Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Poem

This was posted on the Traveller Mailing List by Jeffery Schwartz under the title Apologies To Papa Heinlein:
Like barb wire ties around me
tightening and cutting all my girth
are all the stupid laws
Of the nanny state of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen  to their trade.
But the call is allowed to fade

A third or more of what I made
goes to EBT and things
that insure that I'll never fly
near Saturn's rainbow rings

We're denied each spinning space mote
As they steal all that's worth:
Taken from us the homes of men
and locked us to the Earth.

No longer ride the sons of Terra,
silent the thundering jet,
a shackled race of Earthmen,
whipped dogs, once the lone wolf's get.

We rot in the molds of Vegas,
We retch at New York's tainted breath.
Foul are her urban jungles,
Crawling with unclean death

My heart breaks in longing
As I stare at the voids between
To out along the spaceways
Until what my soul hears is seen

Across the seas of darkness
looking up from Earth's blight
wishing another Star was my homeland
Praying it shine down on me tonight.

Cursed with life in prison
since the moment of my birth
Damned to ever hear the lies
of the morons that rule the Earth

I pray for just one launching
On the globe that gave us birth
to escape to the fleecy skies
And from the cold dark streets of Earth.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Work In Progress

This is from a novel I'm working on:

So why are we here?  Why did we escape the Solar System and settle on the planets of Alpha Centauri?

The fact is that we live in a dynamic universe.  A universe whose internal material components are subject to change by entirely natural means.  Life, including human life, is the result of a series of an entirely natural processes.  The process of life is also a localized acceleration of the process of entropy, the conversion of matter to energy.  Simply by living each of us is accelerating the ultimate decline of the known universe.  Oh, please don’t tell the environmentalists.

For simple forms of life survival is simply an accident of nature.  For Humanity survival is the result of the function of the active mind.  And we will think and do what is necessary to live what is properly a human life.

Believe it or not there were people back on Earth who objected to our escape from extinction and actively worked to prevent it. 

I am not kidding.                           

Some of those people believed that our lives were the result of the will of a being commonly known as God.  And that the event that would ultimately destroy all life on Earth was also the will of God.  They believed that the extinction event was brought about because of our collective sins.  The primary sin being the  constant refusal to obey the commands of God as transmitted  through his self appointed spokesmen.  The vilest of our sins being the persistent habit of actually thinking on the basis of the actual facts of reality.  The believers in the God Premise deemed us guilty of these crimes and wanted us to sit down without resistance and die for our sins.

Absolutely not, we decided.

The idea that God could eliminate Mankind at a thought and did not require an actually natural event to kill off our species simply did not enter their minds.

This assumes of course that those who believe in the concept of God had actually functioning minds.

There were also those who believed in the concept of material equality.  That everyone had to be materially equal regardless of the actual amount of productive thought and labor.  They believed it was unfair for us who could build starships to escape the Solar System.  We who could should not do so because it was unfair to those who could not.  That the truly fair course of action was to do nothing and for all of us to die together.

This view, which was purely emotional, was also clearly wrong.

And finally there were the self-appointed elites.  They believed that only they had the best of the collective interests of Mankind in mind.  And that only the best and the brightest members of the Human collective, as defined by themselves, should be allowed to escape extinction by the means available.

That the elites have always lived off the thought and labor of those they deemed inferior and invariably made decisions for their own benefit was never, ever, mentioned by them or their willing servants.

The fact was that we would not sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of what was in fact a mob of lazy and mindless losers.

The fundamental moral value is life.  But human life is not simply physical existence.  The human mode of life also requires an active mental existence.  In order to live as human beings we must see things as they are and act as we conceive as necessary.

Live with it.

So what actually happened?  How did we come here?

Our father’s last big project when he was alive was the Niven Deep Space Observatory.  It had been placed in an orbit that took it well outside the plane of the ecliptic in the Solar System.  For those readers unfamiliar with orbital dynamics it means that the orbit of the NDSO was at an angle above that of the planet and other bodies of the Solar System.  The primary mission of the NDSO was to detect and observe neutron stars.

So what’s a neutron star?

A neutron star is simply the dead body of a star at the last stage of decay.

Some stars are so massive that at death they collapse into a black hole, never to be seen again.  But some stars lack the mass to fully disappear and they collapse into a white dwarf.  A remnant made purely of neutrons giving off the residual energy of it’s collapse.  But eventually even an ancient white dwarf will fade out.

A neutron star still has gravitational attraction and still pulls in matter from the space that surrounds it, gas, dust and the occasional large body as an asteroid.  When this stray matter impacts on the neutron star it’s converted to neutrons and emits energy across the electromagnetic spectrum in the process.  It was the emission of this energy--the screaming matter--that the NDSO detects and tracks.

The Astronomy Department at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California was the prime contractor on the NDSO.  Our family firm having built the NDSO now had the contract to maintain and upgrade it.  I made a rare visit to Earth to speak with the program director, Dr. Robert Peterson, about the next series of upgrades.

At his office we shook hands and I began the conversation.

“So Bob, what did you want to discuss?”

“Well there’s an very odd series of readings we got on one of our objects.”

“And you want to eliminate the possibility of a fault with the platform before you publish a paper on it?”

“Yes.”  He said.

