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Author: Wayne Cole Page 1 of 4

Beta Test

Fiction Fragment Friday

I recently went through a training session for a new product in the first phase of a beta testing. That is what inspired this story. Thinking about some of the Science Fiction I have read recently I wanted to do something related to testing a new technology. I also decided I wanted to try something new and write the story in the form of an e-mail or letter. With that I bring you Beta Test. Enjoy.


Dear Beta Tester,

                Welcome to the ERI beta program.  The Enhanced Reality Interface is an exciting new product that will change the way humanity looks and interacts with our world.  We are happy to report that our company has recently received approval for human testing, and you have been selected.   You will receive a phone call in the next week to schedule the implantation procedure.  This will be a minor surgery to install our patented neural interface chip.  This will allow your brain to directly interact with our systems.  Once online we can push the test software remotely so you will not need further procedures.

                During this beta test we ask that you go about your life normally and allow the ERI to learn your routines.  After the two-week calibration process, you will begin to see the interface overlay.  It will give you suggestions on ways to optimize your day for increased efficiency.  You can control this interface directly with your thoughts.  As part of the test plan, we need to ensure that only focused thought and not random stray thoughts control the interface.  Please make note of the time and nature of any unexpected interactions so we can reference the debug logs.  These incidents are not necessarily reason for concern.  The beta has many functions we have not enabled at this time and we will be testing them throughout this program.

                The ERI will allow you to access the internet directly from your thoughts and return a variety of data instantly.  You can overlay reality with a glowing path for navigation.  Initially you can have step by step instructions or video available to assist with any craft or repair project.  With your assistance following our prescribed testing program we will be able to update your software within six months to instead highlight items and provide direct feedback on completing these tasks. 

                We would like to take this time to also remind you of the nondisclosure agreement that you signed when you applied for this program.  All information in this welcome letter as well as your experiences once the interface is installed are strictly confidential.  Any violation of this agreement will result in immediate remote termination of the physical technology as well as legal repercussions.  Your release form does cover any health risks that might develop from this process.  We value your health and safety so we will take all necessary measures to ensure that you do not violate your agreement and endanger yourself.

                Finally, your privacy is important to us.   Any data collected as part of this beta program will be used for the sole purpose of improving and safeguarding the ERI.  Personally, Identifiable Information will be scrubbed from our system after the beta period has been completed leaving only the raw data for future improvements.  While we will have to include your names in study paperwork, we will not at any time release this to the public.  You can take solace in the fact that you know you have made history even though no one else will ever know. 

                Once again thank you for your participation in this beta program.  The Enhanced Reality Interface cannot become reality without your extensive testing.  Please read through your provided test plans prior to your implantation appointment.  There are tests that need to be completed immediately upon waking up from this procedure as well as setup tasks that could be extremely disorienting if you are not prepared. 

Sincerely,

The Enhanced Reality Interface project            

Collateral Damage

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story is a bit short. I think I was probably inspired partially by some of the books I have read recently including comics. I have had an idea in my head for this type of story for years but never actually sat down and wrote anything.


  The worst day of my life started out like any other day.  I woke up in the morning and went through my regular routine.  First a shower, followed by breakfast, then about a half hour on social media fighting with people I have never even met.  That last one was supposed to be just a quick check to see what was new in the world, but these days it always deteriorated to fighting.  Then would come the inevitable realization that I was running last for work because I allowed myself to get sucked in again.  The guilt for wasting to much time and letting myself get that angry tended to shape my entire day.  I realized I had a problem, but I just couldn’t seem to walk away.  Just like any other day the worst day of my life started with me angry and in a hurry because I was running late. 

  A loud boom assaulted my ears and my apartment building started shaking.  This wasn’t the familiar rattle of a sonic boom or the L train going by.  I was thrown from my feet and hit the ground hard barely able to brace myself with my arms.  The large bookshelf that was the last thing my father had ever made for me came crashing down onto my legs.  I let out a scream of pain and I was sure something in my legs had cracked.  The shaking stopped for just a moment and everything was quiet except for a creaking sound throughout the building. 

  My floor collapsed under me and I found myself falling.  I lived on the fifth floor and as I fell debris pummeled me on the way down.  The two floors above me were coming down as well.  When I hit something hard I pulled myself up into the fetal position as flooring and furniture buried me.  Everything went dark and the pressure on my body was like nothing I had ever felt.  I could tell that my head was bleeding because the blood ran into my eyes.  Breathing was extremely difficult, but there was oxygen still making it in.  Unfortunately I could smell natural gas in the air as well.  Pain wracked my entire body, but I knew it would feel even worse when it wasn’t being held back by adrenaline.  If I didn’t move now I was going to die, but the wrong move could cause the debris to shift and kill me faster. 

  I felt the floor lifting up below me.  I went from laying in a fetal position to being tossed sideways wish one of the floor planks impaling me in the side.  I found my head open to air and I could see what was left of my collapsed building.  There right under where I had fallen was Alpha.  My building had collapsed on the world’s strongest superhero and he had tossed me to the side with the rubble on top of him.  He shook his head and his long golden hair flowed in the wind.  His clothes were torn, but he didn’t have a scratch on him.  He did look angry though and he shot into the sky.   The realization hit me that he had been knocked into our building during one of those big superhero brawls.

