Monday, April 29, 2013

Finnegan's Awake, 2 (Seal Team i)

Seal Team i protects the multiverses from threasts both large and small.  And they appear in serialized stories like this one!

Our story so far: The only thing you missed is PART ONE, where Ditto Joyce got killed and mangled and then threatened to take a small planet and make it careen around the universe aimlessly, destroying everything in its path. So Seal Team i is on its way to get him!  Feel like starting at the beginning? Read part one here.

Part Two: Everybody hurts.

Negative Jimmy stared out the window, Ditto's message still playing in his mind, and, no doubt, the rest of the team's, as well.

"Anything yet?" he asked the pilot, who shook his head but didn't say anything.  They watched, together, as the galaxy flowed by, the planets and star systems suddenly winking into existence and then disappearing, this universe in stop-motion animation, their battle cruiser flying by things at a rate faster than their eyes could keep up with, causing the flickering sights.

Negative Jimmy didn't have to tell the pilot to keep him posted.  He knew the man would.  He sat back down, checking the readouts on his battle armor before uploading the latest intel on to his vidscreen and trying to sort out who might really be behind this.  While it was not unheard for Seal Team i members to go insane -- the things they see, the forces they must face, every day!-- it was unheard of for anyone to mangle their bodies as thoroughly as Ditto's had been, leading the team to suspect that Ditto was being used by someone.

But who?

Jimmy flicked through the possibilities sent him by HQ, considering each one.  The readouts on the screen monitored what each of his team was doing, as well. Most of them were doing what he was: preparing for the mission, getting up to speed, checking their suits.

But one.

"Tommy! What's up with your reads?" Negative Jimmy barked into his mike.

There was no answer.  A few flicks of his eyes and he was keyed into what Tommy was watching.

It was a black screen.

"Tommy! Tommy! Report," Negative Jimmy spoke urgently.  When Tommy didn't report on the private channel, Jimmy stood up again from his seat and made his way back to the other half of the troop carrier, through the blast door that separated them, past the four command crew that sat up front with him and the pilot and to the regular shock troops, enlisted men, who made the bulk of this squad.

About 10 of the men looked up at him as he entered, pausing in their preparations.

"Sir," the man nearest said.  Negative Jimmy waved his salute away.

"Sarge," he said, and motioned back to the far left corner, where a man sat slumping, a bit, in his battle armor.

Negative Jimmy flicked his eyes around again, manipulated his finger sensor gloves, and an alert went out ot the three nearest men to him.  Silently, they armed their suits while Negative Jimmy and Sarge walked back to the slumping battle suit.

Tommy, the man in the suit, didn't react to them at all as they approached.  Jimmy's vidscreen in his helmet showed message after message to Tommy's suit and readouts that seemed appropriate -- oxygen okay, pressure okay, and so on -- and about four feet away the two Seals stopped.

"Tommy," Jimmy said into his mike.

No response.

"Take it over," he said on a private link.  Sarge nodded and Jimmy saw a bluish glow on the other man's suit, and a bluish glow on Tommy's suit.

"Not responding," Sarge said.

"Sir," said the pilot over a different private link, as Negative Jimmy and Sarge reached over towards Tommy's suit, together, the bluish glow of the puppet-link dancing between their hands now.  "Sir, there's something," the pilot went on as Jimmy's hand touched Tommy's suit.


Not that far away, as universes go, a seething mass of tentacles shifted, slightly.

The seething mass had grown cramped, a bit, nestled into the absurdly cramped quarters it had chosen.


The ship suddenly rocked off to the left as Negative Jimmy pulled up Tommy's suit and stared into the vid screen.

Tommy's face was there, but slack, blank, white.  His eyes stared dully at Jimmy and Sarge, no comprehension or even reaction in them.

"What the--" Jimmy said but the ship took another evasive maneuver as he did so and the pilot spoke over the general link.

