The Jester (The Riyria Chronicles #2.5) – Review

The Jester (The Riyria Chronicles #2.5)The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again Michael J. Sullivan, delivers an excellent story.
This, story falls between the first two major series and features Royce and Hadrian. It is exactly what you have come to expect from the pair.
This is a great short story and wonderful diversion.

I got the audiobook copy Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, and he did a wonderful job.

View all my reviews

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The Hard Truth, Writers Write

Believe it or not, the idea that writers write is not as universally accepted as you might imagine. And the worst part many people who call themselves writers don’t write. Oh they talk the talk, but when it comes right down to the actually butt in chair fingers on keyboard, or pen to paper time, it just does not happen.

Oh these folks have reasons aplenty why they are not writing.
They are too busy,
they have writers block,
they can’t think of anything,
some major life event,
they have a day job…

All of these things are legitimate, but in the end it means that they are not writing. I have been a member of this club for way too long. About 6 years ago now, I started my writing career over, and for at least three years I wrote almost every day. I loved it. The stories I put out were not great, they were not works of art, but they were stories and I had a great time working on them. (By the way if you are interested you can still see many of them over at GreatHites) Then something happened. Really several somethings, and writing got harder. Harder to find the time, harder to make it happen, and well, the list of reasons why I was not writing was higher than my word count.

That is going to change. I realized that I really want to be an author. I want to have more than one published book to my name, and that if I want these things to be true, then I need to actually do something about it.

To that end, I am going to try to kick start my writing again. I am going to attempt NaNoWriMo again this year. You can find my author page if you would like to follow my progress or join in and be a “writing buddy” here.

lumpYes, the novel that I am writing sounds very much like something that you might find on my bookstore, and it should because it is the expanded version of that story. I am taking it a little bit easy on myself this year and not going into NaNo completely blind, this will be a rewrite for a lot of this story. I have written about 30,000 words of this story already, but most, if not all of it needs work, and this rewrite will hopefully clear some of that up. Hopefully by the end of November I will have a complete story that I can start editing in January. And then in December I can start going back to other projects that I have abandoned over the last few years.

I have to make something clear. Those things, that list the reasons I stopped writing, they are all still there. Being busy, major life events, they still happen, but I need to find a balance. I need to figure out how to make all of it work. This is not going to be easy, but if I want to be an author, it is something I need to do.

Wish me luck.

-Jeff

Gnome with newspaper and tobacco pipe under a toadstool, with a snail above him and a tree frog in the glass. Heinrich Schlitt (1849-1923) [public Domain]

The Gnome – A Short Story

Gnome with newspaper and tobacco pipe under a toadstool, with a snail above him and a tree frog in the glass. Heinrich Schlitt (1849-1923) [public Domain]A number of months ago I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast, which by the way if you are a writer, and want-to-be writer, or even just want to know more about the craft of writing, you really should be listening to. on top of everything else you can learn from the advice they give, at the end of each podcast they give a writing prompt. Sometimes they are real story prompts, sometimes they are more like writing exercise, but you get one at the end of every show.

Now if you know me at all, you know I love writing prompts. I have folders and folders and probably ten different notebooks full of stories that I have written based on writing prompts. Most of them are not really good enough to share, at least no in their current from but maybe someday.

Back to the point. I was listening to Writing Excuses and they gave the prompt of “Neon Sniper Gnome.” That was it. No explanation, no writing exercise, just three words Neon Sniper Gnome. I knew I had to tell this story.

So without Further delay I give you,

The Gnome

“Come on John you gotta see this.”

“I can’t George I got all this paperwork to do.”

“Trust me the paperwork can wait.  You have to see this.”

“Oh all right.”  I said letting George practically pull me down to the holding cells.

We could hear him long before we got to the cell, though the reverberation from the hall way may it impossible to understand what it was that he was saying until we were right in front of him.

When we got there we had to push past at least a dozen patrolmen and at least as many plain clothes detectives just so we could see.  There standing in the cell was, well what could I say.

“What is wrong with you people. I am a Gnome for crying out loud.  I mean look at me,” he was shouting in want was the oddest mixture of BBC English and Southwestern twang that I had ever heard.  And he appeared to be shouting at not any one of the officers in particular but everyone who joined the group.

