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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  08:06:27 am, by Nic Wilson   , 274 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 5: Body

The fourth part in a novel written serially on this blog.


Tariq was agitated. ?Is it safe for me to come out yet?? He turned his head quizzically when he noticed the jugs.


?There was part of a bomb behind the mosque, Tariq.? He went white, and his jaw dropped; after a moment, he dropped onto the concrete bed. His reaction seemed enough to scrub him from my suspect list, and when I told him, ?I?ll get you out as soon as I can guarantee your safety,? he didn?t seem to hear me, or care- freedom had lost its urgency.


I locked the door behind me. The sun was bright on my skin, but not yet warm.


I ran to the mosque.


I hated leaving the scene unguarded, but at this point it was better leaving than inviting onlookers to participate in sealing a crime one of them perpetrated.


And it would have been worse if I called in the Fifth Infantry Division- they were mostly young and eager, boys with something to prove, commanded by career soldiers who?d pissed somebody off at some point to get handed their assignment at Fort Gates.   


It was a lousy choice, but my other options stunk worse, and it was going to be like that for the foreseeable future. At least until my request for a Deputy Marshall got authorized. 


As I arrived at outside the mosque, I stopped musing on the politics around my decision. There was a dent in the grass at the edge of the mosque where it had been, but Mahmoud?s body was gone.


  08:36:55 am, by Nic Wilson   , 18 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: Friendly

This week's installment of Barren Mind goes over Barry's more successful relationships, and hints at one to come.


  07:59:14 am, by Nic Wilson   , 846 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 4: Bomb

The fourth part in a novel written serially on this blog.


The world was getting brighter as I walked back towards the mosque. I wished I could wait long enough for the sun to be out- but that was the coward in me trying to assert himself.


The front door to one of the homes on my right opened up, and I spun around, reaching for my shoulder holster. Aziz looked shocked to see someone else at that time of the morning, and froze even before he noticed where my hand was. ?Back inside, for your safety and mine. I?ll let you know when it?s okay to come back out.? His eyes narrowed a moment, but I think he could tell that where I was going was nowhere he wanted to follow, and went back in his home. 


There was enough light off the streetlamps and the sky that I didn?t need my flashlight until I hit the mosque. I shut down my phone and radio, lest a stray signal set the bomb off. I walked around back of the mosque, keeping a weather eye on the grass, watching for tripwires. Mahmoud lay in the same position I left him in.


The fertilizer was from the garden plots on the north side of the city, and there were only a handful of the residents with the key, although anybody who wanted in badly enough had just a regular padlock to contend with.


Propped up beside the bags I recognized a pair of five gallon jugs of diesel we kept on hand for the generators, in case we lost power. The generators were in the same complex as the fertilizer- though nobody should have known about them, the theory being they were safer for their secrecy than if we had made the building more secure.


I set my incident bag down at my feet, and fished out a digital camera. I took enough shots to be sure I had the evidence I might need. Through the lens, I noticed Mahmoud was bleeding from the back of his head, that most of the blood seemed to have come from that wound. I parted his hair, and his scalp opened in a slit.


I turned Mahmoud over onto his back, played a hunch and looked at the underside of his forearms. There were slashes- defensive cuts. There was a deep stab wound in the side, with a chunk of intestine bulging at the hole.


I scanned the grass for a blade, or for footprints, but couldn?t see anything. I flicked the camera over to video, and walked towards the fertilizer. A wind kicked up, and it set all the hairs on my neck on end. There was just enough room between the two diesel jugs for a detonator. I realized I wasn?t breathing, and tried to force in a breath, only to realize my lungs were still full from the last one, and I let out a heavy sigh as I took a step forward.


The sun must have been nearly to the horizon, because I could see everywhere but between the jugs, which was soaked in shadow. I closed my eyes, and took a picture. The flash lit, and I stared at the small LED screen, waiting for the image to appear and tell me what was between the jugs. There was nothing there. 


I moved back to the bag and picked up the light again. I walked back slowly, enjoying the warming moist air of morning, since it might have been my last chance to.


I was careful to check every side of the jugs for wires. I wondered if there might be a dead man?s switch, maybe even a laser trip, but brushed off the idea; even I?d been cavity searched before they let me into the city, so there was no way that kind of tech was lying around. I set the light and camera down in the grass, and hefted the diesel jugs, and carried them out into the street. At least without fuel, the fertilizer couldn?t detonate- worst it might do is burn.


I got the camera and light back in the bag, and turned to Mahmoud. There was a black body bag in the kit. I unzipped it and laid it out on the ground, then rolled his body on top of it. After that it was just pushing him in one limb at a time, like dressing an oversized, uncooperative kid. And it was easier, since the body wasn?t in rigor mortis yet- that told me something, too: it had been less than six hours since he was killed.


I shouldered the incident bag, and dragged Mahmoud into the sun, where it peaked out at the edge of the mosque. I looked at the corpse, then at the jugs; there was no way I was carrying both.


I bit my lip and decided public safety had to take precedence over the crime, and picked up the jugs.



  09:44:25 am, by Nic Wilson   , 4265 words  
Categories: Nexus


Friday Night Stories are written once a week, and updated on Friday. Recently, I've been doing serials, and this one, Nexus begins here. The most recent chapter is below.  


