The Best Job for Mr. Jansen!

“Ma’am, why did you insist I come in so late?” He sat before her window, barely opening his mouth, hands in his lap.

The clerk looked over to him and pulled her professional smile to the right side of her face. “To tell you that you are approved for an interview and to get you application corrected. As for the lateness, we’re getting lots of applications and have to put in overtime; you’re the last one tonight.” As she returned her gaze to her screen, she added, “I would suggest you get a haircut and shave before Tuesday!”

He tried to grin a bit. ““Ma’am, I did fill out the form correctly, and I will be clean shaven and well dressed for Tuesday. Forgive the way I look now; this was just not a good time for me to be here.” He stifled a growl.

She found his form and perused it. “Mr. Wolf, sorry, Mr. Jansen, anyway, you stated your first name was Were? Are you foreign?”

He almost put his clawed hand on his forehead in distress. He slapped it back to his lap and said, “Uh, no, my name is Thomas. It should be Thomas Jansen; you were right after all.” He unconsciously peered deeply into her eyes and licked his lips.

The Tuesday morning interview went quite well. Tom, dressed like a professional, shook the Director’s hand as he was told he got one of the Forest Ranger jobs and that training would begin the coming Monday. A Forest Ranger! Nature! The beautiful wildflowers and waterfalls! The tasty hikers!

I’m the Ghost with the Most!

Avo entered the huge gathering and surveyed those present. ‘Hmmm’, he thought, ‘they need some agitation!’

He whirred up above the crowd and shouted, he bragged and flouted, “I am the ghost with the most!”

He followed with describing his various haunts, his many jaunts; he was the best, no jest!

The host of the meeting zoomed up, furious! “Why do you claim such fame; we’re all curious! Come on spook!” In a lower voice he belted out, “You stupid kook! Tell us the reasons for touting to be Sir Supreme for all the seasons.”

Avo took the form of a gaunt old ancient fellow in a flowing white toga. “I am a ghost from the Elder Days, I’ve learned all the languages and all the ways.” He peered into the avidly listening crowd. “I’ve haunted ships and gamblers’ chips, I’m the most knowing and the best at showing my outlines in hallways and as a child in public walkways.” He paused a few seconds before adding, “I’ve aided magicians with alchemy and helped students in more than one academy.”

He started flowing around the large room, his toga longer and then got more serious. “I’ve brought true loves together, I’ve warned ones at risk of vicious weather, I’ve prodded little children to better obey and I’ve taught teens not to be frivolous and stray.” He drifted to a tall cabinet and sat up straight. “I’ve urged drillers to think about solar lighting and spent time with the intolerant to stop their incessant fighting. Sometimes I wear a toga, sometimes a jacket and hood; whatever it takes to enlighten the baddies to do good!”

The host ghost looked cowed. He said, “Yes, you are the best.” Then he bowed.

The group below gathered up and screamed, “You’re the best we’ve ever dreamed!”

Avo smiled. He had much to teach those wafting ghouls, they couldn’t all be fools! Perhaps some could be useful tools?

That’s My Sister?

(Another short story. Why not? Ukraine is in the news so much…)

Emo felt satisfied that he’d left that worrisome and fretful life behind and at last headed out to find his dear sister Mia. The only family he had remaining after wrecks and Covid, he really wanted to see his sister safe. From O’Hare to Warsaw would take a while, yet he though the time would seem to fleet by faster than the last seven months with no word at all from her. The Ukraine/Russia peace agreement took too long, for sure.

He got the supplies he needed and headed out to search for the medical outposts where she’d be likely to be. He recalled again about their last argument as she went to board the plane to Warsaw, how he told her they needed nurses here in the USA and all. She’d just extended her open hand to him to push him away and left anyway.

Most of the medical places were mainly abandoned but he did get info on where some were yet in operation. He visited every one with no luck. He filled his jeep tank from his Polish jugs as he went, glad to have bought so many. Then his smile melted as he arrived at a mass gravesite being unearthed. Oh, the stench! No way could anybody ID these rotting bodies!

He found the DNA trailer in the assembled investigation array. He explained his task. The Bulgarian scientist said he’d need something of hers to compare his results from the grave with. Emo unzipped his pack and brought out a small case he’d hope to not need. He lifted the small doll and handed it to the scientist, saying Mia had cut a swatch of her own hair to make it.

No matches there but he did get a copy of the report so he would not need to pull that case out again. The map he got pointed him to the next, then the next and then the next huge graves. He’d got used to sleeping in the Jeep and eating the military rations. After six of those sites, he came to an area still guarded. He was allowed in with instructions to stay alert as landmines were all over the place.

