07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was naïve of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.

"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

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  05:39:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 517 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Let Me In

The barricade shuddered under the force of hundreds of pounds of bone, meat and fur, and time stopped. The next instant, the creature smashed through, catching a hand in its jaws and snapping it off like it was the head of a match, and there was a moment where the horror and the violence weren't real. And then Bella screamed, as the pain of her severed hand and the terror of the beast's breath on her skin overwhelmed even her shock. ?We have to get out of here!? Vince yelled. But out meant trying to break past the wolf. Vince realized he had the wolf's attention. He backed away slowly, trying to pull her away from Bella. Mika was able to get her to back towards the wall, and get behind one of the tables that hadn't been used in the barricade. But the wolf was getting close, and Vince was running out of cafeteria. ?Come on, you big bad bitch,? David called to the wolf, clattering a spoon against a pot. The wolf's head jerked in his direction, and she sniffed at the air. ?Don't forget me,? Bill barked, crashing two pots over his head dramatically. ?Get out of there, boss man. Let us wrangle the she-wolf.? But the conversation made the wolf glance back towards Vince just as he was starting to back away. ?She?? David asked. ?Wolf that big would have honeydew-sized balls, man, couldn't miss them. That is a she-wolf.? Vince circled around her, so that the three of them were equally distant from the wolf. Their eyes met over the wolf, and they each in turn glanced at their coworkers, slinking along the walls towards the barricade, and freedom. ?We keep this up as long as we have to,? Vince started. ?Once everybody's outside, we break for the door, serpentine; when all of us are clear, we barricade her in.? ?Sounds like a plan,? Bill said. ?Yeah, so say the two faster bastards,? David said. ?You'll be fine,? Bill said. ?With the adrenaline, I bet you'll be nearly as fast as Vince. Maybe faster.? ?We're all making it out,? Vince said. ?All of us.? Mika and Bella were the closest to the door. She was still in shock from the loss of her hand, and he was shepherding her, trying to keep her from panicking or making noise as they went. He was close enough to the door to see through the hole the wolf made, and that was why he saw it- but that couldn't save him. He only had time to push Bella out of the way before the second wolf barreled into him. He fell to the ground and it violently stomped him; the force broke several ribs, and he collapsed against the ground. The wolf's impossibly large jaws sunk into his stomach, and pulled, and he felt as his skin tore away, and his organs splashed out onto the floor in an oozing pile. The last thing he saw was Bella, screaming, horrified at the sight of him. The sight broke his heart, just before it stopped beating.


  05:39:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1099 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Little Pig, Little Pig

Paul was on the verge of passing out, but he was on his feet, moving towards the doorway. He balled his fists; the strain on his body was overwhelming, and he could feel the change starting to overtake him. He wasn?t sure he was going to be himself by the time he reached Alisa. Of course, he couldn?t focus enough yet to be sure if she was her, either. She turned, and saw him. Movement coming from the dorms caused her to flick her head to the left. There was too much happening here, too many variables. She ran. Clod and Levy ran into the lab, nearly stepping on Martin before realizing he was there. ?Was Alisa,? Paul managed to get out. ?We need to treat Martin.? ?You can barely stand,? Clod said. ?I?ll live- he won?t, without my help,? Paul said. ?We have to get him in here.? Paul and Levy managed to lift Martin, and carried him into the lab. ?Alisa,? Paul said, and nodded down the hall. ?I'll check Rica,? Clod said, and helped the smaller woman onto the pull-out bed. Martin?s neck was slicked with blood. Paul couldn?t see how bad the damage was, but he knew there was massive tissue loss- he could see enough torn flesh to know that. He got a syringe and anesthetic, and glanced at Martin to estimate dosage per kilometer. ?You're going to feel a pinch, Martin,? he said, though he knew that likely wasn't true. Paul hit a few buttons on the nearest monitor, then raised up his hands. Robotic arms lowered from the ceiling, and layered a surgical gown over his chest. Then it slid gloves up past his elbows. Finally, it pressed a surgical cap onto his head. He put a mask over his mouth himself. ?Suction,? Paul said to Levy. Levy had been through this nightmare once before, and remembered where the vacuum hose was. He handed it to Paul, and was already reaching for the liquid bandage solution before Paul could ask for it. ?Shit,? Paul said. ?That?s no good. The damage to the veins is too severe; we can?t just glue it shut- it?d clog everything. I?m going to need a synthetic replacement vein; if we can stabilize him we can try and take some veins from his legs, jury rig something more permanent.? ?If?? Levy asked. Paul ignored him, hit several buttons on the swivel monitor hanging over Martin?s bed. He ignored the blood he smeared across it. ?Get me the kit that pops out of the wall.? Levy nodded. He was swimming in adrenaline, physically lost in a way he never had been before. But he was an astronaut, too, trained to shut the fuck up and do what he?s told in crisis, so he walked across the room to the drawer of tools and supplies that opened up. ?How?s our other patient?? Paul called over his shoulder. ?She?s got broken ribs,? Clod said from the pull-out bed, and set down her ultrasound wand. ?I think a punctured lung, but I?m not seeing anything else, no other internal bleeding.? ?Then she can fucking wait,? Paul said. ?Give her some painkillers. And set an alarm for her O2 sats. Then get over here.? ?Done,? Clod said, sliding up next to him. ?Where are we?? ?I?ve got two lines into him already, and his blood pressure?s still dropping. We?re at Class III hemorrhaging already.? ?Before or after transfusion?? She asked, standing in the same spot Paul had earlier beneath the surgical dressing machine. ?After.? She hit a few buttons on the screen. ?Jesus,? she said, as a gown lowered over her. ?That?s why I need another line. Or two.? She slid a mask over her face, looking over the table. ?Neck?s a mess, and you didn?t leave me many options, since you?ve taken up the groin.? Paul glared across the table at her. ?I?ll get creative.? ?Can't we just increase the pressure?? Levy asked. ?Instead of poking new holes, I mean.? Clod took a swab to Paul's forehead to wipe away his sweat. ?Not without risk of rupturing the vein- hemolysis- and then we add injury to injury. What's your status?? ?You can?t see it now, but he?s going to need new a whole new jugular. I just pray they gave us enough synthetic vein to patch him up.? ?Enough and the right gauge,? Clod whispered. ?You?ve got your blood.? Levy set the tray on top of a cart. The machine had already neatly arranged the various implements required for surgery. ?Good. I?m going to need occlusion.? Paul selected one of the artificial veins and held it up to Martin?s neck to make sure it was long enough. ?I thought as much. Let me clamp off the vein.? She reached under his hands with a clamp. ?Suction,? she said, and Levy handed her the vacuum hose. Paul pierced the wall of the pumping side of the vein first, using an excimer laser mounted onto the tip of the synthetic vein. He loosened the valve on the other end, so blood started pouring out, to clear any gases out of the vein. Then he pierced the opposite end of the vein. Clod put her fingers just above the bypass. ?Weak pulse,? she said. ?One more,? Paul said. Clod glanced at the monitor. ?We?ve passed Class IV hemorrhage.? ?I know. I'm working as fast as I can.? ?What can I do?? Levy blurted out. Clod grabbed his shoulders and pointed him towards the corner, where Rica was lying, cradling her torso. ?Keep her talking.? ?And see what you can't do by way of a barricade,? Paul added. ?Anything you can stack up in the doorway to keep Alisa out.? ?Alisa?? Levy asked. ?That thing.? ?That's Alisa?? he asked, squeamish. ?No question,? Paul said. ?Blood loss?? he asked Clod without looking up from his work. ?If there were anything past a Class IV he'd be there,? she said grimly. ?A number.? ?He's below fifty percent.? ?Damnit, he?s bleeding out faster than we can transfuse. We might as well just pour the blood out on the floor,? Paul said, exasperated. ?We are not going to lose him,? Clod nearly screamed. ?He doesn't need to be awake for this. We're torturing him. I?m sorry, Martin?? Paul retrieved a vial and a syringe. ?I?m pushing morphine.? ?You're risking his life.? ?I'm trying to do the right thing.? ?Painkillers add extra stress to the system.? ?And not administering them is adding to his agony. We can have this debate when I'm done fixing his left jugular- until then- shut up.?


