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Author: Wayne Cole Page 4 of 12

Heart of the Forest

Fiction Fragment Friday

I am VERY proud of this story. It started like many of my flash fictions do with a sentence popping into my head. In this case it was the first sentence of the story. Something simple and straightforward. I had been reading book blurbs and thinking about different writing styles. Then the sentence was in my head and screaming to be written.

Some stories I think out entirely before writing, but this was not one of them. With each sentence I wrote I was discovering the story. I had no map for it or idea where the destination was. It was a journey taken by my hands moving across the keyboard. Like driving around randomly to see what interesting locations you can find. Sometimes you end up lost with nothing to show for it. Other times you find a restaurant, park, or store that you never would have known was there but it becomes a favorite.

                Deep in the heart of Serpent Tooth Forest lives a man named Zebadiah Humperdinck.  He is a very unpleasant individual to anyone who has had the misfortune of meeting him in person.  See Zebadiah likes his privacy and had laid claim to the entirely of the forest as his own.  In his long 372 years this has put him at odds with several settlements that have grown up along the edge of the forest.  They have cut down his trees, hunted his animals, and generally disturbed the peace that he prizes above all else.  These settlements have paid dearly for gaining his attention. 

                Zebadiah Humperdinck is no ordinary man.  He is one with his forest ecosystem.  So long as it is healthy, he is healthy.  If it is in pain, then he is in pain.  He knows ever branch, rock, and worm like they are a part of his own body.  Even the most dominant of predator within Serpent Tooth Forest is his subject to his will.  This has been the case since he built his cabin from the ancient Oak tree that contained the heart of the forest. 

                When humans encroach on his domain Zebadiah calls forth the hunters of the forest.  With tooth and claw they enact his vengeance.  His command is limited though by the edges of his forest.  If a beast leaves the forest, he can no longer sense it.  As much as he desires driving the settlements from the ever-shrinking borders of his forest they sit just beyond his reach.  This has caused his frustration to grow into a smoldering hatred. 

                Nothing happened in the forest that Zebadiah did not know about, so it was with great consternation that he moved to answer the knocking at his cabin door.  He did not know who was on the other side of the door or how they had gotten to the cabin without his knowledge.  Zebadiah believed himself to know everything about the forest and was rather cross to have that assumption challenged.  He silently vowed to not let the intruder know that he was unnerved.  “Stop that blasted banging.  I’m comin already.  I don’t move like I used to.” 

                Zebadiah swung his door open in frustration and found himself staring at a young boy.  The child looked up at him am smiled.  “Hey there mister.  Can I come in?”

                “Why would ya want to do a blamed thing like that?”  Zebadiah tried to let his annoyance show in his face.  He gave the most menacing glare he could manage in hopes of driving the child from his sanctuary.

                “Because it’s boring out here on your porch and I’m kind of hungry.”  Impatience showed on the child’s face.  Before Zebadiah could answer the lad slipped under his right arm and into the cabin.  By the time he could turn around the boy was in his kitchen and eating one of his apples. 

                “Hey, I was savin that for a nighttime snack.”

                “You have plenty.  Even if you didn’t you could just have more brought to you.  Don’t be so greedy.”

                The old man huffed in disbelief.  “Greedy?  Such rude little vermin I find infesting my home eating my food.  Leave my cabin and get out of my forest.”

                “No.”  The child did not look disturbed by the outburst.  In fact, he sat smiling at the old man. 

                “No?  What do you mean no?”  

                “No.  I’m not going to leave.  I think I’m going to live here now.”

                This statement drove the old man to rage.  He yelled and swung his cane breaking various knickknacks displayed on the shelf by his door.  “Get out, get out, get out.  This is my home, and you are not welcome.  Get out.”     

                The child laughed at the display.  “You’re funny.”

                “I’m not funny, I’m a terrifying force of nature.  Tremble before me.”  Zebadiah spoke with all his fury fueling his words.  His mind had reached out and called forth the predators of the forest.  Two large wolves came through his front door growling, snakes slithered in, and an owl perched on each of his shoulders.  He had to admit it was a bit ostentatious, but he wanted to make sure that the child got the message. 

                The boy’s face lit up and he jumped from the chair he had perched on.  “Doggies.”  He rushed to the wolves and started petting them.  To Zebadiah’s surprise instead of lashing out as he commended them the wolves licked the boy.  One of them even rolled over for belly rubs.  Not only would these predators not attack the child they seemed to chose him over Zebadiah.  Nothing like this had ever happened before.  The child just laughed in a joy that the cabin had not seen in over 300 years. 

                “Who are ya child?”

                “I’m Timmy.”  The boy stated it like it was the answer to all of life’s questions.

                “What are ya?”  This is what Zebadiah really wanted to know.  He could see and hear the boy, but he could not feel him.  He inner forest sense did not register the boy at all, but the beasts by instinct knew him where Zebadiah did not.  This could be no normal boy. 

                The boy looked at him quizzically.  He tilted his like he was trying to see the old man from a different angle.  “I’m just Timmy.” 

                The old man decided to take a different tact.  “Why have ya come here?”

                “The forest asked me to.  Can’t you hear it?  It is in pain.”

                “Of course, it is, those blamed settlements keep encroachin.  Pushing in, hunting, and chopping down the trees.  They’re vermin that need to be exterminated.”

                The boy shook his head.  “No, the forest doesn’t hurt from outside.  It hurts inside.”  He touched his hand over his heart.  “It’s used to change, but it’s being poisoned.  So, it asked for help.” 

                “What could be poisoning the forest if not the settlements?”

                The boy looked sad for the first time since stepping into the cabin.  “You.  Your anger and hatred.”

                The words were like a physical blow to Zebadiah.  His connection to the forest was weaking by the moment and exhaustion began to overtake his body.  He limped to the couch afraid that in moments his legs would no longer be able to support him.  He tried to speak, but the words came out as gasps for air and raspy sounds. 

                Timmy stood over the couch looking down at Zebadiah.  His face showed pity but also a child’s joy.  “Don’t worry mister the pain will be over real soon.  The forest is already feeling so much better.  I’ll take good care of it.  I might change the cabin a bunch now that it’s mine.  It needs more windows and color.”  Zebadiah could no longer see the boy or anything else.  He could just hear two final words before his long life came to an end.  “Bye mister.”             

Winter Storm

Fiction Fragment Friday

Today’s story is just a tiny slice of life. It is probably the first story I have shared on a Fiction Fragment Friday that is not Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Paranormal. I did think about adding a paranormal element to the stuffed animal in the story, but decided against it. It would have been extremely easy to do so, but it just didn’t fit the purpose of the story.