“You people think we just stand in your gardens all day long, but those aren’t gnomes. Those are wee people.  They got nothing in common with us.” He said stroking his long bright green beard.”

“I mean look at me.”  He smiled a devilish grin “You can’t take your eyes off me now can ya.  That is the way it should be, you should be staring.  I mean for goodness sakes I am a GNOME.  You all don’t even know what you got here.  I bet half ya don’t even know why I am here. Do ya?”

It was a question but no one dared to answer.  We didn’t want the show to stop.  Here was a bright neon creature standing less than three feet tall, in the middle of one of our holding cells. shouting at us.

“Well I’l tell ya what I am in here for.  I’m a sniper.” He whispered. Then he shouted waving his arms wide as if the throw the words out at us. “I am a damn sniper.  You all don’t even understand me, even when I am telling you right to your faces.  You are doing the same thing everyone else does when they see me. At first you think, hey there is a gnome. And then you think no gnomes aren’t real.  Then you realize that I practically glow in the dark with all this color.”

“You can see me from a thousand miles away.  Well maybe not a thousand, I was never that good at geography.  But I bet you could see me as you were coming down the hall here.  And for all that is good and holy, I am a gnome.  I stand out.”  He shook is head in disgust.

“I can see by the slack jawed looks on your faces, you still don’t believe me.  You still think that maybe I am some freak, some trick of your imagination, or maybe that this is some sort of a dream. Well let me help you with that.  I am real.  I am standing right here.  You can smell me I’m sure.  I know I can smell all of you.  But let me show you something else.”  His voice had dropped a little so that he was no longer shouting, but there was something in the look on his face that told us he was not done.

“You see I told you a I was a sniper.  When I tell people that, they never believe me.  Even the folks that hire me don’t believe me. That is until I show them this.”

Impossibly from inside his coat he pulled a rifle that was nearly twice as long as he was tall.

“This is a vintage Gewehr 98 with the telescopic sites for snipers.  I picked it up right after World War II.  Bet you didn’t think I was that old.  Well I am a lot older than that I tell you. This things older than most of you.  Then that is not really saying much, lots of things here older than most of you.  Probably half of you never even seen something like this.  But not to worry, it is not loaded” He said pulling back the bolt to show us the empty chamber, and look lovingly at the weapon.

“Let me tell you this thing has a kick. It will tear your arm off if you are not careful.  Well maybe not one of your arms, but someone like me, I gotta be careful with something like this.”

“So the gnome has a gun, that doesn’t make him a sniper.  Anyone can have a gun you say.  That is true.  But this is not just any gun.  I had this one specially modified.  You see I was taking this shot back in ’63.”

“It was a long shot and really challenging.  I am most missed it  After that I decided It was not good enough to be a great shot and have a great gun to do it with.  So I found this wizard in Australia or Austria or something. I told you I was no good at geography, he said he could cast a spell on the gun so I would never miss again.  It cost me an arm and a leg.  I mean really and arm and a leg.  I had to sent the arm and leg of my latest victim with the gun to this nut case so that he would enchant it.”

“Do you know how hard it is to get an arm and a leg shipped.  Well it was not as hard as it would be today, but even back then it was not easy.” his wicked smile had returned and he was almost whispering again

“So now I got this gun, and I don’t even really have to aim it.  All I have to be able to do is see the victim and point it in the general direction.  See I had these glasses made special.” He stopped and slipped a pair of glasses out of his pocket and on to the end of his big nose.

“Like this if the target is near and like this,” he leaned his head back a little so he could look down the bridge of his nose at us. “if they are far away. it is like one of those video games you all play. And BANG!”

He had been talking so softly that we had all leaned in, the sudden shout caught us all by surprise.

Several of the patrolmen had drawn their weapons and were looking around for a target, but finding none looked around confused.

The incredible volume of it left my ears ringing and wondering if maybe his gun had gone off.  But the little gnome just stood in the middle of the cell holding his sides as he laughed.

Whatever it was, it broke his spell like hold on us. I looked around and noticed more than half the precinct was down in the area near the holding cells.  Most of them still slack jawed staring at the little creature who was now laughing hysterically.

