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Magic Books

Fiction Fragment Friday

I had an idea this week I wanted to explore. Sometimes when I do this a story forms and I realize I have something that worth developing. This is not one of those times so this weeks story is pretty short. I still think there is a seed of an idea, but it is not one that I will be developing any further. Perhaps it will inspire someone else to write a story.

     You might say that I sell magic books for a living, but I prefer to describe it as uniting people with the tomes they were destined to have.  That said I take money for those and books that hold no magical properties at all.   My landlord doesn’t take rent in destinies fulfilled.  Also, people come into bookstores to buy books not to have magic meddle int their lives.  In fact, I suspect only a few will ever realize there was something special about the book they walked away with. 

I should clarify something.  I do not sell books that contain magic spells.  These books are physical works of fiction or self-help writing that just happen to have a mind of their own.  Sometimes everyday objects become imbued with a purpose.  They are still the same items they were, but after they radiate with magical energies and find ways to influence the world around them.  Since I have the gift of being able to see this magical energy they tend to end up in my shop.

Let me give you an example.  Last year a woman came into my shop and bought a copy of Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery.  She wasn’t looking for it, but once she saw the book on the shelf, she started telling me all about reading it as a child.  She remembered things about her childhood that she had not thought of in years.  Later that day she was looking through the book at a cafe and a man walking by saw it.  He started telling her about his childhood and they realized that they had gone to the same school.  I received my invitation to their wedding last week. 

These two were destined to be together because their child is going to make amazing discoveries in the field of inertia shielding.  He will single handedly revolutionize space travel within the solar system and unmanned probes outside it.  The book’s job was to ensure that they met so this could occur.  They are usually far more subtle than that, but sometimes the direct approach works best. 

After years of study, I still do not know what causes items to become magically charged.  I’ve never seen a non-magical item become magical, but they never come from the publisher like that.  Each magical book in the shop was brought in and sold to me by a customer.  I make sure to always purchase them even if I would not otherwise do so.  It is my job to ensure they reach the right hands.  I sometimes wonder as I walk past other shops that sell used items if they have someone working there that can see the glow like I do.    

Toran Station Part II

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story is a sequel to Toran Station. I don’t often return to these stories and I’m not sure if I have ever done a sequel that starts immediately where the last one ended. If this were in a book it would be in the same chapter. When I wrote the original I felt like it could be the start of something larger and writing this second part has really driven that home.

I find that writing these character and this setting flows very easily. I sit down to write and before long I have written a much longer story than intended. I’m not sure this or the first one could really be called a full story and not just slices of life being presented. After this week I think maybe it is time to sit down and outline a much larger story that these scenes fit into.

                My room wasn’t the worst I had ever stayed in, but it was in the bottom five.  When I hit the light switch the light by the door just flickered on and off.  There was a stench to the room that I couldn’t quite place, but I made a note to get disinfectant before touching anything.  I also needed new sheets because there was no way I was going to lay down on the bed as it was. After two weeks of sleeping in bunk beds set into a bulkhead though I was just grateful to have my own room again. 

                When I stayed on station as a kid, I remember the rooms being the nicest I had ever stayed in.  It felt like we were the first people to ever stay in that room.  It was clean and everything looked brand new.  I still couldn’t understand how the air had gotten so poor.  Even tiny shuttles with much smaller ecosystems were not this bad.  Simple lack of money could not account for just how bad things had gotten.  I knew that I was only here to sort out some accounting issues, but I needed to know what had caused this.  It hurt too much to see it without getting to the bottom.

                It was time to get some answers.  I pulled out my tabled and shot off four messages.  The first was to my station contact to let them know I had arrived and requesting a meeting first thing in the morning.   The second message was to station information.  I requested an updated list of all businesses operating on the station and contact information for them.  My third message was to my boss back home.  I needed him to know what I had already seen.  Finally, I messaged Janice and offered to buy her dinner tonight wherever she wanted to go.

                After a couple minutes my tablet dinged, and I saw that Janice had already responded.  To my surprise she had picked the restaurant I remember my father taking us to as a kid.  My first instinct had been to suggest it, but after all the other disappointments of the day I just didn’t want to assume anything at this point.  I didn’t know if it was still here or what shape it might be in.  I couldn’t help but smile knowing that it was not only still here, but that if she had picked it then it couldn’t be too bad.  Still, I tried to keep my expectations low. 

                With a few hours left before dinner I decided to take a walk.  Instead of just wandering around I used the map on my tablet to plan my path carefully.  I needed to start getting used to the layout and find all the location I would need for work.  Shopping was going to be important as well so I needed to know where the important shops and services were.  If what I had already seen was any indication this would not be a short project.  What I did not expect was to feel unsafe in certain parts of the station.  It felt like I was being watched so I made a point to stay to the more trafficked corridors. 

                I showed up to dinner about fifteen minutes early.  I wanted to make sure we had a table and that I had time to let any disappointment fade from my face.  I won’t say that I was as impressed with the restaurant as my childhood self had been, but it did not show the same degree of ware as the rest of the station.  Papa Guido’s was clean, well lit, and the food smelled incredible.  I was met at the door by a waitress dressed in a red and white frilly top with an ankle length green skirt.  I made note of her nametag.

                “Welcome to Papa Guido’s.  How many in your party?”

                Her smile seemed genuine and so far, it was the nicest greeting I had received on station.  “There will just be two of us.  I’m meeting someone.”

                She nodded and grabbed two actual printed menus from the podium.  “Right this way sir.” 

                “I have to say Erica this is the only place on the station so far that lives up to my memories.”

                She seemed taken aback at first by my use of her name, but I just pointed to her name tag, and she nodded.  “Well, I’m not sure how long it’s been since you’ve been here, but this is a family restaurant.  I may be his daughter, but this place is dad’s really baby.”

                “Well, it shows.  Gives me a little hope.”

                She led me to a small table in a corner and set the menus down.  Nothing looked new, but the furniture was all very well maintained, and I had not seen a single light fixture that wasn’t fully functional.  Mostly I was just grateful that the air didn’t have the grease scent that the rest of the station seemed to linger with.  As I looked over the menu, I was surprised that the prices were not as high as I anticipated.  No matter the cost though I knew the conversation was going to be worth it.

