Friday, December 16, 2005

Bands, Part 2

The training seemed easy enough. The languages came quickly to Katie, but they never left the hut, the fog never abated.

One night, as the fire grew dim and the pages grew dark, the lettering faded away, and she look up from studying. "What more is there? The pages are blank."

"That is all you can learn from here. But until you can part the fog and make a path, we will stay." He sat in the darkness of his corner, and she was not certain whether he spoke with his mouth or with his mind.

"I don't know how."

"Remember what you have read. Explore your mind. There you must find the answer."

"What about you? Can't you help me?"

"It is not my fog. You brought us here. This is a place of your choosing. A place where you felt safe. I have no power here except to advise."

She paused. "Then what of Kris?"

"Just passing through, like all the others that have, as you study."

"Others?"

"No one of significance. Just minds that wish to influence your growth. But you are safe here. Put it out of your mind."

"Is that why you can no longer teach me? Because we are safe?"

"All that is left in your training is experience. Otherwise, you are the equal of any other." But put it out of your mind. Focus on your own path.

~

The band started to itch. An irritating, constant itch. Kris tried to tear it off, he tried everything.

This is how you must suffer for abandoning your training. Your mind is unkempt.

"What said that!?" But there was no one around. he rolled over in his cot and tried to return to sleep.

~

"Lazing about won't solve anything."

Katie jumped and glared into the dark corner. "Sorry, I thought you were asleep."

"Don't apologize to me."

~

The itching grew worse, though no rash materialized to shout proof. If his company realized his discomfort and the reason for it, it may be the end for him.

One night, his accomplices caught him packing.

"Where're you off to?"

"I must find a keeper of Bands."

"Them's distrustful folk. Why'd you want to do that for?"

"If you haven't forgotten, we're not the most trustful either." His voice was on edge.

"True."

"Continue on without me. Take the horses. Leave in the morning. The trail is growing cold. You must find them."

"But without your guidance--"

"You should be just fine. I've pointed you in the right direction, and their path is a true as the flight of my arrows. You just need to follow it."

"And if we catch up?"

"When you catch up. But I should rejoin you before that happens."

Kris strode out of the inn, and fired one of his arrows into the air. "Where you find that arrow, you will find their destination. Here," he passed them a thread. "Tie this to the pack horse, and you will not get lost." He turned on heel, and headed out into the wilderness, alone and on foot. His band started to give off a sickly glow.

~

Relax. We're almost there.
 

Almost where? He paused for a moment, and the landscape solidified around him. They kept walking. What's going on?
~

Kris awoke with a start. Sweat dappled his forehead, and he brushed it away. The dream was old; he knew that particular memory well.

You left me behind. I promised I would never forgive you. But I need you now. I need you to- "Gah!" He screamed as the band on his wrist tightened, glowing white hot, and choking the blood from his hand.

~

Hurry up! Don't get left behind.
 

Left behind? I only paused for a moment.
~

His hand was throbbing again, as the dream faded. The band had reduced to its soft glow,
but still held its grip. The itching was worse, and Kris tried to abstain from touching it. The night sky was still dark above him, no hint of day on the horizon. He closed his eyes once more.

~

Welcome back, Kris. Enjoy yourself?
 

I was better off there than here.

"Noooo!" He bolted upright, knocking his head on the branches sheltering him. "Come back," he whispered, "come back."

~

He didn't see anyone as he wandered, following the sickly glow of his band. The itching lessened when he headed in the right direction, and resumed choking his wrist when not.

Late one evening, Kris stumbled into a small hut, the band driving him inside. After going too long without food or water, he fell and could not rise.

~

When he woke in the morning, an old man was sitting beside Kris, doing his best to stay awake.

Kris sat up, startling the old man.

"Can you help me?" He exposed his right wrist, and the band that bound itself to him. "Sir?"

The old man pointed at the door, his hand shaking and eyes wide, shouting in his hoarse voice, "Get out of here. We don't want your kind. Leave us be."

Kris stood unsteadily, and staggered outside.

~

Two days later, while the band was leading him down a wide trail, a stream of hoofbeats pounded hastily behind him. Without thought, Kris dove off the path, wincing as the band tightened abruptly and flared up.

~

The hut grew dark while Katie slept, and Paul sunk deeper into the corner's shadows. She shifted fitfully in her sleep, tossing in her cot on the stones before the fireplace.

