The Inevitable End – Prologue

Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on certain days.

For people in the United States, they remember September 11th, 2001, an attack that shook a nation.

In the United Kingdom, everyone remembers March 19th, 2022, the day their last and perhaps greatest Queen passed away in peace.

For the people of South Korea, it was December 1st, 2019. The day that the Kim regime of their northern antagonists and brothers collapsed and chaos gripped a peninsula.

Each of them a worthy note in history, but never truly impactful in the great string that was existence. After all, everything that lives must eventually end, but not something anyone ever really likes talking about. Even planet Earth, shining blue oasis in the void, was doomed after a few billion more years.

At least, that’s what was supposed to happen. But on June 9th, 2023, that all changed.

That day had a lot of names assigned to it when it happened: “The Day of the Second Sun”, “International Illumination Day”, “A Day Against All Odds”. Those were the nicer ones. The more common ones were simpler; “Doomsday”, “Ragnarok”, “The Second Coming of God”, and such. But it was a day that no one could deny as fiction. A day that everyone on Earth could remember.

On that day, which had been predicted for decades, the massive interstellar rock known as Comet X381977, or “Martha’s Comet”, slammed into Jupiter. It was supposed to be a moment of scientific marvel, as humans had never seen an object the size of our own Moon crash into the massive gas giant. NASA gathered up its pennies and got its highest-end probe, the Aldrin 1 in place weeks before hand to gather every tidbit they could, and they weren’t alone. The Russians, the European Space Agency, the Chinese and the Japanese all had something in orbit around the gas-ball in time. And they weren’t wrong, it was a scientific jackpot. It was data that careers and lifetimes would be built upon.

And then Martha’s Comet hit, and in less than an hour, the planet we knew as Jupiter was gone.

At that moment and in the days that followed, the world was both in awe and panic, as suddenly, there was no such thing as night. Whatever that rock was made out of, it succeeded in igniting Jupiter’s atmosphere into a second star, an act that was thought impossible by science until it happened anyway. All those years studying the many moons of Jupiter, all those theories about what may be possible to mine or even colonize just on the other side of the Asteroid Belt was gone, flash fried and melted or sucked down into an interstellar furnace.

But the most damning impact of all hit us only a month later, and it was a double whammy. The uppercut was the frightening theory that the Van Allen belt, that nurturing blanket of radiation that helped shield the Earth from the never-ending barrage of solar power, was being shoved away. Now everything that was in orbit, from communications to geo-location was going to feel the wrath of extra radiation and solar particles they were never built to deal with. The mere prospect of losing the internet was a world-wide blender of economic crashes, destruction and deaths.

And that wasn’t even the worst part. The real nail in the coffin came from the simple fact that Jupiter, as large as it was, was never meant to be a star, and so never had enough fuel to sustain such a reaction. Even a month later, it was already measuring a few hundred kilometers bigger and a few hundred degrees cooler, not to mention the shifting reddish tint. In just five years, humanity would have a front row seat to watch the Earth get swallowed whole, even though it would be a burnt up rock long before then. And all that assumed the change in gravity didn’t pull the Moon down on our heads.

So, we faced a choice of such magnitude that nothing that had come before it even seemed relevant: Do we come together as a species and try and save ourselves from certain death, or was the human raced damned by its own stubbornness and inability to cooperate and overcome even basic ideologies?

The real answer should have been obvious: Both and Neither.

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This is the start of an idea that will likely be a NaNo entry someday. Somewhere between “The Martian” or “Interstellar”, the story of if and how we can save ourselves from extinction, and the real level of what it would take to get some people to actually talk to each other.

I hope you all enjoy.

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Demon’s Rise

Again and again, he had played the numbers game on the computer screen before him. Again and again, he studied the ballet of her death in the choking grey skies over the Waldreich mountians. Again and again, his fists clenched at her turns, moved unconsciously to tease a throttle that wasn’t there and pulled back to put her nose to the blue one last time.

