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.

End of Days.

This story was originally posted on July 7th 2008

Prompt from Creative Writing Prompts

Describe a man who leaves no stone unturned. # 257

End Of Days Audio

Everyone in life has tasks that they feel are insurmountable. Some of them are, some of them are not and some are only impossible because of the person they are put in front of. Still others, though the task may be impossible or nearly so, relish in the task and will toil away at it no matter what. John was this last sort of man.
When he was young he read about the great “accidental” immortal, and the impossible task of insulting the universe from A to Z that the immortal set before himself. Now there was a man that knew what an impossible task was.
Though he was not immortal, John set about spending his life looking for the tasks that others believed were impossible. His mortality was only one more hurdle that he would have to over come. At first he had found a few tasks that everyone agreed were impossible but most of those turned out to be paperwork errors. Dividing by zero was just a matter of using unusually large values of zero. Faster than light travel was simple once you thought about it. Some light traveled slower, like that from a flashlight with nearly dead batteries, surely that could be overcome. Solving for pi and world hunger turned out two ends of the same problem. But, as he got older he began to despair that he would never find that impossible task that would he his life’s work.
Then one day after realizing that the problem of the counting all the people on earth one at a time as merely a matter of getting them all to count themselves, the idea struck him like a rock, or in this case a stone. What about the man who leaves no stone unturned? That is what he had been doing in his quest to find the prefect problem to solve, why not literally leave no stone unturned?
The first thing of course was to determine what the quest meant. Was it no stone in his hometown, the state, the country, the whole world, or the entire universe? Since John, unlike his boyhood hero, was not an immortal he would have to settle on one of the choices that he could accomplish in what was left of his lifetime, and so he settled on leaving no stone unturned on the planet. Next was the need to determine what was a stone, and what did it mean to turn a stone. He defined a stone as an object made of rock no larger than his self and to turn the stone simply meant to rotate it beyond one degree out of from where it had originally rested.
Now having the logistics settled he set about his task. He started on his own street, and began moving stones. At first he used his feet, but then discovered quickly that he would not be able to keep track of which ones he had moved and which ones still needed to be moved unless he could see them more clearly. So he began to crawl. Three weeks later he crawled out of his town along the road to the next one. That took him two days, for many times cars kicked up stones and he would have to go back and move stones to be sure the he had moved them and not the passing car.
It was three years later when he crawled to the gate of a nuclear facility in North Dakota. It was his first real stumbling block. By that time his quest had gain some fame, still the leaders of the military tried to turn him away. To appease the public they even offered to have the soldiers of the base turn the stones and even to count them for him, and let him know when it was done. But this would not do. In the end, he explained that he would be looking at nothing but the stones and he would accept a posted guard to go with him so long as the guard didn’t try to help, and he was allowed to go on.
His next major setback came during the San Francisco earthquake fifteen years later. He had been working steadily for nearly twenty years. With the deserts of the southwest behind him and the arctic cold of the north before him he was enjoying the mild climate when the quake hit. Suddenly millions of stones were turned before him and he had to go back many hundreds of miles to be sure that he had moved them all himself, and with the quake came the breaking of many stones he had already turned, so he had to go back turn these new stones as well, that cost him nearly a year.
In his eighty-fifth year he reached the outback of Australia. Here he was nearly defeated. He had managed all of Africa and the mighty Sahara, for although the heat was intense and there a great plains of nothing but stones to be turned, the people of Africa had an honor about them, and though few understood his words and even fewer understood his quest, they would stand guard around him and make sure he was protected from the wild life. But in the Australian outback, there was often no one that lived for hundreds of miles of backcountry. He was bitten by a spider and nearly died, had it not been for the quick thinking of a very daring young man who came upon him. Still it took him nearly a year to recover and when he did he had to begin where he had left off and the fear of the spider and its bite nearly drove him to call off the whole thing.
On his one-hundredth birthday he reached the boarders of Portugal, the last country on his quest. His entire body was racked with pain at nearly every movement, but the crowds behind him cheered him onward every day so he never faltered. They brought him water during the day and young women proud that their country was chosen to be the last one would rub saves in to his hands and knees at night when he would collapse from exhaustion.
Finally, one hundred and three years from the blessed day of his birth, he crawled along the last beach and turned the stones that he found there. This year had been the hardest yet, as his strength had all but left him and the days had been short. This day the wind from the sea as especially cruel, and it cut into his sparse frame like freshly sharpened knives through paper. The people had tried to form a line down near the sea to block the wind from him, but he told them that they were disturbing the stones and that he must make sure that he and he alone had turned very one of them. It was nearly nine thirty when he prepared to make his final pass as the tide had gone out exposing more stones to be turned. John Turner as he had come to be called slid his way along the beach turning each stone with great care though his hands shook and eyes refused to focus. The crowds screamed with delight as he neared the end of the beach an hour later. His heart pounded from the excitement. He reached for the final stone on the beach knowing that he had done it, he had turned every stone. His heart failed then; as he fell his hand hit the final stone and turned it.
The stone at his head reads simply, “Hear lies John Turner, yes he turned this one too.”

Creative Commons License
End of Days 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.

The Rescue Mission

Originally published on Jun 23 2008

Download and listen to the Audio version of The Rescue Mission And enjoy the new sound effects.

Special thanks to Kevin Cummings for the mention of Great Hites on his podcast
Short Cummings

Prompt From Creative Writing Prompts at http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/ Prompt # 261

Create a Story inspired by a line in the Margaret Atwood Poem. “We are learning to make fire.”