~

Kris screamed, bolting upright, as the wagon jolted beneath him. The band's itching had diminished, but it still glowed brightly, searing a ring of light through his sleeve. He glanced cautiously around him. Alone. Beside him lay an overturned bowl and a quickly spreading puddle beneath it. He dipped his fingers in the stew, and brought them to his lips. Kris's stomach grumbled, and he eagerly cleaned up the rest of it. As he finished, the wagon rattled to a halt and the doors behind him opened.

~

Paul saw her dream, and that which troubled her, and did exactly what he knew he needed to do. He watched and listened, and did not interfere.

~

A beam of light fought momentarily with the brightness of his band, and slunk behind a cloud. Two faces peered in at Kris, lit by the sickly orange glow.

~

Moonlight shone into the window, stabbing him in the face. Paul opened his eyes and smiled, glanced over at Katie, who lay still on her cot, and returned to his thoughts.

~

"He's awake."

"I know he's awake."

"Took long enough."

"He did seem to be in a lot of pain."

"But he wears a Band."

"So?"

"Doesn't he know anything?"

"Maybe he wasn't trained."

"Then how'd he get one?"

"Dunno. Found it somewhere?"

"Would have rejected him."

"True."

"Excuse me." The two faces took a startled step back. Kris stood carefully, and took a step forward. Then another. They took another step back. "What do you know about this?" He thrust his right arm forward, pulling back the sleeve.

They looked at each other. "He doesn't know." "No, he doesn't."

"Please."

They stared at him.

~

Katie woke, smiling. I just knew.
 

I know. I felt it.
 

Are we back?
 

Yes, the fog has cleared. We're back.

She stood, stretched, and opened the door.

~

"Hold on just a second. Let us introduce ourselves before you try and push any of your problems on to us. This is Don, and I'm Nol."

"Brothers?"

They looked at each other, their faces mirrored.

"Brothers? Nah." "Where'd he get that idea?" "We look nothing alike." They looked back at Kris and laughed at his bewildered face.

His band flashed again, abruptly tightening. Kris saw responding flashes of red and blue before he blacked out again.

~

Back where?
 

Wherever you found in your dream, Katie.
 

My dream…?

Monday, November 7, 2005

Fragmentation

"Shut them down. Get rid of that data now!"

"Sir, they're refusing to fragment."

"Then get someone down there and fit them blow for blow. Destroy that monster now!"

"But sir-"

"I want that beast gone before I get back. If you have to call Nikolai in, then call him in. But that beast better be gone before I get back." He turned away and started up the ladder. "Getting rid of it is primary, retrieving its data is secondary. I don't want to lose any of or people."

"Yes sir," but he was already gone, and the hatch was closed. "Well, what are you looking at me for,? Get me Nikolai." His subordinates scrambled to obey.

~

"This is Rose speaking, how may I help you?"

"I have a job for you."

"Just a second." He types a few keys on his keyboard. "Continue."

"Is the line secure?"

"Do you need to ask?"

"Sorry. Here's what's up...."

~

"We have a bug."

"Huh?"

"Bug: spy, mole rant, hole. Someone opened their mouth."

"Oh." Kryket shrugged. "Is there something you want me to do about it?"

"Fix it."

"There's nothing to fix. They know nothing."

"They'd better not. But make it look like something's up."

"Me? That's your job. 'To make the public think we have nothing to hide, but we need to hide it anyways.'"

"Hey, I don't need you quoting my job description too."

"Then stop complaining. Go fix the hole that isn't there. And leave me alone."

~

"Nikolai."

"Yes?"

"Someone wants to speak with you."

"What do they want?"

"Bug Busting Inc. Another one."

He sighed. "Third one this week."

"Yes sir."

"Patch them through."

"Line 6, whenever you're ready sir."

"And boot up the network. get the crew warmed up."

"Yes sir. Consider it done."

~

"And what do you expect me to do about it?"

"Mobilize, perhaps."

"Against what threat. There is nothing left. We saw to that when I rebuilt the infrastructure."

"They found a way in."

"How?"

"I wish I knew. I'm sorry, Rose, I can't help you anymore." The line went dead.

~

Kryket booted up the software, and started running the patches.

"Hello, what have we here?"

There was a door where there shouldn't have been one. A door where there should have been a firewall a mile thick.

"Shit."

~

"I'll send someone over there right away."

"This isn't just a small bug, sir. Perhaps you should see to it personally."

