Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age – A Review

Flypaper Boy: Coming of AgeFlypaper Boy: Coming of Age by Philip Carroll

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flypaper Boy thinks his super power is lame. I mean really, what can a superhero do when his super power is sticking to things until someone comes along with some nail polish remover to free him. That is until he is kidnapped by bad guys and is forced to become a super villain. What is a good guy to do, when he has to use his powers for the forces of evil?

Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age follows Jimmy Wheeler AKA Flypaper Boy on his first real adventure. This is a superhero book. I have said it before and I will say it again, I am really not that much of a super hero fan, but this book caught my attention and held it.

High school can be hard enough if you are different, harder still if you have to move to a new school. Through it all FlyPaper boy manages to keep his cool, remember his mission and stay true to his moral code.

Let’s be honest here, Jim Wheeler is a teenaged boy, and he is surrounded by teenaged girls. He is going to notice them. He is going have feelings for some of them. But all the while he manages keep a lid on his hormones and and stick to his moral code, not only for being a hero, but also for being a human. That is one of my favorite parts of the book. Multiple times he is presented with opportunities where he could have taken advantage of the situation, and yet he never does.

This book is not so much about being a super hero, probably why I liked it despite my normal aversion to comic book superheroes, and much more about being a kid in a tough situation, trying to find his way through who happens to have super powers.

Mr. Carroll did a wonderful job, grabbing my attention and keeping it. His characters have depth, they have flaws, and they have to live life the best way they know how. I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to sharing it with my kids.

A Note for parents: If you are looking for a good book to start the school year with, this is a good one. It is certainly safe for middle grade readers though probably older ones will appreciate it more. If they are still in the eeew boys / girls are yucky stage they might want to wait another year or two. And the book is aimed more at boys than girls, though I think girls will like it too.

View all my reviews

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Great Hites # 28

 

Download Greathites 28

The Alarm Sounded
By: Guy David

It didn’t sound right. Sam brushed his long hair with his hands and adjusted his Lennon style glasses. He knew The Galactic Union relied on the sounds he could create, but it just didn’t sound right. It had to make a statement, give people a specific message. Someone hearing the sound had to instantly know it’s time for action. Someone hearing the sound had to know he will have to put down what he’s doing and get moving. Sam sighed. It was one thing to get hired for creating action adventure sound effects for virtual worlds, but that was different.

When the man from The Union approached him a week ago, he thought he was pulling his leg. Sam was just an average guy from the industry, one small fish in a huge pond, which was full of people with strange job titles such as “virtual lighting expert” and “cinematographic camera movement planner”. His expertise on the Machinima scene was in the field of getting the right sound at the right place. He was no one special. He was surprised The Union actually heard about him.

The Union was founded in 2025 as a result of the rising fear in the public about the possibility of hostile alien encounter. The Human race has just settled a first colony on Mars and it was already looking beyond his own solar system. Now, five years later, they where still working on ways of recognizing those alien threats and setting up an inter-planetary alarm system that could warn them of an approaching alien threat. Sam was put in charge of the actual sound of the alarm, and he was not sure why. The pay was good though, so he wasn’t complaining.

They already rejected three of his suggestions, so he had to be extra careful about how he approached this. He didn’t want to lose the contract and the prestige that came with it. After he finishes this, his name would be known in the industry and he would be able to get any job he wanted. He gobbled another piece of pizza and got to work, mixing the sound of a wolf from the archive with that of a wounded hound, then speeding them up a little, just for the effect. He was just playing around for now, between trying this and that, but something in that sound got to him. There was something there, something desperate, crying out. It was something he could work with. He got to work, using various filters to change the sound without destroying the feel. When he finished with it, the origin of the sound was not recognizable anymore, but the feel was there. He knew that was it. He picked out the phone and called the man from The Union.

23 years passed, and much have changed. It was 2053 now and Sam was very different. Everyone was different. The human race had enhanced itself and changed, became much more intelligent and faster thinking. They have developed an interstellar means of traveling and started venturing into the stars. Science had advanced and the speed of light was no longer seen as the limit of space travel, so it became a viable possibility. As Sam traveled with the new expedition, his thoughts wondered, and he was lost in them for a while, but then he was startled by a familiar sound. He didn’t recognize it at first, then he realized what it was. It was the sound of a wolf and a wounded hound, mixed together and masked by some filters. A chill went down his spine as he realized what the sound meant.


The Alarm Sounded
By: Robert Jahns

Paul awoke, sat up and then slowly started his daily routine. He swept the night from his eyes and glanced at the alarm clock. Six o’clock on the dot – time to begin the day.

Gail had the pancakes on the griddle. “Good morning, Paul,” she said. “The paper hasn’t come yet. Maybe you can relax a bit this morning.”

“No time for relaxing today. The guys have to get the trucks loaded and on the road by ten,” mumbled Paul. “If they don’t get their loads to the mill before noon, they will be waiting in line for hours to unload.” Mary plopped a half dozen flapjacks on his plate. “Where’s my sausage?”

Gail smiled and reached for her coffee. “You know what the doctor said, Paul. He wants to keep you on your diet. I do, too. We need you around here,” she said. All Paul could do was grumble and put the “fake butter” on his breakfast.

There was cold in the air, a sign that winter was on the way. Paul liked winter. Half of his drivers headed to the Florida sunshine. He got to do what he liked best, driving his trucks. He didn’t drive too far. Mostly, he rearranged the trucks in the yard as he plowed snow and tinkered in the shop with the behemoth diesel trucks. That’s how he started here, working for old Charlie Davis. When Charlie retired, Paul put everything he had in hock to buy this outfit. He hadn’t missed a day’s work in nearly thirty years. Finally, he had paid off all the debt and he no longer was beholding to any bank.

By 9:30, his drivers were on the road carrying their “40 bushels” (40 ton) of logs to the paper mill. They would return by dark when more men would appear to drive into the hills to pick up yet another load for tomorrow’s delivery. This was the same routine that old Charlie had developed and had worked well for nearly fifty years now.

“Get that old Cat Diesel into the shop,” Paul asked his mechanic, Greg. “I want to go over that one and see if I can find why the power is down. It’s not ready for a rebuild yet.”

The last thing Paul heard was, “Look out! The door is coming down!”

He felt the strong blow to his shoulders before things went black. Then the alarm sounded.

Paul awoke, sat up and then slowly started his daily routine. He swept the night from his eyes and glanced at the alarm clock. Six o’clock on the dot – time to begin the day. If he didn’t show up on time, that old Charlie Davis was sure to dock his wages.

Morning
By Chris Hite

Chris didn’t get his text to me so you will have to listen to hear his story.