The Rescue Mission

“When you sign up for the rescue corps you do if for a reason. You do it because you, have a drive to help people. You do it because you have a need to see new places. You could even do it because you need that thrill of going into an unknown environment. But most people do it to get away. Or at least that is why I did it. To get away from all but a small group of humans. We have very large ships, large enough to accommodate large portions of a colony if need be, but for most of the time when we get there, there are so few survivors that they can live in their own section of the ship without ever really seeing us, or worse their are no survivors and we pick up a few pieces of their lives to take back to the central planets for them to analyze and figure out what went wrong and if it is safe to send a new group of colonists out there to start over again.”
“Don’t get me wrong I like people. I can’t imagine being without other humans for longer than a couple of months, but the inner planets are so crowded, and the outer ones are so rough, I needed to find an in between, where I could find time to be alone with the modern amenities, and just enough human contact to not get lonely. Besides I like the work I do.”
Joseph shut off the recording he had made almost a year ago when they left dock for the third outer most planet. The settlement had sent a desperate message and being nearly half a light year away from the inner system, the fastest of the three rescue ships, the aptly named Pegasus, had been dispatched. Nine months later they arrived to find only a crater where the colony had been.
At first it had not been clear what had happened, but as the Pegasus hung in low orbit around the planet, it became painfully obvious. The planets slow moving moon was raining down on her mother.
The Pegasus was a fast ship, or at least she was fast in open space. But, with her great size she was not fast in getting out of orbit. When the moon rounded the far side of the planet, they had been in orbit for two days and most of the crew was beginning to come down off the high of getting to a new world and the possibility of a real rescue mission. Before they realized what was happening the collision alarms began to sound as first fist sized, then whole body sized and then mountain sized chunks of the moon slammed into them. The Pegasus’s hull didn’t have a chance, and with the damage the engines were quickly overwhelmed. The captain had even attempted to fire the star drive, which was strickly forbidden in close proximity to a planet because it would suck up a good portion of the atmosphere, in place of the stellar gases it would normally use.
“When you sign up for the rescue corps you…” he paused the recording and deleted the rest of the message, then hit the record button again. “Don’t expect to need to be rescued.” He paused it again and looked out at the ruin that was the ship. “Three days ago, thirty-two of us crash landed on this forsaken planet, nineteen of us are left. Most of the ones that were lost mercifully died almost immediately in the crash. The few that hung on wished they had not, as most of the medical supplies had been lost, scattered uselessly across the jungle a thousand miles away. Pause recording.”
“Joseph?”
“Yes.”
“Did you get the dish aligned?” The com officer was one of the people that Joseph had wished to get away from.
“Yes, sir. just the way you instructed. But without exact coordinates we could be beaming the message off into deep space.”
“I am painfully aware of that. You know you should probably not be using the ships power to record a message, we might need that.” He said closeing the gap between them. “Or at least not when other people are around. I personally don’t care but others might say you are wasting our resources.”
“Right sir,” He said in what he hoped was a respectful manner.
“Look I know you don’t care for me, but we did just crash land on a planet, and well we don’t have a lot of supplies, and power is one of those supplies. I am keeping a message journal too, but I am not doing it when other people are around and can see me using one of our precious supplies.”
“Understood.”
“Good.” He walked off and rejoined the main group.
*******
“Thirty three days ago we crash landed. I waited until now because I wanted to give one day for each of the people on the ship. They are not all dead, but I think everyone deserves a little respect. Our supplies are holding out well, but our sister ship the Mercury was on the other side of the system when they got our message, and she is not nearly as fast as the Pegasus. We will have a very long wait here. Two more people have died, one from eating a poisonous fruit, and one from a bite of some cute looking but obviously venomous creature. We are still doing alright, although not living in the comfort we are used to.”
*******
“Day forty-five. This might be my last recording as, yesterday after a particularly large chunk of the moon crashed down on the planet, the remains of the ship was deemed unsafe for living. We have begun the construction of huts. Our supplies are holding out well but we are starting to run low on cooking fuel. We might have to resort to fires from the local flora soon.”
*******
“I am back. And I have managed to get away from the group for a while and sneaked into the ship. It has been seventy-five days since we crash landed here. The com officer says that he picked up a faint message from the mercury telling us to keep our spirits up. I think he is lying but no matter. We are finding food, to mix with our supplies, but most of it has an odd metalic taste. And we have nearly exhausted the cooking fuel.”
*******
“Day One hundred and forty-five. A week ago the hull of the ship collapsed with another quake. The captain believes that the moon is still collapsing and falling on the planet. I was able to pull this out of the wreckage and find a small power supply for it. This will be my last message, as I want the memory of this to last until the Mercury gets here, even if we don’t. Our food supply was lost in the quake and we have resorted to local vegetation and the few animals we know to be edible. We also ran out of cooking fuel, but we are learning to make fire. It is almost like we were the cavemen of Earth those many thousands of years ago.”

Creative Commons License
The Rescue Mission 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.

Ten Reasons

This was first post on Jun 13 2008 and It had the very first story by someone else.

Oh my goodness another week of bad accents from me.

We had a 50/50 split on the votes for this one and the challenge story. Thank you Joseph.

Download and listen to the Audio version of Ten Reasons

Prompt from http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/ prompt # 301

Come up with 10 good reasons why you should not write your life story.

Bad Things
By: Joseph Santos

There is man reasons that I should not write my life story. I cannot think of anyone who would want to read something as depressing as my life. But foremost, in knowing my life, you may come to know the end of yours. In saying that, you may not want to read further.

Since you’re here despite my warning, let’s not be strangers, you should know the name of the man who might bring him to your door. My name is Dillon Stevens, I have spent a long, hard 20 years in this world. I came into this world like most anyone, with some exceptions. My mother raised me on her own for as long as she could, eventually I ran away at 16. I am sure you have already began to pass judgment on me. If I were in your shoes I would too… what I would give to be in your shoes, I am tired of mine, they hurt.

My mother did the best she could for me. At times working many jobs just to make sure we had a place to live and food to eat, we even had enough to get a radio so I could catch my favorite shows. She always told me that I was special, as good mothers do. When she was around she gave me the love that all children in this world deserve. For that, I love my mother dearly. Not a day goes by where I am not lost in the thoughts of what could have been if things were normal.

My life began to change when I was 10 years old. I was going to school, like any other day. My mother was getting ready to leave for her shift at the dinner 4 miles down the road. She would walk, we couldn’t afford a car. As she was leaving she did as she always did. She stopped and said, “You be a good boy Dilly and do as you’re told. I won’t be home when you get home from school. Mary is sick today so Johnny is letting me pickup her shift.”

