Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chapter 2...

We spent a fairly quiet four hours in jump.  For most of the jump Sonja and her young charge kept to themselves.  Sonja sat quietly at the table breaking down and cleaning one of her pistols with the careful caress of someone who’d had to rely on those same weapons to keep breathing.  Faith sat huddled, knees to chin, arms wrapped around her legs, trying to not be where she was.  She spent long minutes staring at her kneecaps.  Sonja had changed out of the black leather armor and now wore brown cotton hip huggers and a loose fitting spaghetti strapped halter top.  Her skin was alabaster white and was in stark contrast to the black tribal like tattoos that covered both of her upper arms and crossed over her upper back.  Her gun rig was sitting close by on the table.  As she broke down one of her long barreled pistols she was a site to behold.  I drank it in like a fine wine. 

            She didn’t even look up when she said, “Looking at something Mr. Cole?”

            I smiled as I approached the table, “Nope.”

            I slid two bowls of stew across the table towards her and Faith.  I put another bowl on the deck for Tiberius and sat in a lounge chair where I could keep my eye on both of them.  I watched Sonja clean her pistol while Faith slowly spooned the food around the bowl.  Sonja ignored us both which was pretty much how spent most of the jump.  

With nothing else to do I spent most of my time sitting in the cockpit reading the latest news dump we’d gotten while on Brimstone.  I alternated that with staring out at the streaked points of light that was an FTL jump.  The initial jump was nothing more than a diversion tactic just in case someone figured out where we were heading and tried to set up an ambush at the drop-jump coordinates.  If they knew where we were going they might be able to jump there ahead of us or give warning to the sector we were screaming towards.  Standard operations for a drop jump were to exit FTL at the edge of the sector, let the scans clear and then proceed from there.  This kept you out of crowded shipping lanes and gave who ever controlled the sector a minute to scan you.  It was considered polite.  It also allowed the Confederates to narrow the area they patrolled, or mined, when they were hunting someone.  I didn’t care if they beat us but I didn’t want to drop into the middle of trouble.  The best scenario would be for me to jump one way and they jump another.  The second jump would take us to within a day or two of the final destination.  I’d fly into the sector under main drive power and be able to actively scan the sector with ease and know exactly what we were getting into.

            From the galley I watched the countdown on the FTL drive tick to zero and then cut in the main drive.  The Black Domino shuddered slightly with a strong vibration through the deck plating that dissipated quickly to a background hum.  The cloud of ice that was an FTL jump dissipated quickly.  I watched on a small monitor mounted on a console next to me.  I ate a bite of the stew.  The drive purred quietly as normal space returned.  Scanners showed static for an agonizing several seconds before finally clearing up.  Flying on visuals isn’t bad but it limits the big picture of a sector severely.   

            “Ah hell,” I growled, “Two battleships off our port bow.” I leapt out of the lounge chair, dropped the bowl into the sink and raced to the cock-pit.  Behind me, Sonja cursed.

            “You bastard!” Sonja hollered as she followed me, “You set us up.”

            “Like hell sister.  I want the money; if I was going to set you up I’d have waited until after I got paid.”

            “Unless they’re paying you more.”

            “Confederation’s not really in the business of paying low-life’s like me.”

            Sonja lapsed into silence.  I suppose I couldn’t really blame her for thinking I’d turned them in.  She knew next to nothing about me.  I was sure if I dug a bit I’d find there was much more than met the eye in regards to my two passengers.

            “Have they seen us?”

            “Yep, and they’re angling for an intercept.”

            “Will they catch us?” Faith said

            “It’ll take a few minutes for the FTL drives to recycle but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.”

            Settling into the pilots chair I steered the Domino away from the battleships which had already completed their turn and were bearing down on us.  A moment later and they had begun pounding away at us with their cannons.  Scans showed three missiles en route.  I cursed and dove away from the incoming firepower.  The battleships were Hammer class with at least one small wing of fighters a piece. I waited to see them spew from the battleships hangar bays.

            “They’re over confident,” Sonja announced from the co-pilots seat, as if reading my mind, “They should’ve launched fighters.”

            I rolled the Black Domino and shot straight down relative to the battleships positions.  One missile stuck to our tail with stubborn doggedness.  I slapped a red button on the console in front of me and two red lights flashed. 

            “Counter measures?” Sonja asked.


            “Will they work?”

            “Haven’t let me down yet.”

            Silence lapsed in the cock-pit and scans showed the missile disappearing in a cloud of debris resulting in a nice explosion.  The Battleships had dived to match my trajectory.

            “Another missile’s locked on,” Sonja was studying the tactical display on the console in front of her chair.

            “The one we dodged earlier.”

            “Probably,” She responded.

            The nav-comp beeped at me, “Course laid in, FTL drive’s recycled.”

            This was where things could get dicey.  In order to survive a dog fight a pilot needed to keep their ship juking and jumping.  Tactical schools always taught to never stay on a straight line for obvious reasons.  In order to get to a speed that’d allow you to cut in the FTL drive, though, a pilot needed to keep their ship in a straight line and at full power.  For most ships it’d take no more than thirty seconds to build up the power in the main drives, for a ship like the Domino it would take slightly less.  With two battleships and a torpedo on our tail, however, I wasn’t sure we had that kind of time.

            I leveled off and poured on the speed.  I dumped the rest of my counter measures and watched as the distance between the Battleships and us countdown.  In a straight drag race there was no way the Domino was going to out distance a battleship on full power but I already had close to a thousand kilometers on them.  I had a slim chance which was only a tad better than no chance at all.