Frozen
By: Jeff Hite

The cold was intense and made him wince at every move. Alex tried to move, but the pain in his joints was nearly enough to make him blackout but, he knew that if he did not move soon that he would freeze to death. He opened his eyes but there was little difference. The flight deck was black, and the little star light that filtered in through the two small view ports was feeble at best. When they had lost power to the rest of the ship two days ago, they had been forced to feel their way through the ship. After he had put his sister in a stasis tube he had sealed off all but the bridge and pumped what was left of the air up here.
Alex pushed himself up from the seat and nearly blacked out from the effort. He steadied himself on the back of the command chair until the room stopped spinning.
“Oxygen level, 20%.” The computers emergency alarms rang out.
“I know, I know.” He waited until his head cleared and then spoke again, “Computer, how long did the burn last?”
“Emergency engine burn lasted approximately 45 seconds.”
“Calculate time to Mars.”
“Mars is not along current trajectory.”
“Calculate time to nearest human outpost,” There was no response for several seconds.
“There are no current human settlements along current trajectory.”
“Damn.” Alex felt sleep beginning to overwhelm him, but he wanted to know if there was a chance. “Calculate time to nearest trade route.”
“Three years 25 days.”
“How long can the power cells run two stasis tubes and the distress beacon?”
“Three years six months.” He sagged against the seat. Just long enough he thought.
“Which trade route?”
“Mars, Ganamead.”
“That is only run about twice a year.” He needed to think but his mind would not function clearly. After some difficulty, “Is there enough fuel in the thrusters to stop the ship?”
“Not at current velocity”
“If we used the thrusters to attempt to stop the ship how fast would it be going when the fuel runs out?”
“Eight meters per second.”
He let out a long breath. Too fast. At that rate they could be thirty or forty thousand kilometers away from the trade route when a ship passed by. Way too far for their feeble distress signal. “Are there any ships in the area?” He knew the answer. He had already asked it at least a hundred times.”
“There are five ships within two days travel at current velocity.”
“Identify.”
“One Mars battle cruiser , and four Mars attack class vessels.” The ships that had attacked them. No chance of getting help from them. He had waited this long to attempt the burn, while their fuel leaked into space, and their chances dwindled, so that the attack group would not see them.
“expand search to oxygen limit.”
“Search is already three hours beyond the oxygen limit at current consumption averages.” He didn’t respond. There was no point. He had done all the searches before. Alex slowly went over the whole thing in his head again. The Mars battle group were the only ships even close. Those bastards had made sure of that. After the convoy had been attacked they had run. Run as far as they could, trying to get away from anyone. They had needed time to regroup. He had thought that it would be best.
The Mars battle group had followed them, just outside of the Pegasus’ sensor range, it was the second wave of the Mars group that had attacked them and destroyed the rest of the convoy. The Mars group had learned their lesson the first time, they waited until the Pegasus was so far out that there would be no one to come to their aid, and then mercilessly ripped her to shreds. The attackers disabled the main engines before he had even known they were there. Then with high powered lasers they had cut holes in all the major sections of the ship, letting her bleed to death.
Only three of them had survived the first wave of the attack. Most of the rest of the crew was either killed by massive decompression or blown out into space as the air rushed out the gaping holes cut into the ship’s skin. Only the engineer, Alex and Angel had survived.
The three of them had waited for hours, with only leaky emergency patches in place. Then, when they thought the battle group would have thought the ship devoid of life, Alex and the Engineer suited up and prepared to put more permanent patches on the ship and see what damage had been done to the engines.
The Captain of the battleship was cruel. The laser had cut the engineer in half with no warning, after they had gotten patches on only three spots on the ship. Then he nicked Alex’s suit.
“Now you will slowly run out of air like your ship and sister are doing right now, boy.” he had said over the suit’s communications link. “That will teach you damn rovers that no one ever gets the best of a Mars battle group.”
Alex had barely made it back to the airlock when the rip in the suit opened up exposing his whole left side to the cold of space, and he had completely blacked out by the time Angel had dragged him back into the ship.
He and Angel had waited three more days before they made another move. Before the engineer had been killed, he and Alex had managed to get patches on the holes in the engineering section and the bridge. Angel and Alex inspected the engines and the fuel status. The engines themselves were a total loss. The only thing left were the emergency burn cones, but the lines from the fuel tanks to them had been severed, and all but one of the fuel tanks were now empty, and it was leaking badly.
After compressing two of the living sections there was only enough air left in the ship for another two weeks. There were three working emergency stasis tubes and one working escape pod. They had agreed to wait until the ships had gone for at least the balance of a week before they attempted a burn, because one of them would have to go outside and repair the fuel lines. But on the fifth day, the patch in engineering blew out and they lost main power and most of the breathable air.
Now they had no choice. Angel would go into a stasis tube as soon as Alex was able to repair the lines to the burn cones. They had fired the retro rockets ever so slightly to slow the spin of the ship to give him more time when he would not be exposed to the mars ships while he worked, but it meant that he also had to waste more time waiting for the ship to turn back around so he could continue work. Then once the balance of a week had gone by he would fire the engines in an emergency burn and climb into a status tube himself after turning on the emergency beacon.
It was a long shot they knew, but it was better than both of them freezing to death or suffocating.
There was nothing more he could do. The Ship was moving now and if he wanted to live, the stasis tube was the only way. He looked for a moment at the one holding his sister. Her naked body floated in thick blue liquid, her eyes shut, there was no movement, not even the gentle rise and fall of breath. She could have been dead.
Then grudgingly, but quickly he stripped off his clothes. The cold air burned his skin, and threatened to overwhelm his already exhausted body.
“Engage stasis tube number three.” he said through teeth clattering so hard that he was not sure the computer would be able to understand him. He could barely feel the needles prick his skin as he leaned his back against the freezing cold metal and he briefly thought of the stories of children getting their tongues stuck to metal object during the winters on earth. Then he felt the liquid around his feet. It rose quickly and he felt the sudden panic of drowning just before the powerful sedatives from the needles in his arms took hold of him.

Great Hites # 25

Originally posted Oct 30th 2008

 

Thank you to Ann Hite for the extra voices. Enjoy!
Download The Audio

The Finding of Mt Olympus
By Jeffrey Hite

March 21 9:30 AM Eastern Standard Time.
“I’ve found it!” Larry shouted standing up in his cubical so that we could all see him. “I found Mount Olympus.”

“So? Why not Atlantis, Larry? Hundreds of thousands of people have found Mount Olympus, most notably the Greeks. It’s an actual mountain in Greece you know. “. Sue rebuffed him from the next cubical over, not even bothering to get up.

“What?” I blurted out while standing up for the first time.

“Mt Olympus, you know the home of the gods come see…” he said, ignoring Sue and beckoning me over.

I hesitated; going over into Larry’s cubical was a bit like stepping into a fantasy world and more often than not, not one you would really like to visit. His normal variety of fantasy was not something I really liked, but Greek myths were a passion we both shared.

“Come on it will only take a sec,” he said when we saw my hesitation. “It’s here on the map.”

“Alright, I’ll bite.” I said entering his cubical. As expected it was a dizzying array of posters, drawings and fantasy character figures. They were everywhere: on the desk, on top of his test systems, on the keyboard tray, even on the phone and his monitors.

“Hey, where did you get those?” I said pointing to the two Apple thirty inch cinema displays.

“Never mind that, they’re mine.”

“And you brought them to work?”

“Yes, yes, I needed them to look at the maps and satellite images. Look here.” he said pointing to the center of the display on the left.

“It looks like a bunch of mountains.”

“Right, let me zoom out a bit so you can get an idea of where they are.” He grabbed the mouse and scrolled out so that we could see the whole land mass. It was, of course, Greece. Then he zoomed back in. “Here, do you see that?” he said circling a spot on the map with his finger.

“It looks like a mountain, just like all the rest around it.” I liked Larry. He was a good guy, and despite his fascination with the fantasy world, he was a brilliant technician but I was beginning to regret this trip to Larry Land.

“Right. We are looking at the official topographical map. Now if I switch to satellite view.” He clicked and the image changed.

“What’s the joke? We’re still looking at the same peak.”

“Yeah, but look closer. Do you see that shadow?”

“Yes.”

“Look at the peaks around it. Do any of them look like that? In fact, have you ever seen a peak that looked that perfect except in drawings?”

I looked at the image and he was right. There was nothing around that looked like the shadow and it did look particularly perfect.

“Now watch this.” He changed the angle of the view so that we were about 45 degrees from the ground. “Look, look, do you see it?”

“My God!” On the screen all the other mountains had flattened out as in most two dimension pictures, but the shadow stood up straight, an almost perfect cone. “Wow! That is really cool. I wonder what that is? It has got to be some kind of software glitch.”

“No, it’s not. I tried it on this other program too. See?” He switched applications and there it was again. “The last one uses fly over views from aircraft, this one uses satellite photos.”

“Right, well maybe it is one of the other peaks that just looks distorted,” I said sitting back down in my cubical.

“Yeah maybe.” He didn’t say anything to anyone for the rest of the day, and when I left late that night he was still in his cubical. I sneaked a quick peek as I walked past toward the door, and he had both images up on the left display and a number documents up on his other one that didn’t look like the code that he was supposed to be working on.

March 29 8:15 AM Eastern Standard Time
Larry came in a little later than normal with his habitual cup of coffee in his left hand and big mailing tube in his right.

“More posters Larry?” Mike asked laughing. Larry, as usual, ignored him. He walked past and sat down in his cubical. I could hear him tearing the tape off the tube and pulling out its contents. I tired to ignore him. If it were new posters, putting them up would be an all morning affair and I had things to do. I couldn’t get sucked into it. Three new systems were going live in a week and I needed to make sure that the databases would actually work when the customers started making their queries.

“I was right!” Larry screamed twenty minutes later. “I was right, I was right! See, come look at this Rob!” despite the need to get the systems out I was more than a little interested. The Greek myths were something that had always interested me and, well, I really needed a break after the morning I was having. Sue and Mike both gave me sidelong glances and Dave, our boss, gave me a look that told me that I would be working overtime if those databases were not up and running.

“What, Larry?” I said.

“Look!” he said pointing. On his desk were a dozen or so maps of different types and one huge blowup of a satellite image. “I had a friend of mine at NASA get this for me. I owe him about three cases of booze for it but it will be worth it.”

“What is it?”

“Come on,” he insisted pointing at the image. I looked closer. It was a picture of the same spot he had shown me last week. The lighting was different but the shadow still stood exactly as it did before.