"I haven't got time for that. If my professionals can't handle it, they will advise. Do not interfere. You know the stipulations of the contract."

"Yes sir."

"You can have two. That's it. No more. End of the line."

"Thank you, sir," but the line was already dead.

~

Rose shook. This could not be happening. All those years. All those trails. All of everything. And it was ending.

There was only one option left: to come out on top.

~

The phone kept ringing. The doors kept opening. Suddenly the phone died.

"No, I will not let it end like this!" He booted up the experimental infusion device, and dove into the system.

~

"Kryket? Is that you?"

"Spydir?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Chasing a bug."

"Barricading a door."

"Some things never change, do they?"

"No, they never do."

"I'm using a different name now."

"I heard. You'll still be the Spydir in my book. Where you working now?"

"Government. Offered me a load of equipment and a teeny paycheck. I couldn't refuse. You still working the slums?"

"They're not slums anymore. But still on my own. Haven't found a formidable enough partner. Unless you're looking for a change of scenery."

"No thanks. The grass is sharper over here."

"Last time I checked, you were the one who didn't see a fence."

"I guess some things change, and other things stay they same. Like me and you. Respectively, of course."

"Not quite. The reverse, actually. You were always to trusting." Kryket activated Quarantine. "You should have known better than to hack through my firewalls."

~

Rose dialed into the network. Too many things where happening at once. He'd have to slow everything down.

>launch Ping13
>LOADING... COMPLETE
>run Ping13
>RUNNING
>network status
>ACTIVITY RATE DOWN 20%
>disconnect all ports
>ALL PORTS CLEARED
>boot Fragment
>LOADING... COMPLETE. WELCOME BACK.

~

The firewall was repairing, but not fast enough. If any hackers got near enough, they'd have little trouble getting in.

"I hate to do this, but here goes nothing." Kryket held his breath, and activated Quarantine.

~

The cell was like one that Nikolai had helped Kryket build.

"I just hope he hasn't changed as much as he claims." He stepped up to the wall, and began to dial himself out.

~

The system was running more smoothly than the last time he had entered the system, before many of the newest upgrades. The virtual world around him was fluid and smooth. After pausing a moment to re-orient himself, Rose set to work.

"Computer?"

>Yes, Rose?

"Call up the old crowd."

>Connecting... Complete. Who would you like to speak to?

"All of them."

>Not all are accessible.

"Get me those that are then."

>Yes sir.

>Proceed when ready.

Faces appeared around him, as if he floated in a sphere of vid screens. Weary faces warmed when they saw him. "Good evening, gentlemen. I know it's a little late, but the world is coming to an end. Everything that we worked all those years for is fading, and something new is trying to pull away the balance. We cannot stop it; all we can hope for is to come out on top. Those who wish to join me, please dial in now."

~

Quarantine did what it was supposed to. It pulled everything in it's target range in and let nothing out. Or it wasn't supposed. Something was wrong. Kryket shivered as he watched the hackers prying into his data.

Something was very wrong.

~

There was one loose tile in the wall. One brick held in with a touch less mortar than the others around it. Or there should have been. Nicolai closed his eyes and tried to concentrate.

It had to be in here somewhere. Every programmer had his flaws, even a master such as Kryket. Tendrils of thought reached out from his mind, made material by the virtual environment. They tapped each tile lightly, in turn, testing its strength. Halfway through the room, he felt one that seemed different. Nikolai marked it, then continued on.

~

The portal to the Net appeared in front of Rose, and he passed through it to the checkpoint. There, only one colleague was there to greet him.

"I'm sorry, old friend, but we've gone our own ways. The Net and the System do not belong to us anymore, and we have let it go. Nobody will be joining you on this venture. I'm sorry." The simulacrum faded away.

"So am I," Rose spoke to no-one, "So am I."

~

The lines were reeling it away from him, though the hole in the firewall. All his hard work, lost. All his patience, wasted. All those years of spending all his money on security instead of rent or food, spoiled. Kryket pulled himself out of the system and cried.

~

Yes, that was it. the loose tile. Nikolai tapped it, twisted it, trying to trick the code into letting him go. Eventually, it fell away, and the cell melted. As he withdrew from the Net, Nikolai could feel that something was very, very wrong.

