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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Convicted in Total Blackout

Starry the Space Hippie Series

---------------

Starry Skyward inhaled deeply the aroma. “Ah, what a wonderful smell.”

Tramal, Starry’s half-alien wife, set a plate down in front of him. “You’re favorite.”

The people in the mess hall scurried around them. They were here to do a show. At least that is what everyone thought. They were also here on a secret mission, to discover why or who was causing this starship to breakdown, usually at a critical point in a mission. It gave the starship Herman a mission success rate of 0.01. Compared to the fleet-wide rate of 0.8, it was pretty lousy.

Captain Glover didn’t appear to have a clue, and invited Starry and Tramal over to help him figure out what was happening.

At the moment, however, the only thing Starry could think of was the plate of grits in front of him. He slurped up a spoon of it. He frowned. “Not as good as my mom’s.”

Tramal smiled. “Nothing is ever as good as your mom’s.”

Starry pointed at Tramal. “Of course, you’re right.”

“Of course.” She ate a spoonful of her own. “Now, do you have a plan as how we can capture this person or persons?”

“Of course! Don’t I always?”

“No.”

Starry smiled. “Well, I probably shouldn’t use absolutes then.”

“Absolutely not.”

“I figure we’ll wait for the next incident to happen, then go from there.”

“Let’s hope it isn’t the final one, then.”

Starry nodded. “For sure. But until something happens, I don’t know anyway to figure it out.”

“It shouldn’t be too long then. According to the captain, we’re coming up to another critical mission point.”

Starry smiled. “Until then, we eat these grits.” He shoveled another spoonful into his mouth.

# # #

It was time for Starry to do his comedy routine. He moseyed onto the stage. He wore his blue jeans, and his blue-jean vest, with a collared shirt, unbuttoned almost halfway down his chest.  He grabbed the microphone. “Peace man! I’m Starry the Space Hippie. How did that happen? I don’t know, man. I just popped out to hippie parents on a space ship. That’s when I knew I was . . .” Starry slid one foot out as he spread his arms. “Cool, baby!”

Amidst the spattering of laughter, the ship lurched, almost knocking Starry off his feet. After regaining his balance, Starry attempted to reassure the audience. “So cool, in fact, that little shakes like the one we just received was a common occurrence. Especially on our hippie space ship. We held it together with seaweed and duct tape.”

Another jolt hit, so strong that it knocked Starry off his feet. Then an announcement rang over the ship intercom: “Stations! Everyone to their stations! This is not a drill!”  The audience ran from the room as if draining down a drain, leaving Starry alone.

Starry hopped off the stage and headed to the door. “I know I wasn’t very funny, but I don’t think I was that bad.” He sought out Tramal—he found her in their room.

She raced up to him and hugged him. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

Starry raised an eyebrow. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

She stared at him for a moment. “Because the part of the ship where you were close to is gone.”

“Gone? You mean, like vaporized or something?”

“Yes, something like that. They’re not sure exactly what happened. They’re investigating it as we speak.”

Starry thought for a moment. “Sounds like this could be a clue. Do you know what their mission was this time?”

“Yeah, they were having a diplomatic mission, meeting a sensitive race who is thinking of joining our alliance. According to what I just learned from the captain, a rouge ray shot from weapons control and hit their ship. They naturally responded, but we didn’t have any shields up. So . . .”

“Then who authorized the weapons to fire should be in their computer data banks.”

“That’s what they’re trying to determine. However, the captain isn’t hopeful as he says every other instance has been erased beyond recovery. Thus why they wanted us to come.”

“Let’s go see if we can have a look.”

Tramal nodded and they left, walked down a series of halls back to the area where Starry had been performing. They encountered a couple of guards around the door.

One of the guards said, “No one is allowed beyond this door.”

“But,” Starry said, “the captain is expecting us.”

He shook his head. “No exceptions. Captain’s orders.”

“Except for these two, soldier,” a voice said behind them.

Starry turned to see the captain approaching. “Thank you, sir.”

The guards opened the doors and waved Starry, Tramal, and the captain on in. The three went to  the data control location, where several were busy working on evaluating the data. As the captain approached, he asked, “Any progress?”

The soldiers stood at attention and saluted him. One of them said, “No luck, sir. Like all the previous times. No record of who authorized the firing of the ray blast. We’re in the process of attempting to retrieve the data, but it doesn’t look good.”

The captain sighed. “Pretty much as I expected.”

Starry cleared his throat. “Who would have authority to erase data like that?”

The soldier faced Starry. “Aren’t you the comedian guy? Why are you here?”

“Humor me,” Starry said with a slight grin.