  05:38:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1301 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Not By The Hair

?I hear this isn?t your first laser-wound?? Alisa asked. ?Police departments use them. Since they can be adjusted for less than lethal defensive purposes, they?re becoming a favorite of police tactical units, especially in the bigger cities that can afford them. Of course, just because they can be set to less than lethal, doesn?t mean the police using them have them calibrated properly, or aim it well enough not to do serious damage. Give somebody a hammer, and his world is full of nails. Tell that same guy he can?t really hurt anyone with the hammer, and he?ll do his damnedest to prove you wrong.? ?Sympathy for drug dealers and gang bangers?? she asked with a wry smile. ?And for the civilians wounded in the crossfire.? ?I have less sympathy.? ?Color me shocked,? Paul said. ?It was not so long ago that my country was born again in a nest of thieves and whores. We fought corruption for decades to become whole again.? ?Rising world oil prices didn?t hurt, either,? Paul added. ?They did not.? ?I can?t speak to Russian corruption. But inner city kids, who grew up after the decline started? it?s tough to be handed a world of shrinking possibility, where even the brightest kids may not get ahead.? ?Singularly American problems,? Alisa said. ?Maybe. But just because they?re first world problems, doesn?t make them disappear. And being poor in the richest nation on the planet doesn?t keep them from being poor, or lacking opportunity. Poverty stopped being a racial issue- but that?s because it affects everyone, to a larger extent than anyone thought possible.? ?In my country, people make their own opportunity.? ?I wish I could say the same.? ?You?re a doctor, from nothing.? ?I?m proud of my parents- but I understand your point. I am a doctor, but I also know I?m lucky. If I wasn?t an astronaut, I?d have been paying off my student loans for ten, or maybe fifteen years. And the generation after me is having trouble even getting loans. I was born with an aptitude for science and medicine; but I?ve known smarter people than me who can?t find work.? ?But my sympathies aren?t entirely altruistic, either. What if the next Einstein was born into a family with an abusive, drug-dealing father, and was raised in that life? Even if he reformed, he probably wouldn?t be able to get into a graduate program, and all of humanity would lose out on his brilliant mind. Or what if the pathologist who could diagnose and fix what?s wrong with us was similarly frozen out of a medical program because of her teenage indiscretions?? ?Point somewhat taken.? ?Good, because we were straying from the point. I worked at a clinic in Houston in my off-hours. I?ve seen maybe five of these kinds of injuries- at least one from gang on gang violence.? She raised an eyebrow. ?It?s insane, I know; it?s not legal for our military to make use of the tech, but the cops can, and individual citizens can buy them out of their corner gun shop.? ?No wonder it?s like the Wild West,? she said. ?But these wounds are a little different, because the design of the Bradbury is different. It?s a slightly specialized wrinkle on the designs by Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, XADS and probably others. Namely, it?ll roast human tissue, but won?t significantly damage the ship.? ?So I end up with a keyhole, but the Perseus doesn?t.? ?Seems preferable. No offense. You got shot. But if it had blasted a hole out into the vacuum of space- you and Levy both probably die. The ship is programmed to close the hatch to the pods, so the rest of the crew would probably survive- but gunshot usually trumps suffocation and either freezing or burning up.? ?That?s? easy for you to say,? she bent her neck and touched her fingers to her forehead. Paul had been having headaches himself, so he hadn?t thought much of it. ?Not that easy. I had some of Levy?s improvised peanut butter for lunch. It?s a struggle freeing my tongue from the top of my mouth. Of course, if it was just a hair up and to the right, it would have cooked your liver, and I don?t know if we could have managed a transplant fast enough to save you.? ?Didn?t think that would be a problem?? she said faintly. ?Well, we know all of our HLA proteins- not that that helps much. No one on board is a perfect match. Of the partial matches, a few of us might be compatible enough that, in the event of a catastrophic emergency, surgery might be an option- but only as a last resort. One of the administrators asked for a study, until someone explained the statistics to him; the odds of finding good donors amongst the general populous aren?t good; the odds of finding an entirely HLA matched crew of astronauts? You?re better off playing the lottery. So we matched after crew selection.? ?Not, hrrm, what I meant.? ?You all right?? Paul asked, grabbed a tablet, and pulled up her vitals. ?Shit,? he said, and nearly dropped it on her foot. He had a syringe, full of chemo drugs and sedatives, like the one he injected himself with before, that he?d kept squirreled away, hidden from Clod. He pulled it out of the back of a drawer full of diagnostic tools. Paul turned to see Alisa convulsing. Her hair was growing. Every muscle in her body was tensed; it made it easy to find a vein. He punched the syringe through her skin and pushed the plunger. She wailed- but he knew that wasn?t from the drugs- maybe the pain of the injection, but the drugs wouldn?t burn until later. ?Let the sedatives work,? he said to her, touching her shoulder. That?s when her head snapped in his direction. He could see the bones in her face moving around, and her teeth sharpening. She snarled at him, and snapped, nearly catching his fingers in those teeth. He activated his comms, and yelped, ?Martin, I need help with Alisa- med lab- now!? He opened up the cabinet with more sedatives, but before he could find the bottle he was looking for, the door slammed shut on him. He fell to the ground. It wasn?t his first head wound. He wondered idly if it meant he?d have a traumatic brain injury. But he did know he was having trouble focusing; his eyes were responding sluggishly to him. He forced them to focus on the doorway; Alisa was nearer, so she was blurry, but he could tell she was getting bigger. In the doorway he say Rica appear. ?God,? he whispered, and tried to force himself off the floor, but his body was too heavy to move, and only his hand moved a few inches, before falling back to the ground. He wanted not to look. Alisa backhanded her, but the force of it knocked Rica out of the doorway, out of view. Alisa turned towards where she landed. Again, Paul tried to make himself get up. This time his arm raised nearly a foot, and his back got clear of the wall- but then he fell back against it, and knocked the wind out of himself again. ?Rica,? he wheezed. Then he saw movement in the doorway, not Alisa, who hadn?t moved. Someone else. ?You will sit the fuck down or I will put you down,? Martin said. He had the Bradbury up and raised. But the ship was too small- forcing him in too close- close enough that in one elegant motion Alisa smashed the gun against the wall, and pinned Martin?s throat in her teeth. ?No,? Paul whispered, and he knew she heard him. But still she bit down.