  Using what was left of a wooden beam for support I limped across the rubble.  I could hear crying and screams all around me.  Pushing through the pain I started digging where I could.  I was able to pull my downstairs neighbor Jane out and could tell right away she was in as bad a shape as I was.  This was when something ignited the gas line.  There was a large ball of flame that washed over us before settling into a column of fire.  Wood and furniture caught fire and I realized that we couldn’t help anyone else.  The two of us stumbled supporting each other out of the building before collapsing on the sidewalk. 

     As I lay there on the ground, I could see the fight happening in the air above me.  Superbeings trading blows while my neighbors died without anyone coming to help them.  Stray energy blasts hit surrounding buildings and I wondered if anyone inside had been killed by them.  You always hear the stories about people getting caught up in these big battles, but you never think it’s going to be you.  As I lie there barely able to move I could hear the sirens in the distance.  I turned my head and coughed up blood onto the sidewalk.  It would be weeks before I would find out that they both were actually heroes.  This was one of those cases of mistaken identity that led to heroes fighting heroes.  Much like my entire morning the whole fight had been pointless, and no one would be held accountable.

Cracked Egg

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weekend is Easter so it is time for another one of my stories about the first manned mission to Mars dealing with being away for the holidays. The overall story is progressing in these individual Flash Fictions to the point that I may need to do one outside of a holiday. I really like the theme of these though. Holiday conversations in the galley. While an expanded story could very well be in my future these really have a formula that I have been sticking with. Let me know what you think and what you would like to see from this series of Flash Fictions.


  Easter was always my favorite holiday growing up.  I lived at the end of a long gravel road with no neighbors around.  Easter meant seeing all my cousins and getting to hang out with people my age.  I was never artistic, but even I could decorate eggs that I wanted to show off.  The search for those eggs would bring out the competitive nature that helped me so much during my astronaut training.  I had to find more than anyone else.  Finally, there was the basket full of chocolate.  What was not to love?

  As an adult there was plenty to dislike about Easter, but as I stared out my window at the distant stars I couldn’t help but be reminded of the glitter speckled eggs from my childhood.  Floating over to the wall I grabbed my tablet from its Velcro cradle and hit play for the fourth time that morning.  The sound of my kids laughter filled my cabin as I watched them run around the backyard searching for eggs. My littlest ran up to the camera holding up a colorful egg while jumping up and down in place.  “Look daddy I got one.”  As she turned and ran back into the yard I had to fight back the tear forming in my eye.  Tears are frustrating in space.  They don’t fall, they just pool up on your face becoming a bigger and bigger ball.  I grabbed a cloth tissue and wiped it away before it could get too annoying. 

  I floated out of my room using the hand grips on the wall to propel myself into galley.  The room was empty making me realize just how much time I had spent stuck in my own head.  I grabbed a pouch of scrambled eggs, plugged it into the rehydration station, and hit the dispense hot water button.  After a few seconds, the pouch inflated and felt warm to the touch.  I squeezed to break up the clump of eggs and make sure it hydrated evenly.  Using my scissors I cut open the top of the pouch and dug in with my spoon. 

  “We missed you at breakfast.”

  The sudden sound of my commander’s voice behind me made me jump.  My arms flailed trying to grab for anything to stabilize myself as I started to spin.  “GAH, don’t do that.  We need to put a bell on you.”

  “Sorry.”  She was trying very hard to hold in her laughter but was not succeeding very well. 

  “Yeah I can see how sorry you are.”  We both laughed a bit as I got myself back under control.  “Sorry about breakfast.  I got a video from home.”

  “I figured.  It is Easter after all.  How are you holding up? I want an honest answer so if you say fine I’m going to spin you.”

  “Honestly commander, I’m struggling.  I don’t like admitting that.  Sometimes I feel like it would be easier if we didn’t get messages from home.  Then when I think that I start to feel guilty for thinking it.  I’m also supper excited that we are only a few days from being the first humans in orbit around Mars.”

  She looked at me appraisingly.  “Do you ever think about how many firsts we are having?  We are further away from Earth than any human has ever been.  Everything we do is a first.”  She grabbed a coffee pouch and plugged it into the rehydration station.  “Between you and me I’m afraid that we might be the first mission to have a crew member breakdown.”

  “Commander really I’m ok.  I’m not going to..”

  She cut me off waving her hands and having to readjust to not float into the wall.  “No, No, not you ya idiot.  You know you’re struggling so you’ll be fine.  Hell, I think you’re the most stable person on this ship.  No, I’m talking about Jamison.  He seems like he is cracking, but always has that big goofy smile on his face.  I’m just hoping he can pull it together and the work will help keep him distracted.”

  “I haven’t noticed anything.  Now that you mention it though that smile is really kind of creepy.  Should you really be telling me this?”

  “Probably not, but I trust you more than anyone else on board.  I really couldn’t do this without you here as my right-hand man.  I might have fallen apart myself when Lisa dumped me if you weren’t here for me.”

  I shook my head.  “No way, you’re way too tough for that.  Stop selling yourself short.”  I took my last bite of eggs and put the pouch in the main trash bin.  “Have you talked to him about it yet?”

  “Yeah, he just laughed and said I was crazy.  Maybe I am.  I’m not exactly feeling the most trusting right now and with the stress of the next couple days maybe I’m looking for problems that aren’t really there.”

