Friday, February 26, 2021

Enjoy the Musicscape to Random Chance and the Paradise that is Earth on Spotify!| Science Fiction


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from songs referenced in the story!
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Steve Miller
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Angels & Airwaves
The Beatles
T. Rex
Clint Black
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Enjoy Firefly: Slingshot--a Fan-Fiction Tribute to Firefly!



Joss Whedon's Firefly, which was canceled after only fourteen episodes, stands in my view as his creative pinnacle. Essentially, it's a western set in space. It wasn't popular at all with audiences during its short-lived run in 2002 - 2003, but has since garnered a massive cult following. A feature film, Serenity, was released in 2005, and is widely regarded as far superior to any of the three Star Wars films released in the same period.

Kye and I have Firefly on permanent rotation, meaning that we loop through the episodes plus the film regularly. (Note: it was actually canceled after the eleventh episode, but fourteen were ultimately produced.) It's character-driven episodic science fiction, extremely well written, funny, affecting, ridiculous, introspective, action-packed, campy, homey, and romantic. If you haven't watched it, do. You'll be glad you did.

I've written the first part of my fan-fiction tribute, which comprises ten chapters, and am currently eight chapters in on the second, with four new chapters coming soon!


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Synopsis: Mal and his crew are back. Always looking for a payday, Mal accepts a job from an old nemesis and occasional client: Badger. The payoff? More than he or his crew can imagine. But with such an astounding amount of scratch comes an equally astounding helping of danger. Read on!


Chapter 1
Deader
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"It's a set-up, sir," said Zoe Washburne, binoculars to her eyes. "It has to be."

   She crouched back down next to her captain, Malcolm Reynolds, who said, "Badger … ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng …"

   "Yes, sir."

   The window they sat under was shattered; it comprised one of three looking out on the porch of a long-abandoned house. The other two were shattered as well. Beyond the porch and down splintered wooden stairs a dirt path cut between two large oak trees that arced over it.

   "Three men heading your way, Cap'n'," came Kaylee's voice over the radio. Static made it tough to hear what she was saying. "One at point, two behind, comin' in from the south—"

   "South?" he said. "C'mon—"

   He unholstered his gun and came up slightly from his half crouch. Zoe had stood fully and gone ahead of him. "Kitchen," she said, flipping the safety on her pistol. "Back door."

   "It's Badger, sir …" said Kaylee.

   "Got 'em in my sights …" said another, deeper disembodied voice. "Want 'em splattered, Captain?"

   Mal stood to get a look at the approaching men.

   "Hang on, Jayne," he ordered his gun-for-hire. "It looks like they're unarmed. Zoe?"

   "Second that."

   He pressed the radio button once more. "Jayne, get down here. Keep outta sight. If things get ugly, I want some backup …"

   "Aye, Cap," came the gruff reply. The radio clicked off. Mal rehooked it on his belt as the back kitchen door swung open.

   Badger strode in as if into his own domicile, as if he already knew what waited for him. "Malcolm Reynolds ...”

   He looked around. "Nice little fixer-upper you got here. Thinkin’ of settlin' down?" He gazed at Zoe. "Though I must say your choice of wife might be a little … how shall I put it?"

   "With a sock in it," said Zoe down the barrel of her pistol.

   Mal had his own aimed between Badger's eyes. "Best state your reason for being here, Badger. Your involvement in this, as I recall, was to be hands off."

   Badger shrugged happily. "Slight change o' plans. I'm not here to interfere. Not, at least, in any potentially costly manner. You can see I'm unarmed. My associates as well. I'm here to sweeten our original deal. Now why don't you lower your weapons and maybe we can do a little business—?"

   "The deal was six hundred for twenty caps fresh. That was the deal," said Mal. "That's the business we're here for. The caps have been delivered. Now where's my goram money?"

   Badger smiled. "I don' like discussin' business down the barrel of a gun. So if you wouldn't mind …"

   "I don't see a big sack of loot, so no, I think I'll keep this pistol aimed right between your beady eyes …"

   Badger raised his voice a little. "Kaylee, love, can ya hear me?"

   A moment of awkward silence; static; then—"Cap'n?"

   "It's Badger, honey," said Badger. He conspicuously thumbed a small round button on his coat near his mouth. "I assume you're sitting your pretty hiney at Serenity's controls?"

   Without lowering his weapon, Mal unclipped the radio at his hip, brought it up to his mouth. "Go ahead. The rodent wants to talk to you." To Badger he said, "Mind telling me how you hacked into our comm link?"

   Badger's smile didn't waver, and he didn't answer the question. "Kaylee, love, A-F-O—not zero, O—1-dash-zero-zero-nine, enable. Got that?"

   "Uh … I … yeah. Cap'n?"

   Mal glowered down the barrel of his pistol. "Do it." He released the radio’s button as he pulled back the gun's hammer.