And through it all, the Demon Lord could not paint in his mind a picture of his target. The recordings taken from Vixen’s mangled black box were remarkable intact given what her final resting place looked like. She had been returning from a textbook strike mission on a camp of “revolutionaries” the government of Ustio wanted put down before they rose into a wildfire. He had visited her that morning, jealous of how her Su-34/FULLBACK would taste clean air while his F-15C/Eagle was in pieces after flying far more hours than it was ever supposed to. She was merciless in her teasing, that the hellhound on his nose would have to sit and wait like a good boy until she got back, and tempted him with a last kiss and the promise of all good things to come.

The mission itself was uneventful. She had coordinated her location and vector with Valeris Air Base controllers, held an easy thirty-thousand ft altitude while she locked up her targets and then rolled easily into a screaming dive and almost mach speeds. Pitiful anti-aircraft fire rose up to challenge her, but she paid it no mind as she unloaded twenty-thousand pounds of armament on helpless tanks, fuel trucks and radio stations. Whatever hardware was left after her run was quickly abandoned as any surviving troops ran into the snow.

Her course back home should’ve been just as simple, a series of turnpoints on a map, confirmed by her satellite navigation and her hand map. But deep in the rocky peaks, someone had been waiting for her. Her radar had never classified what it was, but it was fast, closing rapidly on Vixen. She had seen it, and dodged its first shot with panicked luck. He’d watch her speed scream up and down as she dove away and wove around snowflakes trying to get clear. But it hunted her, missing barely with its second missile shot before scoring its deathblow with something else. Cipher could practically feel it now, the moment the FULLBACK shuddered against the impact and rocked onto its side before beginning its final spiral into the rocks, smashing belly-first into what was once a riverbed. It was a moment that never failed to choke him with his own heart and engorge the fire in his blood.

These thoughts still ran though his mind, even as recycled air pumped into his chest and the roar of thirty-thousand pounds of power pushed him through the black of the moonless night. At first, he didn’t want to take this mission, as blowing holes in a runway owned by a bunch of mercenaries and idiots didn’t thrill him. It was the location that made him take it, because this normally forgotten about strip was just on the edge of the mountain pass. Even something short range could have launched from here and waited for her in the nearby peaks, waiting to pounce on his Vixen. So maybe melting some concrete would at least steady his nerves so the Demon Lord could think.

“Eagle Eye to Galm One, we’re reading a huge uptick in radar activity! Multiple missile systems!”

“Copy. Galm One engaging.” It was the only response he had to offer his overwatch. And the only response that mattered. Though his heart began to rock his chest like the thud of a drum, it was not in fear that Cipher narrowed his eyes. It was in rage.

He saw the first missile coming to greet him before his Eagle did, and the Demon Lord spun belly to sky and fired in return. His aim was true and the foe that had tried to burn him down lit the ground around its crater like wildfire. Pushing past the sound barrier, Cipher lobbed another missile into the bulbous fuel towers near the runway and the entire valley was suddenly illuminated by a second sun.

The Eagle howled over the strip as he made his first pass at barely a dozen feet above rooftops, mauling hangers and fleeing trucks with cannon fire. Setting eyes on the control tower overlooking the carnage, he snapped his wings into a vertical rise and released one of the free-fall bombs into the main window. The flames ate effortlessly at equipment and man alike, with one poor soul tossed from the tower like a rag. Cipher watched the man fall without sympathy or pity, but only hoped that the fall killed him and not the burn of the destruction below.

His radar screen alerted him automatically to the approach of something from the air, but he’d paid it no mind until now, for the Eagle now saw its target as a pair of Belkan-built J-10/FIREBIRD. The smaller interceptors quickly moved to face him, one breaking away to try and pull the Demon Lord to expose his flank to either enemy.

Cipher smiled a predatory grin and kept his head-on course to the fool that now challenged him. Both jousters fired a missile within the same second, but where he bounced his Eagle higher into the air like a rock off the water to avoid the shot, his foe had attempted a simple bank away from the approaching death. Cipher caught the J-10 right at the throat and snapped it in two, leaving only metal rain to greet the ground below as he turned to face the other opponent. The smaller fighter had placed itself behind a line of hapless grunts who aimed their smaller shoulder-mounted missiles at the Demon Lord and fired, but Cipher pulled his Eagle into as tight a loop as it would manage, sending the defending shots effortlessly into the clouds. The second bomb that dropped from his wing was just as unforgiving as the first, landing square in the cluster of soldiers that were now trying to escape him.

