Wild Bob’s Truck Stop and UFO museum.”  Now I would say that these things don’t normally go together but I have heard quite a few stories from truck drivers about seeing strange things late at night.  Personally, I had always just assumed it was a combination of long boring stretches of road and lack of sleep.  Since I was starting to feel a little tired myself, I figured that it would be a good time to get off the road and stretch my legs a bit.  Usually, I just stop and grab a fountain drink, but I figured even if the museum was closed there might be some interesting things to look at in the truck stop to help wake me up.     

  I was actually kind of excited when I got off the highway.  I had traveled this road before, but somehow had missed the attraction.  As I pulled in, I really started to wonder how that was possible.  The parking lot was bright, and I could see it long before the exits.  Bright neon lights showed a UFO lifting a cow up with some sort of beam.  There were five cow lights that lit up in order to make it look like it was raising and getting smaller as it went into the flying saucer.  I tried to get a picture of it on my phone, but pictures of lights never seem to turn out well.  Maybe that’s why all the UFO pictures are so blurry I thought while laughing at my own joke.  I glanced at the bars and realized that I had no signal way out here. 

  As I walked into the truck stop, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the museum was open 24 hours as well.  You just had to buy a ticket from the cashier at the truck stop and you could walk through the museum.  Since I needed to walk a bit anyway, I gladly paid my $10 admission price and stepped through the turn style.  The museum was a handful of rooms with framed photos and newspaper articles hung on the wall.  Display cases filled the floor with weird looking pieces of metal and strange looking skulls.  The whole things was over the top cheesy and I was loving every minute of it.  I was so entranced that I didn’t notice that I wasn’t alone in the room.    

  “So do you believe in all this stuff?”

  I jumped and fumbled my soda almost dropping it.  I’m pretty sure I let out a sound that was less than dignified.  “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”  I looked over the older man.  His hair and bushy beard were a dark gray and despite looking like a man who probably spent a lot of time outdoors his skin was as pale as could be without being an albino.  He wore denim overalls covering a dirty yellow shirt.  “Guess I was too busy reading to notice you come in.” 

  “You didn’t answer my question.  Do you believe in all this stuff?”

  “Well as big as the universe is I think there is probably life out there.”  I pointed to one of the tabloids framed on the wall.  “I don’t think they would come here to abduct random farmers though.”

  “You calling my brother a liar?”  It was then that I realized the man in the picture did bare a resemblance to the rather large man in front of me.  I started to stammer a bit, but he broke out laughing a deep and hearty laugh.  “I’m just messing with you boy.  My brother fell off the tractor a few too many times when we were growing up.  If it ain’t aliens it’s the government, he thinks is after him.”

  “You had me going for a minute there.”

  “I’m Wild Bob and this is my collection.  Truckers see things up in the sky all the time.  It’s probably just planes, or stars but my daddy always told me not to let the truth get in the way of a good story.  I’ve got quite a few stories to tell if you got some time.  Get’s kinda lonely out here these days.”

     I listened to his stories for about an hour before I told him I really needed to get going.  As I got back on the highway, I looked in my rear-view mirror expecting to see the bright neon lights for a while, but instead just saw darkness.  My phone started buzzing like crazy with new notifications.  I had 25 missed calls and hundreds of missed text messages.  Panicking I started listening to the messages afraid that something horrible had happened.  Person after person was asking where I was, and they seemed to get more upset as the messages went on.  I checked the time on my phone because it didn’t seem like I had been in there long enough for this many calls.  That was when I noticed the date.  According to my phone and the last crying message I had been missing for three months.  A bright light caught my attention as it streaked through the sky and into the night. 

The Relic

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story finds inspiration in multiple places. First it was inspired by all the recent space flights by the commercial sector. Second it was inspired by my own personal phobia of flying which is extremely at odds with my obsessions around the space program. I am in sheer awe of the advanced being made and strongly frustrated with myself knowing I would be too afraid to take advantage of them.

  I gripped the arm rests on my seat not quite sure what I was about to experience.  I had never been on a normal flight let alone a suborbital flight and there are not a lot of firsthand experiences to read about in preparation.  There was even less to research about the craft I found myself in since it was still highly classified.  If I didn’t need to be in Antarctica in under two hours, I would have never agreed to it.  When the President of the United States sends a man in a black suit to tell you that they found an alien spacecraft buried in the ice and he wants you to be with the first group that goes in you do not decline no matter how scared you are.  The more I looked back on it the more I wondered if it had been a question at all or if the man had just been informing me that I was going.