I felt something press against the back of my legs.  A little creature, pushed past us. He was not as brightly colored looking more bent, maybe even older than the one in the cell. He walked up to the door of the cell.

“Come on Rufus.  I think you have caused enough commotion for one night.”

“Aw Max, I was just getting started.”

“I know, I know,”  The older gnome placed his hand over the lock on the door and it slid open.  “Come along now.”

Rufus, slid the rifle back inside his coat where it completely disappeared again.

“I am aneonsniper gnome you fools,” he yelled as he and Max walked down the hall. Leaving us all just standing there.

When I got back to my desk still feeling rather dazed, there was a post It on my monitor with one word in an odd looking script.  “Bang!”

If you enjoyed this story, please take a moment to check out my other stories

Great Hites # 29

A Promo for Guy David at http://nightguy.guydavid.com it is to unreal to describe you will just have to see it for yourselfThis week hear the Promo for Murder At Avedon Hill By P.G. Holyfield Click here to find out more

Also this week we are also very excited about next week. Week 30 of Great Hites. Let Everyone know that it is a special week and that we are trying to get an many people as possible to come out and write next week. Maybe I will even get a guest voice or two. Anyone!?! Anyone!?!

I Am Sitting in a Room
By Guy David:

Alvin positioned the speakers to face the first recorder, then faced the second recorder opposite the first one. He hooked up the mike, then positioned the single chair in front of it. The room was empty otherwise. Alvin proceeded with the recording:

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice…”

The door opened and Joan Minskey walked in. “I’m having a problem with the recording equipment. Can you please help me?” “Sure, no problem.” Alvin stopped the recorder, rewinded the tape and went over to the faculty’s state of the art recording studio. This new equipment was supposed to be the best in the field, but the students kept complaining and for some reason, they always came to him for help, not that he minded though, he loved helping out, but sometimes it was an inconvenience. He locked the room and went over to help her. By the time he finished, he had a class to deliver, so he didn’t get back to the room until much later. He repositioned the two recorders and the speaker and started the recording again:

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording…”

The door opened and Ian Tablenkov walked in. “Can you help me? I’m having some problems with this composition. Something about the meaning of those harmonies is not quite right.” Alvin sighed. It looked like he wasn’t going to finished this recording now, so he locked the room and went over to help his students. He decided to come back later, after everyone left and record this in peace. Being the head of the faculty meant that he had a few privileges, including the possession of the keys to the faculty.

When he returned later, it was already getting dark. He opened the doors to the faculty, went over to the room and unlocked it. He positioned the recorders and the speakers once again, set down on the single chair and pressed the recording button:

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies…”

A security guard stormed in, gun drawn in hand. “Oh, it’s you” he said, “Sorry, mister Lucier, I thought it was a burglar.”

Alvin did make the recording that evening. Scholars all around the world pondered about the slight stutter in his voice on the final recording, and how it deliberately affects the resonant frequencies of the room, but only Alvin Lucier and the room itself, know the truth.

Find out more about Alvin Lucier
His home page – http://alucier.web.wesleyan.edu
The original recording of “I Am Sitting in a Room” as well as some of his other works – http://www.ubu.com/sound/lucier.html
Alvin Lucier on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Lucier
“I Am Sitting in a Room” on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_am_sitting_in_a_room

*******

He Stormed Into The Room
By Robert Jahns

Alex was a bright man, more than his years would indicate. In his early twenties, his business acumen allowed him to acquire several prime pieces of real estate. He started with less that $25 in his checking account. The art of negotiation was not lost to Alex.

A fortune had been acquired. He lost this thrill when his business goals were reached. Family was of upmost importance to him.

His older brothers, James and Joel, were hard workers. They were more conservative in their ambitions. All three of Stanley’s sons earned high honors at University.

Their father Stanley said, “All three are good boys. Each has different strengths. James is the oldest and an honored teacher of science. Joel was the wild one, and we worried a bit about his future. He fell in love with aircraft and now is a design engineer for Lockheed-Martin. And Alex…” Stanley lowered his gaze as his voice began a slight tremble, “Alex is. Was the proverbial tempest in a tea pot. You never quite know what he would do next.”

All now gathered to say goodbye.

