Sunday, May 10, 2009

Great Hites 52

This week we have stories by:

Anima Zabaleta

Mick Bordet
Guy David
Norval Joe,
Justin Lowmaster
Scott Roche
Jeff Hite

This week's winner was "To The Clouds" By: Mick Bordet

Promo for: Nina Kimberly
Link to Podiobooks - Podiobooks pro
Editing service By: Shawna Noble

This week is sponsored by where I go when I need computer help.

Anima Zabaleta

“Man it’s hot, Jeff… Hold up, I need a break, and this pool looks like a good spot. I need to refill my Nalagene. Funny, its not marked on the trail map. I thought all the water sources were marked on the trails here in Grand Canyon…”

“Don’t look a gift horse, or rather spring in the mouth, Linda. Just enjoy your good luck and pass me that bottle before you finish it all, will ya?”

“Whadja find there?”

“Not quite sure… I’ve never seen anything quite like this…”


Log date 2020.5.6 2700 cycles

If you are hearing this, it means I was not successful. I have spent the last 20 megacycles searching the outer planets for a culture, any life form really, that hasn’t been infected with Lleweraf virus. The known universes as I know them have turned into water.

It took the scientists too long to identify the plague. The best hypothesis they were able to come up with is that water supplies were infected in the Xenab district, and from there it spread across the galaxies, creature by creature, one planet at a time.

They think that once ingested, the virus lies dormant in the body for an unknown number of megacycles, until the virons have integrated throughout the host. The body then turns to hydrogen oxide, splits the skin and pools on the ground. Cities have turned to lakes, planets into continuous oceans, marred only by the occasional empty landmass. I have found only pockets of civilizations, and they are slowly leaking away.

My crew and I were thought to be uninfected, having been on a 7 microcycle journey at the time of contagion; we tried our best to not consume any water outside of what our body fluid reclamation systems could provide. However, the temptation for a long cool drink proved too much for Caine, the first crewmember to “puddle out”. After a few megacycles, it became evident that I was the last one to resist. Maybe resistance is futile. All I know is that I long to swim in the ocean, and that is no longer an option.

It has been 3 megacycles since my last landing. Interstellar communications died out around that time also. My resources are running out, and I am forced to make one final landing on this nonconfederation planet, 3rd from the local yellow star… As I have not noticed the illness in myself yet, maybe there is hope…

“What are we going to do, Jeff?”

"To The Clouds"
By: Mick Bordet

I threw the door open with such force that a cup jumped off the kitchen shelf, but the damage didn't even register with me at the time. Before my father could even get his mouth open to shout at my misdemeanour, I was already spilling my news out in between breathless gasps for air. I had been accepted back into the Air Force and wanted to tell everyone that I would be flying in an airship. They nearly all shared in my delight; my sister Brenda hugged me and squealed with joy, Mum grinned and ruffled my hair as she tried and almost succeeded in covering up a hint of worry. The dog ran around my feet in tighter and tighter circles that would surely have toppled me had I not stopped him with a rub of his head to acknowledge his excitement. Only Father sat, unmoved by the whole scene playing out in front of him, waiting for his moment.

"It'll never last," he said, with not a glimmer of emotion. "Aeroplanes are faster and they don't burst when they get shot at."

That was the typical response he gave to just about everything. He was never the most animated or emotional man before the Great War, but by its end he had grown a layer of cynicism thicker than the shell of an armoured tank. It was quite pitiful, the way he seemed to be so unsatisfied with his own misery that he could do no more than drag the rest of us down. Not this time, though. I was too happy to be affected by the touch of his despair.

It was a rare event to be accepted back into the forces, but these were unusual times. Only a few months earlier, the war had ended just days after I completed my basic flight training. Fresh-faced and naive, I had rushed to sign up as soon as I was of age, despite the protestations from my parents. I wanted to fight for my country, but more than that; I wanted to be off the ground, speeding through the clouds, chasing the Red Baron with the wind on my face. The Air Force didn't know what to do with their sudden excess of eager, but inexperienced, young pilots and I found myself back home in Edinburgh before I had time to realise that my dreams had come crashing back to Earth.