  It didn’t make any sense at first.  I am an author not a scientist and I don’t have any sort of security clearance.  Sure, I do a lot of research for my books, but that is not the same as being a real expert.  The agent who said I didn’t need to know his name confirmed that the president knew all of that.  I was chosen because of my books.  The president wanted to make this discovery public knowledge during his time in office but didn’t want to cause a panic.  He felt that if his favorite Science Fiction writer were to experience the ship and write a novel about it that would help prepare the public for the announcements.  Social media has changed the way that disclosures happen, and he thought that his administration could take advantage of that.  So, there I found myself sitting in a classified vehicle, on a classified runway, getting ready to fly to a classified dig site, to see a classified alien spacecraft.  It certainly was not how I expected my Monday morning to go.

  As the plane started to accelerate the situation became very real to me.  I watched as the buildings of the military base rushed by my window.  There was a feeling that I had crossed a line of no return.  The plane tilted upwards, and I felt my stomach drop out from under me.  The best was I can explain the sensation is that it was like being on a roller-coaster, but instead of feeling like I was falling I felt like I was being yanked up.  Rationally I know it didn’t take long, but in the moment, it felt like an eternity.  Finally, there was a brief moment where the seatbelt tugged on me and it felt like there was a minor drop.  That was when the rocket boosters triggered.  I fought back my anxiety as every sensation I had experienced came back far stronger.  Just when I didn’t think I could take any more all the pressure ended.

  I looked out the window and truly saw the Earth for the first time.  The curve had a thin hazy layer that I realized was the atmosphere.  It looked so small in comparison, and I could help but feel a bit small myself.  For the briefest of moments my fear was replaced by awe.  My mind started racing with all the ways I would describe the planet in my next novel.  It was then that I realized we were weightless, and I couldn’t quite decide if I was happy or terrified.  As I let out what sounded like a crazy giggle, I realized that I was both.  I looked around the cabin and realized that I was the only one on the plan who looked nervous.  I guessed they were all used to it. 

  In a little over an hour and a half we had landed.  While I was nervous about landing the sensations were not nearly as strong.  The bite of the cold when I stepped out of the plane however was something I had underestimated.  It was not just the cold, but the wind that assaulted me.  For a moment I thought I might fall backwards into the cabin of the plain, but a general reached out and helped me steady myself.  I think I expected to see the spacecraft as soon as we landed or possibly arched metal structures.  Instead, there were sleek buildings on steel beams about 20 feet off the ground.  There was also one large blue domed building in the center.  I didn’t have much time to look though as the general rushed me into one of the raised buildings.  Since I was freezing, I was glad he was in a hurry. 

  After a short briefing a military escort took me into the domed building.  They had explained that it was a drilling facility and that there was an elevator that would take us down to the cavern containing the ship.  The elevator opened to a large cavern lit with spotlights.  I was focused on the man before me.  The president was standing there with his hand out for me to shake.  He introduced himself and told me what a fan he was of my books.   Once again, I was in awe.  The whole experience seemed more like a dream than something that was actually happening to me. 

     The moment I saw the ship I knew the real reason he had asked for me.  It looked exactly like ship on the cover of my novels.  It wasn’t just a passing resemblance; the design was exactly the same because this was the ship I had written about.  They had found my grandfather’s spacecraft.  He was the sole survivor when it crashed a hundred and fifty years ago.  His race looked enough like humans that with a bit of modification he could blend in.  He had told me enough about it and given me his records so when I started writing novels, I based them on it.  The one thing he would never tell me though was where it had crashed.  Now I knew, and I also knew as I looked around at the weapons being pointed at me that I was going to be asked a lot of questions I didn’t want to answer.


Fiction Fragment Friday

One of the things that I enjoy about flash fiction is the opportunities it opens of for different writing styles. This is not something I frequently takea advantage of, but it is something I have enjoyed on the occasions I due venture out of my first person perspective comfort zone. Flash Fiction gives you the chance to explore small sections of a world from a completely different angle than typical fiction formats. Advertisements, emails, memos, or other typically non-prose formats can be opened up to tell a story in a different way. It can help you world build a larger setting that you are working on.

This weeks story is in the format of an excerpt from a sales training manual meant for the sales teams of a company that provides business continuity through cloning employees in key positions. It let me examine the idea from a completely different lens then a standard story would have.