He’d need to head back to Warsaw soon for more gas if the next couple places went bust. He pulled up to the trailer after being quickly checked by guards, then more guards appeared at the trailer. He had to get out of the Jeep with his pack and hand it over. They proceeded to check his pack and all in it. The men passed the doll around laughing, giving him odd looks. A young woman hurried from the trailer and swiped the doll from them.

“Where’d you get this?” She shook her head briskly and started to repeat the question in Ukrainian when she saw Emo. “YOU! You came!” She ran over to him and their exuberant hug made the guards nearby and at the entrance applaud and whistle happily.

Memorial Day Story

Here’s a short story that seems appropriate for today. Hope you like it!

Not Always the Way You Hoped

The steep driveway

Emily still trudged around the curve and down the steep gravel driveway to the mailbox as she’d done every day she could remember. Routine. The hope she’d get some sort of notification about her soldier son had turned into routine. She maneuvered back up the gravelly drive thinking about the vast deserts of the Middle East, the awful battle and attacks she’d seen on TV. As she climbed the porch steps to the front door, she abruptly smeared away tears and forced up a thought of time. Too much time had passed for good news.

Inside and in the kitchen, she laid the silly catalogs on the counter. After a few minutes, she shook her head in disgust; angrily, she internally shouted at herself to stop fixing her attention on that damned phone. She’d nearly died from birthing that boy, she’d helped him with his homework, she’d got him a bike he’d went nuts over. With no daddy to help, she’d even showed him how to use a bow and arrow and stuff like that. She halted that recurring train, derailing it. Maybe it would have been better if she’d died.

In an effort to keep busy, she cleaned up the mess in the house systematically. Finding a sealed bag of chocolate chips that had fallen behind the shelves put her into auto. Before she knew it, a cookie sheet, mixer and mixing bowl had appeared on the counter. Cookies? Lordy, Chet had craved chocolate chip cookies, stuffing them into his pockets and all. The chips were close to expiration and needed to be used…

She sat stiffly on a kitchen chair dragged between the counter and the front door. She gazed steadily at the pile of cookies, smelled them, felt the heat from the oven. She did not hear the van pull up but did respond to the furiously barking dogs. She went to open the door. A van? The side door slid back and a woman with a child about two years old, maybe more, got out.

A’Dila had a strong accent but knew English very well. The little boy the woman had passed to her snugged in closer as she nudged the front door shut with her foot. When A’Dila dragged another chair over, the boy raised his head and the stack of cookies grabbed his mind. Emily reached and tugged the plate closer.

Emily had nearly finished reviving the spare bedroom in a steady and controlled manner as A’Dila described how Chet had been a prisoner for quite a while, how he’d escaped, how the wide area had been shut down with no communication allowed in or out. They’d decided to become a family. After a halting sob, she finished with how her dearest love Chet had been shot in the head as he planted vegetables in the sandy yard. Then more clearly, she added how a charity group had rescued her and her beloved son.

That night, watching some sci-fi series episode, Emily closed her eyes and thanked the Lord, God and all Heaven as she heard little Chet pull a cookie from his pocket and then bite a big chunk off.

The Tragic Wreck of the USS Possama

“Sir, the last communication with the submarine occurred at 0331 on the 5th of this month. May I play the message now?” Lieutenant Matthew Masert acknowledged the Captain’s nod and ran Captain Arnold’s message:

“Alert! We are being surrounded fore, aft, starboard and port by Russian subs. This started when we completed our Kamchatka assignment. Now we’re halfway to …”

Captain Ensano frowned. “That’s it?”

A week later, no further word from the Possama nor had any searches succeeded in discovering any reason for the boat to be missing. Russia denied any activity around the sub at all. The USS Possama became another lost submarine in the Pacific, flags at half-mast.

Captain Arnold laid his cards down with a grin as the other three officers of the Possama fanned their hands out in defeat. The Captain took the last package of chocolate cookies and quietly secured them in his satchel. His comm unit vibrated. He reached for it and held it close to his ear. He replied in a whisper, “We’re ready but do not make any outside communications yet.” He pulled the cookies out slowly and opened them with a shove to the officers as he rose and went forward with care to not pant too loudly. Perhaps this ultra-silence could end soon!

Later that evening, Lt. Masert trotted to the Captain’s quarters and knocked, hoping Ensano hadn’t hit the sack yet. When the door opened, Masert stood at attention and stated, “The USS Possama is now found.”

Captain Ensano clenched his hands before his chest, almost as a prayer. “Is the crew alive?”

“Uh, Sir, the submarine just pulled into Ballast Point, all alive.”

“San Diego? That boat is out of Hawaii! Que Demonios?” His arms fell limply to his side.

“Admiral Musavel wants us to make way to San Diego for an update with no mention of this to anyone.”

Ensano stepped lively on his way forward on his Destroyer USS Kentucky and reached the Control Room. Soon they were in the lane to southern California. He laid on the power as this he did not wish to miss!