   Badger kept smiling.

   "Aye, Cap'n."

   A few seconds of silence.

   "Wow, Cap'n. Badger's got himself an Alliance bank account. Secured, too. Wow …"

   "How'd you manage that?" demanded Mal. "You workin' for the Alliance now?"

   Jayne cut in. "If he's workin' for the Alliance, we're sittin' ducks. Best we put 'im down and git—"

   "The side of beef speaks," chuckled Badger. "Jayne, my good man, you 'ent got the sense God gave a slug; so once again I'll advise everybody here to calm down. Can we do that? Are you truly a businessman, Captain, ready to deal with the big boys—or are you still nothin’ but a two-bit thief in a ten-gallon hat what runs from real opportunity when it comes round?"

   "I don't wear a hat 'ceptin' formal occasions," said Mal. "Now how long have you had access to Serenity's comm channel?"

   "Just now, actually," said Badger smugly. "Past three minutes or so. I have me an ace in me cockpit, a real professional—with all due respect to you, Kaylee, love. Are you still there?"

   "I'm here," Serenity’s engineer said shortly.

   "Please type in the address bar: L-I-8-backslash-backslash-I-9-N-4-semicolon-semicolon-backslash, and then hit enable again, love."

   "Cap'n?"

   Mal stared at the man smirking back at him. He slowly lowered his weapon, as did his second-in-command. "Go ahead."

   "But sir, viruses … We don't know—"

   "Do it.”

   "Okay … Don’t tell me I didn’t warn ya … I need him to repeat it.”

   "Ready for some shootin'," said Jayne. "Just give the word."

   Badger repeated himself.

   "Here goes nothin'," said Kaylee.

   There was a moment of silence.

   "Wow," she said. "Wow, Cap'n …"

   "Report," he ordered.

   "Says here a transfer of seven hundred has been made to … to your account, Cap'n … Captain, you have an Alliance bank account?"






"What is this, Badger? What's your game?"

   "I assure you it's no game," replied Badger, taking off his hat and running his thumb along the brim. "Our agreement was six hundred. The extra hundred … well, consider it a bonus."

   "A bonus for what? You'd cheat your own mama outta scratch if the opportunity presented itself; the 'bonus' comes with a price sure as hell is higher than a hundred."

   "Captain, Captain," said Badger reproachfully. "The big time awaits. You can either embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or you can go away, like you usually do, empty-handed. The choice is yours …"

   Mal swore under his breath. "I knew it. Jayne? Jayne, you there? Come in …"

   "He's a little busy, methinks, bein' unconscious," said Badger, putting his hat back on and adjusting it. "With all due respect to lovely little Kaylee, my pilot is an expert tracker and sensor technician. You're surrounded, Captain. Now: shall we discuss my business opportunity?"

   Mal waited for the goons to disarm him and Zoe, but they seemed more for show than for bloodshed. Their boots were rooted to the floor. He holstered his weapon and nodded at Zoe to do the same.

   "I'm listening," he said.

   "That's a good boy," said Badger with a grin. "You may yet be growin’, maturin’, becomin’ more than a second-rate garbage hauler. Let's find out." He thumbed the button on his coat. "Deader, you're up, love. Come on down. We're waitin’ …"

   "On my way," came a woman's voice, followed by the click of radio silence. Mal thought she sounded just like his grandmother.

   Badger gazed at Zoe. "I haven't yet offered my condolences on the loss of your husband, lovely Zoe. I realize it's been a while—two years? Allow me to do that now." He tipped his hat and gave a short bow.

   "Thank you," said Zoe flatly.

   "I do not jest," he said with something approaching authenticity. "He was, if I am to believe the stories, a most gifted pilot. I mean—how else could that bucket of bolts have survived all it did? Serenity's crew should all be Reaver steaks, your skeletons adorning the flying radiation sewers they call ships. And his many escapes from the Alliance—so clever! They're almost legend along the Rim. Your husband, may the Verse receive his soul, was a real professional, a true expert. Wouldn't you agree?"

   "I would."

   "Since then Serenity and her crew have virtually disappeared—no trace of your whereabouts. It took considerably more than seven hundred to find you, Captain. Seems you have been lyin’ very low, takin’ honest, quick-payin' jobs, nothin’ too risky, nothin’ what would expose you or keep you in one place too long or bring you too close to the Core. I was quite surprised when my associates let me know you were willing to do business with them, even knowin’ I was in the background, and even after six hundred was offered as payment."

   "We've had more than enough adventure," grumbled Mal. "We like makin' an honest buck for an honest day's work. Flying right has kept the Alliance out of our hair. We get no trouble from them these days. As for you …"

   "I find that most interesting," interrupted Badger. "Most interesting indeed … Indeed, it's why I'm here today."

