Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 7

7.

 

“We are very pleased with you, Billy,” the head elder praised, “you have restored water to our planet of origin and possibly life.”

“Sirs,” he fidgeted uncomfortably, “if I may be permitted to speak.”

“Go ahead,” the elder nodded.

“I hesitate to agree with your desire to recolonize the planet,” he responded, “as the risk of there being a repeat of all that came to pass there is too great.”

“Oh?” The elder was now intrigued. “Is there evidence of the incident not being unique?”

“In many ways,” he nodded, “yes. Not that I have definite proof, but…”

“But you saw something that made you believe,” the elder finished for him.

“Yes,” he nodded again, “there is a massive wall like structure, something that looks man made, that stretches the length of the ocean basin we were first in.”

“An interesting anomaly,” the elder agreed, “one that makes me inclined to agree that mass resettlement may not be a viable option.” the elder peered at him. “So what is your solution?”

“We make Earth an animal sanctuary where wildlife can roam free,” he voiced, “and place a small scientific crew to oversee the sanctuary.”

“Interesting idea,” the elder smiled, “and is there more to this?”

“Yes,” he admitted, “we can clean up the lunar colony, tear down the original as it would be…unusable….then build a hostel or resort in its place where visitors who go to view animals in the wild can stay while there.”

“This is your project, Billy,” the elder announced, “we grant you permission to do all that you have suggested. But you must wait for at least eight days.”

“That is eighty Earth years,” he beamed, “correct?”

“Well,” the elder chuckled, “close enough to. It is about 400 Earth years. Long enough for the forests you planted to grow. Long enough for the climate to return to as close to normal as possible.”

“Thank you, sirs,” he bowed.

“You’re welcome, Billy,” the elder answered, then bent closer, “and you will be placed as management of this new sanctuary.”

***

“So what did they say?” His mother asked.

“They loved the sanctuary suggestion,” he bubbled happily, “and I am to be manager!”

“I am proud of you, son,” she smiled, “you have finally become an adult. Being given a charge is a sign that the elders see you as an adult. I believe the mission you were given was their test for you.”

“So I am to pick the science team?” He looked at her.

“Yes, son,” she nodded, a tear coming to her eye, “choose well.”

“What about those who have been caring for the animals in the preservation zoo?” He inquired.

“You will have to ask them if they would be interested,” she suggested, “but they would do as a starting point.”

“And you?” He pressed.

“I can only offer technical support,” she responded, “nothing more.”

“But we work so well together,” he objected.

“Yes,” she nodded, “but you need to find others you can work with. Others not of family.”

“Very well,” he was disappointed, “I shall. Wish you could go.”

“Son,” she began, “I have had my fill of Earth. It was a beautiful planet, but I do not want to live there. This is your destiny. Your opportunity to shine. Go. take hold of it and do not let go.”

“I will miss you,” he sniffed.

“And I, you,” she smiled sadly, “but I always knew that this day would come.”

“You always knew that I would leave?” He was surprised.

“We all must leave at some time,” she nodded, “and I knew that you were marked for greatness. Greatness that would not include me.”

“But,” he objected, “this was never the way I intended it to be!”

“It never is,” she shrugged, “especially when fate takes a hand in things.” She looked at him. “You were always destined to go back. From the first trip we took, that was to be your path. There was nothing I could do to stop it.”

“Couldn’t you have said something?” He inquired.

“No,” she confirmed, “it would have made you want it more. You would have pushed harder. And it would have driven you away from me more violently.

“I had to allow you to do as your destiny demanded. It was more natural. This is what is meant to be. Embrace it.”

“What of you?” He persisted.

“I will still be here,” she affirmed, “and I shall come and visit. Do not worry. And you may have a brother or sister. It is the way these things go.”

***

Billy selected a team. The conservation team agreed to accompany the animals to Earth and to remain there to study and preserve life in a more natural setting. The conservancy cubes were loaded into the largest ship he had ever seen. 

“What shall we call our ship?” Anders, the bug cat overseer, inquired.

“How about The Ark?” He asked, somewhat jokingly.

The Ark,” the scientist mused, “good enough for me.”

“Let’s get loaded up,” he looked at Anders.

“Yes,” the scientist nodded, “let us.”

Billy entered the ship with the science team. He stopped at the hatch and took one last look around. It would be the last time any of them would see Home.

They lifted off after the last conservancy cube had been loaded. The small loading/offloading crew remained aboard. They would return the ship after all was offloaded. 

That had been how he had set things up. They would load and unload the ship, then return Home with the empty ship. He would remain on Earth with the scientists.

He smiled sadly. In a flash, they would be over Earth. There, they would off load the animals according to their original continent. The Americas. Eurasia. Africa. Australia. 

The islands would receive their animals last. There would be fewer to offload. Fewer to get mixed up.

Behind them. A second ship lifted off. This one was loaded with a cleaning and colonizing crew. The lunar colony would be small, just enough to maintain the hostel. 

Their project would be the most important. It would establish a resort where people could stay while visiting the preserve known as Earth. It would ensure that there was little to no contamination of the preserve.

***

The Ark lifted off from Earth and vanished. Its departure symbolized the last chance of leaving the planet. Billy blinked away the tears.

What had begun as a research project had become his life’s work. He was now fully invested in returning Earth to its former splendor. There was no turning back.

He turned away from where the ship had been and vanished into the primal jungle. He would roam the forests and jungles from this point on.  

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 6

6.

 

He had found the same promise of hope at each capped source. Grass had begun to grow where the water had made a wet spot. The discovery gave him such hope.

It showed him that life could return to the planet. Life would return. That meant that once the caps were destroyed, the atmosphere would return to what it had been before humanity poisoned it.

The rains would return. The plant life would spring back to life. Verdant forests and lush prairies would grow.

He hoped that the elders reconsidered their idea of resettlement. He would rather they return the creatures of Earth back here to roam free. Yes, Earth would be best as an animal sanctuary.

Humanity had its new home. It really did not need to return here. They did not need to risk returning to what they had been.

If they wanted to colonize, they should look outward from where they were now. Not back toward where they had been. No need to revisit the past.

Not permanently, anyway. The animals could have Earth once they were repopulated in their respective regions. Humanity could come back and visit, leaving it as they found it.

Not that it would be hard. They no longer hunted for pleasure or even for food. They no longer had the need.

Perhaps they would have to cull the population in order to keep illness down. Then, again, maybe they wouldn’t perhaps illness was nature’s way of doing just that.

He could only hope that the elders would listen. The planet was going to be pristine. Untouched.

At least once every seed had grown and all animal life returned to its rightful place. And once the oceans were filled and once more teeming with life. Why spoil it?

Humanity had destroyed it once. There was no need in risking it happening again. Not after so much work to restore it.

Perhaps they could replace the colony on the moon and use it as a hostel where they could stay when visiting Earth. They could also clean up Mars and recolonize there.

He would recommend this as more feasible. He would push for the idea of Earth as a nature preserve. A sort of open zoo where the animals roamed free in their own environment.

The only permanent human inhabitants would be those sent to ensure each region’s animals’ full return to wildness. The keepers. They could close down the preservation zoos they had set up on Home permanently.

He smiled. It was a grand plan. He just hoped that the elders would agree.

***

He placed explosives on the last cap. He was finally done setting the charges. It had taken three months, but now they could free the water.