"Comets. And lots of 'em.  Don't understand it.  We're too far from the outer reaches..." he broke off as the ship pulled back and Jimmy heard auto-fired cannons blasting.  He didn't need to give orders; this was standard stuff and everyone knew their jobs. The boots of his battlesuit linked to the floor, letting him stand upright even in G-maneuvers, and he worked his gloves to try to establish direct control of Tommy's suit, which appeared to be offline.

"Sarge, see if you can't," Jimmy said, as the ship banked right and then down, the g-forces pulling and twisting him and Sarge, who both remained rooted, but also heaving Tommy's deadweight body up and into them, the battle suit carrying enough inertia that they both fell and Tommy flew past them, banging against two other Seals who were still strapped in.

Over the general link a few expletives came at the same time as the pilot spoke "Brace!" and the ship shuddered as one of the comets got past the covering fire.  The ship sped up -- Jimmy could feel the engines pulsing, and he turned to the enlisted men.

"Grab him," he said, and the men held Tommy's suit motionless.  Jimmy and Sarge stepped over to it and Jimmy reached down to open the young man's helmet.


"Try..." said a voice that one would ordinarily not associate with a seething mass of tentacles, in that most people do not expect a seething mass of tentacles to have a British accent, "...a solar flare."

The tentacles shifted again, slightly.  They were just flexing themselves, though.  All the work was done by voice command.

And by the tentacles' assistants, who were very well-paid.


"Tommy," Jimmy said into his mike again and the Seal's helmet popped open in response to the electrical charge from the fingertips of Jimmy's gloves.  "Tommy!" Jimmy said again, and leaned down.  Tommy's eyes still did not focus.  All the readouts on his suit read just fine on Jimmy's screen, but Jimmy bent down himself and looked closer.

Then Jimmy said open quietly and his own helmet retracted its visor.  He put his face close to Tommy's.

"He's not breathing," Jimmy said.

"His readings," Sarge muttered.

"I know what they say," Jimmy said.

"OH SHIT!" came on the pilot link.  "SHIELDS UP FULL FRONT."

The ship careened wildly as Jimmy wondered what they were evading now.  The autofire guns stopped and he could feel the body of their troop carrier twisting wildly,  no doubt to avoid the comets, while also speeding up, even more than it had been, the engines throbbing.

Jimmy ignored them.  The pilot could do his job.  He put his face right up next to Tommy's.

"We've got to get this helmet off," he said.  "Get the life support tech gear," and another man leapt up and began opening the small backpack with extra gear.

Jimmy used the electrical chargers again, loosening the helmet.

The ship felt warmer.

"Report," he said, his eyes touching briefly on the pilot icon.

"Solar flare," the pilot's voice said.

"Will we miss it?"


Jimmy concentrated on his task. The helmet was coming off.


"Will it miss them?" the tentacles inquired.

"Yes," the assistant said.

"Good," the tentacles said.


Jimmy got the helmet off, and as he pulled it he realized with a shock that Tommy's head was no longer attached to Tommy's body.  He held up the helmet, with the younger man's head still in it, still staring lifelessly at him, and looked, aghast, for just a second, before his training took over.

"Lockdown" he said.

That's when Tommy's head started screaming.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finnegan's Awake! (Seal Team i)

When the multiverses collapsed in on themselves and then were spun apart to avoid the destruction of everything, the chaos didn't end; everything that could have ever existed suddenly did, and was alive in all the universes.  Now, an elite team of supermilitary professionals must roam the divided universes, hunting for Archetypes and Amygdalans and lesser, but still evil and destructive, monsters.

These are their stories.

Part One: Meet Ditto Joyce.

Ditto Joyce was not a man anyone would want to mess with.  Six-foot-five, he appeared to be made entirely of muscle and/or metal, and that latter comment is only partially hyperbole, as Ditto had on several occasions had to have various battle wounds grafted and healed by metal implants, some of them done on the battlefield using bits of wreckage welded on by his fellow Seals.

Which made it all the more surprising that someone had messed with him, and not just messed with him, but had in fact blown him to smithereens, nearly tearing his entire body apart, leaving only a ragged corpse held loosely together by those aforementioned metal bits.  Nobody could survive an attack like that.