“So what is it?”

“One of our objects, designated Niven Sixty Nine, is very close to the Solar System.”

“How close?”

“Well within a light year.”

A light year was the distance that a photon, the theoretical particle of light, would travel in the time of a year.  It’s a distance of just under ten trillion kilometers.  In interstellar astronomy that distance was very close.

“Possibly?”  I said.

“We haven’t done a full parallax reading on it but the screaming matter signature is also the strongest that we’ve seen with any object.”

Parallax is a method of determining the distance of an object.  From opposite positions in the solar orbit of observer the object is located against the stellar background. With the known distance of the two observation points serving as the base of a triangle the distance of the other two sides  of the triangle is worked out as simple geometric math.

At least it’s simple to astronomers and engineers like me.

I then had a question.

“So what is its lateral movement?”

“There isn’t any.”  He replied.

I was stunned, I’m sure of it, it took time before I could reply.

“Bob,” I said, “is the screaming matter signature getting stronger over time?”

The screaming matter signature is the energy given off by the dust and gas normally found in interstellar space as it is gravitationally sucked into the neutron star.

“Yes, it appears to be.”

The conclusion was obvious.

I sat in stunned silence.

Bob spoke again.

“We don’t know if it will hit anything yet.”

“It doesn’t have to.”  I said.  “We both know that an object with the mass of a star will radically alter the orbit of every body as it passes through the Solar System--including the Earth.  It may even cause some bodies to be ejected from the system altogether.”

Then I had another thought.

“Have you spoken about this to anyone outside the project?”


I thought for another moment.

“Bob, my next stop is the JPL next door.”

“What about?”

“To report on the Daedalus.”

“How is Daedalus?”

Daedalus was the unmanned interstellar probe our firm had just completed for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  The original version was proposed by the British Interstellar Society back in the late Twentieth Century.  We had followed the original BIS concept of a two stage system in the design and construction of the probe.

“Apart from uploading the latest version of the operations software and fueling the ship we are ready to launch.  I think you should have a word with them, the committee still wants to send her to Sirius.”

Bob nodded.

“Yes, I’ll come over there with you.”  He replied.

My next meeting was scheduled with the Daedalus Committee.  In the lobby of the JPL we walked by the display of Mariner II, the first successful American interplanetary probe.  It had been recovered and brought back to Earth.  When we arrived at the conference room they hadn’t sat down yet.  Bob and I made straight for the chairman of the committee, Dr. Douglas Siekmann.

“Doug,” I said, “I believe you know Doctor Peterson?”

“Yes.”  He replied and they both shook hands.  “So what brings you over here?”

“We think you should change the destination of the Daedalus.”

“Not likely.”  Siekmann replied.  “But I think we can find time for you to speak on it.”

I spoke.

“Doug, we’re serious, dead serious.”

I’m certain that he saw that we were serious.

“Okay then.”  He replied.

At this point we sat down and went through the normals rituals of a board meeting.  Then it was my turn to speak.

“First, Im here to report that apart from fueling the ship  and updating the software package we are ready to launch.  Second, I want to request that we change the target system to Alpha Centauri with the goal of finding a habitable planet.

A board member spoke in reply.

“Why,” he said, “the only point to finding a Goldilocks world is to colonize it.  And who’s going to fund a colonization mission?”

I replied.

“Everyone on Earth.”

At this point every board member was speechless, and then Doug spoke up.


“I brought along Doctor Peterson of the NDSO to explain.”

Bob stood up and spoke.

“Basically we found a neutron star that is within a light-year of us and appears to heading straight into the Solar System.”

A woman wearing glasses who was about my age spoke up.

“Will it hit anything?”

“It doesn’t have to.”  Bob replied.  “The gravitational effects alone will disrupt the orbits of everything in the system, including the Earth.”

Another board member spoke.

“And the change in Earth’s orbit will radically effect the environment?”

“Yes.”  I said.  “And as a result it may possibly render the Earth completely uninhabitable.”

After a about a minute of silence Doug spoke.

“Bob, we have sensor platforms across the system, we will have to verify your data and we will also help you to nail down the trajectory.”

“Not a problem.”  Bob replied.  “No problem at all.”

Doug then spoke to the committee.

“I move that upon confirmation of the neutron star being on a collision course with the Solar System that we make the necessary alterations to the Daedalus for the planet finder mission to Alpha Centauri.  Does anyone second the motion?”

The young woman who first spoke up did so.

“All in favor?”  Said Doug.

Every member of the committee raised their hands.

“It appears to be unanimous.”

The young woman raised her hand and spoke.

“Mister Boatman, what will you do next?”

“After launching the Daedalus?”


“Start work on designing the colony transport.”

“What will it be like?”

I thought for a moment before answering.

“Apart from using the pulse-fusion system from the Daedalus I have no idea.  I wouldn’t even try to do a back of the envelope calculation on it at this point.”

“Um, yes.”  She replied.

And then after the meeting was formally closed I walked up and spoke to her.

“I’m sorry, I don’t recall being properly introduced.”

She nodded and replied.

“Susan,” she said, “Doctor Susan Barrow.”

“Doctor Barrow, I’m glad to have that issue resolved.”