Wings clipped, I shelved my ambitions of flight and resigned myself to a more sedate life working on the buses. Not even as a driver, mind you, I had to start as a lowly clippy. Nothing wrong with that, but I thought I was destined for loftier pursuits; rattling up and down Princes Street on a daily basis had never been part of the plan. I knew there were plenty of people who would have been thrilled to do the job, in many ways I enjoyed the more sociable aspects of it, but the worst thing about my situation had almost nothing to do with the job itself. There were a couple of occasions when I could have sworn that I saw my father smirk on my return from a day's work, as though he was actually glad that I was stuck in a more mundane and down-to-earth job than he was. It was only visible for a fleeting moment, of course, but his disapproval acted like a magnifying glass on my own dissatisfaction, making me feel worse than I had any reason to.

It was my sister who changed my life and set me back on the course I had once dreamt of. She was going out with a lad who's father worked in the Air Ministry and he put in a good word for me. Within a week I had a letter calling me for interview, and the next thing I knew I was back on course as apprentice rigger on the newly completed His Majesty's Airship R34. That was a job I was made for. I knew it before they even had the chance to explain what it entailed; it simply sounded wonderful and that was enough for me.

I worked at the East Fortune airship base, about an hour East of Edinburgh, starting off by learning the ropes on the older R29, before travelling with the rest of the crew to Glasgow to familiarise ourselves with the R34 in all her magnificent glory. Taking her out on her initial trials was my first real experience of flight, after which there was no going back for me. My father referred to my job as being "a glorified patch repair man", which at its most basic level was not too far from the truth. What he missed from his snide observation was the breathtaking wonder of looking down at the beauty of the World in miniature below, the freedom of sliding out of view of the ground into a cloud and the camaraderie of the riggers and engineers working together in defiance of nature. All of this alone would have made my life worthwhile, as far as I was concerned, but even on my first day at the aerodrome, there were rumours and hushed whispers of greater things.

Word had it that the R34 was to be the first craft to cross the Atlantic by air. Excitement grew at the thought of meeting such a challenge, but unfortunately it was to be a prize won by an aeroplane, rather than an airship. Our girl sustained some minor damage during a test flight which laid her up for repairs and delayed our departure. At least it was two British lads, Alcock and Brown, who made the non-stop crossing successfully a couple of weeks before we finally set off. An American crew had made the crossing about a month before them, but they had several stops on the way, so we all overlooked that. We were the first to attempt it from East to West, though, against the prevailing Atlantic winds, and ours was to be a return journey.

The whole family came to see me off on that dreich July morning at the aerodrome, dressed as though for church and filled with a heady mixture of pride and trepidation at the thought of waving me off into the sky, possibly never to return. We said our goodbyes, with me promising to return safe with souvenirs from New York whilst they fussed over details, "have you got your toothbrush?", "make sure you eat your vegetables" and a dozen other queries that served to distract them from the fact that I was about to embark on a unique journey. This was to be an epic ocean crossing of a crew held aloft by an inflammable gas that presented only one of hundreds of ways we could meet our maker before reaching our destination.

As I joined my crew-mates and boarded the airship towering in the dark above us, I saw my parents hug in a way I hadn't seen before. Mum was holding Father like she used to when comforting us as children, following a fall or some other minor accident. I don't think I had ever seen him need her support before.

The voyage was hard work, but mercifully free of major incident. We had to repair one engine with chewing gum and lost another due to over-revving, there was only enough fuel for another two hours of flight when we finally arrived and some of the meals were pretty poor, but those all paled into insignificance as we approached our destination. I'd seen pictures of New York, of course, but nothing could have prepared me for the size of it. We filled the sky wherever we went, but in New York it seemed like the ground was reaching up to try and touch us. Our welcoming American hosts told us the tallest of the skyscrapers was the Woolworth Building at over fifty floors, which explains why they are so impressive as I don't know of any building over five floors in Edinburgh. We were treated like royalty for our short stay to refuel and prepare for the return trip, meeting everyone from local dignitaries to President Wilson himself, tasting strange new foods and making many new friends so far from home.

Heading back East was faster with the weather behind us and, just over three days after setting off from the States, we arrived back to a heroes' welcome. The papers were full of the story of our success for several days, though things have been a little more quiet over the last couple of weeks as the ship gets a refit. We're all hoping our journey will open up the airways to a whole fleet of long distance airships like our "Tiny", maybe even bigger and better.