  I finished cleaning my spoon and put it back on it’s magnetic home.  I realized that unlike Commander Norton and Doctor Samuels I didn’t really know our pilot very well.  In such a small space it was impossible not to spend time with each other and have conversations.  All of my conversations with Jamison had been superficial though.  I didn’t have any idea how he was holding up.  I didn’t even know if he had a family back home.  “I’ll keep an eye on him.  See if I can get him to open up.”

  “I hope I’m wrong.”

     I floated towards the galley door but turned to look back at her.  “I hope you are too, but as long as I’ve known you I think I could count the number of times you’ve been wrong on one hand.”  I pushed off towards the flight deck to start the long process of becoming friends with our pilot.

The Music of Life

Fiction Fragment Friday

Music used to be such a big part of my life. In my teens and into my early twenties I was always listing to music and looking for meaning. I poured over lyrics and tried to apply them to the things going on in my own head. I had songs that were tied to people or events. Seeing a band live was more than just entertainment. I can point to so many life defining events that happened because of concerts during those few years.

These days I don’t listen to music. I found that while driving I needed something that I couldn’t tune out. Something that would occupy my subconscious mind more and keep it from wondering into dangerous territory for someone with anxiety disorder. That is how I got into podcasts and audiobooks. Even so when I hear a song it can bring me back to moments in my life like nothing else can.

For today’s Fiction Fragment Friday I decided to write something inspired by music. I was going to pick a song that spoke to me when I was younger and use the first line to start the story. Quickly I found that there were so many songs and listening to each brought back memories. The writing exercise then became writing something with the first line of each paragraph being a different song from a different band.

I limited myself to songs that actually meant something to me and had some sort of impact on my life. There were some that really deserved to be on here, but either the first line just didn’t fit or it wouldn’t flow with the developing story. The songs chosen though all have meaning and while it pains me that I couldn’t get one specific song in there I did base the whole exercise on the other song that was one of the more impactful of that time.

The Songs in order:


I’d give up forever to touch you.  That is not a minor sacrifice.  My life has spanned thousands of years simultaneously being among mortals and also apart from them.  Empires have risen and fallen in what to me seems like the blink of an eye.  My thoughts are in centuries not years or mere moments.  In all that time no human has ever been more than a subject to document or a catalyst to aim in the direction history needs it to go.  Why then are you so different?  I know even though I walk invisible to the eye that you can feel me somehow.  You occasionally look straight at me from a distance, or stop when I whisper your name.   

  You are so close no matter how far.  I can feel you like a an extra sense always knowing exactly where you are and when you are in danger.  A normal person has life threatening events a handful of times during their existence.  You have almost been killed twelve times in the last six months and always I was there.  Acting in secret without you even knowing you were in danger.  It doesn’t matter what I am doing when I feel you need me I come.  Nothing else matters.  Why would a simple human hold so much sway when I have watched billions born and die without ever caring.  I feel that something else is out there working against me. 

  How long?  How long will I slide?  I have a duty to be impartial, but moments with you mean centuries to me.  The time line depends on me to ensure certain events happen.   This the most crucial decade of all history and I know your survival is not one of those events I am here to ensure.  You were meant to die on the plane you never boarded because of a flat tire.  Letting the air out of your tire was the first time I violated my mission, but it would be far from the last.  Missing keys, thugs knocked unconscious in an alley, and a contagious patient tripping before they could cough on you are all examples of ways I have overstepped for you.  How long can this go on without my mission being a complete failure?  I want to tell you all this, but once you know you can never go back.

  I’ve been sitting here trying to find myself.  Searching for who I was before the first time I saw you and examining who I am becoming.  Which is the real me?  Am I a man dedicated to his mission, but slowly losing his way?  Am I really a caring man who has buried his emotions deep down so they don’t interfere with his mission?  I could never have allowed the horrors of the past to have occurred if I wasn’t impartial.  Knowing and not interfering is part of the job.  It is not like I have never been tempted to step in and stop the worst atrocities man has to offer, but those have always been minor urges that I could suppress.  Everything is different now.  Knowing what is coming and what you will have to go through I don’t know if I can just sit by and watch it.  Which man am I? 

I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.  I’ve seen the worst of humanity and let it happen for the future.  I never questioned it.  Maybe my future isn’t the one that should survive though.  If I do this and stop the coming disaster, then the future I come from will no longer exist.  Without my future as time readjusts it will catch up with me.  My changes will survive but from that moment on I won’t.  It is hard to explain the way time works and sometimes it just doesn’t make logical sense.  That is because it is alive in it’s own way and doesn’t like to be changed.  I can’t put this off any longer and still be able to make a difference.  I might be on my own, but I know what it means to be alone against the world.  I said I would give up forever to touch you and I meant it.  When this is done, I will be back.  I will talk to you before time catches up with me.  I don’t expect anything from you. I just want you to know who I am. 

Awaken

Fiction Fragment Friday

You never know where inspiration will strike. This story was inspired by being tired and trying to wake up. That started the thought process that developed the overall story. Then after I wrote the first line I realized that I was using a tense I don’t typically use. First person present. This proved something of a challenge because it is not at all my regular writing style.

I have always found present tense difficult. I’m sure if I did another editing pass I would find another spot or two where I messed up the tense because of that. One of the goals of these Fiction Fragment Fridays is to challenge myself. Allow myself to write in styles or genres that I normally wouldn’t.

In the end I have a story that I think has quite a bit of potential.