Saturday, June 14, 2014


The following is part of an incomplete manuscript for a novel in progress:

The jolt of the landing gear woke me up.

I was the sole civilian aboard an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport with a load of Marine reservists and several pallets of ground crew gear for a Marine Corps Harrier-II squadron.

And if the jolt of landing at Gibraltar had not awakened me, the half-company strength chorus of “HOORAH” would have.

Regular or Reservist, a Marine is a Marine.

The Air Force pilot, of course, had to make her customary announcement on the aircraft’s speaker system.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived at the British overseas territory of Gibraltar and will be disembarking as soon as possible.  And thank you for flying Air Globemaster.”

Male or Female, an Air Force pilot has the ego and sense of humor of an Air Force pilot.

I thanked the pilot and the flight crew for their utterly boring display of professional competence.  Believe me, in old school aerodynamic aviation back on Earth in those days, a boring flight was a really, really, really good flight.  And they got the joke.

After stroking the egos of the Air Force folks I met the head of British Forces for Gibraltar at the forward door of the aircraft.

Yes, was a civilian, but I did return the salute, it would have been rude for me not to, I thought at the time. 

Okay, I admit it, it was an old reflex.

I will leave the argument over whether or not an executive order from President March constituted a proper commission to run a military operation to the professional historians.

So how did the British get involved in the rescue expedition?

It’s a long story.

Apparently during her weekly chat with the Prime Minister, a fellow from the Labour Party at the time, Her Majesty the Queen very clearly expressed her distress about the French attack on the State of Israel.  She couldn’t directly issue a command to the current PM, but she did ask him if something could be done about it.

The sitting PM said that he would look into it.

Unfortunately, the line taken by Labour Party at the time was that former President Null’s refusal to relinquish the office was legitimate due the claim of having a majority of the votes cast in the election.

In order for the Labour Party to do so they had to ignore the fact that many of those votes, in places like Chicago and other strongholds of the other party, were attributed to persons who were already dead or did not otherwise exist.

And of course they had to completely ignore the actual rules laid out in our actual Constitution and the actual outcome of the actual vote of the actually existing Electoral College.  

And on top of this the now former President Null, now known as the Big Zero, had openly stated his support for the destruction of the State of Israel.

Again, I will leave the question of whether the Zero’s  position on this was due to his well documented tendency towards moral nihilism -- or his other well documented tendency towards politically felliating his Muslim supporters -- to the professional historians.

In the meantime the sitting Prime Minister of the United Kingdom definitely had a problem.

And because I was in the process of organizing the evacuation of Israel I caught the phone call.

“Tom,” I said to the PM, “the first thing you need to do is to withdraw your government’s recognition of the Zero and his crew.”

“That will be difficult.”  The PM replied.

“But not impossible.”  I said.

I thought for a moment. 

Then I resumed the conversation.

“What I would suggest is that you read to everyone in the House the section of our Constitution that governs the rules for our presidential elections, and particular you’ll need to explain how the Electoral College works and why it was adopted.  That should get everyone but the hardcore Marxists to go along with the change in policy.”

“But,” replied the PM, “there will be those who will claim that your Electoral College is undemocratic.”

Never mind all of the dead and otherwise nonexistent voters in Chicago and the other urban cesspits ruled by the other party.

“Tom, let me ask this question.”  I said.  “Does Her Majesty’s Government want to deal with an American federal government that is subject to a written supreme law?  Or do you want to deal with an unrestrained mob state which was empowered by false votes and subject only to the will of the leader?”

There was silence on the phone line. 

I broke the silence.

“The last time you had to deal with that was called World War Two.”  I said.  “And I can’t imagine that Her Majesty, or any other remaining veteran of that conflict, would want to see that happen again.  Especially with nukes.”

“No.”  Said the PM.  “Of course not.”

And with that I was going to let the PM deal with his own internal political issues.

I moved on to the next subject.

“The other problem is the question what you’re going to send on this mission.”  I said.  “If I recall correctly, you’re down to one escort carrier in commission, and you don’t even have a proper air group for it.”

Of the three Invincible class carriers built for the Royal Navy only the Illustrious was still in commission.  The Ark Royal was in storage awaiting disposal, and the lead ship of the class had already been stripped of useful parts and sold for scrap.

On top of this all of the Harrier jets built for their Navy and Air Force had been retired and placed in storage due to cuts in the British defense budget.

To an outside observer like myself it would appear that the worst enemy of the British Armed Forces was the British politician.

 I spoke again.

“Quite frankly, sir, I wouldn’t send the Illustrious out without at least a squadron of Harriers from our Marine Corps.”

“We would appreciate that, sir.”  Said the Prime Minister.

That caught me by surprise.

“Just a second, sir.”  I responded.  “I need to make a note.”

On a notepad I wrote a reminder to myself to talk about this to the Marine Corps liaison officer in our temporary headquarters in Omaha.
[Days later on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN75)]

A master chief led me out across the flight deck to the Seahawk helicopter.  The Navy has strict rules that even very important people like myself have to follow.  And I had absolutely no desire to be decapitated by a main rotor or generally shredded by a tail rotor. 

Once I was aboard and my headset was plugged into the intercom, the Seahawk lifted off from the deck of the Truman and flew east towards the remains of the State of Israel.