                “Well, well, well.  I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon.  I thought you were worried I would get you in trouble with your bosses.”  I jumped a bit as Janice caught me off guard.  She sat down at the table across from me with a big smile on her face.  It was the kind of smile someone gives when they know something that you don’t.

                “Oh I’m pretty sure you are going to get me into trouble, but I’m hoping you can help me avoid some too.”

                “Go on.”

                “Let’s order some dinner first.  This place smells incredible.”  I ordered the chicken parmigiana, and she ordered the manicotti.  We made small talk while we waited for the food not talking about anything in particular.  We spoke about our jobs, and I told her all about my trip to the station as a child.  It was a pleasant conversation and I found her very easy to talk to and had to watch myself to avoid sharing too much.  Something told me she was a very good reporter who could get people to share without even realizing it.

                “So, James why don’t you tell me why I’m here?”

                “Well besides finding out what restaurant might be safe to eat at I have a feeling you have a better idea of what is going on around this station than anyone else.  No way poor management alone let things get this bad.  When I start digging in am I going to be in danger?”

                She actually laughed.  “Oh James.  You were in danger the moment you accepted this assignment.”  She took a sip of her wine and game me another smile.  “You have no idea how lucky you were to run into me.”

Atlantis Station 4

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story is another one inspired by a dream. The dream of course was long and convoluted but like many of my dreams there were elements that I thought could make a good story. I hope you agree.

     The Liger statue opened its mouth and roared.  There were no visible seems in the statue’s mouth, but instead the stone moved like living flesh would.  Behind the very sharp looking teeth was a glowing purple gem.  The glow was soft with a pulse to it, and if I looked directly at the gem, I could see fields of stars in the glow.  I instinctively know that this was called a dream gateway.  The statue froze again looking like any other intricate stone carving hiding the fact that it had just moved moments ago.

     I reached out cautiously and touched my right hand to dream gateway.  I could feel it’s energy pulsing through my body in waves.  Everything went blurry for a moment, and I could hear my partner calling out to me in concern.  It sounded like she was so far away, but I knew that she was right there in the museum room next to me.  I was in a museum, wasn’t I?  Or was it an aquarium?  What was I doing?

     “Welcome to Atlantis Station 4 my son.”  The woman was wearing an ornate golden dress with bracelets and necklaces that looked more expensive than my last car.  She was smiling at me and I felt warm acceptance from her.  She looked at me like she had known me my whole life and my mind could not make sense of the feelings I was receiving from her.  I just knew how she was feeling when I looked into her eyes and though I knew it was strange my brain told me this was how the world was supposed to work.

     I looked around the room.  We were surrounded by technology, but it was not like anything I had ever seen before.  The Atlantean technology was as much a work of art as it was functional.  Gold colored with many moving parts giving it something of a steam punk vibe.  On one of the screens, I could see what looked kind of like a sphere if you sliced off some of the sides to make it look like a big, rounded die.  In a language I had never seen before, but somehow could read it was labeled Atlantis Station 4.

     “What is this?” I asked finally managing to form words.  There was so much to see and I wanted to make sure I could take it all in.

     “This is Atlantis Station 4,” she replied.  “Well, it was.  I’m afraid the real one is likely long gone.  It is where I lived and worked until it’s destruction.”  I could feel loss and failure coming from her.  Overshadowing both was a deep feeling of guilt.  “It is where you were born.”

     “Uhm no I was born in Missouri.”  I was not some long lost orphan.  I knew my parents and had no questions about my childhood. 

     She looked confused as she reached out a hand and touched my face.  “Oh dear.  You are not my son.  You are a decedent though.  He must have been your great or great great grandfather.  While it is reassuring to know that he lived and made a life for himself this does mean that my failure to him is complete.”

     “You look pretty young to be my great, great, great grandmother.”  She looked barely older than me with long black hair that had not yet seen a strand of gray. 

     “That is because I’m not really a person.  I’m just an imprint left behind to explain things to my son.  A mission that I failed to accomplish.  That is how the dream scape works though.  It preserves memories and imprints as they were and while some things drift because memory is imperfect, they do not age or grow.  I will be as I am now until I am forgotten.”

     “What is, or I guess was, Atlantis Station 4?”

     “It was a research station of sorts.  One of four spread out around the planet.  Our people long ago used our technology to transcend our physical forms and become beings of pure energy.  At least that is how they like to describe it.  In reality our solar system was dying and in a last-ditch hope to save ourselves we shifted into another universe.  We gave up much just to live, but the form of existence we became was not enough for many of us.  We wanted physical forms again.  Thus, we returned to this universe using humans as a template for our own new bodies.  Stations were our outposts were we tried to rebuild our technology from memory.”

     “What happened to them?”

     “Our people happened.  They felt threatened by the movement to return to this plane of existence and so they struck out.  My partner and I managed to keep station 4 hidden for a time, but then something unexpected happened.  We fell in love.  It had been so long since physical bodies had been part of our existence.  We didn’t think about the consequences, and I got pregnant.  While in labor we neglected our duties and because of that our people found us.  I just had time to record an impression of myself into the dream scape before sending my child away into the world.  I expected him to be drawn to the message and find me someday.”

     “How do you know I’m your descendant?”

     “If you were not the dream gateway could not have brought you here.”  I could feel another wave of guilt come over her.  “Now that it has though you will have been marked.  Our people will come for you.  You were born here into the physical world so they cannot simply lash out like they did to me.  They will have to take physical form themselves.  I do not know the state of politics within our people, but there was a growing resistance who did not approve of wiping us out.  You may have aid but be wary of who you trust.”

     “Wait they’re going to try and kill me just because I touched a rock?”

     “No, they will try and kill you because of what you represent.  A reminder of something that we lost but can regain.  As a physical being you are no threat to them, but as an idea you are the greatest danger they have ever known.”

     I awoke on the floor of the museum with Sherry shaking me in a panic.  The Liger statue above me had closed its mouth and looked exactly the same as when we had arrived.  I could hear Sherry’s voice but could not yet focus on it.  The world felt like it was coming back slowly.  No, it was more accurate to say it felt like I was returning to the world slowly.  A defensive part of my mind was already trying to categorize my experience as a dream.  Another part was sure it was real. 