“Wow ,that is really cool. What do you think it is?”

“Damn it Rob, don’t you believe me? It is Mt Olympus. You know, the home of the gods.”

“Larry, that is not possible. It’s a myth.”

“All myths have their roots in some fact. In ancient times no mortal could find it unless the gods wanted you to. I think this is one of those things.”

“But why would it show up like this?” I said gesturing to the pictures.

“Because you can’t hide from photography. The eye you can fool, but not film. And,” he said smiling a little, “I think that maybe they want to be found or at least one of them does.” I sat back in the extra chair in his cubical. It was then that I noticed that Larry’s office had changed. There were none of the normal posters of his fantasy world. In their place were maps of every sort of the area around Mt Olympus. On some of them he had drawn in the cone with red pen. There were maps of ancient Greece, with clear overlays of the modern map. There were genealogy charts that followed all of the gods and goddess. He had taken the system roll-out schedule off his white board and replaced it with lists of supplies, travel plans, flight numbers and hotel names.

“Larry, what is all this?” I asked gesturing to the new decor.

“I have been digging up everything I could on this in the last couple of weeks, and not just on the Internet. I have done some serious book work on this as well. I have found some really great stuff.”

“What about the roll-out schedule? Have you been doing the development for that? I am a huge fan of Greek Mythology too but…”

“Forget that, this is huge. What if we could find our way into the home of the gods? Think of the things we could ask them.”

“Larry, we are going live with the first site in less than two weeks.”

“Is that all you can think about? Look at this.” He picked up a book about the stealing of fire from the gods. “This talks about how it only happened because Prometheus, one of the gods, wanted it to. Think about what it could mean.”

“But…”

“But nothing. This is huge.”

“Larry, what do you think you are going to find? What do you think you are going to prove?”

“I don’t know what I’ll find, but I’m going to find something. But right now I’ve got to go talk to Dave about some time off.” With that he got up and walked out of his cubical and headed towards Dave’s office.

“Larry, he is never going to give you time off now!” But he waved me off and walked right into Dave’s office.

They had a short argument that I can only guess at, but in the end Larry threw up his hands, came back to his desk and spent the next hour or so packing everything up.

“Larry, what are you doing?”

“I quit! Can you believe it? They would not give me the time off when I have found something this big. Dave said something about after the roll-out. But what if this thing disappears, what if this is a short time offer. What if it is only one god that wants to be found, like I think it might be, and the others find out about it and close the door. We can’t wait. We have to get over there now and check this thing out.”

“Wait a minute Larry. I can’t go. I have a job to do. We both do. We are grown men, we can’t just go running off on a wild goose chase.”

“You too? Damn narrow minded people, can’t even see past the end of your noses. You sound just like the rest of them!” was all that I got from him as he pushed past me and walked out.

March 29 10:45 AM Eastern Standard Time
“Rob,” I looked up to see Dave standing at my desk. “I hate to have to do this to you but it is going to be hard on all of us. Larry quit this morning, as I am sure you know, so we are going to have to divvy up his roll-out responsibilities.” Dave always had this way of whining that made my skin want to crawl. It was only worse when he wanted to give you bad news. It was as if he picked the most annoying voice to deliver the most annoying news.

“Dave, what did he say?”

“Something about finding Mt. Olympus and that he needed time off. I told him some time after the roll-out was completed, but he insisted that it had to be today. When I told him that was not possible, he quit. Just like that. So like I said, we are going to need to you do some over time.” there was that voice again.

April 11 2:13 AM Eastern Standard Time
I woke the sound of the phone ringing and it made my head hurt.

“Rob, Rob! Wake up man.”

I rolled over to check the clock, and winced as the receiver pressed against my ear.

“Larry?”

“Rob, I’ve found it! You’ve got to come see this. It’s here.”

“Larry, what are you talking about? Do you know what I have been through the last two weeks since you left?”

“Rob, screw all of that. Listen to me. This is huge. I’ve found it! The entrance to Mt. Olympus. I bought you a plane ticket. I need someone here to help me document this. You are the most detailed person I know. You have to come here. I mean, it is nothing like I expected. It is more than I ever imagined!”

“Larry, hang on a second. What? There is no way. What about Dave?” I was still half asleep and having a hard time understanding him.

“Rob, I promise that you will not regret this. Listen, the ticket will be delivered to you first thing in the morning. I have to go.” The line went dead.

I lay in bed for a long time, not able to get back to sleep. Half of me was cursing Larry for waking me up, half of me dying to see what he had found. I had to admit even with everything I had been through in the last few weeks, I was interested. I had been since the first day he had shown me. I did not quite know if I should believe him, but it was certainly interesting. Besides, although he was a bit odd with all the fantasy things, Larry was not one to really make something like this up. He always did his homework.

For a long time I could not decide what to do, but in the end practicality won out. If this ticket did show up in the morning I would just throw it away and go on like the phone call had never happened. Larry would have to find someone else.

April 12 8:42 AM Eastern Standard Time
“Rob, is that your fifth cup of coffee?”

“Yes, Sue, it is.”

“Going kind of heavy aren’t you?”

“I didn’t sleep well last night.”

“But it’s not even nine in the morning.”

“I have been here since five, Sue.” I was beyond aggravated with this line of questioning, and so made my way to my desk trying not to hear her last comment. She was the kind of person that always had to get the last word in.

I had no more than sat down at my desk when my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and was both relieved and concerned that it was an internal call. That meant that the customer was not having a problem with their newly rolled out system, but it could very well be Dave with a complaint that the customer had taken over my head.

“This is Rob.”

“Rob, this is Mary, you have mail and it is marked urgent.”

“Thanks Mary. I will be up in a little bit to get it.”

“It needs a signature, and it is not marked with Untide’s name. You know the policy about not signing for personal things.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” I said with as much annoyance in my voice as possible. “I will be right up,” she hung up the phone and I headed for the front desk.

“Not going for more coffee already are you? You are going to give yourself an ulcer, you know,” Sue was at it again and I did my best to ignore her.

When I got to the front desk, Dave was standing there and he didn’t look happy. Apparently Mary had called him right after she got off the phone with me. Or maybe right before. One look at the delivery guy, and decided it must have been before. Mary and Dave looked like a firing squad.

“Thank you.” I said taking the envelope from him and checking that it was addressed to me and not Unitide.

“Just sign here.”

“Thank you, I said handing the clipboard back to him.

“Rob,” Dave was using that voice again. “You know the policy about getting personal mail delivered to the office.”

“Yes,” I said turning around. suddenly felt like a little kid who got caught stealing a cookie.

“What is this all about, who is it from?” I had not looked at who it was from but I knew it was from Larry. “Rob? Who is it from?” Now he was getting on my nerves.

“What difference does that make?”

“You are not supposed to be getting mail at the office. It is a distraction. Hand it over and it will be on my desk when you are ready to go home.”

“You are kidding right?”

“Come on hand it over.”

“Like hell.”

“You had it delivered here, it is company property.”

“Go to hell Dave,” I said as I walked back to my desk.

“Rob!”

Who did Dave think he was? Wasn’t it illegal for him to take my mail? I would have to look it up when I got back to my desk.

“Rob, we need to talk about this,” He must have taken the other way around because now he was standing at the entrance to my cubical.

“What is the deal Dave, why all the fuss over a letter?”

“It’s from Larry isn’t it?”

“What is the difference?”

“Do you know why the policy is what it is?”

“You know, I never really understood that. You think that grown men and women are going to be distracted by getting mail? We are not three-year-olds Dave.”

“It is what it is, you can have your opinion, but there is more than that. We think Larry could be a security risk since he knew our roll-out schedule before he left.”

“Bull! Larry never cared about what we were doing here, he was here for the paycheck and you know it!”

“He knew the schedule.”

“What did he tell you before he left?”

“Give me the letter Rob you can have it back after work.”

“I am not a three-year-old,” I said raising my voice a bit so that everyone else could hear. “This is total bull. You have no right to take my mail where ever I get it delivered. I have given ten years of loyal service to this company, and you want to treat me like I am a child. Fine! You want the letter, take it.” I held it above me head waving it slightly. Dave reached for it but came about six inches short. I smiled at him and walked past him into my cubical. I picked up my jacket and keys with my free hand and pushed past him again.

“Where are you going?”

“Same place Larry did. I quit!”

“You can’t!”

“Watch me.”