Which made it, in turn, all the even more surprising that Ditto Joyce had somehow survived, his ragged, tattered corpse waging war on the slums of a small planet located near the edge of the galaxy, a planet that ordinarily attracted no attention from anyone, a planet where thugs and criminals could lay low and enjoy a respite from the law, but which had recently sent a distress beam directly to Seal Team i headquarters.

The distress signal, it turned out, was not sent by someone actually in distress.  It was sent by Ditto Joyce, who appeared to be enjoying himself immensely despite the fact that he had to be in a great deal of pain.  As the Seal Team i members watched the transmission on their vidscreens on their transport ship out to the small planet, they grimaced as Ditto, on the transmission, told them they had better come, and told them that if they didn't, he'd use the technology he'd uncovered to transform the planet into a roaming comet of destruction, careening through the various solar systems at nearly the speed of light, smashing into asteroids, disrupting orbits, taking out space stations, and eventually cracking smack into another planet.

"Hopefully Earth!" leered Ditto, on the screen, and with a satisfied sneer he beckoned to the cameraman to come in closer.  The camera wavered unsteadily as it approached, and the Seals could hear some whimpering.

"You had this coming," said Ditto on the screen, and a broken, gnarled, bloody arm reached out and grabbed something.  The scene, as they watched, showed the camera falling to the floor, where it stayed resolutely focused on Ditto's bloody boots as something... wet happened above.  Blood and organs fell to the floor and then the camera was on the move again, lifting up until it showed Ditto's blasted jawline from below.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Leaving Outpost Pluto, 2 (The 9 Planets)

This serialized story began here, with part one.

It took 152 years for the expedition from Outpost Pluto to make it back through the solar system to find out what happened...


At least two laser blasts and someone screamed.

 The rocket boosters started and he could hear nothing after Mission Control said "Blast off."

Quid felt the tightness in his chest as it was forced down and flatter as Rocket Osiris launched itself obliquely into what passed for Pluto's atmosphere, a collection of airlike molecules that was not much better than it had been when the settlers had arrived here 18 months before.  He wondered if he would ever see Pluto with real air, and walk on its still-cold surface without a helmet.

Probably not, he resigned himself.  If there is someone left on Uranus, they're not talking.

He watched the instruments with attentive eyes and waited for the interference to clear so that he could again communicate with Mission Control to find out what had happened, what the laser blasts were.

Two minutes into the mission, Osiris was safely on a launch orbit, picking up more and more speed from the gravity of Pluto itself, and the boosters, to be used only for emergencies from here on out, shut off.  Quid immediately flicked his eyes in the direction of the COM link in the upper corner of his visor and the Open Channel came on first, followed by the Mission Control line, which he had overlap with Open Channel.

"Rocket Osiris checking in.  Mission Control, what's the status?"

"Quid, use boosters to turn back.  Now. That is an order."

"Jena, we went over and over this."

"Quid, I have assumed military control of Outpost Pluto.  This is a direct order.  You do not know everything that's going on.  You do NOT have authority to leave Outpost Pluto.  Boost retro now and reverse the mission."

Quid bit his tongue and looked at the few of his companions that he could see without turning his head, something the 5Gs they were pulling made unwise -- turn his head and he won't be able to get it back to see the control panel.

"Open Channel..."

"QUID: do not use Open Channel!" Jena interrupted.


"Quid, if instruments do not show boosters engaged in retro immediately, I will have you shot down."

"We have no weapons that can do that."

"You don't know everything," Jena said.

"This is insane," Quid said.

He wanted to believe that, that Jena's new talk about him not knowing everything, was not true, but was simply the ravings of someone who was scared.

"Interceptors fired," said a new voice.

It was a voice Quid did not recognize, and Quid knew every single person on Outpost Pluto.