He grinned with satisfaction. Every seed had been planted. Every cap was ready to be blasted. 

“Are we ready, mother?” He asked into his communicator.

“For what?” His mother returned.

“I just set the last explosives,” he responded, “are we ready for mass blasting?”

“Did you remember to place the wireless remote detonators?” She pressed.

“Yes,” he averred, “and made sure that the explosives were just enough to destroy the caps, but not enough to damage anything else.” 

“Then,” she admitted, “we are ready just as soon as you are back in the ship and we are airborne.”

“Then,” he stated, “I am on my way in.”

“Any special requests?” She inquired.

“Turn on the external audio sensors,” he suggested, “I want to hear what it sounds like after the caps are blasted.”

“Very well,” she sighed, “the audio sensors will be on.”

“I’m headed back in,” he concluded, “no time to waste.”

“The hatch is open,” she averred, “just hover right in.”

“Thank you,” he stated, “I will.”

He sped to her location.  He had no time to lose. They had to get to a high enough altitude that the mists of the roaring waters did not dampen their ship and cause contamination. They also had to go above the planet and deploy the relay net so that the simultaneous detonation could take place. 

He hovered into the cargo bay of the ship. Getting out of the rover, he made his way to the bridge.

“We need to release the relay net,” he stated, “so we can finish up.”

“Let us get into high orbit,” his mother responded, “that should do the trick.”

***

The relay net was a remote operated retractable device that expanded to whatever size was needed. They would expand it completely for use, then allow it to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. It would not cause any harm to the planet.

Once it was deployed, they reentered the atmosphere and hovered low enough to capture any sound that might emerge after the detonations. And waited. 

The detonations barely registered as more than a distant pop. A soft, but growing roar followed as the waters were suddenly released. They watched on the monitor as the waters washed over the parched ground, flooding over the newly planted seeds.

It was a beautiful sight. He thrilled at the thunder of the water as it flooded forth. The sound of nature at her most pure. Most violent.

Even his mother was enthralled by the sight and sound. It was the first time he had ever seen her speechless. He smiled.

“So,” she finally gathered enough courage to speak, “this is what the elders wanted you to do?”

“Yes,” he nodded, “though I am not so certain we should recolonize.”

“Is that their intention?” She frowned.

“It was one of the possibilities, yes,” he admitted, “though not the only one.”

“What would you do?” She pressed.

“I would turn Earth into a sanctuary for the animals currently kept in the preservation zoos,” he responded, “with minimal human contact. And almost no human population…just a small number of scientists to oversee the welfare of the preserve. We could…have hover tours to keep contact to a minimum and a hostel on the moon to stay at when visiting.”

“So,” she rubbed her chin, “you’re against recolonization?”

“Yes,” he nodded again, “I am. Why colonize when we can always search elsewhere for suitable planets? What if recolonization sets off the chain of events that originally caused us to leave the planet in the first place? What if we recolonize and end up finally destroying the planet?”

“I see your point,” she averred, “and agree. The risk is too great.”

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 5

5.

 

Bones littered the plateau. Shattered remains of buildings, glass stripped by fire and explosions, stood like stark sentries above what had been New York City. A blob of oxidized copper sat where a once grand statue had once stood.

The bridge was still there, but riddled with holes. Crumbling. Unusable.

Empty shells that were once cars sat, littering the streets. Skeletons sat within, sightless and uncaring. Sands had begun to reclaim the streets. 

It was a nightmare landscape. Something out of his nightmares. How he wished he could turn back. 

But he had a mission to complete. In a way, he was breaking the rules at the behest of the elders. He was attempting basic terraforming by reintroducing once native species back into the ecosystem.

The only difference was that he was taking the natural path, not using machines to do the work. All he had to do was find the source of the problem where the rivers were concerned. What was keeping them from flowing? 

Had the source springs dried up? Had they become clogged? Or maybe buried?

Had the same happened to the tributaries? Or had the aquifers been drained? Or had the problem been manmade?

He knew that the aquifers had not gone dry, but too many questions flooded in. He felt somewhat lost. He had admission to complete, but no idea where to begin. 

He sighed. He would begin at the big lakes at what had been the ancient border of Canada and the United States. He would do some scratchings there as well. In each lake bed. 

He hoped that he could turn things around. He hoped he could return waters to this rock somehow. Even a little bit of water flowing could restart the ecosystem. It could get the rains to begin again. 

Yes. He would have to get a little water trickling out of the ground. Just enough to restart the rains. Once the rains started, the rivers, tributaries, lakes and oceans would fill up over time. 

The seeds he was planting would grow. And maybe long dormant seeds hidden beneath the sands. With that growth, the atmosphere would heal more. 

The cycle would continue. Rain, growth, oxygenation…perhaps his actions would bring on more seasons. Perhaps spring and fall would return to separate summer and winter.

He smiled as he thought of what his actions could bring. A renewal. A rebirth.

It could also bring on catastrophe. But that was a remote risk. Something the elders felt necessary to see if Earth could be revived.

***

The scratchings and corings done in the lake beds had yielded moisture. Water had come bubbling up from two holes left after core samples had been taken. Puddles had soon spread, forcing Billy to abandon each lake bed. 

He smiled. Water was to be found. And at this rate, he might be able to return a decent ecosystem to this planet. 

“Water in all four large lake beds,” he reported to home base, “perhaps this planet isn’t as barren as we were led to believe.”

“That’s a positive thing,” his mother began, “isn’t it?”

“A very positive thing,” he confirmed, “has the oozing water a few clicks from you begun to build to anything?”

“So far,” she returned, “not that I can see. But the location is quite a distance from me, so it could have become a bigger stream. In this salt desert, it’ll be hard to see much difference until a lake forms…or a river.”

“True,” he averred, “just keep watching. If it does show signs of change, or the water gets too close, go ahead and move to a plateau.”

“Alright,” she answered, “and I will be sure to relay my new location to you.”

“If I happen upon something manmade and believe it will pose a threat to you,” he continued, “something I have to break, for instance, I will contact you and tell you to move the ship.”

“Alright,” she stated.

Shutting down the communicator, he went back to work. First, he would travel to the north. Check the rivers there.  He would plant the seeds as he went. Forests and grass would grow once more here.

“Moving to the slope,” his mother reported, “for a better view of what is below.”

He switched his communicator back on.

“East? He inquired. “Or west?”

“West,” she replied, “why?”

“Just for reference,” he stated, “the west slope is closest. The east would give me further to travel.”

“Oh,” she responded.

***

Humanity had been stupid. They had capped all the source springs of all the major rivers and tributaries. They had literally stopped the flow of all lifegiving water. All in their greed.

Perhaps they had thought that they were conserving. Or maybe it had been an act of war. Or malice. Or greed.

He believed it had probably been the last. Or maybe a combination of malice, war, and greed. And maybe not in that order.

Whatever their reason, they had killed the Earth. After capping the rivers and tributaries, the rains had stopped. When the rains stopped, crops wouldn’t grow. And starvation set in.

By all appearances, they had forgotten that they had capped these sources. Wouldn’t surprise him. Humanity had not been that smart.

They had always been making war for no reason. Hating for even less. And their greed had been horrible.

They had stopped caring about each other. Only money mattered. Not life. Not equality.