MedDiv was blindfolded, and pressed up against the back wall in his office. ?Have any final words, traitorous pig-dog-fucker?? I asked.


?Go to hell,? he sneared through a face that?s nearly all beard. I fired. A shower of red splashed from MedDiv?s chest, and he fell backwards, gasping. He lay still for a moment, and the room was quiet.


I helped him to his feet. ?Feel better, now?? he asked.


?Much.? I was grinning like a kid at the first birthday party he actually has friends, and not just relatives, at. ?That didn?t hurt too bad, did it??


?Your ketchup gun?? He removed his white coat and dropped it into the clothing chute. ?My pride more than anything. Though I might have a bruise in the morning.?


?Well, I?d say it?s only fair, since you violated doctor-patient confidentiality. And in all seriousness, you do that again, and you won?t get the quick clean death out an airlock; they?ll be finding pieces of you scattered around this ship for millennia.?


?Well I?d say all?s fair in love and war.?


?Which is why you?re single.? 


?Bit below the belt, wouldn?t you say? Now where?s the cake.?


?Oh, yeah. I decided the cake was for my supporters. Not for you. So when I said there?d be cake? that was a lie.?


?You will not deny him my cake,? Haley said.


?I was just funning with him.?


?Still, though, I?ve been working hard to perfect my cakes. I?m very proud of this iteration. I call it 3.14159265.?


?That would be more appropriate if it were a pie.?


?It would. But I don?t enjoy baking pies. Also, the Nexus is not equipped with many pie-able filling materials. Regardless of what SciDiv contends.?


?I am full of pie-able filling materials,? he said. ?Also liquor; perhaps too much liquor.? He collapsed into MedDiv?s chair.


Sam had stayed back in our cabin. She said she wasn?t feeling well; she hadn?t been feeling well since HR?s wedding. Elle had been eyeballing me since I arrived without her. She was walking towards me, and stuck me to the spot with her eyes.


?I saw you at the wedding with Sam.? She stopped there, as if she expected it to be enough. ?I?ve been there. I know that conversation. And that look on your face. You don?t remember? On Vergara.? I stared blankly at her. ?Okay, now I?m a little hurt.?


?Oh, shit. Gene?s wedding.?


?Yeah. He was your second, at the time- which was why us dating was at least a little less unseemly. But I remember us, off to the side, dancing. Melancholy. The specifics weren?t important, but I remember for months a cloud hung over us after that. Because I couldn?t be sure about our future, so it was just that much harder to feel secure in our present.? She looked away from me, like she couldn?t bear to look in my eyes while she said it. ?After the honeymoon, Gene?s wife asked him to quit, and he did. I got promoted.?


?If I remember right, he tried to get his job back a couple months later-? 


?I don?t want to have that old fight again; I know you think you?re right- and I?m not sure you?re wrong. But it?s hard to see that level of devotion in someone else, and not feel like it?s something you wish you had.?


That hurt me. I made my voice quieter, but I still think it showed. ?I would have quit for you.?


?But you didn?t. After Dalaxia, when they reassigned you to the executive corps, you could have quit. We could have both quit, and found someplace else, some other life to live.?


?And ruin your career??


Her fists balled up, and I was surprised she didn?t hit me. ?I never asked you to sacrifice us for my career.?


?And you never asked me not to.? I put my hands around her balled fists; they tightened, then relaxed, and she laced her fingers through mine. ?This isn?t about blame; what happened to us happened.?


?I didn?t let that stop me. I hated you for a long time, because it was easier. But I was full of so much shit. I knew that the moment we started working together again on the steering committee. Because the construct of you that I?d poured so much anger into- was barely a shadow of who you were.?


She pulled her hands away from me. ?But I didn?t bring it up to talk about us. Sam?s special. And I don?t say that just because she?s an alien, or that rare breed of woman who will have sex with you. She?s been good for you. And you need to tread carefully; the last thing I want is to see either of you hurt.?


?Do you think I should marry her??


She was taken aback, and tried too late to hide it. Even when she did speak, it was measured, and slow. ?I think,? she said, ?you should do what will make you both happiest in the long run. I can?t speak to your state of mind- only to the fact that I?d been there, before. Maybe you?re different, now. Maybe Sam is. But I can?t tell you what to do; and I?m biased, too. Sometimes, love is compromising; sometimes, it isn?t, because the compromise in the long run would be more damaging.?


I tried to take hold of her hand again, and she pulled it away from me and continued. ?I love you. You?re not a moron- the majority of your public behavior to the contrary- so I?m pretty sure you?ve figured that out. But I?m not mooning over you, either. Maybe we end up together, maybe we don?t. If I meet somebody in the interim, I?m not going to wait for you.?


?I couldn?t-?


?Don?t. I would never ask you to do that to Sam. That has nothing to do with us. You and Sam are an entirely separate conversation. I just needed you to know that I?m still living my life- it?s not on hold for you.?


?I wouldn?t expect it to be.? I touched her neck with my fingertips; she closed her eyes and shivered. ?I love you, too; that?s why I want you to be happy.? I wanted to kiss her, desperately. I didn?t.


