You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

18 August 2011

#FridayFlash: The Grove

The Grove
D. Paul Angel
© 2011
1,000 Words

"Andrew! So good to see you again! And this must be Richard?"

"Hi Dad," Andrew replied through his father's tight embrace, "And yes, this, is Richard."

"It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Freehold," Richard said, offering his hand.

"Now let's get one thing straight Richard, you marry my son, you're family. None of that handshaking or 'Mister' crap. It's either Dad, or Bill, if you must; and only hugs from here on out."

Laughing, Bill embraced his new son-in-law and ushered the two into his Dome. Dusk was coming, and Sirius XIV dominated Rexhaven's sky. There was so much light reflected from the gas giant that Rehaven's night's only rarely knew full darkness.

"Where's Rex dad?" Andrew asked, suddenly missing the venerable Border Collie's usual quick appearance. He turned at his dad's silence and felt a chill. "Am I too late?"

"Well son, I really don't know. He hasn’t come back from his morning outing yet. I was heading out to The Grove when you guys came in. He seems to like it there more than anywhere else. Not that I can blame him! Hey you’re welcome to come, but it is a long hop from Gliese..."

"It’s Rex, Dad! Of course we’ll come."

"Great. He's been moving slower and slower these days, so I'll be glad for the company and help."

"So how old is Rex, anyways?" asked Richard as Bill handed him a flashlight and they headed out into the crisp night air.

Bill stopped and looked over at Andrew who shrugged at his gaze, "It never really came up, Dad, and it's not the easiest thing to explain, either. He knew I had a dog named Rex, but other than that he was a cool dog getting on in years, no. Never a number."

"Put it this way, Richard," Bill began slowly, "Rex isn't named after the Colony, so much as the Colony is named after him."


Exactly. The Colony's over fifteen hundred years old now, and back then geneticists thought they could bestow us with immortality by creating so-called, 'empty clones.'"

"I always thought those were just stories," Richard said, shivering a bit at the images the phrase conjured.

"It is, admittedly, a bit ghastly, but it also turns out that it simply does not work on humans. But, it does on dogs.

"So, William Jefferson Freehold, IV, who was wealthy enough to afford it, and who really loved his dog, 'Rex,' saw it done on his own Colony before it was outlawed."

"So Rex is..."

"In his current, and last body I might add, he's 14," chimed in Andrew, "But all told his consciousness has lived 1,542 years."

They continued on in silence until the simple path they were following curved around a small hillock and Richard saw The Grove for the first time. Bill and Andrew grinned as they watched him take in the view. The trees reached higher even than the Redwoods of ancient myth. Their thick, solid trunks supporting innumerable bushy branches all the way up until they appeared to be tickle Sirius XIV. The tallest branches were even still catching dim twinklings of Sirius' light.

"It's... It's stunning," he finally said. They turned on their flashlights as they entered The Grove and Richard was awed to see that even the flashlight's piercingly bright beam couldn't illuminate the entire trunk by itself.

"Believe it or not, Andrew," Bill said with a sigh, "This is the full Grove's last night."

"Is it finally time?" Andrew asked with surprise.

"Remember the noob...," Richard said with faux severity. Andrew chuckled and took Richard's free hand in his own before explaining as they walked.

"The Grove is made up of special trees planted here when Rexhaven was first founded. The air didn't have enough oxygen, so these trees were engineered to produce it at an accelerated rate. They're coming out because the atmosphere's oxygen level has reached its tipping point. If they didn't take them out they'd be too much oxygen and the Colony would have to go back to the Dome living days.

"They knew this day would come, Hell, we all expected it in our lifetimes; just not right now."

"They're so large and there are so many of them, it'll take two full years to pull them all out," Bill added with more than a touch of nostalgic reflection.

Everything has its time, a voice whispered in all their heads simultaneously, this is merely ours.

Even Richard knew in an instant it was Rex. Instead of surprise though, they all felt chagrined that they'd so easily underestimated the mentallics that came with 1,500 years of consciousness. They saw him sitting in the path, benevolently regarding them. They soon noticed that his tail and the trees were swaying in an almost symbiotic rhythm to some unseen Brownian Motionesque force beyond them.

You, and your family, have been good to me, Rex intoned. His mild panting looked like a happy, peaceful grin, But The Grove and I must leave tonight. We grew up together and now, simply, it is our time to move beyond this Universe's limitations.

The planet is yours now. I know you will steward it well, he continued as he walked up to them. They each instinctively knelt as he gave each a gentle kiss and he accepted their hugs and scritches with shared, graceful love.

"There are so many questions though..." Bill began, speaking through the muddled tears they all shared.

Of course. But, Rex answered mildly, could you comprehend my answers?

They knew the answer even before Rex's words finished and resigned themselves to a fate beyond their understanding. Rex turned from them and walked under their flashlight beams to the base of The Grove's first tree. He curled up, closed his eyes, and they watched as his tail's gentle wags slowly came to a rest.

