another taste from War Torn

Scoping in on Cass, Nathan could see that the Bio-bot’s movements had become even more labored. Whatever her affliction, it appeared to be worsening.

To his surprise, he felt a twinge of remorse at her impending demise. And he realized it was more than just the loss of her computer skills and her ability to tote supplies. He felt like he was losing a friend. He shook his head, almost laughed at the absurdity of the upwelling emotion. First he was on the verge of tears for a dog, now a robot. “You truly are one pathetic excuse for a soldier, Corporal Baht,” he muttered, mocking himself in his best Kaliss impression.

With a cleansing breathe, he shook the distraction and forced himself to focus on the task at hand. He raised the hi-tech binoculars, pressing the unit hard against his face as a reminder to concentrate.

For as far as the eye could see, and according to every sensor on the multi-scanner all was quiet. Too quiet. The eerie twilight silence filled him with a sense of impending doom that he just couldn’t shake, his mind as unsettled as the planetary dust.

Despite the foreboding aura, over the next ten minutes, he began to relax, managing to do so by keeping his mind busied with routine. Multi-scanner sweep, check readings, lower unit, eyeball horizon, 360 degree scan—all clear—look in on team. Then mindlessly repeat like a good little soldier. Kaliss would surely be proud.

Although his surveillance remained unchanged, his routine bordering on robotic, his moment of soldierly Zen ended as he realized he hadn’t seen Cass since she disappeared behind a drumlin of wreckage some ten minutes ago. He swept the area with the multi-scanner, got nothing, and his worries resurged—the confusing planet, the mounting devastation, his role in the ongoing fiasco, the prickling pressure of more to come, and now the potential loss of another team member.

Anger and frustration stirred his thoughts to a boil, exothermic emotions pressing at his skull till it ached. He’d never felt so utterly helpless, so universally useless. Sure, he could trigger an alarm, warn the others of approaching danger, but he could do nothing to stop it. Nor could he leave his post and search for Cass.

Helpless. The word throbbed in his mind like an emotional aneurysm.

And underscoring it all was the ever present sense of guilt, not only the self-imposed but that arriving via the spiritual milieu. Like a memory projection, he could hear his wife’s voice in his every thought, hereafter shame from the great beyond. He cursed in his mind, scolding himself. Because he knew there was no way she’d approve of his actions since her untimely departure.

And in that instant he became aware of a sudden understanding. It was likely there all along yet he’d just never made the connection, his perception clouded by the emotional ambiguity of such a peculiar notion. But now as it became clear, he felt it just as sure as he felt his thudding heart. And it explained so plainly, he now realized, why he suddenly became so emotionally unhinged over the wellbeing of a machine.

Cass had become a surrogate for Helen.

All those nights staying up late—talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, while the Bio-bot was set on mirror mode—was him connecting to his memory of Helen. Cass had been filling the void left by his wife, a synthetic replacement, a prosthetic stand-in for his amputated love. It may not have been the most conventional of relationships, and Nathan was certain that a shrink could make a career studying the psychological issues inherent in such an affair, but it had worked for him.

And over time, despite the obvious absurdities, a bond had developed; the enormity of which he only now realized. Cass had keep him from going insane, allowed him to function, offered comfort, especially as the days wore on and the magnitude of his mistake in joining the military clamped down in his psyche. It was no overstatement to say that if it wasn’t for Cass, he wouldn’t be alive today.

And now, like Helen, he failed to protect her. The notion, when it struck, shook him to his foundation. He felt suddenly weak and went down to a knee; lost, livid, distraught.

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comedic interlude

“G wizz!” exclaimed the rookie astronaut as he flushed the shuttle urinal for the first time and watched his pee float off into space.

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Characters: when they speak

One of my characters has just had a break thru moment, one that can only be described as seismic, at least from her perspective. She was a toss in, a device, a roster filler, a tool for dialogue, a ready receptacle for some intergalactic nookie (if such a bull-pen call became necessary) And of course, like most fictional players of her ilk, she was earmarked for death, like a simple named red-shirted Ensign on Star Trek.

You writers know what I’m talking about–this character, this device, her type. There’s probably even some fancy literary term for such a character–maybe Douche ex machina, or something like that.

She spoke very little to me as I slogged through the text (a novella), my attention focused on the main characters; pro and anti alike. But now, in retrospect, I can somehow hear her voice, envision her 3 month plight, like Harold Crick in a vacuum or a bacterioscopic Whoville denizen, kicking and screaming in some bizarre hybrid tirade–I am here, I am here…I want to live!