And their politics had reflected that. Their hate. Their greed. Their lack of compassion.

But so had their religions. All of them. None of their religions had taught compassion or love.

Both had been their downfall. Both had brought on their extinction. Their end.

Looking at the cap before him, Billy noticed something. It had begun to deteriorate. Just a little.

Where the water slowly oozed from the cap, a small damp spot had appeared and grass had grown in that spot. A ghost in the ruins. The promise of returned life.

He had enough explosives to blow every cap he found. The problem was, how to handle the simultaneous demolition of every cap on the planet. He turned his communicator back on.

“I have a problem,” he announced.

“What kind of problem?” His mother inquired.

“I have found the source of the problem,” he returned, “but it will take weeks to set up all the explosives for a synchronized demolition.”

“Demolition of what?” she pressed.

“The fools capped all sources going to all rivers and tributaries,” he sighed, “all will have to be blown so that the rivers can all run free.”

“Is that within the parameters of your mission?” She was alarmed at his inference of interference in the natural order of things.

“The caps are all man made,” he responded, “if we destroy them, we return the natural balance and set the rivers free. Is it interference if we return things to their natural order?”

“Well, no,” she allowed, “but…”

“I was told to do whatever it took,” he reassured her, “as long as it restored balance and did not use machines to artificially create anything. Blasting the caps off the source springs successfully fulfills that mandate.

“The problem is that we will likely have to go to every continent and island and set charges…which is time consuming. That means we will be here a while. That is, if we want to do this right.”

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 3

3.

 

Home was fifty light years from Earth but the most current technology could bend time so that one could land on Earth in the same moment in time that they left Home. They could remain in the present even if the space in time was vast.

He chuckled. Ancient humanity would have claimed that the technology was impossible. But they, his more recent ancestors, had come to realize that nothing was ever impossible. Ancient quantum physics, and ancient astrophysics for that matter, had been rudimentary. Incomplete. Biased enough to ensure that truth seemed to be the impossibility.

Even time travel was accessible now. One could go to almost any point in the past and, remaining beyond the continuum so as not to be seen, observe events of the past. Yet none had attempted it. Not past a few years.

He wondered if he would be given a pass for that as well, once he was done with this mission. He wanted to find out what had really happened. Who had started what? Or had it been a natural disaster?

He also wanted to know what the true origin of the long held religion really was. Had it been a single man? Or had it been something simply made up?

He was full of questions. How did man begin? How did he advance to where he had been when the schism occurred? What had been the origin of that schism? Had it been founded in truth? Or just another lie?

He had so many questions. So many things he wanted to discover. But at the moment, he had to finish the mission the elders had given him. After, he might convince them to allow the other.

“Two minutes until we enter Earth’s atmosphere,” his mother stated, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“Did we remember the rover?” He inquired.

“Yes,” she assured him, “and the packs you were told to bring. I just don’t understand why I have to remain with the ship.”

“The elders talked that they might be transmitting more orders,” he shrugged, “and someone has to be aboard to upload the data I send through com.”

“Oh,” she frowned, “and what was with all those packs?”

“Just something the elders wanted me to do,” he smiled, “nothing to worry about.”

“Not worried,” she sighed, “just seems to be an awful lot of secrecy surrounding this mission.”

“I will probably be gone for a few days, so will have to send data through com,” he explained, “someone is needed here to upload it to the crystals so that it is ready for transmission to Home. No real secrecy. No mystery. 

“I am simply to do my experiments on my own. Nothing more. It was the instructions I was given by the elders.”

“Oh,” she nodded, finally satisfied, “OK.” She paused. “Be careful.”

“I will, mother,” he smiled, “no worries.”

***

What had once been oceans were now deep cavernous deserts. There was no life to be seen. Nothing to hint of the once vibrant world that Earth had once been.

Instead, a swelteringly dry wind met any who entered the desolate world that remained. Billy wondered if the plateaus that had been the continents and islands offered anything cooler. He hoped so.

He would be working up there soon enough. That had been where he had been instructed to plant the seeds. That had also been where he had been told to explore. 

There had been no settlements in the oceans. Nothing but great underwater war machines known as submarines. And even those had their limits where depth was concerned.

He was sure that he would come across some of these strange machines but he doubted if there was any left alive within. After all, there was no food. Nothing to survive on.

At least not where primitive humanity was concerned. Modern humanity no longer needed sustenance. They no longer needed anything remotely resembling food. 

Knowledge fed them. Understanding. Empathy. Wisdom.

Billy studied his surroundings. The trenches were off limits. They were nothing but fiery pits spewing lava.

He smiled. He would travel just out of his mother’s line of sight before making his first test for water. After scratching for water in a few places, he would head for what had once been the Americas.

He was glad that the rover had hover capabilities. It was sort of like a small flying saucer, though not enclosed and mostly empty so that cargo could be stored within. His little cockpit was just big enough for one.

“Am I out of your line of sight yet?” He called back to his mother.

“Yes,” she answered, “and I do not like it. But you have your instructions, so I must accept even if I do not agree.”

“Alright,” He began, “I will do my first scratching here.”

“Alright,” she returned, “ready for data transfer.”

He stopped his rover. He could not see the ship. Good. 

He got out of the rover and dug in the cargo hold for the instruments needed. Finding his core tapper, he walked a short distance and pushed it into the sandy soil as deep as he could. He would be taking six of these cores in his attempt to scratch for water.

***

On the sixth coring, water began to ooze – almost unnoticeably – from the ground. But he had noticed and was thrilled. It meant that the planet wasn’t completely dry. Or completely dead.

He gathered some of the water for analysis. He wanted to see if there were minerals in it. Or if it was completely sterile.

He hoped that this was not a fluke. That would be a horrible thing. It would also mean that this whole trip was for naught.

He hoped to find an answer to what had caused this. Surely humanity hadn’t drank up all the water. Nor had the water simply dried up. Or had it?

So many mysteries. So many strange things that didn’t make sense. He shook his head.

Even with the greenhouse gases that ancient humanity had caused, this was not a plausible end. Poisoned water, yes. Extreme heat, yes. But not total loss of water.

So what had happened? Had their nuclear warfare caused the waters to be stopped up? Had their greed caused all the rivers’ sources to be tapped and capped? 

Nothing here made much sense. There was nothing to indicate exactly what had happened. Not like the colonies on the moon or on Mars.

All on Mars had died from some bacterial plague. The source of the bacteria was unknown. Wherever it had come from, it had spread rather rapidly. 

There was incomplete evidence that the bacteria had been indigenous to the planet. But nothing solid. No evidence could be found to corroborate what the colonists had recorded. 

The catastrophe that had been the lunar colonies was horribly evident. Space debris, most likely a small asteroid, had destroyed the protective bubble and allowed the artificial atmosphere to escape quicker than the machines could create it. Space dust and stellar radiation damaged the machines beyond repair. 

The end result was the death of all within. The investigations into the scene had proven it. He found himself tearing up at the thought.

New Year’s Resolutions II: The Annual Fictional Resolutions

This past year has been strange. I have been so far from home for so long, I have forgotten what home was like. Many of us fled from earth and the Solar System at the collapse of the social order. Thank God we had the technology to do so. As war enveloped the earth, and spread to the other colonies, We decided to abandon all hope of peace there and find ourselves a new home. But was it worth it? Only time will tell.