For this time-served rigger, it's been the most incredible year of my life. My dreams didn't work out as expected, but I could never even have imagined the spectacle of my reality. Strangely enough though, the most important moment of it all was that fleeting glimpse of my father overcome with pride. That image is etched forever in my mind alongside the skyscrapers and those vast Atlantic clouds.

The Widget
By: Guy David

I got the replicator in January. It was a present from my girlfriend. The day after that I gave my resignation letter to my former boss. With the replicator being able to use precise blueprints downloaded from the internet to create just about anything, no job salary was necessary. That was a year ago. It started out nice, nothing but loafing around, doing nothing, but after about a month and a half I got bored. Sure, hanging around with my girlfriend all day had it's charm of endless conversations about anything in the world and we where getting to know each other in a whole new way, but there's just so much you can do together until you start getting on each other's nerves. I needed something to occupy my time, some hobby.

It was in mid February that I decided to pursue this old dream of mine. I was a teenager when computers and the internet became so important that it started changing the human race into something new. People became nodes in a communication hub. It was during that period that skilled programmers came and programmed little entertainment widgets and games into websites such as FaceBook. For a short period I dreamt about programing such a widget, but I was too young, too lazy. Now I had all the time in the world.

I opened a connection with my mind, using the in-head interface and connected to eBay. Searching, I found a vintage computer, a 2012 MacBook Touch. A few minutes later the computer materialized in my replicator. I connected it and reached again through my in-head interface, searching for the necessary skills. Waves of code washed through my head. In about an hour I was fluent in PHP. Now came the fun part. I had a vogue idea of what I wanted to do, but as I started writing things on a blank virtual page and storing it in the in-head interface, things became much clearer. What I was aiming for was the creation of a new world in two dimensions. A world based on surreal drawings and old fashioned web connections.

I wanted to do this the old fashioned way. I used the replicator again to materialize an old scroll and a calligraphic pen, then I started experimenting, drawing line after line of a strange and surreal land. I used the replicator to materialize a scanner and scanned the images into the old computer. As I did that, all the years of my younger self came back floating from my memory. I remembered a life of endless office hours in front of the computer with my coffee in one hand and the keyboard under my other hand. I remembered coming home to an empty house but never being alone, always a node in the endless sea of social connections. I met my girlfriend that way, in one of those early virtual worlds that I frequented, worlds that are so much a part of our life now that we sometimes forget what is real and what is simulated.

As I switched on the computer a wave of nostalgia washed over me. I started planting lines of code, building my little virtual two dimensional country from scratch. I didn't connect to any data base to learn how to do this. All the knowledge I needed was already in my head. All I had to do was to put the code together. It took me about a year of challenging work. It was amazing to see this come together. It was the most fulfilling year I had in my life since I left work. I was exhausted when I finished, but I knew the interesting part of my life was only beginning. All the paths of a bright future where open to me. I rested.