As soon as I thought it was safe I spoke to the pilot over the intercom.

“ Lieutenant?”   I practically shouted over the noise of the main rotor.  “ How far east can we go?”

“ Did you want to see Jerusalem, sir?”   He replied.

“ Yes!”   I shouted.

“ Me too!”   He shouted back.

The Seahawk flew over the beachhead set up by the Marines as one of the evacuation points for the survivors.  The pilot chose to fly low as he approached the hills to avoid hostile MANPAD missile fire from the damned Arabs.

And then we saw it.

In the final hours of the Six-Day War in 1967 the Chief Rabbi of the IDF desperately searched for some engineers and some explosives.  He wanted to remove the abomination, the Al Aqsa mosque, that the Arabs had built on the Temple Mount.

Forty five years and a few months later, his wish was granted.

The abomination was gone.  The Temple Mount was for all practical purposes cleared of all but the smallest pieces of stone. 

Of the city of Jerusalem all that remained was ashes and rubble.  There were no living things, plant or animal, to be seen.

“ I think we've seen enough, Lieutenant.”   I shouted.

“ Aye, aye, sir!”   He replied.

He turned the Seahawk back toward the beachhead.


Monday, June 02, 2014

Awaken -- First Chapter

This is the first chapter of a novel that I'm working on.  The working title of the novel is Awaken:


Negation, she thought.

A decision can be easy or it could be difficult.

The thunderstorm that crashed upon the capital city was a thing of beauty.  The flash of lightning illuminated the streets and the buildings beyond the window with an electric blue glow.  With the light reflected from her face back upon the inside surface she could see the winkles beneath her eyes and the streaks of gray in her dark hair.

She gave thought to the window before her.

It was both invisible and itself a thing of beauty.  It separated and protected her from the outside environment and allowed her to see it in all its glory.  She could watch the passage of the storm from the safety of her office because of the applied thought of a man.

Those who destroyed the works of men could not conceive of a pane of glass.  Nor could they be taught how to make one and integrate it into a structure.  The thoughts of rational men were nothing to them.  And the works of men that resulted from the trains of rational thought were seen only as abominations that were to be smashed into dust. 

They did not see the truth and they did not want to see the truth.

Reality is real.

Her parents had taught her this before she learned to read.

Understand this and you can understand everything.

But there were those alive who did not want to know.  They actively sought ignorance, and they sought only to negate knowledge and the products of applied knowledge.

And now another of those men had stepped onto her world with the intent of negation, of murdering the people and smashing their works to nothing.  There was nothing that he would be gained from such acts.  It would be the sacrifice of actual things to nothing. 

Absolutely nothing.

Under the existing laws of her nation the subject of her present thought could simply be arrested and processed.  With his death being the ultimate result.

But that would not solve the larger problem.  The subject of the investigation was employed by a group of men back on Earth.  The employers will simply hire another man to attack the worlds under her care.  And the next time she may not be able to stop them.       

The woman had witnessed too much of the horror of negation over the course of her life.  She had seen her parents taken from her simply because they were the only sane people on an insane world.  See had seen her husband murdered simply because he was her husband.

Would it ever end?  How does one deal with such people?

The phone on her desk rang.  She turned and quickly lifted the receiver to speak.


A man’s voice at the far end replied.

“We’re ready to proceed, ma’am.”

“Do so.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

A trade off then.  Let the immediate subject live and use him to discover his employers.

And then eliminate them.

Across the city the subject of the conversation in question was sleeping naked in a hotel bed.  But not for long.  This would be a hostile encounter.  He had not expected the police on any world, whom he normally thought of as no better than clowns, to break into his hotel room in full tactical mode.  They should not have known of his origin or mission.

The arrest had been absolutely hostile.  At no point was he allowed to speak, nor was he spoken to.  He was gagged  immediately by the black suited police strike team.  He was not given any cover for the weather.  He was dragged through the cold  winter rain to the police assault team transport vehicle in the condition he normally slept in.  On this night in the city of Landfall on the planet Freya he was completely naked.

Upon arrival at their headquarters he was deposited in a holding cell.

Except for the light panels, the steel door, and buttons that controlled the sink and toilet, all the features of the entire holding cell were made of concrete.

This was not a standard jail cell for a common criminal.  The cops here on Freya had taken his presence on their planet seriously.

Very seriously.

Why?  He thought.

He was certain he would soon know why. 

The door of the holding cell opened outwards.  A long stun stick was immediately thrust into the cell and upon his chest.

He was shocked into a state of complete inaction. 

As he lay stunned on the floor the black suited cops entered the cell in mass.  They cuffed him behind the back and inserted a rod between his arms and his back.  The cops then lifted him by the rod and dragged him down a bleak and completely undecorated bureaucratic corridor.  The cops who carried him were escorted by four more officers paired fore and aft.

Not one of them said a word to him.

He was dragged down the corridor and around a corner to the right.  At the end of the second corridor he was carried into an interrogation room.  There was a stainless steel table and two chairs.  He was secured to one of the chairs by the ankles and wrists.

It was five minutes by his estimate before the door to the room opened again.

A woman stepped into the room and sat down at the table opposite of him.