On with my resolutions.

1. To find my diary. It contains all my memories of home. I want to remember it as it was, before the fall.

2. To find that special someone. Mom says it isn’t good to be a single woman in the colony. But no one has struck my fancy yet. Besides. I have a few years before I am too old to marry and have children.

3. To find true happiness. New Earth is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It just lacks something sincere.

4. To find true peace. Whatever form it might take.

5. To return to Earth and see what has become of those we left behind. I left behind so many friends and loved ones. My Billy was left behind, fighting for Earth’s survival. I wonder what he looks like now. Or if he is even still alive.

6. To wander the universe, alone, for a while. Everyone needs a little time away.

7. Answers to all my questions. I know this is being unrealistic, but it would be nice.

8. To experience everything to its fullest.

9. To live each day to its fullest.

10. To be the best I can be to everyone, every day.

11. To get back into shape. This year, I have been lax in exercising. I have put off going to the gym, jogging in the park, and just taking daily walks. No more. I want to fit into my size five dress again when I get married.

12. To quit eating so much chocolate. Oh, and all other candy. Mom says I am sweet enough.

13. To eat more nutritiously.

14. To give more to others. Generosity is key to success.

15. To expect less out of others.

16. To lower my standards where possible suitors are concerned. No one will ever live up to Billy. Why must I continue to make them?

17. To seek out every opportunity to gaze at the stars. They are so beautiful here on New Earth. And much clearer and closer. So wonderful.

18. To explore beyond the bubble. The wilds beyond are so inviting.

19. To finish my biology and meta-science degrees. I am in my last year as a student. Next year, I will be able to accompany the teams out into the field.

20. And finally, I resolve to quit resolving to do things on every New Year. It is unbecoming of a young lady, or so papa says, to promise herself to do things and never actually do them.

These are my New Year’s resolutions for this coming year. May all happiness and peace descend upon New Earth. And may both find you, wherever you are.

***

Final note: word was received from Earth upon the New Year. Civilization had fallen finally. Billy had been tried and convicted, long ago (three centuries), of war crimes and executed. Wars raged on for a century or two until all semblance of culture and civility were gone, leaving savages to roam the Earth. Seems I will not be going back to Earth. Home no longer exists.

The message received, had been sent at the very end of the wars. It had been sent by the only ones left who knew how to operate the communication equipment. Then, when power failed, all messages ceased. I can’t believe that I have been away from Earth for three hundred years! Of course, We were all in stasis until just a year from our destination.

Finis

“Death Takes A Ride”

I was driving my cab on the coldest day of the year when I had the most unexpected fare. I was sitting at Third and Broadway waiting for a fare. Business had been slow and when the call came in, I was ready to break with boredom. The address was just a few blocks away from where I sat, so I thought ‘why not?’ Pulling away from the curb, I headed toward the address given. As I drove, I made mental notes.

Pulling up, I immediately realized that this was not going to be your average fare. I don’t know whether it was the black robe, skeletal figure, oversized scythe, black mist, or the sudden sense of dread that tipped me off…but I knew instantly that I was in for the ride of my life. nervously, I watched as my fare slid into position in the back seat. I tried not to stare.

“Where to, Mack?” I inquired.

“Oh, nowhere special,” came the surprising sound of a female voice, “I have some time to kill. And the name is G.R.”

“Nice joke, G.R.,” I continued nervously, “So you just wanna ride around?” How long?”

“Yes,” she replied, sweetly, “For about an hour.”

“Wanna hit the park for a while?” I suggested, since the park was about ten minutes away and one can easily waste an hour there.

“Sure,” She replied.

I headed the taxi for the park and tried to keep my eyes on the road. But, that proved impossible. Especially when I looked up and watched her remove the hood of the cloak. Expecting to see her face remain skull-like in appearance, I was mildly surprised as her head became very human when the hood fell away. Once the hood was down, she became very stunningly beautiful.

She noticed me having a hard time not staring and smiled. “What’s the matter?”

“I thought–” I couldn’t get the full thought to form.

“You thought that Death was always forced to be bony and, well, dead in appearance?” she smiled.

“Well, yeah,” I replied, “and I thought Death was always, well, male.”

“Death is whoever Death chooses to be,” she replied, looking out the window, “or whoever kills Death, cheats Death, lies to Death , and even decides to date Death, as I did.”

I glanced back at her. “Which one?”

She looked back at me. “Which one what?”

I shrugged. “Which did you do?”

She let loose with a nearly maniacal laughter. “Which one. Well, I actually did them all. but not in the order I gave you. I began dating Death when I was in my teens. He was tall, dark and handsome without the hood. Oh, I knew it could never last. After all, he was immortal. Sort of.”

I looked up. “Sort of?”

She smiled. “Ok, not really. only when the cloak was on. But I didn’t know this at first. But that won’t be until later. At first, it was the novelty of the whole affair. Me and Death. I was a Goth girl, loved the whole negative thing. Black hair, black eye shadow, black clothing–hell. I even had a black bedroom with black bedding.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really. Interesting.”

She seemed to be unfazed by my comments. “He came for me when I was sixteen. I had taken a few too many sleeping pills and he was there to collect. Only thing was, I really had not intended to do so–take too many pills, I mean–and so I begged him not to take me. In the process, I knocked the hood of the cloak off his head and bang! There, standing before me was the most handsome man I had ever met.

“The age difference didn’t matter to me. Not at first, anyway. I mean, I didn’t care that he was over two hundred years old. Hell! I thought I had bagged myself my own personal vampire! Never mind that he was Death. I just thought he was in that same league.

“Boy was I wrong. Death is not a vampire. Not by a long shot. We are simply Death.

“Anyway, we dated for a few years until I came of age. Then, we began getting more serious. Or so I thought.”

I shook my head. “Wait a minute. are you saying–?”

She nodded. “On my twentieth birthday, We had sex for the first time. It was then that I began to wonder where the relationship was headed. I mean, he was horrible in bed. Almost dead.” She snickered. “I mean, in a couple hundred years you would have thought that he would have learned how to please a woman, but no. Anyway, to make a long story a bit shorter, I began cheating on him.”

I was still shaking my head. “Ok. So let me get this straight. So far, you have cheated Death and also dated and slept with Death. And now you are cheating on him?”

She was still snickering. “Well, yes. But things are just getting good. Anyway. He began hearing rumors that I was sleeping around on him, so he came home one day and confronted me about it. And I lied to him and told him that I hadn’t been. I, then, accused him of the same thing.

“He smiled and actually admitted that he had been seeing another woman. Well, this made me mad. So mad!”

I had started chuckling at her absurd story. “Mad enough to kill, I suppose?”

She stopped giggling. “Why, yes! And I ripped his cloak off and put it on myself. He was now in mortal form and, well, naked. And suddenly aging rapidly. And I just stood there staring at him.

“‘Well, now you have done it,’ he said. ‘done what?’ I asked. ‘You have taken all my power,’ he replied, now kindly give them back.’ I shook my head. ‘No.’ He rushed at me, intent on getting his cloak back.

“Let me pause here for a small reflection on this cloak. Once someone steals Death’s cloak, it becomes theirs. The person who had been death either simply dies or becomes human again. In this instance, I was watching the original-can I call him that?-Death age rapidly from a mild thirty-five-ish to over a hundred. All within a few minutes.