~

His spirit stood in the checkpoint, and waited for the end. But Rose's corporeal fingers danced across the keyboard, racing to find a way out. He started to withdraw, but something refused to let him return to the real world. The virtual landscape pixilated around him, and nausea racked his body.

"Please don't let it end this way. Please."

~

The tears tumbled onto the keyboard, soaking up the molding crumbs of food poised between the keys. After a few moments, he looked up, and noticed for the first time that his world had changed. His terminal was no longer in a dripping basement of a dying building. He no longer could hear the roaring of cars passing overhead, or the drip of leaking water from the floor above. Instead, there was a light hum, and the room had changed to a tile cell.

Kryket looked around, and smiled.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Door Into Summer

this is my forward motion,
this is the best I can do.
this is my forward motion
and I'm pulling ahead of you.

this is the trail I follow,
when trav'ling along my way.
this is the trail I follow,
that I follow everyday.

these are the words that lead me,
and the pages I know best.
these are the words that lead me:
we stand above the rest.

this is the door I've opened,
the world I've stepped into.
this is the door I've opened,
a choice I'll not undo.

this is the name I've chosen,
the person I will become.
this is the name I've chosen:
it and I are one.

I found the door into summer,
but it was not the one for me.
I found the door into summer,
and I chose to leave it be.

this door of mine is hidden,
small and secret, too.
this door of mine is hidden:
I'll not show it to you.

my door's key is precious,
and I always keep it near.
my door's key is precious,
you'll not find it here.

this is my forward motion,
this is the best I will do.
this is my forward motion,
so I can stand apart from you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bands, Part 1

"You have to take my kids?"

I wore three rubber bracelets on my right wrist. "Yes, I'm sorry." One was bright green, for her daughter.

"Both of them?"

One was transparent orange, for her son. "Both of them."

"Is there something wrong with them?" She meant "her", with her daughter.

"Something like that. I'm sorry." She nodded knowingly: I'm sorry I can't tell you more.

"I understand."

One was black, for myself. "I'm sorry."

She hugged me, wary of the black one, and whose it was. "I am too. Thank you."

I nodded, and she let me go.

~

She raced toward me and I caught her in my arms, lifting her into a friendly parental embrace. "Hello, Katie."

She plucked at one of the bands on my wrists. "Is this one mine?"

I shifted her to my left hip so I could hold her with one arm; she was getting too big for this. "Which one?"

"This one." She plucked the brilliant green one again.

"It is. I've been holding onto it for you."

"No you haven't," she giggled, "it's been holding onto you."

I lowered her to the ground and knelt, our eyes almost level. "This is very important, Katie, I need you to understand."

She nodded, her mouth a thin, straight line.

"You can have this now, but you can't lose it. Nobody else can wear it. You must never take it off unless you're alone, and even then not for long. Do you understand?"

She nods.

"Good. Then this--" I peel it off my arm "--is yours."

Katie accepts it, lights in her eyes, and pulls it on. "But why could you wear it?"

"Because I'm its keeper."

She doesn't understand, but knows that will come later. "Thank you Mr.-"

"Oh, don't call me that! It's too formal. I'm just a close family friend. Please, call me Paul."

"Thank you, Paul."

"You're very welcome." I stand. "Now, where can I find your brother?"

"Are you going to give him the orange one? I want to come with!"

"No. He must do this alone, just like you did. And if it goes... Well, I don't think I'll have to give it to him."

"Is that why you wear the black?"

I look down at her, startled. "What?"

She points to the black one. "Mom is frightened of who you were going to give that to, but I know it's yours. Is he going to take it from you?" Her voice grows frightened, worried.

Ruffling her hair, I reply. "Don't worry about it little one. Everything will turn out just fine." I walked away before she could probe any deeper.

~

This was bad, I thought, fingering my band. She's developing too quickly.

Then begin her training now!

But I must deliver the band to her brother first. If she's advancing so early, I'd hate to see--

Then get on with it!

Nodding to myself, I stepped up into a steady jog, and chased after her older brother. At least she and her mother don't understand what the black means. I hope he doesn't either.

~

I came upon, waiting for me.

"I don't want it." His arms were crossed.

"Which one?"

"Either of them."

"You don't have much of a choice."

"Did you give my sister a choice?"

"I didn't need to. She'd already made up her mind."

"Well, you can't make me take it."

I took a step closer to him and he scowls. "Kris."

"No."

"Kris, I'm not asking. This is yours. I'm not giving you a choice."

"No."