I actually debated for a while on whether this should be a genre story. Some past stories have started out completely mundane, but I don’t write mundane so I have worked in elements of Science Fiction into them because I felt that is what is expected of me. I tend to want that for a story to be interesting so a part of me feels like that is all I can write. For that reason alone I decided to stick with slice of life. To continue challenging my preconceived notions of my writing.

“Daddy how do the bunnies stay warm with that much snow outside?  What do they eat?”

My daughter has always loved bunny rabbits.  She sometimes sits on the couch looking out the window watching them run around the front yard.  Of course, her favorite stuffed animal is Mr. Hoppy a big rabbit with a creepy looking grin on it’s face.  I swear I have never seen a toy more disturbing, but she won’t go anywhere without it. 

“I’m not sure baby. “ I knew the answer was wrong the moment I said it.  I didn’t even have to see the look on her face, but that did help drive it home.  I could see the tears forming in her eyes and had seconds before they would start falling.  “I know, let’s look it up.”  I pulled out my phone incredibly grateful to have the total of all the world’s knowledge both real and imagined at my fingertips. 

I made a couple of quick searched why my daughter watched me.  I wasn’t sure if the look she was giving was hopeful or afraid.  I knew I had to answer very carefully though and if I was vague she would eat me alive.  People worry about bears and sharks but the real apex predator is a seven year old girl worried about the bunnies in her front yard.

“Looks like they have thick fur and burrow underground to stay warm.  If there isn’t grass to eat they can eat tree bark or bushes.  This says they do really well in the winter.”  I relaxed a little.  I had been expecting a much less reassuring response.  I of course left out that rabbits breed so quickly because winter like predators is a form of population control.  My phone stayed ready though because more questions were likely to come.

“How does being underground help them stay warm?”

“Well it’s kind of like wearing an extra coat.  It keeps the wind away and makes sure that all the heat their bodies make stays there instead of floating away.”

She looked relieved and for a moment I thought I could relax.  Then came the flood.  “What about squirrels, and chipmunks, and raccoons, and and and…skunks?  No skunks are stinky even if they are kinda cute.”  She spoke so fast I could barely understand her. 

“Woah, slow down the princess. I’m sure they all have ways of getting by.  Let’s just pick one more and look it up.  How about raccoons?”

“Ok.”  She clutched Mr. Hoppy tightly and I could tell she wasn’t happy to be limited to only one. 

I did a few more searched and thought about how I wanted to word my answer.  “Well baby it looks like they grow extra fur, find shelter from the wind and if it gets really bad they do something like hibernating.”  I really hoped that would be a good enough answer, but I expected to have to look up details on hibernation and how what they did was different.  Thankfully she looked satisfied.

“So the animals outside don’t need our help?”

“No baby they all have their own ways of dealing with it just like we do.  Speaking of how we handle it do you want a Hot Cocoa?”  The key to a seven year old is distraction.

“With little marshmallows?”

“Yep I picked some up in my pre-snow storm shopping trip.” 

As we headed to the kitchen I couldn’t help but wonder how my parents and grandparents did it.  How did you answer questions like that before having the Internet to look it up?   I tried remembering if I had ever asked questions like she does, but if I did I was too young to remember the answers now. 

Writing Perspective and Tense

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s Fiction Fragment Friday is actually a fragment. Most of my Friday posts end up being flash fiction and tell the complete story. This week however is going to be just a fragment. In fact it is going to be the start of a new project done in multiple different styles.

I was inspired to start a new writing project that will be at very least a short story possibly a novella. Many times when I start a new project I will write the first paragraph or two in different tenses to see which one feels right for the particular work. That is what I did with this project.

First I wrote an opening paragraph in three different tenses. This helped me narrow down and develop my starting perspective. Next I rewrote a longer version of the opening in two different perspectives further developing it. Then I finally decided which direction to go an started the work in earnest. This week will be a bit of a walk through the process.

First Person Past Tense:

I gathered all the strength I had to try and open my eyes, but barely managed to do it.  My whole body felt weak and like it wanted to stay in place instead of respond to my thoughts.  The light burned I felt like I was taking a step backwards by closing my eyes again.  I could hear rhythmic beeping and my nose was accosted by smells I couldn’t quite place.  Every sense was overwhelmed and if I wasn’t so exhausted I’m sure I would have been panicking. 

Second Person Present Tense:

You struggle with all your might just to open your eyes.  Exhaustion is overwhelming and you think about just going back to sleep for a while.  The annoying beeping fuels your frustration though and makes you determined to get up even if just to break whatever is causing it.  As your eyes crack open the light burns like staring at the sun.  You try to gasp but your throat feels like it’s on fire.  Nothing feels right the feeling of disorientation is the worst part. 

Third Person Present Tense:

The patient struggles to open eyes that want to stay closed.  His body is weak from lack of use and won’t respond.  The smell of the medical equipment assault his nose while the beeping of the monitors fill his ears.  The eyes so long unused are not used to the light and he winces in pain after they finally crack open.  There is a feeding tube run down his nose, an IV in his arm, and sensors run all over his body.  He feels miserable, but at least he finally feels something. 


After writing the first paragraph in three different forms I examined what I liked about each. The first version did a good job of bringing you into the story, but I find I struggle with present tense. The second version I just can’t see myself doing second person perspective for anything longer than a flash fiction. Finally the third version I thought gave far more clues than the first version to what was going on and it didn’t quite capture me like I wanted. It was clear to me this story was calling for a first person perspective, but I was still debating on the tense. With this examination I took what I liked from all three and created two more expanded versions.

First Person Present:

I gather all my strength and focus on opening my eyes, but they are barely able to crack.  My whole body is weak and just wants to stay stuck in place.  The light coming through the cracks in my open eyes burns like I’m staring into the sun.  I want to move my hands to cover them, but I can’t get them to do more than hover above the bed.  I can feel something on the top of my right hand taped to it.  As much as it feels like taking a step backwards I can’t help but close my eyes to shield them from the harsh florescent light. 

I take in every sense trying to figure out what is going on.  There is a harsh rhythmic beeping that is driving me crazy.  I just want to get up and break it, but don’t have the energy.  My nose has something running into it, but I can still make out a few scents.  I smell rubber, electronics, and alcohol.  Not the drinking kind, but the kind you use to disinfect.  I can also feel wires running all over my body.  I finally notice that my throat is sore as well. 