“Ok Mama. Have a good day.”

She kissed me and started walking down the road.

Twenty minutes later the bus arrived. There was a new bus driver, a kind-faced young woman of about 25 driving the bus. There was about 5 or 6 kids on the bus already. She pulled to a stop and opened the door. I walked to the door of the bus and stopped. She then asked, “Yuh comin to school son?”

I stopped, something wasn’t right, something wouldn’t let my feet go any further.

She said, “Well, you comin or ain’t ya? We gotta get a move on.”

That is when I saw him, for the first time I can remember. Sitting against the window in the back of the bus. It seemed as if time stopped, the color and happiness of the morning had been sucked away. Everything seemed dark, like the sun had taken a break and the moon stepped in while it was away. Then everything faded to complete darkness.

The next thing I remember is sitting on the front porch again, my mother hugging me tightly weaping. I pushed back and asked, “What’s wrong Mama? Get off me!”

Through the tears and hesitating breath she said, “I can’t believe your alive! I thought I lost you. Why didn’t you get on the school bus? They told me what happened just as I was gettin’ to the dinner. Johnny drove me straight to the river, we got there as they were pulling the…” her voice broke, I could feel her tears rain down on me as she held me tight. “They were pulling them out from the river one at a time. We waited, I couldn’t watch. Johnny told me you weren’t there. That they pulled everyone out and you weren’t there. Johnny drove me home an’ you where right where I left ya.”

She gripped me tight, as if she would lose me if she let go. Still not understanding what she told me, I pushed back and said, “Mama, get off me, I don’t know what you’re saying. Why are you crying, what’s wrong?”

She said, “I don’ know how to tell you this son, a boy your age shouldn’t have to hear such things. The bus driver musta made a bad turn and the bus rolled into the river. Everybody…” her voice struggled, “Everybody on the bus has gone to be with God now son.”

“There…there dead?” I replied.

“Yes Dilly, I…” she broke again.

It was like being in a bad dream. What happened? Why didn’t I get on the bus? Who was that in the back, no grownups besides the driver were ever on the bus. It looked like he was smiling at me.

From that day forward everything was different. We never once again mentioned the bus or what happened. Any time I would ask about that day my mother would be visibly disturbed and would rapidly tell me to give them my respect by not mentioning them and letting them be in peace.

In thinking that I had perished with the rest of the children on my bus, my mother lost a bit of herself. No longer was she the brightness that greeted each day. Now she was paranoid of everything. She decided it would best that I be kept home and not send me off to school. She would say, “When I was lil’ we never went to no school, Ma an’ Pa taught us everything we needed to know to get by in life an’ to get us ready for the next.”

It wasn’t what I wanted, but at that age it wasn’t going to be about what I wanted, Mama’s words were law.

Mom took up doing laundry for folks out of the house so we could still have a place to live. I would help her to make the time pass. It paid some bills, but it wasn’t enough to keep the electricity running or to pay for much food.

The next winter was brutally cold. The kind of cold that pierces through to the very marrow of your bones. No walls nor roof nor clothing was going to deny this cold entry. I was stricken with a fever, my mother tried for two days to break it with no luck. Fearing that my body could not take much more, she finally gave in and had to bring me to the hospital in town. She had to walk down to the dinner to get Johnny to drive us. I was admitted and within a day thanks to the wonders of modern medicine my fever broke.

The next morning I was released from the hospital. We were in the lobby, my mother was talking to the doctor, thanking him for all he did. As we turned to leave, I noticed someone standing in the corner. I looked over, it was him, the man that I had seen two years earlier sitting in the back of the school bus, standing there, smiling at me. No darkness this time. He had a look of intent, but smiling at me. It was a look my Mama told me I get when I was thinking of something bad to do. Startled and alarmed I turned toward my mother and almost in a shouting voice said, “Mama! I saw that man on the school bus the day it crashed! I thought everyone on the bus died!”

I turned back to point and there was only an empty corner. Concerned my mother got down to eye level with me and said, “Who did you see Dilly? What did he look like? You never said nothin’ bout no man Dillon.”

My mother rarely called me Dillon. It was reserved for two occasions, when I was either in trouble or if she really wanted my attention.

I said, “There was a man sitting in the back of the bus, I think he smiled at me. I don’t know why he was on there.”

“He was on the bus? Did anyone else see him?”

“I guess so, I don’t know, he was on there before my stop.”

“What did he look like? Did he say anything?”

“No, he was just there, smiling. He had dark hair and light eyes. He looked like he could have been family.”

What happened next was then frightening to me. She had a sudden look of panic. Frantically she grabbed me by the wrist and we ran to the front desk. My mother began pleading with the nurse to get every one out of the hospital, that people were going to die. She kept saying, “He’s here, ya have to leave now! Get them all out, please!”

The nurse said, “Ma’am, if you don’t leave now we will call the police. Please, we don’t want any trouble, there are sick people here, you have to leave.”

After this my mother grabbed me again and we hurried from the hospital. She would not look at me or answer any of my questions. Looking up I saw that she had tears streaming from her face, though in this cold they seemed to freeze instantly.

No sooner than we reached the sidewalk by the hospital that there was a thunderous explosion. Brick and glass seemed to be coming from everywhere. From inside what was remaining of the hospital came a sound that still haunts my dreams to this day. The cries of dozens of people pleading for help.

Though I could see no faces through the dust smoke and flame, it was all too obvious what was happening. They came to be healed only to be leaving there, but not on their feet.

My mother was sitting on the frozen ground with her head in her hands, she was bleeding from her face where a shard of glass grazed her, she was repeating herself over and over, “I tried to tell her, why didn’ she listen to me?”

The fire truck showed up, but only to be greeted by the sounds of collapsing ruble and crackling fire. The cries of those who were in torment within the ruins were all in silence now.

Later a fire fighter told me that it looked as if one of the boilers exploded setting off a chain reaction of other explosions nearly leveling the entire structure.

After that day, my mother never spoke again. The rescue worker told me this can happen when people witness something as traumatic as what we saw that cold day. He asked if there was anyone that I could call to stay with us a couple of days while my mother came to. I lied.