   Mal caught his drift right off. "Mr. Universe was helpful in more ways than one. You can stop this fishing expedition right now and tell me why you're trying to ruin a perfectly good payday—?"

   "Very well. The extra hundred is a small—a very small—down payment on the next job I'd like you to do, Captain."

   "I'm so not excited to hear. It must be very high risk for you to slink out of the shadows like this."

   Badger shrugged. "When the price is right, to be sure. And it most definitely is in this case. So here's the deal. I need you to provide safe passage for a … well, let's say a very important passenger."

   “No goram way. 'Important' sure as I'm standin' on this dustball means wanted by the Alliance—the very Alliance who is leaving us alone now! And since you're such a student of our history, you should know the last time we picked up fugitives we ended up making number one on their hit parade! Literally! They sent assassins after us, bounty hunters, suits in blue surgical gloves with eyes dead as slaughtered steer!"

   Badger nodded with grave sympathy. "My, my, yes! So unfortunate! Tell me, Captain: How is our lovely psychic killing machine?"

   "Our? Our?" growled Mal. "Our? I'm sorry; I'm having trouble recalling your whereabouts the past five years while we fought Reavers, the Alliance, trigger-fingered goons with the serial numbers sanded off … Pickin' those two up sowed no small measure of discord among my—not 'our'—crew! Wash is dead; Shepherd Book is dead … Just where the Sam Hill were you in all that that makes you say 'our' ?"

   "Congeniality, Captain," snorted Badger, "was never one of your strong suits. Now—"

   He turned when the back porch door swung open. Through it marched an old, stout, gray-haired woman who strode up to his side, staring like a determined grandmother would at big mess left in her kitchen, staring straight at him, Mal ...

   —"I'd like you to meet someone …"

   She was dressed like a big-game hunter. The pistol holstered at her side was ridiculously oversized, practically a sawed-off shotgun. Its barrel was half as long as her thigh.

   She extended her hand without waiting for Badger to continue his introduction. "Tannis Brocius," she said, very businesswomanlike. "You can call me Deader, Captain Reynolds."

   "Your new pilot," said Badger.



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Enjoy Book One of Melody and the Pier to Forever!






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For me, there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length, and there I travel, looking, looking breathlessly ...
--Carlos Castaneda


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Part One
The Proof


Prologue i


The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.
--William Booth
The difference in men does not lie in the size of their hands, nor in the perfection of their bodies, but in this one sublime ability of concentration: to throw the weight with the blow, to live an eternity in an hour.
--Elbert Hubbard

ON A quiet, cool January day in 1983, a hurricane roared suddenly to life off the extreme southern coast of California, slamming into the tiny seaside community of Imperial Beach less than an hour later. Weather forecasters never saw the freak storm coming: within mere minutes it had simply materialized over calm Pacific seas as if by magic. There was no warning: by the time they realized what was happening, it was too late. The swirling tempest had blown ashore. Hundreds of people would lose their lives.

In its relentless fury, the hurricane completely destroyed the Imperial Beach Pier. Forty-foot-tall waves rushed in, pounding the mighty structure mercilessly until it shuddered and collapsed into the boiling, triumphant sea. Two men died on the doomed Pier; one yelled into his walkie-talkie in his final moments that a terrible shadow was moving towards him over the long walkway, a shadow that had materialized abruptly through the heavy veil of driving rain—a shadow like Death itself. He screamed: a high-pitched, spine-tingling shriek—and then … only the eerie crackling of radio static. His body, and the body of his coworker, was never found.

As suddenly as it had formed, the hurricane dissipated, spinning apart into airy nothingness.

One night not long after the storm had passed, a small boat materialized as though from nowhere a mile out in the calm open water. The boat carried a man. He was large, with short black hair just starting to gray, intense green eyes, devilish eyebrows, and a strong chin covered in a neatly trimmed beard. He wore the garb of a different place and a separate time: the regal clothing of a ruler. He made his way confidently towards shore, rowing strongly, the ghostly silver orb of the moon lighting his way, the water beneath him black and insubstantial, as if he were rowing through timeless space. Pieces of the shattered Pier still floated way out here; he watched them ruefully as they drifted by. Some time later he caught the incoming surf, riding it expertly, the roaring foam under his hull pale and translucent, like liquid diamonds. Once he had pulled the skiff securely upon the soft wide band of beach sand, he gazed about himself: at the muted yellow lights from the homes lining the beach; up at the silver circle of the rising moon; and then back out over the water, where once stood a great Pier. At this last, he stared for a long time, his countenance drawn and severe.

When morning came, there was no sign of him or the boat.

Eight years passed.