            “We’ll be in tractor range in forty seconds,” Sonja said.

            “We can jump in twenty, twenty five seconds at the most.”

            “That’s going to be close.”

            “Yes ma’am.”

            I watched the time tick down helpless and nervous despite my exterior calm. My hands hovered over the instruments in front of me.  The ship rocked as the occasional blast rocked us.  The battleships were taking potshots at us but they were far enough away that the gunners were just wasting energy and ammo.  Of course a lucky shot could still kill us and since the battleships had energy and ammo to spare it didn’t hurt to try.  I wanted to fire back but any energy drain would result in a prolonged chase; something I was desperately trying to avoid.

Three…two…one…the computer beeped, I grabbed a handful of levers, yanked them towards me and we were free just as Sonja took a deep breath to announce tractor range.  I sighed loudly and sat back.  I wiped at the sweat that had started to drip down my brow.

            “That was close.”

            Moonshadow was one of the busier ports on the Frontier and while the Confederation had an outpost in orbit they had little true presence in the sector.  Fort Wayne was made up of about two thousand troops and home port to the Reliant a corvette designed to scare and chase their enemies away.  They weren’t big but a ship like the Reliant could do a fair bit of damage to a freighter like the Domino.  I tried to stay away from the sector as the regional government might have actually been worse than anything the Confederation could field.  When we drop-jumped into the sector the Reliant was in port along with another Confederate cruiser.

            “They here to see you?” I asked.

            “Think they could’ve gotten here ahead of us?” Sonja said.

            “Not likely, they’re probably here for a quick stop over for supplies.”

            I could almost hear Sonja scowl and I laughed a bit, “Where do I drop you Sister?”


            I nodded and entered the coordinates into the computer.  I sent the information to flight control planet side.  There was always a chance Sector Control had been notified by the battleships that had chased us, but news travelled slowly on the rim.  Information was sent at regular intervals via FTL packets but it took time to compose and send.  I had cut our trip short and taken two more jumps to get us to Moonshadow.  I was fairly certain we’d be fine.  As time slipped by and we waited I did my best to hide my growing nervousness.  I ran my eyes over the information the scans had given us, everything still looked normal.

“There is no way they’re just going to let us waltz into their space without a challenge.”

“Aren’t you the pessimist,” I said.

Sonja was about to make a snide comment but the comm unit beeped, I held up my hand to silence her retort and flipped open the channel.

Domino here,” I said.

“We’ve received your course and have approved it.  We’re sending you the authorization codes now.”

“Thank you very much.  Domino out.”

The channel went dead and the computer chimed as it received the authorization codes from Sector Control.  I sat back with a little smile as the navcomp took over flight details.

“See what did I tell you?”

The scowl Sonja sent my way was classic and I couldn’t suppress a satisfied smile as the Domino navicomp set us on the course flight control had sent me.  With the Domino’s autopilot taking over the approach routines I sat back and rolled a cigar for myself.  Faith was still asleep in her cabin.

            “Something I don’t get?” I said after a moment.

            “I think there are a lot of things you don’t get,” Sonja replied.

            I laughed as I placed the finished cigar between my lips and lit it slowly.  I nodded at her as the cigar got lit.  Tiberius sauntered into the cock-pit and sat next to me. I let out a puff of smoke.

            “Probably right about that but this has got me puzzled.  Why are you involved in this thing?”

            “Pay is good.”

            I nodded, “That it is but I get the feeling this isn’t up your alley.”

            “And what would my ‘alley’ be?”

            “You’re a gunslinger, scoundrel, maybe even a bounty hunter same as me.”

            “I have more class.”

            “Won’t argue that, but you’re still the same as me.  Protection gigs are for the house Constables, local Sheriff’s the personal body guard.  You’re none of those.”

            She sighed and I watched an internal conflict play out over her face.  Her steely gaze was fixed on me.  I felt a little like I’d just had a full body scan at the entrance to some royal palace.  I idly sat there chewing on my cigar scratching Tiberius behind the ears waiting to see if she was going to let me pass through.

            “I’m from Brimstone originally.  Spent ‘bout thirteen years there before I left.  I was an orphan at an early age and a small family took me in when I was four.  Faith is my step-sisters daughter.  My step-sister is married to the Mayor and he’s about to be deposed.  I’ve known Daemon a long time, thought I loved him once but I put that behind me when he put his political career before me.” She paused for a moment and I realized she had not taken a breath.  It had come out in one long nearly monotone sentence, she continued “Politics in Brimstone change almost daily.  Daemon has his sites on the mayors seat, Faith’s father is in the way.  Her father and my sister’s lives are forfeit but I managed to talk Daemon out of killing Faith.”

            “You can’t save them?”

            She shrugged. “Probably not, Daemon has a lot of allies.  An ‘accidental’ death means no money spent on campaigning.”

I nodded, “You have family here?”

            “I don’t but Faith does.”

            “So your life on Brimstone is over?”

            “I’m not sure.  I won’t go back to Daemon.”

            “No, I’d suspect not, he’s killing your past even as we speak.”

            She nodded, stood and took a step away from her chair.  I realized she had said as much as she was going to say, I could feel her cold defensive exterior sliding back into place.  I felt for her.  I felt a sort of kinship with her, I had been where she was.  I had faced the cross roads she was facing and there were no easy decisions, no easy roads that would lead to redemption or consolation.  Each fork in the road brought its own pain, its own torment that only she would be able to confront and work through.  It stunk, it hurt but she would heal.  We all do, at some point.