A few minutes later I sat with my head on the steering wheel, my heart pounding and hands shaking. What was I going to do now? I was on my way home to get my resume up to date, when I remembered the letter. It was sitting on the seat next to me. I felt like it was calling to me, tempting me to open it. I didn’t even want the damn letter and now I had quit my job over it.

“What was I thinking? I wonder if it is too late to go back in.” Still the letter was calling me. I reached over and opened it. Inside was a set of plane tickets, a thousand dollars in cash and a note.

-Rob,

The tickets are for a 2:30 flight so you will have to hurry once you get this. Don’t worry about packing. If you need any clothes or anything you can use the money in the envelope. I will pick you up at the Athens Airport.

Larry

“Now what?” I had his money. I was glad that I had not run the entire letter through the shredder or given it to Dave. “But, now what?”

April 13 7:30 Am European Summer time
This morning I found Larry standing in our hotel room. His towel still wrapped around him, a set of maps in one hand and a slice of bread and lox in the other. He didn’t notice me for a few moments.

“You eat that?” I said, making my way to the coffee pot.

“Oh, good morning Rob. Sleep okay?”

“Yeah, where are we? It was pretty late last night.”

“We are in the Olympic national park, south of Mt. Olympus. Here, let me show you.” He carried the map to the table with the coffee pot spreading it out. “Here is Mt Olympus. It is about 2917 meters tall. Now here is the GPS unit I bought. See, it has the ability to save previous locations so you can find your way back. Now I know that it is accurate to about one hundred feet. See, the latitude, longitude and elevation of this place is here, and this is what the GPS shows.”

“Wow it only appears to be off by about twelve feet.”

“That would be because we’re one floor up. Last week, I climbed up to the highest point on the map, here.” He pointed first to the map and then to the GPS the numbers all matched. “Then using this enlargement of a satellite photo I found this trail right here.” He said pointing to a thin white line on the photo.

“Okay I see it.”

“I followed that path for about ten minutes, and it was pretty steep. Since this is a picture and not exactly the same scale as the map, although it is close, I would guess that I stopped about here and took a GPS reading.”

“3024 meters.”

“You know that that means don’t you?”

“Yeah, I means you found a point higher than anything recorded.”

“No. It means that I found the home of the gods!”

“Larry!”

“Rob, listen to me. When I was up there as soon as I found the trail, everything around me seemed to be shrouded in mist. At first I didn’t really notice it, but the further I went the denser it became.”

“You are high enough up that you could have been in a cloud.”

“I thought so too, but then when I turned around I had a really hard time going back down the path. There were even parts I felt like I was going up again, and I can promise you that when I was going up there were no downhill parts. It was like I kept getting turned around, but the GPS unit said I was going the right way. And here is the kicker: as soon as I was back down at 2917 meters, no mist, no cloud, nothing.”

Could it really be possible that he had found what he was looking for? That he had found the fantasy world he had been trying to find all of his life?

“So?” He said breaking me out of my thoughts.

“So, what?”

“Do you believe me?”

“Larry, I’m here. You have given me some pretty hard evidence, but I want to see it for myself before I totally agree.” I could not believe the words that were coming out of my mouth.

“Good. This morning after we get dressed, we’ll go into town and get outfitted with some supplies. It is a two day hike to the top. You will be glad of all those times I dragged you to the climbing gym with me.”

April 15 3:30 PM European Summer Time.
“The path was just over here.” Larry said as I trailed behind him a few feet. We had reached the peak only a few minutes before.

“Hang on a second Larry,” I sat on a near by rock and caught my breath. “Larry, I had a thought. What if we get up in the mist like you did and we can’t find our way out?”

“That is why we have the extra supplies. They should last us a few days at least, and longer if we get really lost. But I don’t think we will get that lost. We have the GPS unit, and can just keep following it until it eventually leads us out.

“Eventually? that is not very comforting.”

“Everything will be fine. You’ll see Rob. Ah, here it is!” He was pointing to a little worn spot in the rock. “This is it, just like I told you! Now we just follow this a little ways and we are in. Ready?”

“I have an idea.”

“Let’s tie the climbing line it to something down here in case we need to find our way back. Then we can move it up the path when we run out.”

“Wow! How low tech of you my friend, but I am game!”

I tied the rope to the base of nearby boulder and we started up the path. Within seconds we were enveloped in a fog so thick, we could hardly see each other.

“Okay Larry, end of the rope. I will go back and untie it. You wait here and tie your end off,” I said a few minutes later.

“Fair.” He said as he looked around for something to tie it off to.

I picked my way along the path and as Larry had said at points the path seemed to go up and down, even though when we had come in it was most certainly all uphill. When I finally made my way back down to the base the fog had indeed cleared. I untied the rope and made my way back up the rope, winding it up, as I went so that it would not get snagged on anything.

“Rob? Is that you?” I heard Larry voice just a few feet in front of me.

“Yes.”

“Did you hear that?”

“What? You calling to me?”

“No, before that.”

“I didn’t hear anything. What was it?”

“I thought I heard someone talking.”

“No, I didn’t hear anything.” When I was close enough to see him we stood still and listened for some time, but we didn’t hear anything.

“You know something weird?” Larry said breaking the long silence. “When you were walking away, you went down the path, but there were times that I watched the rope, go way up like you were going up hill. Just like a told you.”

“Yeah, it was very odd.” I was starting to feel more than a little nervous. “Did you tie your end off the line off?”

“Yes.”

“Okay then let’s keep going.”

“Right,” he said taking the coil of rope from me and heading up the path, but he could not hide the slight quiver in his voice. Whether it was from excitement or nervousness, I could not tell.

“I will go back this time. You look a little wiped out.” Larry said when we reached again reached the end of the rope. It had taken us longer this time as the path had begun to wind and we had to find places to loop the rope so that we would be able to follow it back if we needed to.

“Thanks,” I said as I watched him walk back in the direction we had come. In truth I was more than a little tired. I tied my end to the nearest rock and sat down on it.

“Why are you here?” a voice from the mist said.

“Larry?” He didn’t answer. I pulled gently on the rope and I could feel him moving away.

“Why did you come? It has been so long.” The voice said. The voice was soft and sweet and definitely not Larry’s. Then I heard something moving nearby and it sounded like a big animal, but it was coming from a different direction than the voice.

“Who’s there?” I said, no longer able to hide the fear in my own voice. There was no answer. I yelled for Larry again.

“Coming,” he said from only a few feet off. “What is it?”

“Larry, the voice you heard before?”

“Yeah?”

“Tell me you heard it again.”

“No.”

“Larry there is someone out here with us. And I think they might have brought an animal with them.”

“Come on, lets keep going.” he said, a little more calmly than I felt.

“Larry, I am not afraid to admit, I am more than a little freaked out.”

“Come on, it will be alright.”

“You have nothing to fear.” the voice said again.

“I heard that,” Larry said.

“Me too.” We looked around but could see nothing in the mist.

“Let’s keep moving,” He said. I again handed the coil of rope to him and we walked on, the voice urging us on now and again.

“I’ll go back this time,” I said when we reached the end of the rope.

“Don’t go back,” the voice said. “You are too far now.”

“Rob?”

“What?”

“Did you see that?”

“No, what?”

“I’m not sure but it was a huge shape.” We watched the swirling mist for a few minutes but saw nothing more.

“I am going back to get the rope,” I said after a few moments.

“No!” came the voice, more insistent this time. “You will not be able to return.”

“You mean we can’t leave?” No answer, but now I saw something moving in the mist. “I am not going on with out the rope,” I said to Larry.

“I know I made fun of you before but I totally agree with you now.” With that I headed back to untie the other end.

“You have come so far,” the voice said, sounding as though it was weeping.

“Who are you?” I asked, but there was no reply.

In a couple of minutes I found the end of the rope. I untied it, turned around to go back and bumped into something. It was softer than rock, but just as solid. I backed away and felt something brush against me.

Whatever it was, it was moving around me to prevent me from going either forward or back. I fought to keep calm and tried to see through the fog, but could see nothing more than a large vague shape and feel the occasional brush of what felt like hair against my skin.

After what seemed like an eternity the voice spoke again, “You cannot return to your friend. He has passed beyond you.” This time it had more firmness than before, but it was still soft.

“What do you mean?”

“Follow the beast, it will show you the way out. Do not attempt to come back. It will be guarding the way.”

“What about Larry?”

“He is with us now.”

“What does that mean?” There was no answer. “Hey, what does that mean? What have you done with him?” Then I felt a huge body pressing against me. It was covered in hair and more than a match for me. “Wait!” I yelled, but it did no good. The beast was forcing me down the path. I screamed for Larry until my voice was gone, but the beast never faltered and soon I stood alone on the top of the mountain. The air was clear and I could see all around me.