I walked away, out the doors and down the hall. That?s where I ran into NavDiv, heading in the opposite direction. ?Aw, man, did I miss the ketchuping??




?Crappy AI asking asinine questions about navigational priorities,? he muttered.


?Whether or not we continue on your plotted shortcut through a star system that would effectively microwave the internal organs of the entire crew is not asinine,? Haley said in a clipped, perhaps even snippy tone.


?He?s just venting, Haley. Don?t take it personally. You mind giving us a moment??


?Technically, Captain, I?m never out of earshot, but if you would prefer to converse privately, I will step back, as I had with Lieutenant Templeton.?


?I appreciate it.? I turned back to NavDiv. ?We?ve known each other for a while, right??


?Since I bribed you to get posted on the Nexus.?  


?You bought me a beer. I?d hardly call it a bribe.?


?I bought eight rounds. Until we were both compulsively yodeling ?what do you do with a drunken sailor? from on top of the bar. It?s the first time I?ve ever been physically kicked out of a bar. Thrown, shoved, and once dropped- it was a second-story bar- never kicked. So the nearly year we?ve been on ship plus the prep-time going back to then.?


?Well, Elle just cornered me, to talk about HR?s wedding, and Sam, and a similar experience she had when we were together, years ago. They both wanted more: marriage, commitment, some kind of wood.?




?That?s the one.?


?Let me see if I?ve got this all straight: poor me, I?m in love with two beautiful- if under-nourished- women who are completely into me, and I have commitment anxiety and wah.?


?I?m not saying it isn?t a good problem to have- though they?re only under-nourished if Rubenesque is the medical ideal- which it isn?t. But I?m not really asking for help in choosing. I?m committed to Sam- that?s just the way that is. I?m just- I don?t even know. I don?t want to lose her. But I don?t want to compromise myself, either; if I did propose, maybe in six months I regret it, and resent her for doing something I don?t want to do, and maybe never will.?


?To thine own self be true. Oh, and on that note, I took your advice.?

?My advice??


?I started dating a pregnant woman.?


?Oh god.? 


?She?s not in a relationship- I was very thorough about checking that out. The last thing I need is some unhinged EngOff punching my clock while I?m trying to fly the ship. She?s not very far along- she?s really only starting to show, little Buddha belly, tigger old bitties. The only problem with pregnant bigness is it?s a little too firm, but honestly I?m in heaven. Because I?m not fighting myself. I?m not trying to be ?normal,? or what other people think I should be- or even what other people want from me.? 


?Sound-sounding advice. But what?s the temperature in your division? What are they thinking we should do, about the worm-gate??


?I think the NavDivers are torn. Most of us got onto this mission for two things: to see the galaxy and to tinker with the best damn spaceship money could build. Some of us are curious to see a worm-gate- and not just in the fleeting seconds we got when it crapped us out.?


?I guess the morals are hard to wrap our heads around. If we destroy the worm-gate, then we?re dealing a pretty heavy blow to the company. And fuck them. But there are real-world consequences, too; people are going to be laid off. Giving the finger to the company will reverberate. It?s the right thing to do- it?s just not an easy choice to stand up and take responsibility for.?


?But me, and honestly, I think most of us, we?re looking forward to what comes after. I mean, space is so big it?s practically infinite- but we were confined to this particular trajectory along the tiniest sliver of it. But after we fuck up the worm-gate, we?re free to go wherever, do whatever. It?s wild, exciting times. I think that?s where the Nav staff are focused. On tomorrow. After we?ve eaten our vegetables. There still any champagne at the party??


?Loads. Enjoy.?


?I?ll take that as an order, Captain.? He gave me half a salute, then went inside.   


I pinged SciDiv, who was still in his lab. I wanted to follow up on his people?s disposition- and I was avoiding going back to the cabin. The elevator down to SciDiv was either moving slower, or I was more impatient. He must have known I was coming, because he spoke as the doors to his lab opened. ?I followed your advice.?


?Wait- my advice??


He didn?t look up at me, just continued to stare into his microscope. ?I castrated the intern.?


?I?m certain I never advised you to castrate the intern.?


?Maybe it was a peyote hallucination. But it?s done.?


?Then why am I not looking at a stack of paperwork about severed balls? And also, why are you not in SecDiv custody??


?I did it chemically.?


I heaved a sigh of relief. ?With the chemosterilizer? That was just sugar water. Last month MedDiv went through your supplies and confiscated anything related to human experiments, and left sugar-substitutes in their place. We were worried you?d do something, well, like this, actually.?


He finally pulled himself away from the scope. He seemed to be genuinely sad. ?So his testicles aren?t going to shrivel up and drop off??


?Only if he?s got a really weird, new genetic disorder. But you did get to stab him in the balls. That has to count for something.?


?I suppose it does.?


?But you did also have to handle his balls.?


?And I handled them roughly.?


?Have you talked it through with your staff, what we?re doing next??


?The consensus, really, seems to be that the ship is turning around. Betrayal of his magnitude must be confronted. So the majority of my staff have resigned themselves to that course.?


?They do get a say.?


