From The Archives: Spirit’s Walk

The smooth rock-faces of the canyon walls would prove challenging to most climbers, he imagined.  Rust worn towers of stone touched the sky above him, the wind catching tufts of dust as it went into the dying light of the day.  It took thousands of years for nature to carve her signature into these rocks, and he wondered how many seconds it would take him to ascend them.  It was a challenge that made him smile.
Leaping straight up at the wall, spiked fists burrowed into rock as easily as they would butter.  Time-tested muscles pulled him up and across the curves of the wall as Knuckles the Echidna ripped and leapt his way into the clouds.  It wasn’t long before the ruby guardian had reached the overhang of the cliff, the last and greatest challenge of the climb thanks to the way it hung over him.  Swinging his feet out into the nothingness of open sky, Knuckles punched free from his ascent, flipping himself into the air above the ledge.  The fading sunlight warmed his body as he stretched out to catch himself in his glide down.  Gracefully, he touched down on the peak of the canyon wall and let the silence of the scene envelop him.  No one else around to cloud his thinking, no one else around to task him with helping them out when they would likely not do the same for him.  Finally, a spot where he could be at peace, or as close as he could be so far from his home.

How the red-furred brawler had found himself a world away from his rightful posting was more than an annoyance that crawled under his skin. It was a pain, an ache in the chest, which he had caused himself by smashing the Master Emerald to protect it. As long as such an awesome power was in pieces and useless to anyone else, Knuckles could focus on recovering them again. But it was not supposed to have been a choice he needed to make, as the echidna should’ve been able to defend his duty alone. Such was his burden, his purpose in life. Everything else was secondary.

Now, he was atop a canyon wall, breathing fresh but foreign air. As unnerving as that should have been, he had to admit, there was a tranquility here. Knuckles could feel the Master Emerald, and by extension, the planet that created it, within the winds. As he was climbing the walls, it was like the steady pulse of the world was behind the rocks, letting him know the state of things as they were, and how the stellar vessel viewed its own outlook.

He wasn’t sure how long his violet eyes had been closed in thought, only that the sun was barely peeking out over the horizon when, “You know, there are much easier ways to ascend the canyon.”

It was a voice he had never heard before, clean and well spoken. Yet there was something beneath that, the primal growl of someone who had seen battle before. “That was kind of the point, didn’t think anyone would follow. Hell, or that anyone could get up here besides me, maybe Shads.”

“Oh, I have been scaling these rocks since I was a pup. I was even able to carve out my own path and incline along the opposite face you took to get up here,” his visitor replied, peaking Knuckles’ interest enough to crack an eye open. And sitting next to him was an equally crimson hybrid of lion, wolf and intellect. Etched into its fur in black were multiple brands and tattoos, the most standout being simply the number ‘XIII’. Most unusual for any quadruped that the echidna had encountered was a tail that flicked and swished with a glowing tip.

“Wait, you live out here with the humans? And they haven’t tried to chase you off or eat you?” the echidna asked with confusion.

Red XIII shook his head, making his mane rattle, “Nothing of the sort. Cosmo Canyon is my home and under my charge, so I protect it.  This place is a beacon of life for those who need sanctuary. And judging from the looks of your friends when you crashed, you all most certainly need it.”

That made Knuckles scoff, “Yeah, not exactly what I wanted to do today. Have to track down the rest of the Master Emerald before that fatass maniac Robotnik does something dangerous and stupid with it.”

“I heard one of your other party members mention something about that, and I was wondering what that actually meant,” Red cocked his head to meet Knuckles’ gaze, surprising the latter when he saw that the former only had one good eye. “Damn, what happened to you? Looks like you’ve been through some shit too.”

The ruby hybrid shook his head and looked away, “The product of another time. Though, I suppose that losing that has helped me see things more clearly sometimes.  After all, as long as the Planet is safe, even an eye is a small sacrifice.”

Knuckles paused for a moment, as Red had hit on something. Time and time again, evil had sought to steal or destroy that which he was charged with protecting. And over and over, the blood-red brawler trusted only himself to save his heritage. Sure, Knuckles had allies, even friends, and he had come to trust them.  But no one else, not Sonic, not Tails, not even Shadow, really understood the weight of duty and tradition like he did.

Yet this fellow crimson beast, soft-spoken but hardened, understood it. Understood the cost of honoring commitment, accepted the burden of tradition. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Even if it does cost us a lot, it’s a bigger cause than just us.”