The meeting room had past Admorals’ pictures in an array around the walls. Captain Arnold stood at the podium in full dress uniform and greeted his old friend Pablo Ensano, Admiral Musavel and several others not familiar to him. When they all got seated, he began.

Arnold straightened his lips side to side and closed his eyes for a couple seconds, then appeared more relaxed and spoke. “Welcome all. First, I apologize for causing anxiety over our lack of any signals. I have a reason and I believe the ruse was absolutely worth it.

“We took photos and recordings at the Kamchatka mission site. As we left, Russians ganged up around us and tried driving us to the west. We did not want to end up in their custody, so we opened our torpedo hatches and were immediately fired at. We pushed the reactor as high as it would go and sent out a decoy. It worked but we pretended it did not, with us opening some valves to let out bubbles. We settled into a low spot and cut all services. At least one Rusky sub observed us for nearly a week before leaving and thank God for that as the O2 had gone down to beetle crap. We eased on some vital services and searched for any sign of Rusky presence. None! We left as swiftly yet secretly as we could and beelined here.

“They probably kept monitoring south in case we tried to get back to Hawaii, so we came here due west with as much stealth as we could muster. You see, we caught proof of a temporary installation of Ruskies near Alaska, under an extending shelf with buoys floating around above them that were not left by fishermen. I have all the data including cryptic signals being reviewed now.”

Arno stared at the attendees and tapped his right foot. “No comments?”

Ensano stood. “You went back into your days in the country! You played possum!”

Arnold smiled big.

Ah, Playin’ Possum!

A Splinter in Time

A real job at last! No more Call Center crap; what losers there, on either side of the phone line with their yack, yack, whine, whine. My new boss Bernie didn’t just run a sanitation company, but a Cadillac Service specializing in garage, shed and basement cleanouts. He said the last outfit these guys employed were run out of town or something. Too bad for them, great for us coming into a new territory and all. ‘Basement cleaning could reveal bad infrastructure and other perils’ according to the training video. Got it.

Apparently, the client told Bernie to have the pallet of supplies sent to the basement because that’s where the note stuck on the heavy iron front gate said to go. Who leaves their basement door open? Anyway, I found the sorry-half-busted pallet with splinters all around it and got my mop and bucket. No hauling out trash bags as the place was empty except for the long pulpy drip lines on the walls and a big pile of sticks under the stairs. I’d just bundle the sticks up and put them on the pallet before I leave.yellow drips

The basement was more like a huge tub with a drain at one end. The cleaning challenge was what must be drips from rust because it was that deep brownish red. And good grief, the constant echo of buzzing flies! That’s what they get leaving that door open, I could’ve told them. I got the hose hooked up and filled my bucket. After checking out the darker end I walked back to see my own footprints. Crap! I’d have to hose my boots off good to keep from tracking up my car.

cleaning upI gloved up and tried the soapy stuff first. It hardly made a difference on the drips but sure made the floor slick. The bleachy stuff did better, and the strong odor overcame the rotten smell. I got a couple spots mopped off to gage the amount of effort I’d have to put into this job and turned to the bucket for a reload. There stood a pale guy in a black suit.

“Sir, I estimate four hours minimum to get this done. Did you recently have a flood to cause …”?

In a second, he stepped up and backhanded my head; I fell to the floor and felt a sharp pain in my left arm. Crap! He towered above me and leaned far over to bare the most awful fangs at me. Holy Crap from Kingdom Come!

reach 001

I grabbed for the biggest splinter I could reach while kicking at one of his shins. He landed on his butt and tried propping himself up with his hands. Ha! My rubber gloves didn’t slip on the soapy floor! I landed on him with a knee in his gut. I reared my arm back and saw his bloodshot eyes bulge as I drove the splinter into his heart.

I sat back and caught my breath. Would only a couple inches of such a skinny stake into his chest be enough? Should I go ahead and clean so I can get paid? I glanced over at the sound of slow steps on the stairs. I ran out the utility door cradling my arm. Those complaining callers seemed not so bad, comparatively.

A Difference of Opinion

OoooH! A Free Preview of the New Book Pull Aliens, Pull!

Cartier walked up to Marta at the dining table for the executive offices and passed her a lemony nutrition drink.”Elise, my dear, how are your preparations for tonight going? I see all the maps scattered, and this looks more ambitious than chromium alone.”

“That’s right professor.” She tipped the drink toward him and nodded thanks before chugging a good portion of it down. Smacking her lips, she continued, “When Mr. Wing called to say he’d pack six ore cars in there, he based that on getting a really low yield ore. The Amigos can get the equivalent of refined ore through whatever means they use to pull the metals up. I’m trying to get my head around how they can dissociate the oxides and other chemical compounds and pull up only what they want. I mean, won’t that leave a crapload of free oxygen?”

