Books, Editing, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 5 – Manners

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

A knock came to the outer room door.

“Come,” Raven shouted loudly enough to be heard.

“My apologies, Master. It was time for brunch,” he wheeled a cart into the room.

“Very good, Dom. Sit the tray on the table by the couch. We will be out shortly.”

“Will there be anything else?” Dom asked.

“Are you staying for dinner, Cristina?”

“I have a concert tonight. There is a sound check this afternoon. Anyway, I usually don’t eat before performing.”

“Then there is nothing else for now, Dom. You may stand down until I call.”

“As you wish, sir.”

Raven said to his guest, “I’ll give you a rain check, then. Perhaps later tonight?”

“Why don’t you come see the performance? I can arrange for a place backstage.”

“I would love to but leaving the house is no longer a viable option.”


“What you see before you is mainly an illusion, my dear. And it only exists within the confines of this modest abode.”

“I wouldn’t agree there is anything modest about a castle.”

“I assure you it is a scale replica. I have lived in a real castle, very much like this. One significant difference is this one is not drafty.”

She tilted her head to one side, considering the mystery of the man before her. No longer did she feel threatened or nervous. He was a gracious host. Still, there was a lot she wanted to know and he was less than forthcoming.

“By then way, I don’t agree with your assessment of mankind.”

“It doesn’t surprise me. Someone as young and full of potential as you would never discount possibilities.”

“I don’t think we are headed for extinction.”

“Certainly not you.”

“Are your patronizing me?”

“Not at all.”

“I hope not.”

“But for a lot of other people it is only a question of when and how.”

“We are survivors,” Cristina countered.

“Yes, that we are. In many ways we are already living in time wrested from oblivion. We destroyed our mother world, but we were clever enough to adapt some other places to suit us. We have survived as long as we have because we can change the rules of existence to a very real degree, as if survival is a game. Still, I am mindful of one truth. Many of the greatest advances in mankind’s history have resulted from seemingly accidental discoveries while in search of entirely different knowledge. What has distinguished mankind is that we seem to have an innate ability to recognize the worth of something unexpected and capitalize on it.”

“I hope you won’t mind if I pray that you are wrong about the our inevitable demise.”

“If I am right, it is not anything I would ever gloat over.”

She sought to change the subject. “You are an artist. Chase told me. I saw the paintings in the hall.”

“I painted for a time and then sculpted for decades. I have written books and dabbled in poetry and music.”

“You have a multi-faceted talent.”

“I have had the time to learn how to do many things to assuage the tedium of a very long life.”

“I have never heard of you. I mean, as good as your art is, I would think that everyone would know Raven.”

“It is an assumed name, of course”

“I figured as much.”

“It would not be well for some people to know that I am still alive, let alone know my current whereabouts.” He exited the concealed room and once Cristina was clear of the bookcase he clicked the remote to close it.

He returned to the mantle over the fireplace where the artificial fire raged. He pointed to it and commented, “I am amazed at what the engineers and technicians can do with replication and simulation, though. I have to give them kudos for this castle, even the rocking chair you just sat down in and this wonderfully radiant fire that is also environmentally friendly. They even programmed settings to allow the fire to seem to die down to embers. Whenever men are not trying to kill one another we can become most clever creatures.”

“Who are you?” she inquired.

“A fellow traveler.”

“No I mean really, who are you?”

“I have been around for a while, as I have suggested. Some would think it has been too long if they realized it. Gratefully most of them who knew me back then are now long gone.”

“You’re immortal?”

He turned to face her. “That remains to be seen, does it not?”

“What if I can guess it, your name? I mean, will you tell me?”

“Do you think you know who I am?”

“Not yet, but I am just…well, I am pretty good at figuring things out.”

“I’ll bet you are, my dear. But there is only one other human yet alive that knows my real name. He was my contemporary on Earth. But as he remained there he is in a worse predicament than me.”

“He is like you but actually lives on Earth?”

“On an island, last I heard. If you know Earth geography, it is southeast of Puerto Rico, part of the Virgin Islands.”

“I thought no one lived on Earth.”

“Research teams are here and there, and of course, my friend. He accumulated a good deal of wealth. So, he decided to spend everything he could in order to fix the problems of that troubled world through terraforming it back into what it once was.”

“Is that possible?”

Raven smiled, “I don’t know. It’s a crazy idea, but sometimes those are the best ideas of all. And if he succeeds mankind might actually return home and the curse upon the entire race may be lifted.”

“The curse?”

“Fertility rates have continuously declined for humans since they left the good Mother Earth. It was negligible at first. But recently, for the first time, there will be a negative population growth in all of the colonies, including Pravda.”


“Scientists think it is something they can fix. They would because they always believe that. But the truth is that when you remove a human from the complex interactions of gravity and electromagnetism of the world of origin, suddenly some things in the tiniest parts of cells begin to alter ever so slightly.”

“Our DNA.”

“Even the subatomic pieces that allow our DNA to work properly.”

“There could be other reasons for that.”

“I suppose there could, but I am right. And the scientists know it. I would tell them, but I know it just to piss them off. What’s the point? If I had a solution, maybe I would.”

“How do you know you’re right?”

“The same way you do. It comes from instinct. Then, I confirm it through observation and testing.”

“Like a scientist. You are one of them.”

“You are very astute. It was long before I became interested in the artistic side of my being.”

“You hate them so much because being one of them you understand them and their vulnerabilities.”

“I reiterate; you are astute.”

Cristina studied him, as his appearance even seemed to change before her eyes. Feathers seemed to erupt from his cheeks and he sprouted wings that rapidly populated with feathers, all of them black. “You’re playing with me.”

“Not at all. I’m demonstrating an illusion, and what an illusion can become. Can you venture why I would do that?”

“I can nearly hear you telling me that many things in the world are an illusion, so be skeptical.”

“Very good, because that was my precise thought.”

She shifted, suddenly uncomfortable where she sat.

“You knew you could do that. You knew it before I told you.”


He nodded.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Certainly,” Raven allowed, already knowing what it was as she had as yet not locked her thoughts into her mind, assuming innocently that others would not have the ability to violate her privacy.

“You have been…”

“Famous and infamous. Each and both in ways you might never understand.”

“I think I could guess your name, especially if you were ever famous.”

“Perhaps you might. You are gifted.”

“Well, at least you have to give me some clues.”