Come on, you son of a bitch…show yourself to me! Just for a moment! I’ll burn your ashes into the snow for what you did to her! His mind raced as the second J-10 pulled into a its own tight turn to try and evade him. Stomping on the rudder pedal, the Eagle slid like a knife in the air and brought its teeth down on the supple spine of the FIREBIRD. Unspent fuel and ammo sent shards and flakes of his latest kill in every direction, and the Demon Lord rose away with ease.

Coming around again to align with the runway, Cipher let go his last two dumb bombs, the heaviest of the two he’d chosen for this mission. Punching through concrete and steel with ease, two volcanoes of dirt and stone bubbled under the ground before ripping the skin away from the ground, cracking the strip for dozens of feet in every direction. Only the central hanger remained standing now, sheltering what looked like a simple large transport. And if that massive bird stayed still, the Eagle may have overlooked it. Only when the lumbering mass began to pull out of the hanger did the Demon Lord set his sights on it. Maybe they thought he was expended, or maybe they were counting on its nature as unarmed prey to dissuade him, Cipher wasn’t sure. Nor did it matter.

“Attention, attacking aircraft! We surrender! Repeat, we surrender! Our plane is full of wounded and will not engage!” they called to him, the fear in the voice clear even through the static. And for a moment, he hesitated. All of this death, all the money this mission would bring him…and it meant nothing. The one thing he’d hoped for, the sole reason the Demon Lord had been summoned here, had not showed. Somewhere out there sat a pilot, man or woman, who now wore his beloved Vixen as simply another kill. Someone had dared to challenge the ruler of these skies by ripping his heart out.

Cipher offered them only one response, his missile smashing through the transport’s canopy and detonating somewhere in its belly. It shattered like paper from the blast, unsupported wings crashing down into the snow and rotting fire catching hold of the hanger the helpless target had emerged from.

 

The Eagle circled around one last time as the flames blotted out the stars above him.  He knew she never would’ve taken that shot, she was better than that. He knew that somewhere, far away from the carnage, the operators on the ground and aboard the AWACS that had seen him through thick and thin had just watched him carry out a massacre. It should’ve mattered to him…but it didn’t.

“AWACS Eagle Eye to the Demon Lord. I think you’ve just earned your reputation.”

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It’s been a long time since I visited one of my favorite pilots and his world. Usually, he is the hero, a Demon in name only out of respect or fear from his enemies. Never his friends.

But that’s not always the way he has to be.

I hope you all enjoy.

Task Force Flashburn

It was an idea born from time-tested tactics and private conversations while the main planners and generals conferred. Each representative had brought, in some capacity, their best minds to the quorum, allowing for the most expansive planning within the circle. It had been General Antilles that first raised the notion of the Rebel’s classic “hit and hype” operations, which would at least force their Imperial foe to raise the alert in places other than where the Joint Fleet planned to strike. And while the larger operation matured in the squabbles and egos of the leaders, their trusted few began the initial stages; forming Task Force Flashburn.

It was a quick and dirty assembly of ships with a single mission; take down the Imperial Trade Consortium at Valius IX and wipe out as much of the defending support as possible. This would force the Star Destroyer Hate’s Hammer to move further away from the Prash’guthali sector and hopefully, reduce the number losses the main force would sacrifice.

Unfortunately, as the Fleet rallied behind its newly unified banner, there wasn’t much each side was readily able to commit in just thirty-six hours.  The U.S.S. Diamante, having barely escaped the Utopia Planetia raid, led Starfleet’s banner. But the small Saber-class scout only had one partner in its colors, the older Miranda-class Khartoum.

The Klingons fared no better, with only one legacy K’tinga-class battlecruiser and three small B’rel-class Birds-of-Prey for the call. Though while the machines were often outclassed, their crews sung the songs of battle as heartily as any other warriors.

The New Republic summoned the most to Flashburn. One Nebulon-B frigate formed the center of the fleet, along with two CR90 fast-attack corvettes to maul opposing fighters, one GR-75 transport to haul the fuel and supplies everyone would need, as well as plunder anything that was of use. To cover them all, one squadron of A-wing interceptors shielded two lumbering Y-wing bomber squadrons.