  05:37:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 814 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Anxieties

?I think we made a mistake,? Paul said, trying not to grit his teeth. ?That's just anxiety talking,? Clod said, looking over some of their data tables. ?No. It's not. I'm anxious, sure, but it's because I feel anxious again. It's like a panic attack, tightness in my chest. I thought it was gone. It felt like it was gone. But it's starting up again. Small, right now. But just, just enough that I can tell that it's starting, again.? ?I didn't recognize the signs, back on Earth, because I had all manner of things to be upset about. First there was the attack. Then there was the likelihood I wasn't going to be on the mission. Then the possibility of it, dangled over me, along with the possibility I might die spectacularly, instead. Then all of the pressure that came with the imminent launch, and seeing my ex-wife. I was just too preoccupied. But this time, I feel it. Like a drumbeat, far away. But it's getting louder, closer, every second.? ?And I've been testing our blood again. Alisa's feeling it, too. And Rica, now, also. I don't know what happened while she was gone, but I'm about 80% sure she's infected now, too. We should have turned around. I let what six year old me wanted to be when he grew up dictate how adult me, who knows better, did.? Clod laughed. ?Normally kind of a silly dream for a six year old, but in your case it turned out to be strangely practical- certainly more so than my dreams. But you did what you could, Paul. You stomped your little feets. You told us that if it was your ball you?d take it home with you- which I took as an invitation to feel you up for a hernia test.? She snapped her glove for effect. ?That?s not funny,? he protested. ?It?s a little funny, if only on account of how cold my hands are.? ?I don?t have a hernia.? ?Still, though. For science reasons.? ?Science reasons?? ?Testicles are fascinating. They?re like squishy little meat-fruit.? ?I think I?m changing the subject now- or going back to a less disturbing part of the conversation- because now I want to know what you wanted to be when you grew up?? ?Rambo.? ?As in John Rambo? Stallone at his beefiest?? ?One, I'm pretty sure Rocky II Stallone was beefier- and I'm not going to make the easy joke about his porno role-? ?Very classy of you to take the high road with that.? ?Or the thick and not at all curving- sorry- and two, I wanted to be a Rambo. I'd never heard of that as a name, I thought it was a descriptive job title.? ?I wanted to be a fire truck when I was a kid, because everybody fought over the fire truck in my kindergarten class.? ?That's kind of sad.? ?I don't mean I wanted to be popular, like the truck. That truck was cool. It even shot out real water. And my point was kids are silly, and rarely do we get to grow up to be what our naive counterparts wanted.? ?Paul, I was a fighter pilot. I killed planes, tanks, helicopters, and once a fucking ship. I am a Rambo.? ?And now an astronaut. Sly would be proud.? ?Sly wishes he had the balls to play me in the movie. Actually...? ?Now you are thinking about his porno, aren't you?? ?Guilty.? ?It's disturbing how much spending time with you is getting more and more like spending time with Levy...? ?If that's meant to imply I'm gaining weight or growing a beard-? ?You'll go Rambo on my ass?? ?I was going to pout and have hurt feelings, but yeah, that sounds more dignified.? ?Very. But,? Paul sighed. ?When I was a kid I wanted to be a fire truck, or an astronaut. But now? I just don?t want anyone to get hurt.? ?Accidents happen.? ?I?m not talking about accidents. And I?m not only worried about treatable injuries. Someone could end up dead.? ?You?re not a killer.? ?But what if I?m turning into one?? ?Paul.? ?That?s not an answer.? ?Okay. If you turn into a killer, I will stomp you into submission easier than I did a shower room full of bitchy, abusive volleyball players.? That sounds like a story I have to hear. Slowly. Sensually. ?I can?t tell if you?re doing lines from True Lies or not, but you sound like Levy.? ?God. We?re all turning into Levy up here- apparently that?s what all of the social isolation and lack of oxygen do to you. By the time we reach Mars, we?re just going to be one big, amorphous Levy blob.? ?And Martin. Standing to the side and being all Frenchly aloof.? ?Is Frenchly a word?? ?Probably not- the good words never are. But it fits, doesn?t it?? ?Yeah. Actually.?


  05:36:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 627 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Scaredcrow

Skot was running through the garden faster than he had since high school. Over the sounds of the irrigation system and the hum of the artificial lights, he could hear Mai's screams. She was in agony. But he could also hear something horrible, something he reasoned he oughtn't be able to hear, not from as far away as he was, with the sound of air already rushing past his ears. But he heard it. Bones breaking. Cartilage and skin and muscles stretching thinner than nature should allow, and in some places snapping. He knew what was happening behind him, and that those sounds would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life. But more than those sounds, he feared what came after them- what he was sure was about to come after him. He saw movement from the corner of his eye, the billow of fur, mostly brown with slashes of silver. Was it Maria? The wolf had terrified him only moments before, but it hadn't made an attempt to kill him in days. But if Mai really was changing, he understood somehow that all bets were off. Maybe it was Maria. He prayed it was Maria, and he hadn't prayed in a very long time- not since the day his pastor told him that he was going to go to hell for feeling about other boys the way he did. ?Speed?? Skot yelped, and stepped through a melon rind. His foot slid on the moist shell, and he found himself facedown in the dirt. His face hurt. It was warm, and wet. He licked it, wondering what kind of fruit or vegetable he'd landed in. But it was salty, and he recognized the taste of his own blood. ?Fuck,? he muttered and touched his nose. That sent a ripple of pain through his consciousness, intense enough that he nearly passed out. He thought he heard breathing- though he tried to tell himself it could have been one of the sprinklers. He pushed himself back to his feet and ran. ?Speed,? he yelped. ?You lazy fucking computer. I need you to close the garden doors behind me.? He didn't get a response, which meant that the hall wasn't home base- he was going to have to keep running. When his foot, still slicked from the melon, hit the metal hallway, it slid out from under him. His momentum carried him headfirst into the wall, colliding with it just at the edge of his hairline. The world turned white. The next thing he knew the world was black. He had no idea how much, if any, time had passed. Opening his eyes didn't help, at first, because his eyes weren't adjusted to the dimness of the hallway. He heard the sound of licking. In the corner of his eye he could see movement. Fur, moving fast. A tail, wagging. He traced it into the darkness, where he could see the silhouette of a wolf, larger than Maria. ?Oh god,? he whimpered. He continued to trace the wolf, and came to her head, almost seeming to float because it was thrust into the light still streaming in through the garden doors. She was hunched over, and the sound of her licking became louder. He didn't feel her licking him, which might have comforted him. His head felt fuzzy. Floaty. No, wet. And warm. Bleeding. He'd hit his head once as a kid, ran into someone's open locker. It just a little cut, but by the time he'd walked down to the nurse's office his face was covered, like he was wearing a red mask. Head wounds bled, a lot. She was licking up his blood. ?Oh god,? he whimpered again. This time, the wolf looked right at him.