            She turned to me, “I don’t think I can live with what he’s done.”

            “I reckon not.”

            She looked at me, searched for word but found none.  She left.

            I chewed on the remains of my cigar and looked at Tiberius who whined lightly as she left.  There was nothing anyone could say to comfort her.  Her family, as she knew it, was being torn from her.  She approached it the only way she knew how, with a cool cold calculation.  It was the same strategy that kept her alive, the same strategy people like us needed to approach life with.  Anything else would probably have paralyzed her.  The problem though was that most people like us don’t forget or forgive easily.  We tend to settle scores eventually.  I almost felt sorry for Daemon, I had serious doubts he’d survive long enough to enjoy his victory and I got the feeling Sonja might the type of woman who’d take great joy in killing him as slowly as she could manage for what he’d done to her family.

            “Now there is a complicated woman,” I said to Tiberius.

            He put his head in my lap and barked quietly as if agreeing with me.

            We set down on the outskirts of High Ridge thirty minutes later.  High Ridge was really nothing more than a small town that time and technology, such as it was on the Rim, had forgotten.  It was a day’s travel east of Crescent City, the capital of Moondshadow.  I doubted many people from the city ever made their way to High Ridge.  The town consisted of about five roads altogether laid out in a pretty straight forward manner, it would be impossible to get lost.  The buildings looked to be made of real wood harvested from the surrounding mountains.  They looked solid and well built.  Most were two stories and one climbed to a third story.  It looked to be the saloon, hotel and general store all in one.  There were four landing pads on the north side of town where I had set down.  It wasn’t much but it seemed homely.  I figured it was the type a place a person could grow to like.  There was a homey feel to it, a sense of community that my life lacked.  It was a shame that I’d have to leave so quickly.  I met Sonja and Faith in the cargo hold.  They stood in the center of the hold, Sonja scowling at me as I walked up to them.  Faith still refused to look at me.  Tiberius and I lived a solitary life of constant travel.  Oddly enough it had been nice to have someone else aboard for a change.  We rarely took on taxi gigs, they didn’t really pay enough.  I made an exception in this case because the money was good.  Having them hang around for a few more days almost sounded enticing.

            “All packed up?”

            Sonja nodded, she was wearing her leather armor with guns at her side once more.  Any sign of vulnerability from our earlier conversation were gone.  She was once again a cold and efficient gunslinger and bounty runner.  Tiberius trotted over to Faith who smiled and knelt to pet him.  It was the most animation I’d seen from her since she came aboard.  I looked at Tiberius; I was pretty sure I’d been cheated on. 

            “There is a transport approaching,” I said

            “That would be our contact.”

            I cycled open a hatch on the side of the cargo hold.  It slid open letting in the bright light of Moonshadows sun.  I felt a warm breeze rushing in.  There was dust and sage on the wind.  Tiberius, as much as he loved to be scratched, loved planet fall even more and darted out of the ship and into the open.  Faith laughed and stood.

            “He likes to be outside,” she said.

            “We all do.  A ship is home but it’s always good to visit a planet once in a while.  Fresh air is good for the soul.”

            Sonja picked up their bags and walked down the ramp just as the transport arrived.  It pulled up about fifty yards from the Domino.  The door swung open and a short skinny man appeared.  He wore old dirty denim pants and a homespun shirt, his hair slicked back and spectacles framed his face.  Sonja approached him.  There was an ease to her step that told me she knew and trusted the man.

            “Nathaniel, it is good to see you.”

            Nathaniel nodded and smiled when he saw Faith.  The smile faded as he fought to find something to say to her.  Faith shook her head and embraced him.

            “Uncle Nate.”

            Sonja turned to me, “This is Nathaniel Gibson, Faith’s uncle.   He will be looking after her.” She glanced at Nathaniel, “Nate this is Captain Charlie Cole.”

            Nathaniel nodded at me and handed me a case, “This is the rest of what we owe you.”


            “It was agreed that Jonah would pay half and the family would pay the other half of your expense.” Sonja explained.

            I nodded and accepted the case.  We stood there, silence descending on us.  It was an odd and uncomfortable moment.  I almost wanted to ask if she was interested in crewing with me.  I’m not one to get too curious about the cargo I transported but even the limited conversations I’d had my passengers had started questions forming in my head.  I wanted to ask a few to satisfy my own curiosity.  I knew it would just get me into trouble I’d more than likely be happier avoiding.  Tiberius was the one who broke it as he came bounding up to us barking loudly.  I smiled.

            “We had best be on our way.  The Confederates may have tracked me here.”

            “The Confederates?” Nathaniel asked.

            “I think Daemon set us up.” Sonja said.

            “Double-cross is his families’ style.”

            I looked at Sonja and met her gaze, “Good luck.” I said and found that I meant it.

            I turned on my heel and marched back to the Black Domino, Tiberius on my heels.  He bounded into the ship ahead of me and I cycled the hatch closed behind us.  A few minutes later and I was airborne, streaking low over the regions mountainous terrain.  I didn’t have business on Moonshadow but something was holding me back.  I knew I could have shot spaceward and left the little drama behind; my part played to perfection.  Instead I pointed the Domino over the horizon and plotted a course to Angel’s Bluff, a smaller port of call that might have a need for some of what I had in the cargo hold.  A few days in port might tell me why I had a nagging feeling to stick around.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dear Soda...