They took us home, after that day, it was my job to take care of things. My mother never spoke much less make eye contact with me. I miss what she used to be. Now it was almost like living with a stranger.

For two years I was now responsible for keeping a roof over our head. I took in clothes and cleaned them. I fed and cared for myself and my mother. No parent would ever ask that of their child, but she didn’t have to. When she was herself, she showed me a love that I now have in myself. I love her so I had to do what she would have done for me.

The spring of my twelfth year I awoke to a knock on the door. Answering in my pajamas I was now face to face with him. He stood there, calm, a slight smile. Hair slicked back, looking as if a new coat of Dapper Dan had just been applied. He reached out a hand as if to shake mine.

I pulled back, but unable to move my feet, unable to breath. I could not utter a word. Standing there, not wavered by my lack of courtesy, still bearing a smile. He spoke in a voice that did not belong with someone that looked like him. It was raspy and low, he said, “I am here for what is mine.”

He put his hand on my shoulder. I felt as if my life left me. I blacked out, awaking in a field of green. There was a soft breeze, I felt warm and happy, carefree.

I don’t know how long I was out for, but I awoke to find the sheriff there and an ambulance. There was a medic rolling a gurney with what looked someone sleeping with the sheet pulled over their face. The sheriff sat next to me and said, “Son, are you alright? What are you doing out here?” Shouting to the medic, “Hey, the boy is over here! He’s alive, but he don’t look so swell!”

I was about 20 feet from the front door of my house leaning against a tree. I could feel something warm rolling over my face, I touched it, it was bright red. I had never seen so much of my own blood before. I felt dizzy and nauseous, I vomited on the sheriff’s shoes.

He said, “Come on son, we need to get you looked at.”

“Where’s mama at?”

“I don’t know how to tell ya this son, but we don’t know where your Mama is. What happened here?”

“You don’t know where she is!? She was in the back room like always! Where is she!?”

“She isn’t there now, we don’t know where she went, from the looks of things she left.”

“How could she leave!? She couldn’t have left! And if she did, why didn’t she take me?”

“I’m sorry, but she ain’t here and it looks like she packed her bags and left right quick. You’re gonna have to calm down.”

“What happened? Who’s that the medic has?”

“Enough questions for right now. We will find out what happened, for now lets get that head of yours looked at.”

The medic sat me on the bumper of the wagon, checking my eyes and the cut on my head. He said, “You took one hell of a shot boy, but you’re ok.” He bandaged my head and cleaned the blood from my face.

I looked over my shoulder, the sheet had slipped away from the face of the person laying on it, it was him. I jumped to my feet and had ended up about 10 feet from the wagon, I shouted, “Thats him! Thats the man! What did he do to my Mama!?!”

The sheriff grabbed me as I went into a sobbing fit. He said, “Come on son, lets get you out of here while we sort this out.”

He put me in his car and we left as other deputies were showing up. Riding away I fell asleep laying on the back seat.

I awoke to a smell that had not passed my nostrils in what felt like an eternity. Breakfast. I was in a warm bed with soft sheets. The room was bright, it had to be about ten in the morning. The sun coming in fully through my window. My head was throbbing where the cut was.

Thoughts of the night previous coursed my head, adding to the throbbing sensation. Was my mother hurt? Why would she just leave me there on the ground bleeding? How could she leave, she couldn’t even dress herself? What am I going to do? I don’t have anyone.

I look around, to my right sitting in a chair, the sheriff. He said, “Didn’t think you were gonna wake up any time soon. My name is Emmit Hardy, I am the town sheriff. How are you feeling son?”

“My head hurts sir. Do you know what happened my Mama?”

“We haven’t found her yet, but my boys are still looking.”

“What happened to that man? Did he hurt my Mama?”

“It don’t look that way. We found him layed out in the front door way. Don’t look like anything happened to him, he just up and died. Enough about this right now, Mrs. Hardy made you some breakfast, we can talk more later.”

I ate like a animal who hadn’t seen food in a week. Mrs. Hardy sat there and smiled at me, giving an occasional look of concern over at Sheriff Hardy.

After I ate enough to fill a small army, we left and went to the sheriff’s office in the middle of town.

After sitting behind his desk and motioning for me to sit he said, “It looks like your Mama was running from someone. It looked like she packed all her clothes and left out the back quick like. Did your Mama have a automobile?”

“No sir, we couldn’t afford a car.”

“Do you know the man that we found at your house?”

“No sir, I don’t know him.” I didn’t want to tell him about seeing him before on the bus and at the hospital. I had a feeling that I would some how get in trouble for not telling anyone before.

“Hmm, well, did you see if that man had a car?”

“No sir, I didn’t see if he had a car.” How do you explain someone that just shows up when things are going to go horribly wrong?

“Well, I want you to be close till we figure out what happened. You are gonna stay with Mrs. Hardy and I for a few days. We still have our boys clothes from when they were your age.”

“Why can’t I go get my clothes?”

“My deputies are still looking your house over with a fine tooth comb, we better let them do their work and we can think about going back there later.”

I don’t know if he knew I would never be going back there, but it wouldn’t be until after I ran away that I would step foot into that house again.