     I tried to argue with Sherry, but she insisted that I be taken to the hospital to be checked out.  I had been unconscious for five minutes with no response.  My whole body still felt sluggish like I wasn’t quite aligned with it and my thoughts were foggy so I couldn’t put up a good enough argument against it.  They strapped me into the hospital gurney so I would not fall off and loaded me into the back of the ambulance. 

                The paramedic leaned down to me and whispered in a calm tone, “Don’t worry sir we’re going to take good care of you.”  I might have been reassured, but as I looked into his eyes, they gave off a light purple glow.  A glow that I could see the star in.  He closed the ambulance door before Sherry could see me start to struggle against my bonds.

Toran Station

Fiction Fragment Friday

I hope all my readers in the United States had a good Thanksgiving and are staying safe out there today. I had a few ideas for a story to do today. Most of them revolved around nostalgia or being an inspiration for others. I’m sure that part of the influence for this story comes from a project I’m working on with a few others as well as a love of Nathan Lowell books. Also a recent novel by Mur Lafferty was set on a space station. All of these influences and that feeling of memories came together to form a story that really should be a snippet of something much longer.

Part of me thinks that this story needs to be developed into if not a novel at least a novella. As I sit here multiple potential scenes run through my head. I have a strong feeling that like my Mars mission stories this will not be the last time I visit this setting.

     “Welcome to Toran Station the Gateway to the Galactic Frontier.”  I could barely contain my excitement hearing the announcement come over the speakers.  This was the station I had visited with my father when I was ten.  Returning here felt like recapturing a bit of my childhood that had long been lost.  I might have been traveling for business, but I felt like it was a dream vacation.

     I headed to my locker in the sleeping compartment.  First class had their own cabins, but my company was not willing ot foot the bill for that level of extravagance.  Instead, I shared a room with three other passengers.  The beds were bunks in the wall, but they had partitions you could pull down to gain a bit of privacy.  Space is a premium on tiny transports, and they needed to utilize as much as they could to make a profit.  That also meant very strict rules for what luggage I could carry with me.  I had one bag in my locker, and I just hoped my other really was in cargo.  It would not be the first time my luggage had been lost in transit.

     I stepped through the airlock and took a deep breath of station air.  I almost choked on it.  The air was musty with a strong metal and grease tint to it.  That had not at all been what I was expecting.  I remembered on my first trip the air being the cleanest I had ever breathed.  This was worse than the air on the tiny transport that had brought me here.  Finally, I managed to compose myself and take in the sights of the hall.

     On my first trip to Toran Station it had just begun operation.  All the news reports talked about the Gateway to the Galactic Frontier and how it would open up a new era of exploration and colonization.  The station had all the newest technologies build right into the foundations.  Everything was awe inspiring no matter where you looked because it was all new and full of promise.

     The station that met my eyes did not live up to my memories.  The airlock opened to a hallway that had two lights completely out and a third flickering.  The flickering light made shadows dance.  There were grease stains on the floors and a panel missing from one of the walls.  I could see a maintenance worker at the end of the hall with a mop.  His cleaning efforts could not compare with the robotic cleaning drones that constantly cycled the halls on my first trip. 

     I followed the signs to baggage claims.  Thankfully the walls were labeled very clearly because they all looked identical.  It would have felt a bit like being in a maze if each corridor didn’t seem to have its own odor.  Grease gave way to burnt electronics only to finally give way to what I was pretty sure was urine.  I was grateful that the baggage claim room was extremely clean compared to what I had just walked through.  There was only one stain on that I could not identify and most of the lights functioned. 

     My bag was fairly easy to find as we were the only ship that was arriving that day.  Remembering just how busy the station had been I couldn’t understand why that would be when I booked passage.  Now that I was seeing its current state it was much easier to understand.  I decided it would be best to take my luggage and just be grateful it had not gotten lost in transit.   All that was left was to decide if I should check in with work or the room I had reserved first.

     The unwieldy nature of my baggage helped make my decision.  I stepped up to an information kiosk to find the path to the room work had rented for me.  Of course, the first kiosk was sitting on an error screen, but the second one was responsive.  It only took a few moments to get the information I needed and determine that I would have to walk halfway across the station to get where I needed to go. 

     My path took me through one of the market courtyards.  It was a large three-story corridor with shops lining both sides and a bank of elevators between the floors.  This was by far the busiest place I had seen so far on the station.  It looked like about a fourth of the shop fronts were available for rent, but the ones that were open had multiple customers.  The market of my memories was so crowded that dad made me hold his hand to avoid getting separated This market was not crowded, but it was the cleanest room I had seen so far.  The lights and kiosks all seemed to be functional as well.

     My memories fought with the reality.  I smelled fresh baked bread, and it brought me back to having lunch with my dad at a deli on the third floor.  The music coming from the speakers reminded me of the live performances on the balcony of the second flood.  It was far from the courtyard of my memories, but there was just enough for me to see what it looked like in it’s prime.  I was so lost in my memories that I didn’t see the woman in front of me had stopped until I bumped into her.  We both tumbled to the decking with me dropping my bag and her dropping the tablet she had been taking pictures with.

     “I’m so sorry,”  I said scrambling back to my feet not even trying to grab my bads.  I held my hand out to try and help her up.  “I really should watch where I’m going better.”

     She took my hand and let me pull her to her feet.  “First time on station?”  She was smiling at me and I wondered why she wasn’t more annoyed.  She was dressed simply wearing a shirt without any logos on it.  I wondered if she was local or perhaps on a work trip as well.

     “Actually no.  I was here when I was a kid.  Probably twenty-five years ago.”

     “Not living up to your memories, is it?”

     I was taken back by her observation.  “How can you tell?”

     She held out her hand for me to shake.  “Janice Harrington.  Being observant is kind of my job, and that look on your face says volumes.”

     Her grip was firm, but not testing.  “Yeah it probably does.  I’m James by the way.  I’m here from Harrison Accounting to do an audit of the stations books.  Seems that some numbers aren’t adding up and I jumped at the chance to come see the place again.”