“You really need no clues, but what would you like to know?”

“Something about your background, I guess.”

“My background,” he said, and then paused to draw a deep breath before continuing. “My natural grandfather was born and raised to the age of 5 in Miami. Do you know of it?”

“I have heard of the major cities of Earth. It was in Florida of the United States of North America.”

“Yes, well, that’s almost correct. My grandfather’s family moved to Texas.”

“Another State in the United States of –”

“I’m impressed. Most people your age don’t know those things.”

“I love history, human history is all that matters.”

“Well, then we have a lot in common. I grew up in the care of my great, great uncle who lived on North Padre Island near Corpus Christi. They fished for a living on the Gulf of Mexico. There were ample, harvestable fish near shore in the oceans of Earth back then.”

“So when was this?”

“Certainly, a long time ago.”

“Certainly. No one has lived on Earth…other than your friend…for several–”

“It has been too long.”

“You don’t want to tell me, not exactly.”

“I have already told you enough. You are astute. You can put the pieces together and fill in the gaps.”

“Okay,” she said as she sipped her coffee that had cooled down to a point that she could consume more than sip of it at a time.

“My grandfather’s uncle saved what money he had to fulfill his promise to his brother to pay his nephew’s – my grandfather’s way through college. He had to work as well just to supplement his way through college, but he made it,” Raven said with some pride.

“It must have been difficult.”

“Yes it was. But without his efforts, I doubt that I would be here. You see – my grandfather met my grandmother at college. She was the sole heiress of a vast estate and fortune. By marriage, my grandfather became a patriarch of a new dynasty. A year after they were graduated, my father was born. Five years later my grandfather took over the operations of a major manufacturing company that supported the petroleum industry on Earth.”

“Really,” Cristina said. “I have heard about petroleum. It’s use was discontinued as it was largely superseded as an energy source in the Twenty-first Century.”


“When the scientists you hold in such low regard discovered the efficiencies of adding nano-bots to photovoltaic collectors as well as the storage mediums to create electronic batteries.”

“You obviously have a good education,” Raven said.

“So why am I singing in a rock band?”

“That was not my next question, but if you are offering the information…”

“Well, it usually is the next question anytime I open up,” she complained.

“And as a result I’ll bet you do that very rarely.”

“Of course.”

“You still haven’t answered my question. You are very good at misdirection and evasion, though. You make me misdirect your answers.”

“It’s a gift developed after years of practice,” she revealed.

“No you don’t. I’m not going to fall for that opportunity to venture down another tangent no matter how much I might want to.”

She smiled. “What about you?”

“There is more than enough time to explore everything you want. My dear.”

“Well I have to be back at the venue by 4,” she said as she glanced at the chronometer imbedded in her right wrist.

“And you think you are already running late.”

“Well I am, really.”

“You use that word – ‘really’ – as if it were as meaningless as an article in the meaning of a sentence. You have all the time you need for anything you desire, ‘really’.”

“Not unless I can stop time.”

“No one can stop time.”


“You can slow it down to suit your needs, though.”


“You do it already, without even realizing it. Have you ever had a project that was huge and you just knew you could not do it in the time allotted. But somehow with focus and desire you made the deadline?”

“Yes, I have done that a few times.”

“People can manipulate time, Cristina.”

“I’m not sure I’d draw that same conclusion.”

“Why not? It happened.”

“So I can stop time.”

“No, no. I told you that is impossible.”

“But I can slow it down.”

“Yes. You just need to have some manners about it so you don’t adversely affect anyone else.”


Books, Editing, Publishing, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 4 – Heritage

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

The Starport’s commuter coach deposited her at a stop in portion of the Star City called ‘The Hills’, very close to Raven’s estate. Just as Chase promised the mansion was within a few dozen meters of the seventh stop.

She reached the front steps and approached the entrance. She knocked, and then stood nervously waiting for someone to respond. The exterior of the estate reminded her of a medieval castle. It was an authentic looking replica of late medieval European architecture covered with moss and ivy. Its dark eeriness intimidated her as much as the understanding of the wealth and power of anyone who could have afforded the construction expenses of such an imposing edifice. She wondered who this artist was, but even more she was curious to know why he wanted to see her.

Chase did not prepare her for anything like this. She was having multiple conflicting sensations of dread and eagerness. It confused and frustrated her. He could have warned her that Raven was wealthy and powerful. Otherwise the Colonial Authority would have never allowed him to take so much valuable space to build such a home for the occupancy of one person.

Her knock must have been ignored or it went unheard. She looked around. Nowhere was there a button for a door chime or intercom. However, there was a rope dangling nearby. She tugged on it, hearing the faint tingling of a bell mounted somewhere on the inside of door. Then, she stepped back continuing to study the detail work, the weathering of the stones of which it was apparently built. It had to have cost a fortune. Why would anyone go to such an elaborate extreme?

The stones were fabricated like so much of the world around it but looked as real as the pictures she had seen in library slides of the estates that once decorated the hilltops in central Europe.

Abruptly, the door unlocked and what appeared to be a middle-aged man opened it and greeted her, startling her a bit.

“Are you Raven?”

The man stood emotionless. “You must be Cristina. The Master is expecting you. He is in his study.” He paused to allow Cristina to step clear of the door swing, then closed and locked the door behind her. “Please, follow me.”

As she navigated the corridor from the foyer, she marveled at the paintings that adorned the walls. “Did he do these?” she asked.

“Some are his. Some are the works of his closest friends,” the servant replied.

“They’re very good.”

“The Master is without peer, except some of his friends rivaled him at times.” He opened the door to the study and announced her arrival. She stepped inside as an older gentleman stood up from his desk. But instead of walking he appeared to float toward her.

“Cristina, finally we meet. I recognize you from your publicity portfolio. I must say the pictures do the reality of you physical presence barely any justice.”

“I was prepared to meet a much older man.”

“You are too kind. I assure you I am as old as Chase has warned you.”

“Then, you are well preserved.”

“I suppose that I am. Please have a seat.” He directed his attention to the servant, “Dom, please bring us snacks and some coffee. I assume you drink coffee.”


“As you wish,” Dom bowed then left the room.

“I have never known anyone who could afford a servant.”

“Dom is a manufactured being.”

“He’s a cyborg?”

“For lacking a better term. Really, he is a DOMLIB. He is rare, a prototype and therefore he is more unique in that not all of his features were included in production models.”