Elise mentally switched off external communication and switched on concentration mode. In a minute’s time, she switched back suddenly to give Alain a quizzical look. “Professor, they do what the Breaker does, but a heckuva lot more efficiently! I mean, they did it some on the way here, but they can do it over vast areas.”

“Elise, you mean you think this mining business will release oxygen into the atmosphere as a byproduct? The Breaker employs pyrolysis at a couple thousand of degrees, there can be no comparison.”

She shrugged. “How can it not release oxygen? The Amigo process obviously uses some other method than pyrolysis to dissociate the oxides, but in the end if you break up oxidized magnesium feldspar for the magnesium, you get free ox out of the deal. Maybe they’re living fuel cells, or no, that’s backwards because a fuel cell recombines hydrogen and oxygen to make water. They’re more like the catalysts. I saw them do this up close in the pod on the way in, but never did quite understand it. I could always ask TaaTaa directly about it, but finding the right words is so darned hard.”

“You know it’s after dark, so they’ve all headed off to sleep or whatever else they do when the sun goes down. My guess would be that they’ll need the rest before the dark-thirty roll call; they altered the atmosphere in their dome for a reason, you know, and he said they needed to prepare.”

“Yeah, I hope going back out in the higher ox levels won’t hurt them. Remember the bad ammonia smell when the pod opened up? I hadn’t wee-weed all over everything; it was from them dissociating water from the bladders to produce air we could breathe. The excess hydrogen kept finding the nitrogen in the air and making ammonia compounds. Stinky, stinky and no way to vent!”

“Ronnie Sue said the best guess was that you’d tapped the troop air supply.”

“I did until we docked back at Frankie. Man, oh man, what a panic when it cut off! As it happened, the small volume in the pod allowed for my buddies to hydrolyze what I needed from those big water bladders we had in there and they must have done something with the CO2.”

O2 001

“They made your air?”

“We had plenty of air; we concentrated on increasing oxygen and decreasing carbon dioxide. TaaTaa asked what I needed and woke up his kin to do it. I worried that my air would be too high ox for them, but he said that while 15% to 17% was their ‘comfort zone’, they could accommodate a variance. Less than that they could hydrolyze water internally, but more started irritating them, and too much was poisonous, about 27% he said depending on age.”

“So the high 19’s are on the low side of our tolerance and starts to poison them?”

“TaaTaa said he’d been to many places mining where they had no air and where they had other poisons, I read that as sulfurous and methane atmospheres. We didn’t have the vocabulary then to go into it any further, but I gather they have air reserves in that carbon husk of theirs and are pretty resilient overall. He maintains they could stay out a while and be okay, but was evasive when I tried to pin him down on how long.”

“Hence the portico established in the front end of the pod for them.”

“That’s it, I know I slept better when I got here, in an atmosphere that suited me, and figured they would too. Maybe they’ll be able to recharge every night. TaaTaa seemed pleased with it.”

“I am more at ease now knowing you have retained your customary thoroughness. I see with these maps you have a long way to go to get everything. How long will this extended trip take you?”

“We’re at the mercy of the terrain for many of the sites, although we should be able to get to each one safely.”

“How recent are the maps? The desert is a sea of sand, with the dunes swelling in the winds. You have contingency plans for your route getting blocked?”

“Uh, I have up to date info and we’re going on that basis, with the easiest course and an alternate marked.”

“What about landmarks? You won’t find many, and once you get disoriented and without Topside assistance all you have is a compass. Direction is not location.”

Elise began shuffling and collating maps. “I think we have that settled to our satisfaction.”

He stepped closer and slapped her desk. “I thought you and Barto said no GPS? That any signals in the outback could be traced?”

She looked over and agreed. “That’s right. He’s not taking his tablet and our cells will be turned off. I want to introduce our companions in style, not out away from any support.”

She wished he would find something to do somewhere else, but he didn’t budge. He pursued with, “So you got updates from here and can get to your first site. Then the further you go, the less reliable your data. You could disappear in the sands on the way back and no one would ever find you!” He picked up a map. “Look at this! This is dated last year! What’s the update frequency? How much change occurs between updates?”

She took the map from his hand and laid it back down. “I started to do a trend analysis of the last three years and found these maps and the so-called updates don’t go into enough detail to be worth printing, except for the major topography like mountains.”

He crossed his arms authoritatively. “You’re not going out there with no better plan that this, little lady, no you won’t. I will not risk you, Barto and all of them. I’m amazed at you!”

“Why does everybody continually doubt that I know what I’m doing? You all thought I stayed behind on Van Damme, then you thought I had no air on the way here, then you thought I’d be a sitting duck in the wilds of town. When do I get a reputation for executing a well-laid plan? When will my track record start speaking for itself?”

