The Hard Truth

18 02 2009

John O’Rourke woke from a pleasant dream into a pleasant reality. The young micro-biologist rolled over in his sleeping bag and looked up at the ceiling of his tent. He sighed. It was almost sunrise and he’d told himself he would watch it from the bluff at least once this trip. It was so warm in his sleeping bag though. He usually complained about how hot Laura was to sleep with, but today he welcomed it. It was still mid-September but the air outside the sleeping bag was damned cold.

His hand found the curve of Laura’s hip. He was going to ask her to marry him. Maybe not today, but before they went back home. He just needed to wait for the right moment. Last night would have been good if they hadn’t drank so much wine. And maybe if he hadn’t fallen asleep so quickly after their sexual marathon. He smiled at the quiet ache in his thighs as he stretched his legs out. No, last night was worth another days wait.

Laura snuggled closer to him, muttered something and then began snoring softly. His smile faded when her arm came to rest across his stomach. He did not want to leave the comfort of the tent, but that wine wanted out, quick. As he slowly extricated himself from the bag and Laura he wondered what had woken him. It wasn’t the need to urinate, that could have waited except for Laura’s arm. He vaguely remembered a strange sound but wasn’t sure if that had been his dream. Hadn’t been a bear, that definitely would have woken him up.

Teeth chattering in the cold mountain air, he quietly zipped the tent up and looked for the closet tree to piss on. As he relieved himself he gazed at his old ’98 Pathfinder parked back near the dirt road they’d driven out on. Much as he loved her, by this time next week he’d be replacing her with a brand new Range Rover. Loaded. Young John O’Rourke, scientist extraordinaire was about to become very famous and hopefully very very rich. He was about to go public with a new plant pathogen he himself had designed. A delightful little phytopathogenic fungi that vigorously and exclusively attacked erythroxylon coca, or the coca plant. Dr. John O’Rourke was about to rid the world of cocaine and all of its derivatives. Four long hard years of lab work and countless trials were about to pay off.

Zipping up, he decided to that today might as well be the day. The cold air had woken him up too much to get back to sleep. I’ll watch that sunrise and I’ll propose to Laura, he thought. He quietly snuck back into the tent and grabbed a thicker sweater. Laura was sleeping deeply and did not stir. He headed off towards the trail that would lead him up to the bluff with its view of the entire valley. A gentle slope to the west, its eastern side was sheer cliff. He’d almost asked her when they had hiked up yesterday, but a call from his lab killed the moment, just as he had killed his Blackberry after threatening the next member of his team who disturbed him. Pulling his university colours over his head he wondered if they’d rename the science building after him. He wondered how long it took his Blackberry to hit the rocks below.

He laughed, breath steaming in the cold mountain air. Better start working on his speech for that trip to Norway. Head down he broke into a jog as he approached the top. Dr. John O’Rourke, Nobel Prize-

“Good morning, Doctor.”

John staggered, nearly tripping over his own feet.

“Careful, John, that’s a long fall.

John shook his head. Just above him at the top of the bluff stood a man in a three piece suit and a full length coat.

“You… you’re…” stuttered the scientist.

“Warren Prescott, Director of the Drug Enforcement Agency. And you, Dr. O’Rourke, have become a major pain in the behind. Come on up, son,” he said gesturing for John to finish his climb. Bewildered, John stumbled the last few steps to the peak. Sitting atop the bluff was a black helicopter, it’s rotor blades still gently turning.

“That,” John started, pointing to the chopper, “that’s what woke me. But I didn’t hear-”

“I know. We don’t advertise these ones. Look, John, do you mind if I call you John?” O’Rourke shook his head, staring at the two men in dark suits and sunglasses standing with the helicopter.

“Great. John, we need to know who outside your lab knows about your discovery. John!” The scientist had turned at a noise from behind to see two more men coming up the trail he had just climbed. The fog in his head was beginning to lift and confusion was making way for fear.

“How do you know about my experiments? Why are you here?” he asked. Director Prescott sighed and looked at his watch.

“I have a Senate hearing after lunch today, John, we don’t have a lot of time.”

“Am I in trouble?”

“Not so much ‘in’ trouble as you are trouble,” the director answered. “Your little creation almost dropped a bomb on us.”