"Kris, it's time to move on."

"No."

"Kris." It's the only thing you can ever own.

No! You can't make me! The scream tore through my mind.

I smiled. "Kris. You're ready." I pull off the orange band and toss it to him. He catches it, barely, his body shaking. "Put it on."

"I can't." He slumps to the ground, and I catch his shoulders.

"Yes, you can. You must."

I can't. His mindspeak is faint.

"It will destroy you then." I let him go, stand, turn away.

Wait. A tendril reaches out to me, and I pause. "Don't leave me."

I turn to him, help him stand. "I'll be with you every step of the way." Now rest. You have a lot ahead of you.

He whispers "thank you" as I slowly walk away.

~

We left the following day, taking nothing with us. Katie was teary-eyed. She won't miss either of you. Don't worry about her. Life without you will be such a relief.

And we walked. How far is it?
 

Don't ask, Kris. You'll make it longer.

~

The landscaping shifted around us, the miles falling away, though the sun seemed to remain fixed in the morning sky.

"This is weird."

Katie, use mindspeak.
 

Sorry. I know we've been traveling for hours, but the sun hasn't moved.
 

Moved? That's not your sun that you're looking at. And it's in the evening sky.
 

What?
 

Relax. We're almost there.
 

Almost where? Kris pauses impatiently, only for a moment, but drops quickly behind us. What's going on?
 

Don't ask. And hurry up! Don't get left behind. Everything will be explained in due course.
 

Left behind? What are you talking about? I only paused for a moment. He stops again, but this time quickly fades from sight.
 

Where did he go?
 

Don't worry about him, Katie. I knew this would happen.
 

But you didn't do anything!

There was nothing to do. He had already made his decision. He has a separate future, a different path than you do. Don't worry about him. -Besides, there are more important things you need to focus on. This journey, for one: it's about time we arrived.

~

A small hut, with a clay-tile roof, materialized in front of us, surrounded by a dense fog.

Wow.
 

I think you'll be just fine here.
 

A strong thought interrupts us, and Katie turns, surprised. Is that it?
 

Welcome back, Kris. Enjoy yourself?
 

I was better off there than here.
 

Heading back then?
 

I'm heading off again. I'm not staying here with you. Somewhere else this time. he walks off into the mist.
 

That was Kris? But we only left him a little while ago! He's aged so much...
 

To us, we only left him a short while ago, but time can be fluid here. It's been years for him, and he hasn't changed much. He's well on his way for discovering his full potential. You, on the other hand, will have a much more protected experience.
 

Protected? From what?
 

Kris, for one. There are other powers about, but the hut and the mist protect us. You have no reason to worry.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Audience

as you step before the light,
the shadows drift away.
they settle down around you,
to wait and watch you play.


the stage is where I am today,
where I came to be myself.
some shadows cry, or call me off,
while others toast my health.

I celebrate with lines of verse,
and hold the calls at bay.
the shadows that enjoy me
often act out what I say.

but soon the night is failing,
as dawn gives in to day.
my audience does disappate,
the shadows who watched me play.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Magic Drink

look around, look around,
for the mysteries that abound.
watch your step, mind your head,
do take care where you tread.

Harry's world may appeal
to those who don't know it's real,
but the truth be hard to take...
reality is a curse hard to break.

you have some idea, you may think,
you can handle the magic drink;
but it be poison to but a few--
what if it is for you?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Dare

why you you dare to try standing still?
my eagerness is too strong to defy my will.
I want to see what's on the other side--
I want to join it: why should I hide?

it's not evil, just different: that's all--
I'm higher than ever, how can I fall?
I'm better and stronger, yet you protest...
is it because you're no contest?

I've reached farther than you can go,
I won't stop, and refuse to slow.
if you can't keep up, get out of my way;
if you stick to those rules, behind you'll stay.

I love this power, but it's out of control.
I keep going farther and I've lost my goal.
I can't find where I lost sight of the path;
I don't find it funny, but I can't cease to laugh.