I tried to go up the path again and again, only to find the huge beast there.

That was three years ago. I have written down every detail of what happened to us, thought it will make little difference as no one will believe it. I have tried many times since then to go back, but each and every time I did the beast was there. I heard from Larry only one more time. I returned to the mountain ten days after our first encounter. This time the beast was accompanied by a smaller creature. It appeared to be a sprite of the kind that Larry used to keep on his desk. It did not speak, but handed me a small scrap of paper.

Rob,

I have found it.

Larry


Download Great Hites 25 Audio

Great Hites # 23

Originally posted Oct 15 2008

 


Download GreatHites # 23 Audio

Welcome to Great Hites, With Jeffrey Hite. This is Alex I am sitting in for Jeff this week.

A Note from Jeff:

This has been a very busy week, I am running very late, and I have only my story so I have decided that since I do it for other people I would let Alex read this story.

So on with the story:

This weeks prompt came from Peter S. “The empty shell of a boat house.”

So sit back relax and make sure you know who your friends are.

The Boat house.

By: Jeffrey Hite

The boat house stood silently on the edge of the lake. It was a very simple structure, with nothing inside. It’s only reason for being was to shelter the fisherman’s boat, who had died long before Jonathan had risen to the throne of the kingdom.
This much he had learned from the men he had sent here last night to check it out. They had reported that there was no place to hide, no place to conceal a weapon, just an open room, with a small dock around the inner rim. His watchers had been there since before sun up and had seen no one leave or enter, and they had cleared the surroundings.
And Yet he was afraid. He could admit that, and he had good reason to be. Marcus the captain of his royal guard, and been taken hostage by these monsters. A man who was many times more capable of defending himself than he was. Even though they had grown up together, and Marcus had trained him. It had been his job to run the country, and he had fallen out of practice of defending himself. Something he was not proud of, but it was the facts of life. It was one fact that right now he wished could be altered.
Two nights before, he had received the letter. Come to the boat house alone, or you will not see Marcus again. Even through his elation that Marcus was alive, he had been afraid. Though at that point it was more of a nagging at the back of his mind afraid, now it was a full bodied terror that gripped him. It had been almost a year since Marcus had been captured and they had given up all hope that he was still alive. Especially since the killers had taken to not only murdering the victims but leaving little more than a bloody mess behind.
It was time now, he knew that he would have to go forward, that he would have to enter the boat house. Three of his men were to be on the roof of the boat house in case something happened. He could not see them from where he was standing but that might have been because of the slope of the roof, or the fading light. But they were among his best men, all trained by Marcus himself so he knew that he had little to worry about.
With tentative steps he walked to the door at the rear of the building and pushed it open. At first the room inside the boat house was too dark to see much, but he could tell that he was not alone.
“Come in your Highness. I have been expecting you.”
“Where are you?”
“You have nothing to fear from me. As I said in my note, I only wish to talk with you.”
“Who are you?”
“Oh come now, you would not want to spoil the surprise, like our friends here did.” As he said this three bodies dropped into the water. The king hurried to the edge to look in and saw the nearly unrecognizable forms of his guards who had been stationed on the roof. Had it not been for their uniforms he would not have known for sure.
“Why?”
“I told you to come alone!” The voice was angry now. “You had people prowling around here all day, you are lucky that it was only these three that paid the price for your arrogance, but I am sure you feel it was a worthy cause for them to die. You value the lives of your servants so.”
“What do you mean. I.”
“Oh come now you called off the search for your friend long ago. There was no body, there was nothing, and yet you called off the search, and he was your the man you called best friend. What can these men have meant to you.”
‘I care for all of my people.”
“Ahh I am sure you do. But maybe you can tell me how you do it.”
“What are you talking about.” For the first time the man speaking came out of the shadows, the light was to his back so Jonathan could not see his face.
“How you can be that insensitive. How you can feel nothing. Because, as my hero,” his tone was mocking now, “I figure you might have some advice to give.” He walked full into view now and Jonathan saw the wreck of a man that his friend had become.

Witch Hunt

Originally posted on Sept. 1 2008

This weeks prompt comes from: Mode Room Press, at
www.moderoom.com

Describe a witch hunt in a Scottish Village.
with a case of hand grenades.
Such misery is the result of too much sleep!
Two Policeman enter.
While a man in the shadows loads a rifle.


Witch Hunt Audio

Witch Hunt

“You know, there aren’t really any witches in Scotland any more,” I said.
“What are you talking about? Of course there are. What do you think that we have been doing for the last five years?” Matt looked at me with a look of pity.
“For one thing we have been getting wet every Saturday night instead of hanging out in the pub with the guys. And what have we got to show for it?”
“Well there are no witches in this village, that is what we have to show for it. And what do you mean by there are no witches in Scotland? You saw the same report I did just last week.”
We stopped under an eve and waited while two police officers walked by. We weren’t doing anything illegal, but the case of hand grenades that Matt insisted on keeping in the back seat of the car, just in case, was a sure bet to get us in more trouble then we were looking for.
“I saw the report just like you Matt,” I said after they had moved out of ear shot. “But what I didn’t see in there was what those people were doing that was wrong.”
“Sammy, their witches. They are going to be hexing our children and get them to come eat the gingerbread off their houses and then what? Then what will you do?”
“Matt,” I said grabbing his arm as he tried to step out from under the eve. “What are you talking about? That is a fairy tale. Did you read the report? Those people are Wiccan, technically that makes them witches but they don’t cast spells and they don’t have gingerbread houses and they said they just wanted to be left alone. I don’t agree with what they believe in, but they are not hurting anyone.”
“Sammy, they’re witches!” He said rounding on me. “Nothing good can come from them being here!”
“But that does not give us the right to do… to do what? What would we do if we found one? Blow him or her up with one of your grenades? What if they have children?”
“So you admit that there are witches and they have our children!”
“Your not listening to me Matty. I meant their own children. They are humans after all.”
“How can a witch have a child? What do they do, ‘magic’ them out of the fire? Then it would be more of a demon then a child, and we have to rid the world of them too!”
“You didn’t read any of that report at all, nothing after the title.” I sighed deeply. “This brand of witches are men and women, and they don’t do magic, they believe in trees and grass, and they have children of their own just like you and me.”
“Oh Yeah! Well what about that dream? What about the one where they told me to rid the country side of witches?”
“Matt, you had been sick and sleeping for three days. You had a nightmare, that is the only thing that can explain it. It is the only thing that could cause this much Misery.”
“Sam, if you don’t believe me fine, but I am doing to do what I have to do to keep all of us safe. You will thank me when your kids are grown and they have not been roasted and put on the diner table of some witch family.” He stopped then and took something out of his back pack. It was a rectangular box. As he opened it up I knew what it was going to be. He had bought a rifle, the kind you could take apart and put back together.
“Matt, what is that? You have gone off the deep end. You are going to hurt someone with that thing.” He turned to me, his eyes were red with anger.
“Go then!” he said waiving the unassembled barrel at me.
I ran back up the street the way we had come. Within a few moment I bumped into the two police officers, and I made a choice.
“Officers,” I said breathing deeply. “My friend, I think he is in trouble.” I wavered just a moment and then lied. “He must be drunk or something, but he has a gun. You have got to stop him!”

Casualties of War (GreatHites Classic)

Originally posted on Aug 25, 2008

Peter S Won this week. Thank you Peter for submitting, and please come back any time you like.

Evolution
Submitted By Peter S.

Evolution is a wondrous thing. It is fickle and gruff and subtle and violent. It is a speeding bullet headed toward rice paper. It does things, not because it can, or it should, or it was suggested that it do so, but none the less, it still does, and these choices are not negotiable. You cannot decide to undo something like evolution. It is just done, no questions asked, none offered and none accepted. The choice is made and you MUST accept it.

Sometimes the biggest changes are the hardest to fathom. Evolution made one of these amazing and infuriating choices here which changed every carbon-based life-form on this planet. Changed it for eternity. Oh, they did not notice it at first, as most sentient life-forms rarely notice things at the macro level until it is way too obvious, but they must have tasted some of the changes. It must have been so odd at first. A report here shows how some found it odd that some persons can crave sugar like that. Crave sugar in any form. Raw, unprocessed sugar seemed to be their favorite, an almost obsessive choice, but granulated and cubed started out as a tolerable choice as well. The others, almost understandably, were confused by this new ‘sub-culture’ appearing. Some thought it was a fad, a phase, like bed-wetting or extreme sports that would naturally disappear after some unknown point, be it age, or intelligence or just time. But it never did. It never went away. Never subsided, or dissipated, until it was too late.