  The first thing I feel is cold.  It is a bone chilling cold through my whole body.  The feel is not just against my skin, but from inside as well.  My eyelids feel like they weigh a ton, and I just can’t seem to get them to open.  There is a whirring sound all around me punctuated by the hiss of some sort of gas.  I just lay there in the dark taking in all the sensations because my body will not respond to me.  I physically can’t do anything else.

  My mind is groggy.  I can take in all the stimuli my senses are feeding me, but it just doesn’t add up.  I don’t know what normal is supposed to feel like, but I know that these sensations are not it.  In my thoughts I can form words and have basic understanding without any details.  Proper nouns like my own name escape me.  Details like my past are just out of reach.

  A warmth starts to overtake me and I realize it is coming from inside my body.  I am suddenly aware of needles in my arm that have been there the whole time.  The warmth starts there and spreads.  My fingers twitch at first on their own but gradually under my control.  Sensation is returning to me in the form of a low throbbing pain all over.     

  With great effort I am able to force my eyelids open for brief periods.  The light is overwhelming.  Even if my eyelids did not feel so heavy I would have to close them shield myself from the brightness.  My arms are still too weak to move up for cover.  A loud clicking sound starts all around me.  In what feels like hours but I know was only moments I have gone from total sensory deprivation to sensory overload.  My brain is struggling with the input, but I can tell that like the rest of me it is recovering too. 

  I am in some sort of chamber or pod.  Enclosed in a capsule?  I can tell the door in front of me is opening because I feel air against my skin and am met with a sudden onslaught of sounds.  There is chatter, wheels squeaking along the floor, and someone sipping a drink far too loudly.  The room feels alive.

  “Doctor Eversole, welcome back.  How do you feel?”

  Is this woman talking to me?  I try to focus on her voice.  There is something familiar about it, but I just can’t place it.  The name though sounds right.  I am Doctor Olivia Eversole.  This gives me a sense of self, but it doesn’t bring any sort of context with it.  I know my name, but I still don’t really know who I am. 

  “Doctor Eversole if you can understand me please say something.”  The voice is concerned.  I know this.  Concern sounds natural for her.

  “Where am I?”  I’m not sure what my voice is supposed to sound like, but I know that it isn’t this.  The words come out hoarse and I realize my mouth is dry to the point of hurting.  A tube going down my nose and into my throat make speaking even more difficult.  What have they done to me?

  “You are in your lab Doctor.  Just relax.  I’m going to start removing some of the needles and your feeding tube.  Try not to move.”

  The word feeding tube triggers a panic response in me.  I try to hold still, but only my weakness prevents me from reaching up and feeling my face.  Sharp pain in my arm as I feel one of the needles being pulled out. The feeding tube rubs against my throat as they pull it out through my nose.  Fits of coughing come over me and I worry for a moment that I will choke to death.  Just like that it is over, and I can breathe again.  I briefly wonder if I am being tortured.  

  “You’re doing great Doctor Eversole.”

  Why does she keep saying my name every time she talks?  I suddenly realize it is for repetition.  To help me re-associate it with myself and prevent a dissociative disorder from setting in.  How do I know this?  I suddenly realize it is because I wrote the protocol.  Her words come back to me.  I am in my lab.  Whatever has happened to me here wasn’t something forced on me. I am a part of it.

  “You did it Doctor Eversole.  There was an issue and we had to keep you under a bit longer than planned, but other than that it was a complete success.”

  “How long?”  I want to say more.  Ask more questions.  I can’t though because my throat hurts so bad.  I hate the raspy pained sound that comes form me when I try to talk. 

  “The test was supposed to be for six months, but well we had to keep you under for a year.  I’m so sorry, but the important thing is that it worked.  You are the first woman to be put into cryogenic sleep and woken back up.”

  Memories of the project flood back.  I remember fighting with this woman.  No not just some woman.  My partner both professionally and personally.  Her name is Jennifer.  She was so mad at me because I wouldn’t take volunteers.  I couldn’t handle if someone died testing my process.  I insisted that I be the first test subject.  That way if it all went wrong, I wouldn’t have to live with the guilt.  She told me it was reckless and that I was being selfish.  I remember my last words to her in that argument minutes before stepping into the lab.  I told her that if she truly believed in me and my work, she wouldn’t be worried.  That all her protests just meant that she didn’t believe in me.

  I sigh and prepare for the pain.  “I’m sorry.”  She looks at me confused.  “I said horrible things.”  I can feel the tears trying to form in my eyes, but my body is not yet ready to let them come. 

  “Oh hon, that was a year ago for me.  I forgave you a long time ago.  I’ve just been so worried.” 

     Unlike my body hers has no problem producing tears.  As she leans down to hold me, I use all of my strength to raise my arms up around her.  I whisper in her ear, “I love you.  Sorry I scared you.”  I can feel her tears dripping on me and know that she is trying to hide it from the others in the lab.  I vow that I will find a way to make this up to her.  After I pour through my data and prepare my speech for the inevitable Nobel Prize of course.  After all I am a genius, and I haven’t met the problem yet that I can’t solve. 

Variables

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks Fiction Fragment Friday is another story dealing with superheroes and villains. I like the main character I have created here and I’m sure we will see him again. Maybe in a future story with Ricochet.