     I could see her eyes light up and she immediately started typing out something on her tablet.  “Well James, I’m sending you my contact information.  Why don’t you settle in and then I can treat you to lunch.”  It was then that I finally registered that she told me she was a reporter.  I had just dropped the seeds of a potential financial scandal for the station in her lap.  My boss was not going to be happy at all.

     “Why do I think having lunch with you could put my job in danger?”

                “Trust me.  A good reporter protects her sources.”  She turned to walk towards the elevator but stopped and looked back over her shoulder at me.  “Hard to get a second story if they don’t.”  I just shook my head at her and moved on towards my room.  I had work to do and probably a lot more disappointment to experience before my trip was done.   

The Sword

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks Fiction Fragment Friday is another one that was inspired by a writing prompt picture on the Gaming With Gage and Friends discord server. You can see the picture here that I wrote this story from. Is it one of my best written stories? Probably not. I do think it was fun though and I find that with these prompts I’m writing a lot more fantasy than I would otherwise. As a Science Fiction writer I don’t often stray into the fantasy realm unless it is a bit of urban fantasy. These prompts help to take me out of my comfort zone a bit and have me try something new. As always I hope you enjoy this story half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

“So brave adventurer someone has finally come for the sword.  That must mean the necromancer has returned and his armies are marching across the land.  What makes you think that you are worthy to wield such a powerful magical artifact?”

“Uhm what?”  Ok I admit that was not exactly my most brilliant response to a question.  I was riding to the castle with an urgent message for the king but had stopped at Henderson’s Pond to water my horse.  Swiftwind was nervous though and would not approach the water for some reason.  I decided to just get a drink myself and move on.  As I looked deep into the water a bright light rose to the surface. 

The surface of the lake was broken by long red hair attached to a purple face.  She was beautiful in her own way despite glowing yellow eyes that had no pupils.  Claw tipped fingers that wrapped around a brightly glowing sword.  The rest of her body was hidden beneath the water making me wonder how human it might or might not be.  When she spoke, her voice had a power in it.  I was compelled to listen and had to fight the impulse to move closer.  

“I said, what makes you think that you are worthy to wield the Sword of Artax the Crusader?  I do not care to repeat myself.  Pray you do not make me do it a third time.  If you do I may need to remove the tongue from your mouth.  Just to ensure that it is not broken.”  Despite the threat in her voice, I still felt compelled to approach her.  I have very little exposure to magic, but even I know when my desires are not actually my own.  

“I beg thee pardon my stumbling over my words.  Your beauty simply has taken my breath away.”  I figured flattery might be a good idea in this situation.  “You are indeed correct that the necromancer has returned to the world, but I am no champion. I am a simple messenger taking word to the king of his rise.  I know nothing of this sword and simply stopped to refresh my horse before a final push through the countryside.”  I tried to read her facial expressions, but they were foreign to me.  I decided to play it safe.  “I’m truly sorry to have wasted your time. I’m sure you are an extremely busy being.  This is all just a misunderstanding.”

“Tis no misunderstanding.  I am not summoned by mere coincidence.  If you indeed have not seeked me out then the sword has chosen you.  Even I do not question its wisdom in such matters.”  She held the sword up out of the water laying across her palms.  “Your destiny begins now.”

Taking all the willpower I could muster I stepped back away from her.  “I don’t even know how to use a sword.”  That was the truth.  I don’t have the muscle or the training to properly wield a sword.  The last time I tried to hold one I ended up pulling a muscle in my shoulder and was in pain for weeks.  It was not impressive.

Shadows closed over the pond, wind whipped her hair around, and the temperature dropped by at least twenty degrees in an instant.  I tried to look away as she rose to the surface but found myself cowering with very little control of my own body.  She strode across the water as if it were solid ground holding the sword forward.  “This is not a choice mortal.  You will take the sword and you will fulfill your destiny.”  She shoved the sword forward into my arms and I fell backwards onto the ground at the force.  

I watched as she turned and walked back into the water.  Her long red hair covering her back and providing a level of modesty I was grateful for in that moment.  As her head vanished under the surface of the water the sword in my arms stopped glowing.  It now just looked like any other ornate weapon that I had no idea what to do with.  The shadows and chill that had shook me to my very core also seemed to follow her.  

I grasped the sword by its hilt and was once again blinded by light.  The weapon was far lighter than I had imagined it to be, but it still took both hands just to lift it.  I could not imagine swinging without losing my balance and tumbling to the ground.  Even with ancient knowledge and incredible power someone had made a mistake.  I was the last person who should be holding a weapon like this.  There was still a message to deliver, and time was like every other luxury in life.  Something I didn’t have.

Looking at my horse I realized I had another problem.  I didn’t have a scabbard for the sword.  To make matters worse I didn’t have anything to wrap it in or a way to secure it to my saddle.  You hear all the bards’ telling stories of brave heroes finding powerful weapons, but no one ever talks about how they get those items back home.  Everyone always has packs of rope or magic bags.  I had a horse and a pouch of half-eaten jerky that lacked even the mildest hint of flavor.  I was going to have to balance the sword on my lap with one hand and try to guide my horse with the other.  Now I’m a pretty good rider, but there was no way I could make decent time like that.  

By the time I reached the castle with my message the army of the undead was already reaching the walls.  I sat on the hill staring out at the battlefield.  My message was pointless now as I was pretty sure by the massive battle that the king already knew the necromancer had returned.  It looked like some of the army made it into the gates before the defenses could be raised.  The smoke coming from within and the fallen guards rising to rejoin the fight told me it would only be a matter of time before the castle fell.  Then things got worse.

At the back of the advancing army of undead the Necromancer sat on his large flaming skeleton horse.  Part of me had to admit that he looked pretty cool in his black spiked armor.  He looked like a real warrior as his eyes turned from the battlefield to stare directly at me.  The sword was glowing on my lap making it impossible to miss me for miles around.  With a yell in a language I couldn’t comprehend, the necromancer gave his troops new orders.  Though I didn’t know the words their actions told me that I was the new target.  I wanted to run but the sword urged me forward.  