  05:35:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1222 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Fear

He didn?t want to be alone with her. Last time, thanks to his injuries, he?d been able to rebuff her with ease. But Paul wasn?t sure where the limits of his will were going to break against his physiology. But he was also still the Perseus? doctor, so when Alisa walked into the med lab, he knew he couldn?t just walk away, either. "Paul. I'm scared." That pushed a big button of his- but that didn't mean he should let himself respond the way he wanted. "I haven't been myself. It was like, like watching myself be horrible to everyone. You, Rica, Levy, Clod. Funnily enough, never Martin. I think... he's in charge. I had some kind of reverence." "Pack mentality," Paul said. "He's the alpha. You were responding to that. I?m going to take your temperature,? he said, and brushed her hair away to put a monitor to her ear. ?But you said you were scared." "I am. I'm mortified, by my past behavior. But I'm worried, because I can feel myself slipping away again. Your touch. It makes my heart race. It," she turned red. "You know the first time you thought you were going to get lucky, and all the blood went to your genitals and you felt euphoric but also like you might pass out?" "I don't know if I remember it quite so happily, but sure, I get what you're getting at." "And I don't like you, Paul. I never really did. You shouldn't- don't take that wrong. I don't like many people. I just... don't. I can be civil, and sociable. But most people I'm not eager to spend more time with. But if I let my mind drift for even a second, my conscious thoughts are overridden by a pounding urge to throw you to the floor and mate with you. Not make love, not fuck- but mate. And I have never once wanted to have a baby. Kids, maybe, someday, but never to incubate one myself. I'm an engineer with a pretty good understanding of systems and a passing familiarity with biology- and I would not want to wreck my system like that. Like smoking or speeding in a rental- even though you'd never do it in your own car." "You don't smoke." "Drag-racing, then." "You don't," Paul started, and she raised a knowing eyebrow. "You do? That's hot." "And you talking like Paris Hilton, not so much. But Rica? was easy. I think she?s that way with everybody, but she?s just so? getting to know her, liking her, it was so much easier. I?m not usually that kind of stereotype- I could count the number of girls I?ve been intimate with on one hand- but I saw it almost immediately, how special she was. Add onto that the stress involved with going faster and further than any people have ever been- and I was a spinning tornado of anxious lust.? ?A Tasmanian horny devil?? ?Something like that. But? I made a pass at Levy. Levy. Even if I were attracted to men, I wouldn?t be attracted to him. Thank God he rejected me. But, that?s my point. Being rejected by Levy should be horrible- but instead I?m thankful, because I don?t want to hurt,? she stopped. ?Rica?? ?Him.? ?What do you mean?? ?You know what I mean,? she said, glaring fiercely at him. ?I,? he started to say, but another word never came. ?Don?t you? You don?t remember what you did to me?? she said, her lip quivering with disgust. ?That actually makes it hurt a little more. You violated me, mutilated me. It doesn?t matter that I healed- because I remember every second of it. But apparently, I wasn?t enough fun for you to bother remembering.? ?No,? Paul said softly, reaching out to gently touch her shoulder. ?I don't remember because I can't. I can't remember. There could be several possibilities. It could be that the events were traumatic. It could be that our? disease comes with a dissociating identity disorder. It could the change fries our brain chemistry. Up til now I?ve just been speculating. Because up til now, I didn?t think I could trust anything you had to say. But now I can ask you: what do you remember?? ?I told you, I remember everything you did to me.? ?No, I mean what do you remember about attacking me?? ?You attacked me.? ?The first time. But the second? Our roles were reversed. Or are you telling me you don?t remember any of it, either?? He raised his right arm, and rolled down his sleeve. His wound was mostly healed, but there was still fresh scar tissue. ?Because I sure as hell didn?t try to bite through my own wrists.? ?Wouldn?t be the first time,? she said hotly. ?No. But it is anatomically impossible.? He held up his arm in front of his mouth, and pantomimed biting. ?We change.? ?But not that much. It?d still be the equivalent of being able to lick your own elbow.? ?I dated a girl once who could do that. I stayed with her ten times longer after we stopped clicking, because of that tongue. I would have gay married her tongue, were that possible- and not in a dismembered body part sort of way.? ?I thought size didn?t count.? ?That?s just a thing girls say to be nice. But it totally wasn?t a size thing. It was a dexterity thing, and a knowing what to do with the dexterity thing. Most girls with a lot of tongue, it makes them bad kissers; it's a lot of meat they have to coordinate, but she knew what she was doing no matter where she was putting that tongue. God, if you could put that tongue in Rica?s mouth, I would propose to her on the spot- and then we would have awesome engagement cunnilingus.? ?I feel like we?re veering into cutting out someone?s tongue territory again. But what I was saying it?s not possible for me to have done this to myself. The bites are almost length-wise. When we change, our arms lengthen, and so does our jaw. If the bite wound was perpendicular, maybe it could be self-inflicted. But without tearing my arm off, there?s no way I could do this to myself.? Alisa dropped back onto the med bed. ?How could I?? ?The same way I attacked you. It?s not a conscious decision. It?s animal. And? vicious. The attacks weren?t your fault.? ?Wait. Attacks?? ?Me. And Rica? You took her, didn?t you?? ?I,? she gasped for breath but couldn?t get anything into her lungs. ?I don?t know, she whispered.? ?Then it?s as bad as I feared- you?re exactly like me.? ?What can we do?? she asked, her voice softer than Paul had ever heard it. He caught her eyes flick towards the surgical tools, and knew immediately what their sharp edges made her think. ?I?m not even sure that?s possible. We heal too fast, too well. And there?s no guarantee in that; I was stupid to even try, last time. Because right now we?re only monsters some of the time. But what if all we managed to do was kill the parts that are still human? They?d be even worse off- maybe doomed.? ?Then what do we do?? she asked. ?I don?t know,? Paul said.


  05:33:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1211 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Choice of Side