Dear Soda,

                You’ve been a good friend to me over the years.  You’ve quenched my thirst and brought me relief when I needed it on a hot summer day.  You go so well with Pizza, burgers, and just about everything else (except maybe donuts and spaghetti).  You finish everything off so very nicely.  Who needs wine or beer when I have you?  You look so enticing in your little aluminum can, frosty from a day in the fridge.  All good things, though, must come to an end and I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave you my dear little soda.  See, my mom warned me about your enchanting ways.  She told me it wouldn’t just stop at one drink or two and she was right it didn’t.  She never let me hang out with you when I was a kid and as soon as I got out and on my own I ran straight to you.  You were everything you promised you would be.  I couldn’t get enough of you.  After a year or two though I found out that maybe you weren’t quite as good as you promised you would be so I switched to diet in hopes that we might get to hang out together for a little longer.  It worked, I convinced myself that your darker side was no match for the fun we had.

                I was wrong.  Your diet self was just as bad as you’re regular self.  I refuse to let you take me down with you.  It’s over between us.  I won’t say I’m not sad, or that I don’t miss you from time to time but it’s the right thing for both of us.  I’m grown up now, more mature than I was at twenty, and I see now that you want me to stay young and dumb.  I can’t.  I’ve seen what you can do to a body.  I’ve seen the way you treat my enamel.  The way you kill a penny left in your clutches for too long.  (what did that penny ever do to you cruel metal eating drink?) You’re ruthless and I refuse to believe your hype any longer.  We’re through.  Done.  Finished.  I’ll look back on our times together with fondness but know that I just can’t hang out with you anymore.  Don’t be sad, it’s not you it’s me.  I’ve moved on.  I’m embracing a new lifestyle and it’s just not one you can be a part of. 

                You’ll find other people, other kids to seduce and hang out with.  Trust me, there are other fish in the sea and you’ll be happy again.  Just not with me.   Good luck Soda, you’re not a bad drink, just not one I want in my life.  Good-bye.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rediscovering Old Habits...In a Good Way!

               I’ve had a real problem getting motivated to ride this year.  I mean it’s just not been the fuel that gets my fire burning at all.  It’s not that I don’t want to ride per se, I think it’s more I don’t feel fired up to ride as often.  Last year I was riding four or five times a week by this time and having a blast doing it.  This year it seems like two rides is about all I can get excited about.  I don’t think its burn out really but rather more of a ‘been there done that’ sort of thing.  (Although I guess that is sort of what burn out is) I’ve ridden most of the roads around here multiple times and there are really only a few trail systems to hit up with the Mountain Bike.  This has really bummed me out because I don’t feel like I’ve been active enough at all.  I gained a bunch of weight this winter due to stressors somewhat out of my control (I could’ve controlled my reactions to said stressors but that’s another topic for another blog post) and now I’m sort of paying the price for it.  Bike riding has been pretty much my sole form of exercise and this two rides a week thing just won’t cut it. 

                Enter spring time.  I’ve been really just jonesing to get out of the house, to do something and while the bikes have helped they haven’t been the salve to my jones that I wanted them to be.  Lately on here I’ve been posting these little lists.  These lists have been items that have worked for me as I’ve grown into my ‘adult’ life and the other day, while re-reading my 10 steps to a life fulfilled post, I realized I needed to expand my horizons.  I needed to break through my safety zone a bit.  I sat down and examined my work out log for the past two years and started looking at the entries and how I felt as the year progressed.  I read some of the comments I made about what I was eating and my body weight through the year.  I came to a conclusion or five.

1.)    I love to ride but the ‘sameness’ of it gets me down after a while.

2.)    Mixing up the style of biking helps some (mountain vs. road)

3.)    The first quarter of the year is always rough for me both from an exercise perspective and a bodyweight perspective.

4.)    From my comments I seem to be the happiest when I really mix things up (ride/run/weights/hiking/camping/backpacking).

5.)    I get most excited when I have something to shoot for like a race or a trip.  Goals work but not like a race or trip.

So I sat with these conclusions for a few days and thought about what to do.  The answer probably seems obvious but it the ‘light bulb’ moment didn’t smack me upside the head for about a week.  My kids are nearing the end of their school year and I realize that I’ve promised them to go camping.  This was the catalyst to more thoughts and ideas about how to spend our eight weekends off.  I thought of campgrounds, tents, day-hikes, and park visits.  From there I started thinking about hiking and backpacking and I started seeing pictures of the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Mt. Whitney.  Oddly enough these all led me to remember how much I like Trail Running.  Running in and of itself isn’t all that exciting and my Clydesdale like body type doesn’t lend itself well to the act but I love to be out in the ‘bush’ so some of the awkward ‘retarded elephant’ stomping I seem to like to imitate is acceptable to me because I’m out There.  I may not have time to hike, or backpack but a good trail run seems to trick my mind into believing that I did….or at least got close to it.  I tried a few runs (I may have even talked about it here once or twice) and I’ve really enjoyed it. 

The great thing about this desire to return to running is the balance it seems to have brought to my exercise regime and the desire to eat a bit cleaner.   Yes both running and riding are ‘leg centric’ activities and I will have to watch that to insure I don’t overwork the legs (especially the knees) but it’s nice to go out and get a couple of runs in and a couple of rides in during the week without feeling like I’m overdoing either one.  There are new ways to see the same trails/roads, new trails altogether that I can’t access via the bike, new foods & food combinations to try, new gear to look at, new people to talk to, new podcasts to listen to, and a couple other magazines to read.  These things excite me and connect me to the outdoor/athletic culture and I love it. 