Red nodded, “But that does not mean we must stand alone. After all, I carry the pride of my father, the knowledge of my grandfather, and the heart of this place within me wherever I am, so I am never alone. Do you follow similar mantra?”

“Uhhhh, kinda. I guess,” the echidna started, running a hand across the dreadlocks at the back of his head. No one had ever asked him this before, so to put it into words was an interesting new idea, “I guess I do too, in a way. I just do it literally sometimes.” He pulled out a shard of the Emerald, making the lion-wolf’s ears raise. “The whole of my race’s history is in here. Or at least, the ancient stuff. I’ve learned a lot from it. Meditation, how to fight and climb…the useful stuff.”

Red cocked his head to one side, “I find that rather sad, that you did not have the luxury or comfort of another in your youth while you trained. Your distance now becomes much more understandable. You are not like the hedgehog, who removes himself from company out of anger and self-loathing. You return to your world of comfort, where you can best commune with your ways.”

Knuckles chuckled a bit at that, violet eyes flicking over the canyon peaks to see a black speck atop one a fair distance away, brooding. “Yeah, Shads’ got more problems that most, but he’s also one tough sombitch.” The brawler looked back at Red, “I imagine you’re no slouch either, given all that.”

“If need be,” the tattooed quadruped replied before laying on his belly, “But I much prefer things here, even if I must defend it. I can hear the Planet best here. Her songs, her voices, her memories. On a clear night, when the air is still, I can talk to my grandfather and I know he will answer.”

The echidna smiled at that. Countless were the nights he’d spent talking to the Master Emerald, basking in its warmth and absorbing tidbits of knowledge. He’d seen the strength and devotion of his ancestors, but what would they say now, seeing their last progeny so far from home? “It’ll be dark soon.”

“Indeed. Perhaps being here is precisely where you needed to be to receive the wisdom you seek. Or, should you not like what you hear, one of our residents is a brew master. I imagine some of our shared party will be partaking.” Red XIII proposed without looking up. The wolf-lion was quite comfortable where he was, as many past nights of conversation with his father where conducted from there.

“Maybe in a bit.” Knuckles answered, gaze locked heaven-ward watching the twilight peel back its cloak to reveal the first stars. “For now, I’ve got some thinking to do.”

So, a long time ago (in a lifetime far, far away), I began a story that, while enjoyable in concept, proved overly ambitious. Ultimately, this became its downfall, as I just couldn’t make the pieces work. But, with the recovery of those old files, and some polishing, I thought why not share some of those to see just how that stack up. And maybe to get a wee bit of nostalgia rush 🙂

I hope you all enjoy.


Beginning Of The End – Regret

It took understanding to accept what was in front of him as a whole dish, knowledge of where to even start from, courage to engage such a plate, diligence to set a good pace for eating it, and expression to translate what a fool he was for even taking such a bet.

Such was the Full American Breakfast at Luke’s Diner, in some small town between Boston and New York. The Viper had needed gas, and both men needed to stretch out a spell and refuel themselves. Their third member said nothing from his motorcycle, but his stomach betrayed his hunger.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this, man.” Bryan said in awe of the sheer amount of protein and sauces before him.

Lance smiled through his coffee, “Trust me, bro. You need this. You barely ate yesterday, and this is a feast for a King!”

“You mean a heart attack on a plate. How come you didn’t get one?”

“It would go right to my hips,” his friend replied in a faux high pitch.

Bryan just shook his head. “Wuss…” And with that, he shoveled in the first mouthful. The slickness of the sausage grease and egg yolks clashed with the crispness of the potatos and fluff from the pancakes in a duel that paralyzed his taste buds in delight. “Dude…how? How can this be this good?! It’s like Denny’s but better in every way! I think an angel came from above and delivered unto me this plate!”

Lance chuckled at that, “You’re welcome, but I think her name was Laura. Did you catch it, big guy?”

Lucifer looked up from his waffle to give a simple answer, “Didn’t notice. Not my type.”

“Oh yeah?” Lance nudged the senior member of the table, “And what type is that? Tricked out in leather and tattoos?”

“No,” was all the biker responded with before returning to his plate.

“Well…alright then. At least I could tell she was yours.”

Bryan paused his fork halfway to his mouth, “How ya figure?”

“Long, dark hair. Brown eyes. Long legs. Dude, every girl you ever dated was like a new version of the same mold. You always go after the same ones.”