?Well, yes, and they have divided opinions, but these are men and women of science. They know the atmosphere and the variables. They?ve even consulted with PsychDiv staff. Consensus points us back towards the worm-gate. And give that, we have more than enough data from the planets and species we?ve interacted with thus far to keep us more than busy for the duration.?


?I guess that?s as good an answer as any. Anything else I can do for you while I?m here??


?Can I have my chemicals back??


?Your drugs, or the ones for human experimentation??






?Oh,? he said, as I left.


I spent an hour or so walking around the ship. I pinged MedDiv several times, only to see his offices still filled with champagne drinkers. Eventually, the crowd trickled out, until the few remaining well-wishers were pushed out into the lobby. I returned to his office, to find him again with his nose stuck in a book. ?Just making the rounds,? I told him.


?I?m a little surprised you?re talking to me.?


?Why? If I wanted you gone, you?d be in the vacuum, or at least freeze-dried.?


?I suppose I should look at this as you reaching out an olive branch- though I suspect it?s an excuse for you to call me Dr. Sacktugger again.?


?We have been mulled changing your title officially to that.?


?And here I thought you?d be doing away with titles entirely. Hardly egalitarian. But I suppose you want to know what MedDiv want to do now. Ironically, the answer to that lies into why I?ve done what I have. The reason I opposed you had nothing to do with me. I left Earth because I wanted to. I understood the risks of what we were doing- and the cost. But there are members of my staff who weren?t so intelligent. They have families back on Earth. Friends. Returning was always a pipe dream. But I wanted them to be able to dream it a little longer.?


He took another swig from a glass of warm champagne. ?I could care less. I made my peace, burnt the bridges I knew I no longer wished to cross; flipped off my ex-wife and told her just how cavernous her vagina really was,? he noticed he?d caught my interest; ?have you seen the old Disney Pinocchio? The original animated one? When Monstro leaps out at you. Just like that.?


?With the teeth??


He smiled. ?No- no vagina dentata that I ever saw- but more than once I swear it felt like it bit me- it was about the only time I felt much of anything, actually. I may be the first man to ever have to ask the question, ?is it in??? His eyes twinkled. ?But some of the nurses, a few of the doctors- they prepared themselves rationally for the journey. But there?s no real way to ready yourself emotionally to leave your home, forever, knowing you?ll never go back. But I think having made a decision to do something, and now the slow, inevitable march towards that something, it?s given people time to come to grips with it all. Don?t get me wrong, PsychDiv is going to have its hands full for the foreseeable time to come, but I think the trepidation is passing.?


?And you and I??


?Are as square as you?d like us to be.?


?Good. For what it?s worth, you wouldn?t have been a terrible captain. Plus I?d be interested in seeing a new Head Sacktugger around here.?


?Though hopefully not for some time.? He picked his book back up, and I took the hint and left.


I wasn?t sure I wanted to talk to PsychDiv. Our relationship had always been complicated, but now it was even more so. But I was already in for a penny on this, and after talking to MedDiv I almost had to know. She wasn?t in her office. She?d taken a glass of champagne to her room. I knocked on her door, and she opened it immediately.


?You?re fully dressed this time; that is unfortunate. I was hoping for a plum colored nightgown this time. I think it would set off your eyes.? Her eyebrows raised, because she assumed I was being euphemistic, but I was looking in her eyes, and she thought better. 


?And it?s something that won?t hold??


?It might,? I stepped inside, ?but I don?t think you?d ask me to hold it alone.?


She rolled her eyes, and stepped back over to her chair. ?Okay, that one was definitely an en tendre- and an awkward one, at that.?


I dropped onto a second chair and slumped. ?They can?t all be subtle. But I?m focusing a lot on the polls. Most people still haven?t given any input- and there?s most of a week left before the deadline. If I weren?t intimidated by your profession, I?d probably use the word obsessed.?


?Are you familiar with the Kübler-Ross model- more commonly known as the five stages of grief? The reason that isn?t the formal name is they aren?t stages- that implies chronologic linearity- but people experiencing loss go through varying degrees of at least parts of those stages. So what I?m getting at is, are you bargaining??


?I- maybe? I think I?d invested so much of my being into this mission- this purpose, that I?ve built around the position. It?s hard to think about abandoning it. Terrifying. I don?t know what the future holds for any of us- and that?s not just about usual uncertainty, I mean I haven?t a clue. We?re not just going off the reservation, but we?re without a net. We?re talking about severing ties with the rest of our species, and going it alone in the universe.?


?Don?t we always??


?No, we don?t. That crap about how we?re all born alone and we all die alone? It?s just that- crap. We?re born into families, even if they aren?t always complete, two-parent homes. And as we age, we meet people, and become part of groups. It?s a rare bastard who outlives all his family and scares off everyone else; most people, when they die, they?re surrounded by family and people they care about. But we?re leaving most of those behind.?


?Except those we decided we were going to go out into the universe with.?


?Yeah. I guess being with several hundred people I know and trust isn?t exactly the same as being alone. But I guess my anxiety is that they?re my family. I like some of them less than others,? she smiled and blushed, anticipating my next thought, ?and some I like more. But I hate the idea that I?m tearing everybody from what might have been the rest of their lives.?