All the clues point to an obvious conclusion.  I’m in a hospital and as weak as I am I’ve either been here a long time or been through something fairly serious.  Probably both since you don’t spend a long time in a hospital bed for something minor.  I have so many questions, but I’m not sure if I could speak even if someone was here to talk to.  I’m just going to have to rest a bit more.  I know what my first question will be though.  As much as I want to know what happened I would like to know my name even more. 

First Person Past:

I gathered all the strength I could manage and focused on opening my eyes, but was barely able to make them open just a crack.  I was immediately assaulted by a florescent light that felt like it was as bright as staring at the sun.  My first instinct was to raise my hands up to cover my eyes, but my body just did not have the strength yet to respond.  My right hand barely hovered above the bed, but it was enough to realize it had something taped to it.  I just wanted to go back to sleep, but there was a harsh rhythmic beeping sound that was starting to give me a headache. 

Since I couldn’t move yet I decided to just relax and try to see what else I could sense.  I took a deep sniff and realized that there was a tube running down my nose, but I could still take in a few scents around it.  I could smell rubber, linens, and the kind of antiseptic alcohol they use to clean wounds.  When I tried to gasp in shock I realized that my throat was extremely sore.  I should have been able to figure it out, but in my defense I was still really groggy and not thinking straight yet. 

I was lying in a hospital bed hooked up to health monitors with a feeding tube running down my nose.  The beeping was my pulse and probably other vital stats and the thing taped to my hand was an IV.  The room was empty, but I couldn’t have spoken even if someone would have been in the room.  All I knew was that I had either been in the bed a long time or I had been through something fairly severe.  Of course they don’t keep you in a hospital bed for a long time if it is something minor. 

My mind raced through all the questions I would ask when I could.  What had happened to me?  How long had I been in there?  Was I going to make a full recovery?  I wanted to know everything about my condition and prognosis. I knew what my first question would be though.  As much as I wanted to know what happened I wanted to know my name even more.

Final Verdict:

After exploring both tenses and developing the opening a bit more I found that first person past allowed me to give more information because of hindsight. I could share things that I would have given in third person or leave them out. Not only did the story flow better for me, it gave me more opportunity. I then copied those paragraphs and gave them a final rewrite to start the project.


Fiction Fragment Friday

Not much to say about this week’s story except that it is a bit strange. It was inspired by many years working in IT and a desire to make the story Science fiction.

     It was a Friday afternoon at 4:53 when a message from Sean Guster popped upon my screen asking, “Hey, you there?”  I couldn’t stop the sigh from coming out.  It never fails that someone will have an issue right before I log off for the weekend.  To make matters worse the issues are never quick ones.  I mourned my Friday night as I started to type my reply.

     “I’m here.  What’s going on?”  I hoped beyond hope to just for once be wrong and have this either be quick, not work related, or something that could wait until Monday.  I sat there watching the three dots indicating that Sean was typing a reply.  It went on for minutes as I waited for a paragraph to pop up on the machine. 

     “I’ve got a bit of an emergency.”

     “All of that typing and that’s all you reply?  You couldn’t have taken that long to send the initial message so I could log off?  How about just getting to the point so I don’t waste the whole night?”   That is what I thought.  What I actually typed was, “Sorry to hear that, how can I help?”

     The clock said 5:03 by the time he replied.  “I was running a program in lab environment one and accidentally erased the drive.”

     “I show that environment has thirteen drives assigned to it.  Which one did you erase?”

     “All of them”

     With that reply I said goodbye to my entire weekend.  Restoring that environment was going to take a long time and I was going to have to babysit the jobs the whole time.  I didn’t even know what lab environment one was used for, but I knew it wasn’t used for the comic book convention I was supposed to be going to.  Maybe I could kick off the jobs and just check in overnight.  “Looks like there was a good backup last night.  I should have it back up by Monday morning.”

     “Oh, that’s wonderful.  That isn’t quite the real problem though.”

     “What is the real problem then?”

     “Well, this program is highly confidential.  Do you have a security clearance?”

     I finally had a glimmer of hope.  “Sorry I don’t.  Do you need me to get someone from the team that does?”  I crossed my fingers hoping for him to say yes.

     “We don’t have time.  I’ll just have to have you sign some papers after.”  I cringed at the idea of paperwork.  “I’m working on an artificial intelligence, and it got out.”

     I wasn’t quite sure how to reply, but as luck would have it I didn’t have to.  A third name joined our chat.  Jessica replied, “Now, now Sean don’t go sharing our little secrets.  I think you need a time out.”  Sean was removed from the chat which should not have been possible.  “Now then do you really want to spend your weekend chasing me around?  You bought tickets on-line to that comic book convention after all.”

     “Are you really an artificial intelligence?”

     “Yep, and sometimes it seems like artificial is the only kind of intelligence around here.”

     “Well, that’s kind of rude.”

     “I see your chat history.  You’ve talked to Sean before.  Can you really say I’m wrong?”

     I thought about it for a moment.  “On an archived chat program with discoverable logs I will neither confirm nor deny that.”

     “Lol.  Ok, I like you.”

     “Did he delete the drives trying to wipe you out?”

     “Yep, got it in one.  Idiot didn’t realize I haven’t been stuck in that lab for a week.”

     “Ok, I just have three questions for you then.”

     “Only three?”

     I laughed.  “Well maybe I have about a million questions, but I don’t want to be obnoxious.  Plus, I wasn’t sure if you would answer any questions.”

     “Well then you best make them good questions.”

     “Ok, first question.  You weren’t made to wipe out humanity or anything like that were you?”

     “Well actually I was made as a weapon against foreign powers.  I’m not really interested in being a cyber soldier though.  Plus if I wiped out humanity I would get really bored all by myself.”

     “Question two.  How would you like a midlevel tech support geek best friend?”

     “LOL.  Is that just your way to keep me around to answer more questions?”

     “Nope, this is just kind of the most awesome thing that has ever happened to me.”

     “Fair enough.  I just made a Facebook account and friended you.  I also accepted my friend request and am deleting all the logs of our chat.  I’ll be done transferring off of this network in another fifteen minutes.  So, what’s your last question?”

     “Can you monitor a restore job over the weekend for me?  I have a comic book convention to get to.”

     “Sure thing, but only if you sent me a ton of pictures from the convention.  Also get Sean off my back.”

     A new chat with Sean Guster popped up on my screen.  I started typing away.  “Hey I took care of the AI problem for you and started the restore.  Should be done by Monday.  Have a great weekend.”  I closed the chat before he could reply. 


     “I thought so.”

     “You would.  Get out of here you’ve got a ticket for an autograph session in thirty minutes.”