“Why have I never heard of them?”

“They were available on Earth as servants for a few of the privileged in the Twenty-first Century. Their designed purpose was deep space exploration during the early attempts at colonization. They established thresholds in to and out of subspace to shorten travel times. Without their work, colonization efforts would have been delayed.”

“As spacecraft advanced the need for the thresholds diminished, although they are still used for heavy transports.”

“Yes, I figured the schools would still teach those half truths. The same Earth-based Corporation that designed the thresholds and the astralnav device that worked in conjunction with them also developed the technology for organic computers upon which the DOMLIB is based.”

“It was in their economic interest to use one while proliferating the other,” Cristina indicated that she understood the business concept of vertical integration. “Whatever became of the DOMLIBs?”

“There are some here and there. Most dwell on a planet a parsec from here. They began replicating themselves and their population grew. They became rebellious and at one point attacked some of the colonies closest to Earth, threatening the defenses of Earth as well,” Raven said as he floated over to a window and pulled back the heavy drapes letting light into the otherwise dimly lit room. He turned to appraise Cristina’s response, and then realized how foolish he was. She had just come from traveling by railcar between cities and must still be wearing protective lenses over her corneas. “That was a troublesome time to be alive,” he continued. “I think most humans would rather forget about DOMLIBs. That is why almost everything about EthosCorp is absent from the education you received in our schools.”

“You lived on Earth?”

“Yes,” he said without any immediately forthcoming elaboration.

Dom reentered the room to deliver a tray of fresh coffee to the corner of the desk, and then poured a cup of coffee for Cristina, after asking her in fluent Italian what amendments she desired.

 Across the room, Raven let the drapes fall back to where they were and hovered near a rocking chair that was close to a simulated hearth fire. “I’m afraid I speak little Italian, but I understand that you speak some other languages.”


“Mi casa es su casa.”

“Gracias,” she thanked him in kind for his hospitality.

“Por lo nada.”

“Besides Spanish, what other languages do you speak?” She asked.

“English, of course. I know a little French, some German and I’m fluent in Russian. In fact, before the end of Dr. Pavlovich’s life I actually talked with him several times.”

“Uri Mikael Pavlovich, the astronomer?”

“The same. He was the most insufferably miserable man I’ve ever known. An arrogant asshole without peer. An ego unlike any other I have ever endured. That is high praise because I have suffered many. But he was also brilliant enough to justify most of his hubris. He refused to speak anything but Russian, although he understood English and at least four other languages that I know of.”

Cristina was still in awe. “That’s why he named this world Pravda.”

“This planet was his truth. It was his discovery and he suffered a lifetime to prove that it existed, that his detection through unorthodox methods was accurate. Now, I suppose his truth has become our truth.”

“You were a young man when you met him?”

“I don’t know about young, I was younger, of course. I was friends with many people from many lands, and so I picked up some words here and there.”

“How long were you on Earth?”

“From the time I was born until the time I left,” Raven replied with vagueness. Then noting her response, he added, “I see that surprises you.”

“It’s just that so few people have ever even been to Earth.”

“I have returned since first departing – of course, not in recent times since the restrictions and the general quarantine. The last time I was there it was quite uninhabitable. It is worse than this godforsaken world once was.”

“How so?”

“When I first came to Pravda, you could still see the poisons swirling the air like a mist or smoke just outside the domes. Even on cloudless days, the poisons were still there, blocking some of the sunlight.”

“I have seen the clouds over the oceans.”

“They are much rarer these times, but unlike The Colonial Authority would have us believe, they are not eliminated. That is why they tell you not to be outside of our wonderful protective domes without breathing filters. Most places on Earth you don’t even have that option. The air is so polluted with noxious gases that a human must wear a pressurized suit and breathe from a tank of compressed air.”

“The domes will be coming down soon.”

“Despite what the engineers are saying about the quality of the air outside, I don’t believe they are going to open the domes within the lifetime of anyone now alive. That is part of their conspiracy of silence,” Raven said. He took up the coffee Dom left for him on his desk and floated toward a wall of bookcases. “Come with me,” he said as he clicked a remote that he retrieved from his robe’s pocket.

One bookcase recessed into the wall and pivoted to one side, revealing a room with impressive electronics that not only controlled the interior environment of the estate but also linked to the outside world as evidenced from the monitors mounted to a wall. It was not a standard world viewer array. “You see, I have access to everything from here. My computers are linked to the Colonial Authority. It is one of the advantages of building here before the city was completed or the dome was finished. I purposely selected this lot. It was close enough to the track so I could tap into the communication systems and the network trunk. Dom took care of everything else.”

“I’m impressed.”

“Nothing happens that I do not know about. Mostly, it entertains me, but there are times that it has been of vital use. It is not always easy to understand what is truly going on in this world.”

“You came here very early on, then.”

“I was one of the very first residents of Star City, and so there were many benefits accorded to me that were not offered to others who came later. Also, this and a handful of buildings down closer to the station conform to a much stricter building code. They are sealed environments since the dome was not finished at the time of their construction.”

“You came here directly from Earth.”

“No, no my dear,” Raven shook his head. “Immediately before coming here I lived for many months in an overcrowded colony called Tahlyn, on Titan.”

“I’ve heard of it.”

“For all their aspirations to make it into a new Earth, it is still a frozen world and probably will forever be only that.”

“I have heard that Earth was very beautiful.”

“Yes, and honestly in many ways it is still. For humans it is uninhabitable. However, it is an error to say there is no life there. There are many creatures living deep in the oceans. In a few areas there are some species of insects that have adapted to the contaminated environment. Most neglect to cite the contribution of volcanic eruptions in the catastrophic environmental damage. It was a source of considerable academic debate whether without the eruptions we could have pulled back from the brink of the horrendous ecological disaster.”

“I have never heard of it.”

“Obviously, we possess the technology to exist in hostile places. The question becomes at what expense. There was a choice at the time, whether to live under the oceans or expand the Luna research center for colonization and terraform Mars. It was debated for nearly a hundred years. Essentially, it came down to a question of expense. It was always cheaper to develop colonization for the oceans, until the volcanic eruptions figured into the equation. Then, transforming Titan seemed an attractive venture. Besides, the acid in the rains from the volcanic ash and sulfur that the massive eruptions released into the atmosphere, there was no acrylic at the time that was strong enough to be used in domes that might have been used to allow us to remain on the surface of Earth in sufficient numbers to continue the species.” He paused to sip from his coffee.