He took a long swig of water, and was amazed at how much room he felt as though he had to cram in more divinity. “That’s not true.”

Lance cocked his eyebrow, “Name one that didn’t have one of those three traits.”

Memories soon came flooding though his mind like he had dipped his face in a mountain stream. Bryan McPherrel,a young man who could’ve had his choice of companion if only his mouth didn’t outrun his brain so often. Only a few times before he dawned the uniform did he wear the heart of a lady, and only one time after. He could see all their faces as they smiled for him, laughed for him, or cried because of him.
Then the realization hit him with more mass than the pig on his plate. “Dude, you’re right. I did have a type. The type I could never make work.”

Lance dropped his smile as well, he could sense where this was heading, “That’s not what I…you know what, forget I mentioned it. It was stupid. We aren’t here to be sad, especially not you. This trip is supposed to be nothing but awesomeness and adventure. See, we even picked up our own wingman!” He nudged the broad shoulder of the man next to him, forcing Lucifer to drop his next bite and earning a glare.

“But that’s what’s wrong with it! Dude, after this trip, what do we do? You’ll go home to Charleston, he’ll go back to doing… I have no idea what, and I’ll be back to wondering when this fuckin’ time bomb in my head will finally go off!” Bryan suddenly felt far too heavy to even look at his half-eaten conquest.

“Then why not just lay here and wither like a piece of weathered shit?” Lucifer challenged, surprising both men.
“If you wanted to simply whimper away like a dog, you wouldn’t even be worthy of the dirt they would pile on you. Instead, you come into my bar, dare to question me on what it is that makes life worth living, only to end up doubting it yourself? Tiny here is right, you do have a type. Because you,” a point the biker punctuated with two solid logs for fingers jabbing Bryan in the sternum, “have no resolve. You lost it somewhere in the pills and the unknown.”

Even among the bustle of the diner around them, he couldn’t hear anyone or anything. Just his heart beating in his chest. This tattooed and unusually-named man was right. So what exactly was Bryan doing here, on this aimless quest? Even getting to the Grand Canyon would only take a few days at a good pace. And then what?

“Damn, man!” Lance sputtered, “you sure don’t talk around shit, do you? And also, ‘Tiny’? Seriously?”

“Yukari.” Bryan simply said. “She cut her hair short that one time…it looked good on her.”

The other driver chuckled, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Didn’t you hate that?”

“Nah, or at least I don’t anymore.” The moribund man looked out into the parking lot, towards the quaintness of the village around them. “I was gonna marry her…”

Lucifer snorted, finishing off his plate, “Well, isn’t that peachy. How did you screw it up?”

Bryan took a long breath, “I dunno… I was working, she was working and going to school. She couldn’t decide on what she wanted to do and…we just started fighting about everything. It didn’t last long after that.”

Lance nodded, “I remember how much of a wreck you were when things fell apart. You almost bought that crotch rocket. Don’t think that would’ve fit in with his crowd.”

The biker shook his head, “But it would have been worth something in parts when I took it from you.”

“You know, we’re still friends, her and I,” Lance started, pulling out his phone to show his brother a picture. And sure enough, Bryan couldn’t even see the years that had fallen off the clock since their last days and now. He saw the smile that lit up his whole world. The eyes that would squint when she laughed.  Lips that never failed to taste like the slightest hint of peach, even if she’d just eaten steak.

“She still asks about you, you know,” his friend continued, “I haven’t…um…”

“I’m going to find her.” Bryan declared. “If nothing else, to apologize for all the shit I messed up.”

Lucifer shook his head, “A stupid way to find a reason.”

“Tell that to Odysseus or Menelaus. You’d be amazed what happens when this stuff gets involved.” Lance retorted.

“Do you know where she is now?” Bryan asked, to which Lance nodded. “She lives out in L.A. now, doing some kind of…entertainment thing, I’m not sure. But she’s back in Hokkaido right now and won’t be back until,” he looked at his watch, “damn, almost a month from now.”

The doomed man didn’t miss a beat. “Then I’ll just have to stick around until then. Which means taking the long road. You in, big guy?”

Folding his massive arms across his chest, the leathered titan thought for a moment, then shrugged. “I’ve got things I can do most anywhere we go. You’d be surprised how many of us there are,” he pointed to his jacket on the empty chair.