  It is harder to pick the right group of villains for a job than you might think.  There are so many variables that must be accounted for.  What is the goal of the mission?  Who are the heroes most likely to respond?  What personality issues may arise?  Will any of the powers interact poorly with each other?  Will they keep quiet until after it is completed?  This is why jobs that I organize tend to be more successful than my counterparts.  They never consider all the variables like I do.  I suppose that is why they call me Tactician.  It was not a name I chose, but I was young and that was one variable I didn’t consider.  If you don’t announce a name you will never live down what the media gives you.  Let me walk you through my process.

  The start of every job comes from inspiration.  This could be a tip from my network of informants or just an idea that I think up in the shower.  Never underestimate the potential of ideas you have during your daily routine.  I keep a notebook in every room just to capture these ideas whenever they may strike.  This morning my inspiration came from a news article online.  The Museum of Science and Technology downtown was hosting a traveling exhibit on heroes and villains from the 1980s.  One of the objects mentioned was the helmet of Dr. Terror.  This object was barely a footnote among the artifacts from much more successful villains, but to me it was the most prized object I could ever have in my collection.  That particular version of the helmet is the one that I drew for him on my sixth birthday.  Despite how ridiculous it looked my dad made it and wore it because I designed it.  There is no question about what my target is, but I still research every other item on display carefully.  Never do a job for only one reason if you can help it.

  With my target identified the next step is research.  I get the blueprints for the museum, the sewer maps for the area, and make note of every building for three blocks around.  You need to be prepared for multiple escape routes though your crew doesn’t necessarily need to know all of them.  Also you need to know what is nearby if you need a distraction or in case there is a likely hood of heavier resistance.  I run my algorithms to show hero activity in the area and determine the most likely heroes to respond.  That might be enough for most villains, but I take this an extra step further.  I look for public appearances to see where any known heroes will be.  Finally I cross reference the items on display with past news articles.  I want to be prepared for anyone powered that may be at the exhibit to be reminded of their or their parent’s glory days. 

  Next I identified potential resources to bring into the job.  The list started off with every villain not in prison that I knew how to reach.  Next I eliminated any villain that was a Nazi or psychotic killer.  I may be a villain, but I’m not a monster.  I not only won’t work with these people, but find they add an extra difficulty to the group dynamic.  Bringing them in is an invitation to having your crew turn on each other or be manipulated by the heroes.  After all my eliminations I was left with twelve potential resources.  Before forming any plan it is key to know what you have available. 

  With all my data points consolidated I started coming up with my plans.  Yes I do mean plans plural.  I always have a main plan, a backup plan, and an emergency plan.  My main plan for this job was to have Vortex use her portals to get the team directly inside the building.  Then Repulsor would put up one of his force fields to keep out any incoming heroes.  There was only a fifteen percent chance a hero would show up capable of piercing the shield in under twenty minutes.  Brickhouse was chosen for her strength and invulnerability.  This was to handle anyone that might be trapped in the force field with us.  The key to this plan was to enter quickly get as many artifacts as we could and then get out hopefully before we even hit the news.  My main plan is always the best, but I am rarely able to use it.  Case in point Vortex declined because she was trying to go straight and Repulsor had already signed on for another job. 

  My backup plan was not as clean.  For this plan we would buy tickets and go in as attendees.  Pulse owes me a favor so I knew that I could get her on board.  She would take out the alarms and security cameras so there would be no footage of us without our masks.  That would not be a major concern for my cohorts, but I have never been caught and enjoy having my identity remain secret.  Brickhouse could still handle the guards while I bagged the goods.  Without Repulsor I gave us only five minutes to grab and start getting out.  This meant exiting out the back door and into our getaway van.  The van was loaded with my illusion tech so we could change the appearance and plates anytime we got out of sight.  This plan had far more risk, but still had a ninety-five percent chance of working.

  This was a simple plan and should not have gone wrong so of course it did.  In the exhibit room Brickhouse pushed back the guards and I started grabbing the items on my list starting with my dad’s helmet.  When I reached for the Golden Asp’s amulet I was almost crushed by Brickhouse being flung across the room and through the display.  This was the worst case in my plans, but was something I had taken into account.  A man that could only be Champion’s son was posing with energy radiating off him in a bright glow.  There was an entire section of the exhibit dedicated to his father who had recently fallen saving the world.  It was time for the emergency plan. 

     I yelled out orders to Brickhouse and Pulse while moving on my escape plan.  I knew they would only last moments against Champion Jr, but that would be enough.  I hit a button on my watch and it wrapped me in an invisibility illusion.  While the hero was distracted I slipped out the side door and took off in my van.  This was going to hurt my reputation.  Having a failed job would make it hard to hire resources next time. Abandoning my crew would mean the price and quality would both be impacted for months to come.  It also is never good to have people out there with a grudge against you.  It was not my cleanest job, but as I stare over at my father’s helmet on my shelf I am happy to say it was a success because as always I considered all of the variables.  

Impact

Fiction Fragment Friday

Sometimes I don’t know where the inspiration for these comes from. I am just so happy that after years of sitting down and freezing up I can now just sit down and write without hesitation. It brings a fulfillment I can’t really put to words. This week I got an image stuck into my head and it is the first few lines of this story. It amused me and gave me something to explore. I hope you enjoy this story because I think it is in the top five fiction fragment Friday’s I have done. Also if you didn’t catch it I did an update on the blog here Monday about current projects and thoughts.