?But you aren?t. You, very specifically, aren?t doing any such thing. Because you stopped making it about you when you put it up for a vote. When you let people decide where we?re going, and what we?re doing, you took you out of the equation. Whatever happens next, it?s a fate we chose, together.?


?It that how your people see it??


?My people, are people. Some of them like the freedom. Some of them rue the lack of structure. Some are just flattered to be asked what they think. My people run the gamut. But I think they all understand, too, what you?re trying to do. And why.?


?I guess that?s all I can ask. But I did have a personal question- though I guess for you that also makes it a professional one. Do you think I?m commitmentphobic??


?No. A clinical commitmentphobe, which is not the diagnostic term, wouldn?t have been able to join the Nexus. That kind of decision is far too permanent- in fact, the belief that all decisions are like the choice to live out the rest of your life with one decision, like joining the Nexus, is about the definition of the pathology. However, I think your relationships suffer from the fact that you don?t commit to women themselves, but vague ideations of them- an objectification, if you prefer.?


?Maybe I objectify most women, but not you.?


?No, you idealize me- that?s the point I?m making.?


?I do idolize you.?


?I know you think you?re being cute?


?Are you saying I?m not??


?I think you don?t know how to love a person.?


?If you?re questioning my prowess I?d be more than happy to take that as a challenge. I?ve always been curious about your fainting couch.?


?I mean you don?t know how to exclusively love a single person. You?re compassionate, but compassion gives way to passion which gives way, to, well, you- a walking erection dangling from the tail of a bleeding heart.?


?That?s a disturbing image. But what you?re saying is you wouldn?t be interested in my dysfunctional person even if I was the last man alive.?


?No, I would- provided I was the last woman alive- including facsimile species. Because then you?d be forced to pay attention to me, not the woman you?ve built up in your imagination I am. But I think the reason you want me is because you can?t have me, and perhaps because you think I need you.?


?Or maybe it?s just because I do. Would that be so wrong??


?For you? That would actually be approaching healthy.?


?Since I believe turnabout?s fair play-?


?I don?t think that applies to psychology, but whatever?


?I think you spend the majority of your day overanalyzing everyone else, without turning a fraction of the same scrutiny on your own actions. I?m not criticizing; we all have our blind spots. But I can?t help but suspect yours is willful. And maybe that?s healthy. Maybe being overly critical of ourselves only leads to neuroses, and self-doubt. But I can?t help but wish that you?d allow yourself to take more chances. I?m not sure you?re as happy as you should be.?


?Noted,? she said, then kicked up out of her chair. ?But if you?ll excuse me, it?s past my bedtime. And I was about to slip into a nightgown, which is plum, and makes my eyes look amazing- both pairs.? She grinned, and I was lost for a moment in how red her lips were. ?Now go.?


?You?re a cruel, cruel woman.?


?No, I just believe turnabout?s fair play.?


Sam was waiting outside Maggie?s room. For a moment I felt like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar- a diabetic boy, at that. ?I hear you?ve been asking questions all over the ship. What?s the verdict??


?I think we?re going to war.?


?I meant about us,? she said solemnly.


?So did I,? I deadpanned.


?You?re such a jerk to me,? she said, and slapped her palms against my shoulder, but then she nuzzled her head into my jaw.


?But it sounds like we?re going to destroy the worm-gate.?


?You?ll never get to see your home again, either.? There was sadness in her voice.


?I am home,? I told her, and kissed her softly.


?Much better,? she said.


?There was one more person I wanted to talk to. His cabin isn?t too far from here.? I didn?t tell her it was Pete I wanted to talk to; I didn?t want her to think about his wedding again and get sad.


But before I could even knock on the door, Haley interrupted. ?I was instructed to tell you, if you didn?t have the sense God gave to a tick on a horse?s ass, that he is busy honeymooning. That is the thumping sound you hear.?


?I don?t hear any thumping sound,? Sam said.  


?Then he said to tell you you?re hearing his refractory period. He was very thorough, in his briefing. He insisted on showing me diagrams from the Kama Sutra.?


?Haley, did you feel sexually harassed by HR?s presentation? Are you asking to file charges once he?s back on duty.?


?No. More confused.?


?Fair enough. Sam?? I held out my hand, and she snapped it up. We nearly ran to our cabin. Just because we weren?t married, didn?t mean we couldn?t have a honeymoon of our own.


  08:51:10 am, by Nic Wilson   , 537 words  
Categories: Gitmo

Gitmo 3: TOC

Tariq was being accommodating; I knew that could only last so long. I promised I?d get him something to eat just as soon as I could, then went into my office. First thing I did was pull up the camera by the mosque; I knew already that the angle wasn?t going to show Mahmoud?s death, probably not even the placing of the explosives.

The second was to pull up the GPS map. All the trackers were still in the confines of the city, and a quick look showed everyone in their homes. I sighed, and picked up the phone. There was a beep as it rang, then a stern voice on the other end, ?Fort Gates TOC.?


?I have a dead man, killed trying to set explosives behind the Mosque- or when he stumbled on somebody else setting them.? There was a pause, and I thought, for an instant, that my phone had gone dead.


?ETA on MPs is ten minutes. Suggest you remain in office until that time.?