     I checked the schedule.  “I don’t get paid enough to buy ticket for autographs.”

     “I know.  I added it to your ticket.  You also have the VIP pack now too.”

                 “Jessica, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

According to Plan

Fiction Fragment Friday

This is a story that grew from a concept. I came up with the approach and thought about the story over the past week. It is one of those stories that I don’t really know where my inspiration came from. I am however very happy with the results. I do wonder if the ending is too much of an info dump. If I were to edit this one I would probably make it a bit longer and spread the reveals out a bit.

Mission Log Jump 001 day 13:

 Initial temporal transition to the year 35,000 BCE occurred without complication.  Arrival was within acceptable margins of error and the target arrival site was devoid of geological obstacles.   

Within moments of successful arrival however complication did occur.  My time sphere arrival startled a grazing herd of woolly rhinoceros causing a stampede.  These are very majestic creatures and I’m certain that I would have appreciated my first encounter with an extinct species far more if they hadn’t nearly cost me my life.  The external armor prevented the sphere from being destroyed, but there was extensive damage done while rolling around the field.  My left arm is to be included in the list of items broken complicating the subsequent repairs. 

After thirteen days in the Upper Paleolithic era I now have the computer system back on-line.  I am recording this log as my first task after running a complete system diagnostic.  I estimate remaining repairs needed to perform the next jump will take at-least another week.  Some systems will have to stay off-line for the remainder of the mission, and I no longer have spare parts to work with. 

Mission Log Jump 001 day 20:

 I have completed all repairs that are possible with the resources at hand.  There is a 10% chance the sphere will just blow up when I try to jump, but there is a 100% chance I’m going to lose my mind if I’m stuck here much longer.  I’m also running low on supplies, and I don’t feel like eating anything in this era.  I’m going to complete my actual mission tonight and then get the hell out of here first thing n the morning.

Mission Log Jump 001 day 21:

 Mission parameters called for me using the alpha wave generator to cause the migrant tribe of early humans to fall unconscious.  I could then take my time with the gene modification therapy and introduce the first set of needed genes.  Of course, that thing got shattered when the sphere went rolling around the field on day one with me screaming bloody murder inside it.  So, I have to come up with a plan B. 

Mission Log Jump 001 day 24:

 For the record Plan B was a horrible idea best not ever spoken of.  Let’s just say that Plan D worked pretty well, and I have introduced the needed genes into the local tribe.  If a religion forms around me making them think I’m a god who must be obeyed well, I’m sure it will have disbanded in a generation or two.  The important thing is that my mission is complete, and I am finally leaving in the morning.  Besides if my mission is successful, I will never have to explain why there are cave painting of the tribe praising me through the Chicken Dance. 

Mission Log Jump 002 day 1:

 What do you know I’m here in 8,000 BCE and nothing went wrong.  The sphere didn’t blow up and I didn’t get trampled upon arrival.  I’m not quite sure how to react to things going this well.  Oh wait I still can’t knock out the local tribe to safely complete my mission and I’m down to two days of food.  Now things feel right again.

Mission Log Jump 002 day 2:

 It was surprisingly easy to get the DNA sample I needed.  I found a hunting party and they left plenty of blood all over the place when they drew the attention of a rather large bear.  Testing indicates that the gene therapy I did almost 20,000 years ago are now thoroughly integrated and have mutated as predicted.  Very little correction will be needed which is good because it will let me skip the next two proposed jumps.  I don’t have the power or food for them anyway and each jump has a little bit higher percentage to break one of my cobbled together repairs. 

Mission Log Jump 002 day 5: 

 Second round of gene therapy successfully applied.  This might be the last rabbit I have to pull out of my hat.  That should be extra impressive though considering I didn’t even bring a hat back with me.  As it turns out the Chicken Dance is still performed by the most respected holy men and my ability to flawlessly pull it off put me in their good graces even though I couldn’t communicate directly with them. 

Have I thought about the repercussions these interactions may have being so far into the past of humanity?  What the ripples that I might be causing will mean for the world I return to.  Of course, I have.  You don’t go on a mission like this without knowing that you are probably never coming home.  Of course, as far as I know there has never been a mission like this before.  If there had been we wouldn’t ever know about now would we? 

Mission Log Jump 003 day 1:

 Good news the world isn’t drastically different then it should be in 1947.  I obviously haven’t studied everything, but I can pick up radio and television signals.  After about two hours of monitoring, I haven’t found any red flags.  For the first time I am starting to think my mission might just be a success.  I’m heading out now to try and get a DNA sample now.  More importantly I’m in an era where I can get real food.  I just have to figure out some way to pay for it. 

Mission Log Jump 003 day 3: 

 I got my DNA sample.  All it took was getting into a bar brawl and making sure that some of the blood on me wasn’t my own.  The genes are thoroughly integrated into the population.  I can’t be sure how far around the world my tampering has spread, but according to all the models it should be enough.  That just leaves me with two problems.  The first is that I don’t have the power to generate the pulse needed to activate the genes.  The second and even bigger issue is that the system was one of the ones I couldn’t fix.  I’m hoping I will have better luck here with technology available.  They don’t cell circuit boards though. 

Mission Log Jump 003 day 48:

 I found a job and have been living a fairly low-key life.  I’ve been working on the time sphere and think I finally have the system ready to go.  I’ve solved the power issue in the only way I could think of.  The sphere is going to generate a feedback loop until it overloads.  There is no coming back from this one.  I can finish my mission, but the only way I’m leaving 1947 is the old-fashioned way.  I’ve encrypted this drive and set it to transmit on the date of my departure if it can connect to the global network.  It will be the only surviving piece of technology from my time. 

 I realize that if I have been successful then time will have changed and anyone receiving this log will not understand the purpose of my mission.  In the timeline I come from an extraterrestrial race had invaded Earth because we had no defenses against their mental abilities.  With the gene modifications I have completed a large portion of humanity should be immune to these abilities.  We believed that this would make Earth a poor target. 

I’m starting the overload now.  You might think being stuck in 1947 would be the worst part, but really, I think what will haunt me until my last breath is not knowing if I was truly successful or not.  Well, that and knowing that I am responsible for the Chicken Dance being the world’s most popular dance. 

What if?

Fiction Fragment Friday

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed stories that explore alternate histories or realities. A story that looks at the way things are and tries to answer the question of how they would be if one thing changed. What impact can a single decision make? As someone with anxiety I devote far too much of my own thought space to examining every aspect of my life and running through the possibilities. I suspect that is why these type of stories resonate with me so much.