A Slice of Life
By: Norval Joe

Veronica raised her 32 oz cup of Cherry Cola, and he his Dr. Pepper, in a toast to the future. Still holding her cup in the air, she asked, "Does this mean we're not newlyweds anymore?"
MIke looked into her dark, almost black eyes. Her face was framed by long, straight, hair, that fell to the middle of her back like a glistening obsidian veil; equally as black as her eyes. He was as awed by her beauty, this evening in the pizza parlor, as he had been a year before. However, he felt like he knew her even less, now, after a year of marriage, than he had when he proposed. If knowing about your spouse was a sign of no longer being considered, 'newly wed', then they would likely carry the title for quite a while longer. "I guess we can call ourselves newly weds as long as we want, it's not like you love a person less, after a year." He was rambling and stammering. Typically, their conversations were light, and somewhat shallow, but tonight there had been something in her tone that unbalanced him.
She picked up her slice of pizza and nibbled off the tiniest bit at the end, which she mashed between her top and bottom front teeth. She had done the same on the night that he had proposed, one year previously, in this very booth. At the time, he thought it was cute, endearing, but watching her picking at the pizza now, he wondered if she ever ate more than one tiny bite. He tired to picture her taking a big bite, filling her whole mouth, or even eating the crust, but such a memory couldn't be found.
"It's been a whole year. Look at how far we have come." She said in a misty romantic way. Mike was glad that he hadn't been drinking his Dr. Pepper when she had said it, and that it was noisy enough in the pizzeria to disguise his inadvertent snort.
He couldn't think of any comment that was more diametrically opposed to how he was feeling right then.
They had dated on and off for just a few months, until one night when he found himself staring into those deep black mysterious eyes. He could almost see himself reflected in them. He heard himself say to her, as if he was in a dream, or like thoughts spoken out loud, without breath, or without moving his lips, "Let's get married." He had barely murmured it, then as if suddenly becoming aware of what he had said, and recognizing the true depth of his love and commitment to her, he declared with more animation, "Veronica, marry me!"
"Oh, Mike," she cried, her enthusiasm, sudden, overwhelming, and contagious. "Yes," she said, taking his hands in hers and tipping her head to the side and down, so that she looked at him out of the corners of her eyes, and smiled coyly. His heart nearly stopped as she smiled the demure smile, that had an almost magical hold on him. She leaned across the table and kissed him.
"Let's go," she laughed and got up from the table, pulling him to his feet as well. He followed her, laughing, his heart lighter and more at ease than any time he could remember in his life. As they approached the door to the parking lot, he paused, "Where are we going?" he asked.
"To get married," she said, her brow furrowing slightly, and just the slightest hint of annoyance in her voice, though maintaining a winning smile throughout. She shook her head, slightly, as if clearing it, and said, "Come on, I'll drive."
Before he knew it, they were in her black 280ZX, on the fastest trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to South Lake Tahoe, he would ever take. At times he squeezed his eyes shut to ease the vertigo from the blur of pine trees flying past his window. He gripped his knees as she sped the little car around the sharp turns of the two lane highway through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
They were married, and they lived together in an East Bay apartment. That was almost the extent of their relationship; that, pizza, and soda.
On the rare evenings that she wasn't working late, she was apathetic about cooking anything in their tiny kitchen. With their entry level jobs they had barely enough to pay their rent and the transportation costs to get them to their jobs across the bay in The City.
If he complained that they didn't have the cash to eat out, she would magically produce a $20 bill. Not enough to eat at a fancy restaurant, but always enough for pizza and a soda. If Mike would reply with, as he did several times in the first few months of their marriage, "We have pizza all the time, let's have a burger, or something," she would tilt her head to the side, in her endearing way, smile a small smile and say, "No, I really want pizza tonight." He couldn't help, but give in.
Her phone pinged indicating a text message. She put down her pizza to thumb the buttons on her phone in reply. "Jenny," she said, rolling her eyes, but smiling as she replied to her friend. Mike had never met the only friend that Veronica ever spoke of, but was well accustomed to the text message interruptions. An evening never went by, if they were actually together, that their short conversations, or more likely, the ubiquitous silence, wasn't regularly interrupted by the 'ping' of Jenny's text messages.
She set the phone down on the table, next to her soda, and was picking up her pizza when the phone pinged again. She did a double take when she looked as the short bit of text on the phone. Mike had to look closely at her face to see it, but she was surprised. Not once during their year together had Mike seen Veronica appear the least surprised. She spent every moment of the day with an expression of confident understanding that the world was turning just as she had expected it should. Though she appeared happy, there was something about the message that had caught her completely off guard.
"Ronnie, what," Mike began, but stopped abruptly as she stood and said, "I have to go to the bathroom." She walked off with out further comment or waiting for a reply. He watched her walk, her long silky hair flowing from side to side, opposite the sway of her slender hips. He watched as she disappeared into the women's room, and thought that tonight they should celebrate their anniversary in a more physically romantic way.
He thought about the many times that they had made love, the memories of their passion, and of times when they quietly held one another in their arms. As he thought about these times, a feeling of unease grew within him. He had these memories of their love making, but couldn't place from this memories when the specific events had occurred; not within the last month, or, for that matter, the month before.
When she did come home from work before he was in bed, there was always the pizza parlor, and afterwards she would walk straight from the front door to the bedroom, declaring, "What a day! I'm worn out. Make sure I don't oversleep." By the time Mike would catch up to her, she would be settled into bed and, apparently, asleep. No matter how he teased and cajoled, prodded and pushed, she was no more responsive than the mattress itself.
He picked up his slice of pizza, never taking his eyes from the door through which she had disappeared, and took a bite. He was surprised that his pizza was cold. He looked at his watch; it was half past eight; Veronica must have been in the bathroom for more than a half hour. He was sure that he hadn't taken his eyes from the bathroom door and hadn't seen anyone enter or leave.
A slice of life.
He quickly approached the counter and spoke to the woman behind the till, "Excuse me, Ma'am, but my wife went into the women's room a half hour ago, and hasn't come out. Could you go in and see if she is alright?" She said, "OK," but looked at him like he was a pervert, in the way that only the truly self absorbed teenagers can. She leaned in through the door to the women's room, then stepped inside. Before the door could close completely, she was coming back out and shaking her head. "Sorry, but there is nobody in there. Are you sure she didn't leave?"
Mike had a sudden overwhelming feeling of bewilderment, his head spun and if was difficult to breath. He felt like he really couldn't be sure of anything. He could see the ZX through the window, parked along the curb so she hadn't slipped out and driven off. He sat back down at their table; her phone was there, where she had put it down.
A thought occurred to him; her text messages would show the times that they were sent. Maybe that would give him a clue about how long she had really been gone.
The first message from Jenny was at 7:46 PM. He went ahead and read the message that followed, more out of habit than out of a desire to pry. It said, 'Checking in for status report.'
Veronica's reply followed two minutes later. Mike read the baffling message several times, trying to fit its meaning into his stuttering mind. She had sent, 'Status same as yesterday and everyday. It's been a year, look what I've done with myself. Get me out of here!'
The final text was sent from Jenny at 7:49 PM. 'Boss says, Good Work. Come home. Transcendsion shift in 5 minutes. See you soon.'
Mike finished off the last of his Dr. Pepper, and stared sadly at her phone, an aching sence of loss gradually gowing in his chest. She was gone from his life even more suddenly than she had entered it. All he had left of her was her phone, the ZX, and a years worth of memories of their times together, that probably didn't even happen.