The captain nodded. “Go ahead and tell him, soldier.”

“Well, the senior staff would all have the authority to modify such information.”

“So, that narrows it down to . . .” Starry waved his hand in a circular motion.

“The three lieutenants, the second in command, and--” the soldier glanced at the captain.

“Me, of course.” The captain finished the soldier’s sentence. He turned to Starry. “I want to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. We have a critical mission coming up that several transports are depending on us for an escort through some enemy territory.” He lifted a hand toward the missing bulkhead. “As if this wasn’t bad enough.”

Starry nodded. “I understand, Captain Glover.  I’ll see what I can do. You mind if I have a look at the records in question?”

The captain waved a hand toward the console. “Be my guest.”

“Tramal, would you like to assist?”

“Most certainly, dear.” She sat next to Starry at the terminal as the captain left the area. “What exactly are we looking for?”

“Mostly what was before and after the deleted sections. Any clue will do.”

She lifted a finger. “Ah, I see. Say no more.” They both busied themselves with examining the records.

# # #

Starry groaned and stretched his hands into the air.

Tramal said, “What’s the matter, dear? Too much data for your poor brain to handle?”

He laughed. “No, just activating thinking muscles. I think best when I’m stretching.”

“Hum, did you come up with anything?”

“Possibly. I’ll need to run a test to verify it.”

“What kind of test?”

“A blackout test.”

Tramal’s skin changed to a pinkish hue. “I’ve never heard of such a test. What is it?”

You’ll see, right about . . . now!”

Every light in the whole ship blacked out. Screams could be heard down the hall. Emergency lights kicked in. Faint flickers of light entered the room where they sat. After a few minutes, light levels returned to normal.

The captain stormed in, obviously not very happy. “What is going on here? The records say the blackout originated from this location.”

“Very tricky, captain,” Starry said.

“What are you talking about, man? I’m not here to play games with you. I want you to figure out who is doing this.”

“And the person who is doing this is you, captain.”

“That’s absurd.”

“Not so absurd when you think about it. The records that were erased were very selective, not at all the kind of records a person would delete. That meant the records were being deleted via a virus that was activated whenever a crisis would erupt.”

“Yeah, so what?”

“A crisis just erupted with the blackout. I set a recording tracker to save any info generated from it.”

The captain’s face fell. “Oh.”

Starry pushed a button on the console. “And that virus has your fingerprints all over it, captain.”

The words, “Authorized by Captain Glover” flashed on the screen.

Starry glanced at the soldiers standing around him. “I suggest you take him into custody.”

The soldiers stood there a moment, then one of them said, “Sir, you are under arrest.”

The captain bowed his head and held his arms out. They took him away.

Tramal shook her head. “The only thing I don’t get is what was his motivation?”

Starry fixed his eyes on his wife. “Why, it’s elementary, my dear Tramal. He was planted by the enemy. Their ultimate goal was to give the transports in the next mission to the enemy.”

“How did you know he was from the enemy? He seemed so cooperative.”

“He was cooperative in order to not cast any suspicion toward himself. However, it’s in the logs. Shortly before the deleted records, he’s recorded as saying to the soldier on watch that they should stand down as it concerns reviewing what he had for lunch that day.”

“Which was?”

“Grits.”

Tramal appeared confused. “What’s wrong with that?”

“It wasn’t so much what was wrong with grits as what went with it. A side of communications from an unknown source. I suspected that was enemy communications and I was right.”

Tramal smiled. “I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

Starry held up a finger. “That’s if it is an old analog clock. However, if it is digital, it is either on or off. And this one,” he pointed to himself, “is on!”

Tramal laughed. “I guess so!”

Starry smiled. He’d always wanted to disrupt that old saying. He couldn’t have done it better if he’d planned it.

Starry dusted his hands off. “Case closed!”


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Valentine's Valentine


Note: As far as I can recall, this is my very first Valentine story. I've created several Valentine poems over the past years, but this is the first Valentine Day story I've created. Enjoy!

-------------------------

Jana listened eagerly as her father, Asterios, told the stories he’d received from Valentine. He’d related to her father, a judge overseeing Valentine’s house arrest, about a man named Jesus who did all sorts of miracles. The story she liked the most was of the man born blind receiving his sight. She hoped such a miracle could be preformed on her. She’d not seen anything since she was born either.

“And then,” Asterios said, “Jesus walked right out onto the water to them. When Peter, one of his disciples called out to him, he also walked on the water.” Asterios paused for dramatic effect. “At least for a little while. Then he sank. But then Peter called out to Jesus and Jesus saved him.”

“Wow!” Jana said. She bounced in her seat. “Tell me the one again about the man born blind who Jesus healed.”