He felt his skin grow clammy.  His eyes searched out on the panel in front of him the scanner that looked for objects Osiris might interact with.  He saw nothing.  No sign of interceptor missiles or any other attacker.  The readings told him their speed made it next to impossible that something else could catch up with them, at this point, that anything from the surface could ever hope to get to where Osiris was before Osiris was out in space and free of Pluto's weak gravity.

"Jena," he began, but she interrupted again.

"Quid, I'm sorry."

"Sorry? For what?"

And as he said it, he saw, on the screen before him, the two small dots that indicated something coming.

From above them, from higher up in orbit.

"Jena!" he yelled.

"Quid, it wasn't my decision."

"Then whose..."

But there was no time for debate, not anymore.  He had a decision to make.

"Mick," he said.

"The boosters," Mick answered.

"We've no choice," Quid agreed.  He flicked his eyes around on his visor, changing the internal controls from Monitor to Pilot and with that, his gloves became sensitized in their fingertips to the controls he needed, while view screens showed him a 360-degree look at the Osiris.

"Mick, give me a short burn," he said into his radio.

"They're tracers," came a third voice, Tanya, behind him.

"No burn. Mick. Let's try this." Quid's mind raced through manuevers and tactics, the various systems the ship had, the few weapons it could muster.  It was a settlement ship, not a battle rocket.

"Shut it all down?" Tanya asked.

Dead Hulk maneuver.

Would it work?

"No time," Mick said.  "They're too close."

"Where were they launched from?" asked Quid, before deciding.  "Deploy sail," he said.

To their credit, his team did not hesitate even though it was an unusual maneuver.  Mick saw, unfurling before them, the lightweight, nearly intangible sail that would ordinarily be used to carry them between the planets, using the solar wind to pull the ship in the direction they wanted to go.  There were three of them, rigged in various ways to allow steering, but this was the Main, the one that pulled from the front of Osiris to give it the most power.  It maintained residual energy when used so that it could push out even against the solar wind it usually used as its power source, and that blast now propelled its filmy mass ahead of them.

"Quid. I'm very sorry," Jena's voice said over the radio again, and the two tracer rockets hit the sail, becoming entangled in it, their own boosters getting turned against them, causing them to flip and turn.  Quid and the rest of the Osiris team, and no doubt everyone on Outpost Pluto, watched as the rockets tried to burn through the sheer amount of sail they were caught up in -- the full Main sail would be nearly two kilometers wide when opened -- but could not, and finally a fold of the microthin material pulled one rocket over to the other and both exploded.

The explosion was near enough to rock the Osiris and cause several screens to go blank.  Quid saw Life Support shut down, Shields shut down, and Guidance begin to flicker.  The static on his helmet prevented him from giving orders to anyone onboard and he focused on his own job, piloting the crippled Rocket Osiris away from Outpost Pluto, his home no longer - and away from whatever it was in orbit that had attacked them.

Tibetan Singing Bowls can help you be a better writer? Maybe.

I've mentioned "singing bowls" before on this blog, but I've never really talked about what they can be used for.

Tibetan Singing Bowls are finely crafted metal bowls that when struck or otherwise played, produce a pleasing melodic tone, one note, that resonates sometimes with other similar bowls and which can be shorter or longer, depending on how you play it.

Which is all good, except what do you use them FOR?  Turns out, a lot: Tibetan Singing Bowls are used by therapists, educators, and other health care professionals in various forms of therapy.  Relaxation techniques and meditation can be fostered by Tibetan Singing Bowls, either used by professionals or by people like you (I am assuming that you are not a relaxation therapy professional in that last sentence.)

They've been said to help with sleeplessness, tension and even creativity blocks -- so if you're a musician, writer, painter, or someone else who (student? Sure, why not?) who is struggling with a project, why not check out the Tibetan Singing Bowls for Sale and see if maybe they can't help you get past whatever is holding you up and move on with a less stressful outlook?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"You Know What Happens After Dark."

Here's an old short story I wrote that'll appear in an upcoming collection.  You can read it  here or click the link to download it and take it with you!


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