March 31, 2016

JOURNEY TO THE PORTRAIT’S SECRET #84: July 31, 1946 series is a little bit biographical and a little bit imaginary about my dad and a road trip he took in the summer of 1946, when he turned fifteen. He and a friend hitchhiked from Loring Park to Duluth, into Canada and back again. He was gone from home for a month. I was astonished and fascinated by the tale. So, I added some speculation about things I've always wondered about and this series is the result. To read earlier SHORT LONG JOURNEY NORTH clips, click on the label to the right, scroll down to and click OLDER ENTRIES seven or eight times. The FIRST entry is on the bottom of the last page.

The tractor trailer having slid to a stop, Edwina Olds, most lately Lieutenant, WACS (ret.) nodded then looked out the window. The cow she’d stopped in time to avoid smashing it death, stood in the middle of the road and behind it loomed a sign that read, FAIRELANE CREAMERY.

Tommy Hastings and Freddie Merrill, sharing the passenger seat next to her exclaimed, “This is it!”

Just then an old man and a young man, both with shotguns, stepped into the road and the headlights. The older man shouted, “Come on out with your hands up!”

Freddie grabbed the door handle and jerked it up. Ed exclaimed, “Stop right there, boy!” He froze.

“What?” the boys said in unison.

Ed shook her head, saying, “I’m highest ranking here and so I’m your commanding officer. You both stay here while I speak with the gentlemen with the loaded weapons. We ain’t in the Philippines anymore and we ain’t at war. So…” she opened the door slowly and with hands raised, stepped out of the cab and down to the ground without closing the door. The boys heard her say, “Excuse the rough stop, Sir. I have two boys with me, on Tommy Hastings and another Freddie Merrill who said I might check with you to buy some fuel for my rig. They seem to be pursued by Socialists from Duluth and as I’m a friend of theirs, I’m working to take them back to the safety of their home in Minneapolis.”

At the mention of their names, Charlie Fairlaine lowered his rifle, stepped behind his father and ran up to the passenger door. He yanked the door open, looked at the boys, and shouted back to his father, “It’s them, Dad!”

The elder Fairlaine lowered his shotgun, shooed his cow back to her corral then said, “Pardon me, ma’am. You be…”

Ed lifted her chin and said, “Lieutenant Edwina Olds, Women’s Army Corps, recently retired.” She nodded at the sign, “I take it you’re the Fairlaine advertised?”

Charlie jerked his head to one side and Tommy and Freddie climbed down while Ed and Mr. Fairlaine negotiated a fill on gas. Charlie gave them both unexpected slugs in the shoulder and grinned at them. “Good to see you two. Stayin’ out of trouble?

Tommy started to say, “Yea…”

Freddie said, “Hardly! The Socialists are chasing us ‘cuz Tommy’s mom has some kind of crazy picture or something and they want it so bad…” Tommy slugged Freddie, hard, because Mr. Fairlaine and Ed were looking over at them. Freddie rubbed his shoulder, looking down at the ground and pouting.

Ed called over to them, “Come on, boys! Mr. Fairlaine’s going to give us a fill – but you have a job to do, too.”

Freddie looked at Tommy, who let his eyes grow wide. “What…”

“Come over here, boys!” Ed snapped and they hurried. Charlie walked after them, grinning.

“Now listen careful, boys. Mr. Fairlaine here has a trade he’d like to make with us – ‘cause I don’t have any cash on me for gas. Only the company checks. So I had to make a deal in order for us to fill up and get you back home before our Socialist enemies catch you and me and turn us into roadkill.”

She nodded to Mr. Fairlaine, who said, “I’ll fill this honored veteran’s gas tank on one condition – and it’s up to you two.”

Tommy said, “What could we do, Sir?”

“My thoughts exactly! But Charles here seems to think you might be able to help him out. Next summer, the wife and I are going to California to see her sister. While we’re gone, we were thinking that the three of you might just barely be able to maintain the farm. No pay – but I’ll give this here veteran all the gas she can pack and won’t charge her nothin’. Charlie will get your help and me and the wife might actually take a vacation for once in our lives.”

“What do you say?” Ed asked.

Tommy looked at Freddie who shrugged and said, “Get me away from home.”

Tommy nodded and said, “Me, too.” He looked at Charlie, “Might be fun, too.” Ed held out  a hand, first to Tommy, then to Freddie and they shook. Then she held out a hand to Mr. Fairlaine, and he shook. Next to them, the truck rumbled.