“‘Dear mother of God!’ He exclaimed, “what have you done?’ I simply looked at him with cold indifference and grinned maliciously. ‘And, yes. I did cheat on you. I mean, sex with you was so boring. I thought you would have learned something in the three hundred years you have been alive on how to please a woman.’

“His mouth fell open. ‘I broke the rules when I began dating you. Death is a solitary life. We are never supposed to have relationships, since we are immortal until the robe is removed. And we aren’t really supposed to remove the robe either.’ I watched him as he breathed his last, his final words left to haunt me from that point on. I had killed Death.

“No matter what I do, now, I can never remove this cloak completely. I am cursed to wear it until another takes its burden from me.”

I glanced back at her. “Can you give it to someone else? Someone of your choosing? Maybe one of those you are sent to take?”

She smiled sadly. “Perhaps. But who is worthy of this cloak? I mean, it would have to be someone who would not kill those whose time has not yet come. They would have to be honorable and wise. Most of all, they would not want to die at the time it was given.

“So many of my charges want to die. they are in so much pain, or so old, or so tired of life that they desire the sleep of death.”

I looked back at her. Worry and weariness eroded her features. I could tell that she hated her job. “Who is it today?”

She looked at me startled. “Who is what?’

I smiled sadly. “Your charge.”

She furled her brow. “A brilliant young man with cancer. So bright. So positive. So full of life.”

“So right for the role of Death,” I interjected. “Why not pass the job onto him?”

Her head came up, the reality dawning in her eyes. “And vanish? Return to a normal life? But what is normal? I mean, I have been considered dead for nearly ten years. I have no money, no home, no life to go back to, no job, nothing.”

I shrugged. “But you could start over. Build a new life wherever you wanted. Be something or someone you have always wanted to be. The possibilities are endless.”

She smiled, her face lighting up. “Could you use someone in your life?”

I was startled. “You mean like a girlfriend or something?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

I was beside myself. “Well, I hadn’t thought much about it, but now that you mention it. Sure. I mean, if you are offering. I never thought I was much to look at, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Right?”

She nodded. “Then it is decided?”

I smiled. “Sure.”

***

The odd thing is we never reached the park. I simply drove for an hour, listening to her story. At the end of the hour, we returned to the hospital where I had picked her up at. She paid me double the trip and asked me to wait. I did.

She returned an hour later dressed in a doctor’s frock instead of the cloak. I am officially retired as Death. Shall we?”

I looked back at her in the mirror. “So what do I call you now?”

She smiled. “Penelope.”

I smiled back at her. “Where to, Penelope?”

She smiled back at me. “Home, James.”

I chuckled. “You got it.”

Badlands: Desolation Angels

Higer’s words froze them in their tracks. There had been something in his tone that threw up a wall that caught them mid-stride. As their leader, it was his duty to spot danger. And at the moment he yelled, they wished they were invisible. It was then that the things hunting them came into view–and they had nowhere to go.

“Drop!!! He screamed.

Yes. Perhaps the tall grass would hide them. Perhaps. Then, perhaps not.

Not all had heard his command. White hot bursts were followed by screams of agony. And then the smell of incinerated flesh. But how many? Three? Twenty?

There was really no way to know. Not until they did a head count. They had been sent as a rescue party but now, they needed rescuing. Sure, they had rescued those they had been sent to rescue,. But They had accidentally alerted the enemy guarding the prisoners.

They, in turn, had released the things now hunting the party. But what exactly were they?And where was George? Where was their only sure bet of escape?

That was the question on everyone’s lips. He was late. Maybe too late. And these things hunting them were determined to make sure that their prey would not survive the next few hours. But Higer was determined to keep them alive.

He dared not communicate with the incoming shuttle, or he would risk betraying their only hope. Nor could he do much else. They had all run out of ammo. All who had weapons, anyway. And there was no way in the Breigath any of them were going to sneak close enough to use hand-to-hand on those things. That would be suicide.

And none of them wanted to commit suicide. Not that way. Not now. There was too much at stake.

So, he had them crawling. Slowly. And trying to remain inconspicuous. But that was nigh impossible. Especially with the sharp blades of the tall grass cutting into their flesh like razor-whips. Damn grass, anyway.

George. Brother of the revered psy-queen. Commander of the Outland Units. King of the Thornon.

He was supposed to be there by now. But he wasn’t. Or was he? One never knew about him. He could be anywhere at any time.

Out here on the tundra, it was hard to know if anyone was anywhere. Especially now that the group was lying in the tall grass, crawling for their lives. Praying that they wouldn’t be caught.

***

High above, beyond those on the ground, a pack of Thornon flew. Thornon, the winged specters of space, were not native to this planet. Hell. They weren’t native to any planet.

The Thornon were psy-creatures. They were from everywhere, but belonged nowhere. Now making their home in the Badlands, they had found hope as emissaries of the psy-queen and a great king in George once they had helped him manifest his own psy-abilities. And he had begun to lead them to greatness.

At the head of the Thornon, George surveyed what was going on below. Though he had piloted in the rescue vehicle, he preferred to remain free with his pack. This allowed him to be able to lead an attack if the need arose. And that need had definitely manifested itself.

With a piercing cry, not unlike that of an eagle or a hawk, he dove. As he did so, he probed the creatures below to see if he could connect mentally. Perhaps he could turn them against their masters.

Then, he found the route in. Connecting with the lead creature, he sensed its instinctual surprise. His psy-invasion of its mind was unexpected. but not as unexpected as its willingness to allow him in. Once in, He noticed why.

Buried deep in its mind, latent memories-dark memories-told of the horrifying truth. The history of their enslavement. How their masters’ brutality kept them in check. But, now, all was suddenly released and he was welcomed into its presence.

We are sentient, interloper, the creature responded, surprising George, and yes. We are psy-creatures. But we are enslaved, not trained. We do not wish to do what we are forced to. But we do so upon threat of death.

Then turn that fear into rage, George responded, and turn that rage against your masters. Become one in your resolve to overthrow your masters and break your chains.

Will you help us? It stopped as if it were sniffing the air.

Yes. George smiled.

The creature knew that George would keep his word. The Thornon were bound by their word. It was their bond. And that bond was unbreakable.

It was also the word of the legendary psy-queen, and she was worth making an alliance with. She was fair. She was kind. And, she was undefeatable.

Their masters called her witch. A mind-witch. And they feared her. They did not fear the Thornon, though. Those were wives’ tales. Meant to scare little children, they said.

***

They were unsure of themselves, those lying in the grass. The beasts had stopped their attacks shortly before the unearthly cry that arose from above. Joram stood to see what was going on. Above, he saw the Thornon. His pursuers now seemed to be sniffing the air.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that they weren’t sniffing, but rather, communing with the Thornon. He wasn’t sure that it signified a good thing. He mistrusted psy-creatures. Never could tell what they were planning. Suddenly, he found himself face to face with a Thornon.

You doubt the intents of the psy-queen? It asked him.

“N-n-no,” he stammered, “but they are the enemy!”

On the contrary, human. They are slaves. Afraid to do that which is against the commands of their masters.

“So Why’d they stop?” Joram inquired.

We stopped them. We allied ourselves with them against their masters, came the mental reply, the Thornon never break our word.