?I'm getting tired of living off uncooked fruit and vegetables,? Skot complained. He bit into a green pepper then made a face. ?That could just be because you have crappy taste,? Mai said, handing him a tomato. ?And you're welcome to use any of the lab equipment to heat them, make a stew or whatever. But we don't have a lot of options, either.? ?And why's that?? ?Because we still don't understand the extent of our changes. Whether or not we'd be contagious, or likely to attack anybody.? ?I'm pissed off, and, and bored, about being stuck with you for company- er, no offense.? ?Please, you're offensive; don't feel like you have to hide it on my account. But it makes the most sense for us to stay in quarantine.? ?Maybe it does. But does it make sense to keep the station dark?? ?The lights are your department.? ?I know. I'll fix them... if I ever stop feeling like the wolf isn't going to eat me if I'm not standing right next to you. But I meant communications. Maybe NASA could figure out what's going on. Maybe they already have an idea.? ?Houston? This is the ship doctor. We have a werewolf on board, and I'm pretty sure she's infected myself and another crew member. What? You're sending men with straight jackets for us? How unexpected.? She sighed. ?But this isn't a math problem. Having more computing power doesn't mean we get to an answer, sooner.? ?But it kind of is. Any sample handling we have to do up here, sure, they can't replicate that back in Texas. But we can feel them data, and-? ?They might just decide to destroy the Station to safeguard the Earth.? ?What?? ?We've got a potentially contagious, potentially deadly disorder raging across the ship. They're as likely to remotely vent all the air out of the Station as they are to double-check our figures. We're twelve people, measured against the entire populace. And that wolf is Maria.? ?I still don't believe it,? said Skot. ?Then you're an idiot.? ?Hey, I? ?Because you're smart enough to understand the science. You watched me run her DNA. Everything that's still completely human is Maria.? ?Okay, um, let me revise my hypothesis; I don't think that whatever that is qualifies as Maria anymore.? ?She isn't the same,? Mai agreed, ?but she's more like her old self than different. It's hard to explain, but, well, like you and Vince. You've been together long enough, that sometimes you don't talk. You don't watch movies. You're just there. Maybe you set a head on his shoulder, or his on yours. And even though the motions might be exactly the same, each person I've ever held like that, was different. And when I go to bed, the wolf lays her head against me, and, it's still Maria.? ?Yeah. But Maria never tried to murder me, before.? ?And maybe she wasn't trying to murder you this time, either? She's a giant fucking wolf, Skot. If she wanted you murdered, don't you think you'd be dead?? ?I practically was. I maybe technically was. And it sounds more to me like you're rationalizing- either because you're scared we might end up like her- or because you're scared your girlfriend is a monster.? ?You're kind of making me want to murder you- and I'm not a wolf at all.? ?Or maybe we are. I thought it was just because I was pissed, you know, nearly being murdered by a rabid dog in space. But I've been angry since. The other day I snuck away from you two, to masturbate. And I was even masturbating angry.? ?Ooh, you shouldn't do that. You're almost guaranteed to lose too many layers of skin.? ?Even after I was done, just nothing but fucking anger. It was like being a teenager again. Even thinking of Vince, safe in the cafeteria. It's taking a lot of self control not to just punch you in the back of the head right now.? She laughed. ?That actually makes me feel a little better. I thought, since I didn't usually spend so much time with you, that you really got on my nerves. But it's probably chemical, our aggression.? ?What should we do about it?? ?What do you mean what should we do?? ?I'm not sure either of us are strictly human anymore; if you were so inclined, you could even argue, what with me maybe having been technically dead, this could be some kind of hell. But we could hurt people, too- people we still care about, who are actually really still people.? ?We don't know what caused it. So we don't know how Maria was affected. I'd guess, gun to my head, one of her experiments. But that's a fairly broad and crappy guess. But without knowing the infection vector, we can't know how much of it is transferable- and hence can't know if we'll change, too- or to what extent.? ?But if we do become like her, we'd be endangering the whole rest of the crew.? ?You want me to give you an opioid overdose and leave the room? I can do that.? ?But it defeats the purpose. If Maria's still alive, and you are, then there's still potentially two murderous wolves. Cutting that down by one isn't enough.? ?And I'm not offing myself on the chance I might hurt somebody. But there is something I'm not entirely clear on: why did we lose power in the first place. Don't we have back-ups for our back-ups that back up our back-ups.? ?I was working on one of the main power conduits when I was attacked. It's very sensitive, and I'm pretty sure I sent a pulse through the entire grid. Mostly, I just need to reset or replace breakers. I just... haven't really felt safe doing that.? ?If she wanted to eat you, she would have by now.? ?Why do you say that?? ?Because I'm pretty sure that fruits and vegetables aren't major parts of a wolf diet, and yet, that's what she's been eating.? Mai groaned, and stumbled to her knee. ?What's wrong?? Skot asked, kneeling next to her. She grabbed her head, and shut her eyes to keep out the light. ?It's like a migraine only I know it isn't. You know how we were talking about maybe possibly killing ourselves? Well, don't, but I may need you to bash me over the head with something heavy.? ?What?? ?Last time I lost control, it was... different. I still had some control over myself, and my body. But I felt something underneath. An adrenaline rush, one that never quite crescendoed. But this feels different. I'm, having trouble putting together sentences. It's like I'm floating around in lava. Everything's on fire, all of my senses burning with extra information. I can't shut any of it out, and I can't force reasonable, logical sentence progression through the lulls without exceptional effort.? ?There isn't anything to hit you with, and, you know, now that we aren't talking about it in the abstract, I don't know that I could go through with it, anyway.? ?Okay, Skot. That's fair. But I want you to do something for me, a favor.? ?Sure, Mai, sure. What's the favor?? ?Run.?


  05:30:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 565 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Remember the Alamo

?People are sick,? Bella said. ?We need medical supplies.? Vince puffed out his chest, as if the added volume would inflate his authority. ?I think what we need is better hygiene protocols. Nobody thought we'd be locking ourselves in the cafeteria indefinitely.? ?At least there are bathrooms,? Ang said, trying to defuse the situation. ?Bathrooms that are out of toilet paper. And sanitizer. And we only have intermittent power,? Bella continued. ?And last we heard from Ground they agreed with our decision to stay put,? Vince told her. ?And, no offense, Belle, but you two are about two specialties removed from being medical officers- it'd be like letting the people who manufacture nuts and bolts for NASA take charge of designing our next shuttle. But people are sick, and ideally we would be able to give them some medicine, but I'm not willing to risk any of our people going on a supply run.? ?We lost Speed,? she said. ?We did. Likely because we lost power. He's probably relegating himself to only necessary functions, like maintaining life support.? ?We also lost communication.? ?Likely for the same reason.? ?But since we don't have Speed, or any way to communicate with the Ground, you're asking us to just sit up here with our thumbs up our asses.? ?There's two ways in here. Unfortunately, the cafeteria wasn't designed so that we could easily secure either entrance while letting someone out. So not only would we be exposing whichever poor idiot drew the short straw, but we'd be inviting that creature to come in here and snack on all of us, too.? ?What about vents?? Ang asked. ?The vents?? Vince asked. ?They're big, big enough for human workers to shimmy through in case anything needs to be worked on. And I happen to be an excellent shimmier.? ?Mai made the right call, leaving,? Vince said. ?It was to protect us- all of us. But I'm not going to let you go out there just to check on your girlfriend.? ?Can we call it was a hopelessly unrequited crush?? Bella asked. ?Or maybe just leave a little space between girl and friend?? ?Female friend,? Vince said. ?But no matter what you call her, I'm not risking you for stupid reasons.? ?You'd go after Skot, if he were still alive,? Ang said. ?But that's not why I want to go. The bad sanitation, that can go south quickly. And nobody wins if we 'save' people by keeping them locked up only for them to die from disease instead. And there?s a complication. I?m diabetic. Recently diagnosed, so likely not in too risky a position, but it?s not a great idea for me to be going without my insulin. Hopping around on one foot is easier in the lower gravity; but I have gotten used to being a biped.? ?Okay, I get it. You go to medical, you raid supplies, and you come straight back. You deviate for a second and the Chinese government can scour the lunar surface- they will never find you.? ?If you trust me so little, you can always poll for volunteers.? ?Do you honestly think we're likely to get another volunteer? You know, besides one of the people who needs the medicine, and therefore isn't likely to be well enough to make it there, around that thing, and back? I don't.? ?Good.? ?And good luck,? Vince said.


  05:29:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 58 words  
Categories: Announcements

Apologies for the delay in posting more Lunacy.

I forgot how far I had them scheduled, and it got lost in the rush of preparing Homeless for release, and redoing my ebooks page to showcase all the fun goodies coming along soon. You can spank me if you want to. I can't promise it won't happen again. Especially if you decide to punish me with spankings.


  12:10:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 107 words  
Categories: Announcements

$.99 sale, new release, and a giveaway!

Lots of exciting things to share.

