I have officially become a published author. My western fiction short story, The Reverend Mister Black, appearing in the Rope And Wire Western Short Story anthology, became available today on Amazon.com.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
One by one the pods opened and the ship slowly came back to life. Kenzi sat in sickbay when one of the Freelancers, wearing sergeant stripes, stepped through the door.
“Miles Gordon said you wanted to see me, Ma’am,” he said.
Kenzi paused for a moment and looked at the name label on his camouflage shirt. He stood in front of her with his feet spread and his arms behind his back. His eyes looked somewhere behind her.
“Did Miles tell you why, Sergeant Brackett?”
“I think I know, Ma’am.” His eyes never wavered from the spot behind her. “The Major was supposed to be up before me and I’ve not seen him.”
“Relax, Sergeant,” said Kenzi. She held out her hand to Brackett. “Doctor Kenzi Sheppard.”
Immediately the tenseness in Brackett disappeared and he shook Kenzi’s hand. “Mike Brackett, Ma’am, glad to meet you.” Spreading his feet apart, he stood with his hands behind him.
“Major Grayson’s pod malfunctioned,” Kenzi informed the Sergeant. “It happened sometime after we left.”
“Can I see the Major, Ma’am?”
“He may be hard to look at.”
Kenzi rose from her chair behind the desk. “Follow me, Sergeant.”
She led Brackett to a corner of the small sickbay where a black body bag rested on a gurney. Kenzi unzipped the body bag. The sergeant looked at the remains of Major Grayson for a couple of minutes, then looked back up at Kenzi.
“Thank you, Ma’am, I’ll break the news to the men when we’re all together. One more thing, the Major was really looking forward to this mission. If you don’t mind, I’d like to bury him wherever we decide to settle down.”
Despite the sergeant’s rough exterior, Kenzi could see the sadness and hurt in Brackett’s eyes. “I think that could be arranged, Sergeant. We have a chaplain with us. I’ll talk to Miles about it.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. Me and the Major go back a ways. We met in the Corps. Fought a lot of wars together since. He was a warrior and a gentleman. You would have liked him.”
“I’m sure I would have,” replied Kenzi.
“Well, I should go be with the men. Thanks for taking care of the Major.” Sergeant Brackett turned and strode out of sickbay.
Kenzi zipped up the body bag and returned to her desk. She’d been apprehensive about the dangers of the Genesis Project, but if the rest of the Freelancers were like Sergeant Brackett, they were in good hands.
* * * *
“If you’re watching me tonight, your journey is almost over.” Doctor Sheppard quietly slipped through the door of the darkened crew lounge, winching as the door latched loudly behind her. The President of the World Council of Nations spoke from behind a desk in front of the Council’s flag on the screen at the front of the room.
“Earth, as you know it, no longer exists.” Kenzi scooted into an empty seat next to Sergeant Brackett at the end of the back row. “Did I miss anything?” she whispered.
“No, Ma’am,” Brackett whispered back after a shake of his head. “He’s just getting started, but he’s getting ready to tell us how he appreciates the sacrifice all of us are making.”
“All of mankind appreciates the sacrifices each and every one of you is making.” Kenzi covered her mouth to stifle a laugh when Brackett looked at her with a raised right eyebrow.
They sat for the next twenty minutes and listened to the President rehash the objectives they’d gotten in a pre-launch briefing fifty years ago. Mercifully, the screen finally went white. Kenzi looked over at Brackett with his chin on his chest and gently poked him in the side. The sergeant opened his eyes and looked over at her, lifting his head as the lights brightened the room. “The torture session is over,” said Kenzi.
They rose from their seats as the rest of the room started to file through the door. “I talked to Miles Gordon about your request,” Kenzi said to Brackett.
“Yes, Ma’am, I talked with him earlier. Thanks for going to bat for us. Now we can give him a proper sendoff.”
“Better that he be among friends than being shot off into the stars all by himself,” said Kenzi.
Miles Gordon, trailing the line leaving the crew lounge, stopped beside them. “That wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be.”
“Speak for yourself,” replied Kenzi.
“I should be getting back to the men,” said Brackett and nodded at Kenzi and Miles.
“Sergeant, I’d like to see you when you get time,” said Miles.
“Yes sir,” replied Brackett and followed the last of his men out the door.
“Mister Gordon, “ said Max, the android’s soft voice appeared from the overhead speaker.
“Yes, Max,” replied Miles, looking up into the speaker.
“Our destination has come into view.”
“I’ll be right there.” Miles looked at Kenzi. “Care to have a look at our new home?”
“I’d love to,” replied Kenzi and followed Miles out the door.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
The last few numbers on the control panel countdown clock mesmerized Max as they clicked down to zero. The streaks of light in the view port suddenly turned to a twinkling star field as the big sleeper ship dropped from hyper light drive. The android pilot of Genesis I turned in his seat and watched the lights in the forward compartment flicker to life. The sleeper ship’s fifty-year journey had entered its final stages.
Turning his attention back to the control panel, Max anticipated the first of the twenty- five red lights turning green, signaling the opening of the first sleeper pod and the return of life back to Genesis I.
Earth was dieing and Genesis I, the first phase of The Genesis Project, carried an advance party to C1789, a planet in what was deemed a habitable zone in the recently discovered Hemera galaxy. The revived crew would shoulder the responsibility of creating a colony for Genesis II, carrying their families, and the ships that followed.
Max looked over at the red light marking the first life pod switch to green. Life was returning to Genesis I.