The Asylum
By: Justin Lowmaster

Dr. Danson has signed my release papers. I have been declared sane. I'm holding an envelope of some cash. The asylum's crafting program allowed me to learn trade skills. The profits made from the cabinetry building are mine to keep. In my pocket is a list of places of employment and residence that are friendly to the asylum. My old life forgotten, my hopes are high that I can begin life anew.


I'm walking among all the regular people on the sidewalks of Chicago. I shade my eyes. I don't want to look up for some reason. A Model T drives by. The bright sun glints off of the metal spokes and into my eyes. My eyes track it as the bright ball of light dissipates as the car moves on. I pitch forward a bit.

"Hey, watch it!"


I realize I had stopped walking.

The man has already walked off. That bright light, it reminds me of something. If I could just remember ... no, I should not try to remember. When the doctors tried to get me to remember I got worse. I should let my hidden memories stay in the shadows of my mind. Both my life before the incident, the event that drove me insane, and after are hidden in secret places in my mind. I begin walking again. I must keep my mind away from the past. I need a job, something to occupy me.


The cheerful bell jingles as I walk into Ben's Groceries. I have Dr. Danson's card in my hand. I'm fidgeting with it in my pocket. I pull it out to look at it. The corners are bent. I push it back into my pocket and keep my hands in the open. A young redheaded boy is totaling the price of a customer's goods and a middle-aged woman is arranging cans on a shelf. I don't think either of them is Ben. I walk deeper into the store. The soft smell of fresh fruits calm my nerves. I walk down an aisle of pasta and sauces towards the back of the store. Perhaps Ben's office is there.

I spot a door marked 'manager'. I make my way towards it. It opens. A tall man with light brown skin steps out. Long black hair hangs behind him in a braid. He turns to me and smiles.

"Welcome! I haven't seen you in my store before, how are you?"

I freeze and stare. On his left cheek is a tattoo of the sun. He looks at me quizzically.