“You would want to hear that one. But I just told it to you before this one . . . for the seventh time.”

Jana slumped in her seat. “Too bad this Jesus isn’t around today.”

Asterios ran his fingers through his beard. “You know, that just might be a good test.”

“A test? A test of what?”

“Well, Valentine said that this Jesus isn’t dead, but alive, and that He resides in each person who has accepted him as their lord. If that’s true, then his disciples should be able to do the same things as Jesus did.” Asterios straightened up and rose from his chair. “Jana, today you are going to jail.”

Her face fell. “What did I do?”

“Why, your blind of course. And we’re going to put this Valentine to the test to see whether what he is telling me is true or not.”

“You mean, you’re going to ask him to heal me?”

“You bet. Why not? We’ve tried everything else. But don’t get your hope up too high. This is a long shot. All this may be is stories.”

She laughed. “Don’t worry, father. I’ll be glad to meet this great story-teller if that is all he is.”

Asterios rubbed the top of her head and hugged her. “And who knows, they could be true stories as well.”

Later that day, her father led her into the house where Valentine was being  kept. The modest house was bare. The furniture consisted of a bed, a table with a couple of chairs, and a dresser for the prisoner to store his extra clothing in. Valentine sat in a chair at the table.

Valentine’s eyes brightened and he rose when he saw her. “Ah, a special visitor today, I see.” He noticed the way her eyes didn’t move much.  “Is she blind?”

Asterios nodded. “Been so from her birth, just like that guy in the story you told me about.”

“Poor child.” Valentine cupped her cheeks in his palms. “What is your name?”

“Jana.” she responded. “Can you really heal me?”

“Who, me? I’m a nobody. I can’t heal anything.”

Jana’s expectant smile turned into a frown. “You can’t?”

Asterios said, “Valentine, I beseech you on behalf of my adopted daughter that you heal her from her blindness. If you are able to do so, I will believe on this Jesus and do whatever you say to me to do. If not, I can no longer listen to your stories, because that is all they are.”

Valentine grinned. “I said I couldn’t do it. But God can.” He placed a hand on Jana’s head. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth even as it is in heaven. Give us today a signal of your love for this child of yours. We ask that you heal her eyes of their blindness. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

Both of them watched Jana. For a few brief seconds she said nothing. Then she smiled. “I can see some light, like a lantern in the night, getting brighter and brighter. “ Her smile grew into a big grin. “And now I can see color, father. I can’t even begin to describe them, they are so beautiful!”

Asterios jumped up and down in joy. He quickly grabbed Jana’s face and put his up close to hers. “Jana, can you see me? Can you?” His grin waited expectantly.

“Why, yes, father. I can!” They both hugged and jumped at the same time. Then Asterios glanced at Valentine and bowed before him. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“I did nothing but pray. God healed her.”

“And if you hadn’t prayed, she would not be able to see right now.”

Valentine held up a finger. “Nor would she if you hadn’t asked. So you have as much to do with this as I do.”

Jana leaped into Valentine’s arms. He quickly adjusted himself to the surprise.

“I don’t know who all is responsible. All I know is that I love you for asking,” Jana said.

Valentine smiled. “Now this is the kind of response I could get used to.” He put Jana back on her feet. “Remember Jana, this shows you God’s love for you. Even more, that He came to us and walked among us, and died for us. Before we deserved it, He died and rose again that we might have newness of life.”

“Wow! He must really be God.”

Valentine smiled. “Out of the mouths of babes . . .”

“So, what must we do?” Asterios asked.

Valentine faced him. “If you now believe Jesus to be the Son of God as I’ve been telling you . . .”

“I do, I do, I do!” Asterios said.

“ . . . then you must be baptized, you and all your household.”

“Great. When can we schedule a baptism?”

“Soon, very soon. First we have a little more instruction to go through. But I can baptize you by the end of this week, if I can get to my church.

Asterios opened the front door of the house and waved a hand out the door. “As far as I’m concerned, you are released from house arrest.”

“Great!  I’ve got some weddings to attend.”

“Weddings? But I thought the emperor Claudius said no weddings were to be preformed due to the shortage of soldiers for his army.”

“Nevertheless, I have some weddings to preform. What God has joined, let no man put asunder.”

“Who said that?”

Jana jumped in. “Jesus.”

Valentine pointed at her. “Correct, my child.”

>---------<

Church was over as everyone milled around. Jana had grown tired of the fasting during Lent. She wondered why she needed to do that. Then she’d remember her fasting from sight for so long. Only to be healed by Valentine. She often wondered what had happened to the priest. Even in the short time of around a year, she’d grown used to seeing colors and people. It felt like this was the way it had been all her life. Until today.