And risking more than the rest of the group combined, the Cardassians had sent one of their few Galor-class cruisers to the call, which was still more than the Romulans pledged. But it would have to be enough. In five days’ time, Flashburn had a laundry list of appearances to make and Imperial war efforts to vaporize. At the end, everyone left would rejoin the Fleet at the heart of it all, and hopefully with resounding success.

The Trade Consortium itself shined above the icy blue gemstone that was Valius IX, with freighters of all sizes and trades coming to and fro. It’s main line of defense was an old Carrack-class light frigate and maybe two squadrons of TIE fighters, provided all of them were operational and on alert. These would be the first targets. Once those were burning in space, the bombers and Birds of Prey could dance between the hubs of the Consortium and melt whatever suited their fancy. The cruisers and battleships would dismantle the entire complex from one end to the other. By consensus calculations, the moment their approach was detected, Flashburn had at most ten minutes of play time before the Star Destroyer would appear and burn them all out of the stars. That didn’t leave much time for fancy tactics, so it had been decided to strike as a combined force.

As expected, the Imperial alarms began to scream barely a second before the entire Task Force emerged from light speeds. In a stroke of thankful luck, the Imperial frigate was moored and powered down while its crew lazed about the station and only four TIEs patrolled the incoming traffic. Diamante and the Birds of Prey immediately leapt ahead of the pack, with the A-wings screaming forward in pairs to wipe out any defensive cannon fire. Torpedo hit after torpedo hit liquefied the unshielded Carrack’s bridge and spine, while the interceptors danced effortlessly around panicked sentries. One of the CR90s also surged into the fray, shredding the TIEs as they came around.  A few of the merchantmen dared to fire back as well, which only served as marking them as dead men for the Klingons and Cardassians.

Diamante to Task Force. All defenses are down and the trade ships are fleeing or have surrendered. Focus fire on the trade platforms, and signal our transport to move to Docking Bay Theta-One-Seven. Looks like there’s some goodies there for the taking.” The scout reported as it came around to face parts of the burning station, cutting through vital points with ruby lightning.

Coronation copies. All fighters, form up and stay on alert. Any freighter that wants safe passage out of here comes with us. Hustle up, people. We’ve got about four minutes left to make our exit!”

As much as it pained them, Klingon honor did not permit them to fire at the helpless, even if they flew the enemy flag. But that didn’t stop them from weaving between the frightened merchants like daggers and popping a few more disruptor blasts over the bows of those running the wrong way. The Galor-class Talnash swooped in to take equal advantage of the chaos, beaming away anything that wasn’t nailed down or claimed, which would be welcomed by the Cardassian efforts.

Khartoum picked up the signal first. “Alert! Inbound subspace wave! Looks like a larger cruiser heading in, bearing two-six-six by one-three-eight, at our starboard plane!”

Immediately, everyone who was in or around the station rose away from the devastation to reform the group as their new challenge thundered in with cannons blazing. Thankfully, it was not Hate’s Hammer, but even the older Victory-class Star Destroyer packed equal firepower and Starfighters to the Task force. The more mobile starships and fighters scattered to make their individual runs, while the larger battlecruisers and frigates met it head-on. One of the Birds-of-Prey was snapped in half almost instantly as its attack path began.

Diamante put her belly to the Destroyer and fired as fast as it could, emptying its torpedoes into the larger ship’s belly. All around, the newly launched TIE fighters chased after the Y-wings, with one full squadron breaking away and carving a path of fire along the Cardassians’ bow. Try as it might, the Galor-class cruiser only picked off a third of the Imperial fighters before one of its engines detonated, shearing off the accompanying wing and leaving it easy prey for the Destroyer to pick apart.

Coronation kept its corvettes in close, Khartoum and the Klingon cruiser folding into the pack to defend. Turbolasers and disruptions matched slice for cut and pound for tear as the two sides battered away at each other. One of them had to give eventually, and the moment the Destroyer’s shields collapsed, the Diamante and the last Bird-of-Prey dove in from above and shattered the bridgetower of the Destroyer. The Imperial’s engines fluttered and winced before finally dying out.