Ten Reasons
By Jeff Hite

“Peter, you have got to be crazy,” Michael slammed his hand down on the table so hard the coffee cups shook. “The very idea scares me.”
“Michael, relax it was just an idea, and besides why not.” He picked up his cup and wiped the bottom off with his napkin, he repeated the operation with Michael’s cup and hailed the waitress to bring them more. “You have lead an interesting life, people might enjoy reading about it.”
“An interesting life, is that what you call it?”
“Yes, it has been,” and here he hesitated too long from Michael’s comfort, “Interesting.” He said finally. The waitress left more coffee and creamer on the table, but made it clear that there would be little more that she would do without them ordering something else. Fifteen percent of two seventy-five cent cups of coffee, was not worth the work she had already put in to them. “Ok so you don’t want to do that, lets see what we can come up with.”
“I can give you ten good reasons why I should not write my life story” he said stirring four packets of sugar into his coffee.
“Michael, You don’t have to…” But Michael interrupted him.
“Jane, Shara, Julie, the other Jane, Martha, Tina, Tamara, Heather, Veronica, and Sue.” As he said the names of the women he had dated, he ticked them off on his fingers.
“That is it? Your ten reasons are nine ex-girl friends and one current one? That is nothing Peter, lots of people have a string of ex’s epically in this day in age.” His twang was starting to bug Michael. It always did, ever since he had moved to the south he pretended that he talked like them.
“No, that is only reason number one.”
“Ok so tell me more. I bet you ain’t got nine more.”
“You’re on. Looser buys,” He said hailing the waitress and pointing to the Steak and Eggs on the menu.
“I’ll have one of those too,” Peter said with a smile. They waited in silence until she was gone.
“You know her brother,” Peter nodded, “he is in jail, and I put him there.”
“What? how, you ain’t no sheriff.”
“You don’t have to be. Three years ago, I caught him and a couple of his buddies holding up the seven eleven in Jamestown. They were pretty stupid about it. They didn’t even clear the store out before for they did it. There I was sitting behind the coffee machine using their WiFi, and in walk these two characters. So I turned on the web cam and turned it so it could see them, then ducked behind the counter. You remember that time I said I had jury duty?” Peter nodded and sipped his coffee, “Well I was actually a secret witness. What I didn’t know was
that her brother, is part of a huge gang that tends to bump off informants. That’s two.” He said with a smile across his face.
“Yeah two, you said you had ten. So cough up the other eight.” Their food came and they ate in silence for a couple of minutes.
“Right,” He said around a mouth full of steak. “Martha.”
“Now you can’t go using her twice.” Peter interrupted.
“Fine take her off the list. There are still eight other Ex girlfriends on it. Besides she is not really an Ex, she is dead.”
“What? I suppose after those last two you told me, you are going to tell me you killed her.”
“No,” He took a long drink from his coffee and then continued.
“She worked for the FBI or the DEA or ATF or one of those, she would never really be straight with me. She was the one who was assigned to protect me while I was testifying, they killed her three days after the trial was over.”
“I didn’t know I’m sorry,” Peter said, not looking up at him.
“Thanks, but It was a while ago. I still miss her and all, but… Anyway that is three.”
“Look we don’t have to keep doing this. You have some good reasons.” His fake accent had gone away and he was back to normal
mid-western muddle.
“No I promised you ten you get seven more. They are not all so bad.”
“Are you sure?” Peter asked.
“Yeah, you know mom’s favorite silk blouse?”
“The one she wore every chance she got?” Michael nodded, “Yeah I remember it.”
“You know why it was her favorite?”
“Probably because it was the only one she ever had. What ever happened to it?”
“I did.”
“You did?”
“Yup. I tried to wash it for her, and shredded the thing. It was an accident, but I could not tell her. It was from Aunt Margret Mallory.”
“The witch?”
“That is the one. She had cast a spell on it and when it got shredded it released mom from the spell. But if anyone ever found out that mom was not still under the spell, Aunt Margret Mallory would cast a much worse one on her.”
“What kind of spell was it?”
“You don’t want to know. Mom and Margret Mallory are still both alive. I want to keep it that way. That is four.”
“You don’t really believe all that stuff about her being a witch do you?”
“If I do or don’t it does not matter, She does and so does mom, and that is still number four.”
“You gents be having anything else?” The waitress spoke to them the first time since they had come in.
“Yes,” Peter Said, “my brother and I have a bet going on here. loser buys so since I don’t think he is going to win, I will be having a slice of that apple pie.” The twang was back.
“Same here.” Michael echoed this time imitating his brothers voice.
Peter shot him a look but only said, “You better get going brother. You owe me six more.”
“The Twilight Zone. Five. Six is…”
“Now wait a minute,” Peter broke in, “What about The twilight Zone.”
“Come on, I would not want to ever come to the end for the fear that it would be. I would just keep writing on this forever.”
“You are weird.”
“that can be number six.”
“What?” Now it it was Peters turn to get upset. “What do you mean?”
“I’m weird, that can be number six.”
“I Think that hardly counts, because you are different is why people would want to read about you. You have things that other people don’t. They don’t want to read about people just like themselves.”
“Yeah I head what you are saying but I am not different, I am weird, and people want to read about weird people only in stories, this would not be a story, it would be real life.”
“Alright I will give that one to you but no more freebies, from now on.”
“Fair,” and they shook hands over the table. “Alright then, number seven,” he said drawing out the last word and rubbing his chin.
“Your wallet is going to be lighter, Michael, I can tell.”
“I am just trying to decide which one to tell you first. I have it now. I hate the NASA Original seven.”
“What? Why?”
“They had those space suits that look like sliver duct tape stuck to them. With the hoses and their refrigeration units, and their perfect hair cuts. They were too perfect, hell John Glen is still too perfect, they remind the rest of us that we can never be like them. The are real life Super heroes and we can never be like them. I hate that.” He paused and took a bite of his pie.
“So why would you not want to write a book because of that?”
“Because as soon as people find out about that, they would hate me. Everyone loves those guys. It would be like killing Mickey Mouse or something, and they would never read another book from me. So now number eight, the kids.”
“And why not talk about the kids? You have you great kids, people would like to know about them.”
“Yes, my kids are wonderful if I do say so myself, but I don’t want the world to know about them, there are too many weirdos out there.”
“Ok Privacy is a good one. But you would not have to include them.”
“But then that would be like writing fiction, that would not be my life story, and if I was going to skip over that I might as well skip over everything else, and then I would be telling someone else’s story.”
“Alright, alright. Nine?” Peter said pushing his plate to the center of the table and leaned as far back in the booth as he could.
“Number nine is easy. I don’t want people a hundred years from now reading it and thinking they know who I am because they read a book about me. Or English teachers, with their high and mighty attitudes telling people I meant this or I meant that when really I meant nothing of the sort. They are always doing that. They always think they know so damn much.”
“Yeah why is that? They are always telling us what Shakespeare meant or, some other dead person, when there is no way that they could have known it.” Peter Signaled the waitress. “I think we are about done here if you would not mind bringing us the check, we should know who is going pay by the time you get back.” They waited until she was gone. “So it is down to the last one. And I am willing to bet you are out of reasons.”
“No, I have one more.” Michael smiled.
“So, don’t keep me waiting.” He said leaning up against the table.
“Peter, how old are you?”
“You know exactly how old I am, one year younger than you.”
“Yeah but how old is that.” The smile on his face grew broader.
“Well lets see I was born in thirty two, and it is two thousand and eight now, that makes me one thousand nine hundred and seventy six.” his face fell and he reached for his wallet.