Alex exercised his whims of thrill seeking. Sports car racing, marathons, snowmobiles in the winter, and speedboats in the summer – all brought laughter to his life. Early into his thirtieth year, just two days after New Year’s Day, a snowmobile accident took his life.

The minister stood at the front of the church, amazed at the hundreds that came to the services. At least a dozen of Alex’s friends rose to speak of his life. His life-long friend, confidant, and intimate brother-confessor rose for his turn to speak. Bob had a smile on his face.

“I cannot be sad today. Alex packed all of his living into his few years on earth. I expected to give this speech as best man on his wedding day.” Bob paused for a moment.

A strong gust of wind blew the church’s doors open. For a January day in this Canadian town, the wind smelled of spring and carried a warm greeting as it circled the church. Bob said, “Just like Alex! He storms into this room and takes over center stage. This is one great celebration, one party that he did not want to miss.”

*******


Beat at His Own Game
By: Jeff Hite

Captain Roderick stormed onto the bridge. As much as he could storm in low gravity. It was not as if he had to float around. They were accelerating at a substantial rate so there was some gravity on the ship which meant that at least he was standing upright, but not enough to go stomping unless he wanted to go flying into the ceiling. The worst thing that he could think of was being angry and having to take it laying down, as you floated around a ship in micro gravity.
So today the best he could do was wait for the pressure door to slam shut as he pushed off it toward his command chair. He waited until the ringing of the slamming door stopped and everyone’s attention was on him.
“Alright I want to know who is responsible for this.”
Most of his senior staff, with the exception of his first officer, was on this shift so he was pretty sure that the culprit had to be there. But as he looked around the room there were a few sheepish grins but no one was coming forward. That was fine, if that was the way they wanted to play it, he could play it cool as well.
He moved himself carefully into his command chair and waited. The first one to speak would catch his wrath, and then, if they were not the guilty party then maybe a little guilt would get them to come forward, when they saw their comrade French fried.
“Captain?” The navigator youngest member of the bridge crew said.
Of course they would choose the youngest as their scape goat. They all knew he had a soft spot for new members on the space corp. Well not today.
“Yes, ensign?” He kept his voice level so as not to betray the anger just below the surface. He would wait for the right moment.
“Sir, it may not be my place.”
You know you have been put up to this, of course it is not your place.
“But, what are you talking about sir?”
“Ensign,” this was it he was going to let it all come out. He did almost feel sorry for the fresh faced ensign, “I want to know why you posted my birthday in the galley, the posting of…” He never finished the sentence.
“Your Birthday? Why Captain, we didn’t know.” It was his first officer.
He must have sneaked in while he was preparing his venting, and now it was all over.
“Now we all know how much the Captain loves a good time,” he continued. “I think we all ought to to sing him a little song.”
The strains of happy birthday could be heard throughout the ship, both crews were awake now and joining in the fun. He had been beaten as his own game.

Download Great Hites # 29

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 27

Originally Posted Nov 12 2008

This week there are four Stories
They are by:

Guy David Find out more at www.guydavid.com
Anima Zabaleta Find out more at Zabbadabba
Robert Jahns Who does not have a web site
And me.

Please take the time to vote for your favorite!

Great Hites 27
Guy David
Anima Zabaleta
Robert Jahns
Jeffrey Hite
  
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A Minute of Failure
BY Guy David

Emma knitted the sweater silently. She always knitted when she was stressed out. It helped her calm down and think clearly, and thinking was what she did best. It was her skill, and the one she relied on. She had high hopes and thinking was the way of making them into a reality.

The problem ahead was not an easy one, though working at home meant she had an army of like-minded thinkers at her finger tips. All she had to do was to go on-line and ask someone, but she was a stubborn one. She had to solve her own problems herself. It was the only way she would be able to quit her day job, by doing all of this by herself. This has made her a lone wolf, and she liked it that way, no one to distract her from her goals. She fixed up the glasses on her nose bridge, a sub-conscious gesture done absent mindedly, then she put down her knitting and headed for her computer.