I dare to defy, I've made my own rules,
I face all comers and win all duels.
but I'm trapped in here with no where to go,
I'm trapped racing ahead--it won't let me slow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mourning

blood is splattered on the stones,
and minds are filled with such unknowns.
crooked do the doors hang,
through the halls mourning rang.
tears are falling from the sky,
as children think they might die.

our hope has fallen come the storm,
the air is chilled, blood is warm;
we huddle together in this fright,
that has come in darkest night.

will the skies again be blue,
can our hope be grown anew,
will this darkness ever end,
can we hold until then?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Afraid

I want you near, to hold you close.
I need you here, but the path I chose
won't let me be; now I'm alone...
we've grown together, but I've grown alone.

you are my family, and remain my friend,
and I want to be with you until the end.
but I don't want to risk you, nor sacrifice.
I want you to live, not condemn your life.

I want you to be free, but I'm so afraid...
this war is growing stronger, there are lives to be paid.
my mission is clear: to save us all.
our fate is clear--I must not fall.

I fear any weakness, for that I must leave...
to torture no more, this is your reprieve.
alone I must stand, though it hurts me to---
alone I must stand, so I won't hurt you.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Crawl

the words press heavy upon us now,
I feel the world turn, but I won't allow
my mind to split, my walls to fall--
I'll die before I choose to crawl.

I'll stay alone, not loose my gift;
I'd lose my body before they sift
through my mind and steal it all,
through my will and make me crawl.

this is my will and I will keep
on diving 'til I'm in too deep.
I will swear to stand tall.
I will swear not to crawl.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Key

before the beginning, I begin to play.
the words that come do as they may,
they take me before a golden gate
to where I may befall my fate.

the words once slow, now are fast,
I do not know how long they'll last.
they may be the missing key
to my chosen destiney.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Only Rough

my world is ripping apart at the seams,
there is no relief, not in my dreams.

there's nothing worth doing in this place,
I'll disappear to where you can't see my face.

I try what I can and it's never enough--
I aim for the grass and hit only rough.

storms are brewing on distant seas,
with violent gust where once was breeze.

I don't want the world--it won't go away,
I want apocalypse--but it won't stay.

I want to be gone from this world's light,
I want to be gone--dead in the night.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Storm Ship

"Are you sure this'll work?"

"It better. If not, then..." Bolt slashes his hand across his throat and Raen shudders. He pats her on the shoulder. "Don't worry, we're not gonna let that happen." She swallows nervously, then nods. "Good. Everybody ready?"

The crowd around them lets up a cheer.

"Then let's get the clock started!"

~

Fyer pulled his headset on, and started running system checks. In the earphones, he could hear the rest of the crew doing the same. The displays around him slowly lit up. Everything checked out. "Stoked and ready," he called into the mouthpiece. Spinning to the main control, he grasped them carefully, waiting for the go ahead.

~

Bolt walked down the length of the bridge, listening to the reports coming in. He sat before his screens, slowly filling with affirmatives. Finally, everything was up and running.

"Okay, crew, this is an older ship, so don't expect the response time or capabilities we're used to." He signed in to the computer, and turned on all visuals. "This is it, guys. We're going in!"

~

CHAPTER ONE: UPLOAD

The grid built slowly around them, distant nodes flaring into existence and disappearing behind nearer ones. Occasionally, they could catch a glimpse of another ship homing on them through the maze. Bolt pulled his captains up on the display and set them to work. "Grownd- get the shields up to maximum. Fyer- get us moving; set up a chase cycle and map it. Raen- Raen, are you alright?"

She shook her head. "It's too much. The system is too much. The filters are down." A light blossomed in front of her eyes.

"Raen, hold on." He pulled back from his station, shouting to the bridge support, "Get us moving, Computer. Random Flee program access requested!"

"PERMISSION DENIED."

"Dammit! Fyer- get us moving. You're on top 'til Raen resurfaces or I jack out. Got it?"

"Yes sir."

"Get us moving then!"

Bolt reached the control center and flew inside. Raen's pod was locked, so he slipped into the next one and dialed in to direct access. "Raen! Listen to me: you can do this. Flood the other pods with overflow." He synced in and the pod slowly came to life. Taking the override controls with his sweaty hands and poising his foot over the emergency kill switch, Bolt dove into the net.

~

The flood let up slowly, and Raen could navigate again. she started up the AI and ran simulations. Eventually, she calmed enough to call the Bridge.

"Raen? Are you ready?"

"Where's Bolt?"

"He's in with you. I thought--" She pulled up the pod-status display and saw him.

"Let's go. I've got the sims running." She used the pod to reach Bolt. "Boss? Are you there? Bolt!" No response. "Fyer! Get the Flee sim running, then set an assault position. Get Grownd to set the parameters, but run it on random. Keep our options as wide as you can."