Alas, i have heard you, Selena–you are valid, you are worthy, your role is now key–and I’d like to even promise you will live! But unfortunately, spoilers eternally trump feelings. Sorry.

Of course, in the interest of full disclosure Selena, your name is now, Cass. And, BTW, as part of the plot shift, you are no longer human, but a fully functional cybernetic android (or should I say Estroid). But I suspect, or at least I hope, you are okay with that. Better to live as a robot than die as a human. Hmmm… Then again, maybe not, should probably consult my Idiots Guide to Asimov for clarification on that matter.

Bottom line, thank you Cass for not giving up, and making me see. Your story will add greatly to the story.

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Running out of Time (repost)

I just want to run, like I once did when I was a kid, effortlessly and pain free, fast and easy…like I still can in my dreams. I want to feel the rush against my face, taste the air it as it flows through heaving lungs to nourish a racing heart. If I fall, I’ll get right up. Let wounds ooze and weep without worry, for they can be dealt with later. Because right now, I just want to run.

Faster and faster, I want to run…leave the pain behind. I want to sprint like Usain Bolt, a bipedal blur, strong and relentless, despite being trapped in a body now withered and bleached and cankered with bedsores. No beckoning cell phones or laptop to slow me, no IV tubes or dressings or wire leads tethering me to monitors glowing with jaundice news. If only for a moment or even briefly, I want to run away from the responsibility of being ill; flee the incessant hemorrhage of bills and pills and insurance forms.

I want to push it beyond the limit, because I know that I can. Leave behind the handicap of fatigue and analgesic and the arthritic solder of chronic disease. I want to run away from life, but I want to live. I want to breathe without the worry of a next coming breath. I want to cry without fear, let tears paint my cheeks without consequence, in simple brushstrokes of saline, like they once did as a child.

I want to run and run and run through fresh scented sky, unburdened by crippling uncertainty and the never ending question terrorizing my mind—am I going to live or die?

Through whiskered fields or unclean streets, I just want to run, like I once did, like I once could, limbs swinging in with the emancipation of youth. Because I know if I could run, nothing else would matter. Because if I could run, I know I could do anything.

-TP

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Anamnesis has been posted on EatSleepWrite.

http://eatsleepwrite.net/anamnesis

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War torn (wip)

Any closer and the blast would’ve been lethal.

But evidently the Phraak gunner had made a minor targeting error—probably only a trivial dial twist, a fraction this way or that—that over distance grew to meters, which was enough to send the plasma rocket slamming into the adjacent rock face instead of directly into Nathan’s rib cage.

The explosion was not without consequence, however, and it sent Nathan hurtling into another low orbit free fall, replete with bone rattling impact and a fresh skinscape of stinging road rash. Agonizing as it was, it was an outcome he’d take. A little banged up wasn’t near as bad as the grim fate he could have suffered at the hand of a different dial twist, this way or that.

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back cover blurb to Cosmosis (wip)

COSMOSIS a bio-celestial anthology—Four stories, two writers, one read.

White Light by Thomas Pryce

Garrett Lang has stage-four leukemia. At the advice of a good friend, he takes up meditation to help with the pain. Over time the practice not only helps with the stress of chronic illness, but he begins to see a curious white light. At first he is bewildered by the experience, and worries that it might be the white light of death. He reads about the phenomenon on the Internet, but finds that none of it seems to speak to his encounter. Soon, through his own journey of discovery, he finds that his white light is a portal…

…and the portal is guarded.

One day, a strange man from the Xenotrex Cable Co. knocks on the door and he learns a lot more about himself, the white light, and the ancient secrets that will forever change his fate.
(Story is @ 5000 words)

Gliese 581c – Decertified by Rytis Grybauskas

Earth is bursting out of its seams with overpopulation, and the race is on to find hospitable planets to expand to. Gliese 581c, one of the first planetary bodies ever identified by NASA as being in a star system’s “hospitable zone,” makes for a good candidate. And Jason Brumphy, a scientist adjutant geologist assigned to an exploratory team, is excited about Gliese’s prospects to become a future colony of earth. But so far in his exploration, all he’s finding are rocks, itchy rocks, and lots of them.
(Story is @ 11,000 words)

War Torn by Thomas Pryce

Nathan Baht is the medic aboard an ESAD celestial cruiser in the war between humankind and the Phraaks. When their vessel is shot down as it flees into a wormhole, Nathan finds himself stranded on an uncharted planet dazed among the wreckage. A handful of soldiers also survive the crash and they find themselves in a struggle to endure as a Phraak legion arrives to finish them off. As the team races across the barren planet in search of cover, Nathan realizes that the impending conflict is not their only worry. The planet, it seems, has an agenda as well.