“Almost? What do you mean, almost? I don’t understand. Aren’t you excited about this? I just cut the war on drugs in half! I can do the same for marijuana. Heroin! I can engineer this to go after the poppies.”

“Exactly, John! If your little fungus were unleashed I wouldn’t have a job anymore. Neither would the eleven thousand people who work for me.  And that’s just us! That doesn’t include every narcotics cop in every major city in the United States. Or the state police. Border Patrol. Coast Guard. Fuck, boy, even the sniffer dogs at every airport would be out of business because of you. Do you have any idea what the annual budget of my agency is? Over two billion dollars, John. Billion. My friends over at the Bureau and their six billion dollar budget weren’t too happy with your discovery either. Did you stop to think of the economic chaos your disease would have caused this country? Hell, every country? You may as well have created a super-virus and unleashed that.”

“This is insane. I can cut the worlds drug supply in half and you’re worried about jobs? Are you serious?”

“The cocaine market in the United States creates over $70 billion dollars in revenue a year, doctor. That’s more than Starbucks makes. I don’t expect you to understand this, but we need them. They are the yin to our yan.”

These men are going to kill me, thought John. He turned back to the men behind him looking for an escape route back to the camp and Laura. “Who knows about the disease, Doctor? Anyone outside the lab? Anyone outside the university?” asked Prescott.

“No. Just the lab… and they all know we’re here. They’re expecting us back today,” John gambled.

“I hate to tell you this, but there was an explosion at the university last night. Tragically, your entire staff was in the lab celebrating the end of term. There were no survivors.”

John collapsed to the ground, dumbfounded. Ten minutes ago he had woken up the luckiest man in the world. Now all his friends were dead and he knew was about to join them.

“Does your girlfriend know?”

“No. I was going to tell her today,” he mumbled.

“Well, hold on to that, son,” Prescott said as he raised his right hand and made a twirling motion. Behind him the helicopter’s rotors began to turn. The engine was eerily quiet. Raising his voice against the growing turbulence he called out, “you saved her life, at least.” He gestured to the men behind John who picked him up off the ground.

The tears began to flow. “How can you do this?” he asked.

“Sorry kid, we need enemies. Keeps us focused. If we don’t have them then we’ll make them. You really think Osama could have pulled off that shit by himself? Hell, we even need diseases. When’s the last time you heard of a world leader or a billionaire dying of cancer?” The Director of the Drug Enforcement Agency turned back to his helicopter as his men dragged the weeping doctor to the cliffs edge.


1 02 2009

*I always wondered what happened after the the second Death Star was destroyed. Star Wars loosely mirrors the Roman Empire and it took a long time for it to finally die. I’ve never read any Star Wars fiction so I don’t know if this idea has already been done or not and really, I don’t care. If you have and I’ve made some terrible mistake feel free to let me know, but understand, this was just for fun.

Kel Al’leth rested his head back against the drop ship’s bulkhead vainly attempting to think about anything besides the screaming descent rockets and shuttering frame of the ship. He hated orbital drops with a passion. If his platoon had been dropping onto a normal planet they could just fly in, but they kept getting these damn worlds with giant gaseous atmospheres you couldn’t safely fly through. “Fuckin’ Rebels, ” he muttered. That was probably the reason they chose these planets though.

Al’Leth didn’t even know the name of the planet they were landing on. He briefly admonished himself thinking he should probably know the name of the planet he could well die on, but then a sudden plunge in altitude followed by an even louder response from the stabilizers shook him out of it. We’ll be lucky to even see the surface, he thought. He sat forward again. The ship’s vibrations were being amplified by his helmet resting against the wall. Just then one of the  new recruits sitting across from him lost his lunch. Kel shook his head watching the trooper’s bile slide down the front of his white chest piece. Bet he wishes he took his helmet off.

This mission, less than half of Al’leth’s platoon were actual clones, the rest, like him, were recruits. Before he’d left his small planet on the Outer Rim he had grown up on stories of the Stormtroopers and their glorious victories. The truth was somewhat disappointing. These weren’t the Troopers of the late Republic or the early Empire, these were cheap knock-offs, products of the lowest bidder. The Rebels could have saved a lot of effort by just waiting. Bureaucracy would be the Empire’s  downfall.