Ed looked up just as a sliver of sun broke the horizon. She said, “Looks like it’s August the first, boys. Let’s get gas and get you home.”

March 29, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 249 Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: apocalyptic diary/journal/log
Andrianampoinimerinatompokoindrindra Zehrezgi – who preferred to go by Andri Zee – tried to keep his last meal down as the boat rocked beneath his feet.

“Isn’t this exhilarating?” exclaimed Shamma Maslah.

“When do you think the hurricane is going to stop?” he asked.

Shamma burst out laughing. “There’s no hurricane! In fact this is the calmest day I’ve seen since we were out here.” She glanced at him and went to the railing and said, “If you don’t like the ocean, why’d you come out here?”
"This site is within the waters of my country.”

She made a face, saying, “I didn’t know you had a country. Not how you talk about it anyway.”

“Madagascar is my homeland!” She grunted and leaned over the rail, looking deeply into the water. “Watch out!” he cried, stepping forward, arm outstretched.

She looked at him and laughed, “What? It scares you when I lean out this far?” she said, leaning back over the railing. Suddenly the water below her grew dark and began to bubble, gently at first, then wildly. Water geysered into the air. She screamed and staggered backward, into Andri Zee’s arms and they watched in horror as...

A fluorescent orange conning tower surged out of the water, sluicing aside until the hatch on top opened up and a young lady waved at them.

Shamma shouted, “Laura! What’s going on?”

“You won’t believe what we discovered! Not only is Mauritia a sunken island – there was some sort of sealed chamber there!”

“What?” Andri exclaimed. Majoring in archaeology, THIS is what he’d come for! “Where is it?”

“They had to send down the big sub and they’re bringing up the entire chamber right now.”

Shamma looked at Andri then Liz, bobbing in the conning tower of the sub and shouted, “The time is all wrong! Mauritia sank when the dinosaurs died. There shouldn’t be anything there.”

Liz shrugged, “I don’t know about when it sank or what should and shouldn’t be there, but there’s something big and it looks like it was sealed. See you in a bit!”

They rendezvoused at the small sub dock. The massive winch from the ship platform had lifted a barnacled encrusted, roughly cubic case into the air and was swinging it over the helipad, where it lowered the box down.

The metal groaned as the cables above relaxed. Andri said, “It’s heavier than it looks.”

“Way heavier,” said Liz.

Shamma frowned. There was something about it. Something strange. Despite the noise around her, she could hear…not exactly hear…sense? Feel? She wasn’t sure. Something. The hot sun of the Indian Ocean beat down on the head of the crew. Men and women in trunks and halters scampered around the deck, disconnecting chains, cables, hosing down the object. SCUBA divers were lifting up from the waterline; heavy metal music abruptly blared from the deck speakers and the recovery work began in a part atmosphere.

Shamma found a spot, out of the way. Her work on the project was cataloging and identifying life forms; part of a survey team that had set out to begin to quantify the anecdotal evidence that the oceans were beginning to recover now that the world population had precipitously fallen during the H7N9 Pandemic of 2014-2016. With over two billion people dead, the Earth seemed empty now. It scared her sometimes. Abruptly, a  migraine assaulted her. It had been years since she had one.

That was when heard a voice, speaking in Olde English. She only caught the first few words, vaguely familiar, but somehow wrong as well, “In the beginning, I created this earth to inhabit heaven...” The migraine became blinding and with a squeak, she passed out.

Names: UAE, Somolian; Madagascar, Ethiopian; Hebrew (diminutive of “Elizabeth”)

March 27, 2016

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With the SciFutures Treatment (an idea bank company) Guy Stewart #34 September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

I’m going to skip the history a bit because I’m still somewhat in shock…

I am part of an online writers group called CODEX. We trade writing advice, share frustrations, and celebrate success together.

Occasionally, we share new markets or comment on closed ones.

In December of 2014, one of the members posted a call for writers for this company: “SciFutures - Prototyping the Future: SciFutures is a tech and innovation company that uses storytelling and science fiction prototyping to guide organizations in creating their preferred futures. We specialize in big, long established companies that need assistance dealing with the rate of exponential change that's happening in the world today. Find out what it's like writing science fiction stories for these corporations and what it means to be a futurist in this realm.”

I’d published a book and several articles that helped people use science in everyday life, from preaching children’s sermons to an experiment you could do involving heart rate and respiration at an all-girl sleepover. The science part was natural. The writing part was natural, too. So…

I sent the requested information and after a few, brief exchanges, really didn’t hear much from them until Thursday, March 17. I got this in my email before I left for work: “Dear Writers: I would like to invite you all to participate in our current brief on mood modulation which I have attached. It would be appreciated if you can let me know if you are unable to complete this assignment so I can offer your place to another writer. The deadline for this brief is Monday the 21st by 9am.”