Waves of the undead soon overwhelmed me.  I was pulled from my horse to the ground.  I knew I should be swinging the sword, but all I could do was hold it close, keeping them from taking it as they scratched and bit at my flesh.  The pain was overwhelming, but the sword did not stop glowing.  I heard it in my head tell me to stand.  

This was when the king made his move.  From the front gates of the castle King Legandor rode point leading his best knights into the fight.  They used my distraction to strike directly at the necromancer with the castle guards taking up a defensive point to hold the hordes off.  Seeing their master in danger the undead left me lying in a pool of my own blood and shredded clothes still grasping the brightly glowing sword.  The pain was so severe that I could not even crawl.  

As the battle raged on, one of the King’s knights approached me.  I could hear his armor clanking as he dismounted and bent down next to me, but there was too much blood in my eyes to actually see who it was.  “You yet live,” he said in a rather hurtful surprised tone.  “It was a brave thing you did, providing the distraction with your glowing sword.”  

This was when I felt the sword pull away from me.  The knight was not trying to take it, but the sword itself was trying to go to him.  I heard it say in my mind, “you have fulfilled your role.  Now it is time for a hero to wield me.”  I couldn’t speak because I was too busy choking on my own blood.  That was when I passed out.  I would hear later that the knight personally beheaded the necromancer and ended his threat.  As for me it would be a month before I could stand on my own again.  I would never be able to ride again without intense pain.  

I’m sure my part in the battle will never be sung by bards or painted by artists.  The land has a new legend with his powerful glowing sword.  I should just take satisfaction in knowing that in my own way I played a part.  It is hard to do that when it hurts to breathe though.  No, I need to get my satisfaction elsewhere and that is why I am working so hard on my healing.  I will recover and when I do, I’m going back into those woods.  I will get my satisfaction even if it means my death.  See as soon as I can I’m going to find that pond with the magical sword distributing watery tart and I’m going to take a great big dump in it.  Let’s see how she likes my gift.             


Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story was inspired by a Music League I am in on the Gaming With Gage & Friends Discord. The theme was Alarm Clock Songs.

     My alarm woke me with the most obnoxious beeping sound I could have possibly set for it.  I’m the type of person that has to set multiple alarms for myself five minutes apart to make sure I actually wake up in the morning.  That morning I flung the alarm across the room where it smashed into the wall breaking into multiple pieces.  That was when I remembered that I use my phone as an alarm.  It was supposed to be an easy way to ensure I wake up in the mornings.  Instead, it was becoming a very expensive decision. 

     I crawled out of bed and stumbled my way into the bathroom.  In case you can’t tell I am not exactly a morning person.  When I wake up it takes a while before my brain can catch up with my body.  I don’t know why exactly because my body is pretty sluggish itself for a while.  Half the time I kick something or hit my shoulder on a door frame.  You don’t even want to know what happens if I actually have to talk to someone.  This is morning for me.  A haze of moments that I don’t remember later. 

     You might think that these are minor inconveniences, but you would be wrong.  When you are the most powerful being on the planet and you stub your toe on a bookshelf it does not hurt.  The bookshelf collapses from the impact.  When you bang your shoulder on a door frame the frame shatters.  I am not a rich man nor am I particularly skilled at home repair.  In fact, I am particularly bad at handyman style work.  I just don’t have the mindset for it and every time I try the final result looks pretty poor. 

     Every repair means a new search.  I can’t pick one repair guy that I like and rely on.  They would want to know why they were fixing my door frame for the fourth time in a month.  If I want to keep my secret identity, I have to spread the repair work around.  At this point I think I have used every handyman in a fifty-mile radius at least once.  I will say you meet some very interesting people that way.  For example, one guy whistles, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” while he works.  No matter how long the job takes.   With his head bobbing back and forth the whole time.  I would have kicked him out, but he was actually one of the better craftsmen I have had had in the house.  Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices.

     I looked back and forth between the shattered remains of my phone and the dent in my drywall.  It just had to hit a stud.  If the phone would have hit pure drywall it would have gone through and probably survived.  It survived shattering the ceramic vase I had flowers in yesterday.  Even the water didn’t cause any issues once it dried out.  Phones of course are another issue.  If I don’t destroy them in the morning, there is a good chance they will get hit during a fight and destroyed that way.  I’m waiting for the phone company to notice how often my phone model changes as I swap sim cards.  I try to stick with the same model, but again I’m not rich.  I’m also not a tech guy so I don’t know if they can tell a difference even if it is the same model. 

     All this is to say I hate mornings and being a powerful super being is incredibly difficult sometimes.  I sometimes wonder what my lifestyle would be like if I didn’t have to put so much of my money towards fixing things.  I might actually have a savings then or at least not have crippling credit card debt.  I find most of my teammates are either independently wealthy or struggle like I do.  There are not a lot of middle-class superheroes.  Hard to keep a stable career when you might need to disappear at a moment’s notice.  The propensity of work from home jobs the past few years have really helped the more technical minded of my peers.  That is not me though. 

     After a few minutes of wallowing in self-pity I remember what I was doing and head to the bathroom.  After completely my morning routine I always feel much most awake.  I tend to want to punch someone early in the morning.  It helps me feel better about the rest of the day.  Rescuing people is far more satisfying, but also tends to be more complicated work.  I try to save that for after lunch when I can really focus.  As I perch on my windowsill ready to leap into the sky I can’t help but wonder.  Am I the worst superhero ever?  If I’m not is it only because of how powerful I am?

     These are dangerous thoughts.  With my physiology most medications don’t work on me.  This includes the medications that my doctor prescribed for anxiety and depression.  I might be able to work through things in therapy, but how much can you work through when you can’t talk to your therapist about half of your life.  Having a secret identity makes life so much more difficult, but I’ve known heroes who didn’t.  They all ended up either sued or unable to have any semblance of a normal life.

                As I take to the sky looking for someone to punch, I am reminded of the good aspects of my powers.  How freeing it is to fly through the air.  The look of gratitude on someone’s face when you save their life.  These are things that keep me going.  Sure my powers complicate my life, but I am one of the most free people on the face of the planet in other ways.  For now, that is a trade-off I am willing to make. 