Al’Leth tried thinking of his home world again. Two more cycles and he could go home again. Growing up he’d wanted nothing except to leave, now all he wanted to do was go back. The galaxy was a shit hole. He’d seen enough. Could he survive two more cycles? With the amount of action they were seeing he was beginning to wonder. Seemed like every morning he woke up his Star Destroyer was in another part of the galaxy trying to put down another uprising or trying to forcefully convince another world not to go over to the rebellion. At least they weren’t fighting their own. It had been awhile since the last coup attempt.

It had been four years since Skywalker had killed Lord Vader and the Emperor and there had been nothing but fighting since. Al’leth was glad he’d missed the bulk of the power struggle to fill their void. Eight different admirals and generals had claimed their right as successor so far. The Empire had even split into three factions at one point. Luckily he’d only been through the last two attempts. They seemed to be slowing down, order was slowly reestablishing itself. The Empire was losing ground every where, but it was still an empire.

*Ok, since I last published this I took out a Star Wars book from the library, Death Star by Michael Reaves & Steve Perry. It gives you the background story of how the first Death Star came about. It’s pretty good reading.

Untitled: Part 3

1 02 2009

“Hi, I’m Sarah, Sarah Farad. Thank you so much for bringing me over here.”
“No prob, Sarah. Hey, no need for tears, you’re safe here.”
“Where’s your husband?”
“Mohammed’s still stuck in the control room. He finally got around to rescuing him but stopped with only a metre of door left to cut away.”
“Three feet.”
“Why did he stop?”
“He got stuck on what kind of a welder would be used to cut through a metal door. He started out with an arc welder because it was the first thing he thought of, but then he wasn’t sure if that was right or not and didn’t feel like googling it. Then he went to bed and he hasn’t been back since.”
“So you’re already in one story, right?”
“Yes. He published us on his other blog back in April of last year. He posted us again on his main blog a few months back and then decided to finally get started on the second part of the story after receiving some positive feedback. Now he’s thinking of re-doing the first story since it was so short. Like I really need to live through the Earth being destroyed all over again.”
“Are you hungry? We’ve got pizza and beer.”
“Starving, thank you. So this is Los Angeles?”
“Yep. Where are you from originally?”
“I’m not sure yet, he never said in the original story. From his notes though, it looks like he may have me born on the Ring.”
“And the Ring is a giant… space station?”
“It was. What was that bell?”
“The elevator. Somebody else has arrived.”
“Why did I come in through the fire escape?”
“No idea. There’s a lotta stuff we’re still figuring out. Kel’s been a big help.”
“He’s the Stormtrooper, right?”
“Ya. He just went to the john, should be back soon.”
“Been gone for awhile now. You figure they’d design those suits for-”
“Oh, sorry.”
“That’s alright. Can I ask you a question…I’m sorry, Pin Stripe just seems like such a silly way to address you.”
“I know, that’s another thing we can’t figure out yet, how to pick our names. Everything goes blank when we try, so we’re Pin Stripe and Black Suit for now.”
“What was your question, Sarah?”
“Where’s the narrative? All this dialogue is confusing.”
“We’re really stuck on that one. It’s one of the reasons we’re bringing all the other characters together. Kinda hoping that between all of us we’ll be able to figure it out and start using it.”
“We think it’s our genie in the bottle, once we have that we’ll be able to do so much more.”
“Oh. My. God.”
“He’s gigantic. He’s… he’s not a bad guy, is he?”
“No, he’s a good… Jesus, he’s big. Seven feet?”
“At least.”
“Hi… ah… sir?”
“Fleet Lord. Sorry, he hasn’t decided on a name for me yet. What the hell happened in here?”
“Oh, we got bored the first day, started playing with the guns. Um… I’m sorry, but how tall are you? I could have sworn you were about seven feet when you came in, now you look like eight.”
“He hasn’t decided that yet either. My height fluctuates from outline to outline. Try not to look at me for too long, it’ll give you vertigo.”
“Ya, my head’s starting to hurt.”
“Mr. Fleet Lord?”
“That’s a little stuffy, (sigh) how about just FL?”
“How did you put the sigh in there?”
“Not sure. Maybe it’s because I have so many drafts.”
“How many?”
“Thirteen. He’s published two on the other blog. Maybe that helps.”
“Did you bring anybody else with you?”
“I brought my second in command, Sgt. Jarel. He’s taking another elevator up with the time travellers. The President and Secretary of State didn’t want to come and none of the others are substantive enough to come over. Even if they did, they’d just be voices. Sorry, ma’am, you had a question?”
“I just wanted to know, er, your height…”
“Genetically altered.”
“Fleet Lord.”
“No need to salute, Stormtrooper.”
“Name’s Kel, sir.”
The elevator chimed again, this time disgorging eleven heavily armed men and women and one humanoid species of alien.
“Hey, hey!”
“I knew this would work!”
“Humanoid species of alien?”
“Romantic, isn’t it. He hasn’t decided what I’m gonna’ look like yet, only that I need some ‘alien’ features.”
“You must be Sergeant Jarel.”
“At your service. May I introduce Captain Sean Decker and his team, the 1st Force Temporal Recon.”
“Kinda. We’re made up of soldiers from many different UN nations but we’re flying under the banner of the US Marine Corps. Long story.”
“I’ll say, he put a lot of work into you guys around Christmas.”
“Earth celebration, I’ll explain later.”
“Ok, I think this is everybody. We’ve got some A-10 pilots who don’t actually have bodies yet, they’ll be joining us on the speaker phone once we get settled down. If you all want to come this way we’ve got pizza and beer over by the windows there.”
“Aren’t there two non-science fiction characters over in the other blog?”
“There are but they’re barely even referred to. They know what’s going on but there’s not enough of them to actually interact with. Same thing with Toys. The main character is only assumed at this point and trust me when I tell you that you do not want to meet the rest of the cast.”