Creative Commons License
Ten Reasons 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.

A Trip Into Star Trek Land

180px-Enterprise-D_-_subspace_differential_pulse_-_quantum_fissureI am, if you have not figured it out already, a Trekie. There is no way around it. I have seen most of the episodes at least twice, and I have seen all of the movies at least 5 times and I can quote Wrath of Khan forwards and backwards, and can probably tie a quote from that movie into pretty much any conversation you like.

Having said all of that, I do have my favorites. No, I am not going to bore you with a list of them. Not today at least. One thing that I don’t do is write Star Trek Fan Fic. I am not saying that doing so is a bad thing, just that it is not something I have ever really done. But there is one idea, during one episode that came close.

Star Trek The Next Generation (STTNG) got off to a rocky start, but what franchise doesn’t, by season three or four it had settled into a pretty comfortable rhythm. One that was good enough to launch Deep Space 9 and Voyager. Say what you want about any of them, they did bring Star Trek back to TV and I for one was very happy with that. And while I liked many of the episodes and ideas these three series explored, I was never really tempted to write fan fic about any of them.

292px-Multiple_WorfsThat all ended when I saw, Season 7 Episode 11 Parallels. In this episode Worf returns from a tournament and quickly finds that this is not his Enterprise. Worse, it keeps changing to be further and further from the Enterprise he knows. Eventually some techno babbel happens that makes the mutliverse split open and reveal every possible Enterprise at that point in time. For more details about what happens you can click the link to Memory Alpha above, or watch the review from SF Debris below.

Side Note: SF Debris is one of my favorite SF reviewers on the web. I don’t always agree with him, and he has a serious case of potty mouth, but he is pretty fair and tells you why he thinks what he thinks. He can differentiate, between problems caused by the actors, the writers, or the concept and includes that in his reviews so I really like what he does. Here is the review of Parallels.

180px-USS_Enterprise-D_convention_near_a_quantum_fissureI like this episode for a lot of reasons but in general I think it is pretty well done and because I really like the concept, even if the techno babbel makes the science side of my head hurt. It is, in general, just a really well rounded episode. But there is one moment in this episode that caught my imagination the first time I saw it. Near the end when all the Enterprises are popping into the space before them, one of the Enterprises Attacks Worf’s shuttle to try to prevent things going back to the way they were. In their timeline, According to Captain Riker “The Federation is gone, the Borg are everywhere and the Enterprise is one of the only remaining ships.”

Let’s back up for a moment. How did this Enterprise get to this point? I am not going to go too far back in history here, but let’s talk about what happened that might have led them to this point. Way back in Season 2, Q introduces the Enterprise to the Borg, and for the first time in Star Trek history, they meet an enemy that they can’t talk their way around, or even defeat.292px-BorgFirstContact The Borg did not come back until the break between season 3 and 4. At that point, one Borg Cube not only attacked the Enterprise, but was able to wipe out a fleet of ships sent out to stop them at Wolf 359. They were only able to defeat the Borg by tricking them, and when the Borg figured out there was a problem, they blew themselves up rather than be captured.

180px-Riker_gone_madIn this alternate time line, the one where Captain Riker begs not to be sent back, the encounter at Wolf 359 went the other way, instead of the Enterprise being able to take Captain Picard back and trick the Borg, the Borg were able to defeat them, proceed on to Earth, and according to what Riker says, destroy the federation, likely also taking most of the federation planets.

While this is not the brightest future it is a pretty interesting timeline to follow, and one I think would have been worthy of following up on.

Only one other Star Trek episode ever really attempted to do this, although the Star Trek Voyager Episode, The Year Of Hell comes close. The Episode of Star Trek Enterprise, Twilight, while it does not deal directly with the defeat by the Borg at Wolf 359, it deals with another defeat that was equally as devastating. In this episode, the Xindi were able to launch their weapon and destroy Earth. It turned the Star Trek story on its head. Instead of being the story of the Enterprise boldly going, it is the story of the Enterprise running and hiding, leading what is left of humanity in a desperate attempt to stay alive. 180px-7of9ChakotayNoGreatness

One of the trade marks of Star Trek, the thing that really makes Star Trek what it is, is the optimism. This is what make Star Trek so popular. There is a future for humanity and it is pretty bright. What attracts me and I suspect others to this idea is that, while we like the hope and optimism that Star Trek brings, we like to play that what if game.

180px-Data_with_blue_eyesThat is what would make, following the Enterprise D from the end of the Episode between season 3 and Season 4 (The Best of Both Worlds) to the end of Parallels such and interesting story. The story of Enterprise D leading what is left of humanity to run and hide from the Borg, hunted and haunted by their defeat. While other shows, and other series more recently have explored this theme, I think it would have been pretty interesting had STTNG explored it further.

This concept is probably the one story line that brought me closer than any other two writing Star Trek fan fic.

Is there a story within Star Trek or your favorite series that you thought could be explored more and interested you in writing Fan Fic? Or have you every written fan fic, and if so about what?

Writing Prompt Week 14

Picture 34
It has been a really long time since I have posted writing prompts, but something struck me the other day as I was switching back and forth between my protagonists point of view and my antagonist that I just had to share.

So this week’s prompt is:

What if at the critical juncture of your story your protagonist made a choice that took him or her down the other path? The path that leads to the “darkside,” or just him not doing what he ended up doing.