And through all that, the collective countdown had been lost in the fray. Yet Hate’s Hammer never appeared, even as the Task Force escaped with their victory. And while bloodwine and whiskey were shared among the conquerors, report of their mission and losses still worried those on the front.

Flashburn still had a lot of mission left, and the fighter production factory that was their next target was not so easily destroyed.

—————————–

A pairing to go along with the master battle plan, because a feint has been a time-honored military strategy for centuries.

At least, when it works.

I hope you all enjoy.

10 Words

It was all over in one sentence; “If I wasn’t already with Chris, we’d definitely be together.”

In ten words, everything I had come to know and trust, and everything that I had been squashing under the gears of reality had been splayed open. For you, who had become my shade in the endless desert of my soul, had just offered me the most bountiful oasis. How I had longed for this moment! At last, I knew that the sputtering and gasping of a restarting heart had been heard and was even echoed in kind. You, dearest angel of mercy, were now made mortal by my desires, and were within my reach.

And all it would cost me was my morality.

In the moment, it would’ve been such a small thing to sacrifice for such a divine reward. How easy would it have been to tell you to abandon him, or even better, say nothing at all and take your lips in mine. Would this have startled you, and would you have pushed me away, forever destroying the budding companionship we had built? Or would fortune favor the brash and you share in the moment.

Would you have been worth the gamble? Absolutely.

The softness of your kiss against my own, I could only imagine was crafted carefully from clouds. The warmth of your skin in my hands would fuel a thousand suns. Would you be as demure as you were beautiful as we fell through the gates of embrace, or did you also restrain wild passions saved only for those most intimate moments? Oh, how I wished to know!

But most important of all in the moment, the beast that was caged behind the bars of honor was as enraged as it was vigorous.

How dare you tempt me with this moment?!

Who are you to test me with my greatest weakness?!

Who gave you the right to be so beautiful?!

Why can’t I simply jettison principal for passion?!

What sane man turns down reprieve from isolation?

The one who must face himself come the dawn.

Which left but one response, “He’s a lucky man. If he ever doubts that, you let me know.”

At that we laugh and carry on the evening, frozen treats and merriment well into the night until at last you depart into the starlight heavens from whence you came, and I continue my courseless drift through the void that was myself.

———————————

So, usually, I’m not much of one for looking back on the past, good or bad. I sum it up with a line I take from Elfen Lied: “Regret is the privilege for those who have earned the right to look back on the past.”

But then, last night, came a dream of a time years ago. When faced when the choice of what could be, to what had to be. It was the right call in the end, but the fact this pops into my dreamscape now is…unnerving.

Regardless, I hope you all enjoy.

The Lost

It has as many theories behind its legend as there have been witnesses who have seen it. Some say it was the reason for the Big Bang, the devil that the Creator fought and defeated to bring life to the universe. Others have called it a demon from the Andromeda Galaxy, only the first of others to come.

Even in Starfleet, we aren’t above superstition. Some in the crew believe it to be the dead hulk of the original U.S.S. Enterprise that survived its fall to Genesis and was cursed to live forever. Others, including my own first officer, personify it to be a remnant from an alternate universe, forever caught in the middle of our own timeline and wherever it came from. Whispers between my bridge staff about the echoes of the lost and unanswered hails from long-dead crewmen through the ages of space exploration has not been lost on me.

There are a lot of unexplained phenomena in the universe, this is beyond question. But the supernatural or the arcane…these are things best left for the sailors and fisherman of Earth centuries ago.

We arrived in the Sigma Onias system six hours ago to investigate the disappearance of several transports in the region. So far, we’ve detected many unusual anomalies and signatures, but nothing concrete. Yet the growing unease among my crew is noteworthy, so I can only hope we make a breakthrough here with haste so that their minds can focus on upcoming R&R.

  • Log Entry: Captain Phurr Venrir, U.S.S. Kestrel

COMPUTER NOTE: U.S.S. Kestrel was reported missing forty-eight hours later after failing to report updates to Starbase 212. Presumed lost with all hands.


So, this little bit came into my head on a dark and stormy night, which made for amazing dreams but restless sleeps. I may keep it going, I may not, who knows. But it’s a subject that this universe seems to rarely deal with beyond a passing mention.

 

I hope you all enjoy.