Untitled: Part two

1 02 2009

“So what now?”
“Hell ya, aren’t you?”
“Ya, but what are we going to do? I don’t want to try and leave again.”
“Me neither, that was… ”
“Terrifying would be my word.”
“Terrifying is good. Maybe if there was a way across that… nothingness. If we could get to the streets past it.”
“I’d say I’ve never been so scared in my life, but since I haven’t even been alive for a week yet it doesn’t mean much.”
“How do you even describe that blackness?”
“It doesn’t exist for him so it doesn’t exist for us.”
“That scares the hell out of me.”
“So what do we do?”
“We made a dragon, I wonder what else we can do?”
“I wonder…”
“There’s other files in here. Do you think we could, I don’t know, get into them?”
“We don’t know what kind of files they are though. What happens if we leave? Can we get back? Look, that one’s a recipe.”
“Herb buttermilk marinated salmon. Sounds pretty damn good to me.”
“Sure, but what about the other ones? Ring, Pirates, Toys? We don’t know what we might be jumping into. And PH A10? What’s that?”
“I don’t know, but this is getting boring and we have to do something. Why don’t we just take a peak at one or two? We’ll take the guns with us.”
“We could be getting into anything though. I’ve come to grips with being a fictional character, but I’ve only been alive for four days, I’m not ready to be deleted just yet.”
“Maybe there’s a way to just look in the files.”

“Oh, I need to think up some Tums.”
“Damn, that was good fish.”
“Too bad he doesn’t have a beer list.”
“What the hell’s a guest post?”
“I don’t know. I’m sure we could figure it out, but I think I need a nap.”