How could anyone expect me to be creative, artistic, and you know, WRITERLY in four days?

I read the brief, and then I knew that contrary to what my “author’s voice” was screaming at me, I could do this. Besides, I’d done work-for-hire before. I talk about it here…hmmm…I just realized that I have NOT talked about it. I worked for the Science Museum of Minnesota and the television series, NEWTON’S APPLE writing curriculum that went with the TV broadcasts, as well as vacation Bible school puppet shows and activities for AugsburgFortress Publishing, and a handbook of twenty-six activities you could do with an online children’s magazine’s first story collection (only got a “kill fee” for that one).

At any rate, they wanted two treatments for the idea and as I work with high school students, the connections were obvious and I made use of experiences that I’d had in my thirty years of teaching and in the past five years as a guidance counselor.

I followed the formatting rules they’d included, wrote up the beginning of the stories (they only wanted about 1000 words each) and sent them off. The pay they offered was HUGE compared the amount of work involved – but then I realized that except for getting my work in CRICKET, CICADA, and ANALOG, the pay I’d gotten writing for the museum, the PBS television channel, and the religious publisher as a work-for-hire was coming out of a corporate budget and I didn’t retain any rights.

That might be the “worst” part of the deal. By the same token, it’s unlikely that I’ll be doing any more writing about Dr. Jill Yaeger, for a defunct TV Science show, or vacation Bible school curriculum all on my own. The mood modification ideas are interesting, but I actually like writing about aliens more than I like writing near-future SF…though I should point out that my sales of alien stories are minimal while my sale of stories dealing with technology in the near-to-century-ahead and how Humans interact with it have been noticeably more numerous…hmmm.

Two days ago, a HUGE deposit appeared in my PayPal account. They liked the ideas and promptly paid for them!The take-away from this Writing Advice:
  1. I went with my strengths – science and writing.
  2. I took up a challenge.
  3. I’m not an “author” (subject to “the inspiration of the Muse”), I AM a writer!
  4. I do work-for-hire – not often, but as necessary.
  5. I CAN write to a deadline, even when it’s short!
  6. I shouldn’t have been surprised (but I was!), I’m a pretty good writer and I like thinking about how science and Humans interact.

Anyone else out there work-for-hire sometimes? What was your experience like?

March 25, 2016

LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION -- Chapter 40 Earth, there are three Triads intending to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. The Braiders accidentally created a resonance wave that will destroy the Milky Way and the only way to stop it is for the Yown’Hoo-Kiiote-Human Triads to build a physical wall. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society may produce the Membrane to stop the wave.

The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds.

“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”

“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”

 “Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”

 “Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)

All of a sudden, I was lifted from the ground. Fax, Pack Second of their part of our Triad, tried to run, but a white hand grabbed his tail and gave it a yank. He yelped, then fell to the ground unconscious – something to do with the tail being a fifth limb and yanking it hard enough to dislocate the bones, it caused an electrical surge into the brain stunning him.

My attention went back to the owner of the hand as it turned to me, at an angle impossible for a living Humanoid. When it’s eyes began to glow and when I lashed out with a judo kick and hit solid plastic...I knew I was dead.

The hand tightened around my throat. Gasping, I could feel myself start to blank out when I heard a voice shout, “Oscar?”

That voice I recognized just before the world around me started to fade away – it was my great uncle, Tim Orwell. I tried to say his name, but it came out a strangled wheeze.

I heard him shout, “Drop him!” The hand released me and I fell to the cold ground. I threw up. I heard Fax snuffling and a moment later, he stood up in his canine form and horked up a blob as well.

My great uncle said, “Don’t you two make a fine couple.”

Scrambling to my feet, I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and knelt by Fax. Looking up at him, I said, “What are you doing here?”

He snorted then said, “I live here. I think me asking the question would make more sense.”

“We’re left the Cities because the Dome was attacked and someone’s trying to kill the Triad.”

My great uncle went to one knee, scooped me and Fax up, and shouted something in a language I’d never heard before. The humanoid robot – not a realistic-looking one like my great uncle – took off for the barn. Great Uncle Tim said, “We have to get all of you undercover. Those choppers will be back when they realize you couldn’t have gotten much farther than my farm.”