“Alright then, we have the time, and we know where we’ll end up,” Bryan leaned back, “Question is, where to now?”

“Boston.” Lance responded instantly. “Have to do it. You lived too close to it for too long and never once did you go to Fenway. That shit gets fixed, and gets fixed now.”

In agreement, the men signaled for the bill. And as they walked to their vehicles, Bryan smirked to himself, prompting his compatriot to ask, “You saw her too?”

“Long dark hair, brown eyes and long legs. I hate you.”

Another piece in the story of a man with nothing to lose, his brother and enabler and the renegade who was once something else. And good grief, I’ve never linked so many stories together. Could this be building to something?

I hope you all enjoy.

Five(ish) Minute Fiction – Staff Meetings

The briefing room was uncomfortably quiet when he first entered it. Were this any other starship he had been on, Captain Shin al-Imir would have felt the steady hum of the warp core in his boots, a sign of life and energy for the crew. Even his own ship, the U.S.S. Artemis, he could feel her pulse as he walked her halls. Even if the engineers who built her praised the buffered floor plating as “silent even in a stampede”, Shin knew it was there. Now, however, he only felt the stillness as he waited for the staff meeting to begin.

Thankfully, they were not far behind him, arriving one and two at a time. Eight people, each representing at least fifty more. Concerns were plenty, but they were professionals, so it would not show up front.
“Thank you all for coming, I know these have been busy days with the tasks at hand. But before we get too mired in the mud, it’s time to get bearings. Lieutenant Varoe, what have you learned about our warp drive issues?”

Shaking his sandy hair, the most junior officer of the group activated the display in the center of the table to explain. “Sadly, sir, we’ve learned a lot, and none of it good. From all the tests, simulations and what my guys are seeing by getting on their hands and knees in the Jefferies tubes, the issue isn’t our warp drive. It’s where we are.”

At the captain’s right hand, the Andorian first officer furrowed her brow in thought, “So it’s the Varwac system that’s interfering with us? How? The Empire wouldn’t have built a research station here unless they could resupply it, and that means FTL travel.”

Laroe nodded, “Yes ma’am, it would. But it means hyperspace travel, not warp drive. Kenny, er Commander Paige and I put some notes together on it last night.”

With a nod, the Chief Science Officer leaned in and changed the image before them to show the entire system of six planets. “This is the system as we entered it, at the same approach we used.”
A glowing green line directed their attention to where the Artemis was supposed to arrive, behind the shadow of Vawarc’s moon.
“And here’s where our warp field collapsed.” A point in space marked by a red sphere.
Paige tapped the table’s console, and a light-blue cloud overwhelmed the map in every direction like all the planets had just been dropped in a pond. “And this…this whole area, is collapsed subspace. Just like in the Lantaru sector of the Federation.”

“An Omega molecule explosion,” al-Imir concluded the thought. “You aren’t saying that the Imperial Navy is messing with the very fabric of the universe, are you?”

“Oh, no sir.” The scientist waved his hands to cease the thought, “this damage is old, at least a millennia. Whatever is down there didn’t do this.”

The Captain studied the image worriedly. The quickest way out of the system was the same way they came in, which given the moon’s orbit, would leave them exposed for far too long. “Then on that subject, it’s time we discuss what it is that’s down there. Lieutenant Commander Semil, your analysis?”

The Vulcan at his left nodded and stood, the projected image replaced by a structure. “From what our sensors have recorded, this appears to be the latest in the Imperial Golan-class defensive platform. At four kilometers long, by three kilometers at its center, by three kilometers wide, it is larger than the current platforms used by the Imperial service. I suspect the additional room is to make way for this.”

Within the platform, two sections of forked tubing illuminated, connected by a spine that ran through the heart of the bastion. “These two points are the focal arms for what appears to be a subspace disruptor. Powered by an independent matter-antimattter reactor, I believe that this system would target an area of subspace, likely within a few light years, and create artificial distortions beyond what current warp technology can compensate for. Once a vessel has been forced from warp, it would give a planetary defense force ample time to respond.”

“So Starfleet was right, it is an anti-warp weapon,” noted the Andorian. “How do we destroy it?”

“That, I do not yet know. Most of this is an assessment based off intercepted transmissions and early deep-level scans. Much of the station and its surrounding construction is shielded.”

“What if we got closer, overpowered the shielding with more intensive scanning?” Pagie proposed to the group.