“Sleeping, I could get used to that.”
“Lookin’ forward to trying that again. Hey,let’s try making it day.”
“Good idea, I’m gettin’ a little tired of the dark.”
“Ha ha ha! Damn, did we ever mess up this place.”
“Man,that breeze feels good. Nice work shooting out the window.”
“Thanks. It’s a nice view in the day. Too bad about the smog though.”
“Dude, let’s get rid of it.”
“Much better. And what’s with the ‘dude’?”
“We sound a little too much alike, I’m trying to differentiate us.”
“Hmm.  So ‘dude’?”
“It’s something.”
“Alright. So the recipe was a definite success, what now?”
“The peek we took into Stormtrooper was enough for me, I don’t want any part of that. I’m thinking of maybe checking out Toys. Seems harmless enough.”
“Stormtrooper is definitely out, but I think we should be careful with anything we decide to look at. Even though it’s called Toys it could still be dangerous.”
“We don’t know what we were supposed to be doing but we sure got a hell of lotta guns here. And what about that poor Stormtrooper? At least we got nice chairs and a vending machine. Imagine being trapped on that damn ship.”
“Wonder how long he’s been on that thing?”
“What the fuck?”
“Where’s the ringing coming from?”
“It’s back on the table with the guns.”
“Lets go.”
“I didn’t notice a phone, did you?”
“No. Cell maybe?”
“That’s why, it’s one of those board room speaker phones. Makes sense.”
“Should we answer it?”
“Might as well.”
“Jesus! That’s a lot of static. Hello?”
Sorry for the back ground noise boys, the helmet doesn’t muffle the sound very well.”
“Who is this?”
Kel Al’leth. I’m the Stormtrooper next door.”
“Holy shit! For real?”
Yes. I didn’t know you two were here until you looked in earlier.”
“Sorry, didn’t think anybody noticed.”
I’ve been in there for awhile. Anything that distracts from that damn ship.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “Is he going to kill you? I can’t believe what a bastard this guy is. Is your ship going to crash?”
Originally he’d planned on… hold on… gettin’ a little bumpy here…”
“I’m not complaining about this building anymore.”
“No shit.”
Sorry guys. Anyway, he was going to just leave the ending open so the reader wouldn’t know what happened, but he’s got some new ideas now.”
“Excuse me, but how do you know that?                                                                                                                                                                              “He emailed the new ideas to himself from his iPod yesterday.”
“You can look at his email?”
There’s a thread from the file because he wrote the original story on the iPod and emailed that in too. Then he copy/pasted into my file.”
“We’re going to have to figure that one out.”
“Hey,  why don’t you come over here? Get off that damn ship.”
Thanks for the offer, but I can’t. I don’t know how you two have managed this, but my story already ended so I’m stuck here. Maybe if he opens the ending again with his new story line I can get out, but not until he does.”
“I’m really starting to hate this guy.”
Could be worse. Be thankful you’re not in Sarah Farad’s file, The Ring. He wiped out the whole planet with an asteroid in that one. She’s been stuck in a broken section of a space station for months now. No sign of a conclusion yet.”
“Good God.”
“How could he do that? Why would he do that?”
To him we’re just figments of his imagination, he doesn’t think of us any other way. Look, I have to get back, the other guys are starting to look at me funny. If I can get out of here could you guys help me out?”
“We’ll get you out, friend.”
I don’t know how you guys are managing this, but you might want to try keeping a low profile. You’re only supposed to be… hell, you’re not even an outline, you were just an image he had that he wanted to write down before he forgot. He might not be too happy with what you’ve done with the place.”
“Ok, Kel. Thanks for the advice.”
“Be careful over there. You get an opening, you call us right away.”
Thanks guys. Out.”
“Well ,this is starting to get interesting.”

*Sorry for the way some of those sentences came out. These were copy/pasted out of my other blog and WP doesn’t seem to like that.

Untitled: Part one

1 02 2009

The office is empty except for the two men sitting at a large table in the centre of the floor. They are surrounded by a rats maze of cubicles, darkened now in the middle of the night. The floor to ceiling windows that enclose the floor offer a panoramic view of a large city that could be anywhere. The table the two men are seated around is strewn with paper, empty coffee cups, Sharpies of all colours and weapons. Two assault rifles and an assortment of hand guns lie atop everything else. One of the rifles has been stripped down and the taller of the two men sits meticulously cleaning its firing mechanism. The other stares vacantly out the distant window with arms crossed. The coat of his pinstriped business suit is hung over the back of his chair, specks of blood pepper one shoulder.


“Any idea how long we’ve been sitting like this?”
“I don’t know, but my god damned fingers hurt from cleaning this freakin’ gun.”
“When is he going to start writing again?”
Is he going to start writing again?”
“Look around, this feels like more of an outline, an outline he may have forgotten about.”
“Jesus Christ! Forgotten!? ”
“How long have we been here? A day? A week? I have no idea, do you?”
“No. I don’t even… do you know what your name is?”
“No. Great, I don’t even have a name. What about you?”
“No. Do you really think he could have forgotten us?”