The Necromancer's Gambit will be on sale through Sunday, on Amazon. It's normally $2.99, but will be $.99 during that time. Why not indulge an urban fantasy kick, and try some new authors? Several other authors are offering promotional prices from the 20th-22nd.

Homeless is now available for purchase. Homeless has not been featured on my blog, but excerpts are available on Goodreads. Homeless is a post apocalyptic survival horror gunslinger novel. Yes, that's a mouthful.

Also, sign up at the link to enter a giveaway for a $100.00 Amazon Gift Card, sponsored by several talented Urban Fantasy writers, and I Read Fantasy.



  09:37:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 830 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Daily Bread

Paul was trying not to make eye contact with Alisa across the table, at least until he noticed Clod staring at him. She?d put in extra effort, tonight, even put on a few cosmetics. He suddenly heard his mother from his childhood, singing loudly along with Duran Duran?s Hungry Like the Wolf.

?It?s been a while,? Martin said. ?We haven?t gotten much use out of our dining table- mostly because we keep irregular schedules, all of us, and have a tendency to pal around and pair off. But that is why I wanted to do this, to have a sit-down meal together. And thanks, Levy, for all the hard work you put into it- it looks great and only smells a little weird- which you know is quite a compliment, given what you have to work with. And that?s not a slight against Rica or her crops, either- we just lack some of the comforts of home.? He smiled, and stopped himself. ?Okay, I?m going to take my foot out of my mouth, lest it spoil what I?m sure is going to be a delicious meal. But before we dig in, would anybody like to say a few words??

?Like a prayer?? Levy asked. ?I always pegged you for an atheist.?

Martin waited for anyone else to chime in, but shrugged. ?I?m not strictly religious, and it?s true, the church isn?t as popular these days in my country. But that doesn?t mean we?ve tossed out all of the culture that surrounds it. Church isn?t just about whose God is stricter or looks better in a thong- it?s about community. That?s why it?s important for us to be thankful for this bread, and why I singled out those who made it possible for us to have it. But it?s also important for us to be thankful for the systems that give us clean water to wash it down with, as well as Alisa, who keeps it running. And our medical staff, who keep us healthy enough to enjoy it. And I hope that that appreciation, and recognition, that we are more than individuals, but part of a greater whole, that will help us forgive one another our trespasses, as we hope others forgive ours. Um, let?s eat, while the food?s warm.?

?Except the gazpacho,? Levy pointed out.

?Which is? supposed to be cold,? Martin followed.

?And not room temperature.? Levy smiled to himself. Then frowned. ?Paul, are you feeling okay?? Levy asked.

?Yeah, why??

Levy looked underneath the table. The foot playfully tickling his crotch hadn?t come from Paul, like he thought. He traced it crotch back to Alisa. ?Oh. Um.? He stood up. ?I need to go to the kitchen, and check up on the, the food. Rica, you want to lend me a hand??

?Yeah,? she said, standing up, ?I only planted, watered, cared for and then harvested all the crops- at this point I don?t see the point of having you middle man my work??

?Even when you?re being a pain in the ass you?re just so adorable at it; even your sarcasm comes out sweet.?

Martin sighed. ?So. Since the children are out of the room,? he turned to Paul, ?how are the numbers looking??

?We?ve been tracking increased hyperactivity in the amygdalas of every single person on board. Half of them have increases that dwarf the others.?

?You, Alisa, and??

?Rica. Recently.?

?Since the attack,? Martin said. ?That makes sense. Victims of violence often undergo neurochemical changes. And the pair of you??

?Yes,? Paul said, ?the pair of us? and we?ve also undergone decreased activity in the frontal lobe.

?Oh goody,? Martin said. ?It?s not like either of you need higher executive functions. But on the same order??

?Basically, yeah.?

?Which probably rules out the possibility of complimentary head wounds- unlikely as that already was. Is there any good news??

?Actually? in recent days, we?ve been seeing a flattening. It?s still abnormal levels of activity, but the change has leveled off. Not ideal, but maybe- and I want to really stress the maybe bit, here- we?re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The fact that levels aren?t going back down or up, towards normal levels, implies some kind of damage. But damage we can deal with. These levels, while high, aren?t life threatening; they?re manageable.?

?And Houston? They have any idea what's been causing any of this??

?We?re not any closer to understanding the cause.?


?What was that?? Levy asked, emerging from the kitchen with a pie.

?I said the food, looks lovely,? Martin said.

?By now you should by tasting it, not looking. And if anyone's curious, it's pumpkin- or a somewhat reasonable facsimile.?

?What does that mean?? Clod asked, making a face.

?It means there's lots of different things substituting in it to give it an approximation of the right texture. And we have flavoring for the rest. But it tastes pumpkiny. It's good, trust me. Little different, but good.?


  09:37:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 462 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Shockingly

Clod was watching TV, splayed like an empty shirt over and across it, when Paul came in from the hall. ?You look shockingly calm,? she said.

?I know. And I?m surprised by that.?

?Why?? she asked, sitting up so he could plop down beside her.

?I just got finished giving Alisa a check-up, and she didn?t hit on me.?

?Your poor ego,? she said, plumping out her lower lip for him.

?No, that?s good. With the aggression, she?d been coming onto me- like a Mack truck.?

?I didn?t know Mac made trucks. Are they dainty and ergonomical??

?Different Mack. Just no subtlety or grace to it.?

Clod laughed, but when Paul didn?t she sat up straight on the couch. ?Really? You?re not just fucking with me? Alisa, coming onto you?? He nodded in the negative. ?Christ, I thought it was just me.?


?Yeah. When we had her in quarantine. Came on all kinds of date-rapey. I just got a vibe off her, like this guy I went out with once in college. I ended up kneeing him in the balls, but he went out with a friend of mine- despite my protests- and, yeah. It was shitty. But I got the same kind of feeling off of her.?

?But intriguing at the same time, right??

?Kind of. I have no even sort of consensual rape fantasies. But there was a magnetism to her? which was unusual, come to think of it, since she?s the coldest fish I?ve ever met- including the breaded kind that come out of my freezer.?

?Might be a pheromone deal- or just straight-up charisma. But for a while she was very sexually aggressive, what was it Levy called it- scary hot- bitchily scary hot, though. He seemed less interested, though, than at first blush; he assumed that level of sexual assertiveness meant she?d want to be the man, and, I?m quoting, his ?pink, tender butthole would not stand up to that kind of pounding.?

?Ulq,? she gagged for emphasis, ?why would you tell me that??

?Because he told me, and misery- or in this case horror-induced impotence- loves company.?

?But my ears, and my brain, feel like they?ve been violated worse than Levy?s poor, quivering sphincter.?

?Oh, it?s quivering,? Paul moaned, covering his eyes to shut out the visual ?now, when I picture it in my head, it?s quivering.?

?Why would you picture it??

?I can?t not. And why would you make it quiver??

?Because turn-about?s fair play. Or, because it?s funny. Also, because if I?m not getting any use out of your junk, nobody should.?

?No worries, there. After this conversation, I think I?m just going to retire my junk, like an athlete?s jersey.?

?Hang it from the rafters? Because that would be kind of morbid.?