This change was so very important. So very monumental in their history but they were too preoccupied by other things to devote the necessary time to investigate this phenomenon properly. They all had a larger problem to worry about. Apparently it was called Columbia.

Columbia was a world power. They came to this power quickly, having sold an addictive narcotic called coffee. Apparently everyone on this planet was hooked, or as they called it, a caffeine junkie. This was not a problem for them as long as everyone had their coffee. There was an order to this world. The order was peppered with odd words, words like mocha, grande, extra extra extra sweet, frappuchino and other equally odd words, which as an inter-galactic archaeologist, I hope to translate one day. Anyhow, it was because of this new and growing sub-group that over 10000 years ago the Eugenic War started. Started and very quickly ended with the completely thorough annihilation of all life on this planet. This war was started all because Caffeine junkies were left with no sugar for the coffee.


Jeff’s Story


Casualties Of War Audio

Casualties Of War

“There are so many things that make war and ugly business, but probably one of the worst what is lost. Loss is by far the worst part of war.” The Captain stood, but deftly grabbed the desktop to prevent himself from rising up and hitting his head on the ceiling. Many of the younger members of his audience had been born at this level of gravity so the slow moment required to prevent such an action was in their nature he knew. Not him, he was born on Earth, Earth before the war. And no matter how many years he spent out here, he would probably always do things like that. “We all lost so much,” he said as much to himself as to the new crew.
“Sir, are you ready for the slides?” The XO asked. He was a good strong officer, and wonderful at keep the captain from getting mired in the past.
“Yes. Before we begin our tour of duty, I must remind you of why we are here. Forty years ago, the Martian and a few of the belt colonies decided they did not want to be ruled by the central government on Earth. Earth, forgetting the past attempted to repress the colonies into submission. Then just like the Americas of five centuries before, the outer colonies rebelled and decided to fight for their freedom.” He thought back to the first attacks. They were so minor: hitting the robotic probes, destroying minor communication satellites, rejecting the shipments of the extras, setting up their own government. It should not have escalated the way it did. “I don’t pretend that I was not biased in those days… I was a citizen of Earth, I didn’t understand why they felt they needed to break away. But now I don’t care,” He took a step around to the front of the desk so that they could all see him, taking care to step slowly. “And to be honest, I don’t care what you think now. We are nearing the half century mark since the war that made man’s cradle a radioactive mess and people are talking about fighting again. You would think that people would remember the losses we suffered and never make that mistake again.”
“Next slide sir.”
“Thank you. Mr. Murphy and I are dedicated to our cause. We both have an unswerving understanding of what is at stake here. So should you not agree with our cause, stow it, and keep it stowed until your tour is over. It will not be tolerated here.” He said raising his voice to the limit of the sound systems ability.
The three dimensional slides to this point had been showing pictures of green forest lush fields, and the Terra-formed Martian landscapes. Now it divided into four sections and showed burned out ship hulls, ruined cites both Terran and Martian, and burned out forests. The slide was over laid with the sounds of an ancient Geiger counters tick tick ticking and occasional squeals. He let the slide stay on the screen a few seconds longer than switched to the next one. This one more horrific than the last, the charred remains of humans, floating space suited bodies, and live stock turned to ash where the stood in the fields.
“We ruined the two best planets that we have access to.” He said quietly “Utterly destroyed them, and made the inhabitable for human kind for at least a hundred years. Now we as a species have exiled ourselves to a few large bodies in the belt and the moons of Jupiter. And yet!” He said topping out the sounds system again, “We have not learned our lesson. There are factions at work that want us to go to war again! Next slide,” he said calmly. “The Interplanetary Fleet was commissioned 30 years ago as one of the first acts of our system wide government, to protect the peace and to prevent us from wiping our species off of the galactic map.”
He paused and sat down again behind his desk. The XO stepped forward in front of the projection of his boss. “Room, Ten Hut!” Everyone in the room stood as sharply as possible, and stood stone still in a position of attention. An ancient custom, but one the captain would not relinquish.
“Dismissed!” Captain Fin McGrath said standing smoothly and returning his XO’s salute. “Return to your duty stations, we will be leaving space port in fifteen minutes,” then more quietly “Murphy please come to my ready room with the rooster.”
“Yes sir.” Murphy dropped his salute and switch off the large monitor. Two minutes later the chime at his door rang.
“Come in.” The XO floated carefully through the door a data chip in one hand and two coffee bulbs in the other. “Ah, thanks Murphy, you always know what is needed,” McGrath said taking one of the bulbs and the data chip.
“Probably why you keep me around sir.”
“I would not be so cocky there,” McGrath said swallowing the first bitter sip. “Unless you find me some sugar for this stuff I might have to find a new XO.”
“Even with all my connections there are some things that even I can’t do. And getting the sugar to grow in a low gravity environment is one of them. And the stored stuff is nearly five hundred credits a pound, if you could ever find that much of it in one place. You could always use one of the fruit extracts to sweeten it.” This was a well rehearsed conversation and the captain knew his next line without even thinking about it.
“That is next to mutiny my friend, one more comment like that and you will be taking a walk out an air lock. Coffee should taste like coffee not apples or peaches. Talk about your casualties of war, who would have thought…” he trailed off.
“Very well. As you know the roster has two points of concern.” Murphy said sliding seamlessly into the next conversation. He pointed to the two red highlighted areas on the projected screen. “The first one is easily remedied, we simply have the navigators rotate eighteen hour shift. Three slots are needed with only two men, they will get a break when we get to Cerise, and pick up someone for the vacant slot. And you and I can help relieve them.”
“A Captain? Doing navigator functions?” he said in mock indignation. The XO ignored him and continued.
“The second, as you know is more worrisome. I attempted to get a replacement for him before we left dock but the only way to do that would have let him know that Interpol was on to him, so we will have to keep an eye on him ourselves for the time being.”
“And you have confirmed with Interpol that he is a Martian sympathizer?”
“Yes, he has been in contact with two of the local leaders in the last week. To that end, they have issued us both sidearms.”
“You think that is necessary Fava?” The XO nodded. “I must confess that I don’t like the idea of weapons walking around the ship, even in our hands. Too many chances.”
“Fin, You know that I feel the same way but.” He trailed off for a moment. “The last time a Martian sympathizer was on an IPF ship they managed nearly crashed it into Cerise Colony, and both the captain and the XO were the first two they went after. Their bodies still have not been found. If midshipman Hector has any ideas, I want to be prepared.”
“Your point is well taken.” He accepted the small weapon that was not much more than a child’s dart gun and slid it into his coat pocket. “We had better get to the bridge for launch. I don’t have to tell you to keep that information close to you at all times.”
“Yes sir.”
The two them them made their way toward the bridge when Murphy bumped into his captain, knocked of balance by something that had hit him in the back of the head.
“You will have to be more careful there Fava, the crew will start calling us old timers…” He never finished the statement, as his executive officer’s body continued to fall, eyes rolled back in his head. McGrath turned just in time to see a second dart fly past him. Three men stood in the passageway one of them struggled to reload a makeshift dart gun.
“That will be enough, Captain.” We could easily take the ship by force, but unless you want to see exterior of your ship first hand, I suggest your cooperate.” Two of the men moved forward toward him and grabbed the XO’s body.
“What are you going to do with him?”
“Nothing but lock him in your ready room for now, but I must say it is very tempting to see what a few minutes of O2 deprivation would do to the great mind of Fava Murphy. He had been a thorn in our side for a long time.”
“What do you want?”
“Simple, launch the ship as normal.”
“But then what?”
“Oh come now Captain, this is not some cheesy novel where will tell you what we plan so you can thwart us. There will be no heroes today. For now launch the ship, we will deal with one thing at a time.”
“Very well, let’s get to the bridge. We only have a few minutes until launch.” The two men carried the OX back to the captain’s ready room waited there, while Hector followed the Captain to the bridge. McGrath palmed the lock to the bridge and the door popped open. He left is palm on the lock a moment longer than necessary and tapped his two middle fingers on it to alert the security officer there was a problem.
“Alright everyone ready for a smooth launch?” McGrath announced his presents on the the bridge in the normal way. “Midshipman Hector here is studying for his navigators test and since we are short one navigator, I thought we would get him some hands on training.” Hector shot him a glance. “I had to have an explanation for you being here.” he whispered to the unasked question. “So Ensign Paul, would you kindly show him what you are doing?”
“Of course sir.”
“Good. Head over there midshipman, and just watch over his shoulder.” Hector moved slowly to the navigator’s position and looked at the screen for a moment. Just long enough for Fin to fire his side arm. The would-be hijacker slipped to the floor. “Ensign Paul, quickly get his wrist strap and put it on. They are no undoubtedly monitoring for something like this. Your heart rate should fool them for a few minutes.” He moved to his chair and pushed the button for his encrypted communication channel. “Begin the launch sequence as normal.” He said to the rest of bridge crew. He waited for the beep that told him the encryption was active. “Tom, they have Murphy, I saw them heading for my ready room.”
The voice that came back was not the one he expected. “I am afraid Tom can’t talk right now, he and Commander Murphy are having some trouble breathing at the moment. Launch the ship now or more people will be taking a walk.” The line went dead.
McGrath hung his head for a moment. Then stood and issued the command to begin the launch. “Damn MS!” he swore. “Forgive me Fava, you were a very good man. I should have acted quicker.”
A few moments later the ship was underway, and there was a knock at the bridge door. “Let us in, or more people walk home.” The voice from the other side said with an eerie calm. The communications officer stood to open the door, but McGrath shook his head.
“I will not give them someone else to kill.” He made his way to the door and palmed it, then slid his had off the pad rapidly in sideways swipe. The door clicked as normal, then the whoosh of the pressure seals could be heard as they flung the door open in an emergency decompress action. Both men behind the door where slammed violently against the passageway wall. “That is why you don’t stand right behind the doors.” He said to the young bridge crew. “Ensign Paul would you begin plotting us a course to return the station. We have had some terrible losses today and our departure is going to be delayed.” He breathed deeply to calm his voice. “And called down to the galley and get me some coffee, with some real sugar in it.”