"Yes ma'am."

"Take control, Fyer, I'm going deep." Slowly this time, Raen dropped herself back into the static, pulling it away from Bolt. "Bolt!"

"Raen? What's the status?"

"I'm pulling you out."

"Can you handle it without the filters?"

"I can hold it long enough, just get us out of here. Go back to the bridge, Captain, that's where you're needed most."

"Fine. But keep in touch. Don't overload again." He dialed out and she smiled.

~

CHAPTER TWO: STAGE ONE: BAIT AND TWITCH

The Storm ship finally began to maneuver, racing away through the infinite labyrinth, cycling randomly through passages, looking for one to a postion and attack in. Bolt returned to the bridge out of breath, and began to send out more orders.

"Twister -get us spinning. Circle the edges of the tunnels. Fyer -lead us into a secluded straightaway. Winnd -be ready to drop mines along the shaft."

"Bolt!" Raen called a map onto one of his screens. "Is this what you want?"

"What's at the other end?"

"Looped maze but no exit. This is the only way out."

"Perfect. Take us there."

"Yes sir."

"Winnd?"

"Mines ready for deployment."

"Set one on immediate contact destruct, drop it before the tunnel entrance; line the straightaway with delays and activate them after they pass through."

"Yes sir."

"Clowd -when we get to the entrance, send them a blip of our location. Make it a viable computer error. Let them know we're here, then hide us."

"Yes sir."

"Fyer?"

"Combatant nearing. We'll make it, but just barely."

"Good. Spiral through it, then lose us in the maze."

"Done and done."

Bolt closed off the displays and took a deep breath, then opened a private channel.

"How're you doing?"

"Oh, hey Captain. Alright, I suppose. It's hard," she paused, inhaling sharply through her teeth, "but I've got it under control."

"Good. We're almost there, and then you can jack out. Take your time. As soon as they're in the tunnel and
Winnd activates the mines, pass around a map of this place. After that, dial out."

"But-"

"Radio silence, Raen. I'll be shutting down the ship."

"Oh. -Yes sir."

"Take care of yourself."

"You too, Bolt. I'll see you later."

~

CHAPTER THREE: STAGE TWO: DEAD WOOD

"Everybody know where we're going?" They all nod. "Good. Everybody but Fyer and Raen, dial out." Four menus on his display fade to black. "You two ready?"

"Yes sir." "Ready Boss."

"Then take us down. As soon as we hit, blank everything and dial out. Radio silence now." Winnd and Grownd walk into the bridge as Bolt shuts down his controls, and Clowd was close behind them.

The ship settled gently, and they could hear the last engines powering down. Soon after, Raen and Fyer slipped in, closing the battle doors manually behind them.

_Goggles and masks._ The seven pulled them on together, before Bolt continued his briefing in hand signals. _We know where they are. They're pretty sure where we are, but not pinpointed exactly. Winnd has the remote weapons control, but it'll take some time to boot up. Fyer has the remote engines control, and same there. Raen's got our map. Let's move out: to the pods. Raen, take us to the mouth._

Friday, May 6, 2005

Addiction

beautiful hands, the mind and the touch,
to create fantasies from thoughts and such.
the world is a book, a place to read,
not somewhere she can bleed.

follow the threads to where they may go,
as lines in the shadows solemnly glow;
the way of the world: not something we need:
art is an addiction we dare to feed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Used To Know

"Hey, Laura." I walked up to her, a single purpose in mind.

"Oh, hi, Ace." She started to turn away, distracted.

"Can I ask you a question?" Encountering no denial, I continued. "Are you doing anything later? Some friends of mine were getting together and-"

"Sorry, I'm busy."

"Anytime?" She shook her head and I looked away.

"It's not that I don't like you, Ace, but..."

"I'm not in your crowd. Fine, whatever." I shrugged carelessly, and faced her with parting words: "Just do something for me, please. Nothing big. --Just remember my name, remember my face. That can't be too hard."

She nodded and I walked away. I rejoined my "unacceptable" friends.


~

The years after high school went quickly for us, and I remained close to only those close friends. We still talked, we still got together, we still remained apart from everyone else.

For Laura, the years were long and difficult. She struggled through college, struggled through life. The crowd that she had held in high school separated, each going their own ways, each having their own struggles. She thought about him when she was most down, but couldn't remember his name or face; just his voice.