He cleared his throat, and then continued. “Even here for the first few decades the acid in the rains marred the finish on the domes. In fact, it was one of the selling points for Star City, which was built much later in the initial phase. The dome here is clear, and you can see all the stars.”

“In New Milan it is possible to see the moons but the stars are always obscured. When I was a child, I always believed it was the ambient light from the city at night that prevented seeing the stars.”

“Well, there is that too, but the domes of Haven and New Milan are not transparent at all,” Raven explained. “Once the acid in the rain had diminished to be rarely ever a problem, except for out at sea, the scientists applied acrylic scratch filler that makes the domes appear clear, but really and truly they aren’t. What marvelously clever people the Colonial Authority has working for them,” he said sarcastically. “I am sure that given time our gifted, overachieving scientists can appear to remedy most anything.”

Cristina studied one of the monitors for a few moments. “That’s my home.”

“So it is,” Raven glanced at the same monitor. “Is there anything in New Milan you’d like to see?”

“Not especially,” she turned back.

“It’s possible, any exterior view, and interior views of public buildings.”

“No, that’s okay. So were you part of the original colonization?”

“Me? No,” Raven smiled. “I have never got on too well with scientists, especially the ones here on Pravda.”

“Why not?”

“Differing perspectives and also I find them socially inept. They bore me with their bromides about the better life that they will one day find through their acquisition of knowledge.”

“But you have to believe in the future.”

“I believe there is a future, but it will be without mankind as we know it. That is a fundamental difference I have with the scientists. They have an insane but deeply established belief in the ultimate triumph of man’s technology over nature. They are overly confident in their problem solving abilities.”

“But they have solved so many of the problems. The air outside the domes is much cleaner,” she pointed out.

“I am afraid that having seen what I have and lived through what I have endured I cannot share their optimism. They have infected you as well as many others, though. From my experience, faith in man’s abilities often proves to be false hope at best. Mankind will inevitably fail, becoming another extinct species whether by our own hand or through the vengeance of nature.”

Books, Editing, Publishing, Word, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 3 – Pravda

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

(Eighty Years Later)


The soul of East Ocean whispered to her on the breeze as it did before on previous visits to Haven. The cool salt water teased and tickled her toes while the tidal surge lapped against her shins, undermining the sand from beneath her feet. Cristina looked down, her feet half-buried in the blue-green sea foam as the brine water swept back only to flow again, wrapping around her ankles.

She glanced up, and then averted her eyes from the directness of the sunrise, not daring to strain her efforts. Her eyes were intensely sensitive to such brilliance. Still, it had been worth the effort to walk out across the causeway to the barrier island, risking exposure outside of Haven’s dome.

She returned to the beach and sat down on the towel she had spread out on the hard pack. Looking out across the ocean, she was mesmerized by the ever-undulating surface that at low tide left a trace line on the sand where the water had previously been. She tried to breathe in the air from the sea, but the filters that protected her from the poisonous gases constricted her ability to fully experience and savor brine air.

In a few years, the Colonial Authority promised, the atmosphere would be fully breathable. Even now it probably was good enough in most places, but she did not feel it was worth the risk to venture beyond the domes without wearing a breathing filter.

The excitement of dawn’s first light was over. Standing, the shook the sound from the towel she borrowed from her hotel room. One last look she took as the risen sun continued ascent into a bank of low-lying gas clouds. Between the horizon and the shore, swirling red and green poisonous gas mixed and mingled, attesting to the still tentative nature of the world’s transformation.

She walked back the way she’d come, accessing he pressure lock for the walkway that would eventually allow her to reenter the domed city.

A strong vacuum sucked away the air around her, purging any possible noxious gas from the air.  Momentarily, an equally strong flood of fresh, cooler air that she could breathe unfiltered replaced what atmosphere she brought into the lock with her. Even so, she knew better than to take off the filters until the auto-sampler tested the mix of air and audibly confirmed that it was safe. Only then did she pass through the inner airlock door.

She walked alone in the silence, except for the annoying din of the air handlers that piped re-circulated air from the mainland dome. As a couple of men approached her, she shivered with an odd sensation that left gooseflesh on her exposed arms and legs.

Feelings came to her from time to time, the sort that serves to prelude an event. She always paid attention. It was not a bad feeling but something more along the lines of impending, imperative importance.

The elder of the two men walked right past her, carrying his bang-stick, apparently ready to fish the waters for his share of the abundant aquatic life that existed ready for the kill just beneath the surface. Because the foulness of the gaseous poisons in the atmosphere had for the most part been effectively neutralized from the surface of the ocean, several species of fish had been successfully introduced into the native environment. Although there were strict quotas on harvesting, there were several species that flourished. Few of the edible species remained on the restricted list.

The younger man paused and smiled at her. He removed the protective goggles from his eyes, apparently wanting to get a better look at her.

She continued to ascend of the sidewalk toward the bridge’s crest. The younger man greeted her, and despite the brightness he left his goggles resting on the top of his head as he looked directly into her eyes as she passed by. It unnerved her a little.

“It’s a lovely morning,” he said in the wake of her passing.

“Yes, it is,” she replied over her shoulder continuing to walk.

“I take it you were out, at the beach,” he called after her, following her.

“Yes. It was very nice.” She proceeded walking as she conversed.

“Are there any waves?”

“There are, but only some very small, ankle-deep ones.”

“That’s great news,” the older man said through his breathing filter as he had turned to follow the younger man, seeing what he was up to.

“My name is Paul,” the younger man offered as had finally caught up to her, reaching his hand in an effort to halt her.

“Mine is Cristina.” Stopping, she turned abruptly, glaring at him. “Without an ‘h’.”

Recoiling, he offered the best non-threatening smile he could manage. “Well, Cristina without an ‘h’, we are well met. But I ask, why is there no ‘h’.”

“Why is it necessary? Besides it is how my father named me.”

“Well, I suppose it was unnecessary then.”

“Obviously, you fish.”

“Yes, my uncle and I are quite good at it, actually.” He glanced to the older man who, having returned up the causeway to join them, stood several paces behind the younger man. “Have you ever tried fishing?”


“We’ll have to do it sometime.”