San Diego’s Port Authority rebuilt the Imperial Beach Pier; and it was on this day, the fourteenth of March, 1991, that they chose to christen it. As the champagne flowed and the dignitaries shook hands and the cameras flashed along its fifteen hundred foot length, just a few blocks away, within the darkened bedroom of a small pink home nestled peacefully under the sleepy shade of ocean pine and sycamore, a couple lay in bed. They had just made love. They were lying close together, holding each other, trying to catch their breath. They were not looking up at each other, but at the ceiling. They were listening intently; listening to the most beautiful music they had ever heard. Music without sound or source, but played within the being of each, having come to them at the same surprising moment, at the same time: as though the impassioned act that for a brief moment had merged their souls had been the catalyst by which the melody could come to life and realize itself.

And so, when a small, pink bundle of joy arrived nine months later, the happy couple had already decided what they were going to name her: Melody.

Melody was a quiet girl from the start, with large, dark eyes like the shade under that ocean pine and sycamore; pretty eyes that belied a piercing yet humble intelligence; eyes that reflected the flaming western skies perfectly as her mother held her while sitting on the beach near the newly rebuilt Pier, watching the brilliant, squashed orange orb of the sun set over the blue Pacific Ocean.

When Melody was two she began humming a song. They were just fragments, pieces really, but enough to leave her mother in stunned silence; for put together they became the very song heard that quiet March day nearly three years ago.  Melody’s mom would often ask her: What song are you humming, Bug? But her little girl only smiled and replied: I don’t know, Momma. Her mother would ask: Did you hear it on the radio? The television? But Melody was sure she hadn’t heard it any of those places. And despite several lengthy and exhaustive searches, Melody’s mother could never identify the song or its composer. She eventually gave up her search, content to feel the sense of the miraculous every time she heard her daughter humming it.

When Melody was five she began taking a strong interest in her mother’s college Algebra textbook, staring at the cryptic symbols for hours at a time, asking what they meant and how could they be one thing and yet reveal another? To stoke her curiosity, Melody’s mother bought her books as soon as she could read: books on simple mathematics that Melody would devour in mere days. Melody’s mom loved to watch her as she struggled over this math problem or that: not so much because Melody was learning mathematics, but because she’d absentmindedly hum that very precious song while doing so.

Melody’s quiet demeanor and keen intelligence, as well as her fierce stubborn streak, left her very lonely as she grew up. She was often teased cruelly at school, where her classmates called her “nerd” and laughed derisively at her behind her back as she passed by. She was always alone on the playground during recess, always found to be walking quietly around, her hands in her pockets, simply observing the other kids as they played.

One sleepy late afternoon she took a lonesome walk to the end of the Pier, which she did often. She was even unhappier on this particular trek, however, because she had just had an argument with her mother—the one person she felt even bothered to acknowledge her existence. But as she stood there, leaning against the wooden guardrail at Pier’s end, watching the sun set, she found herself unable to stew over her troubles, because at that very moment she could hear a violin playing: a violin that seemed to call to her very soul, as if it knew everything about her and shared in her unending private anguish—and yet one that challenged her to lift her chin and face her days with joy and strength. It was music that brought ready tears to her eyes, which she closed tightly to the monotonous reality around her, wishing upon wish that the violin could take the place of her five senses, for its hopeful reality was far and away more pleasant than hers. But the music stopped, fading away like the sunset.

After holding her eyes shut for a few more moments, she sighed and reluctantly blinked them open, her cheeks streaked and red.

To her right, just feet away, a pretty Japanese girl sat in a wheelchair, a violin case in the chair’s back pouch. She was gazing rapturously about herself, as if seeing the world for the first time.

And that is how Melody Singleton met Yaeko Mitsaki, her best friend; and how Melody’s—and Yaeko’s—loneliness thus ended once and for all. It would prove a powerful friendship, so much so that it would eventually inspire a dispossessed kingdom to go to war against a fearsome and evil oppressor, a dark sorcerer of untold power who twenty years earlier had conjured a hurricane out of thin air to destroy that kingdom—and its king.

In the meantime, Melody hasn’t noticed the new mathematics teacher at her middle school: a large man with graying hair, intense green eyes, devilish eyebrows, and a close-cropped beard over a strong chin.

A man who has been searching for Melody for over twenty years.

A new, devastating hurricane is brewing, one far more powerful than the wicked tempest that destroyed the Imperial Beach Pier and took hundreds of lives. This storm, however, is not gathering over the waves of a vast blue ocean, but behind the inquisitive brown eyes of Melody Singleton herself. For a strange, magical new symbol keeps appearing when she opens her Algebra textbook, one beautifully compelling and entrancing; a mysterious symbol that wields enormous power to she who can see and understand it; a symbol with equal abilities to mend and heal—or divide and destroy.

She is staring at that very symbol right now, unaware of its latent potential or its lurking dangers; she’s staring and humming softly to herself, endeavoring to make it do her bidding ...


Chapter One


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Antikeeper's Deadly Stare

 

Antikeeper's Deadly Stare

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