A few months before their ten-year reunion, Laura found his name in the newspaper. And on the radio, and the television, and everywhere. She saw his face and heard his voice. She remembered his name.

~

Laura called me a few days before the reunion. "Hey, Ace."

"Who's this?"

"It's me, Laura. From high school."

"Oh, you." My tone wasn't pleasing.

"What do you mean, 'Oh, you'? What happened?"

"I've been busy."

"I'll say. I got the reminder for the reunion. Will you be there? I saw something about a famous writer coming. Poetry readings. You used to like poetry, I remember. Are you going to be there?"

"Yeah, I'll be there."

"So I'll see you then." She hung up, overjoyed, and I sigh, somewhat annoyed.

~

At the reunion, my friends, still the same, gathered apart from the others. Laura came over to see us.

"Hi, Ace."

"Laura."

"Are these your friends? You guys still together?"

"Through all these year." My posture was bored. "Can I help you with something?"

"Well, I was looking for that writer, but I couldn't find him. Have you seen him? I'm eager to see who it is."

My friends start snickering behind me, and I join in with their laughter.

"Ace?"

Stifling it, I turn back to her. "Sorry. --No, I don't know."

"Do you want to do something later?"

I shook my head. "Sorry. no."

"You busy?"

"No, I'm free."

"Then why?"

"You're ten years late, Laura." I turned my back and returned to my friends. I didn't notice her leave.
About half-an-hour later, when the attendees had relaxed, and everyone who was going to show up had shown up, the class president asked for everyone's attention.

"I'm glad you all could make it, and I bet you're all eager to find out who our most successful classmate is. He happens to be our writer for this evening. I'd like you all to welcome and remember Ace Edmonds."

The room was silent as I stood, and ascended to the front of the room. I felt the room's surprised eyes on me, but I saw only my friends who had stood beside me through all the years, and were enrapt in supportive silence.

"Thank you. -Before I get started, I want to thank all my friends, for keeping close all this time, and sharing our successes with our failures." I listed the names of the few in the corner, in no particular order. "They are here at my request, didn't want to come, but I insisted, and so they are here, supporting me. I'd like you to know that all of us have been amazingly successful, each in our own genre; and I'm here tonight to give you a preview into my third book, to reminisce on some old favorites, and to celebrate an anniversary of my own. You see, ten years ago, a few days after graduation, my first book was published, and it got me well on my way to where I am today.

"I want to start with one poem I wrote while I attended this school, and still think of it as one of my best poems. ..."

Friday, January 21, 2005

Melody

in the time it takes for tears to fall upon the ground,
in which a sweeter melody is found,
soft and tuneless, kind and sweet,
in that time, your wish I’ll keep.

in the time it takes for the sky to clear
and the wind to whisper in your ear,
for the melody there is found:
forever I swear to keep you around.

in the time it takes to breathe so deep,
for all the love we’re sure to reap,
for the melody and the sound,
to you I am fiercely, faithfully bound.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Waiting For Winter

a steady drip,
hidden in the cave,
echoing afar,
is no longer the same.

the floor is damp
with ever flood,
the cave's warmth
draws winter's blood.

the steady drip
falls in water,
rippling away
from the cave's daughter:

the city, deep,
hidden, lost,
disappeared by
winter's accost.

I wait for winter
to fade away,
before approaching
the city's day.

snow obscures
the cave's deep mouth;
patiently, I wait
for the warmth of the south;

the world will alight
with Sun's waking tongue.
the cave's creek will empty,
flowing among

the rivers of winter:
will flow away;
for the year's duration
there they'll stay.

I'll try to reach
the city again,
and find my ever
waiting friend.

the heavy flakes
now faster fall,
the cave has become
an enclosed hall.

I stand in the mouth,
in the stone hall,
staring at
the snowy wall.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Alone in Green

the earth is shadowed
in a dizzying green,
hidden are those
that are never seen.
I stand alone in
crowds of color;
green alone is mine,
and none other.

earthtones enamored:
from the ground:
encircling greens,
all around.

this color is perfect
and is whole.
here I'm home:
a grassy knoll.

Friday, January 7, 2005

Infinite Mortality

perhaps the most immortal existance
is to be remembered.
memories embraced, holding your self
in stasis;
but what you truly were
is lost.

forever words on mortal paper
with a mortal stylus
by a mortal body.

but my thoughts are infinite,
and they will outlive generations.