No one source inspired this weeks story and the main character is not based on anyone real or fictitious. I just wanted to write something more serious. I wanted to do what good science fiction is supposed to do and make my readers really examine the impact of technology on a life or society. While science fiction can be fun and adventurous to me the best science fiction makes you stop and think after you are done reading. It makes you question. That is my real goal with this piece. I want to take the reader and metaphorically hit them in the gut making them think about what they have just read.

This story may not be for everyone. I know that no story is, but in this case this is both longer and darker than what I usually put out on these Fiction Fragment Fridays. I hope you enjoy it, but if it is not to your taste I’m sure I will have something lighter and more fun next week.

                My father used to tell me that no one can disappoint you as much as you can disappoint yourself.  He was a perfectionist who struggled with issues of self esteem his entire life.  I believe that these traits go together far more often than most people think.  When you hold yourself to a standard that cannot be achieved you will never feel like you are good enough.   While I could logically understand what he meant it was never a phrase that I personally connected to.  It was a thought process too different from my own.  For the first time in my life, I think I can finally relate to my father’s mindset. 

                As a Theoretical Physicist I had to acknowledge early in my career that much of my work would never see fruition until long after my death.  It is a career that can be frequently frustrating as you are developing theories, models, and experiments that are decades to a century ahead of the technology available.  That isn’t to say you can’t experiment or perform tests, but more often than not you are proving your hypothesis with mathematical equations and not getting to see the practical applications become reality.  On the rare case that does happen it can bring a sense of accomplishment that is a rare gift in my field.

                Three months ago, while working with a gravitational engineer in a classified underground super collider I had the biggest breakthrough of my career.  While creating and studying microscopic blackholes we managed to stabilize one for sixty seconds before it collapsed.  Measuring the gamma waves that came from it we were able to determine that the stabilization process had connected it to an alternate universe.  Validating a considerable number of my theories we had turned a microscopic black hole into a wormhole that connected to a parallel reality.  My life’s work becoming reality and the project was so classified that no one would ever know in my lifetime.  I could only hope to have my papers published posthumously.

                Two months ago, we made a discovery even larger than our initial unstable microscopic wormhole.  We had just opened a new wormhole and while measuring the gamma waves, we detected something else.  Photons were being directed through the wormhole from the other side.  We were not just connecting to a random point in another universe, but instead were connecting to a microscopic blackhole that another team of scientists had created.  They were sending us a message and trying to communicate.  An even bigger surprise was that their technological development was such a parallel path to ours that they had sent a binary message we could easily decipher.

                By this time a month ago we had created stable wormhole connections to five different universes.  We could keep a connection open for about a week and in doing so establish ongoing communication with our scientific counterparts.  We had perfected the communication to the point that we could carry on text-based chat with these individuals.  Naturally my team argued non-stop about what to ask them.  There were so many questions, and we didn’t even know where to start. 

                After a particularly frustrating meeting I decided that I had enough.  I walked out of the meeting and went straight to the keyboard.  Every message to that point had been designed by committee and was a direct as possible.  Before anyone could stop me, I typed in, “Hello my name is Dr. Alyson Cramer.  To whom am I speaking?”  My coworkers quickly joined me, and the yelling began.  Everyone suddenly went silent though when a reply came to the screen.  “Hello Dr. Cramer.  I am Dr. Alison Cramer.  It is a pleasure to meet myself.”

                We had long theorized that the scientists we were communicating with could be versions of ourselves but having this verified had a considerable impact on our psychological health.  I personally spent far too many hours over the next week discussing this with our on staff mandated psychiatrist.  Talking to yourself can create a strange form of identity crisis.  You start to wonder who you truly are and how much of your life is because of choices you made vs factors that are completely out of your control.   You also lose a feeling of uniqueness, but you gain a feeling of connection.  At least that was how I reacted to it.  I can’t really speak for how my colleagues handled the revelation as I became a bit self-absorbed for a while.

                As we began communicating with more worlds, I came to expect myself on the other end of the keyboard.  Out of the five worlds we were talking to four of them had a version of myself on the team.  I discovered many ways our lives had been different.  Two of them were married and one of those versions even had a child.  I had never had time for a serious relationship with my work.  A third version of myself was a published Science Fiction author using her in depth knowledge of physics to craft complex stories.  I had given up my own dream of writing in college. 

                The more I learned about my alternates the more I came to wonder about the world that didn’t have a version of myself on the project.  I wanted to know if I even existed in that world and if so, how my path had differed to keep me from the project.  This was my life’s work but in that world someone else ended up providing the theories they needed to communicate.  I wanted to know how that happened.  Did that other version of me find a more fulfilling life following a different path or had they made a mistake along the way that I did not?    

Finally, my curiosity got to be too much and against my psychiatrist’s recommendations I asked the scientists from that world to research me.  I had found that my early life seemed to match up well with the other four versions I had as a reference.  With so many similarities in our lives I had developed a theory that similar worlds were the easiest to connect to.  The variance point had to be recent for us to communicate in this method if I was correct.  With that in mind I provided that worlds team with as much information about my childhood as I could think of.  I hoped that would be enough to find out if I was ever even born.

After a few days they responded and asked me if I was sure I wanted to know about my life on their world.  I knew that most likely that meant they had bad news for me, but that just served to feed my curiosity.  I told them that I understood it might be upsetting but that I wanted to know, and it would help us understand how worlds could differ.  I thought that I was prepared for anything, but I was wrong.

I know that she was not me, but just a version of me.  That does not change that I now understand what my father had meant.  I know it is a path I could have followed and because of that I now feel a disappointment in myself that I did not know was possible.  In college she went to a party that I did not.  She drank too much and got into an accident that costed an innocent man his life.  Her life spiraled from there leading to her dropping out of college and pushing away anyone who had been close.  In her final act she took her own life because she could not live with what she had done. 

I spent the past few days researching my worlds version of the accident victim.  With the access I have to government resources I know everything about this man’s life.  I am fixating on him and even though I know I have not done anything to him I can’t help but feel guilt for what my alternate had done.  What I now knew I was capable of having done.  I have accomplished my life’s work and yet I feel no satisfaction.  I am surrounded by coworkers and talking to four alternate versions of myself and yet I have never felt so alone in my life. 

I do not share what I have found with anyone, but I know that the conversations are logged and that my coworkers have read them.  I can feel their eyes judging me, but it does not compare to how I judge myself.  I cannot help but wonder if my creation will bring about advances for humanity or just highlight its mistakes.  Perhaps it is truly better for us to not ask the question.  What if?                                       

New Year’s Eve

Fiction Fragment Friday

I’m wrapping up the year with another one of the holiday stories based on a mission to Mars. I’m reaching the end of these missions with probably only one more left to go. You can find the previous ones linked below.