"Is everything alright?"

"I, I, I shouldn't be here."

"Can I help you with something, are you in need?"

I turn and rush out of the store.


I unlock the door to my basement apartment. The door opens, revealing darkness. I hesitate a moment then dart my hand into the blackness and strike at the light switch. The lights turn on and I exhale a breath I didn't know had been locked up in my lungs. Inside I take off my jumpsuit from the warehouse I work at. Thankfully it is well lit but has few windows. I shove the jumpsuit into the sink and fill it with water. I have a memory of making music with washboard, but it just isn't in me anymore. Perhaps I need to spend a night out. Not in the dark, though, somewhere well lit. Maybe I'll go see a show.


The curtains are lifting. The set is a backdrop of trees. Dancing fairies adorn the stage. They whirl and twirl. A man wearing green walks onto the stage. He is standing in the middle. A brilliant light beams down from above and envelops the man in green. I squeeze my eyes shut. I enjoy some of the dialog and the music, but the memory of that light, it reminds of of the sun, but of something more. At the applause, I open my eyes. I make for the exit right away. As I walk home I am trying to stay on the edge of streetlight and shadow. I unlock and open my door and dart my hand for the switch. Terror overfills my stomach when nothing happens. My fingertips talk through the screaming fear in my mind. I can barely hear what they are saying. I missed the switch. I try again. The lights turn on. I nearly faint with relief.


I haven't left my apartment for days. My sleep is fitful. I dream of huge lights and of vast darkness. But, the darkness is not empty, there is something inside it, something terrible. I need food, I need to work, my mind is cracking again. Gathering up as much resolve as I can, I stand up and walk out the front door. I will go to the asylum. It is early evening. The sun is sinking over the edge of the horizon. I ignore it as best I can, but I feel it there, peering at me. This is the worst part of the day, light and darkness mixing together. I shiver but move steadily onward.

Just like when I left the asylum, the streets are busy. Crowds of people adorn the sides walks in the fading evening light. They ignore me and I them. I just want my mind to work again, I want it to be like ... before what? What made me this way? Why does my own mind plague me with terrors that are just beyond conscious thought? What are these things that ...

"Hey, watch out!"

I stop, but realize the shout was not directed at me. Two men are carrying a large mirror from a truck towards an alleyway. Someone had nearly run into them. The alleyway is dark, dark like, a cave? Why does that ... The men turn and the orange sunlight strikes the mirror and a beam of light shines into the alleyway. In a flash, I remember.


In the darkness it sleeps. If the light of the sun ever reaches it, it will awaken. When it rises from the deep black of the earth it would remove the taint from the earth, remove those who do not understand. Those who do not understand that everything else is meaningless. The sun hangs in the sky at the right time only once a year. I realize that in the next few days the sun will be right in the sky. How do I know this? I studied it. I was a professor of astronomy. I found a book on worshipers of the Sun. More study led me to a group that searched for an ancient being, a sun god, who was deep below the earth. They wanted to wake it. In my studies I found them. I spent time with them. I found it all entertain and fun. I didn't believe in there traditions superstitions. I really wanted to know what they would do when no great event occurred after their ritual.

Something happened, something went wrong. The day had come, the sun was right. Mirrors were installed in the caves and the light would shine deep into the earth, and it would waken. Someone had stopped it, broken the mirrors. Shots were fired, many dead. But, not before a brief flash of light had shone on it, on the sleeping ... thing. It had opened its eye for just a moment before it went dark, and in that moment before something knocked me unconscious ... that thing, its eye. In the briefest moment it had seen, it had looked, right at me, and then ...

I'm running right for it. I crash headfirst into the mirror. The thing looked at me then I heard it, not with my ears, but, I know what is whispered to me. People yell and scream but I hear them from far away. It told me my name, and it told me my fate, and the fate of the earth. I fall to the sidewalk cut and bleeding, my life pouring out onto the ground amidst broken glass and sunlight fading to darkness. It told me, everything. When I awoke, I had forgot, but, like me, one day, it will wake, and it will remember.