The subject of the arrest took the time to visually examine the woman.  She appeared to be a bit over fifty standard years of age with light stands of gray hair appearing in the neatly cut body of short black hair.  The woman also had blue eyes.  She was dressed as a civilian with a white office blouse and blue slacks.  The woman wore a photo identification badge and carried an immaculate military service grade semiautomatic pistol in the custom black leather holster under her left shoulder.

I’m supposed to be frightened by this old broad?  He thought.  That was foolish of her, very foolish.   

The man then took a close look at the I.D. badge.  It was issued by the Central Security Agency of the Ursa Major Confederation.  Below the photograph on the badge was the logo of the agency.  This was in the form of a flag with a white “X” over a black field.  He did not know that the symbol was technically called the Cross of Saint Andrew.  He saw it as being identical to cross on the battle flag of the Confederate States of America.  He saw it as their admission of being evil.

The name on her photo badge was Judith Stern and showed her rank as Director of the agency.

NO!  He thought.

No! No! No! No!

The woman sitting opposite of him at the table was the true daughter of darkness.  She was the absolute incarnation of evil herself.

Judith Stern was personally responsible for the murder of millions of people on his home world.  No one, not a priest, nor a child, was exempt from her absolute depravity.    

And he has not in the custody of any police agency.  The Freyan CSA was every mercenary soldier’s worst nightmare.  No mercenary soldier operating separately from an organized unit was safe from death by their Pest Control teams.  And ultimately backing the CSA field teams were the planetary landing forces of the Ursa Major Confederation Army and Marine Corps.

Worlds in close proximity to Freya were effectively off limits to mercenary operations.  And in the custody of the Freyan CSA he was already dead.

She looked up at him and spoke.  Her voice was of solid authority, it was firm and without apparent emotion.

“Welcome to The Aquarium.”

She then asked him a question.

“Who are you?”

He did not answer.

There was a slight twitch on her right eyebrow.

She calmly repeated the question.

“Who are you?”

There was no point in screaming.  He tried to reply clearly in a level voice.

“Why don’t you tell me?”

Without a word she looked down and opened the folder on the table before her.

Printed documents?  He thought.  How primitive of them.

She removed a set of reading glasses from a pocket of her blouse and used them to read from the printed file.

“Your name is Michael Gratton.  You were born in the City of New Boston on the planet Kennedy in the Alpha Centauri B system.  You are the second son of the late Prime Minister Thomas Gratton.  After the rescue and reprisal mission to that world your mother brought you as an infant to her family home in the city of Boston in the State of Massachusetts on Earth.  You attended the Boston Latin School and the Federation Military Academy at West Point.  As a junior officer you were wounded in action in a minor dust-up against a band of feral Muslims and subsequently received a knee joint replacement.  You spent the remainder of your time in the army in staff positions and as an instructor at the academy.  You were medically retired from the Federation Army with the rank of Major and emigrated to Xenophon in the Epsilon Indi system.  You are now a minor stockholder in, and company grade officer of the Military Assistance Corporation based on Xenophon.”

Gratton stared at Director Stern silently.  She had used the Freyan term for their crimes against his home world and the crimes they committed against his people.  One of the many people of that world murdered by the Freyans was his own father.

Gratton continued to stare at her until he was able to speak without apparent emotion.

“You are wrong!”  He replied.  “My name is John Fletcher and I am a civilian.”

The planetary clown farce on Freya should not discovered this information on him along with the fact that he was traveling on a false set of identity documents.  With the CSA he was clearly in the hands of a very competent intelligence agency of an absolutely evil nation.

Michael Gratton clearly saw that he was now in deep trouble.

Judith Stern stared straight at him without a visible flinch.

“Major Gratton, or whatever your current rank in the MAC-X Corporation is, you are traveling on a false set of documents, which is a felony.  And you are also a known mercenary, which in the Ursa Major Confederation is a capital offense.”

Gratton looked up at her and replied calmly.

“My name is John Fletcher and I am a witness for our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Judith Stern did not budge or blink.

“No Major Gratton.  You are a veteran officer of the Federation Army, which is a yellow flag for this agency.  You are traveling on false identity documents, which is a red flag.  And you are a member of a commercial organization whose sole purpose is to violate the rights of individuals and of sovereign nations, which is absolutely the black flag for us.  Please explain to us why we should not air out your head?”

Gratton blinked.

He raised his voice to reply.

“There is nothing you can threaten me with!”

Stern responded in a calm voice.

“Of course not, there never is.”

What The Fuck did that mean?

Stern saw that Gratton was mystified.  It was at this time she made her statement.

“Major Gratton, you and your backers seek to negate us -- to remove us from existence.   We need to discover who your backers are and kill them.  In order to do this we are sending you back to Earth.  You will be kept under surveillance and through this we will find the people who trying to destroy us and we will kill all of them.”

Gratton now stared at her.  He then closed his eyes and shook his head. 

So far I had not broken from my cover story, I can still use it.  He thought.  It will work.

“My name is John Fletcher.”  He cried out.  “I am a witness for Our Lord Jesus Christ on this Godless world.  Your people have turned from Our Lord at your eternal peril.  Don’t you understand that?”

Judith Stern stared straight through him as if she were a shipboard laser burning through a starship hull.  She then replied to him.

“Major Gratton, Reality is Real.”   