He jabbed an emphatic knuckle at her. “A reputation does not guarantee the next project will run successfully on its own and this seems like just that. You came out all right before and have the conviction you can do it again as if charmed. It doesn’t work that way dear, the desert is hostile and can kill you all. They depend on you. How are you going to find your way all over creation and back?”

She reached around for her satchel. “Here are my annotated maps, and I’ll update the route to the next destination at each stop.”


She hesitated, trying to find the words to explain that didn’t sound like hocus-pocus. “I dowsed for the information.”

He leapt up onto his toes in surprise, looking like a rooster about to challenge a rival. “You dowsed? Good grief! You risk all your lives on parlor games? You’ve been in low ox high cox too much, and your reasoning is addled.”

“Stop! Just because you don’t know how it works doesn’t mean it’s not a real phenomenon!”

He plunked into a chair and leaned far forward on his elbows, right forefinger in her face. “Give me a set of equations I can follow and get a repeatable result, a result that is meaningful and accurate.”

“You aren’t an equation kind of guy and wouldn’t know what you were looking at if I gave them to you. I can show you how to do it.”

“No! I want to see peer-reviewed literature that proves the premise is sound and useful for each application you want to use it for, including divining road conditions!”

Dr. Trogden wandered in with a dishtowel and as she dried her dishwater-wet hands. She asked, “Guys, what’s the matter? I heard you from the kitchen!”

“Oh, Ronnie Sue, I’m beside myself with this girl! She thinks she can water witch her way through the desert!”

Doc looked over to Elise. “You’re going out there for water? I thought you were going to bring all you needed with you.”

He barged in, “Ronnie Sue, it’s the route she’s dowsing. She’s rolling the dice for all of them by hoping her stick points the right way!”

“Alain, please calm down.” Ronnie Sue pulled up a chair on the side between Alain and Elise. “Elise, honey, please tell me what this is all about.”

“Doc, he asked how I was going to get map updates without alerting Topside. I told him I’d dowse for them. Then he went berserk and wrote me off as a lunatic.”

“Wait a minute!”Alain was a master at displaying indignity.

Doc gave him a hard look. “Shush. You calm down like I told you or you’ll get a sedative.” When he sat back with a deep frown and arms barricading his chest, Ronnie Sue turned back to Elise. “Now, what kind of dowsing? Surely not sitting on the rover hood with a forked stick, right?”

Calmly, Elise replied, “Map dowsing, with a pendulum.”

“Alain, now see?”

He continued frowning silently.

Doc Trogden appeared to be having excessive mirth at her expense, but Elise listened when she laid down the discussion rules. “Now, Elise, Alain, I want each of you to make one point at a time in turn, civilly. No immediate retorts! Make every turn count, because ranting is empty of value. Age before beauty. Alain, you go first.”

Alain: “Elise, you are a scientist, why this magical business?”

Elise: “Is it magic solely because you can’t explain it?”

Alain: “No, it’s because it’s not verifiable by scientific means, it depends on some secret power.”

Elise: “That is not true. Nearly anyone can access the communication. It is not a thing I do, some occult art, or a particular talent I uniquely possess. It’s more a sense like sight or hearing, but most of us ignore it.”

Alain: “How is it transmitted and from whom? I want to see the equations and perform an independent test. That’s peer review, if you recall. Many have tried with this trumpery and failed.”

Elise: “I can show you right now! Doc here can arbitrate!”

Alain: “No! I want to see it disassembled into known terms; what forces at what magnitude, what charges, what chemical reactions. I want to understand it.”

Elise: “What would that really prove? You have had all of that for fusion power for nearly 200 years and we still don’t have significant fusion reactors or propulsion beyond basic research. My method is not so clearly documented yet, but it is repeatable and does provide a usable result.”

Alain: “If it were finding water, I could understand it better, but damn it! You twiddle your fingers over a map and say abracadabra for something that’s supposed to be a thousand kilometers away and say you’re ‘communicating’? With some entity? Science does not depend on some distant ‘guiding hand’.”

Elise: “I do ask questions as if there is someone on the other end of the conversation. I admit I do believe in a continuum for our souls, that when we die our soul is recycled into a babe to learn more lessons. I believe our souls are the most important part about us, and the soul uses a physical body as the means to interact and grow. I believe I talk to the ones at the plane our souls go for recycling.”

Alain: “I am stunned, I am totally stunned. You think you can ask the angels where the gold is and go get rich? Why all the mumbo-jumbo, then? I suppose you never have to think about anything, you can let this entity do it all for you? Preposterous!”

“Alain,” Doc warned, “You stray from the subject for the sake of scorn, please abstain.”