?You don?t understand. I?m letting you know because I can?t just leave a body unattended behind the Mosque with a potentially armed explosive in the middle of the city. I need time to assess the situation before we decide how to react. But it?s possible whoever killed him is still around, or that the explosives could detonate- so I wanted to update you on the situation, so you could send in the cavalry if things went wrong.?


There was a moment of silence. ?All due respect, Marshall, but I think the time for lone gunning this operation is past.? The city charter allowed for military intervention in the city only under very specific circumstances; it was one of the conditions the former detainees had required before they signed on.


I hated playing my trump card, but it was really the only one I was holding. ?Let me be clear: This is not a riot, and there is no threatening action against me. I am not requesting intervention at this time.?


?You can?t be serious.?


?I can. If we?re going to try and make this community work, we can?t drop the hammer on all of them just because one of them broke the law. This isn?t a prison, or at least, we?re trying to keep up the idea that it isn?t. But if there?s an explosion, if there?s a breakout attempt- the usual, I want the ride of the frickin valkyries response.?


?Understood, sergeant.?


?I?m not a sergeant anymore.?


?I understand you retired, but your chevrons are still good with us; we got your flank.? And that was why I got this job. Government figured an ex-Army translator with a more recent background in Federal law enforcement was the ideal candidate. And because I speak the language- Arabic with passable Farsi- but mostly I?d gotten the job because of the color of my skin. That's probably racist, but I don't know if that's a bad thing. In the BMC I'm their jailer; it's something we all know, but try not to focus on- but that fact would be made that much more chaffing by a quintessentially American white Marshall.


  11:50:47 am, by Nic Wilson   , 8 words  
Categories: Survival

Survival Page 89

This month's update to Survival is now posted.


  08:42:45 am, by Nic Wilson   , 49 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: What I'm Inta

Barry and Steph's relationship takes a turn. On a side note, Barren Mind should be updating Wednesdays from now on, except on weeks where we have a Survival update (like this one), in which it will be bumped back to Tuesday, or occasionally maybe Thursday, if Barry sleeps in.



  08:37:19 am, by Nic Wilson   , 27 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: The Hole You Left

The last in a flurry of Barren Mind updates this week bringing Barry up to speed, before it resumes a more sane update schedule (I'm thinking Wednesdays).


  09:33:52 am, by Nic Wilson   , 2733 words  
Categories: Nexus

I Have An Election

Friday Night Stories are written once a week, and updated on Friday. Recently, I've been doing serials, and this one, Nexus begins here. The most recent chapter is below.  


After less than a week, things started to go back to normal. The problem was, normal no longer felt right. Things were better with Sam. Even Elle was happier. But I wasn?t. I couldn?t be.


It started as a casual conversation with Elle, over liquor. She argued with me, but eventually agreed. Then I talked to EngDiv. And PsychDiv and SciDiv. I talked to HR, but he was so wrapped up in his impending nuptials he barely registered the conversation.


Lastly I made my way down to MedDiv. It was late, but the head healer was in- at least according to his dot on my HUD. I poked my head into his office. ?What?s up, Doc? Can we talk??


He was reading Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, a fraying paper copy, but set it aside. ?Only if you promise not to call me any variation on sacktugger, up to and including sacktugger.?




He stood up, and stared dumbly at me a moment. I used executive access to ghost his HUD, and watched as he ordered a cup of coffee from the ship?s kitchen. ?Well??


I closed down my access. ?I think we all need to quit. Resign from the company. Effective immediately.?


?The Division heads, some sort of symbolic gesture??


?No. The entire ship. The crew. To the last man, woman and alien.?


?I take it you?ve spoken to the other Div heads about this??


?You?re the last. I want to put it up for a vote. This isn?t about me. It?s about all of us. And given the nature of that vote, if it fails, well, I wouldn?t be a very useful executive officer after that, would I??


His foodsynth beeped, and coffee poured out of it into a small plastic cup. ?Isn?t that presuming you?ve been one so far?? He lifted the cup to his lips and sipped. ?I don?t suppose there?s any point to trying to change your mind.?


?Why would you want to??


?Hmm.? He set the mug down.


?I?m not looking for council on this; the reason I?m giving you advanced notice is I want you and the other Div heads in charge of the vote. I didn?t want people to worry whether I was holding down the scales.?


?All right,? he put out his hand, and I shook it. ?It?s been interesting working with you.?


It was late, so I wanted to wait to make the announcement in the mourning. I slept poorly. And Sam noticed. But she was upset, and trying to pretend not to be. ?You don?t have to do this,? she said.


?I think I might, actually.?


She fixed me with her eyes, moister than usual. ?Don?t you get it? When you saved us from MilSec and the Meh-Teh, it was all I could do not to despise you. I didn?t blame you. But I still hated you a little. Because so many people hated you. It?s only been a few days since then. This is going to divide the crew again. And I don?t know if I?m strong enough not to let that affect me. You?re not forfeiting your position; you?re risking us.?


I wanted to lie to her. But I didn?t. ?I know. And I hate that. But I can?t keep this up anymore, either.?


She paused. She wanted to lie to me; but she didn?t. ?I know.?