***End excerpt from the Resilutech employee guide to cloning***    

  Please remember that when representing our services on sales calls that a clone of a person is not an exact copy of the person.  It is easy for confusion to develop around our services and from a legal standpoint you must ensure that every customer understands the strengths and limitations of our cloning process.  Since these calls are all recorded, they can be used as defense in any case of breach of contract litigation.  Please review the following talking points and make sure that each are addressed prior to signing the contract.

  1. A clone will not look exactly identical to the original source of the DNA.  Human appearance has many variables that are impacted by decisions.  Our clones are grown with accelerated growth to the current age of the client in a protected vat.  They have not experienced direct exposure to the sun so skin coloration is likely to vary.  They have not been exposed to the variables that come with natural growth such as injuries, daily routines, and imprecise nutrition.  Our clones will come out of the cloning pods at optimal health since all variables were meticulously controlled.  Thus, their weight, complexion, and height will likely vary from the original.  Biometric data will likely need to be updated.  If the client requests it upon their acceptance of the risk we can aim for a closer match to physical characteristics for an additional fee, but all warranty will be voided, and we will not be held liable for unanticipated consequences.
  2. Our clones are not legally people until they emerge from the pod.  They do not simply lack memories of life events they are complete blank slates with no ability to function in any capacity.  The memory imprint process is only as good as the clients most recent backup.  We will not be held liable if the clone is unable to perform the job or family functions required due to the client being behind on their regular backups. 
  3. While the clone may look like and have the memories of an adult lifetime their bodies have not experienced these events.  Our patented system uses electrical pulses to ensure muscle contraction and growth to fit required functionality, however any tolerances built up through day-to-day activity will not exist in the cloned body.  Skin and eyes will be sensitive, and the clone will likely encounter germs and viruses that their immune system does not have adequate antibodies to handle.  The first year of a clone’s life tends to bring frequent illness as the body acclimates to its new environment.  Additionally, muscle memory will not exist so activities that require extreme dexterity will need to be relearned. 
  4. Clones will experience a period of disorientation before they can return to the original client’s life.  This is due to the stated variations between the clone and original body.  Even simple tasks such as walking will require a level of adjustment as the body will feel different from the original.  Eyesight will potentially vary from the original due to outside factors such as extended time staring at a monitor not impacting the clone body.  The eyes will also be sensitive at first because they have not actually seen light before.  This transition period is minor for most clones as our process produces bodies that are in most ways in superior health to the original.
  5. This cannot be stated firmly enough.  The clone is not the original individual despite having their DNA and memories.  There is a strong psychological aspect to the realization that you are a clone.  Combine this with differences in the balance of chemicals in the brain due to the growth process eliminating random variables and the clone may develop a personality that varies from the original.  These changes tend to appear greater over time.
  6. We will not awaken a clone while the source body is still alive.  This is illegal, unethical, and against company policy.  Please be sure this is stated clearly on any recorded interactions.  There should never be paperwork that indicates otherwise.
  7. As this service is most commonly purchased by corporations to provide business continuity for key positions it must be noted that the signing entity is responsible for all costs associated with the process regardless of the clone’s decisions once they leave our facility and are legally recognized as people.  If the clone chooses to leave the company that is paying for the service, they are still required to pay any outstanding fees.  Per point 6 we will not provide them with a replacement clone as long as the current one is alive.  If the current clone however dies and the contract is still in good standing, we can then provide a replacement at a discounted rate. 
  8. Our company does not clone animals; however we do have multiple partnerships and can often arrange a discounted rate if bundling their service.  After the initial sale is completed all future interactions with these partner services are to be direct and not through our company.
  9. An individual’s status as naturally born, or clone is a protected classification.  It is now included under HIPA and cannot be disclosed without written consent of the individual.  Additionally, this status cannot be taken into account when offering or terminating employment. 
  10. We are required to always use the most current viable backup unless there is written consent from the individual.  A company cannot choose to restore an individual to a time prior to them choosing to leave, discovering incriminating evidence, or filing a complaint if there is a viable backup after that point.  If however an individual signs a release prior to death an older backup may be used.

  We have a disclosure document that you can provide to potential customers that cover these points.  While it is necessary that you discuss them, they do not need to be discussed all at one time.  As long as all are mentioned prior to signing the contract you can spread out the restrictions over multiple meetings.  This is the preferred method as each meeting should focus on the advantages of our services.  Please also ensure that the promotional video of our happy clients enjoying their second chance at life is shown.  We paid a marketing firm extensively to have that video created and our accounting team has shown a 34% increase in opportunities being realized into sales when the video is played. 

***End excerpt from the Resilutech employee guide to cloning***    

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