“I won’t have the time. I don’t live here.”

“I see.”

“I doubt I would be good at it, anyway. I don’t like killing things.”

“They’re only fish.”

“But they are alive,” she said.

“You have a point, of course. But we fish for food not sport.”

“I suppose that is more acceptable than merely wasting life.”

“Do you eat fish?”

“Yes, I do and I know what you are going to say. But somehow that feels different than if I killed the fish.”

“I see. Well, the offer is open. I can teach you if you like, if you are staying long enough, that is.”

“I doubt I have the necessary patience. There certainly will not be enough time for that anyway. I leave today.”

“We need to be going,” Paul’s uncle prodded.

“How am I going to find you again?”

“Was that a goal for you?”

“I would like to continue know you.”

“It would be difficult. I am in a band. We tour a lot. So usually I am not home.”

“You must be very good, then.”

“We do okay,” she allowed modestly.

“I detect a slight accent,” he said. “You’re from New Milan, I’ll bet.”

“Yes. My father and aunt spoke fluent Italian, so they taught me my heritage first. I learned other languages since so that I could function in other places.”

“My uncle and I are from Italian heritage as well.”

“Really? That is interesting, I suppose.”

“We really must go,” Paul’s uncle insisted.

“What is the name of your band?”

“Duae Lunae.”

“From Latin for ‘Two Moons’. I like that.”

“Like our nighttime sky.”

“I’ll come to see you perform next time you are in the city.”

“I’d like that,” Cristina permitted.

“Maybe we can talk more, then.”

“You’d better go before your uncle gets mad at you.”

“Come on,” the uncle groused as if to reinforce her gentle brush-off.

“You are very attractive,” he said as Cristina started to walk away.

She laughed as she turned around and walked backwards. “Is that the best you can do?”

“I’m being sincere and you laugh at me?” he asked.

“It’s a little awkward first off, you know?”

“What if I never see you again? Who is going to tell you how beautiful you are?”

“Would the world end if I never knew?” she asked.

“Maybe not but I prefer a world where at least I know I warned you. I think others notice, too.”

She continued to walk on.

“Cristina without an ‘h’,” he repeated as she headed away. “I’ll look forward to seeing you again.”

A floater coach was heading toward her. She recognized it even before it arrived. Glad to see Chase, she waved, hoping Paul would take the hint.

As friendly as Paul was, he also unnerved her. He started off looking directly into her eyes. She always avoided that, but for some reason she looked back and their gaze lingered for a moment. She worried that he might have misread it as a signal, or maybe he learned something about her. Then, she thought it was silly. After all, what could he possibly have learned in such a brief interval?

“Who was the kid?”

“What kid?”

“I saw you talking to someone as I came over the bridge.”

“His name’s Paul. He’s of Italian descent.”

“Really, maybe he’s a relative then.”

“From what my father told me, Italy did not fare well after the wars on Earth. I suppose it’s possible that all who remain are related in some way, but it seems unlikely.”

“Ah but there were Italians other places in the world, so the blood and the culture still endures,” Chase said.

“I thought your heritage is English.”

“Actually, it’s Welsh. I suppose it was nearly the same difference in the latter days of Earth, but I doubt you’d find anyone Welsh that ever wanted to be mistaken for an Englishman.”

“That sort of nationalistic pride nearly destroyed the Earth.”


“Regardless of any differences that originate from whatever tribes or nationalities we came from, we are all just humans now.”

Chase was impressed with the strength of her conviction.

They discussed many things in the past several months of the tour, becoming close friends. She was well educated and highly informed, but this was the first time he drew out such a firm revelation of belief.

A couple of moments of silence lingered awkwardly between them until Chase asked, “You couldn’t sleep again?”

“It’s always the same,” she replied. “Now, I’m tired. That’s the crazy part. Once the sun rises I’m ready for a nap.”

“Perhaps in a past life you were a vampire.”

She smiled in response. “I love reading books about vampires and werewolves. Some people say they really existed on Earth.”

“There is some truth in every legend,” Chase allowed.

“Well, I don’t need a coffin to sleep in. A bed or a couch will do just fine.”

“We have some time before we leave. Sleep all morning if you want. We aren’t leaving until mid-afternoon.”

“Maybe I’ll just crash for a while, then. I was going to write a song. The mood struck me when I was on the beach, but I guess it has faded now,” she said, as she reached across the console that divided them and touched his thigh. “Why are you so good to me?”

“Because you are one of the rarest of all women,” he responded. “You have a wonderful gift.”

She looked away and out the window at the navigable channel beneath them. They were almost back to the mainland shore. She remembered back to her schoolgirl times, learning about the extended plans that the engineers and Architects were executing to near perfection as they transformed the world to be more suitable for human habitation. Despite the hostility of the environment with which they began, everything they built had the same forward thinking designed into it. They intended to remake Pravda in the image of Earth and permit it to be used for centuries as one of the many homes for mankind inevitable colonization throughout the galaxy.

“Did I say something wrong?” Chase asked in response to yet another lingering silence between them.

“No, of course not. I was just thinking, about the world and how much it has changed in my lifetime.”

“This is the great frontier, as they say. As deep into the galaxy as human civilization has yet ventured, we are part of the cutting edge. It says so on all the colonization brochures.”

“Yeah,” Cristina smiled as she looked over at him. “And we are still looking for the paradise they promised our parents and grandparents.”

“Well, maybe we haven’t look closely enough.”

She laughed.

“I meant what I said about you, though. Your voice is a special gift. It is only one of the many things that combined make you uniquely Cristina.”

“You say nice things to me. Maybe that’s why I keep you around.”

“Oh, is that why?”

“There are some other things.”

“I wish we had met a few years earlier,” Chase said.

“Why’s that?”

“I might have been able to shorten the span of obscurity for you and the band.”

“There is only ever room for a select few. I feel we are very fortunate to be where we are on the path. Our music is being heard. That’s all that matters to us.”

“What about you, Cristina – is that all that matters to you?”

“Music gives people hope as well as inspiration. It conveys what others are experiencing so we don’t feel quite so alone. Maybe all our hopes are false, though. It would be tragic if that proved to be true but sometimes it seems that way.”

“Maybe some hopes are false but I think usually they’re not,” Chase countered.

“I want to believe that. That is a better world to live in than the one where everything is a lie.”