Higer rose, in awe, next to Joram. “He spoke to you! George spoke to you!”

Joram whirled around, surprised at the revelation. “That was George?”

“Yes,” Higer stated emphatically, nodding his head, “You didn’t think he was human, did you? After all, he was a psy-child just like his sister. Only difference was that he was chosen by the Thornon to rule them.”

Durloch rose as well. “You are blessed! Praise all that is pure!”

“But I didn’t know–” Joram protested.

“Of course not,” Lyrtax retorted, “You never use that brain. That’s why we got captured. You didn’t think.”

“Come, Now,” Higer commanded, “We’ll have no more of that. Your capture was largely due to being on the wrong planet, not because someone wasn’t thinking. You had not reached Tharnian space. The gods only know where we really are.”

Seri smiled. “If George is here, then the transport is not far.”

True, Seri,” Higer replied, But we wait for him to return. Anyone injured very badly?”

***

We are Kronks. Our masters are Dreiva’art, the creature began, explaining, for millennia, we lived in peace, sharing this great planet. We Kronks shared our knowledge of technology and medicine. As well as our collective psy-powers. We helped build the great wonders of this world and helped our fellow races grow in strength and prosperity.

The Dreiva’art were a small and insignificantly numbered race, but excellent artisans. But there were a few among them that desired power and wealth. And over time, they grew in number, conquering the other small races and enslaving them. Eventually, they even conquered and enslaved the members of their own race which opposed their will.

Finally, despite our valiant attempts to defend ourselves, we were also conquered and enslaved. The mightiest are now no more than a mere slave. But we always knew the day would come. We would once again be free.

And you shall be free, George replied, and all shall know of your wisdom. Come. Let us begin setting all free.

The Kronk led the way as the Thornon flew high above, but just behind. From their vantage point, the Thornon could see who or what was ahead, while remaining hidden from the enemy. Not far in the distance, they could see the citadel. Big, metallic, and less than inviting, it seemed well fortified. But no fortification could stop the Thornon. Nothing could hold them either.

***

George’s thoughts filtered back to Macy. Ever since he became Thornon, he could speak to her no matter where in the universe he was. After he used the Thornon to destroy the pirate sanctuary, there had been fewer raids. The only thing was that he was no longer around as much. His newfound duties as king of the Thornon had removed him from her palace more and more, though he came as their representative for council meetings and for court responsibilities.

She had asked him to go rescue those she had sent to rescue prisoners on a distant planet that knew little of her. Those who had taken the captives cared little about who she was or the power she wielded. They didn’t even fear the Thornon, and that was unthinkable! Even she feared the ethereal beings more than she really should have.

Of course, she thought of them as angels. And they looked upon her view as an honor. She had welcomed them. Given them their choice of a home world. Then gave them authority among her peoples.

They respected her, even asking her for her advice on certain matters. And in return, they helped protect the Badlands from invasions. Even the corporate traffic had almost completely stopped. And she was grateful. But she missed her brother’s wisdom and fearlessness.

At the moment, she could hear him making mental notes on his approach to the citadel. She could hear him measuring its height. Its width. Its thickness. Its composition.

She struggled to keep from laughing. He was always so analytical. Always trying to figure out how things were erected or made. Trying to guess what kind of weapons his opponents would have.

And it made her love him even more. She wouldn’t trade her brother for anyone else. He was one of a kind. She owed everything to him. Her life. Her throne. Her very destiny.

***

The Thornon swooped in from above when the gate guardians began firing upon the Kronk. Not a single guard saw them coming. Unlike the pirates, the Dreiva’art were not susceptible to the Thornon mind-scream. But their energy emissions were very effective.

Explosions ripped into the walls, tearing them apart. Fires spontaneously erupted within the citadel. Errant soldiers screamed their last as bolts struck them. gates holding prisoners and slaves came open miraculously. Slaves and prisoners escaped into the wilderness beyond.

The Dreiva’art tyrant stood upon the balcony of his palace viewing the carnage with a scowl. George noticed him and swooped down to his level. He probed the evil king’s mind. Black as tar.

His eyes flicked up to see his sister materialize behind the king. He smiled.

“Who Are You?” The tyrant demanded. “And Why are you doing this?”

“He is Thornon,” Macy’s soul-projection replied from behind, forcing the king to whip around in shock, “so you won’t be able to hear his reply. You being psy-blocked and all. But me, on the other hand, you can hear.” She grabbed the king by the throat and lifted him off his feet. “You would have done well to fear both myself and the Thornon. For the Thornon do exist, and I am much more than just a simple witch. I am a queen. And a very powerful one at that.”

George watched as she walked toward the balcony rail, the king raised high above her head. He watched as the king’s feet slipped over the railing. He saw the coward close his eyes.

“I still do not believe you are here,” the king stated.

“Have it your way,” Macy replied, disappearing.

without anything bracing him, the king suddenly found himself falling. he reached out, screaming in terror, trying to grab hold of the railing. But he missed. As he hit, there was a bone-crushing thump. Then a thud as his head hit the ground and broke open.

With the death of their king, the Dreiva’art surrendered. The uprising had been victorious. An Anthran came and stood beside George, placing George’s hand upon her shoulder. She nodded. He looked at the Kronk.

She desires for you to use her to speak, it replied, they wish to hear you. After all, you are their savior.

He nodded. Citizens. Dreiva’art, and all other races, listen to my words. Today tyranny has fallen. Let the hate vanish from your heart and the envy from your souls. Show compassion, not contempt. You all have much to learn from each other. Go and live in peace. And share this planet.

***

George ushered the rescue team those they’d rescued onto the transport. He looked at each as they boarded. They had been changed by their experience, but they would heal. Among those boarding was the Kronk, Anthran, Dreiva’art, and a member of every race that inhabited the planet. These were heading to the Badlands to become members of the council.

The name’s Thrid, the Kronk smiled, and thank you again. We would have never succeeded without your help. It will be a pleasure to serve your queen.

She isn’t just my queen, George replied, she is yours now as well. But she is my sister as well. The Thornon will stay here and help rebuild. Your peoples have great potential, Thrid. I can only hope that they can rise above their past and embrace a better future. One of Peace.

Oh, they will, came the reply, after all, they know your people exist and are watching.

George watched his newfound friend board the transport. The Arkwas now full to capacity. He watched the doors shut and the gangway retract. He watched as the sequence was run through, and then as the transport rose from the ground and flew away. As it vanished from sight, he whispered a silent blessing. Once it was gone, he turned back to the task at hand. There were multiple civilizations to be rebuilt. Multiple nations to be empowered. governments to build.

Badlands: Scream Of Anger

This was the pits. Once again, George and his Outlands Unit had chased the pirates into hiding. And again, he found himself going down in flames. He kicked himself for not using his Scree fighter, but it had been his own decision. He hadn’t wanted to risk damaging it, even though it had the most advanced shield systems in the galaxy.

But this time, he was nowhere near Tharne. This time, he was light-years away in some god forsaken system that didn’t exist on his star-maps. All he knew was that he had found himself, and his unit, completely surrounded by pirates in a system where he had absolutely no psy-link with his sister. Seemed all hope was gone. Then he saw it.

Just as he had seen when going down on Tharne, he saw the flash again. This time, it seemed to stop outside his cockpit window…and it looked almost human! But it had wings! And glowing eyes!