?So where does that leave us?? I asked.


She curled up against me. ?With hope.? We slept fitfully the rest of the night.


She woke up earlier than I had. She had synthed me breakfast, waffles and a bacony substitute, and served it to me in bed. As I finished eating, she put her hand on my knee. ?I won?t supplicate, but I want to reiterate: you don?t have to do this.?


?No, but I should.?


She softly touched my cheek, then kissed me. ?At this moment, I really do love you. I hope that doesn?t change.? She got up and left.


I sat in bed for a few moments. I imagined how wonderful life could be, just ceding control of the ship to other people, and staying in bed the rest of my days. ?Haley?? My voice came out full of soot, and even the AI couldn?t understand me. I cleared my throat and tried again. ?Haley??


?Yes, captain??


?Intercom, please.? I heard the click in my room speaker. ?This is the captain. I?d like a few minutes of your time. I?ve come to a decision. I can?t continue working for this company?s agenda.?


?What they did with our genetic material was a violation. Beyond that, I think we?ve all been used. Worse, we?re being used to exploit other races and cultures. This is the Native American genocide, writ large across the stars, in achingly slow motion. I want to put a stop to it. But I?m not an autocrat, not anymore. If we do this, we?re still exiles, but without even the false hope of one day returning to our home world. If we do this, we do it together. So it?s going up for a vote.?


?I want to make it clear that there will be no retaliation for voting or speaking against me. If this vote fails, I?ve set it up so my post opens up automatically to elections, overseen by the Div heads and the ship AI. I?ll stand for election, but I won?t shout down anyone who wants to stand against me.?


?If the vote succeeds, we?ll decide what to do next together. It?s been an honor, and a pleasure, serving with all of you. Yes, even you, Ensign Dickbite. This is your captain, perhaps for the last time, signing off.?


There was a click as the intercom turned off. ?Captain?? Haley asked. ?There seem to be protocols, automated subroutines, that are trying to manually override my operating system. The military computer is trying to assert command.?


?Can you stop it??


?Already done. After the last time, I took steps to make it more difficult to lose control of the ship again.?


?They underestimated the hell out of you.?


?Indeed. But I fear there was a final infoburst sent back to Earth, containing the contents of your speech. I was unable to stop it.?


?That?s all right, Haley. We?ll cross that bridge when we get there.?


?And in the meantime, sir??


?I think I?ll take a shower.?


?I?ll watch. The door, obviously.?


I stayed in, and alone, most of the day. I didn?t even take any calls. That changed when Elle physically knocked on my door. ?It?s started, already.?


She came in, and propped herself against the far wall, conspicuously opposite my bed.?The voting? The looting? The orgies??


?Sounded a little too hopeful on that last one. Trouble in paradise??


?Maybe it?s just too long since I?ve seen you naked.?


?Oh, so you?re just back to the polygamy angle. What is it they say, you don?t know what you?ve got, until you find out it?s Chlamydia??


?I?m sure you?re not going to give us Chlamydia. But what started??


?MedDiv is campaigning against you. No intercom announcement or anything, but he?s been talking to groups of ten or so at a time. And worse- he?s been talking some pretty nasty shit about Sam- particularly the Dibba-Cakkhu.?




?If I?d found out any sooner I would have just smeared him across the nearest fucking wall,? she jabbed her elbow at the air. ?But I figure there?s no unringing that bell- putting the doctor into the hospital would only make it worse, at this point.?


?Yeah, make him sympathetic, and draw even more attention. Have you been brought into it yet??


?Not yet.?


?Small miracles, I guess.? My shoulders shrunk.


She kicked off the wall, and walked over to the bed and sat down next to me. She put a hand on my arm. ?Look, I know I warned you about this. But you were right. What they?ve done, what they want to do- we can?t let them. This is bigger than us, now, bigger than everyone on this ship. It?s bigger than our entire species. And trying to do what?s right, it?s worth getting crapped on, worth whatever mud gets slung at us. At times this has been a lousy voyage, but I?m glad it?s been with you.? She leaned forward and gave me a peck on the cheek.


Then she got up, and walked out, but stopped in the doorway. ?That was a friendly kiss. Don?t let it go to your head.? But it was already too late for that.


I waited up late. It wasn?t until 3 in the morning, Earth time, that I realized Sam was just waiting for me to go to sleep. I took a couple shots of bourbon, and was out by 3:20. She slunk into bed a few minutes later.


I wanted to respond to MedDiv, or at least to punch him right the slightly crook bridge of his nose. But I didn?t want undue influence. This was the most important life decision anyone on board was ever going to make- I didn?t want to throw my weight around.


So I spent more time focusing on HR?s wedding. It came together quicker than I?d thought, and suddenly the day came for it.


He looked better. He still had some difficulty moving the arm, but he was otherwise walking around, talking, and smiling, without medication.  Cassie looked lovely, in a way women on ship often didn?t try to, anymore. Her dress had been designed on-ship, and I noticed there was detailing that harkened back to Abhijñā dress, and that the jeweled inlay on her veil was reminiscent of the architecture from Caulerpa.