The HTML danced in front of her eyes, refusing to untangle. Bits of CSS and PHP where flawlessly intertwined within. Other bits where connected from the outside. It was obviously a work of art, neatly knitted pieces of code, some functioning on a local level, some more universal in nature and some surviving into other pages. It was a work Emma was especially proud of, yet again, that particular web page had failed to load for a minute every time. It was exactly a minute, no more and no less. It was as punctuate as the coffee she took every day at 7 AM, and the bus she took for work at 8 AM. She knew her day job was a necessary condition on the way for something better, and she knew that something better was right in front of her, if only she could find the cause for that failure.

She looked at her half knitted sweater. A small ant was crawling on it. She looked at the ant, then she looked at her code. Suddenly she could see it. It was like an ant crawling inside her code, contaminating it and keeping it from functioning properly. She could see it clearly now, and she could see the solution. She shook the ant out of her knitting and set to work on the code. She fixed a bit here, which made another flaw apparent, so she fixed that too. It was a little like lying. You told a lie here, so you had to support it with another lie there, only coding was more finite. It was contained in a much smaller world, so it was manageable. Finally, the page was fixed and worked flawlessly. Another level in her goal was achieved. Quitting her day job was one step nearer. She smiled at her little victory and went back to her knitting. She had allot more to think about.

A MOMENT OF DISTRACTION
Anima Zabaleta

A moment of distraction, a minute of failure to pay attention? and now, of all the ridiculous places, I find myself in fancy dress, in the park, in front of our friends?

How did this happen? I am a nice well adjusted person, I vacation in Baja, or Aspen or the Adirondacks as I see fit. I live in a nice one bedroom apartment in a tony neighborhood. I don’t drive by choice, finding it too complicated to keep a car in the city. How did I find myself a candidate for a minivan?

I thought I knew you. It started benignly enough, a cup of coffee, then an art opening; there were a few things in common, and it grew. You learned about the past relationships, the baggage in tow; I met your kids. It didn’t seem like too much to deal with. A weekend to the coast seems reasonable, and you got me that really nice birthday gift; we were still in the realm of having a good time.

A few years pass, things are comfortable; I know what to expect: Alternate weekends and holidays. Plenty of time to do your own thing, my own thing, you have a change of clothes in the closet in case you spend the night. I have a toothbrush at your house. This groove feels right; I’ve even go to the school plays and last month helped pick out the new puppy.

You bring a small box to dinner, filled with sparkle, shattering the dream. It wasn’t supposed to go this far? I was only looking for something to occupy my time after work. You’re a nice person, and I go along with it, not ready for the tears, yours or mine, that will happen when I break up with you.

You dirty dog! You tricked me! You made me pick a date, and promised it would be a small ceremony, not a big deal, nothing would change. Liar. But you ARE an affable liar, and I think I can forgive you. The more I consider it, makes me realize it is more fun to cook dinner together, and discuss bad art films. My heart must have been paying more attention than my mind. But I still want to go to Baja without the kids in tow.

A Minute for Victory, A Minute for Failure
-by Robert Jahns

What are the costs of victory? What are the costs of defeat? Kings and presidents, despots and dictators, kind leaders (even cruel leaders) struggle with these decisions. When a leader commits to war, monetary costs can be calculated. Ships, arms, supplies; all can be assigned a value. The unanswered question is how do you value human life? Is that even possible?

A leader that decides to go to war makes the valuation that the lives of his soldiers are worth the price of victory. Those leaders sit in buildings of the state, well insulated from the dangers his citizens will face. They steal away the time to make these deep decisions. They pray that they possess the wisdom to make the correct judgment.

Generals command their troops to battle. Away from the front lines, they feel the weight of sacrifice much closer than the leader. Generals are insulated from the immediate smells of gun powder and death. His decisions may be based on moving small pieces on a map of a battle ground. He may have precious little time to contemplate his strategy.

Manning the front lines is an amazing experience. Young leaders, younger soldiers, are all wide eyed and a bit frightened. They huddle in wait to repel the next attack or for the orders to charge forward. It is action and reaction, a “hurry up and wait” time. Fear is good. It keeps soldiers alert.

A strange thing happens when there remains no reasonable chance for survival. Fear wanes, a calmness and purpose rise to the forefront of the mind. Soldiers perform their tasks to the limits of their ability. Soldiers follow orders. Some will die trying to achieve victory. Alas, they may have but a single moment to contemplate success or failure.