  “Hey you OK down there?”  Farmer Stevens head peered over the edge of the giant impact crater in his back forty.  He stared at the man who inhabited the crater with a strange blend of curiosity and disgust.  The extremely tight fitting costume hung off this individual shredded to the point of indecency. 

  A groan cam from out of the crater and the noticeably injured man tried to get to his feet.  “Where am I?”  It came out hoarse and he choked on a bit of blood in his mouth.  He winced at the pain of taking a deep breath and knew that at-least one rib was broken.  Standing sent waves of pain over his body.

  “Rural Missouri.  I’d tell you the name of the town but a big city superhero like you won’t have ever heard of it.  Tell you what why don’t you come on in and get yourself cleaned up.  Look like you can use a rest too.  I just gone one request of ya.”

  “Thank you.”  Just speaking hurt.  “What is your request?”

  “Well could ya grab what’s left of your cape off a my flattened tractor there and wrap it around your waist?  I know ya probably saved the world or sum’n but see I got a teenage daughter in the house.  Bad enough one of my fields is ruined and I need a new tractor.  I don’t need her seeing your unmentionable dangly bits too.  She’s an impressionable age ya know?”

  He looked down over the remains of his costume.  There really was very little left of it other than scraps and boots.  He sighed and immediately regretted it as pain shot through his body.  He stumbled and almost fell from the sensation.  Instead he pushed through the pain to grab what was left of his cape and wrap it around himself like a towel.  His cape was actually the strongest part of his costume and it was heat resistant enough to have survived reentry into the atmosphere.  “Thanks.  Usually I would just try to fly off, but I think I need to take you up on that offer.”

  “Probably for the best.  The way you’re stumblin you look like my brother down at the bar on a Friday night.  Not safe to drive not safe to fly I say.  Here let me help you out of there.”

  Farmer Stevens lay on the ground reaching down into the crater offering his hand to Guardian.  It took everything both men had to get him out of the crater.  Steven lay panting in exhaustion next to the hero who lay curled up in pain.  Finally after a minute the farmer spoke.  “You know I’ve never met an actual superhero before.  My son has a picture of you hanging up on his wall.  You know in my day we looked up to athletes and actors.  How is a dad supposed to be a role model these days when there are people like you out there fighting off invasions or saving cats from trees?  Heck you can fly.  A guy like me I can’t even afford to buy a plan ticket and fly the old fashioned way unless it’s been a good harvest.”  He nodded to the crater.  “Between the loss of crop and having to replace that tractor you landed on this certainly isn’t going to be one of those years.”

  “I’m sorry.  Surely insurance will take care of that.”

  “Nah they call it act of Superhero.  Sure they offer superhero collateral damage insurance, but I didn’t take that.  What’s the chances of that happening in the middle of nowhere Missouri?  Apparently a lot better than I thought.”  He stood and offered the hero his hand.  He wrapped the mans arm over his shoulder and started walking him towards the house.

  “It would have been a lot worse if that asteroid had hit.”

  “Oh I’m sure it would have been.  Look I don’t mean to be complaining.  I know you super people do your best and you try to make sure no one gets hurt while you are doing it.  These insurance and construction companies though don’t quite worry about us little guys.  There are a lot of people making a lot of money off your collateral damage.”

  “I never knew that.”

  “Of course not.  Why would you?  You folks are a force of nature.  Saving the world or fightin bad guys.  You blow through and move on to the next big thing.  We don’t have that option.  We’re the folks left to live down here and deal with the aftermath.  Ya know that’s why I became a farmer?  My wife and I were in the big city once.  Had a Laser or a death ray or some such thing slice right through our apartment.  Was a foot away from my daughters crib.  Too close for comfort so we packed up and moved.”

  “I do everything I can to make sure innocent bystanders don’t get hurt.”

  “Sure, but no body is perfect.  It ain’t your fault when a villain attacks you do what you can.  I don’t really know if there is anything that could fix things.  Not everyone out there is you though.  They aren’t all as powerful or responsible.  If you can’t keep everyone safe taking out the bad guys then what hope do the other heroes have?”  The two made their way up the steps onto the porch and sat on the bench to rest.  “You know there are support groups out there for folks that lost people in these battles and can’t get over their anger?  Here in Missouri we got a Governor running on an anti-super powers platform.”

  “I didn’t know that.”  The hero looked defeated.  His eyes stared down at his hands in his lap.  “What am I supposed to do?  I have these powers and I can’t just let villains go around killing people or meteors crash into the Earth.”

  “Hope you don’t think I have the answer for you.  I’m not sure there really is one.  What I do know is that cape isn’t covering your dangley bits when you sit down so I’m going to go in and get you some sweatpants before I bring you in near my daughter or wife.”  The farmer stood and went into the house to both get the clothes and prepare his family for what he was bringing into the house. 

  The Guardian sat out on the porch staring at the crater in the farm field.  He decided when he was up to it he would come back with his strength and speed to fill in the hole.  He could reach out to one of his many rich superhero friends to replace the tractor.  “Maybe that’s the answer.  A charity with supers on the payroll using their powers to clean up after ourselves.”

  “That sounds like a great idea.”  The hero was so distracted in his own mind that he didn’t hear Stevens come out.  He jumped startled by the sudden voice and let out a gasp of pain.  “Careful there.  Here put these on and come get cleaned up.  The wife made Chicken and Dumplins for dinner and there is plenty for you to join us.”