“Are you Jana?” A young man asked.

“I am.”

The man stared at her for a moment.

“Well, did you have something to tell me, or are you going to stare at me all day?”

The man shook his head as if coming out of a trance. “Ah, neither. But I do have something to give you.” He held out an envelop.

She took it and opened it. She glanced at the man before she unfolded it. “What’s your name?”

“John.”

She stared at him harder. No, not the John. It was such a common name. She returned her focus to the letter. As she read it, her mouth hung open and she said, “Oh no!”

“What is it?” John asked.  But she didn’t respond, she was so engrossed by the letter.

Gradually, her eyes sparkled and she nodded gently. Upon reading the last line, she smiled.  She hugged the letter to her chest. “Thank you, John. I’ll treasure this letter forever.”

“What did he write to you? Can you share it?”

She handed it to John. “Yes, there is something in here everyone needs to know.”

This is what it said:

February 13, 269

My dear, dear, Jana.
 
May the peace of Jesus Christ, our loving savior, be with you and your kindly father as well as all your household. 
 You have been a blessing to me during the time of my final trials. The emperor had me arrested for marrying couples against his wishes. Despite that, I thought I’d made some headway with him. He seemed to rather enjoy my company and we’d frequently have long talks. But the moment I started talking to him of my Lord, Jesus Christ, he reacted very negatively. So much so, he had me beaten with clubs and rocks. However, by God’s grace, I’m still alive. However, tomorrow I’m scheduled to have my head cut off. That usually does the trick.  
During my struggles, my memory of you has held me fast in addition to the expected reward I will inherit in the next life: being with my sweet savior, Jesus Christ. I remember how you were blind from birth, just like the man in Jesus’ story. And how through me, He healed you. And I recall your deep gratitude and love toward me due to that. Those remembrances have kept me strong as the blows hit my body today.
Remember me and I will remember you. How you ask? Because just like my Savior, I will not die tomorrow. Rather, I will be more alive than I’ve ever been. So hold to the faith, and remember, that God loves you enough to die for you, and I love Him and you enough to die for you both.

Your Valentine.


-------------

Note: There  is actually very little known about St. Valentine’s life. The common story is that he was under house arrest by judge Asterios in Rome. Due to healing his adopted daughter born blind, Asterios believed in Christ and he, his immediate family, and forty-four members of his household were baptized. It was also believed that due to him marrying couples against the Emperor’s wishes, he was arrested. Claudius II enjoyed Valentine’s company until he attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity. This resulted in the emperor demanding that Valentine denounce Christ and bow to his idols upon pain of being beaten and if he survived that, beheaded. Naturally he refused to denounce Christ or worship his idols, so on February 14, 269, he was beheaded.

The above story is based upon that story, but of course the actual dialog and the wording of the letter, save for the last line, was made up by me. Yes, it has been reported that he actually sent a letter to the daughter of the judge and signed it, “Your Valentine.”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Big News!

You remember the ebook anthology I put out in November or December of last year?

What, you don't? Well, let me refresh your memory then.

Last year I published Volume 2 of my Ethereal Worlds anthologies as an ebook. fully intending to publish the paperback shortly after that. But, as often happens, life got in the way. Now here I am a year later, and it has finally been published as a paperback!

Monday, December 25, 2017

New Blog for my Writing News!

I have a brand new blog! I've titled it my "Ethereal Worlds Blog" after my anthologies.

Don't worry, I've moved everything (or most, there are some features of my on-site Word Press blog that doesn't translate over to Blogger) over to this site from my old blog, with one major exception: all comments have been deleted on older posts.

New Book Now Available!

I know, it has been a while since I've put out a book. No real excuses, I'd wager. For sure, Parkinson's had zapped my motivation, but I forged ahead, but not with much writing of novels. Mostly blog posts and a short story here and there. But with the advent of my Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery back in Sep. 29 of 2017, my motivation has returned.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dragnet for Santa

Narr: Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is false. Only the names are true, to protect this author from being accused of making up strange names.

This is the city: Los Angeles, California. I work here. I ‘m a cop. My name is Joe Saturday, because the weekends are better.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Adding a Featured Image in Blogger That Will Show Up on Facebook

This isn't so much a writing post as a how to post. Sorry, I don't have a more appropriate blog to put this on. If you are not interested in this technical stuff, you have my permission to skip this one.

Are you angry that your featured image doesn't get picked up by Facebook and other social sites? I used to be too, until I discovered something that worked.  Of course there are other things I'm not too happy about. But that would involve another post. This  would be a companion post to a similar one concerning Word Press blogs.