Fiction Fragment Friday

I recently installed a note app on my phone and use it to record random writing thoughts I have. So far these have all been the first sentences of stories. That is how this week’s story came about. I woke up in the middle of the night with the line in my head and recorded it. Then the next morning I wrote the story from the line. This is working fairly well for me as a process for flash fiction.

                I hate fantasy, and I especially hate magic.  Science and crafting make sense.  You follow a process, and it just works.  With magic though everything has to be just right.  You need the right phase of the moon, quality reagents, and the mystical all-powerful beings that fuel it have to be the mood to do so.  There is a base 10% failure rate on all ritual spells, but I’m convinced I have some sort of debuff that raises that failure rate.  I could have been flying a spaceship through the galaxy for my first deep dive immersion virtual reality game, but no I had to play with my friends, and they all wanted a fantasy game.  I really need friends with better taste.   

                The world feels so real with every sense being fed directly into my brain.  For example, my eyes are watering from the smoke filling them.  I’m having a massive coughing fit from the horrid taste and smell of burnt spider eyes that were supposed to be my potion of remote seeing.  I can hear the panicked sound of my NPC assistant trying to put out the fire I started.  Finally, I can feel the disgusting sludge that boiled over as it rolls across my feet. 

                A message pops up on my heads-up display informing me that my spell has failed.  “Thanks how would I ever have known if not for your endless stream of annoying pop-ups.  Dismiss,” I say with as much distain as I can infuse into my voice.   

                “Yes master, thank you.”  My assistant says as he quits trying to help and runs out the door. 

                “Not you, the system.  Get back here and clean this up.”  He is already gone though.  With the word dismiss he popped out of existence waiting for me to recall him.  My cooldown timer though needs another hour before I can do that.  Once again, I am alone in my alchemy lab.  How in a game that I picked up to play with my friends do I end up solo so often?  That’s right I picked a stupid crafting class and can’t manage to stay alive if I go adventuring with them.  This wouldn’t be an issue if we were all crew on the same spaceship together. 

                The system censors my words as I try to release a string of profanities at my situation.  What does “ducking shirt” mean anyway?  Nothing that’s what it means because it is not what I’m trying to say.  In fact not once since logging onto this game have, I ever meant to say duck, shirt, fork, carp, or dandelion pedals.  I do have to admit that last one was a pretty creative word replacement.  I would punch a wall to get my frustration out, but the walls of my hut are stone, and the game feeds pain back to your brain.  Sure, it is muted, but it is still there.  What kind of sadistic brick would program something like that?

                Wait did I just think the word brick?  Oh no this is gone too far.  Censoring my words is bad enough but I will not have a dog dome overzealous developer censoring my thoughts.  Dog dome?  Fork, it did it again.  I am so angry I grab my staff; it is totally not just a giant stirring stick, and storm out of my hut.  I need to kill something, and it doesn’t take long for an NPC to run up to me offering a quest.

                “Brave adventurer I am in dire need of your assistance.  We have a rat infestation in our supplies.  I need you to kill 35 rats and bring me their tails as proof.”

                “Seriously another freaking rat hunting quest?  When will I advance up to fighting absolutely anything else?  Also why do you need the tails?”  The NPC starts to reply, but I cut him off.  “No, don’t answer that.  If you answer it, I have a feeling I will never touch another food item you sell me.”  I storm off to the supply hut to hunt even more rats.  I never want to see another rat again.

                It takes me a full hour to hunt 35 rats.  The dome little things are so fast that they dodge most of my hits.  Then to make it worse only one in every three seems to drop a tail.  How does that even make sense? They all have the same appearance complete with tails, but no only some of them drop those tails.  I swear if I ever meet one of these developers, I’m going to punch them right in their smug face.  How do I know they are smug?  Trust me no one could code this kind of bold shirt without being smug.

                I shove my hand out with a brown sack in it.  “Here, here are your 35 ducking rat tails.”

                 “I am in your debt adventurer.  Here is your reward.  Five XP and ten mystery meat on a stick.”

                “Oh no, keep your meat.  I’m pretty sure I know what’s in it.”

                “Brave adventurer I am in dire need of your assistance.  We have a rat infestation in our supplies.  I need you to kill 40 rats and bring me their tails as proof.”

                “No, quest declined.”  I stomp off back to my hut where I am reminded that there is a very large mess to clean up.  Thankfully I also can resummon my assistant, so I do so immediately.

                  “Hello Master.  How may I assist you today?”

                “Clean this mess up.”  With the order given I open the menu and choose logoff.  Have I mentioned that I really hate fantasy?

The Project

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story takes inspiration from a book I’m currently reading called “The Dark Forest” by Cixin Liu. In it hibernation is used to prolong the life of individuals planning for a distant alien invasion. This made me think about how that type of planning could be used in other stories. I also had the first two lines in mind and they shaped where the story went. As usual I started writing with a very basic concept or question and a story developed from it that I would not have anticipated when I started.

Like many stories I post here I have a much bigger version of the tale in my head than what makes it in. The process for stasis and revival for example is thought out, but doesn’t really fit into the story itself. You only get glimpses of it. After removal from stasis the patient is put into a medical coma while being brought back into normal functionality.

     A warm sensation spread throughout my body working it’s way from the inside outward.  My thoughts felt far away so I focused on the sensation as it felt more real than my own mind at that moment.  The warming seemed to originate from a needle taped down onto the back of my right hand.  I realized that it was an IV and my mind desperate to put together the puzzle pieces decided I must be in a hospital.  Searching for confirmation I heard the familiar sound of health monitors beeping.  With my location seemingly confirmed I struggled to open my eyes.

     “Good you’re awake.”  The voice sounded entirely too cheery, and I instantly decided I hated this woman.  I could hear her shuffling about the room doing her tasks, but to my eyes it was just a blur of motion.  They could not focus yet, and the harsh light felt like a personal assault. 

     “What.”  I wanted to ask what was going on, but only the raspy first word came out.  It was all I could manage through the pain of a burning throat.  The woman I assumed was my nurse came over and leaned down over me.  She had an obnoxious smile, but there was also a look of pity that crossed her face.  I didn’t need anyone’s pity and decided then and there that I would somehow, someday, make this woman suffer unimaginable hells.  This thought gave me pause to wonder what kind of person I was.