Beginning of the End – World Traveler

Five hundred ponies wanted to run, practically howling for the chance in the midday sun. They deserved freedom to roam and rampage across concrete, it’s why they had been purchased in the first place. Instead, as seemed to be the norm for I-90 and Soldier’s Field, no one was moving.

“Well, at least you can see the park from here. That’s a start!” Lance pointed.

Bryan just shook his head as he stared out the window into the lanes upon lanes of halted people and orange barrels.  “And this is one reason I never came down here. Too many people never going anywhere. I mean, sure, Bangor isn’t too isolated, but it isn’t…this

His best friend snickered a bit at that, “You’re just jealous that a guy as wide as a bus on a bike managed to weave his way between cars and left us in the dust half an hour ago.”

“And where does he even think he’s going? Like, I know it’s probably best we don’t know, but after all that shit he talked in the diner only to haul off somewhere…it just bugs me, ya know?”

Lance shrugged, stomping on the pedal for only a second in order to change lanes in a rush before the Viper lulled back to an idle, “Oh, I’m sure we’ll see him again. He strikes me as the type to see a cause through to the end.”

Bryan started to counter that, but he had to hand it to his bother-in-arms. Lance had always been better about reading people than him, for better or worse. It was one of the reasons they were so tightly bonded through life, his best friend had easily cracked the book of Bryan McPherrel and had added more than a few pages of adventure.

One of those chapters had been Yukari. “So, why haven’t you told me before you two still talk?”

Sighing, his best friend worked his jaw for a moment, “’Hey, bro! What’s up? How are things in Maine? How’s your mom doing? Oh yeah, by the way, you ex-fiancé says hi’ How does that sound to you?”

Bryan sighed, “I guess, kinda dumb, but still! You should’ve told me! If I would’ve known, I would’ve done this ages ago!”

For one of only a handful of times, Lance Briar had no comeback. “You know what, you’re right. I should’ve told you. I’m sorry, bro.”

Even an idling powerhouse in a cage of construction and congestion was suddenly insufficient to break the growing silence between the two. Lance could tell his best friend was hovering between hurt and angry. It also meant he was thinking. “So, what are you gonna say to her?”

“Hell if I know…she always was better at starting conversations. Who knows, maybe something will come to me when I see her again…” Bryan started laughing slightly, “I mean, I couldn’t even say ‘hi’ to her the first time we met, you had to be my wingman.”

“Eh, all I did was get her attention. You two were the ones who talked until the restaurant closed. Making me walk home in the cold…jerkface.” Lance smirked.

Bryan shrugged, “Your fault, not denying it.”

And in that entire time, the Viper had not moved an inch. “Ugh…this could drive a man to drink.”

Lance cocked an eyebrow at that, and was rewarded with the split-second gap opening in their path towards a freeway exit. Their chariot roared with enthusiasm as they dove away from the standstill and sped away on the fairly free bypass road.

“So, no more Fenway?” Bryan posed, watching the stadium disappear behind them.

“Simple, you need a drink, then a drink we’ll find. With all the shit you’ve put up with lately, you need a visit from ol’ Bobby Burns.”

“Uhhh, think that will interfere with the meds?” the doomed man questioned.

“Maybe, but only if you’ve taken one today. Which you haven’t. So don’t worry about it, trust me.”

Weaving through traffic and any more jams, Lance found what he was looking for. A brick building bustling with traffic to and from, marked only by a single dark wooden sign. The four points of the compass branching out from a glass on the rocks. And, in perhaps the greatest turn of fortune in some people’s lifetimes, the parking spot directly in front opens itself for the Viper to nestle into. “Found it! This place should have some of the best cocktails anywhere in the world.”

Bryan cocked his head, “What makes you say that? And how are we even going to get in there? The place is packed!”

“You let me worry about that, buddy boy. You worry about what you want first.” The two men squeezed through the crowd and the noise, where two open seats laid waiting, almost front and center to the entire bartop. Quickly arriving at their attention came the vintner and owner, native accent and piecing blue eyes sweeping in with the smile patented by the booze trade. “Afternoon, gentlemen? What can I get ya?”

“Gunfire for me, whatever this man wants, and a shot of Yamazaki for the Traveler.” Lance ordered, spalling Bryan on the back.