Then, one by one, each of the trees in The Grove stopped swaying.

12 August 2011

#FridayFlash The Far Side of the Sun

The Far Side of the Sun
©2011 D. Paul Angel
979 words

"This, is a historic day, not just for the U.S., but for the entire world; for the shared Nation, of Humanity. Today we unlock, the secret of the Universe, and send our first envoys across the stars..."

"That's quite enough of the speech, Lieutenant," Captain Maxwell said curtly.

"Yes, sir," Lieutenant Jones replied, cutting the feed of the President's speech.

Maxwell watched the Sun steadily growing in size on the Bridge's main view-screen. In a little over 20 minutes they'd be accelerating their ship directly at its heart, hoping to skipstream at the last second to an entirely different star. Gliese 581 was 20 light years, and was directly in line with the Sun on the other side now. He could feel the crews' tension rising with his own. They knew from the observatories that the drones had entered the skipstream as intended, it was just that none of them had ever come back. So the chances of a fiery death, though small, were nothing compared to the great unknown of skipstream space.

It was the unknowns that weighed so heavily upon them. Theories abounded from the credible, to the terrifying, to the incredible, and even the Magical. Despite his and the Terran Space Union's best efforts, he knew his baker's dozen of crew members knew all the theories and rumors as well as he did. He knew some wagers were in the offing as well, though none officially. He was even more bemused that they thought the person betting as, "James T. Kirk," was him. As long as it helped relieve some of the pressure, he really didn't give much of a damn, though the panty waisted paper pushers at the Union were apoplectic. He thought of his crew and beamed inwardly with the pride that can only come from doing the impossible. There was a deep relief he felt in knowing that, whatever their fate may be, that he would share it with him. Something those bastards at the Union would never truly understand.

Which is why, he thought to himself, you're here and they're not. It was time for them to find out exactly what Fate had planned them...

"Engine room, Bridge. Reactors to full, please," Maxwell's command, issued with a gravitas that mere tone could not provide, committed himself, his crew, and his ship to their plunge. As the guttural whinings of the Reactors winding up filled the ship he said, "Alea iacta est." To an upraised eyebrow from one of the Petty Officers he added with a wry smile, "The die is cast."

"Bridge, Engine Room. Aye. Reactors on line and at full power. All lights green. Reactor is Go." The tension that had been silently building was released. Everyone had a job which they were performing with grim, stoic excitement. They were committed. Whatever was about to happen, would at least be happening soon.

Acceleration began slowly, but between the Reactor technology and the Sun's own greedy gravity, the ship was soon hurtling towards its vast expanse of fusing Hydrogen. Instruments were checked, rechecked, verified and then cross checked. A countdown timer appeared as a watermark on the view-screen transposing the seconds counting down starting at 90. The breathing in the room varied from muted to fitful, and even Maxwell had to forcefully keep himself from holding his breath.

The timer reached double zero and the skipstream generator was engaged automatically. In an instant the ship seemed to fall out from underneath them. The view-screen went blank and the whole ship went dark; but everyone's eye's were filled with a glorious cacophony of synesthesia. They tasted dancing lights, heard soft caresses on their skin, and smelled the cold, silent vacuum of the abyss. It felt both like seconds and centuries before the lights returned, the view-screen showed stars and they're own balanced senses returned as if they had snapped from fitful insomnia to vivid dream to groggy wakefulness between shallow, gasping breathes.

Though their sense began registering correctly, it took longer for their thoughts to become organized once again. It felt as though their consciousnesses were being slowly pulled back into their bodies after a lengthy sojourn. The crew blinked their eyes and started fidgeting in their seats trying to rid their bodies of an aching stiffness throughout their muscles. They all felt deeply thirsty with the cotton mouth feel of deep dehydration. True to his position Captain Maxwell was the first to regain his command faculties.

"Crew Report!" One by one, each of the crew snapped to and reported their status. When the 13th name self reported Maxwell finally released the breath he had been unconsciously holding. If nothing else they were all alive. "Ship status," he ordered with less vigor. They were awake, alert, and the months of dedicated training had them reading their instruments with greater ease than with their own body's transitions back to "real" space-time.

After hearing from Power, Engine, Life Support, Conn, and Science, all that remained was Navigation. He had deliberately left Navigation for last, know that she had the most difficult task of them all. Even with the dedicated super computer onboard just for her and this moment. He also didn't want any of the other critical ship's information lost in the excitement of her announcement. Now though, it was time.

"Navigation?" Maxwell asked, suddenly feeling a sickening silence spreading across the Bridge.

"Sir, we did not make it to Gliese 581," she said, holding her composure with icy detachment.

"View-screen to aft," Maxwell ordered at once. Instead of the expected red dwarf, a white dwarf was ever so slowly receding.

"Well, we found a different Star at least. Do you which one, Commander?"

"Unfortunately I do Captain. It is ours."

"That's not possible Commander," Maxwell said, looking at the view-screen intently. "Our Sun won't be a white dwarf for another 10 billion-"