  09:36:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1215 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Weakness

Paul was staring into the microscope intently, as if he could will the sample to change. Or at least that?s how it looked to Clod from the doorway. But he wasn?t paying any attention to the sample. He was organizing his thoughts, before he spoke to her. ?You were right,? he said. ?I didn?t want to go home. Just like I didn?t want to stay home, when I was first grounded. Or when it looked like, possibly, I might get a chance to come up after all, I didn?t want to stay on Earth. Even though I knew there were risks- that I wasn?t as healthy or secure a choice as I?d been.?

?But Paul, if you?d put that to us- or if Ken had- do you honestly think that the vote would have gone any differently then? We?ve been through the worst of that. And we still want to forge ahead. But here, we?ll look at the counterfactual. We decide, as a group- or maybe just medical overrides everybody and refuses to clear you- but however it happens this mission gets scrubbed. Our entire team is disbanded. You know this is how it happens. Some of us, with mission-appropriate skills, get shunted onto the Station. Some of us get put on other projects. Most of us never get out of the atmosphere. And likely none of us get to see Mars. Would that be preferable? Would any of us have picked that option??

?There?s no guarantees in this life, Paul. Getting strapped onto a rocket, there?s a chance you end up on a plaque like Gus Grissom. But the same, sans plaque, can happen just driving to the grocery store. There were always going to be a ton of variables, going into this, but accepting those, and them, was a part of the job. And you know what? Accepting that sometimes our ambitions would get the better of us, that we could all end up like Icarus? That?s part of the job, too.?

?Maybe,? Paul said with a grimace, then admitted, ?probably. But that doesn?t change anything. Because I knew better. And I should have stood firm. I was weak.?

?But did you know better?? she asked. ?We don?t understand, months into this thing, what happened. So are you claiming, before we even knew there was a problem, that there was going to be an issue later on??

?I was getting better faster and better than I should have. It was an indication something was wrong.?

?Medicine is a science. But unlike most of the sciences, we don?t have the luxury of isolating our variables- we have to treat in situ. There are always unknowns with the human body. You know how they always say doctors make the worst patients? You?re part of that cliché. Because if that had happened to Martin, or Levy, or any of the rest of us, do you think any of the rest of us would be blaming ourselves for not being medically psychic??

?You would.?

?I might. But that doesn?t make us better- or even special. It just makes us neurotic. But wanting things, pursuing them, that isn?t weakness. You know what's weakness? Giving up. We all fall down. Sometimes we break. Horrifically. There was a point for me, in college. I was getting bullied. I was tough, but I didn't run with a crowd, and for some people that's an invitation. And over the course of more than a year, they systematically broke me down. And there was a night, talking to my roommate. We didn't even get along, and I think she was only talking to me because I wouldn't fucking stop sobbing and she couldn't sleep anyway. But we talked. And talked. And it isn't even like she said anything special, or specific. But something clicked in me, and I realized I wasn't going to be torn down. I'd been hurt, emotionally and physically brutalized- but I wasn?t going to keep letting other people dictate who I was or how I felt about myself. At the same time, I knew I didn?t want that to be a reaction to them, their abuse. It was important that I be my own person, built to my own standards and specifications.?

?I?d thought about going into the military right out of high school. My ASVAB scores were good enough I probably could have made pilot. But I was scared. Basic training, it's about shattering someone, breaking them down to the bare, functioning, mechanical bits. But after my experience in college- I knew it would be no problem. Because I?d already taken that ride. The Air Force made me harder, burned away a little of the baby fat, but I went in knowing exactly who I was, and who I was going to emerge as, and because of that, training didn?t faze me at all.?

?I'm shocked that even a cadre could take you on.?

?I was a daintier flower, then. These days, I'd crack all five of their skulls and piss in them as easy as cracking a beer.?

?A twist top??

?Oh yeah.?

?That's my girl.?

?But the point in my meandering autobiographic diatribe, is this life we have is what we've got, and it's worth sticking with. The bad parts suck, and sometimes it feels like they suck so hard you'll never escape the sucking-?

?Like a black hole??

?Or your mom's industrial strength wet vac,?

?I called her Barbie?


?No. My mom. Her name was Barbara, but I called her Barbie.?

?That's makes it even more sick, then, that you called the wetvac that, too.

?No, the wet vac I called Barb. There were some thumbtacks caught in the hose, so it kind of poked-?

?Ew ew ew ew ew- okay, enough. Truce on teenage-you masturbation jokes.?

?Really? Because it sounds kind of like you're surrendering.?

?Jesus. Waving the white flag, if it means I don't have to imagine thirteen year old you white knuckling to late night TV.?

?And the spicy personals in the nickel ads.?

?There weren't- you're barely old enough to even know what nickel ads were.?

"And so are you, apparently. Which would make you how many?"

She scowled. "I'm old enough to know it's never in a woman's- or really probably anybody's- interest to answer that question."

"I'll probably hate myself for telling you this, later, but you do know that your age is in your medical records, right?"

"I don't really look at my own- son of a bitch. You've been teasing me this entire time about my age when you knew I?m-?

?Thirty-one,? Paul said with a smile. ?Just turned thirty-one.?

She grinned. ?Aww. I love you so much right now I wish we were both men in prison so we could have prison sex. I'm reliably informed, by a delinquent cousin, that in prison, it's neither cheating on your girl on the outside nor gay.?

?I don't think that's entirely true- on either count.?

?Oh, come one, Paul, be prison-gay with me."

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted. But I have the shrinking suspicion that you don't really have a penis."

"Shrinking? I see what you did, there. And it deserves," she stood, and gently and quickly patted her palm, "a golf clap."


  09:35:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1273 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Bingo

?I really wish we weren't having this conversation here, now, like this,? Martin said. ?But this is the reality: half our crew is in the med lab, being treated for injuries. So we're bringing the mountain to Muhammed, on this occasion.?

?But we're reaching the point of no return, bingo resources, if you prefer. We're about physically at the halfway mark.?

?Then how could we possibly turn around?? Clod asked. ?We're travelling at high speed; to reverse that we'd have to use about the same amount of fuel we already used to get moving this fast. That would leave use floating listless through space.?

?Not entirely. I had Levy crunch some numbers. It's possible, using our resources, and the Sabatier reactor, that we could make it home.

?The window's small,? Levy said, grabbing a tablet off the wall. He pulled up a graph, with two intersecting curves. ?This curve is our resource usage. This vertical line at the right of the graph designates the point at which we no longer have enough resources- mostly air and water- to get home. This line at left is, roughly speaking, the amount of time it would take for us to get back home if we went through with the mission, and used the resources we expected to.?

?There are two major factors that screw us. One, the Sabatier reactor was built intending to using CO2 from the Martian atmosphere, rather than just whatever we've been exhaling up here. The other reason this would take so long is the Earth is on the other side of the sun. Even taking advantage of its usual trajectory, that's as fast as we could get back without dying.?

?But we can go home,? Martin said. ?We've had to cope with a lot, up here. Loneliness, fatigue, illness. And there have been attacks. I don't know that I understand everything that's gone on. But there's no shame in weighing everything we have to lose in the balance, and that's a decision we all have to make for ourselves. If you want you can tell me individually, or we can talk about it. You can even email me, if you're not sure you can say what you need to, person to person. I understand if that's the case. It seems like nothing has gone right on this mission. If some of you want to call the whole thing off- I wouldn't blame you, at all, or feel any differently about you as people, or as astronauts.?