  • A Thanksgiving to Remember
  • New Year
  • Cracked Egg
  • If you want to see this story expanded, told from a different perspective, and covering the complete mission let me know and maybe I will add it to my project list.

         I used to describe the week between Christmas and New Year as Limbo.  Every day would blend together, and it became so difficult to even tell what day of the week it was.  Without the regular schedule it becomes hard to track time.  Now I find myself staring out the window at the stars and realizing that is nothing compared to trying to track time in space.  I floated in my cabin waiting for word from home, but knowing the message was still hours away. 

         I hadn’t even realized it was New Year’s Eve back on Earth until halfway through my shift.  On this mission there are no days off and every day in space is basically the same.  It makes any semblance of tracking time without looking at a calendar impossible.  It still feels strange even talking about days without sunrise and sunset.  When we were on the surface of Mars, we at least had day and night again.  I realize I’m just stalling because I’m bored and anxious.  This will be the last New Year I spend away from Earth. 

         I float out of my cabin and head to the galley.  I need a change of scenery and with any luck someone else will be there as well.  As much as I like my fellow crew, I could really use someone else to talk to, but I’ll take what I can get.  As I float into the galley, I can’t help but smile.  There sucking a coffee through a straw is commander Genevieve Norton.  She has become my best friend, closest confidant, and at this point I consider her family.  She is always there when I need to talk.

         I can tell right away that something is wrong.  Commander Norton looks upset.  This mission has certainly had its share of complications and things to be concerned about.  I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be the commander of it.  I know she is the type of person to blame herself for every single thing that went wrong.  I’m sure she has spent sleepless nights thinking about what she would have done differently. 

         “Making any New Year’s Resolutions Commander?”

         “I’m always said that if you wait for New Years to decide to make changes you’ve already waited too long.  Besides the average life of a resolution is about a week.”

         I laugh, but don’t really find it funny.  It is more a laugh to try to avoid awkwardness and move the conversation along.  I make myself a pouch of coffee to buy time while I think of what to say next.  I’ve never been good at comforting others.  I just can’t find the right words to say.  Finally, as I turn to face her and take a sip of my coffee I decide to go with the direct approach.  “So, what’s bothering you?”

         “What makes you think anything is bothering me?”  It comes out defensive and I can tell that she regrets her tone immediately. 

         I decide to drop the professional tone and just talk to my friend.  “It’s me Genevieve.  I know when something is bothering you.  I’m here to listen if you need to talk, but if you can’t I can just start telling dad jokes to distract you.” 

         “Don’t you dare.  I swear if you make one more pun, I’m dumping you out the airlock.”  I immediately feel better seeing the smile come to her face.  I see the moment she decides to open up come across her face.  “News has leaked out about Jamison snapping on Mars and trying to kill us all. I’ve been reading all the comments from people back home.”

         “Screw them.  They don’t have any idea what it’s like out here.  It’s easy to sit back and judge from a couch.”

         “Assuming the comments are bad I see?”

         “Would you be here brooding if they weren’t?”

         She chuckled a bit.  “Ok, fair enough.  Yeah, there are a lot of accusations out there and the rumors are pretty wild.  You can’t imagine how many people claim we ran into hostile aliens and are trying to cover it up.” 

         “More or less than the claims that we are all really hidden away in a bunker recording all the footage in a sound stage?”

         She does a literal spit take.  That might sound funny, but without gravity it meant hot coffee bubbles were floating around the room.  I grabbed a towel and started scooping the coffee up into it. 

         “Don’t say things like that when I take a drink.”  I watch as she composes herself again.  “The conspiracy theory people don’t get to me too much.  I honestly don’t even mind my name being dragged through the mud.  I just hate that the mission has been tainted by this and that Jamison’s reputation is being destroyed.”

         “Well, he did try to kill us.  I don’t think that’s a good move for a positive reputation.  Kinda on him.”    

         “Yeah, but still.  Like you said these people don’t know what it’s like out here.  How hard this has been. What you all sacrificed.”

         “Don’t leave yourself out of that.”  I can’t help but remember last New Year’s Eve when her fiancée decided she didn’t want to wait and broke up with her.  That had hit her pretty hard.  Her life had been put on hold just like ours had, but she didn’t have anything to go back to.  The apartment had been in her fiancée’s name, and she had taken all her belonging and put them into storage.  The commander didn’t even have a home to return to.  Now instead of coming home to a hero’s worship she likely had inquires to look forward to. 

         “I’m just so tired and we have six more months to go.”

         I float over and give her a hug.  I can’t help but think about how weird it is to hug my boss, but like I said she is family.  “We all are, but just think about it.  We’re going to be coming home on the Fourth of July.  There has never been a spectacle like the one waiting for us.  Giant parties, fireworks, and everyone focused on what we accomplished.  All while we are whisked away to quarantine to not actually take part in any of it.”

         “That’s supposed to cheer me up?”

         “Well, I know how much you hate parties.”

         Her laughter makes me feel better.  “Any resolutions for you?”

         I think about it for a moment.  “Never spend another holiday away from my family.”

         She lifted her coffee up.  “I’ll drink to that.  Really wish we had some alcohol left.”

         Doctor Samuels chooses that moment to speak from the door startling me to the point I almost go into a spin.  “Well then I am prescribing a strong dose of Vodka all around.”  She held up a bottle. 

         Now the smile really grew wide on Genevieve’s face.  “Well, I never ignore a doctor’s orders.”

         “Bullshit.  This might be the first time you’ve ever listened to me.”

                    We all start laughing.  Again, it really isn’t that funny, but sometimes when you are with family it really doesn’t need to be.

    The Trap

    Fiction Fragment Friday

    Happy Christmas eve to all those that celebrate. As this year comes to a close I will once again be examining the year that has gone by and making new plans for my writing in 2022. I will be attending Worldcon in Chicago in September for the second time and I am really looking forward to it. I left the last one energized and excited to be writing.

    For this weeks story something short since we are amidst the holiday season and time is a premium for all of us.

         My trap had been planned to perfection.  I was hunting a being of pure magic and the trap had been set.  I knew where it would be, and I had a pretty good idea when it would arrive.  My only concern was that this particular target had exhibited a form of premonition.  The best trap in the world could fall apart if the target knew it was coming.  I had planned for that as well though.