It’s an awesome thing when you rediscover an old activity and are able to use it to relight the fires of motivation to get you up and off the couch or out of the house.   Hopefully this will also get my weight a little more under control as well as re-ignite my desire to ride and be healthy instead of a couch potato watching the clock tick down to my next work shift. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

4 steps to making a life change stick...

                 Everyone would like to be better, thinner, faster, stronger, or some other thing that is personal to them.  For me I’d like to be pretty much all of the above.  Some might focus on one particular want such as being able to stand on top of the podium at their next race, or to have a personal record (PR) at their next half-marathon.  Whatever ‘it’ is we are always striving to get ‘there’.  Some of the stronger personalities out there are successful but most of us ‘normal’ people struggle forward in fits and sputtering starts that never get past the first hurdle.  We may know what we want, we may even know how to get to that point but we get tripped up by some person/place/thing that halts us in our tracks and we retreat to that oh-so-comfortable couch we know and love.  I think we tend to retreat to the couches of our lives to quickly.  I think the following four steps will help those of you who keep getting caught up by that ‘something’ in your life.  I know for me that once I decided to complete 1000 riding miles in a year these were the steps that helped me.

1.)    Visualization:

See yourself doing it.  Seriously, this works.  In a few months we’ll be getting the opportunity to watch some of the best athletes in the world compete for their countries.  Watch these athletes as they sit and prepare for their specific event.  They are seeing themselves running that lap, completing that jump, or running the course.  They are seeing themselves as the successes they are.  Look in the mirror and see yourself as the skinny individual you want to be.  Visualize yourself making the meals you should be eating.  See the success in your mind’s eye and it’ll slowly start to come to you.

2.)    Effort:

This sounds simple and in some aspects it is.  In order to ride 1000 miles, or run that 26.1 mile route you have to put in the effort.  Remember though that the effort has to start off within the parameters of your current abilities.  If you’ve never run you can’t expect to go out and run 5 miles in 30 minutes.  Be reasonable in your approach but you have to put out the effort.  Visualization is great but without the effort it’s just sitting on that couch day dreaming.  Start small, run ½ mile and walk a ½ mile that first time out.  You’ll feel great and you won’t be super sore the next day which means you’ll be hungry for more.  Maybe it’s some weight you’d like to lose.  Put in the effort by buying the healthy choice over the cookies.  Cut out one soda a day for a week and then go from there.  Effort, even in small steps,  is the key.

3.)    Consistency:

I can’t express how important this is.  It’s also my biggest general downfall when it comes to making a life-change stick.  We can visualize our success, we can start putting in the effort to obtain that end result we’ve been dying for but without consistency the first two will fail.  Last year I put in 1800 miles on the bike (chump change compared to some who will read this but it’s the best year on the bike ever for me) and the only way I did that was by throwing a leg over the bike as often as I could.  Find a routine that works for you and then stick with it.  In order to lose weight you must eat healthy on a consistent basis.  Six days out of seven you must put aside that soda and realize a large pizza isn’t for you.  You have to eat the right things or your life-change won’t stick.  Consistency is the “Location, Location, Location” of a life-change.  You have to find it, but the good news is that you can’t expect yourself to go from eating poorly 6 days a week to the opposite right off the bat.  That’d be like quitting cold turkey (mmm did someone say turkey) and we all know how successful that can be.  No, like with effort this must be ramped up slowly over time.  Start off running 3 days a week for a mile or two at a time (and half of that might be walking) then slowly walk less, increase the mileage and then increase the number of days you run.  Just make sure you keep it up each week, week in and week out.  It will become more habit like and then the consistency will be there.

4.)    Lifestyle:

This final ‘step’ will almost fall into place on its own.  As you put forth consistent effort your life will slowly change.  After several months of eating right those oreo’s won’t sound as appetizing (as a self-confessed Oreo addict I can attest to just how impossible that might sound but it’s true.  I promise)  Now that you have been running those miles you might’ve met a few other runners and maybe now’s the time to look into your first 5K race.  Your clothing won’t fit quite right because you’ve begun to lose the weight and as you replace clothes you’ll start to buy clothes more suitable for your chosen new lifestyle.  A rough day at the office?  You’ll naturally turn towards your next run/ride for the peace and tranquility the office didn’t provide.  You’ll become your ‘life-change’ and that’s probably the coolest thing that comes from choosing a different path in life.

                These steps are crucial to overall success when it comes to choosing to do/be something new.  I don’t believe it matters what that is either.  It could be a simple task like wanting to quilt more/bigger blankets.  It could be that you want to be better read.  In my case it’s generally been sports related (riding & running mostly) but I’ve also been using these steps as I work on my writing.  My lifestyle has altered slightly as I read a wider array of blogs and books to inform myself on the writing world.  I’ve put in the effort and I’ve gotten over 400 hits on my blog in a little over two months.  No one can write well if they don’t do it consistently.   

                There is a final item that isn’t really another step but it’s important not to include and that’s Reflection.  Reflection is a step that should be interspersed within the four steps.  It will allow you to sit back and look at what worked and what didn’t.  Maybe you tried a fourth day of riding in the week and you feel too sore, too tired, or for right now it’s just too much of a burden due to work/family needs.  That’s fine, back off and adjust.  Without taking the time to study that work-out journal,or listening to how the body feels you’ll never be able to make the many minor adjustments a ‘life-change’ requires of you as the weeks, months, and years pass by. 

                What’s your life-change?  How have you gone about getting it started?  Have you been successful?  Share your successes and failures (sometimes these are even more important than the successes) or ideas in the comments.  I look forward to hearing from you all and in the meantime go grab that bull by the horn and get to it, there’s no better day than today to make that life-change you’ve been putting off.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chapter 1 or 'Here goes nuthin!'...