     The hero stayed with the family overnight and recovered enough to fly home in the morning.  The next day after he left Farmer Stevens came out to see the crater had been filled in.  It wasn’t packed right and the soil used was poor for farming, but it was a nice gesture and it would save him time.  The new tractor that sat in his driveway with a thank you card attached however was the newest top of the line model.  It was far better than what had been crushed.  He smiled and looked up into the sky for a moment before getting on with his day.  He couldn’t wait to tell his son he could keep the autographed guardian poster and cancel the ebay auction they had going to replace the tractor. 

March Update 2021

It has been too long since I’ve done an update on various projects and creative endeavors. For now I’m keeping this focused on creative work and not things in my personal life.

Fear the Boot Game Notes

With this weeks release the weekly podcast that I record, edit, and release for patreon backers of Fear the Boot has reached one year old. I am proud to say that it has released on time every week without missing an episode no matter what was going on at the time. This is something I’m very proud of and plan to keep this track record going.

Fiction Fragment Fridays

I am enjoying writing these flash fictions and trying to stretch myself creatively. Some of these hold real potential to be developed into something much larger. Perhaps I should consolidate and edit them for release or submit final drafts of them. Now that I have plenty of content on this site I will be submitting Flash Fictions online to various markets. This was one of my goals with creating the site to begin with. I wanted one place I could point people back to when I have things published.

Ricochet

My NaNoWriMo novel editing process has not started and I need to fix that. I have focused on other projects and not given this the attention it deserves. That is going to change this month. I am going to be setting editing goals for myself and will provide updates here on the site on my progress.

Skies of Glass

On Valentines Day we released the third beta of the Skies of Glass Roleplaying game rules. Since then we have been getting good feedback and have defined the areas we want to work on. I will continue working with the other two creators on that project hoping to get to a releasable product soon. I would like to spend some time editing the Skies of Glass: Metropolis novel that I wrote as a serial fiction. I have the framework of a short story in that setting as well. I think it would be good to have additional Skies of Glass products available to release in support of the roleplaying game system.

Other Creative Endeavors

I am organizing an online D&D game and have been putting quite a bit of thought and writing into the setting. You may see some of this content adapted into future Fiction Fragment Fridays. Even though I have a face for podcasting I still have been debating on doing something on Youtube. Lego, Transformers, or comic books are all high on my list. I have debated on blog based reviews as well. I have a couple domains that I don’t currently use because the pandemic killed the concepts for them at the moment. I am trying to keep these urges to take on new projects clamped down for now because I want to see more completed before I start anything new.

The Breach

Fiction Fragment Friday

I am a Science Fiction Writer. I find that when I sit down to write it is almost also something that falls under that genre because that is where my passion it. Most of the media I consume is Science Fiction or Super Hero so it is only natural that would be what I produce as well. I never really got into Fantasy and it has really only been since discovering first Anne Rice and then Jim Butcher that I started reading Urban Fantasy. I of course read the Hobbit in junior high, and read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Silmarillion around the time the movies came out. Really though my first introduction to most tropes of the fantasy and magical genre came from Dungeons and Dragons within the past ten years or so.

I have written magic before this story, but it has always been short works like this and generally is also Urban Fantasy and not full fantasy. I need that grounding in the modern world I think. Maybe someday I will try to write pure fantasy, but it is not very likely. I love science and I think you can tell the passion in the writing. This weeks fiction fragment story however is an urban fantasy. I had an idea and I wanted to play with it a bit. This could be expanded to a full short story with a longer battle and more nuance. I think though I have just gotten this story out of my system by writing it and the most I might do is editing and cleanup. It might be worth a second draft.


  My car swerved through traffic on the highway going over a hundred miles an hour.  I could feel the spell collapsing and knew that there were only minutes left.  I cursed at the cars around me, but my anger was really focused on myself.  If more attention had been paid to the calender I would have realized that tonight was when the barriers between dimensions were the weakest.  Instead high priced dinners, shows, and various entertainment had been allowed to be a distraction from the work that needed to be done.  As I pulled into the my driveway I could feel the final layers of the spell shattering.  In seconds the doorway between dimensions would be open. 

  My basement was a scene of chaos.  Wind whipped around the room tossing books, papers, and boxes through the air.  I ducked as a large lamp flew directly at my head and shattered at the wall behind me.  The hole in reality before me was blindingly bright with energy crackling off of it.  Papers were burning and I was grateful that the gas pipes had not yet broken.  I was not as lucky when it came to the water pipes.  Water poured out into the basement covering the floor and being drawn into the swirling energy.

  I started chanting and felt my power flowing through me and out into the chaos.  I tried pushing back against the maelstrom, but found that it was like pushing against a hurricane.  My approach was not going to work.  A figure started to form inside the dimensional rip and was getting closer to crossing over.  There was so much energy in the air that it was hard to breathe.

  The flowing energy gave me an idea.  I was being pushed back by the force because I was trying to fight it.  I was like a wall that was being hit by a wrecking ball.  As my hands moved through the motions my chants shifted.  Instead of pushing back I become a conduit for the energy.  My body was wracked with pain as the power flowed into me.  I tried to push the power back out as quickly as it came in but it was just too much.  I imagined a needle and thread sewing up the rip in reality.  Pulling the breach closed.  It was delicate work and I dropped to me knees struggling to stay conscious as I took in more power than I was pushing back out. 