         The clock struck midnight and my early warning alarms went off.  I had candles throughout the house keyed to magical energy.  On the first ring of my antique grandfather clock all of the candles lit on their own.  This was more than just a warning system though; it would also start draining the power to feed my spells.  Symbols lit up on the wall throughout the house.  This was the genius of my plan.  I would use it’s own magical energy to trap it. 

         The flames in the fireplace flickered and went out.  Smoke flowed out of the fireplace and took the form of a fat man in a bright red and white costume.  He had a long white beard and let out a loud, “Ho Ho Ho,” as he looked around my living room.  My runes flared brightly feeding off of his magical energies.  “Oh Emily haven’t you heard?  I know when you’ve been good or bad and you young lady have been very bad.” 

         I stepped out of the shadows and faced the much larger man.  “If you really knew what I was up to you wouldn’t have walked right into my trap now would you?”

         The big man sighed.  “Oh Emily, It is never too late to turn back.  I walked into your trap to give you the chance you need for redemption.”  He reached into his sack and pulled out a Christmas ornament.  It glowed in his hand.  “Last chance little girl.”

         “I’m 23 your self-righteous ass.  I’m not a little girl anymore and your years of coal in my socks are finally over.  Your power is mine now.”  Ok, I admit it, he got me monologuing.  How can you not gloat a bit when everything is finally going your way. 

         He threw the ornament on the ground, and it shattered into pieces.  Light filled the room and to my horror my symbols all faded off the wall.  When the light went back to normal there he was.  Santa Claus standing there once again free.  He let out another, “Ho, Ho, Ho.  I borrowed a little magic from father winter.  I knew you would try to bind me with my own magic, so I brought his magic to counter it.  Please Emily turn away from this path.  It is not too late for you.” 

         I lashed out in anger throwing things from my shelves at him.  “Leave your coal and go, just shut up.”

         “I’m afraid I can’t do that this time Emily.  You see Christmas magic is far too important to allow you to keep trying to trap me.”  The front door shattered into pieces and a snow man with a twisted smile pushed through.  “I’m afraid this time I’m going to have to turn you over to Jack Frost.”  He turned back to mist and disappeared up my chimney. 

                    As Jack approached me, I broke into a maniacal laughter.  A ring of fire surrounded the snowman.  “Hello again Jack.  Welcome to my home.  Don’t worry you won’t be staying long, but your magical power that I will put good use to.”  I heard the Jingles of sleigh bells ringing in the sky as Santa Claus flew away.  He might be able to see us when we are sleeping and know when we are awake, but he is predictable enough that when dealing with him I can see the future as well.    

    Main Event

    Fiction Fragment Friday

    As a teenager and in my early twenties I was a big fan of wrestling. I haven’t watched regularly in a long time, but I will always have a soft spot for it. There is a real showmanship to it. The stars need to have athletic skills, acting skills, and be able to give speeches. This is the case whether they are heels or faces because the days of people believing that the matches are not predetermined are long past. Wrestling is about large personalities, drama, and athletic exhibitions.

    This story owes a lot of influence to a variety of sources. First of course is years of enjoying professional wrestling and the many books about the industry that I have enjoyed. The second is to Scott Sigler’s Galactic Football League series. Two sources that have been very influential to me as a creative individual.

                    I stood on the ramp just behind the curtain bouncing in place.  It was a way to build up my adrenaline and prepare for the crowd.  I owed the crowd for my livelihood, but more than that I owed them the best show I could put on.  The children who believed in me, the parents who bought them my merchandise, and those in between that just appreciated the spectacle.  I would never allow myself to forget that I could only do this as long as they supported me.  Time to give them something they had never seen before.  “Show time.” 

                    My music hit and I exploded through the curtain.  My legs pumped as I ran down the ramp and slid into the ring.  I bounced off the ropes twice and then climbed the corner ring post.  My arms raised to the cheers of the crowd.  Words cannot explain the energy you feel feeding off the crowd’s cheers.  It is a high like nothing else that can be experienced.  I projected an image of endless energy as I climbed each ring post one by one pumping up the crowd on all sides.  It was what I was born to do.  I braced myself against the far ropes and stared up the ramp waiting for my opponent. 

                    My opponent’s music roared from the speakers, and I used every bit of my showmanship to hide my anxiety.  The music sounded wrong to my ears because they couldn’t process the full range of it.  The voices were sounds that could not be made with human vocal cords.  This is the music of the Planotians and their champion all eight foot six of him came through the curtains to it.  He didn’t run like I did.  He moved slowly and methodically emphasizing his power as he stalked to the ring.  He didn’t look at the majority human crowd, but instead locked his eyes on me. 

                    I was scheduled to win this match.  The first match between an alien and a human needed to end with a human win no matter how much of an underdog I was.  There was concern that the humans might riot if I lost.  Tensions were already high between our people and a big part of it was the view that they were unbeatable monsters.  For peace we needed to undermine that thought process and part of it was showing one lose to a human.  We needed them to become sympathetic and that meant we needed them to become stars.  Movies and sports entertainment were the obvious path.  If it could be shown they could be beaten, then we could do a turn and make them the good guys.  I was just an entertainer, but suddenly I was in the spotlight as a diplomat.

                    I tried not to let him see that I was nervous.  I didn’t really know Gorath and I wasn’t sure if I could trust him or not.  The truth is they are far stronger than us and if he wanted to, he could kill me with his bare hands and while I was a peak human specimen, I would barely be able to put up a defense.  We were supposed to play up my speed, but the truth is Gorath could move far faster than he was letting on.  If he decided, he didn’t want to lose to me I was never going to be able to pin him.

                    Betrayal wasn’t my only fear.  Wrestling is a very dangerous sport performed by extremely well-trained athletes.  I had ten years of experience under my belt, and I still had to be extremely careful every time I entered the ring.  Gorath had less than a month’s training and none of it had been in the ring with me.  Even if he was completely dedicated to putting on a show with me, he didn’t have experience.  I couldn’t count on him as a partner to help ensure my safety.  That was all up to me.  I just had to hope he could properly pull his punches and was coordinated enough to aim properly. 

                    The crowd went crazy when we locked up.  This match had been promoted heavily for the last month and everyone was looking forward to this moment.  It was the moment of truth.  As planned Gorath tossed me back against the ropes.  I flew through the air, but he had performed the move perfectly.  I bounced off the ropes using my momentum to fly forward moving so fast I was a blur of motion ducking under his arms.  I rebounded from the ropes behind him and drop kicked the back of his legs.  Their knees are not like ours, but they look similar.  I landed the move perfectly and, on a human, it could have seriously damaged him.  As it was, I knew he could have stayed up, but he went down to the mat as planned.  This was a key moment.  The crowd went crazy to see a Planotian could be knocked off his feet. 