Alisa didn't hesitate. ?For the first time in a while I feel like my head is clear. There's no way you're getting me to abort.?

Levy looked around the room. ?I'm a coward, so, you know, normally, I would procrastinate, and hedge, until enough other people had voiced opinions to make mine redundant. But the suspense would probably kill me. And... I left a lot of things behind for this mission. I wouldn't say exactly that I burned bridges... but I walked away from that life. This is my life, now. And existential threats be damned, I plan to live it.?

?I'm not going to wank on about how the mission comes first because I was in the military,? Clod started. ?There are a lot of things I still plan on doing. Climbing a mountain, living long enough to see my dad actually be happy about having daughters- and I'm going to do them. After we finish this mission. Because I want to see Mars. And set foot on it, if I can beat Martin at arm wrestling.?

?Never happen,? he said.

?Your old arm muscles are atrophying faster than the rest of ours- so, never say never.?

?Rica?? Martin asked.

?Shit. I don't know. I feel like everybody's overlooking the fact that several of us have almost died on a couple different occasions. And that strange and as yet unexplained things have happened. And that I don't know what I'd do if any of us got really, seriously hurt.? Rica dabbed at her eyes, because she didn't want to be the first astronaut to cry that day. ?But I know better. Nothing short of knowing our ship was going to explode before we made Mars would be enough to make us turn around- any one of us. Even me. We put ourselves through a special kind of hell, getting through selection and training- a hell reserved for the world's best. And we got there because we aren't the kind of people who know how to make pragmatic choices- not when we could achieve through perseverance instead. I love you guys. I wouldn?t put you in danger for anything. But disappointing you would come in a close second- and I know that us turning around would be so disappointing to us all.?

?I think you're being a little melodramatic,? Levy said. Clod thwacked him across the chest. ?What? It's already four-nil; at this point the... drama of her making a brave choice that might disappoint us is a little deflated.?

?Paul?? Martin asked.

?Does it matter? Levy's right. The masses have already spoken.?

?Of course it matters. And nobody said this is a democracy. Or that we were only going to tally a single vote.?

Paul eyed him warily. ?I'm not just being contrary. But I think we should go back. It doesn't save much time, but every second we're up here, we're potentially exposed to more danger-?

?That's the job,? Clod told him.

?and to a contagion. One I might have brought on board the Perseus.?

?Nothing that's happened was your fault,? Martin said.

?We don't know that.?

?We know you haven't shot anybody,? Clod interjected, glaring at Levy.

?That's a low blow,? Levy said.

?But we also know that you have misgivings about your misgivings,? she added. ?If you really wanted us to turn tail, you'd have stepped in early, certainly after Levy, or myself, when it looked like things were heading against you, to break the momentum, trying and win some of us over to your side. But Rica's right. You're just like the rest of us. You feel guilty- and I think your guilt is bullshit, because medical cleared you and everything else is just nonsense. And you want to be up here as bad as the rest of us- maybe worse, since you almost had it ripped away, and you know, better than any of us, what it's like to have the promise of space and then to lose it. You can play the tragic, heroic martyr card- and it's totally working for me, by the way- but I don't think you want what you want.?

?I do,? Paul said wearily.

Martin pursed his lips. He didn't want Paul's opinion to have undue scrutiny, so he cleared his throat. ?I understand where Paul's coming from. I have misgivings about the mission, too. You'd be a fool not to, and NASA, the ESA- or hell, any space program- don't launch fools into space. We're astronauts. Paid to be brave, and stupid, and a little bit crazy, with the hopes that we'll figure out something along the way that will make our species better. Sometimes at great personal risk. I vote we keep going. Anybody wants to change their minds? Paul??

?Why would I??

?Because there's no stubborn jackass in team. If we go ahead, we'll need you, giving everything you've got to give.?

?You'll have it. I just... I wish I hadn't put us all in danger.?

?We're astronauts,? Martin said. ?Danger is our office.?

?Gonna have you right inside the-?

?Levy,? Paul said, ?I swear to God...?

?Danger zone,? he whispered.


  09:34:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 683 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Remission

?I went over some of your research, while you were missing,? Clod said.

?I password-protected it.?

?Your password's your girlfriend's name. You weren't trying very hard. Anyway, I picked up on some of the variables you were tracking. Aggression markers have gone up for all of us, but the rest of the crew combined can't match you or Alisa. But here's the weird thing: all of our aggression levels have fallen. In the past few days. Weeks, really- especially if you control for stress brought about by your attempted suicide, and the various disappearances.?

?You can control for that??

?No, but Levy and Rica figured something out for it. They're a very clever pair, when they want to be. Even you and Alisa, if you look at the curve, your aggression markers were parabolic- growing at an increasing rate, but the last two weeks, that parabola turned into a natural log- increasing, but only just. I think that whatever has been messing with you two has passed.?

?And Rica??

?She's spiked a little harder than you two, lately, but that's mostly because she had further to go. Different magnitude, but the same basic curves.?

?I'm not sure I'm convinced.?

?Neither am I. But I've seen less concrete data published to raves.?

?And I've seen more thorough data fall apart under extra scrutiny.?

?We're not declaring cancer cured,? Clod admitted. But it's reason for you to be a little less dour. I like you a lot more less-dour.?

?A lot on my mind.?

?I know. But you know what's not good for that? Holding it in. Isolating yourself. We're already about as isolated as human beings have ever been. Walling yourself off emotionally- especially you- it's not healthy. You were the one harping on that. I'm not naturally a social flower, and I'm military- and I'm the girl. I shouldn't be the one chasing after you- socially or otherwise.?


?I know, Paul. Girlfriend. Complicated relationship with the ex-wife, too. I'm not saying I expect to be able to bang you. But until lately, we were friends. Good friends. The kind of friends where if I had a penis we could platonically beat off together on a couch while watching a skin flick, and it wouldn't be gay or anything.?

?Yeah, guys don't do that.?

?They do in Playgirl.?

?I somehow doubt you've ever read it.?

?Silly man; you don't read Playgirl.?

?We were good friends, I think is what you were getting at.?

?We are friends, is my point. You, trying to kack yourself, that freaked me the fuck out. And, with a little perspective, I recognize I was distancing myself from you in case you tried again and succeeded. And it'll probably still hurt for a while, but it also wasn't about me, either. There's no such thing as a relationship reset button, but I want us to try and get back to that. I miss my best friend on ship having a dick.?

?You're still hoping for some kind of friends with benefits, deal.?

?Maybe a little,? she grinned. But the stopped talking, because they could hear arguing out in the hallway.

Martin was trying to keep his voice low and deep. ?No, John, we'll give it another day. I'd like Alisa to be awake. It's a decision we need to make together- not one she should wake up chained to.?

?Every hour adds days, at this point,? Levy said. And by midnight that will change over to weeks.?

?We'll take care of it. I just want to give her time.? Martin walked into the med lab, and put on his best friendly smile. ?What are the odds our patient wakes up in the next few hours??

?Not great,? Clod said.

?Well, decent,? Paul said. ?She's healing faster than we're used to charting. It's hard to say, for certain- but if I were betting Clod's money, I'd bet high.?

?And if you were betting with your own money.?

?I'm not a gambling man,? Paul said with a smile. ?But for that reason I'm even more cautious when gambling for somebody else.?

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