It was an order that made the barkeep pause and give a curt nod of respect, “Alright, someone here knows their stuff! Fan of the show?”

“Dude, you’ve had the career we mere gentleman could only dream of! You got paid to travel the world to sample the finest things in the world! We watched it all the time in Iraq, it was the closest thing we could get some days to even a beer.”

Bryan knew this man looked familiar, but it took is friend’s reply to really jog the memory. “Oh, holy shit! You’re Jack Maxwell! The ‘Booze Traveler’!”

Jack gave him an informal salute, “Guilty as charged. And you two sounds like you’ve served our country, amiright?”

Lance nodded, “Iraq, three years for us both.”

“Then you two are my heroes and deserve something special. Marcus, you’ve got the rush, I’ll be back.” Jack grabbed the bottle of whiskey and gestured to an upstairs level, roped off by velvet which he removed. While the actual barroom was impressively kept and had customized wooden tables and seats, the upstairs we more like a full lounge. Bookcases ready to house fine cigars and liquors along with pages of lore surrounded a very fine table etched with a world map. Impressive chairs closer the thrones surrounded that, making excellent seats to converse or to rotate and watch the world out through the large bay window.

Once upstairs, Jack poured out three shots for their free hands, Lance and Bryan both cradling fine cocktails already, “Gentlemen, here’s ta you and all that ya do.”

It was an impressive fire that slipped down his throat and into his belly. Sharp, but not obscene. It was a clean burn that left no trail, like what he imagined a burning fuze rolling down his gullet would feel like. Gone were the normal hints of oak or American spices, the Yamazari had the twinges and sweetness that Yukari could bring to his life, or had once brought long ago.

Lance rolled his head back in relaxation, “Holy…. That’s smooth as polished glass!”

“I’ll be sure to thank my man Hidetsuga for the recommendation. Man knows his stuff for being a barman who can’t drink.” the Traveler mused. “So, what brings ya out my way?”

Byran started, “It’s a long story…”

Lance injected, “But the simple version is we’re on the trip to end all trips. We’ve got about a month to kill before my best bud here reunites with the woman of his dreams and hopefully doesn’t choke on his words.”

Bryan shot his friend a glare, “Basically, yeah.”

Jack laughed heartily at that, “There’s always a girl, ain’t there? I can respect that.” The bartender doled out three more doses. “To love and happiness, something everyone looks for, but so few find.”

Lance snorted, “Amen to that,” he punctuated that with a slight snarl as the liquor blazed its way down. “Hell, it’s partly the reason we’re here, to help my brother here think and unwind himself. He’s not exactly a silver-tongued devil like you.”

The Traveler smirked at that, “Well, I wouldn’t go that far, I just know my way around people and listen to what they gotta say, ya know? You can figure out anyone easy enough if ya listen first.”

“Are you taking notes, dude? This man speaks truth,” Lance nudged Bryan with an elbow. “And you know how to do it too!”

“Yeah? He a player of the game?” Jack queried.

An idea that condemned man shook away with his hand, “Nah, just a fool who gets lucky and smart sometimes, only to blow it all in the homestretch.” Taking a long drain from his main drink, Bryan suddenly put that in perspective as to where he was now. The final and ultimate homestretch. “But that won’t happen this time. Because it can’t.”

The other men nodded in approval, “See, I knew there was something else in there. Could tell when ya walked in. I know a man with a story when I see one.”

“That he does, and it’s gonna be a helluva ride,” Lance added, raising his drink for a toast. “To the story, wherever it goes and however it ends!”

Another clink and dose of core fire as the sun began to creep across the table. “Alright, there’s something I gotta know, Jack. And I know Lance does to.” Bryan began, leaning forward to table center.

“Yeah, what’s that?”

Looking over to his friend with a smirk, he continued, “Well, you’ve been all over this map, and had a lot of gorgeous company along the way.”

“Particularly Armenia!” Lance injected

The question needs no finishing, the Traveler a sly grin and poured three more. “Gentlemen, let me tell you a tale…”


And so the story continues for a man facing the end of his days and his battle buddy, brother and watcher. Sometimes, what helps a man see things clearly is just a drink and a vent, and it’s the solemn duty of the brother, whatever form that is, to provide both.