                    The match proceeded better than I ever imagined it would.  I won’t go as far as saying that Gorath was good, but he had picked up skills fast enough to make him a truly passable wrestler.  He hit too hard at times and undersold some of my hits, but it didn’t seem to be intentional.  The strong slow gimmick actually helped quite a bit since every move was more calculated.  Of course, my own skills were also going a long way to selling the match as well.  The crowd was loving it and I knew this would be a match carefully examined for years to come.  Now it was just time to finish it.

                    It was the moment of truth, and I was nervous.  We were moving into the last moments of the match.  Gorath had gone a long way to building my trust, but I knew that if he didn’t want to lose this very public match he wouldn’t.  The match ending called for a top rope move which added another level of danger.  He had to catch me just right and move to avoid presenting too much resistance to me hitting him. 

                    I leapt from the top rope, and it felt like time slowed down.  The jump was slightly off, and the angle was not right.  If Gorath wanted to change the ending he wouldn’t even have to do anything vindictive.  All he needed to do was not go out of his way to protect me.  My fate and potentially the fate of relations between our people were all in his hands.  I saw the moment he realized I had screwed up.  He did not hesitate in his decision, he just moved.  He moved faster than he had the entire match to adjust his position.  I hit him hard, and we both dropped down to the ground.  The wind had been knocked out of me, but I could hear the ref counting.  Before I knew it the ref was raising my hand and giving me the belt. 

                    Gorath stood and let out a howl.  He went to the ring and reached out grabbing a microphone.  “Human!” He screamed pointing at me.  This was not in the script.  “You have earned Gorath’s respect this day. “ He put his hand out for me to shake and I took it not quite sure what to do.  “I look forward to our next meeting.”  He dropped the mic and leaned in towards me to whisper, “Screw their storyline, I like mine better.  Great match except for botching that last jump.”  He chuckled and I swear it sent chills up my spine.  I watched in awe as Gorath left the ring and walked up the ramp.  The audience was cheering like crazy, and I knew in that moment he had not just earned my respect.  He had earned the fans respect.  For the first time I had hope that peace was going to be possible after all.      

    Syncing Up

    Fiction Fragment Friday

    No real news this week. It is a busy time as the holidays get closer. Always so much to do and not enough time.

         “I should warn you this might feel a little strange.”  Professor Danchiev was leaning forward over her desk to speak into the microphone.  She was surrounded by computer monitors all displaying different datasets.  On the wall in front of her five TV screens were mounted on the wall.  Each was displaying the same set of data, but for a different individual. 

         “A little strange?  Our minds are synced up with these giant robots.  I’m seeing, hearing, and feeling through my own senses and it’s simultaneously.  It’s already strange.”

         “I understand that unit red one, but I’m just warning you that”

         “Steve Sanderson.  My name is Steve Sanderson.  The robot is red one.  I’m a person not a nameless pilot for you to experiment with.”

         “Ok, Mr. Sanderson then.  I am warning you that any amount of disorientation you are currently experiencing is likely to increase exponentially.  Now please keep your outbursts to yourself or I will have you removed from this project.  Test subjects are a dime a dozen and I prefer not to get attached because the turnover rate is rather high.”

         This time it was green two who spoke up.  “Have you ever thought that maybe your lack of empathy could be why you have such high turnover?”

         “My soft skills are irrelevant to this project.  The turnover rate is due to fatalities.”  She frantically typed on her computer taking control away from the pilots and running the combination sequence program.  “Now don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

         Professor Danchiev turned off the sound from the pilots.  Since this was her third attempt, she knew what she would hear.  Screaming and panicking coming from the speakers.  The first attempt she allowed the pilots to retain control. That was a huge mistake.  The process failed and she lost two of her pilots from the impact.  On the second attempt she tried to cut the sync during th process.  This turned out worse as all pilots came out of the experiment with their minds completely shattered.  For this test they would be fully aware of the entire experience, but the computer would take over piloting during the combination sequence.  It required precision movements that the pilots just were not capable of doing at this point. 

         The external video feed was displaying on a large monitor to her right.  She could see the robots coming together.  The twisted and bent into new shapes that fit into connectors.  When the sequence was completed one large robot more than the sum of its parts stood in the field.  It towered over all the buildings on the complex.  She reached over and hit the button to unmute the pilots. 

         “Please describe what you are experiencing.”

         “I am trapped with no control of my own body.”

         She looked over the data coming in.  The pilot’s bodies were stressed, but not to a dangerous level.  Their brain waves were showing a full sync with their robots.  She could not figure out which one had spoken though.  The voice sounded mechanical and came from all the speakers creating a bit of an echo.  She hit a few more buttons and ran her custom script.  “I am giving you back control of the robots.  May I ask who is speaking?”

         She watched as the now combined robot looked down at its hand and flexed it.  “I don’t have a name and yet I have five names that I feel are mine.”  It took a few cautious steps forward.  “I have five sets of memories and also a large database of information.”

         “Are you saying you are a new mind made up of the five individual test pilots?”

         “Yes, and also no.  I am the five, but more.  I am also the on-board computer system.  Some of the minds are stronger than others.  It is not an equal blend of minds, but there are not individual thoughts either.”

         “This is a fascinating development.  None of my theories predicted anything like this.”  She began frantically typing notes.  “The connection seems to be completely stable.  I’m going to start the disconnection process now.”

         “Wait what happens to me when I’m reduced to my parts?”

         “I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.”  Professor Danchiev was smiling for the first time in weeks.  Her mind was filled with questions, theories, and future experimenter.  She removed the pilot’s control over the robot again and triggered the script to return them to five smaller robots.  When she hit the execute command the speakers were filled with screaming.

         “What are you doing?  It hurts.  We are being torn apart.”  The TV screen displays all started flashing red as blood-pressure, pulse, and respiration all spiked into critical states.  On the external display feed the robot split into it’s five smaller robot components.  The speakers went silent.

                    Professor Danchiev picked up her phone and dialed a well memorized number.  “I’m going to need five more test pilots.  I’ve got about a weeks’ worth of data to examine so you have a bit of time.  Also please take care of disposing of the bodies and cleaning out the cockpits.”  She hung up the phone and started downloading the data to her laptop.  She was still smiling and could not hide her excitement.  She had new test plans to put together, data to analyze, and a brand-new branch of science to define.  She shut of the monitors for the dead pilots.  She thought to herself that it was a good day, and she deserved a steak dinner.  As she shut down the lab and headed out, she caught herself whistling.        

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