There is a minute for victory and a minute for failure.

A Minute of Failure
By Jeffrey Hite

Time travel is supposed to be for one of two things. First you could go back in time and fix something so that it would turn out better. You could go back and ask that pretty girl out with more confidence. You could make sure that your dog does not get hit by that car, that your parents don’t get divorced, or your sister does not get that really bad dye job right before her big date. Or you can go into the future to learn something of what will come, the out come of sporting event, the names of all your children, who will be your best friend in twenty years time, or even so that you could steel something from the future, pretend to invent it and make millions. Either way it is about gaming the system. Either, fixing your mistakes or fixing it so that you don’t make the mistakes in the first place.
The problem is that there are a number of way that this can back fire on you. Look at all the time travel stories, you have that guy that wanted to get back to 1985, first of all why would you want to go back then, but second he tried to win a sports, and what happened the bad guy got the book, and almost erased his whole family. Or what about the little kid, he wanted to go back and figure out who his mom was so that she would not give him up for adoption, when he had a very bright future ahead of him, that would have screwed everything up. And what about those guys that tried to go back and get the whales? They nearly got caught because one guy didn’t know how to use a computer and another one couldn’t find the navy ships.
The point is that it takes very little to screw up the whole time line and then there is often so much damage that you can end everything, and I do mean everything. And if you don’t think that anything like this can happen to you, I am here to tell you that it can.
Forty years ago I invented a time machine. No I am not crazy, I really invented a time machine, and it worked too. Now I can see by the look on your face that you don’t believe me but just listen while I tell you what happened, and I will tell you about my minute of failure that almost ended the whole world.
When I was a young man I wanted to know what the future would hold. I wanted to know if we would make it to the other planets, and the stars beyond. I wanted to know if, there were computers smart enough to take over the world. I wanted to know what my dog was saying to me when it barked from across the yard. So I started researching ways of finding out. I read all of Einstein’s papers and moved on to anyone else that talked about relativity. My first road block of course were the enormous speeds that one must travel to gain any noticeable effects. Then comes the great amounts of power that are required to reach those speeds. Then once you have gone forward how do you go back. Science says that if you travel fast enough that you will move forward in time much faster than everyone else, basically skipping the years in the middle. But although you can see into the past by gazing and distant objects, there is no really practical way of getting there, or at least there wasn’t, but I found a way.
Now I am not going to tell you how I over came these problems. If I told you that you might very well make the same mistakes and end up wasting your life the way I have fixing the problems you inadvertently created, and then what would be the point of telling you this in the first place. I had invented a time machine and I went into the future. There I found more amazing things than I ever dreamed possible. But I also found things that disturbed me beyond my ability to handle them. It was one of these things that almost caused the down fall of man, and maybe the entire universe.
In the future you see they were working side by side with computers that could at one time be an incredible aid to them, and yet enslave them to work for hours on end, they had become so ingrained in their lives that, people not only worked with them, but also lived with them. They were everywhere, in their homes their modes of transportation, in small devices that they carried with them to communicate, and even listen to sounds that they would pump directly into their ears.
When I saw how the computers had enslaved the young and old people alike, I knew that I had to do something about this. I had to go back in time and stop this advancement, and prevent them from taking over. I had to stop them and I will I have tried many times and failed everyone. Every time I think that I have manged to stop the growth of this It always turns out worse and I have to go back and fix the problems that I have created.
“Ah there you are mister Mathers. You know you are not supposed to leave the compound. I am sorry is has been bothering you folks.”

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Great Hites # 26

Originally Published Nov 6 2008

Great Hites 26
Robert Jahns – Cat People
Jeff Hite – The Werewolf
  
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Cat People
By Robert Jahns

In the 1950’s, canines were as free as sparrows to roam our small town, following only their will and whim. They indeed were living the American dream. Maybe that’s why I could never trust my yellow dog, Queenie. She enjoyed her role as a free spirit, heading hither and yon, with no apparent plan in mind. She became my dog, my responsibility, when my older brothers and sisters lost interest. Oh, I brushed and petted her, even bathed her when she allowed me to catch her. My hugs and pats were sincere, but she only endured the rite, not enjoy it. Food and water were always at the ready. I tossed that gnarled, saliva-drenched stick that she insisted on chasing. Part of her game was to retrieve the stick, and then feign anger with growls and a show of teeth when I reached for it.