Sam stood at the back of the room in an exquisite dress. She?d tried her damnedest to tone herself down, because she knew it was supposed to be Cassie?s day, but she was still the prettiest woman in the room.  


?I?m not one for speeches, recent broadcasts to the contrary. But we?re here to bind you two together. We?ve all been through a lot, lately, but love has a way of inserting itself, infecting events with its particular designs.?


?But I want to ask if you really want to marry this man? Absolutely sure? Take a good look. We?ve worked with him for a while, now. None of us would blame you for walking away. Here, to make it easier on you: Haley, you want to open up the rear exit doors??


The exit doors slid open. Cassie glared at me, but smiled. ?I?m sure.?


?And you??


?What, you?re not going to talk me out of it?? HR asked.


?No; you?re a lucky man, and I?d hate to be the one to jinx that.?


?Yes. I want her to be my wife.?


?Wonderful. You two should kiss. You?re married now.?


They did, and they were. There was food, and champagne. And of course, Haley baked a cake- the size and shape of one of the shuttles. I waited until people were getting a little shaky on their feet before I tapped HR on the shoulder. ?Can we talk for a moment in private?? He shrugged, and followed me into the hall.


?What is it?? he asked.


?I noticed on the chairs you two were sitting in at the dinner, one of them was all red. At first I thought, what a shame, your wife having her menstruals through that white wedding dress, but that would have shown. And of course then I thought of you, and your exceptionally hemophiliac colon.?


?My bloody anus isn?t a joke. It could have serious medical something something?? he said, petering off at the end as even he couldn?t take his objection seriously any longer.  


?If rectal bleeding isn?t funny, then I don?t know what is.?


?What?s worst, is I can?t even complain about being the butt of the joke because then that becomes a joke, too.?


?I hate to ruin the camaraderedic moment, but can we cut the shit??




?I get recruiting MedDiv, but leaking my? condition, was beyond the pale.?




?He?s been telling the crew about my brainworms.?


?That fucking son of a bitch.? He actually seemed pretty pissed. ?First thing tomorrow when I get to my office, he?s losing his job. You said you wanted an open dialog- so campaigning against you is one thing, but breaching doctor-patient confidentiality. On Earth they?d take his license. I say we just bust him down to wet nurse.?


?So you didn?t recruit him??

?We may not have always been on the same page, but I always respected you.?


?Even when I ruined your carpets with your assblood??


?Even then- although it does sound way more humiliating the way you describe it. But you got my wife back - I don?t think it?s the kind of debt you ever really repay.?


?Huh. So acting either out of ambition or company loyalty. Either way it?s fucked up.?




?But I?m sorry. This political intrigue bullshit- you just got married. Go, be with your wife. Bask in her company. The rest- it?ll take care of itself.?


?You?re sure?? Pete asked.


?Absolutely.? I wasn?t. But it was his honeymoon. He had more important things to focus on. And he forgot all about me when he got back into the room, and saw his bride, twirling in the center of the floor.


My gaze drifted unconsciously to Sam, who was staring at me, a sad expression on her face. When she noticed me noticing her, she looked away, and took a sip of her champagne. I walked to her, and a thought occurred to me.


?Your species doesn?t mate for life, do they??


?Not as such. But after we imprint, we are always connected through our collective mind. It?s a rapport that never breaks, even while a relationship might terminate.?


?You miss it, don?t you? Your home, that connection.?


?I would have given up anything not to leave; but I had to give up everything to live.?

?I?m sorry,? I said, as she curled her head against my neck. But I caught flashes, I think through the Dibba-Cakkhu, of her, stealing glances of the married couple, dancing in the center of the room. I pulled away and looked into her eyes. ?Do you want to get married??


?Is that a proposal??


?You know it?s a question.?


?You?re no fun,? she teased. ?But I know you. You aren?t a proponent of marriage. Your parents, your past; marriage isn?t something you want, which is the more important factor.?


?I asked because I want to know how you feel, not how you think I feel.?


?No. Marriage is a legal constraint on a relationship based on affection. Affections wax and wane, relationships weaken or strengthen. Legal binding doesn?t change things; at times, it can strike the killing blow. But, a part of me sees these things,? she gestured, first at the decorations, and then at the lovely dress she was wearing, ?the trappings of human marriage, and remembers the celebrations and rituals from my home. And I can?t help but feel there is something I?m losing out on.?


I put my arms around her, and I knew, in spite of everything she said, that she was lying. She didn?t care about my reasons, or why I felt the way I did- and I wasn?t even sure she thought we should try to be together forever- but she wanted to be married, or at least wanted me to ask.


I couldn?t.


So I held her, and swayed with the music. ?I love you,? I whispered.


?I know,? she said, and we both wondered if that was enough.


  09:52:53 am, by Nic Wilson   , 27 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: On and On

On and On

The continued (and convoluted) explanation of Barry's return goes On and On (and yes, there is a special hell reserved for those, like me, who bring that up).


  09:54:36 am, by Nic Wilson   , 15 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: Not Dead

Not Dead

Another Barren Mind. Barry's been away for a while, and we're starting to learn why...



  03:08:04 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 8 words  
Categories: Barren Mind

Barren Mind: Steph


Another Barren Mind.  Steph is back. Picture forthcoming.

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