The life pod marked with a big black number one on its end hissed and the lid slowly lifted. Doctor Kenzi Sheppard’s eyelids fluttered open and she laid quiet letting her eyes take in her surroundings. They settled on Max walking through the door and she smiled when the android stopped next to the pod.
“Welcome back, Doctor,” greeted the soft-spoken android. He looked at the numbers on the panel above the pod. “Your vitals signs appear normal,” he added.
Doctor Sheppard swung her legs over the side of the pod and sat for a moment, waiting for the wave of lightheadedness to subside. “Thank you, Max,” she replied, “it’s definitely good to be back.”
With Max’s help Kenzi put her feet on the floor. “I expect you’ll be wanting a big cup of hot coffee,” said Max, getting a chuckle in return from the doctor.
“Yes, that would be nice,” she replied.
“Shall we?” said Max, sweeping his arm toward the door.
Kenzi took a couple of unsteady steps. “Now I know how babies feel when they take their first steps.”
“Before you know it, you’ll be as good as new,” replied Max, walking behind Kenzi as she made her way toward the door.
They left the pod room and walked down the long hallway toward the dining room. Max seated Kenzi at a long table with a long row of bench seats on each side and disappeared through the swinging doors into the kitchen. He returned with a steaming mug of hot coffee and set it on the table in front of her.
“Anything in it?” asked Max. Kenzi smiled at the range of Max’s knowledge of human tendencies.
“Black is fine,” she replied, wrapping both hands around the coffee mug. She looked over the rim of the mug as Max sat down across from her.
“In approximately thirty eight minutes the next pod will open,” said the android. “Your pod opened twenty two minutes ago and they are scheduled to open one hour apart.”
Kenzi looked at Max and wondered if the appearance of an ever-present smile on his face was a hint at humor by the creators of the android and his counterparts. She was curious to see if the androids piloting the rest of the ships that followed them carried the same pleasant trait. She giggled softly as she took another sip of her coffee.
“Did I say something funny?” asked Max, cocking his head
Kenzi giggled louder. “No, Max, it’s just nice to be up and about again,” she lied.
“I’ll have to prepare something light,” said Max, rising from the table. “Everyone will need something to eat when they awaken.” He stopped midway through the double doors and turned back to Kenzi. “Do you remember where sick bay is?”
“Yes I do, Max, thank you.”
Max continued through the doors and Kenzi finished the coffee in her mug. Setting the mug on the table, she rose from her seat. “You have work to do, Doctor,” she reminded herself. “Time to get a move on.”
She turned left from the dining room and walked down the hall until she reached the large MEDICAL sign. She stepped through the door grabbing the white lab coat hanging on the peg on the wall. She checked the large pockets to make sure her stethoscope was still there. Everything was as she left it. She slipped the coat on over her white jump suit. On the way to her desk in a corner of the room she stopped at the sink and looked in the mirror.
“You don’t look a day over thirty-five,” she said, running her fingers through her brown hair. She didn’t really want to think about how old she really was.
She opened the top drawer of her desk, removed a watch and to her surprise saw the seconds were still counting up. Not sure how long it was going to last, she strapped it to her wrist. At least it would make a nice accessory, if nothing else. Taking note of the time, she realized she had just enough time to make the pod room before the next pod released its occupant.
The pod hissed and the lid lifted as Kenzi stepped through the door. She looked up at the numbers on the vital signs board above the pod and noted they were increasing slowly into the normal ranges. She walked up beside the pod.
“Good morning, Miles,” she said with a smile.
Miles Gordon, the advance party’s leader, rubbed his eyes and squinted up at Kenzi. “Doctor Sheppard,” he said, “is it morning?”
“It is for us,” replied Kenzi.
Miles swung his feet over the side of the pod and tried to stand up, but sat back down. “Guess I tried to get up too quick,” he said, scratching his salt and pepper hair.
“It does take some getting used to,” replied Kenzi with a chuckle, patting Miles on the shoulder. “Max has coffee in the galley when you get your legs under you.”
Kenzi left Miles and walked down the row of pods looking at the changing numbers of the vital signs boards above them. She frowned when she approached the blank board above pod number eleven. The name under the board read Major Anthony Grayson. He was in charge of the Freelancers, a group of mercenaries that accompanied them for security. She walked up to the pod and looked through the small rectangle window in the lid.
“Oh my,” she exclaimed when she saw the shriveled face lying on the pillow inside. She stepped back from the pod and walked around it. Not seeing anything that would suggest foul play, she decided it was an unfortunate equipment malfunction and would make Miles aware they had lost a member of the party. She finished her inspection of the pods and solemnly walked from the pod room.
She found Miles Gordon sitting at the first table in the galley sipping on a steaming mug of coffee and munching on a pastry. “These are quite good,” said Miles, holding up his breakfast, “you should have one.”
“We’ve lost one of our Freelancers,” said Kenzi, ignoring Miles’ suggestion.
“Major Grayson’s pod malfunctioned. It must have happened shortly after we left. I’d like to get him out of there before anyone else wakes up.”
Miles popped the last of the pastry in his mouth, licked his fingers and wiped them off with a napkin. He drank the last of his coffee and wiped his mouth, stuffing the wadded up napkin into the mug. “I’ll get Max to help me.”
Kenzi watched Miles leave the galley and hoped this wasn’t a forecaster of what lay ahead of them. They didn’t have any more people to spare. With a soft sigh, she turned toward the plate of pastries next to the coffee urn.