The care given did not earn her protection. That old mutt never seemed to be around when I needed her. When that Watson kid started to beat on me, that old dog was always running in the wrong direction. Will I forever hate that Watson kid?

Jeff Thompson was the first to go off to war. Some country in Southeast Asia needed help. Time moves slowly for a boy in a small town. It seemed that Jeff was gone forever. Six years after his departure, Jeff returned home. He immediately went to the local bar and got drunk. No one saw the fight begin between that Watson kid and the returning soldier. Jeff proceeded to knock the snot out of the Watson boy. He never did approve of bullies. I glanced with admiration toward my new hero. Jeff showed the effects of drink. His eyes were a bit glassy, his stance a bit wobbly. He smiled at me with the grin of a Cheshire cat. Was he a cat person?
Probably not. That was my dog, Queenie, that followed Jeff home.

The Werewolf
By Jeffrey Hite

You know the legend of the werewolf. How he hunts at night for his victim, and can turn from man to beast to man again. The stories are true, you know. They are out there, and they hunt by the light of the moon. But there is a creature that is more dangerous that the werewolf, they are the werecats.
These Creatures come, not during the night, but during the full light of day to hunt their prey. The are very cunning, those fully turned take the form of ordinary house cats and take up residence with the cat people.

Download Great Hites 26

Great Hites # 25

Originally posted Oct 30th 2008

 

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


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Great Hites # 24

Originally posted Oct 23 2008

Great Hites # 24
A Journey Late in Life By: Robert Jahns
Last Day on the Job By: Jeff Hite
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A Journey Late in Life

By Robert Jahns

Mason Thompson was the town elder. No one alive knew exactly when he arrived from England. Tales had him arriving by tall sailing ship, by a great ocean steamer, even by a dirigible from pre-war Germany. 1890 land records showed that a Mr. Mason Thompson, then age 40, purchased property and settled in the town of Parker, Arizona. The private man once taught school. Many of his students went on to good universities. Few found fault with Mr. Thompson or his teaching methods. When he folded up his bifocals and retired from teaching, he spent many a day rocking peacefully on his front porch. He kept his home up well. He never married, remaining content to spend his time alone. On occasion, Mason would spirit away to his secret fishing hole.

Time moved forward to the year 1940. The townsmen wanted to treat Mr. Thompson upon his 90th birthday. Thompson was now feeble, carefully, slowly moving with a gait that suited his advanced years. The good townspeople planned a magnificent trip for their elder.

A short flight to New York was easy enough. He seemed quite pleased with the adventure. The elder slept well as a larger craft propelled the travelers on their way to England. They completed the journey by traveling by train from Heathrow Airport to London proper. He was to meet with people he had left behind so many years before.

“It’s him!” exclaimed the oldest lady in the mob. With axe handles and thatched ropes, the angry mob hauled away the old man. “Finally got you, you savage! There is no statute of limitations on murder! Killing all of those women – what were you thinking of, Jack?”

The elder breathed the salt air of the London docks and promptly threw up.