Magic Quadrant Part 7
By: Scott Roche

The whole conversation between the Captain and the aliens played itself out in the nearly invisible ear piece that the saboteur wore constantly. It allowed him to monitor any internal or external communications merely by focusing his thoughts. Section 31agents had all manner of fun toys that average Starfleet personnel knew nothing about. Sometimes he wondered what things were out there that were mysteries even to him. There was no way his bosses told him everything.

The conversation was a good example. He knew only the part he was to play in this and what contingencies he should be ready to bring to bear. He didn’t know if there were any other agents on board this ship or what the nature of the aliens on the enemy vessel was. Even those things he felt he knew for sure were suspect.

It was crucial to just keep his head down and perform his cover job with the professionalism expected of anyone in the Fleet. He was to neither excel nor under perform. Either action could result in him being brought up before his superiors and scrutinized. His identity was nearly impenetrable, but it was that word ‘nearly’ that kept him sharp. If he were captured then he might be neutralized by another agent or called upon to eliminate himself. As much as he was willing to die, doing so because he had failed his mission by blowing his identity was no way to go out.

Spending a year as a low level member of the security force on board the Kongo had hardly been his first choice of assignment though. In that entire time he felt he had accomplished practically nothing. Here he was, a man trained in espionage and infiltration, one of the tops in his field and he was a glorified security guard. Those were dangerous thoughts though. To combat them, he sank further and further into the layers of the person who had been created out of whole cloth by the geniuses at HQ, exploring complexities and nuances of the person he had become.

His name, at least the only name he would answer to these days was John Wilkerson. The lieutenant had graduated from the Academy with little distinction and had served on a remote Starbase for six months before being assigned to the Kongo. There were no pesky siblings or living parents to worry with. He had been a loaner all his life, not so much as to interfere with a clean psych eval, but enough to make a lack of close friends not all that unusual. The first few months on board had been lonely because of that.

He dealt with it well enough. In his life before all this he hadn’t exactly been a social butterfly. There were people in his past that he missed though and like anyone else, he needed an outlet. Over the last few months he started hanging out with people off duty and went so far as to get into a regular poker game. A few co-workers and people form other departments considered him a good friend and he was beginning to think of them the same way.

Thankfully he had avoided any romantic entanglements. The cute redhead that worked in engineering had been making eyes at him recently, but so far though that was it. Maintaining that discipline became more difficult with every passing day, though. Fortunately, the mission was upon him now and it appeared that he wouldn’t need to keep up the charade much longer. Based on what he knew, once the ship returned to Federation space there would be some event that called him away and no one would ever hear from Lieutenant Wilkerson again.

He broke his reverie to return to the matter at hand. Once they entered the unknown quadrant the Security Chief decided that all of her people needed to be out on shipboard patrol. She figured that given the circumstances, seeing some red shirts around would help calm everyone’s nerves. That was why Wilkerson found himself patrolling the decks with Lieutenant Avilla and thinking on the past year. He liked working with her. She was a bit chatty, but that let him mull things over. There was never much pressure on him to keep up his end of the conversation.

She was in mid-sentence when they both heard the tell tale sound of transporter beams. Someone was materializing in the hall just around the corner from the sound of things. That was alarming mostly because as far as he knew, the shields were still up. That meant that either someone was transporting within the confines of the vessel or someone was able to go through their shields. Neither option meant anything good.

Chatty though Avilla was, she was still a professional security officer. Both red-shirts had their Type II phasers out and ready in an eyeblink. Almost in unison they checked and ensured that the power settings were set to maximum stun and wide dispersion. Between the two the beams would cover the whole hallway and would put even the largest known humaoids down for a half hour at least.

Wilkerson crouched low as did his partner, each hugging a bulkhead for support. The noise of the transporter beam had been replaced by a quiet chittering sound. The volume was just below what would be normal conversation for most humans , but he couldn’t make out any words.

A movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Avilla gestured at a communications wall panel. He shook his head. Calling in reinforcements would be nice, but using that or the communicators at their belts would make enough noise to alert whoever it was up ahead. It was good to know that there was one close though, just in case.

He thrust his chin up ahead and they continued the crouch walk towards the intruders. Once around the bend the Wilkerson and Avila saw the creatures that had boarded the Kongo. Neither of them had seen the interaction Captain Thornton had had. So they weren’t prepared for what awaited them. The creatures were somewhat spider like from the waist up, Sean had got that right. From there down though, they were more like centipedes.