“There is someone that you must meet, in Star City. He’s an artist and was very famous at one time. Here he is obscure, but mostly that is his choice.”

“He sounds mysterious and aloof.”

“I suppose he can afford to be. I have known about him for a while but have only spoken to him, never really met him. I have seen a picture of him, but it was a picture from a long time ago, before we were born.”

“Is he really old then?”

“Yeah, but every time I have spoken to him he does not impress me as being an old man.”

“What do you consider old?” she asked. “I mean you and I are close to the same age.”

“Most consider us young.”

“Age is an attitude.”

“At our age it seems to be. Frankly, I don’t know what to consider old anymore.”

“What’s his name? I studied the arts. Perhaps, I’ve heard of him.”

“I know him only as Raven. He sends me messages every now and again. I asked him to sample your band’s music. He said he likes it very much.”

“Despite his apparent age, he has progressive tastes.”

“For an old fart, you mean.”

“I’d never say anything that disparaging.”

“I was just making the statement.”

“I’ll not prejudge him. Maybe he wears his age well. I’ll bet he looks distinguished.”

“Neither of us should make assumptions about anyone anymore.”

She looked away.

“Except for him, I have not mentioned to anyone what we confessed to one another about our differences from others.”

“You told him?”

“It was necessary. Raven is a Courier. He and others like him seek those of us with the attributes. You need never worry about me telling another soul. In fact he contacted me. He told me there was someone with the attributes close to me that he needed to meet.”

“That worries me. How would he know?”

“Look, he’s strange, but I think it is the artistic uniqueness more than anything else. He sees everything differently.”

“As any good artist would,” Cristina said.

“You know, you’ll probably like him.”

Their coach pulled up to the curb in front of the hotel. After the door opened they both stepped out. Chase remotely docked the coach, and then escorted Cristina toward the lobby.

“Is everything ready to go?”

“Yeah, the equipment’s already on the way. The road crew should be set for a sound check by the time we reach the venue. Everyone else in the band and stage management is still resting.”

“I’ll take a nap, then.”

He nodded as she pressed the button to call the elevator.

“Wake me in time to shower and dress.”

“I always do.”


Books, Editing, Publishing, Writing

Colonial Authority: Chapter 2 – Bug Out

**Note: Although the following is part of a previously self-published eBook, portions have been modified. However, it has not been professionally edited and likely contains typos and other errors. It is offered as an example of raw science fiction storytelling.**

After sleeping and eating a freeze-dried meal, Timmel and Jove descended into the caverns, going deeper than before. Chess and Lyle maintained the uplink to stream the remote Enviros telemetry real time as they continued their deeper explorations. Lyle sat back in his butterfly sling chair, taking a break from monitoring the data. “Hell of a life we got, hey?”

“It’s better than being just another number in the system back home.”

“That all depends on where you think home is. I haven’t called anywhere home for a while.”

“You got a point, I guess.”

“This is frontier living.”

“The Enviros have some grand plans for this place,” Chess commented. “And we’re their chauffeurs. At least we get to see it right?”

“I suppose. If we don’t decide to follow the frontier to the next hell hole.”

“Not me. I’m headin’ back home,” Chess revealed. “A research group needs a pilot.”

“For what planet?”


“No shit?”

“Apparently, some rich guy has a crazy idea about terraforming Earth to fix all the environmental issues.”

Lyle shook his head. “How ironic is that?”

“Anyway, the pay’s better. Besides, I haven’t been to Earth since I was a little kid. My dad took me on one of those natural wonder package tours, places so beautiful they hurt my eyes.”

“Jove was telling me before the mission brief that they expect to begin construction of domed cities here within a few local years.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Now, he thinks the discovery of a natural source of oxygen is very promising.”

“I hope they know what they’re doing.” Chess sighed, and then stood up, stretching before he started to check on Ave and Dar’s progress.

“Hang on,” Lyle said as he responded to a signal from the platform. “Lyle here.”

“Lyle, are you with Chess?”

“We’re right here, monitoring the data stream.”

“Is anyone else there?”

“Dar and Ave are setting up the power generator, about ten meters from us,” Chess said.

“What’s up?”

“The storm’s getting worse and its  center is headed your way.”

“Do we need to scrub the mission?”

“If you try staying much longer, you’ll be stranded for a long while.”

“What’s a long while?” Lyle asked.

“This storm’s already going on four months, so, how the hell would I know?”

Chess looked at Lyle, receiving a shrug. “Okay then. So that settles is. We recall the Enviros, button this up and go back home.”

“It’s a shame. We’re receiving some really good data.”

“Look, I just carry the nerds to and from the rocks,” Chess said. “I’ve survived this long because when someone tells me to bug out, I listen.”

“We’re signaling Timmel and Jove, now. Pity we have to, the remote relays are working so well. You did a nice job setting things up, guys. We’re even receiving still pics, quite detailed.”

“We aim to please,” Lyle said.

“The wind is getting worse by the minute.”

“Looks like its beers in the bar tonight after all.” Lyle stood and began gathering his gear together to don his pressure suit again.

“I could use one right about now.”

“After that ride down, I could have used something a lot stronger. I swear if I wasn’t the best pilot in the service, we’d have bought it.”

“Hey, I made it here before you,” Chess countered, as he continued to suit up.

“Well I’ll allow that you’re the second best pilot in the service, but the storm got worse by the time I was coming through.”

“I see how it is,” Chess said with a laugh. “Punching through this mess ain’t going to be any better.”

“I hear that.”

Timmel and Jove had just reached a vast chamber and detected not only the sounds of water but also the evidence of increased humidity. They had just set up their instruments to detect a wider range of possible organic compounds when they received the abort signal. They signaled their individual acknowledgements of the recall order and quickly left their deployed sensors before beginning the climb.

“We found fresh water!” Timmel called up the telemetry pipeline, knowing the voice over data would be received at the command center on the orbital research platform.

“Are you two sure?” A voice came back through their internal communications link.

“Positive. Heard the echoes of dripping and sensors confirmed it.”

“Okay, yes we see that. Great job, Timmel and Jove. The mission wasn’t a complete failure after all. Sensors are showing a substantial amount of subsurface water, actually a lot of water, maybe a lake or river. Establishing temporary colonies in the caverns may be an option after all.”

Timmel smiled as he and Jove exchanged a gloved handshake.