Elise: “Thanks, Doc. Professor, say we are way overdue and you want to take a rover out a little way to see if there is any trace. You stop and get out to scan the empty horizon. You look down and see the corner of a little blue case sticking up out of the sand. You dig it out and it’s an odd-looking phone. You turn it on and a friendly voice says, ‘there’s an oasis south-southwest two kilometers from here, over two low ridges; you can save your friends if you reach them by noon.’button 001

She held out a hand to count off on her fingers. “One, you can take the advice, find the oasis and us, complete trust. Life wins. Two, you can believe you knew of the oasis yourself and deny the assistance, like innate intuition, yet still reach us. Life wins again. Or three, you can ignore the phone because you don’t know the Patriot number of who told you the information and grind it underfoot as you walk away while a guy in a black hood shakes a scythe. The phone was a communication tool, no more, no less. Instead of asking me who gives the instructions, think about who you want to win.” She whammed her right fist into her left palm with a sharp crack and whispered hoarsely, “Pick up the phone yourself or keep your locked mind out of my business.”

Excerpted from Pull Aliens Pull, a Sci-Fi Adventure!Pull, Aliens! Pull! Ecover


The Last Day

Hello! I thought I might share a chapter from The Might of Defiance. Today 7/14/17 is the last day it’s free; don’t miss it!

Chapter 54

The Last Day

At the first glimpse of dawn’s rays, Cedric came to the Ag bench to find complete disarrayCabin 20130721 051 and nobody present. He wanted to get an early start with his investigation of the crash site and came to ask San Luis along to spite the Commander. The whole cabal of them was missing from the Portico, but those odd trees were blocking his way to check the pod; the door stood ajar but he saw no sign of movement. Did they bunk in there last night? He scanned the tree line, unwilling to wander around in there on foot on the chance of finding someone. Without Marta or anyone, the tree things worried him; he couldn’t shake the idea they knew he’d spoken out against them.

“Mr. Crannog, you look confounded.”

It took Cedric a second to separate the voices in his head from an external one, to realize a soft, treble voice spoke. “What?” He shifted to find the speaker, but had trouble picking him out from the shadows of stacked equipment and materials.

Thao stepped into Cedric’s sight, off to the side and still in partial shadow. “I hope I do not unwisely intrude.”

“Tomlinson? Confounded? I surely am, but I am unclear of your interest in it.” He crouched to see the man eye to eye, but regretted it as he thought about how to stand up again.

“I have many interests. One that applies now is that you are at a crux of the fervid beliefs of the two factions among us. In common parlance you ride the fence that divides two camps and when you finally choose a side, you will impact the balance in a far greater degree than your current status would suggest.”

“I am aboard with you for all this time and the first thing I hear you say to me is an embroidered commentary about my balance. What do you mean by this, sir?”

“I mean to unbalance you by my intrusion,” he said, with a fluting lilt, “and so help you to choose the side you fall into, instead of watching you fall by the whims of circumstance.”

Cedric was more confounded than before, which irritated him. “What business are my choices to you?”

“I am not accustomed to civility, so I will forge ahead to ask you what your plans are toward the Lady’s project.”

“I would not have expected you to discuss such a matter on the comm.”

“I appreciate your discretion. The communication signals are disrupted in this area. We may speak freely.”

“Fine, then. You mean Marta and her disastrous scheme of bringing trees and Heaven knows what to Tenembras? No good can come of it. Authorities will shut that down before any potential contamination can reach the biosphere. I have told her that. What, were you lurking in the shadows then, too?”

“Sir, do not confuse your hostility toward my appearance or style of communicating with the line of inquiry. There are important issues here that go far beyond my part.”

“You think I’m wrong about the trees? I could tell you I’ll reconsider, but the fact remains that the deal is dead before it begins and that doesn’t even touch the ‘other’ issue.”

“If so, why do you struggle with your conscience?”

“Whoa, who said anything about conscience? My conscience is clear.”

“You could have the aliens exterminated like so many vermin, crushed underfoot and maintain your fine sensibilities?”

Cabin June 2015 059“You don’t believe that rot about some of the trees being aliens? Come on, man, there are some freaky trees that will be cleared off with the rest. Period.” He looked nervously over to the trees that seemed more unsettling in the growing light, seeming to stir out of time with the breeze. How did they come to gather around the pod?

Thao did not reply, but stared implacably at him at him steadily, silently.

He refocused on the enigmatic Thao. “You believe they are intelligent aliens? That changes nothing. The fate of humanity is at stake and the authorities will not take a chance.”

The little man remained silent, gazing through the shadow.

Cedric fidgeted, becoming more and more anxious to get into the waiting buggy and be off. “No one knew about any of this alien business before we arrived, so this has to be some kind of one-off speculation. If they are aliens, they aren’t native to here and this isn’t a civilization.” He spoke aloud to prioritize the line of thought that sought his inner motivations, the voice in his head that was so often drowned out, the one that grew from his own self. It was proving elusive. “You’re a linguist, what is your interest in this in the first place? This is a straightforward biosecurity deal that you need not become involved with.”