A segmented body at least two meters long with legs sprouting off every decimeter or so, flowed out form the bristly torso. Thee three creatures wore no clothes and were hard to tell apart, due to the subtle differences in color and the alien nature of their bodies. With time their individual characteristics would be plain enough. Right now all the two could focus on was the notion that the Kongo had been invaded.

The high pitched whine of phaser fire echoed off of the walls. Their training served them both well when it came to the timing and coverage of their shots. The energy did overlap as desired and all three targets were bathed in the brief flash. Instead of falling over as expected though, the trio turned, each clasping what were unmistakably weapons in one pair of segmented arms.

What have I Done
By Jeff Hite

It has been along time since I wrote something down by hand, but it seems appropriate now. In the last year since I started as captain of the Columbia a great many things have changed. Although it is not the case, it feels like the galaxy is changing around me as I stand perfectly still. Standing still is something that I cannot do. Even if I wanted to, the ship moves all the time, even when we are parked around a planet, we are moving faster than most people who are earth bound will ever travel. But, it is not the physical standing still that I fear, but the inability to change, and that inability that might cloud my judgment and prevent me from acting in the way that best protects this ship and her crew.
Ten days ago we encountered a ship from Earth's past. A relic of the past that I thought we had left behind. The captain of that ship could not see past their need for urgency because of dwindling supplies, to prevent the deaths of most of his crew. I hope that at least I have not become that inflexible.
When we found the Molly Brown, she was in an unstable orbit around a mostly ice covered planet, and her orbit was decaying. Had we gotten here two or maybe three weeks later, we would not have found her. As it was we used the transporter device to send a team over and recover what they could before she burned up in the atmosphere. They found one survivor in suspended animation and were able to recover most of the computers records before the orbit became too unstable to safely have people on board.
The one survivor has still not communicated anything coherent to us, but from the records it appears that most of the crew was lost when they were hit by massive storm on the ice planet's sister's surface. The two planets are tidally locked and cause not only surface quakes, but also large storms that can cover a hemisphere at a time. It was one of these storms that killed most of the crew and stranded the rest as their shuttle craft was damaged and crashed.
If we have pieced that data together correctly, it looks as though they made a decision about which planet to land on before they had all the data they needed and it turned out to be fatal to all but a very few of them. We believe that it is possible though unlikely that there are survivors on the more arid of the two planets. If they are there, they would be the grandchildren, maybe even the great grand children of those who first landed there. To that end we are scanning the planet below, but it might be a slow process with large number of caves and tunnels.
I wonder what choices drove these people to this point, what things happened in their last year of life, that drove them to steal a ship, and take a desperate leap across two the stars, with no sure destination. Then to make a decision about where they would settle with little or no data, that ended in a fatal error. What things would have to happen in my life that would drive me to do that.
Captain Hernandez put her pen down, and looked around her cabin. What had driven her to this point. What had brought them to this place in the galaxy, that they might discover this failure of the human endeavor. She looked at her screen again and at the slowly scrolling data that was being pulled from the ancient data tapes. She smiled at the memory of the look on the engineers face when he saw them, and then the frustration that he had trying to rig something up to read them. The data they had gotten so far had been only the most basic. She was hopping that eventually they would get to the personal logs, the messages home, or even some personnel information so they could know more about who these people were. What she did not want to do is leave these people with no history, with no record of their passing. That their sacrifice, their lives would come to nothing seemed unfair. Then she remembered a quote that she had read, in one of the early academy classes, "A man said to the universe: 'Sir, I exist!' 'However,' replied the universe. 'The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation.'"
She would make sure that since chance had brought them to this point in the universe, these people would not be forgotten, even if the universe felt no obligation to them. She stood and walked to the bridge then. Her life over the last year, had one effect that would change the way that she looked at life forever. Every life, though it may feel small and insignificant at the time, means something, and deserves to be remember by the universe. The Crew of the molly brown, may all be dead by now, but they would not be forgotten. She could only hope that every star ship captain that came after her would take this lesson with them. Never forget those whose lives come before you. You never know when one of those lives will effect you in the future.