    I've been working on a story off and on for the past two years.  I wrote the rough draft in thirty-one days and I've been thinking about it/editing it for the rest of that time.  The character is one I really like and has such a hold on my mind that I've found it difficult to write anything else.  Charlie wants to be written about...constantly!  I'm ok with that cuz I really like the universe he's chosen as his home.  Those who know me (and probably those who don't) will see right away where my influences come from.  I've decided to post it in celebration of 350 views of my blog in just a little over 2 months.  Thank you too one and all for visiting and supporting me.  So without further we. go!

Chapter 1:
     Brimstone was a backwards planet on the wrong side of the Frontier.  It was the kind of place where a person could go to get lost, the kind of place where a person could pick up an odd job or two and not always stay on the proverbial right side of the law.  In other words it was the perfect place for me.  No one knows if the planet was actually called Brimstone or if it was the name of the dust covered city that had been applied to the whole planet a century before when the city had been settled, to be honest though there really aren’t any other cities on the planet.  Oh there are a few little towns or villages lost out in the desert wastes and high in the mountains but the names are pretty much only known to the people who live there.  It’s not a bad existence though, I suppose, if someone wants to stay out of the eye of the Confederation.  In fact its pretty much ideal for that purpose and the main reason I found myself dirt side leaning against the sun warmed hull the Black Domino, an aging sometime decrepit light freighter I liked to call home.  I watched several locals loading my cargo hold with supplies I had been hired to transport off world.  The two guys were young and threadbare, their hair plastered by sweat and dust. They’d taken on the same look as the town.  As I watched I fished a short cigar from the pocket of my brown leather duster.  I lit the cigar and turned it slowly to get it going properly.  A low roofed truck bounced its way towards us.  I inhaled slowly and let the smoke out savoring its sweetness.  The truck stopped a few yards from the loading ramp.  A short skinny man in a well tailored suit exited the truck.  The man in the suit looked so out of place standing there in the hot sun I almost laughed.  I didn’t figure he’d get the humor so I kept it to myself.  Two men followed, flanking him.  They were obviously hired guns; I could see the bulge of ones shoulder rig under the jacket of a blonde headed thug and the low quick draw rig on the right thigh of the other. 

            Laying in the shade of the ship a forty pound mound of muscle and fur let out a quiet growl. 

 “Easy Tiberius.”

 Tiberius stood and shook out his fur from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail.  He ambled over to me on four stubby legs.   He sat on his haunches next to me and let his tongue hang out of his mouth.  He was compact and all muscle.  His fur was a mixture of black, gray, white and tan.  Someone somewhere once told me the coloring was called blue merle, I’d always just gone with that.  He was fiercely loyal.  He also didn’t eat much and couldn’t talk, except for the occasional bark, growl, or whine.  In my book she made the ideal partner.  Was it my fault my closest friend and ally was a dog? 

 I pushed away from the Domino and took a step forward.  I swept my duster open and tucked it away giving me easy access to my own pistol.  They stopped a few yards away.  Silence drifted between us.  I eyed the thugs, the thugs eyed me and Mr. Suit simply watched.

            “Mr. Cole, I have a proposition for you.”

            “Do I know you?”

            “I do not know why you would.  My name is Daemon, I am an authority around these parts.”

            “Never heard of you.”

            “Nor should you have, I help run the quieter side of life here in Brimstone Mr. Cole.”

            “Nothin but the quiet life here.”

            “True, business is usually quite good.”

            I let out a puff of smoke, chewing on the end of the cigar thoughtfully.  Mr. Daemon had an air about him that made it known to those around him that he got his way.  Whether you liked it or not.  He exuded a sense of authority and power that most couldn’t ignore.  It was the kind of power one acquired through intimidation.  I wasn’t sure but I think he had been trying to intimidate me.  I smiled around the cigar and decided I wouldn’t be afraid of him today.

            “What kind of proposition?”

            Daemon nodded as if making up his mind about something, “Quite right Mr. Cole or should I call you Captain Cole.”

            I shrugged.  I didn’t much care what he called me.

            “Very well Mr. Cole.  I have someone that needs transportation off planet.”

            “I don’t transport biologicals.  Skin trade aint my gig.”

            Daemon waved a hand in the air as if shooing away a fly, “No, no Mr. Cole you miss understand me.  This is not a biological or a slave.  Those are messy ways to make a living.  My associates and I do not participate in that line of work.”

            “Good to hear.”

            I had transported and or smuggled a lot of merchandise over the years, I’d even hunted bounties a time or two but slave trading was the lowest type of slime in the universe.  About the only good thing the Confederation did was to put down slave traders, and put them down hard.

            “Actually I wish for you to transport someone off planet for their benefit.”

            “You running someone off?  A business rival?”

            “Something along those lines, yes.”


            “Is that important Mr. Cole?  I’d been led to believe you would only be concerned with the price.”

            “Don’t wanna worry about getting shot in the back while I sleep.”

            Daemon smiled.  It was an odd sickly sort of smile.  I figured either description fit him quite well.

            “I assure you, your guest will not be planting a knife in your back Mr. Cole.  There will be assurances.”

            “Such as?”

            “You will have two passengers, the primary target and a ‘bodyguard’ of sorts.”

            “Still two passengers no matter what you wanna call them.”

            Daemon nodded, “I understand.  I believe the going rate for transportation is around five thousand credits a passenger.”