     “Oh no dear.  Don’t try to talk yet.  I just took your feeding tube out so your throat must be mighty sore.  You just rest up for now.  That nice assistant of yours will be by this afternoon and you can try talking then.”  She patted my cheek like I was a child, picked up her tablet, and rushed out of the room.  For lack of the ability to throw anything I decided to begrudgingly take her advice and just lay there silently.

     My body was still, but my mind was a raging storm.  I took in all the sensory input I could get and indeed it did confirm I was in a medical facility of some sort.  It was not busy as I could hear no footsteps in the hallways.  No one came to check on me, but the incessant beeping of the monitoring equipment never ceased.  I felt weak and vulnerable.  These were sensations I strongly disliked.  Gradually as I lay there my mind began to focus and my memories returned to me. 

     That afternoon a gray-haired man came to my bedside.  His face looked strikingly familiar, but different.  Like he was perhaps a relative of someone I knew, but not the actual person.  I decided to let him speak first and preserve my voice until I needed it.  My throat was already feeling better, but there was no reason to strain it.

     “It is so good to see you awake again sir.”  He was smiling, but unlike the nurse his smile felt genuine.  I believed him when he said he was happy to see me, but more importantly I recognized the voice.

     “Madison is that you?”  The voice was clearly my assistant, but he looked so much older than I remembered him.  Suddenly I was struck by a terrible thought.  “Wait a minute, how long was I out?”

     He looked pained and I could tell he didn’t want to answer my question.  “Uhm, well sir there were a few slight issues with the project.”

     “HOW LONG WAS I OUT?”  It felt like I had ripped my throat open by screaming and I fell into an uncontrollable coughing fit.

     “Sir please calm down.  You need to rest.  You just woke up.”

     “How long?”  I meant for it to come out strong and demanding, but through the pain my body betrayed me.  I hated how weak I sounded asking.

     “You gave the explicit orders not to bring you out of stasis until phase one of the project was complete.  I tried to make them wake you up, but they were too afraid to counter your orders.”

     “How long?”

     “It’s been thirty years sir.”  His head tilted down and he refused to make eye contact with me.

     “Thirty years?  Phase one was supposed to be completed in ten years.”

     “Uhm, yes sir.  There were complications once you went under though.  See the governments of the world blocked our supplies, your rivals stole some of your top scientists, and well the world changed quite a bit.  I really tried my best to keep things on track, but I’m not you.  They wouldn’t listen to me.  They don’t fear me.”

     “Of course, they don’t fear you.  Fear isn’t your tool its mine.  You are an administrator.”

     “But sir all my authority comes from you.  Once you were in stasis people didn’t see me as an extension of you anymore.”  He did not look like my trusted assistant in that moment.  He looked like a tired old man who had given up hope.  I decided in that moment that he needed to be replaced, but I couldn’t do it until I had regained my strength.  I needed him dedicated until I had reliable help and could eliminate him.

                “It’s OK Madison.  We just need to remind the world who I am.  We can fix this.  Before I can plan though I need all the variables.  Tell me, what has happened in the last thirty years?”      


Fiction Fragment Friday

Sometimes I might struggle with coming up with an idea because something else get’s stuck in my head. I think when that happens it’s best to go back to the stories and characters that I’m the most comfortable with. This time is a slightly different perspective. Hope you enjoy.

     “You know everything was going pretty well, but life kind of sucks now.  My best friend had to leave town so she could hide from a super powered gang boss.  The scientist that made all my cool stuff got a job in New York.  My girlfriend left me days before I got superpowers, and my first ever high paying job turned out to be working for a super-villain.  Makes a guy think he might just have bad luck.”

     “Please I’m begging you just arrest me already.”  The mugger was hanging upside down over the edge of a roof with Ricochet holding him by is left ankle.  He had lost track of how long he had been there having to listen to this supposed superhero rambling on and on.   “I’ll confess just please stop talking.”

     “Well, that’s kind of rude.”  Ricochet tossed him onto the roof where he rolled until smashing into the air conditioner.  It sputtered, sparked, and then the fan stopped spinning.  “Oh, I am not paying for that.”  He leapt through the sky and landed in a crouch next to the mugger.  “Uhm if anyone asks that was your fault ok?”

     “Sure man, whatever you say.”  He hurt all over.  First the hero head tossed him around the alley, then dragged him up the fire escape backwards, and now he was pretty sure the air conditioner had cracked a rib. 

     “You know this talk was good.  I think I needed it.  Thanks for that.”

     “That mean you’re gonna let me go?”  The words came out with a grunt.  It was starting to hurt to breathe.

     Ricochet laughed.  “Oh, that’s a good one.  Wait you were serious?  No man I’m gonna drop you off with that patrol when they get out of the convenience store.  I would take you in, but they kinda banned me for too much collateral damage.  I mean really some people have no appreciation.  Jeremy over on twelfth gave me free fountain drinks for life, but this guy no. 

     Tears of pain and frustration filled the mugger’s eyes.  “Do you every shut up?”

     Ricochet tossed the man over his shoulder and sprinted across the roof.  Just before the edge he leapt into the air and spun.  As soon as his feet his the next roof he rebounded and moved onto the next.  After making a loop around the neighborhood he flung them from the roof towards the convenience store wall.  His legs compressed against and pushed off.  As the two spun over the patrol car he dropped the mugger onto the front hood.  He was happy to notice that it barely dented the car this time. 

     “Hello officers, have a great day.  Enjoy your gift, from the rambling Ricochet.”  With those parting words the hero disappeared into the night.  He didn’t go quietly though as the mugger and police officers could hear him singing something to the tune of “Gummy Bears” as he bounced away.

     Officer Mendel rushed to his car to check on the man.  His partner officer Melvin threw her coffee against the ground while cussing.  “So help me if the car doesn’t start I’m going hunt that bouncing idiot to the ends of the Earth.  Last week the blamed fool dropped one right into my windshield shattering it.  He’s worse than the actual bad guys.”