Not sure what I am talking about? Here are a couple of examples:

  • What if Han had decided that Luke and Obi Wan were more valuable to him if he just turned them over to the Empire?
  • What if Tanyth Fairport (Ravenwood By Nathan Lowell) had decided that it might benefit her more to help “Dandy Andy?”
  • I like to think about Anakin Skywalker here, he was put in some pretty impossible situations, but what it he had made the “right choice,” and fought against the power that was drawing him to the dark side.

    So the writing prompt really is; take a few moments and lead your protagonist down the other path. Or your antagonist down the “right” path. What happens to the story? Could the two of them even switch places?

    My 5 Favorite Escape Artists Episodes

    By now you have likely heard that Escape Artists, (Escape Pod, Pod Castle and Pseudo Pod) are in financial dire straights. If by some chance you are hiding under a rock or something and don’t know about it, go take a few minutes and listen to their plea.

    I could likely talk until I was blue in the face about how wonderful Escape Artists is, and how great their stories are, but until you understand what it is they provide you can’t really grasp how important it is that you help them out.

    Folks, they have done for the short story what no other market has been able to do ever! Something like 40,000 listeners! That means that if your story is published, it is likely going to get upwards of 20,000 sets of ears hearing it. I am sorry, but that is better than any money they could pay an author. That is more circulation than most short stories get ever, and it is just one market.

    Alright, enough of my rambling. The title says my five favorites, so here they are. They are not in any order really and don’t include Pseudo Pod because I don’t typically do horror. These are my top 5 picks. Stories that stuck with me long after the closing song had faded out in my ear buds.

    1. Conversations With and About my Electric Toothbrush Escape Pod

    This is one of those silly light hearted stories that you listen to once and might even forget, if it weren’t for the fact that it was about a talking tooth brush, and the fact that on reflection it was really about so much more. This story is what sci/fi is really about, showing you a glimpse of the future while forcing you to look around and wonder about your own life without being preachy about it.

    2. A Gun For Dinosaur Escape Pod

    A time travel story. No wait, this is a good time travel story, where the technology makes sense and… heck what am I saying. This story is about hunting Dinosaur. Do you really need a reason to listen to it other than that? And it is ready by and incredible narrator Ayoub Khote. That is really a good enough reason to listen.

    3. Goblin Lullaby Pod Castle

    I love epic fantasy. I cut my teeth on C.S. Lewis and the Hobbit. Later I ready The Lord of the Rings and many others, but you have to admit there are some tropes in there that well they are good, can sometimes make you wonder. What if the tables were turned. This is one of those stories, and really gives you a view of what all the “normal” people are thinking while these high minded folks are running around on their quests to save the world. Sometimes you just need some quiet. Maybe I have just changed enough diapers to find this one so entertaining.

    4. Rescue Party Escape Pod

    This was episode 400 for Escape Pod, and the story is written by Arthur C. Clarke. That alone makes it special. But this is still a really great example of classic Sci/fi.

    5. What Dragons Prefer Pod Castle

    As I write this, I realized that the two stories I picked for Pod Castle were kind of trope busters. You should not assume by this that that is all that they do. far from it, but these are the ones that stuck out in my mind this morning as I was thinking of my favorite episodes.

    So have you ever wondered why it was that Dragons were baited with virgins? Do they even really like virgins? What about those dragon hunters? Are they for real or what? This story is another one of the light hearted ones that in the end has some real depth to it.

    So that is it. These are my top five stories from Escape Artists. Go out and take a listen, and then decide for yourself. But really, toss them a few bucks, even if all you do is listen to these 5 stories, you have already gotten your money’s worth.

    Our Brother Joe is Dead.

    Our Brother Joe Is Dead Cover

    Every Photo Tells to The Rescue

    You might have seen this post once before, and you might notice that the text of the story itself is missing. Well there is a reason for that. shortly after I posted it, one of the editors of Every Photo Tells read it and said that they liked it. (Thanks Odin) He wanted me to submit it to them. They don’t have any exclusivity clause or anything but I thought since I was submitting it somewhere I would pull it down off my site.

    The Very Talented Mick Bordet did a wonderful reading of the story, that you can find below.

    Thank you very much to the crew at Every Photo Tells for taking this story on. I am really grateful.

    This is a piece that was fueled by my sleeping through half of Lincoln two nights ago and popping my head in every 15 minutes or so while my wife watched War Horse. By the way, both look like good movies but I can’t be sure unless I get to see them all the way through.

    The title is a play on the book My Brother Sam is Dead. A book that my fifth grade teacher read to our class, and I remember really enjoying.Signing_2_photo

    Our Brother Joe is Dead.

    By Jeff Hite

    Click Here for the Audio Version

    You can also get the story in e-copy on smashwords for free until the end of August with the coupon code DQ29K. After that it will be just $.99.

    EscapePod Is Back!

    300_dyptichIt is not really that EscapePod ever really went anywhere, I mean really escape pods don’t go anywhere, they just get you far enough away from the ship to save you from whatever was dangerous enough for you to need to leave safety of the much bigger ship, so that you can survive for a little while. Sorry I am rambling.

    Let me back up a little bit. Ok a lot bit.

    When I first got into podcasts and podcasts of Audio fiction I quickly found out about EscapePod. I love short stories. I like to write them, I like to read them and I really like to listen to them, especially when they are well read / preformed. I will listen to my computer read things to me, (that is how much I like audio fiction) but if you get a good reader / performer you get a whole new level of experience. That is what EscapePod brought to the table. Really it was great, talented authors talented readers and a great variety of stories.

    Shortly after EscapePod got started a whole host of other short story podcasts popped up, but most of them didn’t last very long. In some cases like, Variant Frequencies this was sad. But in other cases I was kind of glad to see them go. While it did mean that there were not as many stories to listen to, it did mean that some of the ones that were not being well produced and managed were not ruining what might have been good stories.