Creative Commons License
Casualties of war by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.

Assassin’s Quest (GreatHites Classic)

Originally posted on Aug 19, 2008
Assassin’s Quest read to you by Ann and Jeff Hite

This weeks prompt comes from Mur Lafferty’s News from Poughkeepsie Find out more at Murverse.com

“Shaman, you need to take this baby’s soul back; you’ve given her the soul of an assassin,” my father said to the rheumy-eyed little man. The little man shook his head and walked out of the door muttering, and calling my father a fool.
My name is Betha MacTaggart, and that was how my life started. At least that is the story my mother told me of how it started. The other villagers have told me that the following day my father tried to kill me by throwing me in the river, but my mother would not hear of it, and in the end it was my hand that held the knife my father was carrying and as he tripped it drove into his chest. Not what I would call a good beginning.
We don’t get to choose the souls we are given, that is just the way life is. You get what you are given and you live with it. My soul was that of an assassin, and I started out my life by killing my father. It was obvious from that point on that I was going to be an assassin. The problem is, that is not really a popular field to go into, and people who are assassins are not exactly coming out of the wood work to tell you about themselves for obvious reasons. So finding a teacher or a mentor is a little difficult.
Any dummy with a weapon can kill someone, but how many people do you know that can kill someone with a single finger, or a blade of grass, and never get caught, or better yet blame it on someone else. That is the true job of an assassin. And that is what has brought me to this little town, nearly a months journey from my home, and had cost me almost everything I owned.
There was a rumor that the King’s own assassin was going to be in this town, not to kill someone, but to meet with several other assassins and discuss their trade. My best chance to get the training I needed was to be here and find them. The problem being that although just about everyone knew they were going to be in this town, and that they were supposed to be here this week, no one seemed to know where they were going to be meeting, or when they would be getting here. Worse still no one knew what they looked like. Keeping your identity safe is also part of being an assassin.
The best lead I had gotten was from the local shaman, he suggested that one hundred years ago when The kings assassin had called a council here that they had met in the tavern. At least that is where they gathered at first to discuss the next place to go. So here I sit in the tavern waiting and watching for I don’t know exactly what.
“Hello, young lady may I buy you a drink?” The skinny old man said sitting down beside me and waving the barmen over.
“No, I have one thank you. Can I help you?” I said watching his eyes rove over me.
“I hear you are looking for some people.”
“What is that to you?”
“I might be able to help you find them,” He answered with a smile creeping across his face
“I find that difficult to believe,” I said. “I bet there is a price involved that has me doing things that I would rather not do.” Then two things happened that I saw. First while I was talking to him he moved my cup closer to me. When he did that the tip of his finger touched the foam of the beer. I noticed right away the slight yellow tint that spread across the surface and disappeared. Second as the barman brought my plate of food the old man reached up and passed it to me from across the table, as he did I saw a little bit of an oily sheen that was very hard to see in the light once the plate was in front of me.
“Don’t let me slow you down, please eat your dinner.” He said with a wave of his hand. I carefully pushed the plate away from me. I had never seen either of these poisons before and I didn’t know how potent they were. so I didn’t dare even getting close.
“I think I will have that drink you offered.” I said hoping that he knew I’d caught him.
“You are pretty perceptive, but you will have to work on that because there is much more that your eye cannot always see,” He said. Then the thing that I did not see happened. There was a slight pain in my leg and then everything went black.
When I woke up I was in a stable, and wearing only my underwear. I stood up, and checked the door to the stable, it was locked but I could get under it, or over it quite easily. But first, I wanted to get an better idea of what kind of a situation I was in. People don’t normally just drug you, steal your clothes and dump you in a stable, unless you have the kinds of friends that do that kind of thing, and I didn’t. Come to think of it I didn’t have many friends. Most of the people from my village knew my history and avoided me.
I lay down on the floor and looked under the door. There was nothing obstructing the way but there was something reflecting a lot of light from the door. Likely something that was meant to fall on me or jab me, if I went over, the second I stuck my head around the door. Who ever put me here had done a good job, there was nothing in the stable besides a small amount of straw and a few horse droppings. Not much I could use to test my theory. I picked up one of the balls of horse droppings and rolled it slowly under the door, and sure enough a a rather large heavy looking metal plate dropped to the floor, splattering the horse dung and effectively blocking the opening.
“That would have been my head,” I whispered to myself. “These guys don’t mess around.” I was running out of options. There very well could be a trap still to get me if I tried to go over, or that could be my way out. I tossed a second piece of dung over the door but nothing happened. That didn’t mean much, since it was going much faster than I could ever get over the door and it might not have been big enough to set off what ever it was. I was not quite ready to toss my life away that quickly. In frustration I kicked the door, and sprung the second trap. I single nasty looking pike shot from behind the door into the ceiling .
I stood there starring at it wondering what kind of people went to this much trouble. That was when I heard something new. There was someone else in here. It was very low, but I could hear them breathing. They had a bit of a cold and their breath whistled a little. I stood as still as I could and listened, willing my heart to stop pounding in my ears. It took several minutes but in the end I could tell they were in the loft above me. They were watching me. That was when it hit me. This was not to get me out of the way. They were trying to kill me. The man I met in the tavern was an assassin, that much was clear, but why would he have come after me?
I didn’t have time to ponder that at the moment, first I needed to get out of here and figure out who it was that was out to kill me. I tried the door again. it was still locked, but if I kicked a few more times I might be able to break the latch. After about three minutes all I had managed to accomplish was a bruise on my foot and my shoulder.
“That makes sense, that door is meant to hold an angry horse, a ninety pound girl does not have much of a chance at breaking through.” That meant I was back to the first two options. Under and over, under was blocked. But over was not. And there was a pike lodged in the ceiling that as I went over I could grab and use against whoever was out there. I climbed up on the side walls of the stable Then made my way toward the door. Just as I was a going over the top another pike shot up and grazed my shoulder. It left a nasty gash, but it had not killed me. I grabbed both of them and jumped down on the other side of the door.
I was still nearly naked and didn’t know where I was but I was out of the stable and was now armed. I looked around. There were a number of other stables, but mine appeared to have been the only one that was Boobie trapped. There was small room in the corner and a loft above me, where whoever had been watching me presumably still was. The room seemed like the best bet. I had no idea if there was more than the one person watching me, and pikes, although good weapons for a large man, were not much of one for me. I needed something much smaller.
The room as nearly empty, but there was a cloak and a few tethering spikes. Not the best weapon, but easier to hide that then a pike, and something I could use. I put one of the pikes in the corner and put the cloak on, it itched an smelled of horse dung, but it covered me, and that was what was important. hiding the spikes in the pockets I then pulled the hood up and grabbed the pike. Now to get out of the building. At least then I might have an idea about where I was. I found the door at the far end of the stables. It opened without a problem, I carefully pushed the pike out there door. Nothing happened. At least this door did not appear to be booby trapped. There was a huge open field for as far as I could see.
“Where do you think you are going Missy.” I spun around to find a mountain of a man standing at the door behind me. “You have my cloak and I will be taking it back.” His smile said he had plans to take more than that.
“I think I will keep it,” I said holding the pike in a defensive posture.
“You will want to put that down before someone gets hurt.” He moved forward, and I lunged at him with the pike, he easily swatted it aside and made a grab for me, but I pulled the spike from my pocket and put it against his throat.
“That will be far enough. Now tell me why you put me in there.” I had no doubt he was not the one that had put me there. He didn’t look bright enough to have rigged that trap.
“I don’t know what you are talking about. I saw you stealing my stuff and I…” His hand darted out and grabbed the spike and nearly broke my hand in the process, then in an instant he was on top of me. “Now lets talk about what you are doing here.”
“What do you mean, you and your friend back in the tavern drugged me and dumped me in the death trap back there.”
“Why are you here little girl?” He repeated. “This is vary dangerous business.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you here? Why did you come here?” It sunk in then. He was one of the assassins that had come here.
“Where are they?” He looked at me quizzically. “I came here to learn from the kings assassin. Where are they meeting.” I said finally.
“And why would you be looking for the kings assassin?” I managed to get my hand loose and swung it up against the side of his face. He rolled off me and I was on my feet in an instant with the other spike in my hand.
“Because I was given the soul of an assassin. I need to be trained to use it.”
“You?” he sad laughing roughly. He moved forward again but I dodged out of his way and managed a swipe across he chest that left him bleeding. He grabbed his chest and winced in pain. “You have some skill already I think.”
“Jacob, that is enough.” The voice came from the stable door. I waited until he looked toward the new voice before I risked a look. It was not the man I met in the tavern, but a much older man. Although his voice was still very strong and commanding. “It is alright miss MacTaggart you may lower your guard. The test is complete.” Three more men came out of the stable, all rather slight in build. One came to Jacob right away and started checking his wound.
“You are lucky she didn’t find the poison this could have been fatal, you need to be more careful.” He said to the much larger and younger man.
“What do you mean test?” I asked finally.
“Miss Mactaggart, you were seeking the kings assassin to acquire training, were you not?” The Old man asked.
“Yes,” I answered slowly.
“You have found him. I am Wilimaster the king’s assassin, you have earned a chance to get training you desire.”
“You mean that was a test? I could have killed him.”
“Or been killed yourself,” he said softly. “Do you think that the risks to your life will be any less when you are given a task of killing someone else.”
“No , but if this was a test…”
“And you passed by surviving and protecting yourself in very difficult circumstances. We had our doubts about you but I believe that they were miss placed. Jacob will be your master.”
“But I?” I started to protest.
“You prefer to not get any training?” He said his face growing dark.
“No.”
“Then you will be Jacob’s apprentice.”
“You might want to get into your clothes again.” Jacob said tossing me a small bag and motioning me to the barn. “We have along ride ahead of us.”