“This isn’t a farm! It’s a dump! Nobody would think Humans lived here!”

“Perfect,” he replied and with a leap that landed us on at the foot of the steps of the farmhouse’s back porch. He strode up and with a shoulder, pushed the door open. It was like passing through a portal into another world. I’d have figured that we’d gone through some sort of spacetime portal but I knew perfectly well that Humans certainly didn’t have that technology – we’d barely started exploring the asteroid belt and the atmospheres of Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Neptune when the Ideology War of the Kiiote and Yown’Hoo spilled all over Earth. But as advanced as their tech was over ours, neither of them had managed to jump distances instantaneously. The run down farmhouse we’d been Peeping Tom-ing into had vanished and we appeared to be in a corridor leading to a well-guarded checkpoint. GU Tim carried us past unmoving robots identical to the one that had tried to strangle me.

Before we reached them though, ten of the white plastic robots appeared at a place where the farmhouse door intersected this space. Each one carried two unconscious Kiiote or Yown’Hoo – except the last one, who carried an unconscious ‘Shayla, bleeding from a head wound; and a blood-smeared robot carrying what was left of the immature Yown’Hoo Ked-sah-ti. I squirmed until Tim released me then raced back, shouting, “What did you do to it, you monster?”

The robot held the immature out in its arms and said, “The Humans in helicopters shot the immature. I had nothing…” I cut it off by taking Ked-sah-ti and shoving the unfeeling thing away.

I ran back to GU Tim and said, “You can save it, can’t you?” I admit, I was choking up. The blood, the emotion, the fact that there were people chasing the Triad, the fact that ‘Shayla wasn’t awake to help me decide anything made my already hyper sensitivity rocket into full-blown hysteria.

Tim didn’t take it, but reached out instead and touched the immatures neck then shook his head. “It’s far too late. Its body is already cooling.”

Dao-hi, Herd Mother to one third of the Triad clacked on her sharp hooves over to the dead one, snuffled it, sneezed then walked back to me and said, “Its death will be charged to all Humans and to you in particular.” Then she stepped back and reared, pawing the air with her hooves. I knew better than to move even a centimeter in any direction. While the act was symbolic; representing the vicious battles fought millennia ago on the Yown’Hoo homeworld, the swipes of her hooves could both crush a Human skull and gouge out gobs of Human flesh.

I’d seen it happen in real life once. That was enough. After three swipes at me, she dropped back down onto all fours and said, “We are of the same Herd, Os Car, but we are no longer allies. At the end of the corridor, the portal opened again.

Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret), whom I’d started calling Retired; stepped through the portal, a white plastic robot flung over his shoulder, and said, “What are you all looking at?”

March 22, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 248 Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them. ? z Z

F Trope: a sorcerer who is dead but his “soul” lives on trapped somewhere
Martin Jönsson stared at the blog and said, “You’ve read this stuff?” He scratched his scruffy blonde beard – little more than rough peach fuzz

Vukosova Gavrilović, long-time friends and NOT girlfriend, smirked. She learned the Swede phrase for her buddy’s newly sprouted beard was duniga skägg. She considered teasing him, but the look on her face warned her that he probably wasn’t in the mood tonight. Instead she said, “I read it. What about it?”

“It like, says that people can soak up ancient energy and transport it from place to place!”
Vukosova shook her head. Her friend was a philosophy major – she wished him luck in finding a job as something more than an intelligent garbage collector. She was a physics major, and if her freshman grades and undergrad presentation were any indication, she may have just written herself a ticket to the Cooperative Lunar Colony Fusion Research Center after she graduated. The CLCRFC – better known by its euphemistic name, The CooL Co. FuR Center and what NASA insisted on calling ClickerFick in its press releases – was every physicists dream. Nuclear fusion was a hop, skip and a jump away from becoming practical. All they needed to do was solve one or two containment issues...she yanked her attention back to Martin and said, “We’ve been soaking up energy and taking if from place to place since the evolution of the first life form.”

He finally looked up from the screen that showed some wackoid Egyptian goddess background overlain with a the foolish ranting of someone who was certain they’d been able to imbue and ancient Egyptian site with energy sucked up in their souls from Atlantis. He said, “This is amazing! It sounds like what you guys are doing in that science class you’re taking!”

She sighed and said, “It’s called Elementary Nuclear Fusion – and it doesn’t have anything to do with storing energy. It’s about creating energy.”

He frowned then said, “I had some science classes in high school...”

“That was last year, wasn’t it?”

“Hey! Just ‘cause I’m a prodigy doesn’t mean I don’t deserve respect!”