“Wait!” Jove said as he consulted his right cuff that contained fifteen different life sign sensors.


“I don’t know, an echo, maybe. I’m picking up movement, though.”

“I got that a couple of times, too. Every time I did, it turned out to be nothing.”

“It’s nothing, I guess,” Jove decided. “Do you see the oxygen levels?”

“Yeah,” Timmel said. “Nearly breathable if it weren’t for the concentration of di-hydrogen sulfide.”

“So the place smells like a fart!”

“A killer one.”

“Store our data so they know who found it, and let’s get to the surface.”

“Yeah, why let the remote observers get all the credit.”


“We’re the ones who risked our lives,” Timmel said.

They ascended while Chess, Lyle, Ave and Dar were finishing making everything as stable and self-functioning as possible for any future missions.

“We found water and the levels of oxygen increased the deeper we went,” Jove told Chess and Lyle as he arrived.

“Weren’t you lookin’ for that?” Chess asked in response.

Lyle forced the issue nudging Jove off to the side. Chess took Timmel by his pressure suit’s sleeve. “I don’t think you understand the urgency of the recall.”

“The storm must have intensified and it’s coming this way.”

“Okay, maybe you do understand,” Chess said. “Lyle and I decided we’re bugging out!”

“It’s your call.”

“Well, we don’t have enough supplies and up top they don’t know how soon they can send anything to us.”

“Understood. Jove and I are ready. We answered a couple of the major questions, I think.”

“Let’s go, then.” Chess commanded.

By remote command the Pumas’ hatches opened, allowing them immediate entry. Once aboard, the hatches sealed and the occupants strapped in. “Purge!” both Chess and Lyle said simultaneously over the intercom.

“It’s urgent then,” Ave said while he watched as the interior air was blown out of the vehicle and replaced with fresh air from reserve tanks.

“The storm has grown,” Chess explained. “At its center it’s over two hundred knots gusting to two-fifty. Before we set out, they were thinking that was going to pass to the north of us, but now I guess it’s moving toward us.”

“The pod can’t handle that,” Ave warned.

“It was all I could do to land it in a hundred twenty knot winds.”

“So we’re screwed,” Ave said.

“Not if we can get out ahead of the storm,” Timmel said.

“The hover pod is designed to compensate for drift and external forces,” Chess pointed out.

“With all due respect for your piloting abilities, no one can control a pod in winds in excess of two hundred fifty knots. That far exceeds design limitations.”

“Well let’s hope I don’t have to be the first to disprove that,” Chess said.

“Talk to me, Chess,” Lyle said.

“I’m here.”

“This shit’s bad.”

“I see it.”

“Are we nuts for thinking we can get through this?”

“Weren’t you just telling me how good you are?”

“I’m the real deal, my man, but I’m no fool. I mean, the center of this storm hasn’t even arrived yet and it’s already making my Puma walk sideways.”

“It’s the same here. We don’t have a lot of time.”

“So, remind me again, why are we doing this?”

“‘Cause no one else can,” Chess replied.

“It’s more like no one else will.”

“We signed on to do this.”

“I used to take stupid dares when I was a kid. I guess I never outgrew that.”

“We both have that problem.”

“This is where we leave you, my friend,” Lyle said.

“Looks like I got the head start. Pod just ahead.”

“See you up top.”

“I’ll hold a seat for you at the bar.”

“We got our pod next to us, too. So, I guess it’s brews for two on you if you lose.”

“I’ll take that action,” Chess said.

Static was the reply.

“I can’t find him anymore,” Ave looked up from the screen. “Maybe he’s behind the mountains.”

“He’ll make it. All joking aside, he’s the best pilot I know. He always comes through.”

“What about us?” Ave asked.

“I’m better than the best, I guess.”

“Machismo aside, we are going to make it off this sandblasted rock, right?” Ave asked.

“Yeah, no problem. Just a bit of a storm we got to punch through.”

The Puma creaked and moaned. “At least the pod’s still here and chirping away. The way home is right there.” He pointed to the flashing dot on screen map for emphasis.

“Storm front is damned close,” Ave observed.

“Yeah, no time for the usual safety protocols, guys. We’re going to use the Chess modification to the checklist. We’ll leave this damned Puma running. I’ll remotely direct it away from our blast zone so there are no unexpected explosions during our lift off and ascent.”

“Good idea,” Ave said.

“We all exit through one hatch tethered together. We blow the pod’s outer hatch. We’ve only got twenty seconds to get inside. Once we purge, climb up and strap-in. We fire the main and it’s straight up, hopefully straight. There are no second chances.”

“Has this ever been tried?” Timmel asked.

“I don’t know. Anyone who’s failed obviously didn’t make it to the debrief.”

“How do you know it will work, then?”

“‘Cause it has to.”

“Alrighty, then,” Ave said, then drew a deep breath..

“It’s a good plan,” Chess said, as he pulled in as close as possible to the pod and prepared to open the hatch. “Hook up the safety line.”

“It’s pucker time.” Ave squirmed in his seat, preparing to disembark.

“Watch the blow out from the pod’s hatch, approach from the side. On three, out my hatch. Ready?”


“One, two, three!” Each of them in turn exited from the Puma through the pilot’s hatch.

Chess led them toward the pod’s hatch stepping aside as it blew outward, caught by its hydraulics it slowly started its twenty-second closing cycle.

“Get in!” Chess commanded and he clutched the door as if he could slow it from closing.

“Go, go, go!”

First Ave, and then Timmel scrambled through the hatch. Chess dove through the ever-narrowing opening. Moments later, the hatch sealed behind him. “Hold-on for the purge!”

Each of them gripped onto anything that they could cling to until the purge ceased. Chess was first to detach the tether that had secured him to the others. He ascended the ladder and upon reaching the flight controls he slid into his seat and strapped in for what he knew would an extreme ride against the odds.

“Strap in! There’s no countdown.” Chess remotely directed the Puma away. “If you two want to live, don’t say a word.”

“You got it, Chess.”

“We’re in your hands,” Timmel added.

“Don’t remind me!”

All thrusters fully charged and the reactor online, Chess fired the main engine, executing the emergency launch. The small pod shuttered as the g-forces combined with the wind turbulence diverting it from its preprogrammed trajectory. The pod buffeted as it push away from the surface. Chess compensated for the wind, glancing at radar and the anemometer. “Holy crap!”