     “He just wouldn’t shut up.  He dragged me around just rambling on and on and on.”

     Mendel helped him to his feet.  “Wanna confess now or wait until we get to the precinct?”

     “What makes you think I’m gonna tell you anything?”

     “Let me tell you about the last guy that didn’t.  See as soon as we let him go Ricochet grabbed him and bounced around until they were on top of the tallest building in Reignsborough.  Then he started singing.  Said he was working on an album.  Called it ‘Bouncing Back: Songs to Punch Bad Guys To’ Apparently every song was just a theme song about him.  Said he couldn’t get it narrowed down to just twelve, so he made the guy listen to all thirty-seven.  Every time he reached a big moment in a song, he would do a pose and drop the guy.  Caught him before he hit the ground and took him back to the roof each time.  That’s not the worst part though.”  Officer Mendel paused for effect.

     “What was the worst part?”  The mugger’s voice was cracking now.

     “Well each time that happened he had to restart the song from the beginning.  Sometimes it took three tries to get through the song.”

                “Do you want my confession verbally or in writing?”    

Excerpt From Field Report S573629 On The Status Of Earth

Fiction Fragment Friday

I wish I could tell you what motivated this weeks story? I was looking for a good idea after a stressful week and this one just came to me. I am sure I have been influenced by some of the books I have recently read involving intelligent extraterrestrial life and it’s interactions with humanity. The idea of doing this story as an excerpt from a report though is something that I can’t really point at the origins to. In the end I enjoyed this story and I suppose that is the best I can hope for.

               Humans have no idea of the dangers that await them in the galaxy at large.  At their current technology level this is to be expected.  If they did that would mean that I had failed in my mission.  The people of Earth have continued to search for life in the universe by both listening and broadcasting signals.  This will be a fruitless effort so long as my technology continues to block these transmissions at the edge of their solar system.  The best way to keep humans protected from the dangers they face is to keep them hidden from those dangers. 

               The technological leaps that have occurred in the past few decades have made keeping humans hidden a very difficult task for several reasons.  They have probes that have now left their own solar system.   I need to make sure they can communicate with these probes so simply blocking all transmissions no longer works.  They also are getting more advanced with their signal detections, so I need to block actual communications while still allowing the background noise of the universe.  If I fail in any way, I could set back their scientific advancement by years while I fix it.  Blocking communications has gone from a base blanket rule to a complicated mesh of five hundred interconnected policies.

               Remote viewing no longer proves to be adequate to keep up with human developments.  We have found that much of their news and information is transferred via a computer network they refer to as the internet.  While this network does connect their entire planet their individual nation states do not share all information with each other.  We have had to setup listening posts in five major countries to ensure proper coverage.  Each of these has required resources to blend into society, physical modifications to pass as human, and the creation of fake identities.  This has caused the Earth operation to expand from a team of ten individuals to a crew of three hundred.  Each operative on the planet presents an additional risk of discovery and replacing them as they rotate out of the project further complicates matters.

               At this time there is still a considerable leap in technology needed for humans to physically expand past their own solar system.  They are reaching a point where colonization of their moon and neighboring planet is within their grasp.  Our teams suspect that this effort will generate innovations that will drive them to unexpected advancements as the initial efforts to reach their moon did.  This is an area being closely monitored to ensure that we are not caught unprepared.  The largest concern remains in their finding extraterrestrial relics within their solar system and reverse engineering them.  The humans have shown a remarkable talent at adapting discoveries without their population at large knowing the source. 

               The recovery of a crashed Razorian probe in the area known as Roswell New Mexico seventy-five Earth years ago kickstarted the computer industry and advanced the humans far faster than we could have ever anticipated.  A similar incident with their current level of technology could very well propel them outside of their solar system and prematurely into the sights of hostile species.  This program was initiated after that event and thus far has prevent a repeat, but it is getting exceedingly difficult to do so.  The Earth government shave programs actively looking for extraterrestrial crafts and despite our best efforts to shield the planet from the larger galaxy no less than seven species have knowledge of the planet and have sent their own expeditionary programs.

               We cannot directly act against any of these extraterrestrial programs without causing a potential political event that would lead to interstellar war.  As a mitigating factor we have used a focused campaign of misinformation with the humans.  Their own media and entertainment have been a much-needed resource in our efforts to convince the populace that any sighting are instead hoaxes or easily explained.  Perhaps our most effective campaign of misdirection is to present obviously false claims of alien visitation to their planet shaping early humanity.  The more these ideas are debunked by those more learned the more the populace is hesitant to accept actual evidence.  This has had the unintended consequence of creating a network of vast believers among those most at the fringes of human society.  While we are monitoring these individuals, they do not pose a significant threat as they lack the political power to influence policy.

               I cannot understate the danger to my operatives undercover with the humans.  As their technology grows their privacy and the ability to hide becomes limited.  Surveillance technology has grown even more exponentially than other technology.  This might be because of the nature of the Razorian probe, but I suspect it has more to do with the nature of humanity.  They are an inherently distrustful species and if their media is any indication our discovery would go quite poorly.  Interrogation and dissection would only be the beginning.  If they ever had any indication of our existence among them, they would dedicate more resources to hunting us than we currently can bring to bear on remaining hidden.

               At the risk of overstepping the bounds of my report I must conclude that our current mission is untenable.  This project needs to be reevaluated at the highest levels.  We either need vastly more resources or preferably a better plan on how to proceed.  We simply cannot continue to keep the humans separate from the rest of the galaxy without endangering our people and resources.  They are not advanced enough to protect themselves from invasion or conscription, but if we continue our current path, we will likely be the source of their next great technological leap.  It is only a matter of time before they discover us and once that occurs it will be too late.

  Earth will fit in nicely with the unstable galactic stage, but only if they are able to develop naturally.  Elevation based on taking technology from other species will only lead them to continue doing so.  They could very well be the greatest of future mediators or the worst of tyrants.  The people in general are capable of great things, but power corrupts them very easily.  We will continue to do our duty and stay hidden from them to the best of our abilities.  I must implore you though to address my concerns in a timely manor or we may be forced to take preemptive actions that could jeopardize the long-term success of this mission. 

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