           While we talked my cigar had gone out.  I looked at him over the blackened tip as I took a moment to relight it.  Tiberius walked around my legs and then went back to the shade and laid down.  He kept one eye on the three men in front of me and both ears stayed up as if listening for a cue from me to attack.  There was more going on than Daemon was letting onto, that much was a given and we both knew it.  My bet was on some sort of political intrigue. 

            “Ten thousand a passenger.”

            He frowned, “That is considerably more than others here might ask for.”

            “Then go ask them,” in truth there weren’t really any others.  Two other ships occupied the landing field with me and neither of them had a ship nearly as modified as mine.

            He nodded, waited a moment and then shrugged, “Very well Mr. Cole twenty thousand it is.  Ten now and ten when you drop them off at the arranged location.”

            He flicked a hand in the direction of Blondie who in turn stalked back towards the truck.  He removed two cases.  I raised an eyebrow.

            “Hard Cred?”

            “It is so much better than dealing with electronic transfers wouldn’t you agree?”

            “Untraceable too.”

            “Very astute Captain.”

            Blondie set the case next to me, careful to stay away from Tiberius who flashed fang in the mans general direction.

            “Easy boy,” I looked at Daemon, “What’s the catch.”


           “I am not new to this my friend.”

            Daemon smiled, “Of course.  There are people here who might be a bit upset if this person disappears.  It is entirely possible they will want the person back.”

            “Why not kill them?”

            “You must think me some sort of monster, but no, that would not work.  Fear and threats are easier devices for controlling ones enemy.”

            I shook my head, “I’ll never understand planet politics.  Who’s the cargo?”

            “Who is not as important as to the where?  You will take your passengers to Moonshadow.  Once there a representative of the appropriate type will approach you for pick-up.  I will return in one hour with your passengers.”

            I nodded and he left with his goons.  Moonshadow was a few weeks out of the way but my current cargo wasn’t perishable.  It would hold.  I turned towards the locals who had by now finished loading the cargo and stood idly by trying to not look like they were watching us.  The foreman approached.

            “We’re finished Captain Cole.”

            “Everything lashed down?”

            “Of course.”

            “Good, your payment has been deposited as we agreed upon.”

            “Very good Captain.” He stood there for a moment looking at me.

            “Something on your mind Foreman?”

            “Mr. Daemon is not a good man.”

            “I gathered that.”

            “He has a reputation for violence.  Death follows him.”

            “Who’s he work for?”

            “Brimstone has many people who wish to be in charge.  There is much revenue for those who control the landing pads.  Mr. Daemon works for those who oppose the current mayor.”

            “The current mayor have any kids?”

            The Foreman though for a moment, “Yes he does, several actually.  He has two young sons with his current wife and a daughter from his first wife who nears an age where she might be able to take over his job when he retires.”

            I shook my head, “I think you’re about to have a change in bosses Foreman.”

            He sadly shook his head, “It is not uncommon, I have seen many mayors come and go.  Money is a great motivator.”

            I smiled, “Yes it is.”

           The Black Domino had not been new in more decades than I’d been alive.  In her heyday she was one of the most sought after freighters on the market.  As a result there were many still in service.  I had spent far too many creds keeping her up to date and running.  She was roughly shaped like a flattened tear drop without the smooth aerodynamic look of a tear drop.  The Domino was all angles and armor plating.  She was not aesthetically pleasing to the eye.  She looked like she wouldn’t fly.   In all she was about three hundred feet long and a hundred feet wide.  I’d done my best to make it as homey as possible but the starkness and utilitarianism was still very evident inside.  I didn’t mind and Tiberius never complained so I wasn’t too worried.  I went to the cock-pit which was on the leading edge of the ship jutting out over the loading ramp which I’d raised and sealed a few minutes earlier.  I flipped a few switches and felt her come alive with a hum that reverberated through the deck as her main drive began its warm up cycle.  The Domino had one large main drive and an FTL, faster than light, drive that allowed her to make an FTL jump.  The Domino’s strength lay in her speed and her armor.  He armor plating was some of the thickest available and I’d added defensive screens many years earlier.  I had also installed a missile tube forward and a top and bottom mounted twin bolter cannon.  She packed a punch.  By Confederation regulations she was illegal as hell but out on the Frontier there weren’t too many Confederate captains willing to trouble themselves with a small tramp-freighter and her captain, unless perhaps we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  That happened to me more than I’d like to admit.  Besides, they were all generally on the take in whatever system they happened to be assigned to and my goods generally brought them some sort of revenue so a few guns and overly modded defensive screens were the least of their worries.

            Tiberius barked and I glanced out the canopy to see Daemons truck returning.

            “Looks like our passengers have arrived.  Behave yourself Boy.” I scratched him behind the ears and he glanced at me with what over the years I believed to be his version of a smile, complete with tongue hanging out the corner of his mouth.  I shook my head and went to meet my passengers.

            “You are leaving now?” Daemon asked when he approached me.

            “As soon as the passengers and their gear are stowed.”

            He seemed pleased, “They have little gear.”


 Blondie opened the rear door on the truck.  He stood back as a tall woman dressed in a form fitting leather outfit followed.  I could see every curve she had.  She stood just a few inches shorter than I.  She wore knee high boots that bristled with buckles and looked to be designed purely for combat.  She wore a sleeveless black leather duster over the form fitting leather armor.  The shoulders were covered with armor plating. She wore two pistols, one on each thigh butt forward, one had a black grip, the other red, and it matched her hair.  I thought I saw another pistol in a shoulder rig.  I’d bet my cargo she had more hidden away.  We eyed each other.  Her face was narrow with high cheek bones, blue eyes narrow and almost almond shaped.  Her skin was as white as I’d ever seen and set off starkly by the black leather and her red hair.  That red hair was straight and pulled back tightly against her scalp.  It was tied into a high pony tail that fell down to the middle of her back.  She did not return my smile. 