With that final reply she closed the folder on the table and stood up.  She spoke up to the staff members listening remotely.

“I’m finished.”

An officer opened the door for her from outside.  As she departed more officers suddenly entered the interrogation room and hit him with the stun staff again.  With full effect to full  unconsciousness.

When Michael Gratton awoke he was back on Earth.  The first thing he would hear was the voice of a different woman back on the planet Earth.

So what are your questions?


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Diary 2

There was a saying that originated on the original timeline: If you want something done right, you must do it yourself.

Or something like that.

For Judith and I this was something of a working honeymoon.  Our first stop was London to negotiate directly with several departments of the Imperial Government.  An advantage of have several working spacecraft is that we could fly directly to the Imperial capital instead of having to take the boat. Another advantage was that as long as the spacecraft were still functioning we could place satellites in orbit.

For the Royal Navy we had built three communications satellites which we placed equidistantly in geosynchronous orbit.  Given the still primitive state of technology, even with our assistance, they were massive structures using redundant vacuum tubes systems and powered by a thorium based thermoisotope generator. This was somewhat in line with Arthur C. Clarke’s original paper on the concept in the original 1945 paper.  Although he did envision a fully manned space station where the crew would rebuild and replace the tubes as needed.

Of course we had to also built the ground stations and the communications suites for the RN task force flagships.  Although we strongly suggested redundancy with commo suites installed in all capital ships and cruisers, the Navy brass and their pet politicians wanted to keep costs down.

Obviously I don’t agree nor does Mr. Churchill.  It may take actual operational experience to persuade them to change their alleged minds.

As part of the trip we made a stop in Geneva, Switzerland.  We both traveled on British diplomatic passports.  If anyone asked about our odd accents our answer was usually to say we’re from Canada.  Believe it or not some Europeans are not aware that Canada exists.

We ended up at the Grand Hotel.  It was nothing like the place described in the song by Deep Purple.  But then few people at the present time have ever heard the song.

In the morning I met with the advance team.  Their mission was to keep a watch on a certain Russian emigre.  One who escaped the alleged net for revolutionaries by the Imperial Russian government.  Even though we did provide a warning based on the history recorded on the shipboard database the downtime Russians were apparently loathe to take advice from any atheist.  Even a time traveling atheist from the future.

Their minister in London actually acted as if we were the problem.   As a result the tree worst Bolsheviks escaped the net when it was finally cast.

If you want something done right, do it yourself.

According to the advance team the subject would be sitting on a park bunch at a certain time of the day.  I was there that I would meet him.

I was dressed in normal downtime attire for a tourist. When I walked up to him.  I then spoke.

“Tovarish Lenin?”

He looked up and replied.


It was at this point that I reached for the pistol in the holster under the left shoulder.  I brought the sights into line on his forehead and pulled the trigger.

The Gauss Pistol does not have the report of a normal firearm.  There was a supersonic crack as the round traversed the space to his head. 

A blood colored hole appeared on his forehead.  He then fell forward.  Lenin was dead.

I immediately replaced the weapon in its holster and walked away. The four millimeter pistol round was irreplaceable.  But given the immense crimes he would have brought about without our intervention it was worth it.

We did design a silenced weapon that used downtime technology.  A single shot pistol with an integral silencer.  But I didn’t want the risk of carrying the scent of cordite with me after performing the action.

Trotsky and Stalin remained on the list.  Yes, there was a discussion about eliminating Hitler.  But if we can prevent the coming world war this may prevent his rise to power.

Or it may not.  We have established surveillance on him.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

There Is Judith

This an alternate history piece where the point of departure is the appearance of a starship from the future. The accidental time travelers have no way to return home and thus must make do in the time they are in.

The basis of this piece was a dream I had featuring a the girl and in some industrial site.

There is Judith.

Judith is young woman with short blonde hair who’s in charge of the power plant at Port Stanley.  The plant has a thorium pebble core reactor and provides steam for running the generators and in turn for heating the town.  And we need the generators on the ground.  Even though we do test runs on the fusion power plant on the Endeavor and even take her up for a flight on occasion, we are dependent on ground power most of the time.

Judith was a girl we found in an American orphanage when we arrived on Earth about fourteen years ago.  She quickly  apprenticed with our engineering crew as they were building the power station for Port Stanley.  There were some idiots who objected to her being on the crew.  They were very quickly placed on the next boat back to London.  Port Stanley is our home now and we do everything our way.

Of course when the American authorities found out about how we did things our way they stopped allowing us to recruit people from their orphanages.  Any American who wants to join us has to go to our London office as an adult and sign up there.  And we found that adults are not as able to adapt to our way of life as orphan children are.  The British authorities do object to our ways but still allow us to recruit from their orphanages.  A deal is a deal. 

There are gentlemen who come to Port Stanley to learn about our technology -- or at least the tech that we allow the downtime people to learn.  Judith is now one of the instructors on nuclear fission technology.  But on occasion there is a moron who objects to receiving instruction from a woman.  We usually put his ass back on the boat to London.

By present Terrestrial standards Judith is considered to be a loose woman.  She begins by keeping her hair is a comfortable short style.  On duty at the power station she wears working men’s clothes with a white lab coat.  Off duty she dresses as a normal young Freyan woman.  Apart from her clearly American accent she is effectively indistinguishable from the rest of us.