The rest of the team is oblivious to the warnings, however, focused as they are with the duty of trying to kill Phraaks. All of which puts Nathan in a difficult position, as catastrophe chokes down on the dusty world around them.
(Story is @ 11,000 words)

Bad Trip by Thomas Pryce

Following a suicide attempted Sarah Billings finds herself wrenched from her idyllic life and remanded to a psych ward. Her husband, Ryan, an NYPD detective, is perplexed by the event. Especially when he hears that it was an essence from outer space that had convinced his wife to slit her wrists.

When Sarah disappears without a trace the next day, Ryan must use his expertise to try and figure out where she has gone. It his search, he begins to realize that all is not as it seems, and maybe his wife isn’t crazy after all. His skills as a detective are tested and he exploits every resource in his quest to find her. All the while, terrified and lost in a strange realm, Sarah is forced to battle unknown demons on her own.
(Story is @ 39,000 words)

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an iceberg tip view of ANAMNESIS

Shuuk shuuk shuuk…

That sound, again.

Hollow and permeating the noise is beyond my grasp yet vaguely familiar.
Along with the noise I sense movement, a random rattling that makes me queasy. It only adds to my confusion. I can’t see, comprehension swaddled in darkness. Am I blind? Dreaming? Dead? Fear swells, panic scrabbles at dura. I smell fresh cardboard. What the hell is going on?

Shuuk shuuk shuuk…

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Hot off the press!

New 5 star review of Unnatural Selection.

http://www.matthewkeithreviews.blogspot.com/

Thanks Matthew!

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War Torn (ch 1 update)

The crash landing left a gash in the planet that looked like a giant open wound.

Flat on his back trapped under a pile of rubble, Nathan Bhat felt the first tremors of pain. An abrasion on his left arm and a throbbing headache came into focus as his mind edged back to reality. Gingerly, he lifted his head to survey the wreckage before assessing his own. He drew his first conscious breath and got lungful of dust filled air. The air tasted foul and stung his throat, like inhaling fire ants. He coughed, and immediately panicked. Great, he almost laughed at the irony; I survived the crash only to die of asphyxiation.

Holding his breath, he scanned the immediate area. A jumble of oxygen canisters and life support gear were littered across the gully to his right. But it was only a tease, cruel as a mirage, as they were unattainable. He was pinned from the waist down, his lower torso interred beneath a heap of shrapnel and planetary regolith. On the verge of passing out, he drew another breath. What choice did he really have? He trembled, coughed again, and waited for the inevitable.

As moments passed a calm set over him. In a moment he’d be with Melina. It had been three years since his wife had been killed. He was not suicidal, he didn’t want to die. But the thought of joining her on the other side, wherever that might be, was not entirely unappealing.

A minute turned to two and Nathan did not pass out. Maybe he’d been wrong. Maybe the air was suitable for human life after all. Surprised but relieved, he allowed himself to breathe normally. It would seem his reunion with Melina would come another time.

With his mind no longer fixated on his demise, his thoughts shifted and latched onto a new worry. He lifted to an elbow, craned his neck and began surveying the crash site with renewed earnest. Nearly two hundred soldiers and support staff were on the vessel. If he’d managed to survive, some of the others had to have made it as well. Some would likely be injured. And as the unit’s field medic, it was his job to help.

Scanning the massive crash site, the only discernible movement came from flickering fires and wind bent smoke trails that reached skyward like dark arthritic fingers. “Hey, anybody out there?” he shouted across the surreal tableau, and listened keenly for reply. But all that came back was an eerie silence and the occasional sudden high-pitched cry as scraps of super-metals from the smoldering warship slowly cooled and settled.

“Damn,” he muttered, sighing in frustration. He was disappointed, but not yet ready to cede hope. The crash ditch was nearly half a mile in length. With frags of the once mighty Stiletto class warship splayed and tossed everywhere, the site needed to be thoroughly searched. Survivors could be anywhere. He needed to free himself.
Frowning inwardly, he appraised his situation. Nothing short of a forklift could budge the jagged panel of fuselage that rested atop the mound of dirt and rock overlaying his lower body. He couldn’t see or feel his legs, which, diagnostically, didn’t tell him much. It could mean he was fine, it could mean he was in shock. Or it could mean he was paralyzed. Still woozy from the crash, he was uncertain if he had the strength to dig himself out to examine his legs. Given the litany of horrific injuries that began parading across his mindscape, he was uncertain he wanted to.