From that point on, everything seemed to go in slow motion. Even the pain from the burns he was sustaining seemed to register extremely slowly.

Release yourself, something in his mind whispered, allow your inner self to take wing.

It was almost as if a collective voice was calling out to him. Coaxing him to allow himself to die. And death seemed more pleasant than what he was experiencing at the moment. So he let go.

It almost seemed as if he watched the fighter crash from above. Yet he rose, physically, from the wreckage…on wings! What had happened to him? Had he died and become an angel?

Thornon reborn. Welcome, Brother. What is your name?

George opened his mouth and tried to speak. Nothing.

Speak with your mind, Thornon.

Why do you keep calling me Thornon? I am George, brother of the psy-queen. Commander of the Outland Units. He was irritated. I am not Thornon.

A raspy, collective laughter answered him. When you crashed on Tharne, it was our leader who saved you, not your sister. Strong she may be, but no psy can span that distance to save another. He chose you to succeed him in leading us, but had no time to help you become what fate has laid at your feet to be. But now, you are in our system and your psy-speak cannot call to your sister. The distance is too great.

So, he began, thoughtfully, I am to be your leader?

Yes,came the answer, and we are to do your bidding. You are our King.

Will I regain my human speak?

Yes and no, the collective replied, you will only be able to seem as if you are speaking when you regain human form. But it will only be illusion. In reality, you will mind speak only, even when it seems as if you are talking normally. Those around you, unless they are psy, will not know it is mind speak.

So I will have two forms? He knew he was pressing his luck, but his curiosity was getting the best of him.

Yessssssss… the reply drifted off.

***

The pirate overlord sat in his seat upon the bridge of his frigate. He was now proud of himself. He had cornered and destroyed the most feared unit in the entire universe. But he had not been totally victorious. He had not destroyed their vile leader.

Those interplanetary glowworms had gotten in his way and ruined his plans. What the hell were those things, anyway? He had never seen such a thing. Most believed them to be a figment of their imaginations, but these were real. They had even hit his ship and done damage! Figments never did that.

He had to hunt them down and destroy them now. They had earned his hate through their interference. No one interfered and got away with it. He scowled. Where had they gone?

***

Macy was worried. George had not returned. Even worse, only a handful of his unit had come back in and their reports were bleak. He had ordered them to retreat, but had not been able to himself. The last they’d seen him, he was fighting the valiant fight…and losing.

What made it worse was that most of the unit had been unable to retreat as ordered and had been cut to ribbons. They had, from all reports, fallen into a carefully laid trap. A trap they could not get out of.

It worried her more because her psy was not reaching him. Nor was his reaching her. This did not bode well. She hated being cut off from him.

Then it hit her. the trap had been set in that location because he would have no way to link with her there! It had been a deliberate setup! And it had cost her many valiant lives, including her brother!

She released a psy-scream of rage that made the palace quake. How could she have been so blind? Why did she allow him to go ahead and pursue the pirates beyond Tharne? Why had she not insisted that he turn back?

***

George was getting the hang of being able to fly without a ship. Man, this was fun! Wings made life so much easier! So much more exciting!

We await your first command, Oh king.

We must destroy the pirates, he began, even if it means pursuing them to their very lairs. Then we must honor and bury my dead unit.

As you have spoken, so shall it be.

George found it amazing as they left the atmosphere of the planet without oxygen suits. his flight seemed to be controlled by the movement of the collective, rather than any personal decision. Though he led them, he was still somewhat controlled by their movements. There wasn’t any room for innovation.

Isn’t a solid attack a dangerous and deadly thing to do? He was beginning to grow concerned. I mean, it is just asking for the group to die unnecessarily.

We cannot die, Oh king, came the reply.

But your old king– he began to object.

Our old king simply wished to return to his people, came the explanation, and guide them to the next level. He wanted them all to realize their potential. All sentient races have the potential to become Thornon. Those with psy abilities are most probable in becoming one with us.

For you, Thornon was the only next logical step in your destiny. Just as it had been for him and thousands of kings before. Yet, in you, our last king found one that cares not about the evolution of the psy in his kind. He found a warrior who served a queen who is also destined to be Thornon in time. But only after she rules a thousand years over the Badlands.

I am confused, George objected, no one can live a thousand years. And, besides. What is to become of me?

A psy can live as long as they wish, the collective hummed, if you decide, you will remain our king. Just because a psy becomes Thornon does not make them sovereign. At least, not of this collective. Should the beings of the Badlands decide, they will also become Thornon and rise above the temporal. We live beyond the ravages of time. Not subject to time or space.

***

A piercing scream caused everyone within the lead pirate ship to fall out of their seats, writhing in utter agony as their brains were being assaulted by what they heard. No weapons fired. No one could reach for the buttons that controlled them. Instead, the ship imploded in a ball of fire that sucked all the particles back into itself.

In his ship, the pirate overlord sat infuriated. No one was allowed to attack him and destroy his ships. No one ever got away with that. But he sat helplessly as three more of his precious ships were attacked, and without any noticeable weapons discharge, imploded.

“A vast!” He exclaimed. “Retreat, you scurvy mongrels! take us home! lead them into a trap, or by the stars, we are all doomed!”

Obediently, his crew followed his command. He fled, like a whipped dog, from the carnage taking place with his doomed flotilla. Two more ships took his cue, with the Thornon in pursuit.

***

A lone pirate appeared in the Badlands. He headed straight for the palace, his mission to beg for mercy. But Macy was in no mood to be merciful. the pirates had taken her brother. They had killed him. At least, that was the reports she had received.

“What did you expect, Pirate?” She demanded, angrily. “Did you expect Amnesty? Mercy? forgiveness?”

“No mum,” came the meek reply, “I only beg your mercy because I was commanded to. Since the attacks from the glowworms, we have no recourse but to ask you for lenience. Perhaps…”

“Perhaps nothing,” She cut him short, “You trapped and killed my brother and his unit. I only received a tenth of those sent out. And you ask me for mercy? Where was your act of mercy when you began attacking our freighters and then when you trapped my brother?”

She watched as the force of her stressed word slammed into the pirate like a thousand fists all at once. He crumpled to the floor and remained there, bowed over. “Please, mum. we did not kill your brother! we were attacked by the glowworms before we had a chance! And, now, they attack us at will! I beg you! Mercy, Mum! Please!

She glared at the guards. “To the dungeon with him. That is the only mercy he will receive from me. But I must know. Why do you call whatever it is glowworms?”

“Because, Mum,” the pirate replied, frightened, “they glow. And we cannae tell what they truly be. Most spacers claim they are all in the head. But they aren’t. When I left the flotilla with my orders, four of our ships had merely imploded without explanation. No weapons were fired. No effort was even put into shooting down the glowworms! Not one!”

She waved him away. “Get him out of my sight. Superstitious babbler.”

The guards hustled the poor pirate out of the throne room as the Skelwoulf advisor entered.

He watched them disappear. What was that all about?

Just another vile space pirate talking nonsense, she replied, called something ‘glowworms’. Said they encountered this thing and it caused some of their ships to implode without any struggle.

The Skelwoulf whipped around, a surprised look in his eyes. Thornon?!? Here?!?