I don’t know, own or make claim to Jack Maxwell or the Booze Traveler, which became my favorite Travel Channel in about thirty seconds. I highly recommend it.

I hope you all enjoy

The Problem With Remembering

He’d been called many names in the past. Some of them negative; ‘loser’…’asshole’…no one’s ever topped ‘limp-dick fucknugget’, though… Every name conjured a moment best left forgotten, or repressed under a two-tequila shot minimum.

He’d also been blessed with the best names available in life; ‘beloved’…’husband’…’daddy’… Names that defined a man, that gave him a purpose to be and a reason to continue. The warmth alone that radiated from his chest with each of these wrapped him in a blanket of distance from the moment, letting him remember what should be, or now, what once was.

But one name he’d never been given was “insignificant”. It was a moniker his tongue couldn’t force a repeat of. “Okay, sure, there’s way too many people in the world to give a shit about me and whatever I did. You know what, I don’t give a shit about them. I gave a shit about Lillian! About our boys! You can’t tell me otherwise!”

“You’re right, I cannot,” it said, as it started to climb a staircase that wasn’t even there to step on. “It is not up to me to debate the root truth of your memories, their fidelity is irrelevant in the end. What matters is your perception of them now.”

“Why now? Shouldn’t it matter through my whole life, if this is whatever comes at the end of a life?”

It stopped at the peak of an invisible perch and sprawled out upside down, but never closing its unblinking eyes in a moment of respite, “They are one in the same, only a perceived measure of time.”

He reached out to lean on whatever staircase was supposed to be there, only to be further annoyed when his hand passed through nothing, “So….what the hell does that mean?”

“As I said, everything you were and would never be is right here. Yet this is the environment you have generated from what you consider ‘true’. Alone, isolated, refusing to open his eyes to what he claims to value.”

That made him pause for a moment. But I remember!…don’t I? What should have been the songs of angels playing through his adulthood were no longer there, lost to whispers from a dark closet somewhere in the aged hovel he was standing in.  “Where are they?! Why can’t I hear them anymore! You’ve spoken in their voices once, do it again!” he howled, shaking the false wood under his feet. “Please…let me hear them again…”

It rolled right side up, tilting its head. “Is that what you truly want to hear?”

“Yes! Let me hear them again…just one more time,” he pleaded, almost cradling its head in his hands.

The noise that it emitted from its ever-smiling lips was damming. It only lasted a few seconds, but the combination of every scream his children had ever hollered, every shriek of pain his beloved had emitted was enough to crush the soul of anyone and anything ever made flesh. But it was the indomitable roar of the blaze that took him from his feet to his belly. “No! No! Please, God no! Make it stop! NO MORE!”

It relented upon his request, leaping down from its roost to sit in front of him, nearly nose to nose. “Those are the memories that you hold on the surface, the ones that have shaped all of your perceptions of the moment.”

“But…how can that be possible? I… THEY SHOULD BE ALIVE, NOT BURNING TO DEATH!!” he yelled over the racking tears.

“Then why is that what you cling to now?” It posed with a cock of its head.

“Because…because… BECAUSE I KILLED THEM! IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR, YOU SADISTIC FUCK! I KILLED THEM! I KILLED THEM! ITS MY FAULT!” His voice broke into the creaking shriek of the broken, his fists beating down on the floor again and again until they should have been shattered bone. And yet, there was nothing but the cold, indifferent silence.

“Now do you see the corruption and falsehood of memories over truth?” it posed to him after an eternity of pause.

“Does…does it even fucking matter anymore?” he whimpered, cradling his chest from the ache of the breakdown. “This is all there is, isn’t it… this is all you’re gonna show me…it’s all I deserve.”

“If that were the truth, Simon, then this moment would have already ended. Are you ready to see your truth and not the memory you’ve sealed yourself in?”


So, it’s been a bit since I’ve visited this scene, and honestly, this is due to two reasons. 1: This particular sequence takes a certain focus or exact idea to make it feel like it’s ready to continue. And 2: I have honestly no idea where/when/how/if it will end. And, I’m completely okay with that for now, since there’s probably a good reason for that buried in here somewhere.

I hope you all enjoy.