“You were a prodigy in acting, Martin! Now you couldn’t shake a stick at an T-comp without breaking into a cold sweat!”

He stood up abruptly, snapping the cover in his computer. “Shows how much you know! I’m gonna see if I can soak up some fusion energy from...from…”

She smirked and said, “Idfu – it’s on the east bank of the Nile in east central Egypt.”

He glared, “You think you know everything just because you’re a physics major! But there’s another world out there, too. One you can’t see! It inhabits the same realm as your gravitons.”

“Gravitons are real!” Vukosova exclaimed.

“Yeah? Show  me one!”

“Well, you can’t just open your eyes and see one! You need special equipment…”

“And then can you see one?”

“Well...not exactly. But we can see evidence that gives a strong indication of the properties and the effects of...”

“So your gravitons are as imaginary as my negative Atlantean energy.”

“They aren’t the same...”

Martin turned away and stalked out of the dining hall. He stopped just before he slammed the door and shouted, “We’ll see whose god is more powerful! The trapped sorcerers of Atlantis and Ancient Egypt or the trapped gravitons of the Unified Field Theory!”

She blinked in surprise as he finished his rant and stomped away. She muttered, “I didn’t know he knew anything about the Unified Field Theory!”

Names: Sweden; Serbia

March 20, 2016

Slice of PIE: Ghostbuster! have two books published by MuseItUp Publishing of Canada.

They’re a good publisher and they’ve been really good to me, but…but…but…

In August last year, I wrote the following, “In an article I read every year to my students in writing classes I teach, Laura Resnick delineates the progression of writers bemoaning their fate when she points out that no matter WHERE they are in their career, some people want the next level more than they want to enjoy where they are…‘I have seen this sort of thing often. (And not just from aspirants, alas.) Someone is ‘lucky’ to be a pro, so sell novels, to break into hardcover, to crack the bestseller list, to get a six-figure advance, to have two publishers, to be under contract for four books, to work steadily for years, and so on...’”

MIU only publishes electronic books. Of course you heard the trumpets as ebook publishers ushered in the New Millennium! ALL books would soon be electronic and Brick & Mortars would be a thing of the past as ebooks swept away the competition…

But that can’t be completely true, because OPENED A BRICK AND MORTAR BOOKSTORE –

My publications are legitimate, right?

So why, as far as everyone I know is concerned, are the books as good as ghost books?

I just came from a Young Author’s Conference where, based on the response to my writing and on the response of my peers, MY books aren’t real. The inescapable fact is that they AREN’T!

But wait – (and I’m trying to convince myself here!) when I get paid these days, it’s in an electronic transfer of funds. I don’t see cash; I haven’t seen a paper paycheck in ten years. Is my salary ghost money?

If it is, then we’ve been paying for our physical house with ghost money for two decades.

But what about this: My market – young adults and teen – prefers to do their recreational reading on paper books. The younger set also rarely sees their favorite books in an e-format as well. How many of you who read this, read CHARLOTTE’S WEB in an electronic format? My bet would be “none”. Reading – even for me, and I have a Nook available to me as well as my computer – is not solely about the words. There’s a visceral part of it as well that electronic books can’t contribute to.

So both of these things, the preference of millennials for paper and the missing aspects of the reading experience, war against me in my quest to become a “published writer”.

On the other hand, I AM a published writer. My manuscript was accepted, edited, a cover was created, and it’s available on How do I combat my feelings of not being published?

This rumination is my first step. I’ll let you know how my quest to bust this ghostly feeling progresses...

March 17, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 79: Stepan of Burroughs, On the Rim a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters, Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story.

The older man who had stopped the theft lifted his chin, “Let ‘em go. Maybe they’ll do some good. Come on.” The older man started walking. With a dark look at Stepan and Quinn, the younger man followed. From long experience, Stepan marked the face in his memory. He would see the man again; minus his older but external conscience.

Quinn’s eyes were wide when he looked up at Stepan and whispered, “How’d you do that?”

Stepan shrugged and said, “We have lots of work to do. Let’s go.” Together, they headed for the warehouse.

“No, really! I want to know! Them two’as as good as ready to stab us and take the thing and you talked ‘em down! How’d you do that?”

Stepan shook his head. QuinnAH tugged on his sleeve and Stepan snorted, “Fine then. You’re not going to like it though.”

“Try me!” said Quinn as he bounced around on the tips of his toes until he stood in front of Stepan.