    The problem was that somewhere around 2+ years EscapePod started having problems. The Editor an manager of the project, Steve Elly started having personal problems and the episodes started slipping. The stories were not as good and they were pretty infrequent. I thought that we were going to loose another great podcast. As a podcaster myself I completely understand that this was not his day job and that there were other priorities. At the time DrabbleCast was the only other player on the block, if you don’t count EscapePod’s “sister / daughter” Podcasts Podcastle and PseudoPod which seemed to be suffering from the same fate as the parent. While I really enjoy most of what Drabblecast has to offer, they do tend to be a little edgier in their stories. So I was really sad to see EscapePod to go.

    Then it was announced that there was going to be a new editor and really a whole staff of people would be taking over in the podcast. I was pretty happy. Unfortunately, those first few months were rough. I don’t know if it was legacy from the original editor or just the new folks working out the kinks or what, but it was bad. Really bad. So bad I quit listening. (Remember that I said I will listen to my computer read things to me.) But it was not just production quality. It was story selection and a whole a host of other things, and the “sister / daughters” seemed to be suffer the same problems so I just gave up the whole thing.

    Recently I was looking for some thing new to listen to so I used twitter had had the following conversation.

    The good news. I have listened to at least a couple dozen back issues and Mr. Selznick is right. There is no slump. EscapePod is back and it is doing very well.

    If you like audio fiction, and you like Sci/Fi you owe it to yourself to check out EscapePod. I have very glad it is back!

    Writing Challenge For The Space Minded.

    Updated

    Photo Credit: Skylon Reaction Engines Ltd
    Photo Credit: Skylon
    Reaction Engines Ltd

     Today I saw a post by Evo Terra that talked about a new Technology being developed for getting people to space. The premiss behind this is that getting to space is expensive on conventional rockets. The Technology (and to read more here is the link to the article) that is being suggested for lifting people and goods to space is over 50 years old, it is the implementation that is new. When you bring air into an engine at Mach 5 and kick it back out and some higher speed and thrust you have an immediate problem of temperature. Temperatures of more than 1000 degrees tends to melt metals and other materials. The implementation being studied and developed is an air cooling system that would bring the air temperature down to below zero before it is mixed with the fuel and burned.

    While I was excited to read about the development of new technology, it was the post itself that kicked my mind into high gear.

    What was posted was this. “Getting to space is expensive in both money and time.”

    So, that is really not news. But for some reason it struck me as very interesting. Conventional rockets are expensive, The fuel they burn is expensive, and they take time and money to develop, build and finally launch. But for the majority of our current space programs that is where the time expense ends. Well at least for what we have underway now. Hopefully future programs will have a much higher time cost.

    Image Credit: NASA/J. Eggers
    Image Credit: NASA/J. Eggers

    What do I mean by that? Well right now, most our time is spent in getting things developed, built and finally launched. But once you are launched, the time it takes for you to get where you are going is almost negligible. Even if you are trying to catch up to the ISS, you are only looking at a day or two at most. Going to the moon, during the Apollo days only took 4 days.

    As Douglas Adams reminded us, “Space is big…” To travel across the distances needed to get anywhere meaningful will take us a long time. Even our nearest planet, with our current technology, is going to cost several months time. There will be a monetary cost involved in that, in getting food and water up to the spacecraft before you launch, but mostly it is about the time cost. The time cost to get to another star system at our current development, is going to be measured in tens of or even hundreds of years, which is far higher than any monitary cost that it took to get you into space in the first place.

    image Credit: European Space Agency/NASA/Hubble
    image Credit: European Space Agency/NASA/Hubble

    As you can see the cost is high. It is so high in fact that anyone going on such a trip will need to be seriously justified in being there. You can’t take the space janitor because unless he has some specialized knowledge that he will use when you get to your destination, the cost to have him there will be too high.

    This made me think of all of the space travel stories that I have read or listened to in the past. There always seem to be characters in there, that just don’t really belong. They are the space janitors, or the general handyman kind of folks, no specialized knowledge, and no real reason to be there. If you are going on one of these trips you better be able to pretty much do everything on the ship, just to justify your existence, and to justify the time that it will take get there. In many cases it will mean never returning home, or returning home so much later that anything that you recognized as your life would be gone by the time you got back.

    So here is my challenge. If you have a space travel story, and you are not using some sort of “warp” technology, how are you justifying your characters existence on the ship? What are they doing that is special enough for them to pay those costs.

    Another thought that I had on this subject.

    Let’s assume that there will be, in the next few years, a jump in technology that could get us to the nearest start system in say half the time it would take us now. So instead of hundreds of years it would take 50. If the leap in propulsion technology happens even at some fraction of the rate that computer technology happens, it would be feasible that by the time they had reached their destination someone else from Earth could have already been there.

    Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Imagine waking up from a 50 year journey. You gave up your life, everyone you know, so that could go to the nearest star and bring back data. When you get there, there is already a star ship there, waiting for you. They have collected the data you were there to collect, and are ready to head back again, or even to head on to the next star.

    Would your trip have been justified? Would the cost have been too high at that point? Should you have postponed the trip until the technology was better so that the cost would have been lower?

    That raises all kinds of questions, should we have left, when would the right time have been. If you think about it if the ship that over took the 50 year ship only took 25 years to get there. 25 years is still a pretty long time. What if right after they left there was another discovery and another leap in propulsion technology thereby halving the trip time again. In Theory there could be two ships waiting for the first ship. The one that over took them that only took 25 years and the one that over took the second ship and only took 12.5 years. Should either of the first two ships had left?

    What is NASA had asked the same questions of the apollo missions and waited until the propulsion technology was cheaper? Is that what they are doing now with delaying a Mars mission? Those are questions that I don’t know the answer to and won’t even hazard a guess at.

    But I might write a story about it. And I challenge you to do the same.

    You have to admit that they look a little like old men sitting there in their Space rocking  chairs and blankets over their knees.
    Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)

    If you do write a story about any of the premises I brought up here, let me know about it. Put a link in the comments or just leave a comment telling me about it.

    -Jeff

    Update

    I think it is interesting the way things happen. I was just thinking about realism in sci/fi and what pops into my Podcast queue? The Drabble Cast this week with “Cold Equations.” by Tom Godwin. This is story is about as real as it gets, and if you like this kind of thing, you really should heck it out. drabblecast_289_rodolfo_arredondo-250x250[1]