Thao faded back into the long shadows with Cedric unable to follow by sight or sound. He shuffled around to face the pod and fell forward, palms to pod, so he could walk his hands up the side to stand. Then the pod door at the end opened wider and the tree-things parted for San Luis to pass.

“Hello, San Luis, have you seen Marta?” The moment he asked that he was vexed for not asking San Luis to join him on the investigation.


Miffed at the man’s clearly obstinate stance, Cedric decided he would not invite San Luis along after all; he could well do the job by himself. He might have a quick word with Marta, though. Might she like to join him? A basic part of him warmed to that concept, bringing her to the wreck site so they could peruse it together and he could make amends, discussing what clues they could tease from the debris could allow them to at least speak to each other again. “Well, sir, which way is she, I’d like to talk to her a moment.”


“What do you mean, ‘no’? I want to see if she’d like to accompany me on a survey, I have use of the buggy.”

“No. She has not the time or the energy to fight with you today. Go fight with the trees and try to hurt them. They too will soon be gone forever and I know you would be sorry to miss the chance.”

Cedric stood dumfounded with anger boiling up. “You sonuvabitch, you get out of my way.” He tried to slide between a bench piled with parts and his adversary.

Barto picked him up, mashing Cedric’s forearms against his ribs, and threw him bodily against the pod, his back impacting hard and his helmet clanging loud. He slid down and landed hard on the packed sand.

Dr. Cartier tore around the door, hand gripping the door edge to maintain equilibrium. “What is this? Stop it this instant!”

“Dis flaco always come here to fight. I say no, not dis time, Marta is busy.”

Cedric pushed his back up the hull and raised himself on shaky legs. He shook his head as briskly as he could with the damned helmet to settle the reverberations in his skull. “Dr. Cartier, there is no reason for this person to …”

“Stop! Mr. Crannog I have to agree with Barto. Every time you leave Marta she’s distressed if not in tears. I won’t have it sir, I will not. I’m sorry, but please go on your way right now.”

Cedric stopped the impulse to brush off and sneered at the staring fools. He pushed his hands out, arm muscles tensed hard as if trying to fend them physically until he got by them; with clenched fists and jaws he marched back to the Portico to get the buggy.

He saw the Portico’s comm monitor blinking red ‘incoming’ as he entered and saw Olivia Might of Defiance eBook coveron screen the next second.

“Cedric, why so upset?”

“Sorry it shows. I had a dust up with that San Luis.”

“Why on Earth?”

“It’s not Earth, is it? He can push anyone around here he pleases. All I wanted to do was talk to Marta.”

“And her bodyguard wouldn’t let you. I’ve seen some things on this monitor here. See?” She split the screen and showed triple-speed scenes clearly showing the moving trees around the Ag area. She inquired sweetly, “What are they doing back there?”

Even with the altercation hot in his mind, he could not freely expose them more. “I could explain some things personally, but not over the comm.”

“See that purple button on the right side? No, higher up. Yes, press that and hold it down. Now it’s just you and me.”

Either he trusted her or not; his control over his reason was tenuous. “I think Cartier is helping her get specimens against the express orders from Ms. Jones. San Luis is egging her on. The aliens are helping load the trees. I tried to get her to desist before she gets into trouble but she won’t listen!”

“Now, Cedric, she’s a smart girl.” Olivia’s voice cajoled him, trying to exert a calming influence. “Don’t you think she’s considered her risk and decided whatever she’s doing is both possible and worth it?”

“They won’t let me back there and they won’t allow me to talk to her.” He worked at keeping his jaw loose enough to talk and concentrated on keeping the purple button down.

“You have greater success finding out more by being sweet than antagonistic. Have you listened to her logic? To understand what she’s trying to accomplish?”

That hit him harder than San Luis’s blow. Part of him cried out but another part beat it back. Cold and acute, he told her, “I am amazed you are siding with her without even knowing what she’s into.”

She seemed taken aback. “Crannog, I am amazed you are siding against her without even knowing what she’s into.”

He released the purple button and turned away.

From The Might of Defiance get it on Amazon today! You may need to copy and paste the link…

The Might of Defiance: Elise t’Hoot Book One
by Mary Ellen Wall
Amazon Kindle Link:

Cats with Clothespins

t'Hoot Book ListLest you think my writing muse escaped to the hinterland, I assure you folks I have been diligently working on the word. The stories that have been eating up my time are the ones I trying to publish! I’ve written a series of ten books about space and an exile planet and aliens and  about how a furtive refugee becomes a real leader. All hinges on the first one getting all the way through the process.

This time I’m attempting to run my own publishing imprint, with my own cover design and everything. You see with my last book, I farmed out nearly everything. The covers for those books are beyond sorry. Those first books were not a waste of thousands of bucks (not totally anyway) because I learned much in many areas. I thought I was doing pretty well this time.