Ave glanced at the reading, and then quickly looked away, “I hope Lyle’s in a better situation.”

“What does that mean?” Timmel asked.

“I thought I asked you to be quiet.”

“Well,” Ave said, “Wow!”

“Huge differential.” Chess’ hands trembled as he gripped the controls.

“Hull integrity forty-seven point five percent,” the onboard alarm warned.

“Can you kill that for me, Ave?”

“Sure boss.”

“Hull integrity thirty-nine…”

“Sorry,” Ave apologized.

“We’re almost through it.” Chess checked the coordinates against positioning. “Damn, I’m good. Only thirty-four klicks down range.” He made some quick course adjustments.

“Ceiling in about five, four, three, two and…break,” the pod erupted from the clouds, emerging into the stratosphere of Pravda. Through the windows, they could see the sprawl of the intense storm below and its swirling pattern about the storm’s center.

“Chess, hull integrity is spotty, at twenty-two in some places,” Ave announced, concern in his voice as he stared at Chess to appraise the Chief’s reaction.

“Twenty-five is bare minimum for entering space,” Timmel warned. “A rupture might cause a reactor implosion. Of course, we’d be dead before that –”

“How’s seal integrity?” Chess interrupted to ask.

“Forward and aft at thirty-seven percent and thirty-five percent respectively. Starboard and port at…” Ave paused. “Chess, we’ll be pushing it if we commit.”

“What are the readings?”

“Twenty-five percent and twenty-four percent respectively.”


“The point’s moot. The hull is below minimum.”

“What are you suggesting we do, Timmel? Do you want us to go back down into that soup? Even if I could pull a miracle rabbit out of my ass and land this thing in three hundred knot winds. We’d not survive the night with this hull integrity.”

“I’m just informing you of the facts.”

“We have to go for it,” Ave defended Chess.

“Chess, Lyle here. I see you on the scope.”

“We both made it, Lyle.”

“Well we’re beat up pretty bad.”

“Hull integrity is twenty-two here.”

“Nineteen and a half here.”

“Wow!” Ave expressed.
“Yeah, it’s what it is. We’re reinforcing the weak spots, but all we have is duct tape and some rods to prop against the walls.”

“I hear ya,” Chess responded, checking his screen for the proximity readings.

“We’re unanimous to go for it. It’s not like there’s another option.”

“Good luck, my friend.”

“If I don’t make it…”

“Don’t tell me you’re reneging on our bet.”

“There are always margins of error, right?”

“Yeah, Lyle, we’ll both be fine.”

“I never fly by the damned book, anyway.”

Chess watched on the scope as his friend climbed out of the atmosphere, hoping for the best.

“They can’t make it,” Timmel said solemnly, as if pronouncing a death sentence. “Their hull is too thin now. We’ll not make it either.”

“Then we all die together right?” Ave shrugged.

“How about the seals?”

“In tact and holding, no further deterioration.”

Immediately ahead of them, there was a bright flash, the signature of a fusion reactor implosion.

Chess sat back. “Lyle!” he called over the radio, but he did not expect response. The others sat in sober silence contemplating the truth, that likely they would suffer the same fate.

“Raise the interior pressure.” Chess commanded.

“What good will that do?” Ave asked.

“I remember reading something about it artificially making the hull stronger.”

“It can, but only in a very narrow range of values,” Timmel admitted. “If it’s too high it will blow the seals.”

“The platform is in range.” Ave maneuvered a viewer closer to his eyes. “I got long range visual.”

“Hull integrity?”

“Holding at twenty-two percent. Interior pressure now at one-oh-five.”

“Raise it to one fifteen.”

“That’s dangerous, not just for the hull but our ears.” Timmel voiced his concerns.

“What’s to hear if we’re dead?” Chess asked rhetorically as they ascended beyond the last vestiges of atmosphere. “Today, we defy all odds, gents.”

“Hull holding, platform has a lock on us, switching to onboard guidance,” Ave reported, and then checked his harness, ensuring it was locked.

“Control, Seven Xray Bravo One requesting confirmation of visual.”

“Seven Xray Bravo One, we have you on long range.”

“Roger that, advising you our hull is weak. Request no tractor, repeat, no tractor.”

“Roger, Seven Xray Bravo One. Tractor is off. You call the ball, Chess.”

“I have a warning light,” Ave reached toward the panel and flicked his finger against it, hoping it was an error. “We have a leak in two of four seals.” He reported from the environmental control display.

“Control, Seven Xray Bravo One is coming in hot. Request emergency protocols. Seals and not in tact.”

“Roger, understood. Fire crews alerted. Will begin bay door close when you pass the outer marker. Maintain approach speed.”

“Roger, Control.” Chess turned to address the other two of the crew. “Get in the tub.”

“This is highly unusual and risky at best.”

“Do you want to fly this bitch, Timmel?”

“No sir.”

“Then get in the damned tub and shut the fuck up!”

“Come on.” Ave unbuckled and climbed down into the protected escape tub. “Don’t complain about my body odor and bad breath. It’s a tight fit in there.”

As the pod continued on approach, Chess made a visual of the landing bay. “Control, Seven Xray Bravo One, I see the beacons. Platform’s just ahead,” Chess announced.

“Passing outer marker.”

“Roger, that. Call the ball.”

“Control, this is Seven Xray Bravo One, I have the ball, am I cleared for final?”

“Seven Xray Bravo One, it’s all yours.”

“Tail hook down!”

“Emergency Cables deployed and locked.”

“Roger, Control.”

“Welcome home, Chess.”

The pod passed the outer lock as the receiving bay doors were already closing. Chess dipped the stick, forcing the pod’s tail hook down, snagging one of four possible cables, throwing Chess forward in his seat. The restraints were tested as the pod slipped through foam intended to minimize sparks as it lost momentum and came to an abrupt halt.
This time, there was no fire. The emergency escape tub was not put to the test.
“Outer door sealed, bay pressure at sixty-five percent.” Ave read the external environment screen as he returned to his seat.

“Sorry for that back there, Chess.” Timmel apologized.

“Forget it. My nerves were frayed. We were all dealing with the pressure.”

“Thanks, Chess. That was some flying.”

“Making it to and from the rock is what I do. We made it one more time.”

“Making paradise from chaos is what I do.” Timmel gathered his gear together and prepared to exit.

“I guess we’ll see how that goes.”