Stepan shook his head then said, “Prayer.” He stepped to one side and kept on for the warehouse. He was anxious to get started. Besides, he wanted to get inside before his zealous new friend managed to inform the entire Rim that Stepan the crazy, religious whackjob had once been the world-famous “Natan Wallach, Hero of the Faith Wars!” The last thing he wanted to was to drag his father back into his life. That part of him had just been confirmed amputated. He no longer had an martian father; he merely had a Heavenly Father. He’d have to confess…

Quinn was beside him again and just before they walked into the warehouse, he stepped in front of Stepan and said, “I didn’t see you prayin’ right then.”

Stepan shook his head, “Of course not. I keep prayed up for times like that.” He stepped past the youngster, whose face was dumbfounded and frozen. He sighed and stopped at the door, leaning the antigrav disk against the wall and pushing the door open.

He turned to pick up the heavy contraption, but Quinn was already holding it. He didn’t move as he said, “OK, then, if this God you believe in can save you from getting’ murdered by a couple a thugs, then I pretty much think it would be a good deal.”

Stepan shook his head. “Being a servant of God doesn’t just mean I get out of betting beat up! If means I have to serve my God. I become his slave!”

Quinn shrugged. “Maybe big deal for one of you…” he used an extremely crude street slang word for those who had been born like millions of years of Humans. Stepan felt his eyes bug, but his young charge – dare he say convert? – kept speaking. “…but I was made to serve. I been slave to six and a ‘scaped from all of them. I could be a slave to someone who actually cares enough about me to keep me from gettin’ killed. Even if it was once, it’d be worth the deal.” He walked past Stepan, adding, “Let’s get the roof goin’. I think we can grow plants up there and then sell ‘em to buy some more equipment…I think we can get…”

Stepan stared after the young blue boy, then shaking his head, he followed, closing the door behind him. He hurried after Quinn, and said, “Who would do the selling?”

“Me, o’ course.”

“You? Who would trust you?”

“Trust me more than they’d trust you, Mister Man!” The headed deeper into the warehouse until they reached the wall below the hole in the distant roof. Stepan sighed.

Quinn said, “I bet this is where your prayer gets answered and I go op on the disk first, huh?”


“What?” the boy exclaimed.

Stepan slapped him on the back, took the disk, and said, “Just kidding, kid. Besides, it’s tuned to me. I’ll go up then drop you a rope.” He looked up, said a brief, silent prayer, then activated the antigrav disk.

March 15, 2016

IDEAS ON TUESDAYS 247 Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc.) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

SF Trope: complex planetary ecology

Logan Andrist frowned and said, “What do you mean they’re going to dump iron into the lake?”

Nkokoyanga Pomodimo, far from her land-locked home in the Central African Republic held tight to the railing of the re-purposed iron ore freighter – a laker – as it dipped down into the swells of Lake Superior. She said, speaking loudly over the rushing wind around them, “The iron will cause algae to grow wildly. As they grow they need more carbon dioxide. As they suck up the CO2, they store the resulting carbon-rich sugars and then keep it when they die and sink to the bottom of Superior...”

“I know what carbon sequestering is! I’m a limnology major...”

She shook her head in the wild winds and shouted, “This is glorious! Feeling Gaia beneath your feet is the most...”

“Wouldn’t that technically be Poseidon? Besides, who gave them permission to do this?”

She turned to catch his gaze and he recognized her crazy, angry look as she cried back, “Who gave all you rich white colonialists the right to pollute and rape our world?”

He didn’t want to shout. What he really wanted to do was kiss her right then and there in the cold spray from the Lake – but he didn’t want a broken face, so he shouted, “I didn’t do any of that! Why are you yelling at me?”

“I’m not yelling at you,” she shouted. “I’m yelling TO you!”

“What’s that,” the nose of the laker dove deep, nearly flooding the deck and driving a mountain of spray over them. The water was frigid despite the hot August sun burning down on them through breaks in the scudding clouds. He wiped his face clear of water and finished, “Supposed to mean?”

“You’re not to blame, old friend, but you are responsible! That’s why the captain of this tub is an old white man!”

“Professor Buddlorem’s driving the ship? We have to go save all of our lives!” Logan let go of the railing; Nkokoyanga grabbed him and pulled him tight.

“The computer is doing most of  the driving! He’s just playing captain!”

Logan eyed her warily the said, “How are we supposed to get all this iron into Lake Superior?”

‘Ko’ grinned and shouted, “Now that’s the tricky part!”

Names: ♀ Central African Republic, Gbaya; Minnesota, Minnesota