Shelving trepidations, he set to work, using his hands to pull stone and soil and shards of spaceship from around the heavy slab of charred fuselage. If he moved enough dirt from one side, he figured he might be able to slip out. Viewing his situation through a clearing head—the jagged shrapnel, the perilous terrain, the fierce impact itself—he realized he was extremely fortunate to be alive.

As he scooped a handful of soil he felt a warm pocket of liquid and jerked his hand free. It was coated in blood and dirt. Shit! His heart heaved. Maybe he hadn’t been so lucky after all. Settle down, he warned himself, you’ll only speed the bleeding!

Something didn’t add up, he realized as he checked his pulse. If he’d lost that much blood, he’d be in far worse shape. He’d be lethargic and his heart would be tachycardic. He brought his hand to his nose. The liquid steamed and smelled flinty, but wasn’t blood. Once exposed to the thin atmosphere, the warm red liquid began to cool and thicken. Must be some kind of fluid from the ship, he thought, or some kind of geothermal ooze. Both were plausible. Either way, he was just relieved that it wasn’t his fluids.

A few more handfuls removed, and he reached his right thigh. He exhaled a lungful of relief as he touched his leg, realized it had feeling. The news instantly buoyed his mood, and he resumed his excavation. As he tilled away the next handful of dirt, he heard a distant noise. He scanned the murky horizon, zeroed in on the area from which the sound originated. He saw nothing at first but then a movement caught his eye, fifty meters back along the crash path. He leaned forward, squinted into the murk, stilling his breath. Doing everything he could to enhance his view, however slight. Then he saw it again, a dark figure, a diffuse man-sized shadow stirring in the dust laden distance.

Nathan thought to call out, but decided to give it a minute and observe. Plus, he was uncertain if he had the lung power to carry the distance. He watched as the figure rose to full height and began walking. He moved to the right, parallel to Nathan’s position, a heavy vortex of dust following in his wake. Even from distance, Nathan took note of his gait. Steady, no limp or stagger. A good sign. The man, whoever he was, didn’t appear to have sustained any major injury. Although there was no way to identify exactly who it was, based on his imposing size and chiseled symmetry, Nathan knew it was one of the soldiers.

Marshaling his strength Nathan decided to try and call out. “Hey!” He braced himself and waved.

The figure stopped and scanned in his direction.

“Hey,” Nathan managed a little louder. “Over here.” He waved again.

The figure turned and began to approach.

“Alright.” Nathan sighed as he leaned back. He was calmed by the fact that he was not alone, and that help would be there soon. The soldier’s augmented physique would prove useful. Relocating the hefty slab of shrapnel on top of him would be no problem. His forklift was on the way.

As Nathan waited for rescue, he began to mentally align his moves once free. First, quickly assess and stabilize his injuries. Next, ask the soldier to help comb the area for medical supplies while simultaneously looking for survivors. To save time they could divide the proximal terrain, search in grids. As long as my legs are okay, he amended. Triage would have to be done on the fly. He could then set up—

The thought ceased as the ground suddenly began to vibrate. What the…Nathan mouthed as he shot back up to his elbows. At first he thought, earthquake. But then, no, this was not seismic in origin. Something was moving, scrabbling, burrowing. And whatever it was, it was directly beneath him.

“Oh shit,” he muttered, as the tremor intensified and the soil around him began to vibrate and slump.

His panic reaching apogee, he tried to slide free from his earthen snare. No dice. If anything, the growing pressure from below had pinned him tighter. Frantic, he checked on the progress of the figure. Twenty yards. “Hurry,” he screamed. Then to himself, “Something’s going on here,” he added helplessly. The figure leaned into a jog, kicking up another tiny storm of planetary dust.

Just as the words left his mouth the ground beneath him began to rise. He felt his body lifting. Something was pushing from below. The heavy panel across his legs began to elevate, his body rising as well. He was thrown from the hole, flailing at the dusty air in heedless pantomime. The massive chunk of fuselage spilled to the side with a heavy clunk. While airborne, he caught a fleeting glimpse of the rocky gray landscape and braced for another crash landing on the unknown planet.

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