These books are much tighter and better edited than the last ones. Instead of 500 brick-weight pages, these are about 250 pages each, more straightforward. I designed several covers and settled on one for the series that I think is striking. I bought interior format and cover templates ; that’s my words and design on their layouts. I bought my own ISBNs.Might of Defiance cover

You cannot snap your fingers and make an EPUB or MOBI file for an eBook. It took time to research programs, get one, find out it wouldn’t do what I needed, get another one, learn it, go to Amazon and get the book for it, yippee I have an EPUB and MOBI file! Oh the cover template is a Word file… it took a while to figure out how to turn that into a jpg.

Somehow using high resolution pictures and a bona fide professional template I still got the low-res gavel ponding when I submitted my print cover to the printer/distributer. I spent some more time on the cover and resubmitted it. I set off the ‘it’s too big’ siren. They said use OUR template. I downloaded it. It’s a PDF and I can’t do anything magic with a PDF unless I spend more cash every month as it’s a stupid subscription. That’s like a cow with the milking machine always hooked up and sucking. Poor cow – MOO.

I fixed the spine width and resubmitted the cover; the cover should be perfectly sized now. Three days later, SIRENS. “Your file is 12×15 and it should be 6×9!” Please account for the cover being on a 12 x 15 white page. I verified I signed up for print and the standard 6 x 9 with the typical front and back. I asked via customer service what the hay? A week later, no response except for another copy of the PDF template I cannot use.

Frustrated, I left that for a weekend and started putting the next volume into the Barto short legstemplate. It took all weekend. Using a template does not mean the works will trot into place into the correct spot all on their own like obedient little doggies. It’s more like cats with pinchy clothespins on their tails. Put you hand in there and see feel what you get.

Enough! I just wished to explain my bloggish absence! Perhaps next week I’ll have a spiffy new book to wave around with a cheesy grin. I did go to Wisconsin last month and came back with a couple pounds of white and orange parcels of wonder.  I have the cheese, will I have the published books?

The Arch

Bored with the beach already, Randy threw another beat-up shell into the surf. Movement to the side caught his eye. “Hey, you look just like me!”beach-rocky

“Nuh-uh, you look like me.”

Randy very quickly decided this could be fun, so he magnanimously allowed, “We look like each other.” He held out the super-sized bag of animal crackers to the other boy; he had to be a second grader, too. “You wanna have fun? We can freak Daddy out!”

“I want go home.”

“Aw, come on. Hey, I didn’t see anybody come down here, we thought this place around the big rocks would be only us. Where’d you come from?”

The kid pointed back to a rocky arch. “Through there. Why do you want to freak him out?”

“I wanted to go explore and he said to stay close and not get into trouble. Let me tell you my plan.”

About half an hour later, George woke up to hear Randy calling him from way the hell over on the other side of the creek that divided the scrap of beach in half. “Ransom David, you get your butt back here!”

“I found a spaceship and I’m going up!”

George heaved up from his chaise lounge and picked his shirt from the sand and shook it before pulling it over his head. He didn’t see Randy now. This boy would get a spanking he wouldn’t forget. As he toed his sandals on, Randy’s look-alike walked up from the other direction.

“Daddy, Daddy, can’t catch me!” He ran down toward the arch.

George pursued him right through the arch.

beach-sandyRandy saw it all and laughed until snot ran out. He wiped his nose on his t-shirt and looked for his Dad on the far side. He didn’t see him or the look-alike kid, just water. He started making his way back. Across the creek, he saw a colorful hat bouncing toward the beach. “Mom! Wait for me!”

“Hi, Tiger. I bought you a new hat. Here you go.” She screwed the ball cap on his head. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. I smell cheeseburgers. Let’s go find Dad and eat.”

They arrived at the empty lounge chair and did not see another soul.

She looked in the cooler and got two sodas out. “I wonder where he went? The fries are no good cold. Here, we can go ahead, he won’t mind.” She started gobbling her fries.

Randy had lost his appetite. He took the offered burger and bit into it to please her. “There’s a cool arch over that way. Want to see?”

Randy and his Mom walked over to see the tide coming in. The arch sat lower and the water already came half the way up it. It seemed smaller now. “I think Daddy went through there.”

“Honey, there’s nothing on the far side, it’s the ocean.” She called, “George! Are you around here? I brought lunch.”

“There was beach through there. A kid exactly like me came from that way.”

“No, silly, I had a good view from up the hill. The spit of land here is all there is.” She walked back.

He stared at the remaining arch. He wadded the burger wrapper and waded down. He tossed it into the arch. It should have floated. It vanished.

They waited on the hill for an hour or so. Then Mom, crying, called the police. They searched. They called the Coast Guard. Randy never saw his Daddy again.