What are Thornon? He had her interest peaked. And why are you so surprised at the mention of them…or whatever made you think of them?

Your Majesty, he began, trying to figure out how exactly to tell her what she asked of him, a visit from the Thornon is seen as an honor and privilege. It usually means that the peoples they visit are ready to join them. They are, how would you put it, the next step in psy. Neither bound by time or space, they are eternal. Pure energy. hence, the pirate’s description as ‘glowworms’. To the untrained eye, or the eyes of those they attack, they appear as streaks of light. rumor has it that the last thing those attacked by the Thornon hear is a high, brain liquefying scream that causes extreme agony. No one else hears it unless they are also in the path of the attack. without warning, the ship implodes, leaving no trace of any struggle.

If they attacked the pirates, then his claim of your brother still being alive is true. They must have interfered in the massacre of the Outland Unit. If that is so, they may have had plans for your brother…which is where the honor comes in. Whenever they have plans for someone, it is never a small task. Every plan is extremely important. Whatever it is, we will know soon enough.

***

Every pirate in the pirate sanctuary fell to the floor. A mind shattering scream had filled their heads, turning their brains to liquid and killing them instantly. Not one was left alive. Yet, only the pirates were selected from those within the settlements and inns. All other beings in the ports and pubs remained living.

George found it amazing how they could select the exact victim and adjust the pitch of their scream to only affect those they sought. No other being could do so much! Not even those of the Badlands. And now, he also had that power!

He smiled. The possibilities were endless. Still, one had to be careful with such power. The lure to do harm was great, no matter the intent. And he had taken the vow never to do out of cruelty, but only out of defense.

After the last pirate died, the Thornon landed. George stepped forward.

Those of you who survived, he began, appearing to speak physically, even though he was not, take heed. This is what happens to those who attack freighters and imperial envoys. If you are wise, you will leave this place and resettle elsewhere.

A lady watched him as he spoke. She just stared. No movement. And it had begun to bother him. Then, he caught his reflection in the mirrored backdrop behind the bar. He looked like a cross between a bird and a man!

At that moment, he decided it was time to leave. He needed to give closure to the families of those who had died at the hands of the pirates. If he could find their bodies. He turned back to the Thornon.

We need to return to that planet where I became your king, he began, I need to find the bodies of my fellow unit members so I can return them to their families.

So be it, Milord.

With wings outspread, they all took flight–the survivors staring after them as they vanished into the sky. A bright flash marked their exit from the atmosphere of the planet, leaving the people staring in awe at what had just taken place. Rumors would spread of how birdmen landed after the strange deaths of pirates who’d overrun their colonies. And that rumor would reach every corner of every galaxy. Including the Badlands.

Recap For the Year: My Books….”Seven”

“Seven By Jay: Seven Short Stories”, published in 2007, Was my first published book. I had finished collecting all the stories (seven, as the title claims) that spanned from 1992 to 2004. Two were rewrites, and the first entry was the first of two shorts that had been submitted to an “agent” who did absolutely nothing with them and cost me $400+ to start work with.

link:

http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Jay-Short-Stories/dp/1604740027/

A Month Of Thanksgiving: A Thanksgiving Tale, Chapter One.

She slammed down the books and stared at me. “My name is Sally. Not Honey.”

I only stared at her. I have a tendency to call everyone Hon or Honey. It does not mean that I am flirting or being fresh with them. Nor do I look at women as sex symbols. Or objects.

I looked back down at the book I had been reading when she interrupted me. “I am sorry if I offended you. I meant nothing by it. I call everyone Hon or Honey.”

She was still livid. “Well, you need to stop. It is disrespectful and quite frankly, sexist. I should report you straight away. But I do not know who to report you to.”

The last part of her retort made me smile in spite of myself. “You would have to report me to me. I am in charge here. And I see no disrespect in being kind to anyone. But, I am still sorry if I offended you.”

She was now in shock. “And who is your boss? I would like to speak to her about you.”

Again, I couldn’t help smiling at the ridiculousness of her attitude. “I am the boss here. I own this library. I also own the business that it is connected to. Would you still like to file a complaint? I know a board of directors who might hear you out.”

She scowled. “Do I look that stupid to you? Do I have the word stupid printed on my forehead?”

I shook my head. “No. And I never said anything of the sort. Nor have I implied it. Now. If you are quite done, I would recommend that, if you do not like things here, that you take the books you were about to check out back and then leave. If you cannot take a nice word, then you can go someplace where they will treat you with the indignity you so desire. but take your Diva attitude out of my library. you are disturbing the peace and the other customers.” I had noticed one of the men a couple tables back rolling his eyes at all that she had been saying. He had heard me call her Honey, and had apparently thought nothing more of it than I had.

But she refused to give it up. And I was to be her whipping post, whether I deserved it or not. But I had finally grown tired of apologizing for being nice. I had come to the realization that, no matter how nice you are, there are just some people who can never take a compliment or an apology. Now, as the owner of the library, I had only two options open to me.

I could either boot her out, or demand that she apologize. I chose to kick her out. Not that I wanted to, but I had to. For the sake of the other customers.

Though I owned the library, it was free to come in and browse or check out books to take home. All you had to do was buy a membership. And those were lifetime memberships, which you only paid a small one-time fee for. And I do remember her paying her one-time dues. But I had never seen her like this.

Apparently, she believed that I was a mere employee. Someone she could take her anger out on. Anger over nothing. And what’s more, the board-or, at least five members thereof-had seen the whole thing. And they now wanted her attention. In fact, I saw Timonny Marx headed toward us at what was warp speed in his mind.

He seemed to sneak up on her, even though the other customers saw his approach. “Miss, would you please come with me?”

She nearly jumped out of her skin. “And who are you?”

He held back a smirk. “I, ma’am, am Tim Marx. I am the Chairman of this corporation. I am requesting that you come with me now. Mr. Hargis is simply being nice to you in asking you to leave. Just as he was being nice to you when he called you Honey. In fact, you sort of remind me of his grand daughter. She is about your age and he hasn’t seen her since she went to college. Now. If you will…?”

I watched him escort her back to the boardroom. Simi Jones and Louise Johnstone followed. Lili and Frank were probably already there. As would be Phil.

Arkham Wills walked over and relieved me. “They will want you back there as well, Dan.”

I nodded as I got up from my seat. “Yeh, I know. As the CEO, I have to make it good.”

He chuckled. “No doubt. But we all witnessed the whole thing. you did nothing wrong.”

I smiled sadly. “I know. But times are so different now. No one likes a compliment anymore. It is as if they just don’t have any feelings except rage and offense. I no longer know how to act or what to say.”

He looked me in the eye. “If she only knew the visionary we all allied ourselves with forty years ago. She wouldn’t have done what she did. I remember when you built this company. You were basically jobless and almost homeless. With your love for the industry, and your love of books, you built this library after the death of your son.”

I looked down. I remembered that day. “Yes, My eldest son.” I felt a tear welling up in my one good eye.

As I got up, I wiped it away, checked my digi-eye to make sure it had not accidentally collected moisture, then made my way to the boardroom. It was time to face the music. I had to settle this once and for all. After all, even she had to understand that what had happened, and especially her part of it all, had been unacceptable. I was getting too old for this. Perhaps after this year, I would have myself cloned and reborn, so that this version of me could get some rest and fade into memory.