Shin furrowed his brow at that, he knew where his junior officer was going. In another first for Starfleet, the Artemis had launched with three Valkyrie Mk.1 fighter craft that had been specifically modified for reconnaissance, dubbed the Mk. 1-R. Each ship, in addition to highly sensitive and intelligent sensor suites, came with its own version of SHIMMER to keep them hidden among the stars. But not in an atmosphere or against terrain… “Perhaps. Flight Chief?”

At the far end of the group, fiery red hair shook in dismissal of the thought. “Easier said than done, cap. Whatever horse-ass certified these needs to have an intimate relationship with a shillelagh.”

The table was silent for a moment, Semil raising an eyebrow, “An…interesting perspective, Lieutenant.”

“Indeed. Care to clarify that?” the Captain punctuated, which caused Lt. Chloe O’Shea to flex her fist. “Well, thanks to the sudden stop we got comin’ here, plus the subspace collapse we mentioned, has been working like gremlins on my ships. Number one has a damaged central computer, so it can’t even start up right. Number two clears preflight, but some prat back at the yard forgot the insulated coating on the weapons arrays and nacelles, so it will either snoop, shoot or run, but not two at the same time. The energy bleedover trips up the onboard nav and targeting arrays.”

She threw up an arm in frustration, “Number three is the worst of the bunch. Her main reactor simply won’t engage, like it’s been drained. All and all, I can slap ‘em together and probably get you two working, or one in mint.”

Shin nodded, turning to his First Officer, “I believe that, before we risk sending the Mk.1-Rs down, we should gather as much data as we can from here. Risk?”

Suvan was quick to reply, “Only slightly increased, I believe. If that station didn’t see our arrival in-system thanks to SHIMMER, then it shouldn’t see us holding a lower orbit. Recommend we keep at an offset so they can’t just look up and see us.”

“Agreed. Move us into low orbit, ventral arrays set as primary. Let’s gather as much data as we can and re-conviene in…six hours. Flight Chief, get me a working Valkyrie. The rest of you, I want seamless rotations and crew turnovers. No piece of data is too small, whether it’s intel, or a revised way out of here. Dismissed.”

A little companion piece to an evolving storyline. Being a spy is a dangerous job, as it often places you alone at the heart of the enemy. You just better hope you have an escape plan after the deed is done.

I hope you all enjoy.

5 Sentence Fiction: The Demon’s Hammer

His hand caressed her newly-polished face, feeling for the imperfections that were no longer there. Her wings gleamed under the hangar lights, begging to kiss the sky again. But it was what hung under her belly that made him pause.
They called it “Kingslayer”, the missile that would fly six times faster than sound for one reason alone.

It would be the hammer that he would take into the evening sky, the fire the Demon Lord would rain down upon anyone before him in retribution of his fallen Vixen.

And entry #2 for this week’s 5 Sentence Fiction. Which also happens to be the opening of something deeper and darker, the natural conclusion of what happens when some poor soul angers the Demon.

I hope you all enjoy.

5 Sentence Fiction – A New World

He’d seen the best and the worst from those he held most dear, those secrets kept bottled for so long until they exploded.

In the course of a year, he had evolved from a stranger and transient to a friend, a brother, a lover and a leader.

For a humanity that would never know outside their company, he’d faced down a god and brought forth the truth of the world.

When she became his in name and in love, he thought there was no higher level of love and bliss than this.

But when Souji watched those new eyes first open the world to that tiny form wrapped next to his mother’s bosom, a whole new dimension of life and family opened its doors to greet him.

Entry #1 for this week’s 5 Sentence Fiction. One that I have been blessed to experience, one that really has no other words except maybe “Wow!”.

I hope you all enjoy.

100 Word Challenge: Lucky Break

Pulsing red and blue filled their rear mirror as the Viper growled while it slowed.

“I warned you, bro. You don’t get a stretch of highway this long without the popos on it somewhere.”

Bryan shook his head, “I’m telling you, I looked in front and behind! Which way did he come from?”

“Probably jumped the median a ways back. I’m just amazed they caught up, Mister ‘How Fast Can This Go?’ ” Lance chuckled

“Yeah, well, at least you get to join me in the jail cell for this one, there’s no way were…”

And then the cruiser whipped past, siren screaming and relieved breaths escaping.

A new entry for a new year! This week’s 100 Word Challenge was a well-needed spark to get this year started with a bang. Or, in this case, a near heart-attack.

I hope you all enjoy.