            “Her name is Sonja Bloodstone.”

            I nodded, “Who does she work for?”

            Daemon smiled the first genuine smile I’d seen on him, “I don’t think she ever works for anyone except for herself.”

            Sonja scanned the landing pad, eyed Blondie and then let her gaze fall on me again.

            “Will that pile of bolts make lift-off?”

            “No need to be insulting Ma’am.”

            “You out did yourself this time Jonah.”

            I saw a flicker of anger flash across Jonah Daemon’s face.  I just managed to keep a smile from creeping onto mine.

            Seemingly satisfied and with a scowl etched onto her features, Sonja turned back to the door and grabbed hold of someone and half dragged, half helped them out of the vehicle.  Her companion was nothing more than a child really.  I guessed she was no older than twelve, maybe fourteen and she looked scared.  She wore tight fitting low ride brown pants and a flimsy white cotton top.  She was at that odd in-between stage where she was more child than woman but maturity was beginning to turn on her.  Her blonde hair was hanging loose and while she tried to look strong and arrogant, her eyes betrayed the fear she was feeling.

            Daemon nodded at Sonja who only barely acknowledged him, she turned to me, “Ready to leave?”

            “Whenever you are Red.”


            Sonja took the bags Blondie handed her and glared at the child who moved towards the Domino on wooden legs as if silently willing the girl to move faster.

            I turned towards Daemon, “Who’s the child?”

            “You may call her Faith.  You do not need to know more.”

            “Of course.”

            I left him standing there and followed Sonja into the Domino. 

            I sealed up the Domino and made my way to the cock-pit.  Tiberius watched Sonja and Faith as they stowed their gear in the cabins along the port side of the ship.  I ignored them and felt Sonja stare daggers in my back.  I sat in the pilot’s seat, the main drive had completed its warm-up cycle and flashing a ready status.  I brought her on-line.  I felt a presence behind me.  My skin prickled, I did not like having this heavily armed she-devil standing behind me.

 “Take a seat if you’d like.”

 Sonja sat in the seat behind me and to my right, Faith sat in the chair directly behind me.  Tiberius lay down on the deck between them.  I activated the maneuvering thrusters and lifted the Black Domino off her landing skids.  I applied forward thrust and moved slowly over the heads of Blondie and Daemon.

 "They staying to see us off?”

 “Probably making sure we really leave.” Sonja replied.

 I laughed.

I gained altitude slowly shooting over a small mountain range.  I applied more power to the main drive and clawed up the gravity well.  A few moments of the ship straining and then I felt the Domino shudder slightly as we entered the gravity free realm of open space.  I went to three quarter power on the drive and shot towards the edges of the sector.

 The computer beeped at me.

 “Ah hell!”

 “What is it?”

 “Ship approaching, Scimitar class.  Friends of yours?”

 “Possibly, will this bucket get us past them?”

            “They’re still in orbit around Brimstone but they just scanned us with active scanners.”

            “Any pursuit?”

            I checked even as I began entering the coordinates for an FTL jump.  My hands danced over the control console and occasionally I’d reach behind me to flick a switch on the ceiling.  I noticed Faith sitting there quietly a small shiver of fear running over her diminutive frame.

            “Yep.” I pushed the drive to full power, “They’re on an intercept course.”

            “Can you get us out?”

            “Let’s hope so.”

            An FTL jump required us to get up to speed on the main drive, once optimal speed was achieved you cut in the FTL drive.  Most freighters made about one point past the speed of light, a military cruiser might do two points.  The problem with those speeds is that tracking another ship was impossible.  Modern scanners were designed to work at normal drive speeds but once in FTL things moved to quick for any scans to give you anything adequate.  Speed combined with a build up of energy around the hull made scans impossible and it actually took thirty seconds or so for scans to clear once you completed a drop-jump.

            The Scimitar was doing its best to cut the angle for a quick intercept before I made the jump but looking at the tactical display I was pretty sure we’d miss an actual engagement by about thirty seconds.  They’d try to tag us with a tractor beam but we’d just be clear.  One minute dragged into ninety seconds, tension hung in the cock-pit.

            A red light on the console in front of me flashed green and I let a small smile settle on my features.  We’d be free.  The Scimitar was close and I could make out more details on her hull.  I read her name on the side of the hull, the Vengeance. The com channel beeped at me.  It was the Scimitars captain telling us to heave to.  I ignored him.

            “You’re cutting it pretty close.”

            “We’re fine.”

            “I don’t like close.”

            I nodded, reached towards a lever on the console and yanked it back.  Scans went off line, energy coils loaded up in the drives, power transfer coils came to life and the FTL drive kicked on-line.  A second later the pin-points of light that were distant and not so distant stars in space stretched, streaked and then we were encompassed in what looked to be a tunnel of cloud like ice. 

            “Any chance of them following?” Sonja asked.

            “How hot is your ward?”

            There was no answer as Sonja got up and escorted Faith from the cock-pit.

            I settled back in the pilots chair and scratched Tiberius’ head when he put it in my lap.  He panted happily and looked at me with his dark eyes.

            “Something feels wrong about this one boy.”

            Tiberius licked my hand barked once and trotted back into the ship, presumably to watch over our passengers.  I couldn’t help but think that was a pretty good idea.