  There in the center of the rip a face came into focus and pushed into this reality.  The face grimaced in pain and I realized that even though he might be more powerful than me he was weak from breaking the barrier spells and pushing through reality.  Even struggling in pain there was no way I could mistake the face.  It was the one that I saw every morning in the mirror and it was angry.

  He grunted and screamed out in anger.  “You can’t keep me out forever.”

     “Maybe not, but your not getting through today.  This is my life now and I’m not going back.”  I took all the extra energy and focused it on him releasing it in one giant burst.  He was hurled back into the hellish dimension I had trapped him in six month before.  Pushing through the pain I finished sewing up the breach before he could regain his momentum.  I layered barrier after barrier over the breach.  They were not particularly complex or as strong as they would need to be but it was all I could manage before exhaustion overtook me.  I lay on the ground panting knowing that I had weeks of work ahead of me.  It was worth it.  I had fought my way out of a hell dimension to steal this mans life and after seeing the pleasures this world had to offer I would do anything to keep it.  I had to be more careful though because I knew how strong the motivation of escaping my former world could be. 

Voice

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week is a huge week for the space program. The Perseverance rover has landed on Mars after a year long journey. This is far from the first rover to land on Mars and each one brings with it new technology. What made this landing extra historical is the both the method of landing and the experiments that will be performed. Instead of the landing methods previously used this landing used rockets to slow the decent and dropped the rover itself to the ground by cables from the floating platform. It then flew off and crashes safely away from the rover. The experiment that has me most excited for this rover is the helicopter drone. We have never flown on Mars and it is not insignificant to make this work. The gravity and atmosphere are very different from Earth. If this flight is successful it opens up many options for future trips and exploration. Finally the rover itself has a microphone and will be recording sound on Mars for the first time.

What does all of this have to do with this weeks story? Nothing at all. I thought about going back to my Mars mission story for this week, but I think I have reached the point with that where I need to actually think out the whole crew and do some world building. I have a thread going through those stories and I want to seriously explore that. So this week instead a quick and possibly cute story that I have no idea where the inspiration came from.


   “Ok it’s time to write.”  I stared at the cursor blinking on my screen.  “As soon as I let the dogs out.  Well once I let them out then I’ll just have to stop to let them back in. No point in starting to just get distracted.  I could watch a YouTube video instead.  Ok, I’ll let the dogs out, watch YouTube, let the dogs in, and THEN I’ll write.  Yeah, that makes sense.”

   “Who do you think you’re kidding?  You’ll just find another excuse after that.”  I jumped and hit my laptop table sending my soda spilling all over the floor.  My mind bounced between finding the source of the voice in my empty house or grabbing a towel to clean up the mess.  The voice was far more concerning, but since I didn’t see anyone, I let me instincts kick in and rushed to the bathroom for the towel.  The dogs were already fast at work eating the ice by the time I started soaking up my drink. 

   My pug Ellie looked up at me.  “See I bet you already forgot that you were going to write.”

   My terrier Wally looked over at her.  “You’re too hard on him.  He’s a busy guy.”

   “Yeah, the TV won’t watch itself and that chair might float away if he didn’t hold it down.”

   “HEY.  See if I give you any treats anytime soon.”   I was incensed that my dog would talk about me so harshly.  Then I realized that my dogs were talking.  I stumbled back falling on my butt scooting away from them.  “It’s finally happened.  I’ve lost my mind.”

   Ellie trotted over to me and tilted her head to look at me.  “Wait you can understand us?”

   “Uhm yeah you’re speaking English.”

   Wally ran over spinning in circles and jumping.  “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.  You can hear us, you can hear us.”

   “Oh, calm down you hyperactive halfwit.”

   “No this is super exciting.  He can hear us.  You’re just being a grumpy pants.”

   “Grumpy pants?  We’re dogs we don’t even wear pants.”

   My head kept turning back and forth between my two pets.  My jaw and eyes were both wide open.  “What is going on here?”

   “Don’t ask us.  We’re just dogs.  You’re the one that can suddenly hear us.  I bet you use that as an excuse to not write too.”

   “Don’t listen to her.  You’re going to write a super good story.  I just know it even though I don’t know how to read.”  Wally jumped up on my lap and started licking my face.  “Who’s a good human?”

   I scratched behind his ear.  “Thanks boy. At least someone has faith in me.”

   “He also had faith that he could lick his butt hole a few minutes ago.  Spoiler alert he was right about that one.  Enjoy those butt licks.”

   “Gotta pee, gotta lick, gotta pee, gotta lick.”  I almost fell backwards from the onslaught.

   “Ok, guys time for you to go outside.”

   Ellie trotted to the back door.  “Bout time.”

     I opened the back door and let the dogs rush out into the yard.  Their bickering was driving me crazy, so I shut the door trying to drown out the sound.  It was a nice day out so I could leave them out for a bit trying to make sense out of what was happening.  I slumped into my chair wondering if I had truly lost my mind.  “Wait a minute.  This could be amazing.  I could finally know what they really want.  If I can talk to other animals I could make a fortune.  Be an animal psychiatrist or a famous trainer.  This could be the best thing that ever happened to me.”  I rushed to the back door and let them in.  “Are you guys ready figure this out.”  They barked in return and my heart sank.  “You can’t talk anymore can you?”  They barked.  

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