Her attitude towards sexuality is effectively indistinguishable too.

We were both in attendance at an anniversary party for our landfall and I  was clearly stunned when she came onto me.

“Are you clean?”  She asked me.

I was initially dumbfounded.

“What?”  I replied.

She repeated the question with an explanation.

“Are you clean?  Do you have one of those awful sexually transmitted diseases the ship’s medics are always concerned about?”

Yes, of course I’m clean.”  I said.  “I came to Earth on the Endeavor, remember?”

Yes,” she said, “I just wanted to be sure.”

I nodded.

“I don’t blame you.”  I said.  “Are you coming on to me?”

“Yes, you don’t mind, do you?”

“Not at all.”  I replied.

Yes, we got it on that night.  And we’ve been in a standing relationship since.

Live with it.

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Monday, April 07, 2014


I have a bit of writer's block. Actually two cases of writer's block. I was working alternately on two science fiction novels. One is set in a FTL universe and the other in a STL mode.

Here's the first chapter from the STL novel:

One thing I had certainly learned in my original incarnation on Earth was that in order to see a task performed correctly I had to do it myself. Today I led a raid on a native nest. This was usually called a pest control operation. Given the very hostile history between the human colonists and the stone age natives of the planet this euphemism was putting it mildly.

The natives, originally classified scientifically as Reptantis Sapiens Eden, and now generally known as shrieks, were bipedal and bilateral egg laying carnivores with scales and feathers instead of skin and hair. Shrieks would eat anything that moved. They would even eat other members of their species, both from their own nest and other nests.

They also ate the remains of the first wave of human colonists that were killed when the Plymouth Colony was overrun and destroyed.

Two local days ago a patrol drone spotted a hunting party of shrieks taking down a thagosaurus. The saurian herbivore had wandered into a patch of wild tobacco and was gorging itself and getting high on the leaves of the imported plants. It was too wasted on the nicotine of the imported plants to notice the native hunting party bearing down on it.

I sat with a full Ranger company of the Guard as we watched the video of the shrieks surrounding the thagosaur and engaging it. There were cheers from the rangers as the thagosaur struck one of the shrieks with it’s tail spikes, mortally wounding it. But the poor and high creature was doomed. The largest of the shrieks carried a human made axe and struck the prey square on the head with it.

The natives had stolen the axe and other artifacts when they overran Plymouth, the first human settlement on the planet. They hunted down and slaughtered all the human colonists who could not escape.

The video ended. It wasn’t necessary to watch the hunting party strip the useful meat from their prey and the dead member of their party.

This morning Alpha Company of the Ranger Battalion of the Guard would drop in on the shriek nest.

The next stage after the briefing was suiting up. The details of the process are essentially boring. The Ranger Combat Suit is an armored exoskeleton with sensors, strength enhancement, full isolation from the external environment, jump thrusters, and full life support. A ranger could fight in space with it if necessary. The process on donning the suit requires assistance from the ground crew and a full test of the onboard combat sensors. The onboard computer even has a program for translating the speech of shrieks and displaying it as written language on the heads-up display. Not every ranger runs the translation program, but I do.

Once the company was suited up they assembled at the landing field. The system primary, Alpha Centauri A, was still below the eastern horizon. The other star of the system, Alpha Centauri B, was in the overhead position and was the brightest star in the sky. Even with the lights of the landing field glowing at full power the light of the star had the effect of the full moon back on Earth. From where I was standing I could see virtually all the buildings of Camp Heinlein and the ruins of the Plymouth Colony.

The four landing craft, with their lift fans open and idling, were ready to carry out the mission. The rear hatch and ramps were open. We loaded one platoon on each landing craft and took off.

By our custom the landing craft flew over the ruins of the Plymouth Colony.

The shriek nest, designated Sierra Mike, was roughly a thousand kilometers from Camp Heinlein. It was the furthest nest out from the ruins of the Plymouth Colony that was identified as a site holding human artifacts. Roughly five generations had been hatched since Plymouth was overrun and destroyed. And even though no shriek living today would remember the massacre there was our own standing policy to enforce.

Once the second wave of human colonists arrived in the system it was our policy to recover all human artifacts and remains from the shrieks. No shriek was allowed to hold a human made artifact. Nor were they to possess human remains. The penalty these acts would be the complete annihilation of their nest.

Over the years since the second wave arrived in the system the shrieks fled away from the new human base at Camp Heinlein.

But no distance, not even a thousand kilometers, was far enough from human vengeance.

The local sun was beginning to rise as the landing craft approached the nest.

The nest was located in a dense forest. It was theorized that this practice began as a way to protect the nest from large predators. It also had provided some protection from human reprisal actions. It took time us for us to develop tools and tactics to negate this practice.

The landing craft came in at treetop level at the four points of the compass with respect to the position of the nest. The craft I was riding was on the north corner of the square. With the rear ramp open I was the first to step out. The jump thrusters fired to slow my descent as I dropped to the forest floor. The landing craft I jumped from continued to float to southwest as each ranger stepped out and descended to the ground. The rangers now formed up in a tactical square surrounding the nest and on my command marched inwards.

Very shortly we came in contact with the shrieks.