“So what do you think our story is? Are we good guys or bad guys?”
“Dunno. Don’t feel particularly bad. Although if I was bad, would I feel it?”
“I guess not. Still, this is a weird set up. I mean, what the hell are we in this office for? I don’t think we’re cops. At least I don’t think I am. No badge.”
“My hand is killing me.”
“What happens when this office fills up tomorrow?”
“Maybe it won’t.”
“He’s put us in an office building at night and possibly forgotten about us. If he has then why would it turn to day?”
“This is ridiculous. How long are we supposed to wait here? Change of clothes would be nice, I’ve got blood all over my damn shirt.”
“It’s a nice suit.”
“Thanks. It is, isn’t it?”
“This might sound crazy, but what am I wearing? My visions seems to get fuzzy every time I try and look at myself.”
“It’s not your vision. Aside from your hands you’re pretty blurry. I’ve been trying not to look at you ’cause it’s makin’ me queasy.”
“Oh, fuck this! He didn’t even fill me out!? I’m not cleaning this damn gun anymore! HEY! HEY! WAKE UP, ASSHOLE! WRITE ME SOME FREAKIN’ CLOTHES!”
“How did you do that?”
“What? Do what?”
“You stopped cleaning the gun.”
“You stopped cleaning the gun…”
“Damn right I did, my fuckin’ hand is on fire!”
“Dude. You stopped. Listen to me. You stopped…”
“I stopped…”
“How did you do it? You’ve been trapped cleaning that thing forever.”
“I… I don’t know. I guess… I guess I just finally had enough.”
“I can see your face now too.”
“Son of a bitch…”
“I’m getting out of this chair….”
“What’s happening?”
“I don’t know. Hold on…”
“Jesus! You’ve got clothes! How did you do that?”
“I just thought it and it happened. How is this possible?”
“We broke out of our paragraph.”
“What the fuck does that even mean?”
“I haven’t got a clue, but I just realized I really need a drink and I think there’s a flask inside my pocket…”
“Fuck me…”
*cough* “Oh ya. Here.”


“Any idea where we are?”
“Couldn’t tell ya, we’re in North America though.”
“Not Canada? He’s Canadian.”
“No. It doesn’t… I don’t know, I doesn’t feel like Canada, you know? It’s got the look of an American city.”
“Wonder what he was planning? Kinda’ looks like LA, though.”
“How do we know he’s Canadian?”
“Do you kinda’ just… know stuff?”
“Ya. His stuff.”
“So we know what he knows then.”
“Looks that way.”
“This is so bizarre.”
“It’s kinda’ like that movie Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”
“That was a great movie.”
“It was. Well, I guess we never saw it.”
“Thing is, they were just characters brought in expressly to serve one purpose, they couldn’t avoid their fate because it was already written.”
“I wonder how much we can actually do in here? Do we have any limitations? Can we leave?”
“I can see the streets below now.There wasn’t anything there before, but now… it looks a little off though.”
“I think it’s because he’s never actually been here. We’re making it from what he knows, but all he knows is what he’s seen in movies and TV and pictures.”
“So I guess we do have certain limits then.”
“What about his imagination though? I mean, dragons aren’t real, but if I-”
“Oh dear God…”
“That.. I… I just…”
“You have to stop that.”
“Good God, that’s a dragon. It’s actually a dragon.”
“You have to get rid of it. Make it go away! Make it go away now!”
“It’s enormous…”
“Look! That whole building is on fire! GET RID OF IT!”
“Sorry, sorry!”
“It’s coming this-”
“It’s gone! It’s gone! It’s ok, it’s gone!”
“Do not do that again, do you hear me?”
“No. No more of that. I think I need another drink.”

You’re not in charge

4 07 2008

It should be a relief to know that, in the big picture, you’re not in charge. You’re not the toughest kid on the block and there is no reason why you should have to be. There’s always something out there stronger than you are (like gravity, for an off-the-top-of-my-head example) so feel free to kick back sometimes. Take a load off and let the universe figure it out.

Today remind yourself: I’m not in charge.

via Play Nice


1 03 2008

dsc04676.jpgFreshest pic. Twenty-one hours in now with one last session to go in May.