Creative Commons License
Assassin’s Quest by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.

Last Thursday

This was originally posted Jun 10th 2008

Download and listen to the Audio version of Last Thursday and when you do, hear the promo for Variant Frequencies

This prompt Comes from
The News From Poughkeepsie From Mur Lafferty


Scenes Thursdays:

(Some of this is true.)

I never take into account how much that can go wrong in the block I walk to pick up my child from the bus stop. I always try to remember to take with me: my dog, a weapon, a camera, and my phone. When I forget these things, I often see things like vultures fighting over the territory that surrounds a roadkill squirrel, feral, puffy, white dogs that got free after they killed their owners, or glimpses of the black bears that wander our area.

I’m just glad the school buses still run after the apocalypse. Cause protecting my kid on the walk home is about all I can handle.

“Last Thursday”

“What do you mean it happened last Thursday? I have a meeting this afternoon, and now you are telling me it is not going to happen?” Justin asked. He had rephrased the question three times now and had gotten the same response. It was obvious that Ruth was getting annoyed with him, but she was telling him was impossible.

“Justin, you are not listening to me. Last Thursday, the day that all the lights went out, that was pretty much the end of all the meetings” Ruth said putting her hands on his desk. “Look, the fact that this building is in tact is a fluke. The fact that you are still dressed for work is because you bumped your head when it happened and you have been sleeping for the last five days. You don’t have any meeting this afternoon, you don’t need to wait for IT to fix your computer, you don’t even need to check your phone for messages. It is over. The bombs went off all over the world. The best estimates are that fifty percent of the worlds population is dead already and another fifty percent of them will die in six months from radiation, disease and hunger. Justin, it is over.”

“Wait Bombs? You mean like the WMD’s?”

“Yes, now you are getting it.”

For the first time that he had real noticed her appearance. She was dirty, something that Ruth never would have been at the office. He looked around the office now, and saw that the few people that were there, were not doing the things that they normally did. Instead they were huddled in a corner talking, looking over strange bits of things that were scattered on someones desk.

“We survived a nuclear attack, that is what you are telling me?” He said finally.

“Yes. We are far enough out here that we were not hit, and there is not direct fallout coming to us. We even have power, but we don’t know how long that will last.”

“Why?”
“Because, there is no one to bring the fuel to the power station, when the coal they have is gone that is it. So they have been rationing it.”

Justin, instinctively reached for his cell phone and looked at it. There was signal to his surprise.

“That won’t work unless you are going to call someone right near here. Our tower was damaged but Josesph and Micheal were able to repair it, not that it has done us much good, without the whole system, and the satelite links all you can call is local.” John from IT said.

“Look Justin, we are all really happy that you are awake. We understand that you are confused but, we are trying to plan our next move, where to start getting food when the power goes out for good that sort of thing. So unless you have some pretty good ideas, your questions are going to have to wait” Ruth said.

“So you lied to me” Justin said with a smile.

“Huh?”

“You told me there was no meeting this afternoon.”

“Yeah, I guess I did.”
“So who is in charge, what is the topic, who is attending? Did any one bring doughnuts I am starved.”

“Justin!”

“What?”

“Listen, this isn’t like the old meetings.”

“Oh relax Ruth, without some normalcy we will all go nuts. Does anyone have a working PC? We can put some slides together” He said walking toward he group in the corner. No one replied. “Ok then, lets just get a chart so that we can draw things, I have lost most of my presenting skills with the advent of powerpoint, but I will do my best.”

They all stared at him as if he where crazy. And maybe he was, but he didn’t care. Without something to hang onto he was going to go totally over the edge, and that the moment this was the only thing he could think of.

“Joe, where is the meeting?”
“Right here.”

“Oh this will never do. Did you say the whole building was standing and safe?” He said turning to Ruth again. She nodded dumbly. “Good, tell everyone that we are going down to conference room two.”

“You can’t!” Susan from accounting said
“What? why?”

“The Children are sleeping in there.” She said.

“Oh alright, I had not thought about that being single myself. Alright, what room is available?”

“I think conference room four will work.” Said Peter. “Three has broken glass and one all the lights are out.”

“Ok four it is then. Ruth, go tell everyone who is going to be in the meeting we are going to meet in conference room four.”

“But…” she protested

“But nothing, just do it. Are there going to be any visitors?”

“Yeah we have some of the people from the town council, the ones that lived further out.”

“Ok then, we will need name tags. The last thing people want is for someone not to remember their names.” He stopped his dervish of activity for a moment and thought.
“John, what is the meeting going to cover?”

“Supplies and things like that, who has what, and how many people there are, and what we should do about it.” He replied

“Good, then what we need are some lists.” He thought for another second, “Ok John, I want you and Joe to get a list of everything we have here that might be useful, don’t leave anything out, you never know what we might need. right Down to mops and brooms.”

“We going to be sweeping the radiation up Justin,” Joe asked?

“No, but you never know what we might need.”

It turned out Justin was right. The meeting was very much like every other meeting they had all been to. there were those people that were there just to be some where, and those that had things to contribute, there were even those, who it seemed came just to be a disruption, and for them it was good that Justin had taken charge. When it was over they had lists of things to do, and people knew what they were going to be doing.

Within a week things seemed almost normal again, power was only used to keep the refrigerators running at the grocery stores, the lights on at the clinic and the gas stations running. People went to work every morning, albeit for most of them, not doing what they were used to. Things were starting to look at bit better. The supplies that we did have were being rationed and for the time being things looked ok. You had to carry more with you than you used to, just to walk to the school bus with your kids, but things were really getting back to normal.

That was before they started to go out on recon missions, and discovered that we were really alone.

Creative Commons License
Last Htursday by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.