Last Day on the Job

By: Jeffrey Hite

“Last day on the job and what happens? I get a called to go down to the beach. Something big has washed up,” I said to my wife over the cell phone.
“I bet it is a party. I bet they are throwing you a party!”
“They are not that kind of folks dear. they don’t even like me all that much.”
“Hank, you never know, and even if it is not by tomorrow it will be someone else’s problem and you will be retired and spend the rest of your days with me.”
“Very true. Well I don’t know how long I will be. I love you.”
“Love you too dear. Give me a call on your way home,” Those were the last words that I heard for many years that made sense.
As I neared the beach I could see that a crowd had gathered. But I could not see what they were looking at. The Highway Patrolman that called me was standing a little ways off trying to get them to disperse but not having much luck.
“Hello, officer Parker, I am Hank Barnwell.” He held out his hand and we shook.
“Glad you could come. Your call screener said that it was your retirement day, but I think this is worth your time.”
“Alright, so what have we got?”
“Well, I had better show you. Come on down to the waters edge with me.” We walked to the edge of the water and I could see that there was indeed something very large, sticking up out of the surf.
“What is it?”
“Well sir, it looks like the nose of a submarine, but a very old one.”
“Very old to be sure. With a bow line like that is has to be a World War two boat. And look at those torpedo doors. And in such wonderful condition, how is that possible? Son you really should have called the Navy for some thing like this, I deal with animals, you know whales and other large sea creatures.”
“Yes, sir and that is why I called you. This is right out of Captain Nemo.”
“You mean Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, but what are you talking about?”
“Well just look.” He pulled me to one side so I could see the boat in profile. There attached the to rear end of the submarine was the largest Colossal squid I had ever seen. It enveloped the whole rear end. And more to the point it was a live.
“There is something else sir.” the Patrolman said snapping me back to the present.
“Yes?”
“Well the person who called me, said that when the submarine surfaced that a man came out of one of the hatches and started up the deck, then that thing let loose and pulled him back and killed him.”
“What? You mean people are in there?” He nodded his head. “In the sub?”
“That is what I have been told.”
“That seems highly improbable. That ship is over sixty years old.”
“I know that sir, but that is what I was told.”
“Where is the witness?” He led me over to a young girl of about twenty, sitting near his patrol car. She sat with tears streaming down her face staring out at the beached submarine.
“Diane, this is the man I told you I was going to call. Can you tell him what you saw.” She shook her head and started to sob. “You need to tell Mr. Barnwell here what you saw so that we can help those people.” She nodded then and sniffed several times before beginning.
“That boat, just came crashing out of the water. Then one of the holes opened up. I could hear men shouting, then one of them got out and ran across the boat and tried to jump into the water, he was not very fast, he looked old. But then that monster grabbed him. It picked him up and smashed him against the deck.”
“Thank you Diane. You just relax now,” I said. We walked a little ways away before I spoke again. “Did she say she had heard men shouting.”
“Yes, When she told me about it she said she had seen several sets of arms reaching out of the port.”
“Do you have a marine radio in your car?”
“Of course.”
“Good, you go get Diane away from the car. I don’t want to upset her any more than we already have.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I am not sure yet.” I waited until he had moved the girl away from the car and then started working the radio. I didn’t know what frequencies they used in world war two subs but, i figured it was worth a shot. I switched it to the universal guard frequency.
“Hello beached submarine, can you hear me?”
“We hear you.” Came back a very scratchy voice. “We do not have much power to transmit so please listen close. This is the U.S.S. May. We have found the lost city of Atlantis, but when we tried to return, we were told we could not. Ten days ago, myself and half of my crew were able to escape. MyXO and the other half stayed behind to buy us the time we needed to escape.” He paused and I waited wondering if they had run out of power. “Yesterday we were within site of land, but their guardian caught us. We have been trying to fight it off, but with no luck. We were finally able to beach ourselves here. You need to know that Atlantis is real, It’s people are nearly human like us, but they have incredible life spans.”
There was a terrible metal rending sound then.
“The creature is tearing the ship apart. It will try to kill us all to keep the secret.” The Transmission broke up then to the sounds of chaos both inside and out. I could see the creature moving then, and it was huge. Nearly the size of the sub herself. “Listen,” the voice came again trembling now. “Please say goodbye to our families… We are going to launch a torpedo that has letters from everyone inside.” The was a terrible scream of metal as one of the beast’s arms wrapped around the sail and began to rip it off. “Do not try to find Atlantis. They are a good people but they will kill to protect their secret.”
the Boat sunk below the waves being dragged by the creature.
“Captain, Captain.” I yelled into the microphone. But there was no response. A few seconds later a torpedo ran a ground, near the crowd of on lookers. They scattered thinking the thing might explode. Then a giant air bubble escaped to the surface. Several men tried to swim to shore, but the creature made short work of them. grabbing them and dragging them back under.
When it was over I waded out into the water, the smell of the salt air was over powering and I threw up.

******

Today three years later, I delivered the last of the letters to family members of the officers and crew of the U.S.S. May. Very few have believed my story, even fewer believed the letters that I had given them. This time, however, the captain’s widow believed me. She cried as she read the letter from her husband, and just like the night it happened I did too.

Great Hites # 23

Originally posted Oct 15 2008

 


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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.