Someone spoke on the company channel.

“Alpha-three-oh-three! Have contact!” There was a pause and then he spoke again. “Recovered flash drive from necklace!”

“Very good!" I replied. “Continue inward!”

The first kill was scored by Ranger A-303, Sergeant Les Keller. He was one of the first rangers who stopped counting the number of shrieks that he killed.

Every ranger carried a small bag for recovered artifacts. The shrieks apparently believed that human artifacts were magical or conferred protective powers on them.

I then encountered a shriek. It was a very large male with a flint headed spear. It leveled the spear and charged at me while screaming.

The translation program was active. A line of text appeared at the bottom of my heads-up display. It said, “DIE MOTHER MATER!”

I should have shot it.

Instead I let go of my mag rifle. The sling snapped it back to the carry position on the suit. I grabbed the fore end of the spear and ripped it from the hands of the shriek. I then proceeded to beat the shriek to death with the blunt end of the spear.

I searched the body. There were no human artifacts on the shriek.

One could argue that I was showing off by killing the shriek with it’s own spear. Go ahead. I don’t mind the criticism at all.

The fact of the matter is that all of our ammunition is still made on Zion, the other and now primary inhabited planet of the system. And it’s dammed difficult and expensive to haul it across interplanetary space in the Alpha Centauri system. Even with fusion drive spacecraft.

And if there one thing that I have learned it’s that one can never have enough ammunition.

The rangers continued inwards toward the nest. I quietly, with only the supersonic crack of the magnetically propelled bullets, killed four more shrieks in the forest with my rifle.

We then came to outer edge of the nest. It was a cluster of primitive shelters surrounding a central large hut. The rangers went through the nest, shelter by shelter, killing every shriek they found without regard to apparent age or gender. Even the recent hatchlings were killed. No exception could be made. No exception would EVER be made.

We then came to the central hut.

I stepped in first with my rifle at the ready position.

The sensors indicated the air inside the hut was warmer than the ambient air outside. The hut was where all their eggs were laid and buried for protection from other animals and the elements.

But not from us.

There was a path through the raised soil that covered the eggs. At the end of the path was a shrine. Before the shrine was the priestess.

She was the oldest of the female shrieks. It’s feathers were white and withered. And she wore a stainless steel fingernail clipper on her sacred necklace. She turned around and began to speak. If the translation program was functioning properly it was addressing me as a deity and begging me not to kill the remaining eggs.

I looked past the priestess to the shrine. At the center of the shrine was skull of a human infant. To me it was a clear indication that this clutch of shrieks was involved in the Plymouth Massacre.

I placed a single round in the head of the priestess.

I stepped forward to the shrine. I gently lifted the skull of the child from the shrine and placed it in my recovery bag.

I then spoke.

“Aright. Let’s finish this.”

Rangers stepped into the hut and positioned themselves on the pathway.

“Infrared on!” I ordered.

At the voice command the infrared vision display lit up in my visor. The eggs below the loose soil were now fully visible to me and the rangers in the hut.

“Ready!” I ordered. “Fire!”

Every one of the eggs was penetrated by multiple rifle rounds. Not one egg remained intact. The last of the shrieks in the nest were dead.

As I stepped outside the hut I spoke on the company channel.

“Did anyone find that damned axe?”

“Alpha-three-oh-three! I did!” Replied Sergeant Keller.

Of course he would find it. He was effective that way.

As the rangers departed from the nest there was one final act of destruction. Several white phosphorus grenades were tossed into the remains of the nest, setting it on fire.

The rangers proceeded to the nearest large clearing and boarded the landing craft. As usual I was the last to board.

Upon our return to Camp Heinlein the rangers separated into two groups. Those who did not retrieve any artifacts immediately returned to the barracks. Those who retrieved a human made object lined up for the march to the memorial.

I called out to one of those rangers.

“Sergeant Keller!”

“Yes, sir!”

He quickly ran over to my position. I could feel the mass of his ranger suit shaking the ground with each step he made.

I spoke to him.

“Sergeant, could you do me a favor?”

“Yes, sir.”

I handed him the nail clipper I recovered from the priestess.

“Sir?” He said.

“I also recovered the skull of a child.” I said.

“I understand.” He nodded and replied. “Yes, sir.”

I stood in my ranger suit with the helmet open in the forensic lab of the base as one of the doctors performed the identification tests. The doctor’s name was Cheryl Adams. She was a granddaughter of a little girl who was orphaned as a result of the attack on the Plymouth Colony. The girl’s mother had loaded her aboard one of three functional landing craft without boarding herself. All of the landers had docked with the starship Mayflower which still in orbit above the colony. The landers would never return to colony. It was too late to rescue any more colonists.

Doctor Adams had completed the tests.

“I’m finished.”

She brought up a video file on the workstation monitor. The sound and image was of a happy and smiling newborn girl with blue eyes.

I stepped forward.

“Her name was Elizabeth Mary Cook.” Said Doctor Adams. “She was my great aunt.”

The girl was also the granddaughter of Andrew Cook, one of the owners of the Mayflower, and whom I met in my first life on Earth.

I continued to watch the video file.

There are some people back on Zion ask me how I could live with what I